Our miracle RAINBOW BABY BOY arrived 8/2018

1st IVF = BFN
2nd IVF = Baby A, born May 2015
3rd IVF = Miscarriage at 14 weeks
4th IVF = BFN
After we paid for 5th IVF, positive pregnancy without IVF!

Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

February, 2021

I am in love with this month filled with love! It's been an amazing month with the kids. On the February 1st, Aut lost her 3rd tooth and eleven days later, she lost her 4th! She was so excited that she ran around the house exclaiming "The tooth fairy is coming tonight! The tooooooooth fairy is COMING!" and coaxed the phone out of Dad's hand to gush to her Grandma. Imagine her excitement when I showed her the video I managed to get when I caught the fairy exiting her room! 

By the end of the month she lost an additional tooth (her fifth!) leaving her with the most adorable smile, as she is now missing her two front teeth as well as two on the bottom. This happened while she was in a cooking class and since she also accidentally swallowed it, it was quite the talk of the town when I went to pick her up.

The kids are thriving in school! So much so that when Aut was off on February 12th, she said that she wanted to go to school instead of staying home! I am in awe of all that she is learning there, and certain that I didn't learn half of what she has already until I was much older. I love it so much when she makes me something and proudly gives it to me. Cha loves carrying "my note!" from daycare to the car and giving it to me. I always tell him is says that he was such a good boy.

One morning a few days before our trip to ski trip to Utah, I told Cha that we were going to be staying in a cabin with lots of snow. "Throw snowball at Mom" was his response, with a huge grin. I didn't understand what he said and he said it again with excitement, because his word for snowball is "no-ball." It is amazing to start communicating with him, and to realize that he remembers our trip to Williams, AZ that we took in November.

Brian Head, Utah was a winter wonderland! We stayed in this cabin for five days and received a ton of snow. Some nights, it dropped to several degrees below zero! Aut and I spent two days on the mountain. It was my first time skiing since I was 18, when I somehow found myself off the slope and the harder I tried to get back the the trail, the farther away I moved, into the powder and trees. Ever since that time, I have snowboarded, which I found much easier. The first day in Utah, Aut and I both had separate lessons. It was 7 degrees out and snowing. She did not go on the lift but I did, as my instructor said it would be trial by (very cold) fire. See, I signed myself up for the beginning advanced and was intentionally vague when asked when the last time I was on skis. "It's been a few years" was more of a bold-faced lie than a white one. I could tell he was skeptical of my level but that he was relived when I made it down without any problems, making the biggest slice of pizza I could the whole way. We went back up a few more times, as I learned to make 'C' and 'S' shapes and didn't fall once. 

When we returned on Friday, I went up the bigger lift with my brother-in-law while Aut was in the next level of class. I was hoping that she might go on the lift I went on the day before, but knew she might just stick to the magic carpet again. As my brother-in-law headed up the Navajo Express lift, I became a bit uneasy because it just kept going up, up, up the mountain and all I was thinking was I need to go down all this! Realizing that riding the lift back down wasn't an option, I told him not to wait for me, as I knew I would take forever, going back and forth trying to avoid any speed. Coming down the hill, my legs were on fire from the constant isometric hold. I thought to myself  "I am not going on that again!" So imagine my surprise when I saw my girl headed up there! I worried, thinking she must be afraid (because I was!) and waited at the bottom of the hill. Because she did not have the shorter, slower lift to compare it to, she was not afraid! And, she went back up a second time! 

The cabin time was wonderful! It was great for the kids to have connection time with their cousins, whom they did not see that much due to COVID.

My favorite time of every day are the moments before the kids' bed time. Although I sometimes dread starting the routine, especially if I am tired, once they are in bed, I cherish the time after their teeth are brushed and we talk about the day. Daddy helps with the teeth brushing, with each child being handed their brush to brush on their own before he also brushes. Then, Daddy says goodnight and I read to each one, starting with Cha. I have recently started "This little Piggy" on Cha's toes after the book and can hear his giggles even now as I type this. Before I leave, he says "Door open, Ma!" and I leave it ajar. Aut is very patient until I come into her room, where I read a chapter or two from Junie B. Jones and then snuggle and rub her back. Although I always ask about her day, this is when she will often remember something that she forgot to tell me. This is the time that she shares her fears, or asks questions such as how long bees live. In these tender moments, I always remind her how loved she is, and tell her "I thank God every day for you" or "Thank you for making me a Mommy." I tell her she is the best girl in the whole world, and that I will love her forever. I tell her that she is important, and that she can be anything that she wants to be. I try to focus on gratitude, and tell her how blessed we are to have each other, and ask her to name three things that she is thankful for. When I leave she always says "Do what you did last night" and I say that I will, although I'm not quite sure what she means. Then she says "My Mamma..." which I echo back to her with "My Aut." 

How do we cultivate a grateful heart?

Remember that everything we have is from God . The story is told of a poor man who was given a loaf of bread. He thanked the baker, but the baker said, “Don’t thank me. Thank the miller who made the flour.” So he thanked the miller, but the miller said, “Don’t thank me. Thank the famer who planted the wheat.”

So he thanked the farmer. But the farmer said, “Don’t thank me. Thank God. God gave the sunshine and the rain and fertility to the soil and that’s why we have bread to eat.”

 The people in the story understood the point Paul was trying to make when he posed this question to the church in Corinth: What do you have that you did not receive from God? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?  (1 Corinthians 4:7)

When we realize that everything we have comes from God we become more grateful.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

On Raising Kinder, Less Entitled Kids

One of my life's missions is to make the lives of my children as fun, amazing and magical as I can. Doing this truly brings me joy, as I see the joy it brings to them. I love being spontaneous, making them laugh and saying "yes" as often as possible. They may move onto something new the next day, but I relive their moments of happiness and excitement over and over again. We celebrate every holiday in fun ways, even little ones like St. Paddy's Day. It doesn't take a lot of money, just baking Mom's Irish soda bread together or mischief from the visiting leprechauns who leave green food coloring prints in the sink, turn the toilet water green and draw clovers on their faces while they sleep. I see my role as a curator of adventure and excitement for them, which usually costs zero dollars, like letting her choose the walk we're doing, for example, with free play-time at the half-way point in the creek behind our house or random picnics following our scooter ride. Other times, it costs me a pretty penny, as I come to terms with just how much hiring six princess will cost for her sixth party in May. I'm not saying that I want their life to be easy. I never want to shield them from hard work, perseverance, adversity or disappointment and the character formation that rising to challenges and overcoming adversity brings. Into each life, a little rain must fall (sometimes, it's a deluge) and I truly believe that something good can come from every negative situation that we encounter. 

Since the bad times will come, I make it my personal mission to plan and enjoy the heck out of the good ones, like their birthdays, and every holiday I can get my hands on. Their birthday may be only one day, but it is both the anticipation and the remembrance of it that lasts longer. It seems that each day she has a new idea for her upcoming party, and she still talks about the snow machine from her fourth. 

Recently, a close friend of mine questioned whether planning such elaborate parties, for example, would create children who grow up to be selfish and entitled. Because I love and respect this friend, the questions posed in our short conversation reverberated long after they were asked. I love and value friendships with the longevity and closeness that afford us the ability to challenge and question each other, without fear or worry that doing so will change or end the friendship. Friendships that stand the test of time are the most valuable. And so, I spent some time contemplating whether or not throwing amazing parties for my kids would, in the long run, do more harm than good. After a few days reflecting on this, I have to say that I believe that it is quite the opposite: Giving to my children will, in time, yield children who do the same for their children and others, because it was done for them. By putting them first as my parents' did for me, I will create children who are selfless because children learn best by example. But it won't happen without some work and conscious effort on my part. You see, what my friend asked me was "If you always plan such elaborate parties for Aut, won't she come to expect that?" And the answer to that is simple: yes, she will come to expect it. I present to you the fascinating world of behavioral economics. What my friend was referring to is actually a thing, and it's called hedonistic adaptation. 

Behavioral research shows that humans can become acclimated to almost anything if they’re exposed to it frequently. It’s called “hedonic adaptation,” and it’s why Justin Bieber is always buying more outrageous cars, why the kitchen we just remodeled suddenly needs a new backsplash and why lottery winners, after the initial thrill of winning, end up about as happy as they were before.

So what does this mean for us as parents? It means that anything we provide or do regularly will become the new norm, whether it's dessert after every meal, vacations or a certain brand of jeans. And so, what we need to think about, according to this article is "What is the default I'm setting up?" In this situation, I'm setting up awesome, fun parties for my kids as their norm and I'm totally fine with that. I want them to look forward to them, and look back on them when they were older as one sign of just how important they are to me (the kids, not the parties, in case you're wondering). And don't worry, I do have fantastic plans for their 16th birthdays that will outdo all of the previous parties (think: international travel).

But my friend's question was really two-fold, beyond just the parties. Won't my children get used to me throwing amazing parties or giving her lots of gifts (yes) and then won't that cause them to be selfish and entitled. Not necessarily. We live in a broader context of society, and the older we get, the more experiences we have, and the wider the breadth of our experiences and interactions become. Travel helps with this, as it can open our eyes to just how privileged we are in this country. To this day, I vividly remember one of these eye-opening experiences I had at the age of fourteen. I grew up in a family that could not afford vacations. We never went on one vacation and so I felt very special and excited to be chosen by my friend Teresa to accompany her and her parents on a cruise. We were going to visit Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta and I was so excited that I could hardly sleep in the weeks leading up to it. At one of our ports, we were walking to go parasailing at the beach when we encountered little children selling gum. "Chicle? Chicle?" they repeated over and over again without ceasing, while also following us and tugging at our clothes. Their "chicle" cries were more of a desperate demand rather than an offer and I remember feeling deeply sorry for these underweight, small children on the busy street corner, who weren't wearing any shoes. And suddenly, a wave of shame and guilt washed over me, as I remembered my twinge of jealousy prior to boarding the cruise ship because my friend routinely had vacations like this while I didn't. I still remember the impact of that day and the realization that although poor, I was indeed very, very fortunate.

In his new book Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey shares what his mom said the day he complained about not having new, trendy shoes: Complain about your shoes, and I'll take you to see the child with no feet. We all need those reality-checks sometimes. I am always humbled and surprised when I reach out to someone whom I know is struggling and they are focused on the good instead of the bad. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they are surprisingly grateful for what they do have. Mom was this way, to the very end. In fact, I remember asking her "Why don't you feel sorry for yourself, Mom?" because it bewildered me so much. "Because there are children who have cancer, Megan, and I've lead a full life."

They say that comparison is the thief to joy. But comparison of a different kind can keep us grounded and focused on our blessings. And no matter how difficult life gets, there are always blessings and always things to be grateful for. This is beautifully illustrated in Victor Frankel's Man's Search for Meaning. Comparison of my life with those children selling the chicle showed me that my definition of poor was in fact quite comfortable by their standard. Although my parents had very little, they would go without to provide for my brother and I. In middle school, I always had the trendy, over-priced LA Gear shoes even though we did not have a car. Sometimes, we didn't have a lot of food, yet my brother and I had an over-abundance of gifts every Christmas, without fail. And we always had a roof over our heads, and loving family within the walls, even if the home may have been small.

My hope is that our children will feel fortunate and have gratitude as they realize what they have, rather than a sense of entitlement. I want them to look back and realize that I stretched my budget, and even started a side-hustle photography business just to fund their parties. Gratitude is a mind-set that is cultivated with conversations that take place around the dinner table, like the one we had last week about how tough life was for our grandparents, and how hard they worked to provide a better life for us. It is small, daily habits like identifying three things that we're grateful each day before we go to bed at night, or focusing on all of our blessings that money cannot buy. Cultivating gratitude is a habit, and not one that comes easy to teenagers who are using a different part of their brain. And for this reason, I want to make it a habit now. We are also already teaching her the value of hard work, and earning money. She has some standard chores that are to be done without pay, and others that she must complete to earn fifty cents or a dollar. A portion of this must be donated to the child she has adopted in El Salvador, Jasmine. This is what behavioral scientists call the identifiable victim effect - our human tendency to respond more empathetically to the plight of a single individual, rather than a large group. 

For instance, as behavioral economist Dan Ariely illustrates in his book “The Upside of Irrationality,” you might consider sending a few dollars to victims of a tsunami far away. But if you were walking through a park and saw a little girl drowning in the river right in front of you, you wouldn’t hesitate to plunge in to save her. The vivid, nearby individual always trumps the vague, faraway many.

My husband and I have worked continuously since our first jobs (mine was the Del Taco Drive-Thru at the age of 16, where I made $4.25 an hour), and we also want our children to work and to contribute to their car and college tuition, as they get older. All throughout my undergrad and graduate school, I worked full time, often two part-time jobs when I could not find a full-time employment. I did this, and made education a priority so that I could provide for my children. Even then, as a teenager or in my twenties, I thought of my future children and how I wanted to give them everything that I didn't have and provide for them not just with material things but with experiences. But I will never make the mistake of giving them presents in place of presence. What children really want, more than anything we can buy, is our unconditional love and our undivided attention.

Giving children presents but not our presence is meaningless, and it is what creates children who grow to be adults that are never content and satisfied. 

A quote by Simone Weil in Gravity and Grace comes to mind: 

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAttention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

This brings me to one last story. Although my Mom worked as an executive secretary for B of A in San Francisco and at William Iselin around the corner from Wall Street in New York before I was born, she decided to stay home once she became a Mom. When we were older, she started babysitting to earn extra income. She babysat one little boy named Jimmy, whose Mom always bought him toys and took him to Disneyland. One day, my Mom was sitting with him, reading a book, when he looked up at her and said "I wish my Mommy would just sit and read a book with me, instead of taking me to Disneyland." That made an impact on me and at 15 or 16 I remember thinking that I didn't want to be that type of parent. I would to buy them things, yes, but more importantly I would give them my time. Of all of the things that my Mom gave me, her love, attention, optimism and time are what hold the most value. When I would come home from school, she had a snack waiting and would sit at the kitchen table and talk with me. As the years passed and I entered college, those snacks became cups of coffee but still we talked, sometimes for hours. In her conversations, she had a way of infusing me with optimism without me even realizing it. When I came to the table and then left the table, the situation I was worried or upset over remained unchanged, yet I felt better; lighter, and happy. I knew everything would be alright. And I'll take that feeling any day over a new pair of shoes. I can't remember what she said but if I try really hard, I can remember the warmth, comfort and completeness that time in her presence always left me with. Being with Mom was like being warmed by sunshine on an slightly chilly day and that is what I want my kids to feel and remember when they're my age, and what I hope they give to their children. The parties? Those are just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

January, 2021

I had a great start to the new year, with Cha saying "I love you, Ma!" for the first time on New Year's Day. My heart! He is starting to speak in sentences, and it is so adorable. "I did it!" is our current favorite. Although a sentence, he says it as if each word is a sentence in itself, with a slight pause after each word.

I try to instill in Aut the idea that although we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we react to it. For most 5 year olds (and some adults), when things don't go their way it can really derail them. Five year olds usually bounce back quicker than adults. I try to help her enjoy and appreciate every day by modeling that but also by talking to her when plans fall through and shifting her focus or reframing things. Usually, it's a blessing in disguise. She listens, but sometimes it doesn't seem like she's listening, as the same situation will arise the next day. For this reason, it was amazing to hear her repeating some of my same words to her brother as we were all in the garage organizing things one day. Cha was climbing a ladder and wanted to get up on the metal storage cage Daddy had just hung from the ceiling for extra storage. We told him he couldn't get up there, and he was disappointed. "It's okay, buddy! You can come ride your scooter! I was disappointed the other day when I found out Mara wasn't going ice skating with us (she never expressed this to me) but it was okay! Because I realized I would have extra time and fun with Mom!" Paydirt. She has been listening! I didn't even know that she was disappointed when Mara couldn't go, and that was her internal dialogue with herself. Realizing that she is building resiliency makes me so very proud. I want to give my children the world, but the things that truly hold meaning, like resiliency and a growth mindset, cannot be purchased on Amazon (though you can get some great books about that there, like this gem).

Around the middle of the month, the temperature rose to almost 90 degrees. We worked in a long overdue beach day at the Newport Dunes, where there are no waves or fear of rip currents or crowds.

The period between Thanksgiving and New Years reminded me of the fact that you can't outrun a bad diet. January was a time to reset my fasting, and loose the 4 pounds that I gained. I also started weight training with Beach Body, because running 3 miles a day (and also walking 2-3 daily) is not cutting it. At the start of the pandemic, I started running 3 miles a day, every day. After a few months of being totally consistent with this, I felt pretty bad-a**, I'm not going to lie. But here we are 10 month later, and my body is not changing as I would like. And here's the thing: My daily run of 3 miles feels like a lot to me, but only when compared to what I had been doing...not when compared to what others are doing and not when compared to what I'm capable of doing. It's time to up my game and add weights and build muscle mass. I'm going to continue my daily 3-6 miles, but also add in weight training at least 4 days a week. I also need to refine my diet, and remember that 80% of how we look and feel is diet, while exercise only accounts for 20%. Whatever it Takes by Imagine Dragons has become my mantra, and I listen to it nearly every day.

And here's a picture of a goose.

Half-way through the month, I returned to working from school instead of working from home. I absolutely love being back, and the routine that it brings. I set my alarm every day between 5:00 and 5:15 so that I can get in a workout before I get ready...and I am not a morning person! Some days, I only have time for a 15 minute workout, but it is something. It sets such a nice tone for the day and I find myself singing and dancing while making the kids' breakfast. My goal is to get stronger every day. I also run 3 miles every day on my lunch break at least four days a week. I am sometimes lured by the idea of visiting dollar tree instead, and buying decorations for any and all upcoming holidays.

Glow night at Awanas!
I took a break from all social media after learning that Trump was banned from the platforms. Love him or hate him, we should all find the censorship concerning.
*Attributed to Voltaire 
Being off social media was hard at first, but by the end of the month it was such a welcome, much-needed break and reset from my daily (constant?) updates. One sign that you may be the author of too many instagram-stories is when you can't sauté spinach without reaching for your phone to make a boomerang video about it. While I have concerns over the power of big-tech and their control over information, I will be back because I have too many photos and videos stored on there, and it has become my primary method of communication for my family abroad. Until then, I'm finding new ways to kill time, like organizing the space underneath each of our bathroom sinks and planning her 6th birthday in May! But somehow, I still always have clean clothes that still need to be put away.

Books I finished this month:

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friday, January 22, 2021

December, 2020

Seas & Greetings

She was proud to chose her dress for church. 
Aut and I regularly attend church on Sundays now, outside under a tent. She also attends Awanas every Wednesday night. Faith formation is important, especially in her young, formative years. But it's also important for me. Though I still struggle with some of the stories from the Bible, and fear that this world is all there is, I've  finally reached a point where I definitely believe in intelligent design. To believe that this is all completely random would now require way more faith from me. The idea that this is all random is less believable to me now than the idea that there is a plan and a purpose. 

The lead-up to Christmas is always the best, isn't it? The anticipation of everything. We went to see Santa on the train at Irvine Regional. The train parked for quite awhile and Santa came by, spending time with each child, at a distance.

She had a snow day at her school, our HOA put on a parade and we went to see the lights at Saddleback Church, driving through.

Her kindergarten class.

We are so thankful that she continues to attend kindergarten full-time, and in person. She absolutely loves is and is learning so much! She can now read nearly any word with three letters, can count to 100 (and identify/write all numbers) and is doing simple math. She often walks around the house singing "10, 20, 30, 40, 50 , 60, 70 , 80, 90 ...100" to a tune.

This year was so amazing because the kids really seemed to "get" it. Aut was so excited to leave flour in front of the fireplace to collect evidence that Santa came, an idea she came up with on her own. She was so excited to find the evidence not only near the fireplace, but he also tracked flower on her purple rug in her room, where he left a smart watch under her tree, found the day after.

My father and brother spent the night on Christmas Eve so that they could be  here when the kids woke up before dawn. We had prime rib, and after dinner, the we all gathered 'round to watch Mom read The Night Before Christmas, which is a new tradition. Then, the kids opened one Christmas Eve gift as we had dessert and coffee. Remember knowing adults who could drink coffee at any time of the day or night, unaffected? I do too, and yet somehow, that's me now. Glen went to bed early, while Dad stayed up to help my husband, mostly by watching and critiquing him. "I'm here to help" became his catch-phrase that evening, as he instructed him on assembly or stated the obvious. They had a great time together, with lots of laughs. Dad spoke of Christmases from my childhood, and how much Mom loved this time of year. As anticipated, Aut was up before the sun, at 5:40 to be exact, and Cha wasn't too happy about it. Aut received her very first gun, an Annie Oakley Lil' Sure Shot BB air rifle, from Grandpa. After all the gifts were opened, we noticed something strange outside, and called the kids out. 


This historic dam is 1.5 miles out our back gate.

Best of friends!

The day after Christmas, Aut and I went ice-skating in Huntington, and she wore her new ice skates that she received for Christmas. She's continuing with her lessons and loves her weekly sessions with Coash Ashley.

We closed out the month with an early-morning trip to the snow with the kids' cousins. When there's snowfall in So-Cal, flatlanders like us flock to the mountains. But we went up the back way, through Yucaipa where I grew up, to the old school house in Oak Glen where we went last year. There wasn't any traffic, and very few people. Aut loves time with her cousins, and we hope to have more time together in the new year. 

I was happy to close out the year with higher mileage than any recent years. My total mileage was 1,221 which includes walking and running. Being home more, I have ran 3 miles nearly every day since March 13.

For New Year's, we set off fireworks in the street while the kids danced and rode their scooters. We also set off confetti cannons at the top of the staircase, and sat back as the kids jumped with delight in the raining sparkles. While the only postings I saw on Facebook and in the media about 2020 were negative, it was a good year for us. Perhaps, the best ever. All of the extra time at home has been the biggest blessing and I can't see us ever returning to our pre-Covid busyness. Life has been simpler, slower and much more enjoyable. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

November, 2020

This month started with rain, thunder and lightning; a rarity in Southern California. It was so much fun playing Christmas songs and setting up the first of our trees, while the kids wore their matching jammies and watched Charlie Brown. We even had a fire. 

On November 1st, I started setting up our Christmas trees and by the end of the month we had five! The real one is close to 11 feet tall and makes the house smell amazing! By the end of the month I was also nearly done with Christmas shopping and wrapping. My return to work (on campus) coincided with Cha's transition to his big boy bed. Like every other transition he has passed, it was easy-peasy, lemon squeezy. After he commands me to read a book, I tuck him in, give him a kiss and close the door. I leave the light on low and sometimes I hear him playing with whatever toy he has chosen to go night-night with, but over a month in and he has never gotten out of his bed once I put him down. We own a monkey lock and have yet to use it. Mornings are surprisingly the same! I will hear him chatting away, but he has never left his bed even once before I open the door! He is the most a remarkable little guy.
It was tough for Cha to return to daycare after he had been home for over 7 months. At drop off, he clung to me and cried, once holding on to a bench as they tried to pick him up and carry him in. Some mornings, he would ask "hide?" and releasing from his car seat buckle, I quickly learned that meant crawl into the back of my Honda Pilot so that I can't reach him without partially crawling in myself. As tough as it was on me, I knew the routine and socialization would be good for him. I didn't cry. That was, until around the middle of the month when we walked in all by himself, cheerfully saying "Bye Mom!" as he took his little stuffed dog under his arm and carried him through the gates without a fuss. By the 20th, he was saying "House! Big house; my house" as we pulled into daycare and saying "Bye Mom!" this time before we had even parked! Clearly, he likes it there, which is a good feeling. Even though it makes me feel less needed, I know it's a good thing and it gives me insight into how and why people become co-dependent or stunt their children's growth (I'm only half kidding here). And yes, we now call daycare going to the big house.

Aut started ice skating lessons this month and enjoyed them more than I anticipated. Although she also takes horse-back riding lessons and gymnastics, ice skating quickly became her favorite, with her excitedly saying "yay!" when I tell her that she has a lesson. 

We took a long weekend and went to Williams, Arizona to go on the Polar Express. I may have been as excited as the kids! There was a bit of snow on the ground and the whole event was the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season. The small, old city of Williams, known as the "gateway to the Grand Canyon" holds meaning to me because Mom and I visited the summer after I finished my first year as a school counselor. We also went to the Grand Canyon for the first time on that trip back in 2007 and so it was nice to take my children there. 

The train ride was only half-full to allow for social distancing, and we wore masks. But it was otherwise a normal experience, with Santa still boarding the train to give each child a bell. This video of Charles receiving his melts my heart. We had fun being the only ones in our hotel's outdoor hot-tub, visiting a playground in town, and seeing Artic Wolves and bears roaming around our car at Bearizona. The Polar Express will definitely become an annual tradition for us.
This month, we celebrated seven years of marriage and nine years as a couple. I cannot believe how well-suited we are for each other and can say with certainty that I am more in love with him now than I was even when I said "I do." On our wedding day, I knew he had everything that I was looking for; the non-negotiables like sense of humor, attraction, educated with a career, active and irresistible. The more I was around him, the more I wanted to be around him. But there are so many other qualities that he has that I didn't realize were so important, like his devotion to family, ability to stretch our dollar by finding incredible deals and our similar viewpoints on politics that have only served to strengthen our bond. He is the best leader of our family and my rock. I thank God every day for him, and the life he has given me and our children. Our anniversary was followed by his birthday, and the start of his last year being in his 30's.

This month I continued running 3 miles most days and also continued weight training. With gyms closed, I've been humbled by just how sore a 30 minute YouTube weight training session with only hand weights can make me! And I love being sore from a good workout!

We spent Thanksgiving at home, with my Dad and brother. I love cooking a good meal for others to enjoy, how it makes the house smell and having leftovers. I love it when Aut helps, and baking desserts together.

After Thanksgiving, the Elf on the Shelf made her appearance, and it was so much fun seeing all of the mischief she got into and the kids' reactions. Cha is such a good, good man. I started wrapping presents this month and placing them under the trees. He was patient and somehow understood that they were not to be opened until Christmas. A conversation surrounding this would go something like this: 
Me: We can't open these until Christmas.
Cha: Huh?
Me: We can't open these presents until Christmas.
Cha: Huh?
Me: We will open these presents on Christmas.
Cha: Ooooohhhh.

Aut is such a joy and a good, sweet girl. She wants to please and she wants to do what she is told. She plays so well with her brother. She is thriving in kindergarten, and has received only positive comments from her teacher. I was able to take some time off work and attend her class party which is so important to me and, to her. We are truly blessed and thankful, and will never forget the struggle to become parents. It has only served to deepen our love and appreciation for what I see as the most important job in the world: being their Mom.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

October, 2020

Still on distance learning through our work, we wanted to show Autumn a real Autumn. Seeing the fall foliage of New England has long been a dream of mine, and my amazing husband was set on fulfilling it. When would we have another chance, before retirement? And so we flew to New England on the first Saturday in October and stayed until the following weekend. We flew into Rhode Island but I was drawn to Mystic, CT because Mom and Dad spent a long weekend there while living in New York, around 1975.

Under 10 days, it was a shorter trip than what we were used to. But we were able to see and do so much! The time difference worked to our advantage, because I started work just before 11am east coast time, allowing us to stay up later and still be rested, with time to spare. 

At Gillette Castle, looking out over the Connecticut River.

We saw so much! Harkness Memorial State Park, Mystic Pizza (x2), Blue Job Mountain in New Hampshire, Mystic Seaport and the C.W. Morgan whaling ship, Gillette Castle, Devil's Hopyard State Park, B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill, tea with a new friend named Ava, Mystic Aquarium, Strawberry Banke Museum and lots of pool time at the hotel. 

Aut was very interested in the history of the homes along the seaport, and wanted to know more about the prople who lived in them long ago, what life was like back then and wondered if they were now in Heaven. She explored the Buckinham-Hall house along the seaport at least 5 times, and even narrated a video on one of her trips through it: 

(Upon returning, we had a health scare that necessitated limited contact with anyone outside our family, so I was doubly thankful that we had made the trip when we could.) 

Upon returning, it was time for Aut to start Kindergarten! In person, five days a week. She loves it and is thriving. She is quite chatty and happy and full of stories about the day when we pick her up. Although she didn't start in person when the other students did due to our trip, she quickly made friends and her teacher said that students often ask about her before she arrives "When will Aut be here? " or "Yay! Aut is here!" A good feeling.