Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last day of 2008...

and what a year it has been. I have been sitting here this morning, as well as last night before bed, reflecting on what an amazing year it has been. A year ago today Eric and I were in MN with all the kids there, in my small little house, preparing for a day of play: going to the Mall of America, then to the ice rink for the New Year's Eve party there. Eric had given me a promise ring for Christmas because the divorce was not yet final, he had officially retired from the Army, and "CHANGE" was in the air. Wow! Change it has!

God has blessed us this year in so many ways that I cannot begin to count them all. Our parents and Eric's Grandmother (who will be 99 in April) are in good health, we have the love and support of extended family and good friends, we are meeting our obligations (despite me not working yet), our family is coming together in ways we had only hoped for a year ago, and we are content. This year has not been without it's difficulties, nor has it always been smooth sailing, but we have grown together in weathering the storms that have arisen, and as Eric so beautifully put it the other night, it's not that one or the other of us has to be right, it's that we listen to each other first, and go from there. Sometimes his way is best, sometimes mine, and sometimes we find a path together we might not have otherwise thought of. It has been so rewarding to me to have a partner that respects me enough to listen as well as talk, and I am so very grateful for the year we spent courting primarily by phone because it gave us such a strong foundation for communication.

The kids seem to be flourishing in this new atmosphere of love and structure we are providing. That too has not been without it's issues at times, but it warms our hearts to see the younger 3 (and sometimes 4) run together with their mutual friends, to see how outgoing and happy they are looking. Some of the power struggling and pecking order issues from earlier on are beginning to resolve themselves, and while homework and chores remain as challenges at times, there is grudging acceptance that they are not going away or doing themselves... Shopping yesterday was a great example of their positive relationships and friendships (dare I even say sibling bonds?) as they laughed, bought for each other, teased, and joked, while I ran on my own and finished up some of my own things that needed doing. Eric and I watch and pray over the struggles Brianne and Cliff are facing as they test the waters in becoming independent adults, and we offer our unconditional love and support to both of them, even as we try to guide and challenge them to move forward in positive direction. As I have shared with Eric, parenting young adults at times is almost harder than parenting teens, because we have to let them make their own choices and learn from their mistakes, as painful as those can be at times. And we can pray, but have to leave the results in God's hands because He can go places with them that we cannot. Of course this is as true for my big kids and grandkids and extended families on both sides as well!

My friend Deb (who's birthday is today--Happy Birthday Dear Friend!) had a good point in her blog about setting goals versus making resolutions. I have been thinking about those today as well, and here are a few of mine:

1. I want to focus on being healthy rather than necessarily losing weight (although that would be nice too-heeheehee). To that end I plan to walk more and be more active (we are looking at getting "Wii fit" for the household and as I am a gamer, that should be fun; we have heard great things about it from acquaintances who have and use it daily).

2. I want to continue to strengthen my walk with the Lord, by being faithful in doing my meditations and being more active in my church attendance (the difficulty here being I still don't feel "at home" at the church we attend and I am not sure why; maybe I just need to become more active there).

3. I need to continue my job search, and I need to spend some time looking at what the qualifications are that I need to complete so I can do my internship and finish my Master's degree. That in and of itself will make me more marketable job-wise.

4. I want to focus on continuing the process of making this house a "home" by adding those personal touches that make it comforting, warm, and welcoming. It will be a process, because there are things that cost money, but if we are careful we can do it. My garden retreat will be a priority, as will be creating a space where I can "nest" when Eric is sleeping here in the house.

5. I want to continue to be a rolemodel, mentor, and parent to our brood, showing them by example that they are loved and respected, and that their well-being is our highest priority, even if it doesn't always match what they "want" in the moment...

6. Some personal goals for me: let me be less quick to pass judgment, to be a better listener when I am chomping to share my opinion, to force myself to act when I would prefer to procrastinate (especially if I know it's good for me!), and to finish the things I have started. This includes projects, chores, and goals.

This year has been an adventure. I left all I had known and loved for 46 years and moved to a new home, a new community, and a new way of life. I have no regrets for the changes I made, and while there have been some bittersweet days, I am still so content with how things are playing out. My marriage is satisfying in ways I had only dreamed of in the past, and I feel myself growing as a person within this relationship. I have enjoyed 2008, with all of it's laughter and tears, and I am looking towards 2009 with joy and excitement.

I wish God's blessing on all of you, my family, my friends, and even the random reader who pops in by accident now and again, that 2009 gives you all you need and hope for, and that you too can be content.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas one and all!

It's quiet, really quiet, right this minute. And I am at peace and content. I have spoken with my kids and my mom today, I have called friends and family "back home" and wished them well, I have made a good dinner for my husband to take to work and think of me, and I have enjoyed a peace-filled day.

It's been a different sort of Christmas for me this year, so far away from my own family and traditions that I have known and loved, and yet it hasn't been a bad or sad Christmas, not really. It's just been different. Last night Liisa and my foray into using technology to allow me to vicariously be present at the traditional Christmas eve celebration at my mom's was a bit of a bust: we had the camera up and working long enough to see the small kids (and Rei), then wouldn't maintain a signal for us in any way, shape, or form. Instead, Liisa put me on speakerphone and I listened in to the chatter and laughter and running commentary as people opened gifts and exchanged happiness. The phone got passed around and I was content to be included; I was pleased my/our gifts were well-received, and I treasured hearing everyone's voice. When we hung up I just sat here in awe that I at least had that to treasure and be grateful for. I too laughed with the family and felt included, even 600 miles away. Afterwards, I watched a tv broadcast I later found out my mom watched too: the National Council of Churches shared the Gospel message and choirs from around the country singing familiar and unfamiliar hymns and spirituals. I sang along some all by myself in the living room, and I cried through some of my favorite, ones that evoked memories of my dad, and of Christmases past. As I told Eric, I was emotional, but not sad, and it felt right, not depressing. I was alone with my thoughts, counted my blessings, and truly reflected on the meaning of the season: family, love, joy, and hope. It was needed and left me feeling peaceful and content.

Cliff had asked me to wrap a gift for Brie for him last night, which I did after the show was over. It was a video game, and he gave me a shoe box to wrap it in, so that "she would have no idea it was a game". I wrapped it in paper, then newspaper, then wrapping paper again; another thick layer of newspaper, then wrapping paper yet again, still another huge layer of newspaper, three plastic bags, and wrapping paper again, and then into the shoebox it went, where it couldn't move or make a sound! (I used packaging tape on the newspaper to help keep it secure). Next the box got taped shut, but not meanly or completely; then a final wrap in pretty paper, and under the tree it went. I guess she had fun opening it this morning! (heeheehee!)

I stayed up until after 2 am yet again, had trouble falling asleep, so I "slept in" with Eric when he got home just after 7. Unfortunately, the dog (Leina) and the cat (Pekeiko) don't like being shut out of our room, so they whined and scratched at the door ad nauseum until I couldn't stand it any more, and I finally got up around 9:30ish (I was awake long before that tho' from their antics). If I let them in when we are trying to sleep, they're pests, but if I keep them out and they know we're in there, they're still pests! Fortunately Eric tends to be a sound sleeper once he's out so they don't bug him too much... I wish I were a sound sleeper too! I am a bit weary this evening.

Cliff and Brie just took off to go to some friend's for dinner. I had been invited too, but had already planned a nice chicken dinner for us here at home, as I wanted Eric to have a nice meal for work (as opposed to tv dinners); I ate alone at the table, and will clean up the kitchen after I am done writing. Eric talked to his youngest and it sounds like things were not terribly exciting for the kids for their Christmas; I sent a text message to them saying "merry christmas" and that they were loved, and that it was "too quiet" without all of the kids here. Aurora sent me back a message promising to make up for the peace and quiet next week when they are all back home again! Made me smile! We will have our Christmas celebration as a family next Wednesday on New Year's eve and it will be fun! I am looking forward to it! Tonight I will meet up with Brie, Cliff, and some of their friends to go catch a 9 pm movie with them. That should be fun!

All in all it has been a good holiday. Despite Eric working, I have been so happy to have some of the quality time with him we have shared with everyone being out, and I am so blessed to have such a wonderful husband, partner, and friend. He is a joy to me and I am so grateful! He has so many strengths and abilities, and I am so very proud to be a part of his life. I am also grateful for my new extended family. The kids are all really neat people, with such varied interests, strengths, and ideas. They are fun to talk to and do things with, and while we have our ups and downs, I really like the people they are and I think they are going to be wonderful adults someday! I was glad to hear that my In-laws finally have heat and electricity at their place again: they had been without power or heat since Friday, and it just came on last evening. They had stayed at Eric's brother's house while they waited, and I am so excited to see them this weekend when we go get the kids from their mother on Sunday. (As an aside, the judge felt it would be unfair for Eric not to have a holiday week with the kids, so they are able to come back home after spending the first week of winter break with their mom). We are going to grab Rei from the airport on Saturday around noonish (his plane comes in around 11:30), then will drive up to IN that afternoon and spend the evening in a hotel. We will pick up the kids from their mom at noon, and then head to Eric's parent's neck of the woods to see them, and drive home that evening. Short trip, but manageable, and it will be lovely to see everyone again!

Just a couple more minutes til Eric is on car patrol and I can call him to check in, then it's time to clean up the kitchen and get ready to head to the movie theater. Here's hoping everyone has had a wonderful holiday too!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I have finished making the few gifts I was making,

I have poured a glass of wine, and I am going to start wrapping gifts after I write this entry. Eric and Cliff are at work, Brianne is on the other end of the sectional with her cross stitching, and the tv is on. A nice companionable evening. We've had a crazy last couple of days, so it's nice to just sit a bit!

Wednesday night brought home to me, once again, the differences between living in a small town versus living in a big city (or perhaps it's just the difference between living in IL vs. MN). Aurora had a band concert that evening (rescheduled from Monday's cancellation due to the ice storm), and the first difference noticed was the fact that it was actually called a "Christmas Concert for Band and Choir". In MN that would have been taboo. (It would be politically correctly called a "Seasonal Concert" or "Holiday Concert"). Secondly, the concert was begun with the singing (and playing) of the Star Spangled Banner . Then, there was the opening number by the choir, from Handel's Messiah: Unto us a child is born. In MN we had a choral director almost get fired when I was a junior in H.S. for chosing to perform a sacred song.
That too was taboo! The concert was a lovely mix of the sacred and the secular, and I found it to be extremely refreshing. Aurora did a nice job, as did the band and choirs, and it helped me to finally get into the holiday spirit. After the concert I took all the kids to McDonald's for dinner (much to Cliff's chagrin: the 8 of us were the start of the post concert rush that lasted for an hour and a half--heeheehee). By the time we got home it was getting late, so we called it a night.

Tuesday evening Aurora and Brianne decided to start cross stitching, using some kits they found stored away, so I spent a pleasant evening with them getting projects organized and then over the past few days stitching by them. I have so enjoyed this! It's something I did with Liisa all the time, and it is also something I did with the kids at work as I taught them different handcraft skills, and I have missed it. Even Eric got out a project he's been working on and joined us! There is something totally relaxing about sharing projects with each other and just "being".

Friday Eric and I headed out to finish our shopping for gifts to be mailed during the day, and that was a lot of fun, albeit a bit tiring. It was also the last day of school for the kids, and they came home wired and excited for the start of their winter break. They had things to do (i.e. packing) but were eager to spend time with friends for the last time before heading for points north. I had Cliff get the tree set up for me, and then Patrick and I got out boxes of ornaments after he got home. Brie and Aurora spent time setting up the lights and fluffing the branches the way they wanted them done, and we started decorating the tree, but it is a work in progress. Brie still needs to put on her ornaments, then I will add in mine from MN. I have taken some pictures, but it will be awhile before I can post them--I sent my camera to MN with Bingo. I worked on finishing up laundry for the kids to get packing, and I admit it, it was after 2:30 am before I fell asleep... It's so hard to fall asleep sometimes with Eric working all night!

Saturday morning I was up before 8 am, and had the kids moving by 9. Patrick hadn't even started packing and I found myself directing him towards suitcases and clean clothes as I made sure Rei had everything he needed. Eric's ex arrived just after 11 am. Her plan was to grab Patrick and drop Aurora off at the high school for her bowling tournament, then follow the bus there and leave for IN from the bowling alley after it was done. Rei and I headed out to drive to Scott, where we were gonna pick up the train, only I had been so busy keeping track of his stuff I forgot my cell phone and we had to briefly circle back to the house... We were on the train by 11:30 and arrived at the airport about one. Rei's flight was scheduled to leave at 2, but when we were checking in we found it was delayed until 3:30. We grabbed a bite at Burger King, then waited... and waited... and waited... The fight was delayed until 4, then until 4:30, then until 5... Suddenly we were told there was a brief window open for taking off and they started boarding just before 4 with a 4:15 departure... We were talking to Liisa and Andrea and other family repeatedly; Minneapolis was under a winter weather warning with snow falling steadily. There were cancellations of flights right, left, and sideways, and Rei was getting anxious. They boarded Rei first as an "unaccompanied minor", then the rest of the plane was seated. A family was taking off the plane because their "carryons" weighed too much and the pilot disallowed it, thus losing the window for takeoff... After taxiing away from the gate, Rei texted, then called me to say they were sitting on the runway and had another 45 minute delay... He finally took off just after 5:30, and arrived in Minneapolis at 7:10, almost 4 hours later than planned. Jesse met him at the airport, and bless his heart, had waited patiently through all the push and pull. I too stayed in St Louis at the airport 'til I was sure he was in the air, and he was actually on the ground in Mpls before I arrived back at Scott to pick up my car! Go figure! I was at the airport for over 5 hours, and I had been on the road for an additional 3 on the train. Rei said that the landing was easy and the flight was fine; he went directly to burger king again to eat, and then over to see the babies, happy to be home.

Aurora and Patrick had to stop back at the house before heading to IN, as Aurora had forgotten something here, then they too headed for points north. They apparently hit a patch of ice on the road and spun around some, ended at a ditch, after which their mom drove 35 mph the rest of the way home. They got in at 4 am. Sounds like they are having a pretty quiet (boring) day there today, compared to Rei's activities in Minneapolis, and I feel bad for them. They are spending the evening home alone while their mom works, and are just watching tv and entertaining themselves. They are safely arrived though, and that is what counts. Hopefully things will pick up for them and they will have a good time.

I had to laugh today as I called Justin to see if he was happy "Unk Rei" was home. When he heard my voice he said "Hi aunt Eesa! I love you Eesa! I miss you Eesa! You need come my house Eesa!" I said "Justin, it's Gram Rae" and without missing a beat he said the same thing to me, adding "You beaufool Gram" in amongst the other statements he repeated. I was so happy to talk to him! He told me about his big green Chrismas tree" and that he needed a "big red prezzent". He's talking so well! Then he had me put on speakerphone so Alexis could talk to me too as she was in the background hollering "Heyo" over and over again. I could hardly get a word in edgewise they had so much to say, and it felt good to chat with them. I miss them so! Rei was off sledding with his friends from the neighborhood and having a ball when I talked to him, and he sounded so happy. That is what I wanted for him. They are still under winter advisories with windchills in the minus 20-35 ranges and negative teens for real temps tonight, and more snow predicted as well. Glad we got him (and Patrick) new winter coats and gloves! It's gonna be hard being away from them for Christmas, but having the tree up now, and having my gifts mostly purchased has helped alot.

And now my wine glass is empty, so I guess I will refill it, and start wrapping all the gifts! I want to mail them out first thing tomorrow morning, and while there is no guarentee they will be there by Wednesday (to my mom's), I am gonna try!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kinda disappointing...

I got a call last night from my girlfriend and she decided not to come visit for a few days after all. I understand totally her reasons for not coming, and I fully support them, but I am disappointed none-the-less. I have been really bumming the last few days because it just isn't feeling like Christmas around here, and I am really missing my "old" traditions and activities. I thought maybe having someone from home here, that I love hanging out with, would help ease the blues a bit. Oh well!

My sewing machine is still not working. I set it up to make some gifts Monday morning and it sewed well for about half an inch, then started sounding bound up somewhere, and went to black again (my understanding is there is a fail-safe switch that blows the fuse rather than frying the circuit boards). Had to wait til Tuesday to call the repair shop back, and will probably try to drop it off later today to be looked at again. "Cie le vie" (did I spell that right I wonder?) I set up "the girl's" sewing machine yesterday and started a project; it didn't turn out 100% the way I wanted it to, but it's cute. I may take out a few seams again and tweak it a bit today, but overall I like it. Considering I had to design my own pattern for it, I am fairly pleased with the results. I will post pics when they are all done to my satisfaction. I did finish knitting a pair of mittens for a six year old: one of the wives from the bowling alley had asked if I would make some "purple mittens" for her six year old daughter, as they had been looking for some but couldn't find any. I got some lovely lavender wool ("super wash!") and made them up in about four and a half hours. The woman recently had some major surgery and I just felt like it was the least I could do to make life easier for her! They turned out adorable, and I have yarn to make 2 more pairs for a few other little kids I know at the bowling alley (maybe Christmas gifts, maybe just because gifts--depends on when I get them finished!).

We don't have the tree up yet, and the only decorations on the front of the house are the the snowman I put on the tea table under the "porch" awning, and the winter cardinal's flag I put out under the mailbox. I'm hoping we can do the tree either today or tomorrow while Eric is off, as I would like it up before the younger kids all travel to points north. Rei is very excited to be headed to MN on Saturday; unfortunately, Aurora and Patrick are less excited by their trip. Eric's ex is taking him to court on the 23rd to see if she can keep the kids for their full 2 weeks of winter break, something they are not wanting to have happen. It's sad, and although I understand from a mother's perspective the desire to spend the holidays with one's children (this is my first holiday away from my kids and family), I think it is also important to hear what the kids want too, and to put their needs first. Another reason it's not really feeling like Christmas yet. I admit, I've done some mourning the last few days, but Eric is fantastic, and he understands. I know it's gonna feel better as things start coming together as they are meant to.

My father-in-law came through his surgery well. He is healing up, and other than the incision pain, seems to be moving/feeling better (at least that is what Eric has said to me). I'm so grateful, and I hope this will enhance his ability to do what he enjoys again. I know when my dad's back was sore, he was miserable, especially because it limited what he could do! Betty too remains home and is taking things slowly. Sadly she is mostly house-bound, especially because of the weather and the risk of her catching something given her low immunity to anything, but her family is more than happy to help out and I keep her in my thoughts and prayers.

I am amazed at how icy things get down here: we are generally too far south for lots of snow, although there is a dusting on the ground, but we get rain and freezing rain instead, and yuck! I would rather drive on snow than ice any day! Definitely takes some getting used to! Anyhow, that's the news from around here as of this morning. Time to get back to the sewing machine and finish up those gifts!

Monday, December 15, 2008

An Icy Monday

I was awakened to the shouts of glee this morning "School is closed today!!!!!!" followed by cheers and laughter. We had about a quarter inch of ice on the roads and they were deemed unsafe for travel. Eric got up early with Brianne to drive her to work as we were concerned about how safe she would be on her own in the little CRX, so off they went at 5:30 am. Eric came home a bit after 6:30 and he was NOT happy: the car "refused to turn" at the entrance of our addition, despite antilock brakes etc, and hit the curb, blowing out the tire. He nursed it home, and put on the spare, and now he's off to the dealership to get a new tire and the alignment checked before he has to head to work himself this late afternoon. I'm not heading out anywhere today as Eric claims my tires on the van look like "racing slicks", and I have no sand bags in the back (Jesse last year put a hundred pounds of sand back there for me). I am perfectly content to stay inside! Got lots to keep me busy.

The kids are not so thrilled either that I decided to be a slave driver today. We have chores to get done to ready for my guest on Wednesday, and I also want to get the tree up today (it was supposed to go up yesterday and didn't--too much else going on with the kids being out and about). They may not like it, but it needs to get done, and hey, there's no school to interfere with helping me! Of course in talking to Liisa today, we have great weather compared to what they have: she said it was like ten below when we talked with a significantly lower windchill, her car battery was totally dead, and her driver's door was frozen shut (she fortunately left the passenger door unlocked so they could open it). They also had three inches of new snow to shovel, and yeah, schools opened on time, with no delays... Reminds me of the old joke: "temperature is 500 degrees below zero, hell has frozen over, and MN school will start 2 hours late!" Having lived there for 40+ years, I know this to be true!

With Eric being off this past weekend, we had a fun day, he and I, on Saturday. We took the Metro (train) to Lambert Airport (St Louis' airport) so that I could find my way there and back over the next few days, and saw the city sites from the train. That was so much fun, and I was surprised by how much I actually recognized as we rode past! One blight on my day was when we were at the airport. I checked with the ticketing agent for American Airlines as to the feasibility of my getting a gate pass to escort Rei back to the boarding area when he flies out on Saturday and found out that they charge an additional $100 each way for unaccompanied minors. IF he were 15 he could fly with no problems (heck, according to their policies online he could even take babies as young as 5 days old with him for no extra charge!) but, being 5 months away from 15, he has to pay this additional fee so that they "provide someone to watch over him from start to finish" (I thought that was MY job as a parent!). So now I have to come up with an additional $200 for him to go home for Christmas... I have it, it was just earmarked for other things, and I am NOT happy about it. It is not clearly listed on their website--you really have to search to find it, and it seems ridiculous to me. IF he were somehow mentally disabled, or was younger than 13 I could see it, and I would think they would have it clearly marked somewhere... Oh well. 5 months from now it will be a moot point. It's just for that price, we could have bought a ticket for me too, and if I were going with him, then we wouldn't have flown, we would have driven... Grrrrrr!

Anyhow, back to our fun: we decided to get off at Union Station and do some exploring and shopping. I was so impressed about how lovely a space it was, and was sad to see how few shops there actually were there, some of which were going out of business at the end of the year. The area is spacious, it's right on the metro, and seems like it would be prime retail space, but it was so dead when we were there that it was disappointing. We did get a few Christmas presents at a couple of shops that were open, and that was rewarding, and there was a place called "The Fudgery" that was a lot of fun: they make the fudge right in front of you with a lot of "audience participation". We ended up buying a few "treats" for just us... (shhhhh don't tell the kids!). We then had a nice dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and headed back for the train. All in all we were gone about 8 hours, and we had so much fun! Yesterday the kids made a similar trip to Union Station (that would be Brie, Cliff, Rei, Aurora, Patrick, Kimmie, and Ryan) on the Metro so that they could explore and some other gifts could get purchased. Eric and I had a lovely quiet household! I think Rei was a bit disappointed I wouldn't let him and his friends travel unattended on the train (so I'm overprotective!) but as Eric backed me, it was all good. They had fun.

I had to take my sewing machine in for servicing on Tuesday, and when I called Friday they hadn't gotten to it yet. Saturday morning they called and said it was fixed: all it needed was a new fuse. $7 for the fuse, and $25 for them to take it apart to check. They think the fuse getting ready to blow was what was giving me the error messages last weekend, as it sewed fine for them when they tried it after resetting it. Liisa offered me her condolences that it wasn't broken beyond all repair, as I have been eyeing an upgraded model (one that connects directly to a PC rather than using expensive, dedicated memory cards for patterns for the embroidery functions). Given I bought it 10 years ago now, it has certainly paid for itself, and when I bought it it was one step below the most state of the art model (which at that time cost almost $1000 more); The current state of the art machine, by Janome, is $8,000. I am not thinking I will see one of those for a loooooonnnggg time! As long as mine is running, I am happy. Got three things for sure to sew up before Saturday, as well as some other projects on the back burner.

As promised, here are a few pictures from when Liisa and Jesse were in town:

The kids at the bowling alley, after having driven all night long and glad to have safely arrived...

At the Army National Guard Christmas Party with Brianne... Rei always has to be a clown (although generally Brie and Cliff aren't much better for photos--heehee).
The Arch as seen from below it (it was a coolish, almost cold, blustery day, and there were minimal crowds around so we got right in and out to see what we wanted to see!)
One of many views of downtown from the top of the Arch--I loved the reflections of the clouds in the buildings!
The kids and me at 630 feet: Patrick, Me, Jesse, Liisa, Aurora, Reimond, Brianne, and Cliff.
It was sad Eric couldn't be there with us, but he needed his "beauty sleep", and cranky cops are NOT pleasant to be around... It was a fun and memorable weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I've been procrastinating writing this week

and I won't bore you with a total day by day recap of things. I also promise to have pictures the next time I write. I just haven't gotten my photos from the weekend downloaded as yet but will try to do it in the next day or so.

We had a wonderful weekend! Liisa and Jesse and Max (the 12+ year old yellow lab) came down for a visit. Poor kids got more than they bargined for in the trip each way: they left after Jesse got off work on Friday evening, thus driving all night, and when they got close to our house they hit a really icy patch on the interstate (64), going over a bridge, and slid some; there was a spin out ahead of them, and a semi pulled over as well. Fortunately no one was injured and their car landed safely on the shoulder. But they arrived here tired, pumped on adrenaline, and ready to go at 5:30 am...

They brought the most wonderful gift imaginable to Eric and I, which we opened as soon as Eric got home from work (about 7 am); Kristi and Liisa worked together and made us a scrapbook of our courtship and wedding and move, with photos "stolen" off my computer! It's huge, complete, and absolutely precious to us! I have already looked at it over a dozen times, and it is one of my treasured possessions! They worked so hard on it, and it shows. I cannot wait to share it with people! (It's already gone with to the bowling alley!)

We took the kids to the bowling alley with us, and Eric went too--first Saturday he's been there in over 3 months to coach--and we had fun. Then, we came home and everyone crashed for the afternoon. Saturday late afternoon I tried to take the kids to a few of my favorite places, but alas, they weren't open (I was 0 for 3 by the time the weekend was over!). Sunday worked out a bit better in that we went to Brianne's drill Christmas party for 11:30 am, and then when that was done we went over to St Louis and took the kids to the Arch. We wandered the museum, where we met a very talented "mannequin" who chatted with us, then we rode the trams to the top and took tons of pictures. It was lots of fun! We stopped by home to "water" the dogs, then went to the BX and Commisary for some shopping. Then it was home to make dinner and watch movies (Eric worked all weekend--in fact he was teasing me that the only time we have guests is when he needs to work!)

Monday Eric and I took Liisa and Jesse out for breakfast, then they headed back to MN around 11 am. I felt really bad for them, because while the weather here was very mild, they drove back through horrendous snow and ice (they also had snow the first 5 hours of their drive coming down). They didn't get home until 12:30 am Tuesday. I sure appreciated their coming though, and it was sad to see them go. The biggest issue we ran into while they were here was that Max and Po are both unneutered males, and as such, had a hard time with each other and were very territorial (including some marking behaviors, which really frustrated Liisa and I). We felt bad, but needed to take turns confining one or the other of the dogs, just to limit growling and mess. That got hard at times. The other excitement when they were here was at the commisary on Sunday evening: a woman had a grand mal seizure in front of me that I needed to help with. Thank goodness I am fully trained in first aid, and have worked in the past with seizure patients, so I knew what to do to keep her safe and comfortable. I stayed by her, along with an EMT who happened to be shopping and offered to help, until the ambulance arrived. I think she is ok, but the concern was that she was pregnant, and she said she had no history of seizures before. I have been saying a prayer for her. I left my name and contact info with the manager at the store, in case they need me for anything. This is the second time I have been in the same place as someone experiencing a seizure (outside of a hospital setting), and it's no less scary the second time around.

My father in law is having some back surgery today, so I have been sending him warm thoughts and big hugs... I still am unsure of all the details, but I am confident it should go well. I assume my mother in law will call us later. They are such wonderful people, and I am so grateful they have welcomed us as they have!

The economy really stinks these days: a dear friend of mine was laid off on Monday from her job of 3.5 years. Business was slow and they needed to cut back, so she was the one let go. I feel so badly for her, although she is so far handling it well. Another friend was laid off over a month ago, and that too just stinks; and one of Jesse's good friends was laid off too on Monday. It makes my job search a little more understandable. From what I was hearing on the news last night, unemployment in East St Louis is at 20%, one of the highest in the nation... We live just 20-30 minutes east of there... I am still looking though. And the word from HR at the VA hospital is that they are still reviewing applications and have NOT started interviewing as yet. So I guess I am still in the running there.

Patrick was cut from the varsity bowling team because of his grades. He was very disappointed with himself because this had been important to him, but he left things too long to dig himself out of. He will also need to take some sort of an online class to make up a credit he needs towards graduation so that he graduates on time... It's do-able, and we will be keeping on top of it as best we can. All is not lost yet! He was pretty sad though as we attended that meeting. The other kids are doing fine, and Aurora will be gone this weekend (friday/saturday) at a bowling tournament.

I am working on finishing some christmas gifts I want to make, but ran into a snag: my state of the art sewing machine decided to stop working. We took it in to the shop on Tuesday to have it looked at. I paid $2500 for it brand new 10 years ago, and it has paid for itself in spades, but I still will cry if it is unrepairable (and I will eventually want a new one too!). In the meantime, I have Eric's ex-wife's machine here that I can use, but it is like trading in an Escalade for a Geo... It works, but ish.... Oh well, beggars can't be chosers in the moment... It'll be fine.

I am also getting things ready for my friend Erika to come spend a few days with us. She will arrive on the 17th and stay through the 21st, and I am very excited about that. We had a few projects planned to do, but maybe we will just shop and hang out instead! It's gonna be fun!

Well, Mom's Taxi rears it's head as Cliff needs a ride onto post... So I guess that's it for today!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Just some thoughts and musings on a chilly Wednesday

Eric started working overnights this week, and he'll be on them for the next 2 months. It's been hard sleeping alone lately--I wake up to the slightest noises (I've always been a light sleeper), and it just feels odd. Funny how I slept alone for the better part of 10 years (not counting all the nights Bingo crashed with me after his dad left us) and did fine, and yet in 4 months I have gotten used to having someone beside me again so that I miss it. Poor guy is struggling to adapt his own sleep schedule again as well, and has been awake by mid-morning despite being exhausted. He has tonight off, but I am trying to let him sleep as long as he can, and have taken to grabbing all I think I might need from the bedroom before I leave it for the morning, to "nest" (as Eric describes it) in the living room.

I got some sad (but really old)news yesterday: my God-Mother, who I knew to live over in MO about an hour-hour and a half away passed away, back in July! I had been so excited to be down here nearby where I knew her to live, and just recently was given her current address and phone number; my plan had been to drop her a note and see about driving over to visit her one afternoon when Eric was home. Needless to say, that is out the window. As I told Mom when she called me with the news, I have wonderful memories of "Aunt Syl & Uncle Herm," (in fact, they are the ones who got me interested in loom weaving--they had a full sized loom in the basement of the parsonage in Massachusetts) that make me smile, and it was visiting them that I saw the Arch in St. Louis for the first time when we were down here for a vacation. I'm glad they are together again. I might still drop a note to their daughter, whom I had been close to once upon a time, and maybe I will still get together with her at some point.

We have a meeting today at the school to look at options for Patrick regarding his struggles this senior year. He took an extremely heavy class load this year and it is kicking him in the butt. He is one of the few seniors to have been on the varsity bowling league these last 4 years, but now his eligibility is in jeopardy and it would be so sad to see him off the team when he has worked so hard. Even worse though, would be if he is hurting his chances for graduation, so we need to address that sooner than later. The semester ends the end of the month. Aurora is doing well academically and she too is on the varsity bowling team; they had a meet last night and did well. Reimond has worked hard to pull his grades up and at the moment has only one standing "F", but it is on the cusp of passing, and we are staying on top of his homework... His grades are not perfect, but at least he's passing most of his classes. Got my fingers crossed! We are committed to making sure the kids are successful in all their endeavors and try are best to stay on top of things. Brianne was reminded that the spring semester for the college she wants to transfer to starts in January, so if she is going to get registered she needs to start looking at things now! Hopefully she too will follow through.

News from Minneapolis is fairly good. Betty is home from the hospital, and doing ok. Her blood levels continue to need close monitoring, but she is happier at home, and the kids are all taking turns keeping track of her. Andrea is doing fine too and is back at work with no ill effects. Justin took a tumble this weekend and gave himself a concussion "couch diving". Liisa says he has a pretty bruise on his head, but is doing fine now (Tony got me all shook up when he called me about it on their way home from the ER--I had just fallen asleep when he called me). Tony took my mom to do the annual Wreath run to Ft. Snelling National Cemetary ( I had generally taken my mom to place the wreathes each year after thanksgiving) and I was so glad he was able to help out. Liisa is having a ball managing the skating rink at The Depot (Hotel), and it is getting amazing press both locally and nationally--USA-Today ranks it in the top 10 of indoor ice rinks nationally, and ESPN is planning to broadcast live from there when covering one of the football games again--they did so last year too. I have such wonderful memories of that rink (as well as the trauma of Rei splitting his lip open on it and needing stitches the first year Liisa worked at that hotel--it was at their company Christmas party he did so; the next year, she was the manager of the rink!). I love hearing her stories from there, like the time she called and said "hey Mama, ask me what I did at work today!" Her reply? "Looked for a severed finger tip" ( someone skated over a child's finger, which was effectively amputated; they found it and it was subsequently reattached successfully as far as she knows). She gets quite the workout physically and intellectually, and uses a variety of skills, from crisis management, to people management! I am so proud of her!

Just as an aside, and no real big deal, I had an ultrasound yesterday looking for possible uterine fibroids, and I have an endometrial biopsy scheduled for the end of the month. I may need minor surgery again to correct some "female issues" I've been dealing with again (possibly similar to the surgery I had 2 years ago October when they removed 4 fibroids). Nothing too major, but figured I would put it out there. The joys of getting older! Blech!

I'm really excited to say that Liisa and Jesse are coming down for a visit this weekend (and bringing Max--oh joy, yet another big dog to add to the mix!), and I cannot wait to have them here. Then the middle of the month, my friend Erika is coming for a few days, just after her birthday in fact! I am really excited about that too! We have Reimond's plane reservations all made for him to go to MN for the first week of his Winter break. He'll fly up on December 20th in the afternoon, and fly back to St. Louis on December 27th, late morning. He'll stay with Liisa and be able to see all his friends and the family for Christmas. I am thrilled this was able to be done for him, and I know he'll have a wonderful time. Much thanks goes out to our favorite "Jewish Elf" for making this happen for him! Now we just need to find out what the plans will be for Aurora and Patrick for that same time period. As I said before, it could be a very quiet household over Christmas! Fortunately I have lots of things I can do to help pass the time. Now if only we can find some way for the babies to come see Grandma, it would make me very happy!

They are predicting a rain/snow mix for this afternoon, and the skies and the temps are reflecting that they could be right. We had a dusting of snow the other day but it isn't lasting in the least, and yesterday it was gorgeous, in the upper 40's... This weather in the heartland confuses me. I never quite know how to dress! Anyhow, that's all I can think of for today. Hope everyone stays warm!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December, already?????

Wow, I cannot believe that today I have been married for 4 months. In some ways it feels like we have always been together, and in others it feels like I am still vacationing down here, that eventually reality will kick in and I head back north... I am so very happy with my life as it sits, and the only thing that would make it better (potentially anyhow) would be finding a job. I'll be honest, there is a part of me that is ambivalent about working: I have had a paying job since I was 11 years old. Between babysitting for anyone who asked me to, watching my younger siblings when Mom worked evening, and then working at Tom Thumb Superette, "candy striping" at Mount Sinai Hospital (age 13 on), and working as a certified nursing assistant at Fairview Southdale Hospital (16 on), I have never been without at least one paying job, and for many years held 2 at a time, along with going to school and/or raising my family. It's strange and wonderful to be here with the kids, running them places, hearing their stories, helping with homework, cooking meals, keeping up on housework, and baking! How I have missed doing some of these things over the years! I like the freedom I have right now to do things as they come up (instead of structuring them so that they get squeezed in), even though I will admit, I do miss the structure of going to work, and having outside things to think about. I AM still looking for a job, and I have not given up on the one through the VA hospital where Eric works; he too has said the government hires at it's own pace, and I figure God has a plan. As long as I remain open to what is out there and close no doors (including continuing to search and apply), what is meant to be will come in it's own good time, and when it does happen, it will be for the best. I have moved from discouragement to acceptance.

Our Thanksgiving here was very nice. Eric had to work his 12 hour shift, and got home around 7 p.m.; his ex-wife was here picking up the kids around 1 and took them for the afternoon to a movie and out to eat, and I cooked and baked all afternoon. Other than the apple and pumpkin pie fillings (both canned, then "doctored"), everything was made from scratch, and I was thrilled my pie crusts were perfect (I love making pies!). We ate around 7:30 and all the kids were here. We poured everyone a small glass of wine to toast our first year as a family and our second year together for this holiday. We sure don't have to worry too much about the kids drinking--they really didn't care for the wine (it was fairly dry). Leftovers got wrapped up, and we settled in for tv viewing and relaxing. Friday we did hit the stores and shopped, albeit in the midafternoon. We hit both Kohl's and the mall. Kohl's was a mess--the lines were long, but the prices good; the mall was quieter. Aurora got some needed (and desired) items for her birthday (trust her to wait for the good sales!) and Reimond too got some jeans and a hoodie--the kid is taller than me now (and outgrowing some of his smaller sizes)! Friday night the kids hung out with each other and friends, while Eric and I went to our friends' house for poker and conversation. I brought knitting along as I don't play poker (and actually none of the wives were playing cards--we just visited and supervised), and enjoyed the little ones running around.

Saturday was a rough day for me. Eric had asked me what I wanted to do for the day and I answered quite honestly: I wanted to go grab Justin and Alexis and go to see the new Disney movie Bolt, then go to the ice rink and skate by Liisa for the late afternoon/early evening. I knew it was an impossibility, but it was what I wanted to do. I was really homesick on Saturday, despite (or maybe because) I talked to family from "home" so frequently during the day. We did go out as a family to the bowling alley for the late afternoon to meet up with another family and bowled a few games (ok, they bowled, I knitted and watched), and then Eric took me to see the movie Austrailia (Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman) for the evening. It was an amazing movie, and I highly recommend it. While those two were the leads, in my opinion the movie was stolen by the young boy who narrated it, and who was, indirectly, the main story line. It's a long movie, almost 3 hours, but well done and not in the least gratuitous. Having a date with my honey really helped my mood and I was better the rest of the weekend. Sunday was fairly low-key for us: Eric played Everquest much of the day, the kids socialized and watched movies (as well as did homework, such as they had it), and I read a fantastic novel, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (a story of heaven, hell, and redemption, all being told from a modern perspective with stories interspersed from history; well-written, fast-paced, and very engaging and though provoking). All in all a satisfying weekend!