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Nov 30, 2010

Catching Up

Our visit last month to see Grandma and Grandpa with Lori and Grant.

Hudson's 3rd birthday party and an all too rare visit with Hudson, Noelle and Suz.

Grant's 4th birthday party...4...I cannot beleive my baby nephew is 4.

We put up our Christmas decorations the first weekend of November, as usual.

Nov 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We spent Thanksgiving this year with my parents and my grandparents at Grandma and Grandpa's apartment in Delaware. It was...well I'm not quite sure there's a word for what it was. So I'll break it down.

It was fun: Spending time with my parents is always fun for me, even if the environment is not-so-fun. We laughed, as we always do, about everything. But especially about the possibility that the apartment might spontaneously combust due to the equatorial temperatures that rose between the stovetop cooking on all four burners, the oven trying its darndest to get that turkey’s popper to pop (which it never did), and the thermostat that is always set to a fiery 80-something degrees.

It was quiet: It was the perfect storm for bad behavior that day. Sam and Lena had shortened naps on the way to Delaware, couldn’t play outside due to the rain and cold, were confined in my grandparents’ hot small apartment…most 1 and 2 year olds would have been screaming and wreaking havoc. But not Sam and Lena. Not this day, at least. They played quietly, ate like champs, and were troopers for the entire day (and only broke one knick knack). All in all, a success. I’m sure it was just a fluke, but I was so proud of them.

It was filling: Even though there were only a few of us this year, we cooked as if all the aunts and uncles and cousins were joining us. And it was delicious. The two things that contributed most heavily to my overeating and 2 pound weight gain, though, were my favorite sausage dressing (here's Lena eating some...which she proceeded rub into her hair to add to the buttery, greasy look she was sporting after dinner) and my mom’s millionaire pie. Good lord, I’m on veggies all week.

It was sad: I’ve written about my grandpa’s condition here before, but it continues to deteriorate. He has fairly late stage Alzheimer’s it’s heartbreaking to see what this terrifying disease has done to him. This once vibrant, colorful, storytelling, music loving, active, funny man who lived for his family and couldn’t get enough of holidays...he didn’t utter a word or a sound the whole visit. We had to practically carry him to the table for dinner, which my patient and tender mother fed to him. He’s just not in there anymore.

Once when Samuel was belly laughing across the room, Mom said Grandpa smiled a little, which warmed my heart. But it also made me sadder.

It's easier for me to think of Grandpa as a shell now that this disease has obliterated his mind. It’s easier for me to think that his soul might already be in heaven instead of tethered to his failing body, fully intact and aware – just stifled by this illness. To hear that he (his soul, the thing that makes a person a person) might have even a fragment of a moment of awareness enough to notice something like my sweet boy’s laughter…well it shoots to shit my conciliatory idea that his soul is not stuck in there, suffering. But it also brings tears of joy to my eyes to think that he might have had, even for a fragment of a moment, happiness because of my boy.

Alzheimer’s is a hell of a thing.

It was eventful: My poor grandma (this is the only picture with her in it, as she was in her pj's and probably didn't want to sit for a photoshoot) had been suffering with terrible back pain for the 2 weeks prior to Thanksgiving. When she visited her quack doctor, he just pushed a bottle of arthritis pills at her without even touching her back or examining her further. So she suffered more as Thanksgiving day wore on. You could see the pain in her face. Mom rubbed her back a little where it hurt and said she felt a big lump, which we all assumed was a severely pulled muscle. When Rich and I left with the kids around 5:00, Mom and Dad were trying to figure out a way to get Grandma to the emergency room with the least amount of fuss. When I called for an update a couple hours later, it seems my cousin and her boyfriend (a nurse and paramedic respectively) came by to check on her and figured out by a simple examination that her hip had popped out of place. So they popped it back in and, other than a residual dull ache in the muscles surrounding her hip, the pain was gone. It was a Thanksgiving miracle!

It was perfectly imperfect: My sister always says that it’s a disgrace how commercials and movies and your own imaginings and hopes gear you up to have these unattainably perfect holidays with your families. Because inevitably, a kid is puking or you’re sick or someone can’t make it or the turkey burns…somewhere along the line something happens to douse the flawless dream of Norman Rockwell holidays. Not that we haven’t had our fair share of nearly perfect holidays, because we have. But all bets are off when you have young kids. Or elderly family members.

So this Thanksgiving I gave thanks to God for my family:

Rich and the kids, who are my life;

Mom and Dad, who always amaze me with their grace and strength and humor even when faced with stark reality and tough decisions; and

Grandma and Grandpa, who I respect and adore, Alzheimer’s and popped out hips and all.

Nov 22, 2010


While we were at the cabin for GWA, this little gray and white kitten wandered our way with his eyes all goopy and matted and sounded so stuffy he could barely pur and couldn't meow.

He was a hot mess, and I commiserated because I was suffering from a cold myself. He took turns curling up on all of our laps and chests and shoulders, just trying to get some love and some warmth. It was hard not to love the little thing, and I'm generally not a cat person.

Now my friends Jen and Tara are avid animal lovers and they've both had cats in their homes from childhood to present day. They fed and watered the poor little guy, Tara washed the cold from his eyes, and they took care of him as best they could. Everyone wanted someone to take him home...we just hated the thought of this little baby alone and sick in the woods.

I've been suffering from maternal pangs since Lena started walking and becoming more independent and, since Rich and I have decided to stop at two kids, we have been considering a pet for awhile. So when Miles showed up and he was so sweet and cute and desperately needed a home, well, I called Rich and he agreed. So here we are.

The kids LOVE Miles. They both want to hold him and pet him all the time and they both give him kisses on his head, which he loves. And since we spent a small fortune on him at the vet and he's starting to feel better now that the mites and worms and cold are on their ways out, Miles has become a playful, funny, cuddly little guy. And, dare I say, after only a week, I think he's litter box trained? I don't want to jinx it, but he's thankfully doing great with that, too.

The vet said he's about 2 months old and would have probably died in the next few weeks if we wouldn't have taken him in, which makes the whole thing seem a little like divine intervention. We needed him and he needed us.

Nov 18, 2010


GWA = Girls' Weekend Away.

Five years ago, some close friends decided to make an annual trip to Hocking Hills and rent a cabin in the boonies for a weekend in November. Now it's grown to 16 girls, and I am blessed that they invited me, that I've been able to attend three years now, and that I've gotten to know each and every one of them. I'm proud to call them all my friends.

GWA is a relaxation weekend without kids and husbands and jobs pulling us in different directions. It's a reunion weekend for old and new friends to catch up and laugh and cry and reconnect. It's a celebration weekend where we don't take a moment for granted, where we appreciate each other and ourselves. It's a perfect weekend...

There are dance parties and campfires and drinking and eating and napping and gluttonous behavior in all varieties. It’s just a damn good time.

This year we were in a new, beautiful cabin and had extraordinary weather. The new place is very close to Old Man's Cave, so we decided to go for a hike there on the warm, sunny Saturday afternoon. This place is really something to see, a magnificent display of God’s artistry that he used when he created these rock formations and trees and waterfalls. It was humbling.

Along the path I noticed that there were trees growing out of the rocks. Literally. The roots weren’t anchored in fertile soil where it makes sense that a beautiful tree would grow. They were wrapped around rocks, sprouting up from cold, hard boulders and reaching up to the sky just as perfectly as the trees in the forest did. It proved to me that life…that good prevails against all odds.

And, in my always overly emotional and cheesy way, this reminded me of my friend Nichole. She is the one who invited me on my first GWA and has become one of my favorite people in the world.

Nichole’s childhood wasn’t the worst or most unimaginable. But it was hard. And crazy. And cold. But here she is, a strong, beautiful woman who married a wonderful man and has built a family with him - a loving, warm, compassionate, strong family. Lots of people who have difficult beginnings seem to continue in the same vein, they perpetuate the cycle of crap that surrounded them as kids. But Nichole didn’t. She is smart and strong and found her way out, and has built a happy and healthy life for herself and her kids.

Forgive the utter lame-o cheesiness, but she is that strong, beautiful tree that grew from a rock. And I love her for that.

So that was my GWA this year. I laughed, I cried, I got stuck coming up the driveway, I was (as always) introspective and cheesy, I made new friends, I soaked in my old friends, I thanked God for his blessings, I ate good food, I drank a little wine, I danced, I flashed…

And I rescued a sick kitten. But more about that next time.

Nov 4, 2010

Sam Knows

Lena's napping. Sam's playing quietly with his cars. I'm checking email and blogs. The dishwasher is running. The house is clean(ish). The sun is shining through my clean(ish) windows. Some jazz standards are playing softly in the background. I'm feeling peaceful and grateful for all of the blessings God has given us.

So it's with this lovely, warm, full feeling that I'm sharing some veggie sticks with Sam for our morning snack. We stare each other down and crunch each bite with our mouths open to see who can make the other laugh first. Then I just look at him and realize how beautiful and special this boy is.

I say, "Sammy, do you know how much Mommy loves you?"

Sam squints his eyes and crunches the rest of his stick while he stares at me.

Then thoughtfully responds, "Yeah, me know." and runs back to his pile of cars.

Yeah, he knows.

Nov 2, 2010


We went trick or treating with Lori and the boys last Thursday.

It was COLD and Lena the giraffe wasn't feeling the Halloween spirit. She was tired and has a tooth coming in and was not happy unless she was walking into the street, until, that is, she would fall. She had her big coat on over her costume and couldn't move her arms, so when she would fall, she would fall right on her face. Ouch. No wonder she was miserable.

Sam, however, was really feeling the Halloween spirit this year. He went up to the houses with the boys or Daddy or me and would say "Treat" and "Thank You". He even went up to a couple houses alone. He's getting so big and brave. We borrowed a Thomas the Train engineer costume from Lynn, but one morning he was playing in his closet and found last year's monkey costume and insisted on wearing that. It was a little tight, but still fit over his warm clothes, so he was happy.
All in all a fun night. Thanks, Wingers, for letting us tag along every year!