My Path to Dual Nationality

Flash back to 6 years ago and I was a girl with a dream of going to England and a 10 year plan to make it happen. I needed that time to save up for the fabulous, extravagant, dream vacation in London that I’d always fantasized about.

Now skip forward to present day and I am officially a BRITISH CITIZEN!! What? Someone pinch me, that surely can’t be real. Okay, don’t pinch me, it’s real. I have the certificate to prove it!

Officially, I am a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Unofficially, I am a very lucky girl! One country was my home for 23 years, it’s where I was born, where my family lives, all of my childhood and teenage memories belong to that country, it’s the place I can always call home, where I love to visit and am happy to claim as my heritage. The other country is the place where I found my first and true love, my new and future home, where I was married, where I gave birth to my beautiful babies, and where I learned things about myself, both good and bad, that I hadn’t known before.

I’ve had a very love/hate relationship with England. I’ve learned from my newly found fellow expat friends that my experience is a fairly common one. I started out with a very romantic and fanciful love of England; it felt like a permanent vacation. That love quickly turned into despair and bitterness that unfortunately lasted for quite awhile as I was missing home and all the things familiar to me. There was this moment of awakening for me where I realized that I had been living as a visitor the whole time I’d been here, rather than a resident. Changing that behavior was the key to happiness for me. And I’m pleased to now be at a place in my heart where I once again love this country, but this time it’s a realistic love. I love it for all of its beauty and its grit. I’m in the unique position of calling two countries home. For the rest of my life, no matter where I live or where I call home, I will always be missing another place. How blessed am I to have such a problem as that!

Fiancee visa: $860
Visa extension FLR (Stands for Further Leave to Remain): $952
Life in the UK test: $82
Visa extension ILR (Stands for Indefinite Leave to Remain): $1,769
2 Consular reports of births abroad: $200
2 UK minor passports: $151
2 US minor passports: $210
Citizenship application: $1,440
British adult passport: $120
Total: $5,784 (£3,510)

Security of knowing you won’t be separated from your spouse and forced to leave the country: PRICELESS!

In my entire journey to dual nationality, the final step of obtaining citizenship (not counting the cost) was probably the easiest one. In order to qualify for citizenship, I needed to be legally living in the country for 3 years (they have since changed that to 5 years) and I had to take a Life in the UK test, which I had previously completed as part of my ILR.  After then it was just a matter of filling out some paperwork and making a (very large) payment.

I got a letter about a month after my application to say that it had been approved. Next step was my citizenship ceremony! There was quite a large group of people obtaining citizenship at the ceremony. We all had to either swear an oath or make an affirmation of allegiance (difference being that an oath is swearing by God and an affirmation isn’t) and also say a pledge of loyalty. Then we were presented with our certificates of citizenship. Afterward they had cake and drinks for us and we had the opportunity to take photos.

The oath of allegiance I swore:

“I, Ashley Nicole Rayford, swear by almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.

The pledge of loyalty:

“I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”

I’ve been asked why it was important to me to become a British citizen. Honestly, it’s important to me because it’s the closest I can get to a guarantee that I won’t be separated from my husband. That’s the number one reason. Another reason is because my children are dual citizens of the US and the UK. None of us have any idea what the future holds, this whole experience has been great proof of that, and I want to have options and be able to live where my children settle if that’s my desire. The final reason? Because it’s awesome and I love this country!

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Chris and I after the ceremony. It’s hard to tell because it’s a selfie, but we took this photo in front of the fountain in Leicester ‘s Town Hall Square. This is the same fountain we posed in front of after our wedding. This town hall has seen our marriage, it’s where we registered the births of our babies, and it’s where I became a British citizen. It’s played a large part in our life together!

Being presented with my certificate of naturalisation by a local alderman.

Being presented with my certificate of naturalisation by a local alderman.

My certificate and the folder it was presented in, which includes the words for the oath and affirmation of allegiance as well as the pledge of loyalty. There's also a photo of the iconic water fountain in Town Hall Square.

My certificate (with important information blacked out) and the folder it was presented in, which includes the words for the oath and affirmation of allegiance as well as the pledge of loyalty. There’s also a photo of the iconic water fountain in Town Hall Square.

This feels a bit like I’m accepting an award, but I feel like I need to give thanks to some people here. Thank you to fellow Three Ladies author, Stephany, for coming to take care of our kids while we attended the ceremony and also getting a cake to celebrate with us when we got home!

Thank you to my parents, not only for all the financial assistance you’ve provided in this journey and for spending so much time and money to come see us since I’ve moved so far away, but also for being amazingly supportive and essentially being the ones to make this dream of meeting my “friend,” Chris, a reality. If it weren’t for you two, I fear we’d still be Skyping each day for hours on end, and instead we’ve got a wonderful life together!

And finally, thank you to Chris. He has dealt with more tears and heartache from me than any person should ever have to deal with. He has had to hear me say awful things about his home country when I’ve been down in the dumps. He had to fill out all the visa paperwork with the exception of the first fiancee visa because it was just too much of a headache for me. And he has never showed the slightest bit of annoyance at any of that and has always been my number one source of comfort when I’ve been down. You are amazingly supportive, loving, and caring and I’m so glad to be a British citizen and spend my life with you, wherever it may be! Love you baby! 🙂

Book Review for I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban

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Google Books summary for I Am Malala:

“When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. 

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.”

I recently read this book after seeing Malala Yousafzai on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Her story was so incredible just from the short interview on there that I knew I had to read the book. I was not disappointed.

I Am Malala starts out with the dramatic day that Malala was shot and the shooting itself. It then skips back in time and tells us the story of Malala’s family from before she was born. I found it all very fascinating, learning different things about her village in Pakistan and the struggles they’ve gone through. She dealt with things on a daily basis that I can’t even imagine. Osama Bin Laden even hid out in her tiny village at one point, although she never saw him with her own eyes.

I Am Malala is a real eye opener of all the things we take for granted. Where I come from and where I live now, women don’t have to cover their faces. They don’t have to have a man accompany them everywhere they go. They don’t have to guard what they say because there’s no such thing as freedom of speech for them. They don’t have to fight for the right to have an education just because they’re female.

Malala is an incredibly courageous young woman and her story is one that needs to be heard. Run, don’t walk, to your local library  or book store and read this book.

A Review of Dell’s Customer Service

Hi there dear readers! I hope you all had a fabulous new year. I’m terribly sorry to bring you such a long, boring update fresh after the holidays, but I’m hoping this will be helpful to anyone in the market for a new computer.

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Do you remember my post about Larry Laptop and all the trouble he was having? If not, you can read it here. In short, I bought a Dell Inspiron 3520 in December of 2012 and in less than a year, I had four faulty hard drives and also a motherboard replaced. They finally decided to give me a new computer in place of my old one because my laptop was still under warranty. I want to provide a timeline here of my recent experience as well as the way I was treated.

October 29: Called Dell with my latest problem (hard drive crashed). After much discussion, it was decided they would replace my laptop. I was asked if I wanted to upgrade for extra money or get a like for like replacement. After opting for the like for like replacement, I was told that they actually no longer make that type of laptop, so they’ll be upgrading me at no extra cost.

November 1: An empty Dell box was delivered to me. I was under the impression that they would be collecting my broken laptop on this day. I emailed the account manager in charge of my case to ask about the empty box and received no response.

November 4: Someone came to collect my broken computer which was supposed to be put in the empty box. Nobody informed me that this was how the collection would take place.

November 12: I emailed the original account manager to ask why my computer had not been delivered yet as the original invoice had an ETA of November 8. Account manager emailed me back to say she would look into the delay and report back to me when she had the details.

November 15: Still no follow up from account manager despite daily emails from myself asking about the status of my order. I finally called Dell and spoke to someone else, only to be told that the order had been cancelled. No reason given as to why. I was assigned a case number and told that I would be dealing with a woman named Maria from now on and that she would be looking into my case to determine why the order was cancelled and to see about reinstating the order.

November 18: Received a call from a man at Dell whose name I didn’t get. He informed me that they were incredibly sorry for the delay, but my computer will be with me within the week, along with some add-ons to ensure that I am a happy customer. He gave no details of the add-ons, but I didn’t care. I was happy to hear I would have my computer shortly.

November 19: Received an email from Maria that said: “I just would like to let you know that I am still trying to request to have this order rebook. Rest assured that I prioritize this issue now. I will get back to you again to for the status of the new order.” Meanwhile, I received a new order invoice from the original account manager on this same day. I sent a reply to the original account manager asking why there was a new order invoice from her, since I knew Maria was still working on it and I did not receive a response. I emailed Maria about this issue and about the man I spoke to the previous day.

November 20: Maria replied via email: “Sorry about that. I was not able to notice that there is a new replacement order that was processed. We have an estimated delivery date of 4/12/2013 for this order but I am now working with our Manufacturing team to see if they can speed up the order for you. I will get back to you again for further status.” Still no explanation for why the original order was cancelled and why a new order was placed with no apparent notification within Dell. Maria also had no record of the man who called me and that remains a mystery to this day.

November 21: I called Dell to try to speak with Maria about the status of my order and whether she was able to expedite it as she said she would try to do. I spoke to a very disrespectful man named Ken who said, among other things, that he could not connect me to Maria. I sent an email to the customer service complaint department about the rest of my experience with Ken:

Hello,

My name is Ashley Rayford. I currently have a case open with your company, reference number (Removed reference number for this blog post). Maria has been handling my case and she has been very kind throughout the process. However, today I called to get an update on my case and I spoke to a man named Ken. 
 
I explained my situation to Ken and how I have been told that my replacement computer order has been placed and Maria told me she would work on expediting my order so it could be with me as soon as possible (this was after someone whose name I don’t know called me Monday and told me that the computer would be with me THIS week…turns out that was false information). Ken explained to me that they’ve already put a request for expedition in and that there is now nothing further they can do. He said I will have to wait for my computer to be built in China and then wait 7-10 days longer once it is shipped from China before I will receive it. I was not happy with that information, naturally, since I’ve already been waiting for 3 weeks to receive a replacement laptop for a faulty one I had before. The original order was cancelled with no notification or reason provided by yourselves. To be told that I’ll have to wait 1-2 weeks longer for my computer (which I need for my job), does not make me happy. What made me even less happy was the way Ken spoke to me. Ken spoke to me in a tone of voice that I felt would have been more appropriately used with a child. When I told him that I didn’t appreciate being spoken to that way, he apologized, but did nothing to change his tone or his attitude. I asked Ken if I could speak to a manager, at which point he told me, quite rudely, “A manager won’t tell you anything different than I’m telling you.” I told him that I didn’t care, I wanted to speak to a manager. He said, “There’s not one here.” I said, “You mean to tell me that there’s nobody there higher than you that I can speak to?” He said, “No.” All of this was said in a rude tone of voice. I finally told Ken that he could have Maria call me back because I was done talking to him, goodbye, and I promptly hung up the phone.
 
I called back a few minutes later and spoke to someone named Mia. She told me that unfortunately the information Ken gave me is correct and there’s nothing further they can do, but that they’ll keep me updated on the process. She was very kind about it and she even explained things further to me by saying that when Maria told me she would try to expedite my order, she meant she would try to expedite the manufacturing process, not the shipping process, which I was unaware of. 
 
You’re a large company and I think it’s a shame that someone as rude as Ken is dealing with your customers. I also think that the way this entire situation has been handled is appalling. I will not be buying Dell products in future, although I will be using this replacement computer that is owed to me until it no longer works. I’ve already purchased a further 2 year warranty for this computer before I found out how appalling the customer service could be. I’ve had plenty of experience with your technical support team and they have always been lovely and helpful. I can’t say the same about everyone handling this situation. 
 
I am a very unsatisfied customer, I will be sharing this experience with family & friends, as well as blogging about it at my personal blog which receives a high volume of traffic. I sincerely hope to receive my computer in the new time frame that’s been given to me. I also hope that customer service representatives like Ken will be trained properly in future to not be rude to customers who are just trying to find solutions to their problems.
 
Thank you,
Ashley RayfordNovember 22: I received this very short email response from the customer service complaint department:

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for sending us this detailed experience when you called our hotline and spoke to Ken. I want to assure you that all measures will be taken to correct the behavior and retrain if really necessary. Please be assured that Maria will continue to be in touch with you about the progress of your order.

 Kind regards,

 Hazel Teodoro
Care Manager | Dell Customer Service, UK and Ireland  

Also on November 22, I received another email from the original account manager which contained yet another invoice for a new computer. This is the third order since the beginning, and still I received no explanation as to why. I emailed Maria to query this. I received no response from Maria this day.

November 25: I received a call from a man named Paolo from Dell on behalf of Maria who was out of the office. He explained to me that my replacement order was cancelled, yet again. For the first time since all of this started, he finally explained to me why the original order was cancelled. The first time it was cancelled because they didn’t have the correct parts. Then the reinstated replacement order was for the same computer, and again, they didn’t have the correct parts. Apparently the missing part was an LCD screen that’s on back order and they didn’t know how long it would take to arrive. So they cancelled the reinstated replacement order and placed another order on November 22 for an upgraded version. I was told that this new order would be shipping from the factory in China the next day, but that they wouldn’t be able to provide me with an ETA until it arrives with the courier in the UK. I asked Paolo to please make sure my new address is on file as we moved to a new house in the middle of all of this confusion. This was the third time I requested the address change to be noted and he assured me it was in the system. He said that they can’t note the address change until the package has arrived in the UK with the courier, but that they would notify the courier ASAP.

November 26: I received this email from Maria:

I am happy to inform you that the order has shipped out today and is now in transit to the carrier. Since the package will be coming from China, this would take within 7-10 business day before it gets delivered to you. You might receive the order by next week but will let you know if there’s progress.

I will track the order to ensure that your order is delivered and I will contact you to verify if it was delivered in good condition.

Thank you for choosing Dell and have a good day.

November 28: I received a call from someone at Dell informing me the order will be with me the following week, either December 3 or December 4.

December 2: I emailed Maria to confirm the address change again.

December 3: Maria emailed me and assured me she would provide the courier with my new address. Later in the day I received an email from UKMail saying that the package would be delivered the next day.

December 4: I received an email from UKMail saying there was an unexpected delay in my order and they are unable to provide me with an ETA at this time.

December 6: Emailed Maria asking for an update. No response.

December 9: Sent Maria another email, this time a rather angry email, asking for an update. No response. Called Dell and spoke to someone named Richard. Richard called UKMail while I waited on the line to find out what the delay is. UKMail did not have my change of address. They said they will have to change the label on the package to reflect the new address and that this will take 1-2 business days. I expressed my displeasure to Richard and he apologized and said he would stay on top of it until I receive the computer, but it will take 1-2 business days for them to change the label and then another 1-2 business days for me to receive the package. Richard also supplied me with a tracking number. When I logged onto the website to look at the tracking number, I could see that they attempted delivery at my old address on December 5, despite numerous reminders from myself for the address to be changed.

December 10: Laptop was delivered.

As you can see, it’s been a long and stressful process. I have never experienced such horrible customer service in my life. The original order was place on October 29 and I didn’t receive it until December 10. Meanwhile, they wasted no time picking up my old computer. The same time I placed the replacement order, I also ordered a further 2 year warranty for the computer. I was told by the original account manager that all I needed to do to get it transferred to my new computer is email her with the service tag once I received it. I’m currently in the process of trying to make that happen. I have had no confirmation as of yet that it’s been done.

Please remember that Dell’s customer service department is different than their technical support. The technical support team have always been extremely prompt and helpful. Not so with the customer service department. I know this was a long post, but I wanted to get this out there for anyone who may be thinking of buying a laptop and is unsure what brand to purchase. I won’t tell you not to buy a Dell, I can only tell you my experience and let you decide for yourself.

Happy Holidays From Three Ladies and Their Babies

Hello, readers. It’s been a pretty great year for us Three Ladies. It’s had its ups and downs like most years do, but overall we’re all extremely blessed and thankful to live the lives we do. In celebration of that, we’ve decided to take a little time for ourselves and our families around the holidays. You won’t be seeing us here until after the New Year, but we plan to come back bigger and better than ever and we hope you’ll join us.

We’ll all be celebrating Christmas in our own special way this year. Stephany and Lisa will be together at their parents’ house with Stephany leaving for her new home in England soon after. Ashley will be celebrating with her family in England. So for now we want to say whoever you are, whatever you celebrate this time of year, and wherever you’ll be, we truly wish you the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year.

Here are a couple of fun Christmas links for you to enjoy in our absence. See you in 2014!

22-Crock-pot-Christmas-Recipes

22 Crock Pot Christmas Recipes
(click the image to view)

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38 Clever Last-Minute Christmas Hacks to Make Your Life Easier
(click the image to view)

 

Meet Our Elf on the Shelf: Beau!

It’s that time of the year again! Time for Christmas trees, lights, and Elf on the Shelf. From my experience you either hate the Elf on the Shelf or you love the Elf on the Shelf. If you’re in the former category, I suggest you skip this post altogether. If you belong to the latter group, then right this way please!

love this Christmas tradition. For a few years now I have watched everyone’s Elf pictures on Facebook with envy. My children were too young to enjoy such a thing, so Santa had yet to deliver an Elf to our house. That all changed this year! Jude is now three, and just last week we had a knock on our door and a delivery man handed me a box. Inside the box was our very own Elf, who Jude named Beau!

I was unaware there was such a back story to the Elf on the Shelf. I thought it was just a fun Elf you got who ended up in all different situations throughout your home until Christmas was over. I was wrong. We opened our Elf on the Shelf and saw that he came with his own story. I wish I had waited to open him when Jude wasn’t around, but like I said, I didn’t know there was an involved story with him. Jude held our elf before we opened the book and discovered that touching him can make him lose his magic. Luckily, Jude believed that right away and he now makes sure not to touch Beau and if you ask him if you can touch Beau he will tell you quite sternly, “No! He’ll lose his magic!” (although last night Jude touched Beau. We didn’t see it and Jude said it was an accident. In any case, when Jude woke up this morning, Beau was in an elf-sized bed with some medicine beside him while he recuperates and gets his magic back!)

If you’re not familiar with the story of the Elf on the Shelf, he sits in your home and keeps an eye on things to make sure your children are being good boys and girls. When everyone is in bed, he flies to the North Pole to tell Santa Claus if the kids have been naughty or nice. He then returns to your house while you’re sleeping so he’ll be there for each new day to keep an eye on things. Here are a few images of what Beau has gotten up to at our house so far.

The first night, Beau climbed the Eiffel Tower!

The first night, Beau climbed the Eiffel Tower!

The next morning we found him atop our microwave. He helped himself to a lollipop and didn't clean up his mess afterward! Naughty Beau.

The next morning we found him atop our microwave. He helped himself to a lollipop and didn’t clean up his mess afterward! Naughty Beau.

Hanging out amidst the Christmas decorations.

Hanging out amidst the Christmas decorations.

Beau climbed into Jude's stocking.

Beau climbed into Jude’s stocking.

Last night he decided to sit on our upstairs landing.

Last night he decided to sit on our upstairs landing.

If you’ve been thinking of asking Santa for your very own Elf, but you think your kids are too young, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter. Jude is three and a half and he’s equal parts entertained by Beau and confused by Beau, but I am having such a blast with it myself it doesn’t matter. Next year I think Jude will really love Beau and the confusion will slip away, but I don’t regret having an Elf on the Shelf because it is so much fun for me as a parent! I love making these new Christmas traditions with my kids. Feel free to share your Elf on the Shelf stories or pictures in the comments!

Quick Money Saving Tips for Internet Shopping

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With Christmas fast approaching, I’m sure a lot of you are browsing the internet for gifts for your loved ones…I know I am! My favorite place to buy gifts (or anything) online is eBay, but sometimes I just can’t find what I’m looking for there, and sometimes things I find on eBay are actually more expensive than buying them elsewhere. So for those times that eBay didn’t come through for me, I browsed the rest of the World Wide Web for a solution and I wanted to quickly share a couple of super easy tips with you all that have helped me save money numerous times in the past.

1. Do a quick Google search for a promotional code. It’s seriously that easy. I never buy anything online without searching for a promotional/coupon code and I have very rarely come up empty handed when doing so. Just open Google or whichever search engine you prefer, type in, “promotional code for Target” (or wherever you happen to be shopping…This American Expat sure does miss Target!) and see what comes up. If “promotional code” doesn’t work, type in “coupon code”. Just play around with it until you find something. You may not find anything, but it’s worth the few minutes of your time if you can find one that saves you money. I’ve saved anywhere from $1-$20 using this approach. Just yesterday I saved $10 on a gift order with this method.

2. Look around for the same product from different places. If you have something specific in mind and you want that item, but it seems a little expensive on the site you found it on, copy the title of the product into a new search and see what pops up. We did this when we were buying nursery furniture for our firstborn. We got the same furniture we would have got from a big name baby products store here in England, but because it came from a different website, we ended up saving a significant amount of money. Just like my first tip, sometimes this will be a fruitless search, but other times it can be a lifesaver and it only takes a few minutes of your time.

That’s all there is to it! Quick, easy, and painless. I hope these tips help save you money in the future. If you’ve got some tips of your own, please don’t hesitate to tell us about them in the comments! Happy shopping.

Trust Your Instincts! Our Preschooler & Pneumonia.

As a parent, is there really anything more concerning than when our children are sick and we don’t know why? It can be frustrating and sometimes terrifying. It’s all the more terrible when you’ve taken your child to several doctors and they give you the same diagnosis, but you just feel deep down that they’re wrong.

This is what happened to me last week. My three year old son, Jude, had a fever Saturday night. We didn’t think much of it.  He’s been catching a lot of illnesses since starting preschool and we just figured this would pass much the same as the others and we may have a sleepless night or two in the meantime. Sunday came along and he was very lethargic and burning up with fever. His temperature went up to 103.5 and we took him to urgent care. The doctor there looked him over and said it was a viral infection. We were to give him Calpol and Nurofen (England’s names for Tylenol and Motrin, respectively) to control the fever as well as make sure he received plenty of liquids and fluids.

He didn’t sleep much at all Sunday night. Monday afternoon we took him to our doctor to get a second opinion because the fever was staying up much more than it was staying down and he was so lethargic. Our doctor gave us the same diagnosis as the urgent care doctor. Monday evening saw Jude sitting on the couch in a daze and vomiting after he tried to eat a baby carrot, the only thing he’d eaten in quite awhile. His temperature was nearing 104 and we were terrified. They have a service here in England called NHS Direct where you can call for non-emergent medical advice. We called them to find out if vomiting would be a normal symptom of his viral infection. They asked us several questions about Jude and his symptoms and then they said they were sending paramedics to us to check him over. They assured us there was no reason to panic, they just wanted to be more safe than sorry and it would be quicker for the paramedics to come to us than for us to go to the hospital.

By the time the paramedics arrived, Jude’s temperature was coming down significantly and he was acting more alert than he had the entire day. The paramedics came in with a camera crew. Apparently they’re training a new paramedic and documenting the experience for a new show that’s to air on BBC3 in the new year. We signed the release to be on the show. Don’t ask me why. I looked awful, our house looked awful, our daughter was in mismatched clothes from having a blowout earlier, and Jude was sat in a diaper on towels on our couch in case he threw up again. That was surreal to say the least, and the very last thing we expected. Our main concern, however, was Jude, and we were thrilled to see him perking up. We thought maybe he was finally coming out of it. The paramedics agreed with the diagnosis of a simple viral infection, but they did offer to take us to the hospital for further evaluation as they are admittedly not pediatricians. Since Jude was perking up considerably at that point, we trusted what they said and stayed home.

Jude slept in our bed Monday night. I should say, he laid in our bed.  There wasn’t much sleep to be had. He couldn’t get comfortable, his fever was back, and he was coughing now as well. Tuesday morning arrived and he was just as miserable as he’d been Monday night. I told Chris that something wasn’t right. I felt sure that if this was a simple viral infection, he’d be showing signs of improvement, not getting worse. I begged him to take him to the ER, which he readily agreed to and off they went. A few hours later, Chris called to tell me that they also think it’s a viral infection, but they’re going to do a chest x-ray to be sure. Then another specialist saw Jude and listened to his chest like all the other doctors had done. However, this one listened to the side of Jude’s chest, just below his armpit, and the other doctors hadn’t done that. He listened there and said right away that it was pneumonia. A chest x-ray confirmed that it was, indeed, pneumonia. They showed us the x-ray, and there, on the right side of his chest, they explained, was a triangular patch of pneumonia.

They admitted him to the hospital for IV antibiotics. Jude was in the hospital from Tuesday until Thursday receiving IV antibiotics. He completed a round of oral antibiotics and is on the mend. His pneumonia is gone, but he may have a cough from it for a couple of weeks. Sadly, he has another viral infection on top of that. Poor kid can’t catch a break.

We had a long, stressful, terrifying week. The point of this post is to say, always trust your maternal instincts! I felt like I was being one of “those” moms who won’t trust anyone’s word on the matter and was too pushy with the doctors, but it turns out, it was a great thing that I was. Don’t be afraid to persist if you feel like something’s not right with your child. After all, we know our children better than anyone else. Better safe than sorry.

MATERNAL-INSTINCTS

Premature Labor, a Guest Post by Anonymous

At Three Ladies and Their Babies, we try to talk about all kinds of different pregnancies, labors, or fertility issues. When we heard about this woman’s story, we thought it was remarkable and we asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing it with our readers. She thanked us for the opportunity to share her story and she also requested that her identity remain anonymous. Sadly, this is due to the fact that she’s received some harsh criticism from people for not knowing she was still expecting. I don’t know why anybody would ridicule a person for that, and it saddens me that that’s the case.  I hope you enjoy reading her story. 

My periods have always been so regular you could set a clock by them so when I missed one, I became concerned. I took a few home pregnancy tests which all came out positive. I went to Genesys Hospital’s (in Grand Blanc, Michigan) OB/GYN clinic to confirm it, which they did.

A little over a week later I woke up on a Saturday morning to a horrible mess. I can honestly say I have never seen as much blood as I did that morning. I called Genesys and spoke with the OB on call. He informed me (over the phone) that he had my chart and that I was only 5 weeks along and that I was now miscarrying. He said that as long as I didn’t soak more than 4 pads an hour,  I should be fine and to follow up with them on Monday. Monday morning I called to see what I needed to do. They informed me that since the bleeding had slowed,  I had definitely miscarried (again, this was all said over the phone). The receptionist apologized and said I could go on with life.

Because this was not planned I immediately went to Planned Parenthood and got a prescription for a birth control pill. From mid-September 2012 until January 11, 2013 I lived a normal life. I took the pill religiously.

January 11 found me waking up to my alarm in a puddle of clear fluid. I thought I peed my bed. When I got up and it wasn’t stopping, I became scared and went to Genesys ER. I spent 4 hours in that worthless ER with them telling me I had a spinal injury that was making me lose control of my bladder. They came to this conclusion, even though my reflexes were perfect, I had no pain, and I could move my back every way they asked. They had asked for a urine sample which I supplied but it stayed in the room with me the whole time, even though I told them about miscarrying back in September and that it was possible I was pregnant again.

Finally, after 4 hours, a new doctor came in and felt my stomach. He informed me I didn’t miscarry because he felt a football in my stomach. They hooked me up to the monitor and said I was approximately 20-24 weeks and that my water had broken. They said they would have to move me to Hurley Medical Center (in Flint, Michigan) where they would have to deliver the baby that day because, “a baby can’t stay in there after your water breaks.” He also informed me  that I was way too early in the pregnancy for the baby to survive.

I arrived at Hurley approximately one hour later. Upon arriving I was examined, had blood drawn, and had nurses in with me making sure I was comfortable. The high risk OB came in and said I would be on bed rest for as long as possible (hopefully reaching 30 weeks). I told him what the “doctor” at Genesys had told me. He said, “I don’t know what kind of medicine they are practicing over there, but here we are in the process of saving babies”.

I spent 4 weeks on bed rest at Hurley. On February 6, right after dinner, I started feeling icky. I was having cramps and hurt all over. This went on overnight. February 7 at approximately 8 am the doc informed me my baby’s heart rate kept dipping and not rebounding fast enough and therefore I was being taken to the OR for an emergency c-section.

My baby girl was delivered at 9:28 am weighing 2 lb 2 oz. Her dad got to take one picture of her before they rushed her off to the NICU. She spent 2 months there with many ups and downs. I won’t get into them here, but I will say I would have never survived that time without two very wonderful NICU nurses caring for me, as well as my baby, and my closest friend and sister.

My daughter came home on April 16 on an apnea monitor and oxygen. Because of preemies’ weakened immune systems and lungs they are not advised to be taken anywhere for at least 6 months. This includes the grocery store, the mall, basically anywhere with people. I didn’t get that time when she came home to take her out and show her off, but I got something much more rewarding; I got 3 weeks with just her and I together bonding.

Anyone going through having a preemie needs support. It will take approximately 1-1 1/2 years for my daughter to catch up to a full term baby. Currently she is a healthy, striving 9 month old (6 month old, had she been born on time). I hate all the suffering she had to go through but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything. The whole ordeal taught me how strong I was.

We want to thank this woman again for sharing her story with us.  We are so thankful that her story has had a happy outcome and that her little girl is healthy.  She has nothing but love and support from the Three Ladies.  🙂

Get it Together, Moms…Why We Should Be Supporters & Not Critics

judging

Guess what, folks? We live in a cruel world. We live in a world where babies are abandoned, neglected, and abused. We live in a world where we sometimes fear to send our children to school because they may be gunned down by a crazy person. We live in a world where child pornography and sexual abuse run rampant. But here’s the thing; we also live in a world where many moms are trying their hardest to raise happy, healthy, smart, kind children. We live in a world that our kids can grow up in knowing they can be whatever they want to be. We live in a world with buses, trains, and cars, and I have it on good authority from my three year old son that these are the best things ever! What I would like to know is why those of us who are trying our best to raise these awesome tiny humans to be awesome adults are constantly judging other mothers who are doing the same thing. In this great, big, wonderful and scary world, shouldn’t we all be supportive of one another? And moms most of all?

Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ll tell you a secret, and this might lose us some readers, but I don’t have all the answers! Most of the time I’m just bluffing my way through it and doing the best I know how. Just when I think I have things figured out, this thing called parenthood throws another curve ball my way. I don’t just go to bed every night wondering if I’ve done the best job as a mom that I could do, I’m constantly asking myself that question throughout the day. Do you know what I love? I love that I have some friends and family that I can call up when I feel like things are falling apart and they’re there to tell me that they’ve been in my shoes and I’m doing a good job and it’ll be okay.

Lately I’ve seen a lot less of that positivity and a lot more negativity and judgment. Why does it matter what age my child stops having a pacifier? Why does it matter how I get my child to sleep at night? Why does it matter if I let my child have one piece of candy once in awhile for good behavior? Why does it matter if my child hasn’t mastered drinking out of a sippy cup by the time she’s one? Why does it matter if I use a so called “leash” for my child?

Here’s a sad fact; the only reason we took our son’s pacifier away from him when we did is because I worried about what other people were saying about us. I look back at that now and I think it was so stupid. I don’t even remember how old he was. I know he was older than one and younger than two. When we took it away from him it ended up being a piece of cake so he must have been ready, but I wasn’t ready. I dreaded taking it away from him and I did NOT want to do it when I did it. I only did it because of negative comments from other people about how children of a certain age shouldn’t be allowed to have a pacifier.

We had a traumatic potty training experience because I felt like our son needed to be potty trained by the time he was three. I had seen so many articles online of people talking about how they potty trained their 2 year old in 3 days. I felt like such a failure when I didn’t manage to do the same thing. Turns out, I wasn’t a failure, my son just wasn’t ready. That’s wonderful if you can potty train your 2 year old in 3 days. I am truly happy for you because it’ll save you money and diaper changes, and who wouldn’t love that?! My son wasn’t potty trained until he was 3 and a half, but when he was ready, it happened overnight. Different strokes for different folks.

I never used reins (what a child’s safety harness is known as in England) for my kids. Honestly before I had kids I was one of the ones who judged wrongfully by thinking that using such a thing was just lazy. Once I had a willful little boy who always tried to dart into the road as soon as we let go of his hand, I understood the need. He actually started listening to us and staying by our side before we bought the reins, but I was one step away from purchasing some when the time came.

Sometimes it’s all about putting ourselves in another person’s shoes. I had never been in a situation where I could see that reins would be necessary until that point. It was an eye opener for me. I try to think twice now before I judge what someone else does. The fact of the matter is: We never know what another person is going through. Putting a “leash” on a child is better than that child running in front of a moving car during that one second you had to turn your back to deal with your other child.

I keep seeing articles about moms who judge each other and how we need to support each other. You might be thinking, “Good grief, give it a rest, we get it!!” Unfortunately, not everybody else gets it because I still see examples of this nastiness on a daily basis. Next time you’re going to say something about another person’s parenting skills, I urge you to think twice and make sure that what you’re going to say isn’t hurtful or negative.

Do you know, when I think about my childhood, I don’t think about how I wish my parents hadn’t fed me this food or that food and that I wish they’d taught me to read and count as soon as I could speak. I think about how they loved me and how I knew they loved me every day, without question. I think about how much fun I had as a kid and how carefree those days were. I think about how my parents were (and still are) my biggest fans and cheerleaders. I think about how thankful I am that I had them then and have them now.

The fact of the matter is, there isn’t one correct approach to parenting. There are many instances where more than one style of parenting can be suitable. What is best for you might not be best for another, but that’s okay. We all know our children and what works for them and us. We just need to respect one another as hard working moms who are doing the best we can. Parenting is hard. Period. Let’s try to be there for one another and make it that much easier.

Author’s note: A group of mothers from Connecticut Working Moms posed for a photo shoot to celebrate the various differing approaches they all took to motherhood. I just absolutely loved these photos! See for yourselves by clicking here!

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Visits My House

Hand_Foot_Mouth_DisLast week was half term in my house. In England, they have full year school years. What this means is that there are 3 terms during school and each term has a halfway break that lasts for a week, then there are breaks between each term as well that are usually a bit longer. Last week was the autumn term’s half term. Chris also had a few days off work for personal reasons. I was pretty excited about the four of us getting five whole days together with no work or school. I wasn’t ready for what actually happened!

On Monday, Jude was acting very lethargic. He sat on my lap for nearly an hour, which never happens and he also had a mild fever. Eventually, his temperature came down and he was acting like himself again by that evening so I didn’t think a lot of it. He was fine on Tuesday, but when we sat down for dinner he started saying his mouth hurt. An inspection with a flashlight showed us that he’d bit his right cheek, so we told him to chew his food on the other side and it would heal in a day or so.

Wednesday came along and he was still crying about his mouth hurting. I’m sad to say at this point that when we saw the sore on his cheek had healed, we assumed he was over dramatizing it, like three year olds do. We told him he was fine and that his sore was all gone so there was nothing to be upset about. He insisted it was still hurting. We brushed it off until dinner time, when he wouldn’t eat much food. Another very thorough flashlight inspection of his mouth showed us that there were two canker sores on his gum line (they were pretty hidden, which explains why we didn’t see them before). We put teething gel on it and that helped bring him temporary relief so he could eat his dinner.

Wednesday we were up quite a bit in the night with both kids crying. This was pretty frustrating as it was out of character for both of them and we didn’t understand what was wrong with them. Melody had been fine throughout the day and the only issue with Jude was those two canker sores. When Thursday came along, Jude was still crying (not just whining, but crying) about his canker sores.

I asked my fellow Three Ladies authors, Lisa and Stephany, if they thought it would be ridiculous to take him to the doctor for canker sores. That’s when Stephany asked me if he had spots on his hands or feet. Come to think of it, I had seen some spots on his feet Wednesday afternoon, but I just assumed he’d bumped them on something while he was playing.  He can get kind of wild. She then told me about Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. A quick Google search led me to believe that this was most likely what Jude had. A look in Melody’s mouth showed us that she had the same thing. A doctor’s visit confirmed that we were right.

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is a nasty little virus with no cure. There are different degrees of this virus and from what I’ve seen after a quick Google image search, we had a minor case of it. Knowing how much pain my kids have been in for the past week with this minor case leaves me terrified of the thought of them getting it again and having a worse time of it. The only thing you can do for your kids if they get this is give them medicines that help ease the pain. We were prescribed a spray for their mouths that would numb it temporarily so they could feel some relief from the sores. We were also told to give Paracetamol (Tylenol) to help bring the fevers down and ease the pains associated with them. Beyond that, there was nothing we could do but wait it out.

The spots and blisters on Jude's feet. Luckily they didn't seem to bother him.

The spots and blisters on Jude’s feet. Luckily they didn’t seem to bother him.

One of Jude's canker sores, this one on the tip of his tongue.

One of Jude’s canker sores, this one on the tip of his tongue.

Spots on the top of Jude's foot. These didn't bother him either.

Spots on the top of Jude’s foot. These didn’t bother him either.

Some of the spots on Jude's hand. These also didn't seem to bother him.

Some of the spots on Jude’s hand. These also didn’t seem to bother him.

Some of the spots on Jude's toes. Again, these didn't bother him.

Some of the spots on Jude’s toes. Again, these didn’t bother him.

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is highly contagious and it generally starts out with cold like symptoms. Assuming Monday was Jude’s first day with it, we’re now on day 9 and we’re still not over it. I say we, because I now have it as well. It’s rare for adults to catch it, but I was one of the lucky ones (ha ha…). It has manifested itself in me as a very bad cold and a few sores in my mouth, but nothing too terrible. Hopefully it doesn’t get any worse. The sores in my kids’ mouths have healed significantly and don’t hurt them anymore, but now the cold symptoms have come back with a vengeance. They’re very hoarse, have a wicked cough, runny nose, sneezing, you name it.

The biggest problem for our kids were the sores in their mouths which made it hard for them to eat. The things we found that were best for them at that time were:

Jello
Mashed potatoes
Fish sticks with the batter removed
Ice cream
Popsicles
Apple sauce

The other things they ate generally brought a lot of pain with them. If your kids get this virus, you have my deepest sympathy. I didn’t know anything about it until mine came down with it and I wish it were still a stranger to me. We’ve had sleepless nights and very upset babies. It’s awful to see them in so much pain and not be able to do much for them besides cuddle them and love on them (which we’ve been doing a lot of). As I said, it is highly contagious, and unfortunately your child (or you) could be a carrier before you even realize you have it. It’s important to wash your hands often to cut down on germs, especially if you’re in a setting with children. Here’s hoping you don’t have to experience it as well!