Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Love Letter to Wichita

In a few short hours, the girls and I will pile in my car and drive south. We’ll be leaving the place we’ve called home for two and a half years. And quite honestly, we’re sad about it.

We’ve loved so much about Wichita. Botanica. The zoo. The Warren Theaters. Stearman Field. There are so many unique and wonderful things here, we didn’t have time to do everything on our list. (I never made it to Dodge City, and apparently there's an awesome slide there.)

But it’s not Wichita’s places that we’ll miss most.

It’s the people.

From day one, we felt welcome and wanted. We felt a sense of community that superceded whether we lived on the East side or squinted our way out west.

Sure, the first few months were tough as we acclimated. But it didn’t take long til we found where we belonged. And belong we did. Some weeks, we had so much going on I lamented our popularity (facetiously, of course). But seriously. We stayed busy.

From listening to Condoleeza Rice speak to riding mechanical bulls in an inflatable ring, the memories we made will stay with us the rest of our lives:
  • Discovering a giant wiener dog on the front porch. 
  • Rummaging through a neighbor’s backyard in search of wayward chickens. 
  • Scheming our way into a VIP event at the casino.
  • Staying out half the night to sing along with Garth. 
  • Getting hypothermia and a concussion during a particularly cold NYE dinner and show. 
  • Sitting around a fire, talking, laughing and watching our kids play.

It’s true. I still don’t think you pronounce your river’s name correctly. But it’s OK. I’ll give you your quirks.

What I can’t look past is my sorrow at leaving Wichita. You’ve made an indelible impression on my heart and those of Nick and our girls.

I will be forever grateful to everyone who helped make Wichita home for us. I can never thank you enough for allowing us to be a part of your lives.

If even half as many good souls in Louisiana want to be our friends, we’ll be doing alright.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Squinter for Life, Ya’ll

When we rolled into Wichita last Sept. 8, we had no idea what to expect. Well, we expected to close on our house the next day, and we knew Nick would start his new job a week later. And corn. For some reason, we expected a lot of corn.

Our uncertainty about Wichita had raised many important questions in the days and weeks before the move:

  • What if we can’t find decent barbecue in Wichita?
  • What if no one in Kansas likes football?
  • What if there are tornadoes on a daily basis?
  • What if we just hate it there?

So we rationalized. “We can stomach anything for a few years” became our mantra of sorts.
Lucky for us, we’re doing more than tolerating Wichita. Simply put, we love it here.

I have emergency contacts.

When I registered Harper for school last fall, I had no idea who to list as a non-parental emergency contact. My realtor? Someone on Nick’s staff?  I honestly had no clue. I had a hard time this year too, but for different reasons entirely. I just couldn’t decide who to list from among a list of people I inherently trust to pick up my children in the event I’m carried off to Oz by a stray tornado.

Unless you’ve moved to a place where you don’t know a soul, it’s impossible to understand how vulnerable you feel during the first few months on your own. Now that we've got a cadre of people to call on when we need help – or just want to get together and grill some burgers – we really feel at home. And it seems like a throwaway statement to say we've made some really good friends, but we've made some really good friends. Kind, generous, fun people whom I would miss terribly if we were to move again.

Harper and her friend Abby playing dress up. Goof balls.

We’re busy. Maybe too busy.

When we moved to Wichita, I vowed that each and every one of us would get involved in various civic, social and athletic activities, largely as a way to gain emergency contacts. I think I may have taken that effort to the extreme.

So far we’ve done adaptive fitness, cooking and gymnastics at the YMCA, Challenge Games track and field and Miracle League Kickball, spina bifida playgroup, preschool, mommy’s day out co-op, PTO, MOPS, AWANA, served as life group leaders, door greeters, cookie bakers and nursery keepers at church, sat on United Way committees, participated in Wichita INSIGHTS and that’s just the girls and I. That doesn’t even include Nick’s professional commitments or anything that's strictly social, of which there's a lot. 

Sometimes I think I bit off more than we could collectively chew. But we’re having fun, meeting lots of folks and stepping outside our comfort zones, which I’ve come to believe is a very good thing when you’re acclimating to a new place.

Harper playing Miracle League kickball.

It’s not perfect

Don’t get me wrong. Wichita isn’t all sunshine and roses.  There are an inordinately high number of pizza delivery guy robberies, the extreme temperatures and perpetual wind are cataclysmically atrocious (got my thesaurus out for that one), and we’re at least three hours from anywhere “else.”

Plus, Wichita has this weird east/west divide.  When you meet someone new, you get the traditional what do you do/got kids/where are you from? line of questioning. But it also includes “what side of town do you live on?” And depending on your answer, you automatically feel kinship or subdued animosity from the other party.

We’re west siders and therefore dubbed “Squinters” by the kind folks out east. It took me a while to figure it out, but when I did, I had to admit “Squinters” is a really good way to creatively disparage your neighbors. See, west siders have to stare into the sun both driving to and from work, so we squint a lot. It fits.

(I've yet to come up with anything better to call those blasted east siders, but I give it an inordinate amount of thought every day.)

And the barbecue situation here is questionable at best. Good pulled pork is hard to come by. People tell me I should eat the brisket. I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. Might just wait til I’m back in the South where barbecue involves a pig as the good Lord intended.

Until then, I'll just have to suffer through with good friends, good times and a good pair of sunglasses.

Ellie running through the daisies at one of our favorite parks.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

There's no place like home, there's no place like home.....

For the last few months, I've been writing about our experiences in wacky, wonderful Wichita. Some fellow Kansas transplants have started reading my blog, and say my observations accurately describe life in here in the Heartland.

However, I evidently have not described my home in East Tennessee as successfully. Based on my previous writings, a friend here assumed the Tri-Cities area to be bigger and more urbane than Wichita.

I laughed when I heard this. I laughed quite loudly.

No. Home isn't bigger than Wichita. There are 500,000 people in Sedgewick County; there are 150,000 in Sullivan County, where we lived most recently and my parents still live.

Population discrepancies aside, East Tennessee is a much different world than Wichita. We certainly have our quirks. I could write a book on the subject, but since a lot of other people have already, I'll just hit the high points.

Here are some highlights about what make "my people" such a charmingly strange lot. At least in my opinion.

1. We worship Dolly Parton.

Dolly Parton
I will always love you, too, Dolly.
Well, worship may not be exactly accurate, but we evidently think she's pretty neat since Pigeon Forge and Dollywood are our requisite vacation destinations every summer and spring break and long holiday weekend.

In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't been to Dollywood in decades and the traffic in Pigeon Forge makes me a nervous wreck. But the letter Dolly included in Harper's final Imagination Library book left me a crying mess. Nick shed some tears over that one, too.

(Incidently, we just found out that Sedgewick County kids have been getting free books each month from Dolly's Imagaination Library since 2011. That Dolly. Got to love her passion for education.)

2. We give directions using landmarks - both real and historic.

East, west, north, south? Road names? Who needs it? We give directions like this:

"Well, if you're headed towards Bulls Gap, turn across from the high school like you were going out to Needmore. You'll go until you get to where Vickie's store used to be. Turn back towards town, and it'll be right there near the fire hall. If you get to where they cut down that big oak tree, you'll have to turn around."

If you actually want someone who doesn't live in Hawkins County to find it, you would need to give directions that include road names, mileage and maybe an actual right or left. But I promise you, this is how we're used to getting directions at home.

3. We talk funny.

People out here are quick to pick up on my accent. I mean really - how could you not notice it? It's unique. Sort of Southern, sort of hillbilly, sort of I don't know exactly what.

See, we East Tennesseeans don't talk like other Southerners. I don't sound at all like my Louisiana family, and my college friends from Charlotte and Atlanta used to make fun of my mountain drawl. We speak Appalachian English or the Southern Mountain Dialect or Mountain Talk. Whatever you call it, it's derived from our protestant Scots-Irish ancestors who moved to America in the 1700s and 1800s and hid away in the safety of our mountains.

At home, I didn't give a second thought to how I talked, especially since a lot of folks spoke with accents much thicker than mine. Now, I have to think about every word that comes out of my mouth. If I ask for a writing instrument, I ask for a pen, not a "pin." It's ten o'clock, not "tin" o'clock. I'm from Tennessee, not "Tinnessee."

While I am trying to minimize my accent to the extent I can, I have enjoyed using my favorite Appalachian colloquialims here in Wichita. My favorite phrase that always perplexes/angers/amuses people is this:

Wichitan: "My car is in the shop. Would you give me a lift to work?"

Me: "I don't care to at all."

No one understands that "I don't care to" actually means, "Yes, I'm happy to." I have no idea why we use this phrase because it is quite confusing. Even so, it's fun to watch people try to figure out how to react.

4. We're not stupid.
Because of our accents and relative isolation, Appalachian natives are sometimes thought of as uneducated yokels. But we're absolutely not. 
When I was in high school, the choir took a trip to Chicago. We sang at a private school, and I remember hearing a student sacastically expressing surprise that we were wearing shoes. At 14, I was hurt and mad that people thought we were such backcountry rubes. Now, I just think it's funny because we're anything but.

The Tri-Cities is home to the global headquarters of Eastman Chemical Company, a Fortune 500 company that employs around 13,500 people, most of whom live with a few miles of the plant.

We have a medical school and pharmacy school at East Tennessee State University. Both consistently receive high rankings in rural medicine and family medicine by publications like U.S. News and World Report. 

Even our hometown burger joint wins national quality awards. Take that, haters.

Yes, that's a giant hot dog.

As an Appalachian expat, I have a fierce pride in my home and would happily talk or write at length about it. But you just can't understand what's so special about Appalachia without visiting our unique little corner of the world. 

Given the chance, I encourage you to do so. You'll encounter some of the kindest, most generous people who may talk a little funny, but will happily treat you like one of their own. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

When Did I Get So Stupid?

Before you offer an opinion, let me explain.

At dinner last month, Harper told us about this "really awesome" song she danced to during Music and Movement class at school.

Harper: "It's about a fox."
Nick: "Was it 'What Does the Fox Say?'"
Harper: "Yes, yes, yes! That was it!"
Me, blank stare: "What does the what say? That's a song?"
Nick, looking incredulous: "You are so out of touch with pop culture."

He was kind enough to find this strange little song on youtube so I could hear what everyone else on the planet thought was cool last fall. Here it is for those of you who, like me, have existed under a rock for the past six months.

This is seriously disturbing, right?

But here's the thing: I rarely have a chance to actually engage with pop culture. In the car, the girls are either forcing me to listen to some inane cartoon on the DVD player or demanding I play Taylor Swift's song "22" for the 4,146th time.

If the television is on at home, it's usually tuned to one of the Juniors - Nick or Disney. I occasionally squeeze in a DVRed episode of "Parenthood" in 15-minute increments during the day, and Nick and I sometimes manage to watch a not-fit-for-children-let-alone-adults TV show after the girls go to bed. But mostly we just collapse in a heap.

So no, I have no clue what's popular or trending or being discussed at the water cooler. My day-to-day interactions with pop culture consist largely of contemplating where Max and Ruby's parents are and organizing Barbie fashion shows. It's understandable that I'm a bit out of touch.

What's not as excusable is my new found inability to read.

I'm only admitting to this because Nick threatened to go public if I didn't. And I'm sure he wouldn't frame my mistakes in an appropriate or remotely flattering light. So here goes.

First and completely by accident, I bought a book written by Glenn Beck. If you know me at all, you'll quickly recognize that his conservative opinions aren't exactly my cup of tea.

That must be why Nick laughed so uproariously when I returned from a news stand in the Atlanta airport with "Agenda 21" in tow. Seriously - people were stopping to stare at the spectacle.

Nick, laughing uncontrollably: "You bought a Glenn Beck book?"  
Me: "No, I didn't. This is a fictional book, not political. Must just be a guy with the same name." 
Nick, laughing even harder now: "Nope, that's written by the Glenn Beck. The same one you rail against. Check out the author information."
Me: "Oh. Oh, no."

And so, head hung down in shame, I ambled back to the news stand to inquire about an exchange. Nick was still laughing when I got back.

Keep in mind this occurred when we were flying to Wichita to buy a house. I was a bit distracted. I think that at least partially explains my lack of attention to detail. However, there's really no good excuse for my next goof up.

I bought "A Song of Fire and Ice" when Google Play put it on sale back around Christmas. Nick and I had both read the first book, "Game of Thrones," a couple of years ago and we were going to take turns reading the rest of the books. Then we could join everyone else we know and start watching the TV show.

So I dove right into the second book, all the while declaring that I should have reread the first book because there was a lot of details I had forgotten. Even so, I enjoyed it and was anxious to discuss it with Nick.

After Nick started the second book, I would periodically ask him what was happening. He'd give me a quick plot summary. I'd just smile and nod because I had no idea what he was talking about. I had no recollection of the chapter he was describing.

I figured I must have skipped a couple of chapters, and eventually he'd start recounting events I recognized. When he finished the second book, I asked him what he thought. He gave a noncommittal, "It was pretty good."

"What?!" I basically shouted. "That's your reaction to all that happened in book two? What did you think about (major plot development)?"

Turns out, I ended up giving away a big spoiler since I had READ THE WRONG BOOK. Somehow, I just skipped book two altogether and went straight to book three.

How? How could I have done this? A better question - why did I not double check when the material I was reading didn't make any sense?

Seriously. I'm worried about myself peeps. Is it Kansas making me stupid? Is senility setting in early?

I don't know, but I do think Harper's teacher should check my car before I leave school to make sure I'm actually taking the right kid home.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Five Things I Never Thought I'd Do Before I Moved to Kansas

Admittedly, my last two posts have been sentimental and information heavy. So here's a (hopefully) more lighthearted look at five things I never thought I'd ever do before landing in Wichita.

1. Miss cloudy days

As I think I've mentioned, Kansas gets more sunshine than Florida. On the surface, this seems like a good thing. But consider this scenario:

You glance outside and see the sun shining brightly in a big blue sky that stretches from horizon to horizon. "What a gorgeous day! I think I'll go for a walk." Sure, it's February, so it'll be brisk. But it's worth it for a few minutes in that beautiful sunshine.

You put on your shoes and coat, open the front door and step outside. Suddenly, you can't breathe, your eyes sting and your face feels like it's just been slapped by a glacier.

That's because it's 8 degrees and the wind is blowing at a steady 15 mph. That means it feels so much colder. Like at least -37.

Seriously. The sunshine is entirely misleading. It's false advertising. When it's that cold, it should be gray and overcast. Just saying.

2. Navigate by water tower

I hate finding my way around hotels. Nick can attest - it doesn't matter if it's the Hampton Inn or a really swanky place in NYC. There's a 100 percent chance that I will get lost trying to find our room, the lobby, the pool, wherever. The corridors all look alike, and it confuses my already overtaxed brain. Problem is, Kansas is similar. Everything looks the same. All the roads are straight, and there are no significant landmarks to guide you in the right direction.

Yes, I know. I could just navigate by direction. Most right-thinking people seem to prefer that method. But it just takes too much thought for me. I'd rather have an object (like a mountain, perhaps?) to use as a compass.

Sadly, Kansas is severely lacking in the mountain department. But I'm resourceful, so I've adapted. I've learned that watertowers make servicable guideposts. You can see them for miles, so it's usually easy to figure out which way you should - or shouldn't - be going. I just had to remember that the one in Goddard is blue, the one at Harper's school is white and the one in Maize is sort of a weird shape.

These days, I've pretty much figured out how to get where I want to go, but those water towers came in quite helpful during our first few weeks in Wichita.

Beacons of hope in a barren landscape.
(Incidentally, the temperature was 18 degrees
on the day this photo was taken.)

3. Buy bottled water

When I was working for the newspaper, I interviewed a man who had decided to move to Kingsport following retirement. On his list of positives about Northeast Tennessee? Good water.

This was perplexing. There's Eastman. And BAE. And whatever they're calling the paper mill these days. How could anyone consider the water in Kingsport to be "good?"

Well, after moving to Wichita, I now understand what "good" water is. I'm sure the city water that runs into our house is completely safe to drink, but it tastes terrible. Sort of musty. How can water taste like that? It's water. It shouldn't really taste like anything.

I have no idea why it tastes so yucky, but it's bottled water for the Adams family. Or maybe a filtration system. We'll see.

4. Dread driving across town

In the few short months we've lived here, it seems I've become a "true" Wichitan. You see, locals here have an aversion to driving anywhere if it takes longer than 10 minutes. Therefore, people are either east siders or west siders. You have pretty much the same stores and restaurants on each side of town. They're like mirror images. The symmetry is kind of weird.

Because of the similarities, you shouldn't have to cross the ArKANSAS River unless you just want to take a day trip to the other side of town. Keep in mind that it only takes about 25 minutes to get from where I live - which is about as far west as you can go and still be in Wichita - to my favorite eastside haunt: the big Joann Fabric store.

When we lived in Kingsport, it took at least 15 minutes to get to Kroger or Target. And I had to drive across a ridge on a two-lane road. So why do I suddenly find myself putting off east-side errands because I don't feel like driving ALL the way over there on a four lane?

Wow. Assimilation happened fast.

5. Wear cowboy boots

Well, you know what they say. When in Rome. Or Wichita.....

Monday, February 3, 2014

So we took a road trip....

Last week, Harper, Nick and I headed out for Kansas City. It wasn't a trip for fun, but it was the first time I'd ventured out of Wichita since arriving in September. It was good to see a different flat, brown landscape for a few hours.

We went to KC for Harper's first appointment at the spina bifida clinic at Children's Mercy Hospital. It was basically an all-day affair. We stayed in a hotel. We ate in restaurants. If Harper hadn't been so sick with a cold, she might have actually enjoyed our little quasi-vacation.

As it was though, she just felt rotten. She was a trooper though, and handled the revolving door of nurses, doctors, social workers, dietitians, physical therapists and orthotists quite patiently. Really wish I could say the same for myself.

We never had this experience in Tennessee where you have to be Medicaid eligible to qualify for a special care clinic like this. Since we weren't, we got to coordinate all those disciplines separately and schedule individual appointments with each doc or clinic or therapist or whatever she needed at the time. We drove to Knoxville and Nashville a lot. In Kansas, we come to clinic only once a year, unless something comes up. It's obviously much better.

Even though it was much more convenient, my head was spinning when we left. We got a lot of information, met a lot of people, discovered doctors we liked and others we didn't and determined the hospital's parking garage is an impenetrable fortress that seriously needs way finding signage. And this is coming from two people who used to work at Holston Valley Medical Center, which everyone from Kingsport will recognize as the world's most confusing hospital.

Most significantly, we decided that Harper will have surgery this summer to correct congenital deformities in both her feet. It's been a year since her last surgery, and surgery number 11 is now on the horizon. No reason for worry. We've done this plenty of times before, right? Wrong.

Because the surgeon will actually break her foot and ankle bones to realign them, she'll have to wear casts on both feet for six weeks and then protective braces for a few weeks after that. You're right. Holy four-letter-word is the correct response here.

At least the surgeon had the courtesy to point out that her recovery won't be any fun. Some surgeons describe procedures not unlike an oil change or tune up. I honestly had a surgeon describe a procedure not unlike this:

"Well, I'll just have to get in there and open her up and see if I can find her appendix. The whole thing shouldn't take too long, and she'll be up and running around again in a day or two."

I've known for some time that we would have to surgically address Harper's feet, but I had hoped it wouldn't be this soon. The orthopedic surgeon made a good case for doing it sooner rather than later so we can keep her upright and walking. Waiting til she's older risks skin breakdown and pressure sores in her feet which would prevent her from walking at all. Not good.

I still haven't figured out how this "Harper can't walk" thing is going to work. We've never had a truly handicapped accessible house since she can negotiate most places fairly independently. We may have to make some temporary modifications to the house so she can get around safely in her wheelchair, and I don't have to hire a live-in chiropractor to keep my back functioning.

She took the news of her impending surgery with as much grace as a five-year-old can muster. She's not thrilled, but seems to understand we wouldn't ask her to do this if it wasn't absolutely necessary. (And I promised a really good gift. The Barbie Glam Jet was mentioned as an appropriate reward.) Of course, she hasn't yet realized that she won't be able to swim, ride a bike or play at the park for six long weeks. I'm not going to clarify that point until I absolutely must.

No, it wasn't the surgery that left the biggest impression on Harper. It was the meal we had while driving KC. We planed to stop for dinner once we got on the road, but we quickly discovered there's just not a lot between here and there. Our dining options were limited to say the least.

Lucky for us, we happened upon a buffet restaurant called the Sirloin Stockade in a little town called Ottawa. It seemed similar to a Shoney's or a Ryan's. It was crowded for a Tuesday night. Couldn't be that bad, right?

Admit it - you would have eaten here, too.

Holy heartburn, Batman! Nick and I ate some fried food, a salad-y mix of vegetables and cheese and bacon, and we each had a piece of apple pie. It wasn't healthy at all or even all that good, but it was sustenance. Harper had chicken tenders, green beans and mac and cheese. She was a happy little girl.

Her happiness increased exponentially when she discovered the chocolate fountain on the dessert bar. She has told anyone who will listen about the chocolate fountain. She's a fan.

I did a little research on the ol' Sirloin Stockade after our visit and discovered why it was so crowded that night. As one Facebook reviewer wrote:

"there's not much choices here in ottawa. but at least we have this one :)"

Yep. That sums it up quite nicely.

But given we'll be making additional trips to KC in the coming months, I daresay we'll be frequenting the Sirloin Stockade again. And since sticking a pink marshmallow into a fountain of melted chocolate brings my little girl such joy, I'll happily eat here as often as she likes - or my intestinal tract allows.

And because I didn't manage to take any pictures anyone would be remotely interested in during our trip, here's a look at Harper during several of her previous surgeries.

This was right after her back closure. She's still on a ventillator and probably about three days old.

This was after her shunt malfunctioned. It was removed and externalized until her cerebral spinal fluid could be cultured. She had another surgery to replace the shunt three days later. She was five months old.

This was her most recent - and hopefully last - facial surgery. She's not as puny as she looks in this picture. I think she was mad because I made her stop playing to take a photo.
After surgery to place a MACE for bowel irrigation. She was pretty puny here, but she hadn't eaten anything but Jello for three days.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How the Other Half Live

Last week, I found Harper in her room, feverishly packing her clothes into a backpack.

"Headed somewhere?" I asked.

"Yes. Somewhere where there are NO LITTLE SISTERS!" she says emphatically.

"Yeah. I know. It's been one of those days, hasn't it? Think maybe I could go with you?"

And oh, it had been a humdinger. Harper hadn't slept well the night before, so she and I both were exhausted. She refused to wake up for school, which prompted one of my legendary Monday-morning meltdowns. And Ellie. Well, Ellie has been caught up in the terrible twos for about 18 months now. I hope she turns over a new leaf when she turns 3 next month and becomes a compliant, rational child. Here's to hoping.

They only look sweet and innocent.

It's not that I have bad kids. Given their ages, my girls are reasonably well-behaved. Unless of course you count every single time we try to dine out. Without fail, Ellie throws a hissy fit when, for instance, I won't let her climb over the booth to join another family's meal. We quickly box up our food and cross that restaurant off our regular rotation.

Even so, since I get to enjoy my kids each and every day from sunup til sundown , all that time together can get a bit ... overwhelming. Frustrating. Maddening.

In Tennessee, we lived 15 minutes away from my parents. My mother retired a few months after Harper was born, and she cared for her while I continued to work. Then, after I started my new career as what basically amounts to an unpaid maid/nurse/teacher/referee, she was still close by to rescue me when I needed it. It was often. She cared for Ellie when Harper had a full-day's slate of doctor's appointments in Knoxville or when I simply wanted to go to the grocery store without feeling like I'd fought - and lost - a battle.

(While we're on the topic, why doesn't some enterprising entrepreneur open a store that sells three things through a drive-through window: milk, bread and one-pound packages of ground beef. Mothers would line up around the block and patiently wait their turn if it ment they didn't have to drag their kids into a grocery store just so they can throw together some Hamburger Helper for dinner. Seriously. I think there's real money to be made here.)

Anyway, I knew. I was very, very lucky to have such a stellar support system. I knew many moms - and dads - who didn't have family nearby to help on a daily basis. But now that I'm 1,000 miles away from my parents, geez. Trust me. I understand exactly how lucky I was.

There's simply no way I would have made it through my girls' infancies without my mom. Especially with the first baby. I didn't know jack squat about babies, let alone one with special needs. And my mom certainly bailed me out more times than I'll ever be able to remember.

 - Like the time I showed up at her house late one night, baby Harper in tow, and declared "I can't make this baby sleep. Do something."

 - Or the time when 6-month-old Harper was so sick and lethargic and I had no idea what was wrong. Mom calmed me down to the extent she could and went with me to the doctor where we discovered she had her first of what has become many urinary tract infections.

- Or the times Nick or I couldn't get away from work and mom took Harper to a doctors' appointment.

- Or each time when mom could tell I'd had enough and would just show up at my house to play with the girls so I wouldn't pull my hair out by the handful.

- Or all the times I said, "Nick and I want to go see this movie/game/concert. Can you watch the girls for a couple of hours?"

- Or all the other times when my mom was there to help with something little or something bigger like a surgery or a new continence procedure or wound care or whatever we were managing.

And even though she's half a continent away now, mom is still helping me. She and dad are flying out next week to stay with Ellie while Nick and I take Harper to Kansas City for her first visit to spina bifida clinic. So yeah. I basically think my mom is a saint.

But living this far apart certainly puts into stark contrast how challenging it can be to raise kids without a your own "village" for support. I certainly tip my hat to all the moms who have been doing it solo far longer than me.

Mom with the girls. (Somehow I don't have a
picture of the three of them together.)