Monday, October 31, 2011

Superheroes and Peacocks!

Happy Halloween everyone!  We just returned home from our first night of trick-or-treating ever!  We usually only do the "Monster Mile" in our neighborhood, but this year we ventured out for the real deal.  It was a blast and certainly the start of a Halloween tradition.  We even got to hitch a ride with the neighbors in their golf cart :)  The boys called it a "go-kart" lol.  They got a serious candy stash, which I of course have been digging into!  Fun times.

While it has been fun to watch my superheroes run about the house for the past month in their costumes, flexing their muscles, and attempting to scare their sister, I do have to admit that I FULLY enjoyed indulging my girly, crafty, accessorizing side with Ruthie.  For one of our parties I made a little poodle skirt, and dressed her as "Sandy" from Grease, which was appropriate, since her main squeeze Nolan went as Danny. It was fun to just plan that costume down to the tiny details of ruffled bobby socks, a silk bow tied around her neck, and the poodle silhouette.  Then for the other events, she wore the most beautiful little peacock outfit that Linda got her from Gymboree.  Sadly, it didn't come with a head piece, which meant that I had to make one!  It was fancy :)  She looked cute.  

The Halloween festivities have capped off a month of fun pumpkin patches and fall activities.  I've always LOVED October in Texas, and this year was no exception.  Life is precious, and this year especially, I am not sweating the small stuff - the little annoyances and fights and messiness and crabbiness.  I'm soaking up these three healthy, amazing kids of mine, and am ever thankful for all of my blessings.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Praying for a Miracle

Today I am abundantly thankful for the health of my children.  I take it for granted most days, but not today.  Today my friend Stephanie is possibly going to have to make a decision to suspend life saving measures on her 2 1/2 year old son, Tyler.  Just typing that brings tears to my eyes and gives me instant anxiety.  If I feel that way, imagine how she feels?

I "met" Stephanie on an online pregnancy forum when I was first pregnant with Hayden - 5 years ago now almost exactly.  She had her son Dawson a few weeks before Hayden was born.  We were always good friends on the board, and it was exciting when she found out she was expecting her 2nd son Tyler just weeks before I was due with Pierce.  However, as I was snuggling my healthy newborn, and celebrating his first milestones, she was learning that her son was ill with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  At four months old.  After a rough road through chemotherapy, he was in remission a few months later, and things were looking bright.  Stephanie found out she was pregnant with her third child, this time due mere weeks after Ruthie.  Unfortunately, about the time that her son Gabriel was born, she learned that Tyler had relapsed.  Miraculously, Gabriel was a bone marrow match for Tyler, and they prepared for a bone marrow transplant, which took place 40 days ago.

I don't know the details of the procedure, or what a recovery from the transplant is supposed to be like, but the bottom line is that this family has watched their son suffer each and every day since the transplant.  They have maintained a level of optimism that is truly inspirational, and they have NEVER given up hope that their little boy would fight through this, and become a success story.  But every day the battle gets harder.

Today she shared that the doctors have warned them that he is reaching the maximum threshold in terms of medication he can take to correct some of things that are going wrong in his little body, and after that, there really is nothing they can do without doing irreparable harm to his organs.  In other words, in the absence of a miracle, they are going to have to make a decision to stop life saving measures.  On their 2 1/2 year old.  I cannot even hold it together to type this.  This poor family, and this poor child.

I just want a miracle for this family and this little boy.  I want Tyler to get well and be able to play with his brothers, like Pierce gets to play with his siblings.  I want Stephanie to be able to spend a day outside of the hospital, enjoying pumpkin patches. I want her to be able to hug her son, without a million wires and tubes getting in the way.  Just to hold him on her lap and giggle and laugh with him.  I want him to be free from pain and suffering.

I don't even know why I am writing this post.  I guess I am hoping that everyone who might read this will say an extra prayer for Tyler tonight.  And maybe all of these prayers will make him well.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hawgwild Fly Fishing

So the other night I got an email from my brother.  I was pretty surprised actually, because I knew they were on their honeymoon in the Canadian Rockies, and I expected no communication until they were back in the real world.  Nathan and I had actually honeymooned in the same place, 5 years ago, and I knew that it was remote and wifi-less, and blissfully free of the distractions of home.  So the email was a surprise!

The title:

We picked up the brochure for fly fishing.....

And the content of the email:

Yes, those are Nate and my smiling faces in a fly fishing brochure for "Hawgwild Fly Fishing" in Banff, AB.  HA!!  First of all, Nathan and I had no idea that our photos were being used in this brochure.  Secondly, can you imagine Jeff and Rebecca's shock when they opened this random brochure and there was their sister and brother-in-law?  I am dying!  What a small world we live in.

Once I got over the complete hysterical-ness (is that a word?) of this coincidence, I started thinking about our own honeymoon and how much FUN it was!  I haven't relived those memories in a long time, so I dug up my old photos, and I spent some time remembering the day that we spent fly fishing on the mighty Bow River, near Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Big Jim Dykstra picked us up in downtown Banff, and we rode in his beat up old pick-up truck to pick up a bunch of yummy pastries at a little shop nearby.  He was so proud to tell us to pick whatever we wanted!  And they did turn out to be delicious.  We got our roadmap for the day while we sat having breakfast and coffee, and learned that we would be hiking to a few "sweet spots" along the river, and both fly fishing and regular lure fishing, depending the type of water.  This was all complete gibberish to me, but the weather was fantastic, the views even better, and I was game!  We got our waders and gear, and off we went!

I remember lugging fishing poles, and coolers, and tackle boxes through thick trees and tall grasses, all the while yelling "here bear, here bear!", to try to warn any grizzlies of our presence before we stumbled upon them.  Um, scary!  Big Jim was the King of story-telling, and we heard all sorts of tales of bears and moose, and other interlopers on the fishing scene.  Alas, we saw no dangerous wild-life, Thank God!  We had an encounter later on the trip with a black bear, and that was enough to cure me for life of hiking solo in the Canadian Rockies, thank you very much.

Anyway, we spent the most luxurious day just basking in the sun, casting our poles into the crystal clear waters of the Bow River, with the golden larches lining the shoreline, and the majesty of the soaring peaks of the Canadian Rockies surrounding us.  It truly did feel magical, and I loved watching my new husband enjoy a day of fly fishing, one of his passions, along one of the most famous stretches of river in the world for that sport.  

I feel like, even though I've only been there once, that a part of my heart will forever be in the Canadian Rockies.  Pieces of it can be found in a canoe on Moraine Lake, in a tea house at Lake Agnes, along the steep hiking trails of Lake O'Hara, and on a balcony over-looking the perfect gemstone waters of Emerald Lake.  And of course in the flowing waters of the Bow River, where I went fly-fishing, and unknowingly become the spokesperson for "Hawgwild Fly Fishing" :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Berkshire Wedding Weekend

My brother is married.  WOW.  It is crazy to say that.  It has been 8 years coming, and he married a woman that he not only loves and adores, but whom our entire family is in love with.  They are a perfect match, which is why we have all been so eagerly anticipating their marriage, and all the festivities that went along with it, as they hosted all their family and friends in the Berkshires last weekend.

Where to begin??  It was important to Jeff and Rebecca that our whole family was there to celebrate, so we flew everyone out, and spent the first few days of our visit on a tiny little speck of water called Watson Pond, in Otis, MA.  It is the long time vacation home of Rebecca's family (her mom told the sweetest stories of bringing her there just weeks after her birth, and nursing her by the fire to stay warm), and we were lucky enough to be able to stay in the cottage next door, and spend time all together.  While the weather wasn't perfect, we still all got decked out in rain gear, and spent the whole day exploring outside.  They have a row boat, a canoe, kayaks, fishing gear, you name it!  And the pond was full of bass, perch, pike, and of course, beautiful fall colors all along the shoreline.  We caught fish after fish, which thrilled the boys, and Hayden was able to take his first ride out in a row boat.  Ruthie stayed safely dry on the shoreline with grammy, and enjoyed time with her aunts and GG, and other land loving friends :)  The Sadocks were the most gracious, warm hosts, and we had a blast even before the official wedding festivities got under way.

One of the greatest parts of the trips was having my whole family fly in from all corners of the US, and even Europe.  Our foreign exchange student, Phil, who lived with us my senior year of high school, traveled all the way from Switzerland with his lovely new fiance, and my entire extended family from Wisconsin made the trip, as well as cousins scattered as far as LA, Seattle, and NYC.  I felt like I was going to burst with all the love I felt!  All these people there to support Jeffrey, and celebrate this marriage.  It was pretty amazing.  And so cool to introduce Ruthie to so much of the family, and see the boys get to know everyone better.  The idea of the "specialness" of family was reinforced for me, which was a nice prelude into watching my brother start a family of his own with Rebecca.  It just reminded me of the greatness that comes of a marriage.

After our mini-vacation at Otis, we switched rental houses to be closer to the ceremony site.  Our second house was gorgeous, with floor to ceiling windows, a big wrap around deck, and a view of a pond and endless fall colors up the hillside on the opposite shore.  They too had a canoe for us to use, however the previous renters had left it upright, which allowed it to fill with water.  It was pretty comical to watch my friend Eren and I try to flip it over, while the whole time Hayden is telling us if we get tired, he is there to help haha.  We finally got it drained, and enjoyed a couple of leisurely laps around a great beaver dam in the middle of the pond.  These kind of things you just don't get to do in Dallas!!  I'm so glad my sons will have these memories.  The fall colors were just fantastic as well.

I really wish I had more photos of the actual wedding day, but everything was so busy, and we were rushing from salon, to hotel room, to ceremony site, to reception site, and I just didn't want to risk losing my camera.  So alas, we'll have to wait for the professional photos.  But the day was amazing.  I started off with a morning at the salon, getting my hair done (thank you Linda!), and having a nice little lunch with my mom and  our good friend Linda.  We then headed up to the bridal suite, where we got to see the bride for the first time, as she was getting her hair and make-up done.  All the girls and moms were up there, and it was a really festive, fun atmosphere.  Rebecca gave out gifts of earrings and shawls to all of us, and then my mom and I left to ride a shuttle to the ceremony site with my brother and his groomsman.  As we left the bridal suite, Rebecca got a little choked up, and admittedly I did too!  I think it felt real then!  And seeing my brother for the first time in his tuxedo was just overwhelmingly emotional for me.  I'll say more about that later.

We arrived at Jacob's Pillow at about 3 pm - exactly one hour prior to the ceremony.  This place is FABULOUS.  It is an outdoor dance venue in the mountains, with the most gorgeous outdoor stage.  Jeffrey and Rebecca had picked this site specifically to be married on this stage, with views of the fall colors and mountains stretching for miles, and their wedding planner had convinced the venue coordinators to proceed as planned outdoors, despite a major hailstorm mere minutes before.  The stage was soaked with water up to an inch deep in places, and the aisles were muddy.  Not to mention it was COLD and windy.  We immediately realized upon arrival that an outdoor wedding was not in the cards - the guests would have been freezing, no one would have been able to hear the vows with the wind roaring, and Rebecca's dress would have been ruined.  So inside we went.

At this point, I knew how much Jeffrey was hoping for this outdoor wedding of his dreams, and I felt a huge sense of sadness overcome me, for his sake, and I suddenly felt this "mama bear" urge to make everything fixed for him.  I looked into his eyes and wanted his wedding to be everything he imagined it would be!  I couldn't believe that the weather was going to keep this from happening, and I wanted more than anything to protect him and make it perfect.  It was really a foreign feeling.  My brother is always more than capable of taking care of himself, and certainly in this situation he took charge just as always.  But I think as a big sister, I wanted to just make everything perfect for him.  I don't know, it's hard to explain.  But I felt a fierce love for him that I haven't felt so powerfully in a long time.  He is my little brother!  Getting married!  It better be perfect!

Anyway, things were quickly moved into this adorable little chapel, with rough hewn benches, and rafters on the ceiling, and soon guests began arriving.  They were served hot apple cider, and a string quartet was playing music.  Outside it was chilly, and the wind was blowing, but inside everyone was cozy and warm.  As soon as I saw the scene unfolding, I realized it was the perfect place for them to be married.  Intimate and warm.  The ceremony was beautiful, with my husband officiating, my son as the most adorable ring bearer ever, and myself reading a lovely excerpt from "The Wedding Song" by Bob Dylan.  A group of Rebecca's friends from high school sang "Stand by Me", while Jeffrey's friend played the guitar.  As they exchanged their heartfelt vows, I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.  Despite the change of plans, it ended up being exactly the ceremony for them.  Perfect!

After the ceremony, the night became a blur of great food, fancy cocktails, musical performances, emotional speeches and toasts, and an absolutely rocking dance floor.  SO MUCH FUN!  I haven't danced that much in ages, and I loved mingling with all of the guests from far and wide.  I love my brother and Rebecca, and I'm so thankful they found each other.  It was a fabulous wedding day!

While the highlight of the weekend was obviously the wedding, we stayed on a few more days to enjoy the area and all the family who had flown in.  My kids loved being able to spend time outside, and we got some quiet time to spend just with Jeff and his new wife :)  I will leave this trip with a renewed sense of family, and a refreshed view of my own marriage, and how special it is that we have made it 5 years.  At the wedding, as we were gazing at the new couple, someone asked me if I remember what it felt like to be that much in love.  I looked at Nathan and we both just smiled, because we know we are even more in love now than we were on our wedding day.  I hope, and suspect, that the same thing will happen for Jeff and Rebecca.

As always, it takes a village to go anywhere with these little munchkins of mine.  Managing 3 kids on vacation is no easy task, and my parents where troopers to the max.  They negotiated with airline passengers to sit near us to help (while most people negotiate to get away from kids!), they carried extraneous luggage, they held nervous children and babies, they changed diapers and did nap time when I was stranded with a flat tire, they fixed meals, and they shared their cottage space with 3 not always happy and quiet children.  And for that I am extremely thankful.  Once again I am humbled by how awesome family is.

And lastly, I have to extend a HUGE thank you to one of my dearest friends, who gave up time with her own family, to come help me with mine.  Nathan and I knew that the kids couldn't manage the late nights of the rehearsal dinner and wedding, but we wanted them there for the early bits.  But the idea of a stranger watching our kids in a strange house was just not acceptable.  So our friend Eren flew out to be the third parent for the weekend, and we couldn't have enjoyed ANY of this without her.  The kids were thrilled to have her around, and never once did I worry about their safety or comfort.  Not to mention she was great company as always.  You'll see her peppered through out the photos above, which is only fitting since she was an integral part of the weekend activities.  I'll always remember how much fun we had, and feel grateful for our friendship.  Thank You Eren!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pumpkins and Parks!

At long last - it's FALL Y'ALL (to phrase steal from my friend Chalna haha).  But I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to have put the heat of summer behind us, and to be enjoying the great outdoors with my little family.  It's like a breath of fresh air (literally), to have to put on a sweater in the morning when driving the kids to school, and to break out the boots and skinny jeans.  Although really, it's still in the mid-80's, but at least we've moved into the season of being comfortable while outdoors, and I am thrilled.  Did you hear that?  THRILLED!

In the spirit of the season, and to celebrate my very favorite month of the year, we've jumped head first into fall activities.  The first thing on the list was to visit one of our favorite pumpkin farms.  It's over an hour drive away, but it's one of those places that feels authentic.  So many of the pumpkin patches around here are just big fields with rows of pumpkins dropped in, and a few bounce houses set up.  Which is fun!  However, it's more fun to visit a real farm, with hay rides, animals, pumpkins growing on the vines, and fields and trees as far as the eye can see.

When we arrived, they gave each of us a cup filled with animal feed, and we headed right over to the corrals, where we got to feed longhorns (including a cute little calf!), and baby goats.  Then we hoped on a hay wagon, and a real tractor pulled us on a 20 minute ride around the farm, which thrilled the kids.  We ended the day with a picnic out by the pumpkin patch, where we picked our very own pumpkins to take home and carve.  Hayden was very serious about picking the PERFECT pumpkin, and was concerned about finding the exact ripeness haha.  Pierce just wanted to haul around as many as his little arms would hold, and Ruthie enjoyed eating grass and getting dirty.   Sweet thing.

We also found time to head up to a favorite cool weather place, the Frank Buck Zoo.  We have a family membership and went ALL the time last year.  It's the cutest little place.  Never crowded, up close access to the animals, super well manicured and maintained, and an awesome park right outside the entrance.  It's fabulous and I'm so happy that zoo season has started back up!  This time Ruthie was able to actually sit up in her stroller and enjoy the sights (in the spring she was just a sleeping newborn), and she went in her first baby swing (with her buddy Nolan no less).  So cute!  She smiled and clapped and laughed the whole time.

This week we are putting our local fall activities on hold, and are gearing up for our big trip to the East Coast for my brother's wedding, in TWO days.  I'm overwhelmed with packing for such a big event, for a family of five, but I've got a plan and am just on auto-pilot right now.  I cannot wait to get there; to see my brother marry the most wonderful woman, and to spend time with all my extended family!  Bring on the Berkshires!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Biggest Brother

When I first found out I was having a 3rd baby, Hayden was thrilled.  It was so different during that pregnancy, since he was aware of what having a baby meant, and he was so involved in the whole process.  I remember showing him the first ultrasound photo, which he promptly asked to put on his wall next to his bed.  It still hangs there.  From the start, he was insistent that he was having a baby sister, and while I quietly hoped he was right, I was still shocked when I found out that really was true!  His bond with his sister started while she was still in the womb, and I often wondered if the reality of having another child in the house would live up to his expectations.

I should never have doubted it.  At 7 1/2 months old, Ruthie is the absolutely apple of Hayden's eye.  That sounds like something my grandpa would have said, but it is the best way to describe it.  He adores her, and when she is awake, he pays nearly undivided attention to her.  When she cries, he gets down on the floor with her and coos ("It's ok Roofie!"), he'll stack her blocks for her and describe the animals that are on all the sides, he'll sit behind her with his legs around, and help her play with her toys, and (despite me not liking it so much), he'll scoop her up in his arms and lay on his back with her on his tummy, then he rolls side to side, making her laugh in delight.  He often situates himself next to her while he watches TV, and I'll watch his arm just go around her shoulders or waist, completely out of habit.  He just wants her close.

Hayden has always been affectionate, and he has a very sweet side with his brother, but there is something especially tender about his interactions with his sister, and it reminds me how lucky they are to all have each other.  And how lucky I am to have each of them!!