Thursday, July 10, 2014

take another little piece of my heart

Most of you who read this blog (whenever I actually update) are probably aware that my grandfather passed away on June 30th after a very long battle with prostate cancer.

I have struggled with writing this post because I just can't wrap my mind around his being gone.  I couldn't talk to my own children about it, instead I just talked around things or changed the subject if I felt myself becoming emotional.  My mom was the one to talk to the girls and she was dealing with the death of her father, so that's how big of an emotional mess I am.

This isn't my first go-round with loss, as most of you know, but something about this is different. 

Maybe it's because I was younger when my other grandparents passed away and I didn't fully understand the grieving process or let myself go through it.  Maybe it's because I've experienced very deep and personal loss in my adult life and I struggle with my feelings about that as well.  Maybe this just isn't something that can be explained away and I'm just really sad and that's all there is to it.

I wrote about my trip down to California to visit him in April, and I can't stress enough how happy I am that I made that choice.  He had been sick for a few months and had many trips in and out of the hospital and my family was starting to worry that the plateau he had been on for so long was starting to go downhill.  I don't know why, but I just had a feeling that it was a now or never trip and my heart told me to just do it, no matter what.  I've always been sensitive, sometimes to a fault, but this is one of a handful of times that I can say I knew that what I was feeling couldn't be ignored.

Though I was able to see them rarely, I have a pretty special relationship with my grandparents.  Our family is the only one of my mom's brothers and sister that doesn't live in California.  While my uncles, aunts, and cousins all were able to be with my grandparents on almost a daily basis, we were lucky enough to see them maybe two times a year.

When my sister and I were younger, Grandma and Papa began driving (and then flying) up to spend Thanksgiving with us in Ellensburg. This tradition continued even after my parents moved to Spokane and only stopped a few years ago, at that.  We even had a few Christmases at their house which were wonderful and yet strange because of the warm weather and lack of snow.  Most years while they were up here, I would take him to school for show and tell and impress the pants off of the other little kids (and the teachers who loved General Hospital!) and he never refused though he'd done it time and again for me.

When I was in seventh grade, I started flying down to Burbank by myself to spend my spring break with them. It was incredibly exciting to travel by myself, even if for a 2 1/2 hour flight, and I got to have my grandparents to myself for a week.  And though we see each other infrequently, I always love spending time with all of my cousins and had the best time each year that I was able to be there. I have been blessed to have a strong family bond on both my mom's and dad's side of the family. This was something that my grandparents stressed - that family came first and we should make time to be together.

My grandfather always talked to us about the importance of education and how, because of his career beginning at such an early age, he didn't have the conventional school experiences that we did.  He didn't necessarily believe in rewarding good grades with money, but he always managed to slip me a little something for my hard work in school.

I was the first grandchild to go to college and he and grandma made a point of helping fund part of my tuition (and all grandchildren afterward) as long as my grades were in an acceptable range.  It's things like this that I will never take for granted and will always be thankful for because I have a 4-year college degree and a first-rate education under my belt.  I also have a good job, a good work ethic, and have been putting my degree to good use for the last 14 years.

Mark and I flew down to Burbank on Sunday the 6th to attend Papa's rosary the following evening and the funeral on Tuesday morning.  We were invited by my cousin, Lauren, to stay with her and her husband, Pete, while we were there and really had a wonderful time reminiscing about Papa and our memories with him.  We stayed up late, we drank too much, we laughed, we were sad, and we were thankful to be together.

All of the grandchildren were able to be there except for Quinn, the youngest of us, who had just graduated from high school and was away on a trip.  Seven of us gathered at Papa's favorite Mexican restaurant, Viva, after the rosary for food and drinks and loud live music and it was pretty great.

Everyone deals with loss differently, and maybe it was frowned upon that we weren't sorrowful enough or didn't openly mourn, but what the nine of us agreed upon was that Papa wouldn't have wanted us weeping and moaning (though he did love drama!) - he would want us to be together, to strengthen our bond, enjoy each other, and talk about him with love.  And as my cousin Allison remarked, "If any of you start crying, then I will cry and I probably won't be able to stop."

I'd like to think I held it together well, and maybe I did, but it was certainly difficult to walk into the church Monday evening for the rosary and see a giant picture of Papa on display rather than see the man himself.

My cousin, Allison, won't toot her own horn, but I have no problem doing it for her.  She did an absolutely fantastic job of putting together a program for Tuesday's service.  My mom had asked me, back in April, if I would be able to gather some information for the obituary so that she, her siblings, and grandma could make sure that everything was in place before Papa passed away.  I was more than honored to do the legwork as I've always found my grandfather to be an interesting man.  What I found was of no surprise to me because he has never shied away from sharing his beliefs:  family is the most important thing in life, you get what you earn through hard work, and America is the greatest country in the world.  I am certainly not taking all of the credit as it was a collaboration of what everyone knew, but will say I am extremely proud of how our family pitched in and did what needed to be done and that we all contributed something, no matter how insignificant we may have felt it was in the scheme of things.

WWII Army Air Forces B-29 Navigator

Archie Andrews radio show

This could be Bob Newhart, Danny Thomas, and Andy Williams...or a handful of men who resemble them.

Animation cell from the 1970's cartoon, Jeannie.  Papa voiced the sidekick, Henry.

Some outtakes I found.  Each picture a different face - one of the best and my favorite things about him.

Top left, Papa and Grandma at the 1960-something World's Fair.  The rest are head shots - I'm partial to the one with the mustache.

This is the picture that has been on our refrigerator for as long as I can remember.  It's a daily reminder of the love that my grandparents share and the foundation that the Hastings family is built upon.

I know I'm going to be sad for awhile and the pain will lessen with time, but I can be happy to have had such a wonderful man and strong example in my life for 36 years.  I'm one of the lucky ones!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

water conservation is a reality

You know this will only work for another few months...

Friday, July 4, 2014

celebrating responsibly

For years, I've driven by the big fireworks booths in parking lots and on the side of the road and wanted to stop.  But I never have.

It's not that I don't want to buy any, but the young ages of my children and unwillingness of my husband to participate in one of the most American holidays that ever existed (weirdo) has stopped me.

This year, I threw caution to the wind...and probably a few embers as well.

On our way out of Walmart one afternoon, I made the split-second decision to visit the magical fireworks display booth at the edge of their lot.  It was totally worth it.  Everything was on sale, or buy-one get-two-free, or just really really inexpensive.  We got some sparklers, snaps, black snakes, and ground bloom flowers. Pretty much everything harmless that kept the budget under $10 total.

It took me awhile to convince the girls that sparklers were fun.  They didn't want to hold them before they were lit and they didn't want to hold them after they were lit.  I got one going and then wrote my name in sparkly cursive which absolutely blew their minds.

I am actually happy they were so cautious about it because neither of them got the sparkler even remotely close to anything that could have caught on fire.  They were yards away from me and from each other and had a great time waving their "wands" around to make pretty patterns.  My phone takes horrible pictures (I know, broken record) so instead of showing the sparks and colors, my kids look like they are practicing for their entrance exams into Hogwarts.  Expelliarmus!

The not-fun part was waiting for the sky to darken enough to actually do any of the fireworks.  It didn't get dark until almost 10 pm - this is a good 2.5 hours past bedtime in our house and made for some impatient and cranky girls.

BUT, we did get to see some really great fireworks displays from our deck after we polished off our stash.  Of course you can't see any of the fireworks in mid-air because I don't have that setting on my phone, but judging from the watching and pointing the girls seem to be doing, something was obviously happening.

I do wish more people in our household took part in our festivities, but I can't make them do what they don't want to.  I suppose I can patiently wait until Jensen is old enough to light things on fire so that we can all have a good time on the 4th...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

double dentist

My kids like the dentist.  I'm sure that is a strange thing to read, but it's true.  I always enjoyed going to our family dentist, Dr. Cole, when I was younger and have tried to instill the idea that the dentist is a good place with my children.  It will probably continue to be a fun and happy time until someone gets a cavity.  Until then, peace and zen.

This time it was Freya's and Jensen's turn since they are on the same schedule.  He had a good time fake-mowing the reception area while Freya messed around with the Perplexus ball.

Freya's top front teeth were very loose, in fact, the top left adult tooth was already starting to grow in, so we talked to the hygienist about what to do.  She said if we just let the adult tooth grow in before the baby tooth fell out, it might grow at a funny angle, so it should just be pulled.  Since one was being pulled and the other wasn't too far behind, she pulled them both out!

Jensen had a very quick check up that involved squirming and crying (because he had to lay on my lap and have his arms restrained) so I didn't take pictures.  You're welcome.

Freya was very excited to have two teeth to put into her tooth box for the fairy that night.  The fairy was having a great time trying to find a one-dollar bill or 4 quarters to leave in place of her teeth!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

This is Fro-ty

My sister-in-law, Erika, planned this great surprise party weekend for her husband, (Mark's brother) Skip.  We thought it sounded like great fun, so we road-tripped ourselves down to Gearhart, Oregon to join the fun.

It is a 6+ hour trip from our house to Skip & Erika's, so we were prepared with snacks, books, and the portable DVD player.  Jensen is at the age where he is realizing that there are no headphones or DVD screen for him and it makes him a bit angry.  Generally his sister's have their volume up too loud so he can hear the movie anyway and he leans in to watch their screens so it all works out until he gets bored or realizes he is strapped into a car seat.

Mark thought it would be interesting to try a new route since we always take I-5 down and it is HORRIBLE on Friday afternoons/evenings.  This time when we got to Olympia, we went west on the 108 to connect to the 101 and drove down the coast.  See the picture above?  NO TRAFFIC - and it was beautiful, to boot.

We stayed in a condo right across the road from the Sand Trap, the McMenamins hotel/restaurant in Gearhart where we were surprising Skip for dinner and drinks.  I volunteered to drive our children to Skip & Erika's house, where two nice baby-sitters were already watching Reagan and Liam and our other friend's son as well.  This is the thing you do when it isn't your brother having the birthday - you fore go being part of the surprise so that the baby-sitters get the correct information about your children that they've never met.  It's also a "mom" thing.

As you can see, Skip, John (childhood friend), and Mark were having a great time long before I got back!

Keri (John's wife), Erika, me, Mark, Skip, and John post-appetizers and drinks!

Tresha had the fantastic idea to create special shirts for all of the adults to wear for the party so we played around with some ideas and landed on this one.  When I asked her how she was going to get a profile picture of Skip (yes, that is his actual profile!) she said "don't worry" and then sent one to me a few minutes later. Apparently Skip is used to Tresha's strange requests for craft projects, so he took a picture of himself and sent it, no questions asked.

If you're wondering about the "Fro" theme, this is just one of Skip's many nicknames that stuck due to his curly hair.  When I first met Mark, I had heard about something called Fro-Fest, which was an annual gathering of Skip's friends and family in different areas to do different fun things and just enjoy a long weekend together. I have participated in a few - some I remember, some are a bit fuzzy - but they are always fun and there is always a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion.

Here are Erika and Skip at the Saturday barbecue held at their house.  Not to be overlooked, it was also Erika's birthday but since hers was not a "big number" year, she focused the attention on her husband and made it special for him.  Can you imagine sharing the exact same birthday with your spouse?  How random is that?

One of many awesome attempts at a group photo. As you can see, the kids were super cooperative...

Reagan and Freya and the cake.

What party would be complete without someone (Jensen) getting locked inside a fire pit by one of his relatives (Peyton)?  Typical Fro-party antics!