Aunt Anita

Yesterday, the girls and I loaded into my parents' van and joined them on a week-long road trip to Memphis, TN. My Mom's family all lives down here, and her oldest sister, Anita, had been battling cancer. A couple of weeks ago they stopped all of her treatments because it was stressing her system more than it was helping, and the doctor's gave her 1-3 months to live.

We hit the road at 5:45 am. The girls did great in the car. The built-in DVD player helped make the ride very smooth, stopping just a couple of times to let the girls stretch their legs and get some food. We made it into Memphis around 8:30 pm, and since the girls had only napped for about an hour in the car, we were all pretty tired and went to bed.

This morning I got a call from my mom just before 7:00 am that she was at the hospital. Anita had stopped responding to my Uncle James and he had called an ambulance. Mom said her heart rate was slowing, she was unresponsive, and that we should hurry if we wanted to see her. I got the girls dressed and called my mom about 20 minutes later, but it was too late. Anita had already passed away.

Anita at our wedding -- August 2005
Anita was the type of woman I wish everyone could have met. She was a true southern girl, full of life, humor, hospitality, and spunk. She was always the life of the party -- one of those "favorite aunts"...you know, if it was acceptable to have "favorites." She was a skilled painter & woodworker, and had more tools in her garage than most men do. She could beat anyone in speed scrabble any day of the week, made the best sweet tea in the south, and waited hand and foot on anyone who came by to visit.

She and my uncle James were high school sweethearts, and had recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. Uncle James is a quiet guy, probably because he could never get a word in edge-wise when Anita was around. As a couple, they were fun to watch because she was so lively and chattery, and he is so mellow and laid-back. Please be praying for Uncle James. He doesn't have any other family.

Anita & Uncle James with Rae (6 months old) -- August 2007

The last time we saw Anita alive was in November of 2008 when we stopped in Memphis on our way home from Micah's military graduation. At that time she was healthy and undiagnosed. Although I'm very sad that we didn't make it in time to speak with her, tell her how much we love her, and say goodbye, I'm also relieved that a.) she is out of pain, and b.) I get to remember the happy, lively, feisty Anita I've known and loved all these years.

JP inspects the money Anita gave to him for counterfeits (after she lost a bet)
November 2008

When my mom broke the news to be over the phone, I was crying and Rae asked me why. I told her it was because Aunt Anita died and went to heaven, and I was just kind of sad about it. Rae immediately said, "But Mom, don't worry! We are going to heaven someday, too! We can see her then!" And she is right. We can say goodbye with hope, because we know goodbye is not the end. I don't know how people make it through these things without that hope.

Aunt Anita & Rae -- August 2007

Aunt Anita, there's no way to imagine what life is going to be like without you, especially for those who have been near to you every day. Your spirit & personality cannot be replaced. But your memory is what we will have forever, and you made sure to make the most of every moment, so that no memory will ever be lacking. I love you, I miss you, and I can't wait to see you. Love, Audra.


Quotes from Rae

Dad (to Rae): "I wish I could stay here and sit on the couch with you all day, but I have to go to work now."
Me: "That's ok, we don't sit on the couch all day anyhow."
Rae: "Sure we do! Mom, you're just kidding!"
Me: "Traitor."

Fear of Failure

All my life, I have struggled with fear of failure. I hate failing, or feeling like I've failed. All through my adolescence (and admittedly, even now), if I wasn't instantly good at something, I would give up. The only exception that I can think of is in the marriage & parenting realms, where there's just no way to be instantly good and no option to give up.

I recognize this flaw in myself and I do (honestly) try to work on it.

Unfortunately, I'm now seeing the fruit of this shortcoming in my daughter, Israel. The most obvious instance right now is that she is afraid to color in her coloring books because she is scared of going out of the lines. If I encourage her to the point of trying, she'll give it one shot, and if her three-year-old hands betray her and that crayon ends up outside of the lines, she will instantly stop and declare that she "just can't do it."

She loves to paint, because in painting she gets a blank sheet of paper with no lines and nothing to restrict her. But coloring books are a whole different ball game. It's sad to me, because I know she has picked this up from me. I also know how much she admires other people's coloring skill and wants so badly to do it well. I explain to her all the time that just like anything else in life, coloring takes practice, and if we never try, we'll never get good at it.

I remember LOVING to color when I was little. But Amber & Micah (my older sister and brother) wouldn't let me color in their coloring books because I didn't stay in the lines well enough. I remember practicing and practicing until one day, on a road trip to Tennessee one winter, Micah allowed me to color in his dinosaur book. Even in the car, I stayed perfectly in the lines, and Micah praised me profusely. Funny memory, right?

I'm not quite sure what to do about Rae's fear of failure. I'd love to help her nip it in the bud before it develops into a hard-to-break character trait as it has in my life. I'm open to any suggestions, and would ask for prayer, too. That's what I've been doing for her in the time being.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?


Dancing Princesses

Valentine's Day at Grandma and Grandpa Harpel's house is like Christmas. My mom got all of the cousins adorable gifts, including (for the girls) matching leotards for dancing ballet.
This video of my little ballerinas is VERY low quality, but VERY, very cute! You also get to see Ruby's pigtails that she's now sporting. Enjoy!


The other day we woke up to this "hoar frost" all around us. It was gorgeous!

The rest of Rae's Birthday

I am far behind on updating this blog.

Here are some more pictures from the proceeding celebrations for Rae's third birthday. On the Saturday after her birthday, Papa, Nana, Gammy, Grampies, Ava, Vinnie & Florie came over. We had lunch and strawberry shortcake, opened gifts, and played, played, played! Unfortunately, we didn't get many pictures from that afternoon.

Rae opens a Dora backpack with wheels
The next day (Sunday), my side of the family came over for Superbowl Sunday. Rae and Ruby helped me make a special rainbow birthday cake.

Rae loves having her cousins come over to play! Here are Elijah and Naomi (my sister's two oldest kids) enjoying cake.
The dress that Rae is wearing in the picture below is the "sparkling dress" that my grandmother made me for my third birthday. It was my FAVORITE dress when I was little, and it was so special to see Rae wear it. She calls it her "princess dress."
This is Rae opening up her gift from my sister & her family: a sleeping bag! Rae loves it and can't wait to go camping this spring!

And finally, a cute picture of Ruby getting some quality snuggle time in with Uncle Joe and Auntie Becky!
Thanks to everyone who made the hike out here to make Rae's birthday(s) so special! We love you all!


Valentine's Day

My husband knows me all too well.

He knows that while I would love flowers, chocolates, diamonds, chocolates, expensive getaways to somewhere tropical, and chocolates...that's not what I need.

So he got me what my heart was really longing for.


This is a momentous Valentine's Day. I love you, babe!


Israel's 3-year-old checkup & due date!

Today Israel had her three-year-old checkup. She was amazing. She was happy, giggling, and smiling the whole time. We were (sadly) at a new clinic because the one we love so much -- AALFA Family Clinic -- is now too far away for us to keep visiting. The new doctor is the one my sister takes her family to, and he was very nice and very good with the kids. It just didn't feel like AALFA!

Our Rae Rae is growing healthy and strong. She was 34.8 pounds and 37 inches tall. Unfortunately at this new clinic they didn't tell me what percentages those fell into.


I also had my first pregnancy checkup today, and the doctor announced my due date as September 10, 2010. I even got to hear the heartbeat, even though I'm only 9 weeks along.

Yes, we will find out the gender at our 20-week ultrasound, but that's still a ways off. And yes, we do already have names picked out, but we'll wait till we find out the gender to announce that, as well. Then, come the baby's birthday, there won't be anything exciting left to announce except the weight! :) That's how we do it around here!


Not Me! Monday

This week, I am not going through small town culture shock.

I did not spend at least 45 minutes scouring the cities of Princeton, Zimmerman, Elk River, and Cambridge's websites looking for something -- anything -- to do with the girls. But if I had spent that much time searching, I'm sure I would have come up with an array of different fun, exciting, and unique local sights and activities to try out.

But one of those sites certainly would not suggest the local Pamida as a local attraction. No way.

I would not eventually resort to calling the local MOPS group leader and asking her just what local moms do for fun with their kids around here. And her first suggestion was NOT the McDonald's play land in Elk River, followed by the McDonald's play land in Rogers.

"Yeah, but is there anything else? Like, do any of the neighboring cities have community centers or anything?"

And she did NOT suggest Monticello and Becker's community centers (both about an hour away).

"So really there's nothing to do in Princeton in the winter?"

"No, not really. In the summer there are parks and stuff, but winter is pretty boring around here."

And my girls and I did not spend the rest of the day...at home.


Quotes from Rae

Rae: "Mom, I want you to ask me a question."
Me: "Um, ok. What's your favorite color?"
Rae: "No, Mom, I want you to ask me what I'm hiding under."
Me: "Oh. What are you hiding under, Rae?"
Rae: "My blanket."

Rae's Golden Birthday!

Our little "squirt" turned three yesterday! Who could believe that time could go by so quickly. I keep thinking to myself, I only get to do that 6 more times and then she's gone.

We generally keep birthdays low-key around here, but G and Ava did come by with balloons, gifts, and cupcake fixin's. We also had fun dressing up as princesses and doing activities in Rae's new workbooks (which she LOVES -- thanks G, Bompa, Auntie & Uncle Scottie!). Rae also received numerous singing phone calls, cards, and e-cards from friends and family.

The festivities will continue this weekend as more of the family stops in to see the new house and eat cake.

Rae Rae, you bring unspeakable joy to our little family. You are so full of life and enthusiasm, but you also have a quiet side that likes to stay home, snuggle, and keep to yourself. You are funny and so very smart -- you thought it was hilarious to tell people you were turning "7" this year! Your favorite things right now include painting, dancing, making up games, and helping me in the kitchen. You love anything "princess" and love to pretend. There could never be a sweeter you, and Daddy and I thank God for letting you be a part of our lives every day.

We love you, Sweet Rae.


You Might Live in the Country if...

You might live in the country if...

...Your address has 5 numbers in it.

...You have to drive past a Christmas tree farm to get to your house.

...You live near a Hardee's.

...The nearest Target is 20 miles away.

...Your town has a Pamida.


"Not Me" Monday

I'm making my triumphant return to "Not Me" Monday after taking a week off to, well, get my life in order. It's been an eventful couple of weeks, but here are some highlights.

I did not congratulate Rae for going potty on the big girl potty, only to turn around moments later and find Ruby splashing in it.

I did not lose my dog for two hours on a blistery winter morning. I didn't drag the kids out of bed and pile them both into the van in their pajamas and still-wet diapers without breakfast to search for him to no avail. I didn't call every vet, impound, and pet hospital in the area leaving a description and a phone number, and I didn't finally break down into sobs when explaining what happened to a friend. I mean, it's just a dog, right?
Then -- assuming all of that actually did happen -- I wouldn't have cried again when the phone call came. Thank goodness some lady hadn't come inches from hitting our dog on Highway 95, pick him up, call a shelter and get our number. And when we met her at a local gas station to get him back, I didn't give her a huge hug, which seemed to be a little awkward to her!

And this last one leaves me feeling a little "blond."

Upon stopping at a gas station for some snacks, I didn't grumble in irritation at the sign in front of me declaring "Holiday Parking Only, Violators will be towed," thinking to myself "How stupid to have a parking spot you can only use on holidays!"

...and then remember that I was at a Holiday Station.