Monday, December 20, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Santa Claus is alive and well in our house.

I never understood those who didn't tell their kids about Santa because they didn't want to "lie" to their children. Lying and make believe are two different things. Kids need a creative imagination. Santa is part of that.

Even the government believes in Santa Claus - they track him every year at NORAD.

We have helped keep the Santa magic alive in our house. He always leaves crumbs when he eats our cookies (messy Santa). One year, he left sooty foot prints on the mantle on the way in (thankfully, not on my carpet :) )

One year, he had to leave a note for Michael because his elves couldn't get his Transformer that he REALLY wanted ready in time (daggone FedEx)

I know for certain that Samantha believed at least 2 years ago - when we were discussing her wish list and I was asking for them to put small, less expensive items on their list. Samantha said she would just ask Santa for the iPod since he doesn't pay for presents, he makes them!

This year, Michael's list started with just 2 items and he wanted them from Santa. Whew, he has expensive taste as he wants a Lego and a Nerf Gun, both expensive. But, he made sure that he mentioned he wanted those from Santa

We have always "prescreened" the kids Santa list before going to ask Santa - because that way he can always bring them what they ask for.

Samantha has never told us that she doesn't believe - but I doubt that she does. Michael asks from time to time, but always talks himself out of not believing. Its fun to believe. It adds to the magic of Christmas.

I think I finally realized it when Santa and my mother had the EXACT same handwriting on presents under the tree. We never wrap our presents from Santa so we don't have that situation, but they only get a couple from Santa anyway and the rest come from us (except the ones too big to wrap or we are too tired to wrap on Christmas eve).

But, Santa is alive and well in our house again this season!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cool marching band

I was in marching band for 3 years - we never did anything THIS cool.

Marching band kicks football

Friday, December 17, 2010

Giving back

Last week, Emma and I were given an opportunity to go to Princeton, NJ to participate in a focus group hosted by a diabetes pharmaceutical company. The company had reached out to Children with Diabetes and they reached out to me, as I am a somewhat active poster on their forums.

After asking them several times if they were SURE they wanted Emma, reminding them that she is 5 - and has the attention span of a 5 year old - we happily accepted. I was pretty excited about the opportunity.

It was a bit of a struggle with the planning because they were feeding us, and I had to make sure we had Gluten-Free options. Although the planning was a bit of a pain, it was all good in the end. We walked into a lovely local restaurant and they handed me a gluten-free kids menu (score!) And, the restaurant made her gluten-free waffles and they had gluten-free options on their buffet for breakfast and lunch.

The goal of the focus group was to identify what parents need when they are first diagnosed. Something that this company could offer to families to take home with them as they leave the hospital. They invited a great cross-section of patients and parents - with Emma being the youngest at 5 and the oldest being 17. The kids were also diagnosed at different ages, which helped to get different perspectives on what parents need. I think probably the only "control group" that wasn't included was probably the "less connected". The sheer nature of where this group came from meant that we are all pretty connected - we sought out and found CWD at some point after our children were diagnosed. I know there are lots of families out there that aren't connected with other families with diabetes and we were probably missing someting of their perspective.

Emma made friends quickly and was definitely a hit in the group. She was also complimented on her manners, which I was especially proud of!

There were lots of different ideas of what people felt would be most beneficial when coming home with a diagnosis of Type 1, although most people felt that someone they could reach out to when they want home was pretty high on their list of things that would be helpful. Someone to help them see through the fog of diagnosis. That's what Children with Diabetes does for so many!

It was a long day, plagued by high blood sugars, sickness from what I can only guess was ketones, a pump malfunction and having to give injections, getting 20 miles down the road only to have to turn around to go back and get my laptop that I forgot. But, it was a great day.

For me, personally, I was thrilled to meet Kerri Sparling, of the Six Until Me blog. I don't remember how I found this blog, but I read it regularly and I refer every mother of a teenage girl with diabetes to this blog. This is a great place to see that there is hope for a child with diabetes growing into an adult with diabetes, getting married, and having a family. And her baby is pretty cute too!

We also met a former Pittsburgh Steeler - Randall Simmons - who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes early in his professional career. He talked about how he managed his diabetes in an extremely physical situation and dealing with the emotional side of factoring Type 1 diabetes into your everyday life. Emma has a football signed by him to show for it.

The company indicated that this is only the first time we will meet together - I look forward to any opportunity to get together with this group of families again. We all relished the opportunity to give back to new families what we have learned, coming out of the fog on the other side of diagnosis!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Yes, I have neglected updating here. Sorry about that.

I have a friend that blogged and said she always felt pressure to have pictures with her posts, and that was holding her up on posting. I think I have the same problem.

It has been busy as we have been diving into the Holiday season, and this weekend was no relief from the chaos.

Friday night we went to a party held by a friend from Michael's baseball team. Its always nice to see these folks outside of the baseball field, but inevitably the conversation comes back to baseball.

Saturday night was Mike's annual office party. It has been held for the past few years at the nearby Air and Space Museum at the Udvar-Hazey Center. This year, however, they expanded it to much more of the company. They did a good job of identifying "key areas" for the different groups to meet up, so we still found Mike's co-workers pretty easily. And, since I used to work there, I still know a number of people. Ironically, the first two people I saw when we walked in the door were former co-workers of mine who DON'T work at the company anymore - they were invited because they work for a business partner company. I then ran into a man I knew when I worked onsite at an Army client site - in 1994! That's 16 years ago - and he remembered me!

Sunday, we had the opportunity to attend the taping of "Christmas in Washington" - airing on TNT this coming Friday night (Dec 17). Mike won it in a drawing from all the people who registered to walk in our JDRF walk in June. It originally was for 4 tickets and he was able to get a 5th, so we could take the entire family. We had pretty good seats - 6th row back on the aisle in the side section. It was a nice show and we look forward to watching it on TV to see how its different when edited than it was live. The only bad thing was that it was pouring down rain and chilly, and because the President was in attendance, the streets were blocked off a block or so around the National Building Museum, so we parked a couple of blocks away and walked. It was pretty neat and I don't think the kids appreciated that this is not something you get to do often - I think Samantha asked something about next year and Mike told her that this probably wouldn't happen again.

Times were busy leading up to this weekend as well, but that's enough of a quick update of why I HAVEN'T been posting - things are busy in the Stopper house!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


For the past three years, we have made a point to go to the gala hosted by our local JDRF chapter. Besides the fact that we don't get many chances to get dressed up and go out nice, its a good way to support JDRF and as a member of the Board of Directors, I feel like its important to support those events.

Our gala this year was this past weekend.

I was excited, as always, to go to the gala. But, this year I was especially excited. I had a formal dress that I loved, but I hadn't been able to wear for the past few years because I had, (ahem), put on a few pounds. I worked hard this past year to lose some of that weight, and the dress fit again.

So, I went and got my hair dolled up, Mike got a new vest and tie, and we got all dressed up to go to the Gala for our JDRF Chapter this past weekend.

It was a really great event, with good food, and lots of excitment during the live auction. The chapter has already raised over $1M and is working to top it off at $1.2M.

And for those who are interested, here is a photo from the back so you can see my pin-up curls.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Emma's soccer

So, Emma has now entered the world of organized sports that her siblings have been in for years. A couple of weeks ago she started practices, and this past Saturday, she had her first "game".

Game is in quotes because I think that's a generous use of the word. They have 9 girls on a team - they play on half of a micro sized field, so they space they play in is probably 15yd x 15yd. They don't keep score and the minute the ball goes out, they just throw another one in and keep going

Because it was the first week, they had professional trainers come up and work with the kids on some drills and then they started up the game. They were working on dribbling with a variety of games. My favorite was a variation on Freeze Tag - but every time the trainer said "freeze" and there was even ONE girl still moving, all of the girls had to DANCE. I think this was my favorite part because Emma certainly has the biggest smile on her face.

But, they finally got to it. I had forgotten that girls play so different than boys. Here's what happens when GIRLS collide!

But things finally settled down, made a few good kicks, and she had a good time - which was the most important thing.

On the diabetes front, this was a new experience for us. She unfortunately was going low when we got to the field, and probably ran harder than I've seen her run in her entire life - so we spent a good bit of time having her drink Gatorade to not go low, and her post-game snack was "insulin free". We'll figure out how to manage her blood sugars probably just in time for puberty

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I apologize in advance

I don't usually opine here about things I view in society (I reserve those for Facebook and my mutually snarky friends) ...

... but I will NEVER think its right to see a 4-year-old child standing in a restaurant playing a Nintendo DS.

I absolutely believe these types of things ROT THE BRAINS of kids.

My kids were around 9 when they got their Nintendo DS. Their computer time is limited and they are automatically disconnected when their time is up. "Screen time" is one of the first things to go when they can't behave. My 13-year-old still doesn't have a cell phone (*gasp*) and she's not on Facebook like all the younger kids.

I firmly believe the development of a child's brain is dependent on interaction. Interaction that involves all of their senses, their creative side, their imagination. They can't develop enough "educational games" to offset what I believe is lost when a child spends hours a day staring at a little screen.

So there, I've said it. Probably lost 4 of my 6 followers with my "narrow minded" view of parenting but, boy, I just can't stand to walk in somewhere and see what I consider a "baby" playing a video game so that Mama doesn't have to pay attention to him.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Happy "not" back-to-school day

So, it was back-to-school day for most of the Northern Virginia area, including my very tall 13-year-old 8th grader. For Michael and Emma, its "not" back to school at home with me.

Lesson plans were ready to go and the kids were ready to start this morning. I knew our morning would be interrupted by a trip to the orthopedic doctor to get Emma's cast off. But, that trip took a lot longer than necessary and really threw a wrench in our morning - and the rest of Michael's day was just not the same.

I could tell that Michael just wasn't as excited to be starting up school again. I'm thinking he's not liking the fact that the other student in the house is finishing her work quickly (Emma's lessons for today took a whopping 45 minutes total) and he's going well into the afternoon, but I keep reminding him that he's still finishing before the 5th graders at Little River. And he's studying some of the same subjects.

I did push a few of Michael's things to tomorrow since our appointment took so much longer than it should have. I think that made him feel a lot better

But, I'm going to have to find a lot more reading material for Emma. Her reading assignment for today was 7 pages in our Bible storybook. I read it with her today, but will leave her to her own devices in the next days. But, she wanted to keep reading, and reading. What started as an assignment to read about the 7 days of creation has turned into reading through into Egypt, the Pharaohs, Moses and the Exodus. I think it was supposed to take her 2 weeks to get to that point. Its like the wild horse that you just hold on tight for the ride - there is no doubt with her!

So, our schoolyear has started - exciting for Emma, a bit skeptical for Michael and I'll know more about how Samantha feels about her school year when she gets home at 4, but if she puts as much thought into her studies as she did into her outfit for today, we should be fine!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The End of an Era, ... or is it the beginning?

What do you call it when your last baby loses her first tooth - is it the end, or the beginning.

Well, Emma lost her first tooth this weekend. She was so excited in June when the dentist told her she had some wiggly teeth. For the last week or so, it had been pretty wiggly and on Thursday she started complaining that it made it tough for her to eat. I knew it was coming out soon - and it did on Friday at of all places, the baseball field.

So, we tucked it away and left it for the tooth fairy who left her shiny gifts in exchange!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lesson Planning

Anyone who has met me for, oh, more than 30 seconds knows that I'm a planner. Really, I am NOT a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person. Perhaps that's why I was given a child with multiple special medical needs - because a non-planner would be much more stressed with the needds of a Type 1 diabetic with celic (but I digress)

Anyway, I'd been thinking for a little while about the upcoming school year but for a while, hadn't done much. I finally got around to ordering the few remaining major curriculum items I needed (I tend to purchase little things throughout the year as I find them) and thought maybe I could get started with planning. But things kept coming up. And coming up.

Finally, yesterday, I realized I needed to get moving. Since I don't always start with new curriculums for the new year, I needed to go through all of the topics Michael had been working on to figure out where he was in each subject, what kind of review I wanted to do, and try to lay it out. I then needed to factor in new subjects into the game plan.

So, it took most of yesterday and today, but I have 4 weeks of lesson plans for both Michael and Emma planned out, written on their assignment sheets, in sheet protectors ready for them.

In the past, I haven't always been good at keeping with the lesson plans if there was a day I just didn't feel like doing a subject (one that involved me, he always has to do the ones he can do independently). But, we're getting into the more important years and I need to make sure things get covered. So, I've laid out 4 weeks of lesson plans and a daily schedule of subject and extra-curricular activities, and Michael will have "homework" if he doesn't finish his work in the time I've allotted. Typically, if we didn't finish in time for something in the past, I'd just shove it a day but I'm gonna try really hard to stay with the plan this year.

Here's what the kids are studying:



    Emma's pretty excited about starting school and getting school supplies. I've brought up one of the smaller tables from the basement and a chair for her to have her own workspace, and I've been getting her materials together into her crate.

    But, we're starting our year with a "Not back to school" ice cream social with the homeschool group this coming Friday!

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    HersheyPark - very gluten-friendly

    We've been wanting to go to HersheyPark for a while. I even went ahead and purchased tickets at a group discount rate through our homeschool group this spring - hedging my bets that we'd go.

    We finally picked a day to go - yesterday. PA schools started back that day so we expected the crowds to be lighter - they were.

    Due to Emma's celiac, we have to do a LOT of pre-planning to go anywhere. We have to make sure she'll have something she can eat, or we have to take it with us. I have to tell you, too, that I've been having some celiac burnout recently from all of the planning that's required to eat (especially eating out).

    Anyway, I went onto the HersheyPark web site Sunday night to take a look at what they had to offer for restaurants and see if I'd be able to work something out for Emma. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I see they have a specific list of gluten-free alternatives that they offer and which restaurants they offer them at. I was pleased to know I'd be able to more easily feed Emma (who gives a little pout each time we tell her she can't have something)

    The best thing I can tell you, though, about their gluten-free offerings is that these people are really well trained. Mike ordered Emma a gluten-free wrap for lunch. They moved to a new workstation and made the wrap special so that there was no cross-contamination. I asked the cashier if he could get someone I could ask a dietary question - he told me I could ask him. I asked if the fries were gluten-free. He quickly said that they were, but they were cooked in the same oil as other fried foods. I was about to say that I'd just forego the fries for her when he quickly offered for them to make some separately for her.

    It takes a lot of training and awareness to delve into that level of preparations for gluten-free. Most people don't think about the cross-contamination or setting up a gluten-free work area to prepare the food.

    For dinner, we went to a pizza stand that offered gluten-free crust. It took them a bit longer to figure it out, but it was clear there was someone well trained there. She made sure she didn't use any of the same tools to remove the pizza from the oven, she put it on a fresh cardboard pizza board, and cut it with a new pizza cutter. And she was quick to stop another employee who almost used the same pizza peel board for Emma's pizza that had been used for the others.

    So, I was quite pleased that HersheyPark made it so easy for Emma to be gluten-free there and took one big worry off our minds and enabled us to enjoy the day that much more. Thanks HersheyPark!

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    As promised

    I finally got a picture of Samantha in her braces. She's been kinda "mopey" around the house the past couple of days because she was sore from getting her braces on.

    And I kept trying to get her to smile without her braces, which is how she's been acting around the house the past couple of days. She couldn't do it without laughing:

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010


    So Samantha got braces on today, and we joined the ranks of the poverty-stricken (boy, they are quite pricey these days)

    I'll share a photo in a day or so. Right now, she's pretty sore so it wouldn't be a "happy" picture - so I'm waiting until she isn't quite so sore so she can have a nice smiling picture in her new braces.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Even the weekends are overscheduled!

    There are reports that show as a society we overschedule our children. There are some cases where there is true in our family.

    There is no doubt that I'm feeling overscheduled when we have so many events in a weekend:

    - Friday - Michael has a party at Chuck-e-Cheese with his piano teacher. He earned it by practicing 200 minutes every week (starting in January, I think)
    - Saturday - Emma has a birthday party at Chuck-e-Cheese. Mike is handling this one and just headed out with pizza and cupcake in hand (with Celiac, Emma can't eat the pizza or the cake that they offer). Its been only 6 months but definitely feeling some Celiac burnout, but that is a topic for another thread.
    - Sunday - Michael has a birthday pool party (the brother of the girl's party Emma's at today). Emma and I are headed into Springfield for a pool party with several families that have met online via the Children with Diabetes web site and are now going to meet in person.

    And this is a light weekend.

    And I just found out that all 3 of our kids will have something going on at exactly the same time on Tuesdays this fall - 6pm. Michael will be at baseball practice, Emma will be at soccer practice, and Samantha will be on her way to dance. At least I don't have to drive up to school each week to pick up Samantha, but getting spread 3 ways when one of us HAS to be at soccer with Emma is gonna make Tuesday an exhausting day this fall.

    Onward and Upward

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    I guess this was inevitable

    It sure seems the women in this family are prone to injuries. My mother can't look at a sidewalk wrong without hurting her ankle, my mother has also recently broken her arm near the shoulder, I've broken a leg and a foot, and Samantha broke her wrist a few years back

    Well, Emma was running around playing with some kids at a Haymarket Senators game on Sunday. Including a little boy Donovan, who she loves to play with. Anyway, she would come back to the stands from time to time, fussing about this or that, or who said what to who. She came back about halfway through complaining that she fell down and her arm hurt and her leg hurt. She was holding her wrist. We put ice on it a few minutes and a band-aid (the skin wasn't broken, but band-aids are a REQUIREMENT when you have a boo-boo) and she went off on her way to play some more.

    But, she complained on Monday that her arm still hurt.
    And she complained on Tuesday that her arm still hurt.

    Keep in mind - she was still playing and using her hand and everything - just favoring it at certain times.

    So, I took her to the doctor yesterday, who got an x-ray and confirmed that indeed, she broke her arm. Its broken up above her wrist, which is why she was still able to use her hand and wrist without much pain. Its a "buckle fracture" which is, as best as I can tell, a clean break where the bone just "buckled". The bones are aligned and everything looked good.

    But, this is the type of break that they put a cast on for healing.

    So, Emma is the 3rd one in our family in 5 years to have a cast (do they have a frequent flyer program at the orthopedist office because I feel like I've been there at lot).

    She chose Purple - and I chose waterproof (because she loves to swim and we NEED to be able to bathe her easily after she spends time playing in the dirt).

    Monday, August 09, 2010

    Family Reunion

    A couple of weekends ago we went to Williamsburg for a "Liverman Family Reunion". My mother is a Liverman, 2nd child of Marvin and Emily Liverman, of Prince George, VA. Her older sister, Jean, travelled up from Dalton, GA (although her husband, George, didn't. We missed you Uncle George). Her younger brother, Herbert, hosted the reunion (well, probably mostly his wife Joyce:))

    Here are the 3 Liverman kids: Jean, Jacque, and Herbert

    and with the spouses (missed you Uncle George - should we photoshop you in?)

    We were fortunate that just about everyone was able to make this event. We were less fortunate in the fact that it was over 100 degrees all day this Sunday - so instead of being able to enjoy their wonderful yard, and a boat on the water, we all visited inside with the kids taking short trips outside before deciding it was too hot.

    The Clarke wing of the Liverman family (Jean Liverman Clarke). Milton and Melanie Clarke came up from Dalton with Jean, Bix lives in Williamsburg, and George Ryan (Bix's son) and Charles live in DC. Stacey (Bix's daughter) and her husband Stuart couldn't make it - with a new baby at home and a busy ice cream shoppe to man in California, its no wonder.

    The Gwaltney wing of the Liverman family (Jacque Liverman Gwaltney) was a bit larger. Larry (son), Heather, and Gavin came up from Charlotte, NC. Emily (daughter), Marshall, and Morgan came in from Houston, TX, and Mike, Nancy (daughter), Samantha, Michael, and Emma came down from South Riding, VA. Bruce (the oldest son of Jacque) was unable to make it.

    The Liverman wing of the family (Herbert), is BY FAR, the largest. Jeff, and his wife Jo live in Danville, VA. They have 3 kids - the oldest, Alex is married herself. Then there are Emily and Sophie. Todd and Andi live in Richmond and have one daughter, Maggie. Eric and Shelley live in Chester, VA and have 2 kids. Rick and Kim have 2 kids, Cameron and Katie. Karen and Rick have 3 kids, including Blake and the two youngest at the reunion - two sweet 9 months old twin girls (Carli and Tori) that couldn't be more different if they weren't related! (one of them is missing from this shot because we all know better than to wake a sleeping baby).
    . Herbert and Joyce have the pleasure of all of their kids and grandkids not too far away!

    So a total of 43 of us got together, the first time in 10 years, and had a great time. As Joyce said during her pre-meal prayer, Marvin and Emily would have been proud.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010


    Michael's Little League team, the AAA Red Sox, battled all season with ups and downs, winning great games, and losing some games ugly. In the end, they ended up the regular season champions going into the playoffs.

    In the semi-finals of the playoffs, his team played well, making good plays and getting good hits, and won their way into the finals.

    The finals were played last night. And by night, I mean night (notice the light in the team photo). While we started at 6pm, we didn't end until after 9pm. It was a 3 hour, 10 minute, 10 inning epic battle to the end! The Red Sox got down early, giving up 6 unanswered runs due to numerous errors in the field - so numerous that the only outs recorded were 6 strike outs by Michael. The Red Sox battled back and by the end of the 5th inning, it was tied up at 8! Both teams played tight in the 6th inning to take the game into extra innings. All time limits went out the door when it was clear this was going to be an epic battle to the end.

    The 7th inning saw no runs given up by either team, but the Red Sox found themselves in scoring position several times, just not able to convert.

    In the top of the 8th inning, the opponent scored and we were afraid that might be it for the Red Sox. But, we answered with a run and came CLOSE to scoring the winning run, stranding 3 runners.

    Another scoreless inning for both teams in the 9th inning left the teams tied at 9 and the daylight quickly escaping.

    So, in the top of the 10th inning, our opponent scored 2 runs and went ahead 11-9. Coach Caroline kept the tone positive and let the boys know that it was 2 runs to tie, 3 runs to win - knowing full well we had no innings left because we were getting ready to play by moonlight at this point. 1 walk, 1 put out, and 3 hits later, with the last hit made by one of our weaker hitters, the Red Sox took the lead 12-11 well after the 3 hour mark to take the championship.

    Quite the battle. Congratulations to Michael and his team!

    Saturday, May 01, 2010

    Internet and Computer Woes

    So earlier this week, I didn't have internet for a couple/few days. Don't know why but the internet modem just stopped working. So, I got a little bit of Internet access at night when Mike was home and we could go through his Blackberry internet connection. And I have my Blackberry so I can read and respond to basic emails.

    So Internet got fixed with a new modem - yay!

    Now this morning my laptop welcomed me with the "Blue screen of Death".

    Don't know why it stopped working, but Mike is trying to figure out how to recover it. He feels confident all my data and documents are in tact, but it won't boot.

    So, I'm back to basically not having computer access. I can get on the internet on the new-ish office computer we have (Because that one died after living a long and fruitful life), but I don't have any of the documents that I need to do what I need to do.


    Friday, April 16, 2010

    How a 2-car garage becomes a 1-car garage

    It happens slowly, when you aren't looking.

    You buy a 2nd refrigerator for the garage and have to move your tool storage around.

    Now your bicycles have no where to be, so they are right up against the car.

    Then, you get a little baseball equipment. Not much, but its easier to keep here at the house instead of taking it up to the field.

    And maybe your microwave dies and you get a new one - and put the old one in the garage.

    And maybe a few folding chairs, winter boots, deflated balls, roller skates, sidewalk chalk, moon sand, jump ropes, and other kids toys don't always make their way back to their storage place.

    And before you know it, you only have room for 1 car! The other is in the driveway.

    And to every single one of you laughing right now, I know who you are! :)

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Tiny Toes Dance Academy

    For the past couple of years, Emma has been taking a preschool-level dance class at a local dance studio - a teacher at the studio for older students has formed a dance school for preschool age.

    Emma has taken ballet for several sessions and now has added in tap. I like that these are fun little classes, with no recital or costume pressure.

    She'll start a regular ballet/tap class next year at the same studio that Samantha takes dance, and if I'm lucky, Samantha and Emma's classes will be at the same time on the same day!

    Opening Day

    Mike and I have been working tirelessly for months to help get our local Little League to the point we did this past Saturday - Opening Day.

    I'll share more photos later - including hopefully a panoramic shot of all 609 players in 50 teams in the Opening Day parade. But for now, I wanted to share one photo of Michael in his uniform - he's on the AAA Red Sox.

    This is probably one of the best photos I've taken (or had taken) of him. He knew I was taking pictures of him but I finally got him to turn and just look at me instead of trying to pose.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Especially for my brother, Bruce

    I've been woefully neglectful in my blog recently. I'm going to put up a few different posts with what has been going on in our extremely busy lives.

    But, this weekend, Michael came running in all excited that the birds are back. More specifically, our robin's nest that it tucked in the cross of two rose bushes underneath the big window of the family room has another growing family.

    This is the fourth year in a row that nest has been home for a new bird mama - and it was 3 times last year.

    My brother Bruce is often asking about things going on around our house, especially in nature, so I know he would appreciate knowing that our nest has some fresh, new touches and is expecting again! 4 as far as we can tell!


    "We have ... weak ... trees!" (a favorite line from "The Money Pit"). Well, that seems to be the case in our yard.

    We lost two trees in the February blizzard. I think the really wet ground, heavy snow on the top branches, and strong winds were just too much. We were just thankful that they didn't fall on our house or the neighbor's houses.

    As soon as it warmed up, the snow melted, and the ground hardened enough for folks to get in the back yard without sinking into a swamp, we got them taken out. We considered whether we could upright the large one and attempt to salvage it, but the recommendation would includ taught metal wires to hold the tree up, mounted in the ground 10 feet away from the tree, for more than a year. Uh, ok, thanks but no.

    So, now we have an even bigger open space in our backyard. We'll put something back in, we just haven't decided what that would be yet.

    Thursday, March 04, 2010

    Black Belt!

    After training for 2 1/2 year, participating in 9 separate belt tests leading up to this, Michael participated in a grueling 3 1/2 hour black belt test this past weekend. It was a complete demonstration of all of the skills he's learned over the past two year, interspersed with lots and lots of pushups, jumping jacks, and other physical fitness techniques.

    I have a ton of great photos and I'll put them in a photo stream soon, but for now, here are the five boards Michael had to break in order to complete his test.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    If Disney did diabetes ...

    This is a cute blog post from another diabetic who loves Disney as much as we do - obviously.

    Disney does diabetes

    Monday, February 08, 2010

    27", 2 trees, 4 bushes and more to come

    So, the final tally from the snowstorm this weekend.

    27" of snow
    2 large trees in the backyard down (uprooted)
    4 arborvitae bushes on the side - 6' tall - down. At least one has a split trunk

    Loudoun County has closed schools for the remainder of the week. They believe it will take through through the weekend to get the parking lots cleared.

    Tuesday's forecast into Wednesday mid-day is for another 10-20" of snow!

    Shoot, we've had winters where we didn't get that much all winter, and here we are with our potentially 4th storm.
    -- Dec 19: 22"
    -- Jan 30: 4"
    -- Feb 3: 6"
    -- Feb 5-6: 27"
    -- Feb 10: 10-25" (predicted)

    Is it spring yet?

    I just walked down to a friend's house about 1/2 mile away. I saw geese flying overhead in a V formation. I think they've decided its got to be better in Canada than it is here right now, and they're headed home.

    Damn that groundhog!

    Saturday, February 06, 2010

    23" and still coming down (along with two trees)

    We woke up this morning to 23" of snow on the ground - it was about 12" when we went to bed.

    Woke up at 6am to no power - don't know how long it had been off but it wasn't cold yet, so it must not have been long. It came on again right before 8am.

    Mike headed out to shovel, with Michael for a while and now with Samantha. And when Samantha looked out her window, she noticed a tree down in the backyard. What she didn't realize is that it was TWO trees. The two main ones on that side of the yard. I guess the snow, rain, snow, more snow, and wind was too much for the roots - they are definitely uprooted and I see the roots coming up out of the snow.

    So, after the snow cleanup, we'll have tree cleanup we have to tackle!

    Tuesday, February 02, 2010

    The other shoe

    Almost 3 years ago, Emma was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease, one of many in a family of auto-immune diseases. There is often a relationship between these auto-immune diseases. As a result, Type 1 diabetics go through routine screenings for other auto-immune disease antibodies.

    A few months ago, some of Emma’s antibodies came back elevated and we started working with a gastroenterologist to further delve into the situation. After further blood tests and a quick but invasive upper endoscopy last week, the gastroenterologist has indicated that Emma has Celiac disease. He is waiting for the biopsy results to absolutely confirm it, but his observation during the procedure was sufficient for him to tell us to proceed.

    Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease where your body has an adverse reaction to gluten, primarily found in wheat. When a person with celiac eats gluten, it causes a reaction in their intestines and causes damage to their intestines. Most celiacs identify the problem because of gastro issues after eating but others, as in Emma’s case, show no outward symptoms and are identified because of a screening. The good news is that the damage to the intestines caused by gluten is easily healed – by removing gluten completely from your diet.

    So that is what we have started to do – remove wheat, rye, barley and other gluten from Emma’s diet. A no wheat diet is not an easy one to adapt to, but we are fortunate to have so many other products available to us that weren’t available even 5 or 10 years ago – including crackers, frozen waffles, pastas, and even cake mixes. I came home from the Whole Foods store last week with 4 grocery bags full of gluten-free products, and we had a completely gluten free taco dinner our first night, including soft corn tortillas and regular corn crispy taco shells. Where we can, we will eat entire meals gluten free with Emma, and in other cases, we will have a meal where we eat the same food but Emma’s portion will be gluten free and the remainder of us will have gluten (such as pasta).

    This transition definitely has its challenges and we will go through times when Emma will absolutely hate that she has restrictions on her diet. Its much like an “allergy” in that respect but unlike those who have allergies, she has had the foods and enjoyed them, and now can’t have them – so we are trying as much as possible to find replacements for many of her favorite foods. We’ll be splurging a little too, with gluten free cupcakes and cookies, as rewards for trying foods she might not otherwise want to try.

    I just wanted to share with all of you what’s going on with us these days. We’ll be transitioning as quickly as we can to a gluten-free diet for Emma, and we all may be a little extra grumpy as we figure this out, but everyone is still healthy, and happy, and we’ll make this transition with a child who still spends all of her days relatively happy!

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Happy 13th Birthday Samantha!

    Thirteen years ago, I became a mother when Samantha was born. She came into this world backwards (Breech) and has been bucking the system ever since!!

    We now officially have a teen in the house!

    Happy Birthday Samantha!

    (picture is fuzzy because its a zoom in of her in a group shot and it was such a good picture of her, I wanted to use it!)

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Ready for Black Belt

    Michael completed a Tae Kwon Do test this past weekend - this was the last one before his black belt test. He is currently a Red belt and when they reach that level, they need to "relearn" all of the routines they have learned at all of their previous levels. He has participated in 3 tests since his Red belt, each time demonstrating the routines that he was relearning.

    He is now ready for his black belt test - scheduled for Feb 27th!

    Michael above is demonstrating a routine (called a form) and a kicking technique. And in the photos below, he is demonstrating some of his self-defense techniques, including taking down his instructor, Instructor David.

    We are very proud of Michael's accomplishment and look foward to celebrating his black belt in a little more than a month!

    Saturday, January 02, 2010

    Done (enough)

    So Mike put my new cubbie shelves together last evening and I got to work organizing my supplies. I have TOO MANY scrapbooking supplies, especially for the amount of time I spend scrapbooking (not enough).

    So, anyway - here it is. I'm pretty happy with it. There are a few little things I still need to do, but they are little. I have a huge "leaf-sized" bag of garbage that I cleaned out from double/triple memorabilia, etc. The black shelves are still right beside this space, but the only things left on those shelves are things I'm currently listing on eBay to sell.

    And notice on the top row, second from the left, are the light switches for the room. I have to keep small stuff in that cubbie but it works well!

    Maybe this will motivate me to scrapbook a little more!

    Friday, January 01, 2010

    Happy New Year - 2010!

    Well, another new year.

    In the spirit of the New Year, I'll share a few resolutions.

    I'm going to get some more of the C.R.A.P. out of this house. It is amazing how much stuff you can accumulate. I've been doing ok recently, especially with kids stuff, by consigning items twice a year as a fundraiser for Michael's baseball team. But, there is so much more I need to get rid of.

    We went to IKEA the other day (ugh, I hate going to the store but I love what I got) and got these new shelves for the basement. We have replaced a cheap set of plastic shelves with these nice cubbies. Easier for the kids to keep it neater because they are only dealing with one cubbie at a time, instead of an entire shelf.

    We've moved all the games into the cubbies and I need to start getting into the toy closet and purge, sort, and organize into these cubbies.

    And, I went back today (yes, two trips to Woodbridge this week) and got a smaller set of these shelves. These will be to organize my scrapbooking stuff in the basement that is currently on a table, under a table, and in a corner. These are the before photos - I'll share the after photos after we get the cubbies up and I get my stuff sorted into the cubbies.

    Oh yeah, and I'm gonna lose weight. But that's not just a flippant resolution. I'm already 8 lbs down on my 25 lb goal (I started the day before Thanksgiving). I look forward to being at my goal weight by the time I'm done wearing sweaters for the season! (end of March)