Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goodbye, breast pump! Hello, freedom!

A lactation consultant I worked with once told me that she had a client who pumped so much, she started hearing her breast pump talk to her. It would say, "Get your groooove on. Get your groooove on. Get your groooove on." At first I thought she was nuts. But then the more I pumped (especially in a quiet room without my laptop or other distractions), the more I too began to hear the voice beneath the steady robotic-like rhythm. I guess the brain can't help but put words to repetitive sounds like this, but I think it's more fun to assume the pump has a life of it's own. (For a steep $81 bucks a freakin' month, it should.)
I have been renting a hospital grade breast pump for the past 12 months (due to my initial problems with nursing), and today I returned it to the store. I'm still nursing two times per day, but I am done...DONE pumping. DONE feeling like a cow. DONE cleaning pump parts. DONE hearing the little voice from within! Goodbye my trusty yellow Medela Symphony pump! You've been good to my tender nipples, and I will forever remember how you helped me to meet my goal and never failed to cheer me on.

"Get your groooove on. Get your groooove on. Get your groooove on."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The rat race.

It's been awhile since I've posted, so I thought it was about time to reconnect with the blogosphere. A lot has gone down in the past month since we've been back in Boulder. We've reentered what I fondly call "the rat race" now that I've returned to working full time. And while that is sometimes pure hell, it's also been a bit refreshing to get back to one of my passions - teaching middle schoolers. I'm sure some of you just gagged at the thought, but these hormone-charged, awkward pre-teens are my absolute favorite to work with. I just "get" them. Maybe because I'm not afraid to be a little weird along with them. :)

Besides work, we've been dealing with Calvin's adjustment to daycare which has actually gone surprisingly well... for him. For me, it's been much harder, but I'm hanging in there and taking it day by day. He loves the other kids and exploring the play areas, and he's even bonded with one of the teachers (which I initially thought would totally bug me out but is actually quite soothing). He's a bit more snotty and tired than he usually is, but little by little I'm learning to let go. I've decided that the most important things to me are 1. he is happy and 2. he gets enough sleep. My previous obsession with him getting enough calories has morphed into an obsession with him getting enough zzz's. I'm trying to be more flexible, but for the most part, I'm a stickler for the naps and bedtime. Luckily, Calvin is pretty resilient and can even handle being put down at our friends' house, sleep on the drive home, and settle into his own crib quite easily. Maybe it's because on a daily basis his sleep is pretty consistent. Eh, who the heck knows. We do our best.

Both Angus and I are moving at the speed of light to keep up with this life, but we've been able to find some quiet moments that help get us through it, like our Saturday mornings at the farmers market on a blanket in the grass, date nights, snuggling on the sofa watching our next addicting TV series (currently, Battlestar Gallactica and Modern Family), or Friday sushi nights (sometimes in, sometimes out). My sister and Mike have been in town this past week because they're on their way out to Palo Alto for Katy's next nursing assignment. Having them here has been really refreshing in so many ways. I can't believe that come December, they could be living here, and our dinners in and out, farmers market trips, and hikes could be happening on a weekly basis. It's surreal, and part of me doesn't even believe that it will happen, but my sister assures me that it's their plan and they'll be here eventually.

It's been two months since my dad died, and dealing with the loss isn't getting much easier for any of us. In fact, I think I miss him more now than ever. I crave our phone conversations, walks, vacations, and trips home. I can see him in my memory more alive than ever, but then I remember that he's not, and my heart breaks for the millionth time. Dealing with the death of my dad has been a constant emotional struggle because while I am attempting to process my own loss, I am also trying to help my mom process hers. I still find myself stuck in the "it's just not fair" mode or the "what could have we done differently?" mode. I know that these are just stages of grief that I'm cycling through. When I enter one, I try to pull myself out and closer to the point of acceptance, but I often find myself wondering if I will ever really be able to accept a loss this great. I'm angry for my dad, for us, for Calvin, and I constantly wonder if he's OK. I talk to him out loud in the car on the way to work in the morning, and pray to him at night. I know I'm painting a pretty sad picture here, and I don't mean to be negative Nelly, but it is sad for us. That's just a fact. But at the same time, my dad's death has taught us all to really embrace how he lived life. Fully, without regret, dedicated to those he loved, and kind to everyone. I have had the chance to see how many peoples' lives he touched - even people who only met him once or twice - and remembering this has really helped me get through the toughest of days.

Overall, we're chugging along and finding our new rhythm. Sometimes I find myself staring at the mountains in the early morning light or daydreaming about the cornfields at sunset in my hometown, and I feel so lucky to have this life. Although it's easy to get lost in the stress of the grind, I am trying to focus on all the good I've been so blessed with, especially having a dad that showed me every day how to live presently and gratefully through the ups and downs of this crazy life. "It's OK to take a breath, Ker," he'd say. "It may be a race, but you don't have to win."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back to Farmers Market Saturdays.

This morning we ventured out to the Farmers Market for the first time in two months. It felt really good to be back amongst the fresh produce, food stands, and Boulderites (including a topless woman!!). Calvin ate a spinach tamale, Angus had dumplings, and I had tofu spring rolls. Yummy. The best part was sitting on our towel in the grass together as our little family of three. Calvin's expressions today reminded me so much of my dad and the pure joy he had for life.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Down on the farm.

Not too thrilled with the mooing calf.

Sweet little farmer.

Friday, July 29, 2011

10 months this week.

Happy 10 months my sweet baby boy. This month you learned and experienced so much. You made your Poppy so happy, perfected pulling to stand and cruising, learned how to feed yourself a variety of chopped foods including avocados, peas, blueberries and grapes, danced to music, waved "hi" and "bye," said "ma ma ma" and "da da da" and "num num num," gave kisses and "huggas", drank out of a sippy cup, and lit up our lives every day. I am so proud to be your mommy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The After.

It has been two weeks and one day since my dad died.

Even typing that sentence was surreal. Ugghhh, I miss him so much.

There's been a sort of quiet around here lately that I wasn't really expecting. While my dad was sick, people were constantly coming and going, bringing meals, checking in, and visiting. Hospice and medical equipment people were in and out all day and night. It even feels like we were moving faster - in and out, in and out, in and out of Dad's bedroom. All of this has tapered off. It's not a bad thing but rather a necessary thing, I'd imagine. The quiet allows us to begin to process the loss and heal. What I've found is that this processing and healing is mostly an inner journey. As social beings, we naturally want someone else to be able to make it better, but no one really can. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't be where I am without the support of my family and friends, but what I'm saying is that to really heal, you have to be ready to look inward and listen to your self. When that occurs is probably different for everyone, but I'm pretty certain that this quiet lull is meant to introduce us to healing...whether we like it or not. It makes me curious about death in other cultures and their customs around grieving after a loved one dies. Angus tells me that in Chinese culture there is an extended time of prayer, and eventually one of the brothers in the family will see the deceased person's soul move on to the afterlife. This brother reports back to the family that their loved one is OK and at peace.

My biggest question over the past two weeks has been, "Is Dad OK?" After watching him suffer a tremendous amount, I found myself longing to know for certain that he is somewhere where his suffering no longer matters to him...where it's no longer something that pains him...where cancer is unheard of. In talking about all of this with my mom, sister, Angus and Mike, we decided that if there is a way for spirits to visit the living or deliver a message, my dad would be first in line. It's interesting.... Amidst this quiet, I am growing more and more confident that he is OK and that he is with us all of the time. I see Calvin reach up toward "nothing" like he does when he wants to be held, and I just know my dad is there. I feel his presence on my walks or when I look at my son asleep in his crib. There have been other signs too, and maybe I'm just looking for them, but I'd like to think it's my dad saying, "I'm alright, guys." I know I haven't reached the point of acceptance yet - hell, I'm not even sure if I've been able to start grieving yet - and although I'd much rather him be alive, the belief that he is OK is growing stronger within me with each passing day.

It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts. ~K.T. Jong

Monday, July 18, 2011


I got my hair done by the amazing Jen Harnish at Trans4mation Salon in Lancaster this week. It was a much needed morning of pampering, and it felt good to get away for a few hours. I've been wanting feather extensions for months now (ever since I tried to dye a chunk of my hair electric blue and failed), so I decided to go for it. They are pretty subtle, and I feel like I'm in middle school following the latest trend, but I love them! Following the whole middle school vibe, I took some photos of myself today so I could eventually show my kids that Mommy was still sort of cool at 30. Aw, who am I kidding...I'm still just a big nerd! ;-)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Makes the heart happy.

Love this, and would like to think Dad was there to see it, too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Several people who couldn't be at the service on Saturday for my dad have asked about the eulogy my sister and I wrote and gave. I've decided to post it on my blog in hopes that those who read it will be just as inspired by my dad as my sister and I have been. Love you, Dad.

(Paragraphs 1 & 3 - Katy; Paragraphs 2 & 4 - Keri)

One day last week, Keri and I went to sit with Dad for a while before we went for a walk. During those days, Dad didn’t do much of the talking. We did most of it, and Dad listened or drifted in and out of sleep. We talked to him about anything and everything, and told him again and again how much we loved him. As we were leaving the room that particular day, he woke up long enough to tell us to have fun on our walk, and then as he drifted to sleep, he said out of the blue, “You’ll figure it out.” We really had no idea where this advice came from, but when Dad gives advice, you stop and listen because it’s always worth hearing. On our walk, we found ourselves discussing our lives and the situation and believe it or not kept coming back to the phrase, “We’ll figure it out.” We knew that this short, powerful bit of advice would help us get through the days to come and would continue to influence us for the rest of our lives. So, that said, we each did our best to figure out some words that we hope will paint a picture of the amazing person our dad was.

Since the moment I can first remember, I have always been so immensely proud to be Ken Walkowiak’s daughter. From swim meets where Dad would high five and cheer for my friends to homecoming when he walked me across that football field and threw in a few of his signature dance moves to coming to every single one of my field hockey games – home and away – , my dad was always my biggest supporter. I loved that my dad was my soccer and basketball coach, and although he knew little about either sport and I wasn’t exactly the star athlete, he was happy because I was having fun and he was there to experience it. As many of my family members and friends can attest to, my dad was often the most fun adult in the room. He was known for making up silly games and songs, snapping his fingers in your face, quoting funny movies, and infamously winning every boardwalk game he played. The times Dad got angry were few and far between but always involved some sort of property damage like the time we slammed our bodies into the basement door not realizing it was dead bolted and ripped the door from it’s frame. Opposite of many teenagers these days, I actually wanted my friends to meet my dad. Always immaculately dressed, smelling good, and up-to-date with the current music, Dad could talk to anyone. He’d also hand out coupons for free Ken’s salad dressing and BBQ sauce to my friends, which made him even more awesome. He loved to make other people smile and could either be the life of the party or a man of few words – both of which were equally special depending on the occasion. As I moved into adulthood, Dad guided me with big decisions, told me never to settle, and wrapped his loving arms around Angus and Calvin. During his battle with cancer, the pride I had for my dad soared above anything I’d ever felt. I have learned so much from the man my father was, and I know that there’s something about the relationship between a father and his daughter that even time can’t change. I will always call my dad, Ken Walkowiak, my hero and inspiration and always be so proud to be his daughter.

For as long as I can remember, my dad has been to me an example of strength and unconditional love. When I close my eyes I see my dad - my strong, gentle, funny, loving dad. I can still feel his affectionate hugs and hear his phone voice that seemed to be special just for me, his little girl. As I think back to all of the times he comforted me in my most fearful moments I realize that I never should have been afraid because my dad’s love for me never failed. The first time I got on the Super Dooper Looper and burst into tears at the top telling my dad I wanted to go back, he laughed, put his arm around me and told me it was going to be ok. We hit the loop and my tears turned into laughter as I rode the rest of the way safe under his arm. When I was too afraid to go beyond ankle deep in the ocean, dad would get the flimsy blue raft we got for free at one of his food shows and tell me to hold on. I vividly remember fearing for my life as those deadly waves charged at us, but soon enough the waves stopped breaking and instead, they became rounded and smooth. I remember looking over at my dad seeing his smile and hearing his reassuring laughter, and I knew that with my dad I was always safe. His protective grasp never once left me as we floated there together and I felt such peace and pure happiness because together, we defeated fear. My dad has always been my rock. He’s been the one I look to for advice and comfort as well as his simple but profound words of love and guidance. He loved so purely and so selflessly, and because of that he made me the person I am today. He is still showing me who I want to strive to become, and has inspired Mike and me to love our children the way dad loved us. What he went through in the last six months during his battle with cancer is more than any one person should ever have to handle, yet he fought his incredible heart out every step of the way. When I first arrived in CT after spending the last two months at home helping my parents, Dad called me from the hospital and said, “I miss my little roommate!” I felt so honored and blessed to be able to return the feeling of comfort and safety to my dad during his greatest moments of fear. Although he was very scared, he faced every challenge with such bravery and grace. He demonstrated the most extraordinary strength, will, determination, and courageousness that I have ever witnessed before in my life. My dad is still teaching me every day what it means to love, to be love, and to live love.

Last summer around this time, our family spent a week together in Colorado. One morning, Dad, Mom, Katy and I took a walk together on a trail that runs by my house and provides a good view of the mountains. I remember thinking that it was the first time in a while that it was just the four of us together. Maybe that’s why it sticks out in our minds so much, but I think it’s also because Dad was so full of life that day. So positive and hopeful about the future. Toward the end of the walk, we passed by a large open field. Hundreds of geese were gathered in the field, and more were flying together overhead. Dad stopped at that moment, hands on his hips in his cute matching Adidas workout clothes, and stared at the sky in silence. As we all stopped in our tracks as well, Dad shook his head in awe saying, “It’s just amazing how they all fly together and know just where to go year after year.” We stood there for a while watching the geese land in groups and laughing at the stragglers being wrangled in by the leaders. None of us knew how they did it, but they stuck together and just seemed to know what to do. To some extent, all of our lives are going to be different without Kenny, our dad, here. But, above anything else, he would want us all to “be OK.” Sticking together, we’ll all do our best to move forward and keep his memory alive, and when we falter, we’ll just hold on to the belief that we’ll figure it out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


For anyone who's been keeping up with my blog, I wanted to let you know that my dad passed away last night at home with his family by his side. We will be holding a memorial service for my dad on Saturday. For now, we are sticking together, sharing memories of my dad, and trying to come to some level of acceptance. I will always be amazed at the courage, bravery, and grace with which my dad battled this unforgiving disease.

More to come in the days ahead...Thanks so much for all of your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. I don't even know what to say to express my gratitude.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Haven't updated in a while because a lot is going on. I'm using this time to be with my family and enjoy every possible moment we have together. My dad is at home, and every day presents new challenges, but we're hanging in there. Thanks for all of your love and support over the past few months. I'll be back to blogging shortly, I promise.

Friday, June 10, 2011

One week.

We've been home in Lancaster for one week now, but it's seemed like a lot longer than that for some reason. I'm glad to be here, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, but it definitely has been a challenge to be away from our home in CO so much especially with Calvin. I am finding a hard time describing the emotions that I'm going through at the moment, but I will do my best.

The first thing that I noticed when we opened the door to my parents' house last week was the hum of the oxygen machine set up in the dining room and the long, clear tube stretched across the room to reach my sweet dad sitting on the sofa. As I rounded the corner into the living room, I saw my dad's face light up like he had been waiting weeks for our arrival. Immediately, he began to talk to Calvin in his classic high-pitched, cheerful tone. It felt so good to lean over and give my dad a hug. I felt like I had been waiting weeks for that. It amazes me so much that as shitty as he feels, my dad can still muster a smile and playful tone for Calvin and a fighting, positive attitude for us (not to mention how polite he is to every single nurse, doctor, aide, social worker, and food service employee he's come in contact with during this journey). Sometimes I just shake my head in disbelief as he says, "Thank you so much for your care" with a smile to an aide who just took his blood pressure. Who the heck are you?! I'd be cursing out people left and right. Well maybe not, but it'd be closer to that end of the spectrum...

Over the past few days, Katy and I have been trying to do our best to support my mom and take care of my dad. Keeping track of his medications and going to dialysis and oncology appointments have been keeping us busy. There really aren't words to describe how it feels to watch my dad have to endure this. Even saying "there are no words" doesn't seem to do it justice. I really don't understand why so much gets unloaded onto one person...I really don't. It just isn't right. Today was day ten of my dad being on the "chemo" medication, Sutent, and the side effects are coming on full force. His level of exhaustion has reached an entirely new level, and now it's combined with nausea and dizziness. The plan is to give this medication it's 28 day course (if tolerable) and then repeat scans to see how the cancer is responding. If it's responding well, they will repeat another course of the medication. If not, there will be other options, so they say. We are trying to take one day at a time...that's really all we can do. All of our lives our being changed by this beast, mainly my dad's, but our hope remains a constant.

I'm not sure if he sees it this way, but I think that my dad is truly extraordinary. Even in this awful situation, he finds moments to drop a one-liner that is pee-your-pants hilarious. He pushes himself to stay independent in every way he can. He listens to the doctor's orders and continues his fight. Even on the roughest of days, he loves his family with every ounce of energy he has left. He kisses and snuggles with his grandson, thanks Katy and me every time we do the littlest thing for him, and holds my mom's hand to tell her everything is going to be alright. Some of the best moments we've had together as a family this week have been in my parents' bedroom, plopped on their bed talking about anything and everything, laughing and crying, playing with Calvin and sitting in silence. I'd be kidding myself if I said that this wasn't going to be a battle. It already has been. But, I know that my family will continue to stick together, and that is what makes this doable. Not easy, not fun, but doable because we've got each other, and we've got the force that is my amazing father inspiring us to go on.

Cooling off.

Yesterday, Katy and I ventured to the local K-Mart for a blow up pool and some toys for Calvin. Although the K-Mart was a fairly miserable place, we accomplished our mission and made one sweaty baby very happy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pine View Dairy.

Hot day, poor cows, scared baby, yummy ice cream, belly aches.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sister, sister.

Katy and I have been trying to get outside for a walk every day. Today, we came down the stairs, took one look at each other, and started cracking up. It felt good to laugh.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Daddy's girl.

Been at home with my family for the past few days now. It's tough for me to find the words right now to update my blog. So, this is it for now. A quote I came across while reading The Middle Place.

"A father is always making his baby into
a little woman.
And when she is a woman
he turns her back again."
-Enid Bagnold

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New fave.

Little guy's surgery.

This past Friday, my poor little rascal had to have surgery for an undescended testicle and inguinal hernia. We were hopeful that the testicle would move down on it's own by this time, but it didn't. (We even did testicle chants at bath time to will it down. Guess that doesn't work.) Although the procedure is fairly routine, as you can imagine, I was a nervous wreck. Nothing like adding one more thing to our already full plate. After following the pre-op instructions carefully, we drove down to Denver to the Rocky Mountain Children's Hospital. We had to arrive two hours before Calvin's procedure, so we ended up having to wait for a while before the surgeon took him back. The wait time was the worst. Calvin was so hungry and couldn't understand why I was withholding milk. We did many things to entertain and distract him during that two hour period including visiting the nurses, walking the hallways, playing with the toys we brought, smiling at another baby in the waiting area, and investigating the pulse-ox and blood pressure cuff. Finally, the nurse came and carried Calvin back into the operating room. He was so sweet as he left us, smiling at everyone and raking his hand up and down the nurse's shoulder. Angus and I hugged and went to the waiting room to wait which seemed like days but in reality was only about an hour. During that time, I called my dad to check in with him. Despite all my dad is going through, he was only concerned about Calvin and us. The love my dad possesses for those around him is simply amazing. Overall, the surgery was a success, and Calvin was a trooper for sure. He will have to return for a final procedure in about four months, but all should go well. As tough as it was to see my baby have to go under anesthesia and endure a surgery at such a young age, I couldn't help but think of the many families who are in the hospital almost full time with their children. They are inspirational.


Gown and booties.

My sweet baby boy in the horrible hospital cage post surgery.

The ride home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


When I'm stressed, I hike. Today I decided that no matter how long it took, I was going to hike a mountain with Calvin. The whole way, I thought about my dad and prayed for him. He was my motivation - my inspiration - to make it to the top.

On our way up.

We made it!

The trail down.

The sleeping babe.

Monday, May 23, 2011

On turning 30.

This weekend, on Saturday the 21st of May at 11:57 a.m., I turned the big 3-0. I was 165 pounds and 69 inches long, a healthy young woman with a slightly graying (!!) full head of hair. When people ask me how it feels to be 30, I say that it snuck up on me. I say, "It feels the same as it felt to be 29." Or, I mutter something like, "Um, OK" and then change the subject. Depending on what kind of mood I'm in, I fake smile and say, "AAAHH-mazing. Oprah was right! Life gets better with age!" Really, what I should say is that 30 feels weird. 30 feels like I'm too young to have a dad with cancer. 30 feels overwhelming and great at the same time. The journey from 29 to 30 feels like both the best and worst year of my life. 30 feels frickin' crazy. Now pour me a glass of wine.

Last May, when I turned 29, I was five months pregnant and feeling spectacular. I had one of the most amazing summers of my entire life as I was able to visit with my family and prepare for my baby's entrance into the world. I walked and did yoga almost daily, and I felt an extreme sense of peace with my life. In September, my lovely baby boy was born, and I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful childbirth experience and was blessed with a healthy son. I fell in love all over again with my husband, and together we navigated the ups and downs of parenthood. After Calvin was born, my parents came to visit us. In the moments of those days, I realized that for all these years, they have loved me just as much as I love Calvin. I saw in their faces and actions a pure kind of love that knows no limits.

One morning in October, I got a call from my dad telling me that my mom had suffered a stroke. I thought I was dreaming. What the fuck. Seriously?! How could this happen? My dad was beyond upset because he was traveling in Buffalo, NY at the time, and my mom was all alone. Luckily, she had a few good friends by her side for the worst of it. After a series of tests, it was determined that my mom has atrial fibrillation, a irregular heart rhythm that can cause blood clots. Thank God/Buddha/the spirits above that she recovered completely and is now on a medication that will prevent future clots.

In November, my entire family came out to Boulder to spend Thanksgiving with us. Angus's parents came as well, and we cooked our first official dinner in our kitchen at 3101 Ouray. My dad carved the turkey, Angus's parents gnawed at the turkey legs, Calvin took in the action, and we all toasted with a good red wine. Katy got to meet her nephew for the first time. Their first meeting was love at first sight.

For Christmas, Angus and I took Calvin to Pennsylvania to spend time with my parents. It was Calvin's first flight, and he did great. His favorite events were walking around the living room with Poppy and looking at the lights and ornaments on the tree, sleeping in a new room, and opening his first ever Christmas presents.

The next phone call I got was from my mom. My dad went into the ER in January with flank pain and discovered a tumor growing on his remaining kidney. In shock and devastated, Dad went back to his surgeon to discuss options. After what seemed like a million different answers and a long waiting period, it was determined that the only option for a potential cure was to operate and remove the kidney. Immediately, we booked flights home and spend some time with my parents processing this news and preparing for surgery.

In March we returned to PA ready to stand by my dad has he underwent major surgery. The surgery was a success, and Dad left the hospital to return home after only one week. When we left, he was doing well and attempting to adjust to life on dialysis and heal from surgery.

We decided to return to PA once again in April for a visit as my dad's recovery was tough, and we wanted to lift his spirits. On our third day in Lancaster, Dad developed a fever and went to the hospital. He unfortunately had developed pneumonia and c-diff, an intestinal bacterial infection. Immediately, treatments were started, and Dad slowly began to feel better. He had a feeding tube placed to help with nutrition and continued to go to dialysis three days per week. The day we were supposed to fly back to CO, he developed a pulmonary embolism which required immediate intervention. Thank goodness, the doctors were able to catch it early and treat it right away.

The morning of my 30th birthday I got a call from my dad that I will never forget. He told me that they had found cancer on his lungs. The mother fucking son of a bitch cancer is now metastatic. Most recently, we have learned that there is also a tumor on his liver. We have found an amazing oncologist to work with who is hopeful about a targeted therapy called Sutent which attacks renal cell carcinoma specifically and slows the growth of the tumors. We are also hopeful that this will mean better days ahead for my dad. For God's sake, he deserves them.

Sometimes I imagine life's moments in Polaroids. So, for instance, I "take" a picture of a moment that means something and store it in my heart of hearts and promise to hold onto it forever. From 29 to 30, I've collected many Polaroids, many of which no doubt will be topics of writing to come although it's tough because most of the time these are moments that I can't even find words to describe. I have to say that this collection of photos has been my most special yet. From life's joys to life's heartaches, I hold them all close.

I am 30. I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a child. Here's to hoping that this year is full of good health, happiness and a lot of love.

There's a place I go sometimes that feels safe. It's the bathroom with the old, brown and blue floral wallpaper, with the dried boogies wiped on the wall above the toilet paper roll. The single sink with toothpaste stains and contact lenses cases and Old Spice shaving cream cans. Mr. Squeaky Shower and the smell of cologne. It's the creak, creak of the plastic tiled floor and the smell of the metallic water that we have delivered monthly because our well went dry. There's an old cross-stitched picture that hangs on the wall by the towel rack. It says something about family and leaves falling from trees and the change of seasons. I think it means that we will always stick together, but every time I pee, I read the saying and try to piece together its meaning. There's a mother with her children and the wind is blowing, and the house is calling them home.

Spring green dinner.

Arugula and mixed greens salad and spinach and zucchini soup. Perfect May dinner.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How far we've come.

Back in October, about a month after Calvin's birth, I wrote a post about my poor boobs. I wanted to follow up that post with this one because I honestly never thought I would come this far. I don't think mamas talk enough about their struggles with nursing. For some reason, it's taboo (BOOBS!), or maybe everyone likes to project the image that they have it all together. My hope is that, in some way, talking about my own struggle helps other mamas who are struggling with nursing. At the very least, I hope this opens peoples' eyes to the commitment and dedication it takes to breastfeed and the rewards that follow after doing so. I am by no means saying that nursing is the only right way to nourish a child. I am saying that it was the right way for me to nourish my child. I knew this before I even conceived, and I turned out to be very lucky that my body made milk (and a whole lot of it) making my choice to nurse Calvin possible.

The first 3 1/2 - 4 months of nursing were so difficult for me. I suffered from so many issues including sore, infected nipples, thrush, supply issues from pumping, nipple confusion (because we had to give Calvin bottles for 4 weeks while I healed), plugged ducts, mastitis (a milk duct infection), and high lipase content (which causes milk to have a funny smell and taste and requires scalding before storing). As a result of these issues, it was very difficult for me to feel comfortable nursing in public, to leave Calvin for an extended amount of time, get a full night's sleep, or even feel confident with my abilities as a mother. During my struggles, I worked closely with a lactation consultant and my amazingly supportive husband. Many people told me to throw in the towel and switch to formula, but I was stubborn and hell bent on pushing onward. People said that being a happy mama was more important than being a nursing mama, but for me, the two went hand-in-hand. In general, when I'm determined and have my sights set on a goal, not much can mess with me. During those 3 1/2 - 4 months, I couldn't really identify why exactly I needed to stick with nursing; I just knew I could handle more and would continue on. I know why now, but I'll get to that.

I'm not joking when I say that breastfeeding was at least 10 times more difficult than having a natural childbirth. Looking back, I definitely should have taken a class or met with a lactation consultant during pregnancy, but I just assumed it'd come naturally. I had a lovely vision of myself sitting in the grass on a blanket under a huge tree nursing my baby. So relaxed, so confident. Now I know differently. Almost every single woman I have met through yoga, mom's groups, etc. has had some sort of nursing issue she must overcome. It's no wonder the wealthy nobles back in the day hired nursemaids! I'm sure countless women and infants died from nursing related complications during that time period not to mention the millions of women living in countries without access to healthcare. (Don't get me started on that.) It's not to say that nursing can't ever become relaxed and confident; for me, it just took a lot of time, patience, and practice.

Somewhere around 4 months I found myself being able to say that nursing was "easy." Actually, I don't even know if "easy" is the right word, but compared to what it was before, I'd say it's an appropriate assessment. I started to LOVE the moments I shared with Calvin instead of tolerating them. It just felt right.

Here I am, and Calvin is 7 1/2 months old, and he's never had anything besides breastmilk (mine and a few bottles of donor milk when my supply dipped). We still have our bumps in the road, but for the most part it's amazing. Most of the time I'm super hard on myself and don't let myself feel genuine pride. I always think, "I could've done better." For one of the first times in my life, I feel a sense of pure pride when I think about all I've endured to nourish my son. I think whenever there are scars involved (NIPPLE scars, no less), pride is completely justified. Angus says it's what he loves most about me as a mother - how insanely proud I am for meeting my goal of breastfeeding Calvin. I'm not sure it's what I love most about my mothering, but it is something I do feel so good about every day.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but in a few months I am planning to wean Calvin down to two feedings (early morning and before bed), and then when I head back to work I'm planning to wean him completely. I recently saw an amazing Chinese medicine doctor who specializes in pediatrics. He told me that by 9 months babies have gained all of the immune benefits they will gain from breast milk. This was shocking to me since I always thought the "one year" mark was the rule of thumb. Part of me is excited to have some more freedom once I wean, but the other part of me (let's be honest - about 90% of me) is holding on. I used to look at women - many Boulderites, in fact - who nursed past one year to be kind of insane. Now I think I get it. I'm not going to do it, but I so get it. It's hard to believe that this weaning is going to happen in a little over than a month.

What I love about nursing my son is that it's the only time he isn't wiggley. He lays across my lap, sometimes with his eyes closed, and gently plays with my necklace or rakes his fingers up and down my chest and face. What I love about nursing my son is that when he wants comforted, he burrows his head in my chest and pulls at my shirt (which can be frustrating in public), and uses sign language to tell me he wants milk. What I love about nursing my son is that when he first latches at night, he furiously sucks as if all he wants in the whole world is milk, then he calms and slows into a soothing rhythm. What I love about nursing my son is that it's so animalistic. I feel in touch with Mother Earth and the creation and sustaining of life. I feel so amazed at my own body and it's power. What I love about nursing my son is that he needs me and trusts me to be there for him, which will never change, I hope, even after nursing is long over and he is all grown up.

I stuck with nursing my son because of all of this, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First "real" bath.

Calvin had his first bath in the big bathtub tonight. He didn't topple over, and he loved splashing in the water.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sir Gigglesworth.

Calvin's laugh is so cute when he's sick. Unfortunately it also makes him cough.

For my mother.

Dear Mom,

I know these past few months have presented more challenges than sometimes we know what to do with, but I want you to know how proud I am of you and how you've handled all of it. As our mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and Dad's wife, you've risen each time to meet the challenge head on, deal with it, and demand the best possible for your family. Your motherly instincts to protect and nurture go into full effect, and you've stood by each of us as we struggle to accept what is happening and cope. I know at times it feels like it's all coming undone, but that is far from what is real. You are keeping us together and busting your ass to do it. You have continued on in your roles and amazingly have been an even better mom, wife, grandmom, and friend now in a time when you are being pulled in so many directions. I hope that everything gets better for you and for us soon, but even if it's still a long road, I have confidence that you will continue to fight and expect the best, and that's all you can do but at the same time, just what you need to be doing - that and no more. You have been truly inspiring to watch as you support Dad through this time in his life, take care of yourself, and put everyone else around you before yourself. I hope I too can handle it all in my life and show Calvin the kind of love that you and Dad have demonstrated to us. It's the best gift you could ever give. Just purely loving those around you.

You say to us how proud you are and how blessed we are to be the women we are, and I want you to take this moment - today - to say to yourself, "I am a good mother." You and Dad shaped who Katy and I are today. Without you, we'd just be two bumps on a log. :) I am so grateful.

Happy 58th birthday, and happy Mother's Day and Grandmama's Day, too.

We love you.

Your daughter,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making it okay.

"The mind is constantly trying to give you advice about how to make it all okay. That is why the mind is so active; you gave it an impossible task to do." - Michael Singer, The Untethered Soul

These past few months have been some of the most physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenging for me and for my family. Not only must we deal with my dad's diagnosis of cancer and the road to recovery, we must also let go of who we once were and the life we once had. While life has changed a lot for my sister and me, it has changed drastically for my parents. I can't even begin to imagine what my mom is going through right now as she supports my dad every day of his journey to fight cancer. Even more so, I can't imagine what my dad is going through having to be the one to endure the stress of this situation day in and day out. In general, people say things like "think positive" and "have hope," and while I think these things are indeed of the utmost importance, I have to bite my tongue at times so as to not bite their heads off. "Have you seen my dad? Have you sat in that dialysis chair next to him? Have you felt this kind of pain before?" I want to scream, "You asshole! It isn't that simple! You have no f'ing idea!" Woah, wait a minute, Keri. You'd give the same advice to someone else! What was that reaction? It's definitely a knee jerk reaction to feel defensive of my dad, but I realize that it's not my anger at this person and his or her (actually very good) advice, it's my anger at being thrown into an uncontrollable situation. I want more than anything in the world to make it all okay, but I can't. And that downright sucks.

When going through a crisis like this, I've determined that you can have a million people around you, but you can still feel alone. Our extended family and friends have been so thoughtful and supportive, but we're left still feeling empty. Why is that? I think it's because we think that if someone could really understand what we're going through, it would all be okay. Plain and simple, they'd GET IT. But why is that even important? Why would we ever want someone to know this kind of pain? We think if someone "gets it" it will be closer to feeling okay for us, but that is just false. Everyone has been through their share of heartache, and everyone deals with it differently. To a certain extent, everyone "gets it" because they've been through some sort of enormous challenge in their own lives. Ultimately, friends and family just being there for us is what matters most. Many of my best girlfriends have actually dealt with seeing a parent battle an illness, and I can't say enough for how loving and supportive they and others have been to me as I support my dad. What I seek from my friends is just a loving heart which I know they all possess. While they can't make the situation okay, they have helped me be okay in more ways than they'll ever know, and for that, I am truly blessed.

What I've learned is that we can't expect ourselves or anyone else to be able to make situations like these okay. We find ourselves grasping for straws when life feels like it's spinning out of control. I think if we come to a point where we let go of the need to control, we will feel a bit more peaceful at least. We look inward to let go of the desire to make it all okay because it is wasted energy and an impossible feat.

While I cannot control this situation, I can control how I react and what I choose to believe. A friend wrote to me, "Being mindful doesn't mean things are less bad but that you are more capable of dealing with them." I think this is so true. I know my dad will overcome this. He is so incredibly strong and inspiring. Words can't describe the pride I feel when I think of how hard he is fighting every day. What people may not see from the outside is that he is thinking positively, and he does have hope - this is what keeps him going even on the toughest of days. What is happening is out of my control, and I will work to be at peace with that. I can't make this go away. I can't make it all okay. But what I can do is be there for my dad, love him with all of my heart, and fight with him, so that's just what I'll continue to do.

Morning with Mama.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wannabe pasta.

I have this favorite pasta dish I order from Arugula in Boulder. It's chicken and zucchini with penne, and it's to die for. Tonight, I attempted to recreate the dish adding a little of my own flare. It turned out pretty well for a first attempt. Next time, I might add a bit of butter or some sage to make the pasta richer. In this version, I used olive oil to make it a bit healthier than the restaurant dish.

1 package of your favorite pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti because it's what we had on hand.)
Salted, boiling water

Extra virgin olive oil
2 medium sized shallots, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2 zucchinis, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 cup of snap (or snow) peas, julienned
1 cup butternut squash or yams, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and some for garnish
3 sprigs of basil, julienned
Salt and pepper to taste

Put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Once boiling, add pasta. When the pasta is finished, drain in a colander and then return the pasta to the hot pot. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pasta and mix well. Add the 1/2 cut of freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the pasta and mix once more. Set aside.

While water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, prep your veggies. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large-sized skillet, and allow the pan to heat. Add butternut squash cubes to pan in a single layer. With heat on medium-high, cover the pan, and allow the squash to steam for about 4-5 minutes. Check squash. It should be toasted on the bottom and soft to pierce with a toothpick. Allow squash to cook another 2 minutes uncovered or until done. Salt and pepper to taste, and set aside in a small bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the same skillet once the squash is removed. Put the pan back over the heat, and add the chopped shallots and garlic. Cook the shallots and garlic over medium-low heat until translucent then add the zucchini to the pan. Cook the zucchini for about 3 minutes or until done. Do not overcook - zucchini should be firm but juicy. Add the julienned snap peas to the pan, and cook for about 2 minutes.

Next, dump the pasta into the pan with the shallot, garlic, zucchini, and snap peas. Mix well over low heat. Add the butternut squash cubes to the mixture and then turn off the heat. Add the julienned basil to the pan, and mix once more. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with extra Parmesan for garnish. Viola!

Serves 4.