Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sky Gazing

Whatcha looking at, kids?

The sky, through the leaves.

They make pretty patterns.

Keep looking, kids...and never stop.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Life in Even Numbers

My 7-year-old recently turned 8. That means that in a few short months my 5-year-old will be turning 6.

I don't know why, but when my kids turn even numbers it strikes me at how quickly these numbers are piling up. Perhaps it's because they are 2 years apart, and when they hit the evens it's easy to remember back to the last set of evens they hit. Maybe it's because I'm easily distracted by patterns and shiny metal objects.

Once they were zero and 2.

Then 2 and 4.

4 and 6...

And soon 6 and 8.
Once during one of those previous even years my husband and I were having a heart-to-heart discussion about our parental responsibilities. We were on the phone: he at home after an exhausting day of getting two girls off to school, working all day, then picking them up, making dinner, breaking up fights and continually nagging to get two little girls to bed. I was in a hotel room after returning back from a day that started at 4:30 am and didn't end until a client dinner ended at 10 pm in a different time zone than the one I started the day in.

I said, "It'll get easier when they get older."

He said, "You said that when they were 2 and 4. They are 4 and 6 now. When is this going to get easier?"

And then it struck me, how quickly those two years had gone by. How quickly the next two would go, then the next two, and so on and so forth. I imagined myself attending their high school graduations, wondering where the years had gone and why I hadn't taken a more active role in their lives.

And so I made a career change, to improve not just my own life but that of my family's.

Because before we know it we'll have this:

My niece Rachel and her parents at her HS graduation last weekend.
I first met Rachel when she was 3 -- she will turn 19 this summer and is heading off to college this fall. Her parents are surprised -- not that she's going to college, but that her departure came upon them so quickly.

So I will still be attending my girls' high school graduations wondering where the years had gone, but at least now I can say I was there for them. I go to their concerts, I don't miss their activities and I am able to volunteer in their classrooms.

I am there for them. And that makes me happy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What I Don't Take For Granted

A sunny day. A lake.

Time with my children.

What catches a 5-year-old's eye.

A spring breeze.

Living close to lakes in an urban area.

A random concert.

A shared joke.

An evening of joy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Twist on Tickets

At my birthday party a couple of weeks ago, we had drink tickets for our guests. And, in my typical fashion, I don't do things typically. So I created tickets that asked for people to write a birthday wish.

When I handed them to people when they first walked in the door, you would think I had given them homework.

They pondered. They tapped their pens on their drink tickets. They wrote, re-wrote, and thought some more.

I received wonderful wishes like these:

My wish for you is...
To look forward to the constant adventure of life.
Feeling as euphoric every day as you do today!
A life full of happiness.

Okay, so this one is more of a prophecy. I hope it comes true.

I had extra drink tickets at the end of the night, so I passed more out to those who had been there for some time.

And well, this time the results were a little different.

My wish for you is...

That you have the same awesome party next year!
Great sex for the rest of your life.
That you actually remember this party five years from now.

And there's this gem:

It's true: put a bunch of 40-year-olds in a room with enough to drink, and we become high schoolers.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Celebrating a Milestone

I love my birthday. Have I said this before?

Well, this year is a super special one for me, because my age ends with a "zero" again.

How does one usher in the fourth decade of their life?

With a party, of course.

Does this look like the over 40 crowd?

I didn't think so, either.

Afterwards we go home and sleep...until we are awoken at 7:00 in the morning by the sound of the tree service truck. 

We cook ourselves a good, hearty breakfast.  

We take the kids to the neighborhood festival to spend time with friends.

Where they decide that climbing trees sounds like a lot of fun. 
 (It was.)

We return home in time to buy ice cream from the ice cream truck.

The family takes an afternoon nap...

...and then a game of Monopoly ensues.

What a wonderful way to celebrate. I am so blessed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Minnesota Mountains

A snow mountain left in a parking lot near work. Note the size of the tree next to it.

Any takers on the estimated date of when it will finally disappear?

I Can't Read It. But I Can't Look Away

I get so angry. Sad. Frustrated.

I want to pick her up lifeless body and hug her, let her know that someone somewhere cared for her, would have loved her, would have treated her differently.

I read about children who were abused, chained to beds or beaten with sticks and I want to put my arms around them all. All ages, all colors, all backgrounds.

I do not understand how people can be cruel to a child. I look in my children's innocent, trusting eyes and I cannot imagine someone choosing to break that trust, to destroy that innocence.

My use of social media makes it difficult for me to avoid these stories. They pop up in my newsfeed, they land on my homepage of my personal email, they are hard to ignore.

I feel so helpless.

So I will channel that helplessness into extra hugs, extra kisses, extra time spent with my kids. If I cannot save them all, at least I can let two little girls know how much they are loved.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spring Thunderstorm

From the storm on Wednesday, May 11, 2011. It was incredible to watch the thunderhead grow as it blew our way. It dropped some small hail in our neighborhood, but much larger hail elsewhere and one tornado was created from this weather system.

You know that if you hit 85 degrees and 70 humidity in May, you're in trouble. A 50-degree breeze came in behind this system.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Explaining Osama

This is this past week's Newsweek cover.

Wayne and I were discussing the latest development when the girls began asking some questions about what happened.

Where do we begin?

How much do we explain? Can they ever understand? 

9/11 is my generation's Pearl Harbor. I will always remember where I was, the feeling of loss and helplessness, the understanding that the world had suddenly changed forever, and no one knew what would happen next.

Our daughters weren't even born when it happened.

We began talking about what Osama Bin Laden had done and that our country had killed him to stop him from killing more Americans. They seemed to grasp it, and the next night Marissa asked us about the "evil man" we talked about the previous night. She wanted to know if he had lived in Minnesota and if we were in danger. We got out the globe and talked about where he had been when he attacked the U.S. Suddenly Minnesota wasn't far enough away to be safe until we reassured her that he was dead.

This is one of the things I struggle with as a parent: How much do we explain of some of the world's issues and at what ages? Did we tell them too much? Too little? How do we put it into terms they will understand?

There are some pieces of history that are more than just a collection of names, dates, skirmishes and battles. The events of 9/11 are one such event, a day that changed the world forever. They do not belong filed away in their heads with the Battle of the Bulge, Watergate or the Bay of Pigs. All important events -- I don't mean to diminish them -- but their importance was unveiled with time as they unfolded. They became historic as they became history.

9/11 belongs filed away with Pearl Harbor, with the days Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, with the day JFK was assassinated.

Within a single day, most people in the world knew of those events, of their importance or that their lives would take a turn they hadn't expected or wanted.

Do we explain this?

I would rather that my children know not to answer the door to strangers, to never approach an adult in a car asking for directions, and to look both ways before crossing the street.

But at some point they will learn of the greater dangers in the world, and I want them to learn them from their parents' perspective.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Teaching Friendship

This past weekend Lindsey had a birthday slumber party. After last year's birthday shenanigans, we decided to tone things down a bit, keep it to just a few close friends and have a slumber party, instead of a party with lots and LOTS of friends.

I insisted that she keep it to three guests for a total of four girls. That way if they ended up pairing off in activities or games, there would be an even number. And there was no way I was dealing with six girls, four was quite enough, thank you.

She had a hard time deciding which three of her friends would be her guests.

After weeks of debating and discussing, she made the decision and excluded a very close friend of hers whom she sees five days a week at her before and after school program, as well as in the classroom. Her reasoning was that she sees this friend all the time, and the party was an opportunity to spend time with other friends who either aren't in her class or don't go to Minneapolis KIDS (the before/after school program).

I asked Lindsey a day after this decision was made if that was who she wanted at her party, and to make sure she did not want this one very close friend. Yep, she was sure. So I emailed the moms of the invitees to make sure that weekend was set aside, and a week later Lindsey brought invitations in for her three friends.

Her dear friend who hadn't been invited was crushed. Right after handing out invitations after arriving at school Lindsey came up to me and whispered, "Can I change who I ask?" No you can't, your other friends have already been asked. "Can I invite one more?" she whispers. No you can't, that is the rule.

She felt really bad for her friend who had been excluded. And then she came upon a different solution.

"Can I have a sleepover just with her one time to celebrate my birthday?" Yes, absolutely, we can have a sleepover with just this one friend, some other weekend.

That seemed to satisfy her.

During the past week Lindsey tried not to talk about her sleepover in front of her one friend, knowing that it made her feel bad, and kept reassuring her that some other weekend they would have a sleepover to celebrate. I'm glad she was thinking of her friend and caring for her feelings.

Overall the sleepover was a big hit. Everyone had a great time and no one seemed to get excluded from activities. But it was also an interesting lesson in friendship for Lindsey.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Blog Rewind: March of Dimes walk

First, a huge thank you to everyone who donated to my walk for March of Dimes. Last year I raised nearly $1,000, but it had been a stretch last year and I didn't think I could reach it again, so I lowered my goal to $750.

Once again, I was humbled by people's charity. Bit by bit, dollar by dollar, I raised $822 for my walk. Just 24 hours before the walk I was still $200 short of my goal. I made a last-minute plea on my Facebook page, and was surprised and honored by:
  • The jr. high friend who donated, even though we haven't seen each other in 30 years. (She moved from my hometown before graduation.)
  • A former co-worker of mine who works in another city who donated, even though I no longer work for the company and we hadn't met in person. Ever.
  • The relative who donated for the first time.
  • Three former neighbors, two of whom moved to other states years ago, who donated.
Of these, only one would have been possible if it hadn't been for a social media network that kept us connected. A huge thank you to everyone who gave to my walk, especially my sister and mother-in-law, both of whom give so generously every year. I couldn't have done it without you.

This year I hadn't planned to actually walk: I thought I would be in sunny California, cheering my husband on as he ran the Big Sur Marathon. But alas, that trip was not to be, so I was able to continue my volunteer committee duties by showing up on the day of the walk to do whatever the staff told me to do.

Despite having been moved back a week to the first Sunday in May, walk day managed to be cold and miserable. It was 34 degrees when I left the house with a sustained 16 mph wind. I deeply regret not going back in right away to get my snowpants. I found out later that meterologists were actually using the term "windchill" for that day because of the effect of the gusting wind, which also managed to blow over one of our tents. I froze until I was numb, at which point I didn't mind the cold because I couldn't feel my ass. Happy May Day.

The volunteer committee showed up at 6:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. walk. It seemed a little ridiculous to me, especially considering we'd had an event company come out the day before and put up the tents. Really, what could we do that would take up five and a half hours? But I dutifully showed up, fully expecting to spend long minutes in my car, keeping warm.

The first time I got to look at my watch it was nearly 9:00, at which point I did have to go to my car to log on to the laptop, write some tweets and a Facebook status update, then respond or retweet any Twitter mentions. (Greek, right?) I warmed up some, which I deeply regretted the minute I stepped back out to continue with set up, because the cold seemed even more bitter. Finally I called Wayne and asked him to come down and bring my snowpants, which I finally got around 11 o'clock. It wasn't until I had those on that I finally warmed up. Seriously, people.

Families began arriving around 10 o'clock, and I became truly amazed at these family's committment. They came in droves, pushing strollers, pulling wagons, with little ones bundled to the tip tops of their heads. Despite the miserable weather, we had close to the 4,000 expected walkers show up, and raised the $1 million the chapter was hoping to raise.

Many were families personally touched by the mission, wearing t-shirts in memory of their babies born prematurely who hadn't survived, or with pre-schoolers who wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for extraordinary care that they received after being born too soon. It was so touching to see their dedication and see their little ones, walking right along their moms and dads for the cause.

I have no pictures of my own from the day - I was too busy to take any, and my fingers too frozen to operate the camera, anyway. But it was great to experience the walk as a volunteer. I plan to be back again next year to volunteer.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Days of the Week Feet

We bought day-of-the-week socks for Marissa last weekend. As of this morning there were only two pairs left: Thursday and Friday.

"Mommy," she called from her bedroom, "What day is it?"

"Thursday," I call back.

"Does that start with an 'f'?" she asks.

"No, it starts with a 't,'" I say.

"But you said Furzday," she calls, coming in to my bedroom, holding her Friday socks in her hands and emphasizing the "f" in the word as only Marissa can.

"No, it's Thursday, th- th-. It starts with a 't,'" I say, trying not to laugh.

"Okay," she says, and dutifully comes back with the Thursday socks.

What a kid.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Halfway to 16

I have a running joke with my dad, who I usually see about once a year, maybe every 18 months. I love him dearly, he just lives too damn far away to see much more often than that.

When he first met Lindsey as a six-week old, he held her in his big bear hands, looked at her and said, "Gee, 18 more visits like this and I'll be attending a high school graduation."

Now every year he counts down the number of visits left before that high school graduation. Right now that count is 10. And we're halfway to driver's license age.

That's just wrong.

So I will just focus on today, and on how special she felt on her 8th birthday. She awoke at 6 a.m, thanks to an alarm that was left on after an early morning run (ahem hem, dear husband...). And she patiently waited around for over an hour until everyone was ready to be a part of the gift unwrapping.

At age 8, she is just as excited by an iTunes gift card as she is by clothes for her Barbies.
iTunes card!!

Barbie clothes! (Ignore the gray half-way loaded photo. I'm too tired to fix it.)

She was greeted with birthday wishes when she got to school, got to bring treats to her class and was sung to at her after-school program.

When we arrived home a bouquet of flowers were delivered -- her first flowers that she can remember that she's gotten, compliments of Grandpa Tom & Meme Terry. (She got some from her daddy on her first birthday, but she doesn't remember that.)

We then went out to dinner at her choice, Benihana, a hibatchi restaurant.

And of course, they sang to her there, too.

We got home just as the phone was ringing. It was Aunt Kristi, calling to wish her a happy birthday, and a voice mail from the Lau grandparents, singing to her (again).

We got both the girls to bed a little late, and she was asleep immediately, a smile on her face.

Now that's a good birthday.

Ten more to go.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The silver lining to chemotherapy

It exists and is proven to fight cancer.

My dad was diagnosed with colon cancer 4 years ago. He went through a bowel re-section surgery and has had a long and difficult recovery. Thankfully the doctors had determined that the cancer had not spread and did not recommend chemotherapy or radiation treatment at the time. The whole family was relieved that he did not need to go through further treatment.

Fast forward four years.

A colonoscopy determined that the cancer has returned. It was caught early and thankfully, once again, is localized to a single site. But this time, they are recommending chemotherapy and radiation, followed by another surgery to remove the tumor. They hope that the treatment will stop the cancer from recurring.

My dad couldn't be more relieved. He is so glad there are treatment options. He and his wife were reassured in speaking to the surgeon about the road ahead; people have been down this road before, and the doctors know what to do based on those patient's outcomes.

So while I at first was dismayed at his having to go through chemo and radiation, he was happy to have that option, to keep the cancer at bay. So yes, there is a silver lining to chemotherapy.

Four years ago he kept a log of his health and the long road to recovery. He's found through the years that it's helped other people who have had similar surgery, and he's continued to get comments and emails from people who find his blog, looking for information on recovering from a bowel re-section. I like to think it's an early draft of a book titled "What Doctors Don't Tell You About Your Pooper." If you can tolerate reading all the details of the rumblings and workings of a GI system, follow his blog at http://bowelresectionhomerecover.blogspot.com/

I believe his blog will have a happy ending. But positive thoughts and prayers never hurt.