Friday, June 28, 2013

A Few Highs and Lows

I'm a little behind on my domestic duties, so I'm going to cut right to the chase today.

1) Getting harassing emails and blog comments from some lunatic against circumcision. I understand the argument, I really do. But do people really think they’re going to get you to come around to their way of thinking by name calling, bullying, illogical metaphors, and using anti-Semitic rhetoric? And do people out there really think that they care more about my son’s well-being than I do? People truly amuse me. 

It was a humbling experience, to say the least. I’m fairly na├»ve and tend to think that people out there aren’t capable of truly harming or hating a perfect stranger. I have this little blog where I try to be open and honest, to give my readers an accurate and ambivalent portrayal about what it’s like for an American girl-next-door to live abroad. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I have to say, but I guess I did expect a certain amount of respect for what I put out there. 

After some of the hate mail I got, I really considered ending my blog. I kind of wanted to go back to living a private and anonymous life where no one can judge me for my parenting decisions because there is no way for them to know. 

But then I realized that no matter what I do, people will judge and criticize me. If I circumcise my son or if I don’t. If I breastfeed or if I decide formula works best. If we vaccinate him or decide it’s the safer bet to take our chances. If we enroll our child in public school or decide homeschooling is the best route. No matter what we decide, someone is going to think we’re doing it all wrong. Some might even go so far as to say that we don’t deserve to have children at all. 

Some people are opinionated and self-righteous. All I can do is try to remember how this judgmental person made me feel, and try not to do it to someone else. I’m going to try to trust that every parent out there has access to all the same information as I do and they just came to a different conclusion than I did. That is their choice and their right and their child. 

The ultimate goal for all of us is to raise healthy and happy kids who become healthy and happy adults. There’s more than one way to skin a rabbit and there’s surely more than one way to raise a well-adjusted child. So let’s treat each other with grace and respect, shall we? 

I’m still moderating my blog comments for the time being, so if you leave a comment and it doesn’t appear right away, it’s just because I’m weeding out the crazy. 

2) Feeling lethargic. I feel like I’ve regressed in my pregnancy a bit this week. I’m not sure if its pregnancy or asthma/allergy related, but I have been breathless and fatigued all week. Even a simple chore like vacuuming leaves me gasping for air and feeling like I need to lie down for 30 minutes to recover. It makes for slow going in the chore department, and I’ve spent a lot more time playing Sudoku than cleaning house over the past few days. 
Jonathan frequently admonishes me for falling asleep on the couch at about 8 pm. I can’t help it. I’m so tired. Yesterday he asked if I could get him a cup of water from the kitchen, and just the thought of walking the 20 feet to the kitchen for this simple task left me feeling hopelessly overwhelmed. I finally had to look him in the eye and say truthfully, “No, honey, I can’t.” 

Even now, I’m fantasizing about guzzling 4-5 cups of strong coffee just to push through the day. Caffeine has been a much harder sacrifice than alcohol (or goat cheese) has been. My one measly cup of morning tea doesn’t even put a dent to the physical and mental fog that is following me around these days. Anyone have tips for how to zap the pregnancy fatigue? 

1) I’m kind of relishing my lazy days. 
To be fair, I do get all of my weekly chores accomplished. I have dinner on the table every night, and my dogs get plenty of exercise every day. But once those tasks are complete, I guiltlessly take pleasure in snuggling on the couch with the pups while I get lost in a good book. 
Or retreating upstairs for some after lunch hibernation or Gilmore Girls marathons. I know that once baby boy is here, I won’t have the option of taking a slow morning to laze around in bed or spend an hour reading with a brown eyed spaniel warming my lap. 
2) I just bought Marc Broussard’s new live album and I have now listened to it 6 times in a row. It’s fantastic and makes me feel connected to my home state, despite being oceans away. Take a peak: 

3) Baking apple pie with the girls. Yesterday afternoon, we all gathered at Liz’s casa where she taught us how to make this delicious dessert. 
I feel like I truly earned my American Housewife points yesterday! Plus the sun was shining, so while we waited for the dough to set, we got to sit on the patio and enjoy the vitamin D. I’ll write more about the pie cooking experience, including the recipe, next week. Yum Yum. 

Well folks, part of the fatigue I’ve been feeling means that my week was pretty boring and there aren’t too many highs and lows to share with you. What about you? What were your highs and lows? You know the drill. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Whisky, Whisky everywhere and not a drop to drink...

This weekend was full of alcoholic excursions, which for a pregnant lady was not too fun. It was just like when I was back home last month and would go shopping in stores that only had summery and non-maternity clothes on the racks. It was almost painful to see all of the beautiful garments that 1) wouldn’t fit me, and 2) would never be weather appropriate in Scotland, even on it’s warmest day. No fun at all. 

So both touring a whisky distillery and going to a shareholder’s meeting for the local brewery this past weekend was a very similar experience for me. Still, Jon had a coworker in town from the States who brews his own beer. Getting an inside peek into the process at an authentic scotch Whisky distillery was a ‘must-do’ on his list, so I was happy to play designated driver. 
The closest distillery to Aberdeen is probably Fettercairn, which is just about 15 miles south of Dunnottar castle, so it was a no-brainer to include this on Friday’s itinerary. It’s kind of a hole in the wall as far as Scottish distilleries go, but I find this adds to its charm. 

We visited it as tourists when we visited my parents in September of 2009, and since then, it’s been sold to an Indian company and completely rebranded. 
Most of their spirits are currently being used for blending, until the new company can build up enough stock of its own recipe to start selling the traditional 10, 12, 18 (etc) year single malts. In the gift shop, they were offering a special 10 year ‘distillery exclusive’. They only made 250 bottles, and they are all hand signed by the ‘Master Distiller’ who hand picks only the best casks for these unique occasions (seriously, how do you get that job?).

Since I was unable to fully partake in the whisky sampling, Jonathan chose bottle number ‘22’ as a souvenir, since that’s my favorite number. 
We’d love to build a collection of these unique spirits, but that’d become quite complicated when it comes time to move away. None of the shipping companies will ship alcohol so everything we buy here has to be consumed here, unless we can fit it as part of the 2 allotted bottles we can carry in our suitcases. With all the whisky and Italian wine we’ve acquired, I have a feeling we’ll be having one doozy of a going away party. 

On Saturday, a local brewery, BrewDog, was having it’s annual shareholders meeting. Since our friends Nary and Gerald own stock in the company, they offered us a few of their guest tickets. Again, it was kind of depressing to be surrounded by craft beer and not be able to partake in the sampling. 

When we arrived, we sat down for the ‘informational’ part of the meeting where we learned way more than I ever needed to know about the brewing process. 

I felt a bit like I was back in one of my auditorium classes at LSU. After we were ‘dismissed’ we headed over to the bar and food area where my buddies got beer and I got a burger and fries. 

Nary wanted to meet one of the owners and ask him a few questions about future plans for the brewery, and I went along for the photo op. I guess he just assumed Nary and I went to school together, because he was flashing the Hook ‘Em horns sign in my picture. 
Thanks for inviting us Nary and Gerald! We had a great time and Jonathan told me that the beer was really good:).  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bump Day: 23 Weeks

I am 23 weeks pregnant today and baby boy is the size of a papaya. He is quite the wiggle worm, and one of Jonathan and I’s newest hobbies is waiting to feel and see his movements through the skin. I have been known to wait for 10 minute increments with the video camera ready and aimed at my bump so that I can text Jonathan footage of baby movements while he’s at work. 

I feel like my bump growth has plateaued over the past 3 weeks, but apparently, baby is gearing up for another big growth spurt. In fact, he is supposed to double in weight over the next 4 weeks. I better start applying that stretch mark lotion, because if baby is growing that rapidly, that means my belly will be as well. Here is what it looks like this week:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Many Faces of Dunnottar Castle

It was wintery March the first time I saw the enigmatic Dunnottar castle. 
The sleeting rain and heavy winds didn’t detract from my first castle experience. I was visiting my parents during Spring Break, and it was a world away from the beaches of Gulf Shores that I was used to frequenting during the week before Easter. 
No, this was a very different coast line, one that haunted me in a fabulous way. 
Despite being supremely photogenic, pictures don’t do an ounce of justice to this jewel of North Eastern Scotland. I’ve since been back to visit three times, and often get a glimpse of the castle ruins on my way to drop the dogs off at their boarding kennels. It never gets old. 
The only thing that gets tiring is trying to capture the mystery and drama of the cliff-side castle within a photograph. It just never seems to fully narrate the complete atmosphere. I’ve tried on four different occasions, during 3 different seasons. 

The first trip, I mentioned, was dreary and cold. My mom and I bundled up and hunkered down against the fierce winds to explore the granite ruins. 
My second trip was on a sunny September day, back to visit my parents, but this time with my new husband in tow. 
The clear skies, nonexistent wind, and warm temperatures led to a much more pleasant experience. The castle seemed completely different without the ominous skies and miserable Scottish weather as a backdrop. 
It went from being perfect scenery for a horror film to quite a nice spot for a picnic…or for a few Christmas card poses. 
When April arrived for her visit last September, we were blessed with another picture perfect day. 
I was happy that I got to share my first castle with my best friend and get to see her discover a piece of the magic about our borrowed country. 
When Jonathan mentioned taking a visiting coworker to tour some of the local sights, I knew we had to take him to Dunnottar. I prayed for decent weather, but instead we woke up to foggy and drizzling skies. Not ideal. But still, somehow, just right. 
With my camera (aka i-phone) in tow, I set out to photograph another face of Dunnottar castle. The ‘haar’ (word for Scottish fog) diminished visibility but also added a certain something to the mysterious air of the ruins. 
I excused myself from Jonathan and Rob to do a little exploring by myself. Since we were there early on a dreary morning, there were times when I had the eerie feeling that I was alone on the castle grounds. It reminded me of the setting of so many of my beloved historical novels. I half expected to walk through some time warp and wind up back in 16th century Scotland. Instead, I spent time gazing out onto the violent north sea, pondering the people who used to call this fortress home. 
No, it never gets old. Especially since the Scottish weather and plant life provides a constantly changing landscape. I have visited this landmark twice as a tourist, and twice as a local; both in ideal and dreadful conditions. I know that long after we have said goodbye to Scotland, this cliff top castle will still haunt us, in the very best of ways.  
What was your first or favorite castle? 

(P.S. I've been dealing with some harassing comments on the blog, so for the time being I've changed my settings to where I have to approve any comments before they can be published. So if your comments, don't show up right away, this is why. Hopefully, I'll get this little problem cleared up soon!)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Highs and Lows

We’ve been back in Aberdeen for a week and a half now, and I finally feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things. This is the first time that I haven’t been entirely happy to be ‘home’, but now that the jet lag has worn off and I’ve gotten to spend some time with my girls, my pups, and the sun, I’m feeling more optimistic about our future in bonnie Scotland. Here is a rundown of the highs and lows of my first full week back to reality. 

1) Bad news regarding Samson’s heart. 
If you want more details, you can read yesterday’s post here.

2) Jonathan had his first stint ‘off-shore’ this week. He was only gone for a day, but I still get lonesome without him. Luckily, he was gone during my night to host book club, so I had a nice distraction from his absence. 

3) Feeling a bit frustrated over baby boy stuff. I’ll go into this in more detail later, but I figured out pretty early on that Scotland doesn’t perform circumcisions. It’s been a mess trying to figure out how to get this done in a timely fashion after our baby boy’s birth, and it seems like the best option is to take a road/train/plane trip down to England to get it done. Not ideal. 

(PS. If you don't have anything nice to say about my husband and I's very PERSONAL decision to circumcize our child, please keep it to yourself. If you leave a hateful comment, it will just be deleted immediately. I respect anyone's decision to NOT circumsize and I was just pointing out that Scotland doesn't offer parents the choice. Trust me, we've done the full scope of research on this matter and have decided that this is what is best medically, religiously, and culturally for OUR child. Your inflammatory and hateful comments aren't going to change our minds. If you respect and support our parental right to make choices regarding our sons health, even if you disagree, thank you, thank  you, thank you. If you think I'm a 'mutilating child abuser', I guess I'm just going to lose a few readers over it. It's a shame that we as parents can't be gracious towards each other and respect the decisions we make so thoughtfully and cautiously for the sake of our children.)

In other, more benign news (had no idea I'd start a firestorm with the above information) I keep having recurring nightmares that we are set to leave the hospital and our baby doesn’t have a name yet. We are really drawing a blank for the perfect name for our little guy and as the days pass by with little inspiration, I’m getting more and more anxious that my nightmares of a nameless baby will come true. I plan to write a more in depth post about this issue as well. 

1) Girl time. I had a fun week playing mahjong, watching The Bachelorette, and discussing The Age of Miracles with my girl friends this week. It definitely helped to ease me back into life abroad. If I can’t have my family close by, they are certainly the next best thing. 

2) Finding out my sis is having a boy! 
I can’t wait to get our little guys together for sweet cousin time. They are going to have so much fun growing up together. Nana and Pops will have their hands full when they get all *four* of their rowdy grandsons together. 

3) Sammy’s new haircut. 
Ohmygoodness, I love when this cutie pie gets his ‘puppy cut’. Can’t believe he is 8 years old. He looks and acts just like a wee pup. 
Sometimes I worry I might accidently squeeze him to death. The cuteness is too much. It’s too much. 

4) Jonathan had a coworker from Midland in town on business, so we took the day to show him some of the sights. I’ll write more later, but we spent a nice foggy morning visiting Dunnottar Castle and Fettercairn Whisky Distillery. 
It was a long morning/day which caused me to take a 3 hour coma nap when we got home. Which also caused this somewhat late posting of Friday’s highs and lows. I hope you have a great weekend filled with lots of highs!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

His Heart is too Big.

I usually do my highs and lows on Friday, but I felt like this weeks’ low deserved its own post. I don’t mean to be a 'Debbie Downer' to your Thursday, but writing is my therapy, and this blog is my therapist, so I’m taking my readers down with me. 

Jonathan and I are blessed with two very sweet pups who are beyond loved. Samson, our lap dog, is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (aka angel sent down from heaven). 
When we were on a forest walk last weekend, a lady stopped us to tell us she used to have one that looked just like Sam. ‘He lived to be 12.” she said. “12? That’s really great!”, we responded. 

It’s a similar conversation every time we come across Cav (or previous Cav) owners. We all know that the one and only drawback to this otherwise perfect breed, is that they don’t live very long. In fact, the average lifespan is only 9 years. 

Most Cavaliers die from a genetic condition, called MVD, which causes heart failure. It begins with an asymptomatic heart murmur which gradually (over the span of 2-5 years) develops into heart failure. It’s recommended that Cav owners have their dogs screened once a year for any heart murmurs, and we’ve been diligent about having Sam’s heart routinely checked. 
50% of all Cavaliers have developed a Stage 1 murmur by the time they are 5, and virtually all have it by the time they are 10, if they are fortunate to live until then. We couldn’t believe our good luck when Sam turned 5, 6, and 7 without any indication of a heart issue. He just celebrated his 8th birthday and seemed to be going strong. 
So when I scheduled him for his yearly check-up this week, I didn’t think much of it. Of course I knew that it was possible, but he seemed the same as always, so I kept hoping that he would be the only Cavalier in history to live until age 18 without any signs of this degenerative disorder. 

I started to get nervous when the Vet spent way more time with a stethoscope to Sam’s chest than she did with Bailey. Luckily, she was very tactful and broke the news to me in a way that didn’t send this emotional pregnant lady into instant hysterics. 

Basically, Sam has a low grade heart murmur that she suspects is in the 1st or 2nd stage of the disease. It’s not until Stage 3 that symptoms really start to show. The first indications are coughing and wheezing, difficulty breathing, and intolerance for exercise. 
I guess that’s what makes me the most sad. Samson loves walks more than anything. He’s been having a blast on all of our hiking adventures and always bounds full speed ahead over every hill we come across. If we leave him behind on a particularly challenging trek, he will sit in the front bay window of our house and howl and cry, making us shrink away with shame and guilt over not taking him with us. 
Anytime we grab our trail shoes or his leash, he goes spastic with excitement. Before we leave the house for a walk, we make him sit and stay before we open the door, and sometimes this little routine can take 5 minutes because he is just too excited to control himself. So to be told to pull back on his activity level is just a crushing blow to both of us. 

Our vet said that as of now, he seems fit and totally healthy. She said we can proceed with his usual exercise level, but may want to skip ‘hill walking’ (aka mountain climbing) with him. We’re supposed to keep an eye out for any developing symptoms, at which point we can start him on medication to hopefully slow down the progression of the disease. We’re hopeful that he’ll stay in the asymptomatic phase for a good long while, and there is no reason to think that he won’t. 

I still had myself a good hormonal ugly cry for about an hour on Tuesday night. Jonathan didn’t help at all by remarking, “You knew this day was coming.” Yes, I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know it was coming TODAY. I didn’t know that I’d be faced with this love bug’s mortality while in the heightened emotional state that pregnancy brings on. 
But Jonathan did give me some good advice. He said that as far as Sam knows, nothing has changed. He feels the same today as he always has. But he’ll be able to tell if I start treating him differently. If I treat him like he’s fragile or frail, he’ll pick up on that and may react accordingly. 

So for now, we’re continuing with our daily walks. He still has to sit and stay before he can walk out the front door. He still has to sleep on the floor. He has to eat in his kennel. Life will go on as normal, and we're looking forward to a long and active summer. 
We will have his heart rechecked in 3-6 months just to get a baseline on how quickly it’s progressing. Until then, I’m trying not to be too paranoid about every little noise that comes out of our little guy. I hardly slept last night because I was trying to detect if there was a rattle in his snoring. I’m going to be a totally crazy mom… 

I just keep thinking about how ironic it is that so many Cavaliers die from heart ‘failure’, when they are probably one of the most loving animals on God’s great earth. They play hard, sleep hard, love hard. They are naively fearless, obliviously happy, obnoxiously friendly, and charmingly gentle.  
Samson is a great ambassador for his breed, and has a way of making everyone fall in love with him. Even those who proclaim to be not be ‘dog people’ can’t resist his big brown eyes and sweet cuddles. He brings me joy every single day and all I can do is be grateful for every moment that I have left with him. 
And isn’t that true with every blessing in our lives? It’s much easier to take the things I love for granted, but every once in a while, something happens to make me stop and take stock of how incredibly blessed I am. That makes me fully appreciate how fragile life is and how lucky I am to have been given this life; this family; this adventure.  
We love you Sam, and promise that your life will continue to be filled with walks, naps, snuggles, popcorn, and chomping chews.