Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

 I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.  We were able to celebrate another "first" this year.  Harlie was able to eat her first Thanksgiving meal - ever!  She sat at the table with us and ate what we ate for Thanksgiving.  What an amazing blessing she is - in every way.

Here she is with Tom...

 And me.  It occurred to me that we (as in Harlie and I) have hardly any 
pictures together.  I must correct that!

Getting ready to eat her first Thanksgiving meal.

This is Harlie's drink bottle.   

 I know it is a little nontraditional - but it works.  It allows us to squirt milk in her mouth instead of relying on her to suck from the straw.  She can suck, but she can only get a little at a time (she hasn't learned how to take consecutive drinks from the straw yet).  This helps her get in the volume she needs without completely tiring her out.

Well, I left it at home!  We went to my sister's house for Thanksgiving this year.  She only lives about 15 minutes from me.  But no one felt like driving home to get it, so Tom went all MacGyver and created his own squirt bottle from a Mountain Dew bottle, bolus tubing and painters tape.

And it worked great!  

The big moment!!!


Every day I am more thankful than words can express.  Every day I look at her and feel so blessed that she is with us and happy and thriving.  So many times in her short little life, it could have gone the other way.  And not a second goes by that I don't remember that, and thank God for letting us keep our sweet little girl.  

Another reminder of my feelings (and reality) came the day before Thanksgiving.

Wednesday afternoon, I learned of the passing of a little boy from the trach board (an internet trach support group).  He was six years old.  I found this trach board when Harlie was just a few months old.  And his mom was there, offering her advice and support, while sharing her adorable, smart and spunky little boy with us.  While I never met them in person, I did know them.  And I feel his loss.  And I can't stop thinking about him, his family and how they are dealing with everything right now - and how they will continue to deal with his loss forever.

Back in February, we almost lost Harlie.  Over an infection.  That got into her blood stream and pumped through her heart.  It was too much for her heart to handle and it stopped.

She's fine now.  In fact, she's great!  But that's the thing with a child with complex medical issues and abnormalities.  She's at a higher risk for anything to take it's toll on her.  Something that could be a blip for a healthy child - lands Harlie in the hospital.  Don't like the flu shot?  Eh, a healthy kid will most likely be okay if you turn it down.  Not Harlie.  I don't have the option to skip such precautions with her.  The risk of the vaccine is way lower than the risk of the flu itself.

It is HARD to have a medically fragile child.  I am always very aware of her complexities.  I know her heart doesn't function normally.  I know that it will eventually "run out of gas" and she will need a transplant.  I know what her oxygen saturation levels and heart rate are and that they are NOT like a typical child's.  I know she doesn't have five lung lobes like everybody else.  I know she has a hole in her trachea, leading straight to her lungs, making her way more susceptible to bacteria and infection (and drowning).  And I know that she still has more surgery in front of her, with increased risks there, too.

And that is why I never take her - or anything she does - for granted.  And why I feel so blessed to have her.   And I hope and pray with all my might that I will get to feel that way for many more Thanksgivings to come!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ortho Appointment Details

I won't keep you waiting.  It's surgery time.  Well, we're shooting for April.  I need to call her scheduler tomorrow to schedule it.  But I think we'll try to work it around Spring Break, if possible.  Which kills me.  Because while everyone else is doing something fun, we'll be doing ... that.

Here's the skinny:

There has been a significant change in her spine since last year (and not in a good way).  She has a hemi-vertebrae (half a vertebrae) at the bottom of her spine (sacrum), right above her left hip.  Not only is it half of a vertebrae, it is very abnormally shaped and it looks like it's a part of the one above it.  It's weird.  This is the one that needs to be addressed first.

She also has another hemi-vertebrae in her c-spine (her neck).  The surgeon said the higher the problem, the riskier the surgery.  We will wait on this one as long as possible.

She also has a butterfly vertebrae in her lower/middle of her back (lumbar).  That's the one that you can see - as it sticks out (kyphosis scoliosis).  When you hear the term scoliosis, most think the spine curves to the left or right.  But, with hers (in this particular area) it makes the spine curve front to back.  So, from a side view, it looks like a "c".  So, the abnormal section in her sacrum causes a left/right shift and this one causes a front/back curve.  I hope that makes sense.

She wants to do the sacrum surgery first.  She wants to see how removing the hemi-vertebrae (and then fusing the vertebrae above/below it with pin/screws) will affect the rest of her spine.  It might do enough good that we can wait a while longer on the other areas.

She said she doesn't want to wait anymore.  Too risky.  The worse it gets, the harder the surgery, the harder the recovery.  Since her problems are structural (meaning it's not just a curvature - the structure is abnormal itself) a brace is not an option.

The surgery itself will take about 3-4 hours.  And she will come out of the OR with a BODY CAST.   A BODY CAST!  UGH!  She said she is too wild for anything less.  Here's what her and Cooper were doing BEFORE the surgeon came into the room (you can see the kyphosis in her back):

Brandy took Cooper out of the room so I could talk to the surgeon.  But, Harlie remained pretty wild.  I think she was feeling a little sassy with her new hair cut.

So, a body cast for 6-8 weeks.  She will put only one leg in the cast and will bend it slightly so we can get her in the car seat.  The surgeon gave me a time frame of 4-6 months.  Since she'll be in the cast for 6-8 weeks after that, we are going to try for April, so she can be out of the cast before the summer heat hits.  She's already so hot-natured as it is.  Oh, and if everything goes great - it will be a 3-4 day hospital stay - in DC.  Oh, that drive is so hideous!!!  It took 4 hours to get home tonight!!!

So, that's it.  Not looking forward to it, that's for sure.  But, it is months away still, and within 7-9 weeks it will all be over.  And hopefully, she'll be much "better" after.

And if you didn't see my earlier post, check it out.


Harlie's Haircut

Today was a super busy day - and other's doubted my ability to keep focused and get it all done.  But, HAH!  I did it!  The day was scheduled to the minute - and it all worked out the way I thought it would.  

First, I'll show you Harlie's haircut.  Then I'll get into what's going to happen with her spine.  Might do that in another post.  

I just couldn't take her long hair anymore.  It was always getting stuck around her trach and getting all yucky.  And with her eating by mouth, it was a struggle to keep it clean.  And I think it bugged her, too.  

Anyway, here's her before...

And during.  She really digs getting her haircut.  She totally cooperates!

Of course playing with my ipod touch didn't hurt.

Isn't it cute?  It's even cuter in person - I didn't get a very good picture of it.  I'll work on that and get one posted soon.

When we left the salon, she looked at her reflection in the window and smiled.  It was so cute!  I think she really likes it.  Thanks, Melissa!  You did a great job!

Okay, now I'll go write the post about her spine.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Ortho Appointment Tomorrow

Just a real quick one tonight.  We have a very busy day tomorrow.  I am going to try to squeeze in some preschool for both Harlie and Cooper, a haircut for Harlie, and an appointment for me before heading up to Northern Virginia for Harlie's orthopedic appointment at 2:30pm (Tom says it's impossible and that I have completely overbooked the morning, which is probably true).

I think the last time she saw this doc was a year ago.  Probably longer.  And she wanted to see Harlie in six months.  But, that just couldn't happen with Harlie's heart surgery this summer.  There's only so much we can do.  It kills me how busy Harlie's schedule is - and that she can't accommodate every doctor's requests.  There's just too many!!!

And she's walking, jumping a little, trying to run (getting faster) and she's in gymnastics.  So, it's kinda easy to put her spinal issues on the back burner.  I'm hoping that since she's doing all those things, we can continue to put off her spinal fusion surgery (if that's still the way the surgeon wants to go).

The last time we spoke, the surgeon said that the longer we put it off, the more difficult the surgery will be (on both the surgeon and Harlie).  But the reason why we want to put it off is so she can grow.  Once you fuse the vertebra together, there will be no more growth in those areas.  And she's only four and still has a lot of growing to do.  So, we'll just have to see what the x-rays show tomorrow.

I have really enjoyed these long breaks from serious appointments.  And I'm not looking forward to the decisions regarding her spine.  No fun!!!

As always, I'll let you know how it goes!  Wish us luck!


Some new skills!

I've been wanting to show you this video for a few weeks.  It was taken on October 28th.  Harlie can sign her ABC's with no help!  And she tries to verbalize a lot of them, too!

She practices a lot.  The other day, she did them with both hands at the same time!  I love that she finds it fun to sign.

And she can write her name!

I have a video of her doing that, too, but for some reason it won't upload.  I'll try it in another post and see if it works.  Those are window crayons (thanks, Grandma - they love them!).  Last week at school her teacher asked her to write her name on the back of her art project - and she did!  It wasn't very long ago (like two weeks, maybe) she could only write the H and the A.  And we don't need to spell it for her - she knows exactly what letters to write!  That girl amazes me every day.

There's a new post below this one (from last night) and hopefully I'll have another one today.  I have a lot to tell you to bring you up to speed!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Road Trip to Pittsburgh

I hate that it has been another week since my last post!  But, last week was really busy and I was really, really tired for a few days recovering from the marathon.  Ahhh, I love saying that!  I apologize now for you getting sick of hearing about it.

So, on Sunday, after the marathon, Tom and I got up early (grrr!) and got in the car to head to Pittsburgh, PA for the Steelers vs. Patriots game.  It sounds crazy that I would agree to such a thing.  But, after much discussion and thought, I decided that I would probably get more "rest" going on the trip, than staying here with the kids by myself.  So, many begging and logistics issues later (it is NO easy task getting coverage here), we were on our way.

We made good time and the plan was to drive straight to the hotel so I could lay horizontal for a while and do NOTHING.  Ahhh, what a thought!!!  Instead, Tom surprised me and drove straight to a... gulp.... SPA!!!  Hallelujah!  He packed a bag with a small bottle of flavored vodka, soda and a glass and sent me on my way.  I got a 75-minute massage (WOW!) and a manicure.  As good as it sounds to get a massage - it was not all good.  My muscles were tender!  So, it hurt, too.  But, I definitely think it helped get me moving easier.  Here's a funny video to illustrate what it is like...

After that we went to Primanti Bros. for a sandwich.  Yum!  They put coleslaw AND french fries right ON the sandwich.  Then it started to rain.  Bummer.  And it was getting pretty darn cold.  Ew.  Not a good combination.  So, while Tom was out with a friend, I went to the hotel to get ready to go out for the game that night.  I really didn't think I had the energy (or the desire) to go out in the cold, wet night for the game.  The childless room and king-sized bed were calling my name!!!!  But Tom promised the rain was almost done, and so I went.

We ended up having to walk a good 15 minutes to the stadium.  We went to one of Tom's friend's tailgate party for a little bit (thanks, Megan!) and they said they were going to head over around 7, I think.  So, we left a little earlier so I could walk the pace I needed to walk.  Surprisingly, it wasn't as painful as I expected.

We got to the stadium and I was hungry again.  Hey, I burned over 3,000 calories the day before - I needed FOOD!!!  So, we looked around and nothing looked really good.  Until we found a Primanti Bros.!!!  So, yes, I ate ANOTHER sandwich.  It was good and I had no problems eating another one.  Crazy, huh?

Then, it was time to head to the seats.  Uh-oh.  Stairs.  And lots of them.  I made it up (no fun, there!) and decided I could drink no more - I couldn't risk having to go to the bathroom.  I was not going to walk back up those stairs!

The rain had stopped.  But it was cold.  And we weren't completely prepared.  It had been over five years since we'd been to a game.  We forgot a blanket.  Bummer.  Tom ended up having to buy one.

Here's us at the beginning of the game:

I am happy to report that Tom shaved the beard on Monday.

Well, the game stunk.  The Patriots walked all over the Steelers and it was terrible!  There was NO energy in that stadium.  And the guy right behind me complained/commentated the entire time.  And since it was an 8pm game - I was pooped by the end!  Morning came too early and again, we headed to the car for the long drive home.  Even though the game was a bust, we still had fun.

Thank you to Jennifer, Dawn, my Mom, Kelly and Maggie (my nieces) for helping us out that weekend.  In order for us to be away, we need a nurse for Harlie and a sitter for the boys.  Logistics for a trip is a nightmare.  Which contributes to why we don't do it often!  Jennifer, especially, pulled a lot of hours.  We couldn't have survived the weekend without all their help.  So, thank you!!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marathon Recap

Ahhh, race day. The day we've been training for since June! SO exciting! I started the day feeling so lucky to be a part of it all. This race, this experience, and most importantly, this group of girls...

Bottom row: Mary Curtis and me.
Top row: Anna, Kat, Niki, Heather and Allison

Look at how happy we all were...before the pain.

The race started at 8am. We met at 6:30am and after hanging out in the warmth, headed up for a large group photo of the entire training team. Then it was time to go potty that last time before the start. Hello, potty lines!!!

We checked our bags (so no more pictures) and headed to the start. It was pretty darn cold, but the forecast said it was going to be 65 by noon (which is pretty warm to run in - I've always heard to add 20 degrees, because that's what it will feel like when you're running). So, you have to start wearing clothes you don't really care about so you can throw them to the side when you start to warm up.

Before I go any further, I'd like to give you some information.

1. A marathon is 26.2 miles.
2. I had issues with my IT band beginning in October. It hurt like hell. So, I decided to try going to a chiropractor. He said my left hip (ITB issues on left side) was lower than my right and made some adjustments. It worked! I ran my 20 miler with NO issues and felt great for every run thereafter.
3. This is going to be long. Sorry. I had no idea I would have so much to share! It was such a BIG day!

So, we started at 8:03am and spent the next several miles laughing. We ran with one of our coaches, Marc, and he helped set our pace at 10-minute miles. He also helped take care of putting our jackets in the bin that would make it back to the start so we could recollect them. The gloves and shirts, we threw to the side when we were done with them. It was really crowded. For some reason, I expected it to thin out a bit. I don't know why.

I knew that Tom, Jennifer and the kids were going to be at Mile 4, but I didn’t know which side of the street.

Unfortunately, it was right at a turn and I got pushed to the outer side of the crowd and Tom and the kids were on the inner side. I saw the stroller and the “run mommy run” poster out the corner of my eye, and then Tom came running beside me taking pictures.

Here are four of us, waving. It was so fun to have someone to cheer us on!

I was so sad that I didn’t get to see the kids and they didn’t get to see me. They told me later that Murphy cried because they missed me.

After that, Jennifer took the little ones home and Murphy and Tom spent the next four hours finding me along the course.

I saw them next at Mile 6. Murphy ran along side us for a little while and everyone (even strangers) got a kick out of that. Runners love and need support.  So, any time you see an enthusiastic supporter it is energizing, fun and so appreciated!

At the water stops, we did our own little roll call to make sure we had everyone. Our plan was to stick together at a 10-minute per mile pace until mile 10 or so. Then we could do whatever our bodies wanted/needed to do and it was every man for himself.

At Mile 8, I saw Tom and Murphy again. And then I saw my Mom and Dad, and my brother, Bruce, his wife, Nancy and their daughter Maggie (Nancy and Maggie ran the 8k that morning). It was so great to see them all.

My group of friends really appreciated the support, too. They said I won best support group!

My family appeared again at Mile 11. Tom took some pics of Murphy giving some five's. So cute to see him getting into the fun!

See how excited we all were to see them again? Look at Kat leaning over to give Murphy five!

Heather and Mary Curtis are behind the guy in the white shirt. Such a shame, because it would have been a pic of all of us together (except for Niki, who had IT band pain beginning at Mile 5!!! What a fighter she is!)

Mile 8 through 11 are pretty hilly. And the down hills are pretty steep. While that sounds great, it is actually hard on your legs and feet to control your speed going down hill. And, in my case, it is hard on my IT band. At Mile 11, I started to feel it. And my heart sank. I knew that it was going to get worse, and I knew that the rest of the run was going to be HARD because of it. It was going to be hard regardless, but this was NOT going to help!

I did my best to ignore it and tell myself that it didn’t hurt. Mind over matter I said to myself. At the next water stop, I decided to refill both of my water bottles. I was putting water in one, and Powerade in the other.  You need both hands to refill one bottle. So, looking back, I should have only refilled one at a time. But, I didn’t want to risk going another two miles. So, I lost my group while I was refilling. It took a couple of blocks or so to catch up, which didn’t help my IT band.

At Mile 13, I saw my friends Allison and John. Allison had just run the half marathon that morning and did it in an incredible 1 hour and 38 minutes! That’s a 7:31 pace! Congratulations Allison!!!! She jumped in and ran beside me for a few minutes. She told me I looked great. I can’t remember if I told her about my IT band. I might have told her because she’s had IT band issues in the past and knows about mine. Or I might not have told her, trying to convince myself it was fine. Saying out loud might have made it more real.

Just a few minutes after that, I lost my group. I fell behind and that was very disappointing.

While my ultimate goal was to finish (and have a fun, great experience in the process) I wanted to keep up with my group for as long as possible. Three of them had time goals in mind (wanted to beat their times from last year’s marathon) so I knew I wouldn’t finish with them. So, deep down, my goal was to finish in what they finished last year (about 4 and a half hours) - as first timers. I thought that was a more realistic goal.

At mile 14 it finally started to thin out and I found Allison. So, we stuck together for the next several miles, over the Lee Bridge, which I hear can be hard. It was very nice for us to be together. On the bridge I saw our coach, Marc. He asked me how was I doing, and I was honest and told him that my IT band was hurting and I was struggling. He was awesome and asked me if he could get me some water or anything. I think I just needed to be able to tell him that I was hurting - and hear something encouraging from him. And that helped.

Oh! And while running with him, I made eye contact with a man standing on the side of the road. I don’t know why. He wasn’t doing anything special, just standing there. He looked right at me and it was like he could tell I wasn’t doing well, so he smiled and clapped for me and I smiled back. Then Marc hit me on the arm and said, “You just got cheered on by Bart Yasso!”

At mile 17, I saw Tom and Murphy again.

Tom could tell I wasn’t loving it anymore.  He ran with me for a minute and said, "Don't quit.  Your little girl doesn't quit." And my friend, Bethany, jumped in to run with me until Mile 25. That was planned. And I was definitely looking forward to seeing her smiling, supportive face.

My inexperience lead me to think that since I ran 20 miles a few weeks ago (keeping up with my group) and feeling great (no IT band issues) that I would feel the same way until Mile 20 again, and the hurting would start then. That was stupid. Because one thing about running that makes it so challenging/great is that every run is a new run - a clean slate, if you will. So, you can have a great run one day, and a terrible one the next. Some days, you can go out for an easy 4 miles and it could feel like you’ve never run a mile before.

Regardless, I wasn’t expecting to start struggling so early in the run.  Mile 11 is still so early in the marathon. And to know that you’ve got to run through pain for more than 15 more miles is incredibly daunting and disappointing.

So, Bethany joined in and immediately started telling me stuff I needed to hear. I couldn’t really talk at this point. I wasn’t running too fast (trust me on that one), but all my energy was focused on telling myself that I didn’t hurt that bad (when I really did!).

I can’t tell you how helpful it was to have Bethany by my side for those eight miles. She just kept on telling me that while I might not have felt strong, I looked strong and no one else could tell I was hurting. I kept telling myself that if I looked strong, I must be strong.

Between Miles 17 and 18, we found another one from our group, Anna. I introduced them to Bethany and she made fun of me for being so polite. It was cute. And funny, but I couldn’t laugh anymore, which was sad. I really enjoy laughing.

So, it was me, Allison and Anna (and Bethany, of course). Anna had to stop and stretch her legs a few times and we all had to walk through the water stops. While I didn’t want anyone else to struggle, either, it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone.

Bethany told me that so many people hit the wall at Mile 18, and if I could just make it through I would be home free. She kept giving me goals to run to (like let’s just make it to the next stop light or whatever). That’s a common thing that runners do to break down the miles into something more manageable mentally. The thing is that I’ve NEVER had to do that. I have never been in a situation where I had to push myself like that. So, that goes to tell you that I was in new territory - even though I had already run that distance before.

I think when we turned onto the Boulevard (about Mile 18) we lost Allison and Anna for good. Meaning that they were in front, and we didn’t see them again. That might sound like it was sad for me - but I can't tell you how happy I was to see my group do so well. Such a great group of girls!!!

Between Miles 19 and 20, we passed the stadium (our start and finish for our training team since June). We all knew mentally that passing the stadium would be hard. There is a hill right before the stadium, and that hill marks the end of our training runs. But, this time, we had to run the hill and continue running for another 6.2 miles (about an hour’s time)!!! But, I ran the hill like nothing and that was a nice boost.

At Mile 21, I saw Tom and Murphy again and our friends, Mike and Marcy. At this point I was hurting so bad, I was getting blurry. Evidently Murphy offered me a cup of water and all I did was shake my head “no” and keep going. I don’t really remember to be honest.

What I didn’t know is that they had been there for over 30 minutes and Murphy started handing out water at that water stop. He wanted everyone to take his water - so he kept moving up to be the first one that the runners would get to, so they would take his water. Kids are so funny. Tom said that when Murphy saw me he was so excited to be able to hand me water and then I just shook my head no and ran past. Then he started crying. Ugh. Poor kid. I clearly had no idea.  I was just trying to keep one foot in front of the other.

So, Murphy tried to run to catch me, and couldn’t, which made him even more sad. So, Tom had to pick him up and carry him to catch up. Which they did and I said hello or something and he was okay.

Starting at Mile 22, I started to feel nauseous. There were numerous times I looked to the side to see where I could yak, if necessary. I think all the water, Powerade and sport gels were taking its toll on my stomach. Not to mention the pain in my knee.

I saw my Mom and Dad at Mile 23. They had a poster and it was so fun to see them again. I had to dig deep to find the energy to wave and smile. But that’s what helps. The support makes you find energy you didn’t know you had. One supporter along this stretch of the road was yelling, “take some of my energy and use it!” It was great.

Since we had our names written on our shirts, people were constantly saying, “go Christy!” It was awesome. And I so needed it for the next several miles.

Sometime during Mile 23, I took off my fuel belt and handed it to Bethany. I couldn’t drink another drop, so I just wanted the weight of the belt gone. I thought she would just put it on, but she carried it. I wanted to tell her to put it on - but I couldn’t. Isn’t that crazy?

 I think it was at this point I saw another coach, Chelle. She ran with us, too. She was so supportive. And Bethany had to speak for me. She told her that I was doing great. So funny how our definition of "great" changes depending on the situation! Bethany also told me that I was going to have to "gut it out" - another thing I held on to those last miles.

At Mile 24 or 25, I saw another coach, Shawn. He was running against the flow looking for yellow shirts and saw me and turned around to run with me for a few minutes. He asked me how I was doing, and I told him I was hurting. He said, “I know it hurts, but you have to keep going.”

There was something about the way he said “I know it hurts.” I was feeling so weak hurting like that and him saying that to me told me that it was okay. That it wasn’t a weakness within me - it was just the way it feels to run a marathon. I can’t tell you how much that helped.

There were definitely people walking and stopping to stretch. I just kept telling myself that it felt better to run than to walk (even though my body was telling me something very different) and that I would get to the finish faster if I just kept running. I think I might have said I couldn’t do it or something and they said I could. Bethany told me I was still right on pace for my goal time.

I think at this point I wanted to cry. But, I didn’t have the energy. I honestly never thought about quitting. I knew I would not quit (even though my body totally wanted me to!). But, I was afraid I would start to walk more than run and that I wouldn’t be able to run that last bit with everyone watching. The thought of me having to walk through the finish was unbearable. So, I kept running.

I knew Bethany was going to leave me at Mile 25 (Miles 17 and 25 are only a few blocks from each other, so it worked out best for her to park between the two) and I will admit that I was feeling afraid. I didn’t know if I could run the next 1.2 miles without her! She must have sensed it too, because she ran past the Mile 25 marker and stayed with me for a few minutes more.  When she saw the stop light that marked our turn onto Cary Street (the home stretch) she called Tom (yes, she carried her cell) and told him I was about to come around the bend.  She told me I could do it and left. I could only sign “thank you” and “I love you” and kept going.

Turning onto Cary street makes me cry now just thinking about it. I knew that I couldn’t stop to walk at this point. The crowd was awesome and I felt like I was alone because it felt like everyone was yelling my name, shouting, “you’re almost there, Christy!”, “Christy, you’re looking great!”, “Christy, you did it!”, etc. I just wanted to smile and look like I wasn’t going to die.  It's funny, because I don't remember seeing another runner at that time. Then I saw the pictures...

You might have to click on the picture to see me. But, you can clearly see that I wasn't alone! Makes me laugh thinking about it!

I started to look on both sides, looking for Tom. I saw him on my right with my friend Allison (Harlie’s feeding therapist). They were cheering and it was so moving to have so much support!

When I envisioned myself crossing the finish line, my arms were up in the air.  I know, I'm a total dork. So, I just concentrated on doing that, and smiling. My Dad said that the announcer said my name when I crossed the finish line, but I didn’t hear it (because I was trying not to die). Pretty cool that they did that, bummer that I couldn’t hear it.

I was DONE 4 hours, 34 minutes and 18 seconds after starting.  I wanted to sit so bad, but there’s no place until you get out of the gate. In the crowd I didn’t know how I was going to find anyone. I found a curb and sat my butt down. Put my knees up, and put my head down and cried for about 5 seconds (that’s all I had the energy for). And I don’t care. I was so proud of myself and oh, so glad to be done!

Just then I saw the bottom of the poster that Tom made go by. I looked up and it was my Dad who just walked by, but didn’t see me. I yelled for him, but he couldn’t hear me. So I had to get up and go get him.

Then my Mom, Tom, Allison and her family appeared. Miraculously, some of us found each other so we got some pics.

My Dad, me, Murphy and my Mom.

Natalie, Heather, Kat and me.

We had all planned to meet at a restaurant down the street for a beer. So, on our way there I got to see so many people that I knew. It was so great to see all my friends and to congratulate each other.  Amazing considering it was such a large crowd.

At the restaurant, I had to check out my foot. At about Mile 13, I could feel some rubbing in the same place where I’ve gotten a blister before. I knew it was going to be bad, but never expected this:

Ouch!! I almost screamed when I saw it. It was way worse in person. Trust me! Everyone asked me if I could feel it while running. Yes, but there’s nothing you can do, and the pain on my skin like that was totally bearable. That was not my problem for sure. I guess it paled in comparison to my knee so I ignored it. Although, looking back, I remember thinking that I wanted to take off my shoes and run in my socks. One thing that kept me from doing it was the thought that I would have to carry my shoes, which would have looked really stupid. But, it goes to show that somewhere in my mind I wasn't able to completely ignore that pain.

After a beer and some good laughs, we left the restaurant and went home. Tom stopped to get some ice. Just six bags. No biggie. Then I took an ice bath. I wasn’t planning on it - but I knew my IT band needed it. At this point it was agony to bend my left knee at all.

At 6:30pm we left to meet everyone for a celebratory dinner.

From left: Neal, Natalie, me, Mary Curtis, Heather, Kat, Allison and Anna.

It was so much fun to share stories of what happened along the course.

My family got a kick out of cheering my group on - looking for the green duct tape. And my friends got a kick out of having a cheering section. It was just great.

All in all, I saw Tom a total of nine times - at Miles, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 17, 21 and the finish. Isn't that amazing? What a great guy for busting his butt and navigating closed roads and crowds to support me the whole way!!!

And lastly, some funny stuff that I want to share:

From Kat - a friend of hers asked, “so how long is this marathon?”

From Natalie: Her mom asked her, “So do they have water stops?”

And Heather and Neal's babysitter (who has been watching their kids almost every Saturday during the past six months of training) posted on Facebook: "Good luck to Heather and Neal, who are running the Ukrops 10k!" For those of you not local, the Ukrop's 10k (just 6.2 miles - not 26.2 miles) is in the spring here in Richmond.

From Natalie: Sometime in the 20-mile range asked the person next to her, “Am I running?” They said, "Yes, you are."

Natalie provided lots of laughs. She took off her gloves at mile 4, but wasn't entirely sure she was done with them, so put them in her sports bra - and completely forgot about it. They stayed there the entire run, which was not what she intended!

From Tom: Getting into the car to come home I noticed some clothing items with which I wasn't familiar. I held up a North Face hat and asked him whose it was. Tom smiled excitedly and said, "I can't believe what people will throw away!" And then he told me that he picked up about 30 Accel gels that were unopened on the ground. "They are over a dollar a piece!" he exclaimed.

I know you are probably sick of hearing it by now (if you're even still reading) - but I am so darn proud of myself and all my fellow marathoners.  Ah!  I'm a Marathoner!  And I am so lucky to have so many supportive people in my life.  I loved doing the training with the Sportsbackers and all the support they and the coaches provided.  It was an amazing experience.  And I can't wait to do it again!  Okay, maybe I can wait a little while.   But I am definitely doing it again!

Thank you for making it this far!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I did it!

Just in case you are worried about me...


My time was 4 hours and 34 minutes.  Right at my "goal" - if I had a time goal.  My real goal was to finish - so either way I was successful.  Woohoo!

Since I am about to fall over from exhaustion, that's all I'm writing tonight.  I'll write lots more later and post lots of pictures!

Thank you for all your good wishes and encouragement!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Marathon is Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the BIG day!!  My first marathon!  Training started June 5th and since then I have logged more than 450 miles!

I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed this training.  Yes, it was a HOT summer.  No, not every run was good.  And it certainly hasn't been easy on my family.  But, my Saturday runs have been fun and I've enjoyed our conversations on the road.  I am going to miss my Saturday routine and seeing this group of girls each week:

Bottom left to right: Anna, Heather and Mary Curtis
Top left to right: Kat, Allison, Niki and me

Last night (Thursday) we all got together at Heather's house for a carb loading pot luck dinner. We had a great time and ate some great pasta.

We also put some bright green duct tape on our shirts so we could put our name on them.  That way people can shout out our names as we go by.  (Trust me, we're going to need all the help we can get!) Plus, the bright green might help our friends and family find us in the crowd of runners.

Tom was awesome and offered to sleep downstairs on the couch with the baby monitors so I could close the bedroom door and get some good, uninterrupted sleep.

Today I had to run around a lot more than I planned.  I really wanted to be able to sit and relax a bit, but that didn't work out.  I did manage (thanks to my Mom) to get in a nice lunch with Heather and Neal (Neal is running tomorrow, too).

After lunch, we headed over to the Expo to pick up our race packets.

Yes, I was a BIG dork and took pictures of us getting our packets.  But, it's my FIRST marathon.  I'm thinking this is the only time I can get away with it.  That's me finding my bib number.

And Heather and I with our bibs.

And while there we ran into our favorite photographer - Paige!  Paige has been taking pictures for Tom and I since our pre-wedding photo shoot - eight years ago.  Paige is running in her first race - the 8k, along with my sister-in-law, Nancy and her daughter, Maggie.  I love how contagious running can be!

Well, I wanted to leave you with a song that popped into my head earlier today while thinking about tomorrow...

Too funny!

The weather is going to be beautiful tomorrow (probably a little on the hot side by the end of the run) and I am so, so excited to experience a marathon.  For almost six months, I have imagined what it would feel like to cross that finish line.  And I'm going to find out TOMORROW!

Hopefully my next post will be me giving you a recap of a great run!  Feel free to send me some good, strong, endurance vibes!

Thank you!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Little Updates

I feel like there has been so much going on lately.  This might be a little choppy, but I want to update you on some things...


You might remember in a post recently that we finally purchased a stand up freezer.  We had so little storage that I couldn't puree a lot of food for Harlie at once, which really started to become a problem.  Now that she's eating so much more (hooray!) I need to have more food readily available.  So, the freezer was the only way to go.

It took me a few days to figure out what should go where (since the freezer had to go in the garage).  And then we spent a good part of that Sunday cooking, pureeing and freezing. It is SO great to be able to just reach in and get her food for the day!  What a stress reliever!!

A week went by and the freezer broke.

BROKE!  As in stopped freezing.

So, we had to squish everything back in our regular freezer and call in for service.  The earliest appointment we could get was for Wednesday.  But, luckily, the service guy called on Monday and said he had a cancellation and could come right then.  YAY!  So, he did and the control panel is broken and he has to order a new one.  It will be in on Monday.  Ugh.

Potty Training

For the last few weeks or so Harlie has been really into this book.  She picked it every night and likes to point out all the bugs in it.  One night she really looked at the critter wearing underwear.  And then she went to the drawer and pulled out a pair for her, too. So, I decided maybe it was time to try to potty train her.  Again.

And I am very happy to report that after two weeks, she is wearing big girl underwear all the time now!  She is still having some accidents, but for the most part, she does great!  I was trying to be very patient.  After all, she did have anoplasty at 12 months old and I was told by the surgeon that she could be five before she was potty trained.  So, I am pretty happy.  It looks like the surgeon did a great job.  He told me that she could have issues with leaking in between bathroom breaks - but so far, so good!  Which is so wonderful!

Laundry Room

Cooper started preschool three mornings a week, on September 28th.  Today was the FIRST day that I took him to school, came home and was able to work on things here without having to leave the house.  It was wonderful!  I was busy, but it was so great to get so much done here.

Tom bought some old laundry room display cabinets from his work months and months ago.  On Saturday, we finally started that little project - renovating our laundry room.  Our washer and dryer were side-by-side and the cabinets above were practically inaccessible.  It was terrible.  The space was not being utilized at all.

But that is no longer the case!  WooHoo!!!  Tom stacked our washer and dryer (which I love) to give us much more usable storage space.  There are cabinets with shelves and drawers!!!  Drawers!!!  Like six of them!  And one of the cabinets has a built-in clothes basket.  Love it!

It's not finished yet, but most of the room is move-in-able.  So, after we tore our house up on Saturday and Sunday, I have been working hard to find a home for everything.  The new storage options have caused a chain reaction of reorganization throughout the house.  For a while there we looked like hoarders with everything out everywhere.  But, it looks better now.  Especially since I had a few hours of uninterrupted time to work on it today.  I'll be sure to take a picture to show you when it's all done.  Which hopefully will be in a  couple of weeks.


So, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Murphy starts calling me and Tom, "Mom" and "Dad." The first time I heard it I stopped in my tracks.  Wait a minute, kid.  You're only six.  I am far too young to be called "Mom."  By a six year old.

So, I pretended not to notice.  For a few days.  When I finally broke and asked him why he was calling me Mom.  (In this older voice with this weird tone to it.  Ugh.  I was NOT a fan.)  He said, "because I'm getting older now."  Geez.

So, I let it go.  Until tonight.  I cracked.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I don't know why, but it was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.  So, I asked him if he could please go back to calling us Mommy and Daddy while in the house since Cooper learns so much from him.  I told him that Cooper was far too young to be calling us Mom and Dad.  And Murphy said okay.  And resumed calling us Mommy and Daddy.  Ahhhh, back to normal.

So, is six the age when they start saying Mom and Dad?  Am I crazy for thinking that's a little young?  Oh, I am so not ready for him to grow up.  I suppose we never are.

Thanks for reading!


Now that we're WELL into November, I thought I would finally post pictures from Halloween.  Geez, my blogging (or lack thereof) has really been pathetic.

On Friday, October 29th we went to the pumpkin patch.  We caught the last hayride out of the day.

This is the best I got of the three of them together.

Cooper was off running in a patch somewhere, so he couldn't be in these pictures.

While we were walking towards the hayride, my niece, Kelly walked right by me.  It was so fun to run into her and her friends.

I would love to have gone and gotten pumpkins early enough to have a fun, stress-free carving experience, complete with pictures and smiles.  But, that is not our life right now.   Instead we went at the last minute and carved two pumpkins ON Halloween in the late afternoon.  And I didn't even get a picture of them!  PATHETIC!

Here's Harlie drawing her pumpkin.  And Tom carved it, too.  And it was really cute.  You'll have to just take my word for it, since I have no pictures.  :(

And here are the best pictures.  My three little Super Heros.  
With Robin getting his eyes poked out by Daddy, trying to get his mask on.  

Getting a good picture of the three of them feels impossible right now.  The only one that slightly listens is Murphy.  And outside on Halloween, there was WAY too much excitement to stand still for a photo!

A week before Halloween, my MOPS group had a Trunk or Treat, where we all parked in the lot and the kids went around from car to car for candy.  It was a quick and easy way to get some candy and for us moms to chat a bit.

Here are my Super Heros, again, not cooperating for a group photo.

And my little Super Girl taking a rest break.

You might remember me mentioning that Harlie's wonderful preschool teacher had them practice putting on costumes and going around "trick or treating" at school.  The practice completely paid off and Harlie had NO trouble putting on her costume for Halloween (thank you Mrs. Katie!).

In fact, I got the Super Girl costume for her last year and she wouldn't put it on.  As luck would have it, she's tiny, so the costume still fit.  I'm really trying hard to be more frugal with our money, which is what lead me to the Super Heros theme.  Plus, I made a rule that Murphy couldn't wear a full face mask, which pretty much eliminated 98% of the costumes.  Looks like I'm going to have to revise that rule next year.

And Harlie really seemed to have fun, despite the fact that she doesn't eat any candy!  I think that's pretty awesome.  Her teacher also got her a small little device that had a button for her to press to play a recorded "trick or treat."  Harlie was so excited to press it when the door opened.  It was a little emotional to hear the recording and see the reactions of the neighbors that I don't know, and who don't know her.  There are moments when I feel like I'm caught off guard with emotions I didn't realize I had.

What I'm trying to say is that while I am (of course) very sad that she cannot speak - that sadness is buried pretty deep most of the time.  I try not to think about it.  And I try to focus on all the things that she can do and soak up the joy of those things.  And walking around my neighborhood with my kids having fun is a great thing!  So I was happy.  And proud.  Very proud of my daughter who willingly put on her costume and wanted to enjoy the night and experience of Halloween.  I was happy.

Then in the group of kids yelling "trick or treat" on a doorstep, I watched Harlie position the device right, press the button, heard the recorded "trick or treat", watched the look of surprise on the person's face, and then I wanted to cry.  Just like that.  Out of the blue, in two seconds flat, I went from being happy to feeling... emotional.  Luckily, it went away again, as quick as it came.  And then I was fine.  Weird.

It was a nice night, but it got super cold very fast.  And the kids got tired of walking (even though they took the stroller from driveway to driveway).  So, we were home by 7:30pm and then Jennifer helped me put the kids in bed (Tom and Jennifer's husband were sitting outside with some other neighbors giving out candy).  Then we all sat down to watch Sunday night football (which wasn't so fun, because the Steelers lost).

So, all in all, a great night!  So, now you know about our Halloween.  Okay, still more blogging to do.  Stay tuned!


Hardware Removal Day

I'll talk about pre-op day first, then I'll blog about today... Yesterday we did the whole drive through testing thing.  That wa...