Unusual friends

Last year Claire wanted to be a big kid and sell Pens raffle tickets on her own. They raised money for the ARL and she was so proud to say, “I’m a volunteer for the ARL, can you help me save the puppies and kitties?” So I sent her off to school with a book of 10 tickets and figured she’d come back home with ten and a sad face.

When she got off the bus, she ran to me and shouted, “MOM! I SOLD THREE!”

She sold one to a cafeteria worker and another two to Miss Merchant.

Claire sat down at the kitchen counter and told me all about it. Miss Merchant is an aide who helps at lunch and recess time. Last year she was paired with the Kindergarten class and Claire always would talk to her about this or that. On the day Claire announced she was an ARL volunteer, Miss Merchant said, “Well, I am, too!”

Claire couldn’t believe it. She kept saying to me, “She’s a volunteer, too! She walks the doggies with Jen Brown!” (Jen Brown is my dear friend and the kids just love her, too.)

They talk every day at school. Claire always tells me so. She says, “Yup! Miss Merchant and I talked about fun stuff today!” and then she goes about her homework.

When school started up again, Claire was featured as the kid of the week in first grade, as each kid gets their own turn. On it, they asked what’s her favorite color, what’s her favorite sport, what’s her favorite things and who does she admire?

She wrote:

Penguins Hockey
Taekwondo and Volunteering for the ARL
Miss Merchant

I took a photo of the paper and texted it to Miss Merchant. She called me back a little while after, in tears, thanking Claire for being so kind. I told her, “She meant it, there wasn’t anyone else she wanted to list.”

Last weekend Matt and I went to the Paw Prints event for the ARL at Heinz Field. Before we left, Claire asked if Miss Merchant would be there. I told her she would, and Claire whispered in my ear, “Tell Miss Merchant I hope she looks beautiful. I know she will.”

And she did.

When I told her what Claire said, she had tears in her eyes.

There are all different kinds of people in the world. Some give and are very vocal about it. Some do things and have to be vocal about it, in order to make it happen. And some just give for the sake of giving. Miss Merchant is that person. She’s done countless things for good since I’ve known her, and far before I ever knew her, all without asking for a bit of recognition. She’s adopted dogs who were on the short list for euthanasia. She’s put up adoption fees for dozens of animals. She’s supported my kid and her fundraising efforts in both by buying raffle tickets and helping to sell tickets. Every time Claire and I would go to an event to bring our fosters for hopeful adoption, she would show up to help, too. She’s silently helped animals who were in need of surgery. Most of all, she’s given time more than anything else to the shelter and the dogs in it. Day after day, patiently walking them and giving them extra love. You simply can’t fake that. She is inherently good.

As we were leaving the event at Paw Prints, one of her friends came up to me, and said, “She has done so much in her life. So much good. She’s a good person. I’m glad she’s my friend. Having a kid like Claire in her life makes her so happy. Claire’s love is pure.”

Sometimes you never know who you will meet that will touch your life. And on the other side, you never know whose life you may touch. While Claire is just being Claire and not realizing it, she’s making Miss Merchant’s days a little brighter. But what Miss Merchant doesn’t realize either, is that she makes Claire so happy, too.

And me, too.

Thanks, Miss Merchant for being in our lives.

So many things.

There are so many things I have to say right now. Let’s start with the most upcoming.

In less than a month, I’m hosting another spinathon for two families we have adopted. I’m really feeling the crunch and disorganized. I have just started getting the Amazon.com wishlist together and I don’t feel as if we’re going to be able to repeat what we did last year.

I’m a little stressed.

Okay. I’m a lot stressed. I can’t let these families down. I feel like I may.

At this point, it’s mostly out of my hands. I just have to hope people sign up, I have to hope people will donate, I have to hope the wishlist gets mostly taken care of.

The first family I have is a husband and wife with two children. The husband works two minimum wage jobs, and the wife recently lost her job when she was very sick during pregnancy. (I’m assuming she missed a lot of work because of it.) They have a 6 year old girl and a 4 month old boy. Here is the wishlist. Anything you buy will help. It all gets shipped directly to my house and I’ll keep it safe until we drop it all off.

So if you’re buying some toothpaste or shoes or an mp3 player on Amazon, please consider adding even just one item to your basket. There’s little things on there, like baby food and diapers. Every little bit helps.

I’ll continue to add to the wishlist as I learn more about the family’s needs aside from the children, and about the second family we’ve also ‘adopted.’ What I know about them so far is the wife was left by her husband and she’s living with her mother and three kids because they had nowhere to go.

Next on the agenda is Claire. She is selling paintings to raise money for the ARL. All money goes directly to the ARL and it can be paid for through our crowdrise page. Here are some that are available. She’s sold two already.

UntitledUntitled. 12×12 on plywood, acrylic paint, paper towels. (Update: this has been sold.)

008The Woods. 12×12 plywood. Acrylic paint on newspaper finish.

009Mama Eagle and Her Babies. 12×12 plywood, acrylic paint.

10730875_10152540246438791_1126582704534618454_nElephant. 12×12 plywood, acrylic paint. (Update: this has been sold.)

10410694_10152540246528791_8678537186061301210_nHot Air Balloon and the Mountain. 12×12 plywood, acrylic paint, paper towel.


Splattered Leaves. 12×12 plywood, acrylic paint, newspaper finish.

If you want any of these, let me know! It’s a suggested 10 dollar donation per painting, but of course, more is better! Here’s the link to donate.

Over and over and over

I’m a fairly open person when it comes to my personal life. I’ve freely talked in the past about cutting, postpartum depression, and even the time I didn’t want to be pregnant.

One thing I’m not very open about is something I’ve struggled with since, well, forever. Reason being is mostly because I’ve had it my whole life, I just kind of jive with it, and have gotten really good at hiding it. But this past week I’ve been having a very hard time. A very, very hard time. I’ve been speaking backwards, (or as I call it, Yoda-style) while trying to instruct. I’ve been writing 3’s as E’s and E’s as 3’s. I haven’t been able to focus on verbal instructions from people. And worst of all, I’ve been having to read, reread, and read again basically everything in front of me.

I have dyslexia.

Developmental reading disorder is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols. It shows itself in very different ways and different levels of severity in each individual it affects.

It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that my teacher took me aside and talked to me about what she thought I had. She looked at my school records and noticed a pattern that apparently makes it painfully obvious. I owe her a lot to taking the time to care.

But at the same time, it makes me so sad. It took until I was a senior to figure out why I wasn’t ‘smart’ like the other kids. To figure out why I couldn’t take tests very well, and why I constantly had to ask for clarification from my teachers because I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand what they were saying. I was a smart kid, and in high school, I was often mistaken to be one of the straight A kids, but that wasn’t me. I was a C average student because I just. couldn’t. understand. (And of course sometimes I was lazy.) Me trying to learn a foreign language was a laugh, but that’s another story for another day.

Once I figured it out, it made a lot of sense. Finally I understand why I couldn’t do orienteering for the Army well. Finally I understood why 6 is a 6 and not a backwards 6. Finally it made sense.

It only comes out when I’m really tired or frustrated, which makes it obvious as to why it happens when I’m teaching. But I’ve been in this fog for the past week and it’s been so incredibly frustrating. Simple things I want to say come out all wrong. Something I want to write comes out backwards. I can’t spell words correctly, and they look foreign to me.

I’m even kind of scared to post this, because I’m sure that something isn’t clicking in a sentence. I typically don’t write when I’m having a hard dyslexic day, as I call it. But why not now? When I’m most frustrated?

I think Claire has it, too. Mildly, for now. When I mentioned it to her taekwondo instructor, he said, “Oh, I’ve known that for years.” I have, too. But I think I’ve just been in denial. It’s not a huge thing, but it totally is when you’re having a dyslexia day.

Last night I sat at the dining room table with Matt after the kids went to bed and talked about how I’m seeing the signs in Claire. I explained to Matt how it was growing up. How incredibly annoying it was to not be able to function like everyone else. And mine isn’t even that bad. I have, however, been able to teach Claire tricks that took me nearly a lifetime to do. One thing is,  I have her use her bookmark to isolate lines in a book if she’s having a hard time reading it, when all the words blend together. She’s a very proficient reader, but when she’s tired, the lines blur together and she has a hard time deciphering easy words like “of” and “this”. The bookmark helps her stay on task and isolate. At least, I hope it helps.

I’m having a dysleixa day. Scratch that, a dyslexia week. And it’s awful and frustrating and it makes me cry, but it’s not the end of the world. There are far worse things I could have wrong with me. I just think, that for me, it makes me sad that it took so long for me to even realize what it was. On the flip side, I was glad to know that I’m not just stupid. Because of it, I just realized I had to work twice as hard and walk away when I can’t understand what I’m looking at.

Dear Claire

Dear Claire,

I never really thought much about being a parent. I just really wanted a baby; something of my own that would love me through all my flaws. Somebody who would need me in a way that’s not obsessive.

What you have given me was more than I ever imagined. More than what I have ever dreamed of. While, yes, I didn’t think much about what I was going to get, Claire, you are the reason why I have four children that I love dearly. You gave me confidence that I could be the kind of parent that can raise a good child. You showed me how to be fair and reasonable. Because of that, I knew I could do it again.

Today I looked at you, and my breath caught. I don’t understand how you are seven already. I’m always at a loss of where the time goes. You tell me stories and your words are clearer. You write me letters, and you read me books, and I shake my head because you were just toddling up to me saying, “Book, mama! Book!”

You’re still in there – that baby I held every night. The little girl that I sang songs with and danced to Billy Joel in the dim light. The one who climbed up on my lap whenever I was sad and asked for hugs. The baby who didn’t want me out of her sight. The girl who held my hand until one day decided she could run. The one who looked at me and said, “I want to be just like you.”

I know where the time has gone.

Claire, we have had time well spent. Because of you, I am a mother. Because of you, I look at myself in the mirror and try to be better than I am each day, because I can be. Because of you, I am proud.

I am proud of your love for superheroes. Your fearlessness. I love that you don’t really care what anyone thinks of you. That you give any kid a chance to be your friend. You don’t discriminate and you try to involve everyone – even someone you may not usually be friends with. You listen and help and don’t give me a lot of lip. You love your siblings. You love hockey, Buccos baseball and Batman. Every day you are you, and that’s my very favorite thing.

I don’t really know who I’d be without you in my life. You changed me in a way that I am forever grateful for.

Thank you for being my daughter.

Happy birthday my little Wonder Woman.



Easier said than done

Twice today someone has said to me, “I SAW YOU ON TV LAST NIGHT!”

The donut dash has happened. And let me state for the record, it is not nearly as easy as it would seem.

First, it was cold. Then again, anything below 60 degrees in spandex would seem cold. But the wind was brutal and the sun was no where to be seen. And yet, there I stood in a parking lot with a dog who looked at me like, “Lady, you ain’t taking my fur coat.”

Can I just say I hate maple donuts?

And strawberry?

And most of all coconut?

Well, wouldn’t that just be the case that the plate I grabbed had each one of those flavors?


So anyhow, Champ the dog and I ran the first mile. We did well, too, because we came in under 7 minutes. But then I had to eat the donuts. And remember how I said it was cold? Well, my jaw was straight up frozen. I got to the eating area and took my first bite and nothing. I couldn’t chew, I couldn’t move my tongue, nothing. Ginny (one of the volunteers and a dear friend) looked at me and said, “Want me to get you some water?

I obviously looked pained. Then I turned around to find Mary (the community outreach coordinator for the ARL and another dear friend) with her iPhone filming my suffering. So I started to laugh.

When I turned around again, there was a camera guy from KDKA who wanted a statement. Because, who doesn’t want to be filmed while stuffing their faces full of donuts?

It took me ten minutes to eat those donuts, but damnit. I ate them all.

Even the coconut one.


It wasn’t pleasant, but I’m no quitter.

Then Champ, who let me say was a real champ about this thing, ran our last mile in 7 minutes flat. We finished at 24 minutes, and best of all, I didn’t throw up.

My friend Ron Brown came out and did the donut dash with me, in full firefighter gear. He’s the same guy who did the Marathon twice and just earlier that morning did the Lemieux 6.6k race in gear. He’s kind of a big deal.

donutdash2It was great exposure for the ARL. There were three dogs on the course cheering on the racers, and then of course, there was Champ who was a real trooper putting up with my nonsense of running and eating.

He got all the free pets.

dogjog4When all was said and done, the Donut Dash raised just over 100k for Live Like Lou foundation and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.

Even though I mainly focus on raising funds for the animals, it’s mostly because I have to force myself to focus on just ONE charity. If I could I’d give to every single one, and wouldn’t think twice. But I’m only human with a normal bank account, so being just a small part of something so huge was so awesome.

donutdash5Until next time!

Resume Building

In a very short time, I’ve seemed to have gone from a mostly stay at home mom who does stuff sometimes, to … well, I don’t even know where to begin.

After the gym had confirmed they were selling, I freaked out and emailed my resume everywhere. I got a lot of bites and to this day, I teach five classes a week at three gyms and sub often, with a total of five gyms served.

Four months ago I signed up to be a runner for the IRun4 community. Basically it’s a group of people who are in one of two camps. Those who can run, and those who cannot. The wait was long, because just today I got my match, a little five year old named Armand who suffers from GM1 Gangliocidosis (Type II), a rare genetic disorder with no confirmed treatment or cure. The wait was worth it. He is an amazing little fighter and has a super supportive dad. He keeps a blog where from time to time he will post thoughts or updates about Armand, and the first post I read was this:

“I’ve never had faith in myself to be a good dad, but then again I haven’t had much faith in myself to do much of anything. But I have an amazing son, an amazing fighter who deals with more than I could ever hope to handle. He’s my rock and my inspiration. And even the slightest hint of a smile from him makes my day. And if the sum of my experiences are what brought him here to me, to this place where we are, then I have no regrets.

I’m proud to be his dad.”

I, myself, am proud to be his runner. Upon learning of my match, I immediately wrote the race director for the Donut Dash and asked if I could have a shirt for him in lieu of me getting one. He wrote back saying that he will personally set aside a small, if not an extra small, shirt for Armand. What a great race director.

If you’re interested in running for someone, here’s the website.

I’ve been doing a lot of events with the ARL lately, and that has been so fun. I was asked to be one of the social media people for the Paws Over Pittsburgh (the ARL Marathon Team) so I get to post updates and fundraising opportunities to the Facebook page. It’s really the little things. Go give ‘em a like!

Now, I started lifting with my boss at the Y, who does strong man competitions. Because, you know, free time. It’s been pretty awesome to say the least. I have been lifting more than I ever thought possible and am quickly noticing a change. Sometimes, it’s nice to do something just for me.

During the summer, I coached some pretty awesome kids at the Y. Of the many, there were a few I really took a shine to. I’ve kept in contact with them via Instagram. One of them, last week, posted a Direct Message to me asking if I could be her mentor for running. I was floored. I mean, I’m nearly 30, so I’m on the cusp of being uncool to anyone under the age of 17, but this teenager wants me to help her. We settled on her doing the Pittsburgh Marathon’s 5k, and we will begin our formal training in January. Until then, I’m going to be sending her articles so she can educate herself on the sport of running. She’s done a year of cross country, but still couldn’t tell me her average mile pace for any of her meets. I figured, let’s educate first, run second. Her mom is completely on board, and I couldn’t be happier.

So when January rolls around, I’ll meet with her once a week to train, and in between that time, she’ll have a training plan that I’m going to personally set up for her, loosely based off of Hal Higdon.

I’m not going to lie, guys. 2014 has been a really awesome year so far. Really awesome. And it just keeps getting better.

Draws for paws

About a month ago, Claire had asked me when she was going to do more stuff for the animals. That’s what she calls it, “Stuff for the animals.”

Six year olds.

I’m very much a control freak, but not in a type A way, more or less, it’s just easier if I do it. Over the past few years and fundraisers, however, I’ve learned to relax and let Claire do what she needs to do. When we first started the fundraising for the animals, it started with a, “Mom, can I ask some of my friends….” Now granted, she had just turned five, so I really didn’t expect her to do a lot of the work, but then she did. She kept tally of all the goods as they came in, asked me to post links, picked out what to put on the Amazon.com wishlist. I was kind of impressed.

I had two camps of people: The ones who said I should get a lot of the credit and those who said I should be proud of Claire.

The reason I didn’t talk about my part very much was because, simply put, I honestly didn’t have that much to do with it. Yes, I organized spinathons and created amazon wishlists, but in the best way Claire could, she was there with me, every step of the way. So yes, I was very proud of her.

So here we are, again, raising funds for the Animal Rescue League. I say we, because I, too, am running for them. I did last year, and was pretty quiet about it, but this year I’m actually going to talk about it!

How are we going to raise funds this year, you ask? Oh it’ll be fun.

Claire and I will both be selling raffle tickets for Pens tickets, as we did last year.

We will be hosting another spinathon in April, like we did last year.

But what’s new?

Claire has decided to sell artwork. With a little help from me (read using a saw) she will create 12×12 paintings from plywood, newspaper, decoupage, and acrylic paint. Think Jackson Pollock meets a soon to be seven year old. I’m kind of excited about this.

When she was talking about how she wants to sell paintings, I thought to myself, I’m an artist, too. DUH. So I figured I could sell some animal portraits for donations.


They’re not, you know, professional, and all, but they look like the animal I’m drawing, so there’s that! I typically sell an 8×10 animal portrait for between 50-75 dollars.

This Sunday I’m running with a shelter dog at the CMU Donut Dash, in which I will run a mile, eat a half a dozen donuts, then run another mile. I’m taking donations for that, too! CLICK HERE!

If you think I can do it, throw some money my way. Think I’m going to puke? Give me money for that, too! We all win! Especially if the dog eats the vomit.

So, in the next few weeks Claire will begin creating her masterpieces for the animals. I’ll draw anyone’s animal for donations (just email me! Cassandrelu@gmail.com!) and we will be offering raffle tickets. Let’s do this fundraising thing!

By request.

I got a really sweet comment this morning, basically asking where I’ve been and why I haven’t been writing much lately.

I blame having a tablet. Because I don’t like typing long on it, but it’s better than dragging out my laptop.

Also, I haven’t been living very much of an exciting life. Not much to really write about. But here I go anyhow.

Sunday night, Matt left to go to Washington DC for a conference. I then decided that a Sunday night was the best day of the week to go grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. With four kids. I’m not really sure where my brain left off at, but either way, that was dumb. When we went to check out, the register broke when I went to pay, and Audrey started to cry because someone looked at her funny and we had to wait for a few minutes for the manager to come over and allow me to pay for my groceries that were all packed up. Mae was dancing in the aisle blocking people’s way out and after asking her to move ten times, Luca yanked her over, she hit her head (lightly) and Luca profusely kept apologizing and Mae kept profusely crying, and I wanted to rip my hair out.

And so set off what was going to be an awesome three days of single parenting.

See, when Matt goes away on business, we’re lucky if we even get five minutes to FaceTime. He is on a completely different schedule and usually has to schmooze clients at long dinners that typically involve drinks. Such a rough life, for sure. But either way, Luca is typically the kid who ‘suffers’. I put that in quotations, because yes, he takes it the hardest, but I find he uses it as an excuse to be a non-listener member of society. He’s a smart dude and knows it.

Monday morning went well enough. I managed to get all the kids up, fed, dressed and even made them fun lunches. Mae, Audrey and I went to the Y after lunch so I could lift with my boss. The girls took a nice long nap, I got the kids off the bus. Claire and I went over her school work and she did her homework; spelling, math and independent reading. Luca lay on the floor rolling around with his blanket. The girls woke up, we went to the gym and I taught RPM. Came home, ate taquitos and they were all in bed by 7:30.

Audrey was having a rough time, of course, because 1.) she misses Matt when he’s gone, even though she hangs off of me every chance she gets and 2.) she has molars coming in. I found that Center Stage is on Netflix (OH YES IT IS) and watched it in bed, in between going into Audrey’s room to try to FOR THE LOVE OF GOD go to bed. She finally stopped around 10, when my movie was done, too.

Tuesday morning was full of excitement for Luca, because he had his class field trip to Shenot’s Farm in Wexford. I woke them up, they all got dressed and the same routine, ate, lunches made, hair done, shuffle off to the bus stop. Except, Audrey got up early and had to join us. That was enjoyable, especially since she was running on little sleep the night before. I knew my day was going to be awesome.

We went to the Y again, then I put Audrey down to nap, and let Mae stay awake to wait for my mom to pick her up for a sleepover. We watched the Little Mermaid. The kids got off the bus, Claire did her homework, Luca talked my ear off about Shenot’s, Claire and Luca went outside to play with the neighbors and the world stopped for a brief moment when gasp! the kids’ favorite person, Collin, came over to play. (He’s my neighbor’s grandson. Sweetest, kindest, most adorable kid ever.) I let them stay and play with him, and I took Audrey to the gym so I could teach RPM. It takes a village, people.

We got home, they ate oatmeal for dinner and was in bed by 7:30.

At some point during the day on Tuesday, a friend of mine posted to my Facebook wall asking if I was planning another spinathon any time soon. My heart sank, because just last week I was thinking about the families we had helped the year before, and how I hadn’t planned on doing anything this year.

I wanted to, it wasn’t that. It was that, our gym was bought out, as I mentioned previously, and the new owners, while open to hosting a charity spinathon, I asked for April. They just switched over, and I didn’t want to bombard them so early in ownership. So I assumed any charity would be on hold until April.

Upon seeing the post, another friend of mine chimed in saying that his friend has a studio and would be happy to host a spinathon. I quickly emailed my contact at the health center, and she immediately responded saying, “Let me talk to my staff and pick out a family, thank you again!”

After some back and forth with the studio owner, we nailed down a date and both excited, I had a spinathon.

I’m still awaiting any information about the potential family, so an Amazon.com wishlist will be forthcoming, but for now, November 16th, we will be having another seven hour spinathon. Already I have 6 crazies signed up for all SEVEN hours, and since this is a small studio, they only have 10 bikes. I’m in the process of trying to borrow some spin bikes (mostly to dead ends) but if not, it’ll be a small, but successful event, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Wednesday morning came and Luca wasn’t having it. I had to physically drag him out of bed (and from a loft bed, that isn’t easy nor fun). He cried during breakfast, cried while getting dressed and brushing his teeth, cried while putting on his sweatshirt for the bus stop.

He immediately stopped, however, when we walked out the door to go up to the bus stop, because Matt Facetimed us.

Audrey and I went to the gym so I could teach BodyPump, and when we got home, it was so beautiful out, so I put her in the wagon and took her and Sadie for a walk. We got back to the house, and Mae was back. Mom had come back with her boyfriend’s truck to load up her elliptical to bring up to my sister’s house. Our basement is being renovated right now (because as of a few weeks ago, it had been cinderblock and gross,) and when done, we won’t have room for both the elliptical and the treadmill.

Mae was grumpy, to say the least, and our usual 1 pm nap time got bumped up to 12:20 because we needed a break from each other already.

Both she and Audrey woke up sometime after 4.

Matt got home in time to get the kids off the bus, and from what I saw, it was immediate leg hugs and he came back with Luca in his arms.

Again their favorite person, Collin, came over, along with another neighbor, and they played outside for hours. Matt climbed the tree, the kids ran amok, and we took walks with kids in the wagon up and down the street.

If this is the last bit of summer we will get, I’ll take it. Because last afternoon was awesome.

Today is Rosh Hashanah so the kids don’t have school. Mae had dance, Claire played at a friend’s house, and then ended up having neighbor kids at my house, and now I’m enjoying a little quiet before I have to wrangle everyone for Claire and Luca’s dentist appointment. After that I teach in East Liberty and finally, FINALLY Matt will be home like normal and I maybe will take the night off.


Feeling failure, seeing truth.

I had a long blog written up about how annoyed I get when people say to me, “Well, of course you’re in shape – you teach.” I basically go on a rant about how yes, while I do need to be in shape because I do in fact teach fitness classes, I’m still up there working just as hard. Who knows, maybe harder? 

Teaching classes isn’t just about the physical fitness of the instructor, though. It also has a lot to do with preparation. Not only do I teach during my designated hour, I also spend a lot of time preparing for the classes. There are days when I go through track after track, sometimes with kids on my shoulders to imitate the weight I’d use during Body Pump, just to make sure that the members have a good experience. There are times when I sit and listen to the same song, over and over again, to make sure I have it just right. Sometimes I listen to the same songs so much that even my kids can sing along. 

I’ve been told so many times in so many different ways, “You must love being forced to workout.” Sort of, I suppose. In a way, I guess I do. But here’s the thing – even if I didn’t teach, I’d still be there, at the gym, reaching goals I’ve set for myself. What most people don’t realize is that while I’m teaching and educating, I too, have goals. I, too, want to get stronger, fitter, healthier. I, too, want to be there. Not just because I get paid. Not just because I’m in the front, leading the class. But because I want others to see that I’m working hard, too. That just because I’m the instructor, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

I still look in the mirror and some days don’t like what I see. I don’t say it out loud, but I think it. I think about all the ways I should work harder. All the ways I can improve. We all do this. I know I’m not alone. 

But then I step back and remind myself that I can only do this one day at a time. That I’m doing my very best. That where I am, right now, is better than where I was yesterday. 

I bet I’m not the only instructor who feels this way. 

When someone new starts taking a class of mine, first thing I tell them is, “If this is something you plan on sticking with – take measurements and a photo. Don’t rely on the scale.” I tell them this, because days like I had last week, happen. You look in the mirror and you don’t see improvement. You see a number on the scale and it isn’t what you hoped for. You feel a little extra jiggle and you over analyze. You don’t feel beautiful in your clothes. 

So I drag out those photos and I see facts. I see growth. I see strength and improvement. I may feel bloated and gross, but that feeling will pass. I look at those photos. We all have our inner battles. We all have our issues. Last week I felt like a failure who has made zero progress. But in fact, when I looked in the mirror…

photo (1)


I saw me. 

The forgotten one.

I’m laying in bed and I can’t sleep. My head is swimming with a million different things. But mostly – On Wednesday, my only son will be going off to kindergarten. I’m not sure how I feel about it. He’s ready, that’s for certain. But I feel as though he will be forgotten.

I often refer to Luca as my forgotten child. Not forgotten by me, hopefully. One thing I pride myself in as a parent is the fact that I give each of my kids the attention they deserve. While it often seems like the girls get all my attention because of Claire’s taekwondo and fundraising and Audrey’s the baby, and everyone loves Mae, Luca gets a lot of stolen moments.

I had never put a lot of stock into why Luca is my forgotten one until a bit ago, on his birthday, when someone mentioned that Mae got as many (if not more) ‘likes’ as Luca did in two separate photos I posted and subsequently how they felt bad for him. Like he would know or something.

One was a happy birthday message to Luca and the other was many hours later when Mae had her first dentist appointment. She, of course, was sitting in the dentists chair with her tutu on (because it was Thursday) and sunglasses giving me the most sassy face. I will admit, it was adorable.

I honestly don’t pay attention to likes. Maybe I should. To me, I post things on Facebook mostly because it’s my way of having adult interaction. Obviously I don’t get out much and it’s helpful. But curiosity spoke volumes and I went back and looked at photos I’ve posted over the years and found that across the board, Luca always got less love via that like button.

Social media has such a funny way of messing with your head if you let it. For a solid week I let it get to me. I never mentioned it to anyone, I just kept thinking of all the reasons why this is. Is it because he’s quiet? Bookish? Tends to be Claire’s shadow? Do I not talk enough about him? Do I not show the world how much I love him? Because anyone who knows me knows how I feel about that sweet boy. Do I not show him enough? We often share secrets and our favorite ones to tell each other is, “I love you very much,” whispered into my ear.

He’s a sweet, wonderful boy and he shouldn’t be forgotten.

So in honor of my favorite little dude entering kindergarten, I’m going to write a list of things about him that you may not know.

1. He can quote the majority of the Lego Movie. He also can tell you the name of every character, even the spaceman. (He’s Benny.)

2. He likes to sing to Raffi in his room while playing with Legos.

3. He likes audio books.

4. He can read very well.

5. His favorite color is orange.

6. Every night he gathers up a select few Legos to bring up into his loft bed. He specifically calls them his “Nighttime Legos.”

7. His favorite food is taquitos. With guacamole.

8. When he got his front tooth removed by the dentist, he never once complained. Not a one.

9. He loves Audrey. Like. He is ridiculously patient with her. It’s kind of incredible.

10. When we go to the track for runs, he immediately drops his water bottle and runs. He just loves to run.

11. He loves tomatoes.

12. He could sit and look at his Lego building idea books for hours.

13. He saves all of his Lego building instructions and uses them often.

14. Comfy pants are his favorite things to wear. Even if it’s 90 and humid.

15. He’s a thumb sucker and loves his chickie blankie. And it doesn’t bother me one bit.

Matt had asked the other day if we were going to have Luca do soccer, or baseball, or something, and I smiled and assured Matt that Luca is very happy just living life and being a kid. He goes to tae kwon do and does well enough. He reads. He builds. He imagines. He doesn’t need organized sports or a Saturday morning rush from one game to the next. Maybe some day. But for now, in this moment, he’s doing just fine.

And perhaps, just maybe, he enjoys flying under the radar.


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