Thursday, 26 March 2015

Dear (American) Baby,

Dear (American) Baby,

Tomorrow marks a very important day.  It is my last official day as a teacher at KES.  After eight years I am finally making good on my promise.  We are going home!  

I know in 10 years you are going to ask why we left England.  When I was younger, I would have loved to have lived somewhere a bit different.  You may not think much of Ohio, but I'll tell you what - that place gets under your skin.  I am so passionate about our great state - and not just because it is home.  It's a good place.  It really is.  There really is no place like home.

The word "home" has been playing on my mind recently.  What exactly is "home?"  If I asked my students they would tell me it is a place where you feel safe and loved.  It is where you have family.  You have two passports and you have a family who loves you on both sides of the Atlantic.  That's incredibly lucky.  Your situation is a little bit different - but I think that is part of what makes you as special as you are.  You are both English and American - plus you would have lived in both places.  So where is your home?

Home is where Daddy and I are.  We could make a cardboard box home.  Because really - it doesn't matter where we are living or what cars we are driving or who we are surrounded by.  We are going to be happy wherever we are together.  

I didn't realise that when I was younger.  Perhaps I knew your Daddy was out there an I just needed to find him.  Back in 2007 I promised Nonna I would only move to England for a year.  One year.  I was going to teach in this exotic place called King's Lynn.  The only thing I knew about it was that there was a Youtube video that showed someone driving around the one way system in the town.

I think it was luck that I ended up here because nearly everyone I meet always asks me "Why on earth would you move to King's Lynn?"  Fate?  Maybe.

One year turned into three so I could finish my Masters at Cambridge University.  Then, Daddy finally had the guts to ask me out.  Eventually, one year turned into eight years so he could finish Medical School and complete his US Medical exams.  

It was now or never.  I couldn't let Nonna down.  

Living in England has taught me a lot about life.  I learnt who I am as an individual - I did something pretty ridiculous when I picked up and moved across the Atlantic.  I discovered that I am actually a little bit brave.  I learnt that I can do what seems impossible.  I learnt my strengths and weaknesses.  As a teacher, I have learnt who I am in the classroom.  I found my voice and I know how to teach a subject which I love.  I am thankful for the chance to meet so many fascinating people - they really taught me to become the person who I am.

If I'm honest, I'm a little bit scared of moving back to America.  I've been gone for so long. So many of my friends have moved on - is it fair to come back and pick up where we left off?  I've gotten used to the English way of doing things - can I pick and choose which way to do things?  Am I going to remember to drive on the right side of the road?

There are so many things that I have loved about living here - the coast, the cups of tea, the castles, the random sheep hanging out in the road.  I think I'm going to miss a lot of things - but then I remember all of the things I miss about Ohio and I get confused.  I know that I can love both places and love different things about each place.  But I don't think we have to like one place better than the other. I don't think that is the point of having a history in a place like this.  I think we need to look back on our chapter entitled "King's Lynn" and smile at the memories.  We can look back and remember - there is nothing wrong with that - but we also need to look at the Present - the here and now and love and cherish everything we are DOING. 

Whilst the move back to America is daunting and overwhelming, I am enjoying it. I am enjoying going through our things and remembering. I'm OK with passing certain things on to someone else because I know they are going to create their own memories with something that meant a lot to me.  

This, Emma Rose, is a huge adventure.  You are only little and have no idea what is happening around you, but trust me - everything is changing.  This change is going to be happy and sad, scary and uncertain, exciting and stressful.  

My English baby - you are also an American baby.  Never forget where you come from - never forget where you are going.  After all, both places have made you (and me) into the person you are.

Love always,

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Eight Months!

How Old:   Eight months!  I can't actually believe that.
Weight:   Our last weigh in was 17 pounds 3 ounces....she is much bigger than that though!
Likes:   Being chased and tickled, bouncing in the jumperoo, playing with her tea cup or new sippy cup, splashing in the bath, watching other kids.
Dislikes:  Getting out of the bath, going in her carseat (hello, legs of steel), having her nose wiped (GEEZE that's a challenge!)
Eating:  YAY FOR SOLIDS!  We have success - finally!! We are trying small amounts at noon with the occasional breakfast and dinner.  So far she has had an likes peas, courgette, melon, avocado and banana!  We think there is a problem with root vegetables... More on that later.
Sleeping:  We went through a phase last week when she had bronchitis where she was waking up every two hours or so and crying her little heart out.  She's been a wheezy, coughing mess and hating every minute of it!  She seems to be back to normal now and is back to sleeping 7:30 - 5!
Routine:  Feeds every three-four hours but I think she needs a bit of a 
Sizes:  She is still rocking size 3 nappies (only just fitting into them) and now GROWING OUT of 9 month clothes.  We just bought her 12-18 month jeggings!!  What?!
Milestones:  She is rocking at those reduplicated monosyllables (Dadadadada) and her abs are seriously made of stronger things than metal.  She can stand up with help next to the sofa - especially if there is a phone or remote control nearby for her to grab and gnaw on.  She's also SWIMMING!  She had her first underwater swim and cried. She also had her first experience on a swing - that was a good laugh!
Mum's favourite moment:   We play this new game where we hold Emma over one of our shoulder and the other chases her around the house.  This is all done to the song of pacman.  We are all laughing hysterically by the time that is over.  (Close second this month - B sneezed whilst holding Emma and she sobbed.  I sneezed in front of her and she laughed so hard she started snorting and some of her milk came out of her nose.  I died.)
Dad's favourite moment:  Anything that involves making her smile with a wide open mouth and scrunched up nose!  It's actually hilarious when she gets so excited and pulls this face!

I am a few days late with this post as we have had some very sad news in our family.  My beloved Aunt and Godmother, Rosanna, has passed away in my family home after a long battle with cancer.  Our hearts are heavy - but I am so glad that she had the chance to hear our exciting news:

We are moving back to America.

I can't actually believe I am writing those words.  It doesn't feel real yet, but I can assure you - it is very real.  B has a job in Cleveland!
We are going home!

 Emma has clearly taking the news well and is enjoying play time with her Auntie Erin, Granddad and Nonna! They will soon be fed up with us I'm sure!

We have enjoyed our time together at weekends and evenings, but I can't WAIT to spend all day every day with Emma!  As of Friday, I am finished with work and will become a full time MUM!

We are going to have a few weeks in America as a family - it'll be nice considering how work heavy the first year or so will be for B!


But seriously - that face.  I can't get enough!  Our little English Emma Rose is soon to be an American Emma Rose!


Friday, 20 March 2015

Remembering Rosie

On Tuesday, 17 March 2015, we lost my wonderful Aunt and Godmother, Rosanna Garofalo.  She was one of the most wonderful people I've ever met - not only because she was my Aunt, but because she was a downright wonderful person.  She suffered for a long time with various forms of cancer thanks to Lynch Syndrome, but throughout the whole ordeal she kept her head held high and worked and played hard.

I think we are all still in shock as she was just so young and taken from us far too soon. I'm still struggling to accept it.  Although I was unable to attend the funeral, I wrote the Eulogy which my sister, Erin, read.

Remembering Rosie

When I was a little girl, I remember staying with Rosie at Grandma and Grandpa’s house the night before Christmas Eve.  We snuck downstairs late that night and ate Hershey kisses off of the cookie trays.  The next morning my Grandmother was so confused as she was sure she had set out the Hershey kisses.  We giggled because it was our secret.  That was the kind of person Aunt Rosie was.  She laughed.  She always aimed to be a good person.  She loved her family unconditionally and put her heart and soul into building relationships with others. 

We are here today to remember her.  This is the third time in eighteen months our family has come to church to remember and celebrate one of our dearly departed.  Those of us in the family knew Rosie as an aunt a sister a niece and a cousin.  She was taken from us far too soon, but she wouldn’t want us to mourn her; she would want us to remember her vibrant and happy life.  It was only in the last several months when she started to feel unwell, that we learnt how many lives she made better just by being Rosie.

She moved to Boston almost 30 years ago and then on to Chicago. We never really knew how smart of a businesswoman she was, how well she understood her industry or how hard she worked.  Regardless of how she felt, she always asked others how they were doing.  In her job, she worked tirelessly to make sure her client’s needs were met.  Her colleagues told us that she was a force to be reckoned with and when she put her mind and strong work ethic to something it would always get accomplished.
Rosie always came home for Christmas and other holidays and quite often stayed at our house.  I think our most fond memories of her always seem to revolve around Christmas.  While preparing the Italian Christmas Eve feast, Rosie would excuse herself for a few hours to get her nails done and would come back when all of the work was finished.  The only thing left to make was the cocktail sauce – and it became her official job – year after year.  She would always sit with us on Christmas morning and enjoy every laugh and smile as each present was opened.

She enjoyed keeping up with current events and could often be found sitting at our kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. She really enjoyed reading the paper but compared to the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune, she claimed nothing ever happened in Painesville.  Of course, that didn’t stop her from reading it.

She loved kids - especially babies - and they loved her.  She was convinced that Baby James’ first words should and would be “Rosie”.  That led her to look at him or hold him and say “Rosie Rosie Rosie” over and over again, day in and day out, even last week.  We are still waiting on James to catch on.
Rosie loved the beautiful things about life.  She always had her nails done in exotic red and we would often laugh at her refusal to help with washing or cleaning as her nails were drying.  As a tribute to her spirit, many of the ladies here today have had their nails done so the gentlemen here better be prepared to pitch in.  One of her dreams was to see Andrea Bocelli in concert, and this “bucket list” item came true last December when my sister Erin went with her.  Rosie sang and cried along with the beautiful music.

She found beauty in many things. For many years, every Saturday was spent visiting garage sales, always hunting for treasures and then trying to get these items into her brothers’ or sister’s house.  She collected turtles of every shape and size and loved flowers in hanging baskets.  Our family will continue to honour her memory every spring and summer when we place flowers at the entrance to our homes.
It’s very fitting, as the name “Rose” means beautiful flower.  But we, Rosanna's family and friends know that she was more than just a beautiful person.  A rose is, after all, more than a flower which brightens up a room.  It is a beautiful and powerful symbol.  It stands for love and forgiveness. It represents romance and strength. The rose is powerful because it still grows, year after year, bright, beautiful and resilient.

That’s what our Rosie was like - powerful and strong.  Even in the face of cancer, she fought and endured.  She still kept her head held high and had faith.  Her faith and her church kept her strong throughout so much heartache and suffering.  The recent passing of both Emma and Carmelo has left us all feeling a sense of sadness and emptiness.  But I think for Rosie, she felt their loss deeper, probably because she too was suffering.

Last Monday we learned that my family here in England will be moving back home to America, we think that she was waiting for that news.  Being home with family is so important.  No matter how long you are away, when you are with family, you are home.  There’s a reason my daughter is named Emma Rose.  I hope and pray that she will grow up to be as kind and thoughtful and as powerful and strong as the two women she is named after.
I recently heard a story which leaves me confident that even in our darkest hours, when faced with trials and struggles, those who we love who have gone before us are with us, watching and protecting us.

Rosie believed that cardinals are messengers and they are the spirit of those who have passed coming to tell us something.  Last December, Rosie was outside her house trying to remove a hose from the spigot and was struggling to disconnect it.  She either wasn’t strong enough or not using the right tool, but for whatever reason, she couldn’t do it. She became frustrated and upset until she turned around and saw two cardinals - a male and a female - watching her.  She tried one last time to remove the hose - and it came undone.  It wasn’t chance or coincidence.  Her faith told her that her parents were there, watching and protecting her.
I have no doubt that she is now watching over all of us. That is the kind of person she was.  We never knew how many people her life touched until she returned to us a few weeks ago.  Friends from so many times and places in her life came together to let her know that she mattered so much to them and they truly loved her.  We all had the chance to let her know how important she was and she deserved to know.  We will always see signs that will remind us of her.  Whether it is a sign for a garage sale, a newspaper and a cup of coffee, a genuine smile, a turtle, or a simple rose, we will always remember our Rosie.

I found writing this incredibly difficult.  I know we are supposed to remember the good things about Rosie and celebrate her life, but I can't help but feel an incredible sense of sadness at her loss.  A family friend sent us this quote and it has become the informal theme for our remembrance of Rosie:

"When you die, it doesn't mean that you lose to cancer.
You beat cancer by how you live, why you live,
and in the manner in which you live."

How very true those words are for my beautiful, kind hearted Aunt.  Cancer has an awful lot to answer for, and I pray every day that a cure is soon found and my daughter never has to know the pain of losing someone she loves to this horrible disease.

Hold your loved ones a little bit longer tonight. You never know how much time you have left together.