Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


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I can't seem to find a place to start with the telling of the tale of the big party. Or even a middle place. Not one moment stands out over the others as the logical place to start. Every photo I edit tells a story to me. Every photo contains a person connected to an event, a memory, a happening in my life, or in our lives. As long-time friends and relatives walked through the door, each represented a piece of the tapestry of our lives, flowing together to create one beautiful magical evening of remembrances, both old and new.

I'll get it right in my head and it will all tumble out eventually. But for now, I picked this photo first, the last one out of my camera this weekend. Its my mom and dad with their grandchildren. Its the end and the beginning. The middle part is me, trying to connect the dots of the past, in order to preserve the past for the future. No wonder I am struggling with the words.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lucky Girl

Despite missing my beloved Dakota. Despite knowing how uncertain the journey will be with my dad's health these coming weeks. I am a lucky girl. It couldn't have been made more clear to me these last few days. I wish every one of us was lucky enough to have that one special day where everyone gets to come tell you how special you are to them.

Yesterday was the BIG DAY. Dad's 80th Birthday Bash! Oh what a night! Its been such a big day, night, weekend, etc., that I am spent, in a completely satisfied deep down way. So I need time to reflect, to process and catch up with all the "moments," because there were so many of them and I have hardly had the time to begin to sift through them.

So in the meantime, I'll share with you the other great joy that has come into my life. The girls and I have been settling into somewhat of a routine. One of our favorite things to do is go for long walks in the stroller. I bring the camera, some snacks, some drinks, and we head off to on the bike path to one of our 3 parks. Little L is content to sit in the stroller and snooze or I hold her while we watch E run like crazy on and over and under the playground. She is quite adept at the slides and swings and has little fear of anything. You can tell she is an "outside" kid, and I love seeing her through the lens as she wonders at each new discovery she encounters. Such a lucky girl. Truly I am.




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I had to include this one. For no discernible reason I like it in a purely creative way.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Remembering our Dakota Jo

Dakota at 5 weeks old.


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Upside down, her favorite way to sleep.
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Snowshoeing in the South Hills of Idaho 40 miles from where we lived. We snowshoed almost weekly in the mountains.
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Always a gentle soul, and the baby food on Nolan didn't hurt either.
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Colton was the one to always go and get her a toy to curl up with. She started as a puppy with a blue dinosaur that she would mouth, but she never chewed it and to this day, we still have it.
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Enjoying the sunshine this spring.
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Having a photo shoot with dad at the old studio.
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Dakota would have been 13 years old today. The grief lies just beneath the surface now, six weeks later. A scab has formed over the wound, but if you bang it just the right way it still bleeds raw. I still check the time when I am running errands. The constant feeling of "I need to get back to let the dog out," is a tough habit to release.

My Dyson Animal Vacuum cleaner is pathetically empty. I used to get a surge of joy in emptying not one but two or three canisters of dog hair. Now I barely get 1. Who would have thought a clean house could be such a disappointment.

It was the Schwan's man who most recently made me cry. He opened the door and then stepped back in the customary way. He peered inside and waited for the flash of gold to come bursting through the door. He then looked at me and said... Dakota? And all I could do was shake my head no. Oh, he said, Ohhhhhh. I'm sorry.

We've been told her ashes are ready. We haven't quite figure out how to bring her home. We just know the curiosity of one young man in our house nearly paralyzes us with inactivity. He would either open the box just to you know, "see," or accidentally spill them, or better yet, bring them to school for show-n-tell. If you're smiling at that one, than you understand Nolan.

Unequivocally, what I miss the most is having a soul in my house that just understood me. When Kota girl was just 10 months old, I started having gallbladder attacks. I eventually had surgery and when I finally got home from the hospital, Dakota would lay and whine on the floor next to the bed. She'd stretch up with her paws on the comforter trying to get up on the King poster bed we had. Then one day she decided to take a flying leap, dig in with her paws and up she went. She walked over to Rick's pillow and snuggled in next to me. She remained at my side until I was well.

After that she was my constant companion through bouts of morning sickness, through migraines and days when I just needed to rest, she knew. Somehow her faithful companionship and loyalty, were medicine to what ailed me. But as quickly as I'd recover, she'd go back to being her feisty, barky, treat-demanding, self, and all was right with the world again.

She taught me so much. About all the usual things that come with dog ownership, and some things you don't anticipate. Like how to open your heart just a bit wider and how to love a bit deeper. And it is the lessons learned about love, the unconditional kind, that lead me to know, she'd want us to know love for a dog again. And I believe in time we will.

Love ya and miss ya girl!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The tooth fairy got fired.


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Ta da! E and L's mom gave her consent to post pictures of the girls. She actually gave consent before I asked about it. Its seems fitting the girls should be here as much as I have longed for this journey of baby dolls, play kitchen's and cooking, and all kinds of girl yumminess. Could they be any cuter?

Although my camera is suddenly giving me fits. I had the ISO bumped up way too high and paid for it with mostly grainy pictures. Today was rainy and dark outside and I couldn't get a good exposure either. My novice status shows. Plus its a little tricky trying to watch both girls and shoot them. They are on the go and by the time I set up the shot they have moved, looked away or lost interest.

Theres been a learning curve in other regards too. I'm a bit rusty. Its great that E is potty trained. But you forget that you still need to be there, help on and off, wave bye-bye as we flush and help wipe hands on the Patrick towel that in her little voice sounds like Patwick. Its quite cute and definitely not boy-like.

Today I had a Calgon moment. Thank goodness I seem to have acquired a bit more of an ability to step back and laugh at myself sometimes. I reached for something in the fridge and knocked over a sippy cup with milk in it. And it spattered from one end of the kitchen to the other and of course down my leg. So as I am standing there in this puddle of milk, when L starts to cry. (And she has not been a crier at all) As I wipe a clean path to get to the carpet, I realize she is perhaps needing a diaper change as I catch a hint of the smell coming my way. And that is when a tiny voice that is supposed to be napping says, "I have to go potty NOW!"

All I could do was laugh. And in a move that was perhaps a daily maneuver with the boys when they were young, I grabbed the baby and a diaper and changed her while E went potty, and then cleaned myself up. In minutes we were all back on track, a bit stickier from some errant milk dried on the floor, but better.

Its now 8:30 pm. And like days of past I am ready for bed. But first, I need to go fire that tooth fairy. Shoot. She completely forgot to even come last night. Even if they were just substitute teeth.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What are the odds?


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What are the odds that not one but two boys in the same family would lose a tooth today? Better yet, what are the odds their mother, in loading the dishwasher, would dump both of those teeth out and watch them swish down the drain? Since that person is me... thats a good bet today. Thank goodness I have an in with the tooth fairy, and that neither of the boys witnessed the great sink escape!

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Okay, but I am grumpy about it," she said.

Friday I woke up thinking I had gone through a time warp and woken up 9 years earlier. I think I would have fainted on the spot had I looked at the clock and it read 5 am.

You see, the night before I had gotten ready for my first full day of taking care of the girls. With E at 2 1/2 and L at almost 8 months, I needed to get the baby gear in place. It tickled me to be taking out all of my favorite toys that have given the boys hours of entertainment.

In particular the supersaucer was one of Nolan's favorites. As a baby he used to get up at 5 am and play to his heart's content and be ready for his first nap at 7. I had a hard time adjusting to that little turkey's schedule. He now sleeps in, almost always til 7, yep, I said 7 and that is sleeping in for him.

So when I heard the music begin to play from the supersaucer I should have known who I would find in the living room playing with it. The music woke Colton up as well and he soon joined in setting up the dishes and pretend food for the little kitchen.
I had to drag them away to get them ready for school.

Soon the girls arrived. L was full of smiles and has the biggest blue eyes. I was told she was a good eater and she didn't disappoint. I can hardly tell you how rewarding it is to put a spoonful of food in a baby's mouth and not be told the food is icky, stinky or not what they wanted... so rewarding.

And Miss E has quite the personality! She cooked and baked, played with Diego and went down the BIG curvy slide at the park. But I think her voice and the things she says might be my favorite things so far. As predicted she wasn't fond of leaving the park when I told her we needed to. Finally she said, "Okay, but I am grumpy about it!" The she took my hand and off we went. I thought, wow, think she can teach the boys a thing or two about behaving even when you aren't happy about it?




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Friday, September 18, 2009

Homecoming

Homecoming



music playing

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pom-pom shaking

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tuba, trumpet, horn playing
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cape wearing

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float riding

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spud sports advertising

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dragon...

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SCARING,

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and dragon cruising

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"Rent" promoting,

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train rolling

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and neighbor campaigning

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Homecoming


*************************************************************************

Thanks for all the emails, support and prayers. My dad has his blinders on and is solely focused on his big party next weekend. He has put all thoughts of hospice on the back burner, although he qualifies to begin the services now. We are simply following his lead and letting him enjoy his independence for however long we can. I can't bear the thought of stripping away whatever shield he has erected to protect the vision for what his days look like. Instead, I find myself grabbing hold of that shield and helping him keep it in place just a bit longer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shades of gray

I found the peanut butter in fridge this morning. My brain escapes me at times and I shuffle about on auto pilot. I read to Colton for his homework. I check it off the list. I make small talk with the neighbors about how late the sweet corn is this year. But I am tripped up when they mention dinner. I search my brain... did I? Did I remember to make dinner? Colton says no, Grandma made eggs for him. A check mark for dinner.

We brought my father home from the hospital the other night. I want to breathe a sigh of relief. His spirits are good. He makes jokes with the nurse. His oxygen drops low when he moves about the room, getting prepared to leave. We make him sit and take deep breathes to stop the alarm on the monitor. The levels slowly rise, as the nurse encourages "thats right, just keep breathing." And Dad says "Believe me, I plan to!" We all crack up.

Mom and I pack up his gear. His new c-pap machine is giving us fits. We can't seem to get it disconnected from the table its resting on. My dad cranes his neck to examine what we are not seeing. "Well," he says, " just unplug the power supply, and you won't have to take the whole thing apart." He accomplishes in seconds, what we struggle with for what seems like hours.

The motions we go through are the same. Mom and I could pack up the "hospital accoutrement" in our sleep, having grown accustomed to the routine of admission and discharge over the last 3 years. But the language has changed this time. There is a perceptible shift in whats not being done, whats not being ordered, whats not being said.

I am sitting in Dad's room when the doctors arrive. They begin discussing his case in the hallway outside of his room. Fragments of sentences work their way into the room in the space surrounding the chair I am sitting on. "Does he know?" A male voices asks. "I think he does." Says, another male voice. The air grows heavier with these bits of words that don't belong in a conversation about my dad. I hear "contact hospice," and "heart failure." As the room begins to close in on me, the nurse comes back in to help dad get dressed. I use this reason to escape the confines of the suddenly stifling room.

I sit in the family room, a battle waging between the denial in my brain, and the betrayal of my body now shaking. We knew this was coming some day. Congestive Heart failure eventually wins. And oh how we have battled.

With the time for the school bus to come home looming in front of me, I go to quickly say goodbye. I'm composed for the moment. My Dad acknowledges that a hospice worker is coming to see him tomorrow, but he firmly states, "I am feeling good." "I look good don't I?" He is scanning my face for confirmation. I am relieved I can honestly answer "you look good, dad, you look good." And that is all that is said.

I find out later that evening that there was confusion about dad's discharge papers and my mom left without them. The lady from hospice came to meet with dad yesterday at home but said she won't know how to proceed until the paperwork comes in the mail. So while I attended a meeting at school, the kids played at Grandpa's house. He insisted they come. How can I say no?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Even though in the meantime the peanut butter is in the fridge and the kids may or may not have eaten. The sky is still blue and the sun is shining. My dad is doing well at home. His spirits are good. Mom is taking him to deliver some more invites to his party. We're doing okay.

And I am praying... for a lot of things right now. Mostly, I am hoping for courage to find me somewhere in the night.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Are you a Daddy's girl?


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I am. Although I don't always honor the relationship like I want to. Its easy to be so caught up in the small men around here, I neglect the big boys, even when I don't mean to. Eventually the phone rings and both a gruff but aged voice that still hasn't grown accustomed to talking on the phone will blast through my cell phone "Well what happened to you?" "Hi Dad. I'm here, how are you?"

I always quickly rummage through my head for the last contact I've had with him knowing its been too long. I'm juggling the days and coming up short on the ones marked "Dad." If I am being honest, the last time we truly did something for my dad, was the day we took him out of town to a cousin's graduation, so that he could be see his brother and the rest of his family. Of course we came away with a big lesson compliments of Dad, which I blogged about here. Its funny how we think we are doing something for someone else, only to realize how much we are truly doing for ourselves in the process.

Like his birthday party. My dad turns 80 next week. With one successful surprise party thrown for my mom, I knew it was the perfect occasion to do something for dad. With the kids in school, I got to work. Taking full advantage of the beautifully sunny early evenings, I snuck dad outside, yanked off his oxygen for a minute and snapped a few photos. I did very little to edit the photo, and turned it over to Rick. His graphic designer made an invitation for us. Dad and I started getting together, gathering addresses, compiling lists and making plans.

But there are plenty of other things going on too. Rick is leaving for a week and half. I am still preparing to start doing daycare for two little girls. I have all kinds of back to school meetings to attend. I feel a bit stretched. Excited for so much newness, but stretched nonetheless.

Still, I noticed a spark in dad's eye. He worked long and hard on his list. He really thought through who he wanted to invite. As I sat addressing the invitations, a story was offered by dad, for each name. I can't help but think, if you receive one of these invites, you should know my father holds you in high esteem.

We capped off our writing campaign with lunch. I met him at his favorite lunch spot. He was breathless with excitement. He labored to just walk across the parking lot and I steadied him with an arm. I clearly saw what I had been missing. I couldn't help but think his excitement has masked his weariness, and the inability for even the oxygen to help him breathe freely.

Proof of my thinking came yesterday. Mom called to say Dad had a rough couple of days. He had chills, and an inability to catch his breath. I spoke with him and firmly suggested he allow mom to take him to the ER. He didn't refuse.

He is resting comfortably in the hospital now. I have to admit, if I hadn't been spending so much time with him, I may have missed the signs. If we had delayed much longer, we may have jeopardized his party. But if we're lucky, we'll get him well again. He has already informed his doctors he only has a few days he can stay. You see there's this party, and he doesn't want to miss it!

Once again I am reminded of just how much I am a Daddy's girl. How about you?

Friday, September 11, 2009

My New Adventure...

I'v mentioned I am about to embark on a new adventure...

Care to take any guesses?





Airplane pilot perhaps?


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Mini-golf course designer? Who needs Thunder Road Amusement Park when you have the imagination of the Westra Boys. Shovels, rakes, hockey sticks and a little creativity are all thats needed to build the perfect obstacle mini-golf course. I assure you it takes a real pro to putt the ball around the shovel and then up onto the rake and down to the electrical box underneath. I could have charged admission for all of the onlookers going by honking their car horns and waving in sheer delight when they figured out they were watching a hotly contested golf match...

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Or maybe just a job titled "boy wrangler?"


But no, I won't be doing any of those things. I need to stretch, to grow, to utilize a different skill set.

And so, almost to the day I decided to start searching for a job... the phone rang. My friend's sister wanted to know if I could help her. Her daycare provider was pregnant and needed to take 9 weeks of maternity leave at the end of September. Would I be interested in watching her kids?

And heres the beauty of this situation... they are ages 2 1/2, and the baby is about 8 months old now. Its been a few years since I've worked with this age group. And the biggest stretch for me? They are both little GIRLS!

I had hoped to start today... but with my voice sounding like I've swallowed a croaking frog, we decided to wait till next week. So you won't find me here in blogland much during the day... unless its either the very early hours or the very late... but I'll fit it in because its such a good outlet for me.

I also won't be sharing about the girls in a direct way, but may have some stories to tell in general about discovering all things little girl.

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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