Monday, December 22, 2014

Spike the Egg Nog!

Some girls dream about their wedding day. Others dream about their future homes or their perfect jobs. When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of the day that my future family would have matching Christmas stockings. I just know that this is normal. Right? No? I'm the only one?

Okay, so I'm the only one. Regardless, I have dreamed of the day that I would hang my family's stockings on the mantle and they would all be matchy-matchy, and they would all be embroidered with our names--except for mine and BJ's, which I firmly wanted to spell "Mom" and "Dad." It only made sense to wait until our family was complete before spending money on stockings though, lest I be the fool who wanted a discontinued stocking once Baby #3 arrived. Since ordering these stockings in early November, I have suddenly become less sure that we are absolutely finished having kids, but that's a story for another day. Suffice it to say, in early November our family seemed complete (and it quite likely is), so I made the purchase.

I'm only sorry, Pottery Barn, that I hung these expensive stockings inside on the mantle, and not outside on a pasture fence for a horse to goober on.

This Christmas season is in many ways far less eventful than last year's. After all, there was no 9-1/2 pound baby birthed out of my body a week before Christmas Eve. Somehow, though, it all goes by too quickly. Much as I strive to not get over-stressed or overly-busy during the month of December, the last four weeks have been a doozy in terms of my time getting dominated. My bedtimes in the last week have ranged from 1:00AM to 2:30AM, and never sooner. I find that my time to begin on tasks like Christmas shopping, meal planning, and details like making Christmas cards is usually about 10PM, and that's if I don't have to write work reports. Plus on many nights I squeeze in a jog through the neighborhood Christmas lights to keep myself in shape and headed toward my running goals, if I haven't already run earlier in the day. The three boys have kept me happily busy during the day with playing, crafting, Taekwondo classes for Silas, and planning Van's first birthday party, plus keeping up with the duties like housekeeping, grocery shopping, and general slave labor for children who can't do much for themselves yet. We also went to Indiana for five round-trip days to visit some of BJ's extended family. The visit was wonderful and well worth it, though it required organization nearly beyond my capabilities. A few days ago I almost cried and suddenly had the absurd notion that this isn't even any fun, all of this busyness!

Wait a second--really? Time spent with family isn't fun? Finding the perfect gifts for the people we love to make happy is somehow not fun? Seeing Silas' face light up when making Christmas crafts isn't fun? Hearing the chorus of loved ones singing happy birthday to my baby isn't fun?


Remind me, folks, that if I ever get so wrapped up in my first-world, privileged glitter and somehow begin to think it all isn't worth it, that I need to be slapped silly. In the not-so-distant future there will be nights to sleep better and more hours to call my own. This time of hustle and bustle with three small children is fleeting, and my personal moments to myself during this Christmas season have been spent relishing the goodness of their little voices, bodies, and minds.

Love and merry holiday wishes to you all this week!

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Happy Ending

Today, I could use a story with a happy ending. Sometimes we look around at life, or we get consumed with other people's stories on the internet, and we get bogged down. Sometimes life deals awful blows, and sometimes the very best of people get sucker-punched, and it makes you want to scream.

But, sometimes, life hands out really great endings.

Do you want to hear one?

I only briefly blogged about Van's hospitalization with RSV in February. As significant of an event as that was for our family, it's surprising that it didn't come up much here on this blog. By the time my third baby rolled around, I felt like a baby pro. However, I was a complete newbie when it came to respiratory illnesses, and most certainly with respiratory distress. Before my dad picked me up in a snowstorm to drive Van to the hospital, BJ and I didn't realize how bad it had gotten. Van was truly in respiratory distress, exhibiting strong "retracting" reflexes (which I was clueless about but quickly became an expert on--see the second video below if you want to be informed about what it looked like with Van), and was only breathing at an oxygen level of 83%. Admittance criteria was 92%, so he was well below that. Somewhere between the triage nurse hurrying with my baby in her arms through the emergency room and the IV going into his hand, I realized that this was really, really bad.

People, through their life experiences, invariably earn 'club memberships' to different groups as life takes them on their journeys. Some people become marathoners, and only other marathoners can really understand what they've been through. Some people earn 'homeless' memberships, and others earn memberships for 'hurricane survival.' Some people get 'badges' for eating ghost peppers, and some women join the club of 'miscarriage.' Some clubs you want to be a member of, and some you surely don't. On February 2nd, I earned my membership in the Club for Mothers of Tiny Hospitalized Infants. It is a lonely and frightening place to be, watching your tiny one struggle and wishing it could be you instead. One of the few membership benefits, for me, was an incredible amount of support from my entire community of friends and family. I felt the love all the time, whether from family visits or Facebook comments, and--believe me--I relied heavily on it. Some of my biggest supporters were fellow club members, and, even worse, friends who tragically belong in the awful club of Moms Who Have Lost a Child. Where those women found the strength to support Van and me I have no idea, but they did, and I will always love them for it.



For four days, Van rode the hospital wave. He was never the sickest baby on the unit, and I attribute this to his sheer bulk and to our good luck. I don't know why my baby got better when others didn't, and I don't think there is any semblance of a satisfactory answer for it. When we arrived at the hospital, Van was struggling so hard to breathe, you could hear him across the whole house. He had teams of doctors and nurses on him the second they laid him on the table. But you know what? Day by day, two steps forward and one step backward, Van beat that virus. It got worse before it got better, and I know without a doubt in my heart that he would not have survived it without medical intervention. Our baby is with us though, and he doesn't have a single ill-effect from his battle with RSV. If you're in need of good news this morning, there is a happy ending for you, my friends.

Going home

Vanners, my littlest babe, turns one year old in less than two weeks. I can hardly believe it, and the nostalgia is overwhelming for me at this time. I have found myself holding him tighter, kissing his cheeks more, smelling his hair with abandon this past week, because my baby is becoming no longer a baby. While I obviously have mixed feelings about this, the foremost emotion I experience for Van is gratitude. Grateful each day for this sweet, little Christmas babe.

*First video: my sweet babe interacting with me near the end of our hospital stay. Second video: that hideous, awful retracting. I think all parents should know what this looks like.*

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Day Before Thanksgiving

This morning, before much of the world was active, I ran 2.5 miles in the cold, northern wind. I figured I better, since Thanksgiving indulgence always starts a day early in my book. This probably was a wise decision, given my caloric partaking from the day.

We started the day by concocting chocolate acorns. I may have eaten a few of those.

Next up, the boys ate a lunch that was modeled after Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. In case you haven't viewed this one recently, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy prepare a meal for their friends of the only foods that they know how to make. The resulting Thanksgiving cuisine is popcorn, buttered toast, jellybeans, and pretzel sticks. This, of course, sounded like culinary heaven to my children from the moment they first laid eyes on it. They begged since the first viewing on November 1st to have just such a lunch, and I delivered on it today.

They couldn't figure out why BJ and I wanted chicken tortilla soup for lunch instead.

 When possible, I always enjoy spending some time on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with a new baking project. As I've long been infatuated with the smooth voice of June Christy singing "Shoo Fly Pie," I thought perhaps I ought to just make a shoo fly pie. And then I looked at the ingredients. And it looked disgusting. Molasses just isn't my thing. The nice thing about the song is the next part though---the part that says, "and apple pan dowdy." Well, I'd never heard of "dowdy" before this song, but it sounded a lot more promising than a molasses/brown sugar/baking soda pie. Plus, it afforded me the once-yearly use of my skills in peeling an apple into one long, curly strip. So apple pan dowdy I made!
 If you like smooth tunes, this song is for you.
Shoo Fly Pie And Apple Pan Dowdy - June Christy by June Christy on Grooveshark
"Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy 
Makes your eyes light up,
Your tummy say "howdy,"
Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!"

Long, unabashed gazing as it cooled

Even this guy couldn't get enough of "that wonderful stuff."


Saturday, November 22, 2014




That race was hard. BJ's first words to me when we met at the finish line were, "Could that race have been any harder?" Indeed, half of it was a simultaneous double whammy: running uphill into a stiff 20mph wind.

I clocked in at 31:44. This doesn't meet my time goal, but now I have something to keep working toward. I'm mildly disappointed, but I'm determined, and I will get there sooner rather than later.

A few thoughts:

1. I don't think I disappointed Ben, and this race was for him.

2. I've improved my 5K time tremendously in just a few short months. At the end of August I ran the Moore War 5K in 40:53. I was extremely disappointed with this effort and began training in earnest at that time. One month later, at the end of September, I ran the Swazi 5K in 36:08. This was nearly a five-minute improvement! Over the past few months I have trained hard, run several miles a week, eaten more healthily, lost 18 pounds, and shaved off over four more minutes to get down to 31:44. I'll take it.

3. Today I finished 9th out of 35 women in my age group (30-34). Out of 205 total women, I finished 61st. I call that respectable for today, but not my end goal.

You can count on me to keep on keepin' on. The race bibs belong to Mindy Sauer until I can finish that time goal, with Ben in heart. I look forward to more races, and I hope for health in the weeks leading up to the races, which is something I can't say I had with this one!

Here's to you, Ben!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Listening Ears

If you keep your listening ears open around our house, you're bound to hear some amusing things. These are a few of my recent favorites.

"Mom! Van wants a beer!" George bellowed to me as Van was putting his hands on a box of BJ's home-brewed beer that was carbonating in bottles.

Silas: Mom, do we have any string?
Me: Probably. What do you need it for?
Silas: I want to make a zip-line from my top bunk down to my dresser.

"George, don't lick my car. I'm not sure when it was last washed, but it's not in recent memory," said BJ during yesterday's snowstorm.

Silas has an affinity for Peppermint Patty quotes, probably because I do too. Lately we have been watching lots of Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Yesterday he sidled up to me and whispered unexpectedly in my ear, "Let's not play lovers' games, Chuck." This may have been rivaled only by his previous Peppermint Patty display toward Tex, when he sailed past Tex out the door one day and nonchalantly stated, "Tex, you're not coming. You're not allowed to go places except Bark in the Park, you sly devil you!"

In a conversation about the resident mouse in our garage:
BJ: I saw Mickey again tonight. I'm beginning to think that my relationship with Mickey is entirely too cordial.
Me, laughing:"Oh?"
BJ: Yeah. I mean, we say hello to each other. Exchange pleasantries.

Silas to BJ, regarding a letter to his grandparents: "Dad, you write the letter and I'll draw the pictures, because you're good at writing and I'm good at drawing."

A few days ago, a friend of mine and I were remarking about how dangerous life is with small children. This she remarked upon after having let her young son go unattended for a mere sixty seconds before finding him wielding an ax from the woodpile. Similar hair-raising events are regular around here. The other day I was changing Van's diaper and I heard Silas goad in the boys' bedroom,
"Jump from a really, really high distance, Georgie!"
I let out what seemed a slow-motion "Noooooooooooo!" and hurried to their room just in time to see George hurl his thin little 27-pound body off of Silas' top bunk and all the way down to the floor. He landed perfectly and laughed, the little stink.
He's about to jump off that too. I just know it.
Kids will be kids!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mind Over Matter

I think I'm in need of help from my athletic friends.

Nothing about running is easy for me. Some runners can put down three miles in their sleep, but I just can't. I'm not a natural runner, and I have to work hard for every mile that I put behind me. I need some help with this.

My goal is important to me. I want to run the Chill Your Cheeks 5K on November 22nd, and I want to do it in 29:59 or less. I want to do it for Ben. I set this goal months ago, and though I am making progress toward it, I still feel a million miles away from it. It is important to me to accomplish this goal during this race the week before Thanksgiving, as I am so grateful for Ben's life, the impact he has had on me, and the ridiculously good fortune I have in the opportunity to raise my own three lovely boys. The memory of Ben is completely worth my effort.

Ben, on right, with twin brother Jack, last fall before being diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor
So here's where I am: I can run a mile at a 9:50 pace. I can run 2.25 miles at a 10:00 pace. Today I ran 2.5 miles at a 10:10 pace, but I had to pause for two walking breaks (one for one minute, one for two minutes)--so that wasn't so great. These times are respectable in my book, and they will render me an overall personal time record in a 5K if I can maintain this kind of pace (my previous record is 33:50). Obviously, however, they aren't the 9:40 pace that I need to maintain over 3.1 miles to clock in at my time goal. On the other hand, though, none of these times account for race-day adrenaline that I will undoubtedly feel on November 22nd.

I definitely need to step up my efforts in these next two and a half weeks before the race, an action which I am committed to doing. Several months ago I joined the Y and have been diligent about going and cardio training, mostly running. I have been watching what I eat, and I have trimmed up. I have lost 13 pounds since the end of August, and I have undoubtedly gotten faster and exercised longer. The thing is, I don't really think it's my body holding me back. I think it's my mind. I need to figure out this fight.

I know that mentally I can talk myself into doing some hard things. I kept myself strong during the natural labor of a 9-1/2-pound baby. I carried myself mentally through the last four miles of a 6.2-mile run in April, never slowing to walk throughout the entire thing. I ate a strict dairy-free, soy-free diet for nearly a year, with no slip-ups, because I wanted to help George with his allergies when he was a nursing baby. Mentally, I'm really not a total pushover.

But there's just something about running that seems so much harder. For instance, I can get on a treadmill and tell myself, "You're not stopping, no matter what, before two miles." And the truth is, I'm in the kind of shape that my body can certainly handle a two-mile challenge. Yet just two weeks ago I stopped short at 1.5 miles, gasping for air, feeling like a failure. I just couldn't will myself to go on.

I really need some help, athletic friends. Regardless of what your sport is, I want to know how you do it. How do you power through when the going gets tough? How do you tell yourself not to stop? To go faster? To push harder? To not quit just because you feel like you need to (when you know deep down that you don't really need to)? Did you read a book or a blog that inspired you? Did you see someone do something that made you think, "I want that"? Realistically, I know the odds are against achieving my goal in just two and a half short weeks, though I know I eventually will achieve it. I just keep telling myself, maybe--just maybe--though, and I find myself getting hopeful. Maybe, maybe, maybe I can do this. Any pointers, friends?

On a side note, I have never run on a treadmill prior to these last couple of months, but I find that I really like it after all. When the going gets tough, I can put my hands on the little bars in front of me, close my eyes for minutes at a time, and meditate on special people in my life. Many of my friends and family members are the focus of my concentration during my treadmill runs, and I am all the richer for it. I have so many wonderful reasons to run. Mind over matter.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Visitors From the Kids' Rooms

For the safety of everyone in the house, every family should have at least one light sleeper. That's what I tell myself anyway, to console myself about the fact that every slight thing causes me to wake up at night. There's no getting anything by me in the middle of the night. I'm aware when any of my children coughs, when the dishwasher completes its cycle, when the owl hoots in the woods out back, and when BJ's CPAP machine goes awry. I hear the padding of little feet on the carpet coming down the hallway long before I see the tiny-stature silhouette round the foot of the bed in the middle of the night. The nighttime hours see far more activity in our house than I would like for them to. I find myself amazed that none of these four beings with which I live--the baby, the toddler, the preschooler, and the adult man--ever seem to hear one another in the middle of the night though, as they each wake me with their individual little problems.

For instance, let's consider the sitch a few nights ago. It all began some time around 2AM when BJ, who admittedly assumes an entirely different personality in the middle of the night, ripped off his CPAP mask for no apparent reason. Guess he'd had enough air for one night. Pulling his mask off woke me up, so I woke him up and made him put his mask back on. BJ replaced the mask and within a second and a half was asleep again. Five minutes later as I was drifting back to sleep, I heard the wooden ladder of the boys' bunk bed creaking. In came Silas. A leg ache was on the menu, sadly. So, I created a pallet on the floor for Silas while I rubbed his feet and put socks on him, then tucked him tightly into covers to keep warm. Around this time I marveled about how I'd just spent the last 20 minutes being a caretaker to two people, neither of whom was ever aware of the other's awakening.

Silas drifted back to sleep and I was nearly back to the Land of Nod myself when I heard the pad-pad-pad of a two-year-old's gait. George came crawling into bed crying and explaining what sounded to me like nonsense. I gathered he had had a nightmare. He was inconsolable as the others slept, so I put him to bed between BJ and me while holding his hand. He stopped crying and then asked for "fresh water," so I got out of bed to get that for him. Minutes passed and it became quiet again before George announced he needed to pee-pee. Into the bathroom we both went. Then finally, finally, we all fell back to sleep.

Silas woke me about two hours later, crying because his leg pain woke him up again. This time I got him a graham cracker and told him to eat it while I rubbed his feet. Once he had finished, we got some Tylenol into his belly while I rubbed his foot some more. Then he needed water too, of course. We all fell asleep after this wish was fulfilled, and then an hour later he woke me to direct questions about a dream he apparently had as well ("Why was that tower walking?" What?). All in all, I was out of bed seven times that night and woke up several others just to correct things or console people from my place in bed. Ugh.

The following night's sleep was hijacked by Van, who is usually the one child I have that I can count on to not bother me at night. He woke suddenly at 1AM screaming, and after nursing him and then three attempts to put him back into his own crib, I finally gave up and collapsed into my own bed with him in arms. I woke an hour to find him sleeping soundly on my chest, so I tiptoed him into his nursery and ever-so-gently laid him into his crib. His eyes flew open immediately, and with an accusatory and panicked face he began wailing again. Thus, Van spent another two hours sleeping on my chest before I finally laid him down for good at 4AM. This was, of course, a Monday night before I had to work.

The child-between-us situation brings me to discuss this problem: When am I supposed to be rested enough to diligently return all children to their own rightful beds when they come padding into my room at night? I'll admit that part of me likes the snuggles; the majority of me wants more room to myself though, and could definitely do without the toddler sleep-time gymnastics illustrated here.

Credit Christoph Niemann in his hilarious compilation of visual blog posts entitled Abstract City. Perhaps my favorite read of 2014, this visual book had me rolling with laughter and musing the artist's creativity time and again. His caption for this piece: "Next up: a visitor from the kids' room. They start all sweet and cuddly, but their little bodies become more brazen by the minute."
They start each night in their own beds and sometimes they all stay there, but many nights George comes to our room between 4AM and 5AM, and I'm just too doggone tired to march him back to his room again and again. Occasionally, but not often, Silas will come in and ask me to set him up a pallet on the floor. They never go around to BJ's side, and I never feel awake enough to just say, "Buddy, let's trek it back to your bed" and then get the boy re-situated....if he doesn't throw a fit. Which leads to another problem: if a middle-of-the-night fit is thrown, how in the world is that fair to the other sleeping brother in the room? What do parents of room-sharing siblings do? Feedback welcome!

Two peas in a pod

In the words of Kathleen Kelly from You've Got Mail: "I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So goodnight, dear void." Dreaming of a king-sized bed in the meantime...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Annual Family Trip to Chester's Pumpkin Patch (and Obligatory Photo Sharing)

Fall has arrived, heralding the transition into my favorite time of year. I'm totally the sucker for all things pumpkin, and come Thankgiving afternoon I become the sucker for all things Christmas. To say that I'm fostering excitement about these holidays in my children is putting it mildly. Yesterday was among our favorite family activities, the annual trip to the pumpkin patch. We followed this up with dinner at our favorite pizza place, where we discovered an unexpected Halloween carnival taking place. It was truly a fantastic day.