Monday, October 26, 2009

Bionic Man: Handyman Extraordinaire

Did I mention that my husband is a Handyman Extraordinaire?

Did I?  Because if I didn't, I need to be forthright about the fact that he is.  And my life would be totally different if he was not.  Actually, I don't even know if "handyman" is really the appropriate terminology for what he is.  Master craftsman may be a better fit. 

Whatever you want to call him, I cannot deny the simple reality that Bionic Man can figure out how to make anything.  Literally, anything.  I'm not boasting or bragging when I say this, although I am quite pleased with myself for choosing such a talented man to be my husband.  No, when it comes to his handy-manliness, I'm just telling it like it is. It is almost scary, how good he is. 

Well, it is scary, if you are one of the trick or treaters that visits our house on Halloween.  But that is a post unto itself. 

Let me give you the basics.  Bionic Man is an engineer at work, an artist at heart, and a genius at home improvement. 

Bionic Man is blessed with a very creative mind, which he uses during the work day to be an aerospace engineer.  But Bionic Man doesn't exactly relish the fact that in order to do this job, he must be stuck in front of a computer all day, inside a drab cubicle, within a boring office building.  He likes adventure, excitement, the great outdoors, and a lot of creative license.  Bionic Man posesses that pioneering, let's-put-a-man-on-the-moon-and-I-volunteer-to-be-the-man spirit and really should have been born two centuries ago, when he could have settled a new territory using the farm implements he invented. 

But if that had happened, then we wouldn't be married today.  Unless I was born two centuries earlier.  That probably wouldn't have worked in my favor, because if I had been born two centuries earlier, I would be buck-toothed and blind.  And if I were lucky enough to get married, I would have died in childbirth for sure.  Wow, so much to be thankful for!

Anyway, when Bionic Man decides he is going to make something, he does.  Case in point: our backyard playscape.  I present to you....Exhibit A.
If you were to take a walk along the neighborhood trail, this is what you would see.  Our backyard, complete with the recently (and finally) finishished playscape. 

I say finally because Bionic Man began this project soon after we purchased our home, four years ago.  We had promised the children a playscape when we moved from our old home.  (Where the backyard was a hill perfect for sledding, but not for playscapes.)  After shopping for playscapes, Bionic Man informed me that purchasing a playscape was a complete waste of our money and his imaginiation.  He declared that he could build a bigger, better, playscape than anything we'd seen, and he'd do it for a fraction of the cost. 

Thus ensued the backyard project comparable only to Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  Complete with scaffolding.

Like all good artists, Bionic Man didn't create his masterpiece without some practice.  First, he built the picnic table pictured here.
Finding that to be fairly simple and having aquired the appropriate power tools and expertise, he moved onto the actual playscape.  The design took some time, probably because I wanted a part in the design.  It took compromise.  Bionic Man listened to my design suggestions, threw most of them out, took a few several steps further, and decided to build the playscape in such a way that it could be conerted to a gazebo if the children ever stopped playing on it.
Can you see it?  That is the main reason our backyard playscape is topped by a cupola.  The cupola alone gives it more architectural detail than our actual house.  Are you starting to sense why I refer to my husband as the Bionic Man?  The cupola and cedar shakes are the reason that Bionic Man insisted the playscape wasn't "done" two years ago, after installing the slides.  He just finished the roof a few days ago.
Luckily, the deck was already a part of our backyard when the project started, or the project would have taken an additional four years.  Bionic Man does beautiful work, but having a "real" job on the side kind of cuts into his project time.   The above picture and the one below show the bridge that Bionic Man built to connect playscape to deck.  Pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

And now for a few views of the slides.

The wavy slide, in particular, makes a very fun waterslide in the summer.  The bigger you are, the faster you fly!
Since Superkid takes coumadin to prevent blood clots, we have to be very careful about bumps and bruises.  Bionic Man was mindful of this when he designed the Sistine Chapel of Playscapes.  Note how the playscape has many levels, instead of ladders or small steps.
The climbing wall is one exception to that.  But he padded the area beneath it with lots and lots of mulch.  And Superkid has to use the rope. 
Birds love our playscape as much as our children do.  Maybe even more, since the children haven't mentioned anything about wanting to raise their young beneath the eaves of the playscape.  It is definitely watertight.
In the early days of the creation of this Seventh Wonder of the Backyard World, our next door neighbor peered over his fence as Bionic Man poured the cement for the footings. He watched quietly for a few minutes, then said, "Man, next time we have a tornado, I'm going to come hang onto your playscape. That thing isn't going anywhere."

It better not go anywhere.  Because, although the playscape ended up being bigger and better than any playscape we saw during our initial shopping trips, I'm pretty sure it wasn't a fraction of the cost. 

I'll have to share some more of the Bionic Man's projects another time.  Are you wondering yet what it is he does for Halloween?

Update:  Bionic Man has recently been working on the installation of a sandbox underneath the playscape.  The sandbox includes a pump and drainage system, so the kids can play with water in the sandbox, which will be drained, filtered and returned to the pump system.  Can you believe it?  I'll post more pics as soon as the landscaping around the sandbox is complete.

Happy Birthday Superkid!

The end of last week was our school system's fall recess......and Superkid's Birthday!  I'll show you a few pics in a minute.

First I have to tell you about birthdays in our family.  They are a Big Deal.  Even before we had scary medical issues, birthdays were a Big Deal.  This is partly because my dear Bionic Man's birthday is just a few days shy of Christmas, and I think he felt slightly shafted.  (Now that I've been in charge of his birthday celebrations for 12+ years, I get the fact that it can be a little difficult to come up with an adequate celebration when you are in the throes of Christmas preparations.)  We don't want anyone to feel shafted when their birthdays come around.  Things got more complex when the Bionic Man began having to go on business trips.  Sometimes the trip fell on the children's birthdays.  He didn't like missing them, so we had to compensate.  Birthweeks ensued, with multiple events:  cupcakes for your class, a pre-party cake for the members of the family at home on the birthday, a big cake once Daddy came home, presents stretched throughout the week, special activities for the birthday boy/girl all week.....

Birthweeks are exhausting and tend to be almost as much work as the original first week of the child's life for the mother.  I don't recommend them to anyone looking for new traditions.  We've pared down the week-long celebration to approximately two days in the last few years.  We currently enjoy a Birthday and a Birthday *Eve.  (*We love Eves at our house.  Our big summer party is on the Eve of the Fourth of July.  Our big fall party is on the Eve of Halloween.  Thanksgiving Eve is all about the cooking, and I admit to enjoying Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day.)   I instigated one of my own family traditions long ago, which is that we host birthday parties for our friends on odd years, but have special family parties on even years.  I thought I was so smart doing that--until it occurred to me that every member of the family, except the Bionic Man, has their odd/even birthdays in the same years.  How did that happen?

Okay, let me get back to the main event.  Superkid's Birthday!

The morning of Superkid's birthday, we enjoyed this beautiful sunrise.  (Thank you, Bionic Man, for taking pictures of it!)  Actually, Bionic Man enjoyed it more than me.  I was a little stressed out--we'd just come back from Superkid's sleep study, she was vomiting, and I was worried that our chance for the H1N1 vaccine was in jeopardy.  The day only improved from there!

Superkid recovered from her migraine, so we managed to get vaccinated, get highlights and a haircut (me only, no children involved), and pick up the Bionic Man from work.  Then we went to the Zoo Boo.
Here we are, in costume, ready to enjoy one of the benefits of our yearly zoo membership: the annual Zoo Boo.  (The zoo is decorated for Halloween, and at certain times you can go trick or treating.  And no, I'm afraid the animals don't actually hand you the treats.  They make the keepers do that.)  Note that I am costumed as a woman with fabulous hair, thanks to my earlier trip to the salon.  (It is hard to tell from the picture, but Valerie gives the Best. Highlights. Ever.)

Our other costumes were thrown together at the last minute, since the migraine and threatening clouds above made us wonder if we would actually be going to the Zoo Boo this year.  Superkid was a flower fairy.  Justone was some type of Jedi warrior.  Endeavor recycled her tutu from Arkansas and went as a dead Ballerina, minus the white face paint I didn't have time to buy.  Really, a dead ballerina.  Apparently that is how you get away with wearing a tutu when you are a fifth grader.  I only agreed to it because I was determined to get another use out of that tutu.

Some decorations at the Zoo Boo were scarier than others.  Superkid doesn't like scary Halloween.  She covered her eyes for those.  But we had fun in the hay maze!

I added the picture of the empty hay maze to illustrate the point that Bionic Man was in charge of the camera for Birthday Eve and Birthday.  We tend to have lots of pictures like the one above when he mans the camera.  For instance, any pictures taken by the Bionic Man during our recent cross-country trip tend to be of Engineering Feats or Natural Resources of Great Importance.  Sometimes, if we're lucky, there are tiny figures standing in the vicinity of the Engineering Feat.  Ahhh, it cracks me up.

Bionic Man did take some other pictures to document Superkid's birthday celebration, but with the empty hay maze as an illustration, I think you'll understand why I'll just paint you a word picture instead.  We celebrated the actual birthday with Daddy taking time off from work, lunch from Panda Express (Superkid's request), presents, attending the annual Trunk or Treat in our church parking lot, and finishing off the day by sharing birthday cake with our good friends, the Clevs.  Superkid was excited about all of her presents, but I think the four (yes, four) leotards sent by Grandmother were especially appreciated.  Good times.

When Superkid had her first birthday, she was a very sick baby.  If I remember correctly, her cardiologist made sure we went home from the hospital in time to celebrate her birthday at home, but Superkid didn't do too well and we were back in the hospital by the wee hours of the next morning.  I had received my reassurance that there would be more birthdays for Superkid, but there were times during those early hospitalizations that I wondered how we would get there.  In fact, Superkid's first two birthdays were marked by hospitalizations, and we almost had one on her third.  Superkid's fifth birthday was notable because it marked more birthdays being spent out of the hospital, than in the hospital.  I'm so thankful to be able to celebrate another birthday with Superkid.  She is an amazing little person, and so much fun.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Something Special Saturday

When I was a little girl, we used to sing a song in Primary class that went, "Saturday is a special day/ It's the day we get ready for Sunday...."  the rest of the song went on to list the things that would help a family get ready to set aside Sunday as a day to rest and worship, such as cleaning the house, going to the store, shining your shoes, etc.  (You can go here to listen to the song.  It really is cute.)

The reason I bring this up is because we are in the middle of a really, really, particularly busy Saturday.  (Right now everyone has been given a lunch break, that's the only reason I'm on the computer.)  We are trying to clean the house so it will be ready for our big fall party and a visit from one of Bionic Man's darling sisters.  I divided the house into sections, and the kids and I are going through it systematically, spending an hour on each section.  Only the girls' room, which is huge, is taking something like three hours.  AAAAGGGHHH!!!!  So we are falling behind schedule, and I'm starting to get a little panicked and....ahem...impatient.....and.....yes, grouchy.  Hence the lunch break.  Then I started thinking about that little Primary song.  And I was reminded of the quote I have on this blog page, by Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  (Look to your right.)  The song and the quote have caused me to change my attitude.  I'm spending time today working so that tomorrow will be a good day.  And I'm creating order from chaos.  Isn't that great?

So, in honor of the creation of order from chaos and Saturday being a special day, I am going to name Saturdays on my blog "Something Special Saturday."  I'll take a minute to showcase something I've found during the week that will bring a little respite to the work of a typical Saturday.  Ta Da!  Here you go:

I love looking at pretty things.  I ran across this blog  that is chock full of pretty things last spring, when my little sis-in-law was asking for wedding ideas.  Everything on this blog is pretty.  I still like to go back and look at it now and then, just to enjoy the prettiness.  The flowers, the colors, the cakes, the way-out-there wedding themes that end up looking completely fabulous.....I just love it.  If I ever decide to write the Great American Novel, and some production company buys the rights and makes a film and it wins an Oscar, then I'm going to throw a big party.  You will all be invited.  And I'm going to hire Amorology to be my event planners.  Save the date!

Here are a few of Amorology's gorgeous events to look at, just in case you aren't already tempted to visit their blog.

I love, love, LOVE the aqua/poppy red color scheme.  Love it.  I don't think it was invented 12 years ago when I got married.  And I got married between Christmas and New Year, anyway, which in and of itself limits the color scheme.  Sigh.  By the way, when you look at the next picture.....they really did rent a ferris wheel for the backyard wedding reception.  How cool is that?
Endeavor has to have toadstools in her wedding.  Period.   And snails.
See?  Didn't I tell you it would be pretty?  Everyone needs to see a little pretty.  Everyday.  Especially Saturday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another sleep study?!?!?

No, I'm not kidding.  Apparently the pediatric specialists in my neck of the woods have great access to pediatric sleep centers.....because last night was our second sleep study in seven days.  With two different children.

If you're response is "Whaaaaa?" you are probably not alone.  It boggles my mind, as well.  Many people go through life without ever spending the night in a sleep laboratory.  I, however, and apparently 3/4 of my children, are not those people.

Li'l Angel had a sleep study back when we were working on getting a diagnosis for her metabolic disease. It was a horrible, horrible night, let me tell you.  I'm not going to go into details, but I will say that during the course of the sleep study, I had to prevent the tech from calling a code.  (She wasn't coding.  She was vomiting.  But Li'l Angel had a unique way of vomiting that scared many a veteran nurse, so I really can't blame the tech.)  The sleep study was helpful, but also sad.  Li'l Angel never went into REM sleep.  I don't have enough time right now to explain why.

Justone had his sleep study a week ago.  I blogged about it already.  (Go back and read "Testing...1-2-3...")  It wasn't at all horrible, and his dad got to go along for it.  I still don't have results back on that one.  I was hoping to get a tonsillectomy scheduled before Thanksgiving if he's having apnea.  Doesn't look like that'll happen, now that the ENT's office says they won't have the results for 6-8 weeks.  That is hard to believe, isn't it?  I'm just a little bugged about it because since we reached our out-of-pocket maximum months ago, all procedures are on the house until 2010!!!  (Not really on the house.  Just paid for 100% by our insurance company.)  Now is the time for a tonsillectomy.  I just wish the sleep lab, the ENT, and Justone's tonsils knew that.

Superkid's night at the sleep lab was last night.  She was very excited about it, thanks to Justone's prior, painless experience.  I spent the night with her.  I saw the room where Li'l Angel had her study, but it wasn't ours.  Superkid's metabolic specialist and neurologist were the doctors who felt strongly about having her sleep studied.  I thought they were up in the night.....until I spent half the summer sleeping in a tent next to Superkid.  She is a mighty restless sleeper.  I could tell you some stories.  (And you know how I love stories.)  I don't have time, but let me tantalize you with this one:  Bionic Man woke up (thankfully) to the sound of the tent zipper unzipping as Superkid tried to get out in the middle of the night.   YIKES!

No, really, I didn't think our doctors were up in the night.  Superkid gets migraines, and as anyone who has ever suffered from a migraine can tell you, no little kid deserves those.  So I'm totally up for doing any test they recommend if it means an end to Superkid's migraines.  Or even finding a way to prevent them.

Superkid cooperated very nicely for her sleep study.  She provided the perfect sample by waking up at 5 A.M. this morning with a migraine.  I kid you not.  It was a doozy, too.  In fact, it got us sent home early from the sleep study.  Superkid vomited as soon as we got to the parking garage, and again as we pulled into our driveway.  And again an hour later as we waited in the pediatrician's office for H1N1 vaccines.  Normally, I would not drag her out during a migraine.  But I made an exception for swine flu.  We've had so much trouble getting the injectable vaccine here, I had to make sure she got it the day it arrived.

Anyway, it is past my bedtime, here.  I've got to go.  But I will say that Superkid recovered from her migraine in time for me to have a much needed trip to the hair salon and for our whole family to enjoy the ZOO BOO.  More on that later.

P.S.  Guess what?  Six years ago, at this exact time (10:10 P.M.)  I was trying to convince my pregnant self that I really wasn't in labor.  The Bionic Man arrived home from his night class (he was finishing his MBA) and provided me with a reality check.  (Dang, he always knows I'm in labor before I do.  Told you he has superpowers.)  So.....tomorrow is Superkid's sixth birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We are all excited to celebrate.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Names

Sarah over at Clover Lane did a post on baby names today.  I loved it.  I, like Sarah, love naming babies.  Not only do I enjoy naming my babies, I enjoy naming everyone else's, too.  In secret.  I regret to inform you that--if I actually know you and you have given birth at least once in the past ten years or since we've known each other--I probably named your baby for you in secret.  Once you announced the name YOU chose for your baby, I was probably mildly and unjustifiably offended that you didn't pick MY name for your baby.  I know, I know, how crazy is that?

Anywho, Sarah has unwittingly inspired me to rename all members of my family, right here, right now.  For the purposes of blogging.  Using initials to refer to my children in this blog seems more than slightly like a science fair project.  (Child E, anyone?)  Not only that, I keep accidentally typing out their entire names and then I have to go back and edit them out.  (So much for internet safety.)  I'm picking new names that give an indication to something about their personality or special spot in our family.

New names are as follows:

Husband B: Bionic Man
Child E: Endeavor
Child J: Justone (As in "Yes, we just have one boy."  And this child does have a deep sense of fairness.)
Child S: Superkid
Child L: Li'l Angel

Hunter the Dog will remain Hunter the Dog.  It is a noble name for a canine, isn't it?  And it is the only name I've ever been able to settle upon immediately, without argument from Bionic Man.  Oh, the funny stories I could tell you about naming our children.   But I'll spare you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Last night we had Family Home Evening.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it is a night--usually Monday--that our church leaders encourage us to set aside once a week to spend time together as a family, getting closer to one another and learning more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is the goal, and sometimes we accomplish it.  Sometimes we attempt to accomplish it, but the squabbling and couch jumping get in the way.  But B and I are convinced that we'll be blessed for trying, so we do.

Sometimes our Family Home Evenings (which I'll refer to hereafter as "FHE") are better planned and prepared than others.  Some of our best lessons have been given by the children.  Seriously, you should have been there a few weeks ago for the lesson E taught about family history and journal keeping.  She's good--so good that she's already preparing her powerpoint presentation for next week's lesson.  But I digress.  Last night's lesson wasn't so well planned, maybe because I was attending parent teacher conferences for three children while B was doing the ballet carpool and feeding everyone dinner.  Way to go B!

I came home from parent teacher conferences to find everyone clustered around the computer.  And to hear the sweet sound of L cooing.  B had pulled up a bunch of video files that he hasn't burned onto disk yet, and he and the kids were watching them.  I joined them, and we spent the next two hours just watching ourselves and L.

It was bittersweet.  We all loved seeing L again.  I think E and I took turns getting teary-eyed as we watched.  (I'd post some video here for you to see, but I haven't figured out how to post video on my blog yet....and it is just as well, because I'm not sure I really want to share moments that now seem so private and special.)  The kids were fascinated by how much they themselves have grown and changed in the past two years.  E realized how much speech therapy had helped:  "I couldn't say S's!".  J could see that he'd become much taller and less pouty.  S was startled to hear her four-year-old self sound "like a baby."  We were touched to see how obvious L's love was for each of us.  Our memories haven't played tricks with us on that.

I was taken aback by the video record of how hard I worked to have L with us at home and to give her and all of us some sort of normalcy.  Sometimes, I tend to look back at that time of my life with a lot of self-criticisms.  I should have done this, or that, or made sure that this happened, etc., etc.  Last night I was able to watch myself on video with love and charity.  I was doing the best I could, under the circumstances.  I'm so proud of myself for trying.

There was one video, taken on J's seventh birthday.  It was in between a long string of winter hospitalizations for L.  It was mid-January, and all of our Christmas decorations were still up.  The house looked pretty disorganized.  The birthday cake was obviously from a bakery.  We only had five birthday candles.  I was carrying L in my arms, and a portable oxygen tank over my shoulder, which was attached to L.  Judging by how close I was standing to the flaming birthday cake with a tank of oxygen, I'm pretty sure we'd just been released from the hospital that day, and home health hadn't arrived yet to explain home oxygen use to me, yet.  (It is extremely combustible.)  There are dark circles under my eyes and my hair looks really bad.  E's clothes are mismatched and S's hair looks as if it hasn't seen a brush in days.  From behind the camera, B is complementing the girls on how well they wrapped the gifts, and I'm viewing some of the birthday gifts with clear displeasure--obviously, I hadn't been involved in the purchases.  E, J, and S are clearly starved for attention, judging by the number of times they jump up and down in front of the camera and turn somersaults over my feet.  L looks like she is struggling to breathe.

It almost gave me an anxiety attack watching.  That was my life.  Somehow I lived through that.

One of the last videos I watched was filmed with me behind the camera.  B likes to have us fade in to each new date, and as the scene fades in, you hear me saying, "It is about four o'clock in the morning."  I'm pointing the camera at L, who is lying on the spare bed in her room, happily playing with a small stuffed giraffe.  It is about a week before L died, and I'm filming something that was typical for L and I: a night with very little sleep.  In the video, I explain that L often tries to let her siblings have my attention during the day while they are awake, but she likes to have fun with me while they are asleep.  The camera follows L playing with the giraffe and batting at other toys.  She is clearly enjoying herself.

"Are you wide awake?" I playfully ask L.  She responds with a happy grin and an outstretched hand.

"Is Mommy tired?"  I ask L.  She looks at the camera and blinks a yes, then smiles widely.

"You are right, Mommy is tired,"  I agree.  "So, do you think we should turn off the lights and go to sleep?"

L emphatically shakes her head back and forth, "No."  I laugh.  "You are so smart.  You know exactly what you want, and you are so good at telling Mommy."  I laugh again as she grins at me.  "I love to play with you, too."  I tell her.

I watched that video.  And I watched it again.  That was my life.  That was why I lived through the portable oxygen tank and the slapped together birthdays and the messy house and the long hospitalizations and the anxiety attacks.  For beautiful moments like that.

That was my life.  It was amazing.

Suddenly, I realized that FHE should have ended long ago.  It was 9:30 P.M., way past bedtime.  It was time for everyone to brush their teeth and say prayers and get into bed, and someone remembered she had a permission slip for me to sign.....and I looked around at the chaos of bedtime and felt so grateful.  Families are forever.  I have these three wonderful children and a husband to take care of right now, and they need me so much.  And I have L, who doesn't need me so much right now, but she's still part of our family and always will be, because we are a forever family.  And I'm looking forward to the day when I get to hold her in my arms again and she's well and whole and we can do things without a tank of oxygen strapped on my shoulder.   

This is my life, as it is and as it will be.  It is amazing.

See?  Blessings do come from having Family Home Evening.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Race Day!

This weekend we enjoyed one of our annual family traditions: the Marathon.  Every year--with the exception of last year--some of us run in the races.  This year, all of us ran in the races.  None of us are marathoners, but some of us are half marathoners.  The location for this race venue is really beautiful, especially with the fall colors. 

B always runs the half marathon, and this year I had trained for it, too.  (I ran my first half marathon in the spring.)  However, 10 days of head cold/stomach flu combo leading up to the half marathon made me chicken out.  I switched my entry over to the 5K, along with J and our friend Banks.  E,S, and E's friend K entered the Kids' Marathon (1 mile).  We start helping the kids train once school starts.  This was J's first 5K, but he'd been doing really well in training.  He was excited.

Having the stomach flu before the race didn't stop B!  (I tell you, the man is pioneer stock.  Total Spartan.  I honestly think I married the Bionic Man.)  He was determined to follow through and run the half Marathon.  He didn't get his best time, but he still got a better time than I would have!  Here he his after he finished.

Before you make fun of our crazy outfits, let me tell you, IT WAS FRIGID!!!  As I mentioned, we've come to this race before, but we've never experience such cold temperatures.  We were dressed in multiple layers, and I didn't even shed a layer when I was running.  Oh, I guess I took off my scarf.  But that was it.  It was really that cold.  Here is a picture of the girls, trying to stay warm.

Brrrr!  It is making me cold just remembering!  But I get warm as my heart swells with motherly pride.....because J took first place in his division of the 5K.  Way to go J!  Here he is, proudly displaying his "trophy".

Yes, that is a mug.  I'd like to know who came up with that bright idea.  For heaven's sake, the child earns his first big win, and all he has to show for it is a MUG?  Well, as J explained to me upon our return, it is actually not a mug, it is a trophy, and he does not intend to use it for hot chocolate or other beverages.

Here is another picture of J, the athlete.  I gave birth to him!  And picked out the polarfleece he's wearing.  And he totally beat me in the 5K.

Our friend, Banks, who has been running with B, was also running in the 5K.  His first one.  His assignment was to run ahead of J, while I would run behind him.  I was somewhat concerned about J's safety, since he is only 8 years old, and this was a 3.1 mile course.  What really happened was that it took Banks the first half mile of the race just to catch up with J, and then next half mile just to get ahead of him.  And I was waaaayyyy behind both of them.  Pushing S in the jogging stroller, who announced to me at the half mile mark that she had to go potty.  The story of my life!  Banks said that he crossed the finish time and looked behind him for J.  J was weaving between the legs of big, tall men, who were surprised to be beaten by such a little dude!  By the way, I just looked at the results online and discovered that, not only did J beat everyone in his age category, he beat everyone in the 11-14 year old category, too!

This is a picture of Banks and J stretching after the race.  Banks got an excellent time, as well.  Way to go, Banks!  And here is a picture of my handsome husband and son.  You can tell B has had some time to recover and change into dry clothing, in this one.

K and E are veteran runners, but this was S's very first race.  Look at these awesome pictures of S and her good friend, B, stretching out before the 1 mile Kids' Marathon.

S is in the black track pants, and B is the little girl with pom-poms on her hat.  Aren't they hilarious?  What is even funnier is what happened to B's parents on race day.  B's father trained for the half marathon, and ran it that morning.  Her mother was there, close to the finish line, ready to take pictures as her husband ran past.  She was excited about his accomplishment, and was trying to get good pictures, so she jumped off the sidelines and ran alongside him for the last few yards of the race.  The crazy thing is, the girl was 38 weeks pregnant!  Note that I use the past tense, because her water broke as she was running!!!  Luckily, Grandma was there to help with the girls, because our friends had to head to the hospital immediately.  Their new baby girl was born less than five hours after Daddy crossed the finish line.  Is that the best birth story ever, or what?

Anyway, S ran in her first race, and we were very proud.  We are pretty sure that if there had been a category for runners with artificial heart valves, S would have won!  She had to stop and take a few rests along the way, but she was determined to run--not walk.  So after each brief rest, she would take off again.  She's an excellent sprinter.
Look at her go!  The kids marathon course goes around this lovely village green, surrounded by historic homes built for the officers back when this area was a large army base.  One of the homes was showing lots of Halloween spirit, with an extensively decorated front yard and porch.  S hates scary Halloween decorations.  She really does.  It makes it difficult to take her shopping during the month of October, because she gets so worried that we will see scary things when we are in stores.  She cowers in the bottom of the shopping cart, whimpering, while the other shoppers Wonder About Us.  So S stopped short when she saw the spooky house ahead.  She sat down on the curb, and hid her head between her knees.  J and I, who were running alongside her, tried to give her some encouragement.  S thought it would be better to turn back than run past the scary house.  We gave her a few minutes to think about it, during which time a worried B called me on the cell phone, wondering if S was in respiratory distress.  (No, just Halloween distress.)

At last, S leaped to her feet, covered one eye with one hand, and one ear with the other, and declared, "I CAN DO THIS!"  She sprinted past the spooky house, and as she did, she yelled, "YOU CAN'T SCARE ME!  NOTHING CAN SCARE ME WHILE I AM RUNNING!"  I was impressed.  I'm not that brave, or that strong.

Last but not least, a picture of E approaching the finish line.  Look at that form.  She looks so graceful.

So, we all had a good time.  Some of us had a better good time than others, but we can honestly say that good times were had by all.  Personally, my favorite thing about running is not running.  Guess what my favorite thing about running is?  This will be easy for you to guess if you have seen me in person in the past five years.  My favorite part about running is:

Eating lots of pasta the night before a race!  Eat lots of carbs, everybody, we're running them off in the morning!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Yes, I know the blog works.  I was just trying to come up with a catchy phrase for today's topic:  Tests.  Specifically, medical tests.  The kind you can't study for. 

And perhaps that is the reason I hate them so much--because there is no way to guarantee that I (or my children or husband) will pass them.  No way to prepare ahead of time to ensure a positive outcome.  It drives me crazy. 

You see, way back in the day when I was in school, I was great at tests.  I was great at them even if I didn't put much effort into studying.  (For the most part.)  It isn't because I'm a genius.  I'm just good at taking tests, for some reason.  Especially if there were essay questions.  I could fake my way through any essay question.  And multiple choice tests were always a breeze.  I took one of those test-taking prep classes in high school, right before I took the ACTs, and most of the guessing tips they gave me were things I'd been doing for years.  What can I say, I'm a really good guesser.  Guessing and essay writing earned me a bachelor's degree.  Looking back, I could have learned a lot more in college if I hadn't been such a good guesser.

Anywho, I have far less confidence when it comes to medical tests.  Lab results.  Chromosome analysis.  X-rays.  Echocardiograms.  All that.  My results frequently aren't positive.  Or negative.  Lots of times you want your medical tests to be negative, right?  (By the way, I'm kind of using the wrong pronoun.  By "my" results I really mean "my children's" results.)  We've had some pretty far-out test results come our way over the last few years.  Some that were unexpected.  Some that were devastating.  Some that were life changing.  Some that were confusing.  A few that were reassuring. 

That has led to something that my time as a student never prepared me for: test anxiety.

I tend to be pretty stoic when a doctor tells me he needs to run a test.  I almost always agree to it.  I'm always very curious about what they are testing for, how the test works, etc.  I even ask if there are other tests they can think of that can be done at the same time.  (Let's be frank: if someone is going to draw my child's blood for something, I don't want them coming back the next day saying they thought of another test they need and ask for more blood.  I like to encourage them to get as much out of one invasive procedure as they possibly can. )

Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at helping my children through the step of getting a sample, as well.  You would not believe the things I've done to get my children through various medical procedures....unless you've had to get your child through the same procedures.  Sing Broadway show tunes during blood draws?  Check.  Breastfeed while two nervous residents perform an echocardiogram on my breastfeeding baby?  Check.  Let a two year old chew gum so she'll sit still for an EKG?  Check.  This past summer I got S to pretend she was a cookie being baked in a pretend oven so that she would hold still for a 60 minute MRI without sedation.  (If you know S, you know what an accomplishment that is.)

It is after the test that I have issues.  The waiting.  The wondering.  What are they going to find out?  How bad is it going to be?  Is there anything they can do about it?  What am I going to have to learn how to do now?  More waiting.  I can't even write about the way I feel while I'm waiting for results. 

Getting the results can be hard, too.  Over the years I've had more practice with this, but it never gets any easier.  "Your baby has a chromosome abnormality we've never actually seen before," is not exactly a great conversation starter.  You hear the words, they hit like a ton of bricks, and then one side of your brain tries to ask the doctor all the appropriate questions while the other side reels in disbelief.  I've learned to view the phrase, "We aren't exactly sure what these results mean," with as much distaste as, "The results weren't quite what we were hoping for."

So why is this on my mind today?  It is because I'm having test anxiety again.  J had a sleep study last night.  To check for apnea.  He might need to have his tonisils taken out.  It is not a big deal.  Really.  But I still worry.  After all, we are the family with all the wierd medical issues.  In my mind, I'm fairly certain that they are going to tell me J sleeps very well, he's just slightly congested and here is some allergy medicine, or they'll tell me we need to schedule a tonsillectomy.  All very normal.  But in my heart, I just can't rest easy until they do tell me those things.

Okay, I really don't like to end things on a low note.  So I'm going to tell you one funny story about tests.  Back when I was pregnant with L, we were seeing a perinatologist even before we knew what was going on with her, just because of things that had happened during my other pregancies.  I tell you this so that you'll understand that this particular story wasn't the first time B and I had been at the perinatologist's office together.  So, we'd had the scary ultrasound that showed L had all kinds of problems, and I think we'd even had the amnio, by this point.  Our medical team thought it would be helpful to study the chromosomes of B and I, to see if our genetic make-up would shed any light on L's.  They told us that if we'd come together to the next appointment, they'd just do a quick blood draw on each of us and we'd be good to go.   It was a busy day at the perinatologist's office the day we went in, and so instead of doing our blood draws in the exam room, they did them out in the hallway.  Something about getting his blood drawn in an OB's office really tickled B's funny bone.  After all, he was getting really wierd looks from some of the people that walked past.  He started making wisecracks about how surprised he was that his pregnancy test had been positive.  Haha.  The nurses thought he was hilarious.  The nurse finished his blood draw, and she asked him to look at the label and verify that it was his name on the vial, etc., etc.  That was when he looked up at her and said with a completely straight face, "So, will this chromosome test tell me if I'm the father, or not?"

The poor nurse almost dropped the vial.  You should have seen the look on her face.  It wasn't until she realized how hard I was laughing that she was able to realize B was kidding.  She laughed, too, albeit nervously.  Rest assured, all the chromosome tests we have had prove that B is the father.  And that he and I aren't cousins.  Even distantly.  So I guess some medical tests do work out in my favor.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Speaking of children's artwork.....

I found this when I was going through the files of our children's artwork that my brilliant husband, B, has scanned into our computer.  I'd totally forgotten it existed.  It is hilarious.

Before I show it to you, I think I should provide a little disclaimer.  We really don't think that boy children are better than girl children at our house.  We are happy to have any children at all.  That being said, my husband was the eldest of six children.  The firstborn.  And the only boy.  Every time his mom had a baby, B was hoping for a brother.  Every time he was disappointed.  B loves his sisters, but he really, really, really wanted to have a little brother.  You can imagine how thrilled he was to have his own son.  But he really, really, really  wanted J to have a little brother.  That didn't happen....I'm afraid J will have to aquire brothers by marriage.  B is learning to live with disappointment.  But he is also quite conscious of the precarious position of his particular line of the Harding Name.....

....And so are the children.  I can prove it.  Here is the lovely coloring page S brought home from Primary class one Sunday in December.  She definitely took some artistic license with this one.Note the handwritten explanation B added, a helpful reminder of what S said when she handed this lovely piece of artwork to her daddy in the hallway after Primary.  Please don't be offended, and definitely don't use any Freudian theories to analyze it.

Only S's imagination could have created this.  Oh, my. 

Just in case you can't read B's notation, this is what it says:
S colored this picture when she was five years old.  Joseph is crying "because Baby Jesus is a girl."

I'm just really, really glad I'm not there in her class to hear any of the comments she makes.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It has come to my attention that I have neglected to post any pictures of child J.  Somehow, this blog seems to be monopolized by pictures of his sisters.  This was unintentional, as J is a very fine looking son, even when he needs a haircut.  These are two of my favorites, taken a couple of years ago.

One of my favorite things about J is his hair.  It is real, and it is spectacular.  I only wish I could get this color for myself from a bottle.  It is nice and thick, and it would curl if we let it grow long enough.  Lucky, lucky boy.

J has a great personality.  He is lots of fun, with a great sense of humor and a love of people.  A lot like me, I would like to think.  He is also very much like me in other ways: easy going, easily distracted, absent-minded, and a procrastinator.  This is a challenge for me.  It is hard enough for me to keep myself on task, let alone someone else!  I've been struggling with how to make the negative sides of our two personalities equal a positive when it comes to getting chores, homework, and other tasks done.  I'm constantly looking for patience, and frequently I can't find it when I need it.  But J is a trooper.  He keeps on trying. 

If J were to win a contest, it would be for Best Brother Ever.  I mean it!  He may be the only one they've got, but J makes sure he's the only one his sisters will ever need.  He is very kind and willing to try to see their side of things.  He is also very adaptable.  J can go from playing football outside with the neighbor boys to agreeably joining the girls for a tea party.  J would never be caught dead in anything that seems remotely feminine, but he has a great selection of Jedi robes and other manly costumes for joining in the dress-up fun that the girls always seem to have.  Some of my happiest memories of L include J, because he was never far from her and always tried to help her be happy and comfortable.  Like this:

If you look really closely at this picture, you'll see that J is being very careful with L.  This was back in the days when L had an NG feeding tube.  (A tube that went in through her nose to deliver food to her tummy.)  He is snuggling her to sleep on one of our beds, making sure she has her beloved binky.  Told you he'd win.  This is proof.

J has lots of interests.  He does very well in school.  He also is proving to be quite the athlete.  What J lacks in size, he makes up for in commitment.  Once J understands what his role is on a team--no matter what the sport--he gives it his all.  Baseball, basketball, and soccer are his current favorite sports.  Here is J playing goalie in a recent soccer game.
Nothing got past him that day.  Nothing.

J has inherited his father's love for the outdoors, running, and scouting.  His first 5K race is coming up this weekend.  Ever since J was a toddler, he has been going to the scout activities that B was involved in.  (No matter where we live, B invariably ends up helping with Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts.  Yep, I married an Eagle Scout.)  J has been asking when he could be a scout since he was old enough to talk.  So you can bet who was first in line at the recruiting table when the Cub Scouts came to school.

Anybody want to buy some famously delicious Scout Popcorn?

Voila!  There you have it--enough pictures of child J to even up the score a little bit.  And seriously, we do have three more containers of popcorn to sell.