Tuesday, February 25, 2014


And just like that, my baby girl turned seven years old. SEVEN. It's unbelievable. I'd say it needs to stop, but she's just so darn cute and so, so incredible, I kind of want the awesomeness to continue. 

We had a whirlwind weekend celebrating the commencement of her newfound seven-ness. Since her birthday was on Saturday, we took a pan full of "7" sugar cookies for her kindergarten class to enjoy on Friday. Kate was thoroughly pleased to be a school guest and wear the lanyard that said so. She also loved the leftover cookies at home.

After Kate and I went home, I put her down for a nap and then got a call from Leah's school saying Leah was just not being herself. She was crying and responding in the affirmative when asked if she didn't feel well/something hurt. Since we all know Leah doesn't shy away from the spotlight, I knew she had to really not be feeling well to be talked into going home early on her big day. So, I woke Kate up and we went to pick up Leah. Sure enough, she was weepy and all-around kind of pathetic looking. Which is so strange because she was fine a few hours earlier! 

I was worried because we were leaving at 4pm for a weekend retreat with some special needs families in the area and I really didn't want to have to bail. So, we set up her sick bed on the couch and she fell right asleep. She slept for a few hours and when she woke up, she seemed so much better. I asked her if she still wanted to go to the retreat and she said yes! 

Her actual birthday was spent at the retreat with games, toys, movies, bowling, a magician, a ball pit, swimming, balloons, presents and more. It was basically a seven year old's dream come true. We took a few presents to open up in the hotel room, but saved most for home. 

We went straight to church from the retreat on Sunday morning where Leah got to BE a cupcake. 

When we got home, she opened the rest of her presents (um, SPOILED! from family and friends!). This is how Kate felt about me taking pictures of only Leah. 

After presents we had a combined cake and ice cream celebration for Leah and our good friend Haley. Please don't judge her cake. We had lofty Magic Treehouse plans, but not being home all weekend changed that idea pretty quickly.

And the celebration didn't stop there! A few people stopped by on Monday with gifts, including cute Mr. M who brought her GREEN flowers. He knows the way to Leah's heart...the color green! 

And at her school, the PTA has a fun program where a child can get a name plate in a book for their birthday each year. The child picks a book from a list and then the birthday child gets to be the first one in the whole school to check it out. It's really fun and Leah loved it. 

But the very best gift came the following day at her annual well-check appointment. As of February 24 at 4pm, Leah is officially ON THE CHARTS. This is serious, people. Leah hasn't been on the charts since her first year of life. We're talking first percentile here with a BMI that will not include talks of a g-tube. Hooray for Leah! 

Looks like #7, in true #7 form, is off to a lucky start. Which is perfect because we sure feel lucky to have this incredible 7 year old in our lives.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Up With Families

Our little family spent the weekend at a nearby hotel for a special needs retreat called Up With Families. The organization exists solely to put on this one event each year. Any family in the area who has a child with special needs (of ANY kind) can apply for a spot of up to about 30 families to come to their annual retreat. But each family can only come once and their child has to be seven or younger.  

At first I was a little unsure. The retreat happened to fall on the weekend of Leah's 7th birthday and the last thing I wanted was for her to be somewhere she didn't want to be with people she didn't even know. For a good portion of the time, Ryan and I would be in seminars and meetings for parents only! But, I really felt it would be a good thing for our family to do together since we were new to the area...and this was the last year we were eligible based on Leah's age. 

Turns out, there was no better place we could have been to celebrate her big No. 7. Leah spent the weekend swimming, bowling, playing games, watching movies and just having some serious fun. We opened a few presents in our hotel room during a mid-day break on Saturday and then she went on her way again! 

They had activities specific to special needs kids (or ways to adapt everything), sensory rooms, and more. And they also gave equal attention to the typical siblings, which was so wonderful. These siblings are amazing and often get put on the back burner, so it was fun to see them being celebrated too!

They had a photographer there to take photos of each family and they even offered a 30 minute chair massage. Um, yes please!

Saturday night there was a nice dinner and program for the parents that went past the girls' bedtimes. The volunteers were prepared to put the kids to sleep if needed. So, when Ryan and I went back to the hotel room we weren't surprised to find two volunteers, chatting quietly in the dark, while Leah slept soundly on the bed. She was wiped out! We were, however, shocked to find that Kate wasn't in the room. We ventured back out to the kid's room and sure enough, Kate was running around like a crazy person. At 10:00 at night! 

We learned some valuable information about special needs in our area and met some wonderful people who I know we will continue to keep in contact with. I hope to continue to be a part of this great organization for a long time! 

When we got home Sunday afternoon, Leah was wiped out. This is the sign of a fulfilling, feel-good, fun and UPlifting weekend. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

valentine's day

Valentine's Day this year was simple and perfect. Leah didn't have school, but I attended her class party the day before. She was glowing. And she was actually able to participate in the class game - they sucked up marshmallows with a straw and dumped them into a cup. She was really good at using the straw! 

The following day, we colored our valentines, got some of them delivered and took some glorious naps. All while wearing hearts, of course. 

It was a simple holiday this year. 

And, quite simply, I loved it.

Ryan's 33rd

I flew home from California just in time to bake and frost a "pink cake" and celebrate Ryan's 33rd birthday. His parents were still in town, so it was fun to celebrate with a few more people! We ordered in some Texas Roadhouse, opened presents (Kate was the official present-opening helper) and ate some pink cake! It was a perfect evening at home, avoiding all the Valentine's Day eater-outers. Win, win. 
(My favorite part of this picture is Ryan holding Leah's hand so she doesn't smash the cake!)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ca travelogue part four: the original ca family

When we moved to CA in 2007, Ryan and I were both stepping into new territory. Neither of us had never lived far away from home before (other than Ryan on his mission in Hong Kong) and we were just unsure of what was in store for us. 

Luckily, great things were in store in the form of incredible friends who, over the course of the next nearly five years, became family. Our first family away from family. Families who we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years Eve with. Families who let us cry on their shoulders when we had no idea what was going on with Leah. Friends who got me through my first marathon (and so so many training miles before). Families and friends we went to church with, taught piano to, had girls nights out with.

And to be honest, two and a half years is way too long to go without seeing some of these incredible people. It makes my heart hurt sometimes to think that things can't just be the same as they once were. But, although things have changed, it was so wonderful to walk into a room full of people I know and love like no time has passed at all. 

I got to Jeff and Sarah's house late Saturday night. Like really late. And they still stayed up even later to chat the night away. They're the best.

Sunday morning, we got dressed and ready for church. As I entered the chapel I used to frequent every Sunday, I was overwhelmed with love for this California family of mine. I received such a warm welcome and even a "welcome home" from a number of people. And that's what it felt like! Home! It happened to be a stake conference, so the actual Sunday services were a bit different than usual, but it was an incredible meeting and I was so glad to see so many wonderful faces all at once. Little Mr. Tyler McPhie walked down the aisle to get a drink at one point about an hour into the meeting (I hadn't seen him yet) and I nearly jumped out of my seat to give him a giant hug. I abstained, don't worry. 

After church, we had a delicious dinner with Jeff and Sarah, Scott and Rachel McPhie and Ben Thomander and all their kids. We were all laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face. At one point, I was so incredibly happy inside that I just had to call Ryan so he could be a small part of it. I think it made him even more sad to be missing out, but that was definitely not my intention! It was just a perfect afternoon with some truly incredible friends. 

Monday morning I decided to head out on my beloved Stevens Creek Trail for a long run. I had avoided 14 miles a few days prior, but felt like this was a great opportunity to get a long run in on a great trail. I ran from Sarah's house 3 miles to the trail where I met up with Jaimi, a dear friend and one of my old running partners. A lot has changed for Jaimi in the few years I've been gone, but it was so wonderful to talk with her just like we used to. Four miles flew right by and she had to go to work, so I finished the final six by myself. The weather was glorious. And the trees were flowering. And I was in a tank top.

I met three lovely piano moms (including one piano mom/student!) for lunch at a local restaurant and had a great hour catching up with all of them. They sure know how to make a girl feel good! They are incredible ladies and I'm so blessed to know each of them.

After lunch, I walked to a nail salon to get a pedicure with Sarah, which, by the way, is a perfect thing to do after a long run. The massage was incredible and my impending headache waned a bit. It didn't do much to settle my stomach ache, but it did wonders for the muscles.

After pedicures, I still wasn't feeling so well. We headed to Kathy's house where I saw Kathy and Tawni and their good lookin' kids. As I got out of Sarah's car, I really wasn't feeling well. So, I hung back for a moment, lost my cookies on the street outside of Kathy's house and then went in and had a great afternoon. Seriously, I felt so much better. I even got to buy some girl scout cookies!

After Kathy's, Sarah took me to BevMo to pick up some local "root brews" for Ryan. His favorite root beer is only sold in California, so I lovingly purchased, wrapped and packed six of them and brought them home to him in my luggage. I'm so nice. After my BevMo pitstop, I spent a few hours at my Tuck friend Andrea's house. It was fun to catch up with her after a few months away and see her new home...in my old city! I love that our lives are intertwined like that now.

For dinner, Rachel organized a fabulous girl's night out at BJs (mmmm, pizookies!) where I was able to see so many dear friends! It was so great to eat, chat and catch up with all of these beautiful women! 

A few of them couldn't make it to dinner, but were able to come to Sarah's house after and I had so much fun spending my last few hours with them. 

Tuesday morning Sarah drove me to SFO, where I soon learned my flight was delayed. I spent some more quality time in the terminal and missed my connection in Chicago by seriously one minute. I ran to the gate and they had just closed the doors. So, I spent some more quality time in Chicago. They booked me on the flight leaving the next morning (um, no thanks!), but Ryan looked and said there was a flight later that night. So, I went back to check and sure enough, there was a spot! 

Though it was so great to see Ryan's face again, it was not great to see it holding my down NorthFace coat in frigid temperatures. I missed California already, rain and all. 

All in all, my California trip was amazingly perfect. I still can't believe I was lucky enough to escape for nearly a week and reconnect with so many dear friends from so many parts of my life. As I was on my final leg of the flight home, the flight attendant said, "Make sure your mask is secure before you assist others." Though there were no little ones by my side to assist, this particular trip gave me just what I needed to continue to assist those littles at home. It oxygenated me, gave me strength and filled my cup. I think I'll do it again soon.