Friday, April 8, 2016

Some Days & The Sum of Our Days

Simon is turning 8 years old tomorrow.  

Jaime and I, for the last week or so, have remarked how we can’t quite believe it. It happens every year around this time that like most parents, we can’t believe we’ve made it this far. And, like most parents we remember when we thought we’d never leave the hospital with a live child, or that he’d be heart stable and only on two meds and not twelve. Like most parents we see this birthday and are once again amazed that he’s going to eat his birthday cupcake by mouth instead of surgically inserted feeding tube. Just like any other parent we’re concerned about his party and how his classmates (and their parents) from his Special Day Class are going to mix with our mostly queer friends and their mostly typically developing children.  You know, stuff like that.  But seriously, this time of year is both amazing and wonder-full and incredibly hard.

It’s starts to percolate and simmer for me usually a week or two before April 9th. This is that time, 8 years ago, that an unsuspecting and very excited Laura, got to have 3 months and 3 weeks to be a ‘normal’ new mom with all of the insane feelings and questions and exhaustion that most new moms feel. I worried about feeding and sleeping and pooping. Not much else.

It’s a time when I think/grieve the coming August 1st anniversary when it all came crashing down. It feels so strange to know now that those 3 months and three weeks, as intense as they seemed to be, were nothing, nothing at all, compared to what the next 4 months/7+ years would be like.  I didn’t even know what a G-tube was. Hard to believe that there wasn’t a time that I didn’t know about that but there wasn’t.

Then there’s the reality of the present.

We are about to celebrate 8 years of Simon on this earth. He is amazing. He is wackadoodle crazy. He is funny as hell. He is infuriating. He’s sometimes such a mystery and other times so predictable it’s scary.

He is changing and growing in so many ways.  He’s autistic. He’s atypical. He’s into Power Rangers like I used to be into Michael Jackson. He’s losing teeth with new ones coming in at all sorts of crazy angles. He’s learning to shake his butt and is competing in his first Kung Fu tournament tomorrow. His pragmatic speech and ability to converse is growing by leaps and bounds and when there’s a big transition coming up his scripting/echolalia and chirping increase exponentially. (A friend and fellow mom of a child with Autism and I were laughing last night about how it’s true for our kids that “sometimes they seem soooo autistic and other times we’re like ‘meh….they seem kind of normal.’) Simon is now able to get his haircut without being held down and even attended Spring Break camp this year without a single incident (3 days with an ABA aide and two days without!).  He wakes up almost every night and comes into our bed. He has mood swings and still can’t tell you what’s bothering him. He’s not attached to certain things that you think he might be and bonded to other things that I wouldn’t expect in a million years. He can remember names and places from years ago but can’t tell you how he got that bruise on his face (any parent’s nightmare). He’s reading. He likes spicy foods.  He’s got those bright blue eyes that sometimes sparkle like perfectly cut sapphires. He loves the attention of older females and is a master at drawing said females to him. He loves spending time with his Mama playing with his action figures on his bed in his room. He learned how to take his medications in pill form this year but still gags throughout most meals-just because. He loves music. And burps. And farts.

Being his mom is so hard. It’s exhausting and there’s no mastering it.  It’s also so right and exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t understand it at all but when he’s lying next to me and throws his arm over me half asleep, it’s the easiest thing in the world. When he repeats “I like big butts and I cannot lie” in public for the 15th time in five minutes it’s a little harder.

The world is a better place for having Simon Lev in it. My world is better; more complicated, full, deeply brutiful, and rich.   Thank you Jaime for staying strapped in on the roller coaster with me.  Thank you Simon for being exactly who you are and continuing to become the perfect you.

And thank you to everyone that supports just that.

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...

Checking out the Gibbons at the Zoo, like we do.

First Hair Cut in 2 years

Touring the Fire Station
 after delivering them homemade cupcakes

Driving the Tiller Rig

With a thermal sensor

50+ pounds of gear

On the Job!

Watching The Chipmunks on TV

Likely embarrassed by something Mama and Mommy did/said

Almost 8 and beautiful

Happy Birthday Simon Lev!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Poster Child, Part Deux

 So...our kid is a Children's Hospital Oakland (CHO) poster child again.  Literally. On posters.


Thanks to Laura's willingness to tell some important people at CHO some hard truths about our experiences at their institution, Simon might help save some lives.

CHO, like many hospitals, is struggling to get people to wash their hands.  It's tricky to figure out exactly how to get busy, stressed out, tired people to remember to so something so boring so many times a day.  And, in a hospital, unwashed hands can equal death, disability, suffering, pain, and trauma.  We know firsthand (no pun intended).  

When the team working on this issue realized they needed to make it personal for the staff, Laura decided to offer up our story as a possible tool.  Simon got septic three times in the four months he was in the hospital. Each one was almost certainly due to a lack of handwashing by SOMEONE in the hospital. Maybe it was us.  Maybe it was the staff.  Who knows.  But someone had dirty hands and it nearly killed him.  Three times. 

Laura was the genius that came up with "Simon says 'wash your hands'"  Brilliant, right?!? I  
The hospital had piloted a few cartoon mock ups of signs, etc but we had not seen the final materials until tonight.  Something about seeing those photos of him and having our story right there for everyone to see made me feel...resilient.  For the first time in a LONG time, I felt successful in the face of trauma. 

I've been thinking a lot about resilience lately.  I've been deep in the trenches doing some heavy emotional work on trauma, both from Simon's illness and also earlier stuff.  I've been feeling just...awful.  Fear, shame and humiliation about feeling afraid, shame and humiliation about feeling ashamed and humiliated because it feels like weakness and admitting defeat to feel afraid and then stupid to feel ashamed of feeling afraid- you get the picture.  An emotional fun house. 

When Laura texted me pictures of the posters that are going up around Children's Hospital Oakland, I felt proud.  Really proud. I couldn't quite tell what I felt proud about until the word "resilience" popped into my head and I had a mini-epiphany.  For so long I've thought that resilience means coming out of a battle unscathed, unscarred, untouched. Coming through the clouds and dusting your shoulders off having hardly broken a sweat, grinning victoriously.  For years, this idea of resilience equaling Teflon is where I've gotten tripped up.  
All the hard, scary awful things that have happened to me have left a mark. They've changed and shaped and bruised and even gouged me.  But, I am beginning to realize, being marked doesn't mean that I failed or lost or am weak or fragile or damaged.

Our story on those posters is a tangible marker of resilience.  We decided to use the worst thing that has ever happened to us as a tool.  Tonight I really got that resilience is NOT not feeling.  It's taking those feelings and that information and those experiences and USING them.  

I will probably always have a heightened fear response when Simon gets a fever.  I will never forget what he looked like with a fever of 107. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. That's okay. Resilience doesn't mean that I won't get scared. I will probably have feelings every time I see that poster. It was awful.  But I'm totally willing to see that poster ever time I go into those buildings because resilience means I get to mix some pride in with that fear and put it all to good use. 


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's Forty

On Tuesday I turned forty years old.  Forty! I...well, I just...yeah.  Wow. 

I've been thinking about how I wanted to mark this birthday for a long time. I decided to do a series of smaller events, have one-on-one dates with friends and make plans over the year to do a bunch of things I've wanted to do for decades (go to the French Laundry, do a week long course at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, and a few other things I haven't even dreamed up yet). 

I've been doing some personal coaching sessions with Get There Coaching and had some tremendous epiphanies that are extremely well timed.  (Kendra is crazy talented and has a real has a gift for this work.  If you are thinking about doing any kind of personal coaching work, I'd really think about working with her.  We've done all our work over the phone, so you don't have to be in the Bay Area!)

 The two most useful things I've come to is that a) I need to have more fun.  Lots of it.  Whenever I can.  I need to shift things around to make room for fun and choose it when it's there. I've started putting together a Fun Committee for my life.  One friend is in charge of getting me out to swing dance events (pretty much my favorite activity in the world).  Another friend is tasked with getting us to a trampoline park, WITHOUT our children.   I have plans to rope in a few other friends for other fun stuff. Gonna make this happen. 

The second really useful piece that came out of the coaching is a personal mission statement that I was able to distill down to 3 words: Justice, Zest, Rest.  In addition to justice (what I do for work and 90% of what I talk about on Facebook and fun (Zest), I am really starting try to rest when I can.  I'm starting to take my grandmother's advice to heart: "Why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie?" I'm trying to say no to more things so I can rest and make room for fun.  We'll see how it all goes.

The other thing I decided I wanted to do for my 40th was launch a community kindness project I've been thinking about for a bit, so on Jan 5th, I launched a Gofundme campaign for my project called Tikkun Tokens!  Tikkun Tokens are free wooden tokens I'm having made that can be used to recognize someone's act of kindness. I loved the idea of a simple tool people could use to recognize another person's act of kindness and that can be used as a small act of kindness in itself.  I wanted to root this project in the value I hold most dear, "Tikkun Olam", or repair of the world.  It is my most core belief that we can all be ambassadors of goodness and repair as we walk through the world. My hope is that these tokens help people do that work.  You can order your own set of tokens here:

The last decade was a bit, shall we say, INTENSE.  I learned a tremendous amount about myself and suffered quite a lot of trauma.  As things are stabilizing with Simon and I'm starting new decade, I am really trying to shift my point of reference from all that has been hard to all that is going well and to the hopes and dreams I have for my own life, not just Simon's. Here goes! 
Getting fancy for a birthday dinner!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Force Awakens and Some Serious Change is Afoot

I can't buy into all the Star Wars hype even though it was a terribly enjoyable film to watch. I don't like that a PG13 film is being so heavily marketed to kids far too young to see the movie.  But I will say that in the last few days there has been some serious action in the Force.

Simon has had an amazing 4 days where purely by accident, and years of work, he has been getting himself dressed in the himself!

For years, we've been working on daily living skills with getting dressed being one of the first that's required at the start of the day. Last Thursday something clicked. Jaime and I talked about it and decided that we should try something different to avoid the morning melt down after breakfast. Since Simon was a spectacular eater now, why not get dressed first, eat, and then have free time for tv or ipad with plenty of transition time to get out the door.

No clue if it would work or not. We often have no clue what will work or not with Simon. And that's just fine. It's all practice anyway. Good practice.

So, I had picked out his clothes and placed them in a pile next to him with his shoes nearby on the floor. Underwear, socks, pants, long sleeve shirt and a short sleeve shirt to go over it for extra warmth now that winter has hit. I asked him to get started taking his pajamas off and that I would be right back after a trip to the loo.

From my perch in the bathroom I can see his head and not much else.  I hear him taking off his pajamas and alternately cursing me and mumbling to himself for the next few minutes. The mumbling starts to sound clearer and mixed in with the "you're fired" and "mommy is terrible" I hear "that's my underwear" and "I'm doing it".  Almost at exactly the same time that I'm coming back into the living room Simon exclaims "I got dressed all by myself!" and damn if it wasn't true. He had everything on, even his shoes. I couldn't catch my breath. I didn't know what to do with myself. What normally takes 20 minutes and dozens of prompts and the occasional putting on of pants/shirts/socks backwards, had taken about 5 minutes with none of the aforementioned. And the boy knew what he did. He was proud of himself. There's not much sweeter than Simon's tone when he exclaims "I did it myself!"

It's six simple steps that most of us, even most 7 year olds, take for granted. Underwear, socks, pants, two shirts, and a pair of shoes. That morning 4 days ago, Simon summit-ed a mountain. He graduated. He flew. He got dressed by himself.

For those of you that have kids with special needs, ya feel me?

Jaime and I had just had some very hard conversations (spurred on by estate planning and Last Will & Testaments and such) about how Simon may or may not be able to live independently. He's a funny guy. So smart and engaged in the world in so many ways. He's also a mystery and challenged by a world that's not set up for the special kind of guy he is.  He thrives and he struggles. He continues to take us right to the edge of our understanding of him and then blows ours minds and hearts wide open.

It may not sound like much to you but when I say that Simon got himself dressed, that day, and every day since, it's sounds like a symphony to me.

So there was that.

That same day, I got a call.

It was from the Alta Bates/Summit Health C.P.E program letting me know that I'd been accepted into the 2016/17 Residency Program for Chaplaincy. It's been three years since I did my first unit (of 4) of Chaplaincy training. It was a deep affirmation of work that I've felt called to do even long before Simon went into the hospital.  Providing attention and support for people was what got me into social work back in 2000 but I never felt that was 'it'. I loved being with children and adults doing both clinical and case management work but missed the spiritual and emotional connection that was present during my summers at Farm & Wilderness where Quaker practice was present every day.

 Chaplaincy, once I learned about it, felt like a calling. It was an opportunity to share my experiences, skills, and passions with people, all kinds of people, that really needed support and connection. It included anti-oppression work, it included play and sometimes even singing, it included the Spirit, and deep self reflection. I was in. It was some of the hardest 6 months of my life and was so rigorously perfect for me but not sustainable.  Simon still had feeding therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Physical Therapy every week. He was dependent on tube feedings and still newly out of heart failure with concerns about immunity. He had been newly diagnosed with Autism and we were just getting started with ABA therapy. There was a lot going on.

These days it feels like we are in a groove. Jaime is 4 months into an awesome job with a great boss and team. Simon is settled into a great school and classroom that both challenges and supports him. There are no tube feedings, tantrums have been decreased, and we have play dates where there's actually playing.  While Jaime and I have both been dealing with depression, we are also working on it and trying to be gentle with each other.

So, I decided that it was time to think about going back and finishing my Chaplaincy program. It means working 40 hours a week, plus three 24 on-call shifts a month, with weekly papers, process meetings and didactic lessons.  This is not your average program. With six other residents, the year long program is one of the most intense internal and interpersonal programs I have ever seen or been a part of.  I am so ready...and terrified.

It's been almost 8 years since I've been really truly back in the workforce and even then I was only working four days a week with summers and school holidays off. It's also a little thrilling to think about contributing financially to the family once again. It may not be much more than a residency stipend but it's something. I'm excited to be working with people, have a cohort and be giving and receiving feedback. I'm so ready. I know it's 9 months away but it's there. A change is going to come.

Simon will have childcare for at least 2 hours after school M-F, he'll have 2 full time working parents  and who knows how that's going to work? We don't. We've never done it before.  My work has been taking care of him and the home.  The latter being the less time consuming one. So many what if's come to my head. So many unknowns. Lots of parents do it. Lots of parents of kids with special needs do it. It's been a great privilege and luxury to have been able to not do it for the last 8 years. So much gratitude to Bernie & Eileen, Dianne & Ed, Bruce & Nola, Barry & Larry and everyone else that has helped make it possible for me to be a stay-at-home mom.  It's been a gift.  And harder than anything I could have imagined.  I'm ready. I want this. It's so exciting that it's going to happen.  Nine months is a great amount of time to get ready to have my life significantly rocked.  Our family is going to work it out. I have faith.
.....get it? I'm going to be a It's funny right?

I have to give some props to Jaime who has been holding it together during my surgery, weaning from the nerve drugs, application process, mood swings and all that other great stuff that's been happening for the last several months. Our parents, our community, chosen/blood/heart family have all gotten us to this point.  We may have more surgeries, hospitalizations, dark clouds, and puberty ahead of us but we will continue to work hard at choosing and harnessing the Light Side of the Force.

There I said it.  I still won't take Simon to see the movie. It was good though.

Here's to a new year full of adventure, joy, wonder, learning, loving, and connection.

Much love

...and some photos of the Dickens Faire with GG and G'Paw

I may not be Naughty but I salute your lifestyle choice

Battling with PickPockets

Chimney Sweep Challenge!

Holding Court

Joining the Ranks

Preparing for my Fencing Lesson

Oh she's good!
 But no match for me! (Actually she's the #2 Fencer in the State!)

Proud Protege

Getting and giving some fairy love.

Merry Season to all!

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Decade

On October 22nd, Laura and I will have been married for a decade.  Ten years of wedded bliss. And trauma and intense personal growth and community building.

We decided to throw ourselves a party.  A big one. Like 100 people big.  Cuz...go big or go home, right?

That seemed like a great idea when I booked the location 4 months ago, before I stumbled into ye old pit of despair and before Laura herniated a disc in her neck (more about that soon, I'm sure, as she's scheduled for surgery a week from today).  About 3 weeks ago, I had a total and complete freak out. Like, "I don't care if we lose the deposit, I want to cancel the party" freak out.  An "it all feels like too much work and something will go wrong and it will all be ruined and I'm just going to end up disappointed and you're so grumpy from being in pain and on pain meds that I'm not even sure I can pull it together to LIKE you at our party so let's just call the party off RIGHT NOW", kind of freak out.

That was actually the night I figured out I was depressed, because one thing I know is that my life is better with Laura in it and I want the world to know that and we have an amazing community and I love food and I instantly fall head over heels again when Laura does her adorable faux goofy-but-actually-really-hot dance moves, so if I didn't want that, then something was seriously wrong.  It was a kind of useful freak out, as freak outs go.

So...we had the party.  And it. Was. Perfect.  Not disappointing.  Not even a tiny bit.  A few folks I really hoped would be there didn't make it and I hardly got to talk to the ones that did, but there was enough food to feed an army and bands of kids were running around wild and happy and the adults all looked relaxed and smiling and dancing (thank you Kris Woolery for the most bad ass playlist!).

One thing I hadn't really planned was clean up.  I figured I would just do it myself.  I tells you a lot about my psychology. As the end of the evening approached I started looking around and realized how much work it was going to be.  Before I could start to get into work mode, our dear friend Saun-Toy grabbed Laura and I and the 10 or so friends left. She pulled us into a circle and proceeded to start the most beautiful shower of love and affirmation for us.  After folks gifted us with some of the most powerful and lovely words I have ever received, a group of 3 stayed and clean up was done in 20 minutes. I didn't have to ask for help.  It just...happened.

Our last friends walked out the door as my new favorite song came on - "What Do You Mean" by Justin Beiber (I  have no shame. I know I turn 40 in 3 months,but I'm a Belieber.  Whaddya gonna do?).  Laura grabbed me for a slow dance and I melted into a puddle of tears.  When I pulled it together I managed to squeak out "I just feel so SEEN.  It's the thing I wanted most growing up and it's really happening.  They really see us and what we're trying to do".  As Laura kissed me softly on the forehead and drew me in closer, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of contentment.  I haven't felt that feeling in...years.

As we close out an incredibly difficult decade, I am finding myself feeling so hopeful about the decade to come. During the silent meeting we had the morning of our party, an analogy came to me that summed up what I think this last decade was about.  Laura's grandmother was a sculptor and she described sculpting not as creating something, but taking away the excess so that the form could show itself.  I feel like what has happened over the last decade, starting with Laura's head injury a few months before our wedding and continuing through all that it's meant to be a parent of a medically fragile kid, have revealed both who we are as a couple and who I am as a person.  There were a few places where we got gouged too deeply, FOR SURE, but mostly I'm realizing that this decade was about clarifying who I am and what I stand for and what is important to me and the same for us as a couple and as a family.

My vision for the next decade is that life will smooth out those rough edges left from the first pass, sand away the deep gouges and buff us with gentle strokes until we shine.  Cuz, if life comes at me with another chisel anytime soon I'm going to have to kick some serious ass.  I'm serious.  Hand to hand combat.

Otis and Simon's Godmamas lookin SHARP!

There was another food and drink table besides this!

Me and my Papa and his too-cool-for-school pants


Me and my Mama

The fabulous Cherry

Who says parents of kids with special needs can't have a good time?!

Parental units

I don't even know what is happening with Laura's face here.  But Pete looks lovely!
Simon's Dunkle Mike!

Cousins Uma and Girija who travelled over an hour to be there!

Girls dancin!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Depression Is An Asshole

It really is. It's the annoying friend of a friend that crashes on your couch for a night and ends up staying for years.  It stealthily snitches fistfuls of joy when you've turned your back and holds it's hands over your eyes when you're trying to see the sunset. It's the kill-joy guy that shoots down every good idea you have and nods with a smug "yeah, sure you are" expression when you say you're going to get up off the couch littered with junk food wrappers and go do something fun.

I realized last week that I'm depressed  I've had moments of feeling depressed over the past 7 years, but always chalked it up to the incredibly depressing, stressful situations we kept being in. Now that the dust has mostly settled, I'm realizing I'm still overwhelmed/un-enthused/disappointed-in-advance about almost everything I set out to do.

It threw me to realize that what I'm experiencing is depression because my go-to concept of depression is severe, clinical, debilitating depression.  I don't feel despair. I don't feel angst.  I don't feel suicidal.  I just feel...bored.  Like nothing is interesting.  Like nothing  is going to work out or be what I hope it will be, so why bother trying. Once I articulated it out loud to someone the other day, the lightbulb went off.

It was great, actually to realized that the problem isn't my life, it's my feelings. THAT I can do something about. When Mr. Wah-Wah starts up, I've started to think "that's just the depression talking" and sometimes the bad feelings blow away like fog.  And...sometimes, not so much.  But sometimes is better than never.

I was watching a video of a war veteran today for work (I now do policy work related to homelessness) and there was something about the flat expression on her face that made me start to tear up.  I recognized that face. That's the face of someone who has been through trauma.  At one point she said "you can't come back from war...and just be a civilian, be normal again. It's not possible." Sitting at my desk, I heard myself say out loud, "EXACTLY". My outside face doesn't look like hers, but my inside one does.

The more time that passes, the more I realize the long-term effects Simon's medical trauma had on Laura and I. I don't know what war feels like, but I know what the unrelenting threat of death feels like and I think they might be cousins.

The hair-trigger fear that used to flare when Simon got the sniffles or I smelled hospital soap on my hands has quieted down, but the unshakable feeling that I shouldn't get my hopes up because something disappointing/traumatic/upsetting/frustrating will likely happen is borne of those years and years of the steps back between the steps forward.  Yes, we moved forward and Simon is a walking, talking, playing, joking, eating miracle, but those backwards steps back have taken their toll.

In our Cardiomyopathy Listserv, we often joke about how the majority of us parents are on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds or should be. For a long time I have thought that because depression is expected in our situation it should be tolerated, but I think I'm getting clear that the Debbie Downer in my head needs to take a hike.

I have some good supports in place that I need to make better use of, including writing on this blog. If I have learned anything from the experience of parenting a medically fragile child it's that naming the hard, scary stuff out loud takes some of its power away.

Over and out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Stork is Coming!

 Every once in a while, someone will ask Laura or I if we plan on having any other kids. The answer has always been a definitive "No".  Some days my answer is "Hell no!".  I adore our kid but he is the work of one and a half kids and we're barely keeping it together as it is.  The only way we're able to keep it all together is with the absurd amounts of support from our family and friends.  Particularly Andreana and Joan, Simon's godmothers.

I did not grow up in a religious family so when we started talking about having Godparents for our kid, I thought of it mostly as "these are the people we've decided should take in our kid if we both get hit by a bus".  I had no thoughts of what Godparents might do beyond show up in my hypothetical tragedy.

It's just as well I didn't think too much about it because I couldn't begin to imagine all the ways Andreana and Joan have showed up for our family. They logged countless hours in the hospital with Simon when he was a baby. They are the ones I called to take Laura to the hospital at 3 am when she was having a gall bladder attack so that I could stay with Simon. They learned how to do tube feedings and give meds and changed diapers for YEARS.  They are the only other people besides my mother who have taken him on overnights.  They are the first people we call when we have a sudden pothole in childcare and there has never been a time that they turned down a request unless they absolutely had to.  They are as close in with us as one family can get to another.

Another thing to know about these two is that they have been trying to have a child for years.  Not one or two years.  YEARS.  They have both endured expensive, painful, unpleasant infertility treatments, paid crazy fees to adoption agencies, been grilled and inspected and assessed by government officials to determine if they are "suitable".  It's been grueling.  So grueling that they were getting really close to saying "I give" and being done with the ceaseless brutality of trying to become parents in the face of countless obstacles.  So close they had almost set a firm deadline for the date the grind would stop.  And then....

And then some magic happened.  Out of the blue, the birth mother of their dreams picked them.  Oh, by the way, she's due In less than 2 weeks!

Because of the tight timeline, our beloved framily members are facing unexpected costs, including a hefty out-of-state fee from the birth mother's adoption agency that can normally be avoided by having the birth mother come to the state of the adoptive parents, cross country travelling when you're 8 1/2 months pregnant!

As a tiny way of helping give back to these two amazing women who are at the very core of Team Shimmy and helped us and Simon all stay alive, we have started a Gofundme page to help raise money for their additional costs.  If any of you readers have been wondering about concrete ways to help Team Shimmy, here is your chance.

These two people define what it means to show up for someone else.  I can't wait to get a chance to try to balance the scales when the newest member of our family arrives.

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!! We're having a baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the courtroom just after I adopted Simon

At our wedding at the hospital 

At the hospital when Simon had ear tube surgery
Smoochin with Auntie Dre

At city hall, marking Joan and Andreana's domestic partnership

Goo goo eyes with Auntie Joan