Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Secret Cupid 2013

Our annual Secret Cupid tradition was a success this year!

Ryan received surprises such as a "heart attack" in his car, a little book of Reasons I Love You, a snack bag with study treats (he is stressing about his upcoming Board exam), a batch of delicious homemade cinnamon rolls, a silky nightgown (don't worry--that was for me to wear, not him), and his favorite dinner, chicken cordon bleu.


I got the cute printables for the snacks here.
Rachel received a clean kitchen several days in a row (I think my Cupid sometimes forgets to get me anything, so he decides to clean instead, which is just fine with me), a coupon for a free massage by Ryan, a creative game called The Race of Love (more on that in a second), and some lovely roses.


You may be wondering how Noah is holding onto the stems of a bunch of thorny roses--well, if you look closely, you may notice that these beauties are artificial.  Men are funny.  I'm not going to say anything more than that.

The roses in all their artificial glory
My Cupid is very good at coming up with fun and random games for me to play each year.  This year, I had to compete in "The Race of Love."  When I walked into our bedroom, I saw hearts taped all over the walls and furniture with reasons why I am loved written on them.  My Cupid had left detailed instructions for me to compete in the game: I had to run around the room and grab each heart, shout the reason that I am loved loudly, and stick the heart to my body.  I had to gather all the hearts in two minutes or less.  I managed to do it because I am pretty athletic like that.


Noah didn't have a full week of Cupid surprises (we will start doing that for him next year--I think he will be just the right age to be super pumped about it), but Cupid did stop by his crib and leave him a little something on Valentine's Eve.

Little Noah is sleeping soundly, totally unaware of the delight that awaits him in the A.M.
The may be the happiest Noah has ever been first thing in the morning
The balloon was three times his size
Can't wait for Cupid to visit us next year!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Grandma Barbara


Today is my Grandma Barbara's birthday.  She passed away in 1995, but during the first eleven years of my life, I was incredibly close to her, and I still think of her often.

I was recently talking to a good friend and told a story about my Grandma Barbara.  She said, "I didn't know you were close to your mom's mom.  I only hear you talk about your dad's parents."  It made me sad to realize that even my closest friends might not know about this spunky woman and how much she impacted my life.

So today's blog post is going to be long, and it might not be interesting to anyone but me and my sisters, but I want my children to know how important their Great Grandma Barbara was in my life.

I have so many memories of weekends spent in Colorado Springs with Grandma Barbara and Papa Scotty.  My mom would meet Grandma at the post office in Larkspur (halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs) and send us off for a weekend in paradise.  Grandma and Papa Scotty's house really was paradise for children.  They had the world's cutest dog (little Freddy who would jump five feet in the air in excitement when he saw us), a freezer stocked with Klondike bars, and an enormous backyard.  Her backyard was the size of a meadow, with a grassy hill, a tree swing, a hot tub, a long cement porch where we could rollarskate (even in the winter!), a babbling stream for wading, a horse pasture just across the street, and a real Native American totem pole (how random is that?).  We spent hours playing outside and pretending to be cowboys and Indians, among other creative games.
I have a vivid memory of wading in the stream behind Grandma's house on my birthday when I was probably about eight years old.  Grandma always bought us cute, preppy outfits from a shop called Chocolate Soup for our birthdays, and she didn't want me wading in my new ensemble, but I assured her that I would be careful.  Of course, I stepped into a hole and ended up flat on my face in the water.  The minute I started to fall, I knew I was in trouble.  Grandma Barbara was a feisty lady who could really give you a piece of her mind when she was upset.  I remember looking at the bank where she was standing and seeing the horror on her face.  She had a few choice words for me when I emerged covered in mud.

I have always been an overly sensitive girl who cries when I am scolded or criticized (this is not one of my finer traits), but for some reason, it never bothered me when Grandma scolded me.  That was just Grandma.  She was a passionate person with big opinions and a big personality.  I knew she loved me fiercely and would go to the ends of the earth for me if she had to.  She had a way of being firm but so loving.

During our visits in Colorado Springs, she would take us to feed the ducks at the Broadmoor Hotel, and we would play on the playground there, which had a jungle gym shaped like a train.  For some reason, the train had a big S on the front of it, and my sisters and I decided that it stood for "smoking." We would climb on top of the train and pretend to be spies, peeking down into the train  through a trap door to spy on the "bad" bandits who were smoking inside.

At night, we would sit on her bed and watch "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman" or "The Neverending Story."  I remember that she and Papa Scotty had a fancy mattress that could go up and down with a remote control, and we thought it was simply the coolest.  They also had a mini slot machine in their house, which we loved to play with pennies, and Grandma had these triangle-shaped makeup sponges in a jar in the bathroom that I loved to hold and stroke because they were so soft.  (So funny what stays with us from childhood, isn't it?)

When I was in fifth grade, Grandma was diagnosed with colon cancer and left her beautiful home in Colorado Springs to come stay with us. Papa Scotty was in poor health and was losing his memory, so he couldn't care for her.  Scotty was my step-grandpa, and he had family there in the Springs who would take care of him while we cared for Grandma.  She had come to live with us for a month when our mom had cancer a few years earlier, so now it was our turn to take care of her.

We made a banner to welcome Grandma to our home.
Even our guinea pig Muffin was excited to have her there!
It was thrilling to have her living in our home.  She was always up to make me breakfast before school--usually a poached egg, her specialty!--and she was always there to hear about my day when I got home.  Though she wasn't a member of our church, she often joined our family for scripture study in the evenings, and I loved to hear her distinctive voice reading verses from the Bible with us.

I felt so close to her, my sisters, and my parents during those months that Grandma lived with us.   I'm sure that was a stressful time for my mother, but I was largely unaware of Grandma's failing health and was just so happy to have her with us all the time.

On St. Patricks Day, I came downstairs for breakfast, and Grandma wasn't up yet.  This was really unusual, so I went to the basement door and called her name.  When I peeked down, she was slowly climbing the stairs, step by step, clinging to the railing.  She was smiling, but I could tell she didn't feel well. 

When I came home from school that day, she was sitting in the recliner in the family room, and she couldn't talk or move.  My mom had been on the phone all day with the Hospice nurses.  I remember sitting on my mom's lap and staring at my lifeless grandma, so different from the woman I had always known who was full of spunk, opinions, and energy.  I curled up into Mom's chest and cried, knowing I was going to lose my grandma very soon.

Before we went to bed that night, my sisters and I went into the family room one by one with our parents to say a special goodnight to Grandma.  I held her hand and told her that I loved her.  I thanked her for everything she had given me and taught me.  Though she couldn't respond or smile, I could tell she heard me by the flickering of her eyelids and by the peaceful feeling that came into my heart. 

The next morning, I came downstairs early.  No one was awake yet.  Grandma had been staying in the basement for the months that she lived with us, but the day before, they had put a hospital bed in the office on the main floor, so she wouldn't have to climb up and down the stairs anymore.  The door to the office was closed, and I did not open it.  I didn't want to know if Grandma was in there or not, though, in my heart, I already knew that she was gone.

I went into the family room and sat in the recliner where I had last seen her sitting.  I felt a deep ache, a mixture of loneliness and sadness that I now recognize as grief. Mom and Dad came downstairs a few minutes later and explained that Grandma had died peacefully in bed during the night and that her body had been taken to the funeral home to be cremated, as she had wanted.

I knew that Grandma would have kissed me goodbye on her way to heaven.  I imagined her spirit stopping in my room, which was right above the office, before she made her way to the peace and joy that awaited her in the next life.  This thought was so comforting to a little girl who was experiencing death for the first time.

I remember my aunts, uncles, and cousins coming to town for the funeral.  Though there were lots of tears, there was also lots of laughter as we shared memories from Grandma's life, her funny sayings, and her feisty personality.  All of the grandchildren were allowed to choose a memento from Grandma's house, something to remember her by.  I chose a little ornate clock and pillbox that I had always admired on the bureau in her bedroom.  It was on my shelf of "special things" in my bedroom throughout my teen years, and I still have it in my box of treasures from childhood.

In the years since my grandma's death, I have realized more and more what a remarkable person she was.  She was an incredibly hardworking woman who, in many ways, was "ahead of her time"--she received a college education and ran the family business, all while raising four great kids.  She has become one of my role models of a strong, capable, smart woman and mother.

But, as a young girl, I didn't know about all of her achievements and talents--I just knew that she loved me.  And that was all that mattered.

I am so grateful that my grandparents on both sides made me feel so cherished and important when I was growing up.  Their influence on who I have become is profound, and I will always honor and love them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Laura

Me and my little sis
Today is my little sister Laura's birthday, and you know what that means...BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE!

A word about the birthday tributes: A few months ago, I was thinking about my life and feeling so grateful.  I kept thinking about how blessed I am to have such incredible family and friends--they are what make my life so rich and so special.  I had the idea that I could write a personal history, not about me specifically, but rather about the people who have made me who I am.  The idea came to me that, during 2013, I could write a birthday tribute on my blog for each of the people whom I love, and then I could bind them all in a book at the end of the year as a "personal history" to pass on to my children.

When I sat down and made a list of people whom I wanted to write about, I realized that I could not possibly write a tribute to all of the people whom I love.  I love a lot of people.  So I decided that, for now, I would limit this endeavor to family members (which is still a lot of people!).  I know these posts might not be interesting to everyone, but I hope they are meaningful to the people I am writing about--and I hope they will be meaningful to my children.  Most of all, writing these posts has been meaningful for me, as it has given me a chance to reflect on my life and put down in words how much I love these remarkable family members of mine.  I am truly so blessed.

As I flipped through my mom's photo albums to gather pictures for all of these posts, I kept coming across photos of me and my sisters that made me smile.  That became the inspiration for today's birthday tribute to my little Laura (who is not so little anymore--how can she possibly be 26 years old??). 

This photo was taken on the day that Laura was born (or maybe a few days later when she came home from the hospital).  Don't I look a little bit thrilled to have a baby sister? 


I still feel that way when I think about my little sister.  She makes me happy--always has.  Last year, I wrote a sentimental post on her birthday about how she has always made me feel loved and needed. (She really has a talent for making people feel that way.) This year, I thought I would keep things a bit lighter and focus on another aspect of our relationship: how much fun we have together.  

Laura has always been my favorite playmate, and as kids we spent hours playing dress up and coming up with fantasies and games together.  I have no memories of us ever fighting.  I'm sure it happened on occasion, but we were genuinely great friends and always got along very well.  Our bedrooms were connected by a "jack-and-jill" bathroom, and after Mom would put us to bed, we would sneak into each other's rooms to giggle or we would communicate in our "secret language" by whistling at each other through the darkness.  Childhood with Laura was fun.

Dressed up in Dad's pjs and Mom's bathrobe and turban from her cancer treatments
I made Laura a castle from a refrigerator box for her birthday

Goofballs
Our silliness continued into the teen years. I have memories of driving her home from school when I was a senior in high school and she was a freshman, and we would find a radio station playing classical orchestra and dramatically conduct the music, flailing our arms around and singing opera.  We would also honk at people who were walking their dogs and wave enthusiastically with huge grins on our faces so they would think that they knew us and wave back.  (For some reason, we thought this was just hilarious.)  I remember  whacking each other with our shopping bags when we went to the mall together, laughing like little kids though we were both teenagers.

Now that we are both sophisticated young women, we have totally outgrown our silliness.  We never act immature together.  Ever. 



I love my little sis and am so grateful for the joy and fun she has brought to my life.  I hope we spend many more decades being immature and laughing together.  

Love you, Laury!  Happy birthday!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cranky Cupid

Last year, my older sister did a Valentine's photo shoot with Noah.  Remember how cute the pictures turned out??  He was a little cherub for the camera.



We thought maybe we could recreate the magic this year.

We should've known better.  Turns out that six-month-olds are generally much more cooperative for photo shoots than eighteen-month-olds.

When we first sat Noah down in front of the Valentine's backdrop, he was a little angry.  "Why are you making me sit here when I want to be flying this toy jet around the room?"


His anger quickly morphed into full-on rage.


I didn't realize that men started loathing Valentine's Day at such a young age.

The only way we could get Noah to calm down was to recruit his cousin Callum to come make silly faces behind us.  Finally, we seemed to be getting somewhere.


We asked Callum to sit in the chair and show Noah how to smile like a big boy.  Though not appropriately clothed for a photo shoot (well, maybe it would've worked in October), Cal cheerfully climbed into the chair and yelled, "Cheese!!" for the camera.  


Noah was not impressed.


Oh dear.  

So we took a break and let the boys play, thinking that might cheer up our Crabby Cupid.


But alas, when we went out on the front porch to try again, Noah started crying as soon as he saw the camera.  I tried my best to cheer him up...


 but despite my best efforts, he still wanted to smack me in the face.


He didn't actually hit me, but it sure looks like he was thinking about it!

We finally got him calmed down enough to snap a few sweet pictures (which were included in yesterday's post about my Little Valentine).  And this is my favorite shot of the day:  


We tried to get one for Drew, but Noah had reached his limit.  This may look like a half-smile, but his eyes were brimming with tears again, and two seconds after the photo was taken, he burst into hysterical screaming, and the photo shoot was officially over.


I love that Cranky Cupid!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To My Little Valentine


*I love the feeling of your chubby little hand in mine, dimpled and soft and a perfect fit, as you cling to my index finger and toddle along beside me.

*I love hearing you say, "Buh-bye, ba-loons!" when I insist that you leave them behind at the grocery store.  Resigned, you wave at them over my shoulder as I carry you out to the car.

*I love when you sing along with me at bedtime.  This is your newest skill, and it makes me smile every time I hear you sing "Boom and go! Boom and go!" (your version of "bloom and grow") when we get to that line in "Edelweiss."  You don't know every single word of the song yet, but you pretend to as you wail out gibberish to fill in the spots that you aren't sure about.

*I love when you actually comply when I ask, "Can I have a nuzzle?"  You smash your face up close to mine and joyously move your head back and forth so our noses are rubbing.  It ends up being more of a violent show of affection than a tender one, but it is my favorite.

*I love the ridiculous petnames that somehow pop out of my mouth when I am talking to you.  "Pumpkin" has become "Pumpkin Pie." "Peanut" has become "Peanut Buster Parfait." "Bug" has become "Bug-a-boo." But the most common name I call you is simply "Baby."  You're not such a little guy anymore, but you will be my Baby forever.

*I love when you are excited about something and you shout, "Yay!"  "Buttons, yay!"  "Toys, yay!"  "Callum, yay!"  "Cancakes, yay!"

*I love that you have learned the word "cute" (probably from hearing it so much from me!).  Earlier this week, you walked up to me and proudly said, "I cute!" Yes, you are!

*I love when you call me or your dad by our first names.  It makes me laugh every time, and when you sometimes shout "Ryan? Ryan?" as you look around the apartment for Daddy after he's left for work, I think I might die from the cuteness.

*I love when you count to ten, randomly skipping numbers here and there, and always ending with an exuberant "Firteen!"

*I love that you are learning to pray.  You fold your little hands in front of you and tuck your head down, as if to bow it--but you keep your eyes wide open.  I swear, you don't even blink.

*I love when you get jealous when Dad comes home from work and hugs and kisses me first.  When you see us with our arms wrapped around each other, you shriek in envy and run over to hug Daddy's legs until he picks you up so you can join in.

*I love those precious moments when I look at you and my heart swells and I just feel inexpressibly grateful.  It happened the other night as Daddy carried you out of our friends' house where you had fallen asleep while they babysat you.  You were all wrapped up in a blanket, and you looked over Dad's shoulder, groggy eyed and confused, your wild hair going in a million different directions.  When you spotted me walking a few steps behind admiring you, you grinned sleepily and held my gaze.  Can a heart explode from happiness?

I love you, my little pumpkin pie, peanut buster parfait, bug-a-boo, sweet Noah boy.  I have said it before, and I will say it again: I never knew love like this until I became your mother.  I am sorry for the days that I am impatient or distracted.  I am not perfect, but I am your mama--

And I could not possibly love you any more than I do.

_____

I wrote today's article on The Power of Moms about writing love letters (or love lists, like this one) to your children as a Valentine's tradition, so I thought I better do it myself!  It is really rewarding to sit down and strip away all of the craziness of being a mom to focus solely on the moments you love with your kids.  I hope you will try it!

I also want to say that I am sorry if reading about these beautiful moments is painful for those women who are struggling with infertility or waiting to be chosen by a birthmom.  I remember the loneliness of that place, and I don't want to be insensitive to those of you who are hurting.  I know your miracle will happen--hopefully very soon!--and I know that your joy will be "as exceeding as was [your] pain."  In the meantime, hang in there, and please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you always.

And to Katie and Drew--I love you.  Whenever I write these love letters, I think of you and how this joy would not have been possible without you.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Love to all of my friends and family!  Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Grampy

Today is my Grampy's 84th birthday.  I can't believe how old he is.  He used to say that he was going to kick the bucket at 85, but I think we've convinced him that he needs to stick around for a few more years.  I don't know what we would do without him.

I have always been my grandpa's "Rachy Baby."  This is a nickname he gave me as a kid, and it is my absolute favorite.  Whenever I call my grandparents' home and Grampy answers, he says, "Rachy Baby!" with such delight in his voice.  It makes me feel like a million bucks.

In fact, my grandpa always makes me feel like a million bucks.  He has a special gift for making me feel like the smartest, most talented, most special girl in the world--especially when I am down or discouraged about something.  When I think of Grampy, I think of unconditional love.  I also think of safety.  He is steady and strong.  I remember snuggling up to his side as a little girl and feeling so safe with my head on his shoulder and his arm around me.  I still feel that way when I am around him.

Grampy also makes me laugh.  He has these funny expressions and sayings that are just so Grandpa.  A few years ago, I went on a roadtrip with him and Granny to California.  We stopped to pick strawberries at a berry farm, and Grampy insisted that we only pick the really red ones, even though Grandma protested that they were too ripe.  Well, by the time we got to our condo a few hours later, the berries were complete mush.  Grammy said, "See, Jack!  I told you those strawberries were too ripe--but you just insisted that you knew what you were doing!"  His response still makes me laugh every time I think about it: "Elaine, next time I act like I know what I am doing and you know that I don't, just say to me, 'Drop dead, you mangy old coot!'" Hahaha.  Love that old man.  My friends have always loved hanging out with my grandparents because they have this kind of spunky sense-of-humor.  They really are a riot to be around.

Grampy is a deeply religious man, and he has taught us by his example to love God and to devote our lives to Him.  Every holiday, before the big family meal, Grampy will shout, "All who hungry, say 'Aww so!'" And we will all shout, "Aww so!" back at him.  (I have no idea what this means or where this came from, but it is a definitely a Grampy tradition.)  Then we all settle around the big table, and Grandpa bows his head to say a long, heartfelt prayer of gratitude.  One of the phrases I can always remember him saying from the time I was a little girl is "for the bounties of life, we give Thee thanks..."  I know that Grandpa feels richly blessed and has always been able to recognize the bounties of life, even when he faced great trials.

Grampy grew up during the Great Depression, and he has taught me the value of hard work, frugal living, and self-reliance.  When we were kids and had sleepovers at our grandparents', we always looked forward to pouring ourselves a big bowl of sugary cereal in the morning (Lucky Charms were our favorite!).  But Grampy's famous saying is, "Take what you want, but don't waste!"  We had to eat every bite of that cereal because he would not throw anything away.  He even requested that we drink the milk in our bowls when we were done.  Through his example, he has taught me to be grateful for my blessings and to be careful with my resources.

It has been so fun to live close to my grandparents these past two years and to attend the same church service every Sunday.  It's just like old times sitting next to Grammy and Grampy in church again--we were in the same congregation when I was young, until my family moved to a different part of Denver when I was eight.  I remember as a little girl listening to Grammy's voice singing the alto line in the hymns (I still credit her with my ability to hear the harmony line so easily), and I remember playing tic-tac-toe and the "dot game" with Grampy, our scribblings marking up the paper program that listed the order of the service.  Now that I am an adult, I've noticed how Grammy and Grampy reach out to others in the church community, particularly those who are new or who are sitting alone.  Though Grampy is actually quiet and reserved by nature, and he doesn't much like small talk, he is so friendly and welcoming to those at church who may need a friend.  Week after week, he makes a point to notice those who are alone and reach out to them.  I really admire this, and it is something that I hadn't known about him until we started attending their church congregation after we moved back to Colorado from Buffalo.  Amazing that after all of these years, I am still finding new things to admire about my grandparents.

Finally, it has been incredible to watch Grampy and Granny with my son.  They are so good with him, and he absolutely adores them.  Noah is very attached to me and Ryan and rarely wants to go to anyone else unless he's had a few minutes to "warm up," but whenever he sees Grampy, he immediately reaches for him and wants to be held.  He must sense in Grandpa what I have always sensed--that goodness, strength, and unconditional love. Granny and Grampy are Noah's #1 babysitters, and though he usually cries for a few minutes when we leave him with anyone else, he never even notices when we leave him with my grandparents.  He has a grand old time playing cars wtih Granny (she gets down on the floor with him and crawls around!) and climbing up into Grampy's recliner to sit on his lap (he always tempts him with delicacies like Ritz crackers and Doritos). I love seeing the three of them together. 

Words simply cannot express the impact that my Grandpa has had on my life.  I love that I am his Rachy Baby, and always will be, and I feel immeasurably blessed that I have had such a good and strong role model in my life to love and teach me.
Grampy watching my new walking skills on my 1st birthday
Grampy with me (and Sarah) at the party
Granny and Grampy with Noah at his 1st birthday party, just over 28 years later
Happy Birthday, you mangy old coot!  I love you more than words can say, and I will never be able to thank you for everything you have done for me.