Monday, October 13, 2014

My Aunt Roberta

Ever had a favorite aunt?  I did.  My mom grew up with only one sibling- a sister who was just 2 1/2 years older than her.  They were best friends and extremely close their entire lives.  Their dad passed away when my mom was just one year old, so it was just the two girls and my grandma.  The 3 of them were all very close.  It was so fun growing up seeing the close bond the 3 of them had, especially my mom and Aunt Roberta.  Roberta and her family lived about 2 hours away when we were growing up, close enough for us to get together very often.  We were very close with Roberta's kids and each of us (except my youngest sister) had a cousin in that family that was close to our age.  My mom and Roberta got together even more often- they would take day trips to see each other and have lunch when we were all in school, and meet up for other outings to Utah and such. 

Aunt Roberta was one of the sweetest human beings I ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She was so kind, loving and patient with her family and with everyone.  She knew me and my siblings and our interests and likes almost as well as my mom did.  She never forgot a birthday and always sent at least a card, if not a gift as well and was there at all of our special events- baptisms, graduations, weddings, etc.  Even after I was married, I still received birthday cards for me and my kids from her.  She sent baby gifts for Chloe and Mitchell and she was so excited to meet Chloe for the first time- she acted as excited about it as she might have her own grandchild.  It was so sweet.

When I was in junior high, Roberta was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It was found to be non-cancerous, but still very dangerous.  She had it removed surgically and had either chemotherapy or radiation (or both, I'm not sure) and had quite the recovery process, but got back to around 95% or so.  She was still the same Aunt Roberta we all knew and loved and we were so grateful!

In August of 2009 (I was 7 months pregnant with the twins), it was discovered that Roberta had another brain tumor; this time cancerous.  It was in a very tricky spot to operate on (isn't any place in the brain)?  After undergoing surgery, removing as much as they could, Roberta was never quite the same after that.  She was still her sweet self, but the brain cancer was taking its toll and it was determined that she would never fully recover and was given about 5 years to live.  Sadly, I was never able to see her again alive.  My mom and Grandma kept me updated on her often and I was able to see pictures. 

Roberta passed away on September 9, 2014.  My mom called me early one morning to tell me the news.  While we were all glad she was no longer suffering and freed from her imperfect body, it was very sad to know that we would never see her or her sweet smile on this earth again. 

I knew from the time that she got really sick that I wanted to be at her funeral, whenever it was, if possible.  As soon as we heard of her passing, Ben and I started making arrangements for me to be there.  Leaving 5 kids, especially an 11 month old, is not always an easy task, but we made it work.  Ben was so sweet about making sure it happened and doing everything he could to make it as smooth as possible.  We booked flights one night and he made arrangements to take off work to watch the kids, which was a big relief to me, knowing that he'd have them and I wouldn't have to ship them around each day to complicate someone else's schedule.

I flew into Twin Falls, Idaho (smallest airport on the planet, it is) on Saturday night, September 13.  My parents drove up from Burley to pick me up.

This was the first time in my married life that I had been to my parents house by myself.  Being there kidless was the strangest thing.  I took a selfie to document being all alone there- a first! 

Sunday after church, my parents and I drove up to Shelley, Idaho (where Roberta and her family lived) to attend the viewing.

My sisters and brother were there and we had such a sweet night watching friends and family of Roberta come through and pay their respects and relate fond memories of an amazing woman.

My mom and Grandma- two amazing women and supporters of Roberta!  My grandma is an angel on earth.  For the 5 years that Roberta fought her cancer, my grandma was there every step of the way.  Roberta lived with her for a number of months and my grandma took care of her night and day.  At the time, she was in her late 80's, taking care of someone 24 hours a day.  After Roberta was moved to a care facility, Grandma visited her all the time, taking care of her and making sure she was never lonely.  If Grandma went out of town, she couldn't fully enjoy it, as she hated being away from Roberta for more than a day or two.  There is a special place reserved in heaven for this selfless lady who cared for my sweet aunt.  They are both amazing women.

The funeral was the next day- Monday, September 15.  The funeral was so beautiful and touching, I can hardly put it into words.  The speakers were so wonderful and the words and spirit they brought into the chapel were indescribable.  I loved hearing so many people share all of the wonderful things about my aunt that I already knew and loved.  She was a faithful visiting teacher and faithful in the myriad of callings she had.  She served and served and served.  I really can't think of a time when Roberta wasn't smiling and happy.  She was so pleasant and sweet all of the time.  Even towards the end of her life when she couldn't speak or do much, people could see a light in her eyes when they talked with her about the gospel or the temple.  I am so, so grateful that I was able to be there to honor, celebrate and remember this wonderful woman who influenced my life greatly and was a big part of my childhood.

The burial was at a nearby graveyard.  Both of my brothers were paul bearers.

Roberta's oldest daughter Karla, her two year old twins and my grandma.  Grandma loves, loves children and babies.

My dad gave the dedicatory prayer over the grave site.

Roberta's 4 children, spouses, 3 grandchildren and husband.

My parents and me with all of my siblings, sis-in-law Charity and Grandma.

My mom had a flower arrangement made for the services.  Isn't it beautiful?

Such a sweet picture of Roberta and my mom as young girls.

Roberta and my mom, who was just days old.

These pictures perfectly depict how I remember Aunt Roberta.  What a wonderful woman of faith, strength and love.  I will miss her, but am so grateful for the knowledge of eternal families and I know I will see her again someday.  Love you, my favorite aunt.

First Week of School

We had a very staggered start to school this year.  The twins started school the day after Labor Day.  With all of my babies having fall birthdays, we just miss the deadline for kindergarten.  I found a great program when Mitch was this age: the K2 program at Dieringer Heights Elementary School in a neighboring school district.  They do a full day pre-kindergarten program that is 2 times a week and every other Friday.  It is a fabulous program and I was so pleased with it when Mitch attended.  The girls have been over the moon excited about going and asked all the time over the summer when it was going to be time for pre-kindergarten.

Both the girls inherited old backpacks from Chloe.  

They were thrilled with their new "big girl" backpacks and Chloe was excited to get a brand new backpack.  Win win!

Nana and Papa were still in town and got to see them off on their first day!

In front of their new school!

Being out of district, they don't get to ride a bus and I have to drive them on school days.  After the first week, we started carpooling with a friend and it has worked out so great.  I take the kids in the morning and my friend brings them home.  It's so nice.

Putting away their backpacks

The teacher told them they could sit at the same table and do play dough while they waited for the other kids to get there.  The girls are great friends (most of the time), but they are not clingy to each other and do not mind at all that they are not permanently sitting by each other in class.  They both make other friends separate of each other easily and are not dependent on each other for anything, really.  Sometimes I wish they "needed" each other more, but their independence from each other has its perks as well.

The first day of school parking at the school was CRAZY!  Most people that go here are in district and are bused, and the principal sent out an email a few days before school asking that those who take a bus to please ride it and that parents NOT drive to the school as well to meet their children there.  No one listened to that, which made parking a nightmare.  I have never seen anything like it.  The school is at the end of a very long road- probably a quarter mile long.  Cars were parked all the way at the beginning of the road and parents had to walk their children on a busy street for that quarter mile.  I did not want to walk that far, so I drove up closer and parked illegally and ran the girls in fast.  Luckily it is not like this every day.

The girls' first day went great.  Chloe and Mitchell both had a bit of an adjustment when starting full day school for the first time- exhausted for the first few weeks and random tantrums for awhile.  Leah and Lexi transitioned much smoother than either of them- I was so pleased and surprised.  When I picked them up after the first day, they were pretty quiet on the way home and I caught them both yawning a few times, but they were happy.

The next day was Auburn School District's first day.  Chloe woke up with red, goopy eyes and as much as neither of us wanted to admit, I knew she could NOT go to school that day.  She was absolutely devastated.  I felt horrible for her missing the first day, but could not send her to school in good conscious with what I was pretty positive was pink eye.

But Mitch was ready to go!  First day of First Grade.  This guy never shows any apprehension about starting school, and wasn't nervous at all about Chloe not being there.

We watched Mitch get on the bus, then raced to get to our doctor appointment for Chloe on time.  I love our doctor's office- we can always get in same day, and I was able to get in this day just an hour and a half after I called.

Sure enough, we were treated for pink eye and told that she could go to school the next day, if she didn't wake up looking worse.

The next day, Thursday, Mitch had his first piano lesson.  He was pretty excited!  I LOVE that our piano teacher comes to our house. 

With two kids in lessons this year, it makes our start time earlier in order to squeeze in two lessons before school starts.  We have a 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. lesson.  Depending on who is the most ready goes first.  That is a crazy morning for us, trying to keep everyone on schedule and making sure they get everything done they need to before and after lessons.  The twins also have school that day, so it just makes for our busiest morning of the week.  But we make it work.

It was also Chloe's first day!  4th grade looks good on her! She was so excited, but a bit nervous too, as she was sure that she would be the only kid who didn't know what was going on in the classroom since she had missed the first day. 

It didn't help that we started the year off with other drama too.  Just a few days before school started, we found out that Chloe did not have a permanent teacher.  We knew they were short one teacher for 4th grade at the end of last year, but were told that they would hire someone over the summer.  I called the school about 10 days before school started and was given a name of the new teacher.  I wrote it down, with the plan that we would go in and meet the teacher a few days before school started.  I lost the paper and called back the Friday before Labor Day to get the name again.  It was then that I was informed that the teacher that they had hired would "no longer be teaching."  I wasn't given a reason or an explanation.  With just 5 days until school started, and the day before a 3 day weekend, I asked what was going to happen.  I was reassured that she would have a teacher on the first day.  This did not mean that she would have a permanent teacher, though.  Upon hearing this, Chloe got very panicky and nervous and upset.  I told her we'd call back the day before school and see what was going on.  Tuesday's call did not bring good news- there would be a permanent sub until a full time teacher could be found.  That was not the news Chloe was wanting to hear, but we had a good talk and I tried to calm her nerves with some positive thoughts.

Our other drama was Chloe losing her glasses just a few days before school started (notice her glasses-less face?)  She sets them down in random places all the time, but usually are found by someone after a few hours or a day.  Not this time!  One evening, she, Ben and I literally turned the house upside down looking for them.  I have never searched so throughly for anything in my life, and they were no where to be found.  Still, 6 weeks later, they are yet to be found.  We found some old glasses of hers that don't fit quite as well (bent and stretched out a bit) that we are making due with until she can be seen by her eye doctor for her annual checkup.  We didn't want to go buy brand new glasses on the off chance that her prescription had changed and have to turn around and buy ANOTHER new pair just a few weeks later.  She is due for her annual at the end of October (and they would not let us come in early).  Chloe does not like her temp glasses at all, but we are hoping this is a good lesson for taking better care of her glasses in the future.

Olivia and her BFF.  Olivia prefers Chloe to Ben and I 95% of the time.  She sure misses Chloe during the day and is so, so excited when she gets home from school.  If Chloe comes in the door and doesn't come over and kiss or pick Livy up right away, Olivia bursts into tears and becomes hysterical.

I love the relationship these two have!

Family walk to the bus stop!

Chloe had a good first day, but came home feeling a bit lost in classroom procedures and had a massive syllabus from the sub that seemed overwhelming to me even.  Class policies and certain things about the way the classroom is run seemed a bit weird and overwhelming and Chloe didn't feel on top of things.

To add insult to injury, I received a phone call from our pediatrician's office right after school that day, telling me that the throat swab they had run on Chloe the day before (just in case!) had come back positive for strep.  Are you kidding me?  That meant no school for Chloe the next day, again.  Chloe burst into tears upon hearing this.  Missing another day would certainly not help her feelings of being overwhelmed and unprepared.  Poor girl.

We tried to make the most of her day home.  She felt fine, and Livy was more than happy to have her home.

She even helped me with the laundry, without being asked!

That evening, after school and after Ben got home from work, we packed up and headed to Tri-Cities for a short weekend.  (Chloe had been on antibiotics for 24 hours at this point and was not contagious).

Our nephew, Sam, turned 8 and was baptized.  We were glad we could be there for his special day.

Sam, William and Mitch- the 3 amigo cousins!  William will turn 8 in May, then Mitch the following October.

We seemed to be attracting drama and more fell in our lap this weekend.  We loaded up the car and were just pulling out to head home Sunday evening when literally, as we were backing down Ben's parents' driveway, Ben's dad stopped us and told us we had a slash in one of our tires.  We thought he was joking (we had just had the drama of 3 flat tires on Ben's truck not one week ago), but upon further inspection, he was absolutely right.  We knew our front tires were old and it was actually on our list to get them replaced later in the month.  With how bad the slash was, we knew it wasn't safe to travel home, as the tire could explode on the freeway at any given time.  Being Sunday evening, there were no tire places open, especially the one place that we wanted to get them replaced at.  So we unloaded and stayed another night.  The kids were thrilled, but that meant Ben missing a day of work and Chloe and Mitch missing school (Chloe missing 3 of the first 4 days of school).  There wasn't anything we could do about it, so we made the best of it.

On Monday, Ben was able to help his dad finish fixing a broken sprinkler, a project that they had started on Saturday.

We got more time to spend with cousins, which is always fun. 

These two cute redheads had more time to steal each others binkies!

We finally made it home, safe and sound, Monday evening with almost $400 worth of new tires.  Better safe than sorry.  

Since then, Chloe has gotten a permanent teacher that she LOVES and things have been going great for her.  Everyone loves their teachers (and I do too, which is a bonus) and we have had a good first month of school.

The kids were excited for their second Blue Friday (we missed the first one)!  Go Seahawks!

Friday, October 10, 2014

End of August/Labor Day

The last week of August remained busy- lots going on the last full week of summer!

Ben and a few of the kids made a last ditch effort to pick any remaining blackberries in our backyard.  The rain boots (and gloves) are necessary to pick blackberries.  Those berries are sure delicious, but what a pain, literally, to pick.  

Towards the end of the week, Lexi and Leah had an open house at their new school for their K2 program.  We got to tour their classroom and meet their teacher Mrs. Ridge.  These two girls are so, so excited to start "big girl" school.

They both found their names on a table and discovered a little goodie bag their teacher had made for each one of the students.

They sit across the room from each other.

Ben took off for a birthday camping trip with his dad, brother, brother-in-law and a family friend for 3 days.  They had a great time, but Ben got THREE flat tires on his new truck.  So much for an off road truck!  One had to be completely replaced and the other two were able to be fixed.  It was an unexpected birthday expense.  

He got home just in time for his actual birthday.  We surprised him with donuts for breakfast.

Later that night, after dinner, we had cheesecake for the birthday boy (his favorite!).  37.... that definitely qualifies as late 30's.  40 is in his near future.  :)

Most of the camping crew and Ben's mom came up for the holiday weekend.

Sunday afternoon, Ben's cousin got married in Tacoma and we went with his parents to it.  Good food and dancing!  Kids were not invited and our kids were pretty bummed not to be able to go.  Finding a babysitter on a Sunday was tricky, but being there kidless was quite relaxing.

Ben's dad loves free stuff.  As a parting gift, the bride and groom gave each guest a heart shaped bottle opener.  There were quite a few extras at our table, so Larry collected all of them to take home. 

Monday was Labor Day and we headed out to have some fun with our remaining guests.

Nana trying to help Livy walk.  She is so close!

We had some Groupon passes to The Family Fun Center in Tukwila and headed there after lunch.

The twins tried the Frog Hopper first.  Lexi loved it- Leah just thought it was ok.

Go Karts for the old men and Chloe and Mitchell!

Go Mitch and Papa!

Leah had a rough day- she was not pleased with any of the rides she got to try.  She wanted to do everything that she was not tall enough for and all of the smaller kiddie rides did not meet up to her high expectations. 

Lexi, on the other hand, was so excited and happy about everything. 

Glum and Happy, respectively 

Chloe was excited to try the trampoline.

Lexi gave it a whirl too and was thrilled!

We finally got Chloe to be brave and try some tricks. 

We are now ready for school to start (I think!)