Thursday, August 26, 2010

An observation and an apology

So for all you readers out there (you are out there, aren't you? Why don't you comment?), I must apologize for the abundance of doting birthday posts lately. As you've likely noted, all three of our kids have birthdays in a 7 week period. And since I was busy having summer fun, practically every other post is birthday-related.

We did not plan to have our kids in the summer months. Come to think about it, not much about our kids was planned, period. They came when they came, and what we wanted didn't really have much to do with it.

The good news is that we're done with birthdays in our house. At least for a month. Then Steve and I will turn a year older, a day apart. But since I don't know if I can come up with 43 and 38 things about each of us, you'll likely be spared the agony.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go polish off the last birthday cupcake.

And tomorrow, while all three kids are at school ALL DAY LONG, I'll head back to the gym.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The day my life changed forever

Eleven years ago today marked the end of life as I knew it . . . and the beginning of a whole new life for me. Eleven years ago today, I became a mother.

Olivia's birth was an adventure—I was 11 days past my due date, and scheduled for an induction early on the 25th. My mom had been in town since my due date, and was nearing the end of her two week stay. I was panicked. How would I know what to do on my own?

In the wee morning hours, I woke up with a cramp that wouldn't quit. It didn't take long before I realized that it wasn't a cramp, but rather a contraction and I wasn't going to have to be induced after all—I was in labor!

We arrived at the hospital around 6am. I was gung ho on going natural, so we spent the next few hours going b from bed to shower to rocking chair to walking the halls and back to bed, all the while trying to breathe. It hurt like heck.

My mom and Steve's mom were both with us for her birth.

About 11am, I decided I couldn't take anymore. I was dilated to a 5 and thought I had hours ahead of me. My midwife approved a quick-acting narcotic to ease the pain. Within minutes, I was floating in another stratosphere. Minutes later, I suddenly snapped out of my drug induced coma and said it was time to push. Sure enough, it was. A couple of quick contractions later, and out popped this little beauty.

She had the softest, sweetest little cry, and all the nurses commented on it.

The days following her birth are a bit of a blur. We learned how to give her a bath, breastfeed, burp, do midnight diaper changes in the dark, and get by on not nearly enough sleep.

We also learned how it felt to love someone more than life.

The eleven years since have been filled with lots more learning as we've navigated the road of parenthood.

Today, Olivia is a beautiful and exceptional young woman.

In honor of her special day, here are eleven facts about her:

1. She is always happy. Well, maybe not always...but almost. When she laughs, it's contagious.

2. She is remarkably capable. I could leave her in charge and run off to Vegas for the weekend. The house would be clean, the boys fed and bathed, and she'd probably rearrange the pantry while I was gone too.

3. She is super smart. She grasps math concepts as quickly as her dad. Glad she didn't get my genes in that department.

4. She loves her brothers. Even though they sometimes drive her nuts, her eyes light up when she sees them at the end of the school day.

5. She is musically gifted. She can sing, play the piano, and last year took up the flute. Our home is filled with music when she's around.

6. She thinks about her future. Last night, she asked about college scholarships. She said she thought it would be good for her to work toward getting one, because it would make her feel proud.

7. She gives great back rubs. Her business "Olivia's Rub Place" is open for business at our house. Steve is her number 1 customer. Most months, she more than doubles her allowance by giving back rubs.

8. She gets more beautiful every day.

9. She doesn't let fears get to her. Whether it's crushing a spider or singing in front of a huge audience, she faces her fears and conquers them.

10. She likes to be organized. She takes after me, and loves containers, sorting, grouping, and organizing everything!

11. No matter what, she will always be the one that made me a mom!

Happy Birthday Olivia—you are a joy to us every single day. We love you!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's that time of year once again...

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon doing this:

It was the first really hot day of the summer . . . you know, the one where it's too hot to do anything other than lay by (or in) the pool. Today is even hotter. It's also the first day of school. Go figure.

We hustled about this morning, packing lunch and snacks in the new lunch boxes, putting on new clothes, and I even took the time to flat-iron Olivia's hair (a side note on that won't be happening again until picture day. She's got a lot of hair, and it has a mind of its own!).

We set out on our drive, enjoying the view along the way.

We now live a mere 4 minutes from school. After 6+ years of a much longer commute, this is heaven.

Jack and Olivia obliged my request for the annual "back to school" photo on the front steps of the main building.

They then ran off to greet their friends and play on the playground.

I managed to find Jack lined up before entering his Mrs. Henderson's classroom.

He let me hug him and give him a kiss. He was a little nervous.

I never got to say goodbye or good luck to Olivia. Apparently, she's too old for those youthful practices now. But I did manage to snap a picture of her in her classroom without her noticing.

For the next 2 years, all three kids will be in one school. How lucky is that? Tomorrow, Grant will begin preschool, and I'll be child-free for 3 full days a week. What will I be doing with my time? Stay tuned for the update...

Monday, August 16, 2010

17 Again? I don't think so...

High school was a rough time for me. I was insecure, had no idea who I was or what I wanted out of life. I had plenty of friends, but didn't associate with any particular "clique". On numerous occasions, I didn't stand up for what I believed to be right, simply because I didn't have the personal strength or conviction to set myself apart from the crowd.

I didn't apply myself as much as I should have academically, which then impacted my ability to get into college. I went through all the rehearsals for the high school Rhythm B's dance team, then chickened out on audition day . . . because "what if I didn't make it?". I dated boys who didn't bring out the best in me, because I didn't believe in that "best of me". All in all, I don't have great memories of high school, and if I could do it all over again, I would do things entirely differently. But alas, there are no do-overs in life.

The 20 years since high school have been a time of tremendous personal growth and change for me. I am not the same person I was when I graduated. Although in many ways I can't believe it's been 20 years, in other ways, that seems like a different life altogether.

Over the weekend, I attended my 20th high school reunion. I flew up to Portland sans hubby and kids, and met up with a good buddy from 7th grade on through graduation. Neither one of us were attending with spouses, and we didn't want to walk in alone. We met up with a couple other friends for some "liquid courage" before the event began. I had a Diet Coke.

It was great catching up with so many people I used to know. I was amazed at how different so many were, and how some seemed still exactly the same.

As the evening progressed, it became more and more apparent how some of my classmates had not made the most of their life opportunities in the years since graduation. Many were crowded around the bar all night, drinking to the point of stupidity. Some who showed the most promise in high school have wasted the years since in silly shenanigans, never reaching their full potential.

Still others, who were perhaps misfits and outcasts 20 years ago, have gone on to great things. I spent a good portion of the evening talking to a few of those, marveling at how they had changed, grown, and matured. While they may not have been part of the "cool" crowd then, their choices in the years since have put them at the top of the food chain now!

As a rule, the women seemed to have aged better than the men.

(I went all the way from elementary school through graduation with these two!)

I didn't recognize many of the men, who had gained weight and lost their hair, and didn't even resemble the stud muffins they used to be.

I saw my first high school boyfriend, Jonah Elliott. We went out for about 2 months at the beginning of our sophomore year.

Here we both are...aged, and happy with where our lives have taken us!

He was, and still is, absolutely adorable. He is now happily married with a little boy.

The highlight of my evening was a conversation with a casual friend who lived in my neighborhood. He pulled me aside midway through the reunion. Here's how the conversation went:

Him: "You know, we went to school together all the way from grade school through graduation. You flew under the radar in high school. You kept to yourself, you were cute . . . but not really a stand out."

Me: "Uh huh..." (All the while thinking to myself, "where the heck is this conversation going?")

Him: "But I remember saying Junior year 'That Alyson DeLong is going to grow up to be the hottest girl in our class'. And seeing you here tonight, you've proved me right. You have aged beautifully, and you look happy, and it shows."

He wasn't hitting on me—he's happily married with a family of his own. But the fact that he took the time to pull me aside and pay me that greatest of compliments meant the world to me.

And he's right. All things considered, I think I look pretty good for 20 years out of high school. I know who I am, I'm better at sticking up for what's right and not giving in to the majority just to fit in. I'm married to an amazing man, who thinks I'm great. And after all these years, I tend to agree with him!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

When 3 turns 4

On this day in 2006, this little man rounded out our family.

He was completely bald.

Today, he still rounds out our family.

We celebrated at Goofy's Kitchen, in the Disneyland Hotel

And he has a full head of deliciously curly hair.

In honor of his birthday, here are four facts about Grant at four years old:

1. He is more coordinated than any child I've ever seen. He can jump, climb, skip, and run higher and faster than most 5 or 6 year olds. He throws a ball long, hard, and fast. He can balance on a skateboard and swing a golf club. I have a feeling that all seasons will be filled with sports for this guy...and I'm banking on an athletic scholarship to pay for his education.

2. He has the attitude of an over-indulged teenager. I don't know where he gets it. As an example, driving in the car last week, he was debating a subject with me. He was insisting he was right. I looked at him and said "Grant, stop arguing with me." He looked right back and said "Now you listen here...YOU don't argue with ME!" What do you say to that????

3. His favorite shows are not the typical 4-year old shows. No Sesame Street, Dora, or Diego for him. He prefers Harry Potter, Star Wars, and iCarly. Chalk it up to having older siblings...but I miss "Elmo's World".

He's been talking for months about wanting a "light saver" and a Star Wars watch for his birthday. Thanks to Nan (grandma), he got both!

4. He has the language skills of a six-year old. I sometimes forget that he's only 4 (or 3, until today). He has an amazing vocabulary, and uses words like "inappropriate", "appreciate" and "prefer" in the proper context.

Grant adds amazing energy to our house. He's loud, smart, rambunctious, adorable, and all boy. I know that if that energy is properly channeled, he's destined for greatness.

Happy Birthday Grant...we love you!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

iSharks Revealed!

For the last month or so, I've been working on a top-secret project for our swim team coaches.

Every year at the league Championships, our coaches dress up in some sort of themed costumes. The theme is always kept quiet until the morning of Champs when the coaches come on deck for the team cheer all dressed up. Everyone on the team—parents included—eagerly awaits the big reveal! One year it was Batman & Robin, another year, it was Ronald McDonald & In 'N get the picture. Sometimes their costumes coincide with a recent hit movie, or other current theme. Last year, they recruited my help in assembling their "UP" costumes, which seemed to fit the duo perfectly.

This year, they approached me again to assist in the process. They threw some ideas my way, I threw some at them, but nothing seemed quite right. That is, until the new iPhone 4 was released. One of our coaches is a huge iPhone fan, and had parents on deck calling every Apple store within a 100 mile radius trying to track one down. Suddenly, a light went on...they should be iPhones for Champs!

This is a screen shot of my actual phone

Figuring out how to construct a man-size iPhone was no easy task...Plexiglass was too expensive and too heavy. Yet it needed some weight and substance to hang right on their bodies. So we called around to appliance stores, and tracked down a refrigerator box. After covering it in black felt, and wrapping the edges in silver duct tape, the body of it was complete.

Then came the apps! I used some of the real iPhone apps - either recreated in Photoshop or pulled from online sites. Then, I created apps of team-related activities. There was an app for each age group of swimmers, apps with photos of our coaches dressed up from previous meets, apps representing our team special activities (Thursday Thunder & Animal Swim) and a "secret" app for each coach—thought up by the coaches.

I created each app in Photoshop, then printed them out on photo paper and laminated them to withstand splashing and wet hugs on deck. I used a super-strength adhesive to attach them, and crossed my fingers that they would hold.

I attached the fronts and backs together with a strong webbing and staple gun, and put a piece of elastic across each side to keep them from flapping around too much.

I used my Cricut to cut white vinyl for the back. Instead of calling them "iPhones", I aptly named them "iSharks", with the "model" represented by the number of years each coach had been with the team.

It took more hours than I can count to put them together, and I was giddy with excitement the morning of the race to see the big reveal. When they walked out on deck, they had their hands waving in the air "for better reception" and everyone went crazy!

I love projects like this—taking an idea and figuring out how to make it a reality. Now if I could just figure out a way to get paid for it...