Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's that time of year again...

Yep, we are approaching the end of August so it's nearly time for the American Folk Festival. Since 2005 the city of Bangor, ME has held the festival at a not inconsiderable cost. It's true that most of the festival is paid for by generous donations (the principal one being Stephen King) but it still costs about a million bucks (if I recall correctly) to put on for the three or so days it is held.

This will be my fifth year of volunteering and every year somebody asks me what I do. Am I setting up stages, rigging lighting, plugging in speakers? Well no, nothing like that. All of those tasks are performed by skilled roadies who I'm sure are in a union and don't need a klutz like me to come along and screw up everything for them. On top of these obvious tasks there are about a million and one other things that need doing. One of the biggest task is shifting chairs around. There are six stages along the banks of the Penobscot River and most of them have chairs in front them for the festivalgoers. Every morning these chairs are scattered around half of Bangor (it seems) so they all have to be returned to their 'homes' for that day's series of performances. Other tasks include setting up risers for mixing desks, hanging sponsor signs, rigging lights in the performers' tents, setting up dozens of tables in the beer tents and many other jobs.

It's yet to significantly rain in the history of the festival. Instead it's usually hot days, all of them working outside of course. We start around 7 in the morning and as the week progresses the nights get later until by Friday it's not uncommon to knock off around 1-2 in the morning. Friday is the opening day (kick off at 5.30pm) so it's always busy and the public eat their way through most of the food stalls. This means replenishing all these stores with ice and that has to be done after everybody has left. In past years this has meant Felicia, Jeff and I (plus whoever else is there to help) doing midnight runs to the ice trucks to replenish the ice boxes in the Food Court.

And then we start all over again on Saturday. Every stage has a schedule of performances, so my friend Roger and I run around in the morning swapping all the signs out with that day's schedule. We fix any sponsors' banners or signs that have fallen off during the night and then get to work rearranging all the chairs and tables that have 'wandered' over the site. By the time the public show up things start to slow down and we can enjoy the festival. This also means we can have some fun. In 2007 we had a blast building a tow hitch for Felicia's golf cart so that she could tow her trailer behind her. You can see the pictures in our AFF Gallery. Here's the movie:

So we leave today for another exciting year at the AFF, no doubt full of hard work and high jinx.

By the way, Michael Owen scored a cracking goal against Wigan on Saturday. Got a good feeling about him for this season.

Sean, the Dad.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I almost forgot.....

In the middle of all this, Lucy rolled over! As a matter of fact, rolling over is her new favorite thing to do....

Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one....

I’ve been back at work three full weeks now and though I miss my days with Lucy, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be…….I just now spend my nights staring at Lucy and exclaiming over and over again how lucky we are….maybe being a working Mum makes one appreciate their child more….

Anyway, so I’m back at work, Week 1…that was the week Lucy gave the Day Care Lady a big grin and I got all bent out of shape. The week progresses smoothly…as a family we’re slipping into a routine and Lucy is adjusting well to being in someone else’s care. We also put a bid in on a townhouse in Woburn (three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a finished basement and a little yard for Lucy to play in). Our bid was accepted by the sellers and it seems we’re on our way to becoming homeowners…though it is a short sale so we have to wait for the bank who owns the seller’s loan to approve it.

That Friday (of week 1, 8.6.09) we take Lucy to the cardiologist for a follow up to her visit three months ago.

When Lucy was born, she had as most babies do, a bit of a heart murmur. Our pediatrician, who we really like and Lucy adores, likes to err on the side of caution so when the murmur was detected, she sent us to Mass General to see a cardiologist (Lucy was not quite a month old). Lucy handled the ultrasound like an old pro, she actually fell asleep and let the technician do what she had to do with minimal fighting.

While there, the cardiologist also discovered that Lucy’s pulmonary valve (the one that pumps the blood out) was not as open as it should be….no need to panic she says, it will not affect her day to day life and it’s something she should grow out of…and though it’s not as common as a murmur, it is not so uncommon that we need to worry ourselves. We leave feeling like champs for not freaking out and say a prayer thanking God for not making it worse and asking him to just watch over her a bit more closely so it does not become worse…

Fast forward back to August 6th and Lucy’s follow up appointment –

This time, Lucy fights the technician…she squirms and screams and cries and kicks and there is no way in hell she is going to stand for this person bearing down on her little chest with a wand and a wad of jelly….at one point, the technician went and asked the doctor if she really needed to take all the requested shots – she returned a few minutes later quite defeated and said yes, we have to do the neck shot – not sure who was more pissed off, Lucy or the technician. She finally gets what she needs and ten minutes later, the Doctor and her resident arrive to tell us that the valve is still not opening and now the murmur has doubled in size….caught us a bit off guard…I think the doctor was just as surprised as we were …..She seemed to feel pretty bad delivering us the news.

Now Sean and I in a crises function like this: he hears what is being said but tends to shut down a bit…that is he takes everything in but cannot process anything straight away and at the same time, he is silently panicking and thinking about what could happen (and usually, jumps to the worst case scenario) I on the other hand tend to be able to handle the news, remain calm and rationale, take it in, ask some follow up questions and at the same time, crack a couple jokes to hide my terror and panic. It also means that later, after this has set in, I’ll panic and Sean will be the calm rationale one…it really is a good balance and always works out in the end. Lucy was the only one who maintained her composure as she lay in my arms sucking her binky and tugging her ear (which would seemingly indicate an earache in most children but for her, tugging on her ear is like a security/calming thing)

So, what does this mean? Well, simply put, the murmur means that more blood is rushing into the heart than should be, which on its own is not a huge issue because a normal pulmonary valve could pump it out with no problem. But, because Birdie’s valve is not as open as it should be, the blood is not pumping out at a consistent and normal rate…which means the chambers of her heart, in time, could become enlarged….now I of course have simplified this and am focusing on the bottom line which really is not that grim……this is something she could grow out of and if not, when she is one, a procedure will be performed to open the valve. Once the valve is open, the murmur should close on its own. And if the murmur does not close or improve, it can be closed when she is a bit older. So not terrible news by any stretch of the imagination - and again, no impact on her day to day life, it’s just something that has to be watched…..

So we leave a bit shell shocked but overall, just fine. Its late in the day, appointment took longer than expected and at this point, dropping Lucy off at Day Care and heading to work would be a bit of a waste so instead, we head home. Birdie decides she wants to eat again and then needs some sleep so I settle her, do some work from home and Sean heads out to the store as Lucy’s Christening is this very weekend!

That’s right, her holy bath, her sacramental dunking, her welcome to God’s World party is on Sunday and we have friends and family coming in…as a matter of fact, at any moment, my dear dear friend Annette from IL should be calling to tell me she and her sister have arrived safely and are at their hotel. Annette is the best friend one could ever have…she’ll never judge you (even when you’re being an ass or do something stupid), she always forgives you (even when you’re being an ass or do something stupid) and she is ALWAYS there for the most important days in your life.

The weekend is perfect: Annette arrives safely; we stay up late Friday night catching up. Saturday we take Annette and Amber all around Boston…and Lucy has her first dunk in the Frog Pond (the Frog Pond is located on the Boston Commons – during the winter, it is an outdoor public skating rink, in the summer, it is filled with water and is a great big old wading pool…) Noni and Papa arrive from Maine on Saturday and we all head over to Auntie Mikel and Uncle Win’s for a cook out….Auntie Melissa was there from NY, Jenny and Hannah hung out with us – we had red hot dogs (fat free…what the eff Mikie?!?) and then cupcakes to celebrate my and Noni’s birthday. Sunday, Auntie Angela, Uncle Don, Auntie Flea and Cousin Cooper made their way down from Maine – along with some other very special friends and family from the greater Boston area and away (thanks Mr and Mrs Smith who also came down from Bangor and Mike and Cathy, thanks for missing Melissa’s tournament…I later found out that Melissa’s team took home the big trophy and now feel like a real heel….I’m going to have to buy her something)

The Christening was wonderful – Lucy yelled through the whole thing but she’s got Jesus now and he’s got her so all is right with the world. We had all our family and friends back to the house for some snacks and cake (shout out to Mary for making the world’s best cakes AGAIN (she made our wedding cakes) and for letting us use the yard) Weather was decent, food was yummy and the company was comforting…but I’m not going to lie, I was exhausted the whole day and at a few key moments had no idea what was going on around me.

8.10-8.12: The next week starts out with me bitching about Day Care again..I’m complaining that I don’t think they change Lucy’s diaper enough nor do I think they get her clean enough after her diaper has been changed (know what I mean?) Wednesday (8.12) rolls around and we’re scheduled to sign the P&S at 6pm that night on the house…….when I pick Lucy up, she looks and sounds miserable…snotty nose, red red eyes, feels like she running a bit of a fever and she is fussier than I have ever seen here.

Lucy and I meet Sean at the Realtor’s office and I tell him straight away something is wrong with her….the whole time we are there she is fussing, crying, squirming, nothing calms her down and eating is the last thing she wants to do. In the meantime, we are signing our life away and handing over the biggest check I have ever seen in my life! My heart is beating fast, my blood pressure is rising but it feels like my body temperature is dropping….there’s sweat on my upper lip and my right hand is shaking…..I’m not sure if it’s because we just spent more money than I ever dreamed of spending or because my baby is sick and out of sorts and I can’t fix it or because everything at work is a mess and I see no resolution in sight or because I haven’t gotten as used to our new routine as I hoped I would….I’m 37 years old and I want my Mom and Dad…..but Sean reaches over, gives my hand a quick squeeze, smiles and tells me we’re doing the right thing and Birdie will be okay once we get her home. My body starts to stabilize and Birdie is now whimpering instead of full on crying and just snuggling against me.

We get her home, take her temperature (it’s a bit high but not too high) and try to get her to sleep – she will sleep nowhere except in my arms on my chest and even then, only for 20 minute intervals. We take her temp again and it is well over 102…to the ER says the triage nurse on the 24 hour care line. So off we go …poor Birdie….long story short, after lost of poking, prodding, one catheter, a bunch of x-rays and two attempts to collect blood (and one IV feed let in her arm which was then wrapped onto a split so she would not move), it is determined that she has a high grade urinary tract infection.

8.13: Home we go at 5:30am – Daddy drops us off and heads down to the Pharmacy to get her prescription – we then have a family snuggle and sleep for a couple hours. I work from home, Sean heads off to work and Birdie spends the day licking her wounds and feeling sorry for herself (I do too and admit to coddling her a bit). The Day Care Lady calls that night, I tell her what happened, she is all apologetic and concerned….I hate Day Care

8.14: I drop Lucy off Friday as I have to get back to work – she seems and has no qualms about staying at Day Care….so I do the walk of guilt back to the car and head to work. I pick her up that afternoon for a follow up doctor’s appointment and she is all smiles….antibiotics are clearly kicking in and Mummy is finally relaxing.

8.15-8.16: It’s the weekend, Sean spends Saturday with some friends, Birdie and I stay home relaxing (actually, she was a bit of a handful that day but I’m over it) Sunday are errands and cleaning – but it’s just us and that’s nice for a change.

8.17: The week starts out with little or no fanfare – we meet with the mortgage guy Monday night and though we are scared we’ll be poor for the rest of our lives, we know we’re doing the right thing – we’ve chosen a house we can afford and a home in which our little family will be comfortable and can start building our own memories and traditions. I always thought I’d settle back in Maine, down the street from my parents…..but I am now officially a transplant to Massachusetts…..but for the record, I am not a liberal or a Kennedy supporter……

8.20 We have another appointment with Dr Harper – just the regular old 4 month appointment for Birdie…who has grown to 25.5 inches, has a head the size of Texas (ok, it’s only 16” but when you say it out loud, it seems as big as Texas) and weighs in at 15lbs!!!!!! So there heart murmur, stubborn pulmonary valve and pesky UTI – Birdie is still going to grow no matter what you try to do!!! She is healthy, developing as she should be and as soon as her infection clears up and she finishes her antibiotic, she gets to start on rice cereal!!

8.22 – 8.23: We spent Saturday being a pretty lazy family – we slept in (all three of us)…ate a leisurely breakfast and took our time getting cleaned up and dressed (a call from Auntie Mike got us in gear as she was on her way over to pick up Uncle Win’s cooler we borrowed)….we headed out to the Natick Mall and just wandered around people watching. Sunday was more of the same thing – Mass in the morning and then a follow up visit to the doctor (yes, the pediatrician has office hours on Sundays) Found out that Lucy’s UTI has cleared up…so now all we have to do is go tomorrow (Tuesday) for a renal ultrasound and a VCUG (don’t be impressed that I’m throwing down all these medical terms, I’m just copying them off the paperwork the doctor gave me)

Sean is off this week as the American Folk Festival begins Friday and he has worked it every year with my Dad since we met –and he loves it! It gets him outside, working hard and, to boot, he gets to hear some kick ass music. I tried to volunteer one year but I was crap at it – I really am the worst volunteer ever. If I had not left, I think I would have been fired…..and who wants to be known as the volunteer that was fired? So I don’t volunteer – I go for the people watching, the kettle corn and the blueberry smoothies. And if I happen to hear the music, lucky me because some of it is pretty good. Here’s the link in case you want to check it out – http://www.americanfolkfestival.com/. Truthfully? It is a pretty impressive feat...I mean to pull a festival like this off in Bangor, Maine with such a high success rate – I’m pretty proud of my Dad, Sean, and my sisters Felicia and Teresa for the work they do with it. My Dad has become a roadie as he travels to Virginia and Montana to help with similar Festivals.

So I’m working today, Sean is at home “getting stuff done” and Lucy is at Day Care (probably grinning the little imp!) Tomorrow, I’ll work in the morning then we have her tests and hopefully will head up to Maine for the rest of the week….and I’ll be blogging......Big Jack tripped the house out with Wi-Fi.

Maria, the Mom

Friday, August 14, 2009

Big checks and ER trips

So as some of you know, we have been in the throws of trying to purchase a little house. It's a modest place in Woburn but perfect for our little family. There's a cute little yard with a deck just big enough for the three of us. Even better, there is a swing-set right behind the house so Birdie can go on the swings when she gets older.

As you can see from the satellite pic, it's in a complex which is managed by an association. By all accounts they seem to be a really great association. Two years ago they replaced all the roofs in the complex and put up the swing-set I mentioned earlier. They clear the snow in winter so I'll only have to worry about our deck and front path. Oh, and they also mow the grass. Pretty sweet!

Anyway after a little buyer's remorse we nervously signed the Purchase and Sale agreement on Wednesday evening and set the ball well and truly rolling. It's by no means a done deal though as the property is being sold as a 'short sale'. This means that the sellers have accepted our offer but because they owe money to their lender, then their bank has to accept the offer. In these situations banks do not move very quickly. The offer was accepted (by the sellers) about 3 weeks ago and we are still waiting on their bank. Anyway we had the Home Inspection last Friday and it could not have gone better. The Home Inspector practically ordered me to buy the place so I'm feeling very good about this house. My only complaint through this whole process has been the attitude of all the 'officials' involved. By 'officials' I mean the realty agents, lawyers and to some extent the mortgage broker. There is a general assumption on their part that Maria and I are intimately familiar with the whole process of buying a house. This despite the fact that they all know we are first time buyers. We've read bits of books about buying houses and spoke to other people but we are by no means experts so I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a little handholding when you're making one of the biggest purchases of your life.

In addition to handing over monstrously scary checks on Wednesday evening we had a sick Birdie to contend with. We found out this week that the The Day Care Lady has been putting her in her Pack 'n Play right underneath an air conditioning unit. You'd think it was fairly obvious that an infant is not going to fair well from this but clearly it did not occur to her. Consequently poor Birdie has been somewhat congested, snotty and fighting a slight cough. This got worse on Wednesday evening when Maria picked her up and realized she was running a fever. Throughout the signing of the P&S she was not a happy little girl and when we got her home, she was very fussy. Around 1am we were awoken by her and her fever seemed worse. We called her pediatrician's office and the triage nurse advised us to take her to the ER, so at 2am we jumped into 'Big Boy' (my car) and set off to Winchester Hospital. To cut a long story short, we ended being there for 4 hours or so. Birdie had a Tylenol suppository shoved up her bum (which worked wonders on her fever) and endured other tortures in the form of taking blood, urine and a chest x-ray. The poor little girl was beside herself and it was quite upsetting for both Maria and I. Eventually they came and told us that she had a Urinary Tract Infection. They prescribed antibiotics and we headed home where we all crashed for a couple of hours. Today she is going to see her pediatrician, Dr Harper, who is wonderful and Birdie loves her to bits. She seems much brighter in herself and hopefully is well on the mend. I'm sure the antibiotics will help with her sniffles too.

Sean, the Dad.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Day Care Lady and the Grin

Birdie seems to be enjoying day care - a little too much if you ask me. Yesterday, when I dropped her off, she flashed the day care lady the big grin and googly eyes she usually reserves for me.....so I did what any mother would do, when I left, I called my husband and ranted about all the things I "found" wrong with the day care: "The toys from yesterday weren't picked up" "They were eating their breakfast and watching TV in the day care room," "She had a spot on her shirt", "The house smells funny...even on the outside...."

Truth be told, the place is just fine....my ego was bruised and I was trying to make myself feel better. But within an hour, I actually sought comfort in the fact that Lucy did give her that grin....but it still tugs at my heart strings...

Maria, the Mom

Monday, August 3, 2009

Today was my first day back at work....

and I thought I'd be more of a mess but if the truth be told, I only squeezed out a few tears immediately after drop off and did not call to check on Lucy at all.....for a minute, I felt guilty for not being more upset....but I'm pretty sure I'm still a good mom...

Lucy is sound asleep
Two loads of laundry have been washed, folded and put away, the third is toiling away in the dryer
The dinner dishes are done
Lunches are packed (egg salad, yogurt, grapes, goldfish crackers and a kashi bar for the grown ups, three bottles and a spare for baby)
And the husband is having his ice cream (and thoughtfully brought the wife a bowl, half churned so fewer calories...therefore I have three scoops instead of two)

We call Lucy Birdie (or Birdy, however you feel like spelling it) because when she was born, we fed her with a medicine dropper for a day or two and she looked like a little rescue bird....she squawked like one too. So we started calling her Birdie...which morphed into Birdie Boo which is sometimes shortened to Birdie or Boo...but never Boo Boo, that's just silly.

She appears to respond to all three names(Lucy, Birdie or Boo) but she also answers to Sean and Maria...and Mummy...and Daddy...but I like to think she really responds to one of her three names.

While we were anticipating her arrival, Sean and I took a "Getting ready for and Birthing your Baby" class....we were the only ones who did not know the sex of our child (which confounded one woman as she asked how we were going to name the baby if we did not know the sex) and I appeared to be the only woman who actually enjoyed being pregnant (and not just because of the gift of life thing....I found true happiness in fish sticks while I was in the family way) We were also the only ones who did not have a nursery with a theme...at that point, we did not even have a crib. And no one thought it was funny when I said i cleaned out the bottom drawer of the dresser and had lined it with a couple blankets...
You'll be happy to know that Lucy does not sleep in the bottom drawer but in a crib (thanks Dad and Sean for putting it together) and though there is no "theme" to her corner of our second bedroom (the corner has actually become the corner and one wall), she does have some lovely decorations that make the room her very own: a birdhouse from Uncle Michael and Maureen that hangs from the ceiling, the Lady of Fatima that watches over her courtesy of Cousin Cooper, one of my favorite portraits of a baby from Uncle John and Aunt Jane, a crazy monster picture that I bought at a street fair in Cambridge years ago and a hammock of stuffed animals.....no theme but fun nonetheless.

Anyway, Lucy is approaching the 4 month mark (April 16th was her birth date for those who may not have heard) and is all kinds of fun now - she responds to our voices, and is able to look at us without her eyes crossing (thank goodness because I was starting to feel badly about laughing at her every time it happened) She even responds to her own voice....that is when she shrieks really loudly, she startles herself and and looks around all wild and wide eyed trying to figure out where that shrill noise just came from....

She reaches for things and bats at whatever you put in front of her- which at times can be amusing.....especially when she hits it hard enough that it either swings back in her face or
hits Mummy in the face which apparently is funnier than anything in her whole little world because she throws her head back and smiles and squeals (still working on the laugh...for now, smile and squealing = laughter) enough to make me laugh which makes her laugh harder...(disclaimer: no child is hurt during this activity, I don't let it hit her hard enough to do (permanent) damage and it's usually a little stuffed toy or a soft rattle....I stopped letting her play with the Leatherman key chain weeks ago)

The dryer has just gone off and Sean is asleep and snoring in his chair....the weight of the blog is on me....one last load of laundry to fold, teeth to be brushed and dreams to be had so more on Birdie tomorrow ...


First day back

Lucy hasn't called me once today...*sigh*

Sunday, August 2, 2009


It's 10:09pm, Sunday August 2nd....and tomorrow is my first day back at work...which means it is Lucy's first day at day care - she could care less....me on the other hand....

So I went into overdrive and packed her bag, made up a half dozen bottles, unpacked and repacked her bag and made two more bottles just in case.....neurotic much?
And then I was feeling so badly, I think I may have overfed her to compensate....she burped twice, spit up for good measure, stretched once (which caused her onesie to unsnap) and then burrowed her face into my neck and feel fast asleep....I kept her there for 45 minutes because I know one day, too soon, snuggles like this will be a thing of the past....


Saturday, August 1, 2009

I almost forgot...

Happy Birthday Mum/Noni!
Love you lots

Maria, Sean and Lucy

Yes, this was my idea...little did I know I'd actually have to do something

Yes, this was my idea because I thought it would be nice to keep our family and friends in touch with us as we welcomed Lucy Ellen in April...and everyone is more interested in you when you have a baby...for a few months anyway.....

So I thought what better way than this blogging thing I keep hearing about - Uncle Michael's wife Maureen was the one who actually suggested it - both her sons/daughters-in-law just had babies and they live far away so they blog to keep Maureen in the loop - so I suggested to Sean we do a blog...so he started a website...and after a tussle or two and a bit of whining from me, he created "The Blog" which I then ignored....not sure who I thought would post on it...but apparently its supposed to be me

So now I sit on a a lazy Saturday morning watching my daughter drool on herself in her Bumbo Chair as her tongue sticks out like MJ (that would be Jordan not Jackson for non basketball fans and the British) and every few moments she lets out a shriek (of delight not rage) just to remind us that she's here.

Sean has turned on "Grease" and is thoroughly engrossed watching John Travolta's Danny Zuko trying to figure out what sport would impress Sandy.....he's settled on track and Sean breathes a sigh of relief....Danny Zuko has found something he excels at!

Lucy is demanding some attention and Sean keeps asking what we should do today...me? I'm content pretending I'm blogging but really stealing glances at my family trying to figure out how I got so lucky

I thought I would write about how Lucy and I spent our maternity leave days together (trying to figure one another out, trying to figure out what would keep our crying to a minimum and trying to understand what stresses new moms out so much because frankly, I enjoyed every minute of it including the 3am feedings)......

Or I thought I would write about all the cute stuff Lucy has done (like the day I was talking to her and she fell asleep...but I'm pretty sure she was faking it because when I stopped talking and turned away, I caught her out of the corner of my eye opening one of her eyes and when she saw I was still there, she squeezed her eyes shut!)....

But writing is harder than I thought it would be....I find myself trying to be witty and funny and given that I am neither, I'm suffering from writer's block which I think is actually performance anxiety....

Sean is singing along to Beauty School Drop Out.....his head is swaying and his toes are tapping - Lucy is eating her burp cloth and when she catches me looking at her, flashes me a big gummy smile...Life is good