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w September 29, 2003

The Wet Coast

Wasn't at all this week, pleasantly enough. Last Wednesday the family packed up for a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia on a multitasker mission: the plan was to land, spend the night at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, rent a car the next morning for the 4.5 hour drive east to the Okanagan Valley, head back Friday night, stay downtown at the Wedgewood Hotel, attend a lavish wedding Saturday, dinner with friends that night, pay a full-day birthday visit to my best friend from university, spend the night back at the airport hotel, fly home today.

Amazingly, all was accomplished with little folderol. The weather was stunningly gorgeous, leading us both (well, okay, primarily me) to prick up our ears in the direction of "For Sale" signs dotted around the city. We surprised my grandmother with the visit to Penticton, and I was able to log about 2 hours at her old house, blitzing and boxing family paraphenalia that I knew needed to be dealt with; it was the first time I had been to that house since my grandfather's death 18 months ago, and it wasn't as difficult as I had thought. If anything, it was just a time for lovely memories of the time we did spend together, and I know my grandmother felt comforted that things were being given a good home, so to speak. My parents had been out this summer and did a massive share of this, so I was sort of the rear guard. It's nice to have congratulatory wedding cards, circa 1939, and my grandfather's yearbooks from "South Vancouver High School"---which is officially John Oliver H.S...and there is a semi-amusing story behind the dual name...ask me another time.

The wedding was enjoyable, particularly since we were just guests, with no added responsibilities; had a great time at dinner, and had the great pleasure of seeing the newly purchased house of my friend Camille and her husband. We looked at pictures from the madcap years at Trinity and both expressed astonishment that we were actually, you know, adults. With like houses and husbands and that sort of thing. Maybe at heart we all still feel like we're nineteen. Anyway, good trip all around, and with the possible exception of Bean not sleeping all that well, everyone had a fun time. We didn't get a crib for her at most of the hotels, because the bed was large enough to just bung her in the middle, but I had forgotten a) that babies are heat-seeking missiles and b) how much room a 2.5 foot child can quickly absorb. I found myself clinging to the edge of the bed on multiple occasions while she and her dad snored blissfully in unison. It's a good thing I love them.

The only catastrophe was my slapstick coffee spillage on the first morning...right on top of my husband's briefcase, laptop, and lap. No major burns to anything but the keyboard, and even that mostly recovered. Well, my pride, perhaps.

Although I doubt the next time you read this the Hoffmans will have relocated to Vancouver, know that it is constantly lurking in the back of my mind, so if anyone has any good, dissuading facts on average rainfall and high taxes, make sure to let me know.

by Heather Hoffman at 7:10 PM

w September 24, 2003

Loss of Originality

I'm not really sure which is going to be more embarrassing...the fact that Bean's real name has become a "hot" Hollywood baby name, or the fact that I actually read Us Weekly and thus know this to be true. There it was, in bold print: her name, colon, The New Hollywood Baby Name.


I know, and my husband knows, and both sides of the family know, and even most of our friends know why we chose her name. And it had nothing to do with trendiness...in fact, we were chuffed that it didn't seem to be at ALL trendy. An added bonus, if you will. Now it seems that when she hits first grade, all the little kindergarten girls will have the same name. I suppose it's better to be the older version, but I freely admit that I'm not looking forward to the day when people ask, "oh, so did you get that from Celebrity X's baby?".

I grew up with an exceedingly popular name in the 80s, Heather. I realize I wasn't a Jennifer or a Sarah, both of which seemed to outstrip my name (at least, all my friends were named Jennifer or Sarah), but it was still a somewhat ubiquitous moniker. Don't get me wrong, I have grown to really like my name, and for what it's worth, it's at least MY name...I guess I just wanted Bean to grow up being more original or unique or something. Ah well.

Silver lining? At least people will be able to spell it correctly.

by Heather Hoffman at 9:42 AM

w September 17, 2003

Loaded For Bear

I'm sure many people understand this phrase, but if you haven't yet heard it, in a nutshell: going into something with all the "firepower" you can muster. I had an extremely unpleasant experience recently with a doctor, and the result was the following essay. Let's call it the first shell in my virtual shotgun.


September 16, 2003

Our neighbors are beginning the process of remodeling their house, and today was the first day of demolition. At nine o’clock this morning, I just looked out the window and thought, “oh, well, it’s good they aren’t going to be starting at eight o’clock”. At five o’clock, I almost went over and took a crowbar out of a worker’s hand. Not, interestingly enough, because I was angry at the noise or the chaos over there, but because I NEEDED THAT CROWBAR. I needed that crowbar to smash through the quagmire that is more commonly called “information” when you are the parent of a child with a disability. If I were a more violent person, and this wasn’t for public consumption, I’d say I needed that crowbar to shake at doctors/specialists/concerned citizens who seem to all be in this vast conspiracy to make me feel like an incompetent and abusive parent because my daughter has a variety of challenges.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone reading this, but I had a bad day. No, I take that back…I had a bad 45 minutes at one of our local developmental centers, and it unfortunately ruined what had actually been a rather good day. Our daughter, at 18 months, has a host of medical/developmental complications, not the least of which is a fairly significant visual impairment. We have spent the last year and a half attempting to hash out some sort of diagnosis, to no avail. Certainly we have heard “potential” diagnoses, but nothing absolutely concrete as of yet Oddly, this isn’t as much of a concern for us…we know her challenges, we are doing our utmost to address them, and beyond that, there just doesn’t seem to be much else at hand. The good news is, for all the uphill slog, she really is making progress; it’s just slow and compromised by the myriad mitigating factors. But she’s making progress. And she’s happy, and energetic, and trying to communicate with us.

This doesn’t appear to be good enough for the arm-length-long list of doctors we see on a regular rotation. I would like to think that they truly have her best interests at heart, and would like to come up with a diagnosis so that we can maximize her treatment and intervention to the fullest. What comes across is that she is a conundrum, a peculiar constellation of bits and pieces from a wide variety of syndromes and conditions; she would make a brilliant research paper, if only they could pin down exactly what it is they are researching. Let me say it now: I’m tired of my child being treated like a science experiment. I have joined the camp that believes too many cooks and too many recipes ruin the dinner, but the treadmill never stops. I can’t even make it to the real gym to walk on the treadmill; the emotional one is a travesty.

I’m not angry because our daughter has something (whatever that “something” is), I’m angry because parents are seen as an unwelcome but necessary nuisance. Do I think all parents are at the edge of their seats, eager to meet medical personnel halfway and design the most efficient and effective short and long-term plan of care? Good grief, no. I was a teacher, I’ve been through parent conferences; I know that human nature is a powerful force. But it works on both sides, and that is something I wish I could articulate in the monthly torture sessions. I don’t need someone intimating to me that I am not doing enough for my child, I don’t need someone throwing out “big” words in an effort to confound me, but neither do I need someone withholding pertinent information because I haven’t passed the medical boards and therefore am clearly incapable of understanding anything beyond a dirty diaper. Treat me like a partner, and I’ll do the same. Then maybe we’ll get somewhere. Until that point, I reserve the right to be angry and use it to our advantage; regardless of social acceptability, anger is a family value. Just ask anyone who has had to run this gauntlet – there are more of us than you realize.

by Heather Hoffman at 8:12 PM