My baby girl at 10

Ten is a great age. A cousin of mine has a toddler and is already lamenting how quickly it all flies by and wants her baby girl to stay little. Ugh, that feeling. Who doesn’t wish for a rewind button to go back and relish it all just a little more? I told my cousin that every age is great – and – none of them last long enough!!!

I’m loving Leah’s “tween” stage. She is truly in-between. My brother Steve says she is a 45 year old IT consultant, which is so heart-warming I have to forgive him for making me older! But seriously, Leah can seem very grown up when she’s cooking dinner for us or letting me know she’s already done her homework or fed the pets – and yet, she is still very much a little girl. She loves cartoons and her AG dolls and she still wants to be a mermaid. Oh for it to last and last!

Growing like a weed!

Leah is an astute observer – she misses nothing and she’s very sensitive to everyone’s feelings, except arguably her little brother who she likes to boss around!

Here’s Leah with her “Day 1 BFF” Camille from our days in Florida. Thankfully, the girls have been able to see each other at least once a year since we moved away in 2007! They recently met up in Birmingham for an Auburn/Alabama gymnastics meet.

45 year old IT consultant.

Here’s Leah hanging with her best friend Andrew – they have been inseparable since kindergarten. I love Leah’s choice of friends! She has great kids in her life.

See, nobody’s too grown up to be silly or serve pizza to their dolls! This is Leah and AC.

At ten, Leah is into her guitar lessons and drama club as well as playing volleyball and basketball. This is Leah and her friend Ainsley.

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10th birthday flashback to November.

Someday this will seem so little!!!

Beach Pictures

Bryan calls any nice, dignified photo of our family “false advertising”! Ha! With that said, here are some of our best shots from sundown yesterday…

        

We haven’t been on vacation together in a decade!!! My parents used to have a lake house and we always spent July 4th together. This trip is reminiscent of the unscheduled, relaxed pace of those weeks at the lake. A week is not enough!

 

The 4th grade Book Fair

We are careening into the last 9 weeks of school and then… summer! I am ready! Leah has had a great year in the 4th grade with all kinds of fun projects – the latest being a Book Fair! Each child got to pick a favorite book to showcase for their classmates and parents. It was quite an event! Leah chose an American Girl book called “Julie” that is set in 1974 in San Francisco. As part of the assignment, she wrote about social change in the 1970s and things children enjoyed doing “back then” like roller skating. It’s funny to me that it seems soooo long ago to her as my mom’s childhood of the 1940s seems to me!

Leah’s display.

Ainsley and Leah in the school library.

Suffice to say, Michael was nonplussed.

Atlanta

Sooooo… I haven’t blogged in a couple weeks because I started a new consulting gig and they’ve had me come to Atlanta twice!! Business trips are pretty sweet for mommies in many ways – someone else does the cooking and cleaning, no one pops their head in to chat with you when you’re tying to pee, you get the whole bed to yourself and you get to talk to real live grown-ups uninterrupted! <cue chorus of angels> A neighbor tried to elicit my sympathies once about his busy work travel schedule and I said, Oh no – I have done both and know without a shadow of a doubt it’s harder to be at home than on the road. Bring on the “14 hour workday”! That’s a shorter day than I’d spend with my kids – and someone’s buying drinks when it’s over! Who are we kidding?!?

The down side is clear: I miss my babies and they miss me – and my absence places a burden on everyone at home. Thankfully Nana and Paw-Paw put on their superhero capes and save the day!

Here’s all the excitement of being on a business trip… Brace yourselves for big. exciting. stuff. (Just kidding. Please set your expectations very low.)

This is my client’s global headquarters – in Buckhead, Atlanta. So nice!

My consulting firm is just north of Buckhead here in Sandy Springs. I met with a colleague today who has been offered a promotion and might be my new boss. That would be good!

One of my early business trips for EDS, way back in 1996, was with client in one of these buildings. #goodtimes #ROOKIE

Selfie of working in bed at the hotel. #yawn

I wasn’t really working – I was streaming Netflix!

Selfie of me working in a cubicle and so you can see what I wore to the office. They wear jeans to work and basically insisted that I wear jeans, too. Sorry, but I don’t feel very professional in jeans. I spent too many years in dark, conservative suits with pearls and heels at EDS! #whatever

Bryan says this shirt makes me look like a Bama fan. I just like houndstooth! Can’t a girl like houndstooth?

Gorgeous early morning drive across Tennessee.

Trying to make jeans look quasi-professional.

These shoes remind me of every fashion magazine advice column: Are animal prints OK for the office? Um, probably not, unless they’re already making you wear jeans.

Another outfit selection…

Free food! Seriously, this is the best salad ever!!

I had dinner at Gordon Biersch almost every night because (1) the traffic in Buckhead is absurb – took me 40 minutes to drive less than a mile from the office to my hotel, (2) this restaurant is next to my hotel, and (3) they serve that crazy good salad!

OK, that’s all the excitement around here!

This month in the yard: March

It’s March which means Spring is [allegedly] here and it’s time to plant and mulch and beautify! My Southern Living magazine says it’s time to divide my Cana Lillies and Hostas.

But I have one small problem…

The yard looks way too much like this lately! Not exactly the right moment to prune the shrubs!

My Hydrangeas have looked better.

Remember my post about Nandina providing a pop of color in the yard all year? Well, here’s further proof! ha

I stepped on the lawn and it crunched. (Like my boots? They’re from Sole Society. Love!) Doesn’t seem quite time to mulch the flowerbeds although I promised myself we’d do that early this year!

The kids have missed so much school for snow (last week) and sleet (this week) but the CRAZY thing about our Spring weather is that yesterday afternoon it was 78˚ F (25˚ C) and sunny so I took the kids for ice cream after school and we sat outside the ice cream shop in t-shirts enjoying a beautiful afternoon. Yesterday. Today, every overpass and most major roads are shut down and the city is covered in ice. Ditto for tomorrow.

That is Spring in The Deep South.

And now for the benefit of blog visitors from other countries, here is a map of The Deep South – it’s the part of the US that the rest of the country denigrates. But can I say, as someone who has lived all over the US and Europe and has traveled all over the world enough to know there’s an upside and a downside to everyplace: We love raising our family here in the 21st century South.

image via wikipedia

Anyway… It feels like green grass and warm weather will never come. (I am closing my eyes and picturing a sunny, blue sky and a light breeze…) Later this month, I hope to:

  • divide and relocate the Cana Lillies and my giant Hosta Lillies
  • mulch the flowerbeds
  • add more Firepower Nandina

Now, pardon me while I go make some hot chocolate! Brrrrr!

Elvis can’t get in the building…

Last Spring, Bryan and I went to an Auburn University alumni event at the Davidson Center which was built in 2008 to house the Saturn V at the US Space and Rocket Center and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s an amazing place to be – one of my favorites. Imagine our frustration when we couldn’t get in the building. Sure there’s an elevator once you get inside, but someone had built a fence around the property that required walking down a flight of stairs. Friends from college arrived in time to carry Bryan and then his scooter down the steps.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want my friends carrying me. Know what I mean? I’d be worried they’d hurt their backs or get a hernia or break out in a sweat or go home and say, Good gosh that woman weighs a lot. Bryan was a good sport.

Back in 1990, two things happened that raised my awareness of people with disabilities. I became friends with a guy named Robert who had been paralyzed in an accident – and – President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Robert was really good looking and charismatic – he always had pretty girls hanging on him and a big group of guys laughing at his jokes and stories. He made it all look easy with his modified BMW and a wheelchair ramp into his house which was just off campus and functioned as party central.

By 1993, I was back living in Europe and then spent the next decade traveling all over the world for work and for fun. As I trod down cobblestone streets and schlepped luggage up staircases, I would think about Robert. He had loved to travel and wrote articles for the newspaper reminiscing about his adventures around the world as a Navy SEAL. I felt sad that most of the experiences I was having and the amazing places I was seeing were inaccessible to him.

Fast forward to 2010: My husband’s doctor said the words “secondary progressive MS” and Bryan went from a walking stick to a power scooter in less than a year. I had proudly noted 20 years of progress and change here in the US: wheelchair ramps, accessible restrooms and even [albeit bewilderingly] braille signs on drive-thru ATMs!

Friends, I was so naive.

The ADA is great – it’s better than nothing and it’s a start – but it’s vague and there are loopholes and even the ADA office will tell you it’s enforced via legal complaints and lawsuits that are costly to pursue and difficult to substantiate. Also, the ADA tries to cover everyone – so the person with cancer can’t be fired and the person who is deaf will have an accessible phone in their hotel. It’s the motherload – like restaurants that try to make everything and end up being good at nothing.

When I contacted the US Space and Rocket Center about our experience, they were great. I was invited to consult on needed changes and happily obliged. The changes would be inexpensive… How about handicap parking near the handicap entrance? How about unlocking the gate that blocks the handicap entrance? None of it was hard – but it was so weird that I was the consulting party. Hello!?!? My credentials include a college buddy and a husband who use wheelchairs. And that’s my point: Everyone seems to be winging it and you would be amazed how inaccessible most places are.

On the up side, people are so kind. Truly. The ADA is important, but the thing that we most need to make accessible – and cannot legislate – is our hearts. I think we’re headed in the right direction.

Maybe now Elvis can leave the building…

image via

MS Awareness Week!

It’s MS Awareness Week so I thought I’d share an update on Bryan…

Lots of people have been asking how Bryan has been doing since he began taking Lemtrada, a new treatment for MS, in December. Everyone seems a little unsure of what the Lemtrada is supposed to do, so here are a few quick facts:

What does MS do to you?

Doctors are not entirely sure what MS “is” but the leading theory is it’s an auto-immune disease where your immune system attacks your brain and spinal cord leaving scar tissue that interferes with signals coming/going to your body.

What is Lemtrada?

It’s a chemotherapy that was originally developed for people with leukemia and is now being given to people with MS. It wipes out your immune system which forces your body to rebuild it. The hope is that your immune system will rebuild correctly and stop attacking your brain and spinal cord.

Is Lemtrada a cure?

No. There is no cure for MS – and technically there are no treatments for people with progressive MS like Bryan. The only MS treatments available are intended for people with milder forms of the disease. Lemtrada is intended to slow down or even stop the process of getting worse.

The Man.
(Bryan went shaggy for “No Shave November” and stretched it through December and January!)

What’s it going to do for Bryan?

It will be months or possibly years before we know. Lemtrada works best in people who are young, active and have very little scarring on the brain and spinal cord. Some of those patients have healed! The hope is that it will provide some respite for older and/or more progressive patients like Bryan, too, but no one is sure if it will do anything.

This doesn’t sound all that great.

No one says this to us, but several think it, and we understand! So listen, when there are no treatments and you just go month to month and year to year getting worse – or seeing your loved one getting worse – you get freaking jubilant over the possibility that something might help slow this down. Make sense? It’s the best MS treatment yet. It’s worthy of excitement! :)

Tell me some good news.

On Bryan’s last MRI before the treatment, some of his scars had shrunk which seems to indicate that the round of Lemtrada he had off-label at the tail end of the clinical trials is working some magic. Will he feel better, too? Time will tell!

Some life experiences are “growth opportunities” to learn virtues such as patience. This is one of them!!! We want Lemtrada to do something while we wait for stem cell therapies to be developed – that’s the next wave.

Seen and Heard: 7, in all its glory

I often say that Michael is 7 in all its glory. Here are a few reasons why…

 

Michael in the maternity section at Target.

—————

Michael: “I still remember when I lived in your tummy. When I was an egg, I was right here. <points to my belly button> Then, when I hatched, I tumbled right down over here and that’s where I stayed. I was so cozy! The goo was so warm. And I was never hungry! I remember when Leah was born, she kicked me right before she got pulled out.”

Michael: “You’re still coming to college with me, right Mama?”

—————

Michael: “Mommy, you don’t remember the parental control password, do you?”

Me: “Why? What are you doing?”

Michael: “I am trying to get on LegalZoom.”

Me: “What? Why would you need to go to LegalZoom?”

Michael: “I’m setting up my alligator catching business.”

Me: “Ahh. Well, when you’re 7, you don’t have to do all that paperwork to set up a business.”

Michael “Great! I’ll just send out postcards to advertise! <pause> Once my business is up and going, I am going to need a jet ski for better access to the alligators.”

Writing a screenplay with Charlie.

—————

Paw-Paw showing Michael my high school senior picture: “Isn’t your mommy beautiful?”

Michael: “Mmmmm…. not really. So so. I don’t like her hair like that. It’s too big!”

—————

Michael: “Mama, I love you. I’ve told you that a million times, but that’s OK because I love you a million.”

Me: “I love you right back.”

Michael: “You love me a billion.”

Unattended donuts will be sampled.

—————

Michael: “I always tell people to call me if they see a snake, but no one ever calls me.”

Me: “What would you do if they called you?”

Michael: “Go catch the snake!!! My business is a dangerous reptile removal service!!! Now, if they call me about an adult anaconda, I’m going to need a helicopter. You really shouldn’t even mess with a baby anaconda – they are crazy fast! Crazy fast on land and crazy fast in water! And their bite is no joke!”

Grossing out his sister.

First time at the ballet. Please note false enthusiasm.

—————

Michael – from the back seat as we are driving into town: “Look!!! I’m necked in the car!!! I’m necked in the car!!! I’m necked in the car!!! Hahahahahahahahahahaha!!!”

Leah: “MICHAEL!!! GET YOUR CLOTHES ON!!! <exasperated> Mommy, he really is naked.”

Cheese!

A photo of my flat, Andrew’s flip flops and Leah’s boots that Michael apparently took during church.

—————

Michael – watching a documentary about early civilization and the Hebrew language: “Mama! They’re talking about the Baptists – God’s chosen people!”

—————

Me: “Michael!!! Stop that and get in the house!”

Michael: “But I love to pee in snow! It melts!”

Michael with his new buddy, Wyatt, and their “mean” teacher.
(You’re buying that, right?)

—————

Michael – headed upstairs: “I am going to set up my office.”

—————

Michael was telling Nana that she is always sweet and Nana replied, “Oh, I bet your Mommy is like that, too.”

Michael – incredulous: “Ya think?!?!?! You should come to our house at bed time. Mommy is not sweet!

Still my sweet baby.