New blog

18 Jun

For those who didn’t see the update via another media, please note that I am no longer updating this blog. All historical posts have been migrated to:

Follow our adventures there!

The Learning Process

5 Apr

It looks like this blog is turning into a monthly thing. I hope to rectify that and update it more frequently, but at the same time, I don’t want to bore you with the mundane details of our lives.

Being a stay-at-home-mom allows me many amazing privileges. It is the best job in the world, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. As a SAH, you realize just how much you teach your child. It’s unreal to think that so much of what my son knows, he learned from me.  Of course he learns plenty from his daddy, like flexing his muscles, how to act in front of the camera, and the famous “Hulk Hogan” impression.

We recently started working on taking off his clothes independently. It seems like such an easy thing to us adults. How much thought do you give to taking off your shoes, socks, pants and shirt? Unless they are shoes that are really hurting your feet (girls, I’m talking to you!), you probably don’t give any of that much thought. We have been doing it for so long that we do it automatically, without thinking. For toddlers, though, this is like learning calculus. It seems impossible at first. They get incredibly frustrated and want to give up. It takes time and practice – and lots of praise – for them to master these seemingly easy tasks.

A couple of weeks ago I taught Elijah how to pull off his sneakers that velcro shut. I showed him how to pull the velcro strap open. He struggled. He grunted. He pulled with all his might, and finally pulled it open as if it was an enormous, heavy door. I thought he was going to quit right then, but I saw a sparkle in his eyes that said, “I did that. Hmmm. What else can I do?” We then started working on actually pulling the shoe off his foot. This took a while to master. He kept trying to pull it off by pulling from under the ankle bone, but it wasn’t giving. He looked at me as if to say, “Hey mama . . . can’t you just do this for me? It will be so much easier.” Instead, though, I showed him to pull the shoe off from the heel. It took some work, but he did it. I praised him as if he had just won the Nobel Prize for Medicine. We worked on the second shoe in much the same manner. When it came off, I cheered like he had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. (Man, if this kid could win TWO Nobel Prizes, I would be one proud mama. And if he wins none, I will be just as proud.)

The best part of this exercise was what happened next. After taking both shoes off and receiving praise from me, his face lit up like the Rockefeller Christmas tree. He was beaming. He did it all by himself, with just coaching from mom. But he wanted to take it one step further. Without prompting, he proceeded to pick up both shoes and walk over to the stairs. He dropped the shoes over the baby gate and onto the first stair. He looked at me proudly. He knew that we kept our shoes on those first few steps, out of reach of the dog. He anticipated that action and did it on his own. I was so proud of my little guy. And then it struck me how momentous that was for Elijah. Sure he had figured out walking and talking and stuff, but for some reason this really seemed to make him PROUD – like puff out his chest proud.

Since then, we’ve worked on taking off socks, pants and jackets. Pants are tricky buggers! I never realized how difficult they were to pull down. We’re still not completely there yet, but that’s on the horizon. Yesterday Little Dude was showing off by unzipping his jacket, pulling it off and trying to put it on the bannister (where it hangs most of the time). He did the whole exercise with a wonderful grin on his face. When he finished (to mom’s praise, of course), I prompted him to say, “I did it!” He yelled, “Ididit!” and gave me 5.

When I think about what the means going forward in life, it’s daunting. I am going to teach this little, tiny, wonderful human being how to read, how to add (and subtract, multiply and divide, but I stop at derivatives), how to drive, and how to balance a checkbook. But beyond all of that, and more importantly, I (we, really) are going to teach him how to love, how to be respectful, proper manners, how to be honest, and how to treat a potential mate. Being the mother of a boy is a tall order. I think about some of the men I have met – not my husband – and their attitudes towards women and humanity in general. It makes me realize how much we are responsible for shaping his actions as an adult. We are responsible for ensuring that he grows up to be a good human being. This will mean teaching him how to do things the “right” way, and also being tough on him. It means giving him freedom to make mistakes, but doling out punishment when certain mistakes are made. It’s an incredible balancing act, and a very personal job. People tend to criticize other parents because they do things “differently”. I already know that we do a lot of things differently than many other parents. I am okay with this, because I know that I am working in my child’s best interests.  I want him to be the best Elijah he can be through his successes and especially in his failures. But most of all, I want him to know he is loved, and love others just the same.



2 Mar

Man I suck at this blogging stuff.

I’d like to talk about how amazing the results have been after Elijah’s surgery, but I will simply say that his language is improving by leaps and bounds. It’s astounding.

What I’d like to talk about is how blessed I feel. Since we brought Elijah home, I have known that he was a very special little boy. I knew that God blessed us with a very, very special gift. Why He allowed us the privilege of raising such an amazing child will forever remain a mystery to me.

After spending more and more time with other kids and their moms, I have noticed just how wonderful Elijah is. It isn’t that the other kids are bad or anything. I just realize how easy we have it.

He is super obedient. He follows directions from us and other adults incredibly well. On those few occasions that he is misbehaving, he is typically quick to come around and start doing what he is supposed to be doing. He’s been in the naughty chair several times, but it’s never for anything all that terrible. He is usually just sent their for standing on the kitchen chairs after we’ve told him to sit – a minor offense, at the most. When he throws items, we make him pick them up, put them back where they started, and then he must apologize. When he takes Spiro’s bones and throws them, we even make him apologize to Spiro. I had him apologize to a store owner after he threw a fit in her store.

He is super smart. He is quick to learn. While his language skills are not where they really ought to be due to the problems with his ears, we can see that he is very intelligent. Like all kids, he is a sponge. But this kid is super absorbent! I can’t get him to color because he always wants to practice identifying shapes, numbers, letters and colors. He knows his shapes, can count to 10, identifies many colors correctly, and is working on identifying letters. He knows so many animals, and the sounds they make. He heard what he thought was an airplane yesterday but upon seeing it, correctly identified it as an “elicoper”.

He is the sweetest kid on the planet. I can’t even begin to adequately describe this. You’ll think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I swear. Elijah loves to give hugs and kisses. He stops playing and puckers up for a kiss. If I don’t respond right away, he starts making sounds to get my attention, all while maintaining that pucker. (Adorable.) He spends lots of time every day kissing all of his stuffed animals. He always asks me if he can kiss them first, though. He makes the ASL sign for kiss and says, “Give a kiss?” Once I say yes, he leans in and says “mwah”. He does this for every single toy. He kisses Spiro, his piggy bank, his monkey backpack, pictures in books . . . you name it. He even asks to kiss his clothing. Silly kid.

He’s adaptive. He adapted to his role of our son in about 3.5 seconds. He felt like he belonged here from the get-go. He’s met all of the challenges presented to him – and there have been many – and figured out how to conquer them. When we’ve tried modifying some of his behaviors and routines, he’s responded well. He hasn’t found changes like we expected. He transitions well. Even now as we are working on modifications to some of his eating habits and putting limits on the number of Thomas the Train shows he watches per week, we aren’t seeing tantrums. When we tell him “no”, he doesn’t fuss too much. This has been a huge, pleasant surprise to me during recent weeks!

He sleeps like a champ. Seriously. From day 1 he has slept through the night. Sleeping through the night varies between 10 and 13 hours. It is stupendous. We had a two week stretch early last year where he was waking up every night around 2am for a bottle, but it was due to a growth spurt. Aside from that time, I can count on one hand the nights we’ve woken up to a screaming child. Even those screaming “fits” were short lived. We have had only one night where we were up multiple times. I do not suffer from lack of sleep as a result of my child; it’s my own doing. He’s an incredible napper too. Most days he naps at least 2 hours, but many days it’s more like 3+ hours. When he wakes up he’ll often chat with his stuffed animal friends who live in his crib. After a while, he’ll say “All done!” and then we’ll go up and get him. And he never ever fights going to sleep. When told, he simply walks to the stairs and waits for us. He half dives into his crib from our arms.

I may have jinxed everything by blogging about this! Next week I might be faced with a very different child. If that happens, I will continue to shower him with love and do everything in my power to continue to be a good parent to him. That’s all I do now, and it’s all I can ever do.

Following My Gut

4 Feb

As a first time mom, I have wondered quite often if what my son does is “normal” or “okay”. Since he had so much catching up to do early on, we were constantly striving towards goals. First we had to teach him to sit unsupported (11 months), then to sit up on his own (12.5 months), then to talk (first words at 13.5 months), then to crawl (14 months), and then to walk (15.5 months). While we knew that he hit each of those milestones late (according to what the masses feel is normal, anyway), we were thrilled when he met them.

Elijah started physical therapy in February to work on gross motor skills. These services were made available to us through Early Intervention. (A side note: I cannot believe that such services are available and people don’t take advantage of them. It’s simply amazing.) The PT really helped us to help Elijah meet his developmental milestones quickly. By the time July rolled around, the PT was satisfied with his progress and recommended releasing him from the program. While I agreed that he didn’t need her specific services any longer, I disagreed with removing him from the program entirely.

Elijah started talking back in March with “dada”, followed by “dog” and “wall”. (Mama came several words later. Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!) He added words as the weeks went by, and we were happy. He had his adorable little ways of saying certain words that just made me smile. As the weeks and months passed, his vocabulary was expanding by leaps and bounds, but he was not getting any clearer. His words were very hard to understand, and hardly any were understood by anyone except for me. By 17 months, Elijah still didn’t have any teeth, and I couldn’t tell how much of this language issue could relate to that. I told the PT that I wanted to keep him in the program until he started getting teeth to see how/if things changed.

The teeth started coming in (slooooooooowly) but he didn’t become any clearer. I began requesting an evaluation by a speech therapist through Early Intervention. The PT told me that she didn’t feel like he was far behind, and didn’t know if she could get the evaluation for me. Everyone I talked to told me that he was fine and not to worry. I know they were thinking I was overreacting, and that it was just me being a first time mom. I persisted.

I kept pushing, and finally got the evaluation scheduled. Within 5 minutes – that’s right, 5 minutes – the therapist said that she though Elijah should see an ENT to see if he might have fluid in his ears. She also agreed with me and said that speech therapy would be a very good idea for Elijah. We were assigned a different speech therapist for the ongoing sessions. During the first few minutes of our first session with her, she also recommended that we take Elijah to see an ENT. She too was concerned about fluid in his ears.

Since we met Elijah back in August 2011, he’s had a runny nose and cough. We’ve been to the pediatrician several times about it, and he’s been on several courses of antibiotics. We have had very few days where we haven’t had to chase him to wipe his nose. I asked the doctor why it was constantly an issue, and she responded by saying that some kids just have runny noses. I knew that this was true to a degree, but something just seemed off to me. I felt like this was more than a runny nose. Both speech therapists were concerned by this as well.

I called the ENT and got a consultation scheduled right after the New Year. The doctor did a quick examination and ordered an xray, suspicious of enlarged adenoids. He also said he suspected fluid in Elijah’s ears. The xray confirmed that Elijah’s adenoids were enlarged, and the doctor ordered surgery to have them removed. He said that while they had him under they’d look in his ears. He was fairly certain he’d be putting tubes in as well.

Elijah had the surgery last Wednesday (6 days ago). The doctor said his adenoids were HUGE. He also said that they found lots of fluid in his ears and that it was the consistency of rubber cement. Yuck. He estimates that Elijah had hearing loss significant enough to warrant hearing aids.

In the few days that have passed since Elijah’s surgery, we have already seen improvement. He is talking more, repeating more, and actually becoming more clear. He is singing more and is whispering a lot. He loves to hear his voice and makes all sorts of sounds just to hear them. It’s been amazing.

So what’s the lesson to learn here? Mothers and fathers might not have medical degrees, but they know their kids. If you are a stay at home parent, you spend tons of hours with your kids – many, many times more than your pediatrician or other professional does. If you think that there is something that you can do (or have done) for your child that will help him or her to reach their fullest potential, you can be pushy. You can be downright annoying if you have to be. But you can’t quit. You owe it to your child to get them what they need before it becomes a problem. Don’t let the doctor who sees your kids for 10 minutes twice a year tell you that your child is “fine” and “don’t worry”. Insist. Demand. Just don’t be a jerk about it, and make sure you are being realistic.

What do stay-at-home-moms do, you ask?

5 Dec

Apparently people still question what stay-at-home-moms do during the day. They insinuate that we don’t “work” just because we don’t punch a clock. I guess the old idea of a woman sitting at home on the couch eating bon-bons whilst watching soap operas still lives. I think just about every SAHM mom wants to smack the people who insinuate that she does nothing. Let me share you in on some stuff.

Children are small tornadoes, roughly equivalent to an F-1 on the Fujita scale. Within 5 minutes of walking into any room, scientists estimate that children will strew at least 25% of its contents on the floor. SAHMs have the skills necessary to mitigate this ensuing carnage. We engage children in play, encouraging them to spend at least 2 minutes with a toy rather than picking it up and simply throwing it 5 feet to the left. We remind them to put things back in their place before pulling out the 16,000th toy.

SAHMs function as dramatic coaches. We are often found engaging in pretend play with our little ones. This pretend play is vital to their development (as you can read here). We can turn everyday items you might discard into life lessons.

We are personal chefs. We have a picky little eater to contend with who would make Gordon Ramsey shudder. Try feeding a picky toddler a healthy balanced meal and just getting away without wearing any of said food or getting away with your hearing. (Those kiddos can SCREAM.) Their favorite food yesterday is now something they are convinced you are trying to use to poison them.

Just to further illustrate my point – my point being that SAHMs do way more than you might imagine – let me tell you about my day yesterday.

I woke up at 5:45 and threw a load of clothes in the washer. I made a pot of coffee and oatmeal. I drank my coffee and ate my oatmeal while putting away clean dishes and then washing the dishes from the prior night’s meal. (My husband gets home so late that by the time we finish eating, I have no energy to stand at a sink.) Once that was done, I straightened up the living room. I checked my email. Then I cleaned two of the three toilets. Elijah woke up, so I went into his room. He wanted to look at his books in bed, so I sat on his floor and folded the clean laundry that was sitting from the night before. I put the laundry away, moved the other laundry from the washer to the dryer. I got Elijah out of bed, tickled him, took care of his dry skin and got him dressed. I brought him downstairs for breakfast to find out that Sovanna was planning to leave much earlier than I though. He agreed to make Elijah breakfast so I could get quick a shower. At this point it was 8am.

After my shower I cleaned up what was left from breakfast – which thankfully wasn’t much. I packed up Elijah in the stroller, put the leash on the dog, and took them on a 45 minute walk to get Spiro’s energy (and other stuff) out. (Walking these two is no small task, as just about everyone we pass mentions. Spiro just about pulls my arm out of socket several times per outing. I have to manage to keep him under control without losing control of the stroller. We’ve had some close calls.) After our walk, I swept the front entrance. There were a gazillion leaves from our single tree out front. I put out my festive wintertime sled – one of only 2 outdoor decorations we use. I threw away the pumpkins and corn from our fall decorations. Next I packed up Elijah and we headed to Giant for a few things. We got home just after 10am and got to work on brunch. Two girlfriends and their sons were coming over for a playdate brunch. I was making pancakes. Elijah was bored. I got him a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon and he “made pancakes” too. The doorbell rang; our guests arrived.

People probably think that a playdate brunch would be a wonderful, leisurely afternoon. Nope. Don’ get me wrong – it’s great. But the entire time is filled with feeding your children, eating your own plate of now cold food, chasing children, telling children “No!” and “Don’t throw that!” and “Don’t hit him!” and “Get that out of your mouth!” and “Leave the dog alone!”, not to mention cleaning up spit-up and changing dirty diapers. I took Elijah’s concrete head in the chin, which caused my jaws to clamp shut – on my tongue. Awesome. The playdate lasted 3 hours, and everyone left it tired. Meal #2 was eaten while standing up.

Elijah went down for a nap even before the playdate was over. Once our guests left I cleaned up the kitchen, put away the dirty dishes, and organized the toys. Then I washed the kitchen floor, the powder room floor, the entryway floor and the guest bathroom floor. I folded that second load of laundry from the morning and put all that away. I straightened up the master bathroom. I changed into my running clothes. It was 3pm.

I got Elijah up from his nap and gave him a snack. I packed up him and the stroller and headed down to the riverfront to run. It was nearly 70 degrees yesterday, so Jess and I HAD to run. We got in about 4 miles with our two strollers. The boys seemed to love the weather just as much as we did. It is HARD work pushing those strollers, but they kids don’t know that. They were all smiles.

I came home and figured out what we were going to have for dinner. I got the vegan scalloped potatoes going, and I moved on to making tofu BBQ burgers. I realized I didn’t have BBQ sauce, so I first had to make that. Ugh. During this time, I let Elijah watch his show (he gets one per day). I only had 28 minutes to get all this done, but then he didn’t want to wait for our dinner, and indicated that he was hungry so I had to quickly throw together his dinner and made sure he ate it all. Once my dinner was ready, he wanted to play. He didn’t want to let me eat my dinner. If I turned to take a bite or a drink, he cried. It took me more than a half hour to eat an open-faced tofu BBQ sandwich and some potatoes amidst playing car and building towers.

I was finally done eating and could give playtime my undivided attention. We played with cars and trucks. We built and destroyed towers. We put mixing bowls on our head. We read books. We played some percussion instruments. We spun in circles. I gave him piggyback rides. At one point I got punched in the eye (accidentally). This was all interspersed with periods of crying and screaming (him, not me). (He’s getting some more teeth and they seem to be giving him problems yesterday.)

At 7:30 Sovanna came home. We continued to play for a while. Finally around 8pm Sovanna was ready to Elijah and I could sit. I was reminded at that point that I am sick. The sinus congestion comes on around 8pm and stays until about 8am. WHY IS THAT??? Frustrating. I cleaned up the toys when Sovanna took Elijah to bed. I got on the computer to answer some emails and to take care of some other things. I watched “The New Normal” and then went to bed.

All in all, it was a fairly normal day. All 3 meals were eaten cold or close to it, and all were eaten while standing up or doing something else. Please, before you ask a woman if she “works”, remember that working takes all shapes. If you don’t think this sort of day is work, I invite you to try it and see how you do. It is the best job on the face of the planet, but it is still tiring. Even things we enjoy make us tired and cranky sometimes. But getting paid in hugs and kisses and little voices saying “Mama” is the best.

What if?

28 Nov

Recently an employee at my gym stopped me as I was dropping Elijah off at their child care center. She wanted to talk about our adoption experience. She said that she and her husband are unable to conceive naturally. She wants to pursue adoption, but he says he doesn’t think he can love someone else’s child as much as a parent should.

That statement floored me.

Even more recently I was chatting with some friends when one of them asked the rest of us what we would do if we couldn’t have another baby. She said that she worries about her son being an only child. The rest of the girls nodded in agreement. 

I wasn’t floored this time, but I was taken aback.

(Now . . . I don’t want those dear friends to take offense – assuming any of them even read this thing. Please don’t email me and explain or apologize. I completely understand what you were saying.)

I felt a little out of place during this conversation. My friends have every right to worry about this possibility. It could happen. Their child might not have any brothers or sisters. It’s a sad thought, for sure, but I was wondering why no one recognized that there are other ways to build families.  They seemed to think that their question “What if?” only had one answer.

I really hope that our family can set a good example to others. I want them to see that adoption is a great thing. True, our experience of the entire process was miserable, but the majority of cases are not so painful. Most go through relatively easily, or with minor hiccups due to some paperwork snafus. I want people to know that finding themselves unable to have biological children does not mean that their family cannot grow.

For us, adoption was always on the table. We wanted to adopt whether we had biological children or not. It was definitely heartbreaking to have our infertility treatments fail, but since we knew we had adoption available to us, it wasn’t utterly devastating. We KNEW we would be parents no matter what. We didn’t believe that we would go through life childless. There are so many children who need families; it was just a matter of these two parents finding the right child.

And this idea of not being able to love someone else’s child enough? I never even thought about that concept until this woman mentioned it to me. I was standing there, with Elijah’s hand in mine, thinking, “How could I love him less?” I can’t possibly love him more. Some crazy parenting books would probably tell me that I love him too much – like that’s a real thing. I am 100% certain that I love him just like any parent loves their biological child. Heck there are parents out there who DON’T love their biological child. If my mind hadn’t been blown earlier, the idea of this would make it positively implode.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I forget that Elijah isn’t my biological child. I know that sounds ridiculous. After all, I’m pasty white, he’s African, and Sovanna’s Cambodian. I certainly didn’t spend 9 months dealing with morning sickness, cankles and weight gain. Yet I have to remind myself at times – infrequently, because it doesn’t matter most of the time – that his mother and father are (maybe?) somewhere in Ethiopia.

I realize that there are people who don’t consider adoption for a variety of reasons. I realize that one of those reasons is this idea of being unable to love a child who is not one’s own. I feel that it is my duty on this earth to tell you to throw those reasons and ideas out the window. Consider adoption. It might not be right for you, or it could be the perfect answer. You could end up with the 2nd most awesome kid on the planet – 2nd to my amazing son.

A tragic story

24 Nov

This is a total deviation from my normal blog posts, but I think you will understand why.

We went to visit my grandfather last night after he was released from the hospital following his heart attack. My grandfather was at a funeral when he had the beginnings of his heart attack. He is part of a rifle team that performs at local military funerals and does a monthly stint at Ft Indiantown Gap. They are constantly busy, and this is what got him through the dark times after my grandmother’s death.

We talked about a lot of things last night, including the picture on his mantle. I noticed it as soon as I walked in the door. The photo was striking. On the right side of the mantle was a photo of a beautiful woman with long silver hair and bold, dark eyebrows. The background was a bright orange-yellow, which made it stick out even more in the rather subdued living room. On the left side of the mantle was a a photo of my grandmother who died 2 1/2 years ago. This photo was to be expected; the first one was interesting.

After discussing his health, his outlook, the prospects of him rejoining his rifle team, and some housekeeping stuff, he brought up the woman in the picture. My mother had told me parts of the story, but I hadn’t realized who the woman was until he said something. Mom either left out some of the details or didn’t know them. Hearing Grandpa tell them made my heart break.

Grandma and Grandpa dated in high school. They had a fight and broke up. Grandpa started seeing Katherine and then was drafted and shipped off to fight in WWII. (His WWII story is one that will amaze anyone. We are trying to get him to write a book or at least speak in front of a camera, but he’s reluctant.) For four months Katherine wrote to him every day. In one letter, she told him that she’d like to get married when he returned. He wrote back to her and told her he couldn’t marry her. He was still in love with my grandmother. He told her he wanted to remain friends, and that she should never speak of marriage again. Katherine continued to write, but with less frequency. She wrote three times per week, then twice per week, then once per week, and then the letters stopped.

Grandpa returned from the war and married Grandma. They had my mom. Life went on.

Grandma had a stroke in the spring of 2010 and passed away shortly after that. (Another story for another day.) Grandpa was left to deal with his grief, and to try to find a way to get through life without her. He found this honor guard, and wanted to join. Due to arthritis he cannot fire the rifle. The men in the group wanted him to join them, though, so they decided he could stand in a salute while the fired. He learned to play Taps on the bugle, and that became his duty. He kept himself busy with the guys.

A little more than a year ago they performed at a local funeral. He never looked at the family members because he was afraid he’d cry. Two weeks after this particular funeral, though, he received a phone call from a woman. She asked if he had performed at so-and-so’s funeral at (unnamed location). He said that he had. She told him who she was. No kidding – she was Katherine, the woman he dated while on a break from my grandma. It was her husband’s funeral two weeks earlier. She saw my grandfather and turned to her sister to say, “Do you know who that is?” The sister said no. Katherine told her it was Charley. She said she didn’t know how she knew, but that she knew it was him.

They started talking on the phone. One day she said she might like to stop over to visit with some Christmas cookies, and asked if they could have coffee. Not wanting to “date”, he said that she could drop by but he couldn’t extend an invitation for coffee because his coffee maker was broken. On Christmas Day his doorbell rang. It was Katherine with a plate of cookies. They chatted for a while at the door, and then she mentioned that it was quite chilly outside and that she’d like to come in. He brought her inside, and noticed she brought with her a large box. It was a coffee maker. Now . . . he couldn’t take her into the kitchen to set it up because had a perfectly fine coffee maker there already. So he sat down and they chatted. They forgot about the coffee.

They continued to talk on the phone and see each other for several months. Over the summer she said that she had to return to Florida (where she had been living) to sell her house. At some point during these past few months, Grandpa mentioned that he liked this particular picture of her. (She was a “senior” model, doing some work in NYC here and there, and I am assuming this was one of her headshots.) Just before she left she gave it to him. She said it was something for him to look upon to remember her. At that time, the statement seemed unnecessary.

She flew to Florida. Her sister and brother-in-law lived there as well. She worked on selling her house.

One day Grandpa’s phone rang. It was Katherine’s brother-in-law. He told Grandpa that he had bad news. Katherine and her sister were in a car accident on their way to the gym (at 89 and 91 years old!). Some young guy stole a car and drove through an intersection, hit a box truck which spun around and T-boned Katherine’s sister’s convertible. Katherine was in critical condition.

The brother-in-law told Grandpa that she was in and out of consciousness, but was asking for him. He asked if Grandpa could come to Florida. He said he could, but that it would take him some time to make travel arrangements. The brother-in-law said there wasn’t time. He asked if Grandpa could be ready in 2 hours. He said he could be.

The brother-in-law owns some sort of company that manufactures munitions. Apparently he’s loaded. He sent his private Leer jet to HIA to pick up Grandpa. Upon landing in Florida, Grandpa was then picked up by the gentleman’s personal helicopter and taken to the hospital’s helipad where the brother-in-law was waiting.

By this time Katherine had slipped into a coma. The nurse told Grandpa to talk to her just like he did on the phone. He began to talk. He said that the longer he talked, the activity on the monitor increased. After a while she woke up.

They talked a bit. They reminisced. She knew her time was nearing, and she told him what she wanted done. She asked to be buried beside him. He was hesitant. He planned to be buried beside my grandmother. She pleaded with him, saying she didn’t want to be buried beside her deceased husband because they were not in love. He said, “What will I do with her on one side and you on the other?” She said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of things when I get there.”

They talked a little more. He was sad that they had just been reunited only to have her be taken from his life. She told him not to worry, that everything was fine. She was happy he was there and was ready to go in peace. She closed her eyes and passed.

He told us last night that his mother always said that whenever someone asks for something on their death bed you must give it to them.

I’m tearing up just writing this. I can’t even go back and edit this, so if there are grammar mistakes, I’ll live with it.

100 miles

16 Oct

For my 34th birthday, I ran 100 miles. Seriously – I did. Well, I didn’t RUN 100 miles, but I ran, walked, hiked, slogged and limped my way through 100 miles. Want to know more? Read on.

Why run 100 miles? I have no idea. Honestly. It’s quite a ridiculous thing to do, that’s for sure. It all came about because the 50K race – held at the same time – sold out in 17 minutes. I was on the road and missed registration. I was really set on doing that course again since I had such a good time there the year before. I was left with a decision to make: what do I do? I could do the 100K again, but I really wasn’t game for trying to PR, necessarily. I realized that I would have fairly good mils under my belt by helping Anne train for the Laurel 70 miler. I presented those and several other compelling reasons to Sovanna and was given the okay to shake up our family’s life and train for such a ridiculous event.

My training didn’t quite go as planned. Midweek runs were often shortened or missed due to lack of chlildcare. Weekend runs were cut short by business trips, birthday parties, baby showers, etc. Weight training was skipped because of lack of energy or ill-timed naps. Diet was sidelined by beer, pizza, cake, and beer. Yep – I said beer twice. I love me some beer.

The race always seemed so far away. It always seemed like I had more time to train, and that I would get in better shape. Suddenly the race was a week away, and I was shaking in my Cascadias (trail shoes). What the heck was I doing? I couldn’t possibly run 100 miles, could I?

I showed up to race headquarters at 4:30am. (It was 25 degrees outside!) I got my ankle chip and traded bad jokes with Ryan while I met some other nut cases. I told Ryan I was going to vomit, and he told me there would be plenty of opportunities to do that along the course . . . such a pleasant thought. Is it too late to quit? I want to be home in bed, snuggling with my son and husband.

The race started off in the crisp, cold, clear, pre-dawn morning. We ran for 2 hours in the dark, and it was quite beautiful! We hit the first aid station while it was still dark. I wasn’t hungry, so I passed through quickly. Dawn came, and it was beautiful. Happy birthday to me!! My elation was short lived, though. I tried to jump over a rock and aimed to hit a level patch of leaves which I assumed was solid. I was wrong. The leaves gave way and my right foot landed in a hole. My ankle twisted pretty harshly. For a second I thought I’d be fine, but I quickly thought I might be wrong. Crap. I had 90 miles to go. What was I going to do? I had no choice, really. I had to keep going.

I got through aid station #2 (mile 14) quickly, thanks to Jen’s crewing experience. Once again I wasn’t all that hungry. I got two potato chunks and sea salt (my fav!) and headed out to climb another hill. I made it through the next two sections (17 miles) feeling pretty okay, but was having trouble on the sections that were on an incline and were causing my right foot to be slightly higher than my left. Unfortunately, that was much of the last 17 miles. Awesome.

I ended the first loop a little worried that it was “fast”. I ran it in 7:24, which was faster than I had planned, and really close to what I did last year. I was afraid that I was going out to fast, but didn’t feel like I was pushing. I figured I’d just keep doing what I was doing. Jen had to hustle to keep up with her supa-fast husband, so an amazingly accomplished ultra-runner, Randy, stepped in to crew for me. He made sure I was okay and got me on my way.

I ran the first 31 miles alone and was hoping to hook up with another runner or two on the second loop, especially before darkness fell. I am a complete and utter chicken in the dark, and beyond that, was getting a little lonely. I got behind a couple of guys and chatted with them for a couple of minutes and thought I’d stay with them, but I found that I was going too fast for them. I passed them. I was worried then too because they had a lot of ultra experience. Here I was, a newbie to this distance, passing them. Rookie mistake? I guess I would find out. (Note: I couldn’t find them on the finishers list. I guess it was good I didn’t stay with them?)

I kept passing people. With each person I passed, I grew more and more concerned. My ankle was still hurting, but I had taken 2 Advil at mile 31 so it was bearable. I hadn’t found anyone to run with in the dark. Again, crap.

Randy met me again at aid station #2 and got me on my way, making sure I had my lights since it was going to be getting dark soon. I was getting a little worried for another reason by this point: every time I tried to eat I felt a little sick. It was enough to make me want to skip eating. That’s not good when one knows she has to be running for 28+ hours. My concerns were mounting. Did I mention it was getting dark? Son of a biscuit.

I managed to make it to about 53 miles before turning on my lights. I broke out my ridiculously annoying bear bell and pepper spray (overkill, I know, but I promise Sovanna I will always carry it when I’m alone). Despite my discomfort with the idea of running alone in the dark, and despite the annoying noise of that ridiculous bell, I quite enjoyed that time. I don’t know that I want to repeat that experience, but at the point in time, it was nice. My foot was nagging again, but it was again bearable due to 2 more Advil I popped at the last aid station.

I finished my second loop – 62 miles – in 15:34. I just about freaked out when I saw the clock. I ran my 100K race last year in 15:54 and was completely astonished at that point. To beat that time as part of a longer race shouldn’t happen. It just shouldn’t. That spells trouble. Double crap!

At this point I was picking up my pacer. Anne had just run the 50K race that morning, but was geared up and ready to pace me. I was thrilled beyond measure to have some company. I felt like a million bucks, but admitted to Jen (who was back to crewing for a moment) that I wasn’t really eating. She gave me a baggie of grapes and my half sandwich and insisted I try to eat it. I knew she was right. I tried to eat but only got down a few grapes and the half sandwich. About 20 minutes later I started to feel sick. At first I dismissed it, but it got worse and worse. Then I started to feel dizzy. I had to stop a few times to collect myself. I felt like I was falling apart. I told Anne about it and she told me we’d get some crackers at the next aid station. I was convinced it would be days until we got there. I felt miserable. I can deal with pain, but when my tummy hurts, I want my mommy. All I wanted was to lay down. This got worse quickly because my eyelids grew heavy like lead. I couldn’t keep them open. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to make it, and that Facebook Land would know I failed.

We got to aid station 1 and wanted to sit down. Last week I told Anne that she couldn’t let me sit down no matter what I said. I looked her straight in the eye and told her that I had to sit down or I wasn’t going to make it. I put my head between my knees and an angel appeared. (OK, he wasn’t an angel, per se. He was an aid station volunteer.) He sat with me and talked with me for about 15 minutes. He helped me get some ginger ale, a saltine and some Ramen broth down. I finally managed to haul my tired ass out of that aid station and started to slooooooooly climb “sWITCHback mountain”. It took me forever. I also decided to use one of those crummy gel pouches. Soon I started to feel better. I don’t know if it was the “food” I managed to consume at the aid station, the gel packet, the Advil leaving my system, or – as I became convinced at that point – the meth that I was sure they laced into the Ramen (joking, of course). Regardless, I found new life.

Our progress was slow – much slower than I had hoped. My ankle was hurting and I was hungry. I kept plodding on and just ate Ramen noodles and a fig newton at each aid station. It wasn’t a lot of calories, but it was salt and sugar, both of which were incredibly useful to my poor, tired body.

Did I mention that it started to rain? Oh yeah – it did. It was light at first when it started around 9. I knew that the last 17 miles were going to be tricky if it kept up. Those areas were already a little wet and slick. By the time we got to those areas, they were slippery like ice in spots. It definitely slowed our progress.

Anne and I started playing a word game. Even in my tired stupor, the language part of my brain was functioning well. My physical self was another story. My ankle was hurting but at least my stomach was okay. I could deal with pain much easier than a bad stomach. My quads and hams were getting really sore. My pace was slowing, and I found that irritating. I don’t know if Anne noticed it, but I was getting crabby.

(Oh yeah . . . and I thought I was seeing things. Shadows were manifesting themselves into all sorts of things, mostly inanimate ones. I swear that I saw a stop sign at one point. Wishful thinking, I guess. I didn’t see any cool, trippy things though. I guess I was in too good of shape.) ;-)

The last 8 miles were really painful. My Achilles had completely stopped working, so every step uphill was pure agony. I whined so much. I felt so bad for Anne. I would bet all of her experience as her mother, mixed with her profession as a physician’s assistant, gave her the patience to deal with my whines and moans.

I experienced my second sunrise of the race. It was slightly less beautiful than the one the day before, but I was way more thankful for it. It was nice to rely on nature’s light rather than my flashlight. With every step I wished for the finish line.

Finally Anne’s pacing job was over. We came into aid station 4/the finish line (mile 93) at about 8am. I had been moving (more or less) for 27 hours at this point. I just wanted to be done. I was so incredibly hungry, but couldn’t eat more than my gourmet Ramen noodles and a fig newton. (Note: At this point in a race, chicken flavored Ramen noodles indeed tasted gourmet. There was zero sarcasm in that remark.)

Jen did her best to keep me moving. She brought some new energy to my final 7.7 miles, which was very necessary. We can crack crude jokes with ease, and despite my fatigue, I was still able to do so. We managed to laugh, which felt good. But then we had to climb. My foot was absolutely killing me. I nearly cried. The tears were right at the edges of my eyes, but I kept them in. She kept encouraging me to run, but unless I had a gentle downhill heading into a flat stretch, I just couldn’t. She tried to motivate me several ways, but all failed. I just didn’t have much left. At least, I thought I didn’t. At one point, I just couldn’t take the slow progress anymore and summoned up everything I had. I managed to “run” for a bit. It actually felt good for a minute. But it was short lived. I kept trying to run when I could. I didn’t care what damage it might do; I just had to be done.

We finally came to the corner just prior to the finish line. All I had to was run about a half a block to the finish line. I could see Sovanna and Elijah. I felt my face break into a smile. But then I said to Jen, “It’s so far.”

“Of course it is. It’s 100 miles,” she responded.

“No, not the race. I mean, the distance we have to go to the finish line. It is sooooo long,” I whined. It couldn’t have been more than 30 yards, but it seemed like an eternity. I finally made it to the curb. I had to jump 10 feet in the air (so it felt) to get up on that curb, and then it was several more feet to the finish line. I saw Ryan smiling with his camera up in the air. I got past the finish line and started to cry. I was done. I did it.

I RAN 100 MILES. Me – the girl who used to hate to run. Me – the girl who did the mile in high school in 11:58. Me – the girl who was terrified of trail running. Me – the girl who swore up and down that she would never run something longer than a half-marathon. I did it. And I have the belt buckle to prove it.

I also have a fat, swollen ankle and foot that won’t let me stand on it to show for it. Ouch.

The tie that binds

20 Sep

Our adoption was a crazy, tumultuous mess. I developed nasty acid reflux, spent many hours curled in the fetal position, and went through many boxes of tissues.

Through our adoption, though, we met 5 amazing families. We, along with 3 of those families, traveled throughout the Ethiopian countryside in search of our children. I took photos of the daughter of another family – a daughter they never got to meet due to her tragic, untimely death. When I went to Ethiopia in December to bring Elijah home, I shared a room with two of the mamas.

During those few months, we built bonds with these other families. Our families were joined in a very special way. No one else could understand what we were going through. We were so thankful to have each other. And we are thankful to have each other even now.

Tomorrow night we are heading to Louisville for several days. Sovanna has to be there for work, but Elijah and I are going along for fun. Two of the families live there, we decided to go along to see them. We convinced anoth family to drive in from Indiana and one to fly in from Texas. Unfortunately the sixth family could not join us. We are going to have a picnic and celebrate the birthdays of 2 of the little ones.

I am so excited to have this reunion. I cannot wait to see how much the 6 other children have grown and developed. Elijah has been practicing their names – it’s so stinking cute! We hope to make this an annual tradition.


Wading through the crap

14 Aug

When you start a baby registry, the folks at Babies R Us give you this purple bag with all sorts of stuff in it. One of those items is a spiral bound book that tells you about all of the stuff you need for your new baby.

Need, schmeed.

All of you are smart enough to know that it’s nothing more than a way for them to make money. They tell you that you need eleventy billion items, and that people like your rich Aunt Martha should fork over $800 for a rocking chair. Shoot. You can pay me $800 and I will come over and rock your child for you using your dining room chair – the way you did in 4th grade, except you got yelled at for it then. This time you’ll get a sleeping baby. Just sayin’.

So anyway, on with this blog. (I’m rusty.) There are several items I have stumbled upon and love, and I want to make sure you know about them too. I am in no way compensated by these companies, but I totally should be. And how.

1. Baby Bjorn bib: These things are AWESOME, especially if your child shovels food into his mouth like mine does. Pincer grasp be damned; he grabs it with his whole hand and eats it like it’s being punished. It’s a sight for sure. The carnage is is incredible, and lots of rubble ends up in the trough of this bib. It’s easy for Elijah to pick it up himself, or for me to run a spoon through it and toss it back onto the tray.



2. My Little Seat:  I can’t find the picture I have of Elijah in this, so the hyperlink will have to do. I can’t say he’s a huge fan of this, but mom is. This little seat rolls/folds up and fits in a little corner of the diaper bag. We never have to worry about whether a restaurant (or other venue) has a highchair. It fits on just about any type of chair, and is very adjustable. We have used it several times. Elijah doesn’t like being so restrained, but usually settles down in a minute or so.

3. Food processor: Making your own baby food is so easy. Companies will try to make you believe you need a fancy gadget to do this, but they are wrong. I use a cheapo steamer basket insert that broke apart years ago, but still does the job, for purees and chunkier foods. Once the veggie are steamed, I puree them in the food processor. When making our dinners, I typically pull a portion out before adding the salt and stronger spices (like crushed red pepper) and then coarsely chop them with a few pulses of the processor.

4.  Flip diapers: Seriously, cloth diapering is not that big of a deal. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I bought enough to get us through 3 days, so I do two extra loads of laundry per week. That’s it. Flip has daypacks for sale for $50 that contain 2 outer shells and 6 liners. A daypack truly gets us through a day, give or take a liner. I bought 3 daypacks, plus a single shell and 2 liners form another brand (which I really don’t like). In total, I spent $167. We use 7th Generation disposable diapers overnight, so we spend another $9.99 or so per month.

5. Non-toy toys: Don’t go out and buy so many fancy toys. Empty formula cans, toilet/paper towel rolls, old magazines, wooden spoons, metal pie plates, and empty shoe boxes are all way fun. You can do all sorts of things with those items. If they need replaced, it’s easy and cheap enough. Another fabulous toy – balloons, both helium and non-helium filled. Hours of entertainment…especially if your pet is terrified of the mylar kind.

6. This brings me to the last one. You must get a dog, preferably a shelter dog. Dogs will: clean up the food baby drops, eat what baby doesn’t eat, like baby’s face, alert you to dirty diapers (at least this pit bull does), lick snot (gross but true), protect baby, help baby practice his balance by running dangerously close to him, and all sorts of other very important tasks.


Get this stuff and you’ll be set. If you can only get one of them, get the dog.


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