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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Completion of the First Trimester

Jessica's visit was wonderful. It was great to meet her in person and she said she felt like we were great friends who had known each other for years. I got to ask her more about her personal journey of infertility and it was heartbreaking. She had been through 4 rounds of IVF on her own, all in the states since you can't be approved for IVF in China if you are a single woman. It didn't sound like any of those transfers implanted at all. We were also able to discuss some of the logistics and plans once the baby is born. She plans on finding short term housing of some kind and staying in San Diego for 2-3 months before taking the baby back to China. She will get a nanny to help her out, and is still trying to figure out if her parents will come out and stay with her as well. We discussed areas and due to her having to rely on public transportation and wanting to be close by to some sort of Asian market we identified Mira Mesa as the best location for her. Additionally we found out that her company has a location on the west side of Mira Mesa Blvd very close to UCSD, which makes that location even more ideal. She will likely be able to come in early Oct and work from that location before the baby arrives, which will insure she will be in town when the baby comes, even if she comes early which is wonderful.

As for me, this week I am 13 weeks along, and that closes out the first trimester. I've had a rough couple of weeks. I stopped meds on April 4th and my nausea got worse once I stopped them. As with my girls, it slowly got worse during the day, with the worst of it being in the afternoon and evening. The unisom and B6 wasn't quite cutting it anymore and I was throwing up most evenings. Last week was an especially hard week, including some migraines, and then we had a terrible scare on Wed. I had several important meetings at work, and one hour before the start of them, I felt a gush. I looked down and blood had soaked through my pants, not a good sign. It was definitely a mix of some other fluid and blood, which immediately had me worried that it was amniotic fluid. I called the Dr. and they advised that while nothing could really be done intervention wise if it was a miscarriage, that I should get it checked out to see what was going on. Since I was continuing to bleed a small amount, I really had no choice but to go to the ER (since UCSD doesn't really have urgent care set up for this sort of thing). I went and luckily they were able to see me right away. They took my blood and did an ultrasound which showed the baby was perfectly fine, wiggling and heartbeat strong. There was no substantial residual fluid or bleeding and my cervix was totally closed, so they discharged me with instructions to follow up ASAP with my OB.....

Which presented a problem because meanwhile, I had been officially released from the RE to UCSD, and UCSD was in the process of reviewing my records to determine if I could be seen by the midwives. So I had to call them and try to expedite that process, hoping it didn't disqualify me from the birth center. They eventually were able to get me in first thing on Friday the 13th just to check up and everything looked perfect. I asked what it could have been and they said it could have been anything... the weather, hormone levels, etc. Nature is funny like that sometimes. The good news is that baby looked good, amniotic fluid good, heart rate good, movement good, measuring on track, etc. So with that they gave me a clear bill of health and released me to the midwives! I was able to get my first apt with them on the books for next week.

Then a few days ago I increased my Unisom frequency because the nausea and evening vomiting was getting the best of me and luckily I responded well to that. Soooooo for now, holding steady, trying to see through the darkness of the lingering first trimester symptoms and gagging my way through the smelly, smelly world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Surrogacy Update

I've been updating my stories on Facebook and Instagram over the last few weeks but I figured it was time to put them all together for an official update. The great news is that this transfer was successful and is viable (at least so far - do you ever really feel out of the woods with any pregnancy, no less a high risk one?)

Prep for the transfer went fine. I began my med cycle just after the new year, and was fine with the shots and hormones. Some women have really bad physical reactions and side effects but besides a few bad headaches (that could be addressed with Tylenol) I was clear. The med prep consisted of three different kinds of hormone shots (Lupron, Delestrogen and Progesterone, but no more than two per night), prenatal, aspirin, two rounds of antibiotics and thyroid meds to bring my thyroid down slightly.

The trip up to Portland for the transfer was part vacation, and part procedure. Ryan and I flew up to Portland on Friday Feb 2nd, and had that evening and all of Sat and Sun to explore and eat our way through the city. Ice cream at Ruby Jewel, fresh pasta at Grassa, donuts at Blue Star, Pho-rench Dip Sandwiches at Lardo, pastrami fries and beer (for Ryan) at 10 Barrel Brewing, and fried green onions, pancakes and biscuits & gravy at Pine State Biscuits among our favorites. Hard to believe we didn't gain any weight that weekend but we did walk everywhere so that likely saved us! We also went to the Portland Japanese Garden which was stunningly designed and cared for. Even in the dead of winter it was beautiful; I can't imagine what it looks like in the Fall for the turning of the leaves or in Spring with blooms!

After the fun of being tourists for several days came to a close, the real purpose of our trip there came on Monday, Feb 5th. It was quick and went smoothly. Conveniently, where we were staying, Hotel deLuxe is literally right across the street from Oregon Reproductive Medicine. I got acupuncture treatments both before and after the transfer, and they transferred the 6 day hatching baby girl successfully and sent me back to the hotel for extended bedrest. Ryan took off that night to get home to the girls and relieve his mom, who had watched them while we were gone. I tried not to go stir crazy on bedrest for the whole next day, watching TV, reading books, updating all my food reviews on TripAdvisor... And on Wed morning bright and early I flew home, with a fresh little embryo trying to implant in my belly!

From all the surrogacy groups online, I knew that depending on how fast the embryo implants, you can get a positive pregnancy test as early as 3 days post transfer (crazy right???). When the baby implants the hormone hCG begins to be produced, and roughly the levels of it double every 48-72  hours (although levels vary widely). That hormone is what pregnancy tests detect, and the better tests can detect an hCG level as low as 12 in urine. Blood tests for hCG are much more precise of course. My first scheduled blood test was at 9 dpt (days post transfer) so I was pretty anxious to wait until then for results. Jessica, my intended mother, preferred to just wait for the official blood test so there was no specific direction to take a pregnancy test. My agency sent me a little care package for the transfer that included tests, so I planned on using those to test at home and keeping any news to myself.

I had three tests so I tested at 5, 7 and 9 dpt. All three were a faint positive but did not get any darker. This worried me, since that indicated that the hCG levels were not increasing as they should. I assumed it would be a chemical pregnancy (the embryo implants, and hCG is produced but from there fails to continue growing and ends up as an early miscarriage). The 9 dpt hCG level was 13, which was positive but lower than normal. At that point it was "continue to monitor and see" so I went in for several more blood tests; 11 dpt was 36, 14 dpt was 211, 18 dpt was 899 and 23 dpt was 3116. Luckily from that first test the levels were rising at an appropriate level so I'm guessing baby girl was just late to implant. They also did an early ultrasound at 6 weeks, because at that point, since the hCG levels were rising but were low to begin with they are worried about it being ectopic (where the baby implants in someplace besides the uterus which is super tragic because it necessitates an automatic abortion). The ultrasound showed baby girl right where she should be, and although it was a little early to detect one, they were able to confirm the heartbeat!

From there I was anxious for Jessica to get the news, so I sent her a message asking if she wanted to know how the ultrasound went or if she wanted to wait to hear officially from the RE, and she didn't respond all day (she was back in China for the Chinese New Year and it was overnight there) so she actually didn't wake up until we got the official news from the RE anyway, but she got to wake up to a happy email confirming that baby looked great! She was very happy and after being anxious over the low numbers this was a sigh of relief to us all.

It was another wait and see for two more weeks, and then I went in for another ultrasound last week on Wed, at 8 weeks. That ultrasound looked great too, and besides baby girl measuring a few days behind everything was perfect. I took a video of the ultrasound and sent it to Jessica and she exclaimed "Oh my baby! So excited to see her!" which melted my heart. We have another ultrasound scheduled for 11 weeks (we would have done 10 weeks but we will be up in Santa Cruz for spring break) and then they will release me to my OB down here at UCSD for the rest of the pregnancy if everything looks good!

They have already begun tapering me off the meds, and added a vaginal progesterone suppository twice a day which is sooooo disgusting. I was thinking I might have gotten lucky and gotten off the hook for morning sickness (since with the girls it came on strong at 6 weeks) but last week I begun to feel super nauseous. They have now approved a B6 + Unisom regime for morning sickness that they didn't do back when I was pregnant with the girls, and so I began to take that early last week and it is helping immensely. It's high maintenance (the Unisom at night and the B6 every 3-4 hours during the day) and I have to keep eating small carby meals throughout the day to stay on top of it, but that keeps it to a tolerable level. Although my sense of smell is as keen as ever (Ryan came into our bedroom the other night and I was like, "ew, you were just outside weren't you???" He looked at me like I was crazy, but I could smell that he had been outside....) at least I'm not throwing up all the time.

And I'm super excited that this weekend Jessica will be in town for a conference for work! Her conference is just north of Long Beach so she is going to fly in to SD on Sat, and she will stay with us overnight before catching a bus up to her conference the next day. I'm really excited to meet her and have her meet the family! We've picked out a Dim Sum restaurant down here to go to, and she will show us the ropes since we have never had it before.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The "Why's" of my Surrogacy Journey

There is no one, simple answer to why I am embarking on this journey. As Aristotle said, "The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts". Some of these were original reasons to continue to pursue consideration and with me from the beginning, and some were collected along the way, further solidifying the decision to move forward. Yes, some (ok, many) of these are admissions that I'm not a 100% altruistic person. If I'm being honest, I'm doing a lot of this for selfish reasons. But, I pride myself on my authenticity, so that's what I'm giving.

  1. The Money. Let's get this one out of the way. Yes, I am being paid for this journey. And I have to be honest, I would not be doing it if I wasn't. Pregnancy comes with risks, and it's not a walk in the park (especially for me). While I try to be a generous person, this type of thing is not something I would do without adequate compensation and mitigation of risk. And the money my family will receive from this will help us tremendously. It will replenish our emergency fund. Pay for the kitchen remodel we just had done that I had waited more than a decade for. Perhaps get us a once in a lifetime family trip to Disney World. 
  2. I'm Special. Selfishly, this journey makes me feel special. During my initial introduction interview with my agency, I asked the question "How many women actually inquire about surrogacy vs actually qualify and end up being surrogates?". The answer was shockingly low; just over 5%. At that point I was still considering surrogacy, but that answer pinpoints the change from curiously contemplating to decisively pursuing. In my mind, there was a reason I had been led down this path, and the odds were incredibly against me qualifying. At that moment, I knew that I was going to see this through, and if somehow I defied most odds, it was meant to be. And if it was, it would mean I was unique. I was special.
  3. Changing a Life. I've always loved the idea of physically giving of myself in a way that helps or saves others. Call it a hero complex. I donate blood regularly. I love knowing that I'm helping to save lives. I'm a registered bone marrow transplant and organ donor. I have fantasies about being in the right place at the right time to save someone's life; pushing out of the way of a moving vehicle, performing the Heimlich maneuver on a choking person, etc. A highlight of the last year was helping an overheated and incoherent woman over the finish line of one of my races and getting her to the medic tent, knowing that she would have probably passed out by herself and delayed getting the care she needed if I had not been there to help. I know it's selfish, but it makes me feel good about myself. You can't choose to be in the right place at the right time and safe a life. But with surrogacy, I CAN choose to grow a life, and give a family to someone who wouldn't have one without me. And that's as good as it gets.
  4. For the Experience. This is going to be a really cool experience. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm into strange, random things. The crazier the better. Life is too short to be bored. And it doesn't get any more interesting than this.
  5. For my Daughters. Aurora was only a year old when I got pregnant with Abby, and had just turned 2 when I had her. She will likely have few lasting memories, if any at all of Abby's pregnancy and birth. And Abby has nothing. The girls will be 7 and 9 by the time my surro baby is born, and they will be able to experience and remember the excitement of the entire pregnancy and birth with understanding, wonder and curiosity. Most of my friends and family know I am a staunch natural birth advocate and ardent feminist. This is a great opportunity to show my girls first hand how amazing the pregnancy and birth process can be, and how powerful women are for what they are capable of. And I want to show them the importance of taking charge, being our own advocates and making our own decisions during the process, as unfortunately so few women do. I feel this is of the utmost importance for a future time when (if) they decide to have their own children.
  6. For the Science. I've always been fascinated by research and medical advances. Of course being both staff and alumni of UCSD (currently ranked 5th in the nation for total research and development expenditures by NSF), it was in my education, and is in the work I do every day. When I was a student I signed up for every research study I qualified for (besides the risky experimental drug ones). I was happy to be providing information to further scientific study, and usually I learned something fun about my own specific body. Surrogacy is sort of the ultimate personal scientific study. I'm getting to learn just how perfect (or not) of a reproductive specimen I am. My thyroid levels are a little high. Normal, but high. Interesting. And pregnancy usually elevates those levels. That's probably why I was such a hot body after my pregnancies and it never left me. The blood flow to my uterus is a little low on the left side. Curious. And you can help that out with acupuncture. Things I never would have found out. And I'm only now starting this journey, 5 days into the med cycle. I'm going to be on a slew of drugs and hormones over the next 2 months. I'm very interested to see how my body reacts to them all. Who knows what other fun tidbits I will discover.
  7. For Love. For Justice. For Feminism. My journey is partially a protest statement. The agency I chose (All Families Surrogacy) stole my heart, as they were founded on the premise that anyone deserves a family, regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. I wanted to support this cause, as it is near and dear to my heart. I had no idea what kinds of Intended Parents (IPs) I would be potentially matched with, and when asked if I had any specifications for who I would carry for, I did not give any limitations. I was adamant that all profiles should be considered for me. It broke my heart to think that someone was waiting for a surrogate and had not been matched because they were from a less desirable demographic, in a world where the surrogate calls most of the shots. Who I ended up matching with could not have been a more perfect match. My Intended Mother (IM) is an inspiration to me. Her and her husband tried to conceive on their own, and were unsuccessful. When it was clear that she was unable to carry her own children, her husband left her. She is Chinese, and culturally, this sort of situation would typically signal the door to a family slamming shut forever. But she sought out an agency and the highly reputable RE associated with them (Oregon Reproductive Medicine) to secure her own embryos and pursue a family alone. She has been able to secure several boy and only one girl embryo. Culturally, only two years past the 1 child rule, there is still strong gender disposition towards men, and most other Chinese women in her position would try for the boys first. But she is again, breaking all cultural stereotypes and is hoping that her only girls takes on this first try. What a freaking amazing woman!!! I feel as if it's possible I was meant to carry for her and her alone.
  8. Jacobs! I was always really sad I didn't get to deliver at UCSD's new and incredible Jacob's Center. And now, I do!!!!!!
  9. UCSD's Women & Infant's PAFAC. I'm a member of our Patient and Family Advisory Council. I have been for about 6 years. My role on the committee is as a patient, but at this point, my experience as a patient was pretty stale and losing relevance with every passing year. I'll now have fresh perspective and feedback to provide to this council that I am so dedicated to. To boot, it will be a unique angle, as a surrogacy pregnancy has uncommon process aspects to it.
Ok so that's all that's coming to my mind at this point. By no means an exhaustive list to be sure! But as you can see, the reasons are varied and all over the place. But together build a strong foundation, and have seemed to "lead" me all to the same place.So here I am!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Surrogacy Journey

So I'm doing this thing. I'm going to be carrying a baby for a mom who can't carry her own. No, this isn't a joke. Yes, I'm serious. Yes, I'm aware of the risks. And no, this didn't come out of the blue....

~ 9 Months Ago (March, 2017)

I saw an ad in Instagram for surrogacy. I was surprised at the amount that was listed for compensation and saved the ad to look into further later. At this point it was just a curiosity thing.

Later, I looked into it. The ad was from an agency based out of Portland called All Families Surrogacy (AFS). The more I looked into them the more I fell in love with them. A relatively new agency, but clearly run by devoted and loving individuals whose lives were personally touched in various ways by surrogacy, and who were committed to providing a unique surrogacy experience for Surrogates and Intended Parents (IPs) alike; based on the best service and care available, and focused on a positive, safe and informed experience for everyone involved. And best of all, they were specifically supportive of ALL loving family situations, not just traditional ones.

Over the next several weeks, I kept thinking about surrogacy and AFS. All the time telling myself, of course I would never consider actually doing something like this. It's crazy. It's risky. It's hard. I hated being pregnant. But, still, something nagging in the back of mind just couldn't let it go. And so I did what I always do when I can't let something go... I researched, I googled, I read, and I soaked my mind with every drop of knowledge and opinion until it poured out my conscious. And the more I researched and thought about it, the more I was compelled to look into it further.

The next step would be to inquire with the agency, fill out their questionnaire, and see if I met the requirements. So I did. Meanwhile, I had my first discussion with Ryan. He's been with me long enough, I'm sure he was surprised, but not really surprised. I mean anyone who really knows me isn't surprised at just about anything I decide to do, no matter how atypical or crazy. And as my best friend Venissa put it, "On one hand, I'm shocked, and I can't believe it.... on the other hand, if I were to think about all the people I know and had to pick the one person who would actually be suited to do something like this, there is no one else who makes more sense than you." He had some serious and valid concerns, and we had many long talks about all of them. Ryan is very cautious, pensive and calculated. This sort of proposal at this stage in our relationship was analogous to 20 year old Loralyn surprising him with going sky diving for his 21st birthday. Luckily I had done the research and could answer any questions he had and involved him early enough in the process that he had plenty of time to think about and consider it before coming to a conclusion while I was seeing if I qualified. And I told him from the beginning; "If you are not ok with this, then I can stop the process right now. I can't and won't do this without you. If it's not something that you are comfortable with, which I would totally understand, then we can close this door." And truly, if at the end of the day he didn't come around to it, then I would have respected his decision. With something like this where the risks and rewards are both very high, there are no wrong answers. Obviously though he decided that he was supportive of moving forward.

Meanwhile I was still on my own path of considering this life-altering decision. I had an informational video conference with AFS, and asked a ton of questions and concerns I had, while they ran down the process in detail. One of the questions I asked was "How many women like me - simply inquiring about the process - actually make it through screening, matching and successfully become a surrogate?" The answer was shocking, and more than anything else, settled my determination to see this through. Roughly 5-10%. Less than 1 out of ten women who express an interest in becoming a surrogate mother actually end up doing so. At that point, I felt that the universe had directed me to this place, in this moment, for this purpose. The odds were against me; the chances that I would pass all screenings and this would happen were so small, I felt compelled to see it through. I felt strongly in that moment that I was meant to do this. If I was not, I would be disqualified as the majority of women are.

~ 6 Months Ago (April, 2017)

The next step in the process was opening ourselves up and signing over a slew of documents to go through a rigorous screening process that included a full release of medical history, background check, home visit and psychological evaluation. This step took quite a while, and was the most likely step to be disqualified as a surrogate.

~ 2 Months ago (September, 2017)

I passed all screenings, moving me forward to the next step; profiles and matching. I put together my profile, trying to be as honest about who I am, what my family means to me and what values we hold dear and firm about my expectations and wishes of the process. This stage happened very quickly; I went from just finding out I had passed all initial screenings to having my first profile to review all in a week. The first profile I was sent was a single woman from China who was pursing surrogate to help her create her own family after her husband divorced her because after unsuccessful attempts to carrying their own children. Her story spoke to me; my mom raised me herself so I immediately felt connected to her situation; and in her culture which is very male dominated, to overcome a disgraceful divorce and painful fertility issues determined to pursue her dream of a family on her own was inspirational and empowering. She had secured a girl embryo and two boy embryos, and was going to try for the girl first; she was already referring to the baby as "she". This further endeared me to her, as in her culture males are normally the "preferred" sex. There have been many other things that make her and her immediate family stand out as progressive thinkers, affirming the match even more.

Now (Nearly November, 2017)

Last week I took a short, one day trip up to Portland for my uterine evaluation with Oregon Reproductive Medicine. I've had to get a slew of labs run, and everything from here on out has to be monitored extensively. My thyroid was within normal ranges, but was a tiny bit high for what the want (they want it to be at 2.5 or below and mine was 3.19) so I am now on medicine to lower it. I am on a special kind of birth control. And sometime at the end of November, if everything goes well, I will start a complicated and extensive hormone schedule to put my body into menopause, repress my own reproductive system and prepare it for the embryo transfer which we hope will be sometime in January.

Meanwhile, we are officially in contract negotiations. This is probably the most important part of the process, as it is the absolute last word and legally binding document between me as the surrogate and the Intended Mother (IM) and it contains every last wish, preference and agreement in regards to every foreseeable situation, outcome and circumstance.

So that's a wrap on how this all came to be. Please feel free to ask any questions; as with anything I do, I am a firm believer in doing your research, feeling secure with your decisions, being in control of your body, and being an advocate for yourself. I hope that sharing my experience will leave others with a better understanding of this process, and clarify or invalidate misinformation that may be out there about surrogacy.

In a later post I intend to cover more of my feelings about surrogacy and specifically why I feel the need to be and ultimately decided to be a surrogate, and all of the considerations that went into this.





Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beginning Of The Year

The first three months of the year is very peaceful and gives our family some rare down time. The holidays are in the rear-view mirror, quickly fading, the new year has settled in, and camping season has not yet started. It is normally the only quarter we can sign the girls up for any activities. This time it was gymnastics, since swim seems to be pretty impossible to get into at UCSD. The girls absolutely love it, and now that my marathon and the related training is over, I can take them and finally give Ryan back some time to himself for mountain biking. We have been making sure that he gets out once a weekend (besides weekends of illness or bad weather). He has also been riding from work a lot more too. He recently made the switch down to 8 hour days, meaning he gets off at 3:30. Since 45 min is a long time for him to wait around for me to pick him up, he has been riding home on his bike, which gives him a head start on home chores before we get home. But since mornings are cold and timing is tight, we do carpool into work together. Since putting the bike on the roof rack that often presented numerous issues and inconveniences, we made our newest Ruby improvement/upgrade; a bike rack. It took several weeks, many trips to ACE and lots of sawing, grinding, welding and traded meals for borrowed tools and donated work, but it is done and its a functional and handy addition that Ryan is very proud of.

We also finally made headway with the nightmare that had become the game room. For my birthday, my mom gave me the choice of picking out some stones to have set for a replacement wedding ring, or a new toy storage system, and it took me about two seconds to decide. In fact, I didn't even have to think about the "decision". My sanity and piece of mind needed to do something with that room and all those toys or I would have gone crazy. We got a new set at IKEA and rearranged everything. Now, there is a bin for every type of toy or activity, and if there is not room for something new, room must be made. I love that there is a designated area, with a finite amount of room that limits the total toys that the girls are allowed. Around the same time, our TV started going out - screaming at us or displaying green lines across the screen. We ended up putting it in the game room temporarily after buying a new TV, and discovered that it was only a power source issue causing the issues to begin with, so we mounted it in above the toy storage, allowing the game room to now be converted to a movie room for the girl's movie nights.

Speaking of nights, we recently had a potty relapse of Abby being potty trained, especially overnight. It started with her waiting too long to go during the day and having little accidents. She would wait so long, and by that point had to go so badly that she was paralyzed and couldn't move a single step, leaving us to swipe her up and rush her to the bathroom. This eventually crept into the night, and several times had a small accident before waking up crying. I drew the line when she completely wet the bed, and did not wake up. Back to pull-ups we go. I was pretty devastated, and complained to Diane. Well wouldn't you guess, it took Diane two days of talking to Abby and suddenly pull-ups were like diapers; for babies, and Abby was back on track sleeping through the night in her panties, no accidents. I curse that amazing woman; she is a better mother than I am at least half the time. Thank God she is a part of our lives, I don't know what we would do without her!

Guinness re-injured her back recently. We just came home one day and she was exactly like she was the previous time; hunched back, trouble controlling bowels, dragging hind legs, in obvious and clear pain, very little mobility. This time I went right to the internet, and found absolute confirmation of what I had suspected from last time; it was her back. This brought a sinking sadness, as I realized that this was the beginning of serious back problems for our sweet little Guinness, and it would just get worse from here on out. I looked back at the calendar and it had been only 6 months since the first occurrence. We brought her into the vet, who agreed it was her back. They gave us some anti-inflammatory pain meds for her and sent us home. We tried our best to keep her grounded but the more she heals and starts to feel better the more mobile she wants to be, which is very bad for her back! Clearly we need to make some changes to decrease the risk and frequency of these events. First, we bought an new accordion gate for the game room. Guinness had chewed through the other one, and since she was behaving downstairs and we just put up a gate to keep her from going up the stairs. I believe that jumping is probably the worst for her back, followed by going up and down stairs. Jumping up and down off the couch all day long is an easy fix; keep her in the game room and she cant jump at all while we are at work. Keeping her from taking stairs has proved to be a bigger issue the more she has healed and feels mobile again (it has been now 6 weeks and she is almost entirely healed). We did put her stairs down by the couch, and have been trying to make sure she uses them while we are home instead of jumping up and down. Taking them from the bed also means she cant get on the bed herself, so we pick her up to put her on the bed, and thus far she has been okish at not jumping down. Although she still does this several times a week and I cringe every time it happens. In any case, all we can do is minimize her physical risk of a re-occurrence, knowing that one cannot be avoided. She will throw out her back regularly from here on out, and at some point these instances will become so frequent that we will have to make a heart-wrenching call and decide at which point the pain she is in and for how long outweighs the quality and quantify of uninjured life she experiences.

Our summer plans have been finalized, and as with each year, I am very excited about our trips. We are camping a lot, as the girls are older and easier to handle. We have it down now so the packing and prepping is minimal and doable. We are mostly staying local, trying to save both time and money to travel to Alaska and Hawaii next year to visit family. So we decided on only one week long trip this year. We will be going back to Zion, which is really exciting. It is such a beautiful place with so much to do and see outdoors. We will also be taking extended weekends up in Big Bear, and a couples trip to end the season out in Catalina.

Rory is also now officially a girl scout, part of troop 4436 in Tierrasanta. It was a whirlwind experience, but everything is worked out now. It started with a flyer sent home through school; interested in being a girl scout? Come to this informational session. When I got to the meeting, we were told that there were no troops accepting new girls, and that the hope was to start a new troop with those there that night. Without much of a choice, we all agreed to attend another meeting to see how we could make this work. By default, I sort of became the "daisy" lead, and another mother, Amy the "brownie" lead. Since we didn't have enough girls to form a troop of each, we would start off together, and separate at some point down the road. After the second meeting and we began to try to organize and plan the troop out, it became clear to me that although I was willing to commit what I could for my daughter to be in girl scouts, there was no way that I could take lead. I decided to pull out at that point as any kind of leader. Luckily, Amy is an absolute rockstar, and another mom stepped up to take the role as Daisy lead. Together, they put the troop together and welcomed Aurora into their troop as I could try to fit her in. They decided on meetings every other Friday from 3-4:30, and Cheryl will be able to get off early and bring her to these meetings. On the occasion that she can't, there are other moms who have offered to get her from school and bring her to the meetings. She has her little outfit, we have the first patches all ironed on, and she has her first trip planned for next week to attend a performance of sleeping beauty by the San Diego youth academy ballet! I'm really pleased with how it all ended up. So here we go, fitting in even more to our already crazy schedule. As we speak now, we don't have a day free until May 30th; two full months out. Funny how fast that previously mentioned lull at the beginning of the year disappears. Cheers to never being bored!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Falling Into Fall

Where do I even begin? Maybe by simply stating that the summer has come and gone before I had a chance to blink. That would certainly explain the absence of any posts between then and now. We enjoyed our last summer on our own schedule, and Rory started Kindergarten on Sept 2nd. It has almost been a month and it feels like years. Our schedule is far more hectic with backpack checking, papers from school passing back and forth, lunch box packing and cleaning, questioning about the going ons of school, homework assignments (memorizing a lunch code, our address, her birthday, our phone number is enough to make my head spin no less hers), school fundraisers, sorting out a pick-up drop off schedule that will work out for Diane, the list goes on and on. In the midst of that I have started official training for my full marathon in January, and I'm not quite sure how we make it through each day (but we do)!

We ended up settling on Vista Grande after a difficult summer of back and forth information and decisions. Diane is able to do the drop off and pick up there (the main reason we didn't go with Tierrasanta Elementary), which allows us to keep the one car situation for that much longer, saving money each month we don't have a second vehicle. We will re-assess as needed, but for now, we maintain the easy schedule of carpooling together every day. Max started at Diane's recently too, so she certainly has a full load - Max, Ethan, Landon, Sam & Luke, and Abby. I honestly don't know how she does it - between having them all day, dropping both Rory and Kevin off at school, nap time for the littles, getting Rory and Kevin from school, Kevin's water polo practice; I'm pretty sure she has a time machine in her back pocket.

Rory is taking to school well though. It was a bit tough to adjust to the new schedule, both for her and us. Far more time is needed to go through everything each day, and prepare what she needs, prepping her for each new task. Her patience is low as is ours. Time is even scarcer. We all have to be really careful, as it is easy to get grumpy. But we have settled into a pretty good system. Her teacher Ms. Samantha Lunn seems very sweet and bubbly, and Rory adores her. She is already learning so much. Every day she comes home with a new song or tidbit of information. Certainly makes you appreciate the school system and the role that teachers play in educating our youth.

We have also settled on a lunch that works. At first I was trying to give her a balanced lunch (protein, dairy, vegetable, fruit, carb) and it quickly became apparent that was not going to work out. It was too hard for me to find something in each food group every day to pack that she would eat. So snack is now a applesauce packet (each and quick for her to eat then go right to playing), and then I pack some pretzels and peanut butter, and fruit. She seems to be really happy with that and its easy for me to keep those things on hand. So until she gets sick of it.....

Abby has finally given up the pacifier. Which is to say that we finally took it away from her. We tried to take it away at 3, but then she was still getting her final set of molars in so we gave it back. They are all in so Ryan snipped her paci and it is no more. I was worried about not having a soothing technique for her when she was upset but it seems if you sing Frozen's "Let It Go" it works just as good if not better than a pacifier so we are all set!

We also had a little scare with Guinness on our last camping trip of the season. Long story short, she must have hurt her back somehow, and was in serious pain for several days, with incontinence, and little to no mobility in her legs. After a few days she was still walking hunched up, and the right left leg was dragging a little and over the weeks she has been able to add the stairs back in (carefully) and now is finally starting to jump again. But certainly we need to watch her from here on out; she's not a puppy anymore and Dachshunds are prone to back problems anyway.

Well, summer has come to an end and fall is here. It's time for Halloween, birthdays, and the Holidays.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer-ish

So I know that technically there are 4 seasons, but in San Diego, with the weather being as mild as it is year round we pretty much have summer and not summer. So while summer doesn't start until June 21st, our summer plans and trips are already well underway. We started with a bang for our annual Memorial Day camping trip up at the King's River, which was incredibly warm weather for the first time in a long time. The kids had a blast playing along the shoreline, and we had a great time watching them, eating, drinking and trying to stay cool with good friends. Last weekend we journeyed up to Bullhead City, outside of Laughlin and off the Colorado River to stay with two other couples, and spend our days on the shore of Lake Mohave. Again with warm weather, the kids played in the water, while us adults relaxed, enjoyed each other's company eating and drinking to our hearts content (I'm seeing a trend?). Next weekend I head off to Vegas with Venissa to celebrate her and her sister's birthdays. I dyed my hair red one last time for this trip, then after that I'm going to have Rain put in highlights and take the color back to a more natural color that doesn't fade as quickly and will grow out less drastically. But while in sin city, I'll be a fiery redhead! If I'm lucky we will spend some time poolside, drinking with good friends.... (deja vu)

Abby's birthday party is just around the corner and it's a good thing we are getting used to the heat, since we are having it at a park in Santee. But its got an enormous shaded gazebo and its a water party theme, which means kids in swimsuits running around with squirt guns and water balloons. The kids are going to have an absolute blast. And there will be plenty of food and drinks to keep us adults entertained while we keep eyes on the kids... (apparently our entire summer is about hot weather, kids playing in the water, and us talking, drinking and eating). Abby is so excited for her party and keeps complimenting people on various accessories and clothing pieces, telling them that they can wear it/them to her party. It's completely adorable. While she is excited about her party though, she is devastated to be losing her pacifier. She bit off the head of her regular one before falling asleep last night and freaked out and would not be consoled until we dragged out the spare one. She knows the tooth fairy is going to come and take it away when she turns 3, because pacifiers are bad for her teeth, but I don't think she is making the connection emotionally.

Rory is still in the pull-ups. We bought the alarm and tried 3 nights of it. Before Rory went to bed on the first night, she chewed through the plastic layer protecting the wire. I swear, that little rabbit would chew through a broom handle if it was in her hands long enough. A wrapping of electrical tape and moving the alarm to her pants instead of shirt and we were ready to go. The alarm went off twice that night, and the next morning she was excited that she had slept through the night without wetting herself (she had no recollection whatsoever of either incident). We tried two more nights, and even after "lifting" to her her go before we went to bed, she was still peeing twice a night. After that sleep deprivation of both her and me, I gave up and stopped. We will just have to put her in the next size up for pull-ups, and wait it out until neurologically she is ready to stop wetting at night.

We are going to have an amazing crop of tomatoes and basil this year. The basil I grew from seeds took off like wildfire, so I transplanted some in both the garden and in the jasmine planter box, so we should have lots of plants providing as much basil as I can cook with. And the three tomatoes I have been desperately trying to keep up with trimming and tying up are consuming nearly the entire garden. A few early girls are ready, and the beefsteaks are on their way, and the cherry tomatoes are coming along too. The watermelons in the store are a great crop this year, and I'm sure it helps that I finally looked up how to pick out the best watermelon (1. Look for a dull waxy rind, 2. Look for a bright yellow spot that indicates it was left to ripen on the vine longer for a sweeter melon, and 3. It should be heavy for its size, indicating higher water content and a crispier flesh.)

Ryan and I have also signed up for a 10k run in August. This is huge since Ryan has never run more than a mile or two in his life. He can't currently run a half mile without stopping. We have put up a training schedule for him and I'm incredibly excited to run with him, since running is one of my loved extra-curriculars, and I haven't been able to share that part of me with him. I don't know if I already mentioned that I signed up for the Carlsbad full marathon in January too so my training for that will start in September.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Growing Pains For The Girls

The girls are going through their own growing pains. Abby desperately wants to grow taller and be a "big girl". She is well on her way; after being potty trained during the day for only a few weeks, she started waking up in the middle of the night super upset. We figured out it was because she needed to go to the bathroom but being half-asleep and scared of the dark wasn't getting up to go on her own. After a few times aiding her she does it on her own, or more regularly, just waits until morning. To that effect we have let her wear underwear to bed, and pick out her own pack of "night" underwear. She has only had one accident.

Unfortunately, Abby's proud milestone has only drawn attention that Rory has been potty trained for nearly two years but still needs a pull up at night. And it's becoming a problem as she is a physically tiny girl in 2-3T sized pull ups, with a 5 year old bladder, and has peed out her pull ups several times recently. Although she takes a while to get to sleep, once she falls asleep, it takes an act of God to wake that girl up, and she sleeps right through the wetness, until morning when we wake her up to discover she has wet the bed. I don't think that would normally be too much of a concern to her, except that every night her sister gets to go to bed in panties while she has to put on pull ups, and every morning she wakes up to see her sister get congratulations for a dry night while she has to peel off a filled to the brim pull up and wipe herself down before changing into panties for the day. We have had to console her the last few mornings, explaining that it doesn't mean she isn't a big girl and her sister is; we are not mad at her; it's not her fault; everyone's bodies are just different and hers is just letting her sleep while emptying her bladder instead of waking her up to go.

To this effect I turned to good old google to solve my problem. "Preventing bedwetting" came up with several articles that quickly made a few things clear:

  1. Aurora is genetically predisposed to have issues with it. (I had trouble with it until I was at least 6 or 7)
  2. Shes got it bad and its going to be a hard habit to break. (Might be an easier case if she only went a little bit once in a while and started to wake up while she was going)
  3. There are no easy fixes and we are already doing all of the first line techniques, which only limit the amount in her pull up in the morning. (Limiting fluids right before bed, having her go right before then, "lifting" - bringing her to the bathroom right before we go to bed, having her practice holding it - she already does that on a daily since she doesn't want to stop playing to go)
We are left with three options, listed in order of preference least to most:
  1. Give her brain time to neurologically develop further and produce the hormones that stop her body from producing so much urine while she is sleeping, and wake her up on the occasion that she needs to go. Spending a $1 a day to wait until this happens on its own when she is expressing distress at the situation isn't an option for me.
  2. "Lifting" multiple times a night (probably when we go to bed, midnight and 3pm) to prevent her from peeing in her pull up and getting her used to waking up to go, which I don't want to do. I have barely had enough time to enjoy sleeping through the night as it is. I don't want to go back to an infant feeding schedule at night!
  3. Using a bedwetting alarm. Ok these must be new since I had no idea about them and I know they were not around when I was a kid. The one that gets the best reviews is the Chummie.  This seems like the best option, as it trains her to get up and go to the bathroom as soon as she starts going, and she is excited about figuring out a way to solve this issue. She is eager to solve the problem, just doesn't know how. They are expensive ($100) but it would pay for itself in 3 months if it works. However, our pediatrician has said that she has experienced limited success with them and suggested the things we were already doing and then to just wait it out.
Abby is not without her tribulations either. Rory loves to "help" in the kitchen, and I have found that leaving her with a sink of dirty dishes and an hour of time will result in dishes clean enough to rinse and put away, and a girl who feels immense self satisfaction at a job well done. Although the cost is high in terms of the quantity of water and dish soap required to achieve these results, it is worthwhile to give her the sense of accomplishment at doing her "chores" and contributing to the family. Rory has no interest in walking Guinness with Ryan like Abby does so this is a way for her to be involved in the household duties without forcing her to do something she doesn't want to do.

The problem is that Abby wants to help in the same way. But she is still clumsy with her fine motor skills and while I barely trust Rory with the dishes, I certainly cant have Abby handling them. So I have (forgive my dishonesty) told her that she is not big enough to do the dishes yet and once she grows more she can participate. Since we are always communicating to Aurora the importance of eating enough varied, healthy foods so that her body gets enough nourishment to grow (otherwise she would be perfectly happy living off of air, water and perhaps the occasional cracker), Abby has picked up on this and after every meal she asks to be measured to see if she has grown. Poor thing has not grown a single centimeter in months. She is very proportional, just small. Shes in 18-24 right now, and it fits her perfectly. Her sister started growing taller at this point and just stayed the same size. She is in solid 4T for length (shirts, dresses) but anything that has to be fitted needs to be much smaller. Take her bathing suits for example. They need to be 18-24 mo two piece. One piece in that size would not be tall enough and a suit tall enough would be swimming on her and float off her tiny little body the second she got in the water.

It is nice to be headed into summer though; edibles in the garden, lots of local organic fruit in season, smoothies and fruit salads that the girls will demolish and might get that growth they are looking for - Abigail in height and Aurora in weight. :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Natural Childbirth Should Be Normal... Unfortunately, It's Not.

Natural childbirth should be normal... unfortunately, it's not. A majority of births are treated with interventions, medical protocol and procedures that would best be used in abnormal situations. And natural births rarely occur unless the mother - in addition to being low-risk - has also gone out of her way to seek out/ pay for/ demand one, despite the systematic push-back for a medicated birth.

Yes, I am a natural childbirth advocate. And I won't apologize for it. There are women who have delivered in hospitals who might believe that I am criticizing their choices and their deliveries, while revering my own deliveries in a birth center, but this could not be any further from the truth. Because I have cried tears of heartbreak for every friend who has admitted feeling unsure about the outcome of their deliveries, and guilty that they even feel that way, since after all, the only justifiable end goal is a "healthy" baby and mama, and that's what they got. Because I know they deserve more, even if they don't feel like they do. Because every woman deserves what I had (and treasure) - a shot at a natural childbirth.

Now many people get caught up in the idea of what they think natural childbirth is. A martyr attempting a risky at home delivery to put her ideals above the safety of her child? Possibly just a disillusioned woman who for some unknown reason would rather experience the pain than to have a relaxing stress-free birth. That is not what I advocate for. THIS is what I was so blessed to experience with my own deliveries. THIS is what I am fighting for. THIS is how I define natural childbirth.

I define natural childbirth as arming mom with the knowledge, giving her the support, and providing her with a comfortable setting and tools so that her labor progresses naturally, in as much comfort as possible.

I define it as normal birth... NOT medically induced and treated birth.

I define it as accepting the intensity and discomfort of labor knowing that in turn the mother often gains empowerment and confidence in her ability to deliver her baby... NOT assuming that a mother will be unable to handle the pain, setting her up to be scared and anxiously accepting of pain medication.

I define it as letting the woman find positions and use techniques that best relieve her labor pains and allowing her to deliver in the position that feels most comfortable, pushing when the contractions guide her body to do so... NOT forcing her into a bed to labor, into stirrups to deliver, and pushing on the doctor's count because it is easier for the provider to monitor and deliver.

I define it as trusting a mother's body to do what it was designed to do... NOT leaving it up to a healthcare provider who acts under the assumption that the mother's body is ill-equipped to naturally deliver a baby and inflicts intervention upon intervention while their own system creates a self-fulfilled prophecy.

I define it as a mother centered process, where she is provided the options and allowed to make decisions about her body and her baby... NOT a provider and facility centered process, where the mother is simply informed of what they are going to do based on what is most efficient, convenient or legally safe for them and their practices.

I define it as emphasis not only on the outcome (getting the baby out), but also on the process and aftermath (the condition of the mother, how she feels, how soon baby can be placed on mama to bond, her recovery)...

I define it as midwives and doulas working hand in hand with obstetricians, each specializing in their own art and playing equally important roles; midwives and doulas supporting the mother in the process of normal labor in the majority of births, and, less commonly, the need for obstetricians specializing in interventions and procedures only when nature fails...

Nature's design can work so beautifully, if only given the chance. But our culture regarding childbirth, and the system that supports it has to change. Pregnancy is a miracle to be nurtured into the birth of a new being - not a cancer to be extracted from the body. Women need to find their voice, and demand to be treated differently; to have a different experience. Only then will natural childbirth become what it once was - normal.

Well Into The New Year

Well into the new year, and my last post covering the last camping trip of the year, and here I am 3 months later talking about the first of the new year! I have been meaning to update for a long time but just never quite got around to it. After my first half marathon (the Coronado Strip Half) and my disappointing time of 2:10 and my hip acting up on the first mile, I was trained and hungry to run another and beat the 2 hour mark. When I heard that Ryan's cousin Nathan and his cousin were running the SD Holiday Half right after Christmas, I signed up right away and got myself to my masseuse and chiropractor to get my hip issues worked out before the next race. I was successful and with my family cheering me on, I finished in 1:58, averaging around an 8.5 min mile most of the way. I'm very proud of my accomplishment, but won't feel complete until I concur a full marathon. I have set my sights on the SD Rock & Roll full marathon in 2015. Timing and location was difficult, as there are not as many full marathons to choose from out there as you would think. And with our busy schedule, there were few options. Since we will be in town for Jared & Kaitlyn's wedding the end of May anyway, the decision sort of fell into my lap. The biggest problem will be training and running at that time of year, as it will be a little bit warmer than my body does best running in.

We spent my cousin Jay's birthday weekend with him and his family in Big Bear again, and should be able to get one more year in before they move to their next station location, Hawaii!!!! Unfortunately the weather was not on our side and there was no snow, but we cant complain seeing as how this entire year is one of the driest on record and we are in the middle of a severe drought...

We have had challenges this season (as always) with the girls and sickness - there have been many terrible colds going around, Abby got croup, and both girls got pink eye the other week, and now Abby had a re-occurrence and gave it to me. Ryan has pretty much been continuously sick this whole season, despite all of us taking cold-remedy vitamin packs, taking probiotics and most recently, me trying kefir.

We have found a way though to get him out and on his mountain bike though. We are trying to fit in a once a week ride, even if its a just a quickie after work. And while I get to work out and run on average 2-3 times a week during my lunch break, I have been trying to fit in a yoga session once a week (which has proved to be more challenging). But all in all, Ryan and I are finding more time for ourselves and carving out time to be both together and also get away to do the things we like to do.

Part of that has been training a neighbor named Aleshia to babysit. She is very young (junior high) and has no experience, but lives in our building under the watchful eye of her mom, who we know and trust, and is eager to learn the trade. So we have been having her come every other week for a hour and a half, while Ryan and I do things around the house. Yesterday was the first time we left them alone. We took Guinness on an extended walk and it was so great just to get that long, thoughtful, uninterrupted adult time in.

All in all the girls are great. Rory is very excited for kindergarten and Diane has done an amazing job prepping her for it socially, and mentally. We had decided to put in her application for Vista Grande, which is the one that is closest to Diane - less than a mile away in fact. The one Aurora would normally be assigned to is year round, and we didn't like that schedule. Also, as the best option for before/after school situation for us likely going to be staying with Diane, it is easiest for her as well. So it looks like we will be able to keep our same work schedules, stick with the one car and be able to carpool. She is also very excited for her surprise birthday. Yup, shes getting a surprise birthday party, and she knows about it. One day out of the blue several months ago she tells me, "Mom, I want a surprise birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese for my birthday." I asked her how that was going to work if it was supposed to be a surprise, and she replied (with an eye roll and exasperated sigh mind you), "Mooooom, I promise I will remember to forget!!!" Well, I thought, even though she knows what she wants, she has no concept of time, or when her birthday actually is; only that it is coming up at some point. So here we go planning a surprise birthday party for her. We have invited all of her friends, and talk openly about the party, and she knows its coming, just not when. I can't wait to see the look on her face when she thinks we are just going into another birthday party and SURPRISE! Its for her!!!

Abby really is coming into her own. She had shown signs of being ready for potty training for quite some time, but we just had not had the time to devote to being at home for multiple days to get started. We had planned on going away for the weekend for Tierra Del Sol, but the girls got pink eye and the only storm of the season was coming in to stay for the whole weekend. Since we were going to be grounded at home anyway, it was the perfect opportunity to finally pull the trigger. We got out the panties, put away the diapers, and went for the gold. She barely needed coercing and since that weekend she has only had a few major accidents, all due to us not being vigilant about asking her every few hours if she needed to go to the bathroom.

This really represents a huge milestone for us with the girls. We are officially out of the baby - and I would say - even the toddler stage. Both girls out of diapers, off of sippy cups, both can feed themselves, dress themselves (although Abby still struggles, the desire is there), even every other bath I let them clean themselves. We have invested a huge amount of energy and time into training the girls to do things in a certain way, and respect the rules of the house (family dinner time, even if you aren't hungry, hanging up your sweater when you get in the house, putting your dirty clothes in the laundry basket when you take them off, busing your own dishes to the sink, picking up your toys). While it is so tempting to just take the few seconds to do it yourself, the alternative being a 5 minute fight to stop the girls what they are doing, come over, and complete the task with a grumpy attitude, we are seeing the payout, as they girls are doing many of these things automatically now without being asked, and when they are reminded, they do so without gripping (too much). Rory even takes initiative and does things that she sees me routinely do on her own when she has the opportunity. It's hard to explain to her when some of them should better be left to an adult to do, but she sure gets an A for effort!!! Abby is still a little way off from all that, but hey, she is in fact 2 whole years younger.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fall Back

Suddenly summer is behind us and its fall! We took our last camping trip of the season for Ryan's birthday in September. We drove up to Pismo Beach. It was wonderful and difficult all at the same time. Not having to drive overnight to our destination was wonderful - a 7 hour drive that we thought would only be 5 was difficult. The wide open space to camp on the beach was wonderful - having to listen to all the ORVs all day and night was difficult. The beautiful weather in the morning was wonderful - being cold and trying to keep things from blowing away in the crazy afternoon wind was difficult. But Ryan and I are all about making the most out of situations and being thankful just to be able to get away so we dug a giant sand pit to give us something to do in the morning and to protect the girls from the wind in the afternoon, and collected sand treasures with the girls.

Then I got to go to get away for mine and Venissa's first annual girls trip to Vegas. We have been doing well at keeping up with each other and planning family days or girls dinners every month or two but it still wasn't enough, so we decided to plan a whole weekend together. We flew out from San Diego together (my first time flying to Vegas instead of driving) and partied, shopped, ate and gambled till we dropped. It was just like the good old college days! And Ryan was happy he didn't have to go to Vegas again. 

Then in October, using my birthday as an excuse, I booked a weekend in Palm Springs for Ryan and I. Neither of us had ever been. With it being closer, having the tram up to the mountains, but still having that "get away" feeling, I was hoping this might be the perfect compromise for our couples get away spot - since he really dislikes so much about Vegas. Even with crazy traffic on a Friday afternoon it only took us 3 hours to get there, and on the way back with none it was 2. The tram was awesome, and we loved that we were in the dessert then 30 min later hiking in the mountains with the first snowfall of the season all around us. We explored the fine dining of town, and just enjoyed getting away together on our own.

And finally, the hallmark of fall season; Halloween. Rory had decided to be Merida, and we got a cute Carters elephant toddler costume for Abby. Kirstein was in town so my mom, Wayne, and her all came over to trick or treat, and with Skye and Danielle having moved just a few miles south of us, they came over too and we took the kids out. A good time was had by all, even if Axel lost a shoe, Rory ripped off her wig before we even got to the first house, and later took a spill headfirst down the stairs (yelling out "I'm ok!!!" the second she touched ground). It was like correlating cats though the adult to child ratio was 7:4, but we didn't loose any of them and they all went home with more candy than any child under 4 should have.

Then the following weekend we had our annual Halloween party. It's funny how we used to throw these big parties, and 40 people would show up and party until 2 in the morning. I used to make two whole batches of my infamous punch and was lucky if the second one lasted past midnight. Obviously at that time there were no kids. These days its closer to 20 people almost all families, showing up early enough to take a group kid shot outside before it gets too dark, and us seeing out the last remaining (usually childless) guests before midnight. One batch of punch is more than enough (even though I'm always prepared to make a second one - just in case) and an entire room is dedicated to keeping the kids contained.

It seems things change so drastically in just the blink of an eye... but really it is gradual change that happens every moment, hour, day, so that you don't notice until you look back 5 years ago and realize what has occurred. I wonder how I will feel looking back at this time in our lives in another 5 years.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

August Utah Trip

Our Utah trip was very successful, and a beautiful experience, if cut short. We started off with another overnight drive to Canyonlands National Park. Ryan and I are pretty good at it now. He dopes up on benedryl before leaving work, I start off driving and grab coffee when we stop for dinner while he tries to catch some shut-eye, and then a 5 hour energy gets me through until about midnight when Ryan takes over and I sleep until I take back over early morning for him to get a morning nap in, then we arrive at our destination. We arrived at the park safe and sound, posted our last picture before leaving reception and checked in at the ranger station to get our permit before hopping down to start the 100 mile White Rim Trail.

It was our plan to camp along the trail, take our time and spend 3 days getting all the right pictures of the breathtaking canyons. But after accomplishing about 16 miles on the first day and setting up camp in 105 degree weather, we were pretty miserable and rethinking it all. Added with the fact that our camp refrigerator was having trouble maintaining temperature - as were the girls- after much deliberation we decided we would just blow through the trail, seeing what we wanted to see in the comfort of our AC and then just head home early to have most of our weekend still free for a staycation in SD. So we left camp for the afternoon and took a side trail down to the Colorado River, packed up camp the next morning, finished the trail and headed home from there, arriving back in SD in the early morning hours less than 72 hours from when we had left. Ruby hit 30,000 miles while on our trip, and had a thick coating of sticky Utah mud on arrival that the car wash attendees never wanted to see in their lifetime.

We were very happy with our decision. Afterall, we always say - we aren't trying to be heros. We LOVE to get out and plan lots of outdoor adventures, but we don't have anything to prove to anyone by toughing through a situation when the best laid plans don't manifest as expected. Especially with toddlers in tow! So we escaped the heat but still saw all the wonder and beauty that the trail had to offer. And it really was incredible. Rare up-close and unrestricted access to the undeveloped landscapes. Being able to compare it with the larger more popular Grand Canyon (which we visited last year) it was just night and day. The Grand Canyon was developed, modernized and populated. Roads, walkways, fences and crowds all provided to be a great obstruction to what we were there to see; the vast and rustic wonder of the canyon. The White Rim Trail, on the other hand, gets right down into the canyon, up and over, right up to the edge of it. With no barriers, no paved roads, no swarms of people to get around. It was such a different experience, and even though the canyon is much smaller than the Grand Canyon, it felt so much more real, so much larger because we were right there. Ryan thinks in our lifetime it will slowly be developed, and if that is the case I'm glad we got to see and experience it as it is today.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July Colorado Trip

We made it back. It was quite an adventure. We had decided to drive through the night after work on Friday to make the most of our time. Luckily now that we have the refrigerator in the Jeep, we can easily prepare and pack food the night before and load the rest of the car around it so there is less to do last minute when we leave. We packed as much as we could on Thursday then turned in knowing we had work and a long night of driving ahead of us the next day. Friday we got off work, finished packing and took off for a "movie night" in the Jeep for the girls and a long overnight of taking turns driving for us parents.

I took the first shift until about midnight, then Ryan took over till about 3:30, then I took it again into the sunrise. It was so beautiful driving into Arizona and Colorado as the sun was coming up behind us. It was also bizarre to have the sun set in front of us on Friday night and have it catch back up with us from the rear the next morning as we were still driving.

Since we couldn't check into our hotel in Ouray until 3pm, we took advantage of the community hot springs & pool. We all loved swimming in water that was so warm! Later, after checking into our hotel room, checking out the local brewery and the hotel's hot springs fed pool, we crashed. The next day we woke up, enjoyed the free full breakfast at the Twin Peaks Lodge and explored the Alpine Loop, got a little scared from a too deep puddle and some lightening in the distance, but finally made it back to our hotel. We enjoyed dinner at the lodge's cafe and swam to our heart's content then crashed.

That night we awoke to the first of our stomach tragedies of the trip: Rory puking all over the bed her and Abby were sharing. Every hour from about midnight until 5am she had a repeat performance, and the poor thing was apologizing to us for not being able to control it. (We explained to her it wasn't her fault; it was some sort of germ that was inside her body and this was her body's way of trying to get those germs out). She felt a little better by morning, just thirsty so we went down to breakfast. Just as we walked in the door to find a table, she threw up all the water she had been sipping that morning. Great. She cant even handle water yet, and how terrible for all these people trying to eat. At least it was just water.

Luckily this was our travel day so we just took turns waiting with Rory in our room and eating breakfast then packed up and headed down to Mesa Verde for camping. As we headed into the area, there were torrential downpours. We drove into the park, and when it was clear it was not going to let up anytime soon we checked in to see if we could stay in the lodging for the night. They had rooms so we booked one for the evening. Not a fancy room, the beds sucked, no TV and super ugly and outdated, but hey, better than trying to set up camp in the rain and it had a private balcony overlooking the sunset. It was beautiful as we enjoyed our refuge from the elements for the night.

The next morning with the rain put on hold for the day, we headed over to the campground to pick out our site. We found a really cute one that was on a corner loop (privacy) with an exposed ground tent space (which Ryan wanted for rain "protection"), and lots of bushes and trees around the periphery (which I wanted for the hammock and shade). Score! We set up then headed out as we had reservations for a bus tour of the area and a guided tour of the largest cliff dwelling site - Cliff Palace. It worked out well - we would have given up seeing even half of the sites if we had the girls on our own, but since it was part of the bus tour we had to man up and just get through it with them. So amid the endless interruptions of a curious 4 year old asking a million questions while we were trying to listen to the guide ("Where are the Indians? Where did they sleep? How did they get down there?") and Abby trying to throw herself out the bus window and lose our 50 millionth pacifier, we finally made it to the main event - The Cliff Palace. And luckily we put the girls in the packs for that so they were restricted, if not a little crabby. Back at camp, we crashed, exhausted from the day and retired to the tent when it started drizzling.

The next day we decided to do a self guided tour on our own, and settled on the Spruce Tree House and the Petroglyph Point Trail Loop. It took a little bit longer than we had expected, but was a nice shaded hike around the edge of the canyon to the petroglyphs. Unfortunately, at that point you hike up to the top of the ridge and walk a nearly fully exposed route in the sun back to the start. We were pretty tired by the end (after trekking the girls in the packs for the whole walk) and crashed that night too.

That night, the stomach bug hit Ryan and Abby. She woke up around midnight being incredibly fussy, tossing and turning. After a few minutes she threw up all over the foot of her sleeping bag. (Thank God not inside it or even worse, on me!). YUM, peanut butter and jelly! We cleaned it up the best we could and then waited up with the poor thing to see it out with her, which was every 30 min for about 3 hours. Ryan's system was a little more robust and he just took a few trips to the bathroom. Abby was back to normal the next day so we thought that was the end of that. We had had enough activity the rest of the week, and Ryan was feeling very sick and low, so we took a camp day. Girls played, we swung in the hammock, tried to fly our kite (unsuccessfully), and just enjoyed the downtime. That evening as we were getting ready for bed, Abby had a relapse. Seriously?!? Twice and she was good to go though, and didn't have any more incidence. This was our last night of camping and we decided to mostly pack everything up so we could exit quickly the next morning.

That night was the craziest weather we experienced. The wind was so strong we thought we might blow away, and I wondered how our poor neighbors with less professional grade gear were fairing. Somehow though, despite the drops of rain that felt like hail, the thunder that sounded like a mountain was coming crashing down on us and the lightening that seemed like it would split our tent in half, when I emerged from my tent to see the damage... there was none. Nada. Everyone seemed fine. No flooding or even pools of water. No uprooted bushes or trees. It was as if the lightening and thunder had never happened, and whatever "small" amount it had rained was instantly sucked up by the vegetation and ground. Now I'm a San Diego girl - I'm used to a few inches that drench the ground and turn it into slick roadways that cause accidents, sloppy puddles and flooding in areas not built for that "much" rain, and trees that topple from hydrophobicly saturated ground. This was bizarre to me. But I wasn't complaining, since that made picking up to take off that much easier.

We then headed off to split the drive back to SD into a 8 & 6 hour day, stopping in Arizona. We got this great deal from Bass Pro while in Vegas in Feb - They offered us as much money in gift cards as we would pay up front for a 2 day stay in one of their featured resorts (and listen to their vacation club pitch). We checked in and at 105 degrees, there was nothing to do but check out the pool. It was amazingly huge with a shallow beach entry which the girls loved. Unfortunately, I think Aurora was at her emotional wits end from being away from home for so long and out of our normal routine and she was pitching an absolute fit over her bandaid that was in the process of coming off of a scrape on her knee. Between that and the sunscreen that had gotten into Abby's eyes, we called it a day and went back to our room to hide out in the AC and watch TV. Luckily the living room had a pull out bed and its own TV (the girl's "room") and Ryan and I had our room to ourselves. I started feeling a little nauseous so we just turned in and went to bed... and I woke up a few hours later and every 30 min thereafter for 3 hours to run to the bathroom myself - it was my turn. The stomach bug had finally cornered me.

The next day was pretty miserable. At 9am we had to go to our presentation, and I was not feeling up to it. To make matters worse, I was responsible for the girls while Ryan "paid attention" to the presentation, since they recognized that we both couldn't, and of course the guy is the one who will be making the decision... Anyway, we bribed the girls with ice cream if they tried to behave themselves, and after making it through the pitch and turning it down, we decided it was best to just head home instead of staying another night. We packed up and started home. We got home around 5pm, and Ryan unpacked the car while I bathed the girls. That night was the best night of sleep ever! The next day we got up and tried to slowly start unpacking and cleaning up. Cheryl came and picked the girls up to go to a family event at the Stoops, and we were able to finish our chores and follow a little later. I was feeling much better, if not still a little weak. The next day, my first day back at work, I had a relapse and by the evening I thought for sure I was either pregnant despite Ryan's vasectomy and my birth control pills, as I was so nauseous I couldn't stand it. But I woke up yesterday and was fine again, and today nothing so I think I'm finally over it.

Thank goodness, as yesterday was our 8 year anniversary! Ryan had dropped the girls off with my mom on Monday night (while I was feeling sick) because Diane is still off this week and my mom is watching them until Friday. So yesterday we were childless for our special day. We got mexican food, Ryan made me paper flowers, we rented The Hobbit (a three hour movie would normally be completely out of the question) and ate ice cream. It was a perfect celebration of our years so far with each other.

Whew! So there you go, long boring update of our Colorado summer adventure. Every detail you didn't care to know. :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

They Change So Fast

Anytime I have the realization that one of the girls has or has not been doing a certain thing for a while it really brings to my attention how fast things change, how quickly they grow and how tiny each stage really is. I think I take it for granted with Abby in our lives now. Instead of celebrating and lingering on every milestone that Rory made, with Abby we now are like, "Great! Ok moving on, that means we can do this now" instead of really cherishing that moment and giving her recognition for her accomplishment.

Abby will be two years old in less than 2 weeks. She will be able to eat two gummy vitamins, instead of just one. This sticks in my head as a big milestone. I can finally rid myself of all the yellow ones, since Rory only eats the orange and red ones, and they add up if Abby only eats one yellow at a time...

Ok, ok, yes there are other important updates too. She is working on her last 4 baby teeth; all molars. And she is just as miserable as all the others were. For months before they pop, she is a sad, whiny, mommycentric, cuddly, particular little creature. Its like PMSing for toddlers. And it comes and goes for weeks at a time. Thank God for baby medicine (Orajel, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen - Sometimes all at the same time so she can sleep).

As for her personality, she is the sweetest, most even-tempered, easy-going kid I have ever seen. She goes with the flow (as much as you can expect a two year old to) and shares, gives and apologizes freely. She definitely is a peacemaker and just wants everyone to be happy. She often says she is sorry when I am trying to get her sister to apologize to her! She is a total daredevil and very sure of her physical abilities. She enunciates uh-HUH in the cutest way ever. She eats everything in sight and guzzles drinks like its nobody's business. (While Rory is eating more regular amounts, she still needs to be reminded to drink). And even still, she is the same height as Rory was at 2. 

Both her and her sister have taken a liking to their blankets. They have soft blankets they keep in the car, and often insist on bringing them to daycare. Abby has a different one she sleeps with  and is quite attached to as well. Rory is more attached (for sleeping) to her pink monkey Suessa. Since she still has that oral fixation, she chews on his tail. Not sure how long that tail is going to last. During the day I tell her to let me know if she wants to chew on something and I'll give her gum but sometimes she just doesn't think about it. That girl needs something to be in her mouth at all times. The rubber bands when I'm doing her hair. Necklace if she has one. (She is not allowed to borrow mine anymore - she chewed right through one of my silver chains). Her hair is getting really long, almost to her waist. She wants to grow it "like Rapunzel". She is exhibiting great signs of independence. I'm teaching her (and by association and imitation, her sister) how to put her shoes away when she gets home, taking off her own clothes and putting them in the laundry, putting on her own clothes, etc. She's doing a great job. The other day I asked her to do something that was out of reach, and realized she couldn't, and started to come get it for her, and she said, "no mom, that's ok, I'll get the stepstool." YES! One step closer to them being able to HELP with my workload, instead of ADDING to it!

She still has these super dramatic emotional meltdowns. And she often replies to requests with a frustrated whine. I have found that telling her that is not a very nice way to respond, and asking her to please say it again in a nicer way works pretty well. And when she gets in a full out tizzy, it takes a long time to calm herself down but she doesn't hold a grudge. She is incredibly caring and sensitive, and I try to give her positive reinforcement for all the good behaviors she displays. We are working on her reaction to being disappointed (which easily turns into a tantrum) about stuff that can't be changed. Yes, I would love to read you another bedtime story, but its already past your bedtime so you need to go to sleep. No you cant have another yogurt, we ran out and wont have more until we go to the store. No you can't have a sleepover at Grammy Cracker's house, its a weekday and she has to work too. We are trying to teach her that it does no good to flip out about stuff you can't change. It's ok to be sad about it but it won't change anything. I guess we all could work on that one a little more.

The bedtime routine takes forever nowadays. We start at 7:30 with bedtime snack, then go get changed into pjs, and brush teeth. Then bedtime stories and bed. Sounds like an easy quick process, but they need to be kept on track every second of the routine, and often get sidetracked, distracted, riled up, etc. Rory gets back up to go pee. Abby needs medicine for her teething and wants you to lay with her for a few minutes. Someone needs a drink of water. And its normally not until 8:30 or 9 before they are both truly down for the night. We actually love it on nights that we stay up (like movie night) or have events, because we just change them into pjs there, and then wait for them to pass out and put them to bed!

Whats so nice is that I feel like we are a family now, working together, experiencing things together (sometimes frustrating, but often wonderful), going out and doing stuff together. Its past the "survival" stage of infancy, and now we are on to experiencing life and creating memories that us and the girls can fondly look back on. I love it and have never been happier.


Monday, June 17, 2013

What Do You Mean Its Not Summer Yet? It Is In San Diego.

San Diego weather always throws me for a loop. We have this uniquely moderate weather that is pretty much hotish for a few months of the year, coldish in the morning for a few months of the year and absolutely perfect for the rest of the year. And when you have lived here your whole life - as I have - you have no real concept of what "real" seasons are and how totally miserable they are for pretty much everyone else in the entire nation. It's also really easy to get lost in which season it actually is, since they all sort of blend together and the difference between them is a 2 degree drop at night average and a notation on the calendar. This is the reason why only in San Diego are flip flops and shorts year round attire. Add a sweater for winter, tank top for summer. You get the point.

My calendar informs me that in fact, summer is still a whole week away. However, I am already in summer mode. I no longer need even a sweater in the morning before the day heats up. We have already gone on our first camping trip of the season (always Memorial Day up at the King's River). We have been to the Del Mar Fair. And of course we are ramping up and planning for our main summer trips. So for all intents and purposes, in my mind, summer has been kicked off already.

And its already the best summer yet. We are continually adding to Ruby's accessories, and she now proudly carries a refrigerator/freezer in her trunk, run off of batteries and solar power. This will come in real handy for our two week-long off-road trips planned in July and August. We tested it out for the King's River and it was a complete success. We had not fully realized how much space 3, sometimes 4 coolers take up in the packing process. We normally had one large food and one large drink cooler, then usually one or two smaller ones for water and Gatorade. With the refrigerator, we can eliminate all the added room needed for the ice to keep everything cold, and just pack it with food. Then pack a small cooler just with ice for drinks, and we are all set! Drinks can be packed at room temp and added to the refrigerator as needed. We were able to eliminate having to put any camp boxes on the roof-rack. While Ruby can certainly handle the load, we were able to drive a full 10 mph faster without the extra drag on the top (faster arrival), and our gas mileage was better.

The new refrigerator was just one of several things that made this year's trip the best yet with kids. For one, this was the first Kings River trip that we planned our meals with the Schotts, so instead of doing everything separately then either cooking too much food, or having tons of food to bring home, we had the perfect amount of food, got more time with our friends, and had less cooking and cleanup overall. It was win-win all the way around. Second, while some of the classic river Gods were not there (and we sorely missed them), it ended up being the smallest group we have ever had, and it was, to be honest, a really nice change. Previous years, especially the last few had gotten to be so big they were out of control. Upwards of 75 people, who all show up last min trying to squeeze into spots that have already been allocated, none of which you know and all of which are more "moochers" than "providers" to the whole camping and rafting dynamic... it was getting to be a little bit too much to handle for a family camping trip. So it was really nice to get back to basics and have it be  more intimate again. And with Laura [this] close to delivering, it was perfect! Next year, us girls will have to drink it up and get on the river again. :)

This weekend we have our second camping trip, Paso Picacho. What a great way to kick of the "official" start of summer. Ha!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Last weekend was the most productive and organized weekend I can remember in my family's history. It was preceded by the most unproductive and disordered two weeks I can remember in my family's history. About 2 weeks ago, on a Friday, they gave us warning that on Monday (and over the course of the entire week) they would begin work on our patio privacy walls, and that we needed to remove every single item not only from our storage shed, but also from our entire patio. Oh and Guinness? Locked inside each day while work is being done. Great. Good thing we didn't have any plans that weekend (like a birthday party,a kid's Easter egg hunt, and packing for our Santa Cruz Trip) otherwise I would have been really stressed about getting all of it done!

Meanwhile, I have still been nursing my leg injury (remember the groin injury which led to a shin splint that caused knee pain...), which has caused me to be completely useless after work, since my leg starts hurting from being on it all day long by then and I pretty much need to stay off of it in the evening besides essentials (like bathing the kids - bathing myself has been sidelined.) On top of all of it, we returned from Santa Cruz to find that they STILL were not done and needed last week to do finishing work.

So needless to say after two weeks of having our patio and shed contents strewn about the house in mayhem and me not really being able to do a damn thing about any of it, I was about to lose my mind. Then, the light at the end of the tunnel. (Literally since they opened up all the windows that were boarded up during work on the patio).

I went to my chiropractor on Wednesday, and he adjusted my leg, which was the kicker to my healing. On Friday, they finished up finish work on the privacy wall. We had a rare weekend that was mostly clear. I decided to cancel swim classes for the quarter (very sad about this but we just didn't have room in our schedule and it was going to stretch us too thin), so besides a family photo shoot with Pam (who has shot both girls' 1st Birthday Parties) on Saturday afternoon we were free to put our lives back together.

I took the girls to visit with my mom for a while on Saturday morning, which left Ryan free to organize and put everything back in the shed and patio and put together the girls new toy storage rack. We came back and got ready for our photo shoot. Sunday Ryan drove up to Ramona to borrow the shop of some guy off of craigslist to put spacers on the jeep to give us a temporary mini-lift. While he was gone, I shifted into full on mommy multi-tasking and efficiency mode (don't you wish all appliances and husbands had that mode?) and blasted through the house like a tornado. I moved the plants in the patio back into place, reorganized the storage closet, did the laundry, cleaned out the girl's closet, redistributed our sports clothes/gear into better and more accessible areas, and prepped the front yard by collecting all the dingly-balls that come from the Gum Trees planted out there. And might I add that I accomplished this all without the use of TV or other electronic child attention capturing devises, and by noon to boot. Yeah, I'm tooting my own horn. Suck it. I rocked that day.

Ryan came home and the awesome day of spring cleaning continued. I put him and Abby down for naps, and took Rory with me to Lowe's to get soil, grass seed and some other gardening odds and ends. We came back, and finished work on the front yard, and moved to the back yard for some bush pruning and jasmine training up onto the patio cover. After the sun went down we went through all of their toys, decided which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of and organized them into the new toy storage rack.

We decided that we deserved a special treat so we rented Skyfall, set the girls up with a kid movie in the game room, and set ourselves up with big bowls of ice cream for ours. Abby fell asleep during theirs, and Rory and us went to bed far past our bedtimes but it felt so darn good to accomplish so much and have such a nice treat at the end of it all it was well worth it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Garden of Eden

Every time we visit my Godfather Charly and his partner Tracy in their beautiful beach house in Santa Cruz, I feel like I'm visiting a modern day Garden of Eden. The world stands still for those days, and I leave with the sense that I have just been at an incredibly natural and holistic retreat. The sense of community, health, well being, family and just pure enjoyment and celebration of life washes over me like sunshine. The community of Santa Cruz is very progressive marked by social activism, is at the center of the organic agriculture movement, and it's citizens enjoy a wide range of local recreation (surfing, biking, hiking). To me its the perfect community, incorporating all the ways I want to live and all the things I love. I honestly would LOVE to live there... if we had any job prospects, were able to stomach the cost of living (seeing as how its one of the FEW places that's more expensive than San Diego), would not have to leave all of our friends and family behind... well anyway, we immensely enjoy visiting Santa Cruz when we can. Charly and Tracy expose us to the latest and greatest in all things healthy for the mind, body and spirit, and spoil us silly.

We gave up our long Easter weekend in San Diego and took an extra day to spend two days on the road and two days visiting. Here were the highlights:

  • We can safely say that Abby is out of the "I-wont-spend-more-than-2-hours-in-the-car-unless-I'm-sleeping" phase. Thank God. The girls did great on the drive up and down, thanks to the entire series collection of He-man.
  • It was great to see my Godmother Mary (who also lives in Santa Cruz) who has lost 100 lbs due to going off of prednisone and gone through the ringer with serious cancer since the last time we saw her. She looks fantastic and has a new lease on life. She went a little crazy on the girls Easter baskets (it is pretty hard to exercise restraint) and we now are in possession of a year's supply of candy for a family of 20.
  • In making my famous fish tacos for dinner one night in a gluten free household, I discovered a tweak to my recipe that will make a crispier batter. I will from here on out be using part flour and part corn starch. I was also happy to pass on a gluten free pancake recipe, which has been my new favorite easy breakfast for the girls. 1 banana + 2 eggs blended. (Not a trick, although it seems like it would be). Naturally sweet and great with peanut butter. I also have an appreciation for wheat bread. Gluten free bread crumbles as if it was made of sand.
  • We got to have a craft day of making stepping stones for each of us. Mary helped Rory with a butterfly design, I did a heart, not really sure what Abby's is and Ryan's is a geometric white and blue concoction. Now where to put them?
  • I had discovered that my childhood friend Rose lived in Santa Cruz with her son Julian and they came to visit while we were there. It was great to see her again after at least 10 years. Even if we all had trouble placing her in which of my mom's Campo friends groups she was from and remembering who her mother was. (Barbara, not Hopie, for the record.) My mom set the record straight before Rose began to question her maternity.
  • Abby had a few really rough nights of teething that even though acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and orajel couldn't help. They numbed the pain but only cuddles with mom and dad in bed with the pacifier sealed the deal.
  • I remembered I REALLY don't like Ryan driving. With my messed up knee (which got messed up from a shin splint which was the result of a pulled groin muscle) I drove very little on the trip. This wont be happening again anytime soon. He takes driving too seriously, and stresses me out with all of the jobs and exceptions of the "co-pilot" so that he can focus 100% of his attention on driving safely.
  • We stopped in Huntington Beach on the way home to wait out some traffic hoping to visit my Aunt Tina, but they were not home so we went to the REI there which we have always wanted to check out, and sat down for dinner. (This we will not be doing again anytime soon either. Kids are just too much work at a restaurant). But I happened to find an awesome solution to my purse which I have hated for a very long time. Its an REI Agility Sling Bag, and I'm calling it my murse. I have a lot of stuff to carry in my purse, and it was just too heavy. I was having shoulder problems, and neck aches. And besides the physical abuse, it wouldn't stay put with me bending down for toddlers all day long. It would either stay put and everything would dump out as it turned sideways, or it would fall right off my shoulder. It wasn't "hands free" since I was always having to use my arm/hand to hold it in place! Well I'm so happy with my solution. I don't care how dorky I look.