Sunday, February 28, 2016

Abby is 10!!

The next day we celebrated Abby's birthday by hitting up a tattoo parlor. Not for a tattoo of course, but it was her 10th birthday present to get her ears pierced! I had a bad experience getting my ears pierced at Claire's and had heard great things about getting them pierced by a professional at a tattoo/piercing place so that is where we headed. First stop was at the merry-go-round while we waited for Abby's appointment. Can you sense Abby's nerves in these pictures? She was getting pretty anxious by this point...

Here she is about to have it done!! She actually backed out right after this picture was taken and almost changed her mind. She was really nervous about the pain involved and asked if we could do it next weekend instead. I told her if she didn't do it now, she probably wouldn't be able to do it until she was a lot older (like maybe 18!) That was enough to convince her and we headed back in. I knew she would really regret not getting it done because she had already told everyone she was having her ears pierced and had even received several pairs of earrings for her birthday. After the first ear was done, she exclaimed, "Was that it? It hardly hurt at all!!" They actually used a needle instead of a gun which I have heard hurts even less. Like a lot of things, the anticipation of the pain was for worse than the actual pain itself.

Here she is with her beautiful blue studs. They are titanium, medical-grade earrings so she doesn't have to do anything with them. No turning, putting ointment on them or anything. The best thing to do is to leave them completely alone for the next three months when she can start changing them out for other earrings.

After we came home, it was time for some presents. Her party and ear piercing were the major gifts this year, but we did get her a few fun birthday items!

Of course all the kids loved being in on the action!

And Landon being silly and weird just for the special occasion!

Our little girl is growing up. We sure do love our beautiful Abby girl!

Friday, February 26, 2016

SPA Birthday Party

Abby had decided quite a while ago that she wanted to do a "spa" party for her 10th birthday. She has never been to an actual spa before, but was excited to create the experience at home. She looked at lots of ideas on the computer with me and we narrowed it down to the things that we thought sounded like the most fun. We had an enjoyable night at the dollar store one night where we picked up most of our supplies.

We had her party on February 19th, the night before she turned 10. Here are a few of the invited guests as they were arriving. Everyone came in their pajamas ready to be pampered...

The table set-up. We had 12 girls total and had two tables in an "L" shape to accommodate everyone together.

Each girl had a bowl full of spa supplies for the evening including a pedicure set, a headband for their facial, a face scrubber, pedicure footies, a pair of slippers, a cooling eye mask and some bath salts. We also used the bowls for our foot soak!

The party started at 6 p.m. so we began by eating first. We had a yummy croissant bar, a vegetable platter, cheese and crackers, and chips.

Jason did an awesome job with the "Smoothie Station" too!

We made our own masks out of avocado and yogurt. Some of the girls were a bit squeamish about putting it on their faces...

The birthday girl looking a little green!

Then we gave them all a towel and some cucumber slices for their eyes while we let the facial mask do its magic. They relaxed for about 15 minutes while listening to Enya in the background. They all commented about how smooth their skin felt afterwards!

We did a foot soak and made some lip gloss before doing our own pedicures. While we waited for our toenail paint to dry, we made some edible nail polish bottles using melted pink and green chocolate, a large marshmallow and a tootsie roll!

Then we played a fun game called "Musical Manicure" where we had 12 different colors of nail polish and the girls passed them around while listening to some music. When the music stopped, they had to paint one of their nails the color that they were holding. It make for some pretty wild and colorful manicures!

Then it was time for cupcakes and opening presents!!

Make a wish!!

They finished the evening with some fun games and free time in the basement. Hosting this party was so fun for me and the girls all seemed to have a great time. Having a party for 12 girls from 6-10 p.m. was actually fun and less stress than hosting a shorter party for younger kids in my opinion. I still cannot believe my little girl is in the double digits now. 

She is turning into such a beautiful young lady both inside and out and I can't wait to see what the future holds for her. Although I wouldn't mind if time slowed down just a bit!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

And then it snowed...

We had such mild weather in December and even into most of January. Temperatures were higher than normal and there was no snow in sight. But when it finally decided to snow at the end of January, it really came in buckets!!!

 We ended up getting about 3 feet of snow over a two day period. Here I am trying to dig a pathway for the dogs to go outside...

Nolan loved helping shoveling with his kid shovel...

Maylie was entranced by all that white stuff on the ground!!

The snow was taller than she was!!

Church was cancelled on Sunday so we spent the morning helping our neighbors dig themselves out, and doing lots of playing in the snow too!!

We built snow tunnels...

And a big sled in our front yard that the entire neighborhood used to go sledding!

Nolan made a few snow angels...

And Jason got his workout in by pulling and running with the kids down the middle of the street!

School ended up being canceled for an entire week so we had lots of opportunities to play in it. It melted pretty quickly with the warmer temperatures that came soon afterwards, but it was fun while it lasted!

Geography Bee

Abby took a test back in December to determine eligibility for her school's Geography Bee. She scored well enough to make it into the top 10 among 4th and 5th graders at Paramount Elementary. There was actually only one other 4th grader who made it in, the rest were all 5th graders.

While she was excited about making the top 10, she was extremely nervous about the final competition which would be held in front of all the 3rd-5th graders plus teachers and parents.

She studied hard, but was pretty unsure of herself since there is A LOT to know about world geography. Jason and I were both able to come watch her which she was pretty excited about. After the practice round, she was ready to go and she did great!

She was very nervous about being the first one to go out, but she ended up taking 5th place!!

We were so proud of Abby and her willingness to try something even though it was really scary for her. After all, you only fail when you stop trying!! She is excited to see what she will be able to do next year as a 5th grader!

Family Reunion

The weekend after my dad passed away, Lara's family came up from North Carolina to visit. With Tami still being in town, we had our first little Cleveland family reunion without my parents. It was a difficult weekend for all of us, but we made the most of it.

And what Cleveland family reunion would be complete without making some cookies? See Mom, we even took a cookie dough picture to make you proud!

I am so thankful for eternal families and for the strength that I have received because of my wonderful siblings and their families!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Another Great Loss...

2015 was a tough year for our family with losing my Mom in October and then caring for my Dad both in Colorado and then bringing him back to Maryland with us in early November. He stayed with us for 6 weeks and then stayed at Tasha's house in Frederick, MD. It was nice that he was still close and was under hospice care the entire time since he had terminal cancer and there were no more treatment optiond available. Physically he was doing pretty well while he was with us in Hagerstown but emotionally he was so very sad and distraught without my Mom. When he got to Frederick, his body began to physically shut down and everyday he seemed to get weaker and weaker. We all spent New Years Day together at our house in Hagerstown and just the two steps leading up to our house from the garage were very taxing on him. We began to talk to him about maybe having him stay here in Maryland and even set up an appointment to visit an Assisted Living Facility near our house. We just didn't think that he would be able to go back to Colorado and live on his own as he got weaker and weaker. Just three days later, I went back down to Frederick to visit him and he could hardly get out of bed. We realized that day that things were declining far quicker than any of us could anticipated and that we needed to get my sisters Lara and Tami out here as soon as possible. He had a catheter put in on Monday afternoon so he no longer needed to get out of bed which was a great relief for all of us. He also stopped eating anything that day, but was still very thirsty and enjoyed lots of fluids. I spend a lot of time by his side and helping him in any way that I could. I went back to Hagerstown that night and we had a conference call with all my sisters and agreed that Lara would be driving out the next day from North Carolina and Tami would be flying out from Colorado on Wednesday.
 This is what I put on Facebook the next day as I knew we were losing my Dad...

“When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live. So, live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.” -- Scott Stuart.
My dad's amazing fight with cancer is coming to an end. It may have won this battle, but it will not win the war. My Dad is a soldier, a fighter, and one of the greatest men I will ever know. He is my hero. It is a privilege and an honor for me to be able to help him through this last final fight. I love you Dad!!

Oh how my heart ached. I wasn't ready to lose another parent so soon. I headed back down to Frederick on Tuesday morning and my Dad looked so much better than the day before. Getting a good nights rest helped a lot since he didn't have to use his strength to get to the bathroom all night. A hospital bed was delivered that day and he really enjoyed the freedom of being able to raise and lower himself with just a touch of a button. Tasha and I even began to think that maybe we had made a mistake in having everyone come out so soon because he was doing so well. I also brought him a TV so he could watch a rerun of the Bronco game from the previous Sunday. When I left him that day, he was in good spirits and wearing his Broncos shirt that I had given him from Christmas. Things were looking up!

On Wednesday morning I got a call that Dad was in a lot of pain and after several rounds of morphine they were finally able to control it. At this point, he would be on a constant morphine regiment in order to control the pain. I remember him asking the hospice nurse if he was dying, and she kindly told him that he was. He had a look of fear on his face and tears began to stream down his cheeks, but from that moment on, he seemed to be so calm about everything, like he was accepting his fate and that his time to leave this mortal existence was almost here. He was so kind to all of us and to all of his hospice nurses who just adored him. He would thank us all again and again for our help. I really didn't need to be thanked. It was just such a privilege for me to be of some small service to him as we helped to prepare him for the life to come. I picked up my sister Tami from the airport later that day and we were all together that afternoon. At this point my Dad was very sleepy from the constant morphine doses that he was receiving, but he was aware that we were all there and we enjoyed this special time together.

On Thursday I headed back down to Frederick and my Dad was no longer able to drink anything and the hospice nurses told us that drinking was now a choking hazard due to his weakened state. We took turns putting liquids on a sponge and wiping his mouth when it would get dry. His vitals still looked good though and he seemed very comfortable as he slept most of the day. I went in to say goodbye to him before heading back home and he told me "I love you." I didn't know it then, but that would be the last time that I would see my Dad alive on this earth.

Around 9:20 p.m. I received a call from my sister Lara and I knew before even picking it up that he was gone. It happened very quickly. Tami and Lara were in the room with him when his breathing suddenly changed and his face grimaced. Tami immediately got Tasha who was upstairs and within just 2-3 minutes he took his last breath and his pulse slowly faded away. I drove to Frederick as fast as I could and we all surrounded my loving, wonderful father for the last time. The hospice nurse came back to declare his official death and to clean him all up and dress him in his final clothing. I will forever be grateful for the hospice care he received in both Colorado and Maryland. They were wonderful in helping us all to manage things during the difficult time.

By my dad's request, there was to be no formal memorial service. He decided several months ago to provide one final act of service after his death by donating his body to medical research. A few hours after his passing, they came to pick him up. They laid an American flag across his body as they wheeled him out to honor the service that he had offered our country as a United States Marine. We will receive his cremated remains in 6-9 months.

The next day, I wrote the following notice on Facebook...

"12 weeks to the day after losing my mom, my dad passed away quickly and peacefully from this life last night surrounded by love and his daughters. I can only imagine the joy of their reunion right now and can picture my mom's outstretched arms enveloping my dad and telling him "Welcome home soldier, welcome home." He was the best dad a daughter could wish for and taught me so much about fighting the good fight and enduring to the very end. It has been a blessing to be with him during these last few months and I will forever be grateful to have spent the last four days by his side as he made the transition back to his heavenly home. His last words he said to me were uttered just hours before he passed. They were "I love you." I love you too Dad, always and forever."

Just 8 days after his passing, my parents would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. On January 15th, 1966 my wonderful parents were married for time and all eternity in the Oakland California LDS Temple. January 15, 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of their union. After my Mom's sudden passing in October, my sisters and I all had big plans to celebrate this day with my Dad before he headed back to Colorado, but he decided that he would rather celebrate it with the love of his life and joined her just 8 days ago. Oh how I wish they could be here in person to mark this momentous occasion, but I can only imagine the amazing celebration happening in heaven today. Thank you Mom and Dad for showing me that sometimes when two people promise forever they really do mean it. Happy 50th Anniversary Mom and you forever and always!!

Losing both of my parents within just a few months of each other has left me reeling. It is the hardest thing I have ever gone through. I miss them both so very much and look forward to being with them again. I know that families are forever and this precious knowledge is that only thing that has helped me get through this difficult time.

Festival of Lights

We didn't get a chance to see the Festival of Lights at the Washington D.C. Temple before Christmas, but we were able to get together with my sister and her family to see the lights on the Sunday after Christmas. My dad was staying with her family and was starting to have difficulty getting around and was using a cane at this point. It was really crowded that evening and was a bit too much for him to handle. We watched a little movie and walked around the Nativities before saying goodbye to my sister so they could take my Dad back home.

The crowds seemed to lessen around then so we got a a picture in front of the Christus statue before heading back outside to look at the beautiful Christmas light.

Notice how none of us are wearing jackets at the end of December? We had a really mild month of weather and the day we saw the temple lights was in the 70s. It sure didn't feel like Christmas weather, but we all enjoyed it while it lasted!

And to end our evening we visited the outdoor Nativity scene while Nolan decided to throw in some of his "gangsta" look for us all to enjoy!