Wednesday, August 30, 2017

First Day Do-Over

Today was not the first day of school for my son. 

Last year...

I will not allow today to be classified as his first day of preschool in the 4’s Classroom at his wonderful children’s center near our home in Denver.  Because I believe my son and I deserve a First Day of School Do-Over. 

A Do-Over where:

-he is physically able to stay in the classroom without suffering from major anxiety due to sensory overload. 
-he doesn’t have to sit on the floor out in the hallway on his mom’s lap because it’s less chaotic, when all the other parents have left the building for a few hours so the kids could get used to their new classroom, teachers and classmates. 
-he won’t have to go all the way outside and sit on a bench with his mom while the other kids get to eat snack together for the first time in their new classroom. 
-friendly and helpful teachers and parents don’t bombard him from all angles with loving pats on the head, back or shoulders because they don’t realize that to my son, a soft touch on the arm can feel like a punch, scratch or scrape.  (Yes, a well-meant, gentle and innocent sign of affection for neurotypical people can feel like physical assault for him.)
-there are no tears.  From his own mom.  In public when she’s supposed to be strong and hold it together for him.

Today was not the first day for many reasons...

Technically you could call today the first day of school for the 4’s Class, because the kids had an abbreviated “meet the class and teacher” type of morning – just kiddos.  No parents (well, I ended up being there the whole time).  The first full day of school is next Wednesday.  Wednesday will be our First Day of School Do-Over Day.

It was not the first day for him at a new preschool – he attended the same school last year in the 3’s Classroom.  It was not his first day entering a new school building with a new preschool director, new teachers, new classmates, and new parents– the building is the same, same lovely and accommodating director, we know three out of four of his teachers, and seven out of the 11 kids in his class. 

Next Wednesday is when:

-we will take the obligatory first day of school photo with my son holding up some type of chalkboard or sign inscribed with school and developmental milestone information that nobody will read.  Perhaps I’ll even do a side-by-side collage of last year and this year’s pics or some crap. 
-we will take him out for ice cream to celebrate a new school year. 
-he will have his brand new John Deere backpack, John Deere snack bag, John Deere lunch bag, and green and yellow first day of school Saucony sneakers.  (That I ordered on Amazon.  That arrived on our doorstep exactly two hours after today’s morning at school.
-I will have all of his required paperwork turned in so there is no concern or worry about if he is legally allowed to stay. (The paperwork I planned on finishing and turning into the school office when I picked him up today.  I didn’t have the chance to leave school – hence, no paperwork.)
-I will create, laminate and distribute a sensory profile for my son’s teachers, including information on his sensory triggers, signs of dysregulation, and specific ways to accommodate for his needs.  (Lots of extra behind-the-scenes work on my end, but needs to be done.)
-I will hopefully be able to drop my son off at his classroom, leave the building, and run errands or clean the house.  Just like the other parents.  Parents of kids who do not have Sensory Processing Disorder.

Stay tuned for a First Day of School Do-Over Day picture of my amazing son.  Because cliché will tell you that there is a first time for everything.  And I will tell you that if that first time happens and it’s heartbreakingly tough, I will dig my heels in and orchestrate a joyful First Day Do-Over for him.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

Everything I Am Not

Like frail foliage fading on a magnificent mountainside, indulgently parched, am I.

I am a resoundingly blue sky daubed with hopeful clouds - swollen, distended drifters.  I am dry, yet soft. Jagged and withered, strong and tall. Simultaneously wilt and bloom, do I.

I am warm, playful gusty wind, mischievously embraced by the sun.   I am cool, still water – reflectively crisp.  I ebb, flow, gush, ripple and halt.  A whimpering howl, am I.

I am dropped, scattered, seeds making my fateful journey bound for a fresh beginning.  I am the stubborn few clutching to the barren stem.  I am wholly shattered. Harmoniously bold and muted. Enthusiastically jaded, am I.

I am vividly bright, dazzlingly opalescent.  A misconstrued blotch of brown, green, white and blue.  Duplicitous dark shadows shade and distort - neither holding me up nor dragging me down.  Pleasantly pliable, am I.

I am feebly exquisite and honorably scarred. 
Painfully proud, am I.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Decency Despite Dysfunction

45 minutes.

I spent 45 minutes on the Wal-Mart floor today (you read that right) waiting for my son's sensory meltdown to subside. 

We were there for Pull Ups and Children's Claritin. I would have left our cart in the middle of the aisle and calmly carried him straight out of there kicking and screaming...if we didn't absolutely need those two items.  Instead, I cradled my 4-year-old as he shook, kicked, screamed and bawled in my arms. We were in a sensory stalemate, if you will, and we needed to ride it out until it subsided and we could calmly make our next move.  "Riding it out," this time, occurred sitting in the middle of the Wal-Mart floor.

All because: I wouldn't buy him a toy.

To onlookers, that's what it most certainly must have seemed like. And boy...did I get cross looks, stares, and eye rolls.  It felt like their glares were burning a  harsh tattoo of judgement straight across my weary forehead that read: BAD MOM.

I try to explain to people that his meltdowns aren't ever really about "the toy."  Not getting the toy is just the thing that sent him over the edge. The build-up started well before we made it to the toy aisle.  When we first walked into the store, an employee was pushing a long line of shopping carts inside and they crashed (loudly and unexpectedly) into the wall next to us. TJ had also never been to this store so the surroundings were unfamiliar (he knows his way around Target though people...let's be real). In addition, he was hungry and tired, and the kicker - his mom has been really friggin sick for months now. By the time I told him "no" in response to getting the toy, he was DONE.

This is what SPD looks like, folks. It Iooks like a spoiled little boy who wants a toy and throws a fit if he doesn't get his way. It looks like a whiny, bratty little kid whose mom lets him walk all over him. For the few seconds that passers-by notice a screaming four-year-old in his mom's lap sitting in the middle of an aisle in Wal-Mart, it can look to them like the mom is a big hot mess who doesn't have her $hit together.

What I wish people COULD see is that my little boy is a sweetheart who says the words "I love you" at least 20 times a day. He loves vehicles and cats and turns out he is really good with directions. He uses words like "impressive" and "hoist" and loves to sing "The Tree Farm" radio jingle. He struggles more each day than many kids we know, and is basically just trying desperately to hold his own $hit together.

Thank the few kind strangers who stopped to ask if we were okay, even though they had no clue about our situation and chose not to judge. Most importantly, thank you to the one woman who whispered to me, 

You're a wonderful mom...I wish all moms could be like you.

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks and immediately, even though I had been trying to hold them back so TJ wouldn't see them, my tears began to flow.

I realize that he can't control his meltdowns...that sensory overload takes over and he becomes unable to process information in a functional way. I will hug him and validate his feelings and tell him that it's ok to be sad and disappointed. But when I have the time, wherewithal and strength, I will do my best to stick to my boundaries and teach him to be a decent human being even though things are hard for him. It seemed like 3 hours, but I stood my ground and he did not get that toy.

Today's lesson on human decency, despite debilitating dysfunction, brought to you by Sensory Processing Disorder, our messy Wal-Mart meltdown, and a stranger's whispered words.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

It's Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies


Tears streamed from my son TJ's red, hot, blotchy four-year-old face as he struggled to catch his breath. I felt his little heart pounding through his chest between the soft brown blanket I wrapped him in, and the weight of my body.  He thrashed his head backward and headbutted me, and then quickly turned his head to the side and sunk his tiny, sharp teeth into my bare shoulder.  I yelped in pain as I immediately scanned the imaginary file of new information in my brain that I just gleaned from his (absolutely amazing and wonderful) occupational therapist yesterday.

File tab label reads: Co-Regulation Strategies and Keeping Yourself Safe During Violent Meltdowns

I frantically scanned the file...

-Look for signs of dis-regulation (damn...way too late for this!)
-Keep yourself calm (uhhhhhh...ok?)
-Find a soft blanket and a soft place, such as a couch or cushy chair (check)
-Wrap child's arms in blanket and hold him down with light pressure (check)
-Less talking, more doing (#fail)
-Tell child you need to keep yourself safe (check)
-Breathe deeply (#fail)
-Reassure child they are safe (check)
-Child should fatigue faster and eventually calm down (eventually)

What actually happened:

-My son kicked me in the lower abdomen before I could get him fully wrapped in the soft blanket (I have an autoimmune disease called interstitial cystitis and am currently in a flare.  That kick? It did not feel good.)
-I immediately started crying as I held him down
-I repeated, way too many times, that I needed to keep myself safe and that I hated holding him down
-I incessantly told him how much I loved him, and that things would be okay
-I slowly let him out of the burrito blanket because it was torture for me - way too soon - and he immediately grabbed a heavy metal toy truck and hurled it at my head
-I started the process over and forced myself to be strong and take as much emotion out of the situation as I could
-I felt guilty and like a horrible parent the ENTIRE time
-Eventually he was able to calm down, stop hurting me and relax on the couch with his headphones and tablet (no judging...I have to pick my battles)
-I called TJ's occupational therapist to explain the situation, cried to her, and cancelled his appointment at the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder that was scheduled for later this afternoon
-Finally, I seriously contemplated adding vodka to my iced coffee


Today, I blame mac and cheese.

I stirred the cheese powder into my son's lunch after it came out of the microwave.  He wanted to do it.  I wasn't aware.  Thirty minutes later, I'm on top of his little body, holding him down so I don't collect any additional scratches, bruises or bite marks.

The entire meltdown lasted about 35 minutes.  Much, much shorter than Monday's one hour and 45 minutes.  Mark my words, however...they all feel like hours to me.  Never-ending soul-crushers.  Today I had a steaming bowl of mac and cheese hurled at me.  Three toy trucks.  My own phone.  And a glass of milk.  Not really all that much, compared to the usual amount of destruction and mayhem as a result of TJ's sensory overload.  Televisions (yes, plural) have been broken.  Mirrors shattered.  Lamps, fans, and numerous other household items and toys, broken.

My husband and I are learning that it is never really about mac and cheese.  Or a pink sucker (this morning).  Or taking his own shoes off (last week).  Or "insert typical four-year-old problem here" (almost every day).  My son's meltdowns, which are completely different than tantrums if you're familiar with the world of Sensory Processing Disorder, are a result of a cumulative collection of sensory experiences that his brain simply can't handle.  And his cup spills.  Or explodes.  Rarely does it just drip.

Today, it feels like a bomb exploded in our house.  In a sense, I believe that one has.

As much as I can try to explain to outsiders how quickly our days can unravel, I just truly feel like I am very much alone.  TJ's explosive meltdowns typically happen at home.  My husband Mark has the pleasure of being around for them sometimes, but usually, I'm the only one around.  He does a really great job of holding things together at school, in stores, at other people's houses, etc.  He knows he is safe and loved at home and since he is with me a majority of the time, his cup spills directly onto me.


Life around here is messy.  Certainly not always pretty.

So for every selfie I post on social media because I just did my makeup and I feel halfway decent - know that a landmine has probably already gone off in our house, or is about to.  For every pretty piece of art I make or picture of our beautiful mountain property I take, we arrive 45 minutes to an hour late for summer camp (that was this morning, because I was holding TJ in my lap in the front seat of my car as he wailed and cried, patiently waiting for his emotions to regulate so I can buckle him into his car seat and get moving).  New outfit or toy...missed birthday party or social gathering.  You get the idea.

Rainbows and butterflies?
Not always.

Not when it comes to life with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

First Things Gray

You, first.

I've heard this many times over the last few months:

"The most important thing right now is to take care of yourself first."
"In order to take care of others, you first need to take care of yourself."
"What have you been doing recently to take care of YOU?"

I get it.  Put your oxygen mask on before the person next to you.  Makes sense.  It's black and white. On an airplane, it is.  Your mask first so you can help others. Check.  Black and white is easy.  It's either this, or that.  Yes or no.  Left or right. Stop or go.

An entire spectrum of gray, however -  has been paralyzing. Lately I've been trudging through life with a mucked up mind, and as a result, I've simply felt stuck in my tracks.  Cemented, but certainly not grounded.  The matters of my mind have splattered together into a big heap of cracked, dusty clay.

I've been under the assumption that my recent gray matters (no, not the good gray matter!) have been a result of life's stressors. Things are tough and heavy right now.  Sure.  I mean, I'm seeing cloudy floating spots at this very moment as I type from anxiety.  But I've been stressed and stuck many times before and I've managed to carve a rough path through the gunk and forge ahead, nonetheless.

I think I finally realized that what really has been fuzzy for me (not warm and fuzzy...more like bleary fuzzy) hasn't been my list of new and specific daily challenges. Don't get me wrong, they've added to the dusty film. However, the majority of what has cemented me in place, ironically, is not very concrete.

Why can't I dig deep and find my momentum to rise above the grime these days?  My guess is that  I just don't know who I am, who I'm supposed to be, or exactly what I'm supposed to do during this particular stage in my life.

How exactly can you put yourself first, when you've completely lost sight of  the colorful person you used to be?  Seems like all of life's "gray," well, it matters more than I realize sometimes.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Our Blogworthy Day

Amidst the glory of the sparkling green Irish hills and lively bustling city centre streets, a few occasional hiccups in our plans and tough days abroad have surfaced for The Rambling Richters.  I was advised by friends and loved ones to allow myself to experience everything about these six months away - good, great, bad and ugly.  I continue to try my best to just BE in Ireland and take each day as it comes.  Today, I “took” a lot of things…


The DART train bound for Howth leaves Raheny Station every 30 minutes. 

One stop before Howth (the end of the line) is Sutton.  My son TJ’s doctor is a ten minute walk from Sutton Station.  We had his eczema follow-up appointment at 10:45 a.m. today. After a busy morning, I found myself with three whole minutes to get from the front door of our cottage to platform 2 at RahenyStation in order to catch the 10:20 train and be on time for our appointment.

So…we flew across the road at the stoplight with TJ giggling as his stroller (Irish call it a buggy) went up on two wheels.  Without skipping a beat, I whipped out my mesh coin purse at the train station with my DART card facing outward (I’m kind of a pro at that maneuver now) and waved it in front of the electronic sensor and the gates opened for us with just enough time for us to whizz up the footbridge and over the tracks to platform 2.  We had about 30 seconds to spare (I still can’t believe it) until we were safely on the 10:20 DART to Howth.


I took a few deep breaths and then reached for my backpack / diaper bag to grab TJ’s bottle of milk.  (I timed it perfectly so I could feed him on the train.)  Ummm…no bag on my back.  No bag in the basket under his stroller.  No bag.  Anywhere. 

Well. The door to our cottage locks immediately upon closing.  I realized that in my haste to catch the train, I quickly grabbed my coin purse with my DART card (duh), grabbed my son (double duh), and out the door we bobbled.  I’ve been anxious about TJ’s red, bumpy skin lately because it has been getting worse and not better since his last appointment, and I really didn’t want to pay 15 euro to take a taxi.  I took a taxi for his initial appointment  because I didn’t know the exact location and I didn’t want to be late.  The 85-ish-year-old cab driver got lost, and I couldn’t tell him how to get there in a car because all I do in Dublin in take trains and walk places, so, ironically, we ended up being late.

Anywho… my phone, keys, TJ’s milk, diapers, wipes, baby food, etc., were all in the bag.  At home in our cottage.  Ugh.  This time, instead of freaking out about being without my phone and/or other possessions (see this post for a refresher), I just kissed my son on the forehead, gave him a smile, and decided to take one challenge at a time for the rest of the day.  I had a feeling there would be many to come…
(Here's me feeding TJ on the train.  NOT today.)
We exited at Sutton Station, walked briskly to SuttonSurgery (in Ireland, general practice doctors’ offices are called “surgeries”), and checked in on time.  10:45 a.m. 


Annnnnnd then we waited in the waiting room until 11:45 a.m.  I tried to forget the fact that I had no diapers (nappies) for my son, and that he was over an hour passed due for his bottle.  He started to melt down (Irish say “give out”) a bit after 30 minutes, but I worked my Mommy magic and did my best to distract him every two minutes or so with something new so he wouldn’t scream.  I took his socks off and put them on my head.  I took my coat (Irish call it a jumper) and put it on his head.  I gave him pregnancy brochures, how to quit smoking brochures, breast cancer fundraising pamphlets, tissues, Gaelic magazines, etc.  We played peek-a-boo in the hallway, bathroom and reception area.  And we finally saw the doc and made a revised eczema plan.

With our new prescription in hand, we high-tailed it back to Sutton Station so we could catch the train back to Raheny.  I certainly didn’t want to miss this one, considering I had a hungry, and most likely wet, baby on my hands.  I knew I needed to call Mark at some point so he could (gulp) leave work at the airport, a thirty minute drive, to come home and let us in.  But my next priority was to get my kid some sustenance.  Right.  Ok.  

Next stop: our neighborhood SuperValu.

I had exactly 17 euro in my change purse and most places in our town won’t take my American credit card so I know I needed to use cash.  Groceries, and most everything else in Ireland, are very expensive, so I had to choose wisely.  I grabbed a cheap pack of diapers, a pack of baby wipes, a bottle of premixed formula, a cheap plastic baby bottle, and a squeezy tube of mangoes.  Sixteen euro and 47 cents. 


Now, where to feed and change him, so we don’t look like we’re homeless…travelers…wanderers?  Where can I save face and not look like a terrible mom?  I decided we would just walk back to our cottage and sit in front of the door.  Even if we can’t get in, it’s the one place in Raheny where we actually belong.  Even if it’s temporary, it’s our home and it’s a place where we don’t feel so out of place.  TJ sucked down the mangoes and refused to drink the milk because it was in a different bottle.  Whateeeeeeever, kid.  At least I offered.  Anyway, I couldn’t bring myself to change his diaper in the parking lot, so I decided to head to the pub on the corner and do it in their bathroom.

I fumbled through the hefty wooden double doors of the pub, banging the stroller about, and smiled at all of the regulars snuggled up to the bar.  I changed my son in the bathroom as he screamed ferociously, and then made my way back to the bar.  I asked to use the bartender’s phone, and he obliged, and said something that resembled English in a super heavy Irish accent, and I smiled and nodded, and reluctantly called my husband. 

No answer.  Greeeeeat.  I left a voicemail, and told him that I was going to head to the library so I could use their free computer and internet and send him an email, just in case he didn’t listen to his voicemail because it came from an unknown phone number.  

TJ was DONE at this point because it was way beyond his nap time.  He screamed and whined a whole heck of a bunch in the library (that was not awesome) as I emailed Mark quickly, something along the lines of, “LOCKED OUT!  SO SORRY.  TJ IS SCREAMING.  HEADING BACK TO STATION HOUSE PUB.”  I tried to sit and wait for a reply, but I felt bad sitting at a computer that other people were waiting to use while my screaming baby protested. I clicked the refresh button incessantly, to no avail. So back to the pub we went.
(Oh boy.  TJ has been doing a lot of screaming in this post.  Here's a pic of him a few months ago looking WAY cute.)
Next stop: The Station House Pub.

Upon fumbly pub arrival number two, the bartender mumbled, “Oh, hey ya, I tink yar hoosband rang ye.  I told em yar was lacked out.” I asked if he knew if he was leaving work to come and rescue us, and he said a whole bunch of whotheheckknows and so I smiled and nodded and said, “Ok, well I guess we’ll take a seat and have lunch while we wait.” 

I knew they served chicken fingers and French fries, because I’ve had them there before.  So hastily and without looking at the menu, I ordered them from the cook.  “Chicken fangars?  What the feck are chicken fangars?”  Clearly, chicken fingers aren’t a thing in Ireland.  “Well I jast make ye some breaded chicken and some chips then, ya?”  Whatever dude…

So I picked a little half-closed off space in the back of the pub because it was kind of dark and cozy and I thought TJ would maybe snooze for a bit in his buggy in the corner (Irish pronounce it “boogie”), but as soon as we got settled, in comes an old priest with his bible, notebook and reading glasses and plops down next to us.  I assume he was possibly writing a sermon, or homily, or eulogy, or [insert religious term here].  He seemed very familiar with the space, as though he had done some major contemplating there before.  TJ was immediately enthralled with him, because he seems to swoon over friendly grandpa-types, and he couldn’t help but coo, giggle, scream, laugh, etc.,…anything to catch the poor guy’s attention.  I quickly realized that a nap was out of the question at that point. 

I begrudgingly shared my super healthy fried chicken and chips with TJ (ugh, mother of the year) and halfway into the meal I turned my head and there he was.  My glorious husband Mark.  I swear I thought I saw a halo emanating from his lovely, shiny, soft, smooth head.  I was worried that he might be upset because he had to come home from work, but he just smiled.  I apologized profusely, but he said, “Hey, I’m surprised one of us didn’t do it sooner.  The door automatically locks…no worries.” 

Man, it was so great to see him.  He was in London the day before and overnight on a business trip, and his Dublin project has him working a heap of overtime.  Selfishly, I smiled to myself because although it sucked being locked out of the cottage and dragging TJ on a wild goose chase of basic necessities, I got to see my husband EARLY for a change, and I felt really darn lucky.


Speaking of luck, living in Ireland has been a fantastic experience.  It really has.  But it also has been filled with challenges, for both my husband and I individually and as a couple.  I have been feeling guilty because my intention has been to write numerous blog posts about all of our adventures while here in Ireland, and that hasn’t happened yet.  Don’t get me wrong – we have been exploring, taking pics, meeting people and learning new things.  But we have also been lonely, homesick, exhausted and a little, well, depressed.  The pressure of writing and reflecting have taken a back seat to other challenges and priorities.  I hope to backtrack and reflect on our complete Irish experience in future blog posts.  

When the time is right, I shall.

Until then, I’ll just remind myself that TJ and I survived being locked out of our cottage, and Mommy was resourceful enough to just go with the flow.  I experienced good, great, bad and ugly today, and I also earned a bonus:  

I was able to write about it.   



I'd like to think that I learned from my experience of dropping my phone into Howth Harbor.  I crafted a "phone leash" for my new phone as soon as it arrived:
I made it from one of these Goody brand Stay Put headbands:  

I figured the fact that they're called "Stay Put" couldn't hurt, right? Well, now when I go for walks, am on the train, taking pics near water, or anywhere for that matter, my phone leash is wrapped twice around my wrist.  It has already saved me from a few disasters.

It couldn't save me, however, from locking myself out of our cottage today.  Perhaps it's time to fashion a key leash...

Ramble tethered to a stay put leash,

The Rambling Richter

Monday, February 17, 2014

Now You Seal It

Less than two weeks into our Ireland adventure, I find myself without a phone.

I didn't lose it; I know where it is.  The bottom of Howth Harbor, to be exact.  I would love to include my own pictures from our time there yesterday, but alas, they are on my phone.  (The phone at the bottom of the harbor).

 Instead, here is a collection of photos and art of the lovely Howth Harbor by people other than me:

Photo credit:'s_Eye_from_Howth_Harbour_1.jpg

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As you can see, Howth Harbor is beautiful.  There are plenty of shoppes and seafood restaurants, it offers a gorgeous view of Ireland's Eye, and it's only a ten minute drive from our cottage.  I was most excited to see the harbor seals.  So excited, in fact, that as I was taking a picture of a hefty, well-fed, surly looking fellow, a gust of chilly wind blew by and shook my phone right out of my hand.  Directly into the harbor.  About ten feet from the seal.  In front of many tourists, fishermen and onlookers with gaping mouths and eyes as wide as mine. In the slowest motion imaginable.

I hate to admit that after telling my husband, leaving my name and email with the fishmonger adjacent to where the seal obviously spends most of his time, and calling the SCUBA diving team who trains in the harbor, I cried.  A lot.  More than a 35-year-old woman should over dropping her phone in the sea.

I cried for many reasons.  I was afraid of spending time in a foreign country with my baby while my husband is at work all day and not having a way to communicate easily if something were to happen.  I was sad to lose my instant connection to my friends and family back home (I say "instant" because I have a laptop and tablet with internet access at the cottage).  I was annoyed that I'd lose the ability to take photos of my walks and adventures in my new temporary home, edit the pics quickly on my phone, and then upload them to Facebook - all quickly from one device.  Sure, I could lug my fancy DSLR camera along to take photos, then wait until I got back to the cottage to edit the photos on my laptop and then share them, so all is not lost.  But I shutter to think about the possibility of my DSLR plunging telephoto lens first into the Irish Sea...

Most importantly though, I was (still am) upset that I let my husband down.  My phone was brand new. We hadn't even made a payment on it yet.   It was also fancy and expensive, and my track record with phones is not great.  It's not good.  Frankly, it stinks.  My husband goes above and beyond to try to make things easy for me because he knows that I struggle with certain things.  This new phone was waterproof; Mark knew that with me, there's a possibility that I'd probably drop it in water at some point.  We even paid for damage insurance.  If anything at all happened to that phone and it was broken beyond repair, all we'd have to do is send it back and we'd get a new one.  Emphasis on the SEND IT BACK.

The insurance doesn't, however, cover us if the phone is hurled into a harbor and it can't be retrieved.  We can't send it back in order to get a new one.  We just have to pay $500 for a new one.  All because I wanted a picture of this guy:

Photo credit:

This is Sammy the Howth Harbor Seal.  No, those aren't my feet, and no, I didn't name him.  While looking on Google Images for a picture of seals at Howth Harbor, I came across this one.  THIS is THE seal I was taking a picture of.  I'm sure of it.  He, indeed, hangs out at the same spot every day begging for food.  This person captured a shot of him, and luckily, she didn't seem to lose her photo-taking machine in the water.  Not only did I find this picture, I discovered that Sammy has his own Facebook page!  Click here if you're skeptical...

Anyway, the phone/seal/harbor fiasco was not my finest moment.  I'm really upset with myself, and am looking forward to the sting of it all to wear off.  Until then, I'll be using a temporary phone that Mark already activated for me.  I'll use my tablet for my MapMyRun app to log my walks.  And I'll just have to live with not being able to connect to the U.S. on a whim.  I will survive.  And as long as tourists keep feeding Sammy the Seal in Howth Harbor, he will too.

Ramble awaaaaay from the harbor's edge,
The Rambling Richter

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Trekking Trousers and Bright Red Boots


It's been a whirlwind, but I'm so glad we made the journey.  We've been in Dublin for almost two weeks now, and despite a moment of weakness on my part during the middle of last week (I straight up cried while walking down the street in our neighborhood), I'd say the transition has gone fairly well.

*Here's a list of things that I've noticed, accomplished, experienced, learned, etc., so far (In  no particular order):  *Please note that these might sound like major generalizations.  The following is simply from my limited experience as an American - I do not intend to offend anyone.

- It's weird not being able to understand people who speak the same language that I do.  Between the Irish brogue, the different sayings and slang, and the fact that sometimes I think Irish people mumble, I have no idea what they're saying most of the time.  Do they think the same about me?

- Adding money to an account, such as a prepaid phone or train pass, is called "topping up."  You can "top up" online sometimes, or in a shop(pe).

- I think it's so amazing to hear an Irishman speak.  It's still a novelty to me, even after living here almost two weeks.  I was surprised to discover that my way of speaking wasn't very special to them.  I realize that they watch a lot of American programs and get many American visitors, but for some reason I thought I'd be able to connect to people by "telling them about where I'm from." Perhaps we're not that special...

- If you order a sandwich, they'll ask you, "white or brown." White bread or brown bread.

- Many people have said, "Good luck to ye," when saying goodbye.  It's usually when I'd say, "Have a good day."

- I've noticed that not many people wear bright colors.  There's lots of brown, black and grey coats, jackets and boots.  I kind of stick out like a sore thumb, with my bright purple jacket and bright red boots.

Photo credit:
- Since I don't really know anyone yet, I've noticed that I've been "talking out loud" when walking around.  But I figured that since I have TJ with me, people will think I'm just talking to him.  I don't really care.

- The range of flavors and variety in the grocery stores (shoppes) is amazing.  So new and different to me.  So far, my favorite is hazelnut yogurt.  Yum!

- At Tesco (a grocery shoppe similar to Walmart) they have "Family parking!"  Spaces designated for cars with children, close to the entrance.  Love this!

- You have to pay a one euro deposit for a shopping cart, but the carts at the airport are free.  And there are carts in the shopping mall!  I thought that was so neat.

- I completely understand the expression, "This neighborhood was designed by a drunken Irishman."  Grids are nonexistent.  Here's a map of Raheny, the suburb of Dublin where we live:

Photo credit:

- Time is often listed military style, i.e., 15:45.

- I have yet to find coffee creamer here.  Many people drink tea.  Coffee is available, but a lot of people drink instant coffee.  Ew.

- There are companies that offer prepaid electricity.  I know the commercial's jingle already... "Prepaid, smart control of your electricity!"

- The adjectives that they use are charming to me.  Brilliant, gorgeous, dreadful, etc.  As opposed to cute and awesome, like many Americans.

- In regard to restaurants, you can "stay or take away."  Your food isn't "for here or to go."

- Lots of palm trees and sea gulls in Dublin.  I was pleasantly surprised.

- We can choose the temperature on our microwave.  You have to hit the "900" button if you want to cook on "high."

- We don't have a bathtub in our bathroom.  I realize that's very European, but I miss my baths!

- Most places charge you for shopping bags...about 25 cents.  Everyone here brings their own.  I love that.

- We have three garbage cans.  Black, green and brown.  Green for recycling, brown for compost and black for everything else.  I love that we have a place for our organic waste.  It took a while to get used to not having a garbage disposal, but we really don't need it.

- If you're name is Chrissy, you're "called" Chrissy.

- There's ants in TJ's room.  Not a whole lot, but we're trying to get rid of them.  Ew.

- Baby formula is called "follow on milk."

- Reruns are called "catch-up tv."

- Hiking pants are called trekking trousers.  Hee hee...

- They love sweet chili here.  They use it probably as much as Americans use ranch dressing.

- People walk amazingly fast here!  And they don't really follow any sort of rules in regard to walking in crowds.  One can certainly feel like they're going to get run over while walking downtown or in a park.  You certainly have to be on the defensive while out exploring!

Again, there's my narrow view of how things have been so far.  I've been posting pictures every day on Facebook, but I'm considering posting them on this blog as well for those who are not on Facebook or who aren't TJ's Facebook friend.

Stay tuned...more to come from the Emerald Isle!

Ramble brilliantly and with bright red boots,

The Rambling Richter

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Knew All The Grooves

Cue The Beastie Boys:

Photo credit:'s+Crafty

My family leaves for Ireland in 6 days.  Six.  I knew I'd have a hard time packing (I always do). My ADHD makes it difficult for me to plan, organize, and focus.  Typically when it comes to packing for a trip, I get it all done, but at the very last minute, and as a result of complete and utter fear of missing a plane or upsetting my husband.  Packing is not only stressful for me; it's absolutely terrifying and exhausting.

Well we're not just leaving for a vacation.  We're moving for six months.  Annnnnd... our good friends, T and T, plus their kitty Nermal and doggy Tucker (yes, another Tucker!) are going to live in our house and take care of our own kitty and doggy.  So we're not just preparing to go on a trip -- we're prepping for a zoo to move in.  The realistic side of me (it's tiny, but it's there) says, "They're our friends!  The house doesn't have to be perfect.  They won't judge, and they won't notice if every nook and cranny isn't clean and organized."  But my perfectionist side (about 99% of me) screams, "Make it comfortable for them!  Leave the house in tip-top shape!  Make it feel like home."  What an incredible struggle!

You'll see in my last post that this purging and organizing project has taken on a life of its own.  Our "moving to Ireland" adventure has turned into uncovering years of issues, regret, memories, unfinished projects, and uncertainty.  It's been stuffed under beds, in closets, bins and drawers, and [insert random hiding place here].  It has overflowed into our daily lives and consumed most of my time and sanity.  I found gifts that I made for people that were almost finished, but never given.  Thank you cards that were written out but never sent, including some from our wedding (that's hard to admit). Lesson plans, books, term papers, etc., from graduate school (this one stings, because I received my teaching license years ago but haven't had the strength to become a teacher).  I uncovered seven years of layers that developed because I thought that if I got rid of these things, it meant that I truly failed.  And that's been a tough pill to swallow.

I'm happy to report, however, that since last week, I've taken 15 huge bags to Goodwill.  I had a minor panic attack and freak out as I drove away from the drop off center, but after a few hours I did, thank goodness, feel REALLY good.  And that has sparked the momentum for me to -ahem- actually FINISH a project!  I purged, organized and cleaned an entire room.  Our downstairs guest bedroom / Chrissy's craft room is DONE.  I actually took enough (prescribed!) Ritalin, stayed up until 2 a.m. on numerous occasions, and expelled enough grit to amazingly complete something.  It's rare for me to be able to say that, and boy, does it feels good.

Here's the BEFORE:

Here's AFTER:

I found a cat!  I really am a hoarder! ;-)

I did it with the help of The Beastie Boys.  Although the song "She's Crafty" by the Beastie Boys is about a girl who is a thief, I still took inspiration from the lyrics and created my own mantra.

D pulled me over, said, "Hide your gold.
The girl is crafty like ice is cold!"
The girl is crafty - she knows all the moves
I started playing records - she knew all the grooves...

In regard to this particular project, I DID know all the grooves.  Basically, I could look at the disaster of a room that we had last week, and could visualize exactly how I wanted it to look.  The ins and outs, the decor, the warmth and overall feeling one would get when they walked in.  I knew all the moves...exactly where I wanted things to go.  Due to my hoarding tendencies, however, and my lack of planning skills, I wasn't aware of the time and effort it would take to get it done.  Story of my life.

Turns took 5 days.  I lost track of the number of hours, but it was way too many.  I even made a trip to Ace Hardware for paint for the inside of the craft closet, and instead of packing up my clothes and things for the move to Ireland, I painted the inside of the closet, because I'm crafty like ice is cold (and don't you forget it).  Just not efficient, like my industrial engineer husband.  He must really love me to the moon and back for respecting my "process" and not judging me.  He actually walked in on me at midnight while I was painting said closet and instead of asking me questions like, "WHY would you be painting when we're moving in a week and the house is a disaster?" or, "How much did that paint cost?" or, "Is this really the best use of your time?" he merely said, "Well Chrissy, the bus to Ireland leaves next Tuesday.  I'd love for you to be on it with us."  What a gem, that guy...

Anyway, I hope T and T feel inspired to knit something while they live in our house.  Or make a greeting card.  Or paint, draw, make jewelry, etc.  If not, it will all be waiting for me when we return from Ireland, because...

She gets around (She's crafty!)
She's always down (She's crafty!)
She's got a gripe (She's crafty!)
And she's just my type (She's craftyyyyyy...)

Let's just hope my craftiness doesn't make me miss the bus.  That will warrant an entirely different blog post (oi!).

Ramble knowing all the grooves,
The Rambling Richter