January 31, 2009

Diane

Diane has been one of my living angels for years. Her friendship has been an anchor for me, which keeps me thinking of all things spiritual in the midst of all things physical. Whenever I have a child, which is pretty much every year, she brings our family dinners and takes the older siblings for an afternoon of fun. Sometimes, she brings me a treat "just because". Every time she goes to Europe, she brings me some Milka chocolate. When Evan died, she was one of several who came and filled in without being asked. She and her husband wrote and got Evan's obituary published. She took the boys so that we could get the funeral and burial arrangements worked out. She took Graeden to school and picked him up for a week. Diane got some photos of Evan. took the text from Evan's eulogy and made them into a book. Her husband wrote a speech and delivered it at the funeral. Then the next week, she hosted a baby shower for Jocelyn at her home. A month later she was there helping me to pack up my kitchen to move. She came and helped me unpack it and arrange it in the new house.

I can't say enough great things about Diane. So, imagine my surprise when one evening at dinner as I was detailing for Tymon some of Elliott's mischievous exploits of the day, Graeden totally exasperated blurts out, "What should we do with this kid? Should we give him to Diane?" Ahhh, comic relief for the troubled soul! Tymon and I just laughed and laughed. I love that Graeden is learning from Diane what it's like to be a friend. Of course, he may not be viewing it like that. He sees that Diane comes over to help with the kids.

Some of Elliott's adventures of the last few weeks are disturbing. Some I will laugh at later like this. Some make me cringe. Some make me angry and some fill me with fear and gratitude that we haven't lost another child.

We were outside a couple of weeks ago and I opened the garage door. In my peripheral vision I saw some movement. Elliott was hanging from the bottom of the door with his feet off the ground as it was rising.

The next day, I heard Elliott say that he was bleeding but I couldn't find him. The sound was muted and I couldn't figure out where he was. I checked the basement...nothing. I went outside...the sound was louder. I came in and looked out the windows. Nothing. I decided to take a quick peek upstairs before putting my shoes on and going outside. My eyes darted around the playroom and panic set in when I saw the window open. I quickly crawled out and found Elliott on the roof. He had led Jett out there and they had climbed to the top and gone on the back side of the house. I climbed up to Elliott and got him to safety and then went back for Jett. Jett was terrified. I led him to safety. We had some hugs and put peroxide on Elliott's feet (he had little scrapes from the shingles). I took the opportunity to teach them about heights, danger and appropriate places to play.

The next day, I prepared to take the boys to the bus stop early so that they'd have some time to play outside while we waited. And just when we were about to leave there was a scream and Elliott comes into my bathroom and has blood coming out of his mouth and nose. I think he tripped and hit his head on the floor. We had just enough time to clean up, stop the bleeding and make it to the bus on time. The VERY NEXT DAY, we had a great time doing a messy activity and I put the boys in my tub. I noticed that Elliott had some marker on his belly. He tried to blame it on Graeden, but Graeden wasn't even home. We scrubbed him and then I went to get some paper to blow my nose. I found that Elliott had taken a permanent marker and not only drawn all over his belly, but also on my window molding and wall next to the toilet. I was SO ANGRY! It's been over a year since I discovered eraser sponges. Just like my old mailbox, I set to work scrubbing the window with Goo Gone and then went to the store to get my eraser to take back my bathroom. I still need to paint the wall where I scrubbed off the paint trying to remove the marks, but I'm pretty pleased with my window. You can't tell there was marker on it except where the finish is a little dull. I wonder if Sharpie would be happy to find out that their marker wasn't "permanent" on all surfaces...

The week after this wasn't nearly as eventful. I'm happy to report that Elliott was only naughty a couple of times. He took a pencil to Tymon's computer screen. I don't know if it was a nice picture he drew or not. I took a wet wipe to it pretty quickly and luckily it didn't make an impression on the screen. I don't even know how he comes up with this stuff. I see him one minute and then literally just a few minutes later he's been naughty. The next afternoon, Elliott asked, "Mom, my tummy's hungry and is wanting some cheese." I gave him a slice of cheese and not 3 minutes later I find that he's crumbled it up into little pieces and has pressed it back together in order to make "hot dogs". WHAT?! I asked him to clean it up and find that he starts shining my floor with cheese. Who is this kid?

So the QUOTE OF THE DAY is from Elliott. As we were finishing breakfast this morning, Elliott out of the blue tells me, "I think you forgot to give me to Diane."

January 26, 2009

Balancing Act

I'm not sure how but somehow babies can stay standing when my brother holds them like this. He's done it with all of my kids. Jocelyn is so engaged. Uncle JC is singing her a song from a musical. I can't remember which one, but it made me smile, too.



If only I could be so amused with my own balancing act. Tymon gave our sick Elliott a blessing last night, which led to everyone in the house getting one, including me. I felt my Heavenly Father's love for me and know that with time and patience my concerns will subside. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed with all that I "need" to do. But really, I think I just need to get back to the basics. I want to have more meaningful prayers, build stronger familial relationships and appreciate my many blessings.




My mom spent 5 days last week in the hospital. She had some blood clots that shot down to her kidneys and spleen. We're so lucky that they didn't go to her brain. I've gone my whole life thinking that my parents were immortal. And this was really scary for me to see my mom hooked up to machines and i.v.'s in her hands and life is so fragile.



Tymon and I are working at simplifying our lives so that we can focus on the things and people who are truly important to us. One of our stresses is having our wonderful new mortgage. Well, that's not so bad...except that we'd like to get rid of our old mortgage. IF you are looking to buy a cute house in a cute town near Seattle, PLEASE step forward! Interest rates are super low and you can own for the same price as renting right now. I will email specifics and photos to anyone who is interested.

January 20, 2009

Evan's Grave Stone

Evan's grave stone was set yesterday. We saw it for the first time today and I LOVE IT. We spent a bit of time considering what we wanted on it and in looking through books with possibilities, nothing seemed to fit. We merged several ideas into this finished product. Evan's picture is about 8"x10" and an artist etched it by hand. Etching seems a little archaic in the day and age of lasers, but this is a beautiful timeless stone and I am happy with the results.


Tymon and I spent a few hours one Saturday morning and hammered out the poem for the back. It was something we'd thought about but deep down, I didn't want to do it. No stone will ever be good enough for him or adequately describe how we feel about him. But it's been almost 4 months since he's been gone and I've hated not having anything to mark his grave. We borrowed some of the phrases in the poem from a few different stones in the head stone catalog. (Did you know they had those?!) Then we added several of our own lines to personalize it. How awesome that HEAVEN and EVAN rhyme...so fitting for our little angel.


We need to clean off the stone as it still has a film on it from setting it. I think we'll wait a little, though because later this week they will put a cement ring around the grave if the weather stays clear and gets up to about 50 degrees. We'll be able to plant flowers in the ring this spring. I'm not sure what to plant quite yet...suggestions are welcome.

January 18, 2009

Rolling past Stage One

My Dear Little Jocelyn,

It is with sadness that I say goodbye to the immobile stage of your life. True, I won't miss some of the tirades that happen in the evening before bedtime...but I do love your sweet snuggles. Sometimes, I wish you were older so that we could communicate better and your personality would show more. Then I remember your brothers. They always have something to do and somewhere to go. You have been happy to sit with me and give me smiles at a time in my life when I really needed to hold a child. So long to laying you on the bed without putting the pillows around you. So long putting you on the couch and expecting you to be right where I left you.


This evening you rolled over twice from your back to your tummy. I couldn't believe it. I put you back on your back...and watched you with my camera as you rolled over again.

You weren't happy about your progress, but as I write you are rolling over again. I still hope you'll be content to let me hold you still. Please don't get too busy for that.

Love,
Mom

January 16, 2009

Try Something New

We are so HAPPY for Jovana. She has come to a strange country and to an even stranger family and decided to try her hand at new things. Uninhibited with her English language skills (which are excellent) or knowledge of customs or lack of personal experience, Jovana takes part in the speech and debate team at school as well as with the marketing group DECA. So far, in debate, she has won first place at two different competitions and qualified to compete in the State tournament. She will compete again tomorrow at a tournament, too.

Yesterday was a full day for her. She went to Olympia (our State capital) with some classmates to present bills to the State Legislature. Her teacher is amazing and very hands on about getting his students involved in the political process. Some of his students were successful a year or two ago in getting an actual law passed in Washington State. Jovana's bill had to do with requiring all those who collect welfare to have a highschool dipoloma. Here is a momento that they gave each of the senators and representatives that they talked to.


After the experience in Olympia, she headed to a DECA competition and won two medals. She has qualified for the State DECA competion, as well. Here is her growing collection of trophies and medals.



These are just a few of her successful feats in her stay with us. She is so helpful in our home and has learned how to do many things...like how to motivate a toddler to do what he should be doing, how to care for a baby, how to cook new things and MOST importantly, she has learned how to do what she needs to do on the computer (homework and facebook) while a child is sitting in her lap or in her chair. ha ha ha. We are so happy that Jovana is in our family and are so happy that she has the desire to try new experiences. Let's learn from Jovana today and TRY SOMETHING NEW! You never know, you may not only like it but you may be good at it, too.

January 13, 2009

Model Student


Graeden won an award yesterday for "Great progress blending words and remembering his glasses!" We're so excited for him and his success in school. Tymon took the morning off work so that he could be there. After the assembly, we went to McDonalds for lunch with him. Today he got to go to a special recess and invite one of his friends to participate. He chose our neighbor who rides the bus with him every day. I thought that was really nice of him, especially since his buddy was pretty disappointed about not getting an award.

January 9, 2009

Rainbows

We're expecting to see some rainbows tomorrow if the clouds will clear. After record snowfall in the great Northwest, we are now seeing some heavy flooding from the melting of it. On the way to work I cross a pretty big river. It looked like its width had expanded 5 or 6 times as big. An entire trailer park was pretty much wiped out...well the water was halfway up the homes and continuing to rise. I believe the rivers crested about 10pm Thursday. I seriously couldn't keep my eyes off the scene. It's a good thing not too many people were going to work at 11:30 am so the roads were fairly clear.

All of the mountain passes between Western and Eastern Washington have been closed due to avalanches and mudslides until this afternoon when one pass was opened. This happens to be the same one that is closest to us. So, everyone who wanted to travel clogged the roadways. Consequently, it took Tymon 2.5 hours to do his 25 minute commute home from work today. I skipped that road on my way home and it took an hour...about double what it should have taken on a normal day.

On the way home, I checked the river in town. It was pretty high, but I don't think it was as high as it was a couple of years ago. One of the bridges entering the city was closed. School is canceled today and I'm not sure why...I think that most of the students can get to school. Only a few roads are closed in the outlying areas. I think that if 90% of the kids can make it and only a couple bus routes are affected then school should be held as usual. But alas, we have one more weather day to add to the end of the school year.

Maybe later I'll take the boys out. I'm not sure that Graeden remembers seeing the river with me last time it flooded so much. We've got the Little People's Noah's Arc set. Perhaps seeing what a flood looks like will help them understand the story more.

I was born during a heavy flood season. My dad had to drive all over to try and find a road that was open. He made it home on fumes and my uncle had picked up my mom to take her to the hospital. They got my dad in the car but it wasn't very comfortable...my uncle drove a porche with only 2 seats. Thousands of livestock died that season. Apparently the stink was around for a while because another girl I know was born a month later and her mom told us stories about truckloads and truckloads of dead cows and horses being taken away about that same time. It's kind of disgusting, really. I hope that never happens again. Maybe there are better and faster ways to transport animals out of danger now.

January 7, 2009

Serbian Orthodox Christmas


I just baked this bread (pogoca), which is the reason why I'm up so late. It's for Jovana for her Orthodox Christmas celebration. Inside, I've put a Sacajawea dollar coin. Whoever gets the piece of bread with the coin in it will have good luck all year.

Jovana usually celebrates Christmas on January 7th. She did a fast on January 6th, which is basically like she only eats Vegan foods and fish all day. Unfortunately, I forgot whether she fasted on the 6th or the 7th so I brought home some fish sticks when I came home from work. Well, she'd already had dinner. So, she'll have to have fish another night.

Graeden bought some books for his siblings as Christmas presents from the book club at school last month. Unfortunately, he was not able to pick them up because of the snow days. We wrapped them this evening and shared them before bed. It was so fun to see how thoughtful Graeden is of his brothers and Jovana. They all got a book that he spent his own money on buying. We enjoyed reading all of them. I even tried my hand at reading Jovana's book in Serbian. She REALLY enjoyed my accent. ha ha ha. This is probably the first and only year Jovana will have to go to school on her Christmas...unless she comes back to the States to go to college.

January 4, 2009

Jocelyn's Blessing

Sweet Jocelyn was given a name (for the records of the church) and a blessing today. I love her little bonnet. JOCELYN AVA JOHNS was reminded that she has four brothers that love her and blessed to be helpful to her brothers, Graeden, Elliott and Jett. That she would be an example to them so that they could all return to their Heavenly Father.
She was blessed with WISDOM to understand gospel truths, COURAGE to stand up for what she knows is right, STRENGTH to uphold values, and LOVE that radiates throughout her life.


She is LOVED by many, especially me. After her blessing, we stuffed 36 (our new record) family members in our home for a luncheon. It's great to have so many family members so close (and maybe a good thing we don't have furniture in our family room so there was plenty room to move around in...and play Rock Band on the Wii).

January 3, 2009

Reflection: Christmas Joy?

What was the most painful part of your first Christmas after Evan died? When were you most aware of your own mourning theme running under the celebration? Did your celebration change because of your loss - either bigger or smaller? Describe your celebration, what you were hoping it would bring and what it actually brought. Also describe moments of hope and joy you may have found.

I think the most painful part of my Christmas was not being able to take a time out for myself and reflect. I am often conflicted with wanting to be around people and then not wanting to be around anyone. We had my family over all day on Christmas. Originally, we were to have brunch with my family and go to Tymon's family in the afternoon. Well, they were snowed in and so my side of the family stayed for dinner, too. It was great to see and be with everyone while at the same time I just wanted to go to my room and take a nap. I couldn't do that though because I wanted to have a Christmas dinner with family. Since I was the hostess and my husband doesn't cook, that meant me spearheading the impromptu dinner.

I was most aware of my mourning while we opened presents. First it was "Evan" giving his brothers a book of his life. I started working on that book the day Evan died. I didn't want to make funeral arrangements, I wanted to go through photos and remember my little boy. I was happy that each member of my family at some point during the day picked up the book to look through it and read it. I want everyone to remember my boy.

Of course our celebration changed because of our loss. We are missing one VERY important person. Amid the chaos that comes when 17 people share a home for the day, it takes effort to think about everyone all the time, including Evan. Perhaps, a quieter Christmas would have given me the opportunity to reflect more. But maybe that would have brought on a lot of sad feelings, too.

Christmas began about 7 am. Jovana woke me up so that we could start making the quiches for brunch. The boys woke up and I made them eat cereal (I didn't want a melt down during the opening of presents). They got Tymon out of bed about 8:30 and we opened presents as a family. Everyone played with toys until about 10:30 or 11 am when the family started arriving. Jovana and I continued to prepare food. My brother couldn't make it up our big hill in the snow so he parked nearby and Tymon took our Durango (with 4 wheel drive) down to pick him and his family and friend up. We ate and talked and played Rock Band 2 and Wii games all afternoon. We opened more gifts from all those that came over. My brother and his friend graciously shoveled nearly 2 feet of snow off of our deck. We began to prepare dinner about 4 pm. I went around asking people what they'd brought for dinner. Of course, it was nothing...they didn't know they were coming for dinner. I asked them what they would've brought had they known. My brother Brett thought he'd bring mashed potatoes...so I put him to work peeling them. JC's friend likes green bean casserole. So, he put that dish together. Katie made a salad. My dad and Jovana made rolls. I made a velvety sweet potato soup. It was a great dinner, especially since we planned it so late in the day and didn't go to the store. Luckily, I had bought a ham a couple of days before. I think the family started leaving about 8 pm and I was pretty tired. The day was pretty packed and I'm glad I didn't have to go anywhere. I was hoping that Christmas would bring family and fun. It did. I hoped it would be relaxing. It wasn't. Evan's headstone was supposed to be finished by Christmas. The weather has delayed it. We are hopeful to have it finished and set in the next couple of weeks.

I found hope and joy in watching each of my children open gifts. It was even fun to watch Jovana take part in the festivities. She is Orthodox and celebrates Christmas in January. She wasn't expecting to get many gifts as it's not customary in her home to get more than a couple. With each one she got, her eyes lit up. She was genuinely surprised and happy for each one. Even the chewing gum in her stocking. The most clever one we did for her was take the photo of her and Tom Cruise and put it into a little New York City skyline frame that Tymon had gotten years ago and never used. What's great about that frame is that it has the Twin Towers in it....can't get that anymore.

I found joy in our white Christmas and the crazy weather we've had. It was fun and exciting to have so much snow that every time we left the house, it was an adventure. Of course, there was a little fear of sliding off the side of the hill while driving, too.

I found joy being with others and loving our new home. It is perfect for entertaining. I am happy that my brother JC brought a friend to share the day with us. I'm glad we have a welcoming family and that we were able to bring a bit of joy to someone who couldn't go home for Christmas.
 
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