Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My little miracle turns 18 on Saturday!

I can't believe it's been 18 years since I went into premature labor at just 24 weeks gestation and raced to the hospital. It seems like just yesterday that our lives changed in a day...and I learned all the things about prematurity I wish I never had to learn.

We are so lucky. Chris was an incredible fighter (read his birth story here), we prayed hard for his survival, and he had the best care. But much of his survival came down to pure, blind luck.

Although I would never wish the NICU experience on my worst enemy, I am grateful for the blessings it brought:
  • A greater awareness of the fragility of life
  • Wonderful support from family, friends, and faith community, and learning who could be with us in the hard times
  • Reminder not to take anything for granted
  • Opportunity to develop close friendships with other NICU parents
  • Knowledge that it doesn't matter at what age your child talks, walks, reads, etc.--each of those milestones is a gift
Now Chris is on the verge of becoming an adult. We are so proud of you, Chris!! You are my hero. From the first moments of your life when you clung to survival against all odds, to the accomplishments you've made throughout your life...appearing on stage, speaking on behalf of the hospital and NICU (e.g., the Red Wagon video for Emanuel), becoming an accomplished drummer, receiving an Algebra 2 achievement award after all those years of struggling in math, and most important, becoming a kind, compassionate, funny, and opinionated young man. Your love for music began in the NICU when you heard us sing every day, and grew as a toddler when you were obsessed with CDs. Now you are a walking, talking musical dictionary!

We love you so much and cannot begin to express our gratitude that you survived your birth and have grown up to become a wonderful young man! I made this little video to honor your first 18 years. We sang the first three songs, among others, to you in the NICU. Here's to you, kid!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What will my children remember of their childhood summers?

At the beginning of the summer, I did a writing exercise with a friend. We brainstormed about what we were hoping for the summer. My list included things like valuable time spent with family and friends, but it also included things like organization, getting the house in order, getting my high school senior to become more independent, etc.

So here we are, with only a few weeks of summer remaining. What did I not do this summer, which I intended to do?
  • Paint (the walls)
  • Get the garage door fixed
  • Clean the study
  • Beautify the yard
  • Take out the carpet in our bedroom and refinish the floor
  • Put new flooring in the kitchen and repaint the cabinets
  • Have Chris study for the SATs and learn how to drive
  • Train all my kids to cook!
  • Get back to the gym at least twice a week...and lose weight

And oh my, there's so much I can find to criticize myself for...have I done any of these things? No! We have hired my brother to do some cleanup in the yard, so that's something, but I haven't accomplished half of what I hoped for. C'est la vie!

Nick and our puppy Romie at Multnomah Days
So I can't begin to express how grateful I felt to read Glennon Doyle Melton's article, "Give me Gratitude or Give Me Debt," in which she writes about how we should be grateful for having the things we do, instead of wanting more. We are truly privileged. Reading this blog post could not have come at a better time!

Nick rock climbing
It reminds me of when I was in a women's group in the early '90s. Many of the women in the group had more money than I did, and it seemed that they were OBSESSED with their kitchens. Many women's group meetings seemed to focus on remodeling, and I could not have been more bored. But I sat there and listened, eyes glazed over. I think I'm more evolved now, and if this happened now I would have made a decision not to continue participating. Not only was I bored, but I also found myself wishing for things that I could not have...or things that were not worth going into debt to obtain. There's a reason why I've never been into window shopping for things I couldn't afford. Being around these remodeling- and house-minded women made me want more than what I had or that I needed.

Which brings me to my title. I don't think my kids will remember that our house is not pristine and in the latest, greatest style. If they could have anything, they'd request more electronics, dinners out, and vacations!

This weekend, instead of spending time upgrading our house, we decided to soak up the last of summer. Last night we went to a free concert in the park. This morning we went to a parade in Multnomah Village, the annual "Multnomah Days." This afternoon we went to see "Midsummer's Night Dream" in Shakespeare in the Park, and then we had dinner al fresco in the backyard. These types of memories are worth so much more than a fancy kitchen!
My little adventurer

Mike talking to our friend David at Multnomah Days

Midsummer's Night Dream in the park

Kieran at dinner

My three beautiful boys

Dining al fresco
 Teriyaki chicken, rice, and summer squash--yum!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What I read (in June and July 2014)

Here's what I read in June and July. For full reviews of these books (these are just excerpts of the reviews), click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden.

Great nonfiction:

Free Spirit: Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid, by Joshua Safran

Free Spirit : growing up on the road and off the gridJoshua Safran's mother ("Claudia") was a counterculture feminist artist/activist, and when he was four years old, they left Haight Ashbury in San Francisco and hit the road. He was raised in an extremely open, permissive home and "homeschooled." But as much as his mother was proudly independent and strident in many ways, she ended up with loser after loser. This book, more than any other I've read, describes well what it's like to be in a home full of domestic violence. It's a story of redemption and discovery in spite of a very difficult beginning. This book brought me to tears at the end. If you're interested in knowing more about Joshua Safran's story, take a look at this video presentation of him talking at Google.

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved World
What a phenomenal woman! I never would have guessed that someone so accomplished--reaching the top rung of her field at a fairly young age--would start her life with such large obstacles. In this memoir, she opens up and shares her stories from a young age...from when she was first diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and had to start giving herself daily talking about how her marriage failed. She revealed more about herself than typical for a Supreme Court justice and knew she might be judged harshly for some of her choices, but she made this decision consciously to offer comfort, and maybe inspiration, by showing that an "ordinary person, with strengths and weaknesses like anyone else, has managed an extraordinary journey." I love Sotomayor's views on mentors and friends, on the value of life, and the importance of deep friendship and family. Although I had a hard time sinking into this memoir at first, it was well worth the effort! 

Fiction I Thought Would Be Better:

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

Interesting premise: Australian Alice hits her head at the gym and when she wakes up, she's lost 10 years of her life. She thinks she's 29, pregnant with her first child, and happily married, but instead she's 39, has three highly spirited kids, and on her way to a divorce. This book turned out to be more in the genre of "chick lit" than I thought it would be. In the intervening 10 years, Alice got her perfect life and became a shallow, spoiled brat (in my view). I did enjoy this beach read in spite of its made me think about my own life, my priorities (am I spending enough high-quality time with my kids and my husband?), and how quickly life is passing me by. Read the review to learn what bugged me about this book.

We Are WaterWe Are Water, by Wally Lamb

I've read everything Wally Lamb has written, and this plot sounded promising. Sadly, I found this novel lacking in comparison to his others. It's the story of Anna Oh, an artist, wife, and mother, who has left her marriage of 27 years and is about to marry another woman. Annie has three children with her psychologist husband, Orion: Ariane, Andrew, and Marissa. The book spans all of these lives and many others. Read my review to see what I disliked about the book. The novel examines the generations of damage caused by sexual abuse, and reading it from the perspective of the pedophile was particularly difficult for me. This is still a good book, but not as great as his others.

And the fun read of the month:
Word Nerd

Word Nerd, by Susan Nielsen

I loved the painfully awkward and uncomfortable Ambrose...who is deathly allergic to peanuts and always manages to say the worst possible (and often, honest) thing. He befriends Cosmo, a grumpy ex-con, ex-druggie son of his Greek landlords, and his life changes. They join a Scrabble club together, after much cajoling and conniving by Ambrose. In the quirky world of competitive Scrabble players, Ambrose finally feels at home. Fun middle-grade novel!