Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thankful for BOWS

Thankful for BOWS

Up until about a month ago, any time I tried to put a bow in Annie’s hair she would immediately reach up and pull it out. Her dad feels the same way and usually helped her free herself from the girly hairpieces.

In fact, Annie usually greatly dislikes having anything on her head. Unless of course, it is her beloved Kermit hat. She’s a super fan of the Muppets, so for Halloween we dressed her as her favorite green friend. Since then, we’re pretty sure she’d wear Kermit everyday, and often does.

As I have written before, Annie has acquired quite the wardrobe. Up until about a month ago, I don’t think the kid cared what she wore as long as I got through the painful process of getting her dressed as quickly as possible.

She’s finally reached the stage where she totally cares and loves to see herself in the next fabulous outfit. It’s a hoot and way too much fun. After she’s dressed she pulls herself up to sitting position and checks herself out in the mirror. She tilts her head to the side and flashes a ridiculous flirty grin as if saying “OH YEAH, I’m SO cute!”  Her hand usually finds the side of her face and hair as if she’s primping herself. She fluffs her dress or skirt or gently pats her top, showing that she’s pleased by her attire.

She doesn’t LOVE the process of hair ties and bows. But is super understanding of the results to come. As soon as I’m done twisting those bands around her pigtails, or clipping a barrette to her hair, she gently pats at them and then checks herself out always pleased to the point of laughter.

This morning when I was changing her diaper she kept grabbing my hand and pointing it in the direction of her bows (that are kept so neatly in the perfect spot thanks to one of many thoughtful gifts from my friend Tiff). As I tried to just finish the process of the diaper change, she began getting agitated and started to grunt as she continually grabbed my hand and urged it in the direction of her frilly accessories. “Oh, you want a bow for your hair?” So I reached up and grabbed a hot pink one and placed it in her hair, lifted her up so she could admire herself. But she kept grabbing my hand requesting another and another. If I picked a blue or yellow bow she pulled it out and threw it on the floor or pushed my hand away until I understood that today is a “Pink ONLY” day.

Here’s the results of this morning’s bow debacle.

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It’s funny, I rarely think about how devastated we were the first weeks of her life. But this morning for the first time in a LONG time, I remembered how scared I was that our little girl wouldn’t be able to communicate with us. And I couldn’t help myself from being bent over with laughter. I’m pretty sure we’ve got the communication thing down!  Annie may be grateful for bows today, but I am thankful that Annie is a pro at letting us know just exactly what she wants!

Zia Rachel’s Post


Rachel is Annie’s youngest aunt. Mike’s youngest sister. She’s also spent the most time with Annie out of all of her thirteen aunts and uncles. We were so blessed to have Rachel studying here last Spring. She lived for four months just across the courtyard and we saw her everyday she wasn’t traveling outside of Rome. We got very used to having her around. And now that a new group of students is here her absence seems greater than it did when she left last May. 

Annie loved having her around. It was amazing to watch the two of them interact everyday for almost four months straight. Makes me feel a little more guilty than I already do for having her so far from her amazing family. Rachel we love and miss you everyday. We are forever grateful for the time we got to have you here with us. Thanks for your post! 

It has taken me a long time to write this blog post for Colleen. Practically ever since I left Rome, I have been afraid to confront the feelings I have about my sweet niece. I am so unbelievably jealous of the students at the John Felice Rome Center right now who are watching my niece grow and develop from one day to the next. Part of me thinks it’s not fair; that Annie’s “real” aunts and uncles should be the only ones who get to spend time with her, but then I remember what I learned during my semester abroad: Annie is everyone’s niece. 

The JFRC is a family, and Mike, Colleen and Annie are the epicenter of that family. As students, everyone is invited to love Annie, to hold her, to play with her, to sing to her, and to volunteer to babysit her so Mike and Colleen can have one of their rare dates. Sure, I was actually related to Annie by blood, but every one of my classmates at the Rome Center was related to Annie by love. 

When I think of my niece Annie, I immediately think of two things. The first is the wonderful time we were able to spend together; the second thing Annie makes me think of is the song “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘N Roses. The first one is pretty obvious, but if you look at the lyrics of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” I think you will all agree that certain parts of the song were written for my gorgeous niece. She’s got a smile it seems to me/ Reminds me of childhood memories/ Where everything was fresh as the bright blue sky/ Now and then when I see her face/ She takes me away to that special place/ And if I’d stare too long/ I’d probably break down and cry/ Oh sweet child o’ mine. 

When I returned home from my semester abroad, I had a hard time adjusting to life, not because I was a jobless college grad with zero access to decent espresso, but because I had absolutely no idea how to live without Annie. Every night I would go on Facebook, look at the pictures Colleen, my friends or I had posted of Annie, and “break down and cry.” I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I spent many a summer night weeping alone at my computer. 

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have lived in Rome, I don’t know if life ever really “goes back to normal.” For those of us who are fortunate enough to have lived in Rome with Annie, I KNOW life never “goes back to normal.” I can still get teary eyed when I look at pictures of Annie, and I am definitely still prone to fits of jealousy when I see current JFRC students with my niece in their arms. When it all just seems like too much I put on “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and remember that I know what it’s like to see Annie every day, to have her reach out for me to hold her, to have her recognize my face and smile at me because I’m me. Those are feelings that no amount of sadness or jealousy can take away from me. 

Rache~ I know your time with Annie in Rome was very special, but I want you to know MY time in Rome with YOU meant so much more. I love you SIS!

Pulling to a STAND!


I was all ready to sit down to finish a post I was writing about Annie’s infatuation with the Muppets, when I was beckoned by my daughter’s heartbreaking sobs to her room.

Since we’ve been back from our trip from Poland, we’ve been having a little bit of a hard time with the regular bed-time routine. Since we’ve returned we still do all the things we used to do. Bath. Medicine. Brush teeth. Bedtime stories. Hugs and kisses. At least one lullaby. Tuck her  into her crib and get her kinder music playing. And usually she puts herself straight to sleep.

But for the eight days we were gone, Annie got used to falling asleep in our arms or laying between us. She’s having a hard time putting herself to sleep. For the past week, I’ve been resorting to having to get her out of her crib and laying with her until she falls asleep. I’m not worried. This kid has traveled so much and had to readjust so many times; I know we’ll be back on track soon enough. But the sooner the better.

So tonight, instead of caving and getting her out of her crib, I decided I’d lay in the bed and just be in the room with her. Within seconds of me entering the room, she had reached her hands to the top of the crib and pulled her little self up to a stand!

I’ve been feeling guilty lately, because when we travel, Annie’s therapy gets put on hold. This is actually the longest lapse in therapy we’ve had. When we were home for almost two months we decided to take a break. Sometimes her American therapist and her therapist here in Italy have very different approaches on things. For instance her American therapist pushes a bit harder, whereas our Italian therapist would rather do things ver slow but completely correct. (I’m actually sure she’d be appalled that Annie’s knees aren’t more bent in the stand she held tonight.) While we love both of her therapists, she sees her Italian therapist much more and we like the “slow but steady wins the race” approach. So when we returned in early September we were anxious to get back in the routine with her. But unfortunately Annie’s therapist has been very sick and we’ve been having a hard time finding a sub. So I’ve been playing the role of physical therapist along with the students and Mike’s colleagues. She hasn’t seen her therapist in over three months. Much too long!

For the past two months we’ve been seeing so many “almost’s” as far as pulling to a stand is concerned.

This one’s from just a few days ago.

Every time we go away though, it seems as soon as we get back home, she makes a huge improvement. And tonight, once again after a long trip away, she’s reached another milestone. And like there always is when she accomplishes even the littlest things, there was exuberant celebrating.

Annie can be pretty stubborn. I’m not sure that the next time we’ll see her do this will be any time soon. When she was eleven months she got up on all fours with her belly off the ground and did the “I’m getting ready to four-point crawl” rock back and forth for almost two full minutes. We were ecstatic! Her therapist ensured us this meant she was ready and would be crawling on all fours any day. Eight months later we’re still waiting!

She’ll get there, just like I know she’ll be pulling herself up to a stand in her crib again.

Goodnight from one happy momma!