Saturday, November 23, 2013

Halloween and some new gear

I'm behind on just about everything lately (including sending out thank you notes for Emma's birthday  so if you're wondering where they are know I'm working...or at least thinking of working on them), so it's no surprise that I'm behind in posting Halloween photos.

This year Julia decided she wanted to be an Angel and Emma was agreeable to wear the bunny rabbit costume Julia wore when she was in Kindergarten.  They looked so cute together - my Angel and Bunny.  I love how they are still into innocent costumes and I'm hoping they stay that way for another year or two.  

Julia brought her Trick or Treat for Unicef box again this year.  People must have remembered from last year because many people had some change ready to share.  She did much better this year than last year and was so proud that she could help other children by collecting spare change.

We used Emma's iPad to help her navigate Trick or Treating again.  I set up the Yes/No Answers app with two options for Emma:   Trick or Treat and Thank You.  She loved hitting the buttons and our neighbors all seemed thrilled to have her use it.  Julia helped Emma a lot by asking for her candy at the houses where steps were a barrier.  This year Emma kept good tabs on her Trick or Treat bag and was happy when she saw/heard the candy plop in it.

Speaking of candy - we have lots!  The chocolate was the first to go since we all pick at it.  Julia seems to love the lollipops, starburst and skittles the best and with the amount we have she currently has about a year supply so if you are in our neck of the woods and need  a sugar fix come on over!

Halloween was also the day that we picked up Emma's brand new power wheelchair!!!!!!!!  If you've been following along with our story you know we have been in appeals with our insurance company over this chair for about a year.  It was a frustrating process but that's all behind us now because IT'S HERE!!!!  and it was SOOO WORTH THE FIGHT!!!!!  Emma has taken to it wonderfully and is now navigating about our driveway on her own.  We do have a kill switch to keep her from danger but we are using it less and less as she is learning the ropes of safe driving.  I can't believe how quickly she is learning.  She is also going to school in it most days and learning how to navigate it inside school.  She is still very much a beginner but I'm excited about the opportunity for independence this will give Emma.  Already she has found power in her new mobility - using it to follow after her friends and to drive in the wrong direction on purpose when I tell her it's time to go inside the house.

Her chair is an Invacare TDX Spree and the color she chose is Bubble Gum.  She controls it with her head array that is made by ASL.  I think her head array is the curved.  The team wanted to get her a smaller one but I wanted this one because I found it kept her CIs on her head the best.  Trust me, keeping the CI magnet on Emma's head is a full time job some days so when you find something that doesn't knock them off you stick with it!  There are proximity switches in the head array and it's set up to go forward when she leans her head back on the switch, go right when she leans her head on the right switch and left when she leans on the left switch.  There are areas in the headrest that don't have a switch, too, and Emma quickly figured out where she can rest her head when she wants to relax and not move.  It's so amazing and humbling to see how quickly she is learning to navigate in her new chair.

The TDX Spree has the ability to tilt back in space which is how Emma prefers to sit so she can better control the head array.  The seat can also be raised ~5" so she can reach sinks and other places that are at a higher height.  We call her new chair "THE BEAST" because it truly is a beast sitting at about 400 lbs.  It has 4 programs - one is slow for indoor use, and the other 3 are increasingly faster speeds.  Emma LOVES the faster speeds so I usually put her on program 3 which is set at 40% of maximum speed.  I think it equates to almost 3 mph which doesn't sound fast until you realize she isn't the best at controlling herself in it yet.  We are thankful that it has a kill switch for us to remotely stop her from getting into a bad situation (can you believe insurance gave us a lot of hassle over adding this????  I mean, she was 5 years old when we ordered it for crying out loud!!!).

Emma's favorite thing to do in the chair right now is to drive over to people to give them a "High 5".  She really is a very social girl!  I can't believe she has only had this chair for about 3 weeks considering how good she is with it now.  We have to work on her stamina to drive long distances and to stop being such a busybody and resting every-single-time she sees something (which is pretty much everything!) that interests her otherwise it will take us a week to walk around the block!!!  But, I believe that everything will come together in time.

I am so very, very thankful that Emma has her new wheels.  I'm also very thankful that she has already left her mark on it through scrapes, which means to me that she is starting to spread her wings because she is READY!  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Emma turned 6!

Every year I make a birthday video for the girls using photos taken over the year.  It's my solution to no scrapbooking time and the girls LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their videos.  They watch them over and over and over during the year.  I'm so glad I started this tradition because it always reminds me of how much life we pack into a year.

Today I'm ready to share Emma's 6th Birthday video.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Proof my kids were here

Julia was here

Emma was here

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eulogy for my Dad

For Dad's celebration of life I had the honor of giving his eulogy.  It's the first eulogy I've ever given and I have to say it was a daunting task (and I'm not very easily daunted).  I would gladly stand up in front of hundreds of people and read it, but first I had to write it and the task of trying to put into words how much Dad meant to our family was quite overwhelming.

I managed to put something to paper and practiced it a few times until I was pretty comfortable that I would be able to maintain my composure enough to get through it at Church.  However, that was before the actual day.  On the day of his service we had a viewing and immediately following the viewing was the mass.  The eulogy was given after we said goodbye to Dad and closed the casket but before the mass started.  What was I thinking?  Such a profoundly sad moment in my life and then right on the heels of it - literally less than a minute later! - I was tasked to deliver the eulogy before I even had a moment to gather my composure.  Let me just say that I think the timing required by the Church was much less than ideal and it should have come towards the end of the service.

I've been told that I gathered myself together quite well, but I don't know.  The only thing I know is that I tried my best to hold it together and honor my Dad.  

Here is what I had to say about my sweetheart of a Dad:

Good morning. 

I think most of you here know me but for those that don’t, I am fortunate enough to call Chris my Dad and I stand before you today not to mourn Dad’s passing, but rather to celebrate his life.  Dad packed a lot of living into the 83 years he was here and he touched so many people’s lives for the better.   The fact that so may of you are here today to say goodbye speaks volumes about his character. 

Many of you know him as the laid-back Irishman who always had a ready smile and a willingness to help a friend in need.   Dad was a man who loved his family, his home country of Ireland, a home cooked meal, a good party and the 4:30pm Saturday night mass.

Dad was a hard worker.  I have never met a person who worked harder than him and I’m pretty sure I never will.  I don’t recall him ever calling out of work sick even though there were times he should have, but I do recall his reaction when I was a teenager and decided to call out of work sick to go to a party.  Let’s just say I wound up going into work that day. 

Dad was a family man.  He had a soft heart and Maura and I quickly realized that if we wanted anything to ask Dad instead of Mom.  You see, Dad pretty much never said no to us.  Especially when we asked while cuddled up in his lap and his lap was my favorite place to sit when I was little.  Eventually, though, Dad started telling us to “go ask Mom” when we wanted something because he knew he couldn’t really say no to his girls.  And then he became a PopPop and it seems that he became even more soft-hearted when dealing with his grandchildren.  When I asked my daughter Julia if she thought I should say anything in particular about PopPop she asked me to tell everyone that he was the Best Pop Pop Ever and I think all his grandkids would agree with her.

Dad was a jack of all trades- I guess that’s to be expected since he was born and raised on a farm.  He could and did fix pretty much anything.  We didn’t always appreciate that about him for sometimes we were looking to get something new rather than mend the old, but once we bought a house my sister and I quickly realized what an asset it was to have a handyman Dad.  He was always ready and willing to come over and lend a hand to fix what was broken whether it was a washing machine, an electric outlet or an overflowing hot water heater we knew we could count on Dad.  Just recently he replaced a side view mirror on my car after someone tore it off.  The dealership wanted a small fortune to replace it but Dad came right over, found a barely used one at a junkyard in town and fixed it up good as new.

Dad was a good storyteller.  He loved to tell stories about when he was little and walked miles to school and church uphill both directions without any shoes.  He loved to recount how he single handedly built Heathrow airport during the time he lived in England.  He loved to tell how he would go to the Irish dances and that is where he met many of his friends here in the States.  I remember laughing a lot at the dinner table growing up for it was often there where he shared these experiences.  Dad was great at sharing his life stories with us and I wish now that I had gotten some of them down on video like I always meant to so my children could hear him tell the stories in his own voice. 

Dad showed his love freely.  He kissed us good night and said I love you before ending any phone conversation.  He taught us to pray, that it’s ok to make mistakes and to try and not take life too seriously.  After retirement he took over some household duties such as scrubbing the floor and helping with the dishes to give Mom a break. 

Before you think he was perfect I should say that Dad also had some quirks.  He loved to look at his reflection in the mirror, was immensely proud of the fact that most of his teeth were original issue and left all the packing and unpacking for overnight trips to Mom – something I don’t think is too bad considering Dad loved to match plaid with plaid. 

Dad set the bar high for he is the standard upon which I measure men.   Thank you, Dad, for loving us and for setting such a wonderful example of how to life a full and happy life.    I love you. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I just read my last blog post and am amazed at how little time has gone by since I last posted and yet so much has happened.

We celebrated Emma's birthday with an at-home party on October 12th and mostly everyone invited came.  Emma loves to be surrounded by people so we planned for a large party this year and were happy that the weather cooperated.  My Dad hadn't been out in about a month since he was recovering from a hospital stay and we were so happy that he was finally turning the corner and feeling good enough to come out.

I compiled the annual birthday video and once it was turned on all the children piled into the living room to watch and were thrilled to find that many of them were in at least one photo in the video.  They then went on to watch every annual video I've made for each of the girls and several other home movies including one of Finnegan when she was a puppy.  Who knew home videos would be such a draw?  Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time and the birthday girl loved all the extra attention.  Her favorite part of her birthday - or any birthday for that matter - is singing and the cake.  I love watching the joy in her face when everyone sings the Happy Birthday song.  It never gets old for me to see her so happy.

It's seems hard to believe that less than a week after Emma's birthday party my Dad fell and wound up in the hospital.  We thought it would be a few days in to heal and then he would head home, but that was not to be.  He was in the hospital for two weeks and during that time he contracted pneumonia and a staph infection and wound up in the ICU.  He fought so, so hard to beat it and I've never been more in awe of my Dad's strength than in those two weeks.  But in the end it was just too much and we said our final goodbye to Dad on November 2nd - All Souls Day - and the priest that came to bless him commented that if he had to go it was a blessed day to pick.

It's still hard to believe that we said goodbye to the first man I've ever loved.  It's hard to believe he won't be sitting in his recliner and ready for a chat when I go home to visit.  It's hard to believe Mom won't have her constant companion by her side for all the adventures they had.  I'm sure it will sink in eventually but it hasn't yet.

Dad had a wonderful, full life.  We had sunny day for his beautiful service and luncheon.  He would have LOVED it!  I think he was looking down from above and smiling.

Here is my favorite photo of me and Dad from my wedding.  I can't help but smile every time I look at it:

Thank you to everyone who came to Dad's service and shared in the celebration of his life and to those who were not there but showed their love and support in other ways.  It has certainly made this sad time a bit easier.