Sunday, September 7, 2014

GF Princess

As I’m walking around the corner, coming backing for a meeting in a co-workers office, another colleague stops me. “I was just coming to get you. Your cell phone and text messages have been going off like crazy. Someone is trying to reach you.” I left my phone charging in my office and it was out of sight for the past two hours. I pick up my phone and see that its Chris that’s called. I look at the clock and see it’s just after 4pm. He’s probably wondering if I will pick up dinner on the way home.

I give my normal call-back greeting, “Hey, what’s up?”

“I’ve been trying to reach you. The doctor’s office just called and Kensi’s test results are in. They want to see us now.”

During Kensi’s normal check-up, we asked for them to do an allergen test. We knew that she was allergic to adhesives in some Band-Aids, but wanted a full work-up because at times her eyes get watery and her nose runny. To us, it seemed like seasonally allergies, but wanted a test to be sure. Instead of a regular grid test to see if she was allergic to anything, they did a full blood work-up.

“What do you mean they want to see us now? What did they say?”

“When the pediatrician’s office called to let us know the results are in, they said we needed to come in for the results. When I asked them if that should be this week or next week, she instructed me that we needed to get here right away and the doctor wants to see us at 6.”

I shut the phone off, grabbed my laptop and my bag and ran out the door. The two and a half blocks to Penn Station look forever. I couldn’t run fast enough and I felt like I was about to puke. What could they find in blood results? My mind started to list the different types of diseases… juvenile diabetes, kidney disease, leukemia. Tears started to spill out and I almost fell running down the stairs to jump on the train home. I knew whatever it was, it wasn’t good.

From the train station to the house, I ran as fast as I could. Once in the door, I grabbed Kensington and hugged her as hard as I could. She asked me why I was upset and I just held her, telling her that I loved her and everything was going to be okay.

Chris and I hugged, grabbed the car keys and were out the door. Kensi was going to stay behind with Rasmus as in her mind, nothing as wrong.

We got to the doctor’s office and told them that we knew that we were early, but whenever the doctor could get us in, we wanted to see him. The waiting room was a madhouse; crying kids, sick kids, kids that were running around. We waited and waited. Six o’clock came and we continued to wait. Look, we understand there were sick kids in the waiting room, but you cant tell us the test results are in for our daughter and we need to get here right away and not expect us to want answers. We wait. 6:20 comes and we get called back by some teen-age nurses aid.

“So, what are you here for today?” she asks.

“Are you serious? We’re here for test results. We were called in.”

Looking at the results, she looks at us and says, “Is your son, Ken, here with you?”

“It’s our daughter, Kensington. Her file, which is in your hands, tells you she’s a female. Can you let the doctor know that we’re here and we’d like to speak to him. Now. “

“No problem. But if you want, I have the results here and if you give me a couple minutes I can try to see what’s going on and let you know.”

“No offense, but you have no clue as to why we’re here, you don’t know who our child is, whether she’s a boy or a girl, even though you’re looking at here file. I don’t trust you to read anything. Get me the doctor in here now. “

“The doctor is gone, but I can read these to you.”
“Look, I don’t know what type of [bleeping] operation you’re running here, but I don’t have the confidence that you can tie your own [bleeping] shoe. Get me someone in here with a medical degree, NOW!”

She walks out the door and Chris gives me the look. “Don’t you look at me this way. She’s a kid and I’m not going to have her misread anything when she doesn’t know if our child is a boy or a girl.” Okay, my Papa bear instincts have kicked in and Chris knows that if he gets in my way, I'll take him down as well. While there are times I know I should listen to him, when it comes to Kensington, I don't take advice. From anyone. The claws come out and someone is gonna get hurt.

Ten minutes goes by and I open the door and grab Kensington’s medical file that has been placed in the holder outside the door. I open it up and everything looks like it’s written in hieroglyphics. Everything down this long list of items are showing negative… except a couple items are that in bold and show positive. TRANSGLUTAMINASE, DEAMIDATED GLIADIN, ENDOMYSIAL ANTIBODY IgA… I snap a picture of the report and launch Google on my phone. The 12 year old girl comes back in, “You can't look at those.”

“Did you find me an adult that I can talk to?” I snap back.

“PAUL!” Chris throws at me. I throw him a look and then I retract my claws.

“Look, I’m sure you’re sweet and all, but you cannot tell me that something is wrong with my daughter and not expect me to want to know. I’ve asked for a doctor and I want one in here right now.”

“It’s our policy that you can’t see those. Someone will be in here in a moment but I need you to give those to me now.”

“I honestly don’t give a [bleep] about your policy. And I’m not going to give anything back to you. Get me your supervisor in here now.” And I return to my google search. “Chris, endomysial antibodies are in her small intestine. Something has affected her Villi and her epithelial cells.”

“Hello. Can I help you?” Another employee walks in.

“Yes, are you a supervisor?”

“No. I’m one of the nurses here. I see that the door is open and it should be closed.”

“Can you please go get us a doctor so we can know what’s wrong with my daughter? “

“Sorry sir, but you can’t look at that test. I need them back.”

“Look, I’m not looking to get into an argument with you. I’m really not. We were told to get here right away, but wait until 6. We waited until 6:20. We know there are sick kids in the waiting-room and those take priority, but you can’t tell us something is wrong with our daughter and expect us to wait longer than we need to. I will hand these back to a doctor, but no one else.”

“Sir, it’s our policy… “

“Again, I don’t care what your policy is. I didn’t sign anything, never have been informed of this policy ad I don’t see it in writing anywhere. Show me where your policy is publicly displayed. Can you do that? No, you can't. So stop telling me about a policy that is written and shoved in a binder somewhere. If you want these back you will either get me a doctor in here or get a police officer to remove me from this room.” I turn back to Chris, “Her endomysial antibodies are extremely high. Anything from 1.41 – 3.90 is ‘high’, hers is coming back at 67.” The nurse leaves and two minutes later a supervisor walks in the room.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, you can. As I said to two other of your employees, get me a doctor.” I go through what has occurred through the day and she looks at me and said, “I fully understand. Why don’t I make you a copy of the results so when they are read to you, you can be reading along with them.  I’m sorry that you have encountered a series of mishaps. We are quite busy right now but I will go find someone that can read these to you immediately.” And within 90 seconds we have a PA in the room.

“Hi, I’m [name] and I’m sorry its taken some time to get here. Dr. [name] had to leave but I’m his Physician’s Assistant and I will be more than happy to assist you. If you please give me a moment, let me review the entire file on your daughter and I can let know you what the test come back and say.” After what seems like forever, she comes back and say’s, “Okay the test results came back with some abnormalities and it looks like – while further testing needs to be done – Kensington’s comprehensive results came back positive for Celiac Disease.”

“Okay, what does that mean?” As I type it into Google as I'm speaking.

“She has gluten intolerance. The good thing is, once we take gluten out of her system, she’ll be fine. That’s the treatment. It’s actually quite common.”

Note: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.  It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. These include the development of other autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers.


I tried not getting upset but I couldn’t hold it back. “Look, I’m not taking it out on you, but your staff should NOT instruct parents that they need to get into the office now, to drop everything, for a gluten allergy. When blood test come back and we’re told we need to get here now, ones mind tends to go to the worst thing imaginable. Gluten intolerance doesn’t compare to Leukemia which is what we though we were being told.”

By the time I was out of the office, I had already found the name of the head of the top Celiac specialist in the country online and left a message. The good news was, the center is here in NYC.


 
Two days later, we were sitting in the office of with the head of the Pediatric GI Department at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital. During those two days, Chris, Rasmus and I had done over 20 hours of research on Celica and felt pretty confident in what laid ahead. This visit was a consultation. He wanted to get to know Kensi and ask us some questions prior to reviewing her medical records. Based off of what we told him, he suspected that it was indeed Celiac, but a biopsy of her small intestine needed to be done.  As he’s describing the process, I pass Kensi – who was sitting on my lap – to Chris and brace myself as I’m about to pass out.  The fact that they need to put her under, and go through her mouth to get to her small intestine and cut out a portion of her Villi to see what the damage is, if any, is making me breakout in to a cold sweat. I’ve worked for healthcare organizations all my life and the one thing that still gets to me is the thought or the sight of blood. I can’t even give blood (which I do one a regular basis) without fainting if I see the tube that is in my arm. All in all, nothing would be conclusive until we get those results. The initial blood results could be a false positive and in order to know if it is Celiac, a biopsy must be done.

Two weeks go by until we have our appointment for the biopsy. During this time we’ve told Kensi what was going on and what to expect. The hardest thing for her was not having anything to eat or drink prior to the procedure. She’s already scoped out the gift shop at the hospital and told us what she wanted when she woke up.

It’s 5:30 in the morning and we arrive at the hospital. Doc McStuffins is at Kensi’s side all the time.

The staff could not have been more amazing. As we walked into the Laura Rothenberg Bronchoscopy & Endoscopy Center at the Children’s Hospital, we were greeted with warm smiles and big hugs. They treated Kensi like the princess she is. After doing all of the in-take forms, we were escorted to an exam room where Kensi meet other members of the staff and had her vitals taken, and then was able to choose the flavor of her anesthesia, bubble gum, and the color of the balloon that she would be able to look at (blue). Once her doctor came in and chatted with her for a moment, she was cleared to go.

The procedure itself took less than twenty minutes and then Kensi took about an hour to come out of her sleep. While we were informed that there was a small chance that something would go wrong during the procedure, her doctor come out and said it went perfectly fine. No excess bleeding or perforation of the bowel. We were told that the results would be back within a week.

This past Thursday, the results came in. She tested positive for Celiac. While she hasn’t been showing and symptoms or complaining about pain, her villi is affected. Once she goes on a gluten-free diet, her small intestine will start to heal itself and, because of her age, it should only take a couple weeks before its fully repaired. Because it’s a chronic autoimmune disease, it means she will not grow out of it. The treatment is a lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.   

In the coming weeks we will be meeting with a world renowned dietician, one that has written the book on living a gluten-free life because of celiac disease who will b helping us create a personalized treatment plan for Kensington. With that being said, we have decided that in order to show Kensington that we fully support her and the challenges that lay ahead, we too have decided to live as a gluten-free household.  We can’t imaging eating imaging eating something in front of her knowing that she’d love to have it, but can’t. So, a family that eats gluten-free together, stays together [I want you to know, I’m already having reactions to gluten being out of my diet].

This past weekend, there happen to be a large Gluten & Allergen Free Expo (yes, such a thing exist). We met hundreds of other celiac families as well as the president of the Celiac Foundation.  We’ve already looked into a Celiac summer camp (meaning their kitchen is completely gluten-free), as well as other programs that we will be taking advantage of. Luckily for us, Kensington isn’t reacting to gluten the way other kids are; at this point in time. Where others have severe reactions if they come in contact with Gluten, we caught it at the early stage where her body isn’t fully rejecting it, it’s just not absorbing it the way it needs to be.


The items we brought back from the Expo.
Does this suck? Absolutely. No one wants their child to have to worry what they eat, or knowing that she will be at birthday parties where she won’t be able to eat the cake like the other kids, or eat the candy that is in her trick-or-treat bag. But such is life. Knowing the diseases and disorders that crossed my mind the when the pediatrician wanted to talk to us, this is a blessing in disguise. I’ll take this any day. Now, no one said papa may not cheat at What-A-Burger on his next business trip to Texas, but it won’t be in front of her!

Now we’re in search of the perfect costume for Halloween. She’s gonna go as the Gluten-Free Princess.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Day Of School

So today was Kensi's first day of school. As you can see from the pictures, the adults in the household had a bigger issue with the day than she did!
 






Yes, the bag wears more than she does!



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Update: One More Fairy Has Entered The House

Within three hours of being up and excited about her mouthful of investments that are starting to yield in big dividends, tooth number two has exited. Now she's 2/5 of the way to her new pair of shoes. I'm afraid of what her smile will look like when I return from DC on Tuesday.


When I told her she still didn't have enough money
for the shoes she wants to get,
this is the face she made. Hahahaha. This Tooth Fairy needs
to take out a loan at this rate.

One More Fairy Has Entered The House

3:58 a.m - Our bedroom door opens and there is a thud on the bed, it's Kensington Grace. She rolls over Chris to the landing strip between us and grabs my face and with hints of ruby red lipstick still on from the night before, says, "She came. The Tooth Fairy came! And she left me a roll of paper." That roll of paper was the special note the she left behind after securing KGrace's first tooth. With crust in my eye (Sandy the Sandman came back and visited the family as well last night), I placed her on my pillow and covered her up, hoping she would quickly come off of her 'missing tooth high' and would go into a deep sleep - at least until 7 a.m.

She slept with a death grip on the note in her right hand, and her pink tooth pouch in her right.

Just after 6:30 this glorious Sunday morning, she smacked my sleeping face with the Tooth Fairy's note. With a whistle coming out of her mouth due to the gapping hole in her mouth, and another tooth looking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa occupying some of the new space that just opened up, she screamed again with excitement, "Papa. Wake up. She came. And she left me paper in my pouch and a roll of paper. She really came!"

Realizing that my parental duties should take precedent over my continued need for sleep, I hugged my munchkin and tried to buy a couple more minutes to allow my eyes to start to focus. "Ken's, lets go potty first and then we can she what she brought you." Chris and Rasmus were already in the kitchen making her a celebration feast in honor of the big day.

Yesterday, it became apparent that the tooth that has been loose for almost two months now was on the verge of coming out. What we didn't except was the second tooth that was loose, the one that has only been wiggling for a month, would be the first one to jump ship. When she pushed it with her tongue, it made the first move to let us know that its time was up. Chris went and grabbed the dental floss so he could tie a nice little bow around it to help it escape, but that trick wasn't happening. Then Rasmus decided he was just going in for the kill. 10 seconds later, she was giggling with joy that her tooth was out. Now was the time that she's been waiting for... the opportunity to meet the Tooth Fairy. She left her "Tooth Fairy Please Stop Here Tonight" sign on the front door, and placed her tooth in the satin pink pouch that has been waiting for a guest.

Last night was the first night that we didn't have to struggle with her to go to bed. Normally there are 4-5 excuses throughout the night of reasons why she doesn't need to go to bed, then another 4-5 excuses to get up once she's in bed. Not last night. Once the lights went off, it was like Christmas Eve all over again. She was down for the count.

The Toot Fairy's note shared with Kensi that this was one of the best teeth that she's ever seen, and thanked her for being a great brusher; and encouraged her to keep up her brushing skills each morning and night. It also stated that she would be back soon for that second tooth (that Rasmus already tried taking out this morning, but Kensi said she needed that tooth in her mouth to eat breakfast with, but may want it out my lunchtime). She was very excited about her "Two Thousand" dollar bill (if only) and also has her sights on a new pair of high-heels that she would like to use her money on. I told her that for the shoes she was eyeing the other day at Bloomingdales, she's gonna need to loose 4 more teeth. I shouldn't have said that. Knowing how much she loves shoes, and now she knows the going price for a tooth, she's going to be in dentures by the time she's 7.










Sunday, March 2, 2014

It Takes A Village

Our soon to be Madame President once re-penned a proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think that statement still rings true for every working parent out there. In a time where kids no longer go to school and come home and play stick ball in the neighborhood, todays activities become more and more time consuming and require extreme dedication – not only for the child, but for the parents of such said kid. ‘It takes a village…” also acknowledges that it takes more than one person to teach a child the ways of life; and more than two parents, which in today’s society is far from norm.  Our youth come upon many different experiences and circumstances during their life and often times, are influenced by the many people that surround them. These people show them, through their own actions, the difference between right and wrong.

Going back to my initial statement around time-management, when Kensi was a mere tot, it was easy. Okay, somewhat easy. Oh, alright… it was a juggling act.  Chris and I would be traveling for work, and we really only had three options: A) take her with us, B) ensure one of us rearranged our calendars to meet her needs, or C) rely on our "village".


For many of the occasions when we knew we were both going to out, we simply chose option A. This way Kensi could see the world and experience new sights and sounds. She got used to traveling on plane, trains and automobiles and enjoyed the room service and indoor pools of many hotels. This was a great option when I was traveling for events, not so much for meetings and conferences. We’d fly in a city on a Friday night, go to an event on a Saturday, hop on a plane that evening, and then to another event on Sunday morning and then back home. Was this the easiest option? Well, no. The advantage was being able to go through the TSA family lane at the airports. We came home with many-a-bruises from lugging her car seat on my back with her inside of it.  I know those Native American mommas used to carry their babies in a papoose across country without complaining, but they never had to tote that as well as a diaper bag, carry-on luggage and a laptop. Pocahontas made it look so easy.

You need to surround yourself with a support system that can assist you in your time of need (as well as in other moments when you haven’t actually realized you’re in need but they can sense that you are and step in anyway). Chris and I have been extremely lucky to have that type of system in place. “Aunties” and “Uncles”, then real aunties and uncles, cousins and friends, all who have enlisted -not drafted- in the Irwin-Dudek village (I’ll get to the “drafted” part in a minute). These caring individuals have made a sizeable impact on K-Grace’s life. Not only have they been a source for us to go to when we’ve needed assistance, but they have played an integral role in molding her to be the princess that she is today. Royal prep is no easy task, but these Village People (minus the Indian who is still carrying the papoose) have made it possible for us to continue with our careers so we can best provide for HRH.
When we moved out of the Pocono’s Kensi’s schedule then came into play. Being closer to more resources meant she took advantage of more. Soccer, dance, swimming, gymnastics; she was enrolled in these activities all prior to the age of 5. With her school in walking distance, it became easy for the daily routine – getting her to and from school. When you add these layers on, in addition to play-dates in the park with her circle of friends, complex arrangements needs to be made. We first started with an occasional sitter; one that could pick her up from school when we knew we couldn’t get there in time. We found a great online resource that did all of the background checks and had client feedback from other parents that had used them. After intense rounds of screening and putting them to the test, we found a couple that we could really rely on. Everyone that we found was able to get the job done, but then three months into the new place and the new school and additional activities were popping up on her calendar. Kensi’s dance card was starting to get full so we decided to get a Manny (yes, we ended up getting a male nanny) that came once a week on Wednesdays; our families busiest day. That nanny lasted for several months until he was able to secure a full-time opportunity. Then came Mr. Kyle, who was part of the US Navy’s Special Ops force in Afghanistan. Back from his tour, and attending grad school, Mr. Kyle took side jobs as security for celebrities and their children, as well as our lil diva. Chris and I felt totally comfortable with Mr. Kyle protecting our most precious possession. Whether it was reading her to sleep or walking the streets of the concrete jungle with her, we knew she was safer with him than she was with us.
Part of me wanted to take a trip with her (and him, of course) to Tijuana just so he could escort us around in a black Escalade, fully packing. He was the Denzel Washington to her Dakota Fanning in Man on Fire. Unfortunately, that has had to come to an end, not because of Mr. Kyle or anything that he did, but the fact that he’s in school he has a very set schedule of when he can guard her  - I mean watch her – and her schedule is becoming even more complex.
We’ve come to the conclusion that we needed to looked to full-time help, and decided to go the au pair route. Between the cost of Mr. Kyle, our housekeeper Rosario, and the occasion Mr./Miss sitter that we’ve needed to call upon, we realized that we could not only cut cost by consolidating roles, but we could provide Kensi with more opportunities that we’re currently able to. Having someone that can pick her up from school (not after-care) gives her two additional hours in the day to try something else. It also allows her to learn a new culture and hopefully create an additional bound with someone from another country so when she goes and visits there when she’s older, she has an extended family to reach out to.

Now, this wasn’t an easy decision by any means. Papa is quite selfish, and he doesn’t like sharing, especially the attention of one little angel. With that being said, we realized we can’t be everything and can’t be everywhere. She wants to take cooking classes, which for her age group, starts at 4:15 on Thursdays and because of our schedules, that doesn’t work. Because of her new age group, gymnastics is now at 5:15 on Wednesdays, and it takes us longer than 15 minutes to get there. I don’t even get off the train until 5:30. Soccer is during school (taught there on campus), but she wants to take additional lessons. Swimming is on the weekends in the winter and weekdays during spring and summer.  Chris would prefer her not being in ballet because of the weight and self-image issues this particular form of dance places on a child, and lyrical and jazz are both before the hours of 5pm during the weeknight. Now I know what you’re thinking… dance, soccer, gymnastics, cooking classes, swimming and tutoring lessons all for a 5 year old. I want to state for the record, these are activities that she has chosen, not us – well, except for the tutoring lessons. Those are not an option.  I’m not a pageant-mom pushing my Honey Boo-Boo to do something she doesn’t want to do. While I have cheered her on, I’m not scolding her for not sticking her landing at the gym and making her do hours of practice at home. I’m not counting her calories, nor am I making her do kicking and blocking drills in the hallway of our apartment. I am though making sure her homework is done right and she spends the right amount of time study and practicing her writing skills, so take that tutors!
 

These are all activities that she chooses to participate in and when she wants to move on to something else, she has that ability. We provide her the means to afford the opportunity, now we just need the means to get her there. That’s where the Au Pair comes in. While initially I didn’t like the idea of an individual living with us (they could be a part of the village, but they don’t need to stay in our hut), it quickly dawned on us that this was the only option for us if we were to continue on this path of never-ending activities being added to her roster. She needed some additional stability, and we needed additional eyes, and hands, and drivers. Our daughter is no dummy; she knows how to work the system. If we have needed help three nights in a row and had to use different resources, she has convinced them all that cereal is an appropriate dinner, fruit roll-ups are okay for dessert, and that an 8:30pm bedtime is optional. No matter how many times we leave a list of do’s and don’ts, no matter how many conversations we have and text messages we send,  she ends up getting what she wants when she wants. Have you ever seen a straight Navy Seal Special Ops wear nail polish, make up and read the three little pigs in character? Oh, we have. It’s not a pretty picture. Funny, yes; pretty, no. We actually had a picture of the situation of Mr. Kyle being made up but when he told us he would kill us if we didn’t delete it. We didn’t want to take our chances so we deleted it quickly… then smashed up the phone to prove to him that we wouldn’t be able to retrieve it.

Chris, Kensington and I interviewed numerous individuals to be our Au Pair and have found, what we believe, is the right one. Meet Rasmus who comes from Denmark and teaches soccer, swimming, loves to cook, and  - from what he’s told us – loves to dance; all of the things Kensington was looking for in an Au Pair. Kensi loves the fact that Rasmus’s job is to play with her and protect her. While we did look into a female Au Pair for Kensi, quite honestly, I wasn’t up for it. No offense to 98% of our fan-base, but I’ve lived with a woman. Actually, I lived with a few of them (in my college years) and it just wasn’t fun. Yes, there are the occasional monthly mood swings, the never-ending boy drama (for those that I didn’t date… well, actually the ones that I did date as well), as well as the disgusting habit of leaving your unmentionables hanging from the shower rod to dry. Nobody wants to see it. Seriously, nobody. Yes, I may hang Kensi’s leotard on the shower rod. I don’t need frilly bra’s and stockings in my bathroom (once I hung up my crown from my award-winning drag-queen days, I vowed never to have these types of garments in my house again. And yes, I’ve already told Kensi these was forbidden in her future, but at the convent she’s going to it in a couple years this shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t know where they hang the habits out to dry, but quite honestly, it’s not my issue to worry about). We liked having Mr. Kyle around… it made us feel uber safe when we knew she was with him. Knowing that if they were walking down the street of NY and something were to happen (yes, it’s safe here… but ‘what if’), we would want someone to throw themselves in front of our daughter. If Kensi gets tired of walking and wants to be carried (as any princess should be)... If a soccer coach gets too competitive and starts screaming at the kids for missing a kick, or fumbling a ball, would Rasmus step in and mediate, you bet his Danish arse he would. That's what he is here to do.


Kensington and Rasmus on Day 1
Stop - LEGO time!
Roller Skating in the hall
Rasmus at Au Pair training... okay,
so he needs to work on his
Arts & Craft skills.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
There are advantages to having an extra person in the house, and having that person be a guy, makes us feel a little more comfortable. Yes, having a college kid in our home dealing with other female Au Pairs in the area is an issue, and we have vowed to his mother that we are not allowing him to date nor are we allowing his year in the States be a party for him. Yes, We have welcomed him into our family and will share our U.S. culture with him, but he is here on a duty – to help us mold Kensi into the fine young lady she’s becoming. So, our village has opened the gates and welcomed an outsider with open arms. Lord help us all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kensi wants to keep Christ in Christmas...



But Santa scares the crap out of her.

As we prepared to get Kensington to sleep, tonight we needed to up the ante.

You see, for the past several months, Kensi would - from time to time - get out of her bed and crawl herself onto ours. And leading up to that moment, there would be 4-5 times within the first two hour of us putting her down that she would come up with endless excuses to get out of bed.  


“I need to go potty,”
(This one always works, and she knows it… we don’t need her having an accident in her sleep);


“I’m thirsty,” (Two sips of water and then its back in the bedroom);

“I’m hungry,” (This one doesn’t work and I’m not sure why it’s still in her rotation);

“There’s a noise outside,” (We make sure the ipod is playing in the room so this is a non-issue);

 "I'm scared of the dark,” (Don’t start with me… you have three. Not one, not two, but THREE nightlights on in your room. Wait. This might actually be why she can’t sleep. No worries, she has a sleep mask that she got for Christmas last year);

“There’s a monster under my bed,” (Yes, and we put him there to make sure you stay IN your bed. You get out again and we’re going to tell him he can bite your feet the moment they touch the floor again).

Okay, the last one is a stretch. We wouldn’t want him to bite her feet… maybe just gnaw on a toe or two until she realizes that we mean business.

Tonight, we couldn’t take ANY chances. Santa was coming and needed to assemble all of her toys so they would be ready for her to play with in the morning.



After Kensi placed Santa’s magic key on our doorknob (now that we don’t have a chimney for him to crawl down in, he needs some way to get into the house), we tell her that Santa will come in, but if he sees her or even thinks that she’s still up, he will leave and take all of the toys with him.

She runs down the hall into her bedroom and hops into her bedroom. As I start to read a book to her (‘Twas the night before Christmas), Chris places our wireless speakers outside of her bedroom window. Half way through the book, Chris enters her room with his iPhone hidden behind his back. Mid sentence, he presses play and outside, you can hear the bells on Santa’s reindeer. Deadpanned face, Kensi looks at me and says, “You’re done reading for the night. We can finish this tomorrow. I gotta go to sleep. Now,” and gives me a peck on the cheek. Looking at Chris, as serious as can be, she says, “Dad, no cuddles tonight, only kisses. Do you understand?”
“Kensi, what’s wrong?”

“I can hear Santa’s sleigh. I have to get to sleep so I get presents.”


Our master plan had worked. We wait 20 minutes to start our evening’s activities, waiting until we knew she was out. At minute 21, Chris walks into her room to check on her and she peeks her head out from underneath the blanket. “Daddy, I’m scared.”

“Baby, what’s wrong? Why are your scared?”
“I’m so excited I can’t get to sleep. Feel my heart beating, daddy, its going fast. I can’t wait until Christmas but I don’t want Santa to know that I’m still up so I’m scared he’ll find out. Don’t tell him, okay? Promise?”

“Yes, baby… I promise I won’t tell Santa that you’re still up [cue music] but you really need to go to sleep. He’s almost here”

Ten minutes later, she was out like a light.

_________________________


This year, Kensi had asked Santa for only three things. We told her that she’s very fortunate and couldn’t go to him with her initial list that consisted of everything she’s seen on a TV commercial . Since September, every toy, movie, character and set of Ginsu knives she’s seen on the screen, her response was, “I want that. Can you buy me that? Can Santa bring me that?”

We’ve had to sit her down and let her know that there are other little boys and girls that don’t have the things that she has, and Santa not only needs to make sure there are enough toys for everyone on his list, it’s also our duty to make sure that we buy some items and help Santa deliver them to other children that are in need. It took a couple times saying this, but she understood. We went out and got the toy catalogs from the major stores (These are NOTHING like it was in my day… I remember they were as thick as the Sears catalog, or the size of a phone book. Now they are a couple pages, like a Sunday paper advertisement, as most everything is now online.
She looked through the flyers with a marker and narrowed her ask down to three; A pink microphone with a stand, makeup, and the latest LaLaLoopsie doll with blue hair that she can comb (the other LaLaLoopsie dolls all have hard plastic hair)
When she finally had the chance to sit on Santa’s lap, she forgot the name of the doll. She was a little stumped as she wanted to make sure she got a specific as possible so he would know which one to bring her. Heck, if he’s only brining three things, they BETTER be the ones she wants.  And that’s the holiday photo that we went with.
 



Friday, November 29, 2013

The Thud Heard Round The World

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At home with her arm wrapped
 
 the following day in her pink cast


two weeks later in her Christmas cast
(having breakfast in bed.. yes, she's milking this)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Texas T

No, not “Texas Tea”, as in oil, but Texas T as in Thanksgiving. This year’s Lone Star Rally included a special surprise for our family – Thanksgiving. As we experienced the rally and honored Mazha while we were in Galveston, we also took the opportunity to celebrate being together as a family at the beginning of November.

The past three years of the rally have been interesting. Three years ago we got a blizzard in PA that canceled Halloween and almost postponed our trip to Texas, last year we had hurricane Sandy that did postpone Halloween and impeded our travel (shortened our stay to just the weekend), and this year there was, what seemed to have been, a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Okay, maybe not that bad, but enough where we were home-bound for a day with the TV sirens going off. No worries... we ended up playing 6 hours of dominoes and watching the water rise outside of our window. We called it bonding.


With our usual activities taking place on The Strand, Kensington also experienced her first haunted house at the old Mayfield Manor, the former home of Dr. Horace Mayfield, once a respected doctor, upcoming community leader, and son of a prominent physician in Galveston. It’s an 1867 building that served as a morgue after the 1900 Storm – still the deadliest storm in U.S. history having killed an estimated 8,000 Galveston residents. When we entered, Chris told them not to hold back. She insisted that she go through it and loves the thrill of being scared and while we tried to warn her, she’s didn’t want to be babied. So we went through (with a flashlight) and she laughed most of the way through it. When we were done, she wanted to go through it again. It wasn’t worth the admission for the first trip, and we we’re going to even attempt it a second time.
Kensi loved the fact that our beach house was 50 yards away from the ocean. Within a minute, her little feet could be hitting the sand. Besides swimming, burying her feet in the mud and chasing after seagulls, she loved flying her kite with Fazha. Unfortunately, after about 2 minutes of piloting the craft solo, she let go of the string and the kite went soaring up in the air. I tried chasing it and stepping on the spool, even running through the brush and dunes to catch it. I had no luck. There was a huge gust of wind that carried it away. When all hope was lost, I found the spool that went over some power lines and found that the kite had actually landed on the deck of a vacation home. While I shimmied my way up the deck the best that I could, there was no way that I could get it. Cousin Chase also tried working his magic so K-Grace could have her “shark-attack” kite back. Then Daddy came to the rescue when he drove the truck up to the deck and I was able to climb on the rooftop of the cab and un-snag the sails.

We also made our annual trip on the ferry to feed the seagulls. With Chris, Simone and Jordan off at the spa, a group of us (loaves of bread in tow) stepped onto the ship and noticed that K’s throwing skills greatly improved over last year. Mighty impressive. Watch out Dorothy “Dottie” Kamenshek, this girl may actually beat your record.
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Friday, November 15, 2013

This holiday season... let them eat cake

The holiday season is coming up quickly and this poor little blog has been unduly neglected. I thought when I changed jobs it would allow me more time to spend crafting our paternal experiences in my down time (while waiting in the terminal for the next flight, in the evening hours at some random hotel or on an Acela train that has been blessed with free wi-fi).

Needless to say, that hasn’t happened at all.

Quick recaps of K-Grace’s fifth Halloween:

Halloween this year was a whirlwind experience which lead to her treat-or-treating six times (yes, I said five) in four different states. How does one do this? Why, with the magic of Santa, of course. If he can travel all around the world in one night, Kensi can travel to a handful of locations that are separated from each other by a mere 1600 miles. No big deal, right?



Okay, there was a trick (and treat) to the multiple locations. First, it started with the festivities at Seaworld, Lego Land and Disney Land in Florida. The wonder of these two location is that its Halloween for the weeks leading into the actual date. While we brought Kensi’s costume with us, the weather ended up being 80 degrees and we couldn’t have our little sugar cube melt, so we declined the traditional costume and went with festive t-shirts. We do have to say, Halloween at Disney is ten times better than Christmas at Disney.  While K-Graces loves her princesses, she takes after her papa and leans towards the dark-side and enjoys her villain experiences, especially the headless horseman that lead the parade.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This leads us to TOT number three; Sleepy Hollow. I never knew this was a real location, but it is and happens to be only 20 miles north of NYC. So we took a day trip to this tiny village with “Kensi-Marie” in full getup. Tarrytown gravitated to her more than poor Ichabod Crane. Can you blame them?

We took a story time excursion at
The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow (a 17th-century stone church located on that has a five-acre churchyard feature prominently in Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"). The 40 minute story time theme was “Halloween Tales for Tots to Tweens” so we thought it would be a great little break from our packed agenda.
Boy, were we wrong. We ended up leaving about 15 minutes into the event, but not without our own laugh that we will remember for years to come.


When our “master storyteller” started, she had asked the group for a name that she could weave into the story. A little girl in the first row stood up and belted out her name, Chloe.

The storyteller echoed in response, “Great, Chloe it is.” Then another little girl on the opposite side of the church stated her name, Nicole. The storyteller then said, “Great. We will use ‘Chloe-Nicole’ as our character.” That’s when it got comical. You see, Kensi was standing in a pew behind the other attendees (because she was the only one in costume and was wearing a wig taller than most of the kids in the room). Kensi raised her hand and cleared her throat so everyone would notice that she demanded their attention. The sound echoed through the (sleepy) hollow church. “Yes, Marie?”


 And then it began…

“My name is Kensington Irwin-Dudek, Princess Grace”

There was a small chuckle from the adults in the room. One of the dads at the front said, “They call her ‘Bob’ for short.”


“Okay, love. That’s quite a mouthful, so why don’t we call the little girl in the story ‘Chloe-Nicole Kensington,’ okay? So once upon a time in a little village like this one, there lived a young girl by the name Chloe-Nicole Kensington. Chloe-Nicole Kensington lived in a little house with her mommy and daddy.”

Interrupting the story, Kensi said just loud enough for the small group to hear her, “I don’t have a mommy.” There was another round of stifled laughter from the adults and our narrator rolled with the punches.

 “Oh, honey. This story isn’t about you; it’s about another little girl named ‘Chloe-Nicole Kensington’. So let’s continue. Once upon a time in a little village just like this one, there lived a young girl by the name Chloe-Nicole Kensington. Chloe-Nicole Kensington lived in a cottage with her mommy and daddy.”

Kensi, this time a little upset that she wasn’t taken seriously enough the first time decided she needed to command the presence of everyone in the room. Speaking in a royal tone and at a volume loud enough to make the windows vibrate, our little queen belted out, “Hey Lady. I just told you, I don’t have a mommy and a daddy. I have a daddy and a papa!”

At this point, Chris is nowhere to be found. He dropped on the floor and rolled his body under the ten pews behind us to the exit and left the building. I only the other hand tried covering Kensi’s mouth with one hand while lifting a finger of my other and putting it up to my lips indicating that Kensi needed to be quite. “Kensi, hush. You’re being rude by interrupting the story” I tried to whisper.
 
“Well, Papa. I don’t. So stop trying to shush me.”
 
I try to cover her mouth again and she pushed back throwing up her hands in the air and giving me this look like, “For the love of God, stick up for me on this one. The woman clearly is getting the story wrong and I need to you defend me. I’m not the crazy one here, she is. Oh, and by the way, where did daddy go, he was JUST sitting here next to you.”

Tears are now being wiped away from my eyes from holding in the laughter and I grabbed her and kissed the top of her forehead. She pushed me away… I now know not to cross this little diva and to stick-up for her no matter what.

The story continues, “Okay. Lets try to bring this back together here people,” now speeding through the part, “Once upon a time in a little village just like this one, there lived a young girl by the name Chloe-Nicole Kensington who lived in a little house with her parents.”

All is well until two minutes later Chloe-Nicole Kensington’s mother gets sick in the story. Kensi looks at me, rolls her eyes and shakes her head. My finger goes up to my mouth and Kensi whispers, “she just doesn’t get it, papa.”

Ten minutes in, and the story is now boring me, Kensi and the entire audience of 25 so I pretend like I’m trying to find the bathroom for Kensington and we exit. Unfortunately, as I run around the church, I forget that the front of the church is surrounded with glass windows and everyone can see Kensi’s wig running across the cemetery.

That’s the end of this story, but the wig did make an appearance in Texas during Halloween at The Lone Star Rally and this time no one was referencing Chloe-Nicole Kensington or where she lived (or with whom).


Our little darling was the hit of the parade with hundreds of onlookers wanting their picture with her or of her. Perched upon her daddy's shoulders (come on, there were 400,000 people in attendance and with there being a group of us, her wig being so high we could see her and Chris from three blocks away) people would stop us for her picture. She would extend her hand as if she wanted them to kiss the ring, and tell them to “please hold”. Then she would flap open her feathered fan and cover Chris’s face. She wanted to be the only one in the picture. Then she would give the okay to have her picture taken. After a few snaps, she would hold her hand up as if she needed them to stop, fold up her fan, and then indicated to daddy that she was ready to move forward. Each vendor had their Jack-O-Lanterns out filled with candy and when they would look up and she who was in front of them, would literally empty out their container of candy into her bag.


Long live the queen of the Lone Star Rally.

Then, once we were home, Kensi wanted to visit her NJ friends and trick-or-treat at their homes so she “Boo’d” them. She made Halloween cupcakes and knocked on their doors and surprised them. Not only by providing them with their own little treat, but asking for, in return, some of their leftover candies. It worked.