Dublin Days

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Farewell, Sunny Days

Tomorrow is the kids' last day at their creche. They both started there last August, and while there's probably not a perfect childcare situation that exists, we were all very happy with the place, and the people who cared for them there. Both of them love going there each morning; there have never been tears or sadness when we left them there. They've made friends that we talk about all of the time at home, and some that we even see at the park nearby. Paddy has learned to sing loads of songs, but his favourite is You Are My Sunshine. He and Trish, one of the women who works there, sing it together. Síofra is well prepared for school in September, and much of that is due to her work at the creche.

We would have been happy to keep Paddy there, but he got a place in another local, community creche that is subsidised, and costs less than half what this place does. So this decision is really about economics. The price of childcare here is insane; for the past 12 months we've been paying 1 1/2 times our mortgage in childcare. It was a killer, but come September we'll only be paying 1/4 of what we are now. So, in theory, we'll be rolling in dough. Yeah, right.

It's 9:30 pm and the apartment is about 101 degrees...not because of an Irish heat wave, but because I've got the oven on cranking out 24 cupcakes for the kids to take into school tomorrow, for their farewell party.

It's kind of sad to say goodbye to all the people at Sunny Days (the name of the creche is "Sunny Days" in Irish), but there are exciting times ahead, with new beginnings for the kids. Another lesson in letting go, and moving on.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lasagne Casserole

Ok, so Rachel Ray does sort of scare me with her extreme brand of enthusiasm, but I did steal this recipe from her and modify it for us vegetarians. And both the kids asked for another helping, so it must be good.

what you need:
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 courgette (zucchini) chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 mushrooms, chopped
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tspn. sugar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
handful of fresh basil, torn up
1 package Quorn mince, or TVP
1/2 tub ricotta cheese
bow-tie pasta
1/2 cup parmasan cheese

what to do:
Heat up some "E.V.O.O." (that's "extra virgin olive oil" in Rachel Ray-hyper-speak) and add the onion. When the onion is softened, add the courgette and the mushrooms. Another 4 minutes later, add the garlic. Fry for another 2 minutes.

Then add the Quorn, and stir. Add the tomatoes and their juice, stir. Add the sugar and soy sauce. Add the basil. Let this simmer while you cook the pasta.

Cook the pasta, drain and then add to the sauce. Add the ricotta and stir. Salt to taste.

Pour all of it into a baking dish. Sprinkle the parmasan on top.

Bake in a moderate over for 20 minutes or so.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Weekend in Pictures

Our weekend adventure starting by getting the 10 a.m. train from Dublin to Cork.

Arriving early on Friday gave us the afternoon at Muriel's (Grandma's) house to relax in the garden. It got so hot Daithí even hosed the kids down! The kids loved watering the plants and playing in the "forest" at the end of the garden.

Síofra enjoyed some quiet time collecting apples with Auntie Ann.

Saturday we went to the beach at Garretstown. It turned out to be a scorching day, don't misled by everyone wearing jackets in these photos.

Daithí spent a lot of time like this...
And thanks to this t-shirt I have really weird sunburn lines.

And, of course, we had lots of cups of tea with Muriel!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Get Outta Town!

We're heading to for the weekend.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Price of Ten Minutes Peace

Mmm, Síofra and Paddy sure are playing quietly in the bedroom. I haven't heard a peep for ten minutes. I'd better just check to make sure everything's ok...

What the...!?!?!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Story

Writing the story of Fionn's death and birth is something I've been meaning to do for months. I knew in my mind that I had to do it, but I was afraid. I was afraid to relive all the painful moments of that time. But today I just decided to do it, to get it off my shoulders. I hope this isn't too upsetting for you to read. I debated whether or not to put it here, that maybe that was making myself too vulnerable. But it's his story and I decided that it would be respectful to him to share it.

The first 19 weeks of my pregnancy with Fionn were uneventful. I remember feeling hesitant, at times, about the health of the pregnancy, but given that I’d had two early miscarriages, I would have felt that anyway. I first felt him move at 16 weeks, and that movement quickly became regular. I remember when I’d put Síofra and Paddy to bed at night, I’d lay on my back on the floor of their bedroom, and he’d always move then. I really enjoyed that quiet time I had with him as the other two children fell asleep.

On the evening of the 12th of December, I was lying on the couch and the kids were playing. Fionn began kicking vigorously, so that I could see it from the outside of my stomach. I called Síofra over to feel it. I remember feeling like I could really relax into the pregnancy then, that it was real and I began to feel excited. The next few days were very intense; in the early hours of the 15th of December, my friend Dee gave birth to her son at home, and I was with her. The midwife didn’t make it on time, so her husband Richie and I caught her baby as he was born. It was a great experience. But the same thought kept creeping into my head-When did I last feel my baby move? It had been Wednesday night. Two days without noticeable movement at 20 weeks pregnant didn’t seem to be a cause for alarm. But I was alarmed.

On Saturday morning I had been up all night at the birth of Dee’s baby, and only managed to get about 3 hours sleep that morning. Daithí had to go out to work, so I had the kids on my own for the afternoon. I called the midwives, and told them I was concerned about not feeling the baby move. They told me not to worry, but that I could come in for a quick check with the Doppler. I tried to convince myself that all my worry was just down to exhaustion and lack of sleep. I headed into the hospital that morning, Saturday the 15th of December, to see the midwives, bringing the kids with me.

I laid on the examining table; Paddy was in the buggy, and Síofra was standing next to him. The midwife ran the Doppler over my belly, and picked up what she said was the baby’s heartbeat. I felt relieved. She told me to believe in my baby and relax. When we got Fionn’s postmortem results, it showed that he’d already died by this time, so what the midwife heart couldn’t have been his heartbeat. But I wouldn’t have wanted the kids to be there when I heard the news he’d died, so it was probably best that I didn’t find out that day.

The next day we headed out to see Dee, Richie and the new baby. We visited them for a while, and Dee gave me a beautiful crystal necklace as a gift for being her doula. Then we got the bus into town and took the kids to see Santa. We debated whether or not to go that day, or to wait until the next weekend, and thankfully, we did go, because we certainly wouldn’t have had the chance the following weekend.

I had a regular, 20 week ultrasound schedule for Tuesday, the 18th of December. I went into work for an hour or so, then headed off to the hospital to meet Daithí. As we waiting for the appointment, I was very anxious. I still hadn’t felt the baby move again. I sat there concentrating, hoping to feel something, but I didn’t. They had given me a pamphlet about ultrasound, and what they could tell from the scan. I couldn’t even bring myself to read it, because I was so afraid there was something terribly wrong with the baby.

When we got into the darkened ultrasound room, I laid on the table, and Daithí held my hand as the technician put the wand onto my belly. There was quiet, as she moved it around a few times. And then she said, “I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

This was, by far, the worst moment of my life. I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I felt a cold tingle throughout my body. And my heart was pounding. Daithí put his head in his hands. I felt trapped in my body, unable to stay still, but too afraid to move. I kept screaming “No! I can’t do this!” as the midwife continued to scan to try and get more precise measurements. It was the same feeling you get when you have a terrible dream, and wake up. But this was real, and I couldn’t escape it.

After a few minutes, they got me calmed down enough to go to another room, to meet a doctor and discuss what would happen next. I couldn’t look at anyone in the hallway as I walked there. As we waited for the doctor, Daithí started to make some phone calls, to let people know what had happened. It was so sad for me to hear him telling people, to have to say that our baby had died, over and over. The doctor arrived, along with one of the community midwives who I’d been seeing for my antenatal care. The doctor explained to me that I’d be given a tablet to ripen the cervix, and that I’d come back two days later for more medication to induce labor. The thought of waiting two whole days to end the nightmare seemed like something I couldn’t withstand. But the midwife explained that it might be a good thing to have some time to process what had happened. In hindsight, she was right. I took the tablet to start the process of having my baby, something that went against every instinct I had, but I knew I had to do it. I said to Daithí then that we had to name this baby.

I went home then. I was exhausted but I found it very hard to sleep. Whenever I went to bed all the grief would overwhelm me. So I slept mostly on the couch, watching TV in the hope that it would distract me enough to fall asleep. I could not bear to be alone, so Daithí stayed with me all the time. I was too afraid to leave the house. Friends of ours picked up Síofra and Paddy from the crèche, and I was so glad to see them. I thought I’d loved them as much as possible, but suddenly, I loved them even more.

The next day we started to plan a service for our baby. Daithí was in contact with the bereavement officer from the hospital, and she helped us to organize it all. We decided to allow the hospital to bury him in the babies’ plot in Glasnevin Cemetary and to have the service on Saturday, so that Daithí’s family could come from Cork. And we decided what name we’d give our baby.

The next morning Daithí took the kids into the crèche at 8 a.m. I got ready to go to the hospital for 9:00. I packed a bag, something I’d never intended on doing, since I planned this baby to be born at home. I wore the necklace Dee had given me. We walked to the hospital. I was given a private room, on the labor and deliver ward, but we kept the door closed so we wouldn’t see or hear anyone else. At 11:00 the doctor came in and explained that I’d be given a dose of medicine to begin labor then, and again at 2:00. She said that hopefully the baby would be born that afternoon, and if there were no complications I could go home that evening. Daithí and I spent that day watching TV and talking. At 2:00 pm I started to get cramps, and by 4:00 they were contractions. Things went quickly then. I kneeled on the bed for a while, then I stood at the foot of the bed, holding onto the rails at the end of the bed. At 4;45 pm I got really hot, just as I had when I was about to give birth to Síofra and Paddy. The midwives had offered me pain medication, but I turned it down. I knew I needed to feel all of this to make it real, and make it over. I also felt like feeling the pain of childbirth was how I could show the baby how much I loved him.

I knew that it would be soon. Daithí opened the window and let in some cool air. The labor felt just the same as with Síofra and Paddy; it was just as strong. I told Daithí to get the midwife, because I felt some pressure. I climbed onto the bed and squatted there. The midwife came in then, but things seemed to pause. She wanted to to an exam to see how dilated I was, but I didn’t want that. I put my hands on my belly and told the baby that I was ready. He was born at 5:00 p.m., with one little push. The birth didn’t hurt, given how small and soft he was. But he was perfect.

I got cleaned up and they gave Fionn to us to hold, on a towel. His skin was paper thin and delicate, but we could see his eyebrows, his tiny ears and the little hairs on his body. They gave me an injection to help the placenta come out, as this often doesn’t happen easily in these cases. The medicine made me sick, and I threw up. But thankfully, about a half hour after he was born, the placenta came out whole.

Dee arrived ten minutes after Fionn was born. She is the only person, aside from the midwives, to see him. We sat for over an hour holding him, looking at every part of him. Then the midwife suggested I take a shower while she took Fionn’s hand and footprints for us. After I’d showered, she brought Fionn back to us in a little basket. We stayed for another hour and a half. We met with a doctor to sign the consent form to have a postmortem done. Then I felt it was time to go. I’d worried about how I’d leave our baby at the hospital. But I didn’t feel that then. I didn’t feel he was there, just his body. I was relieved to be going home, that I didn’t have to stay in the hospital overnight.

We got a taxi home, and Daithí’s sister, who had been minding the kids, stayed with us that night. When I got home I changed clothes and got on the couch. Suddenly I became freezing cold and shaking. I guess this was shock. That night I slept soundly for the first time in days.

Friday passed, and we finalized our plans for Fionn’s service. On Saturday about 40 people gathered at the hospital chapel for the service. There were so many there they didn’t all fit into the room. I held Fionn’s tiny white coffin on my lap. A friend of Daithí’s, who is a priest, did the service. Richie read A Time for Everything:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Dee read a beautiful piece by Sister Stan.

Everyone there took a stone from a bowl. These were the stones we used for Síofra’s naming ceremony. We played Rufus Wainwright’s version of Across the Universe and each person placed their stone back in the bowl, making a wish for our family.

Afterwards Daithí and I had a moment alone with Fionn, and said goodbye again. Then people came back to our house for tea and cake.

Six weeks later we met with a doctor to hear the results of Fionn's postmortem. They could not find a cause for his death. This was actually a good result, and the most common finding in cases like ours. It means that there's no increased risk of this happening again to us. It also meant that I can continue to see him in my mind as perfect, that I don't have a specific part of his body to think of as being made wrong.

This seems like the end of the story, but it’s really the beginning. The past seven months have been the most transforming of my life. I am learning how to allow Fionn his place in my heart, while continuing to live my life. Some days this is easier than others. But as hard as this has been for me, I am still happy to have known him for that short time, and I wouldn’t change that.

The meaning of his life continues to reveal itself as time passes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Join the Club

I was so excited to hear that my fabulous niece, Katy, has chosen to become vegetarian! Good for her! I'm so excited when I hear of young people making this decision, because it takes a good bit of courage and questioning to do it, and it's a choice that really opens your mind to questioning other parts of our culture of consumption. You can keep up to date with her and her friends vegetarian antics here.

So, welcome to the club, Katy! Here are a few of your fellow members:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ringsend Sunday

Surprise--It was sunny and warm today. So we stayed local today and headed to the Ringsend Regatta, a boatrace in the Liffey about 10 minutes walk from our place. Paddy slept through the event, but Síofra enjoyed it (the small, wooden rowboats are the ones racing).

After that, we went to the park, with ice creams, and hung out there for the afternoon. Síofra and Paddy spent 45 minutes digging up rocks and throwing them through a fence, working collaboratively all the while. I was impressed by their cooperation. The combination of dirt and sticky ice cream made Paddy's hands unbelievably dirty. But dirty hands are always a sign of a good day.Here's to more sunny days!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Real Stories

If you have a spare moment, read these takes on The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz!

This picture is for my sister, Maureen...sweet dreams!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...

I got my two new videos in the post today...

The Sound of Music.

I'm hoping Síofra will love it as much as I did as a girl. Does that make me a Weird Mom? Maybe. But, honestly, check out Georg in the Edelweiss scene...dreamy.


The Wizard of Oz.

The four of us watched it tonight. It was magical. Síofra was scared of the witch and the flying monkeys, just like I was (as a child, I can handle it now). Paddy was entranced, but seemed especially into the red smoke (and there's a lot of red smoke in this movie, never really realised it until now).

It's lovely to share these two films with my kids because of all the memories they hold for me. Thankfully, they enjoyed them, too, so I don't have to force it on them!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Síofra was playing restaurant tonight, busily taking our orders and writing them down on her pad of paper. This is a favourite game of hers, and she runs a very particular, Soviet style of restaurant; most of the things we ask for are unavailable, or are made in "another room" and will take a long time to prepare. But this particular exchange tonight really cracked us up...

Síofra: Ok, sir, what would you like to drink?

Daithí: Hello, Miss, I'd like a black coffee, please.

Síofra: Well, sorry, but we don't have black coffee here.

Daithí: Well, what DO you have?

Síofra: Um...we only have orange coffee and blue coffee.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Just Us Girls

Today Síofra and I had a day out together; Paddy was in the creche, Daithí was in work, so it was just us. We haven't had many days like this, and it was a really enjoyable day.

First of all, we had to go to the Children's Hospital because Síofra had an appointment with the orthoptist. Long story short, about a year and a half ago her playschool teacher noticed that her right eye would occasionally drift out to the side. We've had a series of appointments with the orthoptist and a consultant, and for the past 3 months Síofra has been wearing an eyepatch 6 days a week, for 2 hours each day. Today's appointment was to see if this has made any difference--great news, the strabismus has improved greatly, as has Síofra's control of it. To be honest, I've only noticed it about 10 times in the past year, usually when she's tired. But the doctors can measure these things more accurately, and I was so pleased that our diligent use of the patch has worked. Síofra only has to wear it 1 hour a day now, and we go back in October to see if there's more improvement.

After the appointment we got the bus back into town and had a wander around. We got her school shoes for next year, which was very exciting. We got her uniform last week, but I'm saving the debut of that on this blog until September! Needless to say, she's super cute in it.

Then we had lunch in Eddie Rockets. Here's Síofra enjoying her ice cream.

Finally, we headed back towards the creche to collect Paddy, stopping at the National Gallery for an hour and checking out the art. Síofra really enjoys going there.

It was a great day, just us girls!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


My friend Margaret came over for lunch today and I made this really nice Pea Soup. Quick, easy and very good.

what you need:
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large potato, diced
750ml of vegetable stock (and I think it's worth it to find this one)
250g frozen peas
3 sprigs of fresh mint (keep these whole because you'll remove them later)

what to do:
Heat a bit of olive oil in a pot and add the onion. When it has softened, add the potato and cook for 5 more minutes.

Then add the peas, the stock and the mint sprigs. Let this come to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat, and remove the mint sprigs.

Puree the soup. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Seriously, it's really good. I served it with a tomato and feta salad, and some nice bread.
If you try this, let me know if you liked it!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Movie Night

Ok, so my life is way to uneventful for daily blogging...but I'm trying my best not to let (the three of) you down!

Toy Story video + popcorn + milk= Good times

(and Síofra's doll, *Annika, liked it, too.)

*We don't know anyone, nor have we ever met anyone, named Annika, so that name must have come to Síofra in a dream.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Two Loves of Sarah D. (no need to worry, Stephe)

(this is in response to Sarah's comment on the last post, regarding Maltesers...)

When Sarah, Becky and I spent the summer in Dublin back in 1994, we found many loves; curry chips, numerous bartenders, pints, soup made with oatmeal, The Frames...

But Sarah forged two extra special relationships that summer-

So her comment asking how she could get her hands on Maltesers didn't surprise me, because I knew she was harking back to her love affair with another overseas chocolate, the Wispa.

Don't worry, Sar, I'm stocking up on Wispas to bring over to you, and I'll add a few packs of Maltesers to your care package, too.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

For Certain: I'll have my own popcorn with Maltesers sprinkled in it

We have a babysitter tonight and we're going to the movies...haven't been since November! We still haven't decided what to see:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (supposed to be good, but maybe depressing?)
Hancock (a break from thinking)
Wanted (again, a no-brainer?)

If you comment in the next two hours I'll take your opinion into consideration.

Help! We might not get back to the cinema for another 8 months, this is a very important decision.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Art Imitating Life

The rain stopped today...it was sunny and warm, FOR THE WHOLE DAY. This was a great surprise, especially after Daithí and I watched the weather forcast last night and it said that the weather would be crappy for 4-6 weeks. Yes, I said weeks. When Daithí left the house with the kids this morning, Paddy stared into the bright sky and exclaimed, "The sun! The sun!" If you consider that last summer it rained for 43 consecutive days, you can appreciate that it has probably been raining for most of Paddy's life, so sunshine really is a novelty for him.

So a surprise little summer's day snuck in today. I picked up the kids early and we went to the park for a little picnic and some time in the playground. Then, when we got home, they had a nice little game of dress up.

And the theme of Dress Up was...

...Rainy Day.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Not much to report

I don't have any funny stories from today. It rained. All day. The kids did go into their creche, but they didn't get outside to play because of the unending rain. The result of this was two wild, cranky, stubborn children who you have to chase to get into the bathtub and who really, really don't want to go to bed.

They are asleep now. Daithí took the night off work because I was nearing meltdown, so now we're going to sit down with a glass of wine and some chocolate.

Is this the kind of day I'll laugh about in 20 years?