30 April 2010

Did you say “I scream” or “Ice-Cream”?

Well, something was bound to happen, wasn’t it? What, but with me poking my nose into all kind of things, and talking about this, that, the other, until something happens.

And when one keeps pushing and shoving and being a general nuisance, one might get a phone call asking one to become “IT”. This happened to me a few weeks ago when I received a call from Down Syndrome Ireland, wondering if I would agree to give an interview, live, on TV3 to help launch the HB Ice Cream Fun Days campaign. This year the funds are set aside for organising a series of conferences around the country, one of them being aimed at... Grandparents... Hence yours truly.

My initial reaction was to allow the Iamonly Syndrome’s voice fill my head. It went something like this: “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod... Oh – My - God! National TV! Prime Time Morning Show! Live! Me? Surely someone else would be better! I mean, I am only a grandmother...” But then, that’s the point, isn’t it? So I told the inner voice to shut up and get back into its box, and simply said: “OK. Let’s do this”.

In the end, it happened today, and it was not only me on the set, but also Cathal and his Mammy. A nice little family unit, in keeping with the theme.

The whole thing was very easy, we were made very welcomed. In the waiting area, Cathal was having lots of fun looking around, and playing with his mammy, and with me. Different story went we went on the set: he got a big fright from all the lights, became quite upset, and just managed to hold it, kind of, during the interview. And once outside again, he got back to his cheerful self! You know what they say about working with children and animals...?

And how did we do? Well, you can see for yourself below, but I must say I am quite proud of Cathal’s Mammy!

This little prince of mine is challenging me no end. This is another first that would not have happened without his extra little chromosome 21.

And if it helped just one person, it was worth it.

25 April 2010

A Few Titbits

A few weeks ago I got tagged by Jazzy and asked to reveal a few things I like. And then I got tagged by Mel and asked to reveal interesting things about me.

I have been very lazy on the blogging side lately, but I am finally coming around and, while I am bending the rules somewhat, it may be more fun to merge both. So here are a few titbits about me that I have not blogged about before.

Number 1 – I am a Sudoku addict. I love the simplicity of the game’s implacable logic. I have become quite good at it, through almost daily sessions: the best time is in the evening with the TV on in the background... I am not sure why, but this seems to help focus my deduction process. I find it very hard to resist the call of the grid when I come across one, say in a newspaper, and I know I am on a few minutes break and really don’t have the time to get stuck in. Because, like any true addict, once I start I have to see it through...

(the bigger book is well worn as you can see, but almost completed)

Number 2 – I love long-haul flights. It may sound strange, but there is so much to do, I am worse than a child with the excitement of it all: the meals, the wide choice of films (as soon as a film is over, one has to check what else is on the menu, doesn’t one?), following the progress of the plane on the screen (Where are we now? How fast are we going?), all the while keeping an eye out the window and admiring the beauty of our little piece of rock and water from high above (I always aim to get a window seat). So much so that I arrive at my destination quite tired and even worn out, which does nothing for the jet-lag effect!

Number 3 – Some people (mainly men?) say the Women Can’t Read Maps. I am sorry to burst their little bubble, but this is a myth, and I am the proof of it. Forget receiving directions from well-meaning people, forget your gleaming car navigation system, that is as up-to-date as the information entered into it. Just give me a detailed map and the address of where I am going to, and I’ll see you there. I have driven myself through such far away places as densely populated San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the sparsely populated beautiful island of Tasmania (Oz), and... Dublin (where street names are often not indicated where you would expect them to be, and one-way streets and no-right-turn signs are scattered around with no apparent logic – but I do love this city!). I have never ever got lost, I have never ever have had to stop and ask for directions. All I need is a map, and with it I would drive anywhere.

Number 4 – At the start of this post, I talked about being lazy. It’s one of my traits: extremes. I am not much one for balance, it’s often all or nothing. So I can be all activity and non-stop enthusiasm, and then I flop down on the couch and do ab-so-lute-ly no-thing – just flicking from TV channel to TV channel for the sake of moving a bit. And I have become very good at this slouching business. To a point that it can be quite frightening when I start thinking of all the time I let go by, lost for ever, and nothing to show for it. Then I justify my temporary yet frequently occurring apathy by telling myself that resting and recuperating are essential for sustaining my bursts of activities. And when I am doing something, I really do it, to the full, with focus and determination. I suppose this is my way of balancing life!

Number 5 – I love vegetables, and any meal would have far more of them on the plate than meat/fish and carb’s, be they hot, or cold in a salad (I have a salad almost every day for lunch!) I just love them all, except for two of them: parsnips and aubergines. I don’t get parsnips, I think they taste like – well, simply nothing! So what is the point? As for aubergines, I will eat them if misxed with others, but the aftertaste they have just doesn’t do it for me.

Number 6 – The last of my titbits, but the one I am most proud of: for my 50th birthday I gave myself a huge present, the holiday of a lifetime. And to top it all, I dared going on my own, with my own company. I treated myself to 3 weeks away: one week on a holiday resort in the Maldives, then one week on a safari cruise ship hopping from one Maldivian island to another Maldivian island, and finally a cultural trip around Sri Lanka (I had booked a tour where I was assured there would be no more than 8 people on it, but it turned out to be just me and my chauffeur/guide... who fortunately was an expert of his country’s history. Fabulous!) But the best is what I achieved during that holiday. Who said 50 is old? I went on a sea-plane trip around some of the northern atolls. I went snorkelling for the 1st time ever. I learnt to scuba dive and did 11 dives in 14 days in some of the most beautiful dive-sites in the world. The most memorable moment was coming face to face with a Napoleon Fish (one of the largest yet gentlest fish in the world) at 15 metres below the surface and spending 20 minutes looking at him with respect and awe, as he looked at my two diving companions and myself, each in turn, coming as close as 20 to 30 cm from my mask to have a good look – male Napoleon Fish are famous for being very inquisitive, and this one was only a young, not fully grown, adolescent male. An almost spiritual experience! I absolutely loved scuba diving, and the only reason I have not kept my PADI certificate up to date is that Irish waters are far too cold for me (I Hate Cold!). After the experience of going down as much as 20 metres below in a monokini as the Indian Ocean is a constant 30 degree Celsius, donning a wetsuit to step into the cold Northern Atlantic waters is not appetizing! But I intend doing it again, in warm waters.

View from the seaplane

Napoleon Fish checking out my dive-master

Again I am not going to follow the rules and pass this on to 7 people and ask them to tell us their own titbits. I am going to tag only one person, because while she blogs regularly, while I know she likes flowers, gardens and cooking (the leg of lamb incident still makes me laugh- though I am sure it was not funny for her, but it is so well told!) we actually know little of the fingers behind the paws, the lady behind the fur, Fiona of Clive the Assistance Dog.

So Fiona can you please step up, and tell us about YOU? I am sure Clive won’t mind giving you some space on his blog, and that the Not So Little Man will be more than happy to read about his mum... And then you can display this little award ;-)

19 April 2010

It’s all good!

The most important news,

the BIG ONE,

the one we have been waiting for, hoping for,

is very, very good indeed.

Cathal’s Mammy has the scoop here.

Thinking of only this time last year, it’s a big sigh of relief all around.

Little skip and dance, please.

And then, there is the smaller news, of the “day-to-day” type. Actually, it’s not news as such, just nice progression, but it has me absolutely delighted. Over the last few weeks, Cathal seems to have decided that I am IT. Or, as I keep saying, I am “flavour of the month”. Up to then, when I would meet up with him, he would do the “shy little boy” bit for a while: head on the side, half of a smile on his lips, looking at me tentatively and then away. A little game of hard to get. Eventually he would come into my arms, and hug, and we could talk, and play, and sing. But he needed a little time to start with.

It all changed two weeks ago or so. On that occasion, I was welcomed by a big smile on a happy face, a cheerfully hello sign, and even a Nana sign addressed to the nearest parent present. This was immediately followed by arms up, and the biggest tightest hug ever. We have not looked back since. Every time, the broad smile, the hello sign, the arms up, the strong hug... I just love it.

But most importantly, once this new little ritual is gone through, Cathal decides that his parents barely exist. Who does he want to talk to, play with, or sing with...? Who is to push the swing, put on the Lámh DVD, read the book...? Who is to feed him, change his nappy, bathe him, put him to bed, dress him...?

I just love it, love it, love it.

It’s not all easy, as I often need an interpreter for the sounds or signs he uses - they are more and more of them than I can keep up with, so Mammy or the Dad need to be in the background to assist. And sometimes, even they are not sure. But it does not matter too much, we are together, and enjoying ourselves. It’s all good.

14 April 2010

THAT is what makes it all worth while

I have been feeling pretty good in the last 24 hours. I do not wish for what I am about to relate to be seen as something extraordinary; I do not wish to blow my own little trumpet; but yes, I do feel good. Because things have come full circle, in a nice, quiet and very unexpected way.

It all started in April two years. Only a few weeks after Cathal’s birth, still under the shock of the diagnosis of Down Syndrome, and the diagnosis of his very sick little heart. As I was coming home after seeing him in the hospital only a couple of days after his first heart surgery, I saw a poster advertising for a blood donation clinic. And I thought to myself: “if Cathal had needed blood during this surgery, if he needs blood for the big open heart surgery that is still to come, someone has to give it. So why don’t I give blood too?” I felt so helpless at the time, this was the only concrete, useful thing I could do.

So I did. It was so easy, that even ME, the very squeamish one, could do it – a previous post tells that story here.

And in the back of my mind I hoped that, against all odds, a child might beneficiate from my own donation.

Yesterday evening I attended a blood clinic, as I now do every 3 months or so. I was just finishing the pre-donation screening process when the nurse started saying “hummm... yes... hummm...” while checking her computer screen, my filled-in and by now signed and witnessed questionnaire, my records. Then she excused herself, went off, came back with a doctor who had a quick chat with me, checked the form, then nodded and said: “yes, I agree”. And then he went off... I was seriously starting to wonder if there was something wrong when the nurse said: “it’s all good, you can donate... And you might like to know, your blood is going to a baby.”

What was that?

I mean, I did not think we could know to whom it is being given. I thought it was going in storage to be used when needed

She then explained that they had just received an urgent request for four or five units of blood type O+ for a baby going for surgery, and my donation would be one of those units. She put a special mark on the form and on the ID labels, and that mark indeed followed me and then my little bag of blood once the donation was made.

I have since done a bit of research – it helps to work with a nurse who has experience of these things - and it turns out that, although blood has a shelf life of about 1 month, the longer it is stored, the more it deteriorates. So when a very young child needs a transfusion, priority is given to “fresh” blood (or as my colleague put it “hot” blood) donated only a few hours before, so the child has all chances stacked in his or her favour.

My little, back-of-the-mind, secret wish has come true. Full Circle.

I do feel good! And I hope this child, whoever he or she is, is doing well.

PS: I have some serious catching up to do, what with 2 awards received in the last 2 weeks or so, and me lazying around and not coming up to the challenge??? OK, another few days and I’ll get on it, I swear!