Monday, December 17, 2012

A Letter To My Son...

Dear Noah,

You don't know this, but on Friday, December 14th, evil happened in our world again.  A man entered an elementary school full of innocent children and teachers and took away their innocence in a blink of an eye.  26 innocent people died that day.  20 of them children, ages 6 & 7.  When I heard the news, all I wanted to do was to get you and Juliana and hug both of you so very hard.

Later that afternoon, we went to pick you up from school.  When the bell rang, only 4 Kindergartners walked out.  I and some other parents started to look around.  Juli asked, "Where Noah?"  The next bell rang.  The 1st graders came out.  Still you didn't come out.  The next bell rang.  The 2nd graders came out.  Myself and some parents crept towards the door, my heart beat a little faster.  I knew you were there somewhere, but I NEEDED to see you.  A teacher asked, "Who are you waiting for?"  We said, "Kindergarten."  She said, "They already came out."  I said, "Not all of them."  She gave me a strange look and said she would go in and check.  She came back out with a boy from your class- his grandma was so relieved.  "Where's my son?" I asked.  "Where's Noah?"  "What kind of coat is he wearing?"  She asked.  I told her.  She went back in and came back with you.  Your class had a sub on Friday and you guys had gotten separated from the Kindergarten walker line.  You were waiting for an adult to come back and find you.  I hugged you so hard that you asked, "Mom, why are you hugging me so hard?"  I said, "Buddy, you have no idea what happened today.  Let's go home."

Today, one of the little boys who was killed will be laid to rest.  He shared your name: Noah.  He was 6 years old.

Noah, I want you and Juli to know that I love you so very much, and your Daddy and I will always do our best to keep you safe.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!!!!

On this day, 40 years ago, my parents said, "I do."

And they are still in love today :-)
Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!
(And yes, Mom, I stole these pictures from you- ha ha)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Road Rash...

Don't let this smiling face deceive you.
I think Buster is trying to kill me.  Just kidding...kind of.  Buster has had a lot of energy lately, and Finchy hasn't wanted to play with him (we are pretty sure that Finchy has intestinal cancer, but Ryan and I don't want to do the ultrasound to confirm it and he isn't in any pain that we can tell right now).  So, I have attempted to rollerblade with him. 

Chili Dawg and I rollerbladed together a lot, before his cancer struck.  He knew how to pace himself and once we got going, he just knew how to do it.  It was like he was "born" to skate with me.  Finchy and I NEVER skated together- Ryan has to skate with Finchy.  Finchy has no idea how to pace himself and as soon as Ryan gets the leash on his harness, Finchy takes off like some sort of demon is chasing him.  And Finchy is fast.  Super fast.  Even now, at 10 years old, he is still a ridiculously fast dog.  For half of the trip, Ryan would be pulled at break neck speeds around our subdivision, and then Finchy would "wilt" and Ryan would practically have to walk back home.

But back to my Buster story.  The first time we tried, Buster freaked out at the end of the driveway and just stopped.  I fell and rolled.  I reached for Buster, to pet him and let him know that it was okay, and he cowered like he was afraid I was going to beat him (confirming our suspicion that he was abused).  I decided to go slowly with him and we found our rhythym.  The second time, we were going fast.  He remembered what we were doing, and there was no freaking out at all by him.  I was thinking to myself, "Wow, this is just like when I skated with Chili Dawg..." until all of a sudden, Buster stopped in the middle of the road and I flipped over him and went down (it was on Thanksgiving, so there was no traffic on the road or anyone outside).  I look down and my hand is all bloody, my elbow is bleeding through my shirt and I hurt a lot.  Of course we were far from home and I didn't bring a phone with me.  So, I sort of hobbled/skated home, with Buster trotting next to me nuzzling my hand with his head.  When we got home, I showed Ryan my wounds and looked down and saw a bloody footprint on the tile.  We realized that Buster was also bleeding, but he had never yelped or limped to show me that he was also hurt.  We think that the reason he stopped in the street was because he stepped on something sharp, cutting his pad.  When a dog cuts their pad, it takes a while for it to stop bleeding.  Our dog styptic didn't work, so we took turns sitting on the floor with him, keeping pressure on his pad.  Then, I cleaned myself up.  I don't know if we will try skating together again.  I know this time wasn't Buster's fault, but I was sore for several days after this fall, not to mentioned bruised and scabby (yeah, that means covered in scabs).

Monday, November 5, 2012


Friday night, I logged into facebook, and again saw the words that I have come to loathe since becoming a teacher: "RIP Danny".  I have had several Danny's, but there is one in particular who was extremely special to me.  My heart sank as I made my way to his facebook page and saw post after post from his friends about him being gone.  I composed myself and then left, because I had a thing to go to and unfortunately had to break the news to my co-teacher later in the evening.  She was just as heartbroken as I was.

Let me tell you a little bit about this kid.  I had Danny as a sophomore in Chemistry.  The first day of school he had that shaggy hair style that has been popular, bright blue eyes, a smile that lit up the room, and he had this attitude where he didn't care what other kids thought about him.  My first thought was, "here's a kid that I'm going to have to win over", but to be honest, it wasn't hard at all.  While other teachers had trouble with Danny, I had no problems with him.  He was polite and respectful to me.  When other students were disrespectful towards me, he quickly stood up in my defense. 

Danny didn't always make the right choices.  The day I had to write him up in class was one of the hardest things I had to do, but he and another boy almost came to blows and I can't have that happening in my classroom.  Another area Danny struggled with, was drugs.  His junior year (when he met my co-teacher, Lisa, and she grew to have the same bond with him that I did), he would share with us his struggle to stay away from drugs, but how they always called him back.

Danny's senior year, he came to visit us as soon as he got out of rehab.  Instead of taking the hour long lunch privilege he received as a senior, he chose to come to our classroom and sit and work on his homework.  He would tell us about how much he loved his family and his plans to one day become a police officer.  He really wanted to get clean and stay clean.  He spoke to us about how he could hear heroin calling to him and how it was a struggle to resist answering the call, but he was resisting it.  Right before Christmas, he came to see us and told us he had screwed up and failed his mandatory drug test.  After Christmas he would be returning to rehab.  I gave him a hug and told him I knew he could do it.  He got out of rehab, and I started looking for him in the hallways, because he ALWAYS visited us.  I ended up messaging him on facebook and found out that he wouldn't be coming back to South, BUT he would be there for graduation.  On the seniors' last day, we had an all-school assembly.  I was stationed on the second row and I searched and searched the crowd of seniors until I found him.  We made eye contact and I waved and smiled at him.  He mouthed "I'm coming to see you after" to me, but they wouldn't let any seniors into the building after graduation practice.  That was the last time I saw Danny.

I prayed for Danny every day of his senior year of high school.  I prayed for him that he would beat his drug demons and get his life straightened out.  I know Danny was getting his life straightened out.  I have a few regrets.  1) I stopped praying for Danny after he graduated-I feel so guilty about that.  What if I had kept praying?  Would things have turned out differently?  2)  I told him his sophomore year how special he was, but I never told him again.  3) I wish we had had one last conversation before he was gone, even if it had just been on facebook.

Tomorrow is Danny's wake, & I am dreading it.  Teachers aren't supposed to have favorites, but Danny was definitely one of mine. Lisa and I will go say goodbye to him together and make sure his family knows how special he was to two teachers at South.  Today, Danny's girlfriend came into our classroom to make sure we knew when Danny's wake was and to ask us to go to it because we were his favorite teachers.  At that moment, I lost it in front of my third period class.  Why did I stop praying for him?

Here are 2 pictures of Danny that I got off of his facebook account.  One is from graduation, and the other one shows his smile; it is how I remember him the best.

Rest In Peace, Danny.  You will be missed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Brain Injury...

On this day, 10 years ago, I had my traumatic brain injury.  I can't tell you how or what happened, but I can tell you that it changed me.  I had to learn how to adapt, interact, get along in this world all over again.  I'm not over-exaggerating.  I am being completely serious.  For the longest time after my head injury, I couldn't go into big stores, like Meijers, because I would become so sensory overloaded I would literally freak out, kind of like the Hulk.  No joke.  Ask Ryan.  For a good 6 months, I had to learn to contain the rage monster that lurked right below the surface.  Anything could set me off, it was scary.  Ryan bought me a punching bag and mounted it in the basement.  I had lots of bruised and bloody knuckles for a while.  I went through a good 6 months of depression, and there wasn't a magical pill that could pull me out of it.  I had all sorts of tests done when it happened, and those just made me angrier and angrier, because they made me feel stupid.  The end result was that I had lost my short term memory.  That was a huge blow to me, because one of the things I used to pride myself on was my memory, and now part of that was gone.  A few days before my brain injury, I was in one of my close friends' wedding.  I have no recollection of that day.  I see myself in pictures of that day, but I don't remember it at all.  I honestly don't remember much about my injury until about 3 weeks after it. 

Looking back, I have to say, I have come a long way.  I used to have write my lessons out word for word, so that I wouldn't forget what I was going to say.  Now, I only have to do that if it is a brand new topic.  To help me Ryan bought me this really cool pen that records what I write so I can download my notes to the computer and print them out.  I still have trouble when I go into big stores- malls really agitate me, and you won't catch me near one even close to the holidays.  I don't like large group gatherings, so when I actually sign up and go to them, I always try to arrive late so I can slide into the back and go unnoticed.  I can't look at a map and read it anymore, I now have to do what Joey on "Friends" did and "climb into it", which irritates me.  I still say that dogs are the best therapy, because it was the Chili Dawg who snapped me out of my depression and rage cycle.  The rage issues pop up from time to time, but I have a good handle on it now.  I don't really have a filter anymore, so learning not to say everything that popped into my head was a hard lesson, but I learned it.

I used to be angry about having a brain injury.  I have moved past that.  I am not saying that I am thankful for it, but it has definitely helped shape who I am today.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Well, today I came to the realization that I am getting old.  How did I come to that realization, you might ask?  It's a short story, and may not be that interesting.  One of my friends at school recently moved up to the open Dean position (it had been vacated right at the beginning of the school year).  This left his science classes without a science teacher three weeks into the school year.  And so, the search began to find a suitable replacement.  My friend Sandy and I suggested a young man who had student taught in the district last year, and had subbed for me last year. 

Today, Sandy and I met with this young man after school to fill him in on what he would be teaching next week in Anatomy when he took over.  How does this relate to making me feel old?  Because, this young man, was my student my second year of teaching!  I am getting old!  I am very proud of him for pursuing a career as a science teacher, but still, I'm getting old!  It is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that kids I taught way back in the day are now grown ups.  A funny thing though, he's not sure what to call me now that we are co-workers, ha ha.  I told him that I rarely am called by my first name by anyone in the building (it's always been that way & I don't really remember why), so he can just refer to me as "Mahlberg" just like all the other teachers do.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dogs, Dogs, Dogs...

In our house, we are all about animal rescue.  We have never paid a breeder for one of our dogs.  You may be asking, "how is it that you have a Boxer and a Golden Retriever?"  We got the Chili Dawg, our first Golden (and my heart dog), for free.  One of Ryan's co-workers had a friend who was getting a divorce, and their 2 year old was biting their Golden and they didn't want the dog anymore.  They gave us a dog that they paid almost one thousand dollars (they gave us his papers) for free.  We got Finchy, our Boxer, the same way, only it was a co-worker of mine who had a friend who didn't want their $800 dog anymore and gave him to us for free.

After being owned by both a Golden and a Boxer (notice I didn't say it the other way around), I have to say that there are no other dog breeds that I would rather be owned by.  Yes, I know that mutts are great too (I grew up with an awesome shepherd mix, and my parents and sister have great mixed breed dogs).  However, I will gladly go to a Boxer rescue or a Golden Retriever rescue to get our family another dog when the time arises again.

This year we rescued Buster, a 5 year old overweight Golden Retriever.  I am proud to say that he has lost 15 pounds (of course he isn't happy to be dieting, but really, who likes to diet?).  He has proven to be a good companion for Finchy, who has aged quite a bit since Chili Dawg's cancer (he will be 10 on Halloween).  Buster is a special Golden.  We have had him since March, and he still has not figured out the screen door to the patio.  Every single day he runs into it (seriously- doors are hard for him).  If he could talk, I think he would sound like Doug from the movie Up.  Here's a clip, in case you haven't seen the movie- it is Buster to a "T". 

What he lacks in brains, he makes up for with his heart.  He has the heart of a Golden for sure.  He can sense when I have had a bad day, and he climbs into bed with me and lets me pet him until I fall asleep.  Chili Dawg was able to do that too.

There are people out there that think I'm a "crazy dog person" and I'm okay with that.  I think that dogs are one of the nicest creatures that God created, and I have been blessed to have Him teach me a few lessons through them.  Have you thanked God for your dog today?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

One Year Ago...

One year ago, today, I cradled your head in my lap.
Tears rolled down my face.
I let my nose breathe in your scent one final time.
I looked at Ryan.
Tears rolled down his face too.
I looked at the vet.
"I can give you some more time," she said.
"We just want his pain to be over," I cried.
She pushed the plunger.
His breathing slowed.
"I'm so sorry," I whispered over and over into his ear, as I buried my face into his fur.
His breathing stopped. 
He was gone.
I laid next to his body until it grew cold.
Then I slipped off his collar, and held it so tightly.
Ryan helped me off the floor, and together we exited the office, without my special friend.
God, I thank you for giving me Chili Dawg.

My Chili Dawg video.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Right Through The Heart...

Being a working mom sucks.  Being a teacher and a working mom has its perks.  Off in the summers, spring break, Christmas break, and now that I am about to have a Kindergartner & a Preschooler (starting tomorrow- sob!) days off when my kids have off.  I know, Juli did preschool in May, and yes, it was traumatic for me.  She took the bus like a big girl and she cried the first day, which broke my heart, especially since I couldn't be there to put her on the bus.  I still watch the video and tear up.  After that day, Juli told everyone, "I rode bus! No kai no more!" Which if you don't understand Juli means, "I rode the bus, I don't cry anymore."

Last night, I was in Noah's room putting him to bed.  "Momma, I don't ever want to be a grown up.  I don't ever want to be apart from you."  Well, who wouldn't melt right there?  I gave him a hug and told him it was going to be a long time before he was a grown up.  "Momma, can you please take me to Kindergarten for my first day?"  We had been preparing Noah for a week that Ryan would be the one taking him to Kindergarten, because since I teach in the same district, it is also my first day of school and I can't miss it (I so wish he started Kindergarten during my plan period or my lunch period).  "No sweetie.  Momma is teaching when it's time for you to go to school, but Daddy is going to work from home and is taking you to school.  But I will be there to pick you up."  "But I don't want Daddy.  I want you."  And then he began to cry.  I pulled him into my lap and walked to the couch.  I held my little boy who used to fit in my lap, but is now all arms and legs (when did that happen?), and I also began to cry.

Being a working mom sucks.

We cried together for a good 10 minutes, and then Ryan and I got him calmed down.  I laid with him in his bed until he was mostly asleep and then left the room.  I don't know how many more of those times I will get before he doesn't want me to snuggle him.  It went so fast.  He was just a baby yesterday and and tomorrow he starts Kindergarten!  She is still a baby to me, and tomorrow she is getting back on the bus!  Time needs to slow down.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thirteen Years...

Thirteen years ago, I married this man...
Yes, those are spiderman swim trunks he's wearing...

And we started a family...

It hasn't always been sunshine and roses, but there isn't anyone I would rather have by my side.

Happy Anniversary, Ryan!  I love you!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

For The Love Of Dogs...

Over the weekend, Buster and Finchy began to act lethargic.  We assumed (you know what happens when you assume) that it was the heat getting to them.  They didn't really eat much on Sunday, and Sunday night, Buster totally refused his Kong that had some peanut butter in it (our dogs will do pretty much anything for peanut butter).  On Monday, Finchy's stomach was gurgly.  LOUD gurgly.  I knew it was okay to give dogs Immodium AD, so I re-looked up the dosage, and gave both dogs some since we were leaving to have lunch with Ryan.  I took one more precaution as well.  I put the baby gate in front of the stairs so they couldn't go upstairs.  I figured if they had an explosion, it would at least be in a non-carpeted area of the house and easier for me to clean up.

After lunch with Ryan, we headed towards home.  Stopping at the library and the park.  Grandma called to say she was close to our house so I packed the kids in the van and headed home.  When we got home, there was, shall we say a slight odor. Sure enough, there was a mess in the kitchen and I had no idea which dog did it.  I guessed it was Finch because of the gurgliness (yes, I am making it a word) of his stomach.  I opened up the windows and turned on the attic fan to suck the stench out and prepared to clean it up.  Just then, Grandma rolled up.  I yelled out the door what I was doing (so she wouldn't think I was rude for not greeting her at the door).

We all kept an eye on both dogs for the remainder of the night.  Around 8:45, my mom said, "Do you hear that sound?"  Ryan muted the Olympics and I pinpointed the sound.  It was Buster, and he was puking upstairs.  I made Ryan clean it up- hey, I have cleaned up MORE than my share of diarrhea and vomit this summer.  I made the decision to dose the dogs again with Immodium again, and shortly after Buster vomited again right at Ryan's feet (but not on them), and up came the Immodium.  I knew that Buster would not be sleeping in our bedroom that night.  I prepared to sleep on the uncarpeted floor of our house so that I could let him out or clean up vomit as needed.  Ryan told me to just baby gate him downstairs and sleep in our bedroom and we would clean up whatever mess in the morning.  That didn't sit well with me.  I had a bad feeling that something bad was wrong with Buster.

I sat on the couch reading and at 9:30 Buster got up and headed towards the patio door.  I wasn't fast enough.  He went into the kitchen and when I got in there, I was horrified with what I saw.  There was blood everywhere, and it was still coming out of him.  I got him outside as fast as I could.  My mom heard us and came upstairs, "Is that blood? Oh my gosh!"  She helped me clean it up.  Then, I went upstairs, got re-dressed, woke Ryan up and told him what had just happened and told him I was taking Buster to the emergency vet.  I got Buster into the van, and drove like a crazed woman to the vet, praying Buster didn't have any more explosive bleeding in the van, because I didn't want to have to clean it up (yes, I know, selfish of me).

We got to the ER vet, which coincidently was our normal vet as well.  I had called ahead and they had our file pulled already.  We had 2 people in front of us at 10 PM.  Buster climbed up onto the bench next to me and curled into a little ball.  Then, all of a sudden he got up.  I knew what was coming, but there was no time to get him outside.  His back end exploded with blood all over the floor, worse than what had happened at our house.  He looked at me embarrassed and then climbed back up onto the bench.  The lady waiting to be seen with her dog in front of us approached the desk with a horrified look on her face and said, "Please, let them go in front of us.  Buster is in worse shape than my dog."  They immediately took Buster into a room, as I thanked the lady for letting us go in front of her- I never got her name.

When the vet came in, I told her about what had been going on with Buster.  She took him in back to do some blood work and an x-ray.  I was left to wait and text.  At this point it was well past 11 o'clock.  I was very tired and trying to stay awake.  I was the only person left at the vet- the lady who had let us go first had had her dog admitted already- I had spoken to her but still forgotten to get her name.  A little after 11:30ish, the vet came back out.  Buster had had 3 more bloody explosions in the back, which had made it take longer.  They were going to admit him for the night.  He was dehydrated and they suspected he had gastroenteritis or pancreatitis, both of which can be fatal if they go untreated.  I thanked her and paid the gigantic vet bill (if this had happened during the day, it would have been cheaper, but what can you do?) and drove home.  It was midnight when I pulled into the driveway.

On Tuesday, Finchy continued to refuse to eat.  We assumed it was because he was worried about Buster- he did the same thing when Chili had his amputation, and he went on an eating strike for a week when Chili Dawg crossed the bridge.  Then the nasty gas started.  Boxers are nortorious for having gas, but this was worse than usual.  Then, he began to exile himself from us, which is very odd, as Boxers are family dogs and Finchy is no exception.  When Ryan picked Buster up that evening, he spoke to the vet about Finch as well, and she gave him some instructions and suggestions for Finchy as well.

When Buster came into the house, you could see that he felt better, just by looking at his eyes.  Finchy was happy that he came home, and for a little bit, we had hoped that Finchy had just been worried.  Then he went and exiled himself again for the remainder of the night.

This morning Buster ate his special food with his medicine hidden in it.  Finchy refused his medicine.  I had to use my mom's sneak attack technique.  Then, I went upstairs and found vomit with blood in it.  I knew it was Finchy.  Back to the vet we went.  We saw the same vet that had discharged Buster.  Finchy's treatment was similar to Buster's except he wasn't as dehydrated as Buster, so they were able to rehydrate him subcutaneously while we were there.  They also gave him an anti-vomit shot (yay!  I am so sick of cleaning up diarrhea and vomit this week!).  Finchy was sent home with the same meds as Buster, plus an additional one, as well as the same special food as Buster.  His visit was also way cheaper than Buster's because it happened during the day (thank you, Finchy).

All I can say is, apparently the dogs found out that this is my last week of summer before school starts and they wanted to make it memorable.  I am exhausted!  I took this picture of them today, and while they don't look super happy (a dog person would know what I mean) they don't look as pathetic as they did before.
Starting to feel better...

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Magic That Is, Jaime...

To my children, Auntie Jaime is magical.  And really, why shouldn't she be?  She wanted all of us to go to Florida so that 92 year old Grandma Jane could see her great-grandchildren, and searched high and low for a house that we could all fit in.  It was a great house: 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a pool, a nice kitchen, and running around room for the kids.  She and Ryan spent hours on the computer searching for airfare to get us all down there.  And she did it.  We had a great vacation!

Noah and Juli LOVE Auntie Jaime.  They are always asking, "When are we going to Auntie Jaime's house?"  Well, Juli is usually saying, "Go Jaime's house?"  Auntie Jaime always has the best food, chicken nuggets shaped like Mickey Mouse or dinosaurs, Sun Chips (the same ones we have at home, but they taste better at Jaime's house), and don't even get me started on desserts.  My sister is the ultimate baker.  You add calories just looking at one of her cakes or cookies or any of the deliciousness that she makes.

Yesterday, Jaime had a couple groupons to the waterpark in West Chicago, and she invited us to go with.  Oh my goodness!  It was a child's paradise!  There were waterslides for the big kids.  Waterslides for the little kids.  A 15 minute "adults only swim time" at the end of each hour for the grown ups (if only someone could watch the kids while we swam- sigh).  Our 5 kids lived it up the entire time we were there.  There was no fighting or whining or crying.  It was...awesome!  But that's the magic of Auntie Jaime.  Always awesome.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Winter The Dolphin...

Last week we returned from our family vacation to Florida.  I will blog about that later.  While we were in Florida, we decided to take the kids up to Clearwater to see Winter the Dolphin.  If you aren't familiar with Winter's story, watching the movie, "Dolphin Tale", will familiarize you with it- although as we found out when we were there some parts were not true.  A quick synopsis: when Winter was about 3 months old, she was found by a fisherman off the eastern coast of Florida, tangled in a rope from a crab trap (not how it was depicted in the movie).  This was in December- which is how she got her name, Winter.  She was transported to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (on the otherside of Florida) where the veterinarians and trainers nursed her back to health.  Unfortunately, the blood flow to her tail was cut off for too long, and her tail flaked off (in the movie it was amputated).  Winter learned to swim like a fish or a shark, moving her body side to side.  This caused harm to her spine and backbone, so 2 men from Hanger Orthotics (the same company that makes Juli's ankle braces- pretty cool, huh) set to work designing Winter's tail (in the movie, the 2 men were combined into 1 man played by Morgan Freeman).

We arrived at Clearwater Marine Aquarium just after lunchtime with the kids.  It was hot and humid, and it had stormed for most of the hour long drive up there.  The kids were beyond excited.  Since we didn't know what day we were going to go to the aquarium, we hadn't bought tickets online.  For those of you who are thinking of going there, buy tickets online to avoid standing in the hot and sweaty line.  Once we had our tickets, we headed up to the 2nd floor to see Winter.  Unfortunately, it wasn't Winter's turn in the big dolphin pool, but one of the trainers pointed out which area she was in.  It was crowded at the time, so we didn't get to see her as closely as we had wanted.  We took the kids around the rest of the aquarium (FYI, if you are expecting an aquarium like the Shedd- don't.  It is small and NOT air conditioned).  The kids got to touch sting rays, see sea turtles, sharks and other sea life.  Then we headed back upstairs for one more attempt to see Winter.  The crowds had thinned by then and we were able to see her better.  She even splashed the water a bit because she wanted to go into the big dolphin pool.  Then, we explored the aquarium some more- touching some more sting rays, and we also got to look in the hospital wing where they were working on a large sea turtle.  Then, we stopped in the gift shop to let the kids pick out something.  The 3 big kids all picked a Winter without a tail, Juli chose a starfish and Brendan chose a shark.  From there, we hopped on a trolley to take us to another part of Clearwater to "Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure", which took you through the movie.

Winter splashing the water

This part was my favorite. 1. Because it was air conditioned (yay!), 2. because it took you through parts of the movie with real props, 3. because there were games for all the little kids to play and you didn't have to pay for them, & 4. the hurricane experience- you get to walk through Hurricane Leroy from the movie- it was so cool! Noah and Rori went through it several times as well.  Then, Juli and Brendan started to meltdown and we had to leave before we got to see the whole thing (bummer).

The reason I am blogging about this first, is because of the impact the visit made on Noah.  Everyone knows about Chili Dawg and his amputation.  Ever since then, Noah has been extra-sensitive to animals and their injuries.  After seeing Winter, on the drive back, all Noah could do was ask question after question about Winter and her missing tail.  He has carried his dolphin everywhere we go and tells everyone about Winter.  He has watched "Dolphin Tale" many times, and today, I think he checked out almost every single library book on dolphins.  Every morning, I have to go to so that he check out what Winter is doing on the "Winter cams".  Can you say obsession?
 So, even though the adults were hot and sweaty, and not as impressed as the children were, I think it was a good visit that the big kids will remember for a while.  She sure is an impressive dolphin and has overcome quite a lot.  If you haven't seen the movie, I recommend it.  It still makes me cry when I watch it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Friend Remembered...

Last night we were in bed when the phone rang.  Ryan said, "Just let the machine get it."  I said, "No one calls after 9 unless it's important."  I got out of bed, tripped over Buster (who wasn't laying in his normal spot) and stumbled to my dresser where the phone is.  It was my sister, Jaime.  "Jen, did you hear about Trisha?"  "No."  "She passed away in her sleep."  "WHAT?!? Oh my gosh!"  Jaime and I talked for a few minutes more and then we hung up.  I quickly explained to Ryan who Trisha was (she was at our wedding, but he's not good with names) and then went downstairs to process everything and allow Ryan to sleep.

Trish was 2 or 3 years older than me, so I didn't really get to know her until high school youth group.  Before that, she was always ahead of me in Sunday School and in AWANA.  We would be together for the AWANA olympics, and she was someone we (the younger girls) looked up to then, but we didn't really know her.  Once we got to high school youth group, we got to know her a lot better.  She was one of those people who made being a Christian cool.  She really lived her faith.  Trisha wasn't afraid to stand up for what was right.  She let God's love shine through her, you could tell just by looking at her. 

One of the things I will miss the most about Trish is our late night facebook email conversations.  They started right at the time Ryan and I were fighting against putting a g-tube into Juliana.  I was having difficulty sleeping, and Trisha was as well.  We were never up at the same time, but I always had an encouraging message from her in my inbox on facebook.  She always seemed to know when I needed encouragement.  Sometimes we would just talk about our kids (she has a daughter).

Knowing that she is in Heaven is extremely comforting.  I know that one of the first things Jesus said to her was, "Well done, good and faithful servant".  When I think of Trisha, the lyrics to Sidewalk Prophet's song, Live Like That come to mind.  It embodies who she was and how she lived.

It's just hard to believe that she is gone.

~~ "For such a time as this I was placed upon this earth~~ for a specific purpose~~ at this specific time~~ my past experiences have created who I am today to fulfill that purpose~~ I pray for the wisdom and courage to complete that which has been set before me." ~~Trisha Schuerr Lange

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tripawds Gathering...

I didn't go to church today (but I will download the podcast, I promise, Dennis).  I wanted to go, but there was something I needed to do.  Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a lady I had met through Tripawds, a community for 3 legged dogs.  There was supposed to be a group of Chicago-land tripawds meeting at the Montrose Dog Beach on Sunday, but due to the Gay Pride Parade, the streets to get to the dog beach were going to be closed.  She was looking for any alternative dog parks in the area to have the meeting.  I had not been planning to go to the meeting at the dog beach, because bringing both dogs and both children (Ryan had a previous commitment at church and it was too late to get a babysitter for the kids when I found out) was a bit overwhelming for me.  As I read through all the emails that went back and forth with the different options, everyone seemed to be starting to despair, as most of the dog parks cost money or you had to buy a one day pass (but you had to buy it the day before and it was too late to purchase it).  I knew of 2 dog parks in my area.  One cost money, and the other was rather small, but it was free.  I offered it as a possible solution, with the thought that it would be shot down since it's kind of out of the way for many people.  To my surprise, it was embraced by everyone and they all agreed to meet at 9 AM on Sunday.  This is when my dilemma began.

Last year, when Chili Dawg became a tripawd, we were never able to make it to any of the group meet ups.  The first one occurred a couple weeks after his amputation and he was still learning to hop-walk, the second one occurred while we were in Arizona, and the third one occurred 3 days before we put Chili Dawg to sleep.  So, why would I want to go to this when I don't even have a tripawd anymore?  When you go through the process of deciding to amputate, no one understands your decision.  These people did.  They were our support system, even though we never met.  We talked to each other through our blogs, messages, and the forum.  When Chili Dawg's cancer returned they were right there with me when I cried, and when we put him to sleep, we received cards from tripawd owners from all over the country.  I wanted to take this opportunity to thank them for being there for me and my family during our journey and I wanted to be able to say it face to face.  So, I made the decision to miss church this morning and meet some of the people who helped us.

At 8:45 this morning, I loaded Juli, Noah, Buster & Finchy into the van, along with a bunch of water & treats and my camera.  We were the first to arrive at the dog park and Noah and Juli were very excited.  The next to arrive were Jan and her husband Rick.  Their tripawd, Tate had crossed the Rainbow Bridge after Chili Dawg, but they brought their 2 dogs, Sam and Zeke.  Susan arrived next with tripawd Holly and her sister Zuzu.  Finally, tripawd Ginger arrived with parents Annie and Brian, who drove up from Pontiac.  I just want to say that even though this was my first time meeting these people face to face, I felt like I had known them for a long time.  Tripawds is a very close knit group and while you don't ever want to be a member of this club, you are glad once you become one.  The support that everyone gives each other is unbelievable, and they welcome you with open arms.

Noah and Juli had a great time running around with the dogs.  Noah kept saying, "I thought you said there were going to be tripawd dogs here, Momma!"  He hadn't noticed that Holly only had 3 legs (she is a rear-amp).  When Ginger arrived he yelled, "She looks just like Chili Dawg!"  He and Juli took turns handing out dog treats to the dogs and petting them.  Finchy and Buster had a good time running around with the younger dogs.  Everyone was impressed that at almost 10 years of age, Finchy could keep up with 16 month old Sam.  We stayed at the dog park for almost 2 hours, and then Finchy got a little grumpy, and Juli had run out of water in her cup and was wilting.  I was sad that our visiting time had to come to an end, but extremely thankful that I got to attend this get together.  For me, it was another step towards healing the paw shaped wound on my heart.

I was able to take some pictures of our morning, when the dogs weren't running around with each other.  It was truly a "sea of dogs" at times!  Juli would get knocked to the ground and the other adults would gasp, while I said "you're alright".  Juli would giggle really hard, get up and say, "more again!"

Tripawd Holly- she recently celebrated her 30 Month Ampuversary!

Finchy with Zuzu behind him

Noah with Finchy, Holly (notice she's a rear amp), Zuzu, & Buster

Zuzu- she would place her front legs on either side of the cooler and sink her face into the water

Tripawd Queen Ginger- she's 12 and going strong

4 month old Zeke

Sam & Buster

All the dogs chilling out in the shade

Tripawd Holly

Tripawd Ginger

Buster had to find his own shade, so Noah went to be with him so he wouldn't be "lonely"

Sweet Ginger

Friday, June 22, 2012

It Doesn't Get Better Than This...

Last week we were driving home from one of Juli's doctor appointments, and the song "Where I Belong" by Building 429 came on (huge fan of theirs, by the way).  Noah started to sing along with them.  It really doesn't get any better than that, when you hear your child singing away to Jesus.  I captured him doing it last night.  It's a little hard to understand, because he wouldn't stop rocking, but what can you do?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

Yes, it is that time again.  We signed up for the Warrior Dash again.  This year it was me, Ryan, my sister Jaime, her husband Bill, and I conned one of my friends, Laura (the same Laura who used to be Juliana's speech therapist- yes, we became friends). 

Last year, Jaime was "the beast" (that's a compliment for those of you who don't teach high school or hang around high schoolers) who conquered her fear of heights.  This year, Laura was "the beast".  I worked on her for 2 weeks in January to get her to sign up for the Warrior Dash.  She is scared of heights (so I had her read Jaime's blog about last year's Warrior Dash) and didn't think she could do it.  I told her she would be fine.  Then she freaked out about the running.  Seriously.  She made me commit to "running dates" with her on the weekends starting in April to prepare for the dash.  Fortunately, I only had to do a couple of these, because I got injured, then she got injured, and then her son had baseball tournaments.  The only reason I say "fortunately," is because running is NOT my idea of fun (it used to be, before the arthritis).  Now if we were rollerblading or riding bikes, then I would be fine. 

She wasn't able to sign up for the same wave as us, because our wave was full, so she signed up for an earlier wave and I told her she would just jump in ours.  Laura is severely Type A, so going against the rules was also stressing her out.  I explained until I was blue in the face that last year we were able to jump in on an earlier wave and no one caught us.  She still didn't like breaking the rules.  The morning of the race, one of her many texts to me before we got there was "get here please". 

Jaime doesn't like this picture because she thinks she looks like a giant
Once the other 4 of us arrived and got checked in, we found that we were early enough to jump in at the tail end of the 9:30 wave.  Laura had no choice but to join us in our breaking of the rules.  I was happy to be at the back of the pack, because crowds of tightly packed people freak me out ever since my brain injury.  The downside to being at the back, was that at the first few obstacles, we got stuck waiting in line because there hadn't been enough running to space the pack out.  It worked out though.  Laura conquered her fear of heights 3 times.  Once she got out of line to go around an obstacle (Ryan was supposed to block her from that, but he didn't do his job so I stayed behind her the rest of the time to prevent that from happening again), and the other 2 times we just encouraged her through it.
Jaime, Laura, and I
My favorite part of the dash was the water slide into the muddy pool.  It came at the right time.  We were all hot and sweaty, and the water was COLD!  Somehow, Ryan emerged from the muddy pool barely covered in mud, while the rest of us were covered.  I don't know how he does it!  Seriously!
I look cleaner in this picture
The other part of the dash that I enjoyed was being with my sister.  Growing up, my mom always told us that it was important to be nice to each other and love each other.  When we were younger, we didn't always understand what she meant.  Once we got to high school, we started to figure it out, but once it was time for college, we really realized how important we are to each other.  Case in point: during the dash, my hip started to bother me (stupid early onset arthritis!).  Jaime slowed down and kept asking me if I needed to walk (Laura asked as well- not to make it sound like she didn't).  Then, at the end of the dash, after we jumped over the fire, we had to crawl through the muddy water pit.  Bill had given Jaime her Epi pen back just before we got to the pit (he had shorts with pockets, and was afraid he would lose it in the mud pit).  Jaime was "securing" her Epi pen elsewhere, and so I waited for her.  I didn't even think about it, that's how we were raised- you wait for each other.  Everyone else was ahead of us and focused on finishing.  Jaime and I got in the pit together and exited it together (unfortunately, the Epi pen was still lost in the mud pit, but on a good note, Jaime didn't need to use it), because that's what sisters do, or at least that's what Jaime and I do.
My best friend and I
As for my hip... growing up we had this gorgeous german shepherd mix named Bear.  Towards his later years, his hips went bad and he would lay in the hallway with his hips shoved up against the wall.  I always wondered why he would want to put additional pressure on his hips.  I noticed that again with Chili Dawg after his amputation- he would lay on his amputation scar on the hot patio, and then when the cancer came back in his hips, he would also press his hips up against the wall.  I'm noticing it now with Finchy.  Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, that night, my hip began to hurt and I couldn't sleep.  I found that the only way I could get relief was if I laid on that hip (it surprisingly feels good to do that!).  Only then was I able to drift off to sleep, only to be woken up when I rolled off of it and the pain raced back.  Last year, my hip only ached for 2 days after the dash.  This year, my hip hasn't stopped hurting, so I have to make a decision when registration for Warrior Dash 2013 rolls around: is the pain worth it?  This year, I would say yes.  My friend Laura was able to overcome her fear of heights and did something that was WAY out of her comfort zone, and I was able to have an awesome time with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law.
We are a fine looking bunch, aren't we?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hanging Out With The Zarbocks...

My first year teaching, I had a special group of kids.  They were my first group of kids that I taught "all by myself".  It was a little scary, because there's no one else to blame if you screw up.  To top it off, I was teaching Chemistry, my nemisis.  We got through that first year together.  Sure there were bumps in the road, but bonds were formed, and Chemistry was no longer my nemisis.  In fact when I was offered the chance to teach Biology (my original true love), I turned it down. 

That year, I had several students that I formed special bonds to, and still keep in touch with today.  One of those students was a young man named Sean.  He was kind of a goofy young man, but he always had a smile on his face and I looked forward to his period every single day.  He and another student came up with the "Mahlberg, Mahlberg" chant that followed me down the hallways some days.  He never had me for any other class besides Chemistry, but he always visited me each year.  When he graduated in 2004, I cried a little bit to say goodbye to my first class of students.

Several years later, I received an email from Sean's mom.  Sean's sister, Brittany, had had a tough freshman year and was discouraged with science.  Sean told his mom to request me.  Brittany's counselor put her in my Chemistry class, and another year with the Zarbock's began.  Brittany and I clicked in a different way than Sean and I did, and we also formed a bond.  After she finished Chemistry, she also continued to visit me every year and this year, she also made me cry first with something she had written in a paper for a class, and then a second time in her farewell article in the school paper.

Why am I writing all of this?  Well, last week, I got an email on facebook from Mrs. Zarbock.  Sean was in town (he's in the Navy) and she wanted to know if I was available to get together with them.  As things worked out, Noah decided he wanted to spend a few days at Grandma and Grandpa's house, so it was just Juliana and me during the day.  Sean was going to take his daughters to Build-a-Bear at the mall, so we agreed to meet up there.

I was very excited.  I hadn't seen Sean in 8 years (creeping on pictures on facebook doesn't count).  He looked exactly the same as he did in high school, except taller, and he gave me a big hug.  His daughters are beautiful little girls and he is such a good father to them.  I am so proud of the man he has turned out to be.

All of us went into Build-a-Bear together.  Things were going well... until they turned on the stuffing machine.  Juli couldn't handle the sounds of that, so after a quick explanation to the Zarbocks, she and I left the store and amused ourselves on the escalator and with a carousel ride (which she also freaked out on, so we sat on a bench on the carousel).

Afterwards we all sat down and ate lunch together and caught up with life.  It was really nice.  Then, we rode the escalators some more- all the girls were interested in them, and then stopped by the fountain to watch the "water show", and then we stopped in the Disney store.  I wasn't sure how Juli would be in there, since it was past her naptime, but as soon as she saw the princess stuff, her eyes opened wide and she was under their spell the whole time we were in there.  I let her pick out a t-shirt since they were having a sale, and she had to show it to everyone on the way out.

Then it came time to say good-bye.  My least favorite time.  I gave hugs to everyone and thanked them for letting us be a part of their family for the day.  Juli and I had a wonderful day hanging out with the Zarbocks.  They are truly one of my favorite families.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Fence Project...

You know how you plan to do nothing and just relax, and then something happens to change that?  Yeah, that's what happened to us yesterday.  Back in March, we rescued a Golden Retriever named Buster.  He has adjusted to our family quite well- of course he was supposed to be MY dog, and he has attached himself to Ryan.  He and Finchy are great playmates, and he is really good with the kids.  He has also gone from 95 pounds down to 80 pounds.  Apparently, he also has a little bit of dinosaur in him as well.  Remember that scene in Jurrassic Park where they are talking about the Raptors testing the electric fence for weaknesses?  It sort of played out yesterday in our back yard.

Yesterday, Ryan woke up early and went for a run.  I woke up shortly after him and went downstairs to enjoy the quiet for a little while.  I let the dogs out into the back yard.  About 5 minutes later, I heard Finchy barking and barking.  I didn't want him to annoy the neighbors so I went to call both dogs in.  Finchy came immediately.  Buster didn't.  I looked around the yard, and pit settled in my stomach as I saw the hole in the fence.  Our dog/raptor found a rotted section in the fence and went through it.  Finchy was barking to let me know Buster was out. 

I'm not going to lie, I said a swear word (the one that starts with an s).  I also said, Chili Dawg would have never done this- which was dumb because someone let Finch and Chili Dawg out of our backyard once.  Not even thinking, I ran through the house out the front door.  I was in my golden retriever pajama pants (if you've ever loved a golden you would understand) and t-shirt, and bare foot.  I ran down the middle of the street screaming for Buster, praying in my head that he hadn't gotten too far away, hoping I picked the right direction, and swearing under my breath.  When I got to the part of our street where I had to pick a direction, I stopped, because coming straight towards me from across the main street was Buster with a big grin on his face.  He ran right up to me and I thanked God, grabbed his collar and let him drag me back down the road to our house.  I gave Finchy a treat for being a good dog and letting me know that Buster got out (and yes, Buster is microchipped and has a tag with our info on it, but still).

When Ryan got home, I greeted him at the door with a glass of water and the story of Buster's escape.  Ryan went outside, checked all of the fence line for rotting, made a list, and headed to Menard's.  He and I spent the morning and part of the afternoon securing our fence from our dinosaur/dog.  And that, is why you can never plan to do nothing, because something will always creep in when you least expect it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

In our house, both sets of grandparents have rock star status.  No one knows this better than my mom.  Recently, Juliana learned to say "gamma", and proudly demands grandma's time in her demanding voice, "gamma.  Gamma!  GAMMA! Come, come!"  (Much to my dad's dismay, she cannot say her 'p's yet, so he is also 'gamma'). 

A couple weeks ago, Noah's preschool did an Arbor Day Celebration.  We were allowed to bring siblings along to the park as all of the preschool teachers set up different nature stations with activities for everyone.  I wanted to bring Juliana with, but if you have ever gone anywhere with Juli, you know that her behavior is always a toss-up- you never know who you will get.  I asked my mom if she wanted to come with me, so that way if I had to leave with Juli, Noah would still get to participate.  Grandma said yes.  Of course, on that day, it was nice and chilly out (all week it had been sunny and in the upper 60's).  We braved the cold for about 2 hours before I decided that it was time for us to go home.  Grandma was a trooper through it all, keeping her grandchildren happy and warm during each rotation.

This past week, Noah graduated from preschool (I will do that post a little later).  We invited Grandma and Grandpa down for the ceremony.  Grandma came down a day early and got to spend the afternoon and evening with Noah and Juli.  Noah even dragged Grandma along to his Kindergarten Lap Sit to help him get comfortable in his school for next year.  The following morning, Ryan and I were awakened to Juli's demanding voice over the baby monitor demanding, "gamma.  Gamma!  GAMMA!"  I had to go and wake grandma up so that she could "rescue" Juli from her crib. 

After Noah's graduation, Grandma and Noah had a little bit of time together before she had to drive home.  Noah had told Grandma all about the nest they had built in preschool and how they pretended to be baby birds and ate gummy worms.  So, Grandma and Noah built a nest in our flowers, and Noah was hoping a bird would lay an egg in it.  While Grandma was gathering nest-building materials, she stumbled on an egg under one of our trees.  Noah and Grandma carefully placed the egg in the nest and covered it so it would be warm.  Then Grandma had to say good-bye and get on the road before rush hour traffic.  It's always sad when Grandma has to leave, but it's good to know she is loved!  Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  Love you bunches!

Monday, May 7, 2012

First Week of Preschool...

Last Monday was Juliana's first day of preschool.  Her father and I were nervous wrecks, because she had to get on the bus and go to school by herself.  That's scary when it's your first time doing something new.  Even scarier when you are 3 years old.  All weekend we talked about how much fun she was going to have at school, and how cool it is to take the bus.  Monday morning, Juli said "no 'cool, no bus".  I knew it was going to be a tough day for all of us.

Waiting for the bus at Theresa's house

When I dropped her off at Theresa's house, I wanted to stay so I could put her on the bus the first time.  Tino had said it would be okay if I came in a little later, since 1st period is my plan period.  When we got to Theresa's house, Juli became a clingy monkey and it took both Theresa and I to get her off of me.  I knew that if I stayed it would only get worse once it came time to put her on the bus, so I choked back my tears and went to work.  Theresa promised to text me when Juli got on the bus and when she got home.  I also sent her teacher a quick email and asked her if she had time, if she could let me know how Juli's day went.

Theresa texted me, as promised, but she didn't mention how Juli did with the bus (for a reason, I found out later).  I had an email from her teacher after my lunch period.  Juli screamed the whole way to school on the bus, and burst into tears when they went to put her back on the bus after school.  Other than that, her first day went pretty well.  When I picked her up after school, her first words to me were, "Momma, I kaied (cryed) on bus".  She kept saying it over and over again, and my heart broke.

As the week went on, Juli stopped crying on the bus, and every day when I picked her up, she would say, "Momma, rode bus!"  By the end of the week, she was announcing that to her teacher as well.  She still continues to be clingy to me when I drop her off in the morning, but she is doing better with the transition.

Here's the video Theresa sent me.  At the end of the video, if you listen closely, you can hear her crying for Noah.  I watched it repeatedly and ended Monday night in the fetal position on the couch.  I am glad that the rest of her week went better.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Juli!

My baby girl is three years old today.  This week, we said good-bye to her special friends of the past 2 years, her awesome therapists who have helped Juli begin to catch up.  It's hard to believe that we are done with Early Intervention.  It has consumed our time and schedule, but it has done so much more than that.  Through Early Intervention we have met several wonderful ladies who have shown our little girl so much love as they experienced her stubbornness, her tantrums, & her refusals to work.  I know I couldn't do their job.

This week we also met Juliana's preschool teacher.  Yes, I said preschool.  Monday morning, Juli starts preschool.  A bus will pick her up at Theresa's house in the morning and take her to preschool, where she will go 5 days a week to continue getting the help that she needs.  Mommy and Daddy are still feeling nervous about our little girl getting on the bus like a big girl, but Juli is excited.  During the school day, Juli will be pulled out for speech, physical, and occupational therapy, and she will also be in a class with other kids which should help her catch up as well.  When we met Juli's preschool teacher, her first words were, "She's so little!  Are you sure she's 3?"  I told her that even I am having a hard time with it. 

Honestly, I didn't ever really think this day would arrive.  Juli's first year of life was so hard on all of us, that it was hard to picture her being done with Early Intervention and moving on.  I remember her first few physical therapy meetings, when she screamed the entire session and I swore Miss Meghan was a saint for not killing her.  I thought the same thing of Miss Suzy when she screamed for no reason during OT, both during a recent session and when she first started (Miss Suzy was also the therapist who helped keep Juli breathing when she had that episode on Noah's 4th birthday).

I am so proud of all she has accomplished.  For the longest time she wouldn't let us hug or kiss her, but this last year, she has become more affectionate with her hugs and kisses.  She finally learned to say "Noah", and now she yells his name all the time.  She also just learned to say "Gamma" and boy was grandma excited to hear it.

She is developing her own opinions and thoughts now.  Her favorite color is purple.  She likes to pick out her own clothes- which leads to very interesting outfits sometimes.  Her favorite movie is "Despicable Me", she loves the minions and Gru in the movie.  She loves the pigs in "Angry Birds".  Her favorite person is "Bubba"- her cousin Brendan who is 6 months younger than her.  She loves to play with baby dolls and Little People.  She loves animals, especially dogs and kitties.  She has a kind heart.  When Noah is crying she always gives him a hug and kiss, or if he is in time out, she will sit next to him on the step.

Happy birthday, sweet girl!  You're growing up so quickly!

Juli & her Bubba

Saturday, April 21, 2012

One Week...

One week from today, my baby girl will be 3 years old.  Wow.  Time seems to be going by so quickly now.  This coming week will be her last week in Early Intervention.  After this week, our life will no longer be as scheduled as it has been.  No more physical therapy.  No more occupational therapy.  We are going to continue to do speech therapy because that is Juli's biggest delay.  I am trying to imagine life without those therapies in it, and I can honestly not remember what life was like before we had PT, OT, and speech therapy in it.  It is weird to even think about it.  What is even harder to picture, is that the Monday after Juli turns 3, she will get on a bus and go to preschool 5 days a week where she will continue to receive those same therapies at school, but will now be in a class with other kids.  I am thankful that she qualified for Early Childhood, and I know it will be good for her and help her to catch up. 

What makes me sad is that now we have to say good-bye to Juli's therapists.  They have become such a big part of our lives for the past 2 years and have helped us out in so many ways.  Thank you just doesn't seem enough.  At the beginning of our journey into Early Intervention, I had been nervous and scared, but this was the best thing that we could have done for Juliana and she had amazing therapists throughout our journey.  It will be hard to say good-bye to Juli's special friends, but it's part of growing up.  It's going to be a hard week for me, I think.  Where has the time gone?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chuck Taylor...

Anyone who knows me fairly well, knows that I hate to dress up.  If I could wear sweatpants and a hoodie everyday to work, I would.  I know, I should have been a gym teacher instead of a science teacher, and then I could dress that way.  Oh well.  My way of getting around the "professional dress", is to wear Converse High Top sneakers, or as my students refer to them, Chucks.  I got my first pair when I was a freshman in high school- they are blue flannel, and I still have them to this day.  As the years have passed, I have added to my collection of Chuck Taylors.  I have purple, green, blue, zebra striped, flower pattern, a bright orange and pink pair, you get the picture.  I am always browsing their site to see what they have added.  They now even let you customize your own Chucks.  I already have a pair in the works that I've customized for Juliana for whenever she's done wearing her ankle braces- and believe me, they are cute!

Over the past couple years, they have been adding Dr. Seuss into their collection.  When the movie, "The Lorax" came out, they came out with a couple versions of "Lorax" Chucks.  I, of course, fell in love with them immediately.  Not because I'm a tree hugger, we do recycle at our house and try to be environmentally friendly for the most part, but because they were really cool looking.  For my birthday, my mom and dad gave me money so that I could indulge myself and buy them.

What do you think?  Aren't they cool?  They were a huge hit on Friday with my students and my teacher friends.  Thanks Mom and Dad :-)

Friday, April 6, 2012

A 5 Year Olds Thoughts On Good Friday...

This morning, Noah and Juliana were playing in the other room.  I was watching this video:

All of a sudden, I heard, "Is that Jesus?  They hurted him bad, Momma."  I stopped the video and turned around.  There behind me watching was Noah.  We had been reading to him about Jesus' death and resurrection every Easter since he was two years old.  He asked if he could see the rest of the video.  I said no, because it was too violent.  He kept asking over and over.  I finally said okay, as long as you cover your eyes when I tell you too (some of the scenes from the Passion of the Christ are hard for even me to watch).  He obeyed me and we watched the video and talked about the words in the song and he covered his eyes when I told him to.

At the end, he asked, "Why were the people crying?  Don't they know the rest of the story?  Jesus is going to come back to life in 3 days!"  He may not understand how horrible the crucifixion was, but at least he understands most of the story.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The month of February was busy for us.  We had Juliana's transition meeting out of Early Intervention (the services stop when she turns 3) and she began being tested for Early Childhood special education services in our school district.  Ryan and I took turns taking half days off of work to bring her in for testing.  Juliana was a little trooper, especially because the testing always took place during nap time.  She usually melted down at the end of the 2 hour testing, but who could blame her?

This past Tuesday, Ryan and I attended her meeting where first they revealed the results of her testing and then wrote her IEP.  I have been to many of these meetings at the high school level, as the general ed teacher, but never as the parent.  It was a bit overwhelming when they walked us back to the conference room and everyone introduced themselves.  We had the speech pathologist, the occupational therapist, the physical therapist, the social worker, the regular ed teacher, the school nurse, and everyone had a laptop out. 

Ryan and I had been pretty sure that Juli would qualify for speech therapy, just because she definitely is behind in that area, but we were unsure about the other areas.  As each person read off their findings, I was reminded of the same feeling I felt in Juli's first EI meeting- overwhelmed.  Juli qualified.  She qualified for speech, occupational, and physical therapy.  Part of me is disappointed, because I had hoped that by doing Early Intervention we would have her caught up by the time she was 3, but I am happy that she will be getting the help that she needs.

After everyone agreed she qualified, then they had to go over her goals for her IEP.  Each therapist had 2 goals for her, that were broken down into more detailed skills.  Some of them require Juli to follow directions, some of them require Juli to be able to avoid obstacles and go over obstacles without falling, some of them are for behavior, some of them are related directly to talking, and some of them are going to help her build up her strength.  Because she is small, she is also going to require a special chair in the classroom for safety issues (we will see how that goes, because she likes to sit like everyone else).  They also put in her IEP for her to have someone near her (an adult) on the playground or in the gym because she does fall a lot since that is a safety issue.

And then another bombshell was dropped.  Juli will be starting as soon as she turns 3.  Even though there will only be 3 weeks left in the current school year, she will still start preschool and will go 5 days a week.  Oh, and she will be taking the bus to and from school.  My baby girl will be on the bus!  Noah is a little jealous of that part, because he doesn't get to take the bus to his preschool and he will be a walker to Kindergarten in the fall.

I know this is good for Juliana and this is what she needs to get caught up.  I know that these teachers are awesome and the therapists are great as well.  It's just overwhelming to think that in just over a month, my baby girl will be taking a bus to preschool.  Even though we have had so many struggles with her, time has gone by all too quickly.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Growing up we always look at our parents as indestructible, invincible.  Like they can never die.  As we get older, we slowly realize that our parents are not invincible.  This past Wednesday, that realization hit me right between the eyes as I stood in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit with my mom and sister looking at my dad, who was attached to a ventilator.  That morning, my dad had gone to Loyola for his second heart ablation, a procedure he had had done two and a half years ago.  Back then, he had been on the table for 8 hours, and when his doctor came out to talk to my mom, his exact words were: "I burned the s**t out of his heart, but he will still need to have this done several more times."  It was a rough recovery, taking a good 3 months before my dad started to feel like himself, and he had to work up the courage to have the second one done.

When they called us back, it had only been 4 hours into the procedure, so we had high hopes that he was done.  As we waited and waited, there was no sign of a doctor or a bed with my dad in it.  My mom began to worry and so did Jaime.  I tried to keep them calm.  Eventually the doctor appeared and told us there had been a complication.  He was very careful with his choice of words, so as not to terrify my mom.  He explained that a hole had been made (more specifically towards the back by the Right Pulmonary Vein) and because my dad was on blood thinners during the procedure he began to lose quite a bit of blood and he called for an open heart surgeon to evaluate the situation.  He explained that they had to put a drain in my dad's chest so that the blood had a place to go instead of accumulating around the heart.  His hope was that my dad's blood would begin to clot so that they wouldn't have to crack his chest open to sew up the hole.  Then he left to go back with my dad.  Jaime immediately began to pray.  She is a prayer warrior.  I am not.  I have been angry with God lately, so I let Jaime pray and I said silent prayers in my head and yelled at God at the same time.  The doctor came out every half hour or so and gave us an update on how Dad was doing.  Just as the surgeon was about to crack him open, Dad clotted.  He had lost 2.5 units of blood.  They moved him upstairs to the Cardiac ICU, and we were finally able to see him.

Mom got to see him first, and she came back in tears, but she let us know he was alright and we could go back to see him.  Seeing your hero attached to a ventilator is not an easy sight.  Jaime started to cry and hyperventilate, and I took her hand and helped her into the hallway to calm down.  Then we went back into the room and talked to him a little bit.  He was not awake.  They had him heavily sedated, but he would respond to your voice if you asked him a question, and sometimes he would squeeze your hand.  There was blood on his face, and that was hard to see and he was attached to so many tubes.  They are very strict in ICU and when visiting hours are up they make you leave, so we didn't get to see him for long.  It was later when we left.  Mom went to a nearby hotel.  Jaime and I had driven together, so I drove her home and then drove myself home.

Thursday morning, I picked Jaime back up and we went back down to Loyola.  If everything had gone normally, Dad would have been going home that morning.  Unfortunately, he was in ICU.  When we got there, he had been disconnected from the ventilator and he could talk to us, which was a nice surprise.  They wouldn't let him eat anything, so we bought him a strawberry smoothie from the coffee place in the lobby.  He was in a lot of pain, but he was trying to pass it off that he wasn't hurting (FYI, Dad, we could tell).  Since he wasn't super critical they were a little more lenient with us and the visiting, but not much- they still kicked us out.  In the afternoon when Jaime and I left, Dad's heart went into atrial fib and his blood pressure dropped.  Normally after an ablation you are put on blood thinners, so that if you go into atrial fib, you won't throw a clot and have a stroke.  Because Dad had the hole, they couldn't put him on blood thinners (because he would bleed out), so now they became concerned that Dad was going to throw a clot and have a stroke.  The doctors began trying different meds to get his heart back into sinus rhythm, and they were trying to aleviate his pain.  Since Jaime lives closer to Loyola she went back to be with Mom during this and then they were both kicked out when visiting hours were over.

On Friday, I went back to Loyola.  There was actual talk of Dad being kicked out of ICU finally.  His heart had converted to sinus rhythm and he was having a little less pain.  By the afternoon on that day, he was moved to 5 Tower, which is the regular cardiac ward.  That meant that he had his own room, with a couch for Mom to sleep on (no more hotel room for her), no more beeping machines for him and no more puking roommate for him either. 

On Saturday, at 6:25 AM, Noah walked right up to my side of the bed and said, "Momma, it's morning time. Let's go see Grandpa now!"  He was already dressed, and had his backpack packed with things to do at the hospital.  He had been dying to visit Grandpa at the hospital, but you have to be 12 or older to visit in the ICU, so he had cried on Friday when I told him he couldn't come with me.  When we finally got to see Grandpa, I think Noah felt better to see him face to face.  Jaime brought Rori & Liam with and we spent most of the day visiting and exploring the hospital- since Grandpa was very popular with the doctors that day.

I woke up on Sunday morning to an interesting text from my mom.  It turns out apparently one of the cardiologists tried to kill my dad Saturday night by ordering Heparin, a blood thinner.  My dad was on it for 6 hours and he could have bled out if not for the nurse and my mom.  Another reminder.  I talked to my mom in between services at church and it really hit me that my dad is not invincible.  At that moment, I wanted to do nothing more than to jump into my car and drive to Loyola.  I had to wait to do that though.  After lunch, I think I did about 80 down the highway, but I felt better once I saw my dad.

Which brings us to today.  Today is Monday.  Because my dad's heart had been in atrial fib for over 20 hours, the only thing left to do was to shock it back into sinus rhythm with the paddles.  They did that a couple hours ago, and his heart converted.  Unfortunately, his heart won't hold that forever, so there's a nasty little drug that he has to take for 3 months called Amiodarone.  Potential & permanent side effects include: turning your skin blue, going blind, and hardening of the lungs.  Another reminder.  My dad was adamant against taking this drug, but now his back is against the wall and he has no other option.  He is not invincible.

But, you know what?  You're still my hero, Daddy.  I love you very much.