Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm hugging my kids harder these days.

How many posts have I started since Friday, either on the laptop or in my head, regarding the tragic killings in Connecticut?  Nothing sounds right.  I've backspaced more in the past half hour in the writing of this post, than I probably have since starting this blog 4 years ago.  There are just no words for something like this, so I'll just continue to pray for the comfort and healing of the survivors, the school, the parents and children, the community, and our nation as we continue to try to digest and understand something so impossible to understand.

A facebook friend wrote today of how her daughter's teacher would be like those teachers in Newtown that sacrificed their own lives to try to shelter and save their students.  So I thought of my own kids' teachers.  All 7 of them.  (Lexi has 5 teachers, 3 in Early Childhood and 2 at Parent's Day Out)  And yes, I am certain that all of my kids' teachers would put themselves between my child and danger.  I look back at the teachers my kids have had in past years and other staff at the school that I've met, and I feel the same.  It was still tough putting my kids on a bus this morning, but it sure makes it easier knowing that they are going to a school with staff and teachers like this.  I was raised by 2 teachers, and when I was growing up, I was surrounded and loved by all my parents' closest friends who were teachers.  My mother-in-law was a teacher and my sister-in-law is a teacher.  And I am absolutely certain that all of these teachers that I love so much, would protect a child in their class just as they would their own children at home.

I've been attending the church where Alexis attends Parent's Day Out for over a year now.  I've gotten to know a few people, primarily through the preschool that is there, but it's a big church, so I still feel fairly anonymous when I walk into that large congregation by myself.  I feel comfortable there.  I usually scramble into the sanctuary moments before the service starts and get out of there quick to pick up the kids from Sunday School.  Since the kids don't sit with me in the service, I actually get to hear the sermon.  Kinda nice.  This past Sunday the associate minister was preaching, and it was emotional as we all tried to understand the tragedy.  One of the things the pastor mentioned was reaching out to those people who are "on the edge".  When the service was over, within fractions of a second, before I even had grabbed my purse and turned to leave, I felt an arm around my shoulders and a very kind woman who I've never seen before, was complimenting me on my dress, my hair, and how nice it was to see me.  She hugged me.  Twice.  And then an older gentleman came over and shook my hand.  Before I was out of the sanctuary, 4 people I'd never met or even seen before had stopped to greet me.

I almost giggled to myself, wondering if I look like I'm "on the edge."  (I assure you, I'm not.)  I think really it's just people trying to make sense of the Connecticut shootings and trying to show more kindness...trying to reach out to others.  I left feeling hopeful, that even with these heinous events that we will never be able to make sense of, that it will make us want to be a little kinder, hug a little longer, love a little deeper, and pray a whole lot harder. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Lucas Oil Weekend

We've had some new experiences this weekend.  I had plans with a girlfriend from highschool yesterday that fell through and decided to find something holiday related to do with the kids instead.  Sitting at home all day, as tempting as it was with the dreary, rainy weather, would only result in nothing more than hitting new levels of success in the boys video games, Lexi's further memorization of all things Wiggle, and a bigger imprint on the couch by yours truly.  We decided to try a new museum:  the Eiteljorg.  For those not familiar, it's a museum of American Indians and Western Art.  Not my personal taste.  BUT, they've been advertising a train exhibit, a "locomotive wonderland" called Jolly Rails, that had over 1200 feet of track, 7 trains, and replicas of several Indianapolis buildings such as Lucas Oil Stadium, Union Station, and Monument Circle, and national treasures including the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, all built with natural materials.  The boys were on board, and since Lexi didn't get a vote, we were on our way.

The boys running up to the front entrance.  Best to burn some energy before entering a museum.

Nick's favorite part of the display, the replica of Lucas Oil.
To keep the boys from rushing through too quickly (a 5 minute walk-thru doesn't make me feel like I've gotten my money's worth) I gave one kid my camera and the other my phone (on the camera setting) and told them I needed pictures.  I've since gone through the pictures and deleted about 50 blurred trains, 10 pics of eyeballs, 30 of floors, and 20 more of fingers and thumbs.  But they loved it, I got about 4 good pictures out of it, and we spent a good 30 minutes there.
Photo credit:  Nicholas Smith

Photo credit:  Blake Smith


I was glad to see there was an interactive floor for the kids and we stayed an additional 30 minutes.  Blake loved it, Nick liked it, and Lexi's nap had been cut short, but was still pretty darn good.
In the stagecoach


She wasn't impressed.
So it wasn't a long outing.  I'd hoped to spend enough time that we'd leave the museum when it was dark and the kids could see Monument Circle all lit up.  I even made the kids wander through a couple of the rooms with the Native American artwork and sculptures (yawn) but we got kicked out since Alexis had a bottle of milk.  Thank goodness.  So we topped off the day with a trip to the bookstore for Nick to spend the remainder of a birthday gift card (Oh DANGIT, why did he have to discover Captain Underpants?) and dinner out.  Other than missing Daddy (so grateful for his overtime opportunities, but we miss him coming with us on some of this stuff), it was a great day.

Nicholas and I had been counting down to today since before Thanksgiving.  Nick has really gotten into football and I love having someone to watch it with on Sundays.  Our Sunday routines have become the highlight of my week:  Church, grocery, lunch, 1:00 football, 4:00 football, 8:30 football.  Have I mentioned the indentation on my couch?  I had hinted at the fact that I wanted to take Nicholas to a football game.  Jason was fine with staying home with Alexis and Blake, so along with my aunt and uncle, we got tickets for the Colts game today.  Sadly, our advent calendar has taken a back seat.  The countdown has solely been for today's game.  Nick and Blake and Jason have all been to Lucas Oil Stadium to attend Monster Jam.  I would never be so desparate to see Lucas Oil Stadium that I would attend Monster Jam.  N.E.V.E.R.  And I don't like to say never.  Ever.  Today was my first time at Lucas Oil, and Nick and my first ever Colts game.

Photo credit: really nice dude at our table
I asked Nicholas if it was like he expected, better or worse.  His response:  "Better.  Duh."  And then he rolled his eyes at me.  Yep, we've hit the eye-roll stage.

Not sure what's up with Nick's expression, but he can say he's had his picture taken with Adam Vinatieri, #4.
That's Vinatieri, mid-kick, during the pre-game warm up.

This is a view of Lucas Oil Stadium from the nose-bleed section, 5 rows from the top.

The Colts won, of course. Nick thinks that his lucky #4 jersey is why they won. I think it was my blue nail polish.
Let Advent Commence!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This and That.

My mom and aunt are currently at my Grandma's house in Michigan.  Every time they go up there, mom takes her laptop and shows my Grandma this blog so she can keep up with 3 of her great-grandchildren.  Since I know they're there, might as well update now so that Grandma can be informed of what's going on in central Indiana...

Hi Grandma!!!

First and foremost, I made a blunder last week.  When I made this post regarding the opportunity the boys were given to assemble Operation Christmas Child boxes with some of the Colts, I never gave credit to the photographer.  Usually the pictures I post are my own, sometimes they are my mom or dads.  This time the pics were from a professional photographer who donated her time and energy and photographs to all of the families that attended.  So my apologies to Heidi Hackney Photography and also a heartfelt Thank You! for providing us with these great pics and precious memories.

Saturday I participated in my second half-marathon.  My first half-marathon was back in May and the humidity made it miserable.  My brother ran that first one with me and got me through it.  This time, I was on my own.  The temps were cool and perfect for me.  My dad and uncle went with me for moral support while my mom and aunt kept my kids.  And it was great!  I finished in 2:16:48, which is a great time for me and I ran every single step of those 13.1 miles.  The training is tough, mostly because it's hard fitting in all those runs every week when your husband keeps the work schedule that mine does.  So it might be a while before I do another.  Maybe I'll do more 5K and 10K races and work on my speed.  Or maybe I'll just keep popping ibuprofen and nap.  I'd love to give a sprint triathalon a try ("sprint" indicating that it's much shorter distances, not necessarily fast) but again, scheduling in the training would be tough.  Maybe in a few more years...
Picture courtesy of: Dad.  (Hey, I remembered!)

Elections are over.  Thank goodness.  That day, Blake was as entertaining as usual.  He was told by a cousin that Obama was trying to destroy the Earth, so you can imagine his concern over the president's re-election.  In Blake's mind, I'm sure he pictured Obama himself drilling into the core of the Earth, with a big cartoon stick of TNT to stuff into the center of Earth.  I tried to assure him that this was not the case, so Blake says now that he only half believes it.  Whew, I guess.  The night of the election, as we watched the news and waited for the results, Blake put on a tie, wristwatch, and jacket over his pajamas in an effort to dress like Romney.  No one makes me laugh harder.

And speaking of Blake, guess who lost a tooth tonight.  Nicholas had lost his first 8 teeth by the time he was Blake's age.  Blake had only lost 2 prior to tonight.  He's had 4 teeth just a tiny bit loose since early summer.  His teeth are as pokey coming out as Blake is when it's time to get ready for bed.  So it's an exciting occasion.  The dentist commented years ago that we should enjoy Blake's perfect teeth because there is absolutly NO room to spare and when those permanent teeth start coming in, it's gonna be rough.  Of course, at the rate things seem to move where Blake is concerned, those new teeth may not get here for a few years.

Alexis has taken up the drums.  Lord help me.

And finally, this is the scene most days when everyone is ready for school in the morning and we have a few minutes to spare before heading out to catch the buses:

Night Grandma!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An amazing opportunity.

Once upon a time, Alexis was in the Newborn ICU for 67 days. A couple of months ago we attended the annual NICU reunion and while I was there, I stuck Nick and Blake's names in a drawing. The next day I got a call that they'd been selected. So I thought I'd better figure out what I'd just signed up for.  The boys were being given a chance to pack Operation Christmas Child boxes with St. Vincent hospital and Colts players!!!  But as I watched the video, I realized that this was for NICU kids, so I called the lady in charge and clarified that siblings could attend also. It's often the siblings that remember the experience of the NICU, and my boys, while they never seemed phased by it, remember me dropping them off at preschool or leaving them with family for over 2 months straight as I'd make my daily trek to St. Vincent Women's hospital to visit their little sister.

I waited before telling the boys. I waited until we received the written information in the mail that included our formal invitation. I waited until I heard back from their principal who said, "We will excuse both boys from school as this is an extraordinary experience." So a couple of weeks ago we told the boys that they were being given an incredible opportunity, thanks to their sister, to help St. Vincent Hospital pack hundreds of Operation Christmas Child boxes. We've packed some of these boxes as a family before and they knew what they were. They thought it was cool that they'd get to leave school to do it. Nick thought it was neat that it happened to fall on his birthday. Then we mentioned that maybe, just maybe, there would be a couple of Indianapolis Colts players there.

What the What?!?!?!

So Tuesday was that day. We picked the boys up from school at 1 p.m. while Alexis stayed with Paula. We could have signed her up to go too, but knowing that she wouldn't understand or fully appreciate what was happening, we let another child have her spot. It was interesting to talk to a volunteer who said they never know which football players might show up. The team chaplain waits until after the most recent football game to approach a few players who are good, kind, Christian men and he asks them to come. I learned from the players that when the chaplain asks, you don't say no.

Awaiting the start of the packing party and the arrival of the Colts.
There were about 30 kids in attendance. They showed an Operation Christmas Child video that explained to our kids how these boxes are sent all over the world to help kids that live in heart-breaking situations. We were shown how to pack a box and were shown the St. Vincent video above. And then the players arrived.

#69 Winston Justice, Tackle

#25 Jerraud Powers, Cornerback

#73 Seth Olsen, Guard

#5 Drew Stanton, Quarterback

As much as I love the Colts, I didn't know a single one of them, but yet, was totally starstruck. I tried to follow my boys example by focusing on the more important task at hand: filling the boxes. I kept getting distracted. The boys would be collecting toys and toothbrushes and crayons to stick in the boxes, and as a Colt would approach our table, I'd distract them.

Nick, are you sure you don't want to ask him for an autograph? I brought a Sharpie with us!
No mom. I'm busy.

Hey Blake, here comes Drew Stanton. Don't you want to take a picture with him like those kids are doing?
No thanks mom.


Oh yeah, back to the boxes.

I kept pushing encouraging them to talk to the players. Nothin'.

Eventually, the director of the program told the kids to take a break. The Colts could only stay until 4 and they wanted to take a group picture before they left.

Many pictures were taken and then, as the boys watched others get autographs and photos, they decided that maybe they'd like an autograph on the back of their Operation Christmas Child shirts. My shy little boys, who aren't yet too comfortable with approaching strangers and asking for things like this, just walked up to a player, turned their back to them, and backed into them as a way to get the players to sign the backs of their shirts. Oy.

That's right, my kids made Drew Stanton laugh.

Drew Stanton and Nicholas

Blake and Seth Olsen

The players were very kind and gracious, and the boys now have autographed shirts to show off to their classmates. And I have pictures of my kids with Quarterback Drew Stanton.  I promise to stop name dropping now.

The players left, most of the boxes had been packed and we were told that we were more than welcome to stay and help pack the remaining boxes but it was also fine to leave. I turned to the boys to let them decide what they wanted to do.

Nick wanted to stay. Blake wanted to stay. And then Blake said,
I want those kids to be happy, happy, happy.

Another day, another opportunity to be amazed by my kids.

**All images courtesy of Heidi Hackney Photography**

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Halloween was a success.  Nick may have had the easiest costume ever: Percy Jackson.  Not sure why he didn't wear blue jeans like Percy wears, but oh well.  He carried a sword and wore a "Hello, my name is Percy Jackson" name tag.  Blake was some sort of Star Wars...thing. 

Lex stayed home with mommy and wore her Pooh costume.  It's the same thing she wore last year.  There's a benefit to growing slowly.  We mixed it up a bit by putting on the Abby Cadaby slippers.  We're wild and crazy like that.

The pumpkins, l-r, Darth Vader, Minecraft, Percy Jackson.
We have bags and bags of candy left over.    The most perplexing thing of the whole evening:  the boys went through their loot to take out anything they didn't want.  My kids prefer the Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, and suckers and want to chuck the Twix and Snickers and Butterfingers (not a Milk Dud in the pile.  Dang.).  What kind of kids did I raise?  Preferring a sucker over chocolate?  Sheesh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This is as deep as I get.

I was fitting in a final long run this morning before I participate in the Monumental half marathon which, at the time of this writing, is only 10 days away.  And while I was running, I got to thinking about how this 10 mile run is a good metaphor for life, with each mile representing a decade of my lifespan:  what’s occurred so far, and how I anticipate the rest of my life to be.  I’m sure I’m not the first person to have this brilliant revelation, but I thought I’d share.

Mile one.  Even though I’ve been running for over a year now, every time I start out, it feels like the first time.  I’m awkward as I get my footing.  My arms are flailing.  I don’t feel balanced or secure.  The occasional face-plant has been known to occur.
As I approach mile two, my teenage angst sets in.  I hate running.  I’m miserable.  This is stupid.  Who on earth put me up to this?  How in the world am I going to get through the rest of this long miserable run?  I’m still a bit awkward, but really, running is just dumb.

Mile three is a whole lot better than mile two.  I’ve found my footing and I realize that it’s not so bad.  But just as I questioned my career path in my early 30's, I’m still contemplating my decision as to why I took up running in the first place:  is running what's best for me?  Maybe biking would have been better.  Or the luge.  At least I’m not in any pain yet.  I’m distracted though.  Had I not looked up from the pavement, I might have missed this:


And now, as I’m knocking on 40’s door, I am happy that mile four felt the most comfortable.  I ran my fastest speed.  I was as fluid as I get, and felt I’d gotten into my rhythm.   Even my somewhat sore knees weren’t slowing me down yet.  So is it downhill from here?
Nope.  I started running uphill.  Mile five.  The fifties.  I was excited to realize I was keeping up with the pace I’d set in mile 4.  Then I was over the hill.
The sixties.  My parents are running their figurative mile 6.  They may have more aches and pains than they did in their youth, but they are still very much on the move.  I did, however, just get passed by some young punk runner.  Blasted kids.  Even I can hear your music through your earphones!  I think he's in mile 2.
I realized at this point, I was entering the golden years.  Ah yes.  I had to pee.
Mile 7 is slower and things are definitely sore.  My legs want me to quit, and I need to find something else to focus on.  I get to thinking…I get a bit reflective, a bit philosophical.  I start thinking of my run, my journey, and it's at this point when I start creating this writing in my head.
The next mile.  I don’t remember.  What mile is this?

And suddenly I'm in mile 9.  Yes, things hurt, but it's fulfilling to see how far I’ve run.  Now that I’m here I realize that the pain and discomfort I felt early in the run were nothing.  I’m sore.  Really sore.  I’m proud of how far I’ve come.  But now I’m ready to be Home.
Mile 10.  It’s done.  Now give me an ibuprofen and a bagel.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Buddy Walk 2012

We participated in our 3rd Buddy Walk this past Saturday.  We lucked out with no rain, comfortably cool temps, and a great turnout for our team, Lexi Lou's Whos.  Both family and friends came to the event to walk the 2.6 miles around the canal in downtown Indianapolis.  No one fell in.  Always a sign of a successful walk.

 By the numbers: 
Lexi Lou's Whos raised $2375, placing us in the top 20 of a record 188 teams.  And we had 26 walkers for our team, all decked out in Seuss-style (or IU) red and white.

Even our hardcore Perdue Purdue alumni wore more red and white than she ever had in her life.
Such a trooper! (Thanks Jen.)

Alexis has taken to combining Pops and Grandma Connie, into "Papa Connie".  That way, she can spend
 less time talking and more time lovin'.

Susan and Lacey joined us for the first time.  We loved having you there!

Not sure who loves the other more, Lex or Uncle Ron.  I think it's mutual adoration.
Paula with Nick, and Amy and Kenzie with Chris Burke. 

The girl loves her freedom to just GO.
So anyway, back to the numbers.  Nationally, there are over 250 Buddy Walks.  (There were 17 when it started in 1995.)  DSI surpassed their fundraising goal of $220,000 and there were an estimated 5000 walkers in all (I think).
Another statistic: our team consisted of 12 wheels.
So maybe to say we had 26 "walkers" isn't quite accurate.  At least 4 kids were in wagons the whole time, and my dear friend Amy was in a wheelchair.  She's stubborn and insisted that she was going to do the walk on her crutches (torn miniscus--not fun).  But luckily, her boyfriend is sneaky and Sean got her in a wheelchair.  To make it better, Amy and her daughter Kenzie got out the bedazzler and went to town.  There was glitter, there was fur, sequins and pompoms on that blinged-out wheelchair...that is the sign of a true friend.

In attendance: Lexi, 4 grandparents, 5 aunts and uncles, 2 parents, 2 siblings, 6 cousins, and 6 dear friends.
This was the 3rd Buddy Walk we've participated in, and definitely my favorite, simply because I've met more and more people and was able to talk to a lot more people than I have in the past.  It was overwhelming the first year.  We didn't even go to our very first Buddy Walk when Lexi was 6 months old, not only because she'd had heart surgery a month before, but because I wasn't yet ready to celebrate Down syndrome.

By the next year I was ready to try it, and it was overwhelming.  The sea of people is incredible, in an overwhelming yet powerful way.  Seeing older kids and adults with Down syndrome was stressful, because it's the unknown of Alexis's future that is my biggest worry.  Of course I worry about all my kids and what their future holds, but it's more so with Alexis.  There will be more challenges, more unknowns, but I look at her and her infectious smile, her determined stride, and her twinkling eyes that are only magnified by those thick lenses and I know she'll be okay.

And now I've gotten to know more and more moms, more dads, more families of kids with Down syndrome and I know I'm surrounded by a stong and capable community of people that want great things for this little girl.  I met a mom in my neighborhood when Alexis was first born.  Her daughter, who has Down syndrome is exactly my age, and the mom told me of how, when her daughter was young, she had to go to court to get her on a soccer team.  We've come a long way.  This community is getting stuff done.

Our team (in red) within the sea of Buddies

And as I walked along with my family and friends, and thought of people who had never even met Alexis, but still wanted come walk with us or donate to our walk, I see another support system for Alexis, maybe even more strong, because we love her to the moon.

Thats right.  We had 3 celebrities in our midst.
Thank you for you love and support.  We are grateful to all of you that walked with us, that donated, and those who were with us in spirit.  Next year's walk is set for October 12.  See you there!