The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the category “Family”

Mother’s Day Run

This is a race that I have been looking forward to for a couple of months. It is a big deal in Calgary, with over 25,000 people participating in either a 10k run, 5k run, or 5k walk. An added bonus is that, for the 3rd year in a row, Jaybird will join me at the start line. While this is her third 5k race, it is special. First, its Mother’s Day and I am enjoying something I love with my daughter. Second, this race benefits the Calgary Health Trust Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, (NICU). Jaybird called another NICU home for the first 9 weeks of her life, so this cause is near and dear to our hearts.

We arrived early to meet some folks from our team. You can read Cori’s race review here. I was hoping to meet up with another running friend, but missed her.. next time. In any case, you can read Michelle’s race review as well, (she did the 10k). Jaybird asked a few times why we had to be there so early. I just told her that its a big crowd and that we want to be sure that we are not rushed. I spared her stories of arriving at start lines about 4am to be sure that the day starts off as smoothly as possible.

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The start was a bit of a mosh pit, though we were front and center to see the wheelchair race start out. When we saw that we would not be able to get inside the starting corral until well after the starting gun, we jumped the fence to squeeze in. We talked a bit about pace and water and how to navigate the crowd. Just in case of something completely weird, we also set up a meeting place. The time arrived to start and we were off! We kept up with the crowd, headed out of the mall parking lot and into the residential area nearby. A huge sign stating “We Love Mom!” greeted everyone as we headed up the hill. The woman next to us called out to the 20-something man sitting on the deck, “I love your sign! Great job!” He nodded back and smiled.

As we approached a kilometer marker I gasped and teared up a little. As I noted above, this run benefits the NICU and there was a donation bucket along with pictures of fragile premature babies along the route. Once upon a time, that was the girl who was running along beside me. I looked at her, asked her how she was doing and requested we slow down. I meant our running pace was a little fast, but I think there may have been a subconscious voice in there begging her to slow down in every way possible.

We walked through the water station at the half way point. We took stock of our pace and decided that we may have started out a little fast. When we began running again it was at a more practical pace. The course was well-marked and festive. All races have a diverse crowd of participants but this one had a different feel. There were families walking and running together, sometimes up to 4 generations. Spectators lined the course; clapping volunteers were everywhere. When we approached the finish line I heard a man say to his kids, “Mom crosses the finish line first. This is her day.” My heart swelled.

DSC02134Jaybird asked if we could sprint the last 200 meters, (she always does that), but the crowd was too thick for us to race to the finish. We crossed the finish line hand in hand. She was a little bummed out that no medals were awarded, so I called upon a friend and fellow Mom, Brenda Ster, for help. Brenda created a locket for Jaybird appropriate for the occasion. I presented it to her as we munched on fruit, yogurt and chocolate milk provided at the finish line. She smiled and reached out for a hug, loving her new necklace. (If you would like see all the cool stuff Brenda can do, please see her website.) DSC02136

We arrived home to much fanfare with the boys and my husband working like crazy in a flowery kitchen. A Mother’s Day brunch befitting the Queen awaited me, wrapping up a terrific Mother’s Day morning.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms out there, (especially mine).

If you would like to support Jaybird and other premature babies like her, please see these links to the NICU in Alberta and the NICU in Milwaukee, WI, where she was cared for by some of the best physicians and nurses on the planet.

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Nomination for a Woman Who Made America

There has been some talk lately about the Women Who Make America, due to a special on PBS. My mom has called me about it (a few times) and my twitter feed went bananas the first time the special was on. One of the tweets stated something like the real women that make America are pretty busy just getting sh*t done, so have no time to pause and congratulate themselves as part of a television special. These are the people who just do it, everyday, without recognition or accolades, because it (whatever it is), just needs to get done. It got me thinking..

My grandfather had a rural postal route many moons ago. When he decided to retire from his post, practice was that he would name the person to take his route. He decided that his daughter, Barbara, would take the post. She was interested in the job, qualified and looking for just a position. Her dad named her as his successor. This was met with a hearty “no thank you, what are you thinking appointing a woman to this job?” and “we’ll take it from here.” Undeterred, he took the request up the chain of command. When he did not get the answers he wanted, he sought legal help. No one was going to deny his daughter a job based on her gender. When it was made known that he had an attorney and was ready to fight for his appointment, the postal service relented and Barbara was awarded the position. She was one of the first women to hold a rural postal route. She faithfully (and successfully) carried out her duties with the postal service her entire career. Barbara left us last year after Alzheimer’s Disease took over her once very active brain. She was an excellent seamstress, postal worker, mother, grandmother and drove bus for the company that she owned.

My grandfather would not consider himself a political person. Barbara would not have considered herself a feminist. They were just two people who wanted to treated fairly and treated others in the same fashion. Barbara would have been too busy delivering the mail on her rural route to notice that PBS was doing a program about how women’s roles have changed and the women that were so instrumental in changing them. By doing her job well for so many years, she opened doors to other, qualified women that wanted to work in various positions in the postal service. This may not be newsworthy to many, but it is newsworthy to me. It shows that the people who make the United States a place where people are treated fairly and justly are not necessarily elected to high office, attend Ivy League schools or the like. It shows that people who make it a priority to do the right thing move our country forward.

Barbara is my nomination for the list of Women that Make America.

Latest Ski Adventure

Do we have to go back yet?  We had a really nice holiday break.  We skied the weekend before Christmas at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise in Banff National Park.  The skiing was nothing short of amazing.  Sunshine was already mid-season like conditions and due to recent snow there was fresh power everywhere.  Also, due to it being unseasonably cold, we are among the few crazies that were willing to brave the cold to tackle the mountains.  It was totally worth it.

After the holiday, JB took Jaybird and Mid skiing with another dad and his kids.  They had a great day.  (Apprentice had a hockey camp so we stayed behind.)

Not to be outdone, I wanted another chance to ski before we entered back into the school, work and activities schedule.  We picked Thursday.  Although there had not been new snow, the temperature had warmed and it promised to be a great day on the slopes.

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Braving the cold! Let’s go SKI!

 Early Thursday, (or not, we were running late), the kids and I headed out to Sunshine Village. It was brisk sunny morning and we spent the majority of the drive talking about our plans for the day.  The kids have specific runs they enjoy more than others and wanted to be sure that we had included all in the day.  First thing was to head over to The Great Divide Express lift, which takes you up almost to the top of the mountain.  It also straddles the line between Alberta and British Columbia, hence the name.  It is a great view of the mountains and has nice wide open ski runs.  After a few runs we started to get hungry and made our way back to the lodge.  I was feeling particularly accomplished at this point, as my kids were tearing down the blue slopes off the Divide lift like nobody’s business.  It was a fun morning.

We had plans after lunch to hit Tin Can Alley, their favorite run.  We did it a couple of times, but the sun was moving across the mountain, so we decided that we should as well.  Mid wanted to head over to another lift to get more sun when skiing.  We had a couple of options.  Either we took off our skis at the bottom of Tin Can Alley and walked up a little to other lift, or we could zig-zag and traverse a little and ski to it.  We chose the latter.  We starting traversing, which is a lot of work, and turned downhill when we(I) thought we could catch a green run to the bottom of our chosen lift. I stopped to be sure the kids were close behind.  They were on their way and voicing some apprehension as to where we were headed.  I told them not to worry.  As if on cue, a woman passed us, walking uphill, carrying her skis and poles.  She told us that the run we were about to go down got “quite steep” and she was going down another way.  Of course, I thought she was greatly underestimating our skiing abilities.  I thanked her for the warning, asked the kids if they wanted to walk back up the hill or take our chances on this run.  From where we standing the slope was nothing we couldn’t handle.  We slowly carried on.

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Mom, do you know where we’re going? We’d rather follow Jaybird.

We past the point of no return when the slope became almost straight vertical and very narrow.  Not wanting tha panic the kids, I showed them how to gradually go down sideways, so that they would not get going out of control and hit a tree.  I assured them that if we went slowly we could get down this short run and over to the lift.  We started down.  A few thoughts crossed my mind, but I can only remember thinking “holy shit”.

Apprentice was first to call out.  As I heard him yell to me that he had fallen, one of his skis skid by me.  Then I heard Mid trying to help him, but he was too far from Apprentice to do much other than encourage him to get up and take off his other ski.  Jaybird was behind Apprentice and also tried to encourage him, but she had problems of her own.  She was sliding down the slope and about to run over her brother.  She sat down, or fell, and as a result her skis popped off. They made it down to me in time for me to try to pick them up.  That’s when I tumbled and my skis let go.  I yelled up to the kids that they needed to take their skis off and carefully scoot down the slope on their butts, holding their skis and poles.  I said, “Watch me, this is how you are doing to do it,” intending to go one step forward and them assist them on their way down.  I lost my footing and went down the slope on my butt, or front, or both, for about 25 meters.  Mouths gaping open, the kids stopped screaming.  I started laughing, embracing the fact that we were providing entertainment for all those that passed us, which thankfully, was not many.  A good Samaritan skier picked up my skis and brought them to me.  The kids started to make their way down, on their bottoms, and once they realized we were going to make it out alive, they started to laugh as well and enjoy our folly. The run was not long, maybe 200 meters, but seriously straight down for about half of them.  I found out later that this particular run is sometimes rated a “double black diamond” (or, are you crazy enough to attempt this?) on account of the steepness of the slope.

When we got to a safe place, we all put our skis back on.  We came out of the run and, sure enough!, there was the lift we were hoping to get on for our last run of the day.  Our last run was a green (or easiest).  Jaybird led us down the run, as the boys had told her that she is better navigator on the slopes.  True enough.

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WE MADE IT! Jaybird takes a rest.

Christmas Wish

Joy to the World!

So, its Christmas Eve Day.  I have shopped, baked, wrapped, and all that to prepare for the big day.  Well, almost prepared.  My house is dirty and we have been counting cookies as a food group for a week or so now.

Our tree is decorated in the usual “eclectic” style.  When I see other people’s’ Christmas trees, or those on television, I marvel at how stylish they are.  How everything seems to match and coordinate and all the decorations are so beautiful and.. what’s the word?  congruent.  Ours is not that way.  That’s the way I like it, actually.  I love that our tree ornaments are fit for the island of misfit toys.  They remind me of where we’ve been, friendships old and new and why this season is so special.  There are ornaments from work gift exchanges, kids’ day care projects and the “baby’s first Christmas” trio.

Mid made this one at school.  Its a Scrooge, I think.

Mid made this one at school. Its a Scrooge, I think.

Jaybird made this ornament at Girl Guides.

Jaybird made this ornament at Girl Guides.

Santa came from a former co-worker.

Santa came from a former co-worker.

One of my favorite Christmas decorations does not match anything.  It was a gift from a friend with the explanation, “May this spider web be a reminder that Jesus was not born in a palace or sterile-clean hospital room.  He was born in a humble dirty stable, with animals, loving parents and the Good Lord surrounding him.  During this season surround yourself with God, people you love and love you, be humble and don’t worry about the imperfections.”

Humble Web

This is my Christmas wish for you.  May your days be merry and bright.  May your ornaments not match your decorations.  May you be surrounded with those that love you and you love right back.

Cheers!

Monday Morning

Friday was a busy day.  I had been gone from home all day and had not listened to the news.  Upon returning home with the kids after school, I took a moment to check my email and news feeds.  The first Facebook post I saw was that of my friend Jim.

“Don’t read the headlines, don’t watch the news, just hug your kids extra tight tonight. THAT is my advice.”

And I thought, huh, wonder what is going on with them.  I made a mental note to check in with Jim and his family later that evening.  Then another post telling me to hug my children.  And another.  Then more informative posts.  I switched to Twitter.  There I found links to CNN and other news organizations.  I started to read the coverage.  As (I imagine) everyone else did, I started to cry.  Apprentice noticed and walked over.  “Are you OKay, Mom?” he asked.  “Did something bad happen?”  I replied that yes, something very bad had happened.  “Did someone die?”  I replied that yes, some people had died.  “Do we know them?”  No, we don’t know them, but I am still very sad.  He hugged me and walked away.

All weekend my husband and I struggled with how to talk about the horrific actions of one person.  We kept the news off of the television and did not discuss the school shooting in front of the kids.  Then came Monday morning.

I was having breakfast with the kids and it occurred to be that other kids may talk about the tragedy in Newtown, CT, at school.  Or, that a prayer may be said during school about it.  I wanted them to hear the news from me.  I did not want them to ask questions as school.  Not that the teachers, administrators and staff at our school can’t deal with it, they are all awesome, (full disclosure, I work there part time).  I just didn’t want them getting information from other kids.  I did not want them to be afraid at school.

“So, today at school you may here about a terrible thing that happened last Friday in the United States.”  They all looked up at me, puzzled.  Mid asked what had happened.  I froze.  All three of them were looking at me with questioning eyes and I choked.  My eyes filled with tears and I tried to get some meaningful words out.  It seemed as if an hour had passed.  “Someone broke into a school in Connecticut last Friday and had a gun.”  Jaws dropped.  Jaybird asked if the person was a kid or adult and if they had hurt anyone.  “It was an adult and yes, he hurt a lot of people.”  They stared at me.  Jaybird broke the silence by saying that she understood.  The boys nodded their heads in agreement and we went back to breakfast.  I started to cry.

I took them to school at the usual time.  When the got out of the car I told them the usual “buona giornata” (have a good day) and added “I love you” in pretty much any language I could think of.  (“Ti amo”, “Ich liebe dich”, “”Nakupenda”)  They got out of the car and walked into school.  I cried the whole way home, thinking of the mothers in Newtown.  Hopefully, when we discuss this tragedy later, I will be able to reassure them that they are safe and that God watches over them.  That their school is full of wonderful children and adults that will help them.  I hope I never have to reassure them of this because it should be a given.  Children should always feel that adults will act in their best interest.

Prayers to all those in Connecticut and all over the world.  Please follow Jim’s advice, today and every day.

 

If you would like to see Jim’s advice more often, please see his blog <HERE>.  It’s a good one.

Ski School Tale

Sometimes we all need a little push.  For my husband, it was my father informing him that we would begin taking ski vacations as a family and he was fully expected to learn to ski.  For my daughter, she needed to be coaxed a little.  We negotiated some days with Grandma, some days at ski school.  When Mid entered ski school with her, there was another negotiation which involved a few days of ski school in exchange for some snow tubing as a reward at the end of the week.  It was a little tougher to come to agreement with Apprentice.

It was the first day of our annual ski vacation.  The sun was shining, the air was crisp and clear.  There was a little chill in the air you felt all through your lungs with each inhale.  We took the kids to ski school.  Jaybird and Mid were in a different section than Apprentice, due to their ages.  I had the older two, JB had Apprentice.  As I was getting my two situated with the ski instructor, I heard some screaming and general commotion in the other area.  I thought nothing of it and after our conversation was done, I walked over to where JB was checking in Apprentice.  Cue entrance of my mom.  She and JB were trying to reason with Apprentice outside the ski school building.  I asked what was going on.  JB reported that Apprentice had run out of the building, yelling that he had changed his mind about going to ski school that day.  JB was contemplating staying with him to be sure that he was OKay with Grandma.

As noted above, this was the first day of our ski vacation.  It was a picture perfect Steamboat, Colorado, day.  I was going to ski.  Frankly, this delay pissed me off.

I told Apprentice to come with me, asked JB to stay put and marched into ski school. He was fine until we got to the counter.  When he realized that I fully intended to leave him with these highly personal, energetic ski instructors and kids his own age, he.. well, he freaked.  His eyes started to water and he ran, ala OJ Simpson through an airport, out of the building.  Did I mention he was wearing ski boots?  Oh yes, its was a sight to behold.  I chased him out, caught him and carried him back into the building.  He was kicking.  He was screaming.  Grandma had joined me at the counter to check him in.  I paid for him and apologized for the scene he was continuing to create.  The kind woman smiled at me and summoned a 20-something instructor the front.  The young woman took Apprentice from me and carried him back into the “parent free zone” of the ski school.  I blew him a kiss, turned and walked out.  Grandma offered to take him for the day.  We will try again tomorrow, she said, I can’t stand to see him so upset.  I told her that in my experience with him that if we did not force him to do it that first day he would not ski the entire week, and I would not have it.  I thanked her for coming along to check them in and started for the lift.  She stuck around the ski school to be sure that he would calm down.  The grandma-ish woman at the reception desk smiled knowingly at her and reassuringly said, “We have at least 4-5 kids like that every day.  He is going to be fine.”  And, of course, he was.  He just needed a little push.

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Random cuteness of kids after a day of skiing in Steamboat.

The last day of the same ski vacation, we were getting suited up for a day on the slopes when we noticed the front door closing.  Apprentice had completed getting his gear on, grabbed his skis and had headed out for ski school.  He has typical German patience, or lack thereof, and decided that he had enough of waiting for everyone else.  He wanted to get out on the slopes for the last day.  Part of me was so very happy that he loved (and still loves) to ski.  However, the vocal mom in me yelled to my dad to chase him down and make him wait for us.  When I caught up to him, he had the same look I had the first day, when I was delayed in getting on the lift.

This story was the topic of our breakfast conversation this morning as the kids and I discussed upcoming ski plans.  They are becoming good skiers.  So good, actually, that sometimes its hard to tell who is more excited to get to the mountains, them or me.  They went through all their favorite ski hills.  Lake Louise, for overall family time.  Steamboat, for the awesome ski school and “Why Not” run.  Sunshine for the close proximity to Banff.  Copper Mountain because of the moose house, (the condo we rented a couple of times had this monstrous moose pelt hanging on the wall…at least I think it was a moose) and the good times they had napping in the sun with Grandma.

Tis the season!  Let’s get to the slopes!

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One must see the statue of Billy the Kid when in Steamboat. Also, there’s a bar with yummy local microbrews.

He Called Me Erickson

Summer in the late 1970s always included a visit from Uncle George and family.  One of my mom’s five brothers, he had moved to this mysterious place where Vikings came from called “The Twin Cities” and was the only of her siblings to move out of the area where they grew up.  I loved when he and his family came to visit.  George would give a lot of advice to all of us kids.  Most of the time, when I would repeat this advice to my parents, they would explain that George was “full of BS” and not take what he said too seriously.  Then, they would send me back to him to get the answer for what letters “BS” meant.

Summers were usually hot and humid, made more so by the cigarette smoke that would fill our kitchen.  During George’s visits, the evenings were full of noise and new words, (which I was instructed never to repeat).  My aunts and uncles would gather at Grandma’s or our house (we lived three houses away from my grandparents) and play cards, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and smoke cigarettes.  The card games among Ray, Jim, George, Barbara, their spouses and my parents seemed to go late into the night.  Though thinking about it, I was a little kid, so it probably wasn’t all that late, really.

I could tell many stories about Uncle George. I could tell about how my grandmother would pound on the kitchen ceiling with her broomstick, (directly under his bedroom), to get him up for chores on the farm, or work in the factory, or to get back to college.  I could tell of how he was really good at winning things at county fair-type games.  He once won a stuffed animal or something for my mom, (he called her “Kid”), and hid it in a bassinnet.  He told her that he had won something for her, but she would have to pull back the blanket to see what it was.  She was terrified and took a week to work up the courage to uncover the teddy bear (or whatever it was).  He told my brother of a little “misunderstanding” that happened at the University of Wisconsin which resulted in his fraternity getting kicked off campus.  He said many times that people were just too sensitive.  He had a great sense of humor.  He had nicknames for all of us.  Popper, Lester, Stoney, Kid, Erickson, Clarkson.. we all answered to whatever he said because he was fun to be around.

Over the last many years he had faced some serious health problems.  Each time, my mom would call me and say that she was worried his condition was grave.  She was thankful his kids were taking such good care of him.  Each time, he came through determined to golf in Arizona for the winter.  Also over the last few years, Barbara, one of my mom’s sisters, was leaving us as a result of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Barbara passed away in the beginning of November.  George came down for her funeral and talked with as many as he could in the family.  He still called my mom “Kid”.

While visiting with my mom over their sister’s funeral, he had shared that he had no regrets and he was thankful for his life experiences over his many years.  George passed away this past Thanksgiving.  Knowing he was content with the life he led brought peace to many in our family.  The funeral, I was told, was a true celebration of his life.  He would have liked the party, my mom said.  There were many toasts to George and all the joy he brought to people.

The uncles that used to gather at my parents house in the summer have all passed on.  My memories of them are filled with summer evenings filled with family, laughter and a healthy dose of BS.  I would like to think that they have reunited at the kitchen table in heaven to play cards.  I imagine St. Peter, St Jude or St. Balthasar shaking their heads, wondering who let these clowns in anyway, as they curse at each other, deal cards, smoke and drink their Pabst Blue Ribbon.

To George! With love, Erickson

So the Question Is…

Jaybird has lost a tooth.  One of the molars, you know, the biggies toward the back of her mouth.  We were expecting it, as the orthodontist that put on her braces told us that she still had some baby teeth to lose.  She had told me that it was loose, but I didn’t really pay much attention.

She came home from school (yesterday? two days ago?) with her tooth in a napkin.  She showed me the lost tooth, placed the paper towel-wrapped tooth on the breakfast bar.  The tooth fairy did not leave her any money that night, as the tooth was not under her pillow. A few days (1? 2?) passed and she still had the tissue with tooth tucked into the corner on the breakfast bar.

Then came the day that I cleaned the kitchen.  I threw out the folded paper towel that had been sitting on the breakfast bar for far too long.  I swept, scrubbed and mopped.  The kids returned from school and Jaybird starting looking around in the kitchen.  I asked her what she wanted, as this is unusual.  Usually the kids run to the pantry as soon as they arrive home.  Apparently there is some kind of food shortage a few kilometers away at their school which causes them to be ravenous wolves by 3:45pm each weekday.  But I digress.  She told me she was looking for the paper towel that had been sitting on the counter.  She was going to put it next to her bed at that precise moment so not to forget again and miss out on the money from the tooth fairy.

Moment of truth.  I have mentioned before that I sometimes will tell a little white lie to my kids.  What to do here?  Bloody hell.  She is twelve years old.  I turned to her with a very serious look and quiet voice.

“Jaybird, do you still believe in the tooth fairy?”  I asked.  She smiled and whispered, “no.”  I smiled back at her, gave her the money for her tooth, and told her to keep this whole thing a secret.  She is now a conspirator.  I followed up with a “Is there anything else you would like to ask me about?  Anything you may or may not believe in?”  I was on a roll and to be honest, about done with the upcoming Christmas charade that we parents play.  I was ready to deal with the “Santa Question” as well.  But nothing.  She had nothing further.

So the tooth fairy thing is almost done.  Santa Claus?  Another time, perhaps.

Fire, Family and KP

Summer

We were having cocktails and conversation with some friends on a clear summer evening.  The fire pit was crackling and the kids were chasing unsuspecting fireflies throughout the yard.  KP’s and my conversation flipped from work to husbands to in-laws to children to schools to politics and back to work.  I love conversations with KP.  Its like having ten conversations at once about entirely unrelated things but ultimately it comes full circle to Skinny Girl Margaritas (why she likes them and I do not) and our families.  KP and her husband Tony are parents to one son.  They would love to have more children, but had some fertility challenges with the first one and those challenges were multiplying as they attempted to have another child.  KP was frustrated with unsuccessful IVF attempts.  She and her husband did not think that international adoption was for them.  But they had so much love to give and wanted another child to complete their family.

“You may think this sounds crazy, but I know my daughter is out there.  I could pick her out of a crowd.  She has ringlet curls and beautiful ebony skin.  She doesn’t look like me, and I may not have given birth to her but she is my daughter.  I am going to find her, I can feel it in my bones .”

Perhaps it was the margaritas, or the fire, or a full summer moon, but I did not think it sounded crazy.  I remember Rosie O’Donnell once explaining adoption.  She said it is when a child is born to someone and God says, “what the heck? that’s not right,” so God goes about the process of finding the forever family for that child.  And it is made right.  (OKay, I know, total pie in the sky and it is way more complicated but that is how Rosie explained it to a kid.)  I do believe that when you decide that your family should be more than you and your partner that things usually happen the way they should.  I did not think that I would ever be the mother of three.  Yet, here I am.  We decided that we wanted to have children and were lucky enough that they all came.  Although it was not always smooth sailing, (see Jaybird’s Birthday), I would not change a thing.  Our family is complete with the five of us.  KP, her husband and son were not a complete family.  Not yet.

Fall

All set to be foster parents, their house ready, KP and family are ready to take in a child or children that need a home.  Well, KP and her husband were ready.  Their son, then six years old, was with them in spirit, but had no clue as to what he had agreed to.  His world was about to change forever.  A call came that there was a little girl, about 15 months old, that needed a loving home.  KP and company jumped at the opportunity.  This beautiful, vivacious little girl showed up at the their door.  Within one day she was calling KP “Momma” and was a dream.  Again, the 6 YO boy was not so sure; eventually this little girl won his heart.  She was healthy, strong in spirit and good-natured.  Within three days her “foster-brother” was reading her bedtime stories and singing to her.  KP and family made their intentions known over the next few months.  They would like to adopt this little girl with the flawless ebony skin and ringlet curls. 

The Next Fall 

I saw the countdown on Facebook.  It is official.  KP is expecting! It is 10 days, then 9, and so on until the adoption is official.  KP and her family have welcomed a new girl into their home forever.  The pictures of the day exemplify love, family, commitment.  So many family and friends came to celebrate this family going from three to four (officially) that I felt love just oozing out of my screen.  KP’s family is living proof that when it comes to family, there is no black or white, just love, respect and kindness.  Their family is an inspiration.

When we choose to commit our lives to another person we start a spiral of decisions.  Sometimes we decide that we would like to welcome children into the mix.  Sometimes we give birth to those children and sometimes not.  It does not matter.  What matters is that we love each other, respect each other and pray for each other.  This is family.

Congratulations, KP and family on your new addition!

Jaybird’s Birthday

Jaybird today, directing traffic with the School Patrol.

“Am I officially twelve yet?  What time was I born?  What was that day like?”  So many questions from Jaybird this morning.  Its her birthday.  She has never asked these types of questions before today.  We talked in generalities about the day, how it was the election of 2000, the infamous Bush v. Gore, that I had been in the hospital on bedrest for three weeks prior to her birth and that I was able to vote absentee with the help of my friend Sandy and the NAACP.  And, of course, that she was born at 5:53pm.

Three weeks in a hospital bed while lying only on your left side affords you the luxury to reflect on some serious stuff.  It also allowed for me to read a few books, (not on pregnancy, though, I was too nervous).  I also had time to call every organization I could think of for assistance in getting an absentee ballot for the presidential election approaching.  When neither the republican or democratic campaign offices could help, saying a deadline had passed and I was SOL, I called the League of Women Voters.  Again, no luck.  I called local representatives’ offices with no luck.  Then I called the NAACP, (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).  That’s right.  This white girl from a small town in Wisconsin called the NAACP, explained my situation to a very patient person and got answers.  They told me how to get a ballot, how to get it to the correct place, everything.  I am thankful to the NAACP and to Sandy for their assistance in voting that year.

Three weeks and twelve years ago I was admitted into the hospital with severe preeclampsia, a condition that means my blood pressure was similar to that of a shaken soda can.  During those three weeks on bed rest in the hospital, I often asked myself, “why?  Why me”?  I had done everything in the “right order”, attended and graduated from college, fell in love, got married, and then we waited until we were financially stable to start a family.  Okay, “financially stable” may be a stretch, but you get my point.  So, why, then, was I lying here in this hospital bed?  I had many friends and family come to visit me while in the hospital, my brother and I would read the Wall Street Journal sometimes and solve the world’s problems.  My husband or my parents were a constant at my bedside.  As the days went on, though, Jaybird was becoming more stressed in utero.  I remember telling my OB/GYN on a Friday that I didn’t think I would make it much longer, that I had a feeling that I would need to deliver soon.  He was patient and kind, assuring me that I was in good hands and that everything would be fine.  I came to a realization while in the hospital.  If one in eight babies (from March of Dimes website) was to be born premature, perhaps the question is not “why me?” but “why NOT me?”  After all, I had good health insurance and a terrific support system of family and friends.  Just thinking of all those kids out there that have daily challenges of getting clean water or food or are orphaned or abused or whatever made me realize that if the act of being born was her greatest challenge, we were a lucky family indeed.

As the day of November 7 progressed, a few things happened. I was growing more confused as a result of the preeclampsia and my parents had come to my room for a visit.  Thank goodness they did.  My mom, a nurse, had instructed me upon being admitted to the hospital to write a list of everyone that I could think of that could get in touch with my husband if something unthinkable happened.  The afternoon of November 7 my physician had given the orders that I was no longer allowed television, as election coverage made my already-high blood pressure enter the stratosphere.  It was also the afternoon that during my daily ultrasound all pleasant small talk ceased.  A strange seriousness came over the resident doing the ultrasound and she told me that she would be right back.  The Chief Resident entered, who continued the ultrasound.  My mother left the room.  I looked at my dad.  He grabbed my hand, sensing that I was frightened.  The Chief Resident looked at me and asked, “Where is your husband?”

I replied, “I don’t know.”

“Is he here?”

“No.”

“Okay.  Get him here as soon as possible.  I am calling your OB and we need to deliver her today.”  The rest is a bit of a blur.  As stated above, my mother had instructed me to write a list of how to contact JB in the event of something unthinkable.  Something unthinkable had just happened.  I forgot where JB was and how to get in touch with him.

I was whisked away, prepped for surgery and told to relax.  Relax?  I was freaking out.  Only 29 weeks along (a pregnancy should go 40 weeks) and barely able to put a sentence together, I had no clue what was happening.  Listening to the OB/GYN and the Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist discuss the best way to deliver my baby was surreal.  I kept thinking of a news story that I had read a few weeks earlier about a woman who gave birth alone, on a treetop in Mozambique during a flood (http://babyworld.co.uk/2000/03/a-woman-gave-birth-in-a-treetop/).  If she could do that, what was my problem?

JB arrived at the hospital and was brought into the delivery operating room.  I asked him how his day was and what he had for lunch.  He stared at me incredulously.  I begged him to talk about something mundane and normal, as I was about to jump out of my skin in fear.  He had a sandwich, some fruit, water, you know, the usual.  The leaves were falling, Al Gore was predicted to win Florida’s electoral votes (this still makes me giggle a bit), and it was a nice day outside.

Then we heard her.  She was so very tiny and translucent, as many preemies are, yet screaming something fierce.  “Is that her?” I asked. Yes, it was her, and she was screaming.  She was small, 11 weeks premature and a bit translucent, but she was screaming and that was a very good sign.  There were so many people in the room at this point that I have no idea who was doing what.  I just know that they placed this small, crying baby on my chest and I have not been the same since.  She looked into my eyes and I instantly loved her.  Then, they took her away.   She weighed in at 1 pound 10 ounces, and was 13 inches long.  She fit in the palm of JB’s hand. She was very small, on a ventilator, but was otherwise healthy.  The vent lasted three days before it was no longer needed.  She graduated to the little prongs but eventually pulled those out on her own.  Her determination inspired me.  I had many more complications from giving birth so early but Jaybird continued to grow and develop.  The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) became home for a couple of months for us.  We were able to hold her, feed her, change her thumbelina diapers and love her.  JB will tell you that I cried quite a bit during this time.  It is a blur to me.  We brought her home two weeks before her due date, when she was able to hold her body temperature, could eat and breathe on her own.  She was four pounds.

Jaybird is about 3 lbs in this picture. The gold band around her arm is JB’s wedding band.

I am so thankful for the (very) little girl who was given to us on this day twelve years ago, and thankful for the person she is becoming.  Happy Birthday, Jaybird!

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