Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The last several months...

I have been sick.  Really sick.

I have always been someone who believes that people should be able to express what they are feeling and experiencing, even if those things aren't rosy.  I want people to know that they can be real with me.  When I was struggling with infertility, I think many of my friends were hesitant to tell me about how difficult pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding can be, and I appreciated their sensitivity, but I always encouraged them to be honest with me.  "It's okay to acknowledge that it's super hard," I would tell them.  "It doesn't mean that you aren't grateful!"

I'm glad I've always had that attitude because now I find myself in the position that many of them were in back then--struggling with being pregnant.  And I do feel guilty about that much of the time.  How dare I utter a word of complaint when we waited so long for this and so many others would love to have this blessing but cannot?

And yet, I am reminded of what I told those friends: Just because it's hard doesn't mean I'm not grateful.  Because I am grateful--soooo grateful--to have this little life growing inside of me. That doesn't mean I have to bask in every moment that I am too nauseated and fatigued to take care of my toddler or myself.  My inability to function these past few months has made me feel pretty depressed at times, even though I know it's for the best cause imaginable and I know how blessed I am.

I must say that things have gotten noticeably better this past week or so.  I'm 17 weeks pregnant tomorrow, and I can actually stomach some food now and occasionally get something done on my to-do list.  I still don't feel like going out and running a marathon (or even walking a mile, for that matter), but most days I feel like I can take care of my son again, which is a huge step in the right direction.  I don't think I will ever be able to watch the animated film Robin Hood again because even hearing the intro music makes me feel overwhelming guilt and inadequacy because Noah watched it so many times while I was too sick to interact with him much during the day.

It's hard for me to just lie down and not "accomplish" anything, especially for months at a time.  I am by nature a do-er, and staying busy makes me happy.  But in some ways, these four months of feeling awful have been a gift because they've shown me that the world goes on turning, whether I am "accomplishing" anything or not.  Not sure how the laundry got done, or what we ate for dinner, or how the house didn't collapse under the mess of our existence--but somehow, we survived.  I did nothing "extra"--no projects, or hobbies, or service to others--and sometimes that made me feel quite useless, but life went on.

(And as a side note, remember that blog post with my ambitious Secret Cupid ideas from a few weeks ago?  Building snowmen?  Researching date ideas?  Cleaning off the overflowing table in our room and filing months of bills and important mail? What was I thinking??  None of that happened!  I did write Ryan a card, though--pretty impressive, huh?)

A friend of mine wisely told me recently, "As frustrating as it is, try not to be down on yourself about the unproductivity: in reality, your body is making a human being, complete with an entire set of functioning organs, a skeleton, a nervous system...you've actually never accomplished more in such a short period of time in your entire life."  So true, and this brought me a lot of perspective and peace!

I wish I could say that I have dealt with this trial gracefully.  I haven't.  I am a baby when it comes to not feeling well, and I sent lots of dramatic texts to my sisters and girlfriends.  I felt sorry for myself and felt mad at Ryan because he can't read my mind or understand perfectly what I'm going through.  I didn't turn to God enough.  I felt a little alone when people would ask me how I was feeling, and I would tell them the truth, and they would shrug it off or say "Well that's pregnancy!" and move on with the conversation.  I'm sure I have done that many times to pregnant friends in the past (if I even thought to ask how they were feeling), but I've learned from my experience that I want to respond with more empathy in the future.  I am so thankful for the many friends and family who were a listening ear when I needed to vent about how terrible and desperate I felt and who didn't tell me to "just be grateful" (because, really, I am grateful!!!).  I'm thankful for the texts and phone calls just to check in and tell me they were thinking about me.  I'm thankful for the friend who dropped off a meal, and for my mother-in-law who came to help with Noah and make dinner one afternoon, and to my aunt who came and stayed the night.  I have some truly amazing people in my life.

A friend who suffered debilitating nausea herself during pregnancy recently sent me this scripture, and it has given me comfort over the past few weeks: "As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all." Ecclesiastes 11:5

I hope that the worst of this trial is over, but if it's not, I hope I can adjust my attitude a little and have more faith--remember that God is aware of me and is carrying me.  As I did when things were hard when I was going through IVF, I've been keeping a gratitude journal through all of this.  Noticing and writing down a "magic moment" that I share with Noah every day really helps me focus on my blessings--and reminds me that all of this will be worth it in the end.  Motherhood is awesome, and kids are resilient, even when they watch Robin Hood on repeat for several weeks. (And even if their behavior suffers a bit because their mother is too sick to be very consistent with discipline and routine.)  I plan to share some of the "motherhood is worth it" moments that I've had these past few months in an upcoming blog post or two about Noah...as soon as I get the energy to start blogging consistently again and to get our computer with all of our photos on it fixed.  For now, I'm just taking it one day at a time.

The best news is, in two weeks, I get to find out if this little person inside of me is a boy or a girl and see his/her face for the first time.  And maybe I will feel a tiny kick by then?  And maybe I will have a little baby bump by then?  My friends all tell me that the fun stuff is just around the corner, and I simply can't wait.  There was a time when I thought I would never get the chance to experience pregnancy--the highs as well as the lows.  I am very, very grateful.

Life is good, God is good, motherhood is good, and yes, pregnancy is good--even when it's hard.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Secret Cupid 101 (Ideas to Surprise Your Valentine!)

I've written on this blog before about my family's tradition of doing "Secret Cupids" during the week before Valentines Day.  Basically, every day we leave each other a little surprise from "SC" (Secret Cupid, not Santa Claus!)  This has become a really fun thing for me to do for Ryan every year.  He usually does it back for me as well, although this isn't as much his type of "thing," and some days he forgets, which I've decided I am okay with.  In the early days of our marriage, I'm sure I pouted when he forgot to do Cupid for a few days, but now that I am much more mature (eh hem, realistic and possibly resigned?), I've realized that it makes me super happy to surprise him, and that is enough.

Once our kids are a little older, we will do Secret Cupids with them like my mom did with us (that's how the tradition started)--but even then, I think I will do a separate thing for Ryan.  It's just exciting to spoil him once in a while!  I'm not generally a cutesty wife (honestly, I can barely keep our kid clothed and fed and the house picked up on most days), but every now and then I love to put in a bit more effort to show Ryan just how much I love and appreciate him.

Because tomorrow is the first day of Secret Cupid Week, I spent some time today thinking of ideas and also looking online for ideas (googled stuff like "Valentines gifts," "surprises for spouse," etc), and I compiled a list.  I thought I would post it here so I can reference it in future years, and also so if any of you are wanting to start a tradition like this, you'll have a jumping off point.  Don't worry...I already made Ryan promise that he wouldn't read this blog post and spoil his surprises (and if you are reading this right now, Ryan Matthew Nielson, you better stop immediately, OR ELSE!!!!).  To anyone else reading this post, read on, and please let me know if you have any other ideas for Valentines surprises in the comments!!

Here's a list of ideas for surprising your spouse, in no particular order.  Some of these ideas are fairly pricey, so you may have to spread them out over the years, but some of these ideas are totally free, which is always a plus.  Also, I fully admit that these ideas are super corny...but hey, sometimes you have to embrace corny in the name of love!  So here goes:

-Send him a text every hour of the day while he is at work, telling him something that you love about him.

-Mail him a Valentine to his work or to your home (or just slip one in the mailbox so he will find it amongst the bills).

-Create a little Videogram with the kids (something like, "Why we love Daddy" and email it to him at work).  You could also just do this with a photo of you and the kids holding a sign.

-Print photos of you two together--possibly from your dating days--and put them all over the refrigerator.  I did this one year, and then the next day Ryan added little construction paper thought/speech bubbles that were hilarious and made my day.

-Sign him up for a class about something he's interested in (art, photography, cooking)--or better yet, take the class together.

-Think about something he's currently struggling with and do something about it.  Ryan is having some back pain right now due to his long hours leaning over the dental chair, so I researched the best heating pads and ordered him a good one.  I also made appointments for us to get massages on his day off next week.  (I figured he might not be willing to go into a spa without me, so I get to have a massage too.  Score!  Super excited about this!!)

-Order a custom painting of your family, your home, or another place that is special to you as a couple. Lots of artists on Etsy have beautiful, original work.  I am kind of obsessed with this seller's cute artwork, and I would love to someday order several of her paintings as a series to display in our home--each of the LDS temple in all of the places that Ryan and I have lived.  Wouldn't that be awesome?

-Leave loving notes for him all over the house--on the bathroom mirror in a dry erase marker or lipstick, on the milk carton in the refrigerator with a permanent marker, in his car on a big paper heart on the steering wheel...you get the picture.

-A similar idea: "Heart attack" his car or his office door by taping construction paper hearts all over with loving notes written on them.  (It would be fun to have the kids help with this.)

-Build snowmen that look like the two of you in the front yard.  Use your own accessories so he's sure to know who the snowmen are. (Hahaha, I am giggling just thinking about a snowman wearing Ryan's ski hat and a snowwoman wearing one of my scarves!)  The snow couple could even be holding hands or holding a sign with a loving message.  Awww!  This idea just came to me as I was writing this post, and I think I may have to do it this week.

-Make some sort of photo album for him.  Lots of online services like Shutterfly have deals this time of year, and these programs are easy and fast to use with a  really professional final product.

-Do an act of service for him.  Clean the whole house, or the garage, or the refrigerator.  Is there a particular chore that you know he's been wanting to get done but hasn't?  Do it for him.  Is there something that bugs him about the house that you can take care of?  Ryan is not a huge fan of the messy card table that I currently have in our bedroom--it is overflowing with papers to be filed and stuff that I need to get organized, and it really is an eye sore that gets in our way.  I decided that I am going to sort all of my papers and get the card table out of our room next week as one of his "Cupid" gifts.

 -Plan a weekend get-away somewhere fun.  You can actually take the get-away during Valentines Week, or just get it all planned and scheduled and give him a coupon/itinerary.

-Leave a message in the snow outside the bedroom window.  Ryan did this for me one year.  He stomped "SC Loves You" in big letters, and I saw it out the window first thing in the morning.  I thought it was adorable.

-Send him to do something fun with his buddies--basketball game tickets, skiing, whatever.

-Plan some sort of sexy surprise.  Last year, I bought myself a new silky nightgown (because, let's face it, the ones I got for my wedding are WAY too small now, and I had never gotten any since).  I left it on the bed before I went to a book club with a note that said, "I hope you will wait up for me." ;)  Let's just say, he did!  (TMI???  Sorry, Dad, if you're reading this!!)  You can also just do something as simple as hang white twinkle lights on the headboard of your bed or light a candle and put on music...something romantic and different that will surprise him.

-Make his favorite dinner.  You could even put out Valentines place settings to go along with it.

-Have his favorite breakfast treat ready for him first thing in the morning--a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls, a box of his favorite donuts, homemade muffins...whatever.  If you are really ambitious, you could get/make enough for him to take to work and feed his coworkers.

-Buy a new board game and invite some favorite friends over to play it with you guys.

-Surprise him at work for a lunch date.  Or if his work isn't the type of setting where a surprise is really possible, schedule it with him in advance.  (You could also be sneaky and let his secretary or boss in on the plan, so they will make him think he has a meeting, or a conference call, or a patient to see...then you will show up instead.)

-Give him a candygram with clever messages spelled out with candybars.  Ryan did this for me one year, and even included Pepto Bismuth as part of the love note...random! :)

And I did something similar for him with "study treats" on the year he was cramming for his Board exams.  I think I got the printables from Pinterest or something.  I certainly don't know how to make a cutesy printable myself.

-Plan a scavenger hunt around town, possibly featuring some of the memories from when you were dating or throughout your years of marriage.  This doesn't have to be super complicated.  I think I am going to do this for Ryan as our actual Valentines Day night date next week--and we will just look for Fun Dips and Jones Sodas at the grocery store (reminiscent of our first date), go ice skating (reminiscent of our second date), go get some kissing pics in a photo booth at the mall (reminiscent of later dates), and possibly go to dinner at a restaurant that we loved (and still love) when we were in college.

-Go somewhere together that is special or meaningful to both of you.  I thought about taking Ryan to the temple this week.

-Make or buy a favorite treat (homemade bread, fresh chocolate chip cookies, specialty candy) and have it waiting when he gets home from work...or drop it off at his work mid-day.

-Fill your bedroom with helium balloons, possibly with love notes or photos attached to the strings.

-Think of something that would improve your marriage and make it happen.  I've noticed lately that Ryan and I go on extremely boring dates.  We like to go out together when we can, but it's almost always dinner or a movie, and sometimes we just don't have a lot to talk about other than Noah and work.  I know there are a gazillion fun date ideas online, but honestly, who has time to look up date ideas online??  Well, I am going to make time this week.  As one of Ryan's Cupid gifts, I am going to spend an hour researching fun date ideas.  I will either make a list of at least one we can do every month this next year, or I will make a huge list to read to Ryan, and he can help me decide what sounds fun.  (I will report back if I get an stellar date ideas that need to be shared.)

-Do something that he loves together--watch a football game with him, go hunting with him, do an art project with him.

-Use one of your talents to do something special for him.  If you are an artist, paint him a picture.  If you are a writer, write him a poem or a love letter or a narrative about your marriage.  (I did this once as an anniversary gift.)  If you are a musician, write him a song, or sing him a favorite love song, or serenade him with your guitar.

-Take him on a random outing in your town--something that you have never done before and might never do without an occasion.  I've found that one of the best places to discover these random outings is from Groupon, Living Social, or coupon mailers.  Take a chance and try something different...it might end up being a bust, but at least it will be an adventure and something to laugh about in future years.  A few years ago, I got a coupon in the mail for a Russian bathhouse near our house.  I decided to live on the wild side and book an appointment for me and Ry for Valentines Day.  It ended up being one of our most memorable, hilarious, and random dates ever.  You can read the full report here.  (I still laugh when I read that post and remember that night.)

-Get him a gift!  Not super original, but is there something he's been wanting but has been too frugal to buy?  Or is there something you think he needs that he probably wouldn't think of?  Buy it for him.

-Steal his car from the parking lot at work and take it to the car wash.  Vacuum it out and Windex the dashboard etc.  Fill it up with gas.  Leave a love note on the seat.

Wow...that list took a lot longer to write up than I thought!  I really hope someone out there uses some of these ideas--please let me know if you do!  It doesn't have to be for Valentines...it could be for anniversaries or birthdays or just an average day when you want to show your spouse a little extra love.

If you want to start a Secret Cupid tradition, you can start Friday the 7th so it will last the entire week, but you don't have to.  You can start whenever is convenient for you, and I'm sure your hubby (or wife for that matter, in the highly unlikely event that a man is reading this post) will be thrilled to be spoiled, even for a day or two.   If you want to see the several posts that I've written on this blog about Secret Cupid in the past, click here. More fun ideas are included in those posts, but they were pretty specific to me and Ryan so I didn't include them in this generalized list.

And if you want to do Secret Cupid with your entire family like my mom did (it really is a super fun tradition with kids), click on this link and head over to my sister's blog where she has outlined how the whole thing works.

As I was compiling the ideas for this post and thinking back on former Valentines Days, I remembered a hilarious story from my teaching days that I have to share.  One February 14th, Ryan gave me a glow-in-the-dark necklace with a note saying that I could wear it on our sledding date that night.  He was going to take me to a famous sled hill near Buffalo, NY for an evening adventure.  Well, when my high school students asked what Ryan had given me for Valentines Day, I said, totally innocently, "He gave me a glow-in-the-dark necklace. He said I'm going to need it tonight."  It wasn't until they all burst out laughing that I realized how bad that sounded.  "TO GO SLEDDING!!!!  TO GO SLEDDING AT CHESNUT RIDGE, YOU GUYS!" I yelled over the mayhem.

"Suuuuuure..." they all teased.

I hope you all have a spicy and romantic and fun Valentines Week, and I hope this list of ideas makes that just a little easier! :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Latest on Noah

It's been several months since I've written an update about Mr. Noah, but I've been keeping notes in my phone and have compiled quite a list.  (Am I ever going to be able to keep this up when Baby #2 arrives??)  First of all, is he the cutest ever, or what??  My sister-in-law snapped some darling photos of him in his Christmas outfit, and I love them.

Here are some of the fun things Noah has been saying and doing lately (with some fun photos mixed in...some corresponding with the stories, some not):

A few months ago, my sister sent Noah a care package which included a little yellow VW bug.  He and Ryan named the car "Sherman," and Noah is in love with it. (As a side note, Ryan and Noah have a thing for alliterative names...Sherman the Slugbug, Daryl the Dog, Harvey the Heater, Vince the Vacuum...you get the idea.)  Now Noah spots VWs all over town and always shouts, "Look, Mom!  It's a Sherman!" Sometimes he even convinces me to stop so he can get his photo taken. :) I must admit, I notice VWs everywhere I go now...I've never realized how many people own them!

Noah has taken to big-time dawdling when we are putting him to bed.  After we tuck him in, he will often say, "Wait, Dad, I'm thinking about something!" And when we ask, "What?" he says, "Ummmm..." and comes up with something--anything--to try to delay bedtime.  Kind of infuriating but I can't deny that the kid is clever.

Noah's favorite plaything over the past few months has been a big box.  First, he and I made it into a car.  About a week later, he and Ryan turned it into a bus.  After the bus collapsed, he flipped it over and made it into a tunnel for his trains.  I remember doing similar things with my sisters as a kid.  And has anyone else read the children's book Kristina Katerina and the Box?  Pretty great.

Noah recently picked up the phrase "my whole life" from somewhere.  I'm sure he doesn't really know what it means, but it makes me laugh whenever he says it.  The other day, he asked for a sandwich, and I told him he needed to wait a bit longer until lunchtime, and he said, "But Mom!  I've been waiting my whole life for a sandwich!!"  Hahaha.

A few months ago, Noah started taking off his shoes and socks during church service.  He's never been a kid who strips off his socks at any opportunity, so I asked, a little confused, "What are you doing, Noah?"  He responded matter-of-factly, "Oh, just looking for toe-jam."  Well, whatever keeps you busy and quiet, kid!  (You can always count on the Nielsons to keep things classy!)

Noah has always been a bit of a tough sleeper, but this has improved since I got him a special clock about a year ago that turns green when it's "okay to wake."  It took some training and teaching to get him to respond to the clock, but he now sleeps until at least 7:00 a.m. because he knows it's not time to get up until the light turns green, and he doesn't freak out during naptime when he wakes up a little early because he knows the clock will turn green soon.  He used to always wake up screeching and hollering; now he wakes up and just plays a little, and then I will hear his cute voice over the monitor saying, "Mommy, Daddy!  The light turned green!"  So much more pleasant than a blood curdling shriek!

Speaking of waking up, Ryan usually gets him out of bed in the morning and lets him watch while he shaves and gets ready for work.  Noah loves this Daddy time, and I love that I get to sleep in a little later!  A few weeks ago, Noah decided he'd rather climb into bed with me, and I awoke to his little face inches from mine saying, "You are very special, Mommy.  You are very special."  He was patting my arm lovingly as he said it.  I about died.

Noah hates it when Ryan leaves for work and often says, "Oh, Daddy, please don't go!  We'll eat you up we love you so!"  (Thank you, Where the Wild Things Are!)  When Ryan is home, Noah wants to know where he is at all times because he misses him during the day.

I love how he often sticks his finger in the air while he's talking to punctuate his point.  Cracks me up.  When we were visiting my family last month for Christmas, Noah came into the room where the adults were, stuck his finger in the air, and announced, "I just pushed Jade off the couch!"  He was so matter-of-fact about it that I couldn't help but burst out laughing.  I then made him go apologize to his cousin.

In spite of all of these cute stories, I must admit that life with Noah is not all fun and games.  He is a normal two-year-old and can be very stubborn and very whiny.  I'd say he has gotten much harder in the past two months, and I try every day to stay patient with tantrums, fits, and bossing.  This is a new habit of his: he tries to boss me and Ryan around and demand things.  He's been an only child too long and needs a sibling!  (Working on it!)  He is a very picky eater and also goes stark raving mad if his food isn't just the way he wants it (for example, if a little bit of jelly is squeezing out of his sandwich or the cracker that he is eating is slightly broken).  He has also taken to throwing himself on the floor and screaming, "BUT WHY?!?!?!" when he doesn't get his way.  I will admit, sometimes the kid drives me absolutely bonkers!!

Being a mom is hard work!  I sometimes question my mothering, vacillating between wondering if I am too tough with him or not tough enough. But at the end of the day, I am doing my best, and I love him, and that's really all I can expect of myself, right?

Here's to an exciting, frustrating, awesome, turbulent, love-filled 2014 with my cutest Mr. Noah Man!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

San Diego!

After spending a few days in Denver with my family, we headed to sunny San Diego to see my sister and her hubby.  They were expecting a baby in a couple of weeks so they couldn't travel for the holidays--but it was sure fun to go to them instead and escape the gray, cloudy winter for a few days in paradise!

We walked on the Coronado beach and marveled at the golden sand, went paddle boating in the bay, went to Sea World for a day and loved the aquariums and shows, and watched the sunset over the ocean.  Perfection.

Noah loved spending time with his aunt and uncle.  They even watched him one night while Ryan and I went on our 8th wedding anniversary date.  Ryan and I went to dinner at an outdoor restaurant overlooking La Jolla Cove (very romantic!), and Sam, Laura and Noah went to the park and to see the Christmas lights at the San Diego temple.  Apparently while Sam was pushing Noah on the swings at the park, Noah scolded him, "That's too high, Sam!  You have to be careful!  You have to be careful with me!" :)  Sam must've really been pushing with vigor because Noah usually shouts at me, "Higher! Higher!  Faster!  Faster!" Apparently uncles are less cautious than moms, which is what makes them more fun!!

It was a very fun couple of days, and we wish we lived closer to Laura and Sam (and their new baby, Luke...more on him in another post!).  We also wouldn't mind living in a place that is 75 degrees year round, but for now, I guess we'll stick with good ol' Idaho.

My Uncles, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about my uncles on my dad's side.  Today I write about my three uncles on my mom's side: Her brother, John, and her brothers-in-law, Mark and Steve.

My Uncle John is super smart and a very successful businessman.  He graduated from Harvard Business School and has run multiple huge companies and organizations.  But he is such a softie when it comes to babies. Ha!  When we were growing up, he started calling us "Sa-wa," "Wachel," and "Lo-wa," and he still does today.  Too cute.  I have a vivid memory of one Christmas morning when Laura was about five years old, and my dad accidentally gave her night-time allergy medicine instead of the non-drowsy kind.  She was so dazed, and Uncle John held her on his lap for hours and helped her open her presents.  I think he loved the snuggles. ;)  As we have become mothers, he has continued to love on our babies, especially my nephew Callum, who lived down the street from Uncle John and Aunt Muriel for the first two years of his life.  Uncle John visited him on his first day of life (pictured below).  Sweetest!

My mom really loved her big brother, and he came to visit her shortly before she passed away.  I remember her just clinging to him when she said goodbye--it was pretty heartbreaking to watch.  Uncle John asked to speak at my mom's funeral service, and I know my mom would've been so thrilled and touched by that.  He shared memories from when she was a little girl and he was the cool big brother, and he spoke about her strength and courage during her long battle with cancer.  He said that when he was running a difficult triathlon, he thought of my mom and was able to push over one more hill and tackle one more obstacle because of her example.

My mom's older sister, Dana, is married to a wonderful man named Mark.  He is a scientist who has spent his lifetime studying, researching, and advocating for the protection of birds of prey, such as the peregrine falcon.  Due to the nature of his work, he has traveled to dozens of countries all over the world, and he knows so much about so many places and peoples.   Maybe this is why he is so open-minded and so very kind--he has gotten to know and love people in many circumstances and cultures.  I think Uncle Mark could talk easily with anyone.  He is a great listener, and he sees the best in people and makes them feel comfortable around him.  Ryan can be quiet when he's around people he doesn't know very well, but even when Ryan and I were first dating, Mark could get Ryan talking because he is genuinely interested in him and asks great questions about his career, his aspirations, and his hobbies.

Uncle Mark and Aunt Dana live in Boise, and it has been so fun to live just two hours from them these past few years.  I have loved seeing Mark interact with my kids.  He has the same interest in children as he does in adults--wanting to get to know them and bring out the best in them.  He is so patient and kind with Noah, and he will get down on the floor and play with him.  He notices and remembers Noah's talents and interests, and he loves how inquisitive Noah is.  Mark will talk to Noah about many subjects--last time Mark and Dana were at our home, he told Noah about various countries on the light-up globe in the bedroom. ;) Noah talked about it for days!

My Uncle Steve is married to my mom's younger sister, Beth.  Steve is crazy fun--a total tease--and you do not stop laughing when he is around. When we were young, he would organize family games of Knock-Out in the driveway on Thanksgiving and he would trash-talk all of us, so we would all gang up on him and cheat so that he could never win.  He used to try to act like a chauvinist to his wife, saying things like, "Woman, bring me my coffee!" just to get a rise out of us three Westover girls who would lay into him and lecture him and he would laugh and laugh.  (And my Aunt Beth would just roll her eyes.)  We had a tradition of going to Marie Calendars to get pies for holidays.  Steve would drive us in his pick-up truck, and we could never decide on flavors, so we would come home with five pies and gorge ourselves.

And speaking of his pick-up truck, Steve prides himself on being a redneck from Grand Junction, and he wears outrageous shirts like, "PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals." Ha!  When we were teenagers, he took the three of us girls on a date to the movies and insisted on wearing his ugliest camouflage coat to embarrass us.  We secretly loved it.

Even now that we are adults, it is non-stop laughter when Steve is around.  At our most recent gathering at Christmas, we were playing a game of charades and he is so terrible at it but he kept insisting that he was our team's MVP.  He said that he is "the tapestry" that brings everything together (whatever that even means!).  So all night we kept cracking jokes about "the tapestry" and Steve would laugh uproariously.  Truly no family gathering is complete without Steve the jokester there.

Steve also has a very tender side and loves us girls so much.  Apparently he had a real case on me when I was a cute little two-year-old and he called me his "girlfriend."  He kept a photo of me in his office at work, and last I heard, it was still there, thirty years later. ;)  I am honored to be one of his girls.

All of my Eulich uncles and aunts have been a huge part of my life, even though we've always lived hours or even states apart.  They have been there for us through all of our triumphs and our sorrows, and our milestones, big and small.  From wherever they were around the country, all of my aunts and uncles and their children flew to Denver to be at our weddings.  None of my mom's family is Mormon (my mom decided to be baptized when she was in college), so this has made weddings difficult because they can't come into the Mormon temple.  Oh how we wanted our beloved aunts and uncles there with us as we took our wedding vows!  I think it speaks volumes about them as people and about the love in our family that they spent the time and money to come and be there for us on our wedding days, even though they couldn't attend the ceremonies.  They waited outside the temple to congratulate us and be the first to hug us--it meant the world.  And then they joined us at the reception and broke-it-down on the dance floor.  Those Eulichs sure know how to party! 

I am proud to be a Eulich and have been blessed beyond measure to have these good uncles in my life!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Uncles, Part 1

My final two tributes will be for my uncles!  I wrote individual tributes to my aunts on their birthdays, but I got worn out from all the writing, so I decided to skip my uncles' birthdays and do two big posts (one for each side of the family) at the end featuring all of them. 

I wish I had photos with each of my uncles from when I was a little girl, but I don't--my mom didn't have an iPhone to snap 100 photos at every family event, I suppose ;)--but I will include the photos that I do have.

My dad only has one sister, and her husband, my Uncle Paul, has been one of my spiritual role models throughout my life.  When I was young, he served as the president of the church congregations in our area, and though he was very busy with that responsibility, he always made it to family birthday parties and to all of our important events, such as high school musicals.  It meant so much to us to have a big fan club of cousins, aunts, and uncles in the audience at our plays, and I remember Uncle Paul giving me a big hug after each of those performances.  I also remember one Christmas Eve at my grandparents' house when my uncle shared a very sacred, personal experience that he'd had, and he testified to us that Jesus is real, that He is our Savior, and that He loves us.  Though I was only a teenager at the time, his words pierced my heart and I have never forgotten that special Christmas Eve.  Paul and his family were there for us when my mother died, out in the waiting area of the Emergency Room, and he was there in the temple for all of our weddings.  He and my Aunt Jackie are examples of a lifetime of service to church and family.

My dad has three brothers.  His older brother, Steven, passed away when my dad was only a few months old.  My grandparents have told me a lot about what a sweet and happy baby Steven was, and they still cry when they talk about his passing.  It's a little crazy to think that my dad has an older brother that he never knew!  I know that we will all know him in heaven one day.

My dad's younger brothers, Eric and Lewis, were a very fun part of my childhood.  Uncle Eric was our wild uncle who would bounce us like crazy on the trampoline and call us a bunch of "knuckleheads."  I remember that he would threaten to give us "knuckle sandwiches," and we would laugh hysterically and run away so he would chase us.  He had earrings and tattoos, which made him kind of awesome to a bunch of young girls, and the best part was that he was (and still is!) a total softie under that tough exterior.  Like my dad, he has three daughters whom he adores, and he also has a son whom he is very close to, and he recently became a grandpa.  I love seeing the photos of him with his little granddaughter.  The men in my family are baby lovers, and it's the sweetest.

My Uncle Lewis ("Lew," as we call him) is easygoing to his core.  He is quiet and kind, and when we were kids, he would let us climb all over him and give us horsie rides.  Like my dad, he has a dry sense of humor and no one expects his witty one-liners and retorts, which come out of nowhere and make everyone in the room laugh.   Also like my dad, he has a silly side that he only pulls out for the people whom he is most comfortable with, which makes it all the more hilarious and endearing.  In his quiet way, he's always made it very clear that he loves us loud, dramatic Westover girls.  I will never forget the one time in my life that I saw him get riled up.  When I was about seven years old, my mom walked away from me in a store for a second, and a pervert cornered me and flashed me.  I was so shaken up, and my mom and I went to Lew's apartment which was nearby so she could call the store and the police to explain what happened.  Lew was so furious when he heard what happened--I mean, he was seething--and I overheard him talking to my dad on the phone saying that he wished he could take a swing at that pervert.  I couldn't imagine quiet, calm Uncle Lewie taking a swing at anyone!  It made me feel good to know that my uncle would defend and protect me and would stand in for my dad if he wasn't around.

I am grateful for these good men in my life, and I am so blessed to be their niece.  I am excited to share about my uncles on my mom's side of the family tomorrow.