Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Photos

Yeah, they're gorgeous. And full of it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best of the Holidays

It's been another whirlwind month, and I haven't had a second to sit back and update the blog in days. I hope all of you out there have had a very merry Christmas!

Despite the kids continuing to share sicknesses (Sadie's turn right now, Katie's was last week), we've managed to have a great time getting ready for the mack-daddy of all children's holidays. Here are my top highlights:

  • The look of wonder on Katie's face as the curtain went up for the opening scenes of the Nutcracker. This is the first year we've taken her, and she was drawn into the show from the first notes. She didn't sleep or complain once (which is pretty impressive for a 5-year old). She sat with a look of wonder mingled with pure joy as the scenes changed, dancers flowed across the stage and the orchestra played. Shame on me for not introducing her to live arts earlier. I've decided that we'll be hitting some classical concerts, dances and theater several times in '08.
  • Sadie and the "Christmas balls." She loved the glass balls on the Christmas "Flower" (she refused to call it a tree). She would carefully remove them and feed them to Carly Sparkles the Pitbull Pup, who daintily chewed and spewed glass shards throughout the living room on multiple occasions. At least twice I emptied her doggy bed chock full of glass. Not once did I see a cut on her mouth, nor in Sadie's bare feet. Truly a Christmas miracle.
  • Katie's Christmas tree. Katie got her own tree in her room this year - bright pink and "bling"ed out to the max. She rearranged the decorations often and took great pride in her additional decor (hand-painted items she made, garish garland draped over her windows, etc.).
  • Presents for the kids. We spent way too much this year. I admit it. But the good news is taht according to American media, we did our part for the economy. Katie got a (I know, I know, reliving my childhood wishes) Barbie Cadillac Escalade power wheels. She buckled Sadie in and tore up our yard all morning. It came with a built-in radio, and reverse features. She'd back it up to her play set and swing to the good songs that came on. Sadie got a Dora kitchen, complete with 44 bilingual phrases. Maybe she'll stay out of my cabinets now (haha). She is having a blast with all the noises, and taking things in and out and "feeding" us gourmet toddler meals.
  • A "real" kitchen. Yep - we now have working appliances once again! I can wash dishes in a dishwasher, heat things in the microwave, cook on the stove and (gasp) the water filter in the fridge actually dispenses water. While replacing the appliances, we had the brilliant idea of sanding and restaining all the cabinets, replacing their hardware, tearing up the hideous tile and placing new flooring. My kitchen is pretty now. Yay. And it works. Bigger yay.
  • Hark the Herald. Katie learned every word of it. I'm going to try to get it on video tomorrow and will post it. She sings it with such earnesty and sincerity. It's hilarious.
  • Dancing. Sadie learned to dance this past week, to Christmas music. Again, an item that must be uploaded on video. It's something between steppin' and an Irish jig, baby style. The kid has talent.
From the Thies household to yours, I hope you, too, had a merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

It's broken...

You can say that about every big ticket item we own almost. This quarter has resulted in record spending in our household, and NOT for Christmas gifting. The death toll includes:
- Over the range microwave
- Oven
- Dishwasher
- Refridgerator
- MacBook screen
- Central heater for office
- Jason's computer (HP)
- Retaining wall in front of our house

Just when I thought we were done with things giving out on us, the battery died on the truck two days ago. No biggie - my sister got it switched out and it ran again. For about 24 hours. Then as I was driving to one of Katie's friends houses yesterday, it died again. We jumped it, got back on the road and less than a half mile away, the lights started flashings, strange beeps followed, the steering went out (which is a BIG deal with an Expedition), then the brakes. Luckily we were on a dirt road and I managed not to lose control and got off to the side of the road. Diagnosis? One alternator. Sweet. My mechanic brother-in-law advised that this is the beginning of the end for the 10-year old truck I love.

I called a tow truck, mom came and rescued us from the side of the road and we got home safe and sound. The tow truck driver informed me that this was the beginning of the end of the truck. Thank you. So I've heard. I came inside, warmed some leftovers and sat down at our brand-new dining set to feed Sadie... and the chair leg split down the middle.

Sadie, of course, thought it was hilarious. "BowKin" "BowKin" she keeps telling me this morning, pointing at the chair laying on its side in its carnage. Then she laughs. Yeah, kid. HILARIOUS.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Enchanting Chicken Pox

Katie surprised us all over our long Thanksgiving holiday with chicken pox. Luckily, she'd had her first vaccination (you need two, we found out) and it was mild. But still, it was no fun for her. Will Sadie be next? I'm taking her in tomorrow for her vaccination (they were out last week and the week she went in for her annual shots), so hopefully we can get it taken care of before it gets too bad. So far, no spots.

To celebrate the drying up of the pox, Katie and I had a girls night out. We went to the craft store to shop for ornaments to adorn presents with (which Katie will be making), then went to see the latest Disney flick, "Enchanted." The critics gave it a B, so I wasn't expecting much. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, I knew most of the plot and could guess what would happen next, but hey, it's a kids movie. However, I didn't guess the ending, which was a fresh and crisp contrast to the fairy tales of yester years - some girl power to the max. I was thrilled. Only Pocahontas (which I hated) and Mulan (which I loved) have given girls the creds they deserve. This is one movie I'd be thrilled for Katie to watch over and over (which she likely will). More strong women need to be present in kids movies. Good for Disney. Thank you for making movie-going with kids a smidgen less painful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Carly Sparkles

This is what happens when you let a five year old name the new puppy: Carly Sparkles... the pitbull.

I knew that this puppy would likely be a challenge. I imagined that she would teeth more than the average pooch out there, and destroy more based on her jaw muscles alone. What I didn't realize is that pitbull puppies are much like sharks... with thousands of teeth that are constantly falling out and growing in. Daily she chews at least one toy, a sock, a hairband, sunglasses, moulding off the doorways, etc. One may say to me "well, you adopted a pitbull puppy, what did you expect?" And alas, I have no cute response to this. Darla did her fair share as a pup - ruining the carpet in our brand-new condo, eating pens and spewing ink daily - but Carly Sparkles takes it to a whole new level. Honestly, I often wonder if she's pissed off about her name.

The best part about Carly's name is that Carly means little and strong. Which Carly was (now forgoing little for more of the strong side of things). What I didn't know is where Katie came up with the name from. I found out at a preschool function recently, when I introduced myself as "Katie's Mom" to a woman standing beside me. "Oh. I'm Carly's mom," she said, and my heart skipped a beat. She quickly followed up with, "I heard you named your new puppy Carly, too." Lovely conversation starter. I wanted to wring Katie's neck. I blundered on about what a beautiful name it was, and that I had no idea where Katie had come up with the name. She looked less than impressed. I left with an awkward "nice to meet you" and haven't spoken with her since.

Back to Carly Sparkles. If anyone knows of a good trainer in Richmond, send me their way. I had thought I was the mac-momma with animals, but Carly's teaching me a few lessons.

Speaking of Macs (total stretch there, I know), my three month old MacBook Pro 15" notebook is TOAST. Done. Mac said I could replace the screen for $1200 through them. As if. They also said that the only way it could have cracked is through blunt trauma to the screen. Not true. Close it when its hot. That will do it. Others have reported this problem, though not often. I suspect that, as this new MacBook was just released this summer, that we will see lots of these stories in coming months.

The interesting thing is that I got back home, and using the half of my screen on the laptop which still works, did a quick google. Turns out there are lots of people who can fix it for less. was the one I chose - $495.

I have this to say about Mac. I've been a total, devoted disciple of your products for over a decade. This is the way you treat your customers? Blindly rob them for a repair that costs, AT MOST, 1/4 of your quote, after they sink thousands into one of your new products? That is not the way to gain new customer loyalty, or to retain long-time customers. I will not be buying a new Mac for many years to come. I may even stop sniggering at the Mac vs. PC commercials I've so loved. It's that upsetting.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The fun just won't stop

So... Sadie's sick this time around. Total sick time between Katie, Sadie and myself (without break) = 3 weeks and counting.

Also, my brand-new MacBook Pro that I got to replace the stolen iBook has a cracked screen. Cost of repair, $1200. Thing is, I did nothing to break it. It was running very hot, so I decided to close it, give it a break and take it upstairs. These MacBooks run hot, and it's a common thing. It's supposed to shut off if it gets too hot. Fifteen minutes later I opened it and voila' - large black spots connected by a spider web. Better yet, half the screen promptly turned white, then got lines going up and down it. Good news is half the screen works.

Also, it's running about 75% of the time since the bizarro screen "accident." This is a 3 month old computer that cost more that $2500. I am not a happy camper.

This is the 4th Mac I've owned, and I've never been disappointed until I got this one. This is by far the most top-of-the-line one I got, but from day one there have been little "glitches" I don't like - its Airport isn't as powerful as my iBook G4s was. It's frozen several times when I have multiple graphics programs running. Granted, they're super powerful programs, but this is a MacBook Pro... it's DESIGNED for this stuff and should do it in its sleep mode. I've looked around on line, and it seems like everyone's pretty happy with them, minus battery issues and power plug fraying. Except if the screen cracks. And it seems like a lot of the screens crack. It's not covered by warranty, they say, because it's blunt trauma from an accident... usually. 

So, I'm sitting at the only Mac store in town, which is full to the gills. Waiting for a "genius" to tell me my screen is cracked, which I already know. And ready to fight the "accidental" clause (which I'm sure is what they'll say caused this). Wish me a bit o luck, please. 

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bragging Rights

I'm long overdue on bragging on my kids... so here's the latest and greatest on the girls.

Sadie was a flower sprite for Halloween. She started walking at 12 mos 2 weeks, and has been on the run ever since. She's now 14 months, and has at least a dozen words in her vocabulary, including her newest: Buuhrrrrd (bird), Fower (flower), Dawa (Darla - our senior citizen canine), Tayteh (Katie), Ni-Nah (Kerinda)... and those are in the last week. Her vocabulary is almost doubling daily now.

She also has lots of great animal sounds and can pick out the animals (e.g. Where's the penguin?) for more than 75% of Katie's Schleich animals (if you don't know what they are, you don't have a kid under 10) and knows who moos and who baas and does a great tiger (RRRaawwwwhrrr!) that scares the puppy.

Katie was Barbie Island Princess for Halloween. Somehow, in the last year, she morphed from my fun-loving tomboy into a princess dressing, nail painting, love sick five year old. It's crazy how fast it goes. She thoroughly enjoyed Halloween this year, and is still working on the giant pumpkin full o candy.

We put her in a "normal" daycare this year instead of a Montessori, and I think it's had negative effects. Her bi-annual "evaluation" came back last week with things like "she knows all her colors" (what 5 year old doesn't?! She knew them at 18 mos!), she does well cutting shapes (again, she was doing that at 3, so what's new?!) and she's a "joy to have in the classroom." I shouldn't complain - the school is full of nice people. I just miss education. Guess I better get used to it since we have to do the public school routine.

We're working at home on reading and math, and she's great with addition and initiates math "games" on her own all the time now. She is reading 3-5 letter words, and loves to practice writing. I wish I'd put her in Kindergarten this year, but was worried about the potty issues, which still persist.

Playing on the beach. Don't be fooled. It is rare for the girls to be in the same 10' radius and not be fighting. This is a rare photo - kind of like a sighting of a UFO or BigFoot. And no, I didn't use photoshop to get this.

While I can't stand the bickering, it is good that Katie is finally free to be a sister, and not a caregiver. She no longer worries (too much) about Sadie's fragility and now fights back like any big sister would do when pestered to death by a strong-willed toddler.

Peek-a-boo! Sadie's running around the house now. For a few weeks she walked with her arms thrown up over her head. Just this week it stopped, and I already miss it. She's bending and picking up without falling, and loves to feed the new puppy everything... food, hair clips, playdoh, paper, Katie's favorite Schleich animals... the list goes on.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back from Haites

So, we're back. Katie ended up being sick the entire week, except the last two days at the beach. It was in the 80s the day we got to the beach (when Katie was still very sick), but dropped to the 60s that night and stayed there (when Katie got better). We defied nature and went out on the beach anyway... freezing our butts off and playing in the sand.

Those moments out there on the beach made the entire trip worth it. It was only a couple of hours total, but I thought to myself that these are the moments you want to record in your mind for replay again and again. Just me and my girls, hanging out. Sadie chasing the seagulls and trying to walk through the deep sand. Katie singing to herself as she made a castle. An egret landing beside us to watch, as the waves lapped quietly beside us. Despite the cool weather it was beautiful, and the beach was empty. I wish we could have stayed longer.

On the final day of the trip, I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart racing and a 102 temp. The virus struck again. Friday I took them out on the beach again for a few minutes anyway, then we drove to Tampa to stop at the aquarium. The Florida Aquarium is great - the girls had a blast checking out the octopus, watching jelly fish, petting sting rays and climbing through 'hermit crab shells' in the play area. I couldn't eat, could barely walk and was exhausted, but enjoyed it all the same. We left from there for a one hour trip to Orlando, where we went through security crap once again (why do they pick on moms traveling alone with small children?!) and finally boarded our flight with only moments to spare. This flight was empty, so we had an entire row to ourselves. It was nice, though Sadie refused once again to sleep until we were coming in for a landing.

I've been sick all week with the lovely virus, and just last night Sadie came down with a fever and cough, so I guess it's her turn. This thing lasts 5-7 days minimum, so I'm not looking forward to it.

Tomorrow's Jason's birthday! I think I'll send him to the VT game to get him away from the sick and cranky girls in his household.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More Tales of Woe during the TripFromHell

Katie develops croup. She coughs all night.

Katie seems better. Sadie's measles are residing. All seems to be getting better.

Katie spikes a fever of 103. I start the Tylenol regimine, after being scolded by her pediatrician long-distance for (gasp) using cough medicine the previous night. Heaven forbid you use cough medicine when your kid coughs. Why is it the FDA is so quick to OK get-slim-quick drugs and life-risking birth control, yet all of a sudden all children's cough medicine, some of which has been used in some form for over 100 years, is now deemed terrible?! Someone please explain.

The night progresses, with Katie and Sadie alternating coughing/screaming fits all night. A few hours later it's morning.

Katie is sick. Katie is very sick. She doesn't eat. She quits drinking around 7 pm. Her temp won't go below 101.

Sadie discovers that her molars are coming in. The measles are almost gone. Now it's just pain and crankiness.

Again, with the nightime routine. I don't even bother trying to sleep. I just sit in bed waiting for the next kid to cry. I do doze on a twin bed with Katie, awakening with a start to realize I've probably caught her bug since she's breathing in my face.

We head to the emergency room at the Pediatrician's recommendation. Katie gets IVs for a few hours, and is sent home. She can't keep down water/anything still. She pukes all day, and all evening. Finally, at night she sleeps. The fever drops to 101 again.

Now I'm really behind in work. I worked until 2 am since both girls slept, then got up at 4:45 (after Sadie's wake up call at 3 for a bottle) thanks to good ol' daylight savings time. Katie slept through the night, and her fever got down to 99 by the morning... finally light on the horizon. She still won't drink, still has not eaten, and was still throwing up this morning. She hasn't thrown up since 3 though, and has taken about an ounce of water, so there's hope. Poor thing.


Off to the beach for my meeting. The kids are going still, with the in-laws, as I have no choice. I don't want to be hours away from Katie when she's so sick, but hate to move her to a hotel. Wish us luck...

PS - Tally on Panera coffee thus far... 8 large cups.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Best idea EVER

I decided that since I needed to travel to Florida this week for business, I'd add on a few days and take the kids with me to see their grandparents (my in-laws). This has been the "best" idea ever.

Let me paint a mental image of my last two days for you...

WEDNESDAY - The day before departure.

Sadie breaks out in Measles pocks everywhere. Turns out she's one in 5000 kids that has a "moderately severe" reaction to the MMR vaccine. Sweet. That explains the 103 fever she's had off and on the past week. She doesn't go to sleep until 11 pm, and then sleeps fitfully, in 20-40 minute intervals.

Add to this that it is Halloween. Both children are hopped up on sugar and insanely wild.

Add to this, too, that I screwed up our flight reservations and realized on Monday that instead of leaving on Sat., we're leaving on Thurs. So work is a mess, and I have to do 3 days of work in 24 hours, before hopping on a plane to retirement hell where there is only one WiFi hotspot for miles (where I currently sit blogging... thanks Panera).

THURSDAY - Travel day.

I get up at 5:30, after about 2.5 to 3 hours of intermittent sleep to drag everyone out the door. Jason helps with the bags and kids, and we miraculously make it on time for our 8:00 flight.

Getting into the airport is fine. We have a skycap help. Getting through security was another ordeal entirely. Katie goes through fine, but then they decide I more or less need to strip the baby down, put the stroller through the conveyor belt (it doesn't fit and I've never had to do this before), take my LCD projector out and plug it in (seriously?! I've traveled all over with it and NEVER had to do that. They didn't even check the laptop!),... all AFTER Katie is on the other side. They won't let Katie come back to me. She's terrified and crying. I'm uttering words that should not be said in front of my 1-year old, hoping she won't pick up on them. (She tried to say one, but seems to have forgotten them today.) The security guard warns me about my "lack of cooperation."

We finally get on the plane, which is, of course, full. I hold the screaming Sadie for 2 hours. She falls asleep 10 minutes before landing. Then awakes screaming as we're to disembark. I got lots of nice looks from fellow travelers.

Orlando's airport is HUGE. I drag Katie and Sadie to the bathroom, we all get taken care of, but only with lots of juggling, hand holding and door propping so we can keep eye contact, as Katie is now terrified of airport security, who may "take" her from mommy again.

Katie decides she doesn't want to roll her little suitcase anymore. Nor does she want to walk. I'm half-dragging her, pushing a stroller and pulling the computer bag/Dora bag/diaper bag down the halls. I hear women clucking and saying how tough it must be to be traveling alone with small children. No, you don't say?! Would you like to grab a freakin' bag instead of walking behind me and making loud comments? And NO, I'm NOT a single mom. Just stupid. Out of my way, biddies.

We get the luggage and I make a half-mile long train of the five items of luggage, which I pull behind me to the car rental lot, as I drag Katie, push Sadie and pick up objects randomly thrown by Sadie along the way (shoes, jacket, socks, etc.). It's pouring. Of course.

Two hours later we're in retirement hell (Sebring Florida). All the way Katie asked if "we were there yet" every 5 minutes. Sadie finally slept.

Exhausted, I got the kids to bed at 8 and 9. Katie awoke at midnight (25 minutes after I hit the bed) with a fever of at least 102, croupy cough and sore throat. The girls then took turns waking up every 30 minutes until 6:15 this morning, when I gave up and let them out of bed.

Yes, this was DEFINITELY my best idea EVER!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When it rains...

it pours. Seriously. Talk about the theme of the week!

It's been pouring literal rain for two days now, greening our lawn, encouraging our puppy to poop only indoors. I'm thrilled to have the rain, even if it has been more than 4.5 inches in the last 24 hours.

Other things have been pouring into my life this week, too.

Last week phone calls began to come in for one of my clients, the International Microwave Power Institute (yes there is an association for everything) regarding a major national recall of a microwave product. It's devoured all of my working hours, and then some. I've found myself researching food safety and microwave science articles of the last 20 years to write a response for the public. There is nothing I could think of that would be more fun than this.

Just when I was feeling like I would absolutely loose what few granuals of brain cells I have left up there, and that my daily life stress levels were about to top the charts, good things started happening. For the first time in over a year.

1. I finally talked to the right person at UVA, and managed to get almost all of Sadie's medical bills wiped clean... in ONE day. This may not seem like a feat to most of you out there, but consider this. According to my records, I have spent 118 hours on the phone with UVA and Anthem this past year (I did not record early hours, so it's actually more, I'm sure). I called them almost weekly for 6 months straight. We have paid fines, penalties, listened to collections calls, fought, cried, begged, took it to an appeal, took it to the state, contacted a congressman... and all we needed was a different phone number and one woman's name. Don't get me wrong - I am thankful. I am ecstatic. I am still waiting to see that paid-off bill in writing though, before I can breathe.

This has consumed almost all of my waking hours lately. Our family's financial health was at stake. We were losing everything we'd worked so hard for, all because of a loophole in insurance regulation. I'd been pulling my hair out each month, agonizing how we'd make it. I went back to work full time. I cut staff hours to increase income for our family. It's been nuts.

Then, with a magic phone number, 10 minutes on a call and a very sincere apology from UVA, I found out it was all a misunderstanding. I am too tired to be angry that they started sending collections after us with a 1 million dollar bill the day after Sadie's surgery. I'm too worn out from it all to even be ticked that they threatened legal action. I'm just done. I feel like I could sleep a year. I may take a nice long nap to celebrate when and if that final bill with "paid in full" written on it gets here.

2. Out of the blue, I got a call from a recruiter in Texas, looking to fill a position in a hospice in Florida. At first I said no, that I was not interested, even though I sounded like a good fit. Then Jason and I got to talking about it. Why shouldn't we consider it? I'm working a bazillion hours a week, so who am I kidding in thinking that this lifestyle of trying to be full-time stay at home mom and full-time working mom wrapped into one is healthy for myself or my children? So, I'm taking a chance. Worst that happens, I get a no. Or maybe I hate it there, and I say no. Or maybe I love it. We'll see. It's a new thought for me, and it's kind of exciting.

3. Out of the blue, about two days after the call from the Texan recruiter, I get a note requesting a bid for a new client. Hmmmm. So I figured what the heck. I'm just going to throw it all up in the air - put myself out there and see what happens. Maybe nothing happens. Maybe I'm in the same spot I'm sitting in now a year from now. Or maybe life could change drastically in the next few months.

I think the big guy up there is sending major waves my way, telling me it's time to shake things up; to shrug off the anger, hurt and pain I've been internalizing and battling all year and to move on with life. Even if nothing comes of this, it's making me think about life in a different way. Of what I could be doing that I'm not now. And it's kind of exciting, I have to admit!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

So in love

Our new puppy arrived last night... all head and paws. She's clearly a German Shepherd/Pitbull mix, with possibly some Lab thrown in for good measure. She's so cute we can hardly stand it.

We still haven't settled on the right name yet - though I'm probably going to try to convince Jason to let Katie have her way and go with "Sparkles". Both of us hate the name, but Katie loves it, and has taken to calling her that already. What can you do.

As mentioned in a previous blog, the puppy was rescued from a dumpster, where she was placed in a airtight tote in 100+º weather to die. Three did die, though four survived - she is one of them.

When Katie saw her at the fair, apparently it was love at first sight. To be honest, I had my eyes on another pup, and didn't even notice this one. On our drive home that night, Katie talked about the puppy with the "curly tail" (I hadn't noticed her tail) and how much she loved her. The next day she told me that she and the puppy were meant to be together, because the puppy had come to her and told her when she met her at the fair. The next day she was in tears, because I had a short temper (possibly from hearing about the puppy nonstop) and told her that we didn't even know which one had a curly tail, and we weren't sure if we'd be able to get that one. Finally, we got the interview (from AARF, the rescue league that saved this little girl's life), and were asked which puppy we wanted. I told them the one with the curly tail. And now she's here!

Last night Katie told me that it was the happiest day of her life. She said, "Mommy, my puppy and I were meant to be together. I love her so much!" And today's quote took the cake. She was on the floor, cuddling with the puppy when she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said "Mommy, I'm so in love with my new puppy!"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mending Little Hearts

Two weekends ago, Katie, Sadie and I participated in our first "Poker Run" for Mended Little Hearts, a Richmond-based chapter of a national support organization for families of children with CHD. A poker run, we found out, is a charitable event common in the biking community. About two dozen bikers came out for the event, sporting Harleys and Hondas for a good cause.

The best part of the event was that one of the riders that day was a man named Dr. Peeler. It just so happens that Dr. Peeler is the surgeon who saved Sadie's life when he performed the aortic switch and VSD repairs on her heart. I can't tell you what it feels like to see the man who held your daughter's tiny heart in his hands and have a few non-hospital moments to chat. In the hospital he appeared to be cold and aloof, and, frankly, a real jerk. In our real-life encounter, however, he was candid and even funny, telling stories of how he swindled his wife and UVA into allowing him to escape for a weekend bike ride.

I had written him an email several weeks earlier, in my mass-thank-you efforts around Sadie's birthday. He commented on what it meant, and how little correspondence or news he receives on his patients. You can bet that I've added him to my holiday card list!

Check out Sadie's first attempt at pigtails in the pic. :)


The husband and I took off this weekend for a long-overdue road trip to Blacksburg for a weekend, leaving our kids in Kerinda's (my sister) able care. It was Jason's fraternity's 40th anniversary, and brothers from the class of 69 on up were all there to celebrate. We had a great time seeing a lot of friends we hadn't seen in ages, hanging out and making fun of freshmen chicks.

On the way into town on Friday night we enjoyed a beautiful sunset - something I'd seen a hundred times or more while living in the mountains, but not once since moving to Richmond. We both enjoyed seeing the almost flouresent colors of the maples just beginning to drop their leaves. As night fell and we drove into town, I gazed up at the ultra clear sky, and enjoyed picking out constellations I'd forgotten in the two years we'd been gone. I felt like Dorothy, revisiting Oz with it's colors and vibrancy. I kept thinking how everything looked so ALIVE, so crisp and clear. I could breathe better, I felt lighter, and I was able to clear my head and just take a moment to exhale.

On Saturday I took off by myself for the day to visit my old haunts in my favorite town. I took a quick drive through the mountains, visited campus and fed some ducks at the pond... visited the old neighborhood, stopped for the obligatory trip to the bookstore for more VT crap and wandered down Main with a cup of Mill Mountain steaming in my hand. I couldn't have asked for better weather or a better season to make my first return to the Burg in over 2 years. I came back with scraps of paper jotted with a million ideas for my clients, the office, a new business that I've been pondering for a few years, and generally making my daily life better.

I also came back with a renewed pride for my alma mater, and Blacksburg. The town has come together incredibly since the tragedy on April 16. The town has always been friendly, but seemed even more open and embracing than ever.

It was incredibly emotional to see the memorials and signs that has been placed throughout campus and the town in memory of the victims of that fatal day. The town of Blacksburg had placed flag poles for each victim lining Main Street, in the only open area downtown has - on a strip of grass that was donated by a church. It was beautiful to see the flags (each one representing the nationality of the slain individual) lit at night.

On the busy, bustling drillfield the students had chosen the most beautiful spot on campus to create a memorial, which was made permanent by the university several months later. A stone was placed with each victim's name, carved from the same "Hokie Stone" that is the very foundation of our campus. I was struck by the way in which students lowered their voices when passing, the variety of persons paying tribute at the memorial, the notes left by the stones for friends and loved ones, and a single rose, laying in the middle, next to the stone proclaiming "We are Hokies. We will Prevail." I took the time to go through it, reading each name, and the gravity of what the families and friends of these victims must have, and still do, experience really sunk in for the first time since that fatal day.

I left Blacksburg reluctantly today. While I was incredibly anxious to see the girls and get back to my daily life with them, I couldn't help but notice the haze, the dimmed colors and the diminishing natural beauty as we traveled Eastward. I'm happy to be home with our family, and ready to move onto the next adventure, but I think I may have left yet another piece of my heart back in the 'Burg.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Be careful at the fair...

For the first time in well over a decade, I headed out to the fair... this time with the family in tow. The Virginia State Fair is held only minutes from our house, so I figured it was worth checking out. We had a great time - Katie rode every ride that she could manage to convince the carnie's to let her on; Jason had funnel cake, which is one of his favorite things in the world; Sadie jammed to the loud music and lights on the midway, amusing passersby with her astounding dance skills.

We saw it all while we were there - the biggest pumpkin ever. Some fancy eggplant from NoVa. A giant bin of corn to play in. A winning kumquat. Prize winning bulls. World's smallest woman. More mullets than I even realized existed. Then we hit the Young McDonald's area. That is where we got into trouble.

Our state fair adventure ended with:
- A sleeping baby in a stroller. For the first time ever. She never sleeps in her stroller. Ever. Apparently she needs massive stimulation for 4-5 hours straight to do the trick.
- A light saber that is constantly left on, changing colors and blinding me.
- An empty wallet and heartburn due to bad fair food.
- The little girl in this photo

Yes - she's ours!! We'd been watching for puppies for a while. I made the mistake of looking online recently, and found that a litter of lab/pit mix puppies had been abandoned in a Richmond area dumpster 7 weeks ago, locked in a plastic tote in 105 degree weather. Three had died, four survived, and are now up for adoption. And they were at the state fair. We saw them there, and that's where our biggest splurge was made. We had to apply for adoption of one. HAD to.

This little gal will be joining our family early next week!! I'm not sure how Darla (our 10 year old hound/cocker mix) will take it, or if the cat will tolerate her, but we'll see. Wish us luck! And be careful if you're going to the Va Fair this weekend. Those puppy dog eyes will get you.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

On the move...

Yes, Sadie is officially walking at 12 months. To think they told me in the hospital at this time last year that she may never walk, or could lose some of her toes!

Like everything else Sadie does, she "walks" in her own way - a full-out run with her arms thrown high over her head. Since her initial few timid steps she's been tearing around the room as fast as she can - a few steps at a time, crashing, getting up and doing it again.

She has no fear whatsoever, and has already has several hard knocks today, but just laughs it off and says "uh oh!" She's also learned this week to climb stairs. Fast. And couches. And chairs. And boxes, and beds...

I foresee bruises and bangs in my very near future.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Preschool Party Survival Tips

Last weekend we celebrated Katie's 5th birthday with the ultimate little girl's party, complete with a pony. Yes, I'm a total sucker. Yes, I realize I'm trying to relive childhood. And yes, I am a glutton for punishment.

But, Katie had a blast, and the look on her face when she saw and rode the pony was priceless, so it was all worth it. I enjoyed watching her play with her friends, and seeing how much that circle continues to grow each year. I actually even relaxed and enjoyed some of the party myself.

It's been an incredibly tough year for Katie, and I wanted to do something extra special for this birthday. She loves a good party better than anyone I know, and it was fun watching her be spoiled rotten for a few hours. If anyone deserves it she does - she's had more responsibility, stress and emotions than most kids will have in their entire childhood wrapped up in the last 12 months. I'm glad to see that she is finally starting to move past it a little bit, and get back to just being a kid.

I credit the success of the party to a few tricks I've figured out after 5 years of trial and error with children's party. For those of you who have kids just entering the party age, let me pass on some of these nuggets of wisdom regarding children's parties.

  1. Don't even think of organizing a game. Half the kids are afraid of blindfolds. The other half are all too busy picking their noses, digging in sand or running in circles to pay attention to the instructions.
  2. Skip the piñata. Yes, it's so cute to see little ones whack the heck out of a paper maché pony, but really, it's a liability. I was only hit once this year (a record, I think), but it was a good blow to the head, and it still hurts when I brush my hair. No piñata next year. Period.
  3. Know the people you invite. I invited Katie's entire class (10 kids) because they have a rule at her preschool that if you want to invite one kid, you have to invite all, or none at all. It made for an awkward beginning and it was nearly impossible to break the ice with some of the party-goers, adults and children alike. On the plus side, I now know who to avoid at preschool get-togethers.
  4. Dollar store cowboy hats are not a good investment. They leave a ring of color on your kids' heads that do not come off. Ever.
  5. Have adult drinks. You will need them by the end of the first hour. Trust me. You may want to share them with parents who are spending the afternoon, as well. The parents relax and let the kids play while they visit, and the kids learn not to cling to mommy like cat hair on black pants. Read "The Three Martini Playdate" for inspiration in this area.
  6. Lock the children out of the house. Allow them in only for party breaks. This serves two purposes - one, it gives the parents a space where they can go for quick doses of sanity and refills of item #5 above. Two, it helps with the aftermath that comes after a tidal wave of children descend upon your home. A little, at least.
I think we can say that the party was a success. Katie had a blast and honestly, I did, too. After the initial hour or two's awkward moments, everyone mellowed out, relaxed and enjoyed a nice, muggy central Virgina afternoon.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cow attack

It was a gorgeous day in Richmond today, and I decided to give Jason the "day off" to watch football. I packed up the girls and headed out to the zoo (which is 45 minutes away and has 3 tolls each way)... to discover it was closed. We detoured and went to frolic in Carrytown at World of Myrth, grabbed an ice cream cone and then hit Maymont for some serious petting zoo action. Sadie is at the perfect age for this now - she mastered 3 new animal sounds while at the petting zoo today - moo, quack and baa. Yes, she's a genius.

We were about to wrap things up, when a friendly cow came over to the fence for a scratch behind the ears. I gave her some clover I scavenged, which she took with pleasure. Katie decided to do the same. That's when Clarabelle decided to scratch her head against the post, trapping Katies thumb along the way. Of course screaming, jumping and tears ensued, at full volume. Sadie felt left out, and began to scream as well. Passersby stopped to stare, wondering if the cow was to have the same fate as those poor bears last year (I'm still ticked about the bears).

Feeling like the neglectful mom I so detested last year (again a reference to the infamous bear incident), I carried Katie out (still screaming) while pushing the stroller with Sadie in it (also screaming) to our vehicle. Everyone stopped to stare. Several prissy moms gave me death looks. Perhaps they didn't see the cow attack and thought I had been beating my children. The thought did cross my mind half way up the hill, but no, the children were unscathed from my end of things.

We left the park, Sadie still screaming, Katie reduced to sobs. Fifteen minutes later, Sadie was still screaming. Katie was stopped sobbing long enough to begin yelling to Sadie "Shush - You have NO IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE TO GET SMUSHED BY A COW. You're just a baby." Which then reduced Katie to tears once again, realizing how terribly horrible it was to be a victim of such a gruesome incident.

We arrived home 30 minutes later. Sadie still screaming. Katie still teary.

Alas, no support group seems to exist for victims of cow attacks. I guess Katie's on her own for this one. Jason owes me. Big time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mug shots

It's been ages since I've added any photos, so since I'm on a roll this week with the blog, I thought I'd add a few!

Katie the Ballerina

Sadie showing her true colors. She hates her bikini. Obviously.

My sister, my friend.

Spaghetti is Sadie's favorite... and my least favorite because it guarantees I will be bathing, mopping, wiping walls and pulling spaghetti pieces out of her hair all night.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What I really meant to say...

So after the ranting and raving of my last few blogs, I'm taken aback that I didn't take the time to say what I truly have wanted to say... what I planned to post for the past year.

The past year has been an amazing one - with life, death, love and "war" all twisted into our daily routines. It's been tough for all of us, yet rewarding. All four of us have some personal battle wounds that we need to heal from, and we're finally pulling the pieces of "normal" daily life back together.

What I've learned this past year is how truly blessed I am for every moment I get to share with my children. Though I'm often pathetic at keeping my cool when they demand intense attention for hours on end, I can look into Sadie's eyes, see her scar or (heaven forbid) Katie's tears, and I'm immediately reminded how much worse things could be. I love my girls like there is no tomorrow.

I've also realized this past weekend that I've put my life on hold long enough. I've stopped "living" as I used to, and felt like I've been struggling with each day, just trying to get by and survive, until things could get better. It's funny, but the events of the past weekend were enough to finally jolt me out of the non-action trance I've been in and make me realize that it's time to stop tiptoeing around and start living life the way I want to and in which my family thrives. I've put a lot of time and effort into helping others (which isn't a bad thing usually), but at the expense of my family's time and my welfare. So it's time to change that a bit. No, I'm not going to go overboard and become a selfish, hoarding fool. But I am going to put my family and my needs first once again.

The other overwhelming thing I've realized is that, despite the isolation I felt this past year as Sadie recovered, I have an amazingly strong network of friends and family who have been there for me through it all. I was often tearing up this weekend as I recalled the things that different friends have done to make life easier for my family, me and especially for the girls. To see such a large group of them come together to sing "happy birthday" to our little girl was a memory I'll treasure the rest of my life.

I've finally begun to start the thank you notes I never could write last year. I wrote to her surgeon, whose expertise saved her life. I wrote to the ambulance driver, who held my hand and teared up with me when I told him to take good care of her on that first scary night... then promised she'd get there safe and sound. I left a note for the nurse at the hospital who held me up in the bathroom that night as I sobbed after Sadie was taken from me, as I the enormity of the situation finally hit me. But I haven't been able to really express my thanks to my friends - yes, I sent thank you notes, but they just don't do it. This weekend's "bash" was when I planned to talk to many and express just how much their calls, prayers, well-wishes, food, hugs and support have meant to me this year. I could not have made it through without them.

And to you out there, who still reads my blogs despite their dark air lately, thank you for your thoughts and support too. I love getting notes from the "lurkers" out there who have followed our family's story; or hearing from a friend that they're keeping tabs on us through the blog from thousands of miles away. It's great.

What I really wanted to say is THANKS!!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

MAJOR drama and ANGRY blog. Reader beware.

I win the SUCKER OF THE YEAR award.

OK, so it was supposed to be a fabulous weekend - a real celebration. Sadie turned 1, and we had a party to celebrate with our friends and family who supported us through this past year. It was something I'd looked forward to for months. But this weekend has been extremely stresful.

I had major issues with some people at our party (described below), but the most scary thing all weekend was a close call I had with Sadie tonight - she stopped breathing. No kidding. She started screaming and 2 hours later, was really worked up. I took her for a walk, and she started to do this weird intake, and her breathing got slower. I ran back home with the non-jogging stroller (fun) and threw her in the car to take her to the emergency room, yelling in at Jason that I was taking her to the emergency room. I hadn't even gotten to our first light, when I heard her breaths stop for an extended time. I panicked, prayed like I've never done in my life and floored it, doing 60 on a 25 mph road to the nearest facility - a Patient First. I got her out of the car and she was blue and her eyes were rolled back. I ran into patient first, accidentally banging her carrier on the way in, and she came to. She pinked right up, and by the time I got her into the exam room, was coherent, though sweating profusely and still breathing oddly. They watched her a few minutes as I took her out of the carrier, she gave a great big cough, and seemed to start breathing fine. They treated me like I was insane, even when I told them that she'd had a heart defect, and it could be serious. Finally, after only a few minutes, she was back to her normal self - blowing kisses at the doctor, smiling at everyone and trying to get down to crawl.

They all thought I was nuts. I have this major bruise on my arm from a blood test last week, and Sadie - while we were there, mind you - developed two bruises on her head. The doctor asked me if "everything was OK at home" (no, I'm not abused nor is Sadie), then sent me on my merry way; admonishing me all the while that they are not an emergency room, just a 24 hour clinic. I told him I knew that, but just wanted to get her on CPR or intubated if needed and that they were the closest place (which my cardiologist had told me in our early scary days of having Sadie home). So, I left with my tail between my legs, feeling like the fool of the year after the weekend I've had. Sadie's perfectly fine now. I think maybe she swallowed something perhaps.

Which brings me to my angry venting section of tonight's blog. While it was wonderful to have everyone over, and my eyes were brimming as I looked around the room at all who were singing happy birthday to my little miracle baby, I leave this weekend behind feeling vastly disappointed. I'm also furious, exhausted and worn out. So I'm venting. Which is, frankly, why I started blogging in the first place. Venting and spreading news. So, now that the dramatic news of tonight has been told, there's a major vent session coming up. Here goes:

I frankly don't care if this family finds out I'm blogging about them, as they are NOT welcome in my home again. They were casual friends at best, and have the most horrid parenting and child-rearing skills I have seen - thus they have bad kids. Because they overheard me talking about our upcoming party at another friends' party recently, I felt obligated to invite them (Sucker award #1). Their children were completely unruly this weekend - they spread sand throughout my house, left towels wadded up in my bathrooms, turned on the floorboard heater in Katies' room full blast and almost burnt the house down, tore apart her room (2 times), stayed the night due to the story I'll tell below, woke at 5 am this morning SCREAMING (for fun) and waking everyone in the house. I had gone to bed at 4 after cleaning behind everyone, and sleeping on the floor of Sadie's room with baby blankets wadded under my head as a pillow.

The parents were no better. I got bamboozled into leaving the party I'd been waiting all year (Sucker award #2 - I thought the husband had been drinking and thus could not drive - turns out he hadn't been and just wanted to stay). I had barely had more than a few bites to eat all day of the food I'd been craving for months, when I hurried out the door to the hospital with the family's matriarch. We ended up in the very room I gave birth to Sadie in (which holds scary, sad memories for me) for hours, while the husband stayed to hang out with MY friends and let his children tear apart our house. Turns out it was a false alarm. I'm thankful she's fine and the baby is OK, but am still too angry to really acknowledge it much. I called the husband after been at the hospital several hours and told him to come over to get his wife, and that I was going back to my house. It took 2 phone calls before he agreed to go to the hospital.

The couple came back to my house "too tired to drive," which I could totally understand after that drama, so being the polite hostess I let them crash in our bed, leaving us with no place to sleep as we had a full house. Her husband then proceeded to tell all my guests all night to "hush" so she could sleep (HELLLOOOO?? MY house?!), then went to the room and locked the door - after I told him I needed to get pillows and a blanket out for myself. I knocked on the door to retrieve them, and he told me to go away. I told him who it was, and he said he didn't care, to go away. NIIIIICCCEEEE. This morning, when their kid had been screaming/talking loudly for over half an hour at an ungodly time (still very dark - about 30 minutes later I checked the clock and it was 5:30 am) and after 3 warnings, I told their child to quiet down or I'd put him in time out. The kid told me I couldn't do that. I told him that it was my rules and my house and I darn well could and would, giving him my best "scary mommy eyes" and he finally quieted down. For five minutes. The entire family snuck out shortly after without so much as a goodbye or thank you.

I mean really, come on. How can people be so rude? Never, in a MILLION years, would I let Katie or Sadie run wild, tearing apart someone's house and not admonish them, help clean up or at least apologize. Never, if my spouse were in perceived danger and on their way to the emergency room, would I stay behind to visit. Never would I sleep in a hosts' bed and leave without at least scribbling a note of thanks. Never would I LOCK my hosts out of their room when they needed something. And by God, I've only spanked Katie a few times EVER, but those kids butts would be so red you could see them from a moon if they disrespected any adult or household the way those kids did. Did they even stop for a moment to think that I, as the hostess of the party for my 1 year old that barely survived her first year, would like to rejoin the celebration for my child, instead of sitting at the hospital staring at the clock? Nooo. But at least the husband had a good time visiting his "friends." Jerk.

So, I spent most the party getting everyone and their kids settled, barely visiting, thinking I'd have the afternoon to relax and visit, only to deal with their drama all night. Good gosh, I can't tell you how much I despise this family at the moment. They are hereby banned forever from the Thies threshold. Today's drama of Sadie's episode has me darn well close to nervous breakdown status.

The good news is that Sadie slept through the majority of her party, so at least I didn't miss too much of her celebration - I just missed the socialization with our friends. The better news is that she's safe and sound in bed now, sleeping like (haha) a babe.

Tomorrow is Katie's first day at a new preschool as well as some medical tests for me. Let's see what kind of new drama we can stir up here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Vacation is over... finally!

So, we’re back from our first family vacation with both girls. I discovered one important thing on this trip. Family vacations are no longer vacations when small children from the extended family are all brought together under one roof.

Katie had a blast with her 3 closest cousins (in age) – Brittany (8), Nick (5) and Meagan (4). They played on the beach about 6 hours a day, coming in hungry and obnoxiously exhausted each afternoon. Sadie was the youngest by a long shot, so spent most of her days having mommy lotion her up, to take her to the beach, only to have mommy bring her back in 30 minutes later for a change/food/sand removal or nap. This routine was repeated multiple times a day. Needless to say, I didn’t get a tan. Heck, I didn’t get more than 15 minutes of peace all week.

Sadie did enjoy some things on the beach. She loved sitting on the edge of the water, letting waves lap over her legs. She enjoyed covering her legs in sand and giving herself an exfoliating massage. And she loved to eat sand. By the handfuls. We’ve had some interesting diapers, needless to say.

Man, I could really use a vacation.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sadie's ONE Today!!!

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since that frightening ride to the hospital. I vividly remember holding my legs together as tight as I could just praying the baby would not arrive in the front seat of the Expedition.

On that life-changing day we still had not decided upon a name for our soon-to-arrive daughter. As the contractions grew stronger that morning, I got more frantic about choosing a name. It turns out that Sadie and her great-grandmother chose her name in the end, in a way... when Sadie’s heart defect was announced, we knew that we had to name her after Nana, whose strength and fiestiness got her through 96 years. Not surprisingly, I find myself missing Nana a ton today, wishing she were here with us to celebrate, and to hold her namesake. There are so many days I look over at Sadie and see her getting into mischief, with a twinkle in her eyes that unmistakably is a gift from Nana.

Mischief, by the way, is Sadie’s specialty. Jason and I have taken to calling her “Trouble,” as she seems to find it wherever she turns. She’s into the cabinets, taking safety plugs out of the electrical sockets, pulling down floor lamps, biting wires, pulling up on the dog, pulling the cat's hair, eating any small objects she can sneak into her mouth (dog food being a favorite), raiding her sister’s bedroom, exploring the bathroom, pulling Katie's hair, crawling under chairs and tables and bumping her head and causing general mayhem wherever she goes. She makes me think of those old Looney Toons cartoons with the Tazmanian Devel, who levels everything he goes by. I forgot how much fun it is to have a 1 year old. I don’t remember Katie being quite so into everything. Or so tempermental. But hey, I can’t complain!

A year after Sadie’s whirlwind arrival, I’m amazed at the little girl I see today. So strong, healthy and normal. As such, today is a HUGE day to celebrate. In fact, in some ways it is a new chapter for our entire family.

On a personal level, I have worked hard not to think about or focus on what happened those first days of Sadie’s life, but last night I allowed myself to read my blog from back then, peruse the pictures and be reminded just how far our little girl has come. It has been hard for me to even think about it… I find myself compartmentalizing it all and pushing it back into the “history” section of the brain, dusted off only to remember the overall outcome. Perhaps its best to keep it that way, but for me, it feels like I’m only now coming to a point where I can allow myself to process the feelings and emotions I’ve worked so hard to repress this past year, or even to allow myself to admit how very close we came to losing our little spitfire, and how extraordinarily lucky we are to have her here with us today – healthy and normal. I’m finally starting to come to terms with it all, I guess.

So today, Sadie my dear, since it's your big day, you can tear through the cabinets, smear cake on the wall behind the high chair, feed the dog and lick her hands afterwards, scream back and forth with her sister and bite me… and I’ll smile. Tomorrow you’ll be in trouble again, but today we’re all going to bask in your amazing recovery, your health and our happiness in having you in our family.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What's happening?

The last two weeks have been absolutely nuts. Yes, I'm still alive. All the family is well. Here's what's been up since my last post:

- Katie relapsed on the potty stuff. Again. She's finally started to tan a bit from the sun, and has gotten a few adorable little freckles around her nose. Too cute.
- Sadie started crawling, perfected pulling up and cruising, learned to finally say Dada, finished cutting her second tooth, weaned herself from breastfeeding, learned to roll from laying down to sitting up and grew a ton. I think she was getting even with me for going away for a whole week. ("Haha Mama - you'll miss out on all the fun firsts!!")

While in Vancouver:
- As mentioned in the previous post, my laptop was stolen. I'm heartbroken, still. It was a devestating blow - I had to cancel all our bank cards, put holds on my accounts, my clients accounts, etc., spend countless hours changing all my passwords and lost all my contact lists. Lesson learned: ALWAYS back up everything. Get Lojack for your laptop. Create super secret security measures to log onto your laptop. The worst part is that I lost 6 months of the girls photos, that I hadn't printed or saved elsewhere. It sucks.
- Accidentally ended up on Main and Hastings. Read "skid row of Vancouver". They even have a witty saying - "Hasting and Main, Wasting and Pain." People growled as we walked by, my employee saw a guy shoot heroin in front of her, we stumbled into a pawn shop that had piles of stolen goods (nope, didn't see the laptop), and we thought we would die. Only Stephen King could come up with such horror. Good times.
- Went to Victoria on a sea plane, which was fun. Took a horse and carriage ride along the coastline with an incredible view of the Cascade Mountains.
- Visited Whistler for the first time, and found an awesome park along the way, where the mountains, sky and ocean all seemed to meet. It was breathtaking.
-- Went to a fireworks show with an Israeli, Australian and Romanian. The Israeli was totally unimpressed by the fireworks. I didn't find this surprising, since I've been on the phone with him in the past when air raid sirens were screaming in the background.
-- Took lots of pictures of crazy people, which I hope to start a post card company with. I captured big hairy guy with crazy eyes, mohawk/mullet man, insane prophet woman and other classics. Vancouver had no shortfalling of crazies. They seem to breed there. Perhaps all crazies come from Vancouver, and then are dispersed throughout the world. The post card company will be a sure winner. Who doesn't want to buy a postcard with a closeup photo of big-hairy-guy-with-crazy-eyes and "Wish you were in (City of your choice)" printed on the bottom?!
-- To add to the crazies, we had lunch where a certifiably crazy woman at a table across from us first staring at one of my employees, and then mocking every move I made. Was wierd at first, then just plain spooky when she drank a pretend drink and started twirling her pretend sunglasses while not once blinking or taking her eyes off of me. Freak.

Since getting back, I've been basically down for the count. I always get a bit blue when I leave the North West, as it feels like home to me. It didn't help to land in 98º heat with insane humidity at midnight, either. That being said, I'm thrilled to be back with my kids, and have NEVER missed them so much. I think this was the longest I've ever been away from them, and it was too long.

Next up on my roster of adventure - vacationing with the in-laws, possible trip to Romania, Sadie's first bday, finding ponies for Katie's 5th birthday and Scotland fun.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bad day, eh?

Yes. Terrible. I'm in Canada, 2000 miles from home, surrounded by microwave scientists. I miss my kids. Some a'hole stole my laptop, complete with all the pictures of my kids for the last 6 or so months that I hadn't saved elsewhere. I spent the night calling the Vancouver cops and reviewing survellience vido tapes. I lost my presentation for tomorrow in it all. Katie was bawling on the phone when I talked to her today, saying how much she missed me. I'm scared of losing my identity in all of this. My payroll was backed up on the computer, though encrypted, and I"m scared for my employees, too. I'm tired, I'm pissed and I want to go home. But I've got 5 more days.

For those that don't know this, I have a VERY small business. 3 people to be exact. Last week a desktop died (motherboard fried), and a laptop was dropped. Work was crazy (as it always is before a meeting), but this past week has been especially crazy. I've worked a billion hours for clients who don't care how many hours we put in, and I was ready to throw the towel in before I even got here. Now this. Not only did I lose some work (though most was backed up), but I lost my "memories" through photos of the last six months. It makes me sick to think of it.

I won't be accessing email a few days while I straighten this mess out. Please send positive energy my way to get through the week. It's strange. Of all the things I've been through in recent months, the last few weeks have seemed to catch up with me. Other moms of CHD kids have said this happens... it takes a year to digest it all. For me, the "post traumatic" stuff is hitting, but even more so, the "catching up" stuff is hitting harder. Read "Kim=Basketcase".

If the guy that stole my computer accesses this, I just want to say... we have you on tape (your face, your white shirt, dark t-shirt, pants and shoes... we saw you from every angle and know who you are), and now we have your IP address. You were recognized, and good luck with the whole karma thing. Jerk.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Remembering Maddie

I just found out this morning that Madison Rife passed away on July 18 at 10 months and 15 days old. Those of you who have followed her story will know that Maddie was born the day before Sadie, and that her family and ours became friends at UVA.

Maddie was an incredibly strong and beautiful baby - I've never seen another like her. She would smile in the midst of unimaginable pain, laugh in the face of fear. She was more of a person as a baby than I could ever hope to be in my entire life.

My thoughts and prayers are with her parents (Jeff and Kathy), and I hope you will send yours their way too. I know they need all the support they can get.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

AAAAAAaaarggh (stress).

To all who have asked why I haven't blogged lately, here's a little taste of my last 3 weeks:
- worked an average of 10 hours per day
- had only 5-6 hours of child care help, maybe 3-4 days a week (a couple of times I had 8 hours). You do the math with how that works with the number of hours I work. Basically means I work all night, and get 4-5 hours sleep - MAX. Most nights much less.
- I'm behind in all of my work, so much so that there's no end in sight for at least 3 weeks... IF I continue this pace!
- Vancouver convention (that I planned and run) is about a week away. Yikes!

Yeah, so that's why I'm not blogging as much as I'd like. The girls are great - Katie's back in the second session of ballet, and Sadie's finally decided to crawl a bit. Jason's trying to stay out of the line of fire, as I'm not a pleasant person most days. Sorry, Jas.

Insurance battles have begun again, and I'm pretty discouraged by what the final verdict is looking like - we lose. At least it's not the initially insurmountable sum from the early days they said we'd have to pay. All the same, I'm still battling them and hoping something will give on their end.

All round, life here is blah and work. Thankfully the girls break up the monotony with their funny antics, giggles and snuggles, otherwise I'd go insane!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Update on the kids

Yeah, so time to brag. I don't have time to download photos, but will in the next week or so, when I resurface from the paper piled atop my desk.

Sadie turned 10 months on July 4 - also the day she cut her first tooth! Two days later she had her "9 month" check up and was deemed to be healthy and so adorable that it almost hurts to loook at her. Ok, well, healthy. She's 18 lbs 7 ozs, which puts her in the 50th percentile for weight and 28.75 inches long, which puts her in the 75th for length. No surprise there, since she's in 12 month clothes that fall off her skinny butt, but are the right length.

The doctors are all impressed with how well she's caught up after all of the drama of her first few months. Personally, I'm amazed. As few as 3-4 months ago she was this screaming bundle of, well, screams that could not be taken anywhere. Now she's laughing up a storm, entertaining everyone and working on adding a few words to her budding vocabulary. She's a total clown, and is constantly trying to find ways to make us laugh. Tonight at dinner she was throwing food on the floor and saying "uh oh". I told her "no," so she started picking up a piece slowly, while looking me in the eye and smiling. Yeah, funny game. Sure enough, on the floor it went as peals of laughter errupted from my little gremlin. The teenage years are going to be AWESOME. I can tell already.

Sadie has never learned to crawl, as she prefers to do the "finger grab" and walk. Our backs ache at the end of the night, as she insists that this shall be her mode of transportation until she can figure out this whole balance thing. Guess it's time to put the plugs in all the sockets, since she has a tendency to try to stuff objects in small crevices.

She's got quite a few words down in the last month, including "mama," "uh oh," "bug," "baby," "hi," "bye bye" and "ama" (for grandma). Today we were playing with animals and she was thrilled with herself for "moo"ing. Fun times.

Katie is doing well, though apparently mommy is not a lot of fun in the summer. Every day she tells me that she wishes she had a kid to play with or she could go to school. I can't keep up with the flow of conversation, and often find myself zoning out after 20 minutes without a breath from the child. But, we will perservere and survive. She's got at least one play date a week, plus she's still doing ballet and Spanish, so she should be ok. We're working on reading and writing, and she's doing fairly well, though doesn't seem to enjoy it for more than 15 minutes at a time. She wants to read, but gets frustrated with how long it takes to sound out words.

The big news with Katie is that we finally figured out the potty solution. (You have no idea what this means to me). Apparantly, a Fiber One bar and stool softer pill a day in place of the laxatives was all we needed. I haven't told the doctors and don't plan to, as I know this would be frowned upon (they want her on laxatives for at least another year!). I figured we give it a try, and within a week she was doing better.

Katie's growing like a weed this summer, and I can't keep her in clothes or shoes it seems. I bought shoes in late June that she can't force her foot into now, and her 5s are history. What is it with summer and kids growing? It must be the sun, I guess. She's been a great helper with Sadie, and spends lots of time "teaching" her words, playing silly games and such. I can't say enough good things about her - she really is a joy and so much fun. Yes, there are trying moments (daily), but I love her kind and giving spirit and quick sense of humor. No matter what is happening around me, with one hug she can bring me back down to what really matters most.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Night of the living dead (fish)

After the Swimmy Hokie episode, Jason took Katie to get a new fish. They came back with three mollies. One disappeared shortly upon return home (about 2 months ago), one died, and we've managed to keep the third alive. Kerinda (my sister) brought about a million baby snails to add in with Gary the Snail (who is now the size of a Mack truck), and nothing else exciting has happened. Until this morning. I fed them, when this strange looking corpse came to the top. A greyish-white, very-dead-looking fish. Yet he ate. He was... ALIVE. Then he floated back to the bottom. He's still in there, still "breathing". Let me remind you, we have a 5 gallon bowl. There's no where to hide.

Amanda (an avid fan of the living dead), you may be right - the zombie invasion is imminent. It's apparantly begun in my daughter's room.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Travel rant

This past weekend we headed to Chicago for yet another wedding. At 8:00 am we arrived at National, ready to catch our 10:15 flight. At 11:40 PM (Eastern) we hit Chicago's runway. Our day featured a delayed flight, missed connection, a detour from National to Dulles to find another flight, super-secret security fun complete with an ion scan and "full" pat down, another delayed flight and finally, to top it all off, a nice hour-long sit on a runway. So fun. We missed rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, and ended up wandering through greater Naperville, IL searching for a dive that would serve food at 11:30 p.m. (central - 12:30 eastern).

The tally for the weekend?
27 hours travel
28 hours in Illinois (16 spent sleeping = 12 waking hours).

It's no wonder that our airline system goes belly up every few years. It's plagued with ineffencies, poor management and it's a logistical nightmare. During my 27 hours of standing in line, I figured out the solution. One single company could replace this entire f'd up system. They'd start completely from scratch and own all their own airports, planes and staff. Here's a rough outline of how it would work:

  • New airports. They would have one and only one carrier, making them small, private, with 64 major city departures and 32 local flights daily between 6 am and 10 pm. That's 6 flights an hour departing and 6 flights arriving - piece of cake. The airports would remain small and intimate. As more travelers flux into the system, new airports would be added around the city in strategic locations (North, South; West, East).
  • Ambience. Keeping with the massive current trend of customization, each airport would have a similar "feel" with a flair for the location (think Starbucks). They'd feature comfy seating in the airport; free WiFi while you wait; upper tier vendors; the smells of baked goods and coffee as you enter. No more toilet-bowl-cleaner smelling waiting areas.
  • Consistent rates. No sitting online waiting to pounce on a low rate. The rates would be the same from month to month, with quarterly adjustments as needed. The "Saturn" model if you will (no hassle, no haggle).
  • In-flight food. This one is simple, folks. Hit up the food and beverage companies for snack sizes of their latest, hottest items. They'd get free promo on the plane (Today's snack courtesy of Kraft. Touch the screen for nutrition info...) and all they'd have to do is provide product. For longer flights, feature frozen entrees in the same manner - Wolfgang Puck's new entrees come to mind. Fed passengers = happier passengers = happier employees. Easy equation.
  • Corporate discounts. Entice the early adopters by negotiating large corporate contracts. It will ensure the start-up costs are recouped quicker.
  • Top-of the line planes with comfortable seating, interactive screens on the back of each seat, the latest safety options, etc. So we lose 4 seats on the plane by having seats that recline more than 5 degrees. We'll make up the difference by having full flights.
  • Courteous flight attendants. Much like you would not expect to find a McDonalds employee waiting tables at Ruth Chris, no United attendants would be a part of this air service (yes, still bitter).
Now, all I need is a few billion to get this baby off the ground. Anyone have Trump's or Gate's home number?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


So, we made yet another road trip sans kids. This time we both left them, for the first time, to go to a wedding in Charlotte. The wedding was great (Congrats Nap and Amelia!), but we were anxious to get home after it all. In fact, Jason was so anxious, that he was pulled for doing 86 in a 65 zone just outside of Charlotte. Sweet. I don't know why he can't figure out cruise control. Luckily, the cop was nice and dropped it to 74 and sent us our merry way with only a fine-yielding sort of ticket.

The rest of the way was pretty tame, until this moron came flying by our car, weaving in and out of traffic. I was just telling Jason that it was (I'll use nice words here) "morons" like him that get people killed when, surprise of all surprises, he lost control, went all over the lanes and ended up flipping 3 times on the side of the road. In the interest of sensitive readers, Oh Poo. We pulled over, and I ran out of the car, yelling at Jason to call 911. I stopped cold when I saw the wreckage and heard the sounds. I did NOT want to be a part of what was happening. Luckily, quite a few others stopped too, and people dove into action, trying to see if anyone was alive, beating out windows, bandaging those getting cut on glass. We did what we could, Jason made the report to 911, I helped the guy who bashed out all the glass to get some bandages so he wasn't bleading, etc... until the driver got out, obviously intoxicated, and started trying to pull people out of the wreckage. When we told him not to (neck injuries and such), he started getting crazy.

Another woman came up and started screaming about "her baby" and it just started to spiral out of control. As there was now a small army of people gathered, Jason and I figured we were only in the way (by then a nurse and off-duty paramedic were there), that the drama was going to lead to trouble and that we didn't want to be there for it, so we went on. We were so in shock, it didn't even dawn on us until much further down the road (after hitting a squirrel - darn rodents) that we should have left a statement.

I don't know why, but I seem to come upon these horrific accidents about once a year or so. I've seen a woman with a stop sign through her head who (we think) had a seizure while driving, a drunk woman in a ditch upside down, two elderly couples in a minivan that catapulted of 81... plus many minor accidents. Are they just way more prevelant these days, or am I just "lucky"?

I usually do much better in these types of situations. I stay calm, help out, leave a report, whatever. But this time around, I was freaking out internally. I think it's because I knew there were kids in there, and could see that I couldn't help and that it was bad. One girls eyes are still haunting me as I lay down to bed at night - I'm so anxious to know if she made it out ok. I've been reading the accident reports, but have seen no mention of this one. I hope that everyone in that vehicle is OK. I also kind of hope that someone beat the crap out of the guy that was driving before the cops got there. But that's a commentary I won't get into.

Next weekend is air travel to Chicago. Let's hope it is MUCH less eventful.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reality Check

I have managed to convince myself these days that Sadie is a normal baby. After all, she's doing great, finally putting on weight, acting "normal"... I even find myself forgetting at times the hell we went through those first few months. Then I get a reality check.

Today was Sadie's cardiology appointment. Everything was perfect - her heart is functioning as expected, the valves are great, the pulmonary artery isn't stretched to far, the coronary arteries aren't kinked. She's 18 lbs 3 ozs and 27.75 inches now, so right on target. So why am I feeling so blue? He said almost good things today, though he did say that he was surprised that she was so alert - he had expected a bit of a zombie after all of the problems we had with drug addiction/withdrawal.

I guess it just all kind of hits when you go back to the cardiologists office. A whirlwind of memories comes flooding back. Until faced with the man who gave me the news that scary first night of Sadie's life, I can pretend it's a bad dream. Dr. Albrecht (her cardiologist) is wonderful - I think the world of him, and can never thank him enough for saving her life.

I guess my emotions really hit when our conversation about what to expect from this point out. He only wants to see her annually this year. Any time we want to sign her up for a new sport/activity, we should call, order a stress test and EKG and clear it first. Although they're lifting the recommendation for most "heart" kids to get antibiotics before surgical and dental procedures, he still wants her to do it, given her history. But the thing that got me was when we were chatting after the visit. He was telling me about his best friend's son, who had TGA as well. He was one of the first to undergo the "switch" operation Sadie had, and is 21 and active (a lacrosse player in college) today. Albrecht was telling me that, hopefully, Sadie will be able to be just as active, and "maybe even live long enough and be well enough to have children..." but that he couldn't tell me more than that. They don't know how long this surgery will "keep" or what is in store. For all we know, at 30 the stress on the pulmonary vein may be too much. Many kids have had complications, and the numbers just aren't in yet to know what odds are.

Not that I'm trying to be pessimistic - he was telling me this to try to encourage me. He also said that for all we know, she may live longer than any of us, and be more healthy. It should have been a comfort, but instead, it scared the heck out of me. I've been able to hold on this long by just thinking about today, the next year or two, etc. I haven't really thought about her future too much, or if there would be long-term complications. It just reminded me that although we've moved on, she's doing well and we're back to the "norm," she will never be truly "normal."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sweet Escape

Not only is the title of Katie's favorite song these days (unfortunately), it's what I did last weekend and am considering doing in two weeks. Last weekend I was in Asheville for a weekend of ghost-hunting, wine-tasting, mansion-viewing and a dash of work. It was so much fun - I'd forgotten what it was like to be an adult without children clamoring for my attention every moment of every day. Not that I don't like it - I love my kids more than life itself. But everyone needs a breather.

So then this past week I got an invitation to go to Scotland for work - all expenses paid for 4 days, to tour Aberdeen. Includes castle visits, 5-star restaurants, golf, 5-star accommodations... and I can't decide if I want to do it. I have to make the decision tonight. While I enjoyed last weekend, it was only 2.5 days. This is 5. It also wasn't an ocean away. But, then again, how often does one come upon the chance to go to Scotland for free? On a fun trip? I'd be going on my own, which makes it even more of a draw - I could really roll up my sleeves and get some work done. Try to relearn how to sleep through the night (couldn't do it in Asheville). Listen to some great accents. Aaaah... I guess I'll decide tomorrow. It's bad timing, as it is the week after Jas and I go out of town for a wedding, and two weeks prior to the next wedding we are out of town for as well. Enough about me and my wanderlust.

Sadie's now 9 months. Still not crawling, still no teeth, but doing tons of cute things. If you ask her if she's sick, she'll cough. Ask her if she likes sweet potatoes and she'll nod her head and go "ya-ya-ya". Calls my breasts "baba" when she's hungry. Oh, and she says "bug". Everything is a 'bug'.

Katie's finishing up her school year, and it will be her last year at her current preschool. We're holding her back one more year before Kindergarten (she's right at that cutoff), so we're debating what to do next year with preschool vs. home learning. She's starting to come along with her letters and reading - she's got a good handle on most 3-4 letter words when it comes to sounding them out. She spends hours on the potty practicing her penmanship (don't ask).

In other non-important news, Darla (our dog) got attacked by a neighbor dog this week while we were out for a walk. She's ok (sore and tired, but seems to be fine), but it scared the living heck out of me, Katie and Sadie. All I could think to do was grab the dog and hope for dear life I could a) keep him from the kids, b) get her off Darla and c) not get eaten alive. Katie froze -when I said it was OK and we could walk away she said her legs were shaking too bad to walk. Sadie just screamed through it all (she loves Darla). I was too much in shock to berate the owners for not having him chained up, and I'm still trying to decide what to do about it. They were apologetic and said they'd pay for the vet bill, but that's not enough. I'm sick and friggin tired of living in a neighborhood overrun by aggressive dogs. If you know me at all, you know I'm a complete freak about animals - I love them. But I've been tempted to get a taser or something to keep with me to get them when they come up to us or Darla. I've called animal control a half-dozen times, as have my employees at various times, but nothing is done.
Any ideas?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

In "The News"

Last night we took both girls to their first concert... and I'm not ashamed to admit it was Huey Lewis and the News. We weren't sure how they'd hold up (especially since they didn't come on until bedtime), but Katie and Sadie LOVED it. Sadie was bobbing her head and smacking her thighs, Katie was mesmerized by the musicians and loved shouting, dancing and clapping with the crowd. When we got home, I asked her what her favorite parts were, and she said she loved the guitars and when they sang "with just their voices" (accapella). She asked what the name of the band was, and when I told her, she said "Mommy, when I grow up I want to be in The News and sing too." Watch out rock'n roll hall of fame, here comes Katie.

Overall, it was a fair show. Huey's showing his age a bit, but vocally sounded as good as he did in the 80s. Katie was very impressed that he sang the songs in Disney's Oliver and Company, which I have a feeling we'll be watching a LOT in the weeks to come. This morning she asked for "The News" over her favorite Gwen Stefani track on the way to school. Yikes. We might have created a monster.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Total LOST junkie...

I don' t know how I'm going to get my fix... I'm a total LOST addict, and this was the best season ever. Now I have to get through the summer without it. Not to mention Heroes is done (what a lame way to end the season) and Idol is finito. What will I DVR now? Two episodes of Sopranos. Then I guess I'll start reading through my normal TV fix in the evenings. Summer can be so cruel.

In one of the last episodes of Lost, Charlie, knowing he was about to die, wrote down his five best moments in life. Being the total dork I am, I decided to try it myself. The amazing thing I discovered is that my top 5 those things happened in the last 4 years of my life. The other thing I realized through this exercize is that many of my happiest moments came at the expense of major "tragedies" in my life. I guess it was a reminder for me that, even in the midst of grief, loss, fear and sadness, great things and beautiful moments still happen.

I could easily come up with top 10 (actually, the list ended up being around 25). There are so many other favorite memories... happy childhood moments, beach vacations, my first kiss, the concert I met Jason at (Lollapallooza!), road trips all over the country with Cristen, my dad teaching me to dance, going to Longwood with Mom, the girls calling me "mama" the first time... it took me forever to narrow down the five "best." But this is the list I ended up with in the end. What are yours?

Here's what I came up with:
1. Katie's birth. That first time around is such a miracle - you have no idea what to expect and how your life will change. Katie looked up at me, and I've been her slave ever since.
2. Holding Sadie the first time. Imagine having a newborn and not holding her... watching her suffer, worrying she wouldn't survive. Then, magically, one day she is better and you get to hold her. She screamed the entire time, but it was magic, none the less.
3. Sadie's birth. Even though bittersweet, the actual process of giving birth without any drugs, in hindsight (not at the time) was a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. Would I do it again? Heck no. Hook me up to the drug machines. But the pride I felt for getting through it and living was immense.
4. The final moments I had with Nana. Jason's grandmother will have a lasting and lingering effect on my life. The communication we shared near her final days, both verbal and non-verbal, will stay with me forever. I always felt at peace in her home with her, and I miss her.
5. Getting my degree. Walking down the aisle, knowing I'd done it on my own, albeit the hard way, and that it was worth all those years of headache, debt, etc.

OK, and now because I know you care, here's the update on the girls the last few weeks. Katie came down with the flu on Mother's day. Sadie joined the party a few days later, followed by me. We all started feeling a bit better on Sunday of last week, when Jason suddenly threw out his back by picking up something off the lawn. He was just feeling left out, I think.

Katie is getting super excited about summer. She's got a million things lined up - classes (Tae Kwon Do, ballet, swimming, Spanish), play dates and other fun stuff. We're debating doing KD passes again this year. She had a blast going there last year. I'm hoping to work only 3 days a week (meaning working nights even longer hours, but at least i can get out), so that will be nice.

Sadie is "talking" up a storm. She's doing all kinds of sounds, and has mastered "Hi" and "Mama" - often using them together when I walk in the door, and waving like mad. She looks like if she keeps waving so hard she'll take off and fly. She's still not crawling, but that's ok. I know it's coming soon enough. She's decided to wean herself, which I'm kind of sad about. Actually very sad about. I feel like it was way too short. But she hasn't been gaining weight like she should, and she wants more than I can seem to keep up with, even with pumping in odd hours. So, I guess I need to just accept the inevitable. Next week she'll be 9 months!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day Saved at the bottom of the 9th

So, I had a very crappy Mother's Day this year for the most part. I'd had no sleep the night before, was up early with the girls, they were both cranky and sick most the day, Jason didn't pitch in... it just sucked. That is, until toward the end. I was about in tears because it had been such a bad day, when all of a sudden Sadie looked up at me, threw up her hands for me to pick her up and said "Mama." That's right... dog be darned! I got to be Sadie's first word! (Katie said "Darla" (our dog) first). She's made the mama noises quite a bit lately, but I never could be sure before yesterday that she had connected that mama=me. There was no doubt in her actions yesterday! It instantly went from being my worst day to one of my best. Jason's very lucky, because he was inches from sleeping in the garage.

Katie is currently on this kick about asking questions concerning reproduction. She wants to know where everything comes from. Questions this week have ranged from "Do lady bugs carry babies in their tummies?" to "Do horses push babies out of a hole in their bottom?" to "Can cats have their tummies cut to pull the babies out like some mommies do?" Usually these conversations take place at inappropriate times when in public. I'm loving it. On the plus side, I find myself looking up things like insect reproduction late at night so I have some valid answers the next morning.

Sadie's getting long and remains fairly thin for a baby. I think she might be 17 lbs now. Length-wise she's outgrowing those 6-12 month sleepers, but they're still baggy around the middle. Of course, I worry myself sick over how much she eats. She still only eats small quantities every couple of hours. She's babbling a lot these days, and does this crazy rocking number that has caused quite a few bruises already. Mostly on me. She also pinches everything - me, the dog, her sister - and it really hurts. I'll be glad when this phase passes. No crawling yet, but she's inching forward on her belly.

Here are some bragging photos. I've been failing miserably in my mommy duties of posting them lately.

Katie, 4 1/2 yrs. And yes, those are weeds galore in the rock bed. Oh well. At least Katie looked pretty! This is one of the very few times she's worn a dress in the last year or two without fighting it.

Sadie, 7 months in a gorgeous dress a friend gave (thanks, Patty! Both girls' dresses were beautiful!). She ate the bow about 10 minutes into the pictures.