Friday, October 31, 2008

The festivities

Halloween party, school party, Fall Festival, Birthday (including Six Flags trip along with what seemed like every youth group in North Texas), Birthday Party--Phew!! We're exhausted!

Tomorrow is the big birthday party for our little princess. The dress up trunk was picked up today with 30 princess dresses, six knights costumes (for those little men coming), and all the necessary accessories. Maggie has been having a great time shuffling through it all, digging into the trunk and declaring them all hers.

I have made a big deal about birthdays for Maggie. I believe in making my child's birthday a celebration. We lost that with Allie. We didn't get the opportunity to celebrate our sweet girl's life each year. So, I'm going to celebrate my Maggie. I'm going to celebrate that I've had another terrific year to be her mother. Another year to watch her develop into this girl of sass and sweetness, all balled into one. So, it might be just another birthday party for our friends to attend during their busy weekend and holiday season. I know that. But for me? For us? It's more than just another birthday party. It's the celebration of our girl's year and the anticipation of the next year of happiness with our princess.

Tomorrow officially begins my thirty days of blogging, though with today and yesterday, looks like I'm shooting for thirty-two days.

Let's end with some pictures of our fun times!

Maggie and her AWEOME teacher Miss Brandi. We love Miss Brandi and so does Maggie!

This was last Friday at their school party

Maggie and her best classmate, sweet Abbey. I love this picture

Trick or treating at the nursing home last Friday

Pretty Maggarella

Checking out the princess dresses tonight

The trunk

A princess' dream

The backdrop for pictures. Maggie calls it her castle!

Tinkerbelle ready to go trick or treating with just me. Girls Only!

All ready to trick or treat

Thursday, October 30, 2008

30 days of blogging

Thirty days of blogging? The entire month of November? I must be crazy, but I just signed up to do it. I *hope* I can follow through with it and blog every day for thirty days. I hope I have enough to write about (any topic you want to read about?)

I might be crazy, but I'm going to give it a shot. Join me, why don't you. Don't forget to comment! I'll need your help with this. Here we go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Top 25

Pretty Lilly Linton made it to the top 25 most kissable babies in the local contest. If you're like me and love pictures of sweet babies, pop on over to this site. And while you're at it, give a nod to adorable Lilly. The thing is--see that sweet disposition she has in this picture? That's pretty much Lilly all.the.time. She is about the happiest little lady I know (next to the Snuggle Bunny, of course, because that is one happy little man). I know Larissa would greatly appreciate your vote.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Joined at Six Flags by our friend Sabrina

Happy Birthday to Maggie!

My baby is THREE?!? Didn't I just have her on October 26th? What, that was in 2005? My goodness. My sweet girl is now three years old. She's a princess loving diva with major sass. She's our world. I can't fully describe how funny she is. She busts out with the funniest things. And if you ever saw her do her "thumb dance" (think Elaine on Seinfeld), you wouldn't be able to supress a giggle.

Today, we're off for a fun filled day--we've got another birthday party to attend (her's isn't until next weekend because my mom is out of town), Six Flags, and then off to Nana's house. Should be lots of fun! I won't be taking my good camera because it is too much of a pain to take and lug around the park, but I will take at least a few on the iPhone and send it to the blog. If I could figure out Twitpic, I'd do that, but I haven't taken the time to fiddle with it.

I'm off for family fun!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A perfect Friday--voting problems and all

Yesterday, I had the day off. A glorious day to spend time with my little girl and run errands. We had a girls breakfast, joined by my mom and grandma before they headed to the airport to go to New Jersey. We went trick or treating with Maggie's class to the nursing home. Hey, here's a good idea--let's have 150 plus children traipse through a nursing home and line six old people up to give them candy. Who do you think was more overwhelmed--the kids with the slow lines and not understanding what to do, or the elderly people looking exhausted and fumbling to give them pieces of candy? Might have been a toss up.

After that, I stayed in Maggie's classroom because we were going to have cupcakes to celebrate Maggie's third birthday (it's tomorrow--EEEK!)with her classroom friends. This was such a treat. I went out on the playground to watch them play all together. I saw Maggie play with her best little friend, Abbey, and saw her interact with the other children. When we got back in and her teacher was getting through the potty regimen before lunch time, so I sat on the carpet with the kids and sang songs. It was so much fun! Lunch time was a sight to see and then came the main attraction--cupcakes!! Maggie squealed and smiled as her friends sang her Happy Birthday, then proceeded to lick off all the icing before promptly throwing away the cake part. Me, I scraped off the icing and ate the cake part. We're related?

After cupcakes, I took my leave of Maggie's school so she could settle with her friends and attempt to nap. I say attempt because Maggie is one of the worst nappers in the class. Her teacher now puts her in the corner of the room to keep her from disrupting the others when she is sitting up and playing or singing instead of sleeping. Our days of naps are few and far between lately. So, I was off. What, seriously, what was I to do with myself? Friday afternoon with no meetings, lunch appointments, or time in the office to catch up? What could I do?

First, I attempted to go to Party City. That, let me assure you, was a mistake. Party City one week before Halloween is a freaking nightmare. I need party favors for a princess and knight themed party, and as the lady at Party City so politely told me, I might not "find a darn thing for knights." Then she chuckled, walked off, saying "yeah, good luck with THAT one, ha ha ha." So, I gave up my search and drove myself to the movies. I got as far as the front of the theater while on the phone with my Board Chairman (it might have been a day off but I still had some business to discuss with him). Whether it was him laughing at me saying, "man, you're a loser" or my general lack of enthusiasm at any of the showings, I turned around and left the theater. So, a trip to Target and run home to take care of Brandy before off to the polls to vote!

I'm going to confess to something--I've been a deliquent voter. In the more than 12 years that I have been able to vote, I have only voted once. In college. In 1998. Until yesterday. I reregistered and sent in all my paperwork right before the deadline in September. Yesterday, I marched myself up through the voter lines, proudly holding my voter registration card and eargerly ready to vote. The line was quick and I was standing up at the front in less than ten minutes. Yes, this was going to be a breeze! Except, wait, there was a problem. "Oh, you're not in the system," the woman told me. Well, huh.

I was told to sit and wait for a woman named Molly to come and attend to me. Ten minutes go by, then another ten. Every once in a while, someone would glance my direction, and the woman that helped me said, "oh, she's not in the system." Finally, Molly came my direction. Because I had voted before but reregistered under a new name, I was not properly ready to vote. But, not to worry, Molly said, she could get it taken care of. I was shuffled over to a group of four men, all with the same problem--they were not in the system. Molly tells a women with a clipboard how to handle us. One by one, the other men are helped while I stand and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally--my turn! Clipboard lady tells the lady monitoring the line, "hold up for a second and let this lady go through--she's not in the system."

"Oh, you're not in the system??" No, apparently I'm not I told the woman taking my card for the second time. "OK, sign here." I do, and then she takes the clipboard and writes "NOT IN THE SYSTEM" next to my signature. Time to get my access card. Another sign in sheet and another notation of my error of ways. Finally, I was able to walk up to the polls and cast my votes. And as I walked out of the room, I heard the attendant ask another lady, "Are you not in the system??"

Last night, it was back to her school for our annual Fall Festival. We spent much of the evening visitng with Abbey and her family, watching our girls act silly and play together.

Voting issues and all, I would say it was a pretty perfect day. This weekend is all about family fun with a Halloween party, visiting with "Aunt Bobby," birthday party for Jen's little guy, Six Flags, and birthday dinner with Andrew's mom. Today, I have a cute little two year old. Tomorrow, I will wake up to a gorgeous three year old.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Produce Entourage

As I believe many are these days, I'm watching Saturday Night Live much more frequently due to the comedic genius of Tina Fey and her Sarah Palin impersonations. And while I've been loving those, I'm still cracking up over the "Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals" sketch from two weeks ago. Did you see it? No? Well, here it is! Did you see it? Yes? Well, here it is for you to laugh some more....

Making it even better? This addition from last night's show. Love you, Mark Wahlberg. Love this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Baby Loving

  • I noticed some higher traffic to this blog in the last few days. Could it be your looking for more news on our sweet, gorgeous new arrival? Well, I promise there will be more details on the adoption blog, but Baby Girl did make her arrival yesterday morning. The placement (releasing Baby Girl to Jen) is set for tomorrow. We're all an anxious, excited, crazy bawl of nervous and emotion. That's just us friends. Doesn't even begin to say what all Jen is! All of us have fallen in love with Baby Girl (yes, she has a name, but it won't be announced until AFTER she is home). Welcome to the world, Baby Girl!!

  • MY BABY is not a baby anymore, that's for sure. She turns THREE in less than two weeks! Can you believe it? Wasn't she just born? We have a big birthday celebration in the works. Found the coolest party company called Simply Pretend--we're having a Knights and Princesses dress up party. We even have a special guest appearance by none other than BELLE (Annie--you're the best--thank you, thank you, thank you!)!! Maggie is beyond thriled at having one of her favorite princesses come to her party. If you ask her though, she will let you know that Cinderella isn't coming because she will be busy in her castle with the mice. Just Belle. She must clarify, you know.

  • Speaking of babies getting bigger, Larissa's little girl Lilly is now one! Luke turned three a few weeks ago, and sweet Lilly is now one. Time is flying. Larissa entered her in the Most Kissable Baby contest over at Kiss FM's site. Check her out (Lilly Linton) and give her a vote! Winner wins $5,000, which Larissa would love to get and donate a portion to her favorite charity (HFC of course!)

  • Oh, look at all those adorable babies on that website!! Aren't babies the cutest things? I love infants, I really do. OK, this website is doing nothing for my baby fever. Nor will be going to love on Baby Girl this week but that isn't going to stop me!

  • My other baby is sadly missed these days and every day. Tonight, I was cleaning out Maggie's room and putting stuffed animals away. We have an excess of stuffed animals and she doesn't need them all. I bagged up those that were now a little too babyish. While going through it, I stumbled across Allie's "Chemo Bear." I just sat and stared at that bear and hugged it tight. Oh, how I wish I was cleaning out Allie's room too and going through the toys she was no longer playing with because she's moved on to new things. Maggie's teacher brought home her art from the last month or so. See the post below for my favorite thing that came home. How wonderful is it that Maggie has a teacher that considerate to remember my Allie? How great that Maggie reminded her of it too!

Maggie's family tree

Look what came home in her folder today. Love it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Open Curiosity

I have always been one to ask questions. I want to know and understand. So, when it comes to the topic of one of my closest friends going through the process of an open adoption, I was naturally curious. I want to support my sweet, amazing, kind friend. To do that, I need to understand the process.

Jen has been very open, in every way, during this process. From her reason to choose adoption to her beliefs of open adoption, Jen has been willing to open her heart to me (to many others through her adoption blog). While she has had two healthy beautiful children of her own, Jen knew two things--1)her family wasn't complete and 2) she was called to adopt. Years ago, she worked as a social worker at a local nonprofit adoption agency. When it came to begin the adoption process, that's exactly where she choose to go.

From the first adoptive parent meeting to tonight when her birthmom has begun having contractions (oh wow--Jen's going to have a Baby Girl VERY VERY SOON!!!), she has included the girls. Her Posse. She shared the book about her family she created to give to potential birthmothers for them to help in their decision of selecting adoptive parents. She sent us an excited email when J, her sweet birthmom, chose Chuck and Jen to parent her Baby Girl, due October 17th. That felt so long away months ago!

A few weeks ago, Jen invited me to lunch to meet birthmom J. The week prior, Amy and Megan had met J. Along with Megan, we drove to Ft. Worth to have a girls lunch. It was perfect. I watched my beautiful friend light up around J. The two of them have become friends, connected with an incredible bond. I sat at that lunch and watched and listened with awe. I asked question after question, and neither begrudged me an answer. J explained her reason for placing her child up for adoption. She made it very clear that she is PLACING her baby with a family she knew would provide and care for her child, but she most certainly wasn't GIVING UP her child. I loved that lunch with Jen, J, and Megan. More than once, I teared up and fought back tears as I listened to my friend explain her kindness and love for both J and Baby Girl. I sat and stared at Jen, in true admiration at her heart. The drive back, I continued the questioning. How will this work when the baby is born? How do you guard yourself against the fear of it? What part of Baby Girl's life will J play?

About two weeks ago, Deb, Megan and I got the honor of helping assemble the nursery. Megan, with her infinite design skills, created the most unique and gorgeously delicate baby nursery EVER. It's tranquil, sweet, and a little bit funky all in one. I don't think I contributed much besides helping move furniture and hold up the applique design on the wall as Megan and Deb labored over it. Honestly, I don't care if I was useless. I was there. A part of something so big, an experience I've never experienced before, and I was having a small role in supporting Jen.

Last night, the entire Posse (I know, it's a bit of a silly name--Andrew says he expects us to climb up on horses and go out in a lynch mob--but it's us) was together again. It was the first time since our big lakehouse trip to be one large group. We hate having one member out of the city, but we sure do make the most of our time all together. Last night was no different, but it was certainly special. We loaded in Jen's car, all six of us talking, giggling, and sometimes teasing each other, driving to Ft. Worth. We arrived at the dorms to take a very pregnant J out for a big steak dinner. We had four hours together as the seven of us. That should be eight, including our soon to be Baby Girl.

I'm honored to be a part of this. Honored to be Jen's friend and that she welcomed me into this journey and welcomed my open curiosity about her open adoption. Most of all, I'm honored that I will be welcomed to share in the joy of Baby Girl blessing all of lives in just short time.

To Jen--Baby Girl is lucky to have you. J is lucky to have you. And WE most certainly are lucky to have you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Poor Maggie

After spending a week off anti-histamine to prep for her allergy testing and a week of steroids, we were ready to go to the doctor on Friday. It wasn't a great week. Maggie doesn't respond well to prednisone. Her friends at school realized that fairly quickly. Poor thing would melt at the drop of the hat or from a glance her way from a friend.

Since Maggie was four months old, we've battled issues of allergies. She gets sinus infections frequently, landing her on antibiotics on a fairly regular basis. She has had reactions to both shellfish and fire ants (that was a BAD night!!). So, yesterday we went to her allergist to have a skin test. They poked her forty five times on her back for the test. It was AWFUL! My baby was screaming and yelling, "that hurt me!" It took three of us to restrain her. I held her and cried as they continued to poke her. Fifteen minutes of waiting and we were getting results. The results? Not what we were expecting. NOTHING. She didn't show a single reaction to a thing. Not fire ants. Not shellfish. Not even to seasonal allergy issues. We're stumped.

The nurse practicioner looked up her nose and was confused. It's totally junked up. Her eyes are swollen and red, a constant for Maggie. Everything points to having allergy issues. And yet, we found nothing on the skin test. So, the NP ordered up more fun for us yesterday. First, it was an ultrasound of her sinuses. Maggie didn't mind that too much when she realized it was really just a photo of her. She smiled to the xray machine and gave a big CHEESE! My girl never misses a photo op. But the fun got worse when we had to get bloodwork. Not the bloodwork we've had in the past for Maggie at her pediatrician's office (to help quell mom and dad's fear of leukemia--we've done it quite a few times over the last three years). This was a full on blood workup. When I handed the tech the paperwork, she said, "oh wow, they ordered all this for that little girl. Wow." Yeah, two Wows are making me feel good. They needed many vials of her blood. So, we strapped her down in my lap, and had a first attempt. It didn't go well on several levels. I have never heard her scream like that. I began crying quietly as I was trying to give her some semblance of comfort. Then, her vein blew. So, the entire vial of blood almost finished? Not usable. Then we had to start over. Four BIG vials of blood later (not counting the fifth unusable), we were getting a bandaid on her arm and wiping away the tears.

My baby had a rough day yesterday, that's for sure. She's into the bandaids, so she likes to tell us all about them. Though yesterday was her last of the steroids, it is still giving her trouble. Just now she came in the room crying hysterically. The world had ended. Bee Bee licked her. What a tragedy. We're trying our hardest to be understanding and sweet when she has these moments of meltdowns because we know the medicine is helping her act like this. But I am definitely ready for the steroids to get out of her body and get my little girl back to normal. Definitely. Ready.

And hopefully, the X-ray of her sinuses and the bloodwork will give us some answers.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Why I a Big Girl

Ask Maggie a question beginning with WHY and you get the same answer.

Us: Maggie, why are you running around naked?

Her: Why I a big girl.

Us: Why did you hurt your friend at school today?

Her: Why I a big girl.

Us: Why did you just throw a huge fit and flop your body to the ground?


Seriously, how do you argue with this kind of logic???

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Nonprofit Executive

I'm frequently asked what it took to create and build a successful nonprofit organization. "Blood, sweat, and tears," I half-jokingly answer them. Half jokingly, I say, because in truth, that is what it has felt like over the last four years. It has been my life and my passion to create Heroes for Children and grow it along with the help of Larissa, my staff, our incredible event volunteers, and our Board of Directors. It has taken countless hours and many sleepless nights to pour over the details of the organization. Five Heroes and Handbags events later, I'm still not an expert on society fundraising events, but I've learned so much along the way.

I've poured over books and attended classes. I've researched online and asked local experts. I've given my heart to this organization. I work evenings and I work weekends. While I set the goal every year to leave work at home on a more frequent basis, I've only just this month accomplished it with any more frequency than one time in a month. Lately, I've taken it down to once a week that I'm actually working in the evenings, besides the normal email checking I usually do.

When I started doing this, I didn't consider myself a Nonprofit Executive. I was a teacher that didn't have a classroom, choosing to start this nonprofit. I didn't actually think I would love it as much as I do, and I anticipated starting back to a classroom position shortly. Even after my first year as an employee of Heroes for Children, I still considered myself an educator doing this job for the time being. Now? I'm a Nonprofit Executive that used to teach. It's been a complete shift in my identity.

This summer, I went through a fairly decent amount of burnout. By the end of our Spring fundraising season, I felt spent. And so I took some time off to evaulate. I worked less hours, took every days off to visit with family, and evaluated my future. I never thought I would leave HFC, but I wanted to be sure I was on the right path. I needed to know that my heart was in it 100% as it was before because otherwise, I knew it would be harder and harder to keep up with the work.

I'm very pleased that I came to the conclusion that I am EXACTLY where I need to be. I just need to find balance. In the past four years, Heroes for Children has been one of the biggest driving forces of my life. It remains a large part of me, but I am working my hardest at finding that balance. To be mom AND the Executive Director of Heroes for Children. It's a fine balance, and I can't tell you I've perfected that balance yet.

I average about sixty to sixty-five hours a week working. Most days, I drop Maggie off and I am the one picking up. I do at least 75% of our weeks drop-offs/pick-ups. I am involved in the school and with her teacher. It's hard, for sure. Being a working mom is tough. Being an executive for a growing nonprofit is challenging, especially when trying to remain mom at home. There are times when family dinner happens in my conference room before a board meeting. I don't have lunch out for leisure, only for business. Otherwise, it's a quick bite to eat at my desk while working.

I love the challenge of running a nonprofit. I love the ever changing climate and the constant work. There are so many facets to the organization--both internal and external. On any given day, I might be working on marketing, donor relations, event planning, program services such as working with the social workers, PR, and even HR. I wear so many hats most days! Seeing the tangible difference we make in the lives of cancer families inspires me each day. The mission drives me, and Allie's legacy propels me forward each day. It is my hope that Heroes for Children will be helping families for many years to come. I don't know what all our future will entail, but I look forward to being a part of the organization. I know this is where I am supposed to be. I'm no longer the educator I once was.

I'm a Nonprofit Executive, and I'm very proud of it.