December 31, 2015

Christmas with Cale

A couple days ago I received a message from the sister of a guy I went to high school with just letting me know that she was thinking of me and Cale and was curious if we had any traditions for him during the holidays. She is not someone I'm close with, but just a really nice and genuine person who has reached out to me several times over the years with kind words such as her latest message. I wrote her back and told her that it means so much, to not only know that she thought of Cale, but that she actually wanted to know about how we remember him and honor him. And even better than just wondering, she took the time to ask. Those people are gold, they really are. I happily shared with her our few traditions and thought I would share them here as well. 

Each year we try to "adopt" a child that is in need off one of the Angel Trees. We try to find a boy who is close in age to the age Cale should be. This year we didn't find a five year old, but did get to adopt a six year old boy who needed clothes. We got him a jacket, several pairs of pants, a few shirts, Star Wars underwear and a Star Wars shirt, and some toys - we got this boy Legos as those seem age appropriate and I suspect Cale would be really in to Legos just as his brother is starting to more and more. It feels good to get to buy for a child in need, but to do so because of our love for Cale. 

Every year when we decorate I pause and wonder if I like the stocking set up. The damn stockings plague me every year and I think I've found something that feels as close to good as it can, but definitely not right. Right now I have four stockings on the mantle with our initials. Then I have a smaller stocking for Cale hanging from a bookshelf with his Christmas name in the sand.  When we put the tree up, I have a little tradition where the first thing that is hung on the tree is one of our Cale ornaments. On Christmas morning I light a candle either next to his sketch (which is always on our mantle) or next to his stocking and leave it lit all day. 

Love this growing collection of ornaments. Three of them are from
my annual Baby Loss Mom ornament exchange - something I look
forward to each Christmas. 

The other thing that I struggle with each year is what to write on our Christmas Card in regards to Cale. I feel like I say the same thing; "we miss him, we love him," but not saying it also doesn't feel right. Last year I didn't mention him in the short blurb, but signed the card, "with Cale forever in our hearts" which is similar to what a lot of my loss friends write and I like that it's a simple, yet powerful way to remind others that Cale is never far from heart. This year I mentioned him by acknowledging that he would have been five this year and also included his Christmas name in the sand on the back of the card as well as a picture of Finn and Mary. It felt like the right thing to do this year and I've learned that I just have to do whatever feels best and brings the most comfort.

That's about it as far as traditions go. I'd love to hear about any you have and hope that the holidays were especially gentle to those of you missing loved ones.

December 25, 2015

Santa Pictures

We had a pretty low key, but nice, Christmas today. My parents (Nana and Pop) are spending the holidays with us and the kids really enjoyed tearing open their gifts. We stuck with the "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" theme as well as getting them Santa gifts. Finn's Santa gift was a bow and arrow set (sort of like a nerf version) and Mary's was a shopping cart which she's a huge fan of - she immediately started loading things in it and was pushing it around the house all day. We went to see Santa just two days ago and that will probably be the last time I wait that late in the game as it was pretty crowded and even though the wait was only about 45 minutes, it still felt like an eternity with kids who want to run around everywhere and a husband who gets annoyed easily in large crowds (malls are basically his personal hell). 

Mary kept saying, "I wanna see Santa" and I thought she was actually going to be excited and sit there and smile, but when it came time to seeing the big guy, she wanted nothing to do with him and fortunately threw a fit giving us an awesomely classic picture:

Finn told Santa he's "just been good and bad" which is 100% accurate. He told him he wanted a bow and arrow (good thing since Amazon had already delivered one!) and Mary was instantly better once I picked her up and kept saying, "bye bye Santa" which probably was her polite way of saying, "get away from me Old Man."

I was looking through previous years' Santa pictures and wanted to share those as well. In 2014 Mary was a little fussy, but not in full on panic mode like this year:

In 2013 Finn saw Santa at a toy drive our property managers in Texas hosted where you got a picture with Santa in exchange for bringing a toy in for Toys for Tots. We were living in Texas and we took advantage of this opportunity shortly before Mary was born:

2012 was in Tucson, Arizona when Finn was staying with my parents while Miles and I ditched him for a trip to Germany. They braved the lines to get us a Santa pic:

2011 was also in Arizona for Finn's first Christmas and the little cutie fully cooperated for his first Santa picture:

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!


December 16, 2015

Mary's Second Year

As cliche as it sounds it really is hard to believe Mary is now two. It's been a fast, but fulfilling year with her. 
January 2015
Miles returned from a deployment shortly after her first birthday, but thankfully just got back from another so was here for this birthday. It's been really special to see their relationship develop and they are becoming fast buddies. 
Mary is sweet and cuddly at times and will bring you endless books and plop herself in your lap saying, "book, read dat." 
Other times she is feisty and sassy and overly dramatic. As a result, she is very familiar with timeout. Fortunately she resets quickly from timeout and will give a hug and say "saw-ree," helping you forget why she was there in the first place.
She loves her "bruh-ber" and runs in to his room in the morning anxious for him to wake up and join her. Occasionally she will cry when we drop him off at school and is always so excited when we go pick him up. While she often wants to play with whatever he's playing with she's starting to express her own independence more and more and is also content to do her own thing.

While she was slow to walk and talk she has blossomed just fine in her own time. She saw a speech therapist for a few months, but was eventually graduated from the program as her development caught right back up to where it needed to be. It's fun hearing her use her words so well now and string little phrases together. My favorites are "Roscoe stinky," "Daddy get you" (for when Miles' tickles her) and of course, "I lub you."

She still is our little "Meatball," though sadly her delicious thighs are thinning out a little. She still loves most food, but definitely has a sweet tooth. She's been known to throw a fit over a cookie or treat. I'm grateful she's so short as it has helped make her feel like a baby longer :)

Mary pretends to be the "Mary Monster" and will growl as Finn and Miles hide in a fort away from the vicious beast. She loves to play outside and loves water - the beach, pool, water table, you name it.
She likes Curious George and often asks to "watch George Monkey." She's a perfectly balanced little girl who loves to carry a purse and play with her babydoll, but also wants to play trains and gets excited about diggers. I'm hoping Finn's fascination for construction equipment continues to wear off on her as I find it pretty adorable.

She has a puppy she loves to snuggle with at night and during naps and still very much a fan of the binkie during those times as well. She will nap well at home, but if she falls asleep for any amount of time in the car her crib nap is totally ruined.

She loves her shoes, her rainboots in particular, and we are in trouble in a few years as she already will look at a pice of clothing and say, "cute." She is good about wearing bows, but doesn't care for me to put her hair in pigtails despite how darling it makes her look.


Mary is friendly and often will say hi to strangers, bringing a quick smile to their face. She loves the playground and often forgets she's not a big kid, but isn't always a huge fan of sliding, she much prefers to climb and swing.

She is my favorite girl and on this day as we celebrate her turning two, I'm reminded again just how incredibly fortunate we are to have her in our lives. It is a joy and an honor to watch her grow, I only wish she would slow down a little.


December 8, 2015

Trip to Korea and Japan

Last month approximately 48 hours after the crap-tastic Marathon I was on a plane headed to link up with Miles in Eastern Asia! For three months Miles was deployed to South Korea and oddly enough (fortunately enough!) his unit was given a week of leave just prior to his return home. We figured since the Army already paid for his ticket, we should take advantage of the opportunity and try to get a kid free trip in while he was over there. It wouldn't have been possible without my sister and my mother-in-law who both helped watched the kids while I was away.

I flew from the states to Seoul, South Korea then hoped on another flight to Tokyo, Japan where I met up with Miles. We spent three days exploring Tokyo before flying back to Seoul for another three days. In Japan we stayed in an AirBnB which was wonderful! It was close walking distance to the subway and cheaper than a hotel. Plus we were able to eat there if we wanted, though we mostly ate out, and do laundry. In Korea we actually stayed at the hotel on one of the Army posts there (in Yongsan) which was WAY nicer than I was expecting. It also was conveniently located to the subway and lots of the places we visited. On the day I was supposed to fly home my flight was overbooked and I got a bonus day in Korea where I was put up in a fancy hotel (near airport), given meal vouchers, and $800 travel credit! Thankfully grandma wasn't set to fly home yet and was able to watch the kids one more day and Miles was able to come out and spend the evening with me after getting some work done at his base. It was a really wonderful trip and I'm so grateful we were able to see a part of the world neither of us had been to before. It makes me anxious to do more traveling and check more off the life travels bucket list.

I'll let the picture overload tell the rest of the trip in more details.

Shibuya Crossing - Tokyo version of Times Square
Top Pictures: Meiji Shrine where we saw a traditional wedding procession
Bottom Pics: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
View of the SkyTree Tower
We toured the SkyTree at night which provided a really awesome view of the city.
In the plaza of the SkyTree was a German Christmas Market! We were excited to get Gluhwein
which we last had in Germany three years ago!
Right Pictures: Sensoji Temple. 
Tokyo Tower - a smidge taller than the Eiffel Tower, but not at tall as the SkyTree
I left 100% of the navigation up to Miles.
Nom Nom. Top Pics: Sushi in Japan
Bottom Pics: Korea. Nothing about the churro picture screams "Korea,"
but they were some damn good churros!
Korean War Memorial. This place was massive and incredibly well put together.
The statue in the top left depicts two brothers, one who was forced to fight for the
North Koreans and they found one another on the battlefield.

Top Left: View from our hotel. All other pictures are from the Changdeokgung Palace
I don't have nearly as many pictures from Seoul as I do from Tokyo, but that's largely do to the fact that about half the time it was rainy and overcast out. The fog was so bad on the day I had hoped to see the Seoul Tower, we ended up scratching that off the list. Of course the weather cleared the day I left. Nonetheless it was a lovely trip!

One page filled! (I actually was kind of bummed they squeeze all the stamps on the same page)
About a week after I returned home, Miles and his unit came back and we are so grateful to have him home for the holidays. As Finn said, "we really missed you, Daddy."

November 27, 2015

Thankful for Walmart, Dyson, and Moscato

So our Thanksgiving morning started off super awesome with the discovery that Roscoe had fleas! Neither Miles or I have ever had a dog get fleas before so this made us feel really great and not at all like white trash. As gross as it was, I would like to point out that I stayed calm and just started doing what I could to address the problem. Miles definitely did the majority of the work tackling the issue, but was basically ready to burn the house down and was convinced this stuff only happens in trailer parks. A smidge dramatic, that one.

Nonetheless we were thankful that Walmart was open so we could get all the flea sprays and treatments for Roscoe and our house, we did approximately 80 loads of laundry, vacuumed the whole house (several times over after treating the carpets), cleaned couches, chairs, etc. Roscoe got two baths, spray treatments, and lots of comb throughs and the poor guy was confined to the garage for his Thanksgiving.

We had Thanksgiving dinner with several friends and cooked nothing, but brought all the booze. I'm really not painting a convincing picture here that we aren't white trash, but after speaking with several friends (clean and educated people!) it seems fleas are a huge problem in the South, Savannah in particular, and I'm almost surprised Roscoes has never had them before despite the fact that he was on a monthly topical treatment (though today we got some stronger stuff from the vet along with a pill that would kill any remaining little bastards that were clinging to him). The vet also said he can come back in the house and to just keep vacuuming for a few days as some dead fleas may fall off him. Gross. 

The only picture I took yesterday was of these cuties enjoying their Friendsgiving picnic. Mary was first in line to whine for food so was already stuffing her face in the high chair at this point.

Hoping you all had a less disgusting day of thanks! 

November 18, 2015

Race Recap

A little over a week ago I ran the Savannah Rock n Roll Marathon. As I mentioned in my last post my reason for doing so was because the only other marathon I have run was a decade ago this month. I wanted to prove to myself that 10 years and 3 babies later I could run another and that's really about the only goal I accomplished that day because it was a BRUTAL, miserable race.

We've had unseasonable warm weather, but that day in particular was especially bad. It was about 85 degrees with 98% humidity. The weather was so bad that early on the race officials, in conjunction with the city of Savannah, started making modifications to the course. They started re routing runners if they weren't at a certain point by a certain time, diverting some to the half, and just turning people around in some cases. But, I will say as much as it sucked to not have things go as planned, I was really impressed with the way the race handled things. Sadly two people died that day - one on the course and another as soon as he got home. There were six others hospitalized and numerous people who stopped at the medical tents that were set up along the way. I found there to be plenty of water stations with water, gatorade, and salt offered and even though I hated life, I did feel taken care of, especially by the amazing support crew of friends and family who showed up that day. I knew by the half way point that the race was going downhill fast (only not literally - somehow there were several inclines in our usually flat city!). By mile 15 I was wondering if I just dreamed I trained because my legs didn't feel like the had and by mile 18 I was cramping up in some muscles despite a decent amount of salt intake, plenty of water and gatorade, chews and Gu. 

My sister Kate flew in from California to run the half and my dear friend Brandy came out from Chicago with her family to cheer on her sister-in-law who was also running the full. Brandy not only watched my kids during the race, but was there to cheer me on during a couple much needed times. I don't know what it is about races that make me so damn emotional, but combined with the fact that it was so brutal out, I was such a train wreck. My friend Melanie ran with me for six miles and then I had another friend and my sister join in for my last mile. The group of ladies in Stroller Strong Moms has been such an inspiring and uplifting group and their support really helped leading up to the race and during. Running that long just takes so much out of you physically and emotionally and by mile 18 I was runner-drunk where you just feel sort of out of it. A friend of mine put it best when she said running a marathon is a lot like being in labor and you don't know what sort of emotions you'll experience - you may cry, you may swear, you may just be really quiet and in the zone. In my case I was all of those. 

Seeing this little nugget was seriously the highlight of the race for me. Brandy snapped these pictures and I'm forever grateful she had the kids out there cheering me on because it was a much needed morale boost.

My friend Allison took over kiddo duty so Brandy could cheer on her sister-in-law, she was such a good sport,
especially when Finn wanted to sit on her shoulders and take a rest!
The green sign is one Brandy made and I started crying when I saw it because
she included pictures of me with all the kids. I mean seriously, my emotions didn't stand a chance that day!

SLAM fam

Sister Kate. One of my most favorite people on the planet.
Had the race gone according to plan (ha) I would have liked to have been able to say I met my goal (sub 4 hours) and will never run another. Buuuut, I'm a glutton for punishment and am looking at some races in January or February. But I sure do look forward to the day I can "retire" from marathons :)

November 6, 2015

Why I Run

Several weeks ago a friend posted something about why she runs. It got me thinking about why I run and that very day Finn ran upstairs to get his long sock to mimic the compression socks I was wearing from my run. He has wanted to race and the couple times he's participated in them he's loved them. So I really think that why I run does have a lot to do with the example I want to set for my kids, and it helps to keep me running, but it's definitely not how I started running. 

I ran cross country in high school, but on the JV team, and never was very good, nor did I care about being very good. I did it just to be involved in something. Then I went to West Point where you have to run and I was average, but not great and, again never really cared to run much. I liked doing the occasional race, but wasn't at all passionate about it. While I was a cadet, my close friend Dana and I decided we wanted to run a marathon. It was a bucket list thing for both of us and we figured we would do it, cross it off the list, and never do one again. So we sort of half assed trained and then very, very slowly we ran the Philadelphia Marathon in November of 2005. And I swore I would never run another marathon.

Dana and I ran the whole thing together, only stopping at water stations.
Our then boyfriends, now husbands, also ran - far, far ahead of us.
And yet tomorrow morning, ten years later, I'm running another one. And it's not because I really LOVE running. There are things I like about it, but for me the satisfaction of running comes from the appreciation it's giving me for my body. I'm so grateful and lucky to be in good health to even run and running definitely has taught me a lot about myself. As much as I hate to admit it, I do feel groggy and crabbier if I don't exercise and I love that running gives me an excuse to eat ice cream all day every day. And even though I'm not crazy about running itself, I do love races. Oddly I'm not super competitive - it's more the environment I love and I love seeing people of all shapes and backgrounds complete events they maybe never thought possible. I love seeing people overcome huge obstacles - I think that's what I love most about running; the confidence it gives someone. I really believe anyone can be a runner and I like something that is so inclusive and has such a variety of goals. Anyway, I decided I would run another marathon because I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. I wanted to prove that after ten years and three babies I could still put myself through something that I didn't adequately train for in my early twenties. And baring any unforeseen circumstances I really am confident I will do far better than I did when I was a young college student. 

This has been a pretty big running year from me with the Run Across Georgia and a half marathon earlier in the year, some 5 and 10k's and the Army Ten Miler last month. And yet I still wouldn't claim that I love running. But something about it keeps bringing me back. And tomorrow I hope that I end the race proud of how I did, regardless of if I meet my goal or not (though I really, really hope to meet my goal).

If you are new to running and don't know where to start - google the couch to 5k program and sign up for a race. I think that signing up for something is such a great motivator to really force you to get out there and train. I'm signed up for three races in 2016 and hopefully another Run Across Georgia. I don't think I'll add any more marathons to my list, but I also thought that ten years ago I was done, so who knows.

What about you, why do you run?


October 31, 2015

Halloween, Hallo-Whine, Hello Wine

Mercy, this Halloween felt like it would never end! Our Halloween festivities started on Wednesday when Stroller Strong Moms had our Halloween class. Finn goes to school on Wednesdays and his school also allows two and unders to come that day so instead of bringing my kids to the Halloween class, I sent them both to school and then left after class to get a massage! I felt a smidge guilty when all the little kiddos were enjoying the stroller treating and potluck, but that guilt was short lived. Besides, they got more than their fill of Halloween. Yesterday we also had another themed class in one of our other locations we offer Stroller Strong Moms and Mary was with me for that while Finn was at his Halloween parade at school. I was Mary's sidekick for that:

Finn at school with buddy Peter Pan
Then after naps yesterday we went to Trunk-or-Treating hosted by Miles' unit. Even though Miles is away right now, many other Soldiers are not and the event really is for the families anyway. Because I wore the Robin get-up earlier I decided to wear it again and decorate my car as the Bat mobile for trunk-or-treating. Because of this, Finn didn't want to be a fireman anymore - that we was last year and that he's been saying ALL YEAR he was going to be again, but no, now he wanted to be Batman. Thankfully we have a shirt with a cape that Nana had sent him several weeks prior. But he wore his fireman attire for a quick pick with real fireman. They gave him a radio to hold and he was so quiet and kinda star struck. It was pretty cute.

After trunk-or-treating Mary just plopped herself down
and went to town on her candy.
Today we went to the Halloween party in my neighborhood before heading out for trick-or-treating.

Batman scaling up the side of the bouncy slide
Mary wanted nothing to do with her costume, but I forced her to be spirited anyway:

But seriously, Mary was supposed to be a cute Little Lamb, but instead had a little cow and this is the best picture I have of her in her costume:

No joke, because the only other picture I bothered to take was this:

Didn't even attempt the cute hooves that came with it.

Anyway, Mary was "Boo-tiful" because the "Bat Shit Crazy" onesies are hard to find and Finn was back to being a Fireman.

I left a bowl of candy on our porch with a note asking people to be kind and only take one or two pieces (and was pleasantly surprised when I came home to some remaining candy), and set out with the kids and the dog for some trick or treating. 

I thought I should bring Roscoe because he freaks out every time the doorbell rings and I didn't want to leave him home alone. BIG MISTAKE. He was overwhelmed and kinda a pain while out walking, Mary eventually started to whine and didn't want to walk, but Lord help me if I attempted to put her IN the stroller. I forgot to bring a binkie and couldn't keep her happy with a lollipop (probably because the girl has had at least half a dozen in the last 24 hours), she wanted to trick-or-treat with brother who was not in the mood to wait for her, etc. We went to one house that had a puppy and I usually was fine parking the stroller and Roscoe at the sidewalk and walking up to the house with the kids, well Roscoe saw the puppy and took off, tipping the (empty) stroller in the process causing the people nearby to sprint over thinking there were kids inside. I appreciated their concern and quickly yelled, "there are no kids in it!" then went to smack Roscoe and hustle my kids out of there, one who was back to melting down. Mary agreed to sit on the front of the stroller and was fine for awhile until she fell off, cue more meltdowns at which point I called it a night and we headed home. I should have just drugged Roscoe and left him in the bathroom. Lesson learned.

Made it home, gave the kids baths, now Roscoe is passed out from exhaustion and I'm grateful we made it to enough houses my kids have decent stashes of candy for sift through. Though can we just agree that this nonsense has no business being passed out on Halloween:

When I'm raiding my kids' candy I don't want this crap!

Hope you all have had a happy (and slightly more enjoyable) Halloween!