Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Farm

Last year our family went to a farm in the north/middle of PA, near Bloomsburg. We enjoyed our long weekend there so much, we decided to extend our stay to a whole week. There were 20 of us there this year, all from my side of the family- my mom, sisters, brother and their families (including my sister from France and her 2 boys). There were lots of little kids, lots of laughter, good cooking, swimming, fishing, and hiking. It was a great week to get reconnected with each other. It is funny how even after all these years, we all fall back into many of the roles and spaces that we occupied when we were children. Sometimes, that is not so great, like when I am sharp with my 33 year old sister, like she is a child. And other times, it is fun as we laugh at my brother's wit and antics. Of course, there was a hole where my dad would have been there with us. We all commented at one point or another throughout the week how he would have loved being there with his kids and grandkids, how it was exactly his favorite kind of vacation. Despite moments of longing, our eyes shiny with tears as we mourned our deep loss once again, it was a joyful, fun week. The kids loved playing with their cousins, favorite activities being the pond, fishing, and the trampoline.

We took a trip to Rickett's Glen on Monday, where coincidentally our next door neighbors were hiking there the same day and we ran into them--crazy! The falls were gorgeous, and the trails were a little challenging, but not too bad. The kids also loved wading in the different pools along the creek. (KK did not come on this hike, maybe next year she will be big enough to handle it.)

Later in the week we went to Knoebels amusement park. It was a blast- KK was actually the one who was the most daring on most of the rides. We went on one together that E and N did not want to try. It lifted into the air and the ride spun several baskets all around in a huge circle through the air. KK kept saying, " This is so fun! I love this ride!" We also went on the flume which she loved, and N hated. I was amazed at her enthusiasm for the fast and dizzying rides. As for me, it is clear that I am past all that. I used to love those rides that went in circles, and I felt absolutely sick. I remember as child, how my mom used to sit out most amusement park rides herself, and I never understood it. Now I do.

This is the ride KK liked so much

My French nephews

Makes me dizzy just looking at it

The rest of the week we spent just hanging out together, games at night, sharing meals, just doing family stuff together. And it was good, really, really good.

I actually really don't like this picture, but it was out of my hands.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Well, after our rather emotional spring, we were really looking forward to summer vacation. The one big trip that we were planning to take was to the Outerbanks of North Carolina, more commonly known as OBX. We had been invited to go with Ed's brother's wife's family. We have been wanting to go for years, but could never find another family who was willing to commit, so we jumped at the chance. Our vacation time was the week when a terrible heat wave hit the rest of the country, we were so glad we had the pool and the beach to escape the crushing humidity. The house itself was absolutely gorgeous, everything you want in a beach house- the ocean was just over the dune, we had a beautiful pool (that the kids enjoyed even more than the ocean), and the house was spacious and beautifully decorated.

We loved the slow pace of the day--hanging out on the beach in the morning, going back to the house for the pool or hot tub in the afternoon, and eating ice cream while we watched the sun set at night. Then when the kids were in bed, Ed and I played Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, and other games with Jim and Steph. We did take a day trip down to Hatteras Lighthouse, but other than that we hung out at the house.

While on the beach, I tried body boarding for the first time this year, and I found out I really, really liked it. I have grown fearful of the big waves in my adult years as I realize how you can be injured, and my sensible self has been staying out of the big waves. With the body boards, I feel safer, and I can ride the waves in. I had a blast, it is such a rush!

From a photography standpoint, I absolutely fell in LOVE with the dunes. They were breathtaking, and the perfect setting for my first photo shoot of another family (Stephanie's). I also got some great shots of my own family in the mix.

I could have stayed for another week, easily, but unfortunately, our vacation came to an end. I am hoping we can get together another group for next summer because it is definitely the best vacation I have been on in a long, long time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Holly Girl

So, after an 8 month dry spell, I thought I would try to come back to blogging. I will not attempt to catch up on everything that has happened in that time, but I will give a couple of significant events every few days. Today I will start with Holly.

This spring we noticed that our 12 1/2 year old Lab, Holly was not doing so well. Her breathing was getting heavier and heavier to the point where we wondered if there was a tumor. But then she would have periods throughout the day where she was fine, and rested peacefully. We
finally took her to the vet, because we wanted to see if there was an easy way to ease her breathing. Unfortunately the vet told us that she had something called Laryngal Paralysis that was causing her to have trouble breathing. There was really nothing they could do to help her, and they asked if we were ready to put her down that day. Ed and I just sat there in the room crying and holding Holly, and we decided we wanted to take her back home to see how she did. That week, the first in May was cool, and we didn't notice Holly having any trouble. Then on Tuesday, May 7, it was an unusually warm day. I noticed Holly's breathing becoming more labored throughout the day. That evening it got really bad, and when Ed came home at 8 she was gasping for every breath, vomitting because her sides were heaving so much, and it was clear that something had to be done. We looked at each other, and with tears in our eyes we decided to call the vet. They had hours until 10 pm, and it was around 9. I drove Holly and picked up our friend, and old neighbor, Lisa who had told me she would come. She loved Holly as much as we did, and Holly loved her too. We drove into Rau, and they took us back to a wonderful room, called The Comfort Room. It was set up like a living room with a couch and chairs and a rug on the floor. It was exactly what we needed to help us say good-bye to our sweet girl. Lisa held Holly as she fell after they gave her the muscle relaxant. I just kept holding her head, stroking her soft, soft ears and telling her what a good girl she was and how much I loved her. She slowly relaxed, and her breathing got more controlled. When they gave her the final shot, it was a couple of breaths and then Holly gave one final sigh in exhalation, and she was gone.

Leaving her in that room was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I felt like I
was abandoning her, even though I knew she wasn't there anymore. When I got home, it was really hard. It took a long time for our family to heal from the loss. Even now, as I write this, tears run down my face remembering our sweet girl. There were nights when I was just holding all 3 kids as we sobbed, missing Holly. Ed and I reminisced together about all of the things that made her Holly. The way she would push herself between your legs, trying to squeeze herself as close as possible to say "hello", her innate knowledge of when it was a Sunday morning, the day she would visit Lisa, how she would sit at the door the minute we started piling up bags for a trip, determined not to be left behind. Her sweet, gentle ways with the kids, never barking or snapping, even when they put their hands in her mouth. And her wise, all knowing eyes that were so expressive and intelligent. I still deeply miss Holly, she was our first baby, and although she kind of fell into the background with the kids' arrivals, she never complained. She was a steadfast dog, and we are so blessed to have had her in our family. One day I hope we get another dog, and I think it will really help in the healing. But I will never forget our good girl.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"I never even picked up a racquet"

As some of you know, I have been a gym member for about 6 1/2 years. In that time I have gone through spurts of super- dedicated weight training and cardio 5 days a week (with the regular help of a real trainer), as well as months that I didn't even darken the door. Yet I have kept my membership because it is so darn cheap, and I will never get a deal like it again. Since I am not giving up my membership, I feel like I need to use it, so that usually gives me the incentive to go back if I have lapsed in my dedication. For the most part, my gym attendance falls somewhere in between the two extremes- several days a week of some combo of cardio/weights, but nothing too strenuous (this may be why I haven't actually seen any serious weight loss or change in my body in that time, sigh).

Since I am a semi-regular I notice more or less, people who are also "regulars". I usually don't engage in conversation, as I am not one to chat up perfect strangers, instead I prefer to get in, do my work out, and get out, with minimal eye-contact. After I had been going for several years, in the middle of one of my more consistent periods of exercise, one man kept smiling at me and finally introduced himself. (Now before you get any ideas, it was perfectly innocent and friendly- I call him "the Mayor" because he knew everyone and greeted everyone. I think he is at the gym every day for at least 2 hours, possibly 3, so he knows who the regulars are. After that initial introduction I would say "hi" when he was nearby, and this went on for several months. After some time we got into conversations occassionally, he told me about his kid, I told him a little about mine, I invited him to church and he said he'd come (but still hasn't).

One day we were talking and the subject of racquetball came up. I noticed him playing with different partners each week and said I didn't know how to play, but I was intrigued. He offered to play with me once a week. I was very hesitant as I am not the "athletic" type. But I finally agreed because he said it was a very good workout. We decided to play one morning a week, and for the first couple of months I was very, very bad. I missed the ball, I had very little coordination, power or direction on my hits. It was so embarrassing that I almost quit one week, but decided to do 'just one more' week, mainly because the workout really was great. I needed to consume large quantities of water throughout, I would get winded, and I also felt it in my muscles the next day. The next week I turned a corner and started to improve enough that I was encouraged to keep trying.

Up until this point I hadn't purchased a racquet, instead using the "lost" ones in the lost and found, not wanting to invest in my own until I was sure that it would "stick". After another month of modest improvement, I decided that part of my problem was that I didn't have a "feel" for my racquets. One week I was using a racquetball racquet, the next, a junior tennis racket. Not exactly great for consistency. So I went ahead and purchased my own racquet. I also got some necessary undergarments for increased support, which greatly helped in comfort while running around.

I continued to meet up with the Mayor every week, gradually getting better. All of this time we were just hitting the ball back and forth, but not playing a real game. Finally, last week the Mayor decided that I was ready. We played a short game in which I "won", but not really since we only played until 10 and I had to go before we could finish, so I just happened to be ahead. This morning we played 2 games, and although I lost both, it wasn't by much, 12-15 the first game, 14-15 the second, and I got in lots of good shots that he couldn't return. I am so excited to have found some kind of physical activity that I look forward to, something that I can honestly say has never happened, from field hockey and softball in HS to the present mixture of whatever it is I do for 20 minutes every morning. I like the challenge and the feeling of actually getting a cardio work out, without all the drudgery of running on the treadmill or elliptical. I think this sport might actually "stick". Now if only I could find another partner and add another day of the week to my schedule. I think this is the start of a better, more "in shape" version of me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Plumeria and Primroses

Last year, when we went to WDW, I got myself a little souvenir. It wasn't much to look at, just a forked stick. But the promise was enticing. If I took that stick and planted it, and watered it, and made sure that it got plenty of sunshine, it would grow into a plumeria tree. So I bit. I took home the stick and hoped that some of that Disney magic would bring this little stick to life. I planted it in special succulent soil, and put it in a sunny window until the days got warmer. Then it sat outside on our patio all summer long. About 2 months in, it began to grow little spikes on the top. These spikes lengthened and unfurled to beautiful, shiny leaves. It was magical. By the end of the summer, it looked something like this. Lush, vibrant and healthy:

And then the temperature dropped, and I had to take it inside. According to the directions, I wasn't to let the plant go dormant in the first year. I was to keep on watering it, and then the next summer it would burst into bloom. So I put it next to our one sunny window in the house and kept my eye on it. Every so often I would notice dirt on the floor, and then the leaves started to spot and drop off, and I got suspicious. I went in for a closer look, and smelled the unmistakeable odor of cat urine. The cats were using my precious plumeria as a litterbox! By the time I realized it, it was too late. The leaves were dropping every day, and my once lush plant looked sickly. I must, at this point, admit that I kind of went crazy on the cats. Or more specifically, cat. I knew that it could only be our male cat, Jasper who was defiling the plumeria. I googled for remedies and found several suggestions for deterring the cats from going in the plant. But first I had to bring the pH level back within normal range. So I flushed out the pot, running water through it several times until there was no odor left. Then I took skewers and placed them around the dirt to keep the cats out. Finally, we put the plant on a stand in the middle of a wall, where the cats couldn't reach it. After all this, the plant lost every last leaf, but one.

This last leaf has hung on for at least a month, and I think the plant is going to make it. But it is a sad shadow of the plant it used to be.
We are many months away from the 60 degree night temps that I need to put the plumeria back outside. Hopefully by then those little leaflings will have fully sprouted, and the plant will make a full recovery.

Right now, in the dead of winter, spring seems so far away. I have had enough of this snow and ice, and am starting to feel the burden of the cold temps and dark days. So, yesterday, on an impulse, I introduced another little plant into our house because it was so cheery, and spoke of the promise of spring. "Soon", it says, "soon!"

Now I need to figure out how to keep those cats far away...

Blossom- "I just want one tiny lick, I promise"
Jasper- "Hey, what do you have up there?"

Jasper- "Let me take a closer sniff, that soil needs some 'Eau de Jasper', I think"

Jasper- "Me, a plant killer? You must have me confused with some one else. See, I don't even care about plants!"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Cards

Every year I have a love/hate/love relationship with Christmas cards. I love to get them in the mail, but I kind of hate the process of making my own, but then I love the finished product and giving them to people. But still, it is an all day task. I have to look through our photos and decide which ones make the cut. I have to decide if we go for one family shot, or some individual shots. Usually I try to do both because a family shot rarely has the best of each person. Then I need to find a card that has enough space for all of those pictures I want to use. Additionally, there is the newsletter. Last year we wrote a letter that accompanied our card, which was a great way to share the eventful year we had, but a lot of work. So as I was pondering our choices, and even if we would send a card this year, I flipped through a brochure that I got in the mail from Shutterfly. It seemed that they had a lot of options and cute designs that I hadn't seen in other cards. I liked this one because it lets you use 6 pictures, which would be perfect for our family, to share one good picture of each person, and then a group shot. In fact, they have a lot of multi-picture cards.

They also have many cards that have a more religious tone, which I appreciate, but am not always able to use because there usually aren't enough photo spaces, but this one actually does have plenty of photos.

And here is one that I really like because of the design
and the message.

But the one that I ended up choosing* was exactly what I was looking for. It had both plenty of picture spaces, and a "Top 10" portion of the card that we could fill in(here it is a generic list, but in real life it has actual events). It would cut out writing the Christmas newsletter, but still give our far-away friends and family an update on our lives.

After I am done designing and sending out our card, I think I will take some time to make a photo book of our summer vacation this past year, and a calendar for next year.

*Even though I loved the design, I wasn't sure I was going to purchase them, but once I saw their offer for 50 free cards in return for a blog post (heavy with links), I decided to go for it. I am super-excited that I can send out the card I wanted all along.

Also, so, so, sorry to all of you who sign up for my blog via a reader. I didn't know how to imbed the pictures of the cards into my post, so I had to have shutterfly send them and create a brand new post each time. Then I deleted them, but they still show up on the reader. So embarrassing!