Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Dinosaurs in the City

For Fred's birthday we surprised him with a trip to the city to the Franklin Institute to see Jurassic World.  Fred is a dinosaur fanatic.  He has to be one of  the most dedicated fans of the Jurassic Park series of movies and has seen them all dozens of times.  Fred also loves riding the train, so as part of our city adventures we headed out early on a cold, sunny morning--Fred and I, Liana and Arielle, and, of course, Steven who is like one of our kids.

Right away we got off to a poor start.  We have been here before!  But somehow we exited the train station onto a different street and were immediately disoriented.  GPS on the kids' phones to the rescue! No, we just ended up walking around in circles.  I had a printed walking map with me and somehow we finally got back on track.  We climbed the big steps into the museum in anticipation of a fun day.

We wandered around waiting for the appointed time to see the special exhibit.  And, finally, Fred got to see his beloved dinosaurs.  The exhibit is best enjoyed if you pretend you are visiting the fictional Jurassic World amusement park from the last movie.  Put rational thought aside and let the danger of the scary dinosaurs thrill you! Immerse yourself in the fantasy!

Fred enjoyed the exhibit.  He mentioned several times that we need to come to the city more often and how he misses when we used to take the girls to Chinatown on the train when they were little.  He said maybe we still had time to go this day.  I wasn't counting on us actually doing that.  Fred usually runs out of steam quickly and I expected we would return home early.

We walked through a few more exhibits and then Fred suggested we walk to Reading Terminal Market.  We also used to visit there on our city trips years ago.  It is Philly's famous indoor farmer's market jammed packed with stalls selling just about everything you can imagine.  I was a little hesitant.  I was the one with the map and I needed to find a way for us to get there.  It was surprisingly easy this time.  We quickly walked the few long blocks as the sun set on this chilly wintry afternoon.



The market was probably as quiet as it ever is on that Sunday afternoon.  It was still bustling with people, but you could actually walk down the aisles without being pushed around by the crowds.  Everyone was hungry and the longest line was around a hoagie and cheesesteak place.  The line snaked down one aisle with many, many people waiting to be served.  I couldn't believe Fred really wanted to get food there and so did Arielle and Steven.  Since I can't eat sandwiches food and Liana is not a fan either, we wandered off to find our own dinner.  

We found counter space at a little Chinese place.  The owners were warm and friendly despite the fact that I'm sure they had previously served hundreds of people that day and were anxious to finish up for the night.  An older woman handed us a simple menu with cut-out pictures glued to names of the dishes, all covered with page protectors in a 3-ring binder.  Liana and I chose well!  I had delicious Singapore noodles and Liana ordered wonton with vegetables.  Her dish turned out to be not your normal Chinese restaurant fare but rather homemade dumplings and bok choy in a simmering soup broth.  As we ate our meals the owners worked just a couple of feet away right in front of us.  Their entire kitchen was in this small narrow space and they were running a whole restaurant from it!  The older woman peeled the biggest carrots I've ever seen, pulling them out a huge mesh bag.  A younger woman with shiny hair scooped portions of dumpling meat from a big mound and then expertly folded it into the rolled dough.  Another man was cooking noodles in an enormous pot.  In spite of being so busy, the owners were so attentive to the needs of their customers.  

As Liana and I enjoyed  our food together in this small corner of peace created by these lovely people, I felt a surge of joy.  Yes, joy!  Sometimes it is hard to recognize if you haven't encountered it lately.  To be here with my daughter, welcomed by friendly, smiling people, eating hot food on a cold day.  Yes, it was joy.

Fred, Arielle and Steven finally got their food after we had finished ours.  They got the best cheesesteak in town apparently, and they were happy with their own adventure.  We left reluctantly, crossing the street to Jefferson Station.  It was slow and empty on this Sunday evening and then we journeyed home, the motion of the train nearly putting us to sleep.

It was one of those days I will long remember.  I write it here so my family will remember too if they come across this blog.  I asked Fred if this day was worth the cost.  (It cost a lot!)  He said, "It's about being with our girls we love so much.  It's about the memory."  Not the dinosaurs or the food.  It's about these kids and this moment in time.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Kindness at the Mall

Liana asked me to take her to the mall to meet up with a friend so they could shop for an event next week.  We had already hiked through the woods that morning, mushroom hunting with my biology classes.  I was so tired, little sleep the night before.  Liana and her friend set off on their own so I was feeling a little lonely as I perused the new stores in a new wing of our already too-big mall.  I got a chai tea latte for a much needed caffeine boost.  No coffee; it was too late in the day and would guarantee another sleepless night.

“Doddering old fool” came to mind as I trudged along.  I was so weary and faced at least a couple of hours before I could retrieve Liana and go home.  I watched the fashionable young girls strolling along, eyes glued to their cell phones.  Cool moms in workout clothes with babies in strollers.  Teenagers walking hand-in-hand.  Old and out of touch, that’s me. I decided to go to Macy’s to look for a sale and find some stylish clothes that would jazz up my wardrobe.  But I don’t like to shop without my daughters.  They give the thumbs up or down on items I choose.  I trust their judgment. 

All the fall shirts are loose and long.  I guess you need to wear them with leggings because they sure don’t look good with my jeans.  Me in leggings?  But they are very comfortable and like my mother always said, “Comfort before style!”  But I was so indecisive.  So I texted my girls.  “Am I too old to wear leggings?”  Liana was first to respond: “As long as ur butt is covered, ur fine.”  Then Arielle:  “It’s cute.  Everyone can pull that off.”  Really?  For more reassurance, I asked the young cashier.  She was so nice--warm and friendly!   She didn’t seem bored with her job or tired of old lady questions.  Of course, she said yes, leggings would be great.  She is there to sell. 

Next, I saw Bath and Body Works had a sale on hand soap.  As soon as I walked in I was approached by a guy who just seemed to love his job.  I had already chosen my soap but he encouraged me to smell each one first.  I told him I had no sense of smell at all.  So he said he would sniff them for me!  And he was honest.  “I won’t say this one is bad…just different.”  Okay, back on the shelf.  “This one just smells like soap.”  Forget it.  Then he said, “This is the one!  You will love it!”  If I could smell it, I guess.  It was named Leaves.  He recommended Snow, but I don’t like snow and don’t want to look at a picture of snow every time I wash my hands.  I do like leaves though.  What a nice young man!  What was going on with people today?

I kept seeing signs for a new store—Kneipp.  It advertised organic, vegan, chemical-free body care products with essential oils.  I was actually looking for something like that for my daughter-in-law Gretchen.  As soon as I walked in I was enveloped by the friendliest young women.  A whole troupe of them welcomed me and said I was one of the very first customers! The store had just opened for the very first time.  There was a ratio of about 12:1  employees to customers.  I probably talked to six of them in the time I was there.  They were all so helpful and nice.  “What are you looking for?”  “What is your daughter-in-law like?” They wanted to know so they could match just the right scent for her personality.  Did I want bath oil, massage oil, hand lotion, body wash, body scrub, or bubble bath?  I couldn't decide. Since I was one of the very first customers, I would also receive a gift.  How nice.  I thought I might get a sample bottle of something.  So I found a gift for Gretchen and some baby wash for my precious little granddaughters and some arnica oil for Fred’s sore muscles.  At check out of course they talked me into the membership card so I could get deals through my e-mail.  I agreed because they were so nice!  They handed me my purchases and then they gave me a big cloth drawstring bag of goodies!

I kind of collapsed in a chair outside the store to wait for Liana.  I was so tired, but I felt such a peace.  This was not like me.  I’m usually stressed and rushed, always.  I hate shopping generally and especially not at the mall alone.  I texted Arielle and Liana to tell them about this great new store and then texted Fred to tell him I got him a gift.  I thought about the bubbly, pink soap for Jordan and Teagan and hoped Gretchen would approve.  I must have looked so ragged and worn as I sat there texting that a young woman stopped in front of me to ask if I was okay.  Did I look that bad?  Why was everyone so pleasant today?

Then I opened my free gift from Kneipp.  This was not just a little sample bottle of something.  The bag was full of all sorts of full-size products!  I couldn’t believe it. For some reason I was really amazed by this.  I even got tears in my eyes.  No, not just for this bag of body care products, but for all the kindnesses shown to this old lady today.  I know, people have motives for being kind.  But they didn’t have to be.  That young woman didn’t have to stop to check on me.  And then I realized this whole shopping trip was a bag of gifts, given by God on the eve of my birthday when I am feeling old and used up.  All the sweet souls who spoke to me today.  Daughters and a husband, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughters.  The day was washed in fairy light, magical and beautiful.  It won’t always be this way. People will continue to be rude and impatient.  I will too. But maybe I will remember to be kind and bring joy to someone else, even strangers in a store.  Maybe that’s the lesson.  So I wanted to pass it on to anyone who might read.




Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Celebration

For my 63rd birthday I bought these shoes and dyed my hair red.  I am celebrating life.  I always liked funky shoes and I always wanted to dye my hair red.  If not now, when?  Why wear sensible shoes when you can wear fun shoes?

This was my best birthday ever!  But I think I say that every year.  Maybe because every year I realize what a gift it is to just live another year and hopefully I am learning not to take life and the people I love for granted.  

What a glorious day it was!  I woke to my kitchen table decorated with flowers and gifts and homemade cards.  Fred and I had an early morning date planned, and the kids were still asleep.  We celebrated just being together, made even more meaningful after another scary incident in our lives.


A couple of weeks before, Fred was adjusting a new patient downstairs.  I was in the kitchen making dinner.  This woman I'd never seen before suddenly came upstairs saying, "Your husband is not doing well."  I rushed downstairs to find Fred on the sofa holding his head in his hands.  "I'm so dizzy," he kept repeating.  He does suffer with vertigo occasionally so at first I was not alarmed.  But then I noticed sweat pouring down his face and neck and his skin was icy cold. And he was incredibly nauseous. My brain was searching for the answers, symptoms and diagnostic skills long forgotten.  What was this??

Heart attack or stroke.  It had to be.  But Fred had no chest pain.  I took his blood pressure and pulse.  Not unusual.  But he felt worse and worse.  I told him I was taking him to the ER and at first he protested, but then agreed.  He couldn't walk so I called 911.  Here we go again.  Now it was Fred in the ambulance and me following in the car.  Fred was lying on the bed being wheeled off for tests, and I was the one waiting in the chair.  

After a night of testing the conclusion was Fred has a blocked vertebral artery.  He had a cerebellar stroke.  He was put on a heparin drip to get his blood flowing properly again and admitted to the hospital.  When I left at 3 am to check on the girls, he was doing better but still could not walk alone.

The next day Fred was a new man.  He was feisty as ever, walking normally, ordering big quantities of food from "room service" at the hospital.  God is good.  He has healed and restored us once again.  After a couple of days Fred was released and sent home with meds.  No surgery.  No angiogram.  At one point he was ready to be sedated for the ordered angiogram when the neurologist rushed in the say it wasn't necessary.  She saw all she needed to see on the MRI.  God intervened to save Fred from a potentially dangerous test.



When I think back on this night and what could have been, it takes my breath away.  To lose my Fred?  It is unthinkable!  So today, on a glorious autumn day with brilliant sunshine, we celebrate our lives!  We drive out to a country village and our eyes are dazzled with the oranges and reds of the trees.  Arielle has planned secretly to meet up with Marissa and Anthony and there we all are together.  We eat lunch at a restaurant with a ridiculously incompetent staff, but instead of being angry we laugh and enjoy.  


Damien and Gretchen have invited us to dinner and we sit down to a fabulously delicious meal that only Gretchen knows how to prepare.  We celebrate family--sons and daughters and grandchildren to hold and love.  We celebrate all the assorted people that have joined our family in different ways.  What a joyful day!  My heart is full and ready to burst.  The windows of heaven have poured out a blessing and I cannot hold it all.  God is gracious and merciful, abundantly pouring out his favor on us all.  We live and love another day.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Short Summer

Here it is nearing the end of September and I haven't written since May.  The summer I hoped to savor is long gone and we have been abruptly dropped in the school routine, maybe not kicking and screaming, but resenting and resisting the demands on our time.  

Liana had to write a composition for her class about her summer.  She was to think of three nouns that would portray it.  She chose friends, hospital, and mountains.  Two of those words would bring to mind the essence of summer for me too.  The difference is I would say family along with friends.  

The end of school and summer started with my number 11th grandchild Teagan.  Shortly after number 12 and 13, Elias and Jude arrived!  What a gift each child is, my sons and daughters given to me, my grandchildren coming after.  

We dove into summer in June, the long warm days lulling me into thinking these times will last forever. Liana was busy with her group of friends, Arielle started working full-time and I could think about sewing projects and house reorganizing and fun!  We took several trips to Lancaster to choose fabrics and visited farms to buy organic meat and eggs and raw milk. We went to the movies, church events, picnics and barbeques. We planted our garden. We went to the beach when the water was so cold it chills your bones.  On the 4th of July we had a cook-out with friends and family.  Summer stretched endlessly before us.  Then came July 5th.

After a night of feasting with rich foods, I woke in the night with terrible pain.  Indigestion, I thought, but that is unusual for me.  I don't even want to think about the rest of July.  I had night after night of that pain.  It came on predictably at bedtime and lasted about five hours each night.  There were doctor visits, an ER visit, testing.  What was going on?  No one could give me a definitive diagnosis. My dear faithful husband stayed up with me night after night, even though he had to go to work early the next morning.  Finally, one Saturday night I had some kind of incident.  It is still unclear to me what happened, as I don't remember much.  But apparently my blood pressure dropped very low and I couldn't breathe.  My sweet Arielle had to call 911 and paramedics came.  I do remember lying in the ambulance thinking, this is how people die. There is an emergency, you head off to the hospital and that's the end.  Something inside me raged up and I said no, no, no!  Then I fought--the mask of oxygen on my face, the paramedic trying to start an IV. He wasn't very competent and I let him know about it.  I will not die now!  God was gracious and let me live.

More testing.  I was radiated up and down.  I don't want to think about the damage that caused that I may have to deal with later.  The ER doctor thought pulmonary embolism. But they couldn't find any clots.  I was admitted to the hospital.  Still no diagnosis. A stream of doctors came into my room, each with a different theory on what my problem was.  I was given IV morphine and no food.  The pain stopped.

Two elders from church came in to visit the next morning.  They prayed for me, one very succinctly, asking for a quick resolution to my problem.  About two hours later another doctor walked in, one I hadn't seen.  He was a surgeon specializing in bariatrics.  Certainly nothing related to me.  But he said very confidently, "I think it's your gallbladder and I can take it out this afternoon."  He was a take charge kind of guy and I was tired of all the talking with no solutions.  I said, "Do it."  And he did.  Back in my room I woke at one point with so much family there the nurse said, "I've never seen so many people in this room before."  I am so blessed.  I am so thankful for so many things during this nightmare.  My faithful husband, my Arielle who took charge of the house in my absence, my Liana with her quiet spirit just sitting beside me enduring the tedium of doing nothing hour after hour.  My son Damien who prayed earnestly for me.  My son Jonathan who sat on my hospital bed reminding me of our hope in God.  

The next day I went home, sore and not sure the problem was resolved.  I think I had a bit of post-traumatic syndrome each evening, fearful the pain would return.  Our vacation to North Carolina had been planned for the coming week.  Could we still go?  I had put Fred and my daughters through so much anxiety the past few weeks that I didn't want to disappoint them and ruin their vacation.  So we just postponed the trip a couple of days, and miraculously I gained back my strength.  "...who forgives all your sin and heals all your diseases..."  Psalm 103, the Psalm of my life.  

In Cherokee we once again had the joy of sitting with my mom at her table as she served us a delicious lunch and we talked on and on, catching up on a year of stories.  This year we came down with my good friend and her family.  Remarkably her own mother was raised in Sylva, a nearby town, and she wanted to do genealogy research.  My family graciously welcomed this family and made their trip memorable.  Once again we were sheltered by the majestic Smoky Mountains.  Once again I was blessed to spend time with my precious sister and visit with my brothers and their families.  The kids tubed down a mountain stream,  we ate Kentucky Fried Chicken and potato salad under a canopy of green, and caught up on family news.  We drove to Gatlinburg swinging around hairpin turns, first soaring into the sky and then flying back down.  What a ride!  What a ride this life is.  But God is always good.  He is always faithful.  We can always trust him, but always remembering that he is more concerned with our sanctification than our comfort.  But whatever raging river we walk through, he is ever present and will see us through to the other side.

On the way back from Gatlinburg into Cherokee we drove to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the Smokies, seven miles up from the main road.  Last year I could not hike the half mile path to the top because it is so steep and my asthma kicked in.  This year, one week after surgery, I went all the way up.  Miraculous healing, wonderful God!  

After another tearful good-bye at my mother's house, we headed home.  We still had August. Could we still have some summer?  We got in few more beach trips, baking in the hot sun, listening to the crashing of the waves, raising our faces to the salty breeze.  But it was over in a blink and here we are back in the crazy routine.  

I never want to take good health for granted again.  I never want to take my family for granted again.  I love them all so much, family near and far.  But I will.  We forget our blessings.  Here I am already complaining about our frantic school routine and summer being too short.  But after writing this I see it was full and rich.

This is a picture to capture summer--triumph over disease, family and friends beside me at the top of the world!





Saturday, May 23, 2015

Moms and Sisters on Prom Night

The big day finally arrived!  Dresses had been purchased long ago, tickets bought, jewelry chosen.   The anticipation is half the fun.  Now the time had come to rush around and pack all that stuff that would be needed for the long day.  

My friend Cindy and I joke with our kids telling them they have two moms.  We've given each other permission to act as Chief Mom when the other is absent.  This works well because Arielle spends a lot of time at Cindy's house, and Steven spends a lot of time here.  And, of course, we help each other out whenever help is needed.  This is the story of how two moms and two sisters pulled off prom.  Arielle and Steven, you couldn't have done it without us!

Prom morning and Arielle's dress was still not hemmed.  The night before she came home from work so very tired, yet I insisted she try on the dress so I could mark it.  It was many inches too long.  This was no easy hemming job.  The skirt had a layer of chiffon over the yards and yards of silky fabric, then a layer of netting, and then a layer of lining.  It seemed an impossible task to complete before our time of departure.  But Liana saved the day.  She offered to help me do the dress, but she ended up doing all the sewing while I did the pinning.  What did Arielle do, one might wonder?  She tried on the dress after we completed each step.  It was too late to pronounce judgement over why she hadn't done this work prior to the morning of. It's now days after and my dining room table is still adorned with wads of pink and the floor is scattered with pins--as Fred keeps reminding me.  Evidence of a mad rush out the door.

We also waited until the last minute to pick up the boutonniere for Steven that Arielle had ordered the week before.  Then Fred said to be sure and get some flowers for Liana since she was not going with a date.  Thankfully, the florist made up a pretty wristlet with just an hour's notice.

The girls were headed to Liana's friend's house to get ready.  The reason I was doing all this driving instead of Arielle is because our state laws prohibit kids under 18 to drive past 11pm.  We would be gone until way past 11 tonight.  On the way, there we stopped by another friend's house who was lending a bow tie to Steven in just the right color to match Arielle's hot coral dress.  This guy threw in a vest to match.  Perfect!  Then we picked up Marissa who was going to help the girls with make-up and hair.  We were only about an hour late overall.  It all worked out.

I dropped off the sisters and went to the mall to wait.  Arielle was supposed to call me when she was ready to head to Steven's house.  Cindy called instead.  She was putting together Arielle's bouquet and would I pick up Steven and his two friends at the mall who were doing last minute shopping?  So that was my next mission.  Cindy was having a hard time with the roses and lamented she still had to iron Steven's shirt.  Second mom to the rescue.  I finished his shirt and drove back again to get Arielle.  

Arielle's hair and make-up were done beautifully, thanks to Marissa.  But she was not dressed yet so she went up to Cindy's bedroom to get ready.  The zipper wouldn't go up!  I tried and tried and just couldn't fix it.  Mom number two came upstairs to help.  Cindy got the zipper to work and then did some pinning to make sure no under-items would be showing outside Arielle's strapless dress.  Marissa headed down the hall to her next task--helping to gel Steven's hair!

Arielle and Steven finally were ready to go, each of them delighted in the end result of both hovering, helping moms and sisters.  They looked fabulous!  Pictures were taken, the kids were loaded into the car, and we drove off again back to Liana and the pre-prom party.  

I got to see Marissa's handiwork with Liana.  My little daughter was gorgeous!  Both my girls looked like princesses.  Other families gathered and pictures were taken indoor and out.  Finally, the time had arrived.  Off to the prom with Cindy and I in the front of the van, excited kids in the back.  I wouldn't have missed this for the world!

Cindy and I had four hours to spend until the prom ended.  What should we do?  When the kids asked later what we did in that time, I responded by saying, "What we do best."  They all knew what that was and said, "Talk!"  Yes, that's it.  The hours flew by while we ate homemade chicken salad in Cindy's kitchen and drank carrot-apple juice she prepared on the spot.  

Cindy suggested we leave a little early to spy on the kids.  They didn't seem to mind  We came at the last dance and the DJ was playing "We are Young..."  I know, some of the lyrics are questionable, but tonight we just saw  joyous kids swaying to the music, arms around each others' shoulders ready to set the world on fire.  As we left, Steven grabbed a huge bundle of balloons and told his mother he was taking them home.  It looked impossible and Cindy mildly tried to dissuade him, but he insisted and with the help of his two moms, we stuffed all the balloons in the back of the van (except for a few that Cindy deflated with scissors from her first aid kit.)  Some balloons escaped into the cold night air and floated off high above us across the moonlit sky.  

And  the night was not over!  Kids were meeting at the local diner for more festivities.  Cindy and I joined them, not to spy but to enjoy the last couple of hours of this happy night.  One of my students who had just graduated yelled across the diner at me, "Favorite teacher!"  I called back, "Favorite graduate!"  What a year it's been and here was the official end. Cindy and I each had a three egg omelet with hash browns at midnight and celebrated our friendship and these precious kids of ours.  They will soon be grown and these days will end.  I will always remember our adventure this night. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Letting Go




My daughter suddenly grew up.  It was the driver's license that changed everything.  In a matter of days she had her license, a full-time job, and a car.  And she drove off into the future.

Arielle has always been determined, focused and self-assured.  Once driving became her goal, she worked hard to achieve it.  She drove beside me for almost a full year, back and forth to co-op--a 40 minute drive each way--and every other place we went.  We talked endlessly of different traffic situations.  She endured my exclamations (sometimes shouted):  "Slow down!  Watch out!  Stop!"  She learned.  She earned her license.  

Arielle knew the job at the book warehouse was a summer possibility--good pay, flexible days, and full-time hours.  (Forty hours a week is hard to come by for a teenager.)  The warehouse is also far from home.  But one afternoon she applied for the job on-line.  Someone called her the next day and she quickly had an interview and was hired.  She has already worked a week.  I thought maybe it would be overwhelming for her--the drive, the long days. But no, she likes it!  Arielle has always thrived on busy-ness and people.  

I didn't know it but Fred was waiting for a reason to buy his dream car--this time a jeep.  So when Arielle got the job and would be needing a car, he got his jeep.  His old Honda is now Arielle's.  She immediately cleaned it out and made it her own, stockpiling it with all her personal items.  Even before the warehouse job, she started driving to her cleaning job all by herself, another long drive in the opposite direction.  She is filling in for Gretchen working for an elderly couple while Gretchen has some weeks with her newborn.  So for now, Arielle will be working six days a week.  She isn't home. I miss her already.  Letting go is hard for me.

My little Arielle.  This morning I went downstairs with her as she was leaving for work at 7 a.m.  She had her coffee, her lunch and her backpack.  I kissed her good-bye and just for old times' sake I yelled out, "Slow down!"  She laughed and drove off with her newly found freedom.   

I think of Fred long ago lifting Arielle into her car seat in his big truck.  She was only three when he took her to preschool Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  I would wave and pray for her safe return.  She was my baby, going off into the world.  It was hard to let her go.  At three she was so bold and confident, off on an adventure, never looking back.  So I pray now, as then, that God's favor would be her shield as he guides her into the future, unknown to me, but fully known to him.  I'm grateful for the privilege of being the mother of this amazing girl. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mother's Day Weekend

Could life get any better than this?  "The Lord has dealt bountifully with me."  I read that the day after Mother's Day.  God is good!

 The day before Mother's Day we planned a triple baby shower for my three daughters-in-law--Gretchen, Chrissy and Stacia.  Gretchen's baby was due the end of May and the other two babies are coming in July.  A big day was planned with gifts, food, and outdoor spaces for the little ones to run around.  The weather was sunny and warm, no rain to spoil this day.  Then I got a call from Damien a few hours before guests were to arrive.  Damien was taking Gretchen to the hospital!  He thought maybe it was just false labor.  But no!  About two hours later I got a text--  "It's a girl!"  What joy at the shower as we celebrated the arrival of Teagan Grace!

Mental snapshots from the shower to reflect on so I never forget this day:  Sidewalk chalk and all the children drawing and laughing.  Bubbles galore and small balls tossed around.  Arielle was so thoughtful to pick up fun things at the dollar store.  A little shoving and biting among small cousins.  Liana and her camera capturing it all.  Pregnant moms on the deck opening gifts.  Julie and her daughter--odd how we became friends--fitting in with everyone.  Julie and I had a good conversation as moms of older girls.  My friend Cindy comfortable talking with everyone.  Tiny Eva in her soft voice telling us the names of all the animals in Arielle's Webkinz collection.  Her vocabulary is amazing!  Lana playing the big sister role to all the children.  Caden scaling the stone wall to run away.  Joey trying to follow but not quite making it.  Jordan confused and upset at times.  Why weren't her parents here?  She would come in the house occasionally to throw herself in my lap in tears.  Poor child, her life will never be the same once she goes home to a new sister.  More dessert after dessert when most everyone went home and Cindy and I rehashed the day.  Late night clean-up.  It was worth the mess!  Family and friends celebrating life together.

Dominic and family came from D.C. and I had hoped to spend time with them but we never seemed to get a chance to talk in the crowd of guests at the shower.  I still have trouble balancing serving and relaxing to enjoy people.  We planned a day at the park with the little ones on Mother's Day.  Once we arrived though, someone said we were all going to Damien and Gretchen's house to meet their baby girl.  Jordan greeted us at the door, taking Liana's hand to show off HER baby.  There Teagan was in her cradle, sleeping peacefully.  We took turns holding her, this tiny person so new and perfect and precious.

We left for lunch at Red Robin and our crowd filled an extra room.  Dominic sat beside me and we finally had a chance to catch up.  I was at one end of our long table, Jon at the other.  I looked down that table at all my dear family members and felt such gratitude.  Moms were busy feeding toddlers, my number three grandchild Lana helping out by chasing them down when one would run off.  My sons, such good men, caring for their families.  Our blended family is one, Anthony and Kim among us with Fred enjoying little Joey.  My daughters beautiful beside me.  They are growing up so quickly.  My heart is full.  

Liana made me a pretty card with a sweet message that I will treasure forever.  The girls also gave me a shirt in my favorite color.  AND I got a new granddaughter for Mother's Day!  Family--it's the best gift.  We have times when we are at odds with each other, but in the end, we are strong and together.  It is reassuring to know my kids will always have each other when I am long gone.

 After hugs and good-byes,  Steven called Arielle.  His mom wasn't home and could he spend Mother's Day with us?  Why not? I often tell him he is like my fifth son.  He was worried because his dress shirt didn't fit anymore and he didn't think it was right to wear a T-shirt on Mother's Day.  In our family?  Casual and comfortable reign with us.  We got Steven and decided on a hike and geocaching in Mill Grove on this beautiful day.  Back at home, Arielle and Steven suddenly dashed out the door.  I had no idea where they are going.  (Although they had cleared it with Fred.)  They returned with two lovely bouquets of flowers, one for me and one for Steven's mom.  As the sun was setting on this perfect Mother's Day, I took this picture out on the deck. 

Thank you, everyone.  I am truly undeserving of all these blessings.

"You make known to me the path of life.  In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more."  Psalm 16:11.