Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dad passing, Days passing

So it's been awhile since  I've posted (no surprise there!).  But things have finally slowed down around here.  After a summer none of us wishes to repeat, we had a nice trip to Amarillo, came back, the girls started school and then it was JBF time (and that means Mommy working and away a lot of evenings).  We're settling down to the quiet here, but I'm finding that I conveniently have put aside most thoughts of everything this summer and now it is coming back to slam me.

If you don't know how I spent the summer, here is a short summary.  The girls finished school just before Memorial Day.  Then they had Art Camp almost a week later. That was great and they loved that and JM & I got to spend the mornings together riding trains and things like that. 

 JM loving the Forest Park Train. We even got the coveted last seat (backwards facing) one time.  I think we rode it three times that week!

 Gracie (above) with some of the artwork from the week and Clara (below) with some of hers.  They were already asking to go again next summer!

 At this point, my Mom and Dad had already been in Houston a few weeks, after a 3 day trip for some blood work for Dad turned into an extended hospital stay.  The pneumonia had come back quickly and he wasn't recovering all that well.  But mid-June they sent him "home" from the hospital, which in this case was the Hampton Inn.  Dad wasn't feeling well enough to travel back to Dallas, and I don't think Mom was sure he was strong enough either.  And then after a week at the hotel, Dad was back in the hospital on Friday, much sicker.  I'm in awe of how Mom managed that week in the hotel. 

I arrived at the hospital on Saturday and while Dad in some ways looked better than I expected, there were definitely signs that his body just was worn out from the toll of six years battling three cancers. Sue arrived next on Sunday, I left on Monday afternoon, knowing that Julia and Carolyn were arriving on Tuesday and that I needed to go home, see the kids and let Mike get back to work.  Little did I know I would be repeating the drive just a few days later.  On Thursday, I had to call Mike at work and ask him to come home so I could head back to Houston, as things weren't looking good for my Dad. 

Mike was such a great support during this time.  One of my friends recently asked me how he managed with all the kids so long, and honestly, I don't really know.  When I called home, I wasn't in any shape to do more than say hello to the kiddos and give Mike an update about my Dad.  And Mike just soldiered on and took care of what the kids needed, keeping them dressed, fed and entertained.  And I think he might have had to manage some work in there, too.  It's not like he had planned on taking off all the time he was.  I'm thankful that his job is so accommodating as well. 

My Dad passed away peacefully on Monday morning, June 27th.  I'm thankful that my Mom and my sisters and I all got to be there with him for the last few days - as Mike pointed out later, it was kind of like our time to have a memorial for him.  I headed home and found out to my great relief that Mike was planning to stay home the rest of the week. I don't think I would have known what to do without him there.  I was definitely in a fog.  The funeral was the following Friday, after we had a less than spectacular 4th of July weekend.

Mike and I had started a project (which we ridiculously thought would only take a few days) way back during the Memorial Day weekend. Here's what our front yard looked like when I started the brick border for our "path" as we've named the project.  Doesn't look too bad, right?
 Next view below, is after we've rented a sod cutter and Mike worked hard to get most of the sod cut out from the 300 foot long path.  And we put it in the backyard, hoping to fill in some of the bare spots and started watering it.  Little did we know that there wouldn't be any rain for the next three months and it would all dry up!
 And finally, the big pile(s) of crushed stone that would make up the surface of the path.  And I was sooooo worried it would rain on the rock and cause it to clump up and become permanent hills where it was....
The kids had a blast playing on it, though.  But I can say that Mike and I had less fun moving it all to the path.  And that was after laying the black edging and black weed block.  And I also kept asking myself why we had waited until May to start this.  Working in 100 degree days was not pleasant!  But it was something to do and it was pretty therapeutic when I got home from Houston.

But I didn't know that I was still going to be spending more time in a different hospital.  In late July, on a Monday night, I got a call from one of my Grandfather's friends telling me he had a heart attack and was in the hospital.  Now why the retirement community where he had lived didn't feel the need to notify any of the family, I will never know, but at least we did find out.  So, unbelievably, less than a month after Dad passed away, I was on my way to Fayetteville, Arkansas to see my Grandfather in the hospital.  And knowing that he was 96, I didn't think there was going to be a good outcome to this. 

Once again, Mike was like the knight in shining armor as he came home from work, helped get the kids fed and insisted I get on a plane that evening (Mom didn't think it was a good idea for me to drive, and I imagine she was right).  He loaded the kids in the car, while I packed a bag quickly, a little more prepared this time, since I knew what would be comfortable for being at the hospital after our experience in Houston. 

My sister Sue was second on the scene, and thank goodness she came, because Grandpap definitely wasn't going to get better.  He was ever hopeful, and even asked the kidney doctor if dialysis would get him one more season to watch the Hogs (yes, he was a die hard sports fan).  It wasn't until the hospice doctor told him that he needed to "put his affairs in order" that I really think it sunk in.  He never really believed he had had a heart attack (although they told us he had and that it had been pretty significant), but once he knew he wouldn't likely make it back to Butterfield, he started planning and issuing orders for us (really Sue, since she is the one who is handling his estate) to remember things such as "cancel the newspaper.  And there should be a refund since I paid for the whole year." That was classic Grandpap. He died the next morning (contrary to what the doctors had said would probably happen, which was that he would linger in a coma for a few days) and again, that seemed to be typical Grandpap - efficient and not wanting to linger.  And after several days of not eating, he had a big dinner the night before - again, something that was much more typical.  He was always a man who liked to eat and never liked to see food go to waste. 

The only good thing to come out of the second round of hospitals that summer, was that Sue and I got to actually spend some time together.  Since we live so far apart and with busy schedules, it's not often that we get uninterrupted time together.  So we got to enjoy each other's company and bond over things like Hello Kitty at Claire's. 

I got to be at home for a week again with my family, before I headed back for the Memorial service for Grandpap.  I went without Mike and the kids because I was worried about them attending after just having been at their Pap's funeral a few weeks previously. 

So after all of that, it was the first week of August and school was right around the corner.  I was thankfully that in early June, I had already looked through the girls' school clothes and really had everything they needed in their closets.   We decided to go to Creede, CO for a week (we had originally planned to go over the 4th of July weekend, but obviously that didn't work out.) and then be in Amarillo after our Colorado for Mike's parents 50th anniversary celebration.

I'm thankful that we got that week away in Colorado and that we all got to be together and then on to the 50th anniversary celebration. So next post, I'll talk about that.  I'm so glad Mike and his siblings planned such a nice event for his parents.  It was a little bittersweet for me, as I was with Mom and Dad on their last anniversary together (June 18th) in the hospital. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

(continue pretending it's August...) What we actually did in Colorado

Well, I don't actually have a picture of us relaxing, but that was definitely the case.  We managed about one big "activity" a day - usually some geocaching or a picnic or a trip to town and the "Smokey Bear store" (aka, the U.S. Forest Service office in Creede).

This was our geocaching turned ooops, big hike day.  If you click on the picture above and look more closely, you'll see Mike & Clara heading off to reach the geocache (maybe another 1/2 mile from where we were?).  JM, Gracie & I stayed behind and I convinced the two of them to go play in what I termed the valley of rocks.  It is actually an old lake bed (I know Mike told me the name, but do you think I remember? I was too focused on finding good rocks to climb!)
 Here is JM just moments before lift-off.  Yes - he was busy jumping off all of the rocks he could. But I will say he did always wait until I had grabbed at least one hand!
 Here's Gracie on her little (big!) perch.  Amazing view, right?  I think it is almost hard to take a bad picture in Colorado when you are outside.  Gracie found a "secret" way up to the top of this rock which was pretty tall, maybe 10 feet?  I was amazed that Gracie was so excited to climb it and didn't hesitate at all.  She needed a little help coming down, but I just talked her through what to do and she made it on her own.

So Mike & Clara eventually made it back after finding the geocache and we headed back home, to take care of another important Creede tradition....Homemade chocolate ice cream.  It's not a traditional recipe and it doesn't taste like regular chocolate ice cream - it always reminds me of a Wendy's frosty ... yum!  I won't tell you what's in it in case you ever want to eat any & don't want to worry about how many calories/how much sugar you are consuming.

 I forgot to mention one of the most popular (with the girls) things we did in Colorado.  Mike fixed up two older girl's bikes that were at the cabin, so the girls were able to go riding with him (and once with me).  Check out that banana seat!  Gracie actually rode that retro bike the most.  Down below, Mike & the girls are heading back from town on a trail to the cabin.  It's a couple of miles, and they both did a great job!

One thing the kids may think they did was go rafting - who needs the freezing cold river and the trouble of finding a place to put the raft in and worrying about life jackets.  Just set your raft up in the front yard, get out the oars and you've got entertained kids! 

 The other big thing I didn't mention at the beginning that we got to do was hang out with Aunt Mary Jo, Uncle Dick and Cousin Kristopher.  The second night we were at their house for dinner (thank you!), MJ had gotten out Kris's old train - can you guess who played with that all night?
 The older kids got everyone involved in a super competitive game of Uno.  Kristopher didn't make it into the picture, but he was there, too. What fun that was for the girls - quite a change from a quiet game with Daddy or Mommy to settle down for bedtime!!
 And more geocaching - but this time to a "safe - no hiking involved" location that we had been to when we were last in Creede (two years ago).  And boy, was it easier without a baby and with two girls that could actually look for it, find it and put it back themselves. 

 Looking at the loot - They chose a ring (Gracie is adding it to her collection she says), Clara picked Tinkerbell bubbles and JM's choice ... a key.  (maybe it starts a brand new car somewhere, right?)

 And playing at the park was another fave activity. What a novelty to be able to go anytime of the day and stay as long as we wanted (quite a change from not even being able to touch the playground equipment in 110+ degrees, let alone be outside for an hour or two).  We actually went to the park every day that we were in Creede, it was such a hit.

I'm sure you are pictured out by now, or your computer is, so I'm saving our picnic and another geocaching trip for tomorrow (you know, the like, 17th of August, right?)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Colorado (pretend it's the second week of August as you read this...)

So it was great to get away from the 110+ temps and head up to Colorado. The drive wasn't nearly as painful as it was two years ago.  A three year old can behave much better (sometimes) than a one year old! 

Especially if you provide "the gripper" to play with.  We actually use it in the van to pass things to the girls in the back on long trips, but it's been broken for oh... a few years.  Mike worked his magic on it some time this year and ta da!  Toy & tool in one. 
 Clara was a little grouchy on the trip this year (sometimes three year olds behave better than five year olds!).  She started asking in the first fifteen minutes, "how long until we're there?" and she wanted updates every hour or so.  At least the audiobooks helped to distract her for a little while (love those pink headphones!).
 We had a lunch break in Trinidad (see the pics below - I was too lazy to cross the street and get the whole word in one shot) including a trip to see the train that Mike used to always see on his way up to Colorado.  It has been retired for fifty+ years now!  JM was disappointed that it was fenced off - he would have loved to explore inside!

And the last emergency potty stop (about twenty minutes from Mike's parent's cabin) in South Fork, at the rest stop that was in the Chevy Chase film National Lampoon's Vacation.  Where I took pictures of flowers (flowers, not dried up, browned, burnt, shriveled up plants and grass!) instead of any scenery you might recognize. 

Anyhow, it was lovely to get to Colorado and I'll have to share more about our actual adventures in Colorado in the next post.  It's dinner time & the MYOP (or really made by the kids pizza) is coming out of the oven right now - yum!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Snippets of life

Some of the funnier things that have happened over the last few weeks:

John Michael has fallen in *love* with the "socks" that are available at Payless for trying on shoes.  I threw them away after our first visit when he discovered them for the first time.  He asked for them several times at home, but I just pretended not to hear him (nice Mommy trick, right?).  We were in Payless again today & he kept asking "where are the socks, where are the socks?"  I snagged a pair and am saving them for a future distraction technique.  He likes to put them on, then put on his flip flops and run.  They make you "weally fast!"  (and just in case it's not clear, those "socks" he likes, they are the little pantyhose footies... nice, huh???)

Our new dog, Shelly, likes to leave monkey guts & parrot guts lying all over the house.  So if you are over & notice white stuffing all over the house, you'll know who the culprit is.  Also, crayons are particularly tasty in her opinion.  Check out that tail that just curls into the perfect C - you have to watch out when she starts whipping it around though - especially if she's recently had a dip in the pool! 

My favorite "funny" of the week:
After months of hot (>100 degrees) dry weather, with a yard full of branches, brown leaves and dirt, what should you do if you want to be outside riding a bike or running on the path around the house when a strong wind (really strong!) starts gusting and blowing all of the above around?   Run inside, fetch your swim goggles and proceed to ride/run/walk/play outside again to your heart's content regardless of wind, blowing leaves, sticks, and dust.  All siblings should follow suit, while Mother collapses in giggles outside.  Too bad I missed the photo opp!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sweetness at Midnight

A few nights ago, I was working at the computer late at night, when suddenly I heard pitter, patter, pitter, patter.  But something was wrong with this sound - Coco's nails were more clickety, clack on the floor.

And then a sweet little boy voice saying "Mama, I didn't get to see the moon tonight!" 

My youngest had gotten out of his crib (we keep the gate down now & he's quite the expert at crawling in and out) and I guess was ready for a night time adventure.  I was surprised at his request because it's been quite a long time since we have looked at the moon. But he picked a perfect night for it. 

We went out on to the front porch and took a look.  There it was, big, bright, and shiny.  It was so bright that JM had to shield his eyes.  But he looked happy, if somewhat sleepy, to see it.  So we sat down on the porch swing for a few minutes and peeked through the tree branches at that bright full moon.  It was still pretty hot outside, so we were both ready to go back inside pretty quickly. 

I told JM "Say good night to the moon."  And he started to and then stopped and said, "the moon can't talk, Mommy!" 

Then it was off to rock my sweet little boy (in the cool of the house) and get him back to bed for the rest of the night.  What a great way to end my day.

Hot & Dry

I think Mike & I might have worked a leeeetttllle too long in the sun this morning.

We decided to go to church tonight and then out to dinner afterward.  So we were only gone for a few hours (okay about three - dessert at two different locations-DQ & the snow cone stand- took at least 30 minutes of that time).

When we got home, I noticed that Mike must have left a small sprinkler going to make a damp spot for Coco & to keep her cool.  Good thing, since it was 105 degrees when we got home around 7:30.  But then I noticed that the dirt in our new flower beds looked darker and moist, hmmmm.  And then I saw that our new path looked wet, too.  Oh, I thought I must not have realized it but Mike must have given the dirt and path a good watering before we left for church.  Although I couldn't quite figure out when he would have done that since I thought we headed out to the car about the same time, but my brain didn't ponder that for too long.  I wanted to get inside and out of the heat, so I walked on toward the outdoor faucet to turn off that sprinkler Mike had left on for Coco. 

After I turned the faucet off, I noticed that the there was a drip, drip noise.  The down spout for the gutter is right next to the faucet, but why would the downspout be making a noise?  I shook out the few leaves that were in the end of it,. but didn't see anyhthing other than some wet, old leaves.  Hmmmm, I thought.  And the drip, drip noise continued.  My next thought was "maybe Mike got a little bit of water on the roof when he was watering the ground" but somehow that just didn't seem right either (more likely that I would end up watering the roof than the yard, but not Mike!)  Aha!  I had a better idea - maybe there was a frog under the downspout trying to jump up and making that repetitive noise (and yes, we have had frogs living under our downspout before so this wasn't such a crazy thought, right???).  So I checked .... no frog.  Well, my brain was spent, and I had no more inspired thoughts, so I shrugged my shoulders and headed in to the cool house.

All was well until a few minutes later (well, it really wasn't all that well, since I was chasing two naked children around the house, trying to direct them to the bathtub...).  Mike came in looking concerned and asked me, "did you know the gutter is dripping?"  Yes, I had noticed that, too.  Now I was worried again & Mike looked rather worried, too.  "Why would it be dripping?" he asked.  I had no good answer (obviously), so I gave the good wife answer and said "I've got things under control here (ha!), you go get the ladder and check things out."  Meanwhile I had started picturing crazy things - maybe a flood in the attic (but how would that happen, my brain was simultaneously thinking and asking). 

A few minutes (and a few kids in the bathtub) later, Mike came in, looking like a man with an answer.  I wondered, what could be wrong now - would it be another house repair???? How much time, how much money would this take??
So, taking a deep breath, I asked, "Why was the gutter dripping?"  And Mike's response: "It rained."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some gems from my kids today

In the midst of Dad being in the hospital in Houston and not doing so well (pneumonia again), it was great to come home & have the kids (and my hubby) remind me of how funny they can (unintentionally) be.

So the first is from JM.  Mike always teases JM and says he is going to play with JM's toys after JM goes to sleep.  So tonight Mike asked JM - "Can I play with your train tonight?" 
"Can Mommy play with your train after you go to bed?"

"No!  The groundups have to stay in bed tonight - no playing with my train." 

Certainly, there are days we feel "groundup" instead of grown up, so we got a good laugh from that.

Then just a few minutes later, Mike made a comment about the expired lunchmeat that I had put in the trash can (he had meant to throw it away last night, but then put it back in the fridge "for some reason").  Well, when the kids and I were ready to have our picnic today, good thing I noticed that the main course of ham  seemed a little off, so we ate crackers, applesauce and grapes and then went and got a cookie! But anyhow, back to Clara's funny comment. I told Mike that I, too, had decided the ham was done, "it had bitten the dust."  Then Clara asked, "What does that mean - it bites the duck?????"  So then Mike started with "Another one bites the duck... another one bites the duck..."  And I addedd "Quack, quack!!" 

That's all I've got for tonight.  Oh - and a couple of cute pictures, just for fun.  Lots to put on the blog about our last few months, hopefully I'll get a chance soon. 

 Getting ready for Donuts for Dad and Field Day on the last Monday of the school year
 JM with his Little Gym medal - so excited about that medal!  He has had to "borrow" from his sisters until now.
 Clara finds the largest clump of crushed limestone in our 16cy pile.  (more on our crazy landscape project later)
 Gracie showing off the stack of "little, quick pictures" that the campers did during art camp! 
Clara at the art camp reception posting next to her layered picture (the yellow one). They had an awesome time at art camp (thank you Mimi & Pap!) and are already excited about next year!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Clara's Birthday?

Okay, so I'm not so far behind that I'm posting about last August...But we did have a 5-1/2 birthday party for Clara in April.  We had promised her a "big" party like Gracie had in kindergarten, but she hadn't even started school when her actual 5th birthday rolled around.  So we decided to wait until the spring and celebrate then (and she didn't want to wait until this coming fall).

We planned a party at the Little Gym, and I have to say, we've really loved having the girls' parties there.  It was so easy and everything is done so well.  I didn't even have to load the presents into the car - they had them loaded in the van before the party was even over. 

Anyhow, the pictures speak volumes.  Check out all of the happy faces. 

JM's Buddy!

Check out my friend's blog to see what John Michael was up to last week: 

Jump Rope (for Gracie) for Hearts!

All of the first graders warming up for their day of Jump Rope for Hearts
High-flying Gracie practicing while her best friend and jump rope partner, Kareth looks on.
Kareth getting in some warm-up time (Gracie was super excited, can you tell?)
Kareth & Gracie in the middle of their routine!  They did a great job.  Thank you to everyone who supported Gracie & this organization.  She was really excited about raising money to help the kids!