Thursday, September 30, 2010

Table Setting Lessons....

A week or so ago I was preparing dinner and asked Annah to set the table for me. I handed her a stack of plates and the utensils to do the job. A few minutes later Annah said, "Which side did does the knife go on again?"

I replied that the knife goes on the right side with the blade of the knife pointing toward the plate.

She seemed a little confused and then she sighed and said,
"Like this?"


I think we need some table setting lessons. :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Will He Ever Learn?

He's 16 and still gets duct tape stuck in his hair. Really??
Ya gotta love him. Well, I do because he's mine.
In spite of it all, I think I will keep him. :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Are the Chances?

Today was an interesting day.

I took a subbing job even though I have had considerable pain from my recent flare up of tennis elbow. (And just how can I have tennis elbow when I haven't played tennis for more than 25 years?) :/

I had worked a full day and as I was driving home after school I see four kids walking down the side of the road.

I think to myself, "Wow..that's not a safe thing to be walking on this road in this traffic."

I look closely and who do I see but, JACOB. (Number 4 son who should know by know that his parents find out everything, one way or another.) He was walking with three other kids.

I beeped my horn to get his attention, changed lanes and pulled over to give him a ride. At this point I am not thinking about what time it is, just that he must have decided to walk home after school as he has done a time or two before. It was 2:45 and he doesn't get out of school until 3:35. But as I said, the time hadn't occurred to me.

I pulled off on a side road and waited for him to come over to the car and before I could say a word he wails,

"The first time in 10 1/2 years I skip school my MOTHER drives by and sees me! Honest this is the first time I ever did it!! I told Maya we were going to get caught!! What are the chances you would drive by right now?!"


I told him that I had no clue he was skipping -- I was stopping to give him a ride home! He threw himself under the bus by telling ME he was skipping his last class of the day! :D

Jacob asked me, "Did the spirit tell you to drive down the road at this time?"

I looked at him and said, "No, but the spirit told me to take the sub job at RDES so I would get out of work at just the right time of day to find you skipping school!"

Once we got home I made the obligatory phone call to Tim to inform him of his son's antics. Apparently he didn't think it was as humorous as Jacob did. I handed the phone to Jacob and the first words out of his mouth were,

"Dad, do you know anything about statistics?" :D

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Missionary Moments....

As parents Tim and I have sent off two
missionary sons to date.

Our oldest son, Tim, went to the Montreal Canada Mission (French speaking) October 2005-2007. It was there that he met the family of his future wife while she (Lisa) was serving as a missionary in Japan.

While they never met in person on Tim's mission, they did write letters to each other periodically while they were serving their missions -- Tim in Canada and Lisa in Japan. Lisa returned home several months before Tim finished his mission and she sent a package to our home that arrived the very day that we were picking Tim up from the airport! When I told him he had a package that came from an L. Brook his only response was a sweet smile. :)

Several weeks after his return our family travelled back to New York (where I am from) and then up into Canada to see Tim's mission area. Tim had arranged for us to stay with several families while we were there and one of them was the Brook family. The day we met Lisa in person was also the first time that Tim met Lisa in person!

After having lunch with Lisa and her sister Tracy at a restaurant called The Works, we toured around with the Brook sisters in downtown Ottawa then went back to their house where we met their parents and two other sisters, Vicky and Susan. Lisa's brother Carl was still serving a mission in San Diego, California.

We stayed the night with the Brook family and in the morning readied ourselves to leave. Before leaving we knelt in prayer with this sweet family and Cathy Brook, Lisa's mother, asked Tim (the Elder) to offer the prayer. There was such a sweet spirit in the room as all of us knelt together. Tim's voice spoke with great emotion and tears began to fall. We didn't know what was happening in that room but in weeks to follow it was evident that Tim and Lisa had something special between them and that something special led them to be married for time and all eternity in the Louisville Kentucky Temple on August 22, 2008. What a glorious day for the Valenta and Brook families!

*This is Tim and Lisa on their wedding day two years ago.

*The above picture of young Tim is my favorite picture from his mission. :)

Our second missionary son is Jordan who is currently serving in the Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission (October 2009-2011). In October he will be out for one year -- that big halfway mark. :) This picture of him is my favorite one so far...

*In the city of Ribeirao da Neves, Brazil.

He will return home in October 2011.

~Sweet missionary moments for our family indeed.~

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Life...

I have worked in the public school system for 4 years now. After twenty years as a stay at home mom I went to work. In May I was pink slipped along with many other Instructional Assistants in my school due to budget cuts. Anyone who was not tenured was let go.

Tenured for an IA in our schools is 4 years and 1 day.

Can you do the math?
Yes, I lacked one day.

So, my situation has forced me (for now) into being a substitute IA. That is what I have occupied myself with since school began in mid August.
A few weeks ago I subbed in a pre-school class. It was my first time in a pre-school class. And my last. Let me just say that I can't handle throw up AND poop in the same day. I am a mom of 6 but I am waaayyy past that.

The other day I subbed at an elementary school where I found it interesting that they seemed to have an abundant amount of children with *very* different and unusual names. Names like Olga, Nazar, Tyrese, Valdon and my personal favorite Vu (pronounced Voo).

I will never forget Vu. He is Vietnamese. And his last name is Do.... yes, as in Vu Do!

I couldn't even make that up!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Abigail's Baby Pictures...

A few days ago Abigail came home sporting a electronic baby that she named Olivia.

Olivia stayed over night with us. Olivia cries when she needs something like to be fed, burped, have her diaper change, or to be rocked.
Olivia was deactivated until 6:00 pm the day she came home because Abigail had volleyball practice and the teacher took pity on her. Abigail gets picked up at 6:00 so she doesn't get home until 6:15. Olivia didn't like that Abigail wasn't home to care for her so she cried and cried and cried. I put her in the garage.
Once Abigail was home she was able to use her wrist band to "chime in" and then care for Olivia. We were all much happier then.

Abigail wanted to take Olivia out to the store so we took her to the grocery store where we needed some gourds, mini pumpkins and Indian corn for Annah's upcoming school project. While we were there we tried a few things on Olivia and she didn't even cry.

Baby Olivia is already a Kentucky Wildcat fan! YAY!

And she's a party baby!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Grandmother's Teapot...I Think

To whom it may concern: This blog post should not be passed on to my parents, thank you. :)

Last November was a milestone of sorts. That was the month that Tim and I made a trip back to New York to take care of the things that were left behind in my parents' house when they went to the nursing home.

It was a hard time and an emotional time. It was hard because there were so many possessions left there that needed to be gone through and decided upon. In a matter of only a few days (3 to be exact) we had to sort the things that needed to be saved from the things that needed to be sold. They had lived in that house for 40 years. My mother was a collector of *everything*. If you gave it to her, she kept it. And, her house reflected that.

During the days that we were there some decisions were easy -- no thought to it at all -- other decisions were harder. We sold what could be sold and threw out what could be thrown out and kept what we thought should be least at first glance. The things that were kept would have to, in time, be gone through again and sorted once again. In the interest of time we took home a lot more stuff than I had ever anticipated since there wasn't time to thoroughly evaluate then the value (or lack of value) of what remained.

I remember the Saturday evening we were finishing up things at the house. The day leading to that final evening had been busy and exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Everything we could sell was sold. Everything we were bringing home to Kentucky was jammed...uh, I mean, packed in the van. We were ready to begin our journey home. I had taken pictures around the property to be able to "remember" and to help my children "remember" one day. It was that house they had all been visiting since their birth. I want them to remember.

As we were leaving for the last time I saw some very old bowls sitting on a shelf by the back sliding doors. There were three of them. Earlier in the day I thought I would bring them home with me since my sister and brother didn't want them. The truth is that we didn't know the history of the bowls. Didn't know who they once belonged to or why my mother had kept them. But then again, we didn't know WHY she had kept most of what she had. Taking the bowls home to Kentucky wasn't going to bring clarification on their history so I gave them a last glance and left them sitting on the shelf. We got in the van and backed down the driveway one last time and beeped the horn in a final goodbye, just like we always did when we were leaving to go home after a visit to New York. As we drove away I held my breath to stifle the sobbing that was just beneath the surface. Through my tears I looked one last time at my childhood home, knowing there was no returning.

As we drove the quiet was broken by my ringing cell phone. I cleared my throat and tried to answer the phone so as to not give away the fact that I was on an emotional edge.

It was my mother.

She had called to find out where I was and when she learned that we were on our way to get something to eat she asked, "Did you get the teapot off the top of the refrigerator?"

"Umm, no. Why?" I questioned.

"Oh, you have to get it." She insisted.

"Why? Whose is it?" I questioned again.

"That belonged to your father's mother....I think."

"You THINK? What does THAT mean? Is it or isn't it? You don't know?" I asked sarcastically.

She then insisted it WAS my grandmother's teapot and that I had to go back to the house to retrieve it.

I was not happy.

Maybe it was that we were exhausted after a very long day. Maybe it was that we were feeling grumpy because we hadn't eaten since early that afternoon. Or maybe...just maybe, it was the fact that she was wanting us to drive all the way back to the house to take yet one more thing home with us when she is uncertain whose teapot I was even getting. She would have had me on going back to get the teapot IF she hadn't said, "I THINK"!

So after we ate some dinner we ventured back once again to my parent's house to get the teapot. While inside getting the teapot I spied again the stack of three bowls I had previously left on the shelf. Thinking I was going to get yet another call questioning me if I had brought the bowls, I decided to bring them along for the ride back to Kentucky...with the teapot.

For months after being back home the boxes that journeyed from New York to Kentucky sat in our garage. They were waiting for me. Waiting for me to be ready to look at them one more time and make decisions about their fate.

Early this summer I was was ready. I was ready to look, to feel and to make decisions and boy did I! Enlisting the advise of my good friend, Melinda, I wrote her an email titled "What Would Melinda Do?" In it I confessed my dilemma with the dreaded teapot. What do I do with a lidless, not so attractive teapot (sporting a splash of silver paint on spout) that my mother THINKS belonged to my father's mother? I eagerly waited for her reply and I was not disappointed. Melinda has good advice and a sense of humor and between the two I can't help but to love her! These were her wonderful words of wisdom....

"Only my humble opinion: A lidless, unattractive teapot of questionable origin deserves a photo of itself for history's sake, to be placed in a scrapbook with the title: This teapot may have belonged to great grandma ________, but probably not."


And that, dear blog readers, is just what I am going to do. :)

A little P.S. to the story.....
After I had taken a picture of the teapot and sent it on its way to a new home (a.k.a. Goodwill) I came across a journal of my father's mother. It was truly her journal -- no "I think" about it. It was dated January 1915 which was 12 years before my father was born. Although it is difficult to read because of the faded pages being written in pencil, it is fascinating to see.

When Tim saw it he said, "I can just see your grandmother sitting down after a long day and writing in her journal and sipping a cup of tea!"


He tried to make me feel guilty but I felt no guilt in giving away the teapot. :) The journal I kept. The three very old bowls from my mother's house? Well, I still have those and am trying to make a decision about them. If only my mother had added "I think" when she told me who they belonged to I might have been able to part with them as I did the teapot. :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11 Nine Years Later...

There are events in each of our lives that seem to have a "sticking place". They are the events that we will forever recall exactly where we were or what what we were doing when we heard of a certain event. Some of mine are when it was announced that the Vietnam war ended, the day Elvis Presley died, the day Princess Diana died and September 11, 2001.

On this, the anniversary of 9/11, it is impossible for me to think back at that time without a heavy heart and tears. I remember that I was at home with Annah and with Abigail and the television was on the Today Show. The phone rang and it was a friend of mine who had called with a question for me. While we were on the phone she said, "Oh, something happened. A plane hit a building in New York City." I quickly changed the channel and saw the smoking building where the plane had hit. I was stunned by the story and wondered how that could have happened.

I said to my friend that I wondered if it was intentional -- an act of terrorism. We finished our conversation and hung up. I stood there in front of the the TV watching black smoke pour from the skyscraper and listening to the live news feed that was being run when to my shock, a second plane came in and struck the second building. I knew at that second it was not an accident but terrorists. I was so shaken by what I was seeing.

As the story unfolded that morning I tried to go about doing what I had planned to do. Just before the story broke I was just getting ready to go to the grocery store. I decided I would quickly go and get what I needed and get back home as quick as I could. Once at the store and on my way in I called my mother on my cell phone. We talked briefly about what had happened and I hung up to get what I needed at the store. I felt scattered. I couldn't remember anymore what I was there to get.
As I gradually started to calm down and was able to think a bit more clearly I began to gather what I had come for. In the process of that my mother called me to to tell me that a plane had hit the Pentagon.

I felt panicked.
My breathing felt constricted.
I felt like I just needed to get home.
I needed to go get my kids from school. We needed to be together in the face of the chaos that had broken out.
I checked out with what I had in my cart and got home as quick as I could.

By the time I got home a plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. What was happening?
I called Tim and asked if he thought I should go get the kids from school. We talked and decided to leave the kids where they were. It was hard to wait the hours until they would be back home and I felt anxious. I was consumed by the coverage of all that was happening and wondered what more was going to happen.

That evening we were to attend a parent's meeting for Andrew (who was in 8th grade) to be able to go on a class trip to Washington D.C. The meeting was cancelled and ultimately so was the trip. We stayed home that night just wanting to keep our family close to us. Young Tim was 15, Andrew had turned 14 just 2 days before, Jordan was 11, Jacob 7, Abigail 4 and Annah was 2.

Less than a month later we were attending General Conference. (General Conferences are a semiannual meeting where our church leaders speak and give guidance to the members of the church. They are broadcast by satellite from Salt Lake City, Utah and are held the first weekend in April and October.) I had taken Annah into the mother's lounge to rock her to sleep while I listened through the sound system in that room. President Gordon B. Hinckley address the congregation that Sunday morning and he announced that our country was at war. I sat alone in that room holding Annah's small, sleeping body and sobbed.
On September 11, 2001 America was changed forever. In the days after the American people stood united. I don't think that is the case anymore and what a tragedy that is. We must not forgot what happened that day -- ever. We must never forget.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It Can Happen to Anybody...

Last week the news broke about Michael Douglas having throat cancer. He went on the David Letterman Show to share the fact that he is in a battle with the cancer dragon.

I don't usually buy People Magazine or any of the tabloid papers but I went to the store specifically to pick up the Sept. 13th issue of People. Featured on the front was Michael Douglas and inside was his story. As I read the interview that they did with him it was eerily familiar. A sore throat, a tumor at the base of his tongue, a biopsy, a stage 4 diagnosis, and the treatment...chemo and radiation. The only thing different was that Tim had surgery before beginning his chemo and radiation.

All I could think of when I read this story was that Michael Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, don't know what they are in for. Doctors can tell you their version of what will take place but I can tell you that you just cannot imagine the impact on your life when cancer and the treatment to rid you of it, collide.

That said, I will admit that I was shocked when I read that Catherine Zeta-Jones said she could not stand the thought of watching her husband undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and losing his strength as he battles the disease.

"I know maybe I should be stronger, but emotionally I just don't want to see that," she said.

What??? SHE could not stand to see him lose his strength? SHE doesn't want to see that?
When I read that I could not think of a more selfish attitude to have. I know that for me, I would have been no other place than at Tim's side through the whole cancer experience. I have been to every doctor's appointment with him, every test, every treatment, every procedure. There were times that I felt criticized by some who didn't understand "why" I would go to great lengths to be there at every turn and some would ask, "Do you HAVE to be there for every appointment?" It doesn't matter to me what they thought. To me it speaks volumes about the love that we share -- that I would be there no matter what and that he would want me there. Tim and I are in this thing together and that is where every day of this journey has found us -- together.

Something that I have struggled with throughout Tim's cancer diagnosis and treatment is that as devastating as head and neck cancer is that there is not a lot of awareness about it.

I will admit that at times I felt resentful that it seems that breast cancer gets all the attention with pink ribbons, license plates, t-shirts, fund raisers and walk-a-thons, while head and neck cancer is barely recognized. Perhaps it is because it is seen as a preventable cancer to some degree although Tim is proof positive that lifestyle is not always the cause. Maybe the world sees throat/tongue cancer as a thing that you get because you choose to smoke or drink and therefore they are less sympathetic. I don't know the reasons but I would plead with people to remember that not everyone with cancer has it as a result of their lifestyle. It can happen to anybody.

In the People Magazine article it said that Catherine Zeta Jones was hit hard by the reality of his diagnosis. She said, "The one thing that struck me first is, "This doesn't happen to Michael Douglas."

Tim is not a celebrity but I remember thinking the same thing about Tim -- this doesn't happen to a healthy 51 year old, father of 6 who doesn't drink or smoke.

I am certainly not happy that Michael Douglas has throat cancer but it has crossed my mind that perhaps now that a celebrity has this ugly cancer that perhaps it will bring more attention to it because the reality is that it can happen to anybody.

I wish for Michael Douglas the same wonderful results that we have seen, the return to a full life with cancer being an ever distancing memory.