Monthly Archives: May 2013

What do Smokey, Say Anything and Sa-weet! cars have in common?

For Steph’s 41st birthday, we decided to set up camp at the Springfield Cruise-In, and invite all our fabulous family and friends.  Once a month, hundreds of classic cars, ghetto cars, souped-up cars and various what-not converge on Main Street. It’s fun to camp out on the sidewalk and watch the crazy go by. Or, to be a part of the crazy. But that’s another post.

Saturday afternoon, we packed up for the event. Lurch and Lester were both stuffed to overflowing. Our mail person, who knows us dearly, saw all our CRAZY AMOUNTS of camping gear and asked excitedly “How long are you gone until?”. Steph looked down and said “Til tonight.” Shrugs. This is just ONE of the trucks, packed.

Lester, packed to the gills.

Lester, packed to the gills.

Lots of great friends and family showed up. We CONVERGED on that parking lot, y’all. It was ours for the evening. You can see Steph in the background in the hat behind the 532 beer coolers.

parkinglot

We had corn hole for the younguns’. Here’s our friend Andy and his son. Andy works on Lester and Lurch to keep them running smoothly. I tease that we’ve provided the funding for their son’s college education. We love them. They’re good peeps.

Andy

Here we are on Lurch, posing for the passersby. Hot cars and hot babes!

TrioStephsParty

The boys were great – they partied til about 9pm. Their ties were a last minute addition. Hopper’s is a spatula. Pic does not do it justice.

BoysStephsParty

Later in the evening, we took a walk around to gawk at the cars. Just me, Steph, Rachelle, and The Boyz. We needed tunes, so we brought our boombox.

BoomBoxRachelle

We may or may not have blasted Run DMC and Beastie Boys as we walked down Main Street. Mostly, the sound emanated mysteriously from the stroller, because I hid the speaker in the stroller visor. We had entirely too much fun with our boombox.

Is there a business opportunity in recreating epic movie scenes?

SayAnythingRedux

SayAnythingHeatherAndSteph

PS. WTF? Why is she smiling? She’s supposed to be full of angst and teenage pathos. Jeez. She almost looks proud.

PPS. Discount Beverage sign behind us. It’s like too good to be true. This picture is totally perfect.

If you haven’t been to a cruise-in, PLEASE GO. The people watching is unbeatable. And people just come up to you like you’re biffles. Here’s Stacy and Tracy. “We’re twins, too!”, they said. “Take our picture!” Or something like that. I’m kind of not sure I believe them, but I felt drawn to them…

StacyAndTracy

WAIT A MINUTE. That guy on the right totally reminds me of Smokey. OEMGEE!!! I met Smokayyy!!!

If you don’t like my favorite eff word, don’t click, y’all.

Ok, in all seriousness, we were there for the cars. Guess which one was my favorite? I’ll give you one guess only. It may have been on hydraulics.

CarsAtCarShow

 

We had a fantastic night. Thanks to all of our friends and family for coming and making the amazing Stephanie Shaar’s birthday so much fun. We love you! Can’t wait for a repeat next year! Oh, and next month, we’re ditching the 5-ton grill. We decided we’re just bringing the fire pit and errbody can char their own hot dogs and s’mores. Veggie dogs for moi. Can’t wait!

It’s time to PAR-TAY

I have an addiction. I am planning about 4,327 parties right now. Apparently, this is me these days:

Parties coming up that I’m planning?

The Drink Champagne and Dance On Tables Party:

Great Gatsby Soiree

What’s the party? I’m about to turn 40 {Can. Not. Comprehend.} That, coupled with the fact that I feel this innate need to earn a shit-ton of money for the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville, has turned my sweet little party into a full-on 1920’s dress-up bash, complete with a silent auction, a Charleston dance contest, and a live band, if we can fit them. WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO? I somehow need to find the time to solicit for *important stuff* for the silent auction.

The “Steph Turns 41, is having a mid-life crisis and bought a slick sportscar” Party, Wherein we bring both our old cars and cruise up and down Main Street in Springfield. JUST LIKE WE DID WHEN WE WERE TEENAGERS. Except this time, there will be no wine-coolers involved. This happens tomorrow. Should be fun!

LeLurch

 

Third big party? The boys’ first birthday, which is right around the corner! I was planning on doing a mustache bash, but the mustachioed items are a bit trite these days, and honestly driving me bonkers. So, how about a Punk Rock Baby theme? Check out this ridiculous baby party. There’s a fruit mohawk coming out of a styrofoam head!! Gah, the perfect thing for a 1 year-old birthday party! Keepin’ it real, folks.

Any other “different” party ideas for 1-year-old twins? I have time to get this right, and have a ton of fun! I’m not into traditional baby stuff. I want something memorable!

That’s all I’ve got for tonight. Looking forward to sharing Steph’s party, tomorrow !

 

 

Happy Birthday to the Love of My Life

Today is Steph’s birthday – she turns 41. I love this woman! She gets more accomplished in one day than I do in an entire year. So, it’s very smart of me to keep her around.

Someone as amazing as Steph deserves a motto. I should get this on a t-shirt for her 41st birthday present:

14,965DaysSteph

 

If you know Steph, you know that she loves to “knock stuff out”. In her world, you just have to get it done. No time for tomfoolery. Except, somehow she does have time for tomfoolery and lightheartedness. She knocks that out, too! Whodahell is this woman?

Steph is a super-star. At risk of sounding like I’m bragging about my “great catch”, I try not to talk too much about how amazing she is. But today, I’m going to brag.

Here’s what I love about her, in no particular order of importance.

StephIsBrilliant

She literally has a Ph.D. in microbiology. Who da eff has a Ph.D in that except for people like Stephen Hawking? Ok, I know his is in Physics, but same sentiment. Her dissertation was about the ebola virus. {Or is it e.bola? She worked with lots of the stuff, so is it eboli?} She was even dropped into Africa to extract service-men who had contracted ebola. I hope that info has become declassified. If it hasn’t, then I’m in trouble.

RenaissanceWoman

She is super musical. She can sit down at the piano and play Rachmaninoff. Ok, that might be a stretch these days, now that she’s out of practice. But, she can still play you the song she wrote for her high school graduating class. She sings. She loves music!

She is super sporty, and has played just about every sport known to humankind. Including golf, which I’m happy to say she deemed “boring”. Except she did mention something about the “drink cart” that rolls around and shows up magically at just the right time with your fresh tasty beverage. She liked that. She went to college on a combined academic and rowing scholarship. Which apparently meant that she’d get up at 4am to run – oh say, a 5k, ON THE WAY TO THE DANG BOAT  {or canoe, ship, kayak. whatever they call those rowie type things)

She is geeky. We’ve already discussed her brilliance, which I could go on about ad nauseum. She knows a lot about a lot of stuff. Especially science. She uses words like viremia in every day conversation. I’m not kidding! It has something to do with your body’s susceptability Never mind. I can’t even spell it.

She has more hobbies than God. Gardening. Restoring old cars. Learning the ukulele for the boys. Making jewelry. Craft beer brewing. The list could go on and on. Right now, she’s been tinkering with her new 1966 Suburban. Last weekend she was working on installing the carpet herself. Gah!

Note Liam sitting sweetly in the backseat helping his mommy.

Note Liam sitting sweetly in the backseat helping his mommy.

 

But, here’s the thing. These days, Steph doesn’t have much time for sports, or music, or to toss around lofty words. She’s too busy taking care of the people she loves.

Like her mom, who depends on Steph to be there for her.

StephandherMomma

Like the boys, who she dotes on and smothers with kisses on a regular basis. I wish everyone could see her with her boys. She delights in them and they bring her so much joy!

HopperAndMommy

Like me. She spoils me rotten.

We clean up pretty nicely, right?

We clean up pretty nicely, right?

 

I come up with a million projects and ideas that I pass off for her to implement. Like how I decided that I wanted a lime green border for the boys converted chalkboard-fireplace. She went and got the wood and got lime green paint that I turned my nose up at. {Seriously, it was avocado – NOT lime green.} So yesterday, we got proper lime green paint, and there she was – out in the yard, painting away. This is just one of the millions of examples of things she does on a regular basis because she loves me.

Mostly, I wanted to post this today, because I don’t think she realizes how in love with her I am. She’s pulled in a million directions right now, and is a bit tired from all the care-taking she’s been doing, so I want to remind her that she is an extraordinary woman. She is amazing, beautiful, full of life, super-interesting, brilliant, funny, caring and creative. I am so lucky to be on this journey with her – co-creating a rich, happy, messy, full-to-overflowing life.

 

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Mother’s Day

Steph and I don’t really subscribe to a lot of the traditional holidays. (Except for Halloween. We’re bat-shit-crazy about Halloween) (Oh, and Christmas. I can not contain myself at Christmas and it’s going to be worse now that we have little ones.)

For Mother’s Day, we decided we weren’t going to buy each other presents, or any of the other hoopla. But that didn’t stop me from hosting a Mother’s Day dinner for my family.

The day started off with me waking up to this sentiment from my beautiful daughter, Ophelia.

Mother'sDayFunny

From there, I started working on my mom’s Mother’s Day present – a picture frame with a pic of each of her TEN grandchildren, ranging in age from 21 to 3 months. The frame had 11 openings, so I got all crafty-like and used sticky letters and cool paper that said “We love you GiGi” for the 11th opening. I figured we could trash my message when we have the 11th grandchild, and replace it with a photo. The 12th grandchild is SOL. I forgot to take a picture because I was desperately trying to line the stupid letters up.

Family dinners are a ton of fun, but a TON of work. I start by listing out the menu on the board. This helps when we’re in hour 5 of cooking and I have no clue what to focus on next.

MothersDayDinner

Then, I did the tablescape. That’s right. I said “tablescape”. Because I use Pinterest, and I know what makes a beautimous table.

Peony

Table

I tried to dress the boys up and take a picture of our entire family (minus Dakota, who has defected to Vietnam – but that’s another story). The closest I got to a classic, timeless photo of our beautiful family was this:

Steph

 

Sigh. Aside from it being August and Liam’s first Mother’s Day, it was also their little cousin Timothy’s first. He’s three months old. He makes Liam look huge!

MrPigAndTimTim

LionOnMother'sDay

One of my favorite parts of the dinner was when I was trying to get Katie to smile, so I could give her mom Ali a beautiful photo of her loving daughter. She wouldn’t smile. So, I said “Katie, give me your best ‘Gosh I love you mom, you’re the best’ smile.” She did. It wasn’t fake at all.

Katie

So, on to more serious stuff.

My mom is a beautiful, artistic, extremely intelligent woman.  She really embodies the spirit of perseverance to me. My dad was killed in a car accident when I was 14, and my sisters were 10 and 7. My mom had been in medical school in Philadelphia for 4 long years when he died 2 months before she graduated.

Instead of celebrating the long journey we all had taken to get her her doctorate, we had to pick up the pieces and re-invent our lives. My mom was never the same after that, but she is a beautiful woman, who shows her love through her cooking. So, family dinners, like Mother’s Day, are extra special. We cook for about 6 hours and then feast.

You never know where the conversation is going to take you, but it’s our family. And my mother is something special. She taught me how to persevere when things seem desperate. She taught me how to keep most of life’s troubles in perspective. So, if you know me, and I seem very “go with the flow”, it’s because since my dad’s death, I’m keenly attuned to what’s important. Things roll off me and I err on the side of ridiculous positivity. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but mostly, it just keeps me happy.

I gave my mom a card this year that told her she was my hero. She really is. Though it’s hard for her to show her emotions, I know she loves us all intensely.

Momma

Chronicles of a New Blogger – Episode 2

Ok, installment 2 of “Operation Blog Start-Up”, wherein I chronicle my actions to try to grow and ignite a new blog. {Envision mad scientist woman here}

I’m almost one month into my new blog, Mommy Loves Martinis. Somehow in-between working and taking care of les enfants, I managed to spend a good 7 hours or so on bloggish-type research. I may or may not be enjoying doing my research nightly with a glass(es) of red wine in hand. Red wine makes everything better. So do martinis, but I’ve had to cut back on those lately. Sigh.

Anyhow, I started my week by stumbling across an article called “30 Ways to Promote Your Blog Post” – a cool infographic that was packed with great ideas to do for each blog post you publish. It’s ahh-mazing! Between that post, and some sleuthing around on my own, here’s a list of some of the things I did this week to try to ignite this schizznit:

1. Added my posts to bookmarking sites Reddit, StumbleUpon and Digg. Seemed to have some success with Reddit – I have had 28 visits from Reddit, with an average page view time of over a minute, so sounds legit! I don’t really use bookmarking sites, but apparently a bazillion people do. I need to figure this thing out and understand it. It’s kind of like when I didn’t use Twitter and deemed it “stupid”. I’m such a block-head sometimes. Sigh.

2. Came across the most amazing website in the world – paper.li – which allows you to quickly aggregate and publish curated content from across the web to your subscribers. Uhh. I have no subscribers yet, but I quickly made a newsletter called “Newbie Blogger”. 🙂 Need to refine where the sources are pulled from, because there may be some crap on there about barbeque! Needs tweaking, what can I say. But seriously, what an amazingly cool thing to be able to publish your own magazine/newsletter to distribute as content to your followers. I also am going to start one for Down syndrome. Not sure what the slant is going to be – but I’m thinking it will be to document inspiring stories about individuals with Down syndrome. That way, if someone has a new diagnosis for their baby, or is struggling, they can read lots of uplifting stories to have hope. 🙂 This ties in with my master plan to fund-raise for Down syndrome research – but that’s another post.

3. Did a little research on getting my posts syndicated, and on writing fresh posts for other sites. Places like Huffington Post and Babble only accept original content that hasn’t been published before. There are other places that will accept work that has already been published – syndicated content. I’m thinking that’s the way for me to go right now while I’m working full-time, taking care of munchkins and trying to grow a blog. Not sure I have the energy to write for other publications right now, on top of everything I’m doing.

4. Spent some times getting to know my new best friend, Google Analytics. Dude, setting up widgets on there to view different metrics is not as intuitive as I thought it would be (or maybe it’s me!) But, I did set up to see simple stuff like unique viewers – (1033 so far!) and total page views (2330). You can get sucked into the data!

4. Purchased my ticket to the 2013 BlogHer conference coming up on my 40th birthday weekend in Chicago. How nice of BlogHer to be celebrating my birthday that way! Steph is going to stay home with the boys and send me off to the windy city to learn and soak in as much as I can. SO EXCITED!!!

That’s all I’ve got this week! So excited about this journey and continuing to research, explore and try new things.

As always, if you have tips or info you want to share, please do!

 

 

 

 

9 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Infertility Journey

Throughout my years of trying to conceive, I received lots of cheering, wisdom and support from others who had been on the journey before me. That support made all the difference in the world to me, kept me motivated, and got me through to the other side – where I am joyously busy with my 7-month old twin boys.

It’s really important to me to try to pay that forward. So, if you’re struggling with infertility, I hope my story and my words help in some small way.

My particular journey has all the makings of a juicy novel.  It’s full of heartbreak, the patience of Job, lots of money, a will of steel, all the medical science our doctors could conjure up, and a well-crafted plot written by me. Except, the plot kept going off course. And this wasn’t a novel. This was my  life.

A little back-history. I had my first two children when I was but a mere babe. Eighteen when I had my daughter Ophelia. Twenty when I had my son Dakota. They’re the bomb diggety. Fast forward 17 years, and I wanted to do it all over again. Yes, my kids were almost grown, I worried about overpopulation, AND I was on the cusp of that dreaded acronym AMA – advanced maternal age. But, I didn’t care about any of that. I felt driven to be a mom again. I knew it was meant to be a part of my story with my beautiful partner Steph.

Steph and I are ill-equipped to have children the natural way. No matter. This is the 21st century, and we quickly found our resources to find out how to go about this business of making a baby, the 21st-century way. I remember that initial meeting with our Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Winslow. I felt confidant in him, the fact that I was 35, and that we had time and resources. I was confidant, centered, focused, and resolved. Good thing I was.

It took us 2 years, 36 eggs harvested, 13 embryos transferred, 2 IUI’s, 3 IVF’s, 3 surgeries, and 2 miscarriages before we would find joy in our twin boys, August and Liam.  I would be honored if you would read our full story here. But, in this post, I want to focus on you.

No matter what the particulars are of your story, my wish for you is that you grab hold of hope, and hold it tight. Because as long as you have hope, you can help write your own story. When you let go of it, your thoughts and actions change, and your story is written without your stamp of approval.

If you are struggling with trying to conceive, or have suffered a miscarriage, here’s my best advice.

1. Fertility treatment is a huge undertaking, and you’ll stay focused if you have a long-term plan of what types of treatments you’re willing to do, how long you’re willing to invest, and what you’ll do if a particular type of treatment is unsuccessful. Our plan was simple –  we would invest time and money into 3 IVF’s. If those didn’t work, we would move on to donor embryo. If that didn’t work, we would adopt. Come up with a plan with your partner/spouse. Your plan and your limits will be different from mine. Do what in your heart of hearts you think would work for you. And know that your plan can change if it needs to.

2. Plan for the long-haul. Journeys take time – they’re not a one-shot event. Do some people seem to get pregnant as easily as they sneeze? Yes. Do some people have triplets on their first fertility round? Yes. Could it happen to you? Yes. But, chances are, it won’t.

3. Don’t take setbacks as a sign that it’s not meant to be for you. When a setback happens, go back to your master plan, adjust and move on. Even if your success ends in miscarriage – and I truly hope it doesn’t – allow yourself to grieve for as long as you need, and then get back to your plan.

4. Don’t be a victim. It sucks to have to go to so much effort to have a child, when it comes so easily to others.  It can be horrible and heartbreaking. But it’s not because you’re not meant to be a parent. It’s not because you’re bad. It’s not because the universe conspired against you. It’s the luck of the draw. You’ve got to find the “good egg”, as I used to call it. That perfect little being that’s meant to be your child.

5. Come up with your own mantra that you go back to again and again. I didn’t set out to have a mantra, but I found myself repeating the same words to myself. My words? “Don’t give up. It will happen. My job is to be unattached about how and when that happens.”

6. Be stubborn. Allow yourself to grieve and feel that it’s “not fair”. Practice patience. If you mess up and break down, gather your shit together, and practice patience again.

7. Allow yourself to have bad days. I may sound all chipper now, but I had many days where I sat outside, just staring out into the yard, wondering how all this would end. I cried lots, and became numb. But, eventually, I would move out of it, and find my resolve again.

8. Give and receive support. I found mine online at BabyCenter.com. Sharing your journey with others is validating. It makes your story real and makes you feel not alone. It also helps with feelings of jealousy, which is a messy, embarrassing thing to feel when you have friends and family who are pregnant, and you can’t feel happy for them.

9. Take a break when you need to. Fertility treatment is grueling. It’s all exhausting on your mind, body, and soul. If you push pause, it doesn’t mean you’re giving up. It means you’re gathering your strength. You’ll know when the time is right again. Steph and I pushed the pause button after our second miscarriage for 9 months. We healed, had fun, and rested during that time. Come January, we were geared up, and ready to go. Remember, you’re in it for the long-haul.

Your road might be full of disappointment and grief, but if you try your hardest to stay unattached to how you will become a parent, and stay resolved, you will.

It might not be your own egg, it might not be your own uterus, it might be through adoption. You might have to fund-raise, beg, network, or otherwise turn over every rock.  But have faith that things will unfold exactly as they’re meant to. Your child(ren) are out there waiting for you on the other side. It might be 9 months from now, or it might be 3 years from now. Your child is out there, routing you on, sweetly and softly. Patiently waiting.

If you’re trying for your first child, this is your first big journey as a parent. Being a parent means being in it for the long-haul. That journey doesn’t being when your child is born – it begins now. I wish you so much love, and wish you lots of grace as you walk your journey. Try to do it with a joyful, but stubborn step.

It will happen for you. Your job is to not be attached to how, or when.

Much love and baby dust. I would love to hear your stories, if you are willing to share. I’m so passionate about this.

Chronicles of a New Blogger – Episode 1

So, it’s been 2 weeks since I plunged into the blogging landscape with my blog Mommy Loves Martinis. I have the name, design, and 2 posts under my belt. I’m annoyingly goal-oriented, so of course, now that I’m 2 weeks in, I want to know the answer to the question – how do I build up my blog to make it successful.

What does success mean to me? Life is sweeter when you have someone to share it with. Quite simply, I want to reach the people I need to reach. I have a joyous life, but I’ve also been through a lot. Maybe my authenticity and my experiences can help others. I am a helper by nature! I even went so far as to get my Masters in Social Work. I don’t do that anymore, but the desire to help lift people up will never go away for me. I really, really mean that.

I’m not special. But, I do believe that it’s in connecting with other people and their stories that we can try to combat this pervasive loneliness that just seems to be everywhere.

So, as I go about the business of blogging my passions (new-again mommyhood, building community, Special Needs, Down syndrome, current events), I also want to lay out what I’m doing to try to build a reach for my blog. I can’t really fail, because in the end, if I reach one person, I can smile. I mean it. But, I won’t lie. If I can reach more, then I’ll smile bigger. That’s a blogger’s dream. It’s why we do this online journal thing.

Inspiration is one thing, but I’m a practical gal, so in these posts, I’ll try to get specific about the activities I’m doing. Some of them might be ridiculous, wrong, or otherwise misguided. Others may be brilliant 🙂 I have no idea – I’m just following my instincts, and trying to learn from others who have gone the path before me.

So, for today –  here are my activities.

1. I happen to be a “her”. So, I registered for BlogHer.com and filled out a profile. Filling out profiles is boo-hoo irritating. How the hell do you sum up who you are and what you stand for in a short, succinct, savvy paragraph? Just do it. I created a document on Google Docs that has marketing blurbs. So far I have a short, uninspired one, and a shorter, even more uninspired one. It can only get better, folks.

2. Read an article about the top social media conferences. To me, social media and blogging go hand in hand like tofu and braggs. Like Hair Bands and Aqua Net. Like babies and squishy cheeks.  Seriously, WTF? How do I even choose? Looking at doing something that’s not even on the list – the BlogHer conference in the fair windy city of Chicago. Also interested in the Content Marketing conference. I’m currently in B2B marketing, and that’s the schizznit that works these days. Banner ads are out, content is king. I need to learn this crap, pronto.

3. Found this article about milking Twitter for all it’s worth:  HOLY CRAP. Lots of fancy tools. I chose one that looked fun (umm, who doesn’t want to know their social influence?) and signed up. I chose #WeFollow (Do these pound hashtag thingamajiggies work outside of the twitterverse? Help??)

4. Looked at my Google Analytics. Hey, it’s been a month. And, it’s addicting to study that stuff! I’ve been live for 2 weeks. I’ve had  620 unique visitors and  1168 page views. Sounds cool to me! And, I forgot to enable the google analyticator widget thingie until AFTER I published my first post. Sigh. It’ll have to be close enough. I’ve done a decent job of building up a social media presence on Facebook, so that’s where the bulk of my Sunday drive traffic comes from. Yay, Facebook friends. You rock!

5. Twitter. Twittered at the software testing conference I’m working this week. It’s not really my personal niche, but I need to practice this crap! I’m up to 103 followers! And, they didn’t leave in droves when I started tweeting software testing gems. I have a loyal Twitter following! 😉

6. Started using Tout -a video app similar to Instagram where you can upload videos directly to Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Ummm, Vine is too restricting for my marketing purposes. 6 seconds makes me think of an auctioneer. Maybe I’ll find uses for it later. Today, I used Tout for the first time. 15 seconds, baby! I posted my first video. It was an inspired take at our conference booth. You can watch it here. Don’t judge. It only goes up from here!

7. That’s all I got!

Looking forward to documenting my blog-building activities in upcoming posts. I’m so passionate about using the social landscape to connect with each other and build community. Maybe this stuff can help other newbies! And, if you’re an experience blogger, I’m happy to be the benefactor of your tips!