Saturday, January 29, 2011

The "Tooth Fairy Forgot" poem

Okay, so my poor sweet Grace lost a tooth on Thursday and the tooth fairy somehow didn't make it...oops. Here's the redemption letter, of course there was $6.00 included:

I know what you’re thinking, you’re tooth fairy’s a flake
She didn’t show up, was it some kind of mistake?

Was my tooth not enough? Was there a cavity?
We know tooth fairy’s fly and can defy gravity.

It breaks my heart to know that I caused you such sadness
It’s not like I needed a map to your house or your address

I know where you live; I’ve been to your place
But please forgive me; it’s been a busy week Grace?

You see? When I plan each night I save
The kids that are kind and don’t misbehave

They’re last on my list because you know the phrase
“Save the best for last”…but I encountered some delays

I leave you tonight with hopes you’ll forgive me
I could never be truly happy not knowing you still love me

You’re such a good girl Grace and you make me so proud
To be your tooth fairy living up in the clouds.

I love you Grace!

Love, Your Tooth Fairy

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Journey to be thin…and it’s a long distance journey, literally

What’s worse: being asked, “when is your baby due?” when you are not pregnant or asking a woman “when is your baby due?” when she is not pregnant?

When I was asked, I almost went along with it and made up a due date but because I am mathematically challenged I could not think fast enough to be convincing enough. I only considered this because I adore the person who asked and did not want to embarrass her any more than she had already embarrassed herself, especially since the question was 100% fair—no doubt, I looked pregnant.

It’s not as though I wasn’t aware of my physically unfit situation. I had recently been to several different doctors. At my OBGYN appointment, my doctor’s skinny little assistant entered the room with her handy dandy Body Mass Index (BMI) chart and informed me that I was “obese.”

“Wait there just a minute, can I see that chart you have?” I thought I was “overweight”--the section that comes immediately after “normal,”--but not “obese.” I thought wrong; I was two sections away from normal now. It was official; I had crossed over to the next column and was now labeled “obese” and knew I was not getting any closer to “normal” on my current “see food” diet and lack of exercise plan.

Shortly after my hair began falling out in chunks, I started to acquire some bald spots on my head about the size of a quarter. Until then I seemed to be coping fine with being a fat woman; but a fat, bald woman? That is where I drew the line—that could not be good for my sex life.
After a full panel blood test, I received a very large envelope in the mail from Kaiser; they weren’t happy with my 240 cholesterol level. It was a packet of information, on how to lower cholesterol through diet and exercise, written by a dietitian. Wow! I actually have a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, and I am the targeted recipient of a cholesterol lowering informational packet written by a dietitian. How pathetically embarrassing is that. I’m thinking of the plumber whose toilets don’t work, the psychologist who’s slightly psychotic, and I’m the dietitian who’s obese—nice, real nice! Being officially labeled as an obese dietitian seems like an oxymoron, if nothing else, just plain hypocritical.

I was not tall enough to be pushing 200 pounds—I’m only 5’4”. I had no excuses; I was just a very good example of how the law of thermodynamics works. When you eat too much and don’t move enough, you gain weight, it’s not rocket science.

Here's me in front at my heaviest
 Not long after being asked when my baby was due--and getting news from my doctor that I was going bald, officially obese and my cholesterol was dangerously high--I got news from the pediatrician that two of my four children’s weight-to-height ratio was bordering on unhealthy. This was a nice way of saying that they’re getting chubby--like mother, like daughter. How could I possibly explain to my kids that the doctor suggested they loose a little weight when their mother was the classic before--without an after--picture? The only way my kids were going to care about their health is if I cared about mine.

At our ward anniversary dinner, I was chatting with some of my girl friends. They were talking about running a 4th of July 5k run, and they were going to start training the very next morning. For some strange reason I committed to go.

So the next morning I ran my first--post childbirth--run with the ladies for two miles on the Santa Ana river trail. I seriously thought I was going to die, my legs were like Jell-O and I didn’t even know if I could drive myself home let alone ever walk again. I HATED every second of it. Why do people run? I thought. This has to be the world’s stupidest sport! It’s not like we’re trying to get a ball in a goal. I remembered this quote I read with a picture of a runner on it: “My sport is your sports punishment”—I completely understood. The only problem is that I was stuck, I had committed to my friends to do this 5k and the only reason I had any desire to follow through is because I was obligated and would be the biggest looser (and not weight loss looser like the reality show) if I quit. I was running on all obligation and zero motivation.

I decided that whatever I was going to do to get this weight off, I had to like. If not it would never last. I had an epiphany and realized that I needed to replace my addiction for food with an addiction for some sort of exercise. That’s the only way I could think to reverse this…but how do you get addicted to something so miserable? I had no desire to waste money to join a sweaty, germ infested gym, where meat heads go to show off their muscles and hot chicks wear sports bras with their big fake boobs hanging out—that just sounded depressing. I had been noticing all the runners around me—I didn’t know of any fat runners. In fact, I knew some runners who I thought were a little bit Nazi about running and definitely addicted by my standards. I started hanging out with them and trying to keep up with them.

1st 5K, Me on the far right, maybe 5 lbs. down
 I found that running for a reason was the only thing that would keep me going. I had always wanted to hike the Grand Canyon into Havasupai. That first 5k short term goal was one baby step toward my dream of hiking the Grand Canyon. I didn’t think I would be motivated to keep running after the 5k but then I wondered if I could beat my own time. That was it! I got the itch. I started getting competitive with myself and it was not such a bad thing. I felt great and I started loosing weight, the weight loss became addictive in and of itself. A runner’s high is a beautiful thing, but to a fat girl, more so is a daily shrinking number on the scale.

I asked our friends, Rod and Lori Parker, to come to Havasupai with us. They reversed the invitation and invited us to do a 30 mile, 5 day hike in Machu Picchu, Peru--Richard’s dream vacation for as long as I’ve known him. For this I had to get fit and running became the most convenient and cheapest way. Along the way I continued making short term goals and continued to loose weight, by this time I was down about 20 lbs. weighing around 175.

About 5 months into my journey I met Lisa, Lisa was a new mom at my kid’s school and I immediately noticed her lean running physique and tight calves. I asked her: “Are you new to the school?”

“Yes” she said with a very inviting smile.

“Are you a runner?” I asked.

“Yes” she said with another very inviting smile.

“Well, you look like a runner” I said.

Lisa was slender but muscular, not too tall, not too short; she appeared to be very healthy and had the perfect figure in my opinion. She had short brown hair and a fading summer tan. Her humble sweet smile could welcome the shyest individual. Thanks to my excellent probing skills, or as others might call it, my busy body-ness: sure enough, she was another one of those crazy marathon runners.

Lisa was flattered by my interest in her. I invited her to run with us the very next morning. I was flattered by her acceptance of my invitation. I’m not sure I would go with me. It was our Saturday long run. I told her “I’m one of the slow ones but I’ll introduce you to the fast people that you can run with,” but she ran slower for me and inspired me to do my first 9 mile run ever. Before this day I had never run more than six miles in one day. I could hardly walk for 2 days, but hey I did it! Lisa felt guilty and tried to take the blame for my aching feet saying that she was irresponsible for pushing me and that as certified running coach, she should know better. Whatever, she was wrong, humble, but wrong. What she forgot is that she didn’t PUSH me, she inspired me, not once ever suggesting that I extend myself beyond 6 miles, only setting the way by an example that I chose to follow. What I didn’t know then that I do know now is that increasing your mileage with aches and pains is a normal part of the adjustment that our bodies make to accommodate to our new lifestyle. I wasn’t physically injured, I was only responding as one would in my overweight situation.

Besides, it didn’t help that my costume for the Halloween party that night required me to wear heels, and then church the next morning—heels again. Just remember: runners, heels, bad.

Every Saturday and the weekdays in between, Lisa always stuck with me and I could always depend on her to wake up at the crack of dawn and run slow with me. I can’t remember a time when I suggested we run the following morning and Lisa wasn’t there. I was so spoiled it was unbelievable. Lisa would run to my house and pick me up in the mornings and run me back home after our run, then run home herself. It really doesn’t get any better than that. I could always count on her.

By now, I was very slowly loosing weight, but still loosing. I started running longer on Saturdays and occasionally ran with the faster people when they were having a slow day. This was real distance running. I could have NEVER done this without Lisa. I would have never even attempted or desired to extend myself this much.

Running became a social thing for me too. Lisa always showed interest in what was going on in my life, never giving up on me, always encouraging me to press forward and do my best.

Then something crazy happened that brought my weekday runs to a halt. My husband became severely ill. He was paralyzed from head to toe and was in the hospital for two months. My focus became my husband and my kids, and my running took a backseat. Morning runs were out of the question as Richard wasn’t home to stay with the kids anymore. My new running route was a lonely one; it started at our home and ended at the hospital four miles away.

Lisa stuck by me through thick and thin. She made herself available to me to do my Christmas shopping among other things. It was a busy time of year for everyone, her husband had lost his job and they were suffering their own problems, but she always made me feel like I was number one on her list.

I know this sounds elementary, but Lisa inspires me to be the best I can be. Running with such a committed and caring individual makes running fun. Lisa has great knowledge in all areas of running from shoes, to Gu; but most of all great training plans. She never pushes her opinions on us new clueless runners, but gives us food for thought and helps us decide what is best for us.

Lisa inspired me to try my best to become as physically fit as my body will allow; I may never get there, but I will die trying.

Fast forward exactly 1 year from my first 2-mile run on the riverbed. It’s June 5th, 2010 and I’m in Fontana with my friends where I just finished my first half-marathon race. My running mentor, Lisa, she calls it my “runniversary.” I can’t call her my coach because I can’t afford to pay her for her services, but that’s really what she is. I ran it in 2:05 and was already thinking about the next half marathon race where I would break two hours.

“So Kelly, we’re doing a full marathon this fall, I’ll email you your running plan.” Lisa said after the half. “That’s okay, I’ll pass on the marathon.” I said.

Lisa and my sister Heidi had conspired behind my back that I would be running a marathon with them. I wasn’t feeling the excitement they were: “No, I won’t be running a marathon, that’s just crazy!” I said, “I have no desire to run a marathon, don’t marathoners get hurt?” I thought, “I’ve heard nightmare stories about bloody nipples; it’s like lactating blood instead of milk, and don’t their toe nails turn black and fall off and then their toes look like little nubs?” That’s not cute with sandals, I was thinking, and it didn’t seem healthy either.

I knew as I wasn’t even close to my full potential yet. Still overweight and fighting a plateau, I have this inner desire to conquer my weaknesses, increase my speed, loose more weight, and attempt to be as physically fit as my body will allow. It may never happen, but I will never stop trying. I went ahead and ran the marathon…with Lisa of course. Or should I say…Lisa ran the Marathon with Me. Yep, she did. She coached me through the whole 4 hours and 29 minutes, only three weeks after running her own Fall Marathon, almost fully recovered. Talk about committed, yes she is. Talk about spoiled, yes I am.
To be continued… Marathon Race Report

Amazing Grace

“How was school today Grace?” I asked.

“So good Mommy, I have a new best friend and her name is Juno, she’s Japanese.” Grace said excitedly.

“Oh, Ok Grace” I said with a smile. I’m thinking “wow!” it’s only Monday, on the first day of the school year and Grace already has a new best friend in one day.

What does she mean “she’s Japanese”? We’re American’s; don’t we all come from somewhere? I thought. We’re a melting pot of people from all different countries.

Grace also has a cute little girl friend named Doreen who is of Vietnamese nationality. Grace became close friends with Doreen last year in school. Doreen is a sweet girl. She came to Grace’s baptism with her family, which made it that much more special to Grace. There is a slight communication barrier between myself and her mother as English is her second language and she’s not quite fluent in it, but we get by enough to make basic arrangements. It seems Grace is attracted to children of Asian origin. It makes sense to me; some of my best friends in elementary school were Japanese, we got along well.

The next day after picking up Grace from school, she talked about Juno again saying with excitement: “Mommy, mommy, Juno is my new best friend, and she’s from Japan Mommy!”

“Okay Grace, I’m so glad you have made such a great new friend!” I said.

By Friday, Grace was so thoroughly excited about her new friend Juno, she got in the car and exclaimed: “Mommy, mommy, Juno is from Japan, she moved to the United States two weeks ago and she is my new best friend!”

“Grace, is she actually from Japan? Like, as in, she is actually Japanese, and came here from Japan?”

“Yes, she moved here two weeks ago Mommy” Grace said.

“Does your new best friend speak any English Grace?” I asked.

“Ummmmmmmm………, not really” she says with a surety.

Isn’t it amazing how children can communicate with other children regardless of language barriers? I guess when they’re playing it doesn’t really matter what language they speak.

I got a kick out Grace’s long drawn out “no.” Grace is such a sweet girl. When I took the girls to school the following week, I walked them all the way up to the play ground. There I witnessed Grace seeing Juno for her first time that day; they wrapped their arms around each other like they were long lost friends who hadn’t seen each other in months or even years. I watched Grace and Juno play together, chasing each other while laughing and running around in circles being silly. Juno didn’t need to be able to speak English and Grace didn’t need to be able to speak Japanese for the two of them to grow close and really know each other’s hearts. I think they both wore their hearts on their sleeves.

Juno had the sweetest little doll face. Her smile was so genuine and sincere; she had these beautiful little freckles by one eye that made her so unique. Juno was not only beautiful but radiated sweet humbleness.

Grace and Juno really did become quite good friends over the next four months. Their teacher, Mrs. Stephens, had given Grace the assignment to help Juno around the school, help her communicate with the teacher, keep Juno on pace with what they were doing in class, and just be a friend to her. Mrs. Stephens is quite creative, knowing Grace’s personality and how easily distracted she is, this gave her an important responsibility that was meaningful and a goal that was achievable for Grace. I think it also helped keep Grace on track; knowing she had to help Juno made it more important for her.

Ever since Grace started school, she has always had a difficult time making friends. Anyone who knows Grace would have a hard time believing this, especially since she is so very friendly. In fact, when I have said that in conversation to friends of mine, they immediately doubt me and think that I am being critical of her; but I’m not. It’s true that it doesn’t make sense though. Grace is always so quick to give hugs and kind greetings to people she knows and loves, and already feels loved by. However, starting when Grace was in pre-school, she would go out to the playground, find something to do, and go at it alone, with no effort to interact with any of the other kids; it just didn’t come natural for her. Then in Kindergarten, her next teacher noticed the same thing, she would go out to recess and just play alone, she would get into her own little happy place in her mind and didn’t seem to care about anything else. I called it “Grace-land Space-land.” Grace’s Kindergarten teacher was such a doll, she didn’t like to see kids playing alone so she set Grace up with some friends that she felt matched her personality. It worked out fine and she started to see that there are options aside from playing alone.

She’s in third grade now, and for some reason, still responds best to being “set up” with a friend. Mrs. Stephens must have been inspired to choose Grace to sit by Juno and help Juno. I think this small gesture on Mrs. Stephens’s part made a huge difference in Grace’s life forever. I don’t know if Grace would have made friends with Juno out on the playground on her own—she just needed that little introduction and encouragement.

We had Juno over at our home for several play dates and Juno also had Grace in her home many times. They were living in our neighborhood so it was convenient for both of us. Juno’s mom was a sweet lady. She was a beautiful young mother, stylish and fit. She was a dancer and had the beautiful figure that comes with it. Her English lacked but we were able to communicate enough to arrange the children’s play dates and plan a Sushi lunch date that never panned out.

The three girls; Grace, Juno and Doreen all grew very close together and would play together every day at school. I get the feeling that “two’s company, three’s a crowd” didn’t apply to them. They are all three such kind, sweet, loving little girls and all have hearts of gold.

On the last week of school before Christmas break, Grace came to me heartbroken and devastated. On the verge of tears, she said “Juno is moving back to Japan, Mommy.”

“What? That’s impossible; she hasn’t even been here four months.” I said. “Are you sure you’ve got it right? She’s probably just going back for Christmas break.”

“No, Mommy” she starts to cry, “She’s moving back to Japan, she has to clean out her desk and take everything with her.”

The next day at school I saw Juno’s mom and confirmed it with her. It was a sad day for Grace and a sad day for mom too.

After school got out, Grace asked to play with Juno every day. She REALLY wanted to see her again before she went back to Japan. I assured her that we had time. I spoke to Juno’s mom and I knew when they were leaving and when they were available to play.

Juno came over to play one last time, and of course as is typical for Japanese culture, brought a gift for Grace. It was a beautiful crystal clear, heart shaped, beaded bracelet with all the colors of the rainbow in pastels. Grace loved it. Ironically Grace gave Juno a friendship bracelet with three silver peace sign charms in the shapes of hearts.

It was a sad good-bye. They invited us to come to Japan to stay with them and visit, but the truth is, we will probably never see them again. We agreed for the girls to be “pen pals” through email. We exchanged email addresses and the girls have emailed a little bit over the break. Juno’s mom sent pictures of Juno and her sister playing in the snow in front of their house. Grace asks every day if she can email Juno, and writes her letters with beautiful drawings during church sacrament meeting on Sundays. Grace really is heart broken about Juno leaving.

When school started back up in January, Grace wasn’t really excited because Juno wouldn’t be there. She still had her sweet friend Doreen, but to make matters worse, Doreen went to Laos, Vietnam over the break and didn’t come back in time for school to start. Everyday I would pick up the girls from school and Grace would be so sad, no Juno and no Doreen = no best friends. She said she didn’t have anyone to play with on the playground. Grace became less interested in going to school. She would talk in anticipation of Doreen’s return from Laos everyday: “Mommy, I can’t wait for Doreen to come back; and she promised me she would bring me something back from Laos” she said.

“Ok, Grace” I told her, “but just remember, sometimes kids tell their friends they're going to buy them things, but in reality the parents are the ones who have the money, so she needs to ask her parents first, so don’t be sad if she doesn’t have anything, just be happy that she made it home safe on the airplane, and that you have your friend back, okay?”

Over a week went by before Doreen returned from Laos. I pulled up after school to pick up the girls. Katie and Emily came right up to the car, but not Grace. I looked around for Grace and saw her up on the grass talking with Doreen and her mom. When Grace came to the car she was clinging tight to a toy elephant about the size of a football, heavily decorated and hand stitched with all sorts of bright, beautiful colors. Grace could have lit up a dark room. Nothing could have made her happier than to have her friend Doreen back, and just knowing that Doreen was thinking of her during her trip to Laos, made Grace happier than a clam.

I love my little Grace so much. She really is an amazing girl and a really great friend too.