Saturday, April 22, 2017

Easter 2017

Easter has always been one of my most favorite holidays. I love spring-time and the budding flowers, the happy colors, the sunshine and of course, the warmer weather. Easter was also the first holiday that we started to host so that makes it another reason to love it (insert: no travel!).

Sadly, this year, Easter was the first holiday without my dad. It wasn't just that he wouldn't be there with us, but historically he has played a pretty important role in our holiday gathering. He did all the cooking (while the rest of us went to church) AND he ran around hiding over 100 Easter eggs to give the kiddos a pretty big hunt. SHHHHHH, they never knew who hid those eggs all those years and Sidney has hoped for a picture or glimpse of that bunny each and every year.

This year we had to make some changes and Ryan/Arnie both stayed back from church (apparently what my dad was able to handle took 2 people to do....I'm teasing :). They did a wonderful job and the meal was great and the kids enjoys their hunt.

(no we didn't get a dog, but glad he and Angie got to spend the day with us. Baylor loved the big fenced in backyard). 
The bunny found these pretty cool inflatable loungers to give the girls in their baskets this year (they begged for them during our visit to South Padre Island but with Easter around the corner, I knew it would be a perfect gift!). The girls lounged in these things all afternoon. I hope they'll make for a comfy place to hang out this summer, especially during long tournament weekends.

 I didn't feel the same excitement as I usually do this Easter. It just wasn't the same, I could sense something was missing. We're doing our best to put smiles on our faces each day, but there isn't a day go by that I don't think about my dad and Easter was no different.

Thankfully we have these 3 to remind us of the life we have to live.

Como Spring 2017

I love the Como Conservatory. When the girls were younger and our schedules allowed much more free time, we would venture over to that place at least every couple of months. I could convince them to pose for pictures provided we would then walk through the zoo. It was a win-win situation. I got my pictures with beautiful floral backgrounds, and they burned out some energy buzzing around looking at animals.

Ok so I guess it didn't always work out as I planned :)

Unfortunately, as the girls have gotten older, they have much of a less desire to pose for pictures. And the bribe to subsequently see animals no longer works well either. Couple that with their busy schedule (especially in spring) and we rarely get to my beloved Conservatory.

However, during spring break this year, we had minimal plans and the weather only mildly cooperated with outdoor fun. I was able to get them to oblige to my wishes and we headed over to Como for a quick photo shoot and run through of the zoo just before Easter. I was over the moon to catch a few pictures of all 3. And looking at our Conservatory pictures from years past, I just cannot believe how much they have grown. Oh where has the time gone!

The smell and sights of this place are so inviting. I love how beautiful it is laid out and could have spent an hour just sitting there. Now hopefully it won't be another year before we are back again!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Lincoln says....

Lincoln used to do this thing where he would repeatedly say "Bless you" over and over after someone sneezed, and insist on a response of "Thank you Lincoln". Minutes would pass and he would continue to 'bless' the person who had to return with a 'thank you' or he would escalate his voice to a scream and eventually cry. Cute right? Not really. Eventually Ryan came up with the saying "one time" in other words, Lincoln could offer his 'blessings' just one time. It translated into "One time Bless you"? lol.

That was several months ago. And unfortunately, he has found a new saying. And it follows his same rules from above. Instead of being called "buddy" or "honey" or "sweetie", he insists we all call him Lincoln. Fair enough. He's asserting to us what he wants to be called. Thankfully it's his actual name! But if someone should innocently make the mistake of saying something other than Lincoln, he will correct that person (one of us, a teacher, a stranger) with "say OK Lincoln". We have to reply to him with "Ok Lincoln". Oh how I wish it would end at that statement! Instead, he walks around all day long calling out for no apparent reason "say OK Lincoln!", escalating his voice into a scream if someone doesn't obey his requests. I'm hoping that the same rule Ryan gave Lincoln with the "One time Bless you" is going to work with "One time OK Lincoln". Because for right now, this family is going crazy constantly hollering out "OK Lincoln"!!!

Friday, April 14, 2017

On life, and the end of it

(Disclaimer: This blog is typically all about our fun and adventures. But it's also a record of our life events, a place where I can go back and recall something and remember the small details. That said, I wouldn't be doing justice to our family if I didn't record the events of my dad's recent passing. For those who only want fun and the good in life, skip on past this real-world sadness of a post.)

Unfortunately, just a few weeks ago, we had to say goodbye to my dad, otherwise known as "Papa Leo" (or as Lincoln says Papa Yee-O). At just 66 years old, it was far too young to die, and an incredibly sad event. I joined a club I didn't want to be in, losing a parent left me with a profound sadness. Let me back up a bit....

Before we left South Padre Island (see previous post), I could sense my dad wasn't well. I couldn't put my finger on it, but both Ryan and I knew he wasn't his usual self those last couple of days. My parents departed the south just a couple of days after we left and I knew he'd be seeing his own doc in a few days, so I tried to rest easy. One quick trip to the ER en route, and my fears of "something wrong" was confirmed. They didn't get many answers at the ER, and he actually made the comment to my mom that if "I'm going to die, just take me home". He called me that particular evening to tell me the events of the day, and he knew I would be incredibly alarmed (especially because he pretty much checked himself out AMA in an effort to just get home). Needless to say I was very relieved when they made it back to Minnesota and he was seeing his own doctor. A few days later, he would be hospitalized at the local hospital. Several days after that, I looked the attending doctor in the eye and asked if it were him in my shoes, would he transfer his own father to a larger hospital? He confirmed that he would, and just like that we were on our way to Abbott. Before we left, my dad's clinic doctor came to see us off, and was able to put things into perspective, a reality check so to speak: dad was very sick, and he was worried dad wouldn't even make it up to Abbott. He went so far as to tell us to say goodbye before we drove 1.5 hours. Safe to say we all drove well over the speed limit to Abbott.   

The next 12 days we lived on a roller-coaster. There were ups and downs, but mostly we sat vigil around him, waiting for him to wake up. The team of ICU doctors and nurses were top-notch; can't say enough good things about them. They reminded us to take care of ourselves, to be sure we ate and slept and even laughed. And then, with some major 8 year old convincing, Sidney influenced us to allow her in to the ICU to see her beloved Papa. She missed her face-times and texting sessions with him, and just needed to lay eyes on him. And so she did. And it broke my heart into a million pieces to see her brave face just take it all in. As we left, she asked "how come it feels like Papa is still watching me" (this comment is important for a story later...).  I cried even harder telling her the doctor's grim prognosis; her world was shattered.

The day finally came when the doctors told us there wasn't any more they could do, and that if we wanted to bring him home (with support of hospice), they supported that decision and would help make it happen. So plans were set in motion and we had intentions of bringing him home. And then, as dad would do, he changed that plan and gave us the biggest blessing of all. He woke up. Defying all odds, he honestly woke up from the dead (his words, not mine). My mom and I showed up to the hospital that morning, prepared to bring home a very sleeping dad, and were shocked to see him not only awake, but completely alert and asking for food. Of all things, he wanted to eat and drink some water (LOTS of water!). I truly think some people stopped by that day just to see it for themselves. He was even joking around with us, asking what the tube in his nose was for, tube feeding, to which he promptly replied "oh bullshit!". When all the joking had stopped (momentarily), he looked at us and said "I think I came back from the dead". Thinking he was being funny, I gave him a look and he replied "no really, they told me to come to the light". When I told him I was happy he didn't go towards it, he answered "I did!". Those words, coupled with Sidney's feeling that Papa was watching her, makes me think he had one foot in each world during that ICU stay.

We ended up having 5 days with him when he was awake, and joking and seemingly happy. We brought him home where he was able to remain for several days before symptoms put him back in the local hospital. Here they had a wonderful hospice suite (think joined hotel rooms) and he spent his last 33 hours surrounded around the clock by family. As he took his last breaths, we all held his hands and told him how much we loved him. I told him we would be ok, giving him permission to go towards that light again. And then, 2 breaths later, he was gone. Words cannot describe how sad we feel. Eventually I gathered up Lincoln (who was in that adjoining room) and we drove back to my parent's house. Tears streaming down my face, I could barely muster out any words to Lincoln in the back seat when he reached for my hand, and told me the same thing I had just told his Papa "it's ok", but then, he said "and Papa's walking...." and trailed off his sentence.

I have to think that these kiddos of ours, they have another perspective, they sense things far deeper than us adults. And I believe Sidney when she feels that "Papa is watching me", and I believe Lincoln when he explains that "Papa is walking", even though he hadn't see him walk in 3 weeks. My cousin told me several days later, that we will feel his presence again, we just need to be open to it. And I whole-heartedly agree.

Unfortunately with death, comes planning a funeral. Something I really didn't want to experience until I was much older myself. But, we did what we had to and made the arrangements. We spoke to a pastor that would do the service (my dad wasn't much of a religious man) and after our conversation, she picked out a reading. It stemmed from the song Turn Turn Turn by the Birds, so we decided to have that song played as well. All was set, but we still had the task of finding a temporary urn (mom is considering having one built). There is a local shop that sells all sorts of cute clothing, jewelry and home d├ęcor, and we hoped we could find something in that store. Get ready for this story..... we walked inside and I stopped in my tracks. I tapped my mom on the shoulder and pointed towards the ceiling, telling her and my brother to listen. Of all songs, a million options for songs, Turn Turn Turn was playing over the speaker. Mom and I started bawling right there and my brother declared we would find the urn in that store. And we did!! It was the most beautiful wooden box, with a Tree of Life carved into the top. It was perfect.

And now we happen to see that symbol all around us in our everyday lives. 
Throughout the next several days, my parents' house held an endless parade of visitors, each bringing food and often a story about what they remember of my dad. Boy did we laugh (and cry) those first few days. I learned a lot about the shinanagans that he got into, but more importantly, how much he touched peoples' lives. We found pictures which sparked stories and memories from 50 years ago to 5 weeks ago. I am forever thankful for all of those memories; etching them into my brain so I never forget them.

We made it through, and it sure was a beautiful service. I cried and cried, thinking I couldn't cry any more, but then did just that. Military funerals bring a deep sadness, but seeing that flag handed over to your very own family, is overpowering.
 I'm so appreciative of all our friends and family who helped us personally with the kids, driving the girls to their activities, watching Lincoln while I spent a few quiet moments with dad, sending their thoughts and prayers, and holding us in their hearts. We learned more about our "village", and are so grateful to have them in our lives. We'll be ok, like Lincoln reminded me, but right now, our hearts remain heavy.
Love you and will forever miss you dad.
Until we see you again...

Saturday, March 04, 2017

South Padre Isalnd 2017

Several months ago, my parents showed us pictures of the place they would be staying in this winter during their trip south. It was a pretty fantastic 4 bedroom house across the street from the beach in South Padre Island. Wowzas! They sure lucked out with this fabulous find. We were excited for their adventures.

Fast forward one month: they were not only inviting us down to their place for a vacation, they gave our entire family the trip for Christmas gifts! To say our family was excited doesn't even come close to how everyone felt! We narrowed down dates, and though it wasn't going to coincide with our (ridiculously late) spring break this year, we jumped on the opportunity to spend 6 days in the sun!

My mom and I started coming up with activities and adventures, Ryan mapped out a plan to golf a couple of times (nervous from his recent knee surgery) and of course, we knew we had to spend time daily at the beach!

Last time I brought the kids to SPI was in 2015 and it was C.O.L.D. Not the ideal temps. So when our forecast this time was low 80's, we packed our swim suits and shorts and set off to catch some much needed Vitamin D.

We found all sorts of creatures on the beach: from tiny crabs to small oysters that squirmed when we would open them which only caused me to scream! We collected sea shells and Lincoln tossed shell after shell back into the ocean. Watching him play on the beach was always the most entertaining. The first two times we went, he ran in and out for over an hour, never stopping. He was having the time of his life!

My mom found some touch tanks for us to visit and the girls got brave and held some hermit crabs and touched this "big huge frog" (aka: turtle). Lincoln would get close and then run away and squeal that it was chasing him. It moved faster than we thought and after the girls got a chance to feed him some lettuce, he did actually 'chase' Regan around the small room ;)

We saw beautiful sunrises come out of the ocean from my parents deck. And were lucky enough to see just as beautiful sunsets. The island is all of 3 blocks wide, and the sun rises on one side over the Gulf and sets on the other side over the bay. It's pretty darn incredible to watch.

One of our big adventures was to go horseback riding on the beach. Because the minimum age was 6, we had to leave the men behind with Lincoln. My mom and I braved any fears inside of us and saddled up beside the girls for our 2 hour ride. I'll be honest, we were pretty scared for this. I blame my fear on the fact that I've had patients with serious injuries following horse accidents. And it sure didn't help that my horse was afraid of the tide and would scamper away when water hit her hoofs; and then would head-butt the horses in front of her only to be kicked in retaliation. Let's just say it was NOT a peaceful ride for me!

On the contrary, the girls were in their glory! We lucked out in that their horses were buddies and walked easily side by side the entire time. They giggled at the end, saying how scared they initially were but how  much fun it was. Sidney announced "when we come back next time, we HAVE to do this again!".... 

...I responded that Ryan would be taking them next time :)

While us girls were riding along the beach, Lincoln was able to take a nice pony ride in the pen and play/feed some barn animals. He loved his horse and does not want you to tell him it was a pony...."no!, my big huge horse!". Ok Lincoln. He got to ride around until his horse was tired and decided it was done.

It's almost a requirement to stop at the iconic sign entering the island and take a picture. To get to the island, you cross a 3 mile bridge and this sign is the first thing you see.

While we were there, I climbed up on top with the kids to take a picture of the sun setting over the bay side. Boy are there some pretty sights!

As a tourist destination, there are stores upon stores with all sorts of beach paraphernalia including clothing, swim suits, toys and boogie boards. Most stores have normal doors to enter, but this one caught Lincoln's attention and he wouldn't quit talking about it until we stopped one evening. He insisted it was going to be a shark ride, despite our pleas to inform him otherwise. At least he wasn't disappointed when he realized it was just an entrance to another store! He loved all of the teeth and being inside the shark!

Sidney saw a sign for sushi somewhere along our adventure and just had to try sushi one night. So we picked up some California rolls and brought them home. Her and Regan sat there, with fear and excitement written all over their faces, just trying to muster up the courage to try it. Eventually they took a tiny bite and announced they were finished and never planned to eat it again. But at least they tried!

Beaches make for some fun backdrops and both my mom and I brought our cameras to the beach almost every time so we could take more pictures. Sorry for the beach overload!....

The short walk from grandma/papa's house to the beach included this trail from the sidewalk onto the sand. Most days when we got to this point, Lincoln (and the girls too!) would take off running not looking back feeling so eager to start their fun!

I honestly think that Regan could have spent all day everyday playing in the water. She learned to body surf, which prompted us to buy a boogie board and then she learned to boogie board! I'm thankful that she would take a break every once in a while to play with Lincoln in the tide.

We dug holes and built sand castles on the shore. The only thing I wouldn't do is bring snacks. Those seagulls are relentless and would practically sit on your shoulder if you were eating. Multiple times I could be found dodging birds, hiding behind whoever was closest to me; those things give me the willies!!

On our final night, we grabbed dinner outside at Louie's and as we wrapped up our meal, a staff grabbed the kiddos and led them, along with a plate of scrapes, to the railing offering them to feed the catfish in the bay. We thought maybe one or two catfish....

boy were we wrong!! There had to be hundreds of them-actually a little gross!

We caught Lincoln lounging one morning on the deck. No one is really sure what he was doing out there, a truck in each hand, talking to the sky and making sure we left him alone. I snuck this picture of him through the window as he basked in the sun.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for bringing us down to your winter getaway!! We had the best time and none of us wanted to leave!