Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Team Callahan

While it appears I may actually have a few minutes to sit here and blog (although, as you parents know, that could easily change at any moment), I'd like to share a little bit about our latest adventure as a family: a half marathon!
Back in May when I started running, I could do maybe a mile without stopping to walk. I signed up for a half marathon in June as sort of a motivation to keep at it. The training schedule that I adapted (per Hal Higdon for you runners) had me running up to 5 days a week, most of which I could do during the mornings before Paul left for work. On the weekends, Paul would push the kids in a double stroller that was gifted to us (thanks, Victoria!) and we all did my long runs together on the Mt. Vernon running path along the GW Parkway.
We had a VERY hot summer, which made running really difficult at times. I remember our seven-mile long run one weekend in July. That morning it was 90 degrees by seven A. M. It was absoutely dreadful. But I think that training in the heat paid off, because once the cool September mornings arrived, we noticed that a whole minute dropped off our time.
As we got closer to race day, Paul decided to join me and sign up! I was so excited that the whole family would be together for this fun event! I was also happy to have the encouragement, as I'd felt like I had my own cheering section on every long run over the summer. There were times that I'd be running in front of Paul and the kids, and they would shout, "Go, Mommy, go!" I loved hearing their silly little voices cheering me on, and I knew it would help the day of the race.                                      
The morning of the race was a bit of a stressful time. We had to get up at 5:00 and then get the poor sleeping kids up, dressed, and out the door, so that we could be at the start no later than 6:00. We had packed a bag of snacks for them the night before so that they would (hopefully) be entertained and fed while we waited to start and then during the race. Charlie and Judah behaved better than we had expected! We had a few touchy moments with Judah, but eventually he fell asleep and slept for about half the race. Then they both seemed to really enjoy themselves and all the happy energy surrounding them!
The race started at George Washington's home, Mt. Vernon, and ran down the George Washington Parkway and then over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It was the first race ever to cross the new bridge, which was built in 2008. What a view from the bridge! Then it wound around and eventually ended in the National Harbor, Maryland.
I ended up tripping and taking a little tumble around mile 7, but I felt like a total warrior running the rest of the race with bloody knees. I'm pretty sure adrenaline carried me for a while, because I didn't hurt much then, but I sure do now.
Paul is a rock star. Of course you already know I'm a fan, but seriously. This guy pushed these kids in a double stroller (all of which is half his body weight) up and down hills for 13.1 miles! Every time we passed someone or a spectator spotted him, we would hear, "HOW is that guy DOING that???" or "Look at that Daddy! Way to go!" It was so fun to see people's reactions to Paul's incredible ability. I don't know how he did it. And he could have finished waaaay before me, but he'd held back so that we could finish together.
The last 3 miles or so were killer. By then the sun was out in full force, and there were lots of hills. And let's face it, it was more than I'd ever run in my life (the longest run we did in training was 11 miles). But we did it! I nearly cried when I was handed my medal! Our finish time was 2 hours, 20 minutes, which was my goal.
What a fun experience to have as a family. And a special thanks to my friend Chrissy, who encouraged me to do it, and Melissa, who ran the race with us. I'm already thinking about a full marathon for next year!

Monday, September 20, 2010

She's a big girl now

We celebrated Charlie's 5th birthday this week. I just can't believe it. I remember her being so small. I remember that the first thing she did after she was born and I said, "Nice to meet you, Charlotte" was to go poo and pee all over me. I remember when she was two days old and we were alone for the first time since she was born, and I told her, "You're growing up so fast!" But she really IS growing up so fast. When I tell her not to grow up--"Please, PLEASE stop growing! Please stay small so I can hold you forever!!"--she says things like "That's not the way it works, Mom." "MOM"? Since when did I become "Mom" and not "Mommy"?
 I also cannot believe that she has started kindergarten! We have just finished our first week of home kindergarten. Our books arrived Monday morning, and we got started right away. We're using Sonlight Curriculum and so far, so good! I'm impressed with the reading lists of this curriculum and also the style, which seems to be fairly classical in its technique. What drew me to it is its literature basis and also the fact that the lesson plans are ready-made. In the future, I may adapt a bit and put together my own curriculum from different sources, but for my first year, I thought this may be the way to go. We are doing a four-day kindergarten week with history, science, math, handwriting, and reading. Once Charlie has learned to read on her own (hopefully in the next couple of months), we'll add in her language arts.
I am really loving homeschooling and having a regular routine to our day and our week. Every day we take Paul to work and then come home and make breakfast (or stop for a bagel). Then we head out to a park or some other activity, maybe errands if we need to. Then we come home, make lunch, and then Judah heads down for his nap, and Charlie and I do school. The routine makes things so much easier (and relaxing, even) for everyone. I'm plannig a couple of field trips for the near future: apple-picking and a trip to a museum. Living in DC gives us LOADS of field trip opportunities of whick I need to take advantage.
I am so enjoying being fully focused on my own children, as I have recently closed my home daycare. Please don't get me wrong, I enjoyed having other little ones here. It's just that I feel like I finally have the freedom to raise these two the way I've wanted to for so long. As for the bills getting paid, I'm not entirely sure how that's going to work in the future, but I'm trusting God and trusting Paul. This is the way we felt we were being called, and we know that God is going to prove Himself faithful, as He always does.
Going back to the birthday festivities . . .
So Wednesday I offered to make whatever Charlie wanted for dinner, and she chose chicken and dumplings. I wish I had a photo, but unfortunately, our camera is pretty much trashed. I think it may have something to do with the fact that we realized what a fun car toy the camera happens to make for a bored little girl on long trips to grandma's house. Anyway, we had good friends come over to help celebrate, and we had such a great time. Over the weekend, we had a more formal celebration in the form of a combined birthday party for Charlie and Judah (his birthday is on the 30th), but this little dinner was the perfect way to celebrate Charlie and Charlie alone. :) She got a brand new scooter from Mom and Dad and some really nice other things from close friends and family.
Charlie is one amazing little girl. She melts my heart every single day with her concern for others and her sincere love for God. She astounds me with her intelligence. She also drives me crazy with her incredible sensitivity, but I know it's something that will be a very special attribute as she grows up. She really is a special, sweet, funny, and beautiful girl that I'm so, so happy to call my daughter. I thank God for her sweet spirit and for giving me the opportunity to carry her and give life to her. Happy belated birthday, my incredible Charlotte.

Here's my chicken and dumplings recipe (this recipe makes a huge pot):

The soup:
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion
3 stalks celery
4 or 5 carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 pound chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
1/4-1/2 Cup of flour (I never measure, so I'm guessing)
32 oz. chicken broth

Melt your butter over medium heat in a stock pot and cook all your veggies until slightly tender. Then add your chicken thighs and cook them until they are just browned on the outside, then chop them in the pot. Add flour and stir to make a roux. Add broth and whisk until it thickens a little. If you have found that you didn't add enough flour to make this mixture thick enough for your liking, you can always add corn starch at this point.

The Dumplings:
1/2 Cup butter (cold)
2 Cups flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 Cup buttermilk (since I don't make a habit of keeping buttermilk around, I use the trick of adding about a teaspoon of vinegar to regular milk and letting it sit and curdle a little bit)

Cut butter into dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or criss-crossing two knives. Add buttermilk and stir until mixture makes a big doughy ball, leaving sides of the bowl. Then drop your dumplings by the spoonful into your soup, turn the heat down to low and let them cook until they look edible and fluffy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy third birthday, Benjamin

Today is Benjamin's birthday. I overheard Charlie telling a friend this morning that today is her brother's birthday--her brother who is in Heaven. She said that we will be having a party for him. Then Charlie's friend said, "But your brother won't be there." And Charlie said, "Yes he will. He is in Heaven, but he will be at the party."

The hardest part (these days) of having lost a child so soon after his birth is trying to figure out how to feel. I've always felt like on the grief scale, we're somewhere between 'had a miscarriage' and 'lost a child that had been around for a while.' Does it matter that we knew during the pregnancy that we'd lose him? Does it matter that he wasn't our first child? Isn't this ridiculous? There's no reason we should be comparing our experience to any other experience, real or hypothetical. But I've always wanted to know what is the proper response to having a lost a son to Trisomy-13.

I have since learned that there really isn't a *proper* response to losing a child--no matter the point that he or she was lost. It just plain hurts. It feels like a bottomless pit of pain. So the only thing that a person can do is *feel* the pain.

I will say this, after three years, it doesn't really hurt as much anymore. I really miss Benjamin, and I feel a loss, like I should have been able to parent this baby that I carried for a full pregnancy. But the loss isn't nearly as sharp anymore. So for those of you out there that are wondering if the day will ever come when you won't cry yourself to sleep every night, I say to you, Yes, it will come. And it's okay to allow yourself to heal. It doesn't mean that you are forgetting your child or abandoning him somehow. It means that you are healing from the pain of the experience. Benjamin will always be my son, and I will always love him and miss him. But I have chosen not to live under the dark cloud that surrounded his little life and his death.

Because of this choice, I like to share his story. I want to pay tribute to this little saint. Please read about his birth story here. I'd also like to mention that I'm thinking today about all of you out there that have recently lost children, whether due to miscarriage or some other tragedy. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Soon I will pack up the kids and the cupcakes that Charlie and I made today, and we will pick up Paul and then head to the cemetery and have a little graveside picnic birthday party. I have no idea what people generally think about this potentially morbid celebration, but for us it works. We will enjoy our time together as a family saying happy birthday to Benjamin and remembering his beautiful life.
It's such a strange thing that every year when I want to post about my first son's birthday, I have only pictures from his actual *birth*day. I'm so very thankful for those photos, though. Which is while I will mention them yet again: The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation is how we were able to capture his short little life on camera. I like to mention them whenever I can, so that people can prepare, should the worst occur.