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.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

November, 2023

The Breakers Mansion, 11/2023
It is amazing to have all of our furniture back! Following a slab leak back in February (read: 10 months ago!) our insurance company sent movers to take everything from our downstairs. And I mean everything, including my Nespresso machine, shoes, and even a few dirty dishes! It all magically appeared the other day, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate having a couch or chair to sit on following my morning run! While we were using a metal table and patio chairs, it just wasn't the same. Now, I need time to sort, organize, and, most importantly, throw things away. If you can live without it for 10 months, do you really need it? Seeing most things back in their place was so strange, including all of my Valentine's Day decorations. It was SO cute; Aut excitedly said this morning: "Mommy! Our TV is back, and now you can watch TV while you COOK DINNER, and then, we can ALL EAT at the dining room table!" And, of course, they are super excited about all of their toys! It's like it is all new and a reminder to me to pack up some of the things/rotate toys, and not just leave everything out.

The furniture was not back in time for Turkey Day.
This month, we celebrated 10 years of marriage on Thanksgiving. A whole decade; the best decade of my life! We celebrated with a traditional Thanksgiving meal (courtesy of yours truly), dessert, and catching up with our neighbor friends, the Clarks. We also spent some time in the hot tub (Staying up past midnight!), reflecting on the last ten years and discussing what we hoped to accomplish in the next ten years. We committed to spending time in the hot tub at least once a week because being in there is just about the only time we're able to slow down. I feel like I'm always multi-tasking. Seriously, even when I'm watching TV at night, I'm either folding laundry or editing photos for my side hustle. When I go on a run, I'm also listening to a podcast. And then, there are always papers, that we each have to write. Just when I feel like I can't get busier, something else gets thrown into the mix. But in the warmth of the hot tub, with steam gently rising and the distant sounds of coyotes or owls from the open space behind us, we find a peaceful escape. Here, free from distractions, my hubby and I can simply enjoy each other's company and genuinely connect.

We also had an amazing family vacation to New England this month. We flew into Providence and stayed in Newport, Boston, and then Providence, visiting Plymouth Village, the Mayflower, and Salem along the way. The weather was great - nice and crisp (40 degrees!) in Boston for the Duck Tour and Christ Church Burial Ground, where Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, and Samual Adams are buried. In Salem the next day, we had light, cold rain on our witch tour. One highlight was the living history of the Plimoth Patuxet museum, where you get to wander through a 16th-century English village one year after the settlers from the Mayflower arrived. It was so fun to interact with the actors, who remained completely in character and explored all of the homes and backyards, asking tons of questions along the way. Although we try to do some research with the kids before any trip, this was one of the first times that they were so into it. Aut was reading a historical fiction diary about one of the girls on the Mayflower that my co-worker recommended (thanks, Karli!), and when we stepped onto the Mayflower II, some of what the tour guide mentioned was what we had just read about! Both kids were also really interested in listening to one of my Podcasts, American History Tellers and their episode on the Salem Witch Trials. On the drive, they requested it - a dream come true!

Love the juxtaposition of the old and new

America's oldest restaurant 

Catching falling leaves

On our way to the Breakers mansion in Newport, we stumbled on a college for Aut. Half joking and half serious, we explored the Harry Potter-esq grounds, talking about what it would be like for her to attend somewhere with an actual winter. Finding out that it was a small, private Catholic university intrigued us even more. We walked inside, and, playing up my role as a school counselor, I met with the recruiter/rep for California, who explained that the average GPA was 3.4. Apparently, as long as you can come up with the $65,000 cost, it is not too competitive! While we realize she likely will not go to this particular university, it was both interesting and eye-opening to have this conversation with my husband because I really thought that going out of state would not be an option for her. 
    Being practical and appreciating value, he had previously mentioned the idea *gasp!* of her attending community college, something I immediately shot down. She will take some community college classes while in high school to build her student profile, but I do not want her to attend college at a place that will take literally anyone, whether they have graduated high school or not. There is nothing wrong with community college! It is where I spent my first three years of college (yes, I needed remedial math and took it for a whole year before it counted to transfer), but then I only had a few years at the university. By the time I became comfortable with CSUSB, it seemed I had finished my bachelor's degree. Additionally, continuing to live at home until I was 23 served to delay my independence as I stretched out and enjoyed what we Americans term "extended adolescence." What's wrong with that, you ask? Well, for me, it delayed my ability to find and be ready to marry. At 18, I was not the adult my Mom was when she married my father and moved to America, also at 18. My work BFF, AnnMarie was and is very close to her daughter, who is now a Physician's Assistant, married and with a child of her own. She told me that her daughter going to the University of Tulsa (on a full ride) was the best thing for their relationship, helping my friend as much as her daughter. My husband has said that he does not want his girl leaving at 18 - for she is far too young and needs protecting...but having this real conversation and working out the logistics of her attending a place in New England such as this private university was thrilling. I never realized that it would be an option he would not only be on board with but be excited about. He said it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to live somewhere so different and new, and why not do it when you're young?

On our last night, we stayed in Providence to be close to the airport, but I had no idea it was so beautiful! Right after I took this amazing photo from the pedestrian bridge at sunset, we were driving to dinner and stumbled upon Brown University. With the sky splashed with amazing sunset colors, we stopped on a whim at one of the most unique playgrounds ever and delighted in watching the kids play. 

My hubby also celebrated his birthday this month, and the kids had fun helping me make and decorate the cake. They finished flag football and launched into Basketball as I made a mental note to skip a winter sport next year. While being active year-round is important, this is such a busy time of year, and throwing two practices for her, one for him as well as two different games each week is tough.

She joined a Girl Scout Troop with girls from her school.

So many beautiful sunsets this time of year.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

October, 2023

October found us finishing out our Universal Studios passes by going a few times on a Tuesday after school, watching Cha's amazing mullett take form, and preparing for our 6th annual Halloween Party.

Mullett in full effect

The kids found their stride in Friday Night Lights flag football, and I completed my 16th full marathon: Long Beach. It was my first full marathon since having children and my slowest to date, partly because it was 83 degrees at the finish line. The kids made me the sweetest signs and were there for me at the finish line. Although slow, I still had an hour and a half left before the cut-off time. The Athens marathon has a longer window, meaning I would have had an additional two hours to finish that one. This fact gives me the confidence to know that I will definitely finish even if I'm slow. My friend Christian, a much faster runner than me, ran Athens a few years ago and said it was her most challenging marathon to date, even tougher than Boston. This intimidated me, especially because a lot of it is uphill! But I know I can finish hills and all.

For our Halloween party, this year's theme was our most terrifying to date: clowns. Capitalizing on the fact that all of our furniture is still gone due to the slab leak and re-piping, our amazing prop guy created a haunted maze in our formal living room that people could walk through in small groups. We had scare performers in there, dressed as clowns who seemed like mannequins until they came to life. 

Also noteworthy this month, Cha upgraded to a bigger bike and lost an additional tooth! This time, he lost his tooth at school, so he was given a really cool necklace to bring home.

Friday, October 13, 2023

September, 2023

This month flew by! Both kids are in Flag Football and loving it! They each have practice one day a week, followed by games every Friday for Friday Night Lights. Sometimes, their games happen to be at the same time, but usually, they are staggered with some time in between to go to the playground.

Our beach days continue, along with the warm weather. We took all four dogs to dog beach, and also went to the Pacific Air show with Grandpa Glennie.

We purchased passes to Universal Studios last December when we visited with family but did not have an opportunity to ride the tram. With the expiration date looming, we boldly worked in a few weekday trips, right after school. It was totally worth being tired the next day. 

Aut and I also had our Ed Sheeran concert at SoFi Stadium, a birthday gift from Dad and Glen. It was an incredible experience to be in a stadium of 81,000 people and in the very front. We had to get there super early, but it was worth it! I had to run 18 miles early the next morning - my last long run in preparation for the Long Beach marathon on 10/15. My very first marathon since having children, but 16th overall. Since I first ran the Los Angeles Marathon back in 2003 and swore I would never do another one, I have now officially been running marathons for 20 years.

I continue mailing the kids a card or two each year with hand-written notes in them. I have so few from my mom and cherish them immensely. I need to get a fire-proof box to store them in but for now, they are tucked away and all together for them to read. In their Halloween cards, I wrote the following, from Donna Ashworth's new book, Wild Hope. At least this blog is fire-proof. As extra insurance, I have also transferred all entries over to my new Substack, if you'd like to follow me there. I'll continue posting here as well. As extra insurance.


I hope with all my heart that I showed you the real me.
That I didn’t pretend I had it all together, or that life was not hard.
I hope I gave you the belief of you, in your core.
That I loved you enough, albeit messily, to code a blueprint for life.
To show you what love should look like.
And I hope I let you see me break, so you could understand, it is not an ending, rather a step.
And it’s vital.
Dear Daughter, I could not possibly have gotten everything right, and perhaps, thats the best thing I have given you.
That knowledge. No one gets it right.
We are not here to be perfect, we are here to love, to grow stronger and more bright with every generation.
Grow brighter my love, brighter than me.
As it very much should be.
And when I can no longer be with you, remember, my cells live within you.
You cannot, ever, lose me.
Not really.
We are a deal, a two for one.
A team.
For life.
And everything after that.

Donna Ashworth @donnaashworthwords From ‘Wild Hope’

The bond a mother has with her boy is like a beautiful black-hole of utter love and adoration.
It is all-consuming, never-ending and mightier than us.
Women know one another by intuition and instinct, you see.
We are of the same.
But when a woman creates a boy, something else quite magical happens.
I hope I showed you that power, that force.
I hope you feel it still.
I hope I taught you what it is to respect a woman, to respect all humans, and to never lose yourself in the process.
I pray you see how strong you are, by allowing yourself be soft too, that’s the key
And most of all, I hope you check your heart when you can no longer pick up the phone to me.
Check the little chasms of your heart, my love.
That’s where I stored the things you need, the love you need, the ‘mum’ you need.
My boy, my beautiful beautiful boy.
You had me at first sight.
You have me for life.
And everything after that.
Donna Ashworth

From’Wild Hope’

Monday, October 9, 2023

Re-Membering Mom - Reflections on the 9th Anniversary of Her Death

I once read the title of an article for "Mother-less Daughters" about a woman whose mother had died and how hard it was raising her children without her mother and being "motherless." I did not actually read the article because I don't identify as being without my Mom. Mom's time on this earth was so impactful that she is still influencing my parenting, still an influence in my role as a wife and school counselor, and still a part of nearly everything that I do. The idea of re-membering, or giving our dead loved ones a membership card back into the club of life, is also an area of grief counseling that I subscribe to, and have conducted some research in. You can read some of that here, published under my maiden name DeWitt. In a nutshell, "re-membering" practices seek to foster and keep a close connection with our loved ones who have died. Rather than our society's individualistic (and harmful) ideas of "letting go" and "moving on," re-membering actively works to weave them into our lives. Our relationship with a person does not die when they do and can continue to develop and change over time. After their passing, we can even uncover and learn new things about them. I loved this idea before losing anyone, as it comforted me, knowing I never had to forget. While my children never met my Mom, they very much know their Nana Lala. Here are some of my reflections as I get through the 9th anniversary of her death.
While some people seem to be conduits of judgment and stress, my Mom exuded calmness, support, love, acceptance, optimism, faith, and joy. She was always happy, content, and calm, even when times were tough, and even when she had every reason not to be. When things didn't go according to plan, she stayed the course in a joyful way, certain that better times lay ahead. Was she ever angry, stressed out, or not content? If she was, she never let on. But truly, I don't think she was. While some people may not be happy with their meal, she was just always thankful she had a meal. She loved my father fiercely and unconditionally. She believed in him, supported him, and, most importantly, enjoyed him. She adored her son Glen and also loved him unconditionally. She never lost her temper or spoke ill of others. She never vented I sure did, and she would listen...but those conversations were never generated by her. When I did complain or vent about a person or situation, she often presented a counterpoint of view, always encouraging me to look on the bright side of life and be optimistic. Or, she would simply listen without providing feedback, which sometimes can be the most valuable of all. "Oh, Meggy," she would say, followed by a warm hug. I even asked her friend Stacy, a few years after her death: "Did Mom ever vent about Dad?" thinking that perhaps she did - must have - and chose to confide in a friend rather than sharing with her child. "No, never. She never said anything disparaging about your father, ever." Mom believed that most people are fundamentally good, and for those who weren't, she still found some good in them. She had infectious laughter, and my Dad really had a knack for making her laugh so hard that she would actually cry. I was able to do that sometimes, too, though not as often as Dad did. 

My husband made her laugh, too. I'll never forget the time after she moved in with us, and she had been released from rehab following a seizure, the result of her brain cancer taking over. She had lost much of her mobility and strength during the lengthy stay, so they sent someone to the house for physical therapy. Before they arrived, Nathan went outside and rang the doorbell. I opened the door and let him in, but he was now Hans, who was there to "Pump you up!" with his thick Austrian accent. She laughed and laughed. Or the time he told her we could watch some of his home videos. "How about this one, Paula? It's called Nathan - the potty training years, ages 16 through 18." Ahhh....she sure did have an amazing sense of humor. And she loved his.

As my favorite investigative journalist would say, She lit up a room. But Mom not only lit up the room she was in. She also had the rare skill of making you smile remotely, from a distance, at the very thought of her. Still, to this day, thinking about Mom brings a smile to my face and makes me feel good, in a deep-down, fundamental everything's-gonna-be-alright sort of way. And with the passage of time and the subsiding of the initial, intense grief, I'm able to have more gratitude and happiness when I think of her. The pain and sadness have stepped aside, making way for gratitude that I had her, rather than the unfairness that she was taken too soon. She was my Mom. Of all the Mom's in this world, I had her; the very best. How fortunate am I? And how fortunate are my children that she was mine? For surely, I would not be the type of woman, nor the type of wife or Mom if God had not gifted her to me. When I love them, it is because she loved me.
It's been 9 years now since she died. Nine whole years. I was six weeks pregnant with my first child, and we had just heard her heartbeat when we lost her. I believe that the timing was not a coincidence. God ensured Autumn's heart was beating before he stopped hers. A week or so before that, she said, "I'm going to hold that baby." She believed she would, and that belief got her through that day and the next. Denial? Perhaps, but she had a goal, and rather than looking at the fact she was not going to see her grow up, she found contentment in the possibility of holding her first grandchild. She cherished children and had the patience of a saint. I spent a good eight months following the birth of Autumn feeling so very sorry for myself. She should be here, I thought, sharing in all of this. And she would have been right there alongside us. Rather than running out of sick days and having no close family to help watch our children, we would have built her a little cottage on our property, and she would have popped over for morning coffee and helped, tidying and chatting as she did. She would not have done it out of a sense of duty nor obligation but because she wanted to, because it brought her joy, meaning, and fulfillment. I pictured that cottage and attached scenarios so often in those first few months of being a new mom that as I write about it now, it's almost as if it existed... as if it was a real place. How I wish it was. 

But living in that sadness and self-pitty was not healthy or productive, so God found a way to shake me out of it when Autumn was eight months old. My doctor's office called me following some biopsies of moles and wanted me to come to the office for the results. "No, it's okay - I routinely have basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, so you can just tell me over the phone," I said as I pulled into Kids Kastle to pick up Baby A. They would not. Imagine our shock and horror when I was told I had melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. And It was not in the beginning stages - I was stage 2a. When I met with my oncologist, he happily reassured me that I had a 5-year survival rate of ...I forget, but it was something like 70%, and I was actually supposed to be happy about it. But then, after a month or so, we were called and told that I did not have melanoma. They had mixed up the biopsy with someone else. 

How many people who are told that they have cancer pray for it to be a mistake? A bad dream. A mix-up? How many barter and pray and make a deal with God that they will do anything - absolutely anything- for it not to be true? In the time when I thought that I had cancer, this devastating news completely shifted my perspective. Oh sh*t, I thought. I have been feeling sorry for myself for having lost my Mom when I was too young...but this precious girl of mine may lose her mother when she's just a toddler, I thought. I wanted her to have a mom. When we were dating, I had experienced bouts of jealousy. Yet, at church one day, I fully imagined a woman I spotted in the choir as a good prospect for my husband to marry. She seemed pleasant and probably nice, with the right amount of homeleness. Not too attractive and not too much fun; the perfect fit. But I knew she couldn't love this little Bean as much as me; no one could, and I so desperately wanted to stick around.

This entire experience was just what I needed, really. It was as if someone grabbed me by my shoulders, shook me, and yelled, "GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF! You lost your Mom, but it could be worse! Don't believe me? I'll show you!" And then they punched me in the face. Now that I'm on the other side of it, I can say that it's a service I would have paid for if only there were an unethical company out there like that (please email me if you are interested in forming a partnership). Since then, I still allow myself a bit of pity now and then. But it is much smaller and way less frequent. Mostly, this misdiagnosis has caused me to dive head-first into loving the heck out of these two beautiful souls and making their lives as amazing as possible.

And Mom is on my mind daily as I grow into my role as the mom of an 8 and 5-year-old. While I am more strict and directional with my children, one thing my parenting has in common with hers is the fundamental foundation of love, support, and optimism. Because of her, I always work to not only see the glass half-full but, more importantly, to help them see the entire world that way. Optimism is not just a state of mind; it's a superpower that has the remarkable ability to surround us in comfort and gratitude. Optimism transforms how we perceive and navigate life's challenges, and while my optimism comes from her, it is still something I actively work to cultivate. Was Mom in denial about things? Not just her cancer but as she went through trials in her life, such as my father losing his job and losing their home? No, as I reflect on it now, I do not think she was in any state of denial. With optimism, we still acknowledge that setbacks and hardships are a part of the human experience; we just don't let them get to us. Instead, we recognize our innate ability and strength to overcome anything and know, as Mom did, that it will be alright in the end.

Where did all of Mom's joy and optimism come from? Perhaps it was a gift from God. My Mom spoke of being a child at Mass in Christ the King Catholic Church in Reading, England when she was about 6 or 7 years old. Remarkably, this was where my parents were married years later (August 9, 1969), and my children and I participated in my Aunt's wedding last year. Anyway, I remember my Mom telling me how, as a child, the Bishop was visiting, and it was a very big deal, complete with all the pomp and circumstance. As he was proceeding down the aisle, he saw little Paula and stopped the procession. Instead, he made his way into her pew. She was deep in the narrow pew, and if you've ever had to use the restroom or leave and come back during a service, you know how awkward this is, as it is a narrow space with everyone sitting, and she was not sitting at the end. Everyone was stunned and looked on as he put his hand on Mom's head and looked Heavenward. He said a prayer and then returned to proceeding down the aisle and his duties. At the time, my maternal grandmother said that he did this because he knew that she would have a cross to bear in life, and he was giving her the strength that she needed for it.
While I have no way of knowing if Mom's strength and optimism truly were gifts from God, it sure makes sense to me. Mom had a contagious level of optimism that affected everyone she met. Uplifting family, friends, and even strangers, Mom's positivity has a ripple effect that continues today, even touching her grandchildren, whom she never met, and generations beyond them, God willing. She knew, and I always strive to remember, that we can find contentment and gratitude no matter the circumstances we face.