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Archive for November, 2009

Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we opted to keep things simple. That decision was only further confirmed by way of a virus (we will never know which one) that left Hannah in bed for the better part of her fall break this past week. We’re certainly thankful that she’s now on the mend. What follows are a few of the other things that we find ourselves thankful for this day.

Since Hailey is of age I decided that Thanksgiving Day would be a fun day to get things started in the food category. Following her first nap, we placed Hailey in the high chair while Hannah eagerly strapped a bib on her little sister. There, the three of us presented her with a delicious bowl of rice cereal. Based on how things went (puzzled looks followed by lots of gagging) I’m guessing that Hailey is most thankful that Mommy came to her senses fairly quickly, cleared the rehydrated flakes from her tray and gave her a big drink of milk. I suppose we’ll try that one again later.

  

 I’m thankful for Phil. Today he played with both girls bright and early so that I could sleep in. He initiated a U-2 dance party in our living room following lunch which always lifts spirits in our house. He carried little Hailey on the hike we took at the bluffs. And he gladly grilled salmon for tonight’s dinner…never once lamenting the absence of a turkey on our table this evening.

 I’m thankful that my big girl is feeling better. It’s always so sad when your kids are sick. For some reason Hannah gets especially polite when she’s most ill, which somehow makes the whole situation feel that much more pathetic. While we certainly had some sweet moments between my perpetual hand washing and Ousting spray downs, I’m so glad to be through that illness. While today I could tell that she’s still not quite herself, I was so thankful that she had enough energy to walk the bluffs and explore the beach on this incredibly beautiful day.

When I asked Hannah what she was most thankful for today, she told me that she was most thankful for her sister.

  I’m thankful for my mom. There are so many reasons why I’m thankful for her. But here’s the deal…if I actually write any of them here I will embarrass her to no end – thus defeating the purpose of trying to honor her. So, I will just simply say that I couldn’t have asked for a better mom. She’s truly amazing.

At one point on our walk, Hannah stopped me and pointed out the sparkling pathway that had formed on the water. She supposed that it would be an appropriate pathway for a chrysalis to travel on a stick – and that when it reached the end it would turn into a butterfly. As we continued walking, we then went on to talk about heaven and what an incredible journey it will be to travel there someday…and that maybe our journey will look something like that image we’d seen on the water. 

Holidays in our house inevitably remind us of the painful absence of those we loved and lost too soon. And yet, it would be difficult at this point to miss the hope that new life has brought to us…both now and forever. 

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Grace Hannah

Two weeks ago today, Grace Hannah the hamster died. She’d just celebrated her 2nd birthday where she enjoyed munching on cabbage while watching a lively game of pin the tail on the hamster. While I’m not one to liken animal deaths to those of humans, I will say that the whole experience caused me to consider things much more deeply than I expected.

We realized death was imminent on Saturday morning when we went to get Grace and her cage out of the bathtub to begin her day in Hannah’s room. In case you’re wondering why the hamster was housed in the bathtub, allow me a moment to explain. Grace was the kind of girl who really enjoyed gathering up all of her belongings and storing them in her wheel each night. That was her preference. She’d then run incessantly while her food kibbles flew all over the place. It created quite a mess and a raucous, neither of which proved terribly conducive to a six year-old sleeping. Thus the tub.

When we placed her cage in Hannah’s room, her protected demeanor said it all. She was leaving soon. When we reached in to check things out, her little body was much cooler than usual. Her breathing was slow and her little blue eyes were closed. We explained to Hannah that Grace’s life was coming to an end. We told her we weren’t sure how much longer she had, but that most likely this would be Grace’s last day with us.

There were lots of tears in the hours that ensued. Sweet Hannah offered little Grace one last grape thinking that it would provide her with food and water all in one. From time to time, Grace would lift her weakened head and try to take a nibble, but ultimately just curled back up.

At one point Hannah asked if she’d ever get to see Grace’s eyes opened again. I explained that most likely she’d keep them shut. That news felt especially devastating. In that moment I realized the intimacy of the relationship these two had shared. Countless times, the bouncing child and the frisky rodent had settled in just long enough to look into each other’s eyes. And when they did, something very special happened. Naturally, in Grace’s most vulnerable moment nothing felt more important to Hannah than to be able to look into her pet’s little eyes and tell her that she’d be okay. But Grace was fading away.

I assured her that although her eyes were shut, Grace could certainly hear Hannah’s voice. Through streams of tears, Hannah talked in the quietest of voices to her fragile friend. She told her that she loved her and that she was going to be okay.

That night, Grace was still breathing. We decided that she’d sleep in Hannah’s room, as we knew that on this night she would be quiet. At 5:30 the following morning, Hannah came into our room and told us that Grace was dead. She had gotten her out that morning and held her one last time. She prepared a little box for her … one that had housed her birthday cabbage from the prior week. Hannah lined the bottom of the box with cotton balls and wrote I love you Grace in green crayon on the inside of the lid. She painted a rock and collected some treasures from her treasure chest. We then took her to GJ’s rose garden to bury her.

As Phil and I reflected on this experience, I was immediately reminded of a technique he uses when he paints. Prior to creating any real form to a picture, he takes a broad brush stroke over the entire canvas. It’s a thin layer and seemingly inconsequential. Yet ultimately it sets the foundation for the painting.

I suppose that’s what took place in our home two weekends ago. Losing Grace was Hannah’s first real taste of death. It was her broad brush-stroked foundation, have you. And there, Phil and I were given the opportunity to walk our child graciously through life’s most difficult reality – death. 

With loss comes tears, recollection of the good times (we spent some time writing down all of our fun memories with Grace), denial (at one point she was quite positive that Grace’s body was getting warmer and that she’d be alright afterall), more tears, a longing for the suffering to end (many moments Hannah stood by Grace’s cage saying over and over again, poor poor Grace) and a very literal ache in your heart (she told me that her heart felt like it broke in half).  

I created a Shutterfly picture book for Hannah. In it I wrote a little story about her and Grace and their many adventures together. When it arrived I placed it on Hannah’s bed for her to discover. I sat with her as she read it. At moments she laughed and in the end, she fought back her tears.

This past week I was cutting up an apple and Hannah ran over. She swooped up the core and headed towards her room. But then she caught herself. She was going to give it to Grace … but Grace was no longer there.

She’s talked about wanting to get a new hamster. We’re giving it a little time. Her kindergarten teacher told me that Hannah shared with her that she’s dreaming of a new little friend … maybe for her half-birthday. She told her that she’s planning on naming the hamster Chocolate Chip. 

What’s remarkable about little ones is that their hope seems to stay in tact. Hannah felt Grace’s loss deeply. Yet she’s also able to see what lies beyond this place of pain. Apparently, we have much to learn from each other.

Grace was a very special friend. We’re so thankful for the many memories of this apricot-colored, fast-running, frequent bathing, cheek-stuffing, U-2 loving, pocket-riding, apple dancing girl.

…excerpt from Hannah’s memory book of Grace

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Helicopter Ride

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This is what we talked about after dinner tonight…

H Mommy, you know what I am imagining right now?

M What?

H I am imagining a helicopter ride that would go all the way up to heaven.

What if it cost $2000.00? Would you take that ride?

M Would it take me all the way to heaven?

H Yes

M Then, yes I’d go.

H Would you use your credit card to pay?

M Only if I had $2000.00 in my checking account to cover the cost.

H What if you only had exactly $2000.00 in your checking account…would you still take that trip?

M Yeah.

H What if it was only a one-way trip? Would you still go?

M I think I’d still go.

H But what about me? Would you leave me down here on earth?

M I’d buy you, Daddy and Hailey tickets to come with me.

H …$8000.00! That would be an expensive trip!

 

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The Wedding

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We spent the weekend up north celebrating Marlene and Carl’s wedding. What a day! From start to finish it was an incredible event. Highlights for me included:

 1. Our road trip up and back which involved a sleeping baby, girlfriends, lots of pistachios and a husband chauffeur who relished the opportunity to drive all of us while listening to The History of the Middle Ages on his iPod.  

2. Staying at the same hotel as the bride and countless other friends. This afforded me the chance to pray with Marlene on her wedding-eve, dine with a bunch of buddies on a warm slab of cement Sunday morning and hang out with a group of Westmont alums in my pajamas in one of the hotel rooms following the day’s festivities.

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3. Happening upon a really great farmer’s market following a morning swim on Sunday. Swimming and taking pictures of (and eating) fresh fruits and vegetables have to be two of my all-time favorite things in life right now.

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4. Watching Marlene walk down the most incredible wedding aisle I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of them).

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5. Dancing at the reception with Phil (and Hailey in the Ergo). I got both looks of approval (typically by peers) and looks of concern (typically by the older crowd) … I guess you can’t please everyone.

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6. Driving home knowing that my last close college friend was now married and on her honeymoon. Congratulations Carl and Marlene!

 

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Friendship

Last week the girls and I drove north to visit the Baker family for the morning. They’ve been a special family in our lives for nearly six years now. The girls had a great time, pretending to be fairies in the garden out back. Hannah told me that the Baker’s backyard felt magical.  

As we headed home, I felt grateful for the friendship I have with Jill. In just about every way, we’re very different women. Yet each time I’m with her I’m reminded of the incredible harmony our relationship plays. 

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 Two fairies and one stuffed cat in the garden

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 This fairy was getting her store ready for customers (everything was one dollar that day)

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 This fairy sat by a sunflower for a good twenty minutes harvesting these seeds

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Meanwhile, the littlest ones played inside. These two look strikingly similar to what their older sisters looked like at this age!

*After reading this post, Jill sent me a picture of the big girls when they were seven months for comparison sake. Pretty amazing resemblance if you ask me.

Hannah and Ruth - 7months 

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