Friday, August 29, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Darby

I am so sad. I am sitting here at ten minutes until 8 in the morning waiting for the vet's office to open so that I can call and tell them that I think the time has come to put Darby out of her misery. My poor, sweet kitty is just too ill. It has been hard for me to come to terms with it, but I just can't ignore the signs anymore. Yesterday she didn't even get off the couch -- not to eat, not to use the litter box, nothing. She can barely move. I don't want her in pain or discomfort. After 15 years together, it's time for us to say goodbye. I don't know how I am going to do it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

See You in September

August has been a weird month. On one hand, we've had a chance to relax. The four of us spent a week at the cabin together, and now I am back here with just the girls for another week. On the other hand, I've been busy with getting ready for back to school, meeting architects for the new house, and getting into my new role as Marketing Chair for S's preschool. I am definitely ready for September to arrive though. While I looove summer, by the end of August I long for the return of routine that September brings. I didn't used to be like this, but as they say, having children changes everything.

I may be biting off more than I can chew, but I have put together a pretty involved schedule for the fall. S has preschool Monday through Thursday afternoons. She also has speech therapy Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Then I have both girls in some fun activities. L is going to start gym class on Monday mornings and S is going to continue ballet on Wednesdays. I found an art class that will take kids from 18 months through 5 years old, so I've enrolled them both on Friday mornings. Finally, I want L to have more one-on-one time with her dad (S already gets more than L, just by virtue of her age), so on Saturday morning R is going to take her to music class while I take S to a different class for older kids. Somewhere in there, I am going to have to find time for my workouts.

Now that I see it all spelled out, it really does seem like a lot. I actually don't believe in having kids' schedules filled with activities every day; they really need to have some down time in order to spur their imaginations, foster creativity and instill self-reliance. We'll see how it goes this fall; if it gets to be too much, we'll cut something from the schedule.

Either way, I am just glad to get back to a routine. August has been nice, but I am ready to see September.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy 4th Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my big girl. I can't believe that four years have passed since you came into the world. I remember the joy and awe and outright fear I felt when you were born. I wondered how in the world I would ever take care of you and give you all that you deserved. Believe me, I try so hard to be a parent worthy of you. But, that you've turned into this unbelievable little girl is far beyond what I can take credit for. All of a sudden my little baby has become a funny, sensitive, loving, smart and beautiful little girl. You have your own thoughts, interests, likes and dislikes. It happened before my very eyes without me even noticing.

I wish you a wonderful year ahead. I hope it is filled with laughter. I hope you make lots of new friends and find a special one to replace N. I hope you keep the wonder with which you approach the world for another year. I hope you continue to believe in unicorns, princesses, and magic. I hope you keep believing that your parents are some kind of omnipotent super heroes instead of the regular, flawed people we are.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl. Mama loves you more than you'll ever comprehend.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vacation at the Jersey Shore!

I have been on a little vacation from blogging for the past two weeks. Why? We took a vacation! I took the girls back to NJ to spend a week at the Jersey shore with my folks. Hubby had to work, so he couldn't join us. It was a bummer, because I wish he could have seen how much fun the girls had, but we took some great pics. And of course, my parents were beside themselves with glee over having the two little rugrats all to themselves. We packed a ton of fun into just eight days.

Actually, before we headed down the shore (that's Jersey-speak for "headed to the beach") we took the train up to New York and went to the American Girl Place. S luuuvvvved it. My folks bought her a doll and she got to bring her to lunch at the American Girl Cafe where the waitstaff arranges a placesetting for your doll with appopriately-sized china. At four years old, S is just at the cusp of the entire American Girl demographic -- so I see several years ahead of us filled with the dolls, their accessories, movies, and whatever else they come up with. And then of course multiply that by two once the baby gets old enough to appreciate the stuff too! I guess if they're going to be obsessed with a set of dolls though, it could be worse. A lot worse. At least they're not Bratz dolls.

Anyway, we had a great day in the NYC and the next day we headed down to Ocean City, NJ to my folks' summer house where I spent every summer since I was a pre-teen. Ocean City is one of those quintessential family towns. It is an actual island connected to the mainland by a series of bridges. And it is one of the few towns at the shore that is dry -- as in no alcohol sold there at all. Not in liquor stores, not in restaurants, nowhere. As a teenager, this was kind of a bummer, particularly if you wanted to waitress: tips at restaurants that don't serve alcohol are nowhere near as generous as those that do. But now as a parent, I really appreciate this fact; it really keeps a family element to the place and limits any "seedier" elements. In fact, Ocean City calls itself "America's Greatest Family Resort."

I don't know about that, but the girls did have a great time there. They crammed all the essential summer experiences into just a few days: played on the beach, searched for seashells, adopted a couple of hermit crabs, ate ice cream, Italian ice, and salt water taffy on the boardwalk, and enjoyed the rides at the amusement pier. It was really special for me to revisit the shore and see it through their eyes. S loved the boardwalk and couldn't understand why there wasn't one in every town. They both loved digging in the sand. Neither was too sure about the waves.

Like all vacations, this one had to end. We said goodbye to the shore and promised to come back another summer. Even though I've been living in California for more than fourteen years, I am still a Jersey Girl -- I'll always carry a little of the Jersey shore with me. Now hopefully, my native Californian daughters will too.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Live Strong

I hate running. Hate it. Don't like the way it feels, have trouble justifying a reason for it. No matter how many times I've tried to like it, I just can't seem to get myself to convert. So what would inspire me to run today? Cancer.

Okay, I'll admit it, I didn't run the entire way, but I did run through the finish at the Livestrong Challenge 5K Run/Walk in San Jose. I ran through the survivor lane at the finish line proudly sporting my "survivor" bib which boasted my 11 year win against cancer.

This is the first race for cancer that I've done in a long time. I believe the last one I did was when I was still living in Los Angeles, not long after I finished chemo. But this year, when Ana at Silicon Valley Moms Blog suggested getting a team together, I jumped at it. In addition to all the bike distances, it included a 5K run/walk which sounded just perfect for me.

You know, I don't think about my cancer much any more. It's been 11 years since I finished chemo. Those have been years full of... well, life. Since that time I reconnected with the man who would become my husband, fell in love with him, moved to the Bay Area, got married, made a career shift, had a baby, bought a house, waded through a dizzying IPO, left the workforce, and had another baby. There just hasn't been much time to dwell on cancer. It no longer holds the prominence in my life that it once did. However, every now and again it pushes through to the surface. This weekend was one of those times. Yesterday when I went to pick up my race registration packet, and saw all of these people, both volunteers and participants, dedicated to the cause, I became completely overwhelmed with emotion. All of a sudden I was crying, unable to contain my feelings. And today when I was at the race and saw other survivors, like fellow SVMoms blogger Linsey, I was thoroughly filled with pride.

Cancer picked a fight with me 11 years ago, and I won. Today I picked a fight with cancer for all those who didn't win.

I participated in honor of:
Eli Caccia
Jennifer Goodman Linn

And in memory of:
Amalia Grandy
Aldo Caccia
Divo Petrini
Jim Welch

Thanks to the friends and family who helped me to raise $1,500 for the fight. And thanks to Ana and Linsey for participating with me.

As they say over at the Lance Armstrong Foundation: Go ahead. Pick a fight.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Erring on the Side of Caution

I had a disturbing incident this week -- I am not sure if I was being an alarmist, but I feel like I made the only decision I could.

I sent S to camp this week at one of the local parks. Camp ran from 9-12:30pm every day; parents were invited to join at noon during the kids' lunch time. So, on Monday I showed up at about 12:15 and the kids were eating lunch with the counselors. At that point, one of the counselors did a headcount and realized that they were missing a child. Another counselor said, "Oh yeah, I think his mom picked him up a while ago". It was a disturbing couple of minutes before the counselors sorted through the confusion and determined that the parent had picked up the child and signed him out. It was an okay outcome but, a little disconcerting to think that the counselors weren't as on top of it as they should have been. However, S had had fun that day and it seemed like a minor glitch, so I had no second thoughts about sending her back on Tuesday.

On Tuesday my mother-in-law went to go pick S up at lunchtime. As she was coming down the steps to the lower part of the park (this particular park is split into lower and upper levels), she saw a little girl walking down the steps all by herself with no one looking out for her. It turned out it was S. As best as she could determine (and what I could glean from S), the counselors led the kids up to the bathrooms to wash up before lunch, but no one was watching to make sure that the kids got back to the lower part of the park. As far as we could tell, there was no one watching from above to make sure she got down okay, nor was there anyone watching from below. That made me really uncomfortable. This is a particularly big park, and it's not possible to see the path from the bathrooms if you're in the back part of the lower park. S isn't even four years old yet, and I just don't want her going anywhere without a pair of eyes on her at all times.
So, the incident on Tuesday combined with the incident on Monday really sat poorly with me. The level of supervision that I am used to from her nursery school just wasn't there. In addition, S is one of the quieter kids. If an outgoing kid was missing, it would likely go noticed much more quickly than if my quiet kid was missing. I just felt "icky" about the whole thing.

Anyway, I decided not to send S back. I also called the woman in charge at our city RWC parks department and told her the entire story. To their credit, the counselors had already told her about the Monday incident. She was very receptive to my concerns about the Tuesday thing and promised that she would make the counselors aware. She was very cooperative and concerned, and I truly believe that she has discussed this with the counselors.

I still have mixed feelings about the camp. I still think they're a great program for kids. This is the first time in three years of using the our city's recreation services that I have had less than an excellent experience. I just think that perhaps my kid is too young for this kind of camp. Perhaps we'll try again when my girls are a little older. It's funny, but when I told a bunch of other moms about this, it turns out that several had similar experiences and decided the same thing: to postpone camps until at least five years old. I wish I had known this previously! The problem with raising first kids is that sometimes you just don't know what you don't know, and you don't know which questions to ask. Poor S is my guinea pig and even though I try to do right by her at all times, it's just unavoidable that at times I am going to make missteps. Hence the mother's guilt persists despite the best of intentions.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Final Tribute

Today I gave the only eulogy at my grandmother's funeral. I was nervous about getting up there and doing it justice. But my dear and wise husband gave me a piece of advice. He said that when he had to give his own grandmother's eulogy (just nine months ago) and was getting nervous, he reminded himself that the eulogy was the last gift he could give to her. That thought helped him to refocus his thoughts away from him and his nerves, and toward her all she meant to him. What a wonderful piece of advice. He's a smart man. It was exactly what I needed to hear to help me -- and it worked.

I am proud of the eulogy that I gave to her. It really was a last gift, and I am going to post it here as a last tribute to her.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Courtney Caccia and I am one of Victoria’s granddaughters.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to figure out what I was going to say to all of you here. I wasn’t sure how to express what my grandmother meant to me, to our family. How do you take just a couple of minutes do justice to a woman who lived almost 91 years?

As I was reminiscing and pulling up old memories, I naturally started thinking about her house – the house she lived in for the past 50 years, the only house I had known her to live in during my lifetime. In my mind, I started revisiting each of those rooms. And it occurred to me, that each one held memories that seemed to characterize some part of her personality.

So, let me just share with you a few of the memories that Grandmom’s house evokes for me.

The living room. One of the first things a visitor would see were all the pictures in that room, mostly of the grandchildren, and later the great grandchildren. Grandmom was so proud of all of us. As a kid, I remember hearing her brag to her friends about our grades, awards, and athletic accomplishments. I remember the pictures going up the staircase. As each of the five of us grandchildren graduated from high school, we achieved a spot on that wall with the pictures updated as we graduated college or got married. Grandmom loved being a grandmother and a great grandmother and her living room was testament to that.

It was also testament to her fastidious nature as evidenced by the plastic on the furniture. Oh yes, for all the years of my life she had plastic on the furniture – the couch may have changed, but the plastic did not. I remember hanging out in that room with my sister and cousins in the summer time, and yelping as we stood up and tried to peel the backs of our legs from the plastic. Grandmom may have loved us and been proud of us, but she wasn’t about to let us dirty her furniture!

The dining room. Some of my fondest memories from growing up are family dinners spent around her dining room table, most notably our Christmas Eve dinners. Grandmom and Grandpop, and later Aunt Amalia would put together a traditional feast of seven fishes for Christmas Eve. It was important to her that her family appreciate their Italian heritage and she tried heartily to pass along some of the traditions to her children and grandchildren. I remember the days of prep work before the big feast, and when I was old enough being sent there with either my sister or my cousin Christine to help her out. It was important to Grandmom that she make some of the traditional dishes like the risotto with squid or the baccala, but she also would go out of her way to make something else for the pickier eaters among us – because to her, while the food was important, the tradition of being together as a family was most important. And over the years, she and my aunt would invite friends to join us for dinner, extending her hospitality to include others in a family tradition she so cherished.

And that leads me to Grandmom’s kitchen. That is the room of the house that I most associate with her. She showed her love best through food. Her way of nurturing you was to feed you. That woman could take any remaining scraps of food left in her refrigerator, and in 10 minutes lay out a feast for you. And when she wasn’t feeding you, she wanted to make sure you were eating. Even up to one of the last times I talked to her, she asked if I was eating okay – I am 37 years old, living in California with a husband and two daughters of my own. Somehow, I’ve managed to take care of myself all this time. But she still wanted to make sure I was eating. It was her way of telling me that she cared and still worried about me no matter how old or capable I might be.

The last room I’ll mention is Grandmom’s bedroom. When I was a little kid, that room seemed so special and almost magical to me with all of her jewelry, perfume bottles, and makeup. She had an old fashioned carved hairbrush and comb sitting on a mirrored tray that my sister and I used to think looked like it belonged to a princess. She had a box of costume jewelry that she would let us play dress up with. But, that room must also have been a sanctuary for her – a place for quiet reflection and prayer. It was peppered throughout with symbols of her faith: images of Jesus, statues of the Blessed Mother, rosaries. Grandmom was a faithful Catholic and I think she sought grace and peace in that room.

I have so many other recollections of her – there are some familiar to many of you like the way in which she would mangle the English language or the way in which she kept the television up to ear-splitting volumes. And there are recollections more personal like when at 79 years old she flew all the way to California to visit me, her ill granddaughter. And these memories represent but a tiny fraction of the person who was my grandmother. My grandmother was a woman who knew hardships: she was a child of the Depression, at times struggled to keep her family afloat, lived as a widow for more than 30 years, and buried two of her own children. But she knew great joy too. She married, got to watch her daughters grow up, and see her grandchildren come into this world. She was lucky enough to witness the births of nine great grandchildren! She cherished her close relationships with her siblings. She had lifelong friends. She was devoted to her church.

All of you here today are witness to my grandmother’s long, rich life. She came to the end of her days loved by her friends and four generations of her family. Each of us who loved her have our own treasured memories. While we are all here to say farewell to her, let us each celebrate her life and the special person she was through those remembrances.

Thank you for coming to honor my grandmother.

Grandmom, I’ll always love you and never forget you.

June 27, 2008
St. Timothy's Church
Philadelphia, PA