7.15.2011

Life ( starts and ends ) with family.

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Noah and his cousins have been having a grand 'ole time together.  It's been interesting for me to see how different my son acts when playing with other children close in age to him (particularly with his cousins).  My brothers and I all waited until later in life to get married and start our families.  I don't know if "waited" is the most appropriate word choice in that statement.  It's just the way the "cookie crumbled" in our lives I guess you could say.  One really neat blessing that came out of us postponing parenthood for so many years....our children have all ended up being close in age.  And as you can  probably imagine, this makes for some "rock-star" cousin-time when they all get together at their grandparent's house.  

I can also tell you, while it is much louder than I'm used to having all the kids around, I have discovered this week that it makes my job much easier (to some degree) as a mom.  Most days, Noah and I spend a good portion of our day together at the house. Since he is an only child, I often find myself playing dual roles for him...first and foremost, the role of mommy but more often than not, and secondly, his full-time playmate and friend.  As much as I enjoy all the time we spend together, it can get tiring having to be his playmate and fill the void since he doesn't have brothers and/or sisters to run around with during the day. I've noticed this week while we've been staying at my parent's place and having three of his cousins at the house to play with,  the kids just kept themselves busy.  For example, this has happened a few times to me.  A span of time would pass and I would look up from what I was doing and ask my sister-in-law or my mom--"Hey, wait a minute--where are the kids--it's too quiet!??"  And one of or both would calmly respond, "Oh, they're back in the back bedroom building a fort or playing on the iPads together."  An unusual feat in my normal daily routine as a stay at home mom--kids playing quietly off by themselves somewhere in the house.  Something that is foreign to me as the mother to just one child.

Without question, this week has been nice in that it's given me a glimpse of what it would actually feel like if Jody and I had more children running through our home.  Yes, the house would be much louder and messier, but all worth it to see and hear the laughter and joy that emanates from children having fun, playing  all the while growing up together.  And so yes...I continue to dream of that day when we are able to have more children join our family.  Sometimes I feel like I sound like a "broken record" when I lament about our hopes and dreams of growing our family through adoption--but I guess I'm just trying to keep it real and speak from the heart. I want more than anything for my beautiful, precious son to grow up with siblings.  Seeing him laugh, run, play and thoroughly enjoy himself this week with his cousins has only solidified this desire in my heart.

Grandma KiKi (my mama)-- also known as the very talented artist and painter in our family, pulled out some of her art paper this week, and then set up a work station in the middle of her den with boxes of crayons, pencils and stickers.  She asked the kids to be creative....to make some creations of their own.  As you can probably imagine, she didn't have to ask twice.  Almost immediately, they surrounded the table with big, animated eyes and got to work.  They were completely enamored with all the stuff on the table and became engrossed in making designs of all sorts.  The stickers seemed to be the biggest hit with the kiddos. 

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I was surprised at how much the kids enjoyed this activity--particularly Noah and Beck.  I just knew after 5 minutes of working on their art, they'd grow tired of it and want to get back to playing with their trucks and cars, but boy was I wrong.  The room was so quiet while they were working.  What a joy it was watching them work together, share crayons and giggle while they worked.


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Something that was on the top of my "to-do" list during this visit has been to spend some time with one of  my nearest and dearest friends on this earth...my grandmother.  We all fondly refer to her in our family as Nanny.  She is 87 years old and while her body has begun to fail her, it is no surprise to any of us that her mind is still as witty and sassy as ever.  I am fortunate to say that I have always had a close relationship with my grandmother. She and I are very close.  Maybe it stems from the fact that I was her first grandchild...oh yes, I am the oldest grandchild.  We have been grandmother and granddaughter to one another for almost 40 years now.   I was thinking about this the other day--how blessed I am to be able to say that we've been this close for so many years.  Not many people have the honor of getting to know and develop a relationship with their grandparents as long as I have had with my grandmother. How thankful I am to my Father in Heaven for allowing her to live this long and the blessing she has been to me. 

These past several months have been some of the most challenging of my grandmother's life.  Her frail body continues grow weaker and it is difficult for all of us to see her this way. She and my parents had to make the difficult decision a few months ago to move her out of her home to a nursing home. A day we have all dreaded, but mostly one she has dreaded.  Such a heartbreaking decision to make but one that had to be made so that she could receive the physical care that she needs. Nanny and I speak at least once a week on the phone, sometimes 2-4 times a week, but I've noticed the past two months, our conversations aren't as long as they used to be and no where near as detailed.  She seems to tire much easier and tends to lose her train of thought--something that is definitely out of the norm for her.  I have been feeling for some time now that I needed to get back to my parent's place so I could squeeze in a few visits with my grandmother.  

I was able to do that this week and it has been so nice to spend time with her in person and get some much needed hugs in.  My sister-in-law, Katherine, she and I took the kiddos to the nursing home this week to see Nanny.  Katherine (and my brother, Brian) welcomed their third child, Otto, into the world about five weeks ago and my grandmother has been waiting patiently to meet her seventh great-grandchild.  It was really special for me to be able to watch this wonderful grandmother of mine hold her newest great-grandchild. 

I hadn't seen my grandmother since before Christmas, so I must admit, I was a bit taken back when I walked in the door of her room and saw her this week.  It was evident to me at first glance that her body is becoming more and more frail.   There is no question, my heart sank a little when I saw her--it's so hard to see your loved ones get old and slowly lose their ability to live their lives independently.  Yet, it was absolutely wonderful to see her face light up when she saw all of us walk into the room.  She loves being a grandmother (and great-grandmother)--she always has and for that I will be eternally grateful.   

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Katherine and Ava chit-chatting...

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Baby Otto quickly fell peacefully asleep in her arms...she has that charming way with her grandchildren. 

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After a while, the kids were getting a little loud and very restless hanging out in Nanny's room, so I took them outside into the hallway.  There's this great bird cage just outside my grandmother's room and the kids were immediately drawn to it. 

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They tried earnestly for several minutes to get the birds to look at them--even went so far as to stick their fingers through the cage and say, "Hey you!!"  I just knew one was going to get a chunk bit out of their finger, but thankfully they didn't.  Of course, I'm sure they grew tired of me telling them to get their fingers out of the cage.

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Little Lola loves to put on a show for the camera--I was cracking up.  She is a little ham, just like Noah.

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Ava...she is the little mama in this crew--always watching out for her sister and cousins.   So precious!

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After a while (and some very persuasive coaxing from the kids) they began to fly around a bit and entertain the kids with some bird talk.

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Sadly, we finally had to peel the kids away from the bird cage--Nanny was worn out from our visit and needed to take a nap, so Katherine and I loaded the kiddos up in the van and headed home. 

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It's been killer hot this week...temperatures well over 100 degrees, so after everyone rolled out of the van when we got home, and worked up a real good sweat just from the walk to the front door--we fed the kids some grub (a/k/a dinner) and filled up the bath tub to get the kids cleaned off. 

They love bath time together.  Now that they are all getting bigger, tub time can get a little dicey...it's not unusual for an argument to ensue because they tend to get in each other's personal space and splash water in someone's eyes.  And then, a meltdown typically would occur from one of them at this point.  All pretty comical to me, but not to them.

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And then to wrap up their play time...they decided to gather every...single... pillow in my mother's house--from every sofa....and every bed....(I kid you not) these kids gathered them ALL up and stacked them in the hallway and called it their fort.

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Noah was the ring leader on this joint venture...he loves building forts.

It brought back such fond memories of me and my brothers building homemade forts and tents using the blankets and pillows from around the house.  Don't you remember those days from your childhood?  Gosh, I sure miss those days.  
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Such precious memories were made this week between these "long-lost" cousins who only get to see each other a few times a year.  I often wish we lived closer to our families so Noah could play with all of his cousins on a more regular basis, but I guess if I look on the bright side--it will hopefully make them all the more appreciative of the time they do have together when we come into town for a visit.  {fingers crossed that that is the case}

I am reminded of this lovely quote this week....

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family”
- Anthony Brandt

I look at my beautiful son playing along side my nieces and nephews--each  are just beginning their journeys on this road we call life and then I juxtapose that with my dear grandmother--a woman who has lived a full life--one filled with love and laughter alongside her family, yet who has also faced tremendous heartache and loss during her time on this earth.  She lost her only daughter in a tragic car accident in 1971, just eight months before I was born.  She and my grandfather were in the car with my aunt, driving to dinner one weekend while my aunt visited from college, and a drunk driver hit them head on and killed my aunt instantly.  She then lost my grandfather to a rare blood disease in 1987--my freshman year in high school.  And then tragically, again, she lost a second child, my uncle, he was killed in a motorcycle accident in his early 40's...leaving behind his dear wife and two young, and precious daughters.  My dad is my grandmother's only living child.  

Our journey down the road of life is full of many lessons--our days are often filled with great joy and happiness, yet many others can be quite painful and dark--drawing us to our knees in sincere prayer for the strength to go on.  Yet as I find myself slap-dab in the middle of my own journey--no longer a child or young adult; however,still far away from those frail, elderly years-- I am gaining a deeper understanding of how important our time here on earth is with our families.  It is a training ground of sorts for our life to come --a life with our Father in Heaven and Savior where we will have the chance to reflect on this mortal experience of ours and more fully see why it was so crucial to experience our mortal life as God's children within the bonds of love, charity, patience and forgiveness in our earthly families.

I know what you're probably thinking...and I wholeheartedly agree, this post has turned way more gushy than I expected it to be when I first sat down to write it, but being here with my extended family this week has stirred many tender feelings in my heart and soul.  I am grateful beyond words for each and every one of them and the great lessons I have learned and continue to learn from them....both young and old.  Yes my friends, this mortal life starts and ends with family--it's a divine institution--carefully crafted by a loving God for His children.  I have felt this to be true, deep in my heart this week. 

So no matter how difficult our family members can (and will be) at times, let us never forget we were each hand-picked to be in each other's lives as families for a special purpose.  That's pretty amazing when you really think about it.  Blessings from above.





XOXO...


Jennifer

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