Sunday, May 29, 2016

Renewals, What-ifs, and Trifle

At the risk of sounding boring, not a lot happened this week that merited photos or attempts at witty remarks. After nearly two years of living in California, we have settled into our rhythms and routines. The biggest change from Michigan seems to be that (with money tighter here than there) we travel less, somewhat to our lament. There are compensations, so we’re fine with it on the overall. Definitely grateful for blessings old and new.

We have opted to renew the lease on our current home, which means that for the next little while the kids will attend the same school and we will go to the same ward at church. This period of our lives seems to be one of settling in for the moment until we figure out long-term work and home decisions.

It wasn’t all the same thing, particularly on the weekend. Mike received a gift in the mail from one of his graduate students at Wayne State who successfully defended her dissertation (Congratulations, Dr. Green!) called Detroit Is: An Essay in Photographs. Eliza in particular enjoyed perusing the images of a home she doesn’t quite remember anymore.

On Saturday, Mike, Landon, and Eliza placed flags on the graves of veterans at Conejo Mountain Memorial Park.

The cemetery is near a home we briefly considered renting two years ago. Pretty far out there, now that we have actually driven the route. It’s down a long gravel road at the base of some foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. And it turns out to be home to On the Lamb Herding, a ranch that trains herding and stock dogs. The kids would have had a BLAST living next to a working ranch! About the dogs, Hallie says, “Oh, they bark.” Probably best we opted for suburbia with its cars and fire truck sirens and other non-barking noises. Oh, and barking neighborhood dogs. Of course, the trip to school is shorter. Interestingly, we’d still be in our current ward.

Mike opted to take a picture of the house that had been for rent. As he got set to turn around for home, a lady in a bathrobe came out of the larger house on the property. “Can I help you?” she called. “Just wanted to see where the road led,” he replied with a smile. “Well, this is the end of the road!” she laughed back in good humor. Good times.

In the afternoon, we celebrated the baptisms of Liberty and Tyler, friends from our ward. Landon and Eliza have become close to these two, and we were excited to see them take this important step in their religious lives.

After church on Sunday, we celebrated Carly’s birthday with chocolate trifle. Yum! Mike has an uncanny knack for taking bad birthday pictures. Sorry! 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mostly Short, Sweet, and to the Point

We celebrated two birthdays, attended Open House at Landon’s school, and had company over the weekend. The End!

No, there’s more, but we’re a bit pressed for time this week. Here’s a quick rundown:

Hallie got a spray tan in anticipation of her birthday. Now she’s thinner and browner than she’s been in a long time. It’s going to get to a point where people hardly recognize her!

Hallie’s birthday didn’t feel much like one: she played taxi to Mike and the kids. Mike had Campus Community Day, and the kids had school and gymnastics. After gymnastics, Landon showed off all the fun activities he has done in his class. We also checked out the classes of the potential teachers he and Eliza might have next year. We have our picks, but we’ll have to see what we get.

On Friday, our friend and former Detroit missionary Naomi and her friend Kimberly came to visit and take in some of the fun sights and activities of SoCal.

Back when Naomi was Sis. Longhurst, she and her companions helped us pack up for our move to California.

Every so often, the kids act like they like each other. Then there is everyday normal, where they’re like oil and water. This weekend, it seemed like they were determined to get on each other’s (and their parent’s) last nerves.

After Mike helped clean the church meetinghouse and participated in a training for Cub Scout day camp (to take place later this summer), we drove over to the LEGO Store, where Mike got some belated birthday gifts (3-in-1 building sets to add to our emerging little town) and Hallie got some Disney-themed minifigs.

After church on Sunday, we went to Grandma and Grandpa M’s to celebrate Sawyer’s 2nd birthday. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Return to Routines

Mike had a pretty busy week at school with end of semester meetings and graduation. Hallie got back into some of her normal routines. The kids trekked along as if they were at the center of their own little worlds, which (of course) they are.

Monday was a busy day for everyone but Hallie. In the late afternoon, she had her first follow up at the surgeon’s office. Everything went well for the most part. A little more water and protein is what the nurse ordered, so every day that is what Hallie is trying to do. We are grateful to Paula for driving Hallie to her appointment and Mikayla for meeting the kids at gymnastics and bringing them home.

The household doesn’t get all we need to get done without Hallie in the driver’s seat, so after a few days of getting chauffeured around, she returned to taxi duties on Tuesday. The first day back was a long day, but everyone survived. All the stuff we did on Tuesday wore Hallie out, as the rest of the week she has been a bit tired. Hallie was invited to the ultrasound of her sister’s third child. Hallie was super excited as she has never been to one and marveled at the 3-D technology. The little bundle of joy looks to be doing amazing!

On Wednesday Hallie attempted to walk Roxy with Mike and Eliza. Out of the hour walk she got about 20 minutes done. Gymnastics happened in the afternoon, and both of the kids are learning routines and skills for Victory Games on June 4th. They are both so excited to be able to win medals at the meet. 

In the evening our new bishop came to pay us a visit. It wasn’t just a social call though, and before he left extended a calling to Mike: Sunday School President. That's a new one! Mike was hoping the visit was to extend a big time calling to Hallie, but he is out of luck for now.

Eliza continues showing off her creative side both at school or at home. 

Fergus is back to his old self, including playing escape artist. 
Troublemaker. "Who me?"

Mike had to go to the dentist on Thursday, fearing a root canal was needed. He got off with only a filling. Tonight was Hallie’s first support group meeting at Kaiser. Hopefully next time it will be a bit different than it was tonight because she came home slightly disappointed. Dr. Billy her surgeon also offers support groups, and she will be trying one of those in the upcoming weeks. Hallie talks often of the support she has received in a new Facebook group of others who have or will be having surgery this month and also the friends Shirley and Beverly she made during her Options class at Kaiser. There have also been several friends that have had this surgery more than a year ago that she has relied on for help.

Hallie got to start eating small amounts of protein-rich regular food on Friday. Never has a person been so excited to eat Greek yogurt or refried beans. For two weeks it is mushy foods, but that is fine by her!

A few of Mike’s doctoral students graduated, so he hooded them at the commencement ceremony. All us faculty and students fussing and flapping in beastly black like a murder of crows, so funny to see. Eliza liked seeing the selfie he sent to her pre-ceremony.

Saturday we did a few chores around the house and attended a birthday party at the park for a cute little neighbor boy who turned 2. 

With the week being so busy it is nice to be able to have some down time. In the evening Landon and Hallie spent time reading Anne of Green Gables. Landon’s teacher finally implemented a reading log, and it has been fun reading different genres with him. We started with Harry Potter, next it was Rush Revere, and now Anne of Green Gables. We will have to see what comes next!

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Significant Changes

Hallie had her surgery this week, and we attended our new ward for the first time.

Fergus pulled his stent out. Dumb cat. We couldn’t take him back to the vet over the weekend or on Monday, so Mike took him on Tuesday after taking the kids to school and seeing Hallie off. Fortunately, Fergus seemed to be healing well, and by the end of the week he was back to normal, which included making another successful escape (for all of five minutes this time) on Saturday.

On Monday morning, we went to Santa Barbara for a “last hurrah” of sorts before Hallie’s surgery.

Over the weekend, Hallie had started her liquid diet in preparation for surgery. Then Tuesday was the big day! Hallie’s mom took her to the hospital in the morning, and a few hours later the doctor called Mike to say that Hallie was all done and all was well. All Hallie remembers of the first day is saying, “Why did I do this?” after waking up and at one point seeing Mike and the kids at the foot of the bed.

Hallie spent two days healing in the hospital before coming home on Thursday evening. Hallie was lucky to be able to share a room with Beverly, a lady from Hallie’s Options class. It was nice that the two knew each other and could comment back and forth about what happened. During her brief stay at the hospital Hallie had several visitors some of whom she had never met before but will now be at church with us. How wonderful these sisters are! Hallie enjoyed having her sister and her kids and her parents come to visit on Wednesday. Sawyer has taken control of Trixie Coconut and loves it! Shhh, don’t tell Landon and Eliza.  

In the meantime, with the generous support of family and friends, Mike managed the fort at home with the kids. We’re pretty sure the kids still have all their fingers and toes. Feet are pretty dirty though. We kept the house from burning down, although Landon did decide to use a flint and steel fire starter indoors. Yeesh.  

We picked Hallie up on Thursday after taking a brief trip to the beach, which turned out to be strangely . . . deserted. Hmmm.

On Saturday, Mike gave the boy a buzz cut. Now he’s looking cool for the summer.

In the evening, Hallie attended a baby shower for Courtney, a friend in the ward. During the evening Hallie felt fine. The next day not so much.

Mother’s Day was quite low-key what with sick children at both of the grandparents’ homes and Hallie recovering. Breakfast in bed for Hallie consisted of a popsicle and a vanilla protein shake. Due to gas moving around inside, it was hard for Hallie to breathe in the morning, and Hallie almost brought back up the small amount she had eaten before church. Thanks to a quick thinking Denise Harrison who followed Hallie out of church, a Pepcid seemed to do the trick. Thank heavens! Church starts at 1:00 pm again, so Dad and the kids had a long, relaxing morning.

We were happy to see familiar faces at our new ward when we went to church. Lots of new people were there to meet too. Familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. Both kids are in bigger primary classes than they have ever been in. When the Bishop asked for the primary and youth to come and sing it was really a blessing to see so many stand up and sing the Armies of Helaman. It’s been over a decade, if not longer, since we’ve been in a ward with so many children and youth. It’s almost weird!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Thoroughly Smashing!

This week the word “smash” accompanied at least a couple of our activities, so we’re going with that for our theme!

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday entailed our normal routine of school, walking the dog, and gymnastics. Sometimes normal is good when life can be crazy a lot of times.

And there was plenty of crazy to be had. Fergus got out overnight on Wednesday, and he must have gotten into yet another fight. He acted mellow all day Thursday after coming home, and on Friday when he complained about being picked up and wouldn’t finish his breakfast, Mike knew there was a problem. Sure enough, he had a sore on his back right leg. After a quick call to the vet, we took him over. This time his wounds required surgery, smashing an unexpected and unwelcome hole in the budget. He now wears the cone of shame (that is, until he wrestles it off. What a pill).

Hallie and Eliza met with Hallie's Options group one last time. Hallie was excited to see all of her friends and to see them progress to their surgery dates as well. Eliza was very well behaved in a class full of adults. Thank heavens for technology. It sure can help keep a five year old occupied.

As Hallie goes in for surgery next week, we celebrated her birthday early on Friday with Smashburger and a butterfly-themed cake in keeping with Hallie’s ongoing transformation.

For the last several weeks, Landon and some friends have participated in the Jr. FIRST LEGO League, sponsored by the Pleasant Valley Education Foundation. He and Mike attended the Jr. FLL Expo on Saturday. This year, students learned about recycling through the Waste Wise Challenge. Our group, the LEGO Smashers, put together an automobile wrecking and recycling plant, complete with crane, conveyor belts, a compactor, a shredder, and a fiery furnace. Everyone participated in his or her own way, and the kids had a great time. Many thanks to Jennifer and Tracy for all their hard work during these last few weeks bridling all that chaotic kid energy!

In addition to making a presentation on their project, the kids participated in several LEGO-themed activities at the Expo, including a team building challenge, art work, and a scavenger hunt. The team even won an award!

Eliza and Hallie stayed home and kept the fort down and made sure it was clean before surgery and that everyone had clean clothes to wear while Mom is gone.

We had stake conference on Saturday and Sunday. Everything is still up in the air with our new wards, which won’t meet at their new times until next Sunday (we will meet at 1 PM for the rest of the year). Elder Kent F. Richards of the Second Quorum of the Seventy presided and spoke at the sessions. 

Oh, and one more thing, Hallie updated her 'do. Doesn't she look thoroughly smashing?!