Thursday, June 30, 2011

Growing Up

I recently watched my 86-year-old Mother-in-law trying to change the sheets on her bed. She had just chewed us out for doing things for her that she can do herself. "I'm still a human being," she snapped.

She stripped the bed and then kept walking back and forth between two piles of linens and lifting them up, looking for something. Finally I cautiously asked, "How's it going?"

She looked up at me. "Well, I've been debating in my mind. Did you and Keith sleep in my bed this week?"

My heart sinks.  It's really hard to watch someone you love decline.  Her memory is slowly deteriorating and it makes me sad to see this dear woman confused. She gave my husband a wonderful childhood, loved her husband, kids, and grandkids, and makes the best lemon meringue pie I've ever eaten. If you look up the word responsible in the dictionary, the definition would be Marie Vik.

Swallowing my dismay, I gently tell her, "No, we slept downstairs in the basement. You slept in your bed." I'm not sure what's worse. That she didn't remember where we slept or that she didn't remember where she slept.

"Then where is Neil sleeping tonight?" Neil, being Keith's older brother and his wife who were in town for the weekend to attend Neil's class reunion. Which was why she was changing sheets in the first place.

Numerous thoughts flash through my mind. Decades of her doing laundry on the same day of the week, hanging sheets on the clothesline, ironing her husband's pajamas, insisting on tablecloths for family meals, keeping an immaculate house, baking chocolate chip cookies, Christmas goodies, birthday cakes, and cinnamon rolls. But not any more. Not if something as simple as making a bed throws her off.

"You wanted Neil to sleep in your bed and you offered to sleep on the couch."

She picks up the top half of one linen pile again. "Oh, that's right." She sets the pile down and picks up the other one. Then repeats the process a few more times.

Afraid of being chewed out again, I ask, "Would you like some help? I always like to have two people to make my bed. It's lots easier with two people."

She lifts up the linens again. "That's fine, but I can't find my sheets."

I don't know how to handle this. She doesn't want to be babied, I know she likes things to be clean, but she's already spent 10 minutes lifting piles of linens and I don't know exactly what she's looking for. I suspect she doesn't either. I love and respect this woman and the last thing I want to do is upset her. I quietly tell her, "You know, you washed the sheets you just took off two days ago. You're a very clean person, maybe we could just put them back on."

She looked at me with a mischievous grin, "I bet they'll never know. You just keep this to yourself." (good thing she doesn't use a computer so she'll never see this post). We put the sheets back on and made up the bed and I put the unused linens back in the linen closet, grieving because up until a year ago she would never dream of putting anything but fresh, clean sheets on a bed for guests.

We're thankful that for the most part she's in good health. That though she doesn't go anywhere besides church, the bank, post office, and grocery store, she can still drive. That if she keeps to her routine, and Keith's sister checks on her every day, she can still live in her own home. That she agreed to use LifeLine. That she still writes us a letter every week, like she has for the last 30 years.

But she's not the same and we're selfish enough to hope that she'd always be there for us. Faithful, loyal, kind, considerate, pleasant, stable, and steady. It's not easy to see your parents get old. We don't like it one bit and know that we have to grow up and ask God to supply the patience and maturity we need to handle this with grace.

Keith's sister lives in the same town as his Mom so bears the brunt of the responsibility for her care. I feel guilty that Karen has to do so much and wish we were closer so we could do our part. His Mom has cared for so many people over the years and now it's our turn to care for her.

And someday it will be our children's turn to care for us. We'll be old and I suspect they won't like it. Not one bit.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Faithful Follower

While on vacation last week we spent two fun hours with Keith's aunt and uncle. (I grew up on the west coast where we had "ants" and Keith grew up in the Midwest where they have "awnts." So we've compromised and when my kids are in Oregon they visit their "ants" and when they're in Iowa they visit their "awnts." Stephanie, if you're reading this post, they are your great aunt and uncle.)

Roy and Gertie have always been fun people to spend time with. They're cheerful and encouraging and make a good effort to connect with us and our children.

Two years ago Keith suggested that I let Aunt Gertie know about my blog as he thought she'd enjoy reading it. I felt awkward telling her about it because not everyone enjoys reading blogs.

But Gertie (wearing pink in the picture) did read and in typical Gertie style was enthusiastic, affirming, and encouraging. Though she's not an official follower, she regularly reads it. I find this amazing because not many people over 80 (sorry Gertie for mentioning age but I won't be anymore specific than that) do email, let alone read blogs. Keith's Mom who is the same age has never used a computer.

Gertie commented that she couldn't wait to read what I wrote about our vacation, so I decided to surprise her with her very own post. I know she's probably sputtering, making scary faces right about now but I'm 450 miles away so she can't hurt me.

The above picture is from Mother's Day when Gertie went to visit her older sisters in the nursing home. Sally, age 98, is on the left and Marie is on the right. The nursing home had a bunch of old hats and said if people would try them on they'd take their pictures. I love this picture of the three sisters, the last of the ten siblings to be alive.

I just want to publicly thank you Gertie for caring about my family and making us feel welcome and being a fun, supportive, interesting person.  We love your stories, questions, and comments. We're blessed to have you as part of our lives. And thanks again, for being my most faithful follower.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Best Dad in the World

Lesson learned. Next time we go on vacation I should mention beforehand that I will be out of the "office" for a week and won't be posting. Good intentions of posting while on vacation didn't happen, besides which  Keith's Mom doesn't have internet access. Had a good visit with Keith's family and now we're back home enduring enjoying a Northern Wisconsin cold spell summer.

This week's Monday Mug's theme is "Let's Hear it for the Boys."  As you know, boys are scarce in our family, but we do have the world's best father. Kim at Pair Slices is hosting Monday Mugs this week.

In honor of Father's Day I have a picture of each of our children with their Dad. The kids call him Dad, Pops, Poppy, and Pops-a-lot. I'm so thankful my kids are blessed to have a good Daddy.

 (25th Birthday)
(His wedding)
(Her High School Graduation)
(Her baptism)
(2009 - Mother's Day hike)
(Making Gingerbread Houses)
(Denver Bronco Fans)

Some Favorite Pictures
2005 - Pikes Peak, Colorado

"Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; 
now I have six children and no theories."
--John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester--

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Horsin' Around

I wanted to share a few photos from our girls' week at Horsemanship camp at Village Creek Bible Camp last month. It's sort of a family affair. Andrew and Rachel work there, Andrew with programming, and Rachel with the horses.  Erica and Anna were counselors, and Amy, Lani, and a friend we brought with us were campers. The girls lived, ate, and breathed horses for a week. 

You know how girls ask for horses but parents say no because of the expense. This is our alternative. A week of concentrated horse related activities and the girls are good for another year. A much cheaper alternative to actually owning a horse.

Riding Lessons
Saddlesore after one day - pouty face on.

Lani and her friend we brought with us
Anna with a camper
Erica, Lani, and Andrew
Along with counseling, Erica and Anna had to help in the dining room
This isn't the best picture, but I really like the nature art on the walls

Love, love, love this sliding barn door in the dining room.

Along with all the riding lessons, they had chapel, swam, kayaked, climbed trees, jumped on the trampoline, took trail rides, cooked out, slept outside one night, did crafts, creek tromped, did archery, and played games.  They played hard and slept hard. Needless to say, they didn't want to come home.

So thankful for a fun safe place for my kids to learn and grow. Village Creek is now into the regular camping seasons. They have camps for grades 3 - 12. If you're interested in any of their regular or horse camps click here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Painful Subject

Word to the wise. When playing ultimate frisbee with someone a lot bigger, no matter how competitive you are, it's usually safer to not get in a big guy's way. 

I waited to blog about this in more detail until the painfulness subsided a bit and we could all laugh about this. (You are laughing now, right Christina?)

A month ago, halfway through Bible Study the doorbell rang. We meet in the basement of some friend's house and Keith offered to go upstairs and answer the door. He didn't come back.

Kiah took advantage of the break to use the restroom and went upstairs. She didn't come back.

Finally the hostess said she'd go upstairs and see what was going on. We warned her not to go upstairs since two people had already left and not returned.  She went anyway and came back saying Keith was talking to someone I've referred to on this blog before as "Waldo." (click here if you're curious or need a refresher)

Well that was certainly odd. He leads youth group and this would have been smack dab in the middle of youth group. Maybe no kids showed up and he had something urgent to talk to Keith about. But still it was odd that he'd interrupt our Bible Study.

Keith and Kiah finally came back down and Keith said he'd tell us later. A half hour later when we finished, Keith said "Waldo stopped by to say that he'd accidentally broken Christina's nose. (insert astonished collective gasp)

Turns out with great fear and trepidation "Waldo" had come to the door that night, saying to Keith, "I need to talk to you about one of your daughters."

This immediately struck fear in Keith's heart, wondering what they had done now. To his great surprise he was led to the car where Christina sat in total misery. OUCH!

Christina helps with Youth Group and being uber competitive was guarding "Waldo" a little too closely. He went to fling the frisbee and his forearm connnected with Christina's nose. He was horrified to feel the crunch, hear the snap, and see her immediately drop to the ground in pain.

If Christina or one of the other youth group kids had done the same thing, they would have hit the other person in their stomach, but because he's so tall, her nose was on his arm level. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He, of course, felt terrible and wondered how to tell his pastor that he'd broken his daughter's nose. Christina asked if it looked bad and he lied and told her that it wasn't too bad.

Knowing not much can be done for a broken nose and not sure whether to visit the emergency room or not, they tracked down an EMT friend of Christina's who took one look at her and said, "That looks awful!" The EMT advised against an ER visit, suggesting she get in touch with an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor the next day.

Family responses varied from sympathy to ridicule. We all felt bad for her but she looked so cute with black eyes. She came to breakfast one morning wearing a purple shirt and Keith couldn't resist saying, "Your shirt matches your eyes."

She was out with a friend a few days later who was self-conscious because people kept looking at him, probably wondering if he'd beat Christina up. She did resemble a victim of domestic abuse.

One of the hardest things was when she gave in and had a good cry, she couldn't blow her nose because it was broken.

Our family has a warped sense of humor so Kiah wickedly told "Waldo" that if you maim someone so nobody else wants to marry her, then you have to marry her. (A shotgun wedding or a different sort.) Poor guy hasn't been around much since.

I begged Christina for a picture, saying that down the road when all this has subsided she'd be able to laugh about it and would enjoy having a picture for posterity's sake. I tried to be kind and take the best possible picture under the circumstances.

Later the same night, Erica snuck up to her, snapped an awful picture, then ran upstairs and posted it on Facebook. Nothing like a supportive family to help you through hard times.

A friend gave her these patches like football players wear, took this picture, and posted it on Facebook with the title, "Making lemons out of lemonade."

 Christina tried one ENT doctor in Duluth who reset her nose (without anesthesia - double ouch!) but didn't do it right. Upon a friend's recommendation, she tried another ENT, who this time with anesthesia and a surgical procedure, reset her nose properly and then put a nose cast on her. (A nose cast is more like a stiff bandage than a plaster cast.)

I begged and begged to no avail for a picture of Christina with the nose cast but she refused. Something about not wanting it to be put on the blog.

She had the cast for a week and now looks good as new. After a month of messing with swollen crooked noses, ice packs, black eyes, resetting, and a nose cast, I'm happy to say that aside from Christina flinching anytime someone's hands or arms gets anywhere near her nose, we've turned a corner and she's almost as good as new. 

In lieu of marrying Christina, "Waldo" apologized with a $25 Starbucks card and a bag of Reese Peanut Butter Cups. We're all still friends and lessons were learned all around.

We've been inundated with broken nose stories from people who heard about Christina. Many brave souls have set their own noses. Hopefully this chapter will soon close and we'll be ready for the next adventure.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Summer Situation

My kids have a bad habit of leaving every summer. Much of it is my fault, since I loved camp so much when I was young, we made sure our kids went to camp. Since I loved camp counseling I encouraged our kids to counsel when they got older.

I'm happy they enjoy camp and are willing to spend their summers serving others, but three months is a long time, Erica. Sniff! Sniff! Miss you lots sweetie! Hope you have a wonderful summer. Be blessed and be a blessing.