Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Indiana 2012

After returning home from my dad's birthday festivities, we had two shorts weeks before our next adventure --a spontaneous and quite miraculous trip to Indiana to see Cynthia and Tom.

The wheels for this trip started turning on Mother's Day.  I'd just spoken with Cynthia, and was really feeling the need to go see her.  I was still nursing James at the time, so I'd need to bring him.  And the girls hadn't met her, so I really wanted to bring them.  But if i went with the kids, I'd be of no use and get nothing done, which would somewhat defeat the purpose of the trip.  I was frustrated and teary and desperately feeling the need to have my mom around when Reid said, "Hey babe, why don't we all just go see her?" 

Man, i love that guy! 

In just a few days time we'd figured out that:
 -My two brothers, Jared and Nathan, were already planning on spending a few days with Cyn and Tom in late June, as part of a road trip across the country.
 -My sister, Julia, was already going to be flying from DC to UT the very same weekend that Jared and Nate would be there, and it would only cost $50 more to add a leg to Indiana
 -Reid's schedule at work was perfectly open for that very same weekend.
 -We could all stay together in a TownHome-style hotel
 -We could rent a handicapped accessible van for a few days, allowing Cynthia to go on a few excursions with us! (they gave us three days for the price of one!)
- I already owned three bottle of children's allergy medication that were all unopened!  Grace's terrible cat allergies would be under control!

And best of all--this meant that my kids could actually meet their Aunt Cynthia!! And not just see her face on our computer!

I called Cynthia to tell her about all these stars aligning, and she pointed out the obvious: that "this trip had been orchestrated by our mother."  I whole-heartedly agreed.

And so, our adventure began. 

The girls were legitimately helpful getting from the parking lot to the airport, rolling their own suitcases behind them.  Grace was especially sweet--always looking to Reid and I to see if she could help with the things we were lugging.  I marveled at how it could be easier flying with four kids than it was to fly with our 3-week old Grace.  Is it just perspective?  loss of reason and mental faculties?  Both?

Though there was never a moment where I felt like we were out of control, i'm looking at these pictures and thinking that most certainly everyone else did.
Because our plane touched down after midnight, we opted to stay the first night right in Indianopolis.  The excitement that kept the girls awake on the plane ride was matched by the thrill of sleeping in a hotel room!  They were up until after 1:00am.  (11:00pm MST, but still)

James was the first to crash, even with his sisters running around, ignoring my constant "Pleeeeease be quiet so James can sleep!"  Bless him for being so dang good.  The entire trip!  The girls finally fell asleep--all three in a bed.  Eliza, who still tends to fall off of beds (maybe 'cause she was in a crib too long?) was sandwiched in the middle.  I wish I'd taken a picture, but, like i said, it was 1am.

I just want to say that, although most people think we are a bit crazy having our 4 kids in one bedroom (yes, James is no longer sleeping in our closet!!) my kids do so well on vacation, and i think it's largely because they're used to each other.  They sleep right through all their loud breathing, and coughing, and sleep-talking, and wriggling.  And that is why, during our infrequent yet crucial hotel stays, I tell myself that having them all share one small, cozy room is totally worth it.  I tell that to myself aaaaaallll night long since I can't sleep a wink, what with all their loud breathing, and couging, and sleep-talking, and wriggling....

We took off for Bloomington the next morning, but not without consuming the entire continental breakfast, and taking a quick swim in the hotel pool, of course.

The kids were so excited to meet Aunt Cynthia and Uncle Tom!  Their meeting was a very sweet moment for me, as I'm sure it was for Cynthia.  My kids are all a little timid when they meet people.  And they're not very good at initial conversations/introducing themselves.  So there was a lot of me coaxing them to tell Cynthia what they were up to, what they liked, etc.  But eventually, as you can imagine, they felt right at home there, and we couldn't get them to pipe down :)

Julia had gotten there a couple days before us (bless her for mopping and vacuuming up as much dander as she could for us Allergic Allreds!)  She went with Tom and Cynthia to one of their favorite lakes (I do envy the lakes they have in IN) on Friday.  

Then on Saturday they took us to another beautiful lake

While we were there, already having a singularly magical moment watching yachts and eating watermelon, Nathan and Jared pulled into town.  And it was there, on the shore side of Lake Monroe, that we had our first official Five Ashworth Siblings in Indiana moment. I'm pretty sure that if you look close enough, you'll see my mom smiling down on us in this picture.    

The rest of the trip was a perfect combination of enjoying ourselves immensely, and helping out significantly.  All of us spend so much time and energy trying to think of ways we can lighten Cynthia and Tom's loads and lift their spirits.  So when we are actually there with them, and able to do something about it--we are like Energizer bunnies, but with Duracell batteries.  

Just a small list of what "many hands" were able to accomplish in 5 short days:
-clear enormous wood piles from the side of the house
-cut down dead and dying branches
-weed the lawn and the garden areas
-destroy several wasp nests (with peppemint spray, mind you.  Cynthia has a bleeding heart with space enough for even wasps.  But i will say, that stuff worked!  we got rid of their home without getting stung!)
-hang plates on the wall in the kitchen
-hang art on walls around the house
-purchase (with Dad's money!) a brand new HDTV
-mount said TV
-rearrange and decorate the space with the new TV
-declutter the bedrooms
-cook something like 36 freezer meals (we did this in the hotel room in the mornings, when Cynthia was sleeping)
-feed the LDS missionaries
-take several loads to the GoodWill

Even with all the "work" we did, we still had plenty of time to:
-play trivial pursuit
-stay up late, talking and telling stories
-have a piano recital from Grace and Abby (they learned some patriotic songs just for this trip!)
-rock out with Tom's handmade guitars--there were enough for everyone to have one!
-eat amazing food--as we always do when Tom's the cook
-take a day trip to Lake Lemon with Tom and the girls
-go swimming at the city park (Reid and the kids)
-drive around the ritzy neighborhoods, and drool all over their idyllic properties
-watch "Happy Feet"
-enjoy watching Tom and the girls play endless games and tell endless jokes
-take a quick trip to Nashville, IN where we were able to see several of Tom's Guitars for sale in a little instrument boutique/shop

Eating breakfast at our gazebo

Tom is so good with kids, and the girls had such a great time with him!
This is just one of many "hikes" Reid took the girls on while James was napping and I was working--bless him for it!!
Tom, Reid and the girls at Lake Monroe, successfully seeking out geodes. Many even made it home with us!
Lake Lemon
Collecting seashells and other treasures
Angel baby himself
More Lake Lemon

On the right--Abby playing her recital piece.  In the middle, the new TV and art arrangement that Cynthia designed and Nate and Jared hung up.  On the left, Eliza mauling Tom
Nathan standing by three of Tom's guitars!

The 6 days went by way too fast.  It was so good to be there. We were all exhausted by the end of it, but none of us wanted to leave.  

I still marvel at the fact that, with so little planning, such an unlikely and wonderful reunion happened this summer.  

Thanks, Mom, for putting that together :)

Side Note:  So many of you have asked how the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber is working for Cynthia.  The answer is that is does help her.  It hasn't cured her M.S. by any means, but it improves her overall feeling and well-being.  She still uses it regularly and is still so grateful and appreciative of all the kindness and generosity that made it possible for her to own such a wonderful piece of equipment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eighty Years of Dad

My awesome, wonderful, selfless, kind, giving, wise, caring, patient, non-judgmental, honest, smart, faithful, easy-going, loving, hard-working, amazing, still-not-going-gray dad turned 80-years-old in June.

This, of course, called for a celebration!!  And so, in early June we set off for Provo, on our first "adventure" of the summer.  (Eliza has permanently swapped the word "vacation" with "adventure" and i kinda love it.)

 Reid wouldn't be able to join us out there until the weekend.  So my sweet lil' sister-in-law agreed to drive 7 of the 9 hours with me.  After 7 hours though, not even she could hack it.  Okay, i'm kidding.  I just dropped her off in Evanston, where Reid's mom was waiting to take her back home.  And i managed not to get us killed in the last 2 hours of the drive.  Thanks again, Karen, for all your help!

My dad wanted his birthday to be low-key.  He's kinda like that.  So we spent a beautiful Saturday morning hiking around Cascade Springs (a location we frequented growing up).  Then we ate lunch at the Purple Turtle (another location we frequented, and continue to frequent).

All of the granddaughters up at Cascade Springs
The whole crew (minus some of the Swensons) at Cascade Springs
And that evening, with the arrival of my sister Melanie and her kids, we had almost all of my dad's off-spring in one place (Cynthia was greatly missed!) And many of his siblings came to celebrate with him, too.  People literally traveled from both coasts to celebrate with my Dad.  That's how wonderful he is, and how much we love him!

Saturday evening we had a delicious Birthday BBQ.  Out of the kindness of our hearts, we even let Dad make the homemade rootbeer and his famous Peter's Peppermint Ice Cream.  Such altruism has rarely been seen.  :)

It was so fun to look around at all the wonderful people who were all gathered in one place to honor this wonderful man.

My dad, Aunt Vicki, Uncle Dave, Aunt Penny, Uncle Mike, Aunt Elaine, Aunt Sandy and Uncle Steve

The whole crew!

The next day was my dad's actual birthday.  We showered him with gifts--mostly edibles and donations in his name.  My kids even let him open some of them!

 And my niece, Jessica, made the cutest cake.  He loves crosswords, so it was kinda perfect. 

Melanie is gonna love me for posting this.  I couldn't help it! She fell asleep under the piano!
My dad with 6 of his 7 children, and 9 of his 9 grandchildren
"Now, everyone hug Grandpa!"

Dad with all of his grandkids.  Love this picture!!
Of all the gifts that my dad received, the one that he enjoyed the most (a week after we all left) was the one that I enjoyed the least.  Nathan gave him the gift of near-death.  In the form of jumping out of an airplane with him.  I was not in love with the thought of my 80 year old father skydiving.  But he absolutely loved it.  And because I absolutely love him, I watched the video of his jump.  Several times. And I've decided that I'd be okay if he did it again.

In another 80 years.

Though the weekend was consumed with birthday celebrations, the days before it were more like a family reunion.  My dad loved having so many of his grandkids around.  Can you blame him?  i mean, just look at these two little ones for starters.  They were so cute together, poking each other's eyeballs, ripping Grandpa's magazines, falling down the stairs (just Alia, actually.  soooooo sad!!)!

Alia and James
Playing in Grandpa's Amazing Tupperware Drawer
Reid and Jared throwing up their babies.  (there has got to be a better way to say that...)
Aunt Kristie playing games with my kids
Kristie braided all my girls' hair in one morning--something that had never been done, and is unlikely to repeat itself. But it was so cute while it lasted!!
We were there for a full week, which meant that I actually had time to catch up with some of my life-long besties.  So, so fun.  And, with my 13 year old niece Hannah around for that week, I was able to help so much around my dad's house.   

I like to call it "help" but I'm quite sure my dad would call it "why won't Emily just leave me and my stuff alone?"  Bless him for letting me have my way.  After 48 years of being married to my mom, he figured out that with some women, it's just easier to say "anything you'd like, sweetheart."  So we went through his books (1000+ of them) and got rid of most (keeping a few for myself, of course), we rearranged his family room, we sold furniture on craigslist (keeping a few pieces for myself, of course), we took several loads to the second-hand store, and looked through boxes of memories, photos, and treasures (keeping many things for myself...or my kids, of course). It was so much fun!  Of course Reid looked at all the treasures that I'd self-inherited and dared to call me that "H" word.  But I certifiably and vehemently denied it! How could i be when I'm so good at making other people get rid of their stuff!!  Ta Da!  Not a hoarder!

I have no "before" picture of this room.  It had kinda become the dumping place for furniture that didn't have a home. But with a little TLC and muscle from Jared we turned this room and the studio into rooms that were more suited for the two men that live in that house.  And Saturday evening, it was so gratifying to see 8 people comfortably gathered in a room that, 3 days earlier wouldn't have fit them! 

Two Christmases ago I busted my butt to "finish" this quilt for my dad.  It was made out of some of my mom's old p.j.'s.  And though it was all pieced and sewn together just in time for Christmas of 2010, it had been sitting on a cold, lonely shelf in my parents' basement--waiting to be tied, so people could actually snuggle under it's softness.  Finally, only 18 months later, and with much help from my dad, we got the frames set up and the quilt ready to go.  I forced suggested to my siblings that we all help tie the quilt.  They kindly agreed.

This photo is my favorite--4 dudes tying a quilt.  Awesome!

Snuggling under the finished product!
Although sitting together and tying a quilt as a family has happened exactly zero times before, I dare say we all felt oddly familiar and comfortable at it.  Probably because we'd all seen our mom tie quilts on those same frames.  And because we come from a long line of quilt-making super-women  And because it's just kinda awesome when you are creating something together.  We all had so much fun putting the finishing touches on this keepsake.  I know because I kept telling them they were having fun.

Thanks, Dad, for such a fun week.  We love you!!!  All eighty years of you!!