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.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

August, 2021

The summer volleyball session ended with our girl earning "My first medal in the whole world!" for her team finishing 2nd overall in the league finals! Just like that very first day on the court when she was thrown into a game, once again her Mom did not realize what she was getting her little girl into! We arrived at the gym before 12pm for what I thought would be the usual game or two. Four hours later, she was still playing, because they just kept winning! She even scored some points herself! 

I have called her Awesome Aut before, but this is where she truly earned her nickname! I mean, she played for 4 hours almost non-stop!

Our Big Man turned three and we all headed to Disneyland as a family on his actual birthday. But we celebrated a few days before, with my father, as well as a week or so after with a huge THREE-REX party involving real dinosaurs, which you can read all about in an up-coming blog post. My Dad prides himself in being the best gift-giver, and this year was no exception. I was hoping for some wooden trains, and he got the birthday boy an awesome train table, with all sorts of wooden figures and accessories.

I started back to work at the beginning of the month and I am loving it! I thought it was going to be a difficult opening of the school year and it has been super smooth because of funding related to COVID learning loss. I continued my side-hustle with some back to school photography. I also photographed a wedding, and booked a Baptism and 60th birthday party for next month. It is a job I really love. At the wedding, I actually cried when the mother-son dance was the same song that I play daily for my boy; Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The editing is time-consuming but fun, and I do most of it while watching Curb Your Enthusiasm at night. I know, I'm late to the party on this one, as it is about 20 years old, but so, so good! Who knew I would identify so well with an older, Jewish man?! Larry David and I happen to have quite a lot in common.

My weight-loss journey continues, and I have lost 20 pounds since April. Finally! But, I found that I have hit a plateau and am no longer loosing. Also, I'm a bit tired of the fasting because well, when you're fasting you can't eat. I thought briefly of saying I'm done - this is my goal weight and as good as it gets - when I decided that I need to take to next level and loose 10 more pounds. I know these will be the hardest to loose. I began searching for a solution when one fell in my lap. My co-worker started talking to be about low-carbs. This is nothing new, and I've heard it before...but, I would get lost when people would start talking about macro-nutrients vs. micro. And, I thought eating a ton of meat can't be healthy. But, no one is saying it needs to be a ton of meet, and she simplified everything by telling me this: 

E: All you need to do is keep your daily net carbs under 20. 

Me: That's it? It seems too easy. 

E: Yes, do that and you will not be able to keep the weight on.

The love of my life!

She used to be in fitness competitions, so she knows, I told myself and that very day I made the decision. I thought it would be pretty easy, until I realized that nearly everything I eat has 20 carbs in it!!! She helped me with some tips and tricks such as the "Two Good" yogurt and these Endulge bars. A week later, and I was waking up and having steamed broccoli with a bit of cheddar, butter and salt, along with baked zucchini topped with parmesan...for breakfast! Because I'm coming from not eating for 18+ hours, it was a bit freeing to think that now I can now eat any time of the day. I love how I'm feeling being at the lower weight, because I have more energy. It's nice to notice not only with how my clothes fit, but how my face looks in pictures. Someday, I'll show you the before pics. Maybe.

Both kids started school in the middle of the week, in the middle of the month. We were both there for their first respective drop offs, which didn't involve any tears, not even from me! We were relieved that they both had such great first days! Cha had a new "big house" and I was so happy that he wanted to go back the second day! At drop off on the second day, kids were screaming bloody murder as they were peeled from their parents (as was the case for him last year) and he very seriously looked at me and stated "I don't like crying." I had some reservations about needing to pack their lunches but have it down now. It's saving us money and it's also a lot healthier. 

I am super-proud to report that Cha pretty much potty trained himself within the span of about two weeks, without much effort on our part. He is a remarkable guy and it was effortless. We reinforced him a few times with m&ms and that was it; he started going on his own while at home without even telling us. In fact, there are times when I wake up in the morning and notice he has gone during the night ... and, left the seat up! By the end of the month, we were sending him to school in his new Spiderman undies, and he has yet to have one accident. 

There was a return of live music, and my best friend and I (along with her hubby and son!) went to a Guns 'n Roses concert at the Banc of California arena in LA. There at the concert, I realized that we had been going to shows together for over three decades! Which is strange since we're both still 29. Just a week later, we also all went to the Improv. For now, life seems to be back to normal but the Delta variant remains the wild card.

The kids and I became Magic Key passholders at Disneyland this month and started going there weekly! Big Man is already 40 inches, so he's able to go on almost everything, including Splash Mountain! As you can tell from the photo below, he really enjoyed the ride. I have the Dream Key Pass, which includes parking, while both kids have the Believe Key Pass. My hubby has the Free Pass to do whatever he would like in the quiet house, while we're at the park!

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Why I Decided to Get the Vaccine

When the COVID vaccine was first released, people were literally lining up for it. Well, only some people were; the ones who were given priority and allowed to get the vaccine. Here in California, it started with essential health care workers and the elderly. At this time, I told myself that I would get it after awhile, once they worked out the kinks, probably in the fall. I just don't want to be first in line, I said. 

Early on, around January or February, I went to the CDC website and read the FAQ. At this time, I was on the fence, and not really for or against the vaccine. I stopped about half-way down the CDC's page, closed my computer and said "That's it, I'm not getting it...this is misleading." The question that caused me to shut down and not be open to getting the vaccine was something along these lines:

Q: Is the COVID vaccine safe for me to get while I'm pregnant?

A: Yes. There are no known negative side effects to mother or baby from taking the COVID vaccine at anytime during the pregnancy.

While that answer was indeed true, it felt dishonest and manipulative to me because how could there be any negative effects to any pregnancy when it was day four or five of the vaccine even being offered and far too early for any data to even be collected? In trying to find that same post just now, I have learned that the CDC is being a bit more honest and saying that they do not know, and asking for data through a registry. The CDC is asking women who are pregnant and have taken the vaccine to be studied, here.

Fast forward a few months and everyone who wanted the vaccine had it, there was a surplus, and the incentives started. There was a lottery system, free tickets or gift-cards and even freeway signs urging me on my drive home to GET VACCINATED. The harder they pushed, the less inclined to get it I became, telling myself that if they had a good product, it would sell itself. As opposed to the vaccine as I was for myself, I did coax/insist/urge my father to get it, because of his age and history of smoking. 

Although I insisted my Dad get it, I didn't need it or want it. I knew someone who was 80, with cancer, who had COVID and recovered quickly, with no need to be hospitalized, so I would be fine. And I started to look for things that reaffirmed and confirmed my line of thought, known of course as confirmation bias. In the news articles I read (thanks in part to the evil algorithms) there was a whole lotta this going on: Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes. 

Then came the mandates. Companies began requiring the vaccine of their employees under threat of termination and suddenly, the same people who were all about their individual freedoms and liberties surrounding their ability to use drugs or have abortions, were cheering. The same people who demand personal freedoms for abortions and drug use were quick to support the removal or rights for other in regard to the vaccine.

"I'll get the vaccine, unless my work requires it" was my reaction to the mandates. And this was when I realized that my reluctance to get vaccinated was more about my disdain for the encroaching, overreach of government control and our loss of freedoms than it was about actually being against the vaccine.

Throughout this time, there was one friend who works in the health care field that I would randomly text my objections to, and she would nicely, yet firmly, counter all of them. She would also sometimes send me articles highlighting why I should get the vaccine, or minimizing the negative effects of the vaccine. I didn't read most of these but I trust and respect her, and she had conviction. She was unwavering in her urging of me to get it, no matter what I sent her. And her reasoning made sense, sometimes helping me reframe things, though I wouldn't let on.

Finally, what tipped the scales was a friend's friend's husband, younger and healthier than me, who was recently in the ICU for two weeks and almost intubated because of COVID. I tried to remind myself that even pre-vaccine, the risk of hospitalization was under 4% and the death rate even lower than that. While of course true, if I found myself in one of those few percentage points, wouldn't I want something that mitigated against the damage? Yes, I would. 

So for me, I chose to get the vaccine today because while I do feel there are risks with either route (and the vaccine risks are likely underreported), I feel that the risks for the unvaccinated are higher than the risks for those who are vaccinated. And being a mother, my health is not something that I want to play the odds on.

I'll update this blog in a month when I have the second Moderna vaccine but so far, I'm 8-9 hours in and have no side-effects. I had the flu shot as well, and that shot hurt much more, and that arm is more sore.

Updated to add what a different friend sent me: This is the statistics from my hospital a few days ago. The data really is showing that the vaccine works to prevent severe symptoms. I’m really happy to see you get it and I hope that more people see the benefits vs risk.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

July, 2021

Cha started a weekly soccer skills camp through the city and did really well! He listens well to directives, tried, and picked up the concepts fairly quickly. Sissy was the best cheerleader, and they were both rewarded with playtime at the park after each weekly session. We left the first meeting with Aut asking how many days until we could come again.

At the start of this month, she was involved in a long list of weekly activities. 

  • Voice lessons
  • Gymnastics
  • Volleyball
  • Swim
  • Horseback riding
  • Ice skating
  • VBS

As we head into the new school year, we will be cutting out some of these activities, and adding AWANAS back in, because regular faith-formation was something I committed to when we pulled her from the Catholic school. We stack swim and ice skating on Saturday mornings, so it is not as hectic as it seems.

There were two major accomplishments for our girl this month: learning to ride a new 20" bike on her own, and being thrown into a volleyball league half-way through their summer season. Without any practice, she jumped into a game on day one, without any practice at all. Way to go, Mom! I actually brought her in a unicorn print shirt and lace socks! But, a few weeks in and she was looking like a real member of the team, even scoring some points when it was her turn to serve! The youngest on the team by far, she joined a club for 7-9 year olds, having just turned six! This came about because a friend recommended them, and I emailed an inquiry which went something like this: 

Would my daughter be able to join the summer program still?--
Sent from my iPhone

The one that is going on now?  How old is she and are you requesting a friend?  Let us know asap.

Yes/the one now!! She just turned 6 in May.

We have a division that is 7-9 years of age.  How advanced athletically is she?  

She has never played volleyball before. She is TALL for her age- 4 feet, 4 inches! She is in swim and gymnastics but I have no idea about her hand-eye coordination or athletic ability related to volleyball. It’s just a sport I have interest in for her because of her height. 

You can bring her next Sunday and check it out. 

So, by "bring her and check it out" I had no idea she would actually be playing...in a game...with other team members who know what they are doing! We found the large, new high school and walked into the gigantic gym, filled with six different teams actively playing each other on three different courts. I felt intimidated as an adult and can't imagine what was going through her mind as I scanned the room to ask for person I had been emailing. He was so nice, and gave her a league t-shirt to change into, which I did on the sidelines and then she was out there. And as she was playing, I had no idea if she would be allowed to come back. I mean, she did not even know the rotation of the six team-members (nor did I!) and the coach had to tell her each time where to move. She was so out of her element, that it was hard to watch because I felt so bad about what must be a very uncomfortable situation for her. But bless her heart! Not only did she stick with it, but she wanted to go back the following week! And so the next day, as I was getting in some summer days at work, Daddy took her to buy her first volleyball! Prior to her game the following weekend, we picked up her uniform and she looked official. Joining this summer league was in no way me pushing her because if she had expressed any hesitancy, I would have decided to wait until she was the appropriate age; the age of all the others on her team. But after the second week, she was talking about volleyball to her friends and saying it was her favorite sport! And so, we continued, and she improved rapidly, even scoring a point (or two!) when she served.

Time has a way of escaping us, and so the beginning of summer found Aut still riding a 16" Frozen bike with training wheels that she was too tall for, so much so that it was hard for her to even pedal. We went to REI one night after much discussion and Dad decided to buy us both mountain bikes, to utilize the beautiful trails behind our home. We bought her a 24" bike that was too big for her to ride safely, in a color that Cha could someday use. To bridge the gap, I found a nice 20" purple and teal Schwinn for her, and Dad set out to teach her how to ride without training wheels. It took all of about 15 minutes, and left me with tears in my eyes, in light of the obvious sign that she is indeed, growing up. To see here going on her own, check about two minutes in:

Only twenty minutes later, you can see how much more confident she is:

There were also two accomplishments for big man this month as well, as he nearly became potty trained in the span of only a week with little effort on our part, and also tackled the big waterslide at Great wolf lodge! This was also the month that his soon-to-be-famous booty shake first made it's appearance! We had a wolf den suite at the Great Wolf Lodge, and went to their dance party one evening. Surprisingly, he got out there on the dance floor and debuted the cutest, fast booty-shake west of the Mississippi! This new skill has been highly reinforced, with him usually giving me a booty-shake when I ask for it, and sometimes even when I don't! He's acquiring quite the sense of humor, and one day looked at his booty, which was shaking, and told it "Stop shaking, booty!" as he ran away from is screaming "Agghhhh...." 


Monday, August 9, 2021

June, 2021

The first half of the month was exciting, with the end of the school year for my husband and I, kindergarten promotion for our little girl, and the very last day for Cha at "my big house." I thought I might make it through her kinder promotion without crying, but as soon as she started singing God Bless America with her class, tears filled my eyes. 
Our daughter has not worn a mask all year, due to her medical waiver. It was so nice to be able to see her face at her promotion and I was surprised that she was the only one not wearing one. 
The next day, I was so filled with pride that such a song would be sung in a public school setting, and excitedly told my friend "If more schools were like hers, our country would be a better place." I wasn't referring to the political ideation shared by parents or the academic rigor, but the unity that I feel the school's patriotism brings. At a time when our country feels so divided, remembering (or learning) why our country was founded helps bring cohesion rather than division. I am beyond thankful for her school, which surrounds us with a community that makes living in California a bit more tolerable. 

Cha's last day at daycare was bittersweet. Because it was a daycare that she also attended, it signaled the end of an era. Due to COVID restrictions, I never saw his teacher, whom I knew from before, until that final day. Every day that he attended, I would call to have him brought outside the gate at pick-up time, following COVID protocol. Sporadically, there would be a note telling me about his day, but I was so disconnected compared to my experience at the same place with her. So it was very sweet when his teacher came out and filled me in on how much she will miss him. She said he has such a sweet, gentle spirit and is so helpful that he even picks up toys daily that he didn't play with! She confided that she rewarded him with gummy bears, which I love, and I told him that he would need to start doing this at home more, now that I knew he was so capable.
One of these things is not like the others...

On her last day of school, we worked in a Knott's Berry Farm trip with my brother. There was time for more swimming lessons, ice skating and a playdate with their cousins before flying to Oregon for the last two weeks of June. Being in Oregon is such a break from my  normal routine because when I have time off at my own home, there is always something to do. Aut played for hours on end again with the neighbor  girl  Charlotte and the renter's granddaughter AJ, while I weeded the driveway, went for my runs and watched Cha ride the gator up and down the driveway endlessly. There was a lot of lake swimming (I even went in!), late nights, sprinkler running, conversations around the dinner table, slip 'n slide, salamander catching and baby swan watching going on.
Like compounding interest, every visit to Oregon holds more and more meaning to me because of the memories of previous visits that have been deposited. And of all the past visits, this was my favorite, for no reason in particular. Maybe it was all of the previous memories that added up. Or maybe it was the fact that we celebrated my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary while we were there, with a semi-surprise part out on one of the docks. They knew we were planning a dinner, but did not know that my husband had booked their favorite harpist. I am so happy that the children were able to be a part of such an important event, and they had a blast being in on the secret. Marriages that have this type of longevity are a rarity, it seems, in a time when fewer people are even deciding to get married. It sends a message to Aut and Cha that although things are not always easy, you stick together and honor your commitment. Both sets of their grandparents remained married until the end.
"I love watermelon, it's my fay-yet."

When was the last time you had a casual conversation with someone who quoted scripture just as a natural part of the conversation? It doesn't happen very much (at all?) where we live. But in Oregon, I went for a run the day after the anniversary celebration and stopped to talk to the neighbor down the road and his wife, who was loading mare into her horse trailer. This is a family I talk to maybe twice a year, and usually chat with them as a welcome break from my run. I had started out on my run a bit wistful and contemplative of the passage of time. My mother-in-law had Ben go get a picture of her husband in his youth to show us at the dinner, and it immediately brought tears to my eyes. It was not so much the touching sentiment as it was the passage of time, which is my Achille's heal. I started the run a bit wistful, thinking of how that would be my husband and I someday, surrounded by our kids, lamenting the passage of time. But I ended my run renewed and hopeful, even though he spoke about his father's recent death on the property from a tractor accident, and how he blinked and now his youngest is getting married. "Enjoy it. It goes by in the blink of an eye. Our time here is limited, and we could die tomorrow...but are we living like that is the case?" he asked. Somehow this conversation made me feel better, not worse. It was as if God knew what was on my heart and found a way to have someone speak to me about it. I returned from my run excited about the day with the kids, and resolved to spend more time with God's word, downloading a daily Bible app since I'm on my phone daily.

The primary purpose of my blog is not readership, but to serve as a virtual scrapbook for the kids and I (as well as future generations?) to look back on, as a piece of family history containing memories of Mom and how remarkable she was, and any history I have from prior generations. I have already found myself reminiscing over my posting on our first international trip with Aut and know I'll do the same when they are grown and out of the home. So, dear future self: You really did strive each and every day to appreciate and enjoy all of the moments of each stage with them. Even (especially?) the ones that can seem trying at the time but are really so fleeting in the grand scheme of things. The ones that you miss as soon as they pass, like when they don't want to be put down or let you out of their sight.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Her 6th Birthday Bash!

When our girl started to give input on her party about seven months ago, she told me that she wanted "Six princesses, because I'm turning six!" While it seemed like a very high number, why not? I thought and moved forward with the booking of five princesses, plus Aladdin. Oh, and I also want a pony and that big waterslide! Yes, and yes! We planned to invite her whole class, because we love her school and want to get to know many of the like-minded parents. Earlier in the year, around January, someone asked me if I thought we would get any attendees, as Covid was still all the rage in the media. I knew we would get some people, as many of our friends have moved on with their lives (which Biden stated we cannot do until July 4th, and our governor states we cannot do until June 15th). But what I didn't expect was 16 families from her class alone saying the would be there! I couldn't believe it as we passed 100 people and then approached 150. As it turned out, having six princesses was nearly necessary, as one or two would not have been able to handle this kind of crowd. 

I sent out her invites with a schedule of events, as many families have other obligations on Saturdays. That way, people could choose when to come. Many stayed for the entire party, but a few chose to come after practice, or after attending another party. 

One of my favorite moments of the day that I will never forget happened right after the first few guests arrived. Aut had taken them up to see her room, and one of the girls glanced out her window and saw all of the princess walking down the street. I happened to be in our entry way, when she came running down the stairs exclaiming "The princesses are here!" and I was quick on the draw with my cell phone.

The princesses did a fantastic job of corralling the kids and leading them through some organized storytelling and dancing, before dividing and conquering to do face painting and balloon twisting.

The princesses sung happy birthday and posed for photos before leaving. As soon as they departed, the TK Burger truck was set up and serving. About thirty minutes after that the pony arrived, and then we inflated the waterslide, where the birthday girl spent the rest of the afternoon. It was nice having both the waterslide and pony rides to choose from, because the lines were a bit shorter. We also had a piñata, and the favor for each family was a copy of Black Beauty. While the larger group made it hard to visit with people, but it was still a most wonderful day. Few things in this world bring me as much joy as curating a magical birthday for our children.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Make Butter in 10 Minutes!

 Aut came home from school one day very excited to tell me that she made butter. "Mommy! I made butter at school today and it was sooooooo easy! Can we make butter today?" Doubtful, and remembering the one time I made ice cream as a child and it involved rock salt, a coffee can and took what seemed like all day, I said "We'll see" which is really the Mom's version of "not a chance." I filed it away in my mind under things we hope to accomplish this summer but might not ever get around to. But then I looked it up here and it really did seem impossibly easy! Could it be true? I ordered two 4 oz mason jars on Amazon, and picked up some heavy whipping cream (recipe calls for heavy cream, but that is the same as heavy whipping cream) at the store. It was impossibly easy, with only one ingredient and no measuring!

Mason Jar Instructions

  • Pour heavy cream into the mason jar, filling it half-way full. Do not overfill past the half-way mark. Screw the lid on tightly so there are no leaks.
  • Shake mason jar for approximately 5-7 minutes. We put a few songs on for fun! After a few minutes, whipped cream will form and it won't feel like anything is happening - keep shaking! . Keep shaking until you hear that a lump has formed inside, and shake an additional 30-60 seconds after that. You should clearly see that the fat solids have separated from the liquids. The amount of time it takes will depend on how vigorously you are able to shake the jar.

Rinsing, Flavoring, and Storing

  • Strain the fat solids from the buttermilk using a strainer. 
  • Pour cold water over the butter. Shape into a ball or any other shape (you can purchase butter molds for interesting designs).
  • At this point you have butter! You can add in things like salt, honey, and herbs to create flavored butters, or serve in its pure form as is.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

May, 2021

It has been a beautiful month; my favorite month so far this year. In fact, if asked to relive any month for all of eternity, I think it would be May, 2021 would be a solid choice. With my birthday, mother's day and Aut's birthday, it was filled to the brim with memories. The month started with Aut going from the ice to the pool, with her ice skating class followed by swim lessons. We also enrolled Cha in swimming lessons, but he's going twice a week.

Beginning stages of pool design!

Getting Cha water-safe is suddenly a big priority for us because just this month, my husband announced that we are going to get a pool! A distant, someday dream when we moved in, I had no idea that someday was already here! If you haven't priced pools recently, they are crazy expensive, with most companies starting well above 100k for the most basic design. And who wants basic? I mean, gas fire is pretty much a need and not a want. If my husband had realized what pool construction cost, he said we never have purchased our home. I'm so thankful we didn't know, because I love our location and our view. I never dreamed of raising kids at the end of a cul-de-sac or having access to miles of trails right out our back gate! And, our home has upgrades I never knew about or wouldn't have paid for, like solid wood doors, heated floors, and a warming drawer. With adding a pool, we are committing to staying here for the foreseeable future, which I'm content with because we love our community.

On my birthday, we had tea at the Hello Kitty Grand Café. Later in the evening, we went out to Orange Mining Company with my father and brother.
Mother's Day gets more meaningful every year. The kids' home-made gifts are the best kind! I love how excited they were to give them to me, and how Aut saved some for me to open, instead of handing them all over when she came home from school. I still have all of these up on display, and Cha regularly points to the one of his hand and exclaims "My hand-print! It's a sun!" And then he points to each 'm' and asks "What's this?"

I was able to celebrate my birthday with my best friend, and also see my group of running friends for the first time in over a year. Patty was visiting from Switzerland, Tamara was in town from Oklahoma. Kay hosted in her new home in Redondo Beach, and I was able to see her adorable 14 month old girl and again and meet her hubby for the first time. I brought Aut with me, and she was as good as gold. With more vaccines available than people who want them, it finally feels like life for many is returning to normal. I am holding off on mine until it is FDA approved, but was a huge proponent of my father getting his.
Family. Orange Mining Company
Will Witt from Prager U
At the beginning of the school year, we took a chance with Aut's school because it was the first year, and there was no track record. We could not be more pleased that she is there and that she has a spot, as the wait list has grown to nearly 700 children! Two events this month solidified our commitment and contentment. The foundation hosted a dinner and auction at the El Rodeo equestrian center where Will Witt was a speaker, and her school celebrated Law Enforcement appreciation week, in spite of receiving terrible backlash from it. The Friday of the appreciation week, she came home very excited to report that "The police came to our school, with a police dog and a helicopter! And we made butter." Having the sense of community that comes with the parent group from her school makes living in California more tolerable.
Toward the end of the month, we threw a big bash for our Aut, who turned six. I invited her entire class, not expecting half of the families to respond that they were coming. Added to our usual crowd, this pushed the number of attendees up to 150! You can read all about her big day here. We spent her actual birthday at Disneyland! It was magical day, in more ways than one, with a sign from God near the end of our 12 hours there. "Sign from what, what now?" Aut would ask. From the Man Upstairs, Himself! After many years of lamenting that I never get any signs (well...except for the time I got the most overt, specific sign when I was 23 and in college, when I was diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma and my husband prayed fervently for me not to have cancer and then I didn't, and when we were granted our prayer of a healthy rainbow baby when multiple doctors said I would not conceive on my own and even IVF was not working) and asking last week for a sign after my phone call with my friend Sandy, I do believe He gave me one on her birthday. We entered the park just before 9am and headed to Pirates. At the suggestion of a friend, I then placed all of our food orders for the day because she had waited until just before lunch time, and all of the waits were hours long. This worked out really well because I was easily able to adjust the times if we were in one area of the park such as Adventureland and the food was about to be ready in Tomorrowland. The line for Pirates was not too bad, and Aut even received a "Happy Birthday" from Captain Jack Sparrow himself, as he was up above the line

After Pirates, we went on the Haunted Mansion and were able to enter through the 'secret' entrance that they are using during Covid, since visitors are not going in the elevator. Cha would not let on that he was a little scared, but he did hold on to my arm a bit tighter in our doom buggy. We picked up some beignets and rode the Mark Twain Riverboat before we walked over to Fantasyland to ride Alice, the teacups and get them each a baseball hat embroidered with their names. We rode a double-decker bus down main street before having ice cream and meeting Daddy outside the park so Cha could go home and nap. Then, the birthday girl and I rode splash mountain, went on Big Thunder Mountain and had lunch in Tomorrowland. She wanted to drive a car in Autotopia, and as we approached, a cast member who saw her birthday button gave her a "magic moment" and walked us up the exit, to get right on, without waiting. She felt very special, and I played that up because well, she is! We rode the Astro Orbiter, went on Star Tours and stopped off in the Bippity Bobbity Botique before waiting in line for Dumbo. Disneyland has such a nostalgia for me, which grows with every passing visit. 
    As I walk through the park, I see areas which remind me of being there for grad night, going with my husband when we were dating, and riding the tea cups with Aut when she was just over a year. While in line for Dumbo, I thought of riding it with Mom when I was around 2 years old. While I don't have the memory, I do still have a Melmac plate that she purchased as a souvenir, and the gollywog that my grandmother gave me that I was pushed around in my stroller with. Watching Aut in her beautiful Jasmine dress, I imagined Mom having a similar feeling of satisfaction, being there with me and watching my joy and wonder. I very strongly, simultaneously, felt two opposite ways. I felt a happiness and connection with her, and yet a sadness, distance and longing for her. I lived in this moment for awhile, tears of both sadness and joy welling up in my eyes. As I continued watching Aut, this warm, fuzzy nostalgia started to dissipate, and my thoughts came back to the present. Before we stopped in at the boutique, Aut asked for a balloon. "Maybe" was my response, but as we had spent all of our gift cards in the boutique (plus some), I told myself I would not get her a balloon. She would be fine with the news, I told myself, but I wanted to get her one. A sort of ping-pong match in my mind ensued, with me countering myself by pointing out that she had enough souvenirs, and pointing to the bubble wand and keepsake popcorn (copcorn as Cha says) container as evidence. Okay, yes, she has enough, no balloon today I thought, and resolved not to get her one. As we exited the ride and went to retrieve the stroller, I momentarily thought I had the wrong one, stopping dead in my tracks at what I thought was our stroller. A purple balloon, Aut's favorite color, was wrapped around the handle. I froze long enough for Aut to notice, as she said "Mommy, that's not our balloon." I looked at the stroller to my left, and the stroller to my right, wondering where it had came from and wanting to return it to it's proper place, realizing there was no way to tell. Instantly, I felt that this was a sign from Mom. Especially because had she been there, buying her granddaughter a balloon that she didn't need, on top of everything else she already had, would have certainly been something that she would have done. As we walked back over to Adventureland to ride Pirates four times in a row, I had a feeling of happiness and connectedness that I quickly started explaining away with the dreaded reason. Well, the balloon was probably attached to the stroller next to mine, and it came off, and a cast member noticed that and wrapped it around my stroller by mistake. Easy to explain and most certainly not a sign from Mom or God. But what I couldn't shake was the thoughts and feelings I was having immediately preceding finding it that way. Had I just walked off a random ride earlier in the day and found it attached, it would have had little to no impact. It was as if someone had read my mind, and God would be the only one who could do that.
    We made it home before 10pm, and Aut hugged Daddy and opened the rest of her presents from us (electric scooter!). After I put her to bed, I reluctantly shared my balloon story with him, feeling a bit silly. He had a strong reaction, telling me he absolutely thought it could be a sign, and telling me not to discount it. "I just wish that every year, on her birthday, I would receive a sign and then...well, then I would really know." He responded with "You're always asking for more proof in this area, and discounting what you do receive. Enjoy it; believe it." I have since shared it with three more friends (before announcing it here to the world), and they all agreed, none of them wanting to be the one to say "What are you, crazy? You're really reaching here, pal." My friend Sandy did point out the distinction that it would not actually be a sign from Mom, as there is not any scripture to support that, but rather a sign from God related to Mom. Whatever the case, I'll take it and at least for now, choose to believe that Aut, and I, were granted a sign from above on her birthday. 

Things I don't want to forget this month:

  • Driving Cha to "my big house" one morning, he spotted a barn and exclaimed "Farmhouse! Ei I ei I oh!"
  • After we put Charles to bed one night, we heard his footsteps outside our door. Slowly, the door opened and he came in, wearing the helmet from his knight costume. "It's me!" he declared, raising up the face shield and then saying "I scared you!"
  • Aut randomly telling me the day after Disneyland how amazing and magical her birthday was, and "Thank you for planning it all." 
  • Cha asking me to do My Little Piggy on his toes before bed.
  • Coming home a bit later than usual due to an appointment and both kids running toward me, with even Cha saying "I missed you!"
  • Thanking God every day that I was chosen to be their Mom.