July 24, 2016

Summer 2016: California

We spent the 4th of July out in California this year. I have the greatest sister in the world who cashed in her sky miles to fly me and the kids out from Georgia to California. Miles flew out from Virginia a day later as he's (still) in a course there. My parents drove from Arizona and my brother and sister-in-law came out from Colorado. So my whole side of the family was together for a few days in San Diego and it was really great to all be together again - I legitimately can't remember the last time my whole family was together and this very likely will be the last time I see my side of the family before our move to England in a couple months.

I was a little worried about flying coast to coast with two little ones by myself, but the kids did great on the flights out to California (we had a short layover in Atlanta, then a direct flight from Atlanta to San Diego). I think it helped a lot bringing Mary's seat on the plane. She took a nap at one point and I was able to read and watch a movie on the flight - it was awesome! The flight back was great on the flight, but the layover was a little rough with some fits, messes, delays, etc.

While in California we got in some beach time and I tried surfing for the first time in my life and actually stood up twice! Sweet Finn was so excited to go surfing (meaning for him to be held up on a board), but when the waves pushed him a little harder than he was prepared for he got really frustrated. "I just don't know what to do!!" he shouted. Poor buddy, we'll stick to boogie boarding for now.

The kids had a blast on the 4th - further reaffirming it's my favorite holiday!

And we just really enjoyed the time with family, hoping we get to see them all again sooner rather than later.

And then my heart exploded


July 19, 2016

Run Across Georgia Update (Round II)

The Run Across Georgia (almost two months ago) this year was both very similar and very different to my experience last year. It was similar in that it was overall a really positive and rewarding experience. We raised over $10,000 on just my team alone, but of the four teams of Stroller Strong Moms teams we raised over $50,000 which is just awesome and humbling all in one. That money is going towards three really great charities so if you are reading this and you have not gotten a very delinquent thank you card yet, please know how much I appreciate all the donations and all the support that we got.

The reason it was different was because this year it was a lot harder for me physically than it was last year. I signed up for more miles this year than last as I've been running more and felt a little more prepared, but I just went in to the whole thing pretty drained. We had a girl get injured so the only way for our team to stay competitive was for the rest of us to cover the remainder of her mileage (versus dropping to a non competitive status and not having a time requirement as well as the ability to switch out runners). I thought I was doing a decent job of fueling throughout, but actually got pretty dehydrated and my longest run (7.2 miles) ended up being my slowest and I basically was running in the standing fetal position, had to take breaks to go to the bathroom in the woods on the side of the road, dry heave, and mostly question all my life decisions. It was super!

Fortunately things improved, I was able to keep food down after that, I took two oral IVs, and with constant hydration my last two runs weren't too bad. I ended up running 38.5 miles in the 36 hour period and was totally exhausted when it was done, but really proud of our team and really grateful for the opportunity to participate in this race another year. 

This flag was about halfway along the course and had Daren's picture and info about him.

The first handoff. I always handed off to my good friend Julie who 
has become my marathon buddy while living here.

Miles drove out from Savannah to meet me at my last run. He said Finn worked
for HOURS on my sign and the cute little nugget was so excited to hold it up.

About to start the last run!

The two competitive teams of Stroller Strong Moms crossed the finish line together, 
coming in as the first place female team for the third year running!


June 28, 2016

A Should Be Six Year Old

I sometimes pause when I go to write or say Cale's age. Because is it a would be age? A should be? A could have been? I guess it's all those things and I want whatever I say to convey how much it absolutely sucks that whatever I say, would/should/could, all those imply that his age is not referred to in the present tense. He will never be. A six year old, a kindergartner. A growing, thriving, living boy.

Six feels hard. They are all hard in their own way. But six somehow feels heavier to me than five did. Maybe it's because he would/should/could be off to kinder in the fall, or maybe it's because Miles and I unfortunately (and yet somewhat surprisingly) aren't together for his birthday - the first time we haven't been. Miles is attending a course out of state right now, but the other weekend when he was home we went out for dinner and talked about what we wanted to do on Cale's birthday. I mentioned that I didn't really expect him to do anything other than think about him and miss him and he gave me a little shrug and with glossy eyes said, "yeah, but I don't need a day to do that." It was a simple thing he said, but one that will stick with me and reminded me how lucky I am to have him as a partner through the thick, complicated, beautiful grief that we both still carry.

His birthday is always one for reflection, but it's true that I don't really miss him any more today than I do every day. I think his birthday is like ripping off a band aid on a wound that never heals. 

I hired a sitter to come over this morning so I could go for a run. I wanted to run six miles for Cale's sixth and was glad to not have much pain from an off and on injury I've been dealing with of late. Plus it was nice just to have the time to myself. I'm so grateful for the needy little brother and sister who are jumping all over me as I type this, but it's nice to just have some time to get lost in my own thoughts and memories for a bit.

After my run I took the kids to the beach and once I wrap up this blog we will decorate some birthday cookies that Finn helped me bake yesterday. Finn has been so sweet about Cale's birthday saying some pretty funny things throughout the day, such as when he asked me if the guys on horses were going to bring Cale a birthday gift. I had no clue what he was talking about so said, "I don't know buddy, what do you think?" and he replied, "I think they will because they brought baby Jesus gifts on his birthday." Ahhhh, right. The wise men. Maybe we need to revisit the details of that particular story, but I love how his little brain connected things. He also said that Cale died and is in Heaven, then paused and excitedly said, "he's in outer space!"

As always, the love and the thoughts and prayers are appreciated so much. Miles suggested that this year we donate to The Birthday Party Project which helps give birthday parties to children in homeless and domestic abuse shelters. Additionally, we've had some really sweet gestures done in honor of Cale and it is really comforting to know there is so much beauty and kindness sent out on the world because of him.  

Thank you for missing him with us and thank you for the birthday love.


June 21, 2016

Dadda! DC! Dory!

 Before we move Miles has to attend a course that takes places in Virginia. He's there for a few months so is living in a furnished apartment. This proved to be pretty comical when Finn told his teacher that Daddy got an apartment! Fortunately she is a military spouse herself so assumed it was related to the military and not our marital status.

This past weekend the kids (and dog) and I drove up to Daddy's apartment and got to spend a few days with Miles. While there we took a day trip to DC and got to meet up with some good friends and did a little sight seeing. 

These two just looking adorable.

Far too many of these, but I'm glad we live in a country that honors even the unknown fallen.
This picture is from the eternal flame which is the resting place of the Kennedys as well as that of their infant son Patrick who died at two days old and of their daughter, Arabella who was stillborn. Jackie wanted them buried with JFK and both babies were relocated to fulfill her wish. It was only 15 weeks after Patrick's death that JFK was assassinated. It's cruel all the tragedy that Jackie had to endure in her lifetime.
You can't see it in this picture, but the marker on the right just reads "daughter" and although born in a time when stillbirths weren't spoken of, it makes me sad that her name, Arabella, wasn't included. But at least when people visit the site, they know she existed.

My freshmen year roommate from West Point. Always wonderful spending time with her.
 . . . . . .

On Father's Day we took the kids to see Finding Dory. They were both SO excited and did really well. This was Finn's third movie in the theater, but Mary's first and she is much younger than Finn was when he went to his first movie. She started to get a little bored and needed to switch whose lap she was sitting in a lot towards the end, but overall she did great and seemed to really enjoy the movie. She is full on Nemo and Dory obsessed now!

Then on Sunday night we went up to Richmond to have dinner and walk around. The area we were in (Monument Avenue) was so beautiful and I definitely wouldn't mind going back to Richmond one day.

Getting filthy before dinner
Finn say these and said, "Mom! It's your favorite!" I was so proud. 
Robert E. Lee Monument on Monument Ave in Richmond. We were not surprised that it was facing the south.
A lot of the area we saw reminded us of Savannah or Charleston. I love these charming old cities.

Celebrating Father's Day with some delicious Cuban food.
Kids did really well on both the drive there (which was several hours longer than anticipated) and the drive back, but I mostly have Curious George and Bob the Builder to thank for that!


June 13, 2016

Finn at Five

As I walked Finn in to Vacation Bible School today he didn't enthusiastically head off to his assigned classroom the way he does for school and summer camp. Instead he looked around this mostly unfamiliar place full of lots of unfamiliar faces and got a little overwhelmed. I pointed out that there was one face we recognized, that of his buddy Sam, but his eyes filled up with tears and he said, "I just can't do it." We went back in the hallway for a bit and after what I hoped was an adequate amount of comfort and reassurance, we headed back in to the room, this time, while still a little reluctant, he was willing to take the hand of a kind stranger and be brave as he started his first day as a five year old.

Part of me wanted to just scoop him up and tell him that it's his birthday, he doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to do and we could just sit on the couch and snuggle all day, but I also know that by the time I came back for his picnic lunch, he would be more comfortable and at ease with his new friends. 

It was such a little, but big, thing - that moment at drop off. A perfect snapshot of who Finn is. My sensitive little guy who is both cautious and uncertain, but also brave and adaptable. Mary hugged him when we came back to get him and he stopped for a moment, excited to see us, but also ran off to the playground to be with his buddies. Four kids who are all probably younger than him, but all much bigger hopped on the spinning merry-go-round and it was little Finn who grabbed the handle and just started running in circles spinning his friends as fast as he possibly could. 

He was excited to wear his Ninja Turtles watch today, which was literally the only thing he wanted for his birthday, well that and apple pie. He has declared himself a pie man like his father - having a limited sweet tooth that Mary and I just don't understand. We celebrated his birthday this weekend at the beach and he spent a good remainder of the weekend building and rebuilding legos, his favorite pastime of late.

Him turning five may be the catalyst for all the emotions I knew would be lurking around the corner as we go through what is always a bittersweet month for our family. Finn is a constant remind of how much happiness can be found in life despite unmeasurable amounts of sorrow. It was never his job to "fix" us after losing Cale, but in his five years he has been such a balm, such a joy, and such an absolute treat for our whole family. When I put him to bed last night and he told me, "I love you more than a lot" I couldn't help but feel truly honored to be on the receiving end of his love.

Happy Birthday, my favorite Finn. I love you more than a lot, too.