Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's Safe To Say...

I think it is safe to say that 2009 has been like no other year we have ever experienced.

Things like cancer, surgery, radiation, chemo, and feeding tubes are all things that we don't want to experience ever again.

But with the trials that 2009 brought us we also experienced abundant blessings in the midst of those trials. And for that we are ever grateful. We are happy to be moving into 2010 with a bright hope and peace in the future of our family!

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts...
and be ye thankful." Colossians 3:15


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wrapping Up Christmas....

It's that time again....time to take down the tree and pack away Christmas for another year. It's always good to put up the Christmas decorations....

But it is always good take them down and return again to familiar surrounds. The house always feels less cluttered after Christmas is put away and it is refreshing.

So, Christmas gets packed away for one more year.....

As the clean up began there were lots of candy canes left over... can you feel the love? :)

And there always seems to be a Christmas casualty .... it will match everything else we own. :)

The thing that doesn't get packed away are these terrific smiles of the girls......we are happy to keep those all year round!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Same Goes For Me....

Jordan has been on his mission now for 2 months.

In October he was to report to the Brazil Missionary Training Center in Sau Paulo, Brazil. Just days before he was to leave for Brazil we learned that his visa had to be re-done because Brazil had changed their visa procedures. So instead of reporting to Brazil, Jordan was to report to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah.
I will say that it really was okay with me that he would remain in the states for a few more months. My heart wasn't quite ready to have him leave the country and, besides that, it made it much easier to send letters and packages. My concern was his Christmas package. Getting packages to Brazil can take a few months and timing a package to arrive in Provo in time for Christmas was much easier than timing it for Brazil! So I was good with him sticking around the states longer than planned.

Fast forward to December 11th... The word we had from Jordan was that he would most likely remain in the MTC until January 4th (which is two weeks longer than he was supposed to be there) and then, if the visas came he would go on to Brazil but if not, he would be sent some place stateside until the visa arrived. Again, I was good with that! We could get his Christmas box to him with the ties he requested (and an extra special University of Kentucky wildcats tie that as a missionary he can't wear but he needed a little UK memorabilia to boost his spirits with all the talk of BYU football at the MTC!) We also sent him Brazil nuts, (thought that was clever since he was headed there!) a pooping reindeer and other goodies for him to share with the other missionaries in his district. I sent the box priority mail on December 13th so it would get there in plenty of time for Christmas.

Fast forward 4 days (December 17th)....I went to pick up Abigail at the middle school because she had a pie order that came in and there was no way for her to bring the pies home on the bus. On my way home Annah, who had stayed at home, called my cell phone and said, "Mom! Jordan called!"

"What? Jordan called???"

"Yes!" she confirmed. "He said that he was leaving for Brazil next week!"

(A quick calculation in my head and I think he must have gotten his visa so he will leave on December 21st just as scheduled. Perfect! His box should arrive on the 18th so he will get his Christmas things just in time. I am feeling proud of the timing of sending out that package!)

I ask Annah, "So what day does he leave?"

Her little 10 year old voice on the other end of the phone says sweetly, "I don't know. I forgot to ask him."

Wow...wind out of my sails! Then to comfort my obvious disappointment she adds, "But he said he will call back tomorrow!"

"Oh good!" (I am feeling better about missing his phone call now.) "What time is he going to call tomorrow?"

Another sweet and unassuming reply, "I don't know. I forgot to ask him."

I couldn't contain myself anymore, "You FORGOT to ask him? How could you FORGET to ask him?"

Well, she was beginning to feel bad as she realized she forgot to ask the important information and I was feeling bad because she forgot to ask the important information. When I hung up the cell phone all I could do was cry. I do that a lot when I think about Jordan. I miss him. Add in there that it is Christmas and I now know he won't have a package and my boy is leaving the country! So yes, I cried.

Well, I waited the next day for a call from him but the time came and went that I expected his call. Later that evening Tim and I were out doing some Christmas shopping at about 7:00 pm my cell phone was Jordan!

Imagine our shock when we ask when he was leaving for Brazil and he said, "I am in New York right now and we fly out at 10:45 tonight!"

"What?? But, but...." I stammered. "Annah said you were leaving for Brazil next week!"

"No," he said. "I told her that next week I would talk to her when I was in Brazil because I can call on Christmas."

Makes perfect sense....NOW! :)
It was a thrill to talk to him even though we were standing in Meijer when we did!

He was traveling with only 2 other missionaries with him as they were the only ones who got their visas. We did learn that he did NOT receive his Christmas box since he had left the MTC at 6:30 Friday morning -- the day the box was to arrive. I felt bad that he would have nothing for Christmas but this year his gift would be that he was able to make it to Brazil where he has been so anxious to serve the people there. He was dreaming about the day he would be able to get his visa and go on to Brazil and now that was a reality for him. He was happy and we were happy for him.

Only a week went by before we were able to talk to him again because missionaries can call home twice a year, on Christmas and again on Mother's Day. In the afternoon of Christmas Day we called him and we all talked to him for an hour. It was good to hear his voice, hear a few stories of what his experience had been already, be able to ask him questions and be able to hear his Portuguese when we asked a question that he didn't know so he had to ask his Brazilian companion, Elder Ferreira.

It was an emotional time speaking to him, knowing that he's feeling the struggles of every foreign serving missionary of understanding the language and being understood but we know that in time it will come. In the meantime, we pray for his language abilities and his patience with himself in learning. He is in the Lord's hands and He will comfort him and help him because he has promised,

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." ~John 14:18~

The same promise goes for me too.

Friday, December 25, 2009

From Our Home to Yours...

Merry Christmas!
~Jordan 19, Jacob 15, Abigail 12 and Annah 10 and Ella 6 months~
(Minus Tim and his wife Lisa and Andrew)

“Christmas is more than trees and twinkling lights, more than toys and gifts
and baubles of a hundred varieties. It is love. It is the love of the Son of
God for all mankind. It reaches out beyond our power to comprehend. It is
magnificent and beautiful. It is peace. It is the peace which comforts,
which sustains, which blesses all who accept it.”
~Gordon B. Hinckley~

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread House Builders Unite!

We tried our hand at making a gingerbread house this year. Last year we lost the roof in a frosting slide and the house never did recover even with Tim and Jacob DRILLING into the roof to try to anchor it in place! This year was a better result perhaps only because the gingerbread house was already put together in the box! :)
With supplies ready we were up for the task.....
In the world of gingerbread houses
mess = progress

We made a LOT of progress!

Okay, so some of the marshmallow people resemble Tim Burton's character's from The Nightmare Before Christmas .....a tad scary, but a conversation piece!

This is Tim and I! :)

That is Ella on the right the corner of the igloo, with Jacob (on the left), Annah with the blue alien blue eyes, and Abigail with the blue hat. :)

This is Tim, Andrew and Jordan!

The finished gingerbread house...

We are having a MUCH better Christmas this year than last year....

Right down to the gingerbread house! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ensure, DogSure...It's All the Same!

Six months ago we fell in love..with a puppy we named Ella.

Ella quickly found her way into our hearts and home, and life hasn't been quite the same a good way.

Since her introduction into our lives I have discovered a whole new world called Pet Smart. Each time we go there it never ceases to amaze me to see the hundreds of things available to feed, carry, entertain, groom and clothe your pet!! I never knew...until now.

Being a Maltese, Ella needs to be groomed by someone with more capable skills than I possess so we made an appointment to get her first haircut, you know, in time for her first Christmas!
It was quite amusing that this little bundle of fur, who thinks she's way bigger than her nearly 6 pounds, was shaking -- visibly shaking -- when I walked into the pet salon at Pet Smart! I guess I should have known that might be the reaction when we were walking into the store. She made it across the parking lot and to the sidewalk before she went spread eagle on the ground and I had to pick her little body up and carry her in!
But she lived through the experience although she was uncharacteristically quiet (and lighter!) the rest of the day. I am convinced that she was being so careful not to repeat whatever she thinks she did to make us take her to that awful place! :)

That was on Wednesday. On Saturday we returned to Pet Smart again with Ella in tow to have her picture taken with Santa. Never did I think that even *I* would stoop to having a dog's picture taken with Santa, but when you fall in love you can do some unexplainable things...that, and two girls pleading for the opportunity to have a framed documentation of Ella's first Christmas!

Well, just few minutes waiting for Santa to be ready was enough to make us know that we were not going to spend $$$ on that opportunity. Santa was a little thin with clothes all askew, a mustache that was below his lip and a hat that wouldn't stay on his head. As Santa's assistant tried to help preserve Santa's true identity, it became obvious that Santa wasn't the jolly Mr. Claus but rather, a frustrated Mrs. Claus!

From that messed up scene we went on to look around the new and fascinating world of dog owners. I've never seen so many bones....

or books......

or clothes....

or treats! Amazing!

And even more amazing was seeing Tim's eyes light up when he saw something so familiar to him.....

BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Welcome to the world of dog lovers!
*No we didn't buy the DogSure although we were tempted! :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Beauty and the Beast...

Abigail has thoroughly enjoyed being involved in her latest middle school play, Beauty and the Beast.

She played two parts -- a spunky villager who swoons over Gaston and a beautiful animated vase for the song "Be Our Guest".

The costumes were wonderful but Abigail brought her costumes to life with her spectacular smile and charm!

This "Charlie's Angel's" pose when Gaston and his thugs are going to the castle to get the Beast made everyone laugh! The vases were ready for him! :)

I love this picture of Abigail!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Don't make us have more kids..."

Several nights ago we tried to herd the kids into the living room for prayer...

They weren't exactly cooperative. Someone always has "something" that will take "just a minute" (said in a exasperated tone of voice!) and when one decides to say that, it is license for the others to follow. The thought process is, "Oh, he or she is not coming yet so *I* don't have to come either." And so it goes....most every night.

That night as Tim and I waited in the living room pleading with them to come for prayer Tim called out,

"Don't make us have to have more kids to try to get some obedient ones!"


He's a very funny man! I do love being married to that funny man!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Waiting For Tomorrow No More...

*I LOVE this picture done by Marissa Noe of Jordan and Tim! She did such a wonderful job! Thank you so much , Marissa!

I suppose that by now you know tomorrow has come and gone!

My last post, Waiting For Tomorrow, was the day before Tim was going for his CT scan. Tim did indeed have his scan on Tuesday, December 1st.
From first peeks at the scan it appeared that all was well and yesterday that was doubly confirmed by Tim's oncologist, Dr. Arnold. Can we ever begin to explain the joy and thankfulness that we feel? What a way to start "the most wonderful time of the year"!

The time leading up to the scan is like holding your breath...for a long time. It's a squeezing feeling of your heart and mind as you wait. When the news comes it's like being able to inhale deeply to restore your life. Indeed, in many ways, it has restored our life.

Tim will have another CT scan in 4 months. Then, providing all looks good, he will have a CT every 4 months for the next year. After that it is every 6 months for two more years, then once a year till year 5. With cancer 5 years is the magic number. At year 5, if all is well, they give you the boot! That is our dream right now.

We go into this Christmas season with a much different circumstance than last year. Almost a year ago now (on December 23) I sat in the waiting room of the hospital while Tim was having a biopsy that, in the end, confirmed he had cancer. In that waiting room I passed the time by writing out Christmas cards that were uncharacteristically late in being sent. Life as we knew it was turned upside down and Christmas cards were the last thing on my mind. And given our pending news, I didn't know what to write to people that hear from us each year with a cheerful update of the previous months.
But this year there is renewed hope and appreciation for our life, our family, and each other. Trials tend to show you what you are made of and I am here to tell you that Tim is made of some pretty hardy stuff! He continues to be a knight, as tough as they come and armed with the right amour -- faith, hope, a desire to do whatever is necessary to stand steadfast, firm and immovable.
Ephesians 6:13
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

Romans 8:31
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Waiting for Tomorrow...

Back in July I wrote a post about being a clock watcher. Summer was winding down and I knew that the lazy days of summer were coming to an end much faster than I was ready for and it was soon going to be back to early mornings, set schedules, homework and earlier bedtimes. I knew that I was again going to be a clock watcher to make sure we were all where we needed to be, when we needed to be there. Summer freed us from being clock watchers but the start of school put us back in that role.

Here it is almost December and I am still very much in clock watcher mode (although I did escape it for 5 glorious days for Thanksgiving break!).

It recently occurred to me that not only am I a clock watcher but I am also now a Calendar Watcher.

I have closely watched the calendar as the days and months have gone by.

I can tell you that it is nearing a year ago that Tim had the diagnosis of cancer. I can tell you that it has been almost 11 months since his surgery.

I can tell you the date of his biopsy.

I can tell you the date of his surgery.

I can tell you the date his radiation began.

I can tell you the date he got his feeding tube put in and when he finished radiation.

I can tell you when he began to be able to work part time again and when he went back to full time.

I can also tell you now that Tim is nearing a milestone on the calendar -- the very calendar I have been watching. It has been almost a year since his diagnosis and 3 months since his last scan. That means that another scan is coming....tomorrow, in fact...December 1st.

So I have very much been a calendar watcher waiting for tomorrow to make an appearance.

Scan times are always riddled with anxiety as you wonder just what it will reveal. Will it show cancer successfully at bay or will it confess dreaded news? You just never know because the very nature of cancer is uncertainty.

But while uncertainty looms about some things, there are many other things that are certain and THAT is what we cling to. We cannot ever let uncertainty of things we don't know cloud our vision of the things we do know.

Psalm 118:24
"This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful Hearts....

The day after Thanksgiving finds our family very thankful.

We had a nice Thanksgiving meal together that was quiet, calm and uneventful. We like quiet, calm and uneventful. :)

At about 10:30 last night Tim and Jacob were in the kitchen and Tim decided to have some leftovers from dinner. His bottle of water that accompanies him everywhere happened to be in the living room while he was in the kitchen. Mistake number one. After deciding he didn't need his water he took a bite of turkey. Mistake number two. Tim then had a major choking episode where, without the help of Jacob, may have turned out very differently. Jacob acted quickly and did the Heimlich method on him. Tim struggled for air and Jacob kept working with him while I called 9-1-1. Thankfully the 9-1-1 call was able to be cancelled because Tim's airway finally cleared. It was a very scary time for all of us but are so thankful that Tim was okay and that Jacob was there to help him.

Then today we got an email from Jordan. He is still in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah until December 21st. At that point if he has his visa he will head to Brazil but if he doesn't he will be sent somewhere in the United States until his visa comes through. We hear from him regularly but today we got a very special letter from him. Here is some of what he wrote:

Hey family!

So it hit me Monday that I hadn't said much about Thanksgiving and I've missed it now but I still want to share a little with you all. Hopefully the spirit of Thanksgiving is still present with you all.

Thanksgiving morning Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife spoke to us. Their love for each other was so great that it made me want to share it with everyone. Sister Holland ended her talk by talking about her husband saying, "He took my breath away when I fell in love with him and now I can't breathe without him". Elder Holland opened his talk with a long silence, and then with tears coming to his eyes simply said, "you just saw the sweetest and most virtuous person I know". Being that he associates with the prophet almost daily, that hit me pretty hard. I am grateful for such love and also for the love of families.

Annah, I love how sweet and innocent you try to be and are. Nobody is perfect all the time but I see the little things you do to make others happy, I see you grow up which makes me sad, but unexplainably happy to watch because I see the happiness you bring to people already with the simple things you do.

Abigail, you're the big sister everyone should have. Its not easy to always be the example (or the one that gets blamed for everything) but I am so thankful for the things you do. I love to see how grown-up you are sometimes. I was so happy I got to see your play and band performance. School doesn't last long so do all that you can while you are there.

Jacob, I would be grateful if you could find it in you're heart to forgive me. Having a little brother should be the coolest thing ever and I don't feel that I ever realized that. You are probably the most interesting Valenta brother the family has (in a good way), I was amazed at what you could do with those computer programs before I left. School is just a passing thing, don't let anyone convince you that anything is more worthwhile than learning and being with your family.

Andrew, you are my brother. Every good childhood memory with family I have, you were present for. I'm thankful for the chance I had to be so close to you growing up, you were my role model. I watched you as I grew up, you were the example of everything I wanted to be. I loved you for what you were, and I love you for who you are. Every time someone comments on a similarity between us, I smile inside that at least a part of me lived up to my childhood dream to be like you. Please be that role model for everyone you meet.

Mom, I am thankful for everything you have given, continue to give, and will give. I didn't inherit all your traits, but I pray each day that I may have a portion of your love, and a fraction of your faith. I am slow to remember the promises of God, while you are slow to forget the blessings he has freely given. I am very grateful to have a mother who knows her Father and Savior so well. God builds us up through trials to fulfill his plans for our eternal joy.

Dad, it has been a long time since you have been absent in my prayers. I am grateful beyond words that I am your son. As I grew up I looked up to you, a man with all the answers, for reassurance in all things and comfort. Less than a year ago though, I looked down on you as you were in a wheel chair, and your body struggled through more than I will ever know, and I only wanted to be your strength and reassure you of all things and comfort you. I was powerless but God knew, as did I, that I could not do what was required of me without you. I am grateful that God has allowed me to bring this comfort of His mercy to more than just our family.

I love you all and hope you had a great Thanksgiving, I enjoyed the cookies (as did the rest of my district). Tchau! That means bye.

Our hearts are truly grateful....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Doing Well Enough to Post Words....

I've been getting emails about the fact that I haven't posted much on my blog lately. My last post was a few days ago when I posted some of my favorite fall pictures. A very "safe" blog post, to say the least.

Then this morning I got an email from my sister. I hope she doesn't mind that I share what she wrote because it was that email that made me decide to write again. She wrote:

I love the photos you posted on your blog. I was going to comment but thought it best not to be public with it.
Here is what I was going to say:
I LOVE the photos and look forward to the time when you are doing well enough to post words. Not because I need to read them but because I think you need to say them.
You are in my thoughts every day. I am so happy to know you as more than my younger sister.
........let's both have a good cry now......

Let there be no doubt that I did have a good cry after I read that.

The reason Cretta thought "it best not to be public with it" was because *I* have been fighting being public with "it". "It" is the situation that our family is dealing with regarding my parents. I know that there are people back home that read my blog (although I don't necessarily know them personally) and then talk with my parents. Some even print out my blog posts to give to them so they can keep up with us. :) I have not written about all that has been happening since September or my feelings about it because I didn't want my thoughts and feelings (and occasional misplaced humor) to find its way back to my parents and they be hurt or feel worse about the situation they are in and we are in. So that is the reason I have chosen not written about it.

But, Cretta's email this morning made me realize that, yes, I do need to write even if only to preserve my sanity...or what is left of it. We have joked that I could do a private blog just for family members so I can write what I need to write but adding more work to maintain two blogs just didn't feel like the answer.

So what is the answer?

I know what the answer isn't... but I am still not completely sure what the answer is.

Perhaps there is a happy medium somewhere to be found where I am not feeling squelched and censored on my own blog.
I suppose that I need to enlist the help of those who might read my blog and who also know my parents. I need them to use their judgement in what is shared with them from my blog as nothing that I write on here is meant to hurt them.

Where to begin.....making a very long story short, as of this past September both my mother and father are in a nursing home -- in the same facility and in the same room. Since then things have been very hard and very complicated. Not much has turned out to be what it first appeared to be.

It has been hard on my parents to be confined to a nursing home to live out the rest of their days but it has also been hard on each one of us as their children to have to make decisions that are almost always contrary to what they want. But the decisions made have all been in their best interest and with the best of intent even though they don't always agree with the judgement calls that have had to be made.

A few weeks ago Tim and I went back to New York to help get things sold that were left in their home. We were only in town for 3 days and it was a lot of work but things got done. I got to see my sister and my brother and my sister-in-law for a short time and had some much needed laughs together in the midst of doing hard things and cleaning out your parents house is hard thing.

I am the youngest of five kids so that means that out of all the kids that *I* lived in the house we were cleaning out the longest. I don't know if that is what makes it all feel so hard. The last night we were in New York Tim called me outside and said to bring my camera. He wanted me to be able to take some last pictures before the sun went down on my childhood home. With camera in hand I walked around the property and took pictures one last time.

It does feel heartbreaking to see the place that my parents have lived in for 40 years winding down. Because of financial obligations from choices they made years ago the property will not remain in the family but will instead go through bankruptcy and will be sold. In my head I know it all needs to be done and I can detach and not "feel" the pain of seeing it all going away. But when my heart begins to "feel" there is no detaching and that is when it hurts most of all.

We have all been frustrated to see how many material things that my parents (okay, my mother!) is trying to hang on to and cram into their room that has become their new "home". I am usually the first one to complain about it. But it is literally all they have left. I guess I forget that sometimes.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it will feel different knowing that my parents are not at their old home but are in their new home -- a place they don't like and don't feel happy in. It's been a long running tradition that on Thanksgiving I call my dad to ask him how to make gravy. He's knows I'll call every year and ask how it is done again. My first thought was "not this year" but as I thought more I decided that maybe I should call to ask and let him feel needed as he has before. Truth be told, I know how to make gravy. He's told me how from the time I began cooking Thanksgiving dinner on my own. Yes, for a few years I needed to ask but the rest of the years I called because it made him feel happy to tell me how to make it one more time. I think I will call again tomorrow to let him tell me for another Thanksgiving.

So, while I don't feel like I am doing well enough to post words, I have done it. Thanks for the gentle prodding, Cretta. You're a great big sister. :)
*This is Cretta while we were in New York! :D