Monday, September 5, 2011

August 2011

We started out the month by celebrating my niece Carmen's 11th birthday. She passed away, as you may remember, in February 2009. Her birthday is August 10. She was born in 2000. Every year on her birthday we bring her mom and dad yellow roses (yellow for remembrance)--one rose for every year since her birth. This year we went to Brentwood to deliver the flowers and we joined Dorothy and some of the children in visiting Carmen's grave and releasing balloons--one balloon for each person. We said a family prayer and talked about what we remember about Carmen. If you look carefully in this large tree above, you may see my nephew Timothy (he's wearing a red shirt). If you look even more carefully, you may see a red dot in the sky to the right of the tree. It is one of the balloons we released. We watched them until we couldn't see them any more. How we miss our Carmen.

In happier news, this month Cliff and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. I first fell in love with this man when I was 16 years old and I have not been out of love since. That makes 28 years of loving him. I've been WITH him longer than I've been WITHOUT him. I'm grateful for a happy marriage to a man who does his best to fulfill my every wish.

I had a birthday in June. My sister called me around my birthday and said, "I saw a piece of jewelry I thought you would like, but then I thought I'd rather buy you a plane ticket to come visit me for your birthday. Would that be okay?" "YES!!!" I said. I didn't even have to think about it. After some jockeying around of dates for her family and mine, we chose the second week in August during which I got to fly to Seattle and spend a week with her and her family. Yay!!

My sister just bought a little Mazda Miata. Blue. Convertible. We drove that little car everywhere, and when she was at work and I had places to go, she let ME drive that little car everywhere. Such fun! I meant to take a picture of it, but I forgot.

I did, however, take a photo of this dish:

My sister, who spoiled me every day of my visit and didn't let me pay for a THING myself (she is so good!) took me to a very good sushi restaurant in West Seattle (or is that East Seattle? Can't exactly remember). She ordered for us: the chef's choice meal, where the chef chooses several courses to bring to your table. I think we had 4 or 5 courses and dessert as well. All were very delicious. There was a lot of raw fish involved, which I actually truly enjoyed. If all sashimi and nagiri were this delicious, I would crave it continually! This bowl, however, gave me pause. It contained 4 entire fish--smelt, deep fried. The sauce was sweet and sour, the greens delicious. But to eat the whole fish! The head, the spine, the bones.... well! I managed the first one, all complete. It tasted delicious! But on my second little fish I just could NOT manage that spine! I confess--I pulled it out and ate the flesh on its own. But what a good meal! A little culinary adventure for me.

We also went: to Vashon island on the ferry:

Hello beautiful sister! My brother-in-law had taken the kids camping for the weekend, so Jessica and I were free to amuse ourselves howsoever we liked. I had never been on a ferry before and I loved it! I always love the water and being on the water in a big boat (the bigger the better, to me) was very fun. It was great to be able to just drive the car off afterwards. She let me drive her speedy little car all over the island, stopping only for bookstores. Paradise!

We went on walks, including a long one, at sunset, to their beach.

My sister is all about activity. She climbs the walls if she is required to stay still for too long. We played badminton, we walked to the store, we walked to the beach, we played frisbee. She is also a great cook! Every meal is filled with a variety of delicious things. I live with a great cook, so that's not so new to me. And I do exercise regularly. But not like my slender sister! She dragged me all over the place. And when I got home and got on the scale, I had lost 2 pounds. Wow. My own little health spa. I can't wait to return!

We also visited: the Seattle aquarium

The sculpture park in Seattle:

I loved it all. My sister and I had long talks, I attended her ward in Seattle (loved that!), I spent oodles of time in her bookstore, which I also LOVED. How I wish I could live in Seattle and work in that little shop every day and learn the business from her! I read and read and read while I was there too--one of my very favorite things to do. I visited with my brother-in-law Chris, one of the kindest men around. I met a few of Jessica's friends. I had pastries from the bakery every day (and hot chocolate quite a few of those mornings too). I went book shopping at thrift stores with my sister. I arranged and labeled shelves in the store. I also got to visit my very good friend Charlene Jensen in Snohomish. It was an hour's drive from my sister's house and she let me take the Miata. The wind in my hair, the gentle Seattle sun on my face, lunch and visiting at Charlene's--what a treat! All in all, it was one of the best weeks I had this summer. One of the sweetest parts for me was spending time with Gemma, Miles and Peyton. I treasure my relationships with my nieces and nephews and it was a privilege to get closer to them. When it came time to leave, they wanted to know when I'd be back and I was so glad they WANTED me to come back! :) It was a great trip, one I am eager to repeat. Maybe October? Or November? Soon, anyway!

At the end of the month, my brother Gerald and his wife Frances visited here on their way back to Taiwan. They've been in the country for about a month, but have spent the bulk of their time at their place in Draper, Utah (curses!). They stopped by here on their way to Utah, but I was in Idaho at Rayne's graduation, so I missed them then. So I only got one day with them here. I sure enjoy them! Here are all three of my handsome and good, kind brothers: Reed, Gerald and Ben.
(terrible picture, I know. Sorry!)

This month also I was called to be a seminary teacher--I'll be teaching early morning (6:30 a.m.) Old Testament study classes to a large group of high school Freshmen starting August 23rd. Wow! A little overwhelming.

But even more overwhelming is that my dearest Dad was called to be the Patriarch of the Pleasanton stake. I, of course, am not surprised. He is a wonderful man and he'll be a wonderful Patriarch as well. He is... well, humbled, overwhelmed, nervous. It's a lifetime calling, you know, so he'll be Patriarch until he dies. It's also a pretty strong reason for us to stay here in Pleasanton. We've talked about leaving here from time to time. But it seems that Pleasanton is where we belong for now.

It's been a great month. Next month: back to school for me and the two youngest children, back to work for Cliff, and business as usual for Chase and Rayne. It's been a great summer! Onto my favorite season of all--Autumn!

July 2011

The main event this month was Rayne's graduation from BYU Idaho. Our little family--Cliff, I, Allegra and Isaiah--drove to Idaho to see our oldest daughter graduate from college. What an occasion! But first, some of the other stuff we did first in July:

Allegra has been, as usual, very productive. She made this little ballet dancer for one of her cousins. We started out the month of July with "grandparent camp". Since grandparent camp takes place at Grandma and Grandpa's house, it also takes place at Uncle Cliff and Aunt Audrey's house. So we had a VERY full house for a week. Because of Mom's mom's recent death, my mom (i.e. Grandma) wasn't up to planning a week full of activities, so the week was mostly about playing with each other--which is always fun. Allegra and Isaiah, being among the oldest of the cousins, were often the caretakers. Allegra, ever the generous, sweet girl that she is, offered to make a doll for every cousin. They all chose what they wanted--Pokemon figures, Japanese dolls, ballet dolls, etc. This ballet doll is just one of the many she made. I am sorry to say that I didn't get pictures of any of the others and, since they went home with various cousins, I am sure I'll never see any of them again. Keep in mind, dear reader, that Allegra doesn't use patterns when she creates. She sees the item in her head, draws it on paper and then she makes it. She's amazing! As you can see, this little doll is also a music box. She's such a talented girl.

Have you ever seen a sliding glass door shatter? Unfortunately, I have. My dad was running the weed whacker (a very long job around here) in our "backyard" and it threw up a rock that shattered our door. It was actually kind of pretty! The glass was tempered, of course, so we had a little pile of shining, glittering glass outside our door. It reflected the light of the sun and threw rainbows on the walls of our room. I was almost sorry it was swept up and thrown away! Fortunately, since our glass is all "e-glass" that is, it's all energy efficient, there were two panes on that big window. Since only one broke, it's not like we were open to all the world until it was fixed. And fixed it is now. I kind of miss that tinkling sound it made as more pieces fell off in the wind. And the little rainbows on my walls.....

Other July activities included: gardening, swimming, visiting the Jelly Belly factory with 13 children. A little hairy while we were waiting in line, but otherwise much more fun than it sounds like it might be with so many kids!!

Chase turned 20! He's serving in Cape Cod and we sent him a birthday package and many, many of our good friends sent him packages and letters and cards. How blessed we are to have so many generous people in our lives! This 20th year will be the first complete YEAR in which I will not even SEE my boy. His 20th year will be experienced by me through letters and (hopefully) pictures. Strange to think about it. Sure, though, that his 20th year passed in any other way wouldn't be nearly as happy and right. Happy birthday, dear Elder Adams-Hart! So glad he's on a mission! Wish I had more PICTURES though. Sigh.

Cliff also had a birthday! He turned 45, still as handsome as ever, and productive, smart, hard-working, kind, generous, loving.... all those good things. We celebrated with a dinner that he made himself (I know, I'm lame. Usually I cook for him but this year I totally bombed on that) and with his favorite dark chocolate cake and frosting that I DID make. Yes, I did.

We had my sister Jessica's 3 kids here to stay for most of the month of July. Gemma (11), Miles (9), and Peyton (7) were tons of fun to have around. One of the great pleasures of being an aunt is getting to know my nieces and nephews. Because Jessica and her family live in Seattle, I don't know them as well as I know the kids who live here. So it was a real pleasure to have the Gendreau kids around. I really got to love them. I was sorry to see them go. Jessica stayed for a few days when she came to pick them up and we went to the beach. Why do babies always like to eat sand? Here's baby Bruce (Reed and Dorothy's youngest) with a sandy mouthful.

While we were in Utah (on our way to Idaho) we also visited our good friends the Hutchings for a few days. We always enjoy our time with them.

And..... finally, RAYNE GRADUATED!!!!

After all those years working at Nordstrom, saving and saving, working hard at school (she graduated with an A- GPA), putting up with all those roommates and all that SNOW and ICE... she's done! I can hardly believe it. She can hardly believe it! We are very proud of her. It was amazing to go to her graduation events and experience the uplifting atmosphere of that school. When Rayne first expressed a desire to attend BYU Idaho, I was unsure. I had kind of wished that she would attend BYU Provo, where both her Dad and I earned our undergraduate degrees. But she--ever the adventurer--chose BYU Idaho. After her 4 years there, I can enthusiastically say that I hope all of my children attend this university. I LOVED BYU Provo, but BYU Idaho has a very different feel to it. I like the way spiritual growth is emphasized, I like the closeness between the students and their professors, I am in awe of the many prophecies associated with this school, I admire and embrace BYU Idaho's educational philosophy. I'm very happy that Rayne led the way for our family to discover this university. Yes. But most of all, I'm very happy and proud that my baby girl, my Rayne, my firstborn, my much-loved daughter, has earned her 4-year college degree. What an accomplishment! She is such a hard-worker, so dedicated to progress and goodness. Next: work at Nordstrom until January and then off to Taiwan to teach English--a whole new adventure. Go Rayne!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

June 2011

The Grand Mesa, Cedaredge, Colorado

My grandma, Mary Margaret Knox Kiser, passed away on June 18th in the evening. She was at home, surrounded by her two daughters, her two son-in-laws, and good friends. I will miss her so much. She was an amazing woman: strong, dynamic, loving, generous, full of service. To me she was a caring and fun grandma. I always knew she loved me. I loved to listen to her stories of family--she had a gift for connecting this generation with the past generations. I loved to eat anything she cooked. I loved to visit her at the ranch and follow her around. I loved to stay up late with her, talking of everything. I loved to shop with her. I loved to feel her hands stroke my hair. I loved to hear her laugh. I loved looking over her many collections--she knew where everything came from and had a story for every treasure. I loved the way she cherished my children--her great-grandchildren. I think she made every member of her family feel special; she was good at that. She was one of my most-loved people ever. It was a privilege to be able to share in her care over these past three years since she had a stroke. I felt close to her in a way that I never had before. She took care of me when I was little--I loved visiting her at her homes in San Diego, in the desert town of Ocotillo, and finally, at the ranch in Colorado--and I got to help take care of her for these last few years. What a blessing that was!

These aren't very good pictures--just photos from photos in a book (I don't have the originals), but here's my grandma and grandpa shortly after they got married. Isn't she beautiful? And he was just as kind, charming and full of fun and love as he looks. And also here is a photo of them on their 50th wedding anniversary. What a wonderful couple they are. And now they are together again! THAT is something to celebrate!

Isaiah and his cousin James had boy scout camp during the time that the rest of us traveled to Colorado for the burial and memorial service. So James came to stay at my house and Cliff stayed home to take care of the both of them.[Side note: the boy scout camp that Isaiah and James attended flooded out while they were there--the bridge separating their campsite from the rest of the camp buildings, including all the food!!, was washed out. They were trapped on one side of the camp for a day. The forest service was called in, food was pulley-ed over the river and that night when the river receded all were evacuated--along with their soaking wet gear--to the other side of the river, the side with the food and the other official buildings AND with the camp staff. Such excitement!! The boys still came home with 4 or 5 merit badges each!] Meanwhile, the rest of us made our way to Colorado. I drove up in Cliff's truck with my Allegra and my nephew Scott (Reed and Dorothy's oldest). I came a few days before the burial and memorial service so that I could help cook and clean and pack. We loaded up the truck with things my mom wanted to take home. Rayne picked up my brother Ben and his son William at the airport in SLC on her way from Rexburg. The three of them drove in Rayne's car to Cedaredge, so I had my two girls with me for the burial and the memorial service.

Here's my Raynebow. We visited all our favorite places in Cedaredge. I don't know if I'll ever return. It's so far away from my house and with my grandma gone, there is really no reason to go there again. Here Rayne and I (and my brother Reed and two of his sons) visit the Grand Mesa. Allegra and I visited it already and Rayne was disappointed we had gone without her. So back up we went.

Here's Reed and his son Vincent, throwing pine cones at each other--too small to do serious damage and light enough to go far when thrown. This is what boys do when girls come up to look at the view and "bond", right?
Here's Rayne and me, in front of one of the largest lakes on the Grand Mesa. It was beautiful up there--there was still snow (!!!), but it was warm and sunny.

The burial was on Saturday, the memorial service was on Sunday. The burial service took about 5 minutes. Short and sweet. Here's Mom with grandchildren Scott and Allegra at Grandma's grave. She's buried right next to my grandpa, of course.

My mom took all the flowers from the memorial service and arranged them in Grandma's front room around her portrait. My aunt laughingly called it "the shrine". Beautiful flowers. Beautiful grandma.
Here's my sister and her husband. I really loved visiting with her and wished we had more time together. Hopefully I can go to Seattle in August and visit her and the used bookstore that she just opened. She and I share a great love of books.

June is a month full of birthdays in our family. Allegra's is on the 25th, mine is on the 27th, Scott's and Jacqueline's (Ben's oldest) is on the 28th. Unfortunately, Allegra shared her 16th birthday with Grandma's burial. Her 16th birthday is a special one and we had planned some fun celebrations, but sweet Grandma's death precluded those. Allegra didn't expect anything special on her day, but her daddy and brothers sent her flowers. And the sweet relief society (church) ladies who fed the whole family after the burial also made a special birthday cake for Allegra--complete with her name, red roses and 16 candles! So sweet!! She was surprised and touched.

On the way home from Colorado, I stopped halfway in Las Vegas to spend a few days with my very good friend Becky. We were roommates in college, best friends then, and we have been blessed to have a relationship now that grows closer every year. She is a source of love and strength to me. How lucky I was to meet her all those years ago!

While in Las Vegas we visited the beautiful atrium in the Bellagio:

It was a trip full of stress and fun times and emotion and love. I was glad to be there in Colorado and glad to be in Las Vegas too. And I was especially glad to at last return home with my full truckload of treasures intact and with me, Scott and Allegra safe and sound. All the rest of my family traveled safe as well, a great blessing. It's been a very busy month!

One final note: Chase and his district all got matching t-shirts and he sent us this picture. I love it! Look at my boy! I think he's lost about 30 pounds. He looks healthy and oh so happy. What a blessing a mission is! I miss him like crazy, but I wouldn't have him anywhere else. I LOVE MY CHILDREN!

May 2011

May: the month of Isaiah's birthday and the month we're all tired of homeschooling and can't WAIT to be done. We set a goal to be done by the end of this month and Isaiah RACED through his work and finished by the end of the first week in May. Very impressive. Allegra worked steadily through May and finished just about everything by our goal date. I alternated between keeping Isaiah busy with non-school projects when he got bored enough to start BUGGING Allegra and I, and gently reminding Allegra of the school projects she still needed to finish. At the end of May we all breathed a sigh of relief. Cliff, meanwhile, is in the thick of finishing up all the internship paperwork for the 116 student interns that he places and supervises. He is counting the days until June 16th, when he'll be done and FREE for the summer.

Every week, Cliff posts the menu. This week the kids shanghaied the menu board and wrote down what they'd LIKE to see on the menu. He retaliated with the menu you see here. Yum yum.

Our Expedition has been our dependable bus for 11 years now. We have put over 250,000 miles on it with our many driving trips here and there, often filling all 9 seats with family and friends. It has been comfortable and strong and we have loved it. But! It's aging and is developing problems that are not worth fixing. This month we have finally decided to get rid of it. So, good-bye to a wonderful car! For the next few months I'll drive Chase's car while we decide what to get to replace the Expedition. (Something that uses a LOT less gas, for sure!)

Isaiah's "red-headed Irishman" blossoms. He takes such good care of these cacti!

My dearest grandma begins to fail. On this day we thought we were going to lose her, she seemed so absent from us. Mom called all the family and most of us gathered to say good-bye--one cousin even flew in late at night from Utah. By afternoon, Grandma was unresponsive to everything. This was all new to us. Early this month she went to the hospital with pneumonia, but she recovered! They discovered, though, that one of her lungs had collapsed and they told us that she would not live too much longer--it was inevitable, they said, that the other lung would slowly fill with liquid and she would slip away. They sent her home and put her on hospice care. But she seemed to rally! She was her old (post-stroke) self again and even started to regain some of her pre-pneumonia strength! But here, at the end of May, she dramatically began to fail. It was sad and stressful. On this Sunday, Grandma, before she became unresponsive, didn't want to be alone, so my momma and I sat with her. Here's Mom, slipping into a little nap by Grandma's bed. My beautiful mom. Losing her mother will be so difficult for her.

Happily (and surprisingly!), when Mom went in on Monday morning to check on Grandma, Grandma greeted her with a bright "hello!" Wow! We all expected that she wouldn't last the night, but there she was, back with us! We enjoyed her company all that day and she faded in and out of strength for the next few days. Finally on Thursday of that week Mom and Dad decided to get her to Colorado immediately. Colorado is her home and is where she wants to die. They loaded her and all her stuff (oxygen, meds, clothes, wheelchair, etc etc) into the car and drove straight through--18 hours--to Colorado where she perked up a little more. She was so glad to be home! The oxygen company and the hospice people made the switch from California to Colorado SO very easy! They are so wonderful!

On a happier note, Isaiah turned 13!! I have no more little children in my immediate family--they are all teenagers or adults. I never imagined this day, and here it is--reality! Here is Isaiah with his birthday loot.

And here is his birthday dessert: butter pecan ice cream pie with homemade praline topping. VERY sweet and rich. He loved it!

So May has been full of happy times, lots of schoolwork, and some worrisome and sad times with Grandma. I guess that's sort of what life is all about: happiness, hard work and some sadness too.

Monday, June 20, 2011

March and April 2011

I love the rain. I always have. So this spring was heavenly to me. Here's a bit of what went on for us this rainy spring:

Isaiah had a bunch of his friends from church over for an airsoft battle. Our yard is perfect for airsoft battles--lots of hills and open spaces. Isaiah and his cousin James set up various and assorted obstacles to be hidden behind. But it was really raining that day. I thought for sure they'd all want to cancel because of the rain. So muddy and wet outside!! But I forgot who I was dealing with: BOYS! They all showed up and my friend Jana and I decked them all out in garbage bags (the boys that had brought their own rain gear shucked that good stuff off in favor of the garbage bags--there's the herd mentality at work for you!) and they were off! I thought maybe they'd be out there for an hour at the most before they became uncomfortable and wished to move the party indoors. But no! They battled out there for HOURS. We provided pizza and cookies and drinks and the herd trampled in (into the GARAGE, mind you. I'm not a total martyr and I really hate cleaning muddy floors) and decimated the food in about 10 minutes. They had a lot of fun. They are a nice group of boys.

We had our Easter egg hunts: one in the daytime for the little kids and one at night for the older kids (with glow-in-the-dark eggs!). This hunt has sometimes included ALL the cousins--Cliff's side of the family and mine--but this year I decided not to plan the hunt. Mom was kind enough to include my kids in the hunt she planned for her local grandchildren. I did the traditional Easter basket hunt for my kids on Easter morning and Mom planned all the rest. Here she is with Isaiah.

My brother Gerald, who lives in Taiwan, came to visit with his wife, Frances, and their two kids Angelica and Seth. I love it when they come!! Here's lovely Angelica and cute Seth. Seth, by the way, has indulged in the pastime of picking up the airsoft bbs scattered across the yard--popular with the under 10 set. Here he is ooohing and aaahing over his collection.

At every family gathering--and I mean EVERY family gathering--this is what my baby brother Ben can be seen doing. He is always either on his phone, on the ipad or on the computer. How blessed he is to LOVE his job. I've started to take photos of him at each family thing with his nose in whatever electronic gadget he's brought.... Why can't I read my book at these family gatherings like he's allowed to play with his toys? Could this be a youngest child thing? Hmmmm....

Isaiah got a birthday package from his brother Chase, who is on a mission in Boston. It's mostly edible, which is just what Isaiah likes. Chase is keeping in good touch with his little brother and I think Chase will always be Isaiah's favorite person in the world. Well, until a woman comes into the picture.

Finally, here's adorable baby Bruce, getting fatter and more squeezeable every day. Why is it adorable to be fat only when you're a baby? I don't know, but I love chubby babies! Bruce is Reed and Dorothy's youngest and he's a very good baby. We are all in love with him.

It's been a wet and beautiful few months, full of family and activity. Just what we like!