Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Charleston Strong

One week ago the unthinkable happened in my city.  A monster walked into the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church and joined in their Wednesday night bible study.  He spent an hour sitting with 12 good Christians after being welcomed into their group.  Then he did something that I still cannot wrap my head around - pulled out a gun and killed nine of the church members, including the pastor.

I had gone to bed early that night so I didn't see the the news until I woke up on Thursday. The first thing I do when I wake up is look at the weather on my phone.  Before I could get to that I saw the headline from CNN and my heart dropped.  As I began to read more details I started to feel sick.  All mass shootings are horrible and heartbreaking, but this one is especially awful.  This wasn't just some nut who randomly took out a bunch of people. This was a young man so full of hate that he targeted a historical black church in the hopes of starting a race war.

I got to work and began watching coverage online. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the monster was caught up in Shelby, NC, but we were also all on edge waiting to see what would happen.  Would he get the race war that he wanted?

Over the next few days something amazing began to happen. Instead of being torn apart my city began to come together.  Friday night there was a prayer vigil downtown. I couldn't make it down there, but I watched the live stream of it.   I was in tears over and over again as I watched the coverage. Sunday morning Emanuel AME's doors were open for the church service. Again I watched the coverage and sat in awe as I listened the words of forgiveness and love.

Sunday evening there was an event planned to show some unity in Charleston.  The Bridge to Peace - Unity Chain for Emanuel AME Church was organized in an attempt to get 3,000 people to stand holding hands to span the bridge.  It was first discussed on Friday in the mom swap group that I am a member of and then by Saturday I saw it as a news story  on the local news site.  I told Jonathan that I needed to go to it. I had to do something.  I originally wanted to take Andrew with me, but it didn't start until 7:30 and it was still over 100 degrees so I thought maybe I should go without him.  I met up with Andrea, Marc and Jennie and we headed over to the bridge.  As we got close I started seeing groups of people walking towards the park.  I knew that there was going to be a good turnout based on the number of people who had responded saying they were going on the facebook page, but I was taken aback by just how many I was seeing.

I parked my car and called Andrea (they had been following me and got caught at a light).  They were over by the base of the bridge so I headed that way. I passed the park where there were thousands of people already gathered and headed over towards where my friends were waiting. I weaved my way through the huge crowds on the sidewalks, tears welling up in my eyes as I saw the signs that people were holding and the emotions on people faces.  I was so proud of the turnout and of the peaceful nature of the gathering.  We were so far back in the crowd that I was fairly certain we wouldn't make it up onto the bridge and I was right.  As the crowd moved forward we made it towards the base of the bridge and we stood in the middle of Coleman Blvd since they had traffic blocked off.  We stood among the crowd and took it all in.

We took part in the moment of silence and stayed until people started to be herded back to their cars. I made my way back through the crowd and on the way back to my car I struck up a conversation with a lovely woman named, Dana.  I again welled up with tears as we talked about how we were feeling about everything.

After  I got home and showered (it was so hot and muggy that night) I began to look online at the photos people were posting about the event and I was again in awe.  To see my city come together instead of being ripped apart by the hate of a deranged man was indescribable.  The love and support that I have seen throughout our city has been nothing short of amazing.  There are very deep wounds here that will take a very long time to heal, but I have hope that we are headed in the right direction.

I pray the names of those beautiful souls that were lost on June 17th are never forgotten:

Rev Clementa Pinckney, 41
Susie Jackson, 87
Rev Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
Ethel Lance, 70
Myra Thompson, 59
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Rev Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
Rev Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
Tywanza Sanders, 26

And I pray that Charleston can be an example for the rest of the country and the rest of the world.  

Love wins.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

First Beach Trip of 2015

Last year we made it to the beach a grand total of one time.  That's pretty sad considering we live two miles from the ocean.  It always just seemed like such a hassle, especially since Elliot wasn't walking until almost September and the amount of crap that we figured we would need to lug out there was overwhelming.  So we only went once and it was by bicycle.

This year we are determined to get out there more. We figured we would start with the unofficial kickoff of summer (Memorial Day weekend).  We decided to go Sunday figuring that the crowds would probably be the smallest of the three days so it hopefully wouldn't be a mess. We got the boys up, fed them breakfast and got them dressed and sunscreened up so we could be out the door at 9:45.  As I was packing up all the crap we needed I couldn't help thinking about how different a beach trip is now compared to five summers ago. Preparing for the beach is no longer a 10 minute endeavor!

We got out to Sullivan's Island and found a parking spot down by Station 18.  Andrew was so excited about going to the beach and couldn't wait to get out there. We unloaded the wagon from the back of my car and plopped both boys in there along with the beach toys we brought along.  Jonathan pulled them and carried his chair and bag while I carried my chair and bag and pulled the rolling cooler with the tent and the boys bag balanced on top. We made it halfway down the boardwalk before I had to rearrange and carry the tent and put my bag on the cooler.  When we got out to the beach we saw that there wasn't really all that much beach. I thought the tide was in, but I think it's just the way that section of the beach is normally.  There is no tide pool like there is down around Station 25 (the perfect place for little kids to play).  We decided not to set the tent up yet, but wait to see if we needed it.  Andrew wanted to head straight for the water, but I had to get Elliot in his swim stuff first.  Little dude is swimming in his 18 month swim trunks and 2T rashguard:

He wasn't too keen on the water - I think because when Andrea took him to the beach he got knocked down by a wave. He was much more content to sit and play in the sand:

Andrew wanted to play in the water, though. Thankfully Jonathan obliged since the water was a little nippy:

Some friends and their kids joined us and it was perfect for keeping the boys entertained:

Andrew loved building drip castles with his daddy:

Finally after over 3.5 hours it was time to head home so Elliot could take a nap.  Andrew was pooped from all the running around and playing and fell asleep in the wagon on the way back to the car:

Of course Elliot fell asleep during the short ride home, but luckily I was able to get him cleaned up and down for a real nap with no issues. The little dude was tuckered from all of the playing and took a 3 hour nap.

I'm so glad it was a successful trip and wasn't full of meltdowns and screaming. Hopefully that means we make a lot more of them this summer.  Next up is a possible boat outing this weekend. I'm not as optimistic about that, but we'll see how it goes.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How I Knew We Are Definitely Done

After Elliot was born we said we were done. Two kids was all we could handle.  And to be honest, the thought of three boys gives me anxiety.

After Elliot turned one, though, I started having doubts. Especially when seeing more and  more pregnancy announcements from friends and even more so when seeing so many of them adding the opposite sex sibling to their families. I started to wonder if maybe we shouldn't be done. Maybe we should consider adding #3 to our family and maybe getting the baby girl that I know Jonathan would love to have.

Then last week happened.

I had been feeling kind of crappy for a few days.  I'd been having horrible workouts and had been completely nauseated two evenings in a row.  While we were out back pushing the boys on the swings I said something about how I felt so crappy. Jonathan jokingly said "You aren't pregnant, are you?".  I pointed out that I have an IUD and he mentioned that one of his riding buddies ended up with a kid even though his wife has one.

I instantly felt a little panic rise in my chest.  I knew I had a pregnancy test up in the bathroom and decided to take it the next morning just to rule it out.  When I woke up on Friday I fumbled the package open and nervously took it.  The whole time I was waiting for the answer to pop up I felt this sense of dread.  I wasn't anxiously staring at it praying to see a positive, I was thinking "WTF do we do if it's positive?"

After I figured enough time had elapsed I started to glance at it and said a silent prayer that it would be negative.  I have never been so happy to see these two words:

I didn't feel any sadness about seeing a negative. Instead I felt an enormous sense of relief. That's when I knew. We're done.

Don't get me wrong - I love little babies and I do miss mine being so small and snuggly. Looking back at at their newborn pictures does make me nostalgic, but what it doesn't do it make me want to start over.

Maybe it's because things are starting to get a tiny bit easier.  Elliot is getting slightly more independent so I can actually breathe.  Maybe it's because Elliot is such a handful that I can't imagine keeping an eye on him while dealing with a newborn. I know it's definitely because I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with daycare expenses.  Andrew has his interview with the school next week to possibly get him into the 4 year old kindergarten and I'm getting my hopes up that he'll get in and we'll start saving $1K+ per month.  Once we move Elliot to Discovery Center we'll be paying a little more than we are now, but Andrew should be in school by that point so it won't be too bad.  I'll also have my car paid of by that point, which will be another huge savings. As it stands right now between daycare and  my car we are shelling out over $30K per year. That is ridiculous.  But I can see the end and once we're there we will be getting a big-ass raise. So that's a huge reason that the idea of starting over from square one made me feel physically ill.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Jonathan would not mind an 'oops' baby based on some comments he's made, but I'm not going for it. As far as I'm concerned we are DONE.    Seeing some pregnancy announcements over the last few days hasn't made me feel any sadness or jealousy, either.  After my little scare I now only feel happiness for my friends.

So there you have it - the Walker family is perfectly complete as a family of four.  And with these two cuties I'm feeling very good about that:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Weekend

This past weekend was Easter, and even though we haven't been church going folks it was still a busy one for us.

On Friday I took the day off of work (Jonathan had Good Friday off, but I didn't) and we took the boys to the zoo.  Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

I completely wasn't thinking about the fact that it was Spring Break (although I still find it odd that grade schoolers get Spring Break) AND it was a holiday for some people. Due to that, the zoo was a nightmare.  So crowded.

We got in there around 11:30 and made the trek down through the botanical gardens (since we parked at the wrong entrance).  We headed over to the giraffes since they let you feed them between 10:30 and 1:00.  I paid $4 for two rations of lettuce and was given this total ripoff of one:

Last year when we went there was hardly anyone there so we got a lot more for our money. I guess they rationed it out since it was so crowded.  Next time I'm sneaking in my own lettuce.

Anyway, we got in there among the crowd and Andrew got to feed him (there was only one giraffe at the platform interested in the food):

After that we headed over to look at the ostriches and zebras:

I was trying to stick to the shade as much as possible, but it was still pretty warm.  Elliot wasn't amused:

Andrew amused himself by climbing on statues of animals:

My sisters and nieces were supposed to meet us there, but they got stuck in an awful traffic jam and ended up abandoning the plan because the girls were getting hungry and cranky. So it ended up just being the four of us.  We spent about 4.5 hours there before we headed back up through the botanical gardens to the car.

We also hit a bunch of traffic on the way home, so it made for a somewhat long day.

Saturday I got up and got the boys ready and we headed to Myrtle Beach for the day for an Easter party and to celebrate with my family.  The Easter party was at the Moose Lodge where my parents are members.  At the beginning there was an egg hunt:

We had lunch and then attempted a visit with the Easter bunny.  Elliot was not having it:

After the party we headed back to my parents house to color some eggs and have an Easter dinner:

We left for home around 5:15 and got home at 7:00.  Andrew wanted to dye some more eggs when we got home:

Elliot amused himself with a bucket on his head:

That night I hid some eggs before going to bed and assembled the baskets for the boys. Sunday morning we got them up and let them discover their goodies:

We made some breakfast, including Jonathan attempting to heat up some of the dyed eggs in the microwave - leading to exploding eggs and a need to clean the ceiling:

After breakfast we played outside some on the deck. Andrew was very excited about his butterfly net and wanted to go catch some bugs:

We spent some time in the backyard and decided to work on the garden. I helped out until I pulled a weed and this guy popped out:

That ended my helping with the weeding. I hate snakes.  Elliot, on the other hand, was very interested in it:

After the snake adventure it was time to put him down for a nap and figure out dinner.  We had a honeybaked ham and I whipped up some mashed potatoes and a green bean casserole.  It wasn't a huge fancy dinner, but it was a perfect evening to wrap up the whirlwind weekend before getting back to the grind on Monday.  Another great couple days with my three favorite guys.  <3

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Andrew's 4 Year Well Check

I still can't believe my first little baby is four years old. It doesn't seem possible, but he is.

With turning four came another well check at the pediatrician.  I had it scheduled for 3:30 on Monday do it would be late in the afternoon and we could head home afterward.  I picked him up at school during snack time, gathered up all of the artwork he's been drawing, and we headed over. The whole way there he kept saying "I don't want any shots!".  I kept saying, "We'll see what they say." since I knew he would be getting a whole mess of vaccines.

We got checked in and waited in the well visit waiting room while we waited to be called back. He watched some Toy Story:

and showed off his favorite picture:

He's very proud of his boy riding a monster  :)

After five or ten minutes we got called back. As soon as he saw the nurse he said "I don't want any shots!".  Oh boy.

On the way to the exam room we stopped at the scale so he could get weighed and measured. His stats were:

Weight - 39 lbs 8 oz (78th percentile)
Height - 42.25 inches (88th percentile)
BMI - 15.6 (49th percentile)

Holy smokes!  That means he grew four inches over the past year (he was 38.25" and 36 lbs 4 oz at three years).  No wonder all of his pants that were too long last spring were way too short for him in the fall.  My little stringbean.

Anyway, we got into the exam room and the nurse went to work taking his temperature, O2 sats and then his blood pressure:

He was very cooperative and I was so proud of my little dude.  When she was done she left and we waited for Dr. Graham. In the couple minutes where it was just us he watched people out in the parking lot and kept asking if they were coming to the doctor to get shots.  The kid was not gonna let the shot thing go.  After maybe ten  minutes Dr. Graham came in and started the exam. He asked Andrew questions about school and his friends and what he likes to do. I was impressed with how well he did answering questions and interacting. He can be really shy sometimes so it's nice to see him be more outgoing.  Dr. Graham said he is doing great, he's very engaging and we have nothing at all to worry about developmentally. He was impressed that Andrew never gets out of his bed at night and remains dry all night (which he's been doing for quite some time now).  We chatted a bit more and then he was off and we had to wait for the nurse. Andrew asked if we could go and I had to tell him we weren't done yet. Then the nurse came back in with the shots and he instantly said "I don't want any shots!".  I apologized to him and told him he needed to get a few shots, but it would be quick and he would get a surprise when we got home.  I held his hands while she went to work.  With the first one he just seemed shocked, but then he quickly started to cry and say "Owie! Owie! Owie!".  I tried to keep him as calm as possible and to relax him since I know he tensed up, which makes it worse.  When she was done I got him up and hugged him and tried to calm him down. He was pretty upset, and the nurse kept offering him a Popsicle, but all he wanted was a lollipop.  We headed out front to check out and he picked out a sticker and a sucker.  As we walked out to the car he told me again, "I don't want any more shots!".  The good news is it'll be another 7 years before he needs any more. Hopefully by then he's forgotten about these ones...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Birthday Celebration and Bridge Run 2015

The past few days have been busy in the Walker household.  Last Thursday was Andrew's 4th birthday (still can't believe it), Friday we had some outings to celebrate, Saturday I ran in the 38th annual Cooper River Bridge Run 10K and we had a little more fun to celebrate.  Yesterday Jonathan did a 103 mile bike ride - the After the Bridge Run Ride - and we just relaxed at home.

First up - Andrew's birthday.  I ended up having to work from home that day since I had gotten a call at 9:00 the night before letting us know that Andrea was sick (I felt guilty for passing it on).  I got Andrew up for breakfast and gave him his birthday balloons. He was pretty excited:

I dropped him off at school with some oreos to share with his class for his birthday.  I spent the day working and entertaining Elliot.  We played in the back yard a bit:

When Andrew got home we decided to do presents:

Elliot was busy messing with the walkie talkies my sister sent for him and Andrew was making sure no one touched his boxes.  He was pretty excited about his dinosaurs:

Afterward it was time for cake:

It was a lowkey day, but he didn't seem to mind.

Friday we got up and he helped me make pancakes for breakfast:

We had been planning on going to the zoo, but the weather in Columbia was not cooperating. Instead we headed to Monkey Joe's in North Charleston, mainly so I could swing by the Bridge Run Expo to pick up my race packet.  Elliot wasn't a fan of the jump castles, so he spent most of the time playing in the toddler room:

Andrew, on the other hand, loved the jump castles.  We played for a little over an hour and he had a blast on this slide:

After that we headed downtown to the Wonder Fest thing they had going on for kids for the bridge run.  I was shocked when Andrew agreed to ride the pony:

He had a blast in the jump castle:

Played by the fountain:

Climbed up in a tree:

And built some stuff with his daddy:

We had told him that he could take part in the kid's race, but it wasn't until 5:00 and a storm rolled in at 4:00.  He was upset when we had to leave, but cheered up when we reminded him that his grandparents were on the way to visit.  We got home and made a spaghetti dinner so I could carb load for the bridge run in the morning.

Saturday morning I got up and got ready for my 10K:

It was a little cooler than normal for the race so I was wearing long sleeves and running tights.  At 7:30 I left the house to jog down to the start line since it's only a mile from our house.  I took my place in corral C and weaved my way up towards the front to hopefully avoid some of the crowd.  At 8:11 it was time for us to start.  The first mile was probably my best first mile ever in this race since it wasn't super crowded.  At 1.7 miles we hit the hill and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't tough.  Once we reached the top of the hill I felt ok and I pushed as hard as I could running down the hill.  Once we got down off the bridge and hit 4.5 miles I hit a bit of a wall and was so tempted to let  up.  When I got to 5 miles I noticed I had a pretty good time going so I pushed as hard as I could to the end. I stopped my watch as I crossed the finish line and looked down to see this:

I was really pleased and thought maybe this was a PR (I thought my previous best was 51:50), but when I looked it up I realized I had a 51:20 in 2010. 11 seconds from a PR. Damn!  I guess I need to try harder next year.

Jonathan was there to meet me at the end and we hung out at the after party for a little bit until I got too cold and we headed home.  I showered and got Elliot down for a nap. While he was sleeping we took Andrew to Blackbeard's Cove for a little more birthday fun.

First up was go-kart rides.  Andrew loved it:

The whole time he was chanting and laughing.

Then we went and played some mini-golf:

Andrew's form needs a little work  ;)
Jonathan beat me by four strokes - I guess we'll have to have a rematch.

On the way out they played a little basketball:

Then it was time to head home so we could go grab some dinner.

Yesterday was a relaxing day at home. We hung out and played outside in the sun and enjoyed the last of the weekend before it was back to the grind today.

It was a busy and fun weekend and I loved doing some celebrating with Andrew.  This coming weekend we'll be heading to Myrtle Beach for an Easter celebration and a little more birthday fun with my family.  Hopefully all of this makes up for the fact that we didn't do a party for him this year.  He seems to enjoy the prolonged celebration  :)