Welcoming a New Addition

We have always felt beyond blessed with three healthy, happy children, but have always considered expanding our family since they bring us so much joy. There’s never a dull moment and we embrace the energy they give (and take!) to our family unit. Keeping active is of utmost importance to us Kaisers and adding to our brood would ensure a lengthy span of activity, no doubt.

With three very active children who require three different drop-offs and pickups every morning and afternoon, a busy husband who will eventually be deployed again, a mountain of prerequisite nursing coursework, a house four times the size of our last house (read: more cleaning), squadron spouse commitments, and a husband who just purchased new skis and boots (with the anticipation of frequent ski weekends this winter), the thought of another addition to our family exhausted us. As time-crunched and sleep-deprived as we are now, how would we ever find a spare moment in our day to devote to another?

This past week has been particularly difficult, with boy Blair on the opposite coast for work and me being sick. But we powered through and could see the forest for the trees, the light at the end of the tunnel. With all these sacrifices, we have indeed been able to find room for yet another addition. His name is: Willy.

Well, not quite sure what his name will be, as I won’t say “I’m going to ride Willy”, but it’s a Wilier bike, so I’m open to suggestions. Unfortunately, I have only taken Willy out for brief rides, since strep throat has invaded our household. With a sick 5 year old at home and having to miss Microbiology class, the only solution was:

…a CycleOps indoor trainer! Yes, set up in our kitchen, I can oversee Evan doing homework at the breakfast table while I study Pathophysiology, get a workout, AND have CNN on mute and a laptop to my right whereby I can watch a video of my Microbiology lecture online AND search for evening gowns for the Governor’s Ball in less than two weeks! Multitasking at its best. Shortly thereafter, boy Blair landed his plane and rushed home so I could go to lab and cultivate cultures of gonorrhea and streptococcus. A devoted husband he is!

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Beyonce is Pregnant! And Other Important News…

Someone hijacked my blog and is soliciting magazines sales! Oh wait, I have a certain amount of fundraising to do for Alex’s school, St. Mary’s Catholic School, and I’m hoping we can meet those fundraising goals quicker than most. Through fundraising, the school is able to keep tuition to a (relative) minimum.

As a magazine phobe myself, this is something my heart is truly in. If my People magazine doesn’t arrive on Friday afternoons, I call customer service right away and you better bet that People is in my mailbox the next Friday! But as much as I love magazines and mindless reading, any free time I had before is now consumed with Pathogentic Microbiology and Pathophysiology, plus two labs. And helping husband assemble the 30 pieces of IKEA furniture he bought last weekend.

So, yes, it is me soliciting magazine subscriptions. You can renew ones you already subscribe to, or try out new ones – and we offer pretty much EVERY magazine there is – even Catholic Digest, if you so dare! Here’s the link to order online, or you can send me an email and I can put the order in for you. http://www.qsp.com/Personalize.aspx?profile=lyygbj. Thank you in advance!

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School Daze

We’ve been a bit busy in the Kaiser household: movers came Friday, tried to unpack Saturday, sprained wrist Sunday morning moving heavy coffee table, drove to Denver’s Costco (ER en route to ensure wrist not broken! Gotta love Interstate-accessible ER’s!), Alex started school Monday and Boy Blair assumed the role of interim Commander for the week (as well as Master of Cable TV/Internet Installation – top of priority list for moving into house). Evan and I started school Tuesday, and I finally unpacked our pots and pans today (meaning I have to cook? gasp!). This was preceded by a trip to Colorado Springs for a wedding. Needless to say, I have not found a window to write a blog entry lately (we also didn’t have Internet until getting it hooked up Monday afternoon). So I decided to post some recent photos instead:

Alex’s first day of school at St. Mary’s Catholic School (on our side porch steps).

Evan’s first day of school as a Trailblazer at Pioneer Park (Can we brag? He’s a smarty!).

Evan’s first bus ride to school with Ms. Yvette! He was supposed to ride the bus after school and get off at the Youth Center on base (two stops after ours), but I heard a loud, “Hi Mom!!!” at 3:50pm yesterday and realized he’d come home instead! Phew! Very proud of him for his first day of bus riding – he loves it.

Bus driving away :-(. And yes, I was the mom running to the sidewalk with a) nightgown still on, b) fleece jacket over top (brrr, it’s cold here in the mornings!), c) baby strapped on back and d) camera in hand!

Our house sign! All the “Bricks” – historic houses on base – have a sign out front with the ranking officer’s name/family.

Front of our house (with new baby gate for Carter!)

Evan’s future college! AFA

…until next entry!

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Dad Brings Us Home On The Range, And Yes The Antelope Play

The days leading up to our arrival in Wyoming were filled with niceties: a two-room hotel suite in downtown Denver to include a free happy hour, ample breakfast selections, and, my favorite vacation indulgence – housekeeping,

(yes, you guessed it – Embassy Suites are the bomb), as well as a four-day vacation in breathtaking Steamboat Springs to include crisp mornings, brilliant blue skies,

clean mountain air, fabulous hiking and running trails, microbrewed beer on tap by the river,

kids adventure camp (we adults were lucky to be exempt from their explorations, involving hunting for crawfish, killing them, cooking them, and eating them), extended-family bonding time and plenty of winding roadtripping.

Behind all of this indulgence before my first step over the Wyoming border was a husband who feared his wife would find Wyoming, and our subsequent four years here, miserable. He did everything he could to ensure a comfortable, relaxing and enjoyable arrival in hopes I’d overlook some of Cheyenne’s shortcomings. Knowing I was profoundly attached to Capitol Hill and the endless amount of entertainment and gastronomic experiences a big city offered, as well as a healthy network of friends, I believe he was afraid Wyoming would be too far the other extreme for me.

A couple of weeks before my arrival, he drove Evan and Alex all the way from Little Rock to Cheyenne solo.

Executing mountains of in-processing paperwork – not only for his job, but for the boys’ health insurance, doctors appointments, dental appointments, school applications, sports leagues, after-school programs, etc., he was also saddled with securing us a home, getting Evan tested for a special school program, setting up utility connections…the list goes on. Oh, and he also had to go to work, leaving the boys in the trusted hands of a babysitter on base for a few days.

He also managed to fit in train rides near rest stops during their road trip,
the boys’ first bowling experience,

hiking and a picnic at the closest state park 30 minutes away,

a trip to Water World near Denver – America’s biggest water park, and Frontier Days – The World’s Largest Rodeo.

Not sure I know many dads who a) could handle as many tasks as he did solo, with two small children clinging to his legs, or b) choose to do so with excitement. He did all of the hard work in transferring our family out West.

Driving from Steamboat Springs to Cheyenne this past Sunday, we crossed the border into Wyoming and had to pull off of the two-line highway for a pit stop, seeing as there were no gas stations or other facilities for miles and miles. The first thing we noticed was: The Wind.

The next thing we noticed was incredibly wide, open spaces and no sign of human life. Yes, it was desolate, but also beautiful in a way. The blue sky was as big and wide as the wind was strong. Miles and miles of barren and rugged Wild West landscape led to Laramie. As we rolled into the small town on our way to Cheyenne, my sister-in-law, Sarah, enthusiastically yelled out, “A coffee shop!”, though it was closed and shuttered. She then pointed out other promising signs of dining or retail establishments, but again, all were closed and had been for awhile it seemed. Our options grew dim. We were excited to come upon a working gas station, though, especially since our tank was nearing empty. It was a stereotypical cow town. Cowboys on all sides, driving massive pickup trucks with horse trailers hitched behind them. One at a time, we took turns using the bathroom inside and snickering at the various souvenirs they, including wall-mounted jackalopes and a huge moose head. You’d never know this town of 30k is home to the only university in the entire state of Wyoming.

It was time to leg out the last 40 miles of our trek to Cheyenne. We passed warning signs regarding road closures and there were even blockades like the ones that come down at railroad crossings, which they use in inclement weather to close the road between Laramie and Cheyenne. Apparently this happens often and a sign instructs you to “Return to Laramie”. I was pleasantly surprised as we rounded a bend and came across enormous windmills dotting the horizon.

I could see Cheyenne in the distance and it wasn’t nearly as dusty and barren as I had pictured. We pulled onto base where three huge missiles stood (it’s a missile base) and were welcomed with vast, manicured green spaces with wild geese and antelope grazing. Huge, historic red brick homes with wrap-around porches lined the main road and everyone greeted us with a smile and respectful hello. I could tell Blair was waiting for my reaction and praying for a positive one.

It was beautiful and he has nothing to worry about. Our kids will be living in a neighborhood where you can open the door and let them play outside all day without constant supervision (and there’s a different playground on almost every block on base). Everyone who comes on base must show an I.D. at the entrance gates, the speed limit is around 25mph, there are wild antelope grazing on your front lawn,

Evan’s school bus stop is literally across the street from our house, the medical clinic is within shouting distance, as is the free movie theater, post office, indoor swimming pool, and the youth activity center and sports fields where the boys will go for after school tutoring, soccer and play. Blair’s work is a quick 8 minute drive off base allowing for more family time, as well as low-level flyovers to keep the boys entertained on the ground (wave to daddy! The photo below is Blair literally flying over our house – middle house in photo).

My only complaint so far is needing gloves for my morning runs in August and having to dodge goose and antelope poop on the sidewalks. I know family and friends in Arkansas, Arizona and elsewhere suffering triple-digit temps right now are not sympathizing! So, hubby, if you’re reading this, rest assured we’re excited to be here and will soak up everything the Wild West has to offer! We’re home on the range!

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Keeping a Twinkle in Her Wrinkle

He tucked her disheveled white hair behind her ears, then slipped her sheets over her shoulders, leaned over and gave her a kiss on the lips. She smiled, then turned to look back at the TV. Halfway to her 91st birthday, she’s 4 years John’s senior. There were probably 100 emotions going through John’s mind in those 10 seconds of making grandma Mary comfortable before having to retire to his home across town. As her mate for the past 12 years, it was distressing for him to leave her bedside every evening in this nursing home. Her most recent battles with failing health have included colon cancer, several surgeries to repair intestinal issues, and a recent diagnosis of dementia. The result has been lengthy hospital stays, complications post-op, lack of appetite and general malaise. One day she’ll know who you are and the next day she won’t. As someone who was sharp as a tack and could remember the color of the shoes you wore as a child on a road trip, it’s difficult watching this slow demise of memory.

They were next door neighbors in a small town in Northeast Arkansas. John and his wife, Ann, played cards with Mary and her husband, Kemp, otherwise known as Pawpaw. Occasionally they went to dinner together to a small place where Pawpaw would order a very rare (“bloody”, as John described it) steak; John and Ann would order fish. Mary, my grandmother, would order shrimp. She really liked the shrimp, John said. He didn’t care to see the blood from the steak. He preferred meat that was cooked pretty well done.

Living a stone’s throw from each other, they assumed a certain kinship. But when my grandfather passed away in 1993 and John’s wife passed away in 1999, Mary and John’s friendship progressed to a new level. He’d come over in the mornings, like clockwork, for coffee and also in the late afternoons, knowing a hearty meal and comfortable conversation awaited him. But then age started to catch up with them. Knowing Mary’s sons and better medical care were in Little Rock three and a half hours away, John was afraid Mary would soon pack up and move there. At the same time, John’s closest next-of-kin was in Kentucky, so he was also afraid he’d have to move there.

John soon asked Mary: “Will you be my girlfriend?”

Mary responded: “Well, I’ll be your girlfriend, but I won’t marry you!”

So it was decided then that a) Mary wouldn’t move to Little Rock and b) John wouldn’t move to Kentucky.

Since then, they’ve been inseparable. Through various cancers, knee replacements, broken backs, and other illnesses associated with old age, John and Mary have been by each other’s sides day and night.

“She’s the pertiest woman, ain’t she?”, John exclaimed as we stood outside her nursing home room while a nurse changed her and got her cleaned up.

“Of course she is. She’s amazing. She was super grandma to us.”

“She could’ve looked like Liz Taylor if her hair were a little darker,” he said.

“Yes, she was just as beautiful.”

The nurse called us in when he was finished. Grandma was once again cozy and content in her bed, watching CNN, passively. John asked her a dozen questions: “Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you cold? Can I pull the blanket above your shoulders? You’re probably cold by your shoulders – let me tuck the blanket in. Do you want some Kleenex? Here, I’ll put some right here. Do you want the TV on? Where’s your call button? Here, I’ll put it right here so you can call someone if you need something. Do you want this light on? You’ll probably go to bed soon, so I’ll turn it off.”

He ambled over to his wheeled walker and we started to leave her room. An ambitious attempt to mow his lawn resulted in a fall and an ensuing broken back. A once daily exerciser, he now has to rely on this walker to get around. Outside the door, I turned around and John’s eyes were red and teary. He’d done this same drill dozens of times, over years, yet he still seemed to be sad to leave her. The only thing he wanted was to live in the same place and help take care of her.

It was time for me to drive him to their shared retirement home a few miles away, where grandma Mary lived until recent surgeries and failing health required full-time nursing care. Loading his walker into the car, I could tell he was excited to talk to someone “new”. We talked about how hilly Little Rock was compared to Blytheville, how he missed being able to drive himself around, how he missed being able to help grandma on his own. I pulled up to his apartment, unloaded his walker, gave him a hug and watched him slowly shuffle to the entrance. If it weren’t for each other, who knows if they would’ve lived as long as they have already. Everyone needs someone to keep a twinkle in their wrinkles.

“To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world.”  ~Author Unknown


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We Worship Wednesdays

“Is it cupcake Wednesday today?”

“No, Alex, it was cupcake Wednesday yesterday – you have six more days until the next one.”

Wednesdays were sacred in our household in DC. It was the day everyone looked forward to every week. Not Sundays, when most families take a respite from the doldrums of daily life and do something special together. Our day of “worship” was Wednesdays. And what we worshiped was very important in our opinion.

My sanctuary was spin class. No, it wasn’t just any spin class. It was Christianne’s spin class. Unrivaled. She was intense, full of energy and inspiration. It was a guaranteed knock-you-to-your-knees workout (http://www.christianne2.com). How she had this much stamina after chasing her 4-year old twins was beyond me. The class was always full – and this was at 9:30am on Wednesday mornings. Who were all these people? Certainly they all had jobs. I think everyone had a “very important meeting” scheduled for Wednesdays at 9:30, and people made every effort to be there each week. The same people. It was a standing appointment for everyone. My husband even let me break away from packing and moving the house on the most chaotic day of the year for us to take her spin class. Bike Z – that was my bike and I made every effort to get there early enough to claim it.

Our second place of worship on Wednesdays was the bake sale at Evan’s elementary school. There was no greater bribe I could use all week than “Cupcake Wednesday”. The countdown for the next Wednesday would begin six days beforehand and as soon as I picked the boys up from school, they’d thrust their hands out, eager for their $1 to buy a treat after school. But even if it weren’t Cupcake Wednesday, there was always an excuse or occasion for cupcakes amongst our friends.  

Over a month after leaving DC, Alex still asks when it’ll be Cupcake Wednesday.
“What’s today, mommy?”
“It’s Tuesday, Alex.”
“When will it be Wednesday?”
“Alex, there are no cupcakes here in Little Rock.”
No, no one’s pet died, no one lost a limb, but judging by Alex’s reaction, you’d think the death of something occurred. Lest I think we’ve escaped the Cupcake Wednesday drill, Evan suggests we (gasp) make cupcakes. 

Neither Alex nor I are as happy now without our regular altars on Wednesdays and we’ve had to adjust accordingly. I have lucked out in finding a gym with the same bikes, but the instructors, although adequate, don’t compare to Christianne. Alex has agreed to snow cones and frozen yogurt in lieu of cupcakes here, especially in 105 degree heat.

I don’t think either of us should complain when we’re talking about spin classes and sweet treats, especially when I recently posted about not having running water while living in a rural West African village. Nonetheless, appreciation of such indulgences is not wasted. We will hopefully find other hobbies in Wyoming/Colorado that don’t involve sugar!

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full mOOn

A full moon inspires many a wild hair. Perhaps a full moon in conjunction with extreme heat and humidity would cloud rational judgement and encourage even nuttier behavior. So the thought crossed my mind to run the Full mOOn 50k near Lake Sylvia in Arkansas Saturday night. It’d been eight years since I last ran it and I rationalized a) I’m here and b) I’m here. There’s no preregistration or entry fee (just a donation), easing the pressure to commit to such a distance ahead of time. You just show up, sign in on a clipboard, listen to the trail debrief and start running. No frills, to say the least. The trail is marked with flour and the only aid stations are at the 25k and 50k turnarounds, with jugs of water placed halfway in between those stops. There’s no GU, no Powerbars – out there you’re more likely to find peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, watermelon slices, boiled potatoes and Oreos.

Saturday afternoon approached and, after driving the kids to see great-grandparents 3.5 hours in the opposite direction Friday evening, holding our breath through a proper dinner at the Country Club, picking tomatoes from great-grandpa’s garden, 

throwing balls into the nets of their century-old pool table in the basement, 

petting miniature ponies, lamas and cockatoos on a friend’s farm,

swimming and lunch, it was time to head home. The back roads from northeast Arkansas to Little Rock are littered with desolate towns, complete with boarded-up and abandoned gas stations, sad-looking dollar stores and high schools with football fields overgrown and scoreboards out of service for decades. Motivation to run a 50k, or even a 25k, was waning. A cold beer was sounding more appealing.

In years past, the race started at 8pm, with a trail debrief 15 minutes beforehand including warnings of rattlesnacks and steep, rocky drop-offs, hardly visible in the rural darkness that is middle-of-nowhere Arkansas forest, manipulating the trails by feel rather than by sight, as the only light was that of the moon. As peaceful and tranquil as it was, it was equally eerie. The only way you’d know if there was a snake on your path was if you stepped on it, so you’d run, constantly anticipating stepping on a slimy snake, goosebumps crawling up your body every so often at the thought. You’d occasionally lock eyes with a wild animal in the bushes, their eyes glowing, not knowing what kind of animal it was…or how big it was. But the soft rustling of leaves was calming and you’d eventually get into a perfect rhythm. This would be my sixth 50k, but my first since bearing three children. My body had born the brunt of three pregnancies and deliveries with accompanying hormonal changes and nursing for, for…forever, and who knew if it could withstand the battering of almost 32 miles at one time again.

With an incredibly supportive husband at home with the kids, I was encouraged to relive a bit of my past through this run, but the margarita he made upon arrival post-great-grandparent visit was too tempting. And anticipating icing 48 cupcakes and blowing up 50 balloons for baby Carter’s first birthday party the next day was another reality check. Gone were the days I could just hop in the car and do whatever I wanted to, run however far I wanted and no one would benefit or suffer the consequences other than myself.

Ultimately, the margaritas won. But with quitter’s guilt and seven hours of sleep under my belt, I decided to leg out at least half the distance the next morning from the house. No, I didn’t have the tranquility of single-track trails or deserted fire roads through the forest. Instead, I had the deserted streets of downtown Little Rock, the scenic road that hugs the banks of the Arkansas River, and the formidable half mile that climbs Overlook Drive. Two hours and fifteen minutes later, I was back home to start icing cupcakes with the boys,  ice down drinks, cut watermelon, make ants on a log, blow up balloons, inflate moonbounce and slip n’ slide, order pizzas…

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