Saturday, January 22, 2011

Emerson-Ramona-E-Miss Magoo-Monkey

Dynamic Emerson, my little bundle of energy and independence started Preschool on January 4th! It was huge, and a needed growth change for her. She was nervous and wanted to be as princess like as possible wearing her favorite green dress, tights and party shoes, and a grown up barrette in her hair. She packed her Dora backpack, making sure to include coloring books and a camera. Cuddling Baby Sita as tight as possible all morning, Emerson saw the other kids didn't have their dolls with them and asked me to put Baby Sita in her backpack so she was close enough to touch, but away so she can be like the other "big" kids.  From the beginning, Emerson has always had a sparkle and that sparkle of delight was in her eyes. She became a preschooler while I became a Mom with both of my kidlets in "school".

I can't believe she is almost 3, but then again, I lost 3.5 months from "being" with my youngest daughter all the time. Emerson is my buddy, and I have prided myself and trying to strike a work-balance to remember every ounce of who she is. She has many nicknames, all that suit her perfectly.  Ramona, Miss Magoo, E and Monkey.  They all describe how silly, spirited, loving, curious and adventurous she is.  She is also a BIG miracle, like her big sister, and actually paved the way for Makenzie to know what being in a hospital is like. From the day we left the hospital the final time with Emerson, I vowed to work at changing my teaching schedule, business and life and "be fully present" with Emerson at all times. Of course that is a lot to ask of any person, let alone business owning parent, but after almost losing Emerson when an infant and  losing 3. 5 months with her, there is no time to pass by without embracing it.  And I have, and it is hard at times, but so delicious in the same. Changing my own schedule for teaching and training clients allows me more time with Emerson in the mornings. I now teach and train all clients between 4 am-8 am which allows more time in the day. When she is not in school we are taking each morning as it comes, and the days she is in school we have more time to dawdle as we walk or run home. This past Tuesday she asked if I could bring her Barbie scooter when picking her up, which I did, and she lasted 15 minutes trying to scoot independently before she hopped in the jogging stroller.  I was trying to capture each image of Emerson scooting along in her fancy twirly skirt, purple helmet, pink Vans and a smile as big as her face.  If only our lives had a permanent video playing above us to take these images in.

Emerson turns 3 on Tuesday... 3 Years old!! Her little birthday celebration is tomorrow and I am excited for it to be ALL about Emerson for the day. She has talked about wanting a Zoo Birthday party, what cupcakes to make, and what dress she want to wear. On Friday we went to Target to pick out goodie bag swag, Dora gear and pink everything. To have this basic time with E doesn't replace the months lost to juggling taking care of Bug, but they are times we are both craving right now. Just craving the feeling of being around each other to hear each others voices or hold each others hands walking down the street.  Like any kid, Emerson needs her Mom as much as her Mom needs and craves her. So I take this time, even when they are trying and her independent firecracker self shines through, because I can't get any of our lost time back.

Cherish, is what I am doing, cherishing Miss E as she turns the magical 3 and wants to play with Me!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lucky 14

I was running with Emerson yesterday was January 14th, one month exactly that Makenzie was released from UCSF and she has stayed home since! Huge! The date December 14 we marked on the calendar since we came home that night, and circled January 14 as one month after. It is etched in my head especially since it includes the number 14, which is Jack's lucky number, and my due date with Makenzie was April 14, 2003. She has gone back to UCSF for appointments, for tests, ultrasounds and to visit her sweet friend Ryan but she has come home each night to her own bed. Mind you, she has been sleeping in our bed a lot since she has come home, eager to be close and feel safe. But she is under our roof and the four of us are home as a family. So Emerson and I took off for me to run, E to sing to us, and to finish by picking up Makenzie at school.

It was incredibly bright with sunshine dripping down on us. You wouldn't believe it was January, and not only that it was a Friday too which always feels like a day of celebration. We started out on one of my favorite runs from our house: along Pearl with the cute California bungalos, down to Shoreline Drive and along the waterfront, to Crown Beach, and initially I wanted to go further but then realized I had only 15 minutes to get back to pick up Makenzie. Whoops, on my part with time! Emerson had been singing to me and then stopped. I had an inkling she was asleep, peaked in and she was conked out holding Baby Sita (her favorite doll) with her pink baby blanket pulled up to her chin. I look at E and melt every time, she is my little buddy and being a celebration day I couldn't help but feel such joy and celebrate E too. As I turned around to run back, it was more like blast back ... this is where my sprint training comes through... making sure I am on time to pick up Bug from school.

Since E was asleep and our singing and chatter stopped, I started to think my deeper thoughts, and my mind went to how far Makenzie has come in one month. We left the hospital and were so excited, but Makenzie's real healing has happened at home. She is learning how to feel "normal". She has gotten real uninterrupted sleep, been able to rest when she needs to, have quiet time playing with Barbies, read stories to Emerson and gradually gained an appetite again. Through helping Makenzie heal, we all have been healing a little bit. We've also been learning how to work together again as a family of 4 and support each others' nerves as they pop through. But it is this time, actually the past 2 weeks that Makenzie has been in school and Emerson started preschool, that I really am digesting all that has gone on and all Makenzie has overcome. I've said the entire journey that Makenzie is incredibly brave, courageous and has the most incredible love oozing from her. But damn, she seriously rocks and is so brave!

I looked at my watch when at the end of the beach, still one mile plus to go and saw I had 6 minutes until the bell would ring. Being an early dismissal day, it was the first day Makenzie would be leaving with her class verses picked up early since she's been back to school. I was so excited to see her walk out of room #103's door with her classmates so my legs turned into speed wheels, and I pushed the jogger as fast as I could. Phew, made it to the school yard, pulled up to the classroom door with a smile on my face but sweat dripping down my back and there bounds out Makenzie with a huge grin from ear to ear. A quick, "Hi Mom! Casey and I can't wait for our playdate tonight, but I'm going to play tag now. Ok?". She ran to PLAY month after leaving the hospital, 2 weeks into starting school again and Makenzie can play tag with her friends in the small play-yard. My eyes were welled with tears watching her sweet self, she oozed joy and happiness. Listening to "eenie meenie miney mo, catch a tiger by it's toe...." as the kids were picking who would be "it" again was music to my ears. Normal kid noises are part of our life again, not just beeps and medical lingo. Wahoo!

After Makenzie played for about 5 minutes her energy window was used up, but her blissful window was still open. She launched over to me, took my hand and we started walking home planning our afternoon and her dinner playdate with Casey. One month marker, big month of events, and many more months to go. I know I won't ever feel secure until Makenzie's pseudocyst is completely gone and there is an answer why this happened, but one month has passed since we left UCSF's 4th floor and we are all moving along to our new normal. Go Makenzie little rockstar.

No such thing as the end, there are only new beginnings- Parenthood

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


When living at Children's Hospital, CHO, and UCSF, my time that was "mine" was to exercise and train. I knew that my body had to be strong to take care of Makenzie, Emerson, Jack and myself. But it was hard to leave. Often I would feel barely able to walk through the Club doors, hop on the Precor, and just make myself go. Within 3 minutes, I felt my groove and was able to start tuning out. My headphones were on, channel on the telly set to 43 or 44 for MTV and VHI and I'd have my freak flag fly as I got pumped by the early morning videos. I was "present" and around adults and peers I was used to laughing and hanging at the pool with all Summer, but now it was Fall and I wasn't at the Club during daytime hours since I was at the hospital. I just wanted to feel "there", but not have to be social there, so I tuned out to videos. Then, in October, I saw Katy Perry's Firework Video. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Tears started streaming down my face, my throat got choked up, and I felt as if my limbs were wet noodles. The video highlights your own firework and allowing you to SHINE. But, there is one character they follow who is a little girl in the hospital and obviously sick. He walks out the hospital doors and his firework shines brightly. It was all I could hope would happen to Makenzie.

The song became OUR song. We played the song in the hospital, on our iPods, replayed the video on You Tube again and again. It is now our song to have everyone shine and be WHO they are, finding their inner strength. Both girls ask for the song, we belt it out, we made it our anthem to feel good. I developed a mad love of the video and how incredibly positive it is. I also still choke up every time I see it, or hear it. That being said, Makenzie's first day back at school, we played Firework. Emerson's first day of preschool, she asked for the Firework song to play in the car and sang along in her sweet preschooler voice. On Pandora, I have a Katy Perry Firework station, and love it. For some reason hearing it gives me hope that whatever happens, Makenzie and all of us, are like bright fireworks bubbling through and through and can overcome all the odds. Makenzie has a spark that people are drawn to and want to see shine brightly. She has an aura about her that can only grant great things in life, and it wasn't her time to be put out, but her time to explode with greatness. For many reasons, she was given the gift of life, and now has the ability to shine brightly everywhere.

Which brings me to the past weekend. The girls, my Mom, Sister and I went on a much anticipated trip to Disneyland. Makenzie got the green light from Dr. Kanwar on December 29th, and on January 7th we were on a plane to LAX. At Disneyland one of the best memories for me was watching Makenzie take in the Fantastmic Light & Fireworks Show. We were waiting for it to begin and met a family comprised of 5 kids, 2 who were around Makenzie's age. Makenzie and the little boy bonded immediately and she asked him about his "firework". She explained how she was so excited to be there and she was sparking. She shared that she was bubbling with excitement...he looked at her like any 6 year old...with an expression of "Ok, if you say so". Makenzie was oblivious and her eyes glowing. Then the show began, her magic fingers playing along with the symphony and firework shining.

Find your own Firework, let it EXPLODE, and shine brightly. If my 6 year old who had to overcome incredible odds can, anyone can. Life is to short not to shine, explode vibrantly and shine proudly!!!


11.25.10 is photo- Thanksgiving morning, Ryan and Makenzie pole
surfing down the 4th floor hallway

When at UCSF, Makenzie met a little boy named Ryan. He is adorable with the most berry filled little lips and twinkled when he saw Makenzie. We first got to be friends our first stay at UCSF and Ryan and Makenzie would pole surf down the hallways. Makenzie embraced a nurturing side around Ryan, almost as if she could help him out it would help her out too. Some days she was obsessed with seeing Ryan, but he made her smile, laugh and able to out pour her big sister role since Emerson was at home.

Ryan has intense pancreatic issues too, but he is only 22 months. Like Makenzie, the doctors don't have answers and Ryan is making them work at the hard earned degrees and accolades they received in Med School. Ryan's Mom, Carolyn, and I became fast friends. I don't know if it was because we noticed an old soul friend in one another from the beginning, or that we looked at each other for a sounding board that truly understood the pain and nerves of having a child with rare pancreatic issues. Regardless, Carolyn's kindness and compassion helped pull me through many tests and long hospital days. We tried to laugh at the reality of "living" at UCSF with one child, when we were Mom to others. We also shed many tears in the hallways and our rooms about the unknowns that our children faced. A friendship formed that is a blessing in a horrible situation.

Today I think about Carolyn a lot. Ryan is having surgery to remove the remaining 3% of his pancreas. While waiting in PICU for Ryan, there is a family saying good bye to their almost 5 year old daughter. It is heartbreaking and incredibly challenging to witness as you await good news for your own child. Thus, my mind has been racing to prayers of kindness, love and the feelings of hands on Carolyn's incredible back. Hands to support her to stand up as she feels ready to crumble. Hands to move her forwards the next days in PICU that will be challenging and intense. Hands to help her as she uses her hands to calm, cuddle and take care of sweet Ryan as he heals.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Starting Over

*Bug & Monkey climbing out of the play tunnel for NEW adventures-1.1.11!!

On Friday, December 31st, I worked out with a dear friend, M, who also moved back to the Bay Area in 2010. She is newly divorced and a single Mom to 2 adorable kids. During the past year, M and I have grown even closer with the changes that brought us back to the Bay Area and our "childhood homes". Literally. M and I actually raced against each other in college and became fast friends when we both owned Baby Boot Camp Franchises. Oddly enough, last year at this time M and I were discussing how starting over was scary, overwhelming, exciting and fun. She is now happily dating a wonderful guy, cycling tons, training for great races and making each moment with her kids count. Then we discussed how here we were, the end of 2010, and life in essence was starting over for Makenzie and my family again. Truly, starting over...but with a jump start compared to last year.

After working out we were running back from the Club and Makenzie was talking about all the things happening in 2011. She was excitedly talking about school, Daisy Girl Scouts, Ballet, McCafferty Family Reunion in the Poconos, Hawaii trip with Kreitz fam, swimming daily again, and starting school all over. When returning to school in January, it usually is a time after "vacation". But now it will be two Januaries that Makenzie has started over...and she verbalized that. She goes to school tomorrow and is starting all over again. While she has been doing homework, keeping up on reading, and being as active as her body allows, she was only in her first grade class for 3 weeks before she got sick. She is nervous about how much energy she will have, if she can keep up on activities, if all the kids will pay attention to her and ask what happened, and how her friends will be. She doesn't want to stand out since whenever we go anywhere we are running into friends who are kindly asking about Makenzie. Rightly so. She was in the hospital and made it out after a battle that has lasted more than three months...and still isnt' complete. She's worried she looks different now, but then also isn't worried at all and just wants to play and be NORMAL. Her reality of life has been so altered that she IS starting over a new kid. She is NEW in different ways that have actually changed her to being OLD. She is now an old soul in ways I can't count.

So this year we are all starting over again. 2011 brings us a new year of opportunity and adventure. When looking back at how we started over in a new state last year, new school, new life in Alameda, we did so and made an adventure out of it. This year proves no different. It is a new adventure in First grade for Makenzie, one she will conquer with gusto. It is a new adventure for Emerson who starts Tiny Tots on Tuesday, and is now officially in preschool. Both girls start ballet this week which is a new adventure too! It is a NEW adventure for me as I am starting over a different Mom, woman, wife, business owner and personal trainer. I have to re-launch my business and as a trainer, I feel much stronger in working the schedule around my family, around my own athletic goals and evolving my business goals. Jack is figuring out his next goal for his career and growth at Corinthian, since he got promoted while Makenzie was in the hospital. Now he can settle and allow himself to grow and evolve without the stress of a hospitalized sick child.

The phrase "new Normal" has been used to us many times to describe our "new life"...but I look at this as a new adventure for what the year brings. We handled the challenges as a solid family unit that didn't crack in 2010, and this year we are ready to start over and LIVE each goal. Tomorrow we start over as we embark on 2011 newer and stronger than we were before...bring it on...