Thursday, June 23, 2016

Taking Care of Mom

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The latest on my Mom. Finally up at Segullah. And a huge thank you to all my sisters who helped take care of Mom while Dad was out of town. 

Deb, Bec, Sarah, Rach. I'm so glad we are in this together.



Papas and Mamas

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I kind of wish Father's Day rolled around twice a year. Dads get a bad rap sometimes, you know? In too many sit coms they are depicted is out of touch, silly, or clueless. Often they are scripted as unavailable and uninvolved. In some settings they get forgotten, looked over, or unmentioned. They go to church meetings and get the gentle reprimand, you can do better. 

I was asked to pray in our sacrament meeting on Mother's Day, and I had the most distinct feeling while standing at the pulpit, eyes closed. I was suddenly touched by the love I felt from all the fathers in the congregation. I could feel the love they had for their wives and their children, and I had the impression, tell them thank you. So I expressed gratitude for all the Dads who chose to be parents, who are partners with their wives in raising a family, who love and see their children for the heavenly gift that they are.

I dunno. I think Dads need a little more praise, a little more recognition, and a lot more thanks. Good Dads are critical to the building of a strong family. Ours would honestly stop turning, if it weren't for Doug. And yet, I know a handful of women doing just that. Moving forward. Making their world keep turning, even without a good Dad, a good husband to help. They forever have my admiration.

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On Father's Day we drove half an hour to this gorgeous park and had a Sunday picnic. To celebrate Doug. Sami made Doug the cutest crown. It was her "King Coke Crown," she said. (Doug loves Diet Coke.)

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It even had a cuckoo-clock door on the front. When it opened, out popped a coke can. Sami explained, "It says 'coke-coke, coke-coke' in stead of cuckoo." We had the best laugh. Her creativity amazes us sometimes.

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Ali wrote a story for Doug called, "Daddy Vader and His Little Rebels." (Doug one of this galaxy's greatest Star Wars fans.) It's about Doug spending the weekend with all five kids while I was in Park City with friends. Very clever.

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Spencer gave Doug a Star Wars stress ball. Perfect for his accountant Dad.

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Sorry he missed the memo on the "tough guy" pose.

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Eliza gave Doug his favorite treats. M&Ms, salt and vinegar chips, Orbit gum.

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Gordy was my big shopping helper. He picked out some special Star Wars tattoos, that we unfortunately dropped somewhere in Target. Then went back to find. Because he knew "his Daddy would love them so much!"

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Doug fills in so many holes in our family. Things I don't get to, can't get to, don't want to get to. His strengths are not mine. He takes his role of providing and protecting seriously and does a tremendous job. And when he's home he is quick to jump in, help with dinner, baths, clean up, yard work. I've said before I think he'd actually make the better Mom. Too bad we can't job swap on occasion. But all I would be able to do in his office, is draw pictures on his white board and squeeze his Kylo Ren stress ball. 

Marriage isn't easy. It takes so much work. It takes constantly working on communication, making time for one another, trying to support each other, and love the other just as they are. These things are easy to type out. So much harder to do.

I'm so grateful that together we've created this wild but precious Team Arvy. 

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Heritage Park, in Cedar Hills, was a gorgeous spot. With a creek running through it that the kids loved wading in.

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There was also a place to play baseball or basketball, and a bike trail. I'm sure we'll be back.

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My cute Dad celebrated Father's Day weekend in Houston with my brother's family. It was a great break for him. He even caught a foul ball at an Astros game! I have so much respect for my Dad. For the way he is taking care of my Mom. For all the years he provided for our family. For his constant kindness as a Father. For his faith and example.

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My sisters and I took care of Mom while he was gone. I have wonderful sisters. And it's a privilege for us to care for her. She's so cheerful and grateful. I just got home from a three day stay with her and I've written a post about it, but it hasn't gone up at Segullah yet. I'll post when it does.

One day we took her for a pedicure. It was total hilarity trying to get her back into my car after the appointment. If anyone had been watching the circus that ensued, they would have come running in a rush of concern, or laughed their heads off from a distance. The passenger seat was just a little too high for her to sit down on and she kept slipping/slithering down. I was literally holding onto her thigh and heaving her body into the car, while Eliza yanked on her gait belt from inside to hoist her in. At one point when she was pretty much horizontal, her head almost on the driver's seat, about to roll onto the floor, I lost it and could not stop laughing. Somehow we got her upright and I stuffed her inside and shut the door, like you would a jack-in-the-box before you snapped the lid shut. She's a heckuva a good sport.

We looked at each other once she was belted in and laughed again. "You don't have to go to the bathroom, do you?" I asked. "Nope!" she triumphantly replied. "Oh Hallelujah," I said. "Because we're going to get a Slurpee!" It was 102° outside.

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The sweet Vietnamese family who runs the salon were so helpful. And look at her beautiful nails!

You gotta keep things lively with Mom. So one night I surprised (or rather terrified) her by poking my head into the bathroom, wearing her wig. She shrieked then said, "You look like me!" We laughed and laughed, took a photo, and she muttered, "That is so weird."

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Maybe blondes do have more fun.

Paps and Mamas. We need both. Each brings unique contributions to a marriage and family. Each offers things the other can't. And I believe it was designed that way. For purposes even beyond what we understand here and now.



Michelle made a darling Father's Day video of Dads dancing with their daughters for Ruby Girl. We kinda pressured Doug into participating. I don't recommend pressuring your husband. It's not a good thing. Doug loves dancing with his girls but NOT in front of others. Bless his heart for complying. His worm, though, was is totally worth watching!

My favorite moment is when Kevin Linkous is dipping all his girl and dips his little Hope with an overdose of gusto and she falls flat on the ground. Oy! So cute. Watch for it in the bloopers.

Happy Father's Day to all you wonderful, committed Dads. You're making your families and the world a better place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hummingbird Cake and Golf

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Just before Mother's Day, my parents came for dinner. It was the first time my Mom had come to our new home. With Dad by her side, she made it out of the car, up the four front steps, and into the living room, were we gave her a seat at the head of the table. 

We tied an apron round her waist, and she laughed as we ran it around the sides of the chair, securing her to it, so she wouldn't fall off or lean to the left. Better safe than sorry, we chuckled. 

She's such a good sport. 

She started attending church again about a month ago, just sacrament meeting. And she has accompanied my Dad, via wheelchair, to the theatre three times now. All big milestones. Every time she ventures out of the house, we count it a victory! 

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My Dad continues to be the most patient, kind, and uncomplaining caregiver. But we can tell he needs a break sometimes. Caregiving is all consuming. So he drove south one weekend in May, just by himself, to explore some red rock country. And in June he will head to Houston to stay with my brother's family for a week. We will "mommy-sit" as he calls it. Something my sisters and I are so happy to do.

My Mom keeps worrying that she is a burden and feels badly that we have to spend our time helping her. But, as I told her yesterday, this is exactly what a family does. We take care of each other. 

At some point children take care of their parents, whether it's sooner or later. And heaven knows, we can never repay her for the years she took such wonderful care of us. In the end, I believe, this season will have been a gift, rich with learning and tenderness we wouldn't have had otherwise.

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So, per her request, we made our Hummingbird Cake for dessert. The girls did the decorating.

This is a recipe I learned from a dear woman I came to love like a mother when we lived in Virginia. My children affectionately call her "Auntie Pat" even though it has been years since we've seen her. With each baptism and birth, a turquoise blue box has arrived from Pat and Phil. A necklace, a bracelet, a frame or engraved box from Tiffany's. She cared for me like her own when we lived there. I used to teach an exercise class for her and her friends in her basement while her housekeeper, Gabriella, took care of Eliza. We continued this set-up until the twin girls were born and a year and a half later we moved to Utah. 

I think of her so often. And I miss her.

But two weekends ago, serendipity happened. We were attending a work event in Ponte Vedre, Florida, with front seats to the Players' Championship, and who was there? Pat's son, Andrew, and his wife Ashley. Ashley and I used to work together in McLean, Virginia.

It was such a happy moment to reconnect with them and to send hugs home with them for Pat.

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And if I can digress, for just a moment...

Attending the Players' Championship was an incredible experience.

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This is Sawgrass. Golf course where the PGA holds the tournament. We stayed in the Mariott right next door to the course.

I thought I was going to Florida to sit at the beach while Doug attended some meetings, but I was wrong. Boy, did we have a full schedule. And the beach? It wasn't even within walking distance! (website pics can be deceiving.) I could have taken a shuttle to the beach at 5:30 AM for sunrise yoga... I even set my alarm... but it didn't happen.

And true confession, I arrived on the course that first day of the tournament as a complete golf ignoramus. I didn't even know how to score the game! Nor did I know a single golf pro's name. So I told Doug, "I am resorting to teenage tactics and rooting for the cutest golf pros. Starting with Jordan Spieth."

By the end of watching four days of golf, up close and personal though... I had my favorites, and we were walking the course with the top golfers on the leaderboard. 

I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

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Here we are, just a few feet away from Jason Day, who won the championship. On his 4th round, leaving the 10th green.

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This was our view from one of the tents at the 17th. Gorgeous course. 

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It was always fun watching the players drive their ball up and over the water, hoping to land it on the green. This was Ken Duke and Alex Cejka, just before Cejka birdied on this hole.

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Cejka and Duke leaving the 9th. I loved watching Ken Duke brush hands with all the kids. 


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And funny enough, we attended church at a chapel in Ponte Vedre Sunday morning and met Alex Cejka's wife there! Alyssa Cejka. She was absolutely lovely and happens to be LDS. Wherever they are on Sunday, she said, she finds a ward and attends church that morning. 

When we ran into her again in the Clubhouse, we took a quick picture.

Then we headed over to the first hole to watch her husband tee off. He was in second place at that point.

Golf. Whudda thunk? Without a single grain of sand between my toes, I came home feeling rejuvenated. I think the whole experience was such a diversion for my brain, so different from anything I do or think about, I came back feeling refreshed and rested. 

So. The lesson? Sometimes you don't necessarily need to relax to feel renewed, you just need to do something entirely different from your norm. It's good for the mind, body, and soul.

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During dinner, Eliza let Grandma try on her hats. (We've been trying to find some new options for my Mom.)
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And then we had cake! It's the perfect Spring cake. So moist. Made with cinnamon, bananas, pineapple, and cream cheese frosting. Decorated with fresh flowers.

Hummingbird Cake

Grease and flour three 9" round pans. (I love the nonstick ones from Williams-Sonoma.)


Combine in large mixing bowl:

3 C. flour
2 C. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Add:

3 eggs - beaten
1 C. oil

Stir in:

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. crushed pineapple
2 C. bananas (mashed)

Spoon batter into pans. Bake @ 350° for 25-30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans. Remove and cool completely.


Frosting:


2 8oz. packages of cream cheese

1 C. butter (soft)
2 lbs (6 C.) powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

Whip cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Ice cakes. (I always wrap my cakes in saran wrap and tinfoil then freeze them because they frost more easily when frozen.) Garnish with fresh flowers.


Happy baking! xoxo


Monday, May 16, 2016

Meet Ellie

There was a huge lump in my throat Sunday morning as I posted the following article and video on Ruby Girl. I was a little nervous and a lot emotional. But there has been a spirit driving this thing since the day I met Ellie.

Let me introduce you to Ellie Heiden. In her own words, she was "that person no one thought would amount to anything."

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Boy were they wrong.


First, a little backstory.

Last summer our sweet Eliza was diagnosed with dyseidetic dyslexia. A form of dyslexia in which she has a solid understanding of phonics and can read on grade level, but her brain has trouble re-visualizing words as an integrated whole. We have been on a steep and sometimes frustrating learning curve as we've tried to figure out all that this means and what kind of assistance she needs.

A couple months ago when I was feeling worried and in need of new help, my good friend Elizabeth felt inspired to introduce us to Ellie and her mom, Joanna.

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Ellie also has dyslexia, but she has overcome incredible odds. Her story is both heartbreaking and amazing. It will change you. It did me. In really important ways.

We launched Ruby Girl, a website for teenage girls, last month. (By we, I mean Michelle Lehnardt, who designed the website and has been our editor in chief. She has done a phenomenal job.) If you have a minute, read Michelle's welcome post and watch the video with Elaine Dalton. It will give you a good feel for what we are hoping to accomplish with Ruby Girl. 

When I was telling Michelle about Ellie, we both knew at the same moment, we needed Ellie's story on Ruby Girl.

When I asked Eliza if she'd like to do the interview, she immediately said yes. I am so proud of her for being willing to come up with all the questions, ask them, and talk about her dyslexia. This was extremely brave and courageous. For both Ellie and Eliza. But you will see in the video how much Eliza loves Ellie and looks up to her. She has become a bright star in Eliza's life. I love them both so much my heart can hardly handle it.

Here is the intro video we ran on Instagram. 



Click over to Ruby Girl for the full video and story. And please share. Ellie's message is one we want everyone to hear. 

Doug and I were traveling this weekend so we weren't able to be home with Eliza when this posted, to weather the response with her, which has been overwhelming on social media. In fact, she just saw the finished video for the first time tonight. 

She is still a little worried about it. That kids might make fun of her, that she won't know how to explain what dyslexia is if someone asks. Because it's different for everyone who has it. It can be mild, severe, or in between, and it comes in different forms. But I stroked her hair tonight and held her head in my lap as we talked. 

Every person on this earth, I told her, whether they have a learning challenge, a health problem, grief, sorrow, loss, hurt, embarrassment, guilt, or frustration. No matter what challenge they are facing, this message can help. Because Ellie teaches us so powerfully that the Lord, when we ask Him, can turn any weakness into strength. Eliza believes this to be true. And she wants to help.

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So off you go. I am positive you'll love Ellie as much as we do. 


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Loving Spring

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I have held on tightly to Spring this year. Loved all the rain, the low-lying clouds, the days that popped with sunshine. I have swooned over each new wave of blossoms. More than I usually do. 

Maybe because our five are growing taller, all of them, in spurts lately, and they're leaning less on mom. And winter, with all its illness, felt much too long. All the precipitation has made for gorgeous color. And a new yard has meant surprises, discoveries, everything growing on its own.

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Over Spring Break we visited Deseret Village and held the new baby chicks, panned for gold, trekked through old pioneer streets.

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The chickies, all fuzzy and warm, were everyone's favorite.

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Tiny black eyes blinking open and closed.

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Sami, our vet in training, was particularly enamored. I'm convinced she would have stayed right here in the barn, all day long, cuddling and whispering to the chicks, had I not begged her to follow us. 

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I love her hands in this photo, reaching out to help Gordon. She taught the boys how to gently scoop the chickies up and hold them in clasped fingers.

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Eliza was drawn to this black one.

She likes things, people, even chicks, that are different.

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Ali was skittish over the whole deal, but eventually, Sami convinced her to take a turn.

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Triumphant. Albeit held at arm's length and still unsure.

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One of the staffers pointed us out and said, "You guys like polka-dots, don't you?"

I guess we do!

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The pony rides were fun...

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All 20 seconds of saddle glory. 

Seriously...

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20 seconds, which equated to one turn round the walker, was laughable. Especially after waiting in a considerable line. But... I zipped my lips and didn't complain.

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It's a beautiful spot right here, at the mouth of Emigration canyon.

I love the Wasatch mountains during Spring. The tip tops dusted with snow while the hillsides simultaneously turn green.

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We stopped at the Barber and everyone got a shave. Even the girls. Ha!

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In the Native American village, the kids made arrowhead necklaces and we visited with this beautiful grandmother. Who comes from the Navajo tribe.

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Look at her long braids and beautiful blue eyes. Her belt and moccasins are hand-beaded. She made the entire outfit herself.

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Panning for gold was a riot. Workers load the silt in this small creek with iron pyrite. So it doesn't take much swirling of your pan to reveal something glittery. The kids were ecstatic.

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We took the "gold" to the Bank, to see how much it was worth in pioneer days. They could tuck their gold into a pocket or exchange it for a bank note. Ali is the only one who chose a bank note. "Because it stays safer that way." Smart girl.

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As rain and wind began to barrel out of the canyon, we made one last stop at the Heber C. Kimball home. A replica of the original that used to sit on the corner of North Temple and Main.

Heber is great-great-great-great grandpa to these kiddos. So we had to peek in the windows, and ring the bell out front, just to see if someone was home.

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We've been oohing and aaahing over the blossoms for weeks now. In this picture, Eliza's pink soccer ball is camouflaged by the tree.

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We decided it was time to pull out the little lawn chairs.

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One morning I lifted the boys' blinds to find the branches outside their window exploding with pink. The view took my breath away. It was like sitting in a tree house!

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The black cherry tree outside Eliza's window was also exploding.

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With tiny white flowers.

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Every time I walked by her bedroom I had to pause. 

Our house in the trees.

This girl made of light.

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The view at the edge of our property makes me so happy.

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And bundles of red tulips, coming up in every corner of the yard.

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Festive and bright.

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We had our first picnic of the season. 

Can't believe next school year I will be lunching by myself. Not sure how I feel about that yet.

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Cut this vase of fragrant purple. For Maggie. Oh how she loved her lilacs. 

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One chilly evening, Doug and Eliza assembled a trampoline. Did the whole thing themselves.

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And our world changed.
 
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Even Doug and I have had fun getting our jump on. 

Check out Doug's Van Halen Panama move! 

If you don't know abut Spring Free Trampolines yet, now's the time. Touted as the safest trampoline in the world, this was the only one Doug would buy. It was designed by an Australian Dad/Engineer. No springs. No bars. Extremely durable flexi-net. And just as bouncy as other trampolines.

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One day Spence and Gordy made a home for themselves on the trampoline. Complete with favorite stuffed animals, pillows, Mr. Potato Head, and snacks. 

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Finally, a wreath for the front door. Which also makes me happy.

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And water in the canal! 

The canal is dry during winter months, so the kids anxiously waited for the day the city would divert creek water into the canal. Cold, but so much fun!

Look at those two toads, trying to blast me with their water cannons.

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Armed and dangerous.

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One rainy day we went exploring. While deciding if I, being the tallest, could venture into a long tunnel, we felt someone watching us.

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Looking up, we saw our old friends. Can you spy them too?

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And lastly, this moment. 

On a brisk and windy day, we dug out our unopened kite and drove down to the park. Our little pal Walter was with us. His baby sister is still in the NICU. We're hoping she comes home soon. 

It's been years since we've flown a kite and it made us laugh out loud. You know the feeling. The yank of the wind. An invisible hand tugging you forward, wrestling with you, almost knocking you off your feet.

Thank heavens winter also means spring.

I feel like Virginia Woolf who wrote, "I enjoy the spring more than autumn now. One does, I think, as they get older."

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