Tuesday, November 27, 2012

She's Gone

My grandma left this world today. It was an ugly day, too--grey sky, cold and rainy with a little snow mixed in. I think leaving here today would have made the leaving seem extra nice. 

She was ready, my grandma was. I can remember 10-15 years ago she would say things about how she hoped she wouldn't be alive in another 5-10 years. She was tired, I guess.

She was my last grandparent here on earth. And she was my favorite. I know that's not right, but it's true. I am not trying to say that she was better than my maternal grandparents, but I grew up thousands of miles away from them and less than one mile from her. I knew her.  And I did love her husband--a whole lot. But I always felt a little extra love in my heart for my Grandma Sechrist.

She taught me how to play 21. Only, we played 31--with three cards. And we bet with jelly beans. She taught me how to shuffle cards and do the bridge, a skill my own children are desperately trying to master.

When I was a girl, she was the Township Tax Collector--an elected official! She had all these little drawers in her kitchen that housed the tax information papers. These papers had to be filed in number order and I remember helping her sort them to file them. First, in groups by hundreds, then in groups by tens, then by ones. I felt so important helping my grandma with her job!

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: her candy dishes and pretzel jars were bottomless. How were they always full with all the grandkids constantly snitching from them? Magic.

She was a tomboy. She was strong and active and had hairy legs. She said she'd shaved them once and didn't like it, so she never did it again. Ha!

I loved to listen to her tell me about her life when she was younger. 

In order to attend high school, she had to catch a ride to the city with a gentleman who drove there for work each day. When she was done with her school day, she would go and wait at his car until he was done work for the day so he could drive her back to her town. 

When she was pregnant with her first baby, she didn't have clothes that fit (no Motherhood Maternity at the mall), but she had a whole slew of tablecloths that she had gotten as wedding gifts. So, she made a bunch of maternity skirts out of those tablecloths! My grandpa was off in World War II when she had her baby so she moved back home to her parents' where she said her dad took my aunt everywhere with him. She told her that her dad really doted on my aunt.

She loved ice cream. There was always some in her freezer when I was growing up. Sunday evening meant dinner at grandma's and ice cream for dessert. One day last fall, my sister and I took her to lunch and then ice cream. I kid you not, she sat in the front seat of Amber's car swinging her feet in anticipation of getting her frozen treat! Amber and I had a good chuckle over her glee.

She knew how I love sweet bologna. She always served it at Sunday dinners when I was growing up. And when I went to college, she sent me off each new semester with a fresh stick of it, wrapped in tin foil for the plane ride.

I have tried to be good about going up and visiting her. When I still had kids at home during the day, I'd load up my toddlers and preschoolers so they could go and visit their G.G. (great-grandmother). After she moved into an assisted living facility, I started going up once a month for lunch and shopping dates with her. We'd go to lunch and then hit the Wal-Mart across the street from her facility. I am so glad that I had those days with her. We'd always laugh and tease each other. And I'd always tell her how I loved her.

In the past couple of months, her mind had started to go. One day, she forgot her name. "Well," my dad told her, "It's Esther. Some people call you Esther. Some people call you Sis." Her mind clicked back in. "Well, don't forget G.G." she reminded him. That's the thing: my grandma loved us, her family. She was so very proud of her progeny. She was pleased to have so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sometimes, for holidays, she'd have a friend stop by just to look at us all. It tickled her.

At the end of the summer, I took my kids to PA one day. We went to Dairy Queen and got a treat for everyone and a banana split to take over to G.G. She was thrilled when we showed up in her room with treats and company! And, of course, had to show the kids off to the staff at Autumn House.

Last Friday, I took my kids up to PA to get another visit in, as the end was looking close. We gathered around and her face lit up as she recognized each member of my family (a nice big smile for my handsome Michael). I had my children sing, "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" to her. She loved it. She wanted them to sing it again so she could join in the singing. When the song ended the second time, she placed her hand over her chest and said, "Thank you. I'll be a sunbeam for Him." She smacked her lips together and I held her cup and straw for her to drink. She sipped a little and then smacked her lips some more. Somehow, I figured out that she was smacking her lips for kisses. She wasn't overly demonstrative with physical affection, so I felt there was significance in her request. Everyone complied. 

Today, she wasn't capable of talking or singing. I stroked her hair, whispered my love into her ear and held her hand while she breathed her last breath. 

In all honesty, I am happy for her. This earth is not our true home; we are heavenly beings. She has progressed to the next step of her existence and I know she is now free of the pains and sorrows of this world. But I am still here and devastated at the thought of a life without someone so precious to me.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Vacation of Their Lives: Maia Edition

Maia thought learning about the innovative gardening techniques at Epcot was really cool!
Humor this English-degree holder for a moment and let's play the Antonym Game. We'll do it in "I say/You say" format.  You know, I say "black." And then you say "white."  I say "rich." What's that? Did you say "poor?" Excellent! I say "wet." You say..."dry!" Awesome. Now, I say "Adrenaline junkie!" What do you say? Any idea? None? Then you don't know my daughter, Maia.

Well, despite the fact that Maia would rather be strung up by her toenailss than go on any ride that moves faster that your average garden slug, she managed to have a great time on our trip. Sometimes, we used her squeamishness to our advantage and had her babysit a less-courageous sibling or two while we went on some rides. She never minds stepping up to help her parents and we appreciate that about her.

Maia welcomed the coolness of the fountain's mist during the heat of the day.

It must be said that while Maia hates movement, she is all about the scare factor. She isn't intimidated by ghosts or spooky stuff. She liked The Haunted Mansion ride at Magic Kingdom!
 Maia happily rode the Buzz Lightyear ride countless times. We rode is as a family a couple of times, but later on when Michael and I wanted to move on to something more adventurous, Maia happily led her siblings back to Buzz to pass the time.
My beautiful girl.
 Even though I get frustrated sometimes because she won't try a ride, I recognize how lucky I am that my teenager is content to stay with her younger siblings and parents and that she genuinely enjoys the family friendly ride. Exhibit A:

The big kids enjoying a magic carpet ride.
 My Maia was my princess lover.With Disney princesses, Teense and Kenna could have taken or left them, but when Maia was young she loved them with her whole heart. When she finally did start to outgrow them, she segued flawlessly from princess adoration to fairy worship. I know she has outgrown her fairy obsession, but when I heard that Tinkerbell and her friends were available to meet and greet, I had to make it happen for my girl. Going into the fairy world was quite cute! We all shrunk down to their size and then got to meet Tink and Rosetta. When my kids introduced themselves as Maia, Mason, Marlee and Mackenna, Tinkerbell didn't miss a beat. She piped up, "Well, I'm Minkerbell!" Kenna corrected her and Tinkerbell pouted a little bit while she explained that she wanted her name to start with an "M" so she could fit in with them. The kids agreed!
Maia, Mackenna, Minkerbell, Marlee and Mason

 Maia really liked the Harry Potter ride at Universal. I was kind of worried but she loved it. It was one of her favorites! Maia, like me, chose a chocolate frog as her souvenir from Honeydukes. Sadly, I didn't get photos of those.
At Animal Kingdom, Maia opted to get her face painted like a Moroccan Princess.
 With her souvenir money, Maia bought a velvet mad hatter hat, a wizard wand (Fleur Delacour's), a Mickey Mouse t-shirt and a Tinkerbell Minkerbell t-shirt. She wears those shirts all the time!
Maia resists getting picked up by The Claw.
 While in the Seuss section of Universal Studios, we stumbled upon a shop named after Gertrude McFuzz. Last year, Maia was Gertrude in her school's production of Seussical the Musical so we thought it was fun to see her shop!
Maia outside the Gertrude McFuzz shop.
I have to say, it sure is nice to take this teen on a family trip. With her help, it does seem more like a vacation!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Vacation of Their Lives: Mason Edition

We saved our money for years. We drove almost a thousand miles to get to Orlando. We bought passes to Disney and Universal Studios theme parks. And what did my son want to do the whole time we were in sunny Florida? Chase lizards.

My boy has a long-established love of all things reptilian and amphibian. He could hardly contain his glee at the sight of so many little lizards scurrying this way and that across the pavement and sidewalks of Orlando. He made it his mission to catch one of the speedy critters. It took a couple of days, but by Wednesday he had succeeded. Many people will remember their time in "Africa" in Animal Kingdom by the elephants, rhinos, lions and giraffes they saw. Not my boy. He'll always remember it as where he finally caught one of those elusive, lightning-fast Florida lizards.

That is not to say that Mason didn't enjoy the safari ride; he did. He loved seeing the amazing African wildlife so closely. What he didn't love was his mother making him turn in the opposite direction so she could get a picture of him with the wildlife in the background. This is his seriously-mom-you're-making-me-look-away-from-the-cool-stuff-to-take-this-stupid-picture face.

Mason was a little leery of many rides. I blame the warning posters at the beginning of each ride. They list so many conditions under which you should abstain from riding that it is a little intimidating. Mason was easily intimidated--until Teense would get off a ride jumping up and down about how cool it was--then he'd want to try it so badly that he'd swallow his fear and give it a go. He was always glad he did.

I had two catch phrases for him. The first was "Trust your mother." After serious reluctance to ride Soarin', he ended up giggling on the ride the whole time, pronouncing it his favorite thing in life and begging to go on it again. I annoyingly brought this up at later times when he was reluctant to try something I thought he'd enjoy. I don't mean to brag, but I was always right.

The second thing I kept repeating to him was, "I have news for you, son..." This came about because he'd make these huge blanket statements that weren't even true. "I hate roller coasters," he'd proclaim, "but I like the Rock 'N Roller Coaster." Seriously? So, I adopted my "I have news for you, son...if you like the Rock 'N Roller Coaster, you like roller coasters." He still doesn't believe me.

I realize now how few pictures I got of Mason alone. Here he is in line for Star Tours:

This boy loves to make people laugh. Here he is hamming it up as one of the aliens from Toy Story:
You'd be surprised at how many photos of him have his mouth hanging open like this:

What a bunch of goofs!

Mason is our biggest Harry Potter fan. I was so excited that we got to take him to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He loved the main HP ride and got to ride it 5 times. He was thrilled to purchase himself a wand; that was his one goal of our whole trip and he'd been saving towards it for years (naturally, he had more than enough money since he'd saved so long). He drank more than his share of cold butter beer. I loved seeing my boy in this world that makes him so happy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Vacation of Their Lives: Teensy Edition

Shocker of all shockers: my Teense is the dare devil in our family. While she does experience fear as an emotion, it does not cripple her. Instead, it annoys the heck out of her that she should feel this "weak" emotion. That annoyance spurs her on to gain victory over her fear by trying whatever it is that is making her nervous. And she ends up loving what once made her quake.

At Hollywood Studios, Teensy rode the Rock N' Roller Coaster twice. The first time, she was the only child who would ride it. As was the pattern for much of the trip, after she rode and loved it, she talked Mason into joining her for another go. Here are the three of us on her favorite ride:

On our trip,Tuesday was our Magic Kingdom day. It was also Teensy's 8th birthday. We started the day with some present opening, where she got some pajamas for her Julie doll that match some of her own pj's. She was thrilled!

At Magic Kindgom, she got to wear a button that announced her big day and received lots of wishes from various Disney employees all day. The climax of her birthday was eating dinner with Mickey and the gang, her big birthday request.

At Animal Kingdom, Teensy chose to have her face painted like a tiger. She was most excited when she found a large likeness to her new self.

At The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Teense was chosen for a special experience when we went into Ollivander's wand shop. She had to "test" different wands until she found a wand that chose her as its wizard. Then, she chose to purchase said wand for $30 upon exiting the shop. For a girl who professes not to like Harry Potter, she sure was happy to pay for that overpriced souvenir. Of course, it had just created magic in the shop--we'd all seen it with our very own eyes!

Ah, my Teensy Tiny girl. She loved everything this vacation offered: fast rides, slow rides, light shows, daily ice cream treats, and time with her daddy and the rest of her family.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Vacation of Their Lives: Kenna Edition

Last fall, to celebrate my Michael finishing his Master's program, we took a rare family vacation to Orlando. It has been six months, but I still cannot emotionally handle that the trip has not been chronicled. I hope to spare you a day-by-day play-by-play but still preserve the memories of that magical trip.

Kenna, we learned, has her feet firmly planted in the "chicken" camp when it comes to amusement park rides. Yes, she is young. But she is also ridiculously chicken. She didn't like any ride that had any significant motion or any hint of something that might give the mere suggestion of an adrenaline rush. Little movement. No scariness. She was terrified of the troll ride in Norway at Epcot, but loved the viking souvenirs in the shop at the end.

he wouldn't even consider getting on the "easy" side of the Mission Space simulator ride because of the warning speech they gave. To my knowledge, she was neither pregnant nor epileptic but she made quite a scene about not getting on that ride. Imagine our surprise when, later in the week, she insisted that we ride Star Tours (also a simulator) no less than 5 times and proclaimed it her favorite ride of the whole trip. I think her love of the ride is because the first time we rode it, her picture was flashed on the screen as the rebel our space ship was trying to safely deliver to another part of the galaxy.

In a superbly shameful act of parenting, I "boosted" Mackenna's height by 1/2 inch (by demanding that she wear a certain pair of shoes and by strategically placing a french braid on top of her head) to get her (force her) on The Forbidden Journey ride at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She screamed in terror the whole time. Why it was so important to me that we all ride this ride together I don't know--especially considering that only 4 people can go in the thingy together at the same time anyway! Don't worry too much, the bad mommy bought her a turkey leg for lunch (one of her favorite things in life) and a lollipop the size of her head for dessert.

Mackenna chose to spend her souvenir money on a baby panda stuffed animal she named Snowball, a light saber key chain (because she loved that stinkin' ride so much) and a Voldemort wand (?).

Kenna only had 2 To Do's for this vacation and one of them was to meet Jasmine. I was so happy that we were able to meet that goal! Jasmine was so kind to my girls and even taught them how to stand like she does for pictures.

My Michael and I couldn't believe how great Mackenna was with all the walking that we did. Generally, she is a lazy bit of goods. She complains that her "belly hurts" if we walk to the end of our street. We've had calls from the teacher at school about Kenna's mysterious ailments that only occur at P.E. time. We didn't know how it was going to be with her walking for so long each day, but let me tell you: she was a champ!

Here she is as a pretty panda munching a piece of bamboo:

Mackenna really hates it when we talk about anything that happened before she was born. Generally speaking, it hurts her feelings that our family did anything worthy of recollection before she came along. For that and other reasons, I am so glad that we didn't take this trip without her!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hair Accoutrements

I have a friend who often comments on how cute my daughters' hair is. The funny thing about this friend is that she has daughters, too. And their hair is always brushed and pulled back, just like mine. I have pointed out to her on many occasions that the only difference between my side ponytail and hers is an accessory clipped into the tresses. In girls' hair, I believe accessories are key.

Naturally, here chez Hunter, we have a plethora of hair accoutrements: ribbons, bows, flowers, etc.

Now, my kids do chores. They clean their rooms and they help clean the common areas of the house. But, they clean like kids. You know what I'm saying, right? So, sometimes, I start from top and bottom and I go through the house cleaning like a madwoman. I clear out nooks that kids don't see and secret stashes the kids think I don't know about. Invariably, I find hair accessories in almost every room of the house (not Mason's room--he'd never be able to sleep at night!).

When I find a hair clip, I just pick it up and then put it in my hair until I make my way to the bathroom that houses the girls' hair supplies. If you stop by my house on such a day, you'd undoubtedly see me with a couple of clashing bows in my hair. This has actually happened to me--where someone stops by and says, "Nice bow(s)" and I wonder what they are talking about until I walk past a mirror.

Anyway, a while ago I must have been on a particularly in depth cleaning frenzy because by the time I got to the girls' bathroom, my head was covered in hair paraphernalia.

When I saw my reflection, I just had to laugh.
This was a day that no witness stopped by to see my stunning look and it seemed too funny not to share. I had to take a couple of photos so you could laugh, too.

Without further ado, I present my awesome hairdo of which you will be insanely jealous, no doubt:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thank you, Dr. King

It's no secret that my Teensy has a best friend. A bestie. A BFF. They've scarcely sneezed without each other over the past eight years of their little lives.

Her name is Selena.

Here is a precious photo of the two of them on their baptism day:

Okay. So, a couple of days ago, I was driving the kids home from school and Mackenna was excitedly telling me about what she had learned that day. It was about civil rights. She was rattling off names like Ruby Bridges, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. She explained to me that without these people, her class at school would look totally different: there would be no black people. She was so earnest in her effort to educate me. I just "Oh!"-ed intermittently like I was hearing this bit of history for the first time.

Then my Teensy spoke up with a question. "Mom," she began, "Would Selena be considered white or black?"

I chuckled softly. "Honey, Selena is white."

"No, Mom," she responded forcefully. "She isn't. She's dark."

"I know her skin is darker than yours, but she is still white," I proclaimed.

"Mom!" Teensy barked in a disgusted tone. "Have you even seen her skin? It's dark."

I was laughing in earnest at this point and trying in vain to convince her that her best friend is the same race as she is. I tried to point out that Selena's sister, a red-head with skin the color of drifted snow is clearly white and that because they have the same parents, they are clearly the same race, but Marlee wouldn't buy any of it.

Then, it occurred to me that Selena actually is 1/4 Latina. I tried to explain that she gets her quick-to-tan skin from her grandmother who is from Mexico. That just brought up a whole new bout of confusion. "What's Latina?" Gracious.

So, what did we learn in the car ride home? That we are thankful for people like Martin Luther King. Because without him, not even brunettes who tan would be allowed to go to school with my blonde daughters. Sakes alive.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Master of This Saint

Hey, remember when I was a blogger? Those were some good times, weren't they?

I miss those heady times. Truly, I do.

Remember when my husband was ridiculously busy getting his master's degree while working full-time and serving in the bishopric of our church? I'll tell you a little secret: that was not the best or easiest time of my life.

Well, those days are long gone, devoted reader!

My Michael done grad-gee-ate-ed in September
. The University of Virginia had a special night to commemorate the occasion. They held the event at a really cool place in Virginia called The Airlie Center. Seriously, look at this place! Here's my Jorge taking photos in the garden:

We used the graduation dinner as an excuse to dump our kids at my friend Lisa's house overnight. (It was only her birthday and I had her watch my kids overnight. Don't you wished you lived near me so I could take advantage of your kindness, too?)

While Lisa was celebrating her big day with a house full of extra kidgets, my Michael and I were dressing up, eating yummy food, laughing, and touring the grounds of the gorgeous venue. Oh, and we were getting diplomas!

I received a commendation elevating me to the status of "Saint" for putting up with my husband being in the program.

My Michael received a diploma pronouncing that he'd earned a Master's of Science in the Management of Information Technology.

Mine's better. I mean, who wouldn't rather be a saint than a master? (Just kidding.)

At any rate, we are thrilled that Jorge's long-time goal of an advanced degree has been fulfilled.

Now, about my dream of going to Santorini. . .

Quotation of the Month

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

-Jill Churchill