Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Up, Down, and All Around

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the extent of my summer gardening

What a whirlwind of a summer!

June actually started out fairly relaxed. I should have blogged then, but I was enjoying having little on the agenda. We even got math done, folks!!! I always have great ambitions of us doing regular math lessons over the summer, but it never happens. Well, this summer we actually made it about six weeks before dropping math like a hot potato.

In mid-June things started picking up when we hit ballet performance week, which was full of rehearsals, visiting with family, and two nights of performances. Busy, but, oh, so fun! Pictures are coming -- I know the aunties must be disappointed I haven't posted anything yet!

The day after the last performance, I left for Denver, by myself. My sister was traveling for work, and someone needed to be in town to be with my dad, who was having health struggles. I left the kids and dog with Marc so they could spend a couple more days with my mother-in-law, who came to town for the ballet. Jasper, our big black lab, also had some health struggles that week, and I was pretty sure I was saying goodbye to my big (old) puppy for the last time. I think I cried at least 3 hours of the 9 hour drive. (Thankfully, Jasper made quite the recovery and is back to his stinky self!)

My dad's house is half a block away from my sister's house, so each time I make one of these trips to Denver I stay at her house and take care of her two dogs.  Summer in Colorado is amazing! Every morning I would sit on her back porch, enjoying the silence, mountain air, two dogs at my feet, a hot cup of coffee in my hand, and my Bible in front of me. And each morning I'd decide that we have to move to Denver. Now, take that with a grain of salt. We've made this decision before -- even started looking for houses and Marc interviewed for some jobs -- but God made it perfectly clear 15 years ago that door was closed. And I can't imagine a move anytime in the near future -- we're too tied in with job, school, church, activities, etc. But when I'm sipping coffee, gazing at those foothills, I get that itch.

Dad was having a tough time that week. His caregiver was amazing (she's such an answer to prayer), but it was clear he wasn't going to be able to stay in the house much longer. My sister and I had been discussing this all month, but we knew it would be a hard transition. It would be so much easier if he recognized that it was time to move. And then he did. He came to me twice that week and said it was time. Again, this was a HUGE answer to specific prayer, but it was heartbreaking nonetheless. I ended up staying an extra week and we moved him out of his house to a memory care facility. He had a fall the day before the move, so he and I spent a few hours in the emergency room. That may have been the easiest part of the week. Sadly, I will have memories of that week that will rival my last visit with my mom before she died of brain cancer. It is so hard watching your parents suffer. And, yet, I feel silly and selfish even talking about how hard this was for me. Dad has been fully aware of his declining health, and I can't even imagine how hard this is for him. Or for my sister, who has had to do so much to keep him in his home as long as possible.

The good news is that Dad is in a great facility -- it was so much better than any other place we (as in mostly my sister) had looked at. The even better news is that he gets to keep his little Wheaten Terrier, Izzy, with him! Dad was so much more accepting of this transition knowing he could have his best pal with him. While the facility allows pets, Dad is the only resident who currently keeps a pet there, so Izzy has rock star status among the residents and staff.

A couple of days after he moved in, Dad was rediagnosed from Alzheimer's to frontotemporal dementia. This answered a lot of our confusion we've had the last few years, since in many ways Dad didn't really seem like he had Alzheimers and he's on the young side for Alzheimer's.

Marc was awesome during this time! He had to unexpectedly do the single dad thing for an extra week.  Anna cooked several times the first week, but they had to do a lot of scrounging the second week. Between him and the kids back home and me in Denver, we obliterated our eating-out budget for the month! Anna went away to engineering camp during that second week, so Marc had to make sure she was prepared and then drive her three hours to get there and three hours back. My brother-in-law was also awesome in that he took a day off work to go pick Anna up from camp because Marc was giving a presentation that day. And would you believe that Ryne and Grace did their math while I was gone?! What a blessing to know all was well back home!

I spent Fourth of July week catching up on everything and reconnecting with my crew. Of course, once the homeschool mom was finally back home, that's when we ditched the math lessons. Oh, well.

Then they all left me for four days -- Marc drove them to church camp in Wisconsin. We had planned months ago that Marc would take them, but I felt pretty guilty after all I had already put him through. He deserves a medal. Thankfully, they all had a wonderful time at camp.

Forty-eight hours later, Grace was off to her best friend's church camp! She came home very sleepy, but had a marvelous time.

And that brings us to this week. We have one week of normal and then things get crazy again, and then school starts! Don't even get me started on school -- I'm hoping if I just ignore school, summer will just last forever, even though I'm really more of a fall person. Can we just have fall with no school?

It's been a summer of ups and downs and a lot of driving all around, but God's hand has been so evident through it all. I hesitated sharing so much, but I feel I've honored my dad in what I've shared. He is so brave for facing what he does each day. And if I didn't share, God wouldn't get the glory He deserves. I will say it again, God has been amazing through my dad's illness. At times I have felt like Peter walking on water in the way I've had to trust in God's protection and provision, but He has gone above and beyond what I could have ever expected. I wish I could tell so much more.

Hugs to all my faithful readers!!! I've missed you as always when I'm absent from this place.

I hope your summer has been full of blessings as well!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lists, lists, and more lists

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My bloggy-BFF, Dawn, is a bird watching superstar, and she's raising a couple of birdwatching superstars. Her boys recently took part in a bird watching competition and identified 114 different birds! They also added some new birds to their life list. Serious birders have a life list to keep track of all the different birds they've identified. I'm not sure how big Dawn's family's life lists are, but I'm sure it's impressive (Dawn, please tell us in the comments!)

I've decided that since I'm hopeless when it comes to identifying a bird by its call, and it takes me forever to identify them by appearance because it usually turns into an hour-long internet search, my birding life list will consist of birds that kindly pose for a decent photo. I think, then, that makes my life list in 10-12 range. ; )

Yesterday, we were having Sunday dinner and enjoying the hummingbirds visiting our feeder that hangs just on the other side of the window. Then Marc pointed out a bird in the tree who had a flashing yellow belly, and immediately I knew it was someone I hadn't noticed before, so I jumped up from the table and ran for my camera. Of course, the camera was upstairs and was missing the camera card because I had been uploading track photos the day before. By the time I found the card and got the camera ready, the bird was less than patient, but I did manage to get a few pictures from our school room window. And then it flew directly at me and hit the window, which was quite frightening when viewing from a zoom lens! Then it perched on the gutter and chattered loudly. I'm pretty sure it was telling me off. Maybe it's the private type. At least it didn't repeatedly hit the window, like the tanager from a couple of years ago.

Anyhoo, I was greatly pleased that I was able to quickly identify our new visitor as a Great Crested Flycatcher. I would have loved to get a better shot from the front with that yellow belly (reminds me of my favorite bird, the Cedar Waxwing), but I'm happy enough just to add another bird to my list.

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Speaking of lists, today is one of my favorite days of the year -- first day of summer break, also known as list-making day. Lists of the things that need to get done this summer. Lists of books to read. Lists of homeschool materials to buy. And since I haven't been grocery shopping in two weeks, the grocery list will be one of the first lists to make. It's been a crazy couple of months, so today is a day of sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and dreaming that this just might be the summer I get it all done. I know it's not true, but just let me dream and enjoy my lists for one day. : )

Monday, May 5, 2014

Welcome, May!

The beautiful month of May brings . . .

a much needed break from school. The girls will be done in less than two weeks, and Ryne has finished or will finish most his subjects in the next couple of weeks. Just don't ask me how we're doing on science.

a much needed break from the busy, busy schedule of March and April. Remember my day in the life? I haven't had a Thursday (or any other day of the week, except Sundays) that relaxed since then! I spent my whole spring break week organizing our basement/storage room, and then it was just one activity or event after another. So many fun times (and a few bleh), but just too many of them!

I don't do well with busy-stress, and I fell back into some bad habits the last fews weeks, including a few too many stops for sugary coffee or other forms of caffeine. Plus, I only got in half the exercise I had been doing. Amazing how it can take months to lose 5 pounds but just a few weeks to put it on.

Cinco de Mayo. But before I start getting all healthy again, I figured I'd go out with a bang. And it was worth it! We actually had our Mexican-themed dinner a day early, so now I can tell you that your celebration of Mexico's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla (can you tell what we studied in history last week?) will not be complete unless you make Pioneer Woman's Tres Leches Cake right now. I want to know how I could have grown up in Texas and never had this amazing (and fairly easy) dessert before. It is a new family favorite.

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Even better, if you're really going to do Cinco de Mayo right, you must try these Chicken Enchiladas Suizas too. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Colorado Collage, but I was able to find the recipe online here.

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These enchiladas have been a family favorite for years and are perfect for entertaining. I typically serve them with black beans and some sauteed squash. Sadly, the recipe does not meet my standards for easy weeknight fare. There's a lot of chopping and shredding involved (although once I learned this tip for shredding chicken, life became much easier), so I generally save it for Sunday dinners.

Therefore, if you're trying to make a last minute decision on what to have for dinner tonight, and you're feeling the Cinco de Mayo spirit, I totally give you permission to skip the enchiladas this time and just make the cake. As in eat cake for dinner. Tell your family I said, "You're welcome." ; )