Monday, August 30, 2010

Parkersburg News & Sentinel 2 Mile Race

A week or so ago, I ran a two mile race.  The race was in the town across the river from my college town, and it was a great excuse to have a weekend to go see some college friends.

My super awesome friend Robin and her husband Eric and their 6-month old baby girl were in town to stay with her parents for the weekend.  Her mom walks the half-marathon every year.  My friend Claire also still lives in the area and was running the two-mile race too!  It was a great opportunity to visit and run!

I got in town Friday evening in time to relax with Robin & her family at their farmhouse.  I love visiting with Robin and her family.  Her parents live out in the country in southeaster Ohio, and it's just beautiful!  I love the views looking out over the rolling hills and the general country-ness to it.  There aren't many close neighbors, just nature and some farmland.  They live in a great older farmhouse that is so comfortable.  People always seem to be congregating around the large kitchen table and talking.  They have always been very welcoming to me, and I am so very grateful for that!  I've stayed at their house on more than one occasion now, and am so happy to be welcomed into their home!

Now, on to the race day!  Remember how I said her family was amazing!  Well, here mom had to be there bright and early for the half marathon too, so we got up and got ready together and headed to meet her group of friends for the walk/run!  We drove to the race together and talked along the way.  It was nice to not have to go solo on race day!  I was hoping to meet up with Claire when we got there, but she was impossible to find amongst the 1,000+ participants!

Then it was race time!  There was a sea of 613 runners entered in the two mile.  We ran around the block, and as I said about the rolling hills, it's hillier than I'm used to there!  We then went out and around the town through some great parts of town with lovely houses!  There were people sporadically throughout the whole path, which was nice!  I always run better when I think/know people are watching!  Then they finally told us we were at mile 1, and all I could think was that's it.  It's only been a mile!?  How am I only half way through this race.  Then the second mile came, and there was a decent stretch of it where I thought this was going to be the end of my running career, but I trudged on through.  I'm always very good about sprinting my finish, but I knew I could have done better than I did.

I finished in 17:45.  It was about where I expected to be, better than my goal, but after, I still felt like I could have done better, and I was convinced I would still be running.  I finished 284 of those 613 runners and 4 of 17 in my age division. 

I found my way to grab some water, and kept my eye out for Claire!  I saw her not too long after she'd crossed the finish line, and we found a place to watch the half marathon runners with another of her friends.  We sat and watched for hours maybe catching up and talking.  Claire's roommate Leah, was running the half marathon, and I was excited for her!

We all gathered one everyone had finished for a few quick photos, courtesy of Claire!
Me, Claire, & Leah Post Race.
Next year I hope to be running the half-marathon too!


Robin and the rest of her family showed up in timeto watch her mom finish walking the half marathon in just under 3 hours, and then we dinned on pizza and cookies before heading back to their house for showers!

Robin, Me, Claire, and Leah

We spent the afternoon lazying around Robin's parents house, and talking the hours away enjoying my time with Robin.  She is one of my dearest friends, and I cherish the time we get to spend together since it is so few and far between!  (I still propose she move back to Ohio from NY!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Idlewild Park

It seems like forever ago my family went on vacation!

I failed at blogging about the trip!  Here's one of our stops.  Any bets on how long it'll take me to post about the other stops on our trip?  

After day one of our vacation, we spent day two at Idlewild Park and Soak Zone!

We started out the day heading to Mister Rogers Neighborhood of Make-Believe.  While I was a big fan, and watched Mister Rogers often as a child, my boys have never seen the show.  Regardless, the sure like the Hug-N-Song Party!

We spent the rest of our morning watching the kiddos play in Racoon Lagoon.  They loved it, well almost all of it anyway.  The tea cups were not a family favorite.  I wouldn't recommend wearing a dress on them if you'd like to keep some dignity!


After lunching in the shade of some large trees, we headed on to explore Olde Idlewild.  But before I get to that, let me just say that I LOVE the shade trees!  We spent an entire day at the park and didn't spend too much time in direct sun!

Olde Idlewild consisted of some bigger kid rides that the boys got to enjoy with Mommy and Daddy!  We rode the carousel.
We rode the Scrambler.  At the time, there were not terribly excited about that one!
They even rode their very first real roller coaster!  They were also not fans of it!

Then it was time for some ice cream and a trip over to Story Book Forest!

Story Book Forest made me realize there are a lot of great classic children stories out there that we're not passing on to our boys!  I'm going to share Story Book Forest in a separate post all of its own.

We headed over to Jumpin' Jungle.  I think the boys were most excited to get to play here!

This giant climbing net is in Jumpin' Jungle.  My husband remembers this as a child.  His family came to Idlewild on vacation.  He remembers being nearly traumatized by the fact that he had made it nearly to the top when he started crying and some stranger helped him the rest of the way to the top and carried him back down to my in-laws.  Some 20+ years later, he's back again to conquer it!
Caden's already well on his way up while hubby and Caleb are still at the bottom.  To protect my dignity in my oh so comfortable cotton summer dress, and to protect my fear of heights, I was staying at the bottom to take pictures!
So far so good!
C'mon guys; you're taking too long!
Mommy, MOOOOOMMMMMMY!  I scared will you come please!
And that is how I ended up facing my fear of heights and climbing this silly net in a dress for all the spectators below to see my underpants.

There are just some things I don't like to do.  Hubby usually tries to convince me.  It never works.  The kids on the other hand, they get me.  I have a feeling I'm going to be facing more of my fears with a smile on my face for those two little boys of mine.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Old Apartment

I never thought I'd miss living in our old apartment

I wish someone had told me "you're gonna miss this."

It was small, very small.  There were 5 of us living in a small two bedroom, one bathroom apartment before we moved into our house.  The only bathroom we had was on the second floor.  We had three boys sharing one bedroom.  We had no air conditioning, we had a kitchen the that has about as much counter top as the length of my arm, carpet through out the entire place, and lots of other assorted weird things to it.  Who really wants carpet in the bathroom, kitchen, and dinning room!?  Especially with 3 little boys!

I hated living there.  I couldn't wait until we were officially looking to buy our first house.

And now, after living here for over a year, I miss it sometimes.

I miss the lack of responsibility that comes with an apartment.  I miss the lazy afternoons spent on the couch because there was no yard work to do, and the cleaning was able to be finished in just a short amount of time since it was so small!

I miss nap time with the boys when they went down for a nap, so did we.  Or we went to the bedroom anyway to relax together.  We hardly ever used the living room.  We had a disgusting old used couch that most of the time, I refused to sit on it was so yucky.  So once the kids went to bed, we went to the bedroom, and we may have both been on separate computers or doing completely different things, but we were there together.  Now we're scatter in different rooms, trying to get stuff done. 

When we lived in that apartment, I lived by the song lyrics below.  And now that we've moved into a spacious 4 bedroom ranch, I truly appreciate the meaning of the song.  I love my house, but there is something freeing about the lack of responsibility of apartment life. 

I made it a point this weekend, to talk my husband into spending our Sunday afternoon nap time snuggling in our bed and talking.  I don't think I could have been much happier in that moment.  (Well, unless nap time had lasted a little longer!)


"Little Houses" by Doug Stone
A little white house, in the heart of town,
On a little sad street, just a little run down,
Became a home, for Bill and Sue,
Two newlyweds, who did the best that they could do.
And when they brush each other, passin' in the hall,
Sue would smile and say: "This place is pretty small.

But you know, love grows best in little houses,

With fewer walls to separate,
Where you eat and sleep so close together.
You can't help but communicate,
Oh, and if we had more room between us, think of all we'd miss.
Love grows best, in houses just like this.

Before too long, Sue and Bill,

Were makin' plans, for Jack and Jill.
Oh, happy day, when the news came in
But what to do, when they found out Sue was having twins.
When they could not pass each other in the hall,
Well, Sue would smile and say: "This place is really, really small.

But you know, love grows best in little houses,

With fewer walls to separate,
Where you eat and sleep so close together.
You can't help but communicate,
Oh, and if we had more room between us, think of all we'd miss.
Love grows best, in houses just like this.

That little white frame house still keeps them warm,

Though it's been thirty-two years, since the kids were born,
And when they look back now, they hold each other tight,
And whisper in each other's ears: "You know you were right.

Because love grows best in little houses,

With fewer walls to separate,
Where you eat and sleep so close together.
You can't help but communicate,
Oh, and if we had more room between us, think of all we'd miss.
Love grows best, in houses just like this.

Yeah, love grows best, in houses just like this. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'm not talking to...

Remember when nothing was the cool thing to say in my house and/or car?

Well, we've moved on.

Their new favorite thing goes something like this:

Boys: "Mommy"

Mommy: "Yes?"

Boys: "No, I'm talking to Daddy."

Daddy & Mommy: "But you said Mommy."

Boys: "No!"

OR something like this:

Boys: "Daddy"


Daddy: "Yes?"

Boys: "No, I'm talking to Mommy."

Daddy & Mommy: "But you said Daddy."
Boys: "No!"

And don't think you can catch on to their game and reply when they say your other half's name.  Oh no, they catch on, and then they actually want who they ask for. 

Then they laugh.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I chose him.

The result of our life changing event has been amazing. 

It has molded us and made us into the people we are today.  I will not pretend that it wasn't without many challenges along the way, and the many that we are still to face, but we have a deeper appreciation for the life God chose for us. 

In the conversations I had after the incident, I had several people, even some close friends, that asked what I was going to do in terms of my relationship.  Some suggested I really consider if this is what I want for my life; that circumstances change, and I could "find another fish in the sea" kind of mentality. 

The thought never once occurred to me.  When you love someone, you love them.  I may have never dreamed of the situation I was in, but it happened for a reason.  My husband, is who he is and the man I fell in love with  partly because of those boys.  My husband wouldn't be the same man he is, if he'd never had those children and been in that relationship.  When you commit to someone and love them, you take sticky situations with the good. 

In thinking over these comments, I was almost offended at the thought.  I'm sure they had my best interests at heart, but in my heart of hearts, I knew what was right for me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Camerin

In my last post, I shared about how I became a mother.  I mentioned a third son of my boys biological mother.  He is older; he is currently 7, but at the time of the incident he was 5 and just starting kindergarten. 

He is not biologically my husband's child.  When my husband met their mother, she was a single parent.  The man my husband calls his Dad is his step-father.  I think that my husband like the opportunity to step into a father figure role for this boy, as his dad did for him.  Soon my hubby became Daddy to this little boy and has been ever since.

When the kids were taken away from their mother, the older son moved with them too.  And just like that, we were a family of 5.  (Crazy I went from single, working, college grad, to mom to 3 young boys over night.)

At the time of the incident he was watching cartoon with his mother while his brothers were supposedly napping.  When the home was inspected afterwards, his bedrooms was found to be in a neat/clean position with bedding and toys and tv.  His living conditions were acceptable, and he has being taken care of.  It was clear that wasn't exactly the case with his younger brother. 

The transition was much harder for him than it was for the twins, and he spent time in counseling.  He had a much strogner connection with his mother, he was older, had spent more time with her, and as I mentioned above, it was a completly different relationship.  Our households were, and sitll are, run in very different manners. 

In our home, we have rules and manners, bedtimes and tv/video game rules.  And while I'm sure there are some rules in her home, there is much less structure and guidance.  On visits to their house the tv is always on, they blow bubbles in the house, they play basketball in the house.   

He was included in the visitation guidelines with the twins for awhile, but slowly over time, she was allowed to visit him more, then he was allowed to go spend a day with her, then he was allowed to go stay with her on the weekends, and then once kidergarden ended, he was given back to her for full custody.  My husband was given no vistation rights to the boy he's considered a son for several years now because there was no biological connection.  By this time she was a convicted felon.  She pled guilty to two felony counts of child endangerment and two misdemeanor counts of child neglect. 

Camerin has transitioned back to living with his mom 1.5 years ago.  The lifestyles and structure is still vastly different.  Since he moved back with his mother, he's lived in 4 different houses and has gone to two different schools, he's about to start second grade in a third school. 

I would like nothing more than for him to be a good role model for his younger brothers, and his new baby sister that is on the way, but I worry.  (His mother is expecting again, due early September.)

In the last few months he has given us an ultimatum.  He will not come stay at our house until his brothers can come stay at his house. 

Our custody agreement does not allow that and my husband and I agree that it is not a safe environment for our children, and would not allow such a thing.  She says she's explained to him why, but that isn't much reassurance to us.  Her side of the story may be not quite the same picture we'd paint.  Regardless, how difficult would it be for a 7 year old to understand and to think of someone he loves so dear in that regard. 

Every time we visit or they visit.  It is supposed to be split travel, so every other visit we travel the hour to their home and the other times they come to ours, but it doesn't always work that way.  He ends by asking and asking his brothers to stay with him.  The boys have yet to respond to this, but they do enjoy playing with him during their visits.  It isn't uncommon for them to spend their two hour visit playing with him.  As usually there aren't many toys around for them to play with. 

I hope we can still impact and influence his life.  We want him to know we're always here for him, but we still have our structure.  We will be here, but it comes as a package, you can't choose the fun from the not.  We love you, and hope for the very best for you. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Day/Week That Changed my Life

Two years ago today, I became a mom.  Most of you can share your birth stories of your precious babies and sympathize with labor and deliver and pregnancy.  Sometimes, I feel a twinge of sadness, because I can't share that with you, but nonetheless, I am a mom, and this is how it happened.  (And for the record, I wouldn't change a thing about my journey to motherhood.) 

I met my husband just over three years ago.  Before we started dating, I knew he had children, but I was so fascinated by him, that didn't matter.

As our relationship grew more serious, I met the kids when they were 1.5 years old and spent time with them on the weekends.

Once I graduated from college we had some loose plans, all of which involved our hope that someday the kids would live with us full time.  They had something like a shared parenting agreement prior to that.  (Their arrangements were a disaster, but that is really inconsequential.)

Two years ago today, I left work early to head to the eye doctor, and I had my phone turned off.  Afterward, I got to my car and checked my voice mail.  At the time I didn't realize, exactly what that message meant, but it changed my life forever.

In my voice mail was a panicked message from my now husband, who was driving to the hospital where his, now our, children were in the emergency room after having fallen out of their bedroom window on the third floor of their mothers apartment at the time.

Yes, you read that correctly, they fell 21 feet to the grass below.

There was some time that passed then before I could get a hold of him again because of the chaos that it caused.  I went straight to my best friend at the time's home to be with her and her family.  I spent the better part of the evening crying, worrying, and waiting to hear something, anything. 

Later that night, I got confirmation that they were doing alright, but were being transferred to the children's hospital in our area.  As they were being transported in the ambulance, I drove there to meet them.

I don't remember too much about what happened when I got there that evening.  I know I sat in the room with one who's injuries were less severe so he could go be with the other. 

I know it was one of many late nights that week, and we/I got amazing support from our families, friends, co-workers.  We were both very blessed to have people in our lives who were flexible and supportive through the whole ordeal.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, we continued to discover the reality of the conditions that our children were living in.  The police and children services were quickly involved after their mother had driven them to the hospital after their fall.  Some time during that evening her apartment was inspected.

Their bedroom was found to be in terrible conditions.  Their walls and floors were covered in old, dried feces.  There was a very large pile of dirty and poopy laundry that had never been washed; there was broken and splintered furniture.  There was a lock on the outside of their door.  And it was clear that they were being neglected.   Just thinking about my children, any children, living in such living conditions breaks my heart and bring tears to my eyes. 

With these discoveries, began lots of involvement from Children Services.  All three boys were placed in my no husband's temporary full custody.  (Yes, I said there, there will be another post explaining child number 3.)

For some time, their mother was permitted no contact with them.

Then for a period of time, we were required to take the kids to their mother's required rehabilitation parenting class.  I am not one to judge, but after dropping those kids off their the first time, I cried, not only for my children, but for all the other children that were there regardless of their situation.  Some were sad, some cried to leave their parents, and it was all heart-breaking.  

After months of court hearings and paperwork, my now husband was finally given full custody of the twins.  Their mother is responsible for child support and has limited visitation rights.  She is permitted to see them for 2 hours every two weeks, supervised by us.  And often times, those are the hardest two hours of my week.

She has shown little to no remorse for her actions, and her actions towards her children often shock me.  I understand and appreciate different personalities and different styles of parenting, but at the same time, I cannot comprehend her actions as a mother.  I may not be the biological mother to any living children, but as a loving step-mother, I still cannot understand it.

We still struggle with the challenges that come with a blended family and the unique situation that is ours, but we are learning, we are adapting, and we are a strong family of four.  I am WE are blessed to have two amazing little boys, who fill our hearts with love and happiness in a way I never imagined possible before I was a mother.  God brings blessings in disguise; I believe they are meant to be here with us, living our life.

I hope my boys grow up to have an understanding of what happened so early in their life.  To appreciate the blessings they were given, and be loving, honest, and respectful men.  But while I have great hopes for them, I  know there will be challenges ahead.  I know they will have questions, and I know they may not understand everything, and the thought of these tough conversations to come scares me to no end, but my boys will know the truth about what's happened, and we will find a way through as a family.  I believe we will be stronger because of it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meaningful Conversations

Through discussions with various people lately, I've learned something.

You never know when something you say will have a real impact on another persons life during a conversation.

I've been on the receiving end of this several times recently, and am so grateful for those interactions.  I do my best to make it known the impact they had, but I'm sure there are instances I don't, but to those who have, I am very grateful.

I've also talked with some wonderful people through the world of twitter, and many of your stories and support have touched me as well, and again, I am very grateful for this community.  

Tomorrow, here at my blog, I'm going to be posting the story of how I became the mother to my two beautiful boys.  This took a lot of consideration on my part and is something I feel very compelled to share. 

I've been thinking lately, that I could be giving someone else that same impact without even knowing. I can only hope that at some time I am paying it forward.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Discovering Himself

Keith picked up the kids from day care yesterday, while I rode my bike home from work.

We'd been home for awhile, long enough for me to discover that the kids were both in a lot of trouble in day care today.

As we're making dinner, he tells me that Caden's not allowed to have a big blanket at school anymore.  Apparently he's been "discovering himself" underneath the blanket during nap time.

Oh the joys of raising boys.

I don't know what to say to that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cheerleaders!

As I was finishing my 5K over the weekend.  I was maybe a quarter mile from the finish line in the park.  And there was a small crowd of people cheering.  I always run better when I know/think someone is watching me.  So it helped, but there was an added bonus of a crowd of them yelling my name. 

The whole time I'm thinking, how the heck do they know my name!?  I'm running and thinking through all the possible scenarios, which all lead no where.  Why would someone care, even if they knew my name. 

Then I got a little confused because they were cheering for me to pass/catch the girl in front of me.  I was looking ahead, but I didn't see anyone in sight.

Then I cross the finish line, they take my tag, and give me a card for the people to fill out.  As I was filling it out, and the girl who finished just behind me is doing the same, it occurred to me, she and I had the same name.  The person they wanted her to catch/pass was me!  (Proud moment: she didn't!)

Who knew the cheers for another person would help me finish strong!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Community 5K Run

I just finished my second ever 5K.  I'm ready for a nap, but I'm so glad I did it.  It was a great community race full of families and coaches and teams.  And this time, I wasn't running with the horse and buggies!

It wasn't as hot as I was expecting this morning, which was nice.  

I finished mile one in 8:43.  Best mile I've ever finished since high school!  

I finished mile two in 17 something.  Sometimes running kills my memory I think. 

I finished the race in 28:25.  This is a full minute better than my last 5K

And wouldn't you know I won this nice little trophy!


Did you see that!?  I placed 2nd in my group (20-24 year old females). 

Before you get too congratulatory, I should probably also tell you that I could have finished one hour later, and still placed second.  There were only two people in my group!  The first place finisher finished in 27:07. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Step-Parenting

Step-parenting can be hard, and it can look vastly different in every case.  I hope my situation is the rarity, but I struggled with many things becoming a new parent.  One of the biggest things that helped me through everything was talking with out mom's out there.  I talked with several of the people I work with, who were incredibly supportive and willing to listen.  For that, I will be forever grateful. 

I talked with a pretty awesome mom recently, who also happens to be one of my co-workers I was traveling with for some meetings.  She's a mom to three, her oldest is her step-daughter.  I rarely talk to other moms who have step-kids, and I have to say that just talking with her about her experiences, made me feel like I wasn't the only one who's gone through these struggles that come with blended families!  To find someone to connect with on that level was such a great feeling for me.  It made me feel like I wasn't on so much of an island of my own anymore. 

I am very thankful for our conversation, and I hope that my thank-you email to her can express the difference she made in my day, just by being an open an honest mom, and I have a new great deal of respect for her as a mom and as a co-worker!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rolling Ridge Ranch

For Camerin's 7th birthday we went to an exotic animal park.  There was a lot of fun to be had and some great animals to see.  There was only a small amount of fear from the boys on occasion too!


After our horse-pulled-wagon tour though the 80 acres of wildlife.  We enjoyed a petting zoo!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Booster Seats

This was a very difficult transition for me.  My boys no longer need car seats to go everywhere.  They've upgraded to booster seats.  This makes me terribly anxious about how they're growing up so fast!  I can't believe how far they've come in the last few years!

They're so excited to be in booster seats though.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pizza Making

I have a lot on my mind, and a lot I want to type out, but my family just left, I'm tired, and this post was ready to go, so here it is.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll share where my mind has been lately.

One of my favorite dinners my mom made for us as kids, was English Muffin Pizza.  We've made them for the kids on occasion, but this time, I thought I'd let the kids make their own mini pizzas!

They loved it.

Start with a great surface, and something to make the pizzas on!

Split your English Muffins to have a pizza surface to work with!

Put on the sauce!

Add toppings as desired.
Their unusual topping of choice this time: butter.  They topped their pizzas with butter.

Get everything ready to bake in the oven.

Enjoy!

Monday, August 09, 2010

My Friend Claire

Somehow I decided that a weekend away by myself was just what this mom needed.  
My destination of choice: Maryland/Washington D.C. to visit my friend Claire!

Claire and I have been friends since our freshmen year of college. 
She was even a bridesmaid in my wedding. 
(She also designed all my wedding invitations and fancy stuff, because she's a pretty awesome graphic designer too!)
end of freshmen year
senior week
 I flew to Baltimore, and with her direction, took the bus and the metro to meet up with her for a dinner party!  It was a great time spent with lots of lovely ladies!  Although I'm certainly not used to a dinner party after 9:00 at night.  That's usually my bed time, not my dinner time!
Photo from Sara Smith

After a morning of sleeping in, we headed out into the blisteringly hot weather to head into D.C.

After doing some walking around, we headed to the National Museum of American History.  Were I got to see Dorothy's ruby slippers and Kermit the Frog!

We spent the evening shopping at Ross Dress for Less and TJ Maxx!  Then dinning on leftovers and watching Sense & Sensibility at Claire's place.  A great way to spend an evening with a friend.

The next day, since I was again flying out of BWI, we decided to head into Baltimore for the day!  With the help of Holly, we found something to spend our day on at the Inner Harbor!


I know I look pretty disgusting.  It was TERRIBLY hot, and you can't see in this photo, but I'm the idiot who wore jeans!

My favorite laugh of the day came while we were paying our bill after our late lunch.  Claire found this as she was going to leave a tip.
Can't read that $1 bill?
Have a closer look.
We had a good laugh.

Then it was time for Claire to drive me back to the airport.

My weekend away was a success, and I've already been thinking about which of my friends I'm going to go visit next year!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Our First Camping Trip

Our Campsite

Yum! S'mores!

Play Time

Why do the kids smile so much nicer for photos with Daddy?
I say it's the photographer.  :)

And boy were they tired!

The Best Yes

A dear friend of mine had been recommending I read The Best Yes  by Lysa Terkeurst for some time before I actually picked it up.  I was hesi...