Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012...

I told Steve several years ago that if our third child was a boy, it was a no-brainer that we would need to be the Incredibles family for Halloween. That year was this year. Steve receives "Father of the Year" for his courageous role as Mr. Incredible. Not all men could pull off that outfit with such grace. Along with our three little ragmuffins. And although we managed the picture above, our ragmuffins really looked like this: It was just that kind of day for poor Mr. B. There wasn't any amount of candy that would change his mind!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Building anticipation...

A while back, (months ago) we decided that we wanted to give Hallie an experience instead of the typical gift for her birthday. We live close enough to Disneyland that we gave her a day at Disneyland with just mom and dad. All attention would be hers as well as all the decisions.

We left the kids on Sunday after church with family. At this point Hallie had no idea what was in store for her. I made this fun scavenger hunt that ended with a bag of her clothes for our short getaway. We were so excited to give this to her and we were ready with the video camera in hand for her response...boy were we disappointed. She opened the door to find the bag and ticket and she smiled politely and said thank you. She sat down and kept looking at the bag but she was far from excited. She slowly took the tissue paper from the bag only to realize they were her own clothes. She glanced our direction and gave us a nervous smile. Steve and I look at each other in disbelief. This is not how I imagined this awesome unveiling to go down.

Steve started asking her questions and he quickly realized she had no clue what was going on. He asked her, "Hallie do you know what Disneyland is?" Hallie looked at us a little clueless..."no". We were shocked. We had built up this moment so nicely with the assumption that she knew what Disneyland was and we were greatly mistaken. We had a good laugh and Steve started to describe all that Disneyland entailed. This is the look we got:
This was the conversation that followed:
Hallie: But today is Sunday
Us: We're not going today, we'll drive there today, check-in to the hotel grab some dinner and walk around.
Hallie: But tomorrow is Monday and I have school
Us: We've already talked to your teacher and she knows you won't be there
Hallie: What about my piano lessons, did you cancel those?
Us: Yep, we sure did.

She was still a little skeptical but she went along with it, never truly acting excited for what we were about to experience.

We immediately hopped in the car and made the 6 hour drive over to California. We walked around Disneyland/Downtown and we could see the excitement within her start to build. Part of it was she had her parent's undivided attention, the other part was the magic of Disney! Because this whole trip was based around her birthday, she got a snazzy button that informed everyone she was a special birthday girl. We went to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe and I've never seen her so excited in a restaurant. She loved the thunderstorm that swept through every 30 minutes and the rain constantly falling behind us. She even got a dessert with a candle and a birthday song from the staff. She was in 7-year-old heaven. The whole evening was so relaxed and enjoyable; we could've ended the experience right there and come out ahead! But you don't drive 6 hours each way for dinner and walking around so we decided we might as well go to Disneyland the next morning! Going to bed that night, we finally had the excited little girl that we had looked for all day. There are few things more fun to watch than a child filled with excitement. Walking around that night did just the trick to build the anticipation.

Special day...

We made a quick trip over to Cali to celebrate someone's special birthday. We're still on a high from it...so is she!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One year older...

It's amazing how time can fog your memory, in both good and bad ways. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember what my early days as a parent were like and then I see pictures like this, and all the memories come flooding back: These pictures were taken after one week of becoming parents. You can see the overly glazed look in Steve's eyes and the swollen nature of my own. It was a rough week. Month. Year. But somehow, we made it through, and now we're blessed with this beauty. This sweet girl made us parents 7 years ago today. And she almost made herself an only child!!

She loves to read and can't get enough of school.

She argues the most minor of points...Steve makes it clear that trait comes from me.

She is so loving and kind to her little brothers, but is quick to remind us that she still doesn't have a sister.

She's inquisitive, and she now has the attention span to hear the whole answer, not the watered down version.

She is a friend to everyone.

She's got a little sass and she's strong and is willing to fight for whatever she puts her mind to.

She loves to be my little helper. If I mention the word project, she won't leave my side!

She has the most infectious laugh, you can't help but laugh along with her.

6 was a good year and now she is 7. We're hoping her sweet innocence sticks around just a while longer! We love you Hallie.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tender moments...

The last item on my Montana agenda was to go through old photos and slides. There is something about photos that moves me in ways I can't describe, especially old photos - photos I didn't take and don't know all the details to. I love the ability photos have of telling a story. They capture a moment in time and preserve it.

I went through boxes and boxes of slides from when my mom was young, slides I had never seen. She had a life before I knew her and it emerged from hundreds of slides. It was like Christmas for me. I looked through albums of my grandma when she was a child. Through those pictures, I can now visualize her young; her hairstyle, her body, her clothing, her home and siblings. Pieced together through several photos a mural started to emerge in my mind and I truly felt as though I came to know her better because of it.

I went through nearly 70 years of memories. And although a lot has changed in that period of time, many things were the same. My grandma is a very simple woman. She has never had a lot, and yet wants for nothing. As I hear her talk of "the best view in the whole entire world" from her bedroom window I am reminded of the simple nature of her pleasures. She loves to watch the hummingbird and chipmunk outside her kitchen window. If I didn't better I would think that it's just because she's old. But I know her better than that, and I know that she's always found pleasure in that. I saw picture after picture of her paddling in a canoe with her signature grin. Yes, it was primarily my grandpa's passion, but she looked as though she enjoyed being in nature just as much. She's had plenty of years to enjoy all that nature and life had to offer. I attribute her long life to such a simple and pleasing life.

I sat across from her the morning I left while she sipped her breakfast hot chocolate and admiration spilled over in my heart. She is a good woman. And although I've spent years going to her house and seeing her, I don't think I truly ever "saw" her until this weekend. My desire to truly know her has come late in the game but I'm fortunate that time has been on my side. I am in a different position than I ever was visiting her in the past and it made all the difference. Her simple life is but a far-reaching destination for most, including myself. But there is such beauty in the simple life - I think this quote describes it best:

I sat with my smartphone at the table, checking my email, and flight status as her eyes wandered outside and she started telling me about the delicious fruit that grows on the tree that caught her eye. She described the flavor in detail with a smile across her face. I was slightly envious at her pleasure in such a small detail. Details that are often lost on me. I'm always pushing for the next bigger thing that I miss those quiet details. Right then, I decided to practice her acknowledgment of details and I started tell her about all the orange trees in our yard. I described them in detail the best I could. The blossoms, the smell, the taste...and she hung on every word. Clearly I didn't give enough details, because she wanted to know more. What color are the blossoms? How long do they smell? How big are they? Are the oranges juicy? Do we eat all the oranges? I could see the picture that she was painting in her head with all the details and it was grand. She repeated over and over again how wonderful it must be, how delicious that is, and lucky we are. The details made a world of difference as she visualized it. To me they were orange trees, nothing more, nothing less. But the more I described them to her, the more grand they were in my mind as well.

I think she's been so happy with very little because when you add up all the intricate details as she does it's really so much more. I smiled across the table at her as this realization came to me. And again I thought, this lady is awesome. She has no clue what she has passed on to me but I could fill journals with all the thoughts and feelings that came to me while I was there.

As we prepared to leave I got butterflies - I gave her a hug with tears streaming down my face and whispered in her ear that I would come and visit next year and with all my heart I hope it's true. I then sat and watched my mom say her goodbyes with tears running down her face - which was harder than my own goodbye. I could see the love pouring out between the two of them and it was tender. Nothing can replace the love and bond you have with your mother and it was evident between them. I could've hugged her another hundred times if there was time, but instead I walked out the door and looked back at her sitting in her chair at the kitchen table with a grin across her face and her arm waving.

I hope she's in the same chair working on a crossword puzzle the next time I go to visit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Q&A with grandma...

Another point on my Montana agenda was to talk with my grandma and ask questions. There was no question in particular I was seeking answers to, I just wanted to hear her talk and see what kind of stories she might tell. Let me remind you she's 94. And although she's healthy as a horse, she has lived a good long life. As I asked questions I could sense her frustration in not knowing the answer. "What was it like when mom was born?" Silence. She would quickly reply to every question, "Oh, I don't remember." At times my mom was able to interject a few details and from there my grandma was able to tell the story. I think it was hard for her to think of the answers and it wasn't worth it to her, so she gave the same answer. I don't remember. I started asking less detailed questions and instead asked more general questions.

I clearly asked too many questions because the second day I was there she said to me, "Why do you ask so many questions?" "Have you always been this curious?" Yes, I've always been this curious - but until now the curiosity was focused on other things. Although she tried to avoid all my questions, we did have some great conversations and I loved every minute. She takes my sarcasm in stride and dishes it back.
A few of her funny stories/comments:

She was asking if we were going to have liver and onions for dinner. I was quick to inform her that liver and onions is disgusting and would probably make her sick. "I've been eating liver since I was a kid and look how long I've lived. It's good for you." I told her a new study came out saying that eating liver causes cancer. She looked at me incredulously, "That's not true." Yes it is. Especially if you're eating a cancerous liver. We all had a good laugh and then she says to me in the most serious voice, "I'm going to punch you in the face."

I asked "Did you like raising your kids in Montana." Well, I suppose it was fine. But the beach would've been nice.

I was curious as to what she did all day considering her age and mobility. She does her daily crossword puzzle and sudoku. And then...she likes to look out over the hills and trees. From her bedroom she has an even better view, that's why she refuses to sleep on the main level, she won't give up her view. "I have the best view out of anybody in the whole wide world." I quickly replied, "Not everyone...Tom (her son who lives just a mile away) has the same exact view from his window." She looked at me and laughed. "I suppose we share it then."

I asked her if she got her dessert after dinner. "Of course I did, I've had a couple. You can never have too many desserts." This spoken from a lady who drinks hot chocolate for breakfast.

I asked her who her favorite kid was. She looked at me with the most confused face. "I'm not going to tell you that." I let her know that she didn't deny she had a favorite which confirmed my speculations. I asked her the same question several times over the weekend and every time she gave me the same stare down and then broke into a giggle.

I used my phone to skype with Steve and the kids while I was there. I held the phone in front of my grandma so she could see her great-grand children. She talked with Steve for some time before she realized her own picture sat in the bottom right-hand corner. She pointed out that she could see herself. I told her that Steve and the kids could see her as well on a large screen (compared to the phone screen) in Arizona. "I'm on a big screen in Arizona. But I didn't even do my hair. Look at it, it's not even done, I can't be on a screen in Arizona." The whole concept of Skype confused her just a bit. She asked a couple questions as to how it was possible but I don't think she ever truly grasped it. She just kept repeating, "well that is just amazing."

I asked her about meeting my grandpa. My grandma was traveling back from Texas (separated from her husband at the time) when she met my grandpa. It's a story we're all familiar with. So I asked when he first kissed her. She acted as though she was too shy to say, but after a few minutes of her thinking she said he kissed her on the bus. My mom and I looked at each other in shock. I looked for additional confirmation, "He kissed you right after you met him when you were just separated from your husband?" "Yes he did, my socks fell right off." I died laughing. He didn't knock her socks off, her socks fell right off. We used that line many more times over the weekend!

The house of my grandmother...

My mom's mom is 94 years old and lives alone in the mountains of Montana. The last time I visited her was when I was pregnant with Hunter. I've had the best of intentions to visit more frequently but it is so far out of the way, I've never been able to make it work out. There is a low budget airline that flies a non-stop flight right to Missoula so Steve insisted that I fly up for the weekend...alone...twist my arm...okay.

I worked it out with my parents to be there the same weekend, which also resulted in my sister and two brothers joining us as well. It's interesting the shift of focus and attention when it is apparent that a loved one is nearing the end of their time on this earth. Knowing my time in Montana is limited and sporadic, I had a very specific agenda for this trip. I wanted to catalog (through photos) the environment of my grandma's house, I wanted to spend time with my grandma and ask her questions, and I wanted to go through old photos/slides/journals and anything else that may be of interest. Based on this agenda, my trip was more than successful and enjoyable.

I spent a little bit of time each day taking photos that reminded me of my childhood visits and memories:

As I mentioned, my grandma lives on a mountain with a dirt road leading up to her house. Beautiful in fall, dangerous and scary when covered in snow! Photobucket
This home, although added on to has been her home for 60+ years. Photobucket
The view from her kitchen window is breathtaking and one of her most prized possessions.
A front porch swing that has been well loved. I remember as a kid visiting and spending the evening swinging as the sun slowly tucked behind the mountain. Just above the swing there's a wind chime that clammers constantly, a sound that is burned in my memory.
The inside of the house hasn't been updated since who knows when. In all my years, I can't think of anything that has changed besides a few more pictures hanging around. This chair had countless kids spinning in circles until they were sick or until my grandpa caught us. We were always told we would break the chair. It's been at least 25 years and it's still going strong, even with all the spinning!
The annoying bird clock that my grandma loves. Every hour on the hour it makes the sound of a different bird. And what's not to love about the lovely wallpaper behind it!
The treasured chalkboard that offered hours of entertainment during our visits. Never failing after each visit, we would write some great message to our grandparents with the kind note to everyone else not to erase it. Of course it was never there when we came back 6 months later, but there was always a message from someone else with the saying "do not erase".
My grandpa played the accordion and graced us with his music each visit. And seated at the piano playing alongside him was my mom. My grandma loves music and always makes her musical requests known. I've spent much time playing songs for her at that piano.
This mantle just cracks me up. It's hard to get the details of all that is placed upon the mantle, but there are some random things. Like the fox...I still have no idea what the significance of the fox is. There's little trinkets that they been given over the years, all proudly displayed on the mantle. Another clock that is still ticking which hangs directly above the desk. Before long it just might be back in style!

The house is a patchwork of flooring. Every room has a different color/style carpet. This is the carpet in one of the bedrooms and it makes my eyes dizzy just looking at it:
As I cataloged the home of my grandmother so many memories came flooding in from years of visiting her. The things in her house are unique to her and special to her. I came across several things that I had made over the years and given to her as gifts and I laughed thinking she still had them. They were bad and should've been tossed long ago, but yet they hung proudly on her walls. My grandma is a very simple lady with little need of material possessions but she sure loves a gift from the heart and no matter how ugly it is, it will most definitely be displayed in her home never to be forgotten.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beautiful fall...

After spending several fall seasons in Wisconsin, I grew to love the bright and vibrant colors that October brought with it. This season in particular I've longed to see the colors of fall, pleading with Steve for a trip to Wisconsin for this purpose alone. However, that was not in the cards for us right now, but a trip to see my grandma was. Since Montana received snow almost two weeks ago, I had convinced myself by the time I reached Montana there would be nothing but baren trees. As the plane crossed a mountain that opened up into the valley, my heart skipped more than a couple beats as I saw the valley covered in red and gold. My excitement caught me off guard as a smile stretched across my face for the duration of the landing. It was just what I hoped to see. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
I had more than enough time to soak in all the beauty. I was quickly reminded that with beautiful fall colors is cooler weather (a whopping 25 degrees one morning)- weather my body hasn't experienced in a long time. I'll take a weekend of cold for the beauty of fall every year if I can.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Busy Tooth Fairy...

Hallie's front tooth has been wiggly for a while. It wasn't until her friend lost her tooth last week that Hallie insisted her tooth come out. Steve tested the waters and quickly realized it was a long ways from coming out. He told her to work on it and they'd test it again later. She insisted. She wiggled and wiggled. And within just a few days, the tooth was ready to come out. She beamed Sunday night knowing that she would go to school the next day after fall break and show everyone her new smile: She came home from school on Monday telling me about all the kids in her class who lost teeth over break. At this point I see that her other front tooth is loose and she's wiggling it with her tongue. She wanted it out so bad, but just like the night before Steve tested the waters and wasn't sure it was quite ready. She started wiggling it. I sent her to school the next morning with a special note written on her Rice Krispie treat telling her she better not lose her tooth at school. She came home that day with a smile a mile long. She was missing both her front teeth: I can't believe the other one fell out at school. She corrected me, it did not fall out. Her friend's mom was sitting by her at lunch and could see she was wiggling it. She asked Hallie if she could pull it, Hallie of course obliged. So two front teeth gone in less than 48 hours. I admit I was a little sad to see them go. Here's to years of awkwardness as a set of adult teeth try and make their way into a small child's mouth!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hello Montana...

I'm heading to Montana by myself to visit my Grandma while Steve holds down the fort. The last time I saw her was when I was pregnant with Hunter...it's been far too long. A snapshot from our last visit: I'm really looking forward to spending the weekend with my grandma. She's not as active or as vocal as she used to be but at 94 years old, she's doing pretty well and I'm excited to see her. However, I'm not sure I planned this at a good time. I was checking the weather before packing today and found out it will be a high of 48. I've been in Arizona too long, because when I hear it's 48 degrees I panic and I'm not sure what to wear. I don't even have a wardrobe for weather like that anymore. Plus- how silly do I look in my jeans and boots holding my wool coat as I stand in the airport in 90 degree weather. At least I'll get some use from 1 of 8 wool coats that are collecting dust in the closet! It's probably time for me to retire at least 7 of those coats.

I was really hoping that there would still be some fall beauty left when I arrived, but they got snow two weeks ago, fall is officially dead. Winter has arrived. Either way, I'm ready.

Goodbye desert...hello beautiful mountains of Montana.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall break...

The best part of fall break with young children...low expectations. Really low. We came up with one or two "highlights" for the kids each day and they were ecstatic. We did park day:

We set up an obstacle course and timed them making it through. This went on for far longer than I expected.

We did art projects and decorated for Halloween.

We had sno-cone night at our friends house and enjoyed the cool evening weather.

We spent an evening together painting the family pumpkin and decorating it as a dinosaur.

We rode our bikes to frozen yogurt in our pajamas with our friends for pajama night.

We made special treats and had a movie night.

We went scorpion hunting with the kids. Hallie is just as into it as I am. Love her as my little sidekick.

We played with friends.

And our "camping trip" (here) was the perfect crowning event for a fun fall break.

I love how relaxed the whole week was and how easily excited the kids would get over seemingly simple activities, but I know it won't last forever. Hallie is quickly catching on that Fall break for most people involves road trips and plane rides and so much more. But she's still young enough that she quickly spouts off all the fun things she did over break to all her friends as if they were really big things. I suppose for her, they were big things. That's why I love this age- they truly love everything about the simple life. Much to be learned from them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cheese ball...

At Hunter's birthday party we inadvertently introduced Bennett to possibly the worst imitation of food ever...cheese balls.

After our "launch the cannon" activity, we started opening presents and left Bennett with a bucket full of cheese balls. He went to town and was all smiles afterwards.

Of course, we still have half of that bucket sitting in the pantry. Bennett found it the other day and managed to sneak a few before I found him and I moved the bucket to a higher shelf. He cried and cried and threw himself on the floor. It was late in the afternoon and the "witching hour" was in full force. The whining and crying had finally pushed me far enough...I got the cheese balls down and gave him a plate of them, of course removing his shirt (we already have a nicely stained shirt from the first cheese ball fiasco). And wouldn't you know it, he went from tears and tantrums to this: Clearly, that is the face of a manipulator!
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