Tuesday, November 01, 2016

A Story...

Last year, just because, Daniel ordered me a surprise. The moment I saw the shape of the box I had an idea what it was. I opened the box excited to see what new vinyl my husband thought I would enjoy. 


Hmm. I do not know this Keb Mo. I wonder why Daniel sent me this. Let me just flip it over and read the song titles and see if he is trying to send me a message: 

The Worst Is Yet To Come 
Somebody Hurt You 
Do It Right 
I'm Gonna Be Your Man 
For Better Or Worse 
That's Alright 
The Old Me Better 
More For Your Money 
So Long Goodbye 

Ummmmm. Sooooo? I....

So I sent him a text. I can't remember what It said, but I think I asked him if everything was alright and I think he said something that indicated it was and why, so I said I just got my Amazon package... If I remember correctly, he sent back a smiley face and asked me if I liked it. Ummm... yes... So I listed a few of the songs and he asked me what they were and long story short, it was the wrong album.

He was trying to send me a classic Heart album. 

Amazon thought I needed that one instead.

So he let them know about the error and a few days later, my Heart album arrived.

Nope. Same album. Keb' Mo'. BluesAmericana. Yay!

Daniel again filled out the form indicating we'd received the wrong vinyl. If memory serves, they sent me at least one more of the same Keb' Mo' album before someone in the fulfillment department made the call that there was something wrong and they couldn't send me that classic Heart album after all.

It's one of our "Remember that time I tried to do something nice and it all went wrong?" stories. We have a few that we laugh about...

Anyway. Fast forward to today and me working on a "November Playlist" for our family. I've decided I'm not going to rush to December too much and we are going to start some new traditions here, like listening to songs about gratitude, friendship, love, home, etc. So I'm searching my library and then searching on iTunes, building my "Give Thanks" playlist and I come across this song:

"Life is Beautiful"

And I love it. It's really beautiful and it makes my heart happy and I move it to the #1 spot because I love it so and...

And it's Keb' Mo'.

You guys! I love Keb' Mo'!

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Today wasn't an easy day. I mean, if we're being honest (and that's what this is) it hasn't been an easy TIME. Being back in California has its positives (I'm looking at you, friends) but it's also been a huge stress. We miss Texas - almost everything about it, actually - but especially the life we built there, our community, the great activities for our family and the cost of living. I feel like I'm supposed to stop there and it's not polite to talk about money, or politics, or religion, but UGH. It's expensive to live here. Really expensive. And if we're being really REALLY honest, we're struggling. Dogs getting cancer and roofs needing to be replaced and relocating is expensive. State income taxes are no joke. Having four kids isn't the cheapest choice. We're managing and we'll get by, but it's stressful.

Personally, I'm struggling because I feel useless. Like I am not contributing to my family. And before you tell me I am contributing, I know what I give my family is priceless. But my time and attention and love doesn't pay the crazy high power bills or the dance tuition. And so today I found myself struggling - trying to find ways to cut corners, save money, and avoid pulling my kids from one of the things they look forward to every Monday.

So with that stress, tied up in knots in my belly, I drove to go wait for Finn. The girls screamed and cried for thirty minutes straight. The knots got bigger and my head felt like I was going to explode. But I didn't, instead I signed up to do surveys as a way to "get extra money fast" and after completing the preliminary questions, I discovered I didn't qualify for any of those. When Finn got in the car, the girls woke up and started screaming. We drove to Zoe's school. I tried to park - a lady honked and yelled at me. I tried to park again, but couldn't do it because there wasn't enough space. I drove to another spot, and the same thing happened. My brain felt so fried and I was so stressed, I couldn't complete a simple task I have done hundreds of times. I pulled up near a lady getting out of her car that she had parked exactly in between where two vehicles could fit and asked her if she would make room for me to park too. I smiled and waved and was kind as I asked this favor of her - she rolled her eyes, backed up a foot and held her hands up, signaling that's all she could do. And so I started to drive on with the girls yelling behind me and I considered driving 3/4 of my kids home and walking to pick up Zoe.

But then a lady stepped out of her car and waved me down. She crossed the street in front of me and said she'd seen me and she would help me. She smiled and waved her arm as she picked up a cone for me to park. And I nearly hit  a vehicle driving by me, but this woman, this kind person said "You're OK. Just back in." And I did. I finally parked. And she smiled and I thanked her. And then I burst into tears.

I broke.

I think I was overwhelmed by how I struggled with such an easy task. Everything felt like crap.  I was letting my family down. I was letting my kids down. I should have gotten a degree. I should have done something more and had a career. I should be able to park a minivan!

And I was overwhelmed by this persons act of kindness. She didn't know me. I'd never seen her in my life, but she saw me struggling and she got out of her car to come help me.

"Oh! Don't cry! It's OK!"

So I cried more. Like, ugly, ridiculous cry.

And she waved at me to stop and walked around to my window and said, "I'm a nurse. I can't let you not get a hug right now."

And she reached in my window and hugged me and told me everything was going to be OK. Everyone has their bad days. You're going to be OK.

"Let go and let God." 

And I nodded and thanked her and tried to focus on breathing as she smiled and went back to her car.

In the backseat, Charlotte asked me if I was OK. Molly said, "Its OK, mama. You're OK." Finn pushed his way to the front and put his hand on my shoulder and kept it there in silence as we waited for his sister to come out. I focused on breathing. I let Finn explain to Zoe what happened. I accepted their help when they offered to watch their sisters while I took a shower and relaxed. I let people take care of me.

I don't like to let on that I'm stressed or worried. I try to be as positive as I can, but today it was all too much. Today I broke and I had to rely on the kindness of a stranger and my kids to help me move forward. And I wasn't going to even mention it. But for one thing, I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of and that hiding how I'm feeling is a ticket to me feeling worse. And I know that it might be confusing if people ask me how I'm doing and I act uncomfortable answering.

But I also wanted to share because that lady was my angel today. And Finn. And Zoe. I needed them and they were there. It's easy to look the other way and not get involved, but they didn't. They got me through a rough patch. So I want to challenge all of us to do the same. If you see someone needs an act of kindness, give it to them. You don't know what kind of an impact you are making. 

Friday, September 30, 2016


The Animal Hospital where we took Bailey called a couple weeks ago to let us know that her ashes were ready to pick up. I told them I'd be there the next day and I realized later that was a lie. My heart felt heavy when I heard their words. I didn't feel ready to bring her back home because I knew I wasn't really bringing her home. She's gone. 

So I waited. And each day I drove by that place where I left a piece of my heart, I felt heavier and heavier. So I started taking a different route to and from Finnegan's school. If I took a different road, I could try to forget that place and what we did there. I could try to push away that sadness.

But the thing is, I couldn't. I can't. I feel that sadness every day. When I see another Boston Terrier. When the girls call for their Bailey and are confused when we tell them she is gone and can't come back, not ever. When Finnegan tells me he thinks Maxie is lonely and needs a friend again.

I forced myself to drive by that place yesterday and before I could think twice, I put my blinker on and turned left into their parking lot. I parked the car in the loading zone and walked through the doors and saw all the faces who had seen our sadness. A girl smiled brightly at me and I felt shock when I realized she didn't remember me. She asked if she could help me and I sputtered out my words, that I was here to pick up Bailey, and I saw her face flash with recognition. "Oh. Let me get her for you."

She turned to a shelf behind her for a moment and then turned back with a small package in a blue velvet bag and a certificate. I felt myself hesitate to take it from her, but then I reached out preparing myself for the weight of my Bailey.

It's funny how your brain prepares you for tasks. There are certain things we do from memory. Our muscles know... recognize how much strength we need to lift familiar items.

I was shocked by how light the package she handed me was in my hands. I'd expected that familiar weight that was always a comfort in my arms, sitting in my lap, leaning deliberately against my legs letting me know she was there and wanted attention. 

This box felt weightless.

Suddenly I felt even heavier. 

When I got to the car, I looked at the certificate. It's all very official. It states who her family was and on what date she was cremated. I am sure this is an important document for records or whatever, but I imagine it's also there for people to see in black and white. 

This is your loved one. They are gone. The box is light, but it's really them. 

I drove home and carried the box in and gently placed it high on a shelf.  Out of reach from little hands. And out of reach from me too. I don't know what we're supposed to do with her now. I'm not good at any of this. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

How We Said Goodbye

Zoe asked me yesterday what I've written recently for my blog. "Nothing, baby. I haven't written since I wrote about saying goodbye to Bailey."
"Oh. You should write something. I think it's cool you have a blog."

So I pulled up my blog and realized, I didn't write about saying goodbye. Not really. I wrote about how she joined our family and how much we loved her, but I couldn't tell the story of how we knew we had to let her go.

It was a Saturday. After more than a week of her cuddling with us more and making us think maybe she was going to be with us a little bit longer after all, I looked at her and knew she wasn't herself. I held her on my bed and ran my hand over the stripe on the top of her head and around her neck the way she always liked. I kneaded her neck and told her what a sweet girl she was. Her right eye was swollen. Blind for almost four years already, her pretty chocolate eyes had been covered in white clouds, but they looked even more distant, more cloudy. Daniel called our vet and they said we should bring her in.

We called the kids into our room. They had been prepared for over a week. "Bailey isn't well. She's not going to be with us for much longer. We don't know when, exactly - but soon, we will have to take her to the vet and they will give her medicine and she will leave us. She is so sick that she can never get better and she is in pain, so when the vet says it's time, we need to say goodbye. Because we love her and it's our job to make sure she doesn't suffer. She has been our Bailey and she deserves to not feel this pain."

Every day they had checked on her. Before school they would ask me to not take her while they were gone. I promised them that unless it was an emergency, I would wait for them to be home. I would always be honest with them and try to prepare them as well as I could. There were a lot of tears. There was telling stories about what a wild girl she'd been. How much she loved us and watched over all "her babies". We looked at photos of Bailey. She looked so young and strong - no grey hair, sleek, muscular, with those eyes that looked at you so intently, willing you to throw the ball and/or give her a treat.

But she was frail now. She was stretched out on my bed as Zoe and Finn talked to her and pet her. Zoe cried. Finn made jokes. Both dealing with their grief in different ways. I took pictures. Must remember every moment. I wanted to just sit with my girl alone, but she wasn't just mine anymore. She'd been my watcher for years, glued to my side when I was sick and gradually becoming glued to her Zoe and her Finn, to her Molly and Charlotte. She was our family dog. She was our family.

We told the kids the vet wanted to see Bailey. We told them we didn't know for sure what was going to happen, but there was a strong chance that this was the time. We asked them if they wanted to stay home or come with and they did not hesitate to say they wanted to be there. We loaded up into our car. I held Bailey on my lap, wrapped in a towel. I asked the kids if they wanted to come into the exam room, or wait in the lobby. Throughout everything, they were given choices for what they wanted, what their comfort level was. "We want to be with her." 

We sat as a family and waited. I held Bailey tight and fought back tears. The vet looked at her closely. His face was solemn. He examined her, looked at her eyes, gently pressed under her eyes and said she likely had a mass that was pushing her eyes out more. She was in a lot of pain. Again, he repeated what he had told me last week - "She can't tell you she is in pain, but she is. She can't cry, but the pain is excruciating." He left the room for us to talk.

I bent down to the kids. I don't remember my exact words. I know I repeated what the vet had said and then I asked Zoe what she thought. "Do you think we should let her go?" She nodded and said she was scared. She and I cried. Finn fidgeted. I told him it was OK. That we all deal with things differently and whatever he was feeling was OK. 

I walked to the lobby and told them we were ready. I asked how it would happen. I signed papers. I asked if we could pay then because I didn't want to stop on the way out. Daniel and I traded places. He paid. They took Bailey in back for an IV. I hugged the Biggies more. 

When they brought her back, I spoke softly too her. I told her she'd been the best dog. That we loved her. I told her I loved her as they gave her a tranquilizer. She didn't want to lay down, but eventually she did. In those moments, the room simultaneously felt full and empty. The silence - and then the sniffles and tears and my voice telling her I loved her over and over again - my head was pounding from the noise. Her fur was so smooth, she felt so warm.

They gave her one injection. 

"I love you, Bailey. I love you so much."

I felt myself breathing with her, my hand on her. They gave her the second injection.

"You're our girl. You're our best girl and we love you. You're OK, Bailey."

The room was filled with so much love. My heart felt like it was breaking. The Biggies watched with us as the nurse listened for her heart and then took a step back. I exhaled. 

"We love you, Bailey."

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bailey 1/3/2004 - 8/27/2016

We saw an ad in the paper for Boston a Terrier puppies for sale. We'd been together for just over a year and I'd wanted us to get a dog for oh, about a year. We researched what the right breed for us would be. Not a pug, he said, "their eyes fall out and you have to put them back in with a spoon." What?! No! (That has never happened to Maxie, by the way.) So we decided on a Boston Terrier. Good companion dogs - protective, great travelers. Wonderful with children (not that we were going to have any but you know, in case friends ever did). 

So we drove up a mountain to where the puppies were and when we got there, I remember feeling like this place was not what I thought it would be. I expected someone's home but this was a large property with multiple buildings and a trailer. I expected to see a litter with their mama. There were tons of cages and Bostons of all sizes. To my horror, we were in a puppy mill. We walked up to an area filled with about six pups, all trying to get to us. There was a little guy who grabbed at our fingers and asserted himself. We were supposed to take him, obviously. He cuddled up to our hands and scratched and nibbled and made those little puppy noises. But in the corner, there was a tiny little thing. She didn't make eye contact. I mean, I don't think she did - her eyes were crossed and she seemed to slouch. She looked like the runt and there was a sadness about her. I remember making a movement towards her and the assertive little guy pounced and tried to climb over her. "No! Not her! ME!" At least, I'm pretty sure that's what he was saying. And in those moments Daniel and I knew she was ours. That we had to take her because no one else would and she would never get to be happy. She needed us. And we quickly paid and got out of there. She sat in my lap on the car ride home. Her tiny little body close against me. 

It was March. Either the weekend before or after St. Patrick's Day. We named her Bailey.

Bailey was so quiet and reserved in those first few days. She wouldn't look at us. She didn't smile. I remember thinking there was something wrong with her. Maybe she missed that pushy little guy. Maybe she didn't like us.

But she warmed to us. She started playing with the toys we got her. She wouldn't sleep in her crate, she'd cry and we had to get up with her like she was a baby. We would give in and bring her into our bed and there she would burrow  and sleep. She'd push herself between us and try to lay on our shoulders. She snored.

Slowly she showed us more and more of her personality. She loved to run and play tug of war. She had a toy elephant that she loved - over and over again until we had to hide it from her. She smiled - big with wild, happy eyes.

She ate everything. Paper. Books. Shoes. CD's. We had to put gates around the bottom of all our bookcases. She was a basket case who peed when she was nervous, or scared, or happy.

We took her to San Francisco four months after we got her. We booked a pet friendly hotel and the first thing she did was pee on the bed. When we took her out for a bedtime walk downtown, she found herself in the arms of a sweet couple on the way to the theatre or out to dinner. As Daniel spoke to the enthusiastic men, (who seemed to adore Miss B) I watched as she quietly relieved herself on their jacket. 

She was a nervous girl, very attached to us. She got stressed and anxious and hated being alone. Her favorite place was next to me, cuddled behind my legs as I sat and typed on my computer. She loved laying in the sun and looking out the window, watching the world go by. The neighborhood cats used to come and sit on our front porch - I am pretty sure they either thought she was one of them or they were taunting her.

We wanted her to be in our wedding, but settled instead on including her picture(s) on our wedding favors.

We dressed her in sweatshirts and t-shirts. We once tried "doggles" to protect her eyes, but they weren't a hit. She was our baby.

When we finally got pregnant with our Zoe, Bailey stuck to me like glue. She loved to lay across my belly and she'd get startled and jump when Zoe would kick out. Bailey once kicked back at my belly and I joked that our two girls would either be best friends or each other's nemesis'.

Bailey loved her kids. She watched over Zoe closely as she napped and played. She was always gentle with her. I remember sitting down one day and realizing she was stretched across me like she used to when I was pregnant with Zoe, so I took a pregnancy test the next morning. I was sure she had sensed another baby and I was right.

Finn was Bailey's boy. She followed him and nudged him along and he adored her. She slept with him from the time he was a toddler until we got her boy a bunk bed. Finn cried when we told him she couldn't sleep with him up high. She was old and blind and we worried she'd fall. From then on, she slept in a little bed under his bunk until we put her in her crate with her Maxie.

Bailey had degenerative disc disease. She was blind. She nearly died a couple years ago and needed emergency surgery to save her because she was eating everything she could find. She was stubborn and strong and even as a senior dog, she offer forgot that she was no longer a puppy and we'd catch her jumping and running and wrestling with Max - teaching him that she was the queen of this house.

Bailey was one of my best friends and I loved her. She was born in an awful place, but she lived a beautiful and long life. She was our girl. She was our mascot and the beginning of us being a family. 

We said goodbye to our sweet Bailey today. We didn't wake up thinking today was the day, but as the afternoon continued it became very clear that her brief period of improvement had ended and she wasn't happy. My heart hurts. The house feels different without her here. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

More Changes in Bakersfield

When we started the school year, we were a Reagan Elementary family. But things got complicated last Tuesday. Here's our story*:

Our family relocated back to Bakersfield on June 9, 2016. The house we purchased was perfect - close to my husband’s work and just doors down from the front doors of Reagan Elementary. The price of the home was more than we planned on spending, but it was worth it to be so close to a highly regarded elementary school that our kids could walk to. We knew the school was highly populated, so I rushed to the school the morning the office opened back up for the year so that I could turn in our registration paperwork. Both kids were anxious about the uncertainty of where they would end up. My husband and I did not (and still don't) understand why they would let these kids start at one school and then uproot them 2 or 3 weeks later, after they've made friends and adjusted. That seemed extremely unfair to the students and their families. We tried to prepare our kids for the possibility and inquired about when we would know. We asked if there was any indication of which school we might overflow to and said if one were to overflow they both would. We did not want our kids at different schools. When I expressed this, I was not given any information to contradict our wishes. No one gave me any information, actually. I asked questions about the process, like where the overflow schools might be and I was brushed off and told I'd need to wait. Perhaps this was the norm for them, but as a concerned parent of two kids who were dealing with anxiety already, this was something we were taking very seriously and were concerned about. There should have been more information.

On the first day at Reagan, my kids stared out into the playground at the sea of kids. We knew no one. Our youngest stepped into the crowd and bravely attempted to make friends. Our oldest stepped forward and cried. I told her, "We'll all make friends." And her answer, "But then I might have to do this all over again." Meanwhile, my son was told by his teacher that no one was going to go anywhere. They'd get more desks or get another teacher, but no one was leaving Reagan. While we were trying to prepare them for the possibility of us having to leave their brand new school down the street from our house, this new adult he was supposed to trust was telling him not to worry - they were all staying.

Yesterday we found out our dog is dying. We sat with the kids in their rooms and explained that she is very sick and wasn't going to get better and that someday soon we were going to need to let her go. They were devastated. It was one more change. It was one more uncertainty for a seven and nine year old to stress over. It's awful.

You might be wondering what the two have to do with each other. Nothing. And everything. Because in this time of uncertainty, I was looking to take something, anything, off of my kids’ shoulders. I called our new school to inquire about the potential overflow. I was hoping to confirm what my son's teacher had told him and put his and his sister's minds at ease.

The principal called me back and informed me that my son was one of the overflow students. My daughter can remain, and my son would be welcome back next year. But maybe my daughter would be an overflow student the following year? I was upset, obviously so. My main concern is my kids’ well-being. My job is to look out for them and their hearts and their best interests. I believe that their schools, administrators, and district should be doing the same. Allowing kids to settle into a new school and then uproot them weeks later is not fair to them. It is not in their best interests. I was told he could start at the new school tomorrow, or I could wait until transportation is worked out (a couple of weeks). It felt like we were quickly being unloaded.

I called my husband and we each set out to get more information. He left work and went to the new school. I called and spoke to someone in the district office. Apparently, they will not allow us to enroll our 4th grader with her brother. "No siblings will be accommodated as part of the district overflow."

So tomorrow, each of my young kids, who are already nervous about being the new kids in new schools, will walk onto their campuses and playgrounds without having their sibling there for extra support. There will be no comfort in having their sibling across the way. My daughter feels guilty that she doesn't have to move (this year, I'm told she could very well be forced to move any year) but also doesn't want to leave.

When I picked up my son at Reagan this afternoon, he cheerfully announced that he'd made three new friends and that he was excited because he was going to play kickball with all of them tomorrow. He was animated and beaming. And then he handed me his overflow letter. I drove him out of our neighborhood to his new school to look around. Everyone there is very friendly and helpful. We met his teacher and got to see where we will pick him up. It was important to us to give him a chance to see the school before his second first day of second grade. But our brief tour of the school and pep talk didn't help him like we hoped. My normally resilient, optimistic son is curled up next to me with the covers up to his ears, sleeping at 4pm. The stress of this situation has made him sick and we'll be keeping him home because he had a fever this afternoon. 

Our family is trying to become a part of our community. We left behind a neighborhood full of friends and a school that I had been involved with, volunteering my time as a room mom and class photographer three times in four years, even with twin infants. Our old school was our link to our new community. It gave all of us, especially our kids, a feeling like we belonged. We purchased a home in a neighborhood we had heard great things about. We were willing to pay the price we did because of the proximity of the school. Our purchase wasn't just for a new home, it was an investment in our kids - giving them access to a school down our street. Now, we'll be splitting between two elementary schools - working to be involved as much as we can, but completely incapable of giving our kids and their schools the same amount of commitment and volunteer time we had planned. Upon investigation, I've already discovered their Back to School nights are on the same day and time, I can only imagine that we'll have many more conflicts to deal with. 

This feels like a loss for all of us, especially my kids, and it's a horrible feeling. The most frustrating thing is, Reagan Elementary is our school. Its just down the street from our home, my kids don't even have to cross the street to get there. We pay taxes for this school. We are zoned to Reagan Elementary. Students who have applied for special transfers, who are not within the school boundaries are not considered overflow students. They get first priority (over our resident kids) to go to this school because they got their paperwork in before us. A family who feels like their child needs to attend because it is more convenient to them can request a transfer and have it granted but a family who moves here during the summer and purchases a home (and pays taxes for that school) does not. Information I've found on the Panama Buena Vista website said "All students will attend their school of residence." Ronald Reagan Elementary IS our school of residence and my children should get to go there.

* Most of what is written above was sent to the Superintendent's assistant, the Assistant Superintendent and her assistant on Tuesday night. I spoke with the Assistant Superintendent and she informed me that there was absolutely nothing that could be done. She said we are one of 21 families affected at Reagan Elementary. She said now is the time for us to teach our son about overcoming obstacles and making the best out of every situation and whatever changes that may come. And  while that is absolutely what we will do, it doesn't make this any less wrong. It's my responsibility as a parent to teach him these things, but it is also my job to advocate for him and speak up when I believe something isn't right. She was very nice, as everyone who I've spoken to has been - but the policies in place are unacceptable. It is unacceptable that people are buying homes in areas and schools are unable to accommodate them. She did offer to see if she could find a spot for my daughter at the overflow school, but my daughter doesn't want to leave the friends she's made or the teacher she has. She likes her school (we do too!). Even though my original goal was to at least keep them together - somewhere - I've had to readjust because it's not fair to let her feel hurt just because her brother is hurting. 

The only fair thing here is to follow what Panama Buena Vista Union School District states in their handbook (Intradistrict Open Enrollment E.C. section 35160.5 b) : "No student currently residing within a school's attendance area may be displaced by another student transferring from outside the attendance area." That's what we want. We also want this district to take a close look at how they handle these situations and change their policies. This situation would have stung a lot less if we'd known when we purchased that both of our kids would not be able to attend our resident school. It would have gone a lot smoother if we had been notified prior to the first day of instruction and given the opportunity to choose whether we wanted to split our kids up or not. It would have been in the students (and the school's) best interest to start their years off at the school they would be assigned to. If nothing else, I hope things change so other kids don't have to deal with this again.

Sunday, May 01, 2016


Last night I was up all night because our floor was the party floor, duh. I found out there's only so many times you can shout "Bakersfield PD!" and get a heart racing/fear reaction from me. So thanks for that drunkards in room 804. Thanks for that.

We were up at 4:30am. On our first flight at 6:30am. We took three flights. Slept a bit. Made "To Do" lists and "Must Sell" lists and reviewed our calendar for the month of May. We stressed a little and then we took deep breaths. I felt sad flying into Houston and seeing all the green. I've loved it here - far more than I ever expected to. 

We got home and hugged our kids - Mol tried giving me the silent treatment for a bit, but after a while she nonchalantly said, "Hi, Mom." Just like that, as she walked by and barely made eye contact. Apparently, Molly turned 13 while we were away. 

We showed the Biggies pictures of the new house and wiped away Zoe's tears. Her room is smaller. There's no fireplace or stairs. "Why did they paint THOSE colors?" And we know what she wants to say is that she loves THIS house, not the one in the pictures. This is her home right now and the place in the pictures is the unknown and not as good because it is not the same. The pictures don't feel like this place. But we will make that place OUR place. We will paint and make new memories and fill that place with love and music and laughter and that place will be home. I promise, Zoe. I tell Zoe all the things she and I both need to hear. Telling my daughter these things makes me believe them more. 

 Finn is cool and calm. He wants a basketball hoop. He likes that there is a diving board. He LOVES that he gets to walk home from school. He's ready. "Let's go now." He's easy. He tells us Zoe cried every day we were gone, but he did not. He didn't miss me because he talked to me and got half a dozen emails and pictures from me every day. I think maybe he thinks I am over the top. It's OK, I am sometimes. 

We tuck the kids in and then we rush downstairs to pick up and clean. We have another realtor coming out tomorrow afternoon to do a BMA on our home. So we cleaned for a few hours and tomorrow will be more running and stress and managing it all the best we can. We are lucky we have my parents here to help. This is all overwhelming and I want everything to be perfect, but I keep reminding myself not to make myself sick with worry and stress. All I can do is my best - I can't do every little thing. This house is beautiful. I've loved it and someone else will too. Even if it's not absolutely perfect - the right person will see its potential and know that this is their future home. Just breathe. Go to sleep (Daniel's asleep. Be like Daniel). 

At least no one is going to yell BPD an hour from now. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Midnight Noise

So the thing about getting a new roof is, it is REALLY noisy. I knew this in theory, of course. But as the pulled the old roof apart and hammered the new roof in place, we all kind of went along with it.  I was super amazed that the girls managed to sleep in and at first they seemed kind of amused by all the banging. It was like music and they danced around and turned in abrupt circles in a sort of jerking motion and laughed. Fun. Getting a new roof is fun. And then they napped like champs and we were all thinking, "Wow! These girls! Amazing!" 

And then five rolls around. And then six. And then Charlotte had enough of all this business and she was NOT happy and she made sure we knew. She'd reached her breaking point with all that noise. Almost 11 hours of that constant racket had us ALL on edge by the time the roofers finally left. 

And then we got the kids ready for bed and I hugged them all extra tight and maybe I got a little emotional smelling the girls clean hair and reading them their favorite stories. Maybe I worked extra hard not to let the big kids hear my anxiety and that little strain in my voice when I asked them to take care of each other and the babies and Nana and Baba while we are finding our house. 

Mr Cool (Finnie) has been so laid back about this move - "Let's go tomorrow. I'm ready!" that I've been watching him closely, waiting for his breaking point. Waiting for all the noise of moving to catch up to him. Today it did, in little ways. As he tried to reach the lock to let Nana in. As he tried to comfort Charlotte but then they both fell and got hurt. As he struggled with writing about school for homework because, he's "always working" and "it's not like it matters what (he) writes about his school because it's not like anyone will remember who he was anyway." And with every thing I could see he was feeling weighed down and sad because - this is a lot. He's incredibly smart and mature and handling this move like a champ, but today there was too much noise for him. I get it. 

And then there's Zoe who wants desperately to come with us tomorrow. She wants to make sure we find the right house and she gets the perfect school and what if she has "no kids to play with in the neighborhood" or what if "no one has room for me in their Girl Scout troop". She's sad to miss out on being on a plane and seeing Meg and all the fun things. "When we drive to California can I pick where we eat? Can I choose the music sometimes?" There's a strain in her voice. I can tell she feels like she has no control in all of this. She is my mini me and I know exactly how she feels. She wants to control the noise, but she can't. Sometimes you have to sit back and let the noise settle. Find peace in the fleeting moments.

And all of this is spinning in my head and I just want this to be quick and easy and for everyone to be happy. From my parents all the way down to that damn parrot who yelled, "Stop it. Sit down!" many times today. I want everyone to feel comfortable and happy. 

I'm always a little nervous the night before a flight. Going through my checklists and trying to remember every little thing like we're going to be far from a Target, or something. I should be sleeping now instead of writing this, but finally there is calm and the noise has stopped and I feel ready for the next few days. I needed to enjoy this peace and quiet for a bit.

You guys. We're going to find our next great home sometime between now and Saturday and it's going to be exactly the way it should be. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016


"I do not think you will ever have it this good, ever again."  

He said it with an approving smile and in complete sincerity as he looked around the new home he was helping us move into. The home was beautiful: open floor plan, high ceilings, three bedrooms, two bathrooms. The backyard was huge: plenty of room for our almost crawling Zoe to eventually run around, a pool, gorgeous roses and citrus trees. The front yard had huge hydrangeas and roses and other flowers and the front of the home was covered in vines - there was a fountain. It was beautiful. It was perfect for our family of three and just as perfect a little over a year later for our family of four. We held many parties and hosted dinners and hat parades. We danced it out. That house was filled with love and friends and good memories and we were grateful our friends rented it to us and grateful that we had the opportunity to purchase it (escrow went through on April Fools Day, 2010). It was the first home we owned and it didn't feel like it could possibly get any better.

We were comfortable, and if I've learned one thing in nearly forty years (What?!?!) it's that when you are comfortable, life has a way of twirling around and keeping you on your toes. In May 2012, Daniel got a job offer for Houston. We were leaving the place we'd met, fallen in love, become partners/newlyweds, had our children. We were leaving friends we'd adopted as family and a theatre community we loved. I cried for months. I cried off and on on the way to Texas and I had some serious homesickness for almost a year.

But Texas became our home. I remember driving around our new neighborhood about a month or so after moving here and laughing to myself: "I do not think you will ever have it this good, ever again."

This house was filled with old friends and new, awesome neighbors, and family. We had parties and living room camp outs. We started new traditions and got involved in new communities. We set down roots and were grateful for every new experience we had. 

We lived through a scary pregnancy and brought two more beautiful girls into this world. Charlotte benefited from being near one of the best pediatric hospitals we could be at when dealing with her CHD. 

The Biggies thrived within our neighborhood and their school. Their teachers were nothing short of amazing and we love that they love to learn. They have been surrounded with love and acceptance and have so many people here who have helped shape them into these smart, inquisitive kids.

Times are crazy right now in Daniel's industry. Around the holidays we knew we might be facing some big changes. In February he was researching jobs because a large chunk of employees would need to reapply for a position. In March he put his name in the hat for four jobs. One was here, three were in Bakersfield. Worst case scenario, Daniel would be left standing and have no job at all. We lost a lot of sleep worrying and stressing. Today we got the official word: Daniel has a job - in Bakersfield. We don't know all the details yet, but we know we are going and we feel sad to leave what we have built here. It's comforting being close to Texas Children's and we feel invested in this community and the kids' school. But we are so excited to reunite with old friends and become invested in Bakersfield again. 

Home is where Daniel and Zoe and Finn and Molly and Charlotte are. No matter where we are, we are living the best life because we are living it together. California. Texas. Indonesia. Kazakhstan. Home is where your family is and memories can be made anywhere. Will we ever have it THIS good ever again? Maybe not. We will have some other good. Life is good. Life is an adventure. I might be nervous and sad, but I'm ready and I'm happy and we're going to be just fine - no matter what.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Plate Spinner

I was driving home yesterday - thinking about the last ten months, this weekend, next week, the next few months, etc. I was mentally writing my "Things to Do" list and calculating what my strategy would be to stay sane through it all (no luck there, btw) when "Plate Spinners" popped into my head.

You know plate spinners, right? Those amazing people who spin all these plates on sticks. It's a circus act - dozens of plates up in the air. Audiences watch with anticipation - breath held, waiting for a plate to fall. 

Some of us spin more plates than others. Some of us support the weight of other plate spinners - holding them on our shoulders, in the palms of our hands, on top of our heads - as they try to balance their own plates. We work together (or in spite of each other) spinning and balancing and sometimes a plate falls. Sometimes it feels like all the plates are going to come crashing down, but you slowly pick up the plates and you rebuild.

I have friends with different plates. I have friends with some of the same plates that I have and then they have even more plates. These friends take my breath away. I have one particular friend who has SO many plates and she spins them expertly. She's the person you want spinning plates with you. She will hold you up while standing on one foot and let you climb on top of her head if you need her to. If she spins a plate for you, she does it with all her heart. Your plate is fragile and important to her. I've never seen her turn away a plate, even if it is the ugliest, heaviest plate - a platter, really. She will take that platter and throw something amazing on it and you'll wonder why you didn't think of that.

I am lucky to have people in my life who recognize that I have a lot of plates. They also have a lot of plates. But they check on me and my plates. Sometimes they take them from me and sometimes they offer their support, or bring me a snack, or they give me permission to voice my frustration before they encourage me to get back to what I want to do. Sometimes, they encourage me to just put a plate down for a while (or forever) if that's what I really need to do to save all the other plates.

I hope that they know I would do the same for them, always. 

This afternoon, I made myself a list of my plates. I stopped somewhere around 75, but I could have gone on and on. There are days where I beat myself up because I am not the person I strive to be. I don't always meet my high (impossible) expectations for what I "need" to be doing. I forget that I am pretty amazing - balancing all these "plates". Sometimes I might lose my balance, but I haven't broken any of my most fragile plates and I call that success. 

Plate spinning isn't easy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ten months.

These girls are two days shy of being ten months old and I absolutely cannot believe it. Two more months of them being babies and then... oh, who am I kidding? They will always be our babies. Our last babies. The two who showed us that everything we thought we totally knew about babies was good and all, but they were different. Different from Zoe and Finn - and yes, different even from each other. These last ten months have gone by so fast, and I have this feeling that the next two will go by even faster. I'm not ready, but at the same time, with every milestone and every day of growth, we are further from that scary time when I was pregnant with them and when everything seemed so out of our hands during Charlotte's time in NICU and CVICU. Every day moving forward feels like a little victory celebration. Their being here -  healthy and happy - is a testament to how strong our girls are and to how capable and tough and loved the entire Emery family is. It's been quite the journey and I am proud of all of us and excited for wherever the road leads to next.

So - speaking of journey and the last ten months... I have a little project I'm working on. The girls nursery (you know, the one they started actually sleeping in last month!) is a work in progress. We keep adding things here and there, but there is a wall above their changing table that has nothing on it at all. What I want to do is create an art wall and I was hoping you guys could help us. 

As part of their birthday celebration, I'm asking our friends and family to create* art for their wall. If there is really no art medium you are comfortable with, we'd also love quotes on cards, postcards, etc. that I can frame and hang up. 

We'd like to stick with the following themes:

- Travel (journeys, maps, transportation, landmarks)
- Hearts 
- Sisters/Twins/Best Friends
- I love the idea of doing something that indicates where everyone who is special to our family lives. I might end up taking a map and using pins. I was also thinking of framing postcards from where our loved ones are: Bakersfield, Burbank, Seattle, Austin, Washington DC, etc, but I would need those sent to me. I have a Bakersfield one somewhere, but it says "Bakersfield Sucks" so... I'm not so sure about that one. ;)

Anyway. That's my big idea! Our friends and family have been so giving of their love and support for our girls and our entire family and I can't think of a better way to celebrate that than to fill this blank wall I've been staring at with art from you so the girls can enjoy it every day. I can already imagine pointing out pieces to the girls and them learning who each piece is from. 

*If you're up for painting something, message me and I would be happy to send you a 5x5 or 8x10 canvas. :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lost Post

I had an ultrasound a week ago, and for the 2nd time the girls didn't cooperate for us so that we could get good images of their hearts. My doctor came in and looked and said she wanted me to have an echocardiogram. She patted my leg and I didn't see the same look of confidence I usually get from her. I gave her an opportunity to put me at ease - "But we're not really concerned, right? We just need better pictures." She said we need to have me come back in. I left the office afraid.  I did not have a good feeling at all.

The echocardiogram was Wednesday morning. More than two hours of watching the girls move - both transverse, then one breech and one head down, and then both transverse again. It was amazing to see our strong girls move. "Can you feel all that?!" I could feel every single movement - in my belly all the way back to my spine. At the end of it all, the cardiologist smiled and said she saw no problems. Molly and Charlotte's hearts looked great. We had two healthy, wild babies.

Daniel and I left the office in great spirits. My stress melted away. We ate lunch and talked about improvements we'll be making to the house before they arrive - we walked around the baby boutique. Daniel went to work and I went home to rest (after I posted the great news to Facebook and bought myself a celebratory treat).

At 4 o'clock on Wednesday the cardiologist called me and left a message. She needed me to call her back. I called her - "Are you home?" Yes. "Is anyone with you?" No. "OK. Well, I need you to come back and see me in 3-4 weeks for another scan." OK. "Baby B has a structural heart defect."

Honestly, I can't tell you exactly what else was said. She said it was fixable. I asked if she could just tell me what the problem was. She said she would rather do it face to face. I cried. I couldn't breathe. She said she wanted to see me and Daniel on Friday. I asked if she could just tell me now. It's better if we do it in person. Can't we do it Thursday? We have an OB appointment THURSDAY. She had clinic Thursday, but she would fill my doctor in and we'd get some info on Thursday.

I called Daniel at work. I told him. I needed him to come home. I needed him to not work Thursday. I didn't want to be left alone. My mind went all over the place. Charlotte was not healthy. Nothing was the same anymore. I deleted my Facebook post about our healthy girls, because it wasn't true and I couldn't see the sweet congrats anymore.

I barely slept Wednesday night and Thursday morning felt like it should be Friday. I felt like I'd aged at least 3 years over night. I cancelled my nutrition appointment because I could not bear to sit and tell some stranger what I'd eaten in the last 2 weeks and have her stare at me and judge me. We went in for the OB appointment with the Physicians Assistant. She could see we were both stressed. Daniel did all the talking because I'm having trouble with words. He told Aimee about our phone call, she looked at my file and explained everything. The problem was with Charlotte's greater arteries coming into and leaving the heart.  They were transposed or switched, and it would require a surgery to fix it.  It was serious, but candy coated somehow. This was a big deal. Charlotte would need surgery within a few days of being born. We'd be OK. We'd all look back at this someday, and it would be a distant memory.

Daniel and I went and processed. We ate lunch. We held hands and I tried not to cry and we even laughed about other things. We looked at art at Z Gallerie. We went and bought the girls their cribs and then we went home to hug Zoe and Finn. We took the kids, my parents and Daniel's mom out to dinner. Everything was kind of normal, but not.

This morning was our appointment with the cardiologist. She told us how upset she and our doctor were. I cried. Of all the structural heart defects, if you have to have one - this is the one to have. That is both comforting and not. Charlotte has Simple Double Transposition of the Greater Arteries (D-TGA) meaning the greater arteries are switched. This happens in less than 1% of all babies. Less than one percent. Ridiculous. Charlotte will go straight to NICU after birth. They will put her on meds and stabilize her and she will need open heart surgery in her first week of life... and then she will have recovery time in NICU. She will need to have a cardiologist all her life. While Daniel and I have no heart defects, her children are more likely to have heart defects. So far, it doesn't look like Molly has the same problem, but we can't be 100% sure.

We are in one of the best places in the world to deal with this. People come from all over the world to have the doctors at Texas Children's fix them. Our doctors and staff genuinely care about us and our girls and they will take the very best care of all of us. If this had to happen, we're glad we're in Houston. We're glad that we were already getting extra attention because we have identical twins. We're glad they found the problem now so they will have a cardio team ready to handle whatever they need to the moment Charlotte is born.

All that said, we are - in a fog. This is the hardest thing we've ever dealt with. I can barely talk about this with anyone but Daniel and the kids. I can't say that Charlotte is sick out loud because it hurts. Daniel is of course having a hard time too, and I know he's worried about how I am... but with him I will be ok. He's the strongest, best partner I could possibly have and we will get through this and the girls will be healthy and strong. Our family can do this.

But I really, really don't want us to and I really wish someone would call me and tell me they made a big mistake. But that's not going to happen. This is our new reality, and I hate it, and I'm sad, and I'm not myself. And I thought I should let you know.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oh, Baby!!

When you've been away from blogging for nearly a year, it's difficult to just pick it right up where you started. In fact, it's impossible.

A lot has happened since last March. My parents moved into our house with their dog and parrot.  Zoe graduated from Kindergarten and started 1st grade. Finn is in his last year of preschool. We made new friends and reconnected with old. At the end of October, Daniel and I took a trip to Calgary for work and the morning after we got back, I found out we were expecting baby #3.

Baby #3! Due July 7, 2014!*

We'd been trying for more than a year, so it wasn't a big surprise. Well, I suppose that isn't right. In Calgary we were discussing how we we might be done trying. We were beginning to adjust our idea of what our family would be (again) and accepting that we were a family of four and what that meant. Part of me was sad that I was done and there wasn't another baby joining our family, but I was feeling sort of at peace with it. I was also feeling nauseous and really tired, but I was sure that was from all the walking I did around the city... and all the eating and the beer. Nausea seemed totally normal.

And then we got back and I took a test and that second line instantly appeared.  After willing that damn line to appear for over a year, with no luck - it appeared instantly. Bam! Baby.

So that was morning sickness I felt in Calgary. And it got worse, stronger than I had ever felt and I was so tired. My first ultrasound was at five weeks. We were looking for the baby's heartbeat and not seeing it, but they kept telling me it might take another week or so.

A week later, I was back in the office, this time alone - so nervous that something was wrong. So scared we wouldn't see a heartbeat. We saw a heartbeat and I exhaled with relief - and then the tech paused.....

"Do you see that?" Oh, I saw it.
"Do I see what, Connie?"
"That." She pointed at the screen. I could see the second flicker clearly.
"What is that? What?!"
"That's another heartbeat! You're having twins!"


Twins. In the same sac. Their little hearts beating together. I left the office in shock and called Daniel immediately. I burst into tears. I'm sure he assumed the worst, but I slowly pushed the words out of my throat.

"We're having twins. There's two. Identical twins."

There were so many things going through my head that morning. Awe. Surprise. Happiness. Insecurity.

I was prepared to have another baby. I'd imagined the challenges and joy of another infant and what adding to our family meant. I was doing something I'd done twice before... it wasn't a big deal. But twins were a big deal! Two of everything. How would we do it? How would I give them both attention and Zoe and Finn? I don't know how to take care of two babies at once!

And then I did what every OB and/or parents of multiples tells you not to do - I went looking on the Internet for answers. My insecurities turned into straight out fear. Identical twins are considered high risk. One might not make it - and because they're identical, the chances that neither would was even higher. I read about vanishing twin. I read about conjoined twins. And I cried and stressed and felt like I couldn't breathe and I couldn't handle this.

At my eight week appointment, we were concerned that there was no separation between the babies (no membrane) which would have meant they we MoMo twins and even more high risk than I had thought. Without a separation, they were at a high risk of their cords becoming entangled and not making it. The scariest thing was there was nothing I could do to help them - it was out of my hands.

I was sent to a maternal fetal medicine specialist and had a detailed ultrasound done at almost 10 weeks. There, as clear as anything - was a separating membrane and two tiny babies with strong heartbeats. They were measuring the same and right on track and I felt my stress melt away just a little bit.  They weren't MoMo twins, but they were (are) MoDi twins. There are still high risk, but our odds were better now.

My OB had informed me at my 8 week appointment that she did not see patients with identical twins. She'd had bad experiences and lost babies and it wasn't something she was comfortable with. It was an awful feeling at the time, but I'm grateful that she knew her limitations and sent me to the best possible people.

My care was immediately transferred to Texas Childrens Hospital/Womens Specialty. Our first appointment with them was at 12 weeks. We were greeted with smiles and congratulations from everyone, instead of frowns of concern. No one seemed nervous. My doctor is the director of the program for multiples and the Chief of MFM at the hospital. She has a great sense of humor and spoke to me with nothing but optimism. For the first time, I was laughing at my appointment and I was feeling hopeful. Without a doubt, we are at the best place for me and the twins. We are getting excellent care.

Last week was our 16 week appointment. I'm doing great and so are the twins. They're measuring right on track and are the same size (which is exactly what we want). They are total wiggle worms (I've been feeling flutters since 13 weeks) and at our ultrasound, one was stretched out over the one and they kicked and pushed at each other almost the entire time.

After a lot of pushing and waiting for them to chill, we saw what we were hoping to see - gender.

Our twins are GIRLS. Molly Angeline and Charlotte Angeline. We are thrilled.

Zoe is thrilled.

Finnegan is getting used to the idea.

* - Babies #3 and #4! Expected in 36th week - June 9, 2014!

So - hi. I'm blogging again!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


My husband is the "cool parent". Everyone is excited for Daddy to get home. Everyone looks forward to Daddy's days off and vacation. Daddy watches cartoons and lets them climb him like a jungle gym. Daddy takes them to the park and bike riding. Daddy is the fun one. When we're about to cross the street, I ask the kids to take a parents hand and they both scramble for Daniel and I'm left walking empty handed.

It's alright though.

They see me all day, every day. More often than not, I'm the disciplinarian. I'm usually the one who corrects bad manners and demands nap time, bath time, bed time. When they're watching cartoons or doing something else fun, I'm (sometimes) enjoying silence in another room... maybe even using the restroom behind a closed door, without them yelling at me or sticking their toes under the door to wiggle at me. I get to cross the street without struggling to keep my purse (or my shirt) on my shoulder as they pull and tug and skip and jump.

I get why they choose their Daddy, because I choose him. I can't wait for him to come home, give me hugs and kisses, talk to me, take me out, and hold my hand. I chose him and he chose me and we got to get married because no one told us we couldn't.

So this morning, when my four year old responded to Zoe's usual "I want to marry Daddy." with "I want to marry Daddy!" I didn't flinch (well, until Zoe screamed "NO!"). I was not phased. They don't get the concept of married yet and they're always choosing Daddy. I love that we all love him so much.

My favorite thing this morning though, was Zoe's response: "You can't marry Daddy because he's already your family, right, Mom?" She didn't site gender as her reason, it was redundancy. "He's already your Daddy and you get to hang out with him without being married." Plus, "Marrying family is against the law."

"Yes. And also, he's already married to me. When the time comes, you will find your own person to marry. Daddy is mine."

"I don't know who to choose!"

"That's OK, baby. You have lots of time before this will come up. Like, 30 years."

When the time comes, I hope they chose wisely and with their hearts. I hope they're as happy with their choices as I am with mine. I hope they won't have to fight for their rights to marry who they love.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year

First off: Hello, 2013! I'm not really sure what I expect of you yet. We'll talk more about that later, I suppose.

2012 was an interesting year filled with anxiety about when we might move, finding out for sure we were moving, accepting that big change and running with everything that we needed to do to prepare. We sold a house and bought a house within a month. We said goodbye to the city Daniel and I met in - where we were newlyweds, new parents, part of a theatre community and later, part of an awesome place that allowed us to be a part of "Setting Theatre Free".  We drove with our two kids and two dogs from California to Texas, all the while simultaneously nervous and excited for our new location and the new experiences we would have.

Honestly, I had a really hard time with all of it. It's funny because there were times when I wanted so badly to run far away from Bakersfield and our life there, and then when it started to be close to being a reality, I freaked out. Friends could not mention us leaving, talk about the future in Bakersfield, discuss Houston, or (sometimes) look at me without me bursting into tears. It was... emotional.

When we got here in August, I was overwhelmed with our new town, with Houston, with the roads, with the people, with the size of the home we'd chosen. Then the kids went to school full time and Daniel had a 45 minute commute to and from work and I suddenly felt very, very alone. I looked forward to every weekend, but my weekdays were very solitary and I struggled to want to do more than take the kids to school and pick them up. I hated my alone time because it reminded me how much I missed certain aspects of Bakersfield (friends, theatre).

As the holiday season unfolded, it became more clear that we had moved to a wonderful neighborhood.  A new friend described it as "Pleasantville" and that seems pretty accurate, although sometimes it feels like Mayberry or Bedford Falls. Something about the cooler weather and the lights and the holiday spirit has me feeling more optimistic and grateful for this change. I'm adapting and I feel ready to truly enjoy Houston.

I'm not sure exactly what that means. I'm tossing some ideas around in my head and setting some goals.  I want to become a better version of me.  I want to focus on my personal development. I want to feel healthier physically (which I already am - no sickness during the holidays!) and emotionally. I want to make it a point to venture out of this house and explore more. I want to feel more interesting.

I feel like I've "mourned" leaving California for long enough. It's time to celebrate this new chapter and make it memorable.

Happy New Year. 2013, I'm ready for you.