Sunday, October 28, 2012


For those who may not know, my oldest daughter Kira can't bear children. Once she realized it would be a long shot for to have a child, her and her wonderful husband Justin put their name in to adopt a child. Much sooner than any of us thought, they were the proud parents of a beautiful little boy. 

Evan has been a source of great joy in our lives. When Evan was about a year old it became obvious that something was wrong. He had developed just like any other child but not long after he started crawling his development slowed and before long he was regressing. Kira was understandably alarmed and took him to get checked out. They ran poor Evan through a battery of tests and finally there was only one test left. Evan tested positive for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). This was a devastating diagnosis. 

To explain SMA in very simple terms, Evan is missing the genes that code the SMN protein that is necessary to keep the myelin layer protecting the nerves in our bodies healthy. The myelin is somewhat similar to the insulation protecting the electrical wires on the electrical cords for our numerous appliances. Without the missing genes he has no SMN proteins and without those proteins the healthy myelin that he was born with breaks down and without the myelin the nerve eventually dies. As the nerves die then his brain is no longer able to properly activate the muscles in his body. For this reason SMA children are born healthy and normal but gradually get weaker and weaker until they can no longer support their bodies. They eventually develop scoliosis which prevents the lungs from operating properly and most people with SMA eventually die from pneumonia.

Not all SMA kids are the same however. Most of us actually have some back up genes in our DNA that can also express the SMN protein. If a child with SMA has lots of these back up genes they will grow normally and learn to walk and then as a young child or even a teenager they begin to lose strength and the ability to walk. This is called type III SMA and they can often live to their 50's. I don't think any of us knew it at the type but Uncle Nick probably had type III SMA. If you are unlucky and have little or no back up genes then you probably won't live to see your first birthday. That is called type I SMA. Evan has a dozen or so back up genes and has type II SMA. Type II SMA children typically live to their twenties but with modern techniques and some pretty cool new drugs they may live to their fifties. 

Kira and Justin have been amazing with Evan. He receives the best care and treatment available and Kira is at the front of the line with every new treatment that is announced. She also spends hours a day giving him the proper physical therapy that will keep him strong and flexible as long as possible. Evan is now five years old and in all that time I have never even once heard either of them complain about their sons disability. They are just grateful to have him in their lives. 

Kira and Justin were then blessed with another little boy through adoption. Landon (Landon Arlen by the way after me and my dad) is about the most rambunctious boy out there. That kid is an animal and very full of life. It won't be long before Landon is lifting Evan and giving Kira a much needed break. 

Recently Kira and Justin submitted their names again for adoption and as before we didn't really expect a response any time soon but a couple of weeks ago they got a call. It was a joyous call for Kira but a very difficult one for me and I suspect a difficult one for Justin as well but I hesitate to put words in his mouth. It turns out that a very young couple had just delivered a little boy with Downs Syndrome. They had planned to keep the child but at the last minute they decided that they just wouldn't be able to give the little boy every thing he needed to have the life he deserved. They went through the list  of prospective parents and selected Kira and Justin as their first choice of parents for their little boy.

I won't go through the long list of miracles that led Kira and Justin to say yes but let me say that for Kira there was no decision, she wanted that little boy the moment she learned of him. For Justin it took a day or two of fervent prayer before he was satisfied that this little child should be his son. For me (although no one was asking) this was a very difficult time. Easily my greatest fear of all fears was that I would be asked to raise a mentally handicapped child. I am so grateful that I was never called to bear that burden and to me it seemed so unfair that my daughter who already had so much extra work in her life with Evan would now be asked to bear an additional burden with her third son. It seemed miraculous to me that for her it wasn't a burden but a joyous occasion and even a blessing. I still don't understand it but that is how she see's it and in my eyes my Kira is no less than an Angel. I have no doubt in my mind that her mansion in Heaven has been built and is just waiting for her and her husband to come and take their rightful place. 
Even though I don't understand how my sweet Kira could accept this huge responsibility so easily I am fully convinced that it is what they should do and that little Cameron will bring them a lot of joy. I am proud to call him my grandson, I love him with all my heart and I know he will bring joy into my life as well. Kira, you amaze me.

When at rest one third of the energy produced by our bodies 
is used to keep our cells from exploding.

Friday, October 12, 2012


This last weekend was my big weekend. I ran my first marathon. I'm rather surprised at how excited I got about it. All week long leading up to the marathon it was the only thing on my mind. I think Lisa was ready to shoot herself but she was sweet and never complained about my on-going talking. I insisted that we drive up to Utah on Thursday so that I would have all day Friday to psych myself up. They had a big exposition at the St George Convention Center (Dixie Center) with different classes including one for "First Timers" like me. They were very interesting and helpful. In the one class they went over the course mile by mile discussing what to watch for with suggestions. I also picked up my bib. I was number 3978. I met up with Alycia at the Dixie Center and let Mom go off shopping with MaryAnn Havertz. As it turned out Alycia and I have been partners throughout this entire event and that partnership was to continue to the end. Between Alex's homecoming, Sarah's wedding, renting Alex's house in SLC and taking Sarah's wedding gifts up to her, Alycia and I have been on more long training runs together than we have separate. It's been rather fun. She ran several runs here in San Diego and I've run several in Provo. I've run with Sarah too but she usually had Sam with her and they were just a bit faster than I was. At the expo we saw Alan Bird, Ken Wolsey and Becky and Carsten Kooyman. Carsten was there for moral support. Only Becky was running.

So Alycia dropped me off at the Havertz and we got ready for a big pasta dinner. I needed to load up on my carbs so I would have lots of energy the next day. Sarah, Sam and Alex arrived from Provo and the Crowleys came over but Ben and Justin wouldn't get in from Las Vegas until much later. I had a long evening of waiting to go to bed. It really reminded me of the night before Christmas. I laid out my running clothes, pinned my bib onto my shirt. Got my socks and shoes ready. I put my gel packs in my pockets along with my mp3 player and it was still too early to go to bed. Alex suggested that I soak in the hot tub which was an excellent idea. Finally I decided that it was late enough so that I could sleep. I set my alarm for 3:30, 3:40 and 3:50 just in case I happened to sleep through one of them. I begged Lisa to make sure that I woke up. I then slept like a baby. I fully expected to be up all night in nervous anticipation but nope, I put my head on the pillow and in what seemed like moments my alarm (the first one) went off.

I went into the hallway where I had my stuff laid out and saw a love letter from my wife wishing me luck. I  had some bread and jam for breakfast and brushed my teeth. I decided to stay clear of any fat or complex carbs that might cause stomach issues. I took extra precautions to make sure that my shoes weren't tied too lose or too tight. I then grabbed my bag and headed to the bus pick up place. Alycia got there about one minute before me and Sarah and Sam got there about one minute after me. We then boarded the bus and headed up the mountain. It was pitch black out and the drive up the mountain seemed to take forever. What was worse, I couldn't help but think that as long as the drive was, I had to run all the way back down.

We got to the top about an hour before the race started. It was supposed to be in the 40's that morning but I think it was much warmer. Even still it was a cold bitter wind blowing and I was really glad I had brought a coat and sweats. They had about 50 bonfires going to keep us warm. We saw Becky Kooyman, Alan Bird, Ken Wolsey and Tyson Marshal from 2nd ward. At the last minute Ben and Justin showed up. They had both driven in from Las Vegas late the night before and I was worried about them making it on time. We then stripped off our coats and sweats, put them in our bags and loaded them on the truck.

They had pacers who were to run different speeds and our girl was so close to the back of the pack that we decided to not fight the crowds and we just started at the very end of the pack. The good thing about that is that we passed a lot of people and virtually no one passed us. The bad thing is that it took us nearly fifteen minutes just to get to the starting line. For about three miles Sarah, Sam, Alycia and I all ran together. It was frustrating trying to push our way through the crowds but it didn't take too long before the crowds thinned out enough that it was no longer a problem.

After three miles Sam and Sarah gradually moved out in front of us and they eventually moved over the horizon never to be seen again. Oddly enough, they were only a couple of minutes in front of us the entire race. At seven miles we pulled into the tiny town of Veyo. Lisa had told me that she would try and be there to cheer us on so Alycia and I were eagerly watching for her and Alex. I was really hoping she would be there but I knew that for her to get there she would have to get up very early and drive an hour on a winding mountain road to get there. I wouldn't have been surprised if she hadn't made it. As we were about to leave the town we hadn't seen her yet and I had assumed that she didn't make it and suddenly Alycia spotted them. They were literally the last people on the side of the road as we left town. Mike and MaryAnn Havertz had driven them to Veyo. They were wonderful hosts while we were there.

I ran to Lisa and gave her a big sweaty hug and then off we went headed towards the biggest ugliest hill in the entire race. It was a mile of a very steep hill and then three miles of a more gradual hill. I had decided before hand that I wasn't going to waste any precious energy running up that hill so we walked much of the first mile at which point we started running again.

We then fell into a routine that lasted until mile 19. They had water stations every two miles so we would run to a water station, grab a cup of Gatorade or water, take thirty seconds to drink it and then run to the next aid station. Around mile 12 one of my life long habits began to get the best of me. I am a very regular person. For as long as I can remember I have had a bowel movement at least once a day. Lately this event usually takes place between 9:00 and 10:00AM. I think it was about 10:00AM when we ran through mile 12. I managed to hold it off until mile 19 at which point the constant pounding wouldn't allow me to hold it back any longer. For most of the race all of the porta potties at the aid stations had long lines at them and I was very glad to see that there were no lines at mile 19. I told Alycia to keep going and I would catch up to her. I took one of the fastest bathroom breaks of my life and was soon back on the road again. I couldn't believe how lonely it was to be running by myself. I had my mp3 player with me but all this time Alycia and I had been having such a fun conversation that we hardly noticed the time. I saw her long before I expected to and she was about the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I did NOT like running alone. She had walked, giving me a chance to catch up and I'm so glad she did. It could have taken me a very long time otherwise.

My joy was short lived. Somewhere between mile 21 and mile 22 we both hit the wall virtually simultaneously. There was no pain or anything like that, my muscles just suddenly lost all strength. My legs turned to rubber. I had plenty of wind, just no strength. From here on in it was a major struggle. We really wanted to make the run in under five hours but our 5 hour balloon lady (the pacers had balloons on a stick) had long disappeared. We thought we might still have a chance however because it took us 15 minutes just to get to the starting line and since our time doesn't start until we cross the starting line we hoped we had a bit of a cushion. According to Alycia's fancy new running watch had to cross the finish line by 11:57. We had less than five miles to go and more than an hour to do it. Normally that would be child's play but in our condition it was going to be very tough. We finally could run no further and stopped to walk. It felt so good and it took all of my will power to start running again. Alycia pointed out a sign on the side of the road and said we would run when we got to the sign. We continued to play this game walking about 25% of the time.

At one point after having walked for a minute or two we started running again and I had a stabbing pain shoot all up and down my leg. I nearly fell down. I started running again but very carefully at first. If I was very gentle about working up to a run I could work my way through the pain until it was hardly noticeable but then when I stopped and walked again it would start all over again. It was crazy but eventually it went away after a couple of miles.

When we ran into the town the first aid station handed out water with ice in it. What a treat that was. Then we came to a place where they were handing out ice cold wet wash clothes. That felt good on the arms and neck. We ran by the mortuary where they had a big sign out saying "Don't Stop Here". Finally we turned the corner and we could see the sign at the finish line. It looked so wonderful but it seemed so far away (I think it was only a block or two). We told ourselves that we were going to run all the way to the finish line. It didn't happen. We walked for a few seconds and then ran. As soon as we entered the chute all of my fatigue left my body and I was whole again. I saw my family and waved to them but kept my focus on the finish line. Everyone was there except for Trevor. Mom, Alex, Justin, Ben and Sharley and then Alycia spotted Trevor on the other side of the chute with his family.

Alycia and I had figured that since this had been a partnership that had gone on for several months we would end it together. We held hands as we crossed the finish line and they called out over the loudspeaker, "Fred and Alycia Leavitt". Our time was 5:07:08. I really wanted to get under five hours but I felt good about the run. I really don't see how I could have done it any faster. We could have come closer without that unscheduled stop at mile 19 but even still we wouldn't have been under 5:00 hours. We might have caught Sam and Sarah who were only a few minutes ahead of us. Most of the statistics from my run aren't all that impressive but I did see that I was the 93rd man in my age category to finish. That made me feel better. My age category is 40 - 54 years old so I was probably the oldest guy in my category. Next year I can be the youngest in my category.

The cool down area was glorious. I had two ice cream cones, a chocolate milk, a pulled pork sandwich  and ice cream sandwich, a bottle of water and I don't remember what else. They also gave me a cool medallion. It was a disk cut out of sandstone. It is really quite pretty.

The whole family came to tell us how good we had done. I think by good they meant that we actually finished and for me that was good. We gathered our stuff and from there we went our various ways. Justin and Ben were staying with the Cotters (Sharleys parents live in St George), Alycia and Trevor were staying with his parents (who also live in St George), Sam and Sarah stayed with his parents (who actually live in Heber City but have a house in Ivin) and Lisa, Alex and I were staying with the Havertz (who used to live in our ward). I showered and changed and then we went to a barbecue that the Cotters put on for all of us. That is where we all compared our wounds. I was generally stiff but nothing that 800mg of Ibuprofen couldn't handle. The end of my little toe was one entire blister but it only hurt if I wore shoes that were too tight.

Justin had a bad knee at the end of his training but he wore a brace on his knee that apparently helped him during the race. He ended up much like me, sore muscles and a big blister on his toe. he finished just under 4 hours. Ben also had a bad knee during training and he taped his knee. It helped during training but about mile 14 he had slowed to the point that Justin ditched him and went on  ahead. About mile 19 his other knee started hurting and his running slowed to a hobble. He finished just over four hours and could hardly move Sunday morning. Alycia had a bad knee during training but wore a brace during the race. She could feel her knee and was worried that it would get worse but it never did. She finished pain free but by the end of the day could hardly walk. I didn't get the whole story from Sam but I believe he started the race pain free (mostly due to the fact that he wasn't training) and woke up the next morning a near cripple. Even still, with no training he finished ahead of me. Sarah likewise started pain free and ended pain free and apparently still full of energy (she's a natural born runner) but today she's walking with crutches. Her Achilles tendon is swollen and very painful.

So that was my first marathon. From the beginning I said that running a marathon was on my bucket list and I wanted to run one at least once. I don't think it will be next year but I'm thinking that I've got to do this again. Next time I've got to beat 4:30.

I burned 4,600 calories running the marathon.
Alycia, who ran by my side the entire way only burned 2,200 calories

Monday, October 01, 2012

Xavier is 1

We knew this wasn't going to be just any old birthday party as soon as we received the invitation but there is no way we could have even imagined just what a party it was going to be. 
My good friend Javier and his wife had a baby one year ago after trying for twenty years. Needless to say everyone was very excited but no one is more excited than Rosi's family. She is the youngest of a very large family and I suppose everyone had given up any home that there would be a baby in her family. Of course we are also extremely excited. Javier is the kind of guy who will be a great Dad. He is very close to all of his nieces and nephews and now he has his own kid. 
So Saturday Xavier turned a year old and Rosi's family decided that we needed to celebrate. Since most of her family lives in Mexico that is where we went. We drove to Javiers place in Imperial Beach and rode down with him. I really don't want to drive down there. You are asking for trouble if you do. 
When we got to the place there was a guard in front of the party place. That both confirmed my concern about driving down there but it also made me feel a lot more relaxed. I doubt I would have been too worried anyway. There were a ton of people there and I can't imagine anyone causing trouble. 

They actually had three food stations. The tables here had a cheese fountain (related to the chocolate fountain) and pretty much anything you could imagine to dip into it. I mostly poured it over my nacho chips. Beside the cheese fountain was some sort of a fruit sauce.
There was also the taco bar. We were there early and watched them set up. They fired up regular old charcoal briquettes and then threw on pieces of Mesquite. It smelled delicious and my salivary glands were instantly activated. The only problem is that I wanted to try everything and there was no way I could do that. Even just a small serving of everything filled me to capacity.

The first thing I had to try was the pig skins. This was unexpectedly good.

And then there were the spiral cut potatoes. Because he left the skin on the potatoes I considered these to be health food. The deep frier and the mayonnaise may have countered that fact a bit but boy were they good. It was kind of like one huge potato chip.

And then there were the taco's. Chicken and beef. They also had a chopped up sausage that was very good as well. I have to admit the guacamole looked a bit funky but it still tasted good. What made it better was that Javier's sister in law gave him her special Salsa that he shared with us.

Do you see the cheese and fruit fountains?

Here they have the corn bar. It was exactly like Molly's Mexican corn except it wasn't on the cob. Covered with butter and mayonnaise how could it not taste good. It also had some very delicious spice on it. Some sort of spicy pepper I think. You can also see a corner of the ice cream cart to the right.

Here is the taco bar almost ready to open.

And then there was the drink bar. When I travel on planes my favorite drink is a bloody mary mix. Here they had a clamato drink that was the real thing. Clam juice and little pieces of clam in tomato juice along with a miriad of spices that I think included tobasco and Worcestershire sauce. I had mine without the beer. 

The kids then got their own little personal sized pizza's. The box was customized with Xaviers name and the pizza had little mouse ears.  I'm not sure why I couldn't have one.

In case they were still hungry the kids also had a fully loaded candy bar. I must admit that I did swipe a couple of the chocolate malted balls. 

Lisa was fascinated with her deep fried spiral potato. She chose to forgo the mayo.

You will never guess who showed up. Yup, Minni and Mickey Mouse were there.

There was even a pinata that was nearly as big as Mickey himself. They also had another pinata that was just Micky's head and it was much larger than life size.

They had several of these large stuffed animals. They were electric and you could sit on them and drive them around. I really wanted to try one out but I'm considerably larger than Javier and I was afraid the teddy bear wouldn't survive it.

And here is the guest of honor, Xavier with his mother and father.

The boy received more gifts than most weddings. Javier has this little car parked in his garage awaiting the day he can drive it.

There were well over a hundred people at this party. Javier said he didn't even know half of them.

This is our group from Hi-Z. Left to right is Pedro, Javier, Jerry, Lisa and myself.
I took a little video to give you a bit of the flavor of the place. It was a very fun day.

Walmart sells 1.2 billion dollars of merchandise a day.