Thursday, December 03, 2009

a massive trip (pics to come)

With the passing of my dear friend's wife, we decided that we really needed to be there for the funeral. So we packed up and left. 14 hours to Denver (with a brief stop in Topeka for another State Capital).

We changed into clothes in the church parking lot and went into the viewing. And there I got to hug my friend for a very long time. I must say it was the saddest viewing I have ever been to. She was a beautiful young mother (the age of my little sis) and so didn't deserve what happened. She left behind three babies, her family, in laws and Eldon. The funeral the next day was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. And while the graveside service was cold (it had snowed during the night) I was touched to watch how Eldon explained to his daughters what was happening to the casket and how he held onto his baby boy as he dedicated the ground where she will wait.

We headed off to capture Denver's Capital building and attend Jax's basketball game (which he rocked) and then had fun times with the Rozeskis. Which reminded me how much fun it is to have such great friends that you can do and say almost anything with and it's all okay.

We got up very early (4:30 am) to head up to Cheyenne's Capital and stood in -2 degrees to capture the picture at 6:30 AM in the morning. I'm sure you can imagine how much fun the kids had with that one after we woke them up :). But one day they'll laugh and we are down one more state. Taking us to over 1/5 of the United States at this point. (seriously..I can't wait for Alaska and Hawaii)

We then drove home for 14 hours and in 3 days have done what I could never imagine possible. Heather was known for her "gratitudings" so in her honor I wanted to end with these:

I'm grateful for friends that are the same no matter how long it's been, for hugs and kisses from the kids, for Rozeskis who open their homes and hearts and babysit our kids and put beds together that fall so that they know everything that goes on :)..., for a husband who drove even though he was so unbelievably tired to get a daughter home for a field trip, for the fact that I can sit cross legged for hours at a time in a car since we are blessed with so much stuff that needed to go at my feet, for another day with my kids and family and most of all for tender mercies from the Lord. I'm grateful my family is close and that I can spend Christmas with them and all be together, I'm grateful for my sister who is 'practically perfect in everyway' and for my Andy who is, as always, just a step above but willing to help me up, I'm grateful the snow came after we got there and left before we drove home and there is so much more...but I am thankful.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Miracle anyone?

I will be the first to admit that miracles don't always come the way we wish, dream or hope for. But that doesn't stop us from hoping. In college, after I returned from my mission I had the privilege of having Eldon as my one of best friends. My sister moved me into an apartment with a girl he was dating and so began my journey with this incredible man.
I'm not sure I could ever do justice in explaining how we became so close. Suffice it to say, he told me to marry Andy and so I did. That's how much I loved and respected him. I would have climbed mountains and moved worlds for him, I loved him so much. He was there for me in ways and times that were some of my darkest and amazingly enough, some of my brightest. Andy knew he was getting a matched set when he married me, that Eldon would always have a piece of my heart. And the best part was, Andy loved Eldon too. And Eldon was right. Andy was perfect for me.

I'm not sure this is totally blog worthy but I just want to journal the strength of this man. He went through hell and fire and emerged a scarred, beautiful man who can understand the world. He is an angel that I knew before and will know forever. After many years of no contact, Andy gave me the greatest Christmas gift of all. He tracked my "little piece of heart" down and gave me a precious letter from him and that was soon followed by a phone call and a visit last year.

He married the most beautiful woman named Heather, and Andy and I were able to go and attend the wedding in Colorado many years ago. And now he sits by her side as she is slowly slipping away. Without a miracle, she will return to our Heavenly Father and cancer will have beaten her, all in less than 2 years. And she will leave 3 children (age 7 and under) and Eldon behind for awhile as she moves on. My heart breaks for them. I am unsure of why things happen and perhaps we are never meant to know, or perhaps it will all be explained in due time, but for now...I am sad that there are no words or actions that can comfort him. So Eldon, I love you and I pray for you and Heather and especially for your children who may never fully understand. I know you pray for a miracle and I hope and pray you get one. You deserve one. Andy was so grateful that he ran across you in the airport in Denver. We both love and cherish you. Heath & Andis

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

how can you get mad? Seriously!

So what do you do when its totally quiet at someone else's house and you know that 9 kids must be playing somewhere? YES! If you are the mother of a boy, you should immediately question the silence and search far and wide for the children.

AACCCKKK!! I'm amazed continually at the amazing ability of kids everywhere to get into bottles, make a mess, and be completely quiet while doing it. They are never quiet when they are supposed to, say like in church where they insist on telling you they picked a booger from their nose right during the Sacrament prayer? So here is how Griffith spent his quiet time. Grabbing a bottle of bright purple permanent paint and spreading it all over his clothes, his cousins and of course... An extremely white rug in the middle of their house. From which the paint was never fully removed. Yikes, add on the family memorial statue of a lab that Griffith broke at the Keetches house (right after they shared the best story of why they loved this dog) and I'm beginning to think he should never leave the house. But on another bright note...
Check out the high waters that dear Baker is wearing. Yes you guessed it. He grew maybe 1/2 an inch this year but it was enough to push him out of 2 T pants and into size 3 clothes. Sure, he's turning 4 in December but every little 1/2 inch counts right???

Thursday, September 03, 2009

oh what do you do in the summer time?

So Summer? It's gone already??? I can't believe that summer passed without me documenting what has transpired. But in my defense, this has been the most life changing, most fun, busiest summer ever in my life...So here it is, in no particular order of time

Here we all are. The day had just begun and we wanted to capture our family having one last fling for the summer at Johnson Shut Inns. This is a place where you climb up and down these waterfalls and dive and jump into 25 feet pools that the rocks create. I am a total wimp though. It took me some time to convince myself to jump. So you can imagine my surprise when First Katie and then Baker also jumped off the large rocks.
Jumping to my doom after a very long climb up due to the helpfulness of some weird guy at the bottom of the rocks...It doesn't seem very high, but it looked very far down and they kept saying, don't hit any of the rocks in this are or that, so I was more than a little nervous...Now Katie didn't seem to have the same sense as I did and climbed right up and jumped, in fact, she jumped more than once

The best part though was when Baker got up there (aided my Miss Kim) and despite my yelling from the beach to stop, off he went.

and belly flopped right into the water since he didn't have the weight to keep his body straight. Boy oh boy, what must people think when a three year old jumps off. But so trusting as he leapt into his fathers waiting arms...

the best part for me was the climbing though. I loved the natural waterslides and pools of water.Haleigh jumping off the smaller rocks into the pool

Andy diving off into the pool. Griffith doing, well nothing. He was perfect. No crying, no fussing. Just a lot of rock throwing.

was the happiest baby and the youngest of all of us there.
When I wasn't jumping or climbing or watching, I got to spend some fantastic time enjoying myself with Griffith in the water. He really loved getting wet and splashing at all the fish he saw.

It was the best road trip with some fantastic friends!! Baker loved just swimming around at the bottom in the lake area.

Kim took off to push Molly under water and it was just a nice day to let loose and splash and not stress about real life for a few hours.

Here's Andy and Katie in one of the many little pools created by the rocks. The water was a perfect temperature and though there were several deep sections, the lifejackets kept everyone happy and safe.

Matthew and Haleigh enjoyed themselves as well and Haleigh even went so far as to say she had finally found something about Missouri she liked.

At the end of summer every year, we all get together at the little river beach by our house. Several of my friends come and this year, my sister braved the heat to drive up as well. But how else do you send the last day before school begins? It was a great, hot, sunny, sandy day at the beach. I managed to scrounge up two great gals to go clean streaming with me. We had a mini canoeing lesson and then we were off to capture all the garbage we could get in a canoe. I had never been to George Winter park but it is quite lovely and I love being able to spend time with a dear friend (Amy) and have my niece along as well. Being a Master Naturalist has opened so many doors and I love them all.

We went to the zoo several times this summer and these are a few highlights.

Baker loves these frogs!

Andy always comes along though half the time he is the martyr and has to lift every child to see each animal. But I love that he makes it to all these fun outings. It is a benefit they don't mention when they hire you on. Perhaps more people would be professors if they only realized the perks.

This summer we had my entire family relocate to Missouri. What a blast we are going to have. Here are all the cousins playing together. We get together quite often and I can't imagine a better thing in life than having my family close and cousins together :). Here are my mom, her mom (GG- who Katie is named for) and my Aunt Bette. What a threesome they are. And amazingly, that's it for my immediate family on my mom's side.

The cousins all made breakfast in bed for my mom (along with a little help from Uncle Andy)

My dad would read to the grandkids and what a reward it was for them. They all loved it. I imagine this has to be one of the better parts of being a grandparent. This chair remains one of our better Goodwill finds. Look at how many of them it holds.
We went so many places while everyone was here. To the zoo, the botanical gardens, the butterfly house, grants farm and basically all that St. Louis offers. I can not wait for all the fun to come.

4th of July came and went. It was a rainy mess. Our car drove through a flooded area and died and we missed the parade. The highlight was spending time with some of my favorite people that night painting the Larsen's bathroom. Who knew service could be so fun!! It was a 4th I'll soon not forget. But the best part was the night before. We gathered up all our friends and went to watch fireworks. the best show in St. Louis in the comfort of our old Schnucks parking lot. It might as well have been a ward function by the time I invited everyone. One of the best drawbacks I suppose to loving everyone in the Ward.Here are two of the most fantastic women you could ever hope to call friends. And the power woman of our ward showing up with 6 kids under the age of 7 (two of which are twins) with no husband because he was working so hard on the Larsen's Bathroom.

Here is Tina. She's awesome. What more can I say? she reads this so I won't divulge much :). She has helped fill in all the gaps as my friends have all moved on. Sadly, she will be leaving as well in a few years, but I have these fun years in the mean time... I'll have to make the most of it and then write a sappy goodbye post in two years...ah how life moves on

When the daddy son campout took place, Katie was devastated. So I planned a special outing just for us. We went and painted a toothfairy box out of ceramic and had a blast. It was a great experience and the beginning of so many to come I hope.
After I got trained in being able to go free caving as a Master Naturalist, I convinced our good friends to let them be our trial run. The Keetches graciously babysat for us so we could all go. And off we went. We had a blast. Behind us is the fence that you get the key for and unlock. Then we entered mushroom cave (named for all the 'shrooms grown in it during the early years of St. Louisan history)

These are our friends Tina and Josh Williams. Below you see a picture of us starting the belly crawl potion through mud.
And here is the muddy result. So much fun. Andy did really well until we reached the portion where I questioned if there was an exit. He belly crawled out so fast I had to laugh.
I came home from church to see this beautiful specimen sitting on my deck. I had only moments to capture it before it flew away.

One of the highlights this year was having the Rozeskis family come to visit and stay with us and go to the Children's museum together. How we would marry this family if we could :). The Keetches got to go to Mothers without Borders in Africa this year and participate in helping. They sent out a plea to everyone to donate needed supplies and together with Andy's class, we were able to stock much needed medicines and baby items. It was a fantastic service project for our family to participate in.
Here's Shelley collecting the goodies to take to Africa
Katie ran the summer away in Soccer. Can we say she played during the heat wave and I was proud of her. It was hot but she kept going...

and going...
though she only wanted to be goalie so she wouldn't have to run.

My dear Friend Molly lost her baby Charlotte this summer. Molly was supposed to be a leader at a girl scout camp and I was lucky enough to take her place. It was a week I'll never forget. It was hot, humid and muddy and I didn't have a clue what to do, but we made it through.
We were the chihuahuas and made our presence known throughout camp.
Making dinners and crafts was always exciting.
Even Baker got into it and was a real trooper. Of course I wouldn't have made it through without Kim taking Griffith. And then comes back to school. Baker is old enough to officially attend preschool and so off he went. These are his teachers. Miss Lorraine and Mrs. Grellner.And Katie's 1st grade teacher Mrs. Custard (though she was sad not to have Mr. Billieke since he's cute and fun)...note all the missing teeth my little jack o lantern has.
And the first day has come. They each set off into the school with their bags, smiles and the memories of summer to help them get through. So that's summer in a nutshell minus some very huge parts (like pics of the letterboxing convention). But what did I learn you ask? This summer was so busy I'm not sure how I made it through. I planned and carried off a national conference for letterboxing, I entertained several guests and family, drove to Cleveland for the Brimhall reunion (a post deserving it's own spot) and got another two state capitals, I volunteered days for clean stream, bird identification, bird banding, cutting honeysuckle, moving my parents to Missouri, planning ward activities and Enrichments, planted a wildflower garden in honor of Charlotte and helped with the bathroom for the Larsens, was part of a girlscout camp and so many other things it is tiring to think of it all.
I was devastated when Molly lost Charlotte and am still coping with the questions of why things happen. But this I know, I was blessed to be able to help. It was a spiritually enlightening summer and I grew closer to several people who I dearly love for the service and love they have in their hearts. This is what I learned. There are givers and takers. (along with those that say they want to give but don't really and those that give but don't want to). BUT, It is the givers in the world that make me feel happy to be around. The people that drop everything to help and come together to lift others that make me feel loved.
I was most amazed at how people give of time and love, often to those they will never meet or know, but just want to give to help another to feel better in some way. From Africa to the next door neighbor, I think God has to be pretty proud of givers. I hope I will be one of those people. I hope my children will be those people. And I am confident that as we are those people, we get strength to do even more.