Ya-ya’s Adventures, Year 2, Episode 6

Cassi has been growing by leaps and bounds. She amazes us all with her tenacity and good spirits. She can roll over and push herself to her knees. She has several new pieces of equipment for her to use now. Her most prized tool is her walker. It is called a “gait-trainer” because it is so much more than a walker. Cassi:gait trainerHer upper body and neck is supported by many straps and cushions to hold her upright. But, her legs and feet are free to propel her all over the place. When she first got it, she didn’t know how to make it work so she did what Val called, “Flintstone-feet”. Her little legs went a mile a minute but she got no where. 

Now she knows how and where to go and she is delighted! She screams and giggles as she tears around the house. She walks along a table or shelf with her arm raised high. Anything she can grab from the table or shelf goes onto the floor to her very noisy exclamations. The other thing she likes to do is find Mommy, wherever Mommy may be. Then, Cassi just stops and waits for Mommy to touch her or talk to her. 

This was our first Easter celebration that I know she enjoyed. Val and Tim brought the gait-trainer along so she could zip all around the large room. Someone had to walk with her because she kept getting caught in the chairs and tables that were set up for our celebration. The building has a ramp in it that leads from the eating area to the kitchen. It is not a very steep ramp but Cassi thought it was perfect! Someone at the top would set her in the right direction and, off she would go, tearing down the ramp to whomever was catching her at the bottom! It was a game she never wanted to stop doing. 

They have finally found a formula that is working with her digestive system and for once, she is off the “failure to thrive” charts. She is still fed by gastric-tube because she doesn’t have the muscle tone to be able to swallow any foods. It’s a very complicated procedure but Val and Tim handle it routinely. It has become a part of their lives. 

Another tool that Cassi has is something to help her communicate. She has several colorful buttons that can be programmed to say things. The day that Val shared the video with us, Cassi was working so hard to push the button that said, “I love Delilah”. After several attempts that resulted in “I love Mommy” or “I love Duncan (the cat)”, it became clear that she was playing games with us and pushing the other buttons purposely instead of “I love Delilah” – just for fun. In the future, as she becomes more able to understand communication, more buttons and words will be added so she can actually “talk” to us. She did bring tears to Val’s eyes once when she immediately pushed “I love Mommy” as soon as Val put the communicator in front of her. It was not an accident. 

Cassi has not been seizure free since her first birthday and this is the problem that holds her back. Seizures, and she has so five different kinds, attack her brain and set her back from any advances she has made in a certain area. She was on THREE different seizure medicines and had the maximum dose, that is safe for her age, from each one. Val, Tim and her neurologists have came to the conclusion that something must be done to get them under control and stop the major ones. 

So, the decision was made to slowly start weaning her off the seizure meds, one at a time. The reasoning for this was to allow her brain to have all the seizures it would if there were no meds to stop them. The doctors would wire her head and learn what kind were the most prevalent and where they occurred in the brain. The weaning started at home and continued at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The tremors started immediately and were nearly nonstop as her parents keeping vigilant for anything more drastic. I offered to go along to CHOP to help with Delilah. Val and Tim wanted her to come along to see where her little sister and Mom were going to be living for the next week. 

On a nice Sunday afternoon, we left our home for Philadelphia. Val drove her own car with all the equipment, supplies and clothes for both of them for at least five days. Tim, Delilah and I followed in the van. It had been a very long time since Tim and I had a chance for an uninterrupted talk and I reveled in it. He told me all about the changes in his work and his plans for the four season room they want to build for Cassi. Make-A-Wish had selected Cassi as a recipient and they agreed to provide a hot tub for her. Being in warm water loosens her muscles and relaxes her. Her physical therapy could expand with the use of a hot tub. A four season room would allow everyone to enjoy the hot tub year round.

It took a bit of time to get Cassi admitted and placed in a room. A troupe of doctors and specialists came into the room and asked myriads of questions. Some of them talked to Tim and some talked to Val. I entertained Delilah by eating one of her pretzel fish and acting like it was a terrible thing. I told her I owed her for the one I stole and she said it would cost me a “million, trillion dollars”. When it was time for Cassi to get hooked up to all the electrodes on her head and receive her first EEG at CHOP for this observation, I took Delilah to the cafeteria for dinner. The minute we walked into the cafeteria, she spied the ice cream freezer. It took a bit of coaxing to get her to eat anything else but she did choose an apple. I picked a tuna fish sandwich. 

Delilah got to pick the table to eat our dinner and she chose one that was next to the windows that faced the outside garden. We both wished aloud that we could eat out there but the temperature was in the thirties that day. Delilah did pretty good eating her apple despite the fact that she is missing two teeth on the top and two teeth on the bottom. My tuna fish was not very good so I didn’t eat it. I told her we were even on the eating department so we could get our ice creams. 

When we returned to the room, Val and Tim traveled to the cars to unload all the equipment, clothes and supplies they brought along. Then, sadly it was time to go. My heart broke as I watched my son barely keep his composure as he kissed his younger daughter goodbye. Delilah was reluctant to leave her mom and Tim and I had to go out into the hall to give them some time alone. Our trip home was full of more talking and we got on the subject of books. Tim has begun reading memoirs of people who have disabilities such as Cassi’s or Aspergers’, which Jared has. This delighted this old retired librarianto talk about books. One of the books he was currently reading was a fiction novel entitled, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It is an excellent story of a girl with cerebral palsy who is non-verbal like Cassi. It is told from the point of view of the girl who is very intelligent but can’t show it due to inability to communicate. When she receives a communicator similar to Cassi’s, her world opens up. I had read it and loved it. I told him about another book to put on his list which is written by Cynthia Lord and the title is Rules. What a wonderful conversation for us to have!

Each day, Val and I FaceTimed each other for an hour in the afternoon. I could see Cassi with her head wrapped in gauze with a long stocking-type cap holding all the wires. Those wires were attached to the wall of Cassi’s room. She could easily walk in her gait-trainer but could not go very far.Cassi:gait trainer:CHOPShe knew it because every time the door to her hospital room was open, she headed right for it. She did not like the electrodes stuck all over her head and kept trying to scratch at them. Val would tell her “no” and Cassi would shake her head no as her hand moved up to her head. All the time, she would giggle. 

The time in the hospital was difficult for Val. She slept on a pull-out sofa and ate from some of the supplies she brought in a cooler. Cassi could not be left alone for even a minute so Val could not leave the room or take a shower unless someone came in the room to relieve her. When she went to the bathroom, she took Cassi with her. Rachel sent Cassi a big red balloon and Val, some food vouchers. With these vouchers, Val could order food from the cafeteria and it would be delivered to her room. Cassi at CHOP

One afternoon, while we were on FaceTime together,  I helped her set up her tablet so she could borrow ebooks from the public libraries. She and I also talked about books. Val loves the dystopian series novels such as the Divergent series and I Am Four series. I told her about the Fifth Wave series which she had never heard about. Unfortunately, she won’t have much time to read with the way her life leads her. But, at least she has the ability to borrow books when she can. 

Tim went about his week as usual but he couldn’t wait until that Wednesday to go see his girls. He had taken the entire day off to head to Philadelphia. But, we had eleven inches of snow – in the end of March! He was stuck at home and very disappointed. At least, he, Delilah and Jared had a nice snow day at home. Finally, on Friday, he drove to Philadelphia to see his wife and child and hopefully, bring them home. The look on Cassi’s face when Tim held her after all this time was priceless. I’m so glad Val got a photo. Cassi:Tim2

The hardest part was the waiting game. As Cassi was weaned from more and more of the seizure meds, we all worried. Would she be okay with the seizures? Would she have any really bad ones that could badly damage her brain and/or endanger her life? Would the doctors see what they needed to make a decision for the future? As the days went on, Cassi became more and more irritable. Val figured out that the little girl was having headaches, either from withdrawal or the absence of the meds. It was tough on both of them. By Friday, the doctors had seen all they hoped to see and Cassi never had a bad seizure (Val calls one of them, “the big one”). Cassi just before trip home form CHOPAs they ventured out of the hospital room that was “home” for five days, Val put Cassi in her gait trainer so she could finally leave the room on her own as she kept trying to do all week. Notice the boo-boo’s left by the electrodes…

From Val: “We are also scheduled for a repeat MRI and MEG scan on June 22nd. This will help determine exactly where her seizures are coming from. It will also show us what her brain has been doing the last 2.5 years since her first MRI at 5 months. (ME: this was the only MRI she has had). The doctor did state because of her bilateral bleeds she is not the ideal candidate for surgery because there is no definitive outcome. This means that any surgery might not work because the seizures just might occur in different place. However, since they found all the seizures, while we were being monitored, came from the left side this does give her a possibility of being seizure free with surgery. We are continuing the testing to determine her eligibility. Our girl is now 26lbs, 36inches and growing like a weed.

We got a call this week that she was approved for 4 days/week LIU preschool this Fall. She will attend the Learning Center with her nurse. She will ride a bus to school every day! She will have teachers, therapists and new friends to meet. She will receive speech, vision, physical and occupational therapies. We will continue with outpatient therapy for PT and speech consult and come up with a solution that, hopefully, will give Cassi a better life. It may be surgery of some kind. I pray that God leads the doctors to what will help Cassi the best.“

I learned: 

  1. Cassi is so resilient. No matter what is thrown at her, no matter how bad she feels, she eventually overcomes it and becomes that giggly girl who loves to tease. 
  2. When Cassi was free of all seizure meds, she was a different girl. Val and Tim saw a child that did not have to struggle to get a toy to work or to push buttons on her communicator. They saw just Cassidy Renee Why – and it nearly broke their hearts. Because it is highly unlikely that she will ever be seizure free so she will always require medication that will dull her brain and hide Cassi deep inside. It breaks my heart, too. 
  3. I can still be a librarian! What fun to discuss books with Tim and then, Val! I wrote down the titles of the books that Tim has read and I plan to read them, too, so we will have more to talk about. 
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Ya-ya’s Adventures,Year Two, Episode 4

It has been a great joy babysitting these three grand girls. It’s even more special living with Leah and Hannah. At first though, I had a bit of difficulty getting them to all their destinations on time. Since I have Delilah on a rotating schedule, my times to transport them to school changes. If I have Delilah on a Monday, Wednesday, or a Friday, all of us get into the NanaVan and travel to Delilah’s bus stop around 8:00AM. If both Delilah and Leah are going to their schools, I take Delilah to school at 8:30 AM. The second day of the “two schools” schedule, the girls were on their devices keeping busy while I tended to Hannah in another room. After awhile, Delilah comes to me and asks if she is going to school that day or staying home. I said she was going to school but we still had lots of time. As I sat in the room feeding Hannah, I gave serious thought to Delilah‘s question. Then, I realized I was thinking that I was to get Delilah to school at Leah’s time, which is 9:20. It was 8:45 and Delilah ‘s school had started! She was late! I rushed everyone into the car (thank goodness there was no need for coats yet) and rushed to Delilah ‘s school. I had to get all three girls out of the car and walk around the sidewalk to the main entrance. Then, I had to sign Delilah into school. Poor girl was all confused since she was just in kindergarten and didn’t understand what was happening It was 9:10. Could I get the other two little girls back into the car and to Leah’s school in time? I just made it. By the time I returned home and got Leah down for a nap, I took a nap, too. Before I napped, I send a message to both Val and Tim explaining what had happened and apologizing. Tim messaged back, “Silly Nana!” I haven’t done that since and I’m sure I never will.

A couple of weeks into the school year, Val messaged me a question: “How did I make Delilah’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” Apparently Delilah had told her mom that my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were perfect and she wanted one just like that. I was kind of proud that MY peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made such an impression! I went over the details of making Nana’s perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Later, I found out that Delilah didn’t want the sandwich any way it was made. She was just being particular. My sandwiches weren’t so perfect after all.

One Saturday, when I was “off duty”, that is not babysitting, Leah kept coming into my room. She does that often because I am a part of her family just like her mommy and daddy. But, this one time, I was busy enough that I didn’t want to be disturbed. Leah came into my room so often, that I said, “You again!” and frowned. The next time she came in, this three year old said, “Yup, it’s me again!” Now, how can I frown at that?

Another time, while I was babysitting and feeding Hannah, Leah was playing in another room. That’s what I thought. But, she burst into the room- with Crayola marker all over her face! She was so excited to show off her creation, until she saw my face. She said she wanted to be a dog- and she had done very well- with a black nose, dots on her face, black eyes, and black lips! All I could think of was getting that stuff away from her mouth before it poisoned her. It WAS Crayola so there was no harm, thank goodness. Rachel was disappointed that I didn’t take a picture before I washed it off.

Delilah was with me on a day her school was closed. She was not in a very good mood that day, with several melt downs throughout the morning. I had planned a visit to the library for story time and a craft but she wasn’t happy about going. The story was about “filling other’s buckets”, which is a concept about everyone having a bucket of good feelings. Our buckets can get low or empty when bad things happen or someone is not nice to us. All of us should make sure we fill the buckets of those around us with good feelings. I thought it was a great idea for Delilah with her mood. Delilah didn’t think so. It took convincing to get her to make the bucket craft and her mood did not improve on the ride home. But the kicker was when we walked into the house and Delilah announced that, “She wasn’t going to fill anybody’s bucket today!” So true, so true!

Leah loves to do things with me. Seeing how excited she gets over helping me with my laundry helps me enjoy the chore. My laundry hamper is on the first floor but the washer is in the basement so we throw my dirty clothes down the basement steps. Anything that doesn’t go all the way down gets kicked to the bottom as we walk down. I used to make Leah sit on the steps and go down on her bottom but she’s too big for that, she tells me. We go to the washer and she throws the detergent pod in. Then, she drags the clothes from the bottom of the steps to the washer where I sort it. If it’s something small to go in, she gets to toss it in. I have to watch because she gets a bit enthusiastic and sometimes throws the clothes behind the washer which is not good. The sorted clothes for another wash go into a basket. The washer lid goes down and Leah wants to be lifted up so she can push the “on” button. It takes both of her thumbs to push on the button and start the washer. The lid is clear so we watch the clothes getting wet for awhile before heading upstairs.

Occasionally, I take her to the grocery store with me. The last time I did, she insisted on wearing her tiara to the store. She did not want to sit in the cart so she walked right alongside me, holding onto the cart the entire time. Of course, she had to use the bathroom since I had forgotten to ask her to go before we left. Our half full grocery cart had to sit outside while I took her in. I swear she believed she was royalty when the people in the store talked to her and called her princess! When we got to the checkout, she asked the clerk for a sticker, please. She carried the toilet paper rolls into the house for me and told her mommy all about our trip.

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Leah playing with sticks in the yard – with her tiara…

One night she woke up Rachel with loud hysterical screams! There was a huge bug in the hall! Turned out to be a black sock. Another time she screamed she was stuck in the bathroom. A stink bug was on the door preventing her passing.

We watched the leaves fall from the trees a few weeks ago and she said that there were a lot of leaves on the ground. I asked her what Daddy was going to do with them and she said, “Rake them”. But, she can’t say the letter “R” so it came out, “Yake them”.IMG_0181[1] I asked her what Daddy uses to “yake” the leaves and she told me he uses a “yaker”. I’m going to miss all those mispronounced words when she gets older. For awhile, she couldn’t say the letter “N”, so that was how I became Ya-ya. But now I’m Nana. I miss being Ya-ya.

This past weekend, Rachel and Mike bought a new dining table. To save the money, they put it together themselves. When I came out of my room to see what it looked like, there was Leah lying on her back under the table watching her daddy, on his back, tightening all the screws.IMG_0180[1]

Went I entered my bedroom one evening, I found two dolls occupying my bed. Leah said they needed a place to sleep. IMG_1875[1]

Believe me when I say how much I love babysitting, especially living with Rachel’s family. There will be a time when I’ll have a place of my own but not yet. I would miss too much!

I learned:

There is never a dull moment in the Why households! From Na-na’s miscalculations, to Delilah’s announcements, to Leah’s antics, I never know what is going to happen next or when!IMG_0143[1]

Delilah’s teddy bear parade at school.

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Leah is picking tomatoes from the garden.

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James

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Hannah standing at the front door, just as her sister and older girl cousins did.

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Hannah gets to wear the tiara!

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Cassi in her walker

IMG_0049[1] Trinity

Ya-Ya Adventures, Year Two, Episode 5

This school year has been an interesting one. There’s been lots of illness all around, lots of days off due to snow, bitter cold and wind, and lots of stress with terroristic threats in the local school district. All through it, my days are the same, yet different each day. 

If I have Delilah, there is a car ride to either the bus stop or the school. There is time home with Leah and Hannah and afternoons (sometimes) and evenings off to pursue my own interests.

My girlfriend, Peggy, and I went to two plays so far. One was The Mousetrap, a murder mystery written by the famed Agatha Christie. I remember reading all of her books when I was a teen. She had to be one of the first to write murder mysteries with an occurring lead character- sometimes, Hercule Poirot, and other times, Miss Marple. I loved all of them with And Then There Were None being my favorite. Unfortunately, there is a flood of murder-mystery-thriller authors now so Dame Christie has been pushed to the past. I was amazed that Peggy had never read an Agatha Christie story and I encouraged her to do so soon. As the play continued, I remembered who the real villain was. I enjoyed watching the story play out as well as I remembered from reading it. 

We followed that with Guys and Dolls a few months later. I have seen it on many stages, from high school and college stages to more professional venues as we were viewing. I am always thrilled by the music, loving “I’ll Know”, delighting in “Take Back Your Mink”, singing along with “Luck Be a Lady”, and crying to “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”. I do have a hate/love relationship with love songs. 

I have strived to give my ten percent to God since I retired as the Bible tells us to do. It is not just ten percent of our earnings but also should be in service to Him in some way or another. I have chosen to work behind the scenes of our children’s Sunday School to set up the classrooms for each lesson. Each week, I gather the materials required in the lesson plan and place them in a bin for each class. We have three classes as this moment, two at nine o’clock and one at ten forty-five. This past month, I had to make a shadow box for the preschool class, and fishing poles, with magnets attached, for the ten forty-five class. I cut out fish from the story, attached paperclips to them, and the teacher had a student “fish” for a particular one as she told a section of the story. I gathered boxes of all sizes for another lesson on Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. The children built the wall with the boxes as the teacher told the story. IMG_0001My job is all in the background and it gives me a thrill to prepare these materials for each class every week. The church secretary prints out all the things I need but I also make or buy other things such as “fleece” for the story about Gideon. Sometimes, I have to attach butcher paper to the classroom wall for the teacher to illustrate on. It can take me an hour one week or four hours total, with some time preparing things at home, another week. It is an excellent job for a retired teacher. And, I have never felt this useful to God!

Hannah walks all the time now and gets into everything in seconds when one of us is not paying attention. She got into the dishwasher pods and bit into one. Rachel was home and screamed for me. I had my glasses off and on my lap. Well, I leaped to my feet to go to the kitchen and my glasses flew somewhere. A blind as a bat person cannot find their glasses if they cannot see them. Rachel “drowned” her in water to wash out the pod ingredients and I went online to the poison control center. All was well – Rachel got to her immediately and Hannah did no more than get a taste in her mouth. Rachel found my glasses when the crisis was over. We have a latch on the kitchen doors now but that didn’t stop Hannah from trying it again a few weeks later when Rachel was cooking dinner.IMG_0228

She got as far as holding one in each hand before Rachel took them away. She tries really hard to talk but you have to be aware of what the situation is when she says her words as they aren’t very clear. It’s easy to understand “book” when she is dropping books on my lap but not as easy to understand “eat” when we are not in the kitchen. Her favorite is “da-da-da-da”, which she yells at the top of her lungs. It’s not hard to realize that she loves her daddy!

Rachel’s school, our local high school, put on Beauty and the Beast as their musical this year. I invited Val with Delilah, Mary with Trinity, and Rachel with Leah to go with me. There was a tea with Belle before the show which was a wonderful thing for the moms and their girls to attend. All the girls were in love with the musical, especially Trinity. After the show, cast members came into the lobby for a meet and greet. Trinity searched for every character and hugged them all. It didn’t matter if they were Gaston or a “plate”, she gushed over how good they were. Her favorite was Lumiere which wasn’t difficult to realize. The young man who played the character is a gifted actor with an awesome personality. He was Sebastian two years ago when the school put on The Little Mermaid and Trinity knew him right away. Rachel and I took Trinity and Delilah to see that. He knew Trinity, too! He knelt down on the floor to talk to her and she didn’t want to leave him. He as so patient with her and kept in character the entire time. It was a memorable afternoon for everyone, especially the three little girls. 

IMG_0128 Trinity and Lumiere

I was sick with bronchitis, sinusitis and then a stomach virus throughout the fall/winter. I topped it all off with a bout of the flu. I don’t remember having the flu in a very long time and I was really sick. It happened the same week that the terroristic threats began in our local school district. Rachel works at the high school and the entire school district was shut down until the creator of the threats could be found. She was off work and I didn’t have to babysit. Delilah also got the flu and was home with Mommy or Daddy. The following week, Rachel took off one day and Mike took off another. I was very weak but felt good enough to care for the little girls a half day and then, the last two days of the work week. 

We have been plagued with mini-snowstorms that don’t amount to much but cause too much havoc in the mornings for schools to be open. Most school districts have lost five or six days to these next-to-nothing snows. And, last week, on the first day of Spring, we got eighteen inches! That has GOT to be the last of them, I’m pretty sure. Who says God doesn’t have a good sense of humor???IMG_0116 Leah and Delilah on our deck on a snow day.

The terroristic threats began the week after a terrible school shooting occurred  in Florida, where seventeen people lost their lives. Schools across the United States were in turmoil with many receiving threats from children in their school districts who were fascinated by all the attention the shooting brought. When the threats occurred, our area created a council consisting of administration from the school district, our local police department, the district attorney, and another federal agency that was never named. They worked tirelessly to find the perpetrator for nearly a week. Our district attorney said that he felt concerned for his children in the future as he witnessed social media in all of its ugliness throughout the investigation. We were all stressed, even Leah, who could not attend preschool because the preschool is in the high school. Rachel explained to her that a bad person had said bad things about the school and no one could go to school until that person was found. When it was over and she was due to go back to preschool, she told her mommy that she was scared a bit about going back. Rachel reminded her that Jesus was always with her. She said, “Yes, He’s in my heart.” And then, after a few seconds, she asked, “How can He protect me if He is in my heart and I’m on the outside?” Any theologians want to tackle that one? 

I learned: 

  1. I don’t believe in coincidences so I’m wondering… Did God allow me to have the flu just when those terroristic threats occurred and the school district was called off or was it the other way around? Either way, God took care of the problem by having Rachel off school without having to take personal or sick days.
  2. Even very young children, such as Leah, can grasp the concept of bad people trying to hurt the school and the concept that God is always with her. I’m glad she knows that she is safe no matter where she goes. 
  3. Serving the Lord is one of the best ways we can show Him our love. And He reciprocates by filling us up with His Love. Praise Him!

Ya-ya’s Adventures, Year Two, Episode 3

The summer is long gone and Christmas is on its way. I look back and am amazed about how busy I have been! While Rachel, Mike and the little girls were on vacation, I had the house to myself. The absolute quiet was the most noticeable thing. No talking, laughter, crying, nothing! Even today, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Mike and Rachel are out and I’m here, keeping a watch on the girls while they are sleeping. But, it’s not completely quiet. The monitor showing me that the girls are sleeping is also playing Leah’s sleeping music and Hannah’s white noise. There is always sound, of some kind, here. But, that week, it was nothing. I played music to fill up the quiet.

I invited Aaron’s family over for a dinner. Aaron was working but the rest came, including BJ’s boys. Mary brought her sister, Jaz, too. IMG_0099I love my conversations with my grownup kids. Even if they are not my kids by blood, they are by marriage. The grandchildren played in the yard while we had a nice adult conversation. Later that week, I went to Val and Tim’s house and enjoyed an evening there. It is difficult for them to go out because of all the equipment that comes with Cassi so I brought chicken from a local franchise which Jared and Delilah love. Again, it was another lovely evening of grownup conversation. I cherish these times especially because they are rare.

Also, that week, I helped out at the local Epilepsy Walk. I’m not all that keen on walking on a hot summer day so I volunteered to get the lunches ready.

We wrapped hotdogs and assembled lunches for over one hundred people. Tim and the entire family were there, with Cassi, to do the walk. Some people who work with Cassi also walked in her name. Val created shirts that we all purchased with the logo, “C. Why We Walk” in purple which is the color for Epilepsy Awareness. It was a worthwhile event.

The Sunday that Rachel and Mike returned, my entire family, my parents, and my Aunt Ginny went to the Grove Reunion. This line of family comes from my mother’s father’s side. My mother’s maiden name was Grove. Many years ago, when I was a child, the Reunion was very large with relatives from Uncle Dan’s, Uncle Ray’s, Aunt Rhoda’s, and my grandfather’s family attending. Then, it dropped to just Uncle Dan and my grandfather’s family along with one of Aunt Rhoda’s grandson’s family. It’s still just those families but we have added another generation so it can be a lot of people again. Uncle Dan and his entire family own many, many acres of land that they farm and raise pigs and chickens. It’s a different way of life from us city people and so fascinating to learn about. Most of them are volunteers in their local fire department so we hear stories about the fires and the rescues they have made.

I also spent time with my parents. Mom really needs the company because Daddy just doesn’t do much talking. We celebrated his 84th birthday in the middle of August. He didn’t know it was his birthday, though. Another time, I took them to a concert at one of the local colleges to see the Army Jazz band. Both of them really enjoyed that. These military concerts are free and display so much amazing talent! There is always a military tribute near the end when the musicians play all the military songs for each branch of the military. Dad was in the Marines. We had to tell him when it was his turn to stand and be recognized because he doesn’t remember the music anymore.

We all were sad to spend the last day of the season at the pool we belong to. I had Delilah with me along with Rachel and family. We were hoping to just enjoy the water as always but the pool management had lots of activities planned for the last day. Neither Delilah or Leah were old enough or agile enough in the water to participate so we just watched the games and guessed who was going to win the races. Hopefully next year, Delilah will be able to take part in something.

All too quickly, summer was over and I was babysitting Leah and baby Hannah on a daily basis. Delilah also came in the morning for breakfast. Then, I put all three in the NanaVan to take Delilah to her bus stop. She is now in all day kindergarten.

Just an anecdote about that first few days-Val wanted to talk to Delilah about appropriate touching when she plays on the playground. She was concerned about hitting and pushing. So, she explained all this to Delilah and asked if anyone was touching her in the ways that Val had just explained. Delilah say, “Oh, yes! Trevor kisses me all the time and I like it! We are going to get married!”

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take Delilah to her school and then, Hannah and I take Leah to preschool for the morning. Because Delilah has to be in school by 8:45 and Leah doesn’t have to be in school until 9:20, Leah, Hannah and I sit outside the high school, that has her preschool in it, while we wait. Leah gets to sit in the front seat which delights her to no end. IMG_0019The window goes up and down, the cover to the moonroof opens and shuts, the sunshade goes up and down, the mirror on the sunshade opens and closes and the seat belt clicks shut, then open, then shut, then open. It’s a wonder she isn’t exhausted when it’s time for school to start. I am just watching all, of this activity!

Those travels in the car are long for Hannah, especially. But, she’s so good about it. She plays with a few toys I give her and takes short naps. Seldom does she cry and if she does, it’s only for a few minutes. When Leah is home, she watches TV or plays on my phone for awhile in the morning. Hannah plays on the floor in my little room. When we began our time together at the end of August, Hannah could not even sit up. She did not roll over either. Rachel took her to a specialist because she wasn’t making any sounds but occasional crying and she didn’t look at us when we called her name. Since I have had a hearing loss all my life (discovered in first grade), we aren’t really sure if the hearing loss isn’t hereditary. My father’s father also had a loss of hearing. So, Rachel needed to check on Hannah. She passed all the hearing tests they could give a little one who is only six months and recommended that Hannah be retested at a year.

But, the past months have been an incredible growth period for Hannah. Now, she not only rolls over, but she sits herself up, pulls herself up to a stand, can sit back down, and crawls everywhere. She babbles all the time and responds to anyone calling her name. She’ll look at you and then crawl right over. She eats table foods by the handfuls and makes the sign language for “more”. If you hold her hands, she wants to walk. She waves “hi” and “goodbye” and shakes her head “no”. It’s a wonder to watch her!

I learned:

1. I am constantly amazed at God’s creations! Watching Hannah go from a helpless infant that can only suck milk and look at you to what Hannah does today is a true miracle! And every child that is a normal child does these things- all over the planet! Even Cassi with all of her disabilities is working hard at turning over and grabbing things. I’ve watched my children and now, my grandchildren, do through the same things in the same order pretty much the same time of their life.

2. My children and their families make me proud. I listen to them talk and I think, “That’s the little boy who loved trains, or that’s the little girl who wanted to be so independent and he was the little boy who learned so fast, the school put him in a progressive class with grades two to five all together. And, I look at their spouses and remember how different they are from the first day I met them. And all of this is good according to God’s timing.

Ya-Ya’s Adventures, Year Two, Episode 2

Some of the family celebrated Cassi’s second birthday in July. We celebrated the advances that Cassi has made but we were also very aware of the setbacks from the past year.

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Happy second birthday, Cassi!

Val and Tim have gone through NINE nurses in this year. Only two were true gems – people who truly cared about Cassi as a person. The others either lasted a few days or weeks. After talking with someone in Maxim, the nursing agency, we sort of figured out that the nurses expect a child who is barely mobile and not at all cognizant. But, Cassi WANTS to be mobile. She is frustrated when all the nurses do is let her lay on the floor (on her mat) or in her swing. She wants to do things!

Cassi has an array of toys that challenge her mind and senses. She loves to sit up in her wheelchair and play with them. She likes to be in her stander or her walker. Cassi in her walker with a therapist.

 She loves being outside and she throughly enjoys the water at the pool. Her little legs go a mile a minute!

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Swinging feels so free!

This year, she knew the party was for her and her smile made us all happy. She beamed while we sang “Happy Birthday” and beamed as Mom and Dad opened her birthday gifts. She received a red balloon (red is her favorite color) that she held in one hand and pulled it up and down all the while bopping her head against it. She knew what she was doing. It was her way to connect with the balloon since she doesn’t have full vision and can’t grasp it. She knew all of us. When I stood by her and rubbed her back, I called her “Cassi-girl” as I always do. She turned her head towards me and showed her Cassi grin while reaching to touch my face. When Rachel calls to her, she makes a sound that she always does just for Rachel, sort of an “aaahhh”, because Rachel always makes that sound too.

The two nurses that worked well both left. The first had previously applied for a government job and did not hear about it until she was with Cassi for a few weeks. She thought she wasn’t going to get it but she did. She was sad when she left and keeps in touch often. The second nurse that was great was a male nurse, who served several tours in Afghanistan. One day, he just quit. He said his PTSD was getting worse with Cassi’s crying.

Cassi has many problems that interfere with her quality of life. There are two big ones – the seizures and the ability to absorb her nutrients into her body. They go hand in hand. The g-tube puts the food/nutrients into her but, sometimes, they pass straight through. This is called “dumping” and is very awful diarrhea that goes everywhere. Because of this “dumping”, not all of her seizure meds are actually absorbed. So, her seizures continue. Cassi is on the maximum dose of two seizure meds but the seizures do not stop. She is also very vulnerable to germs. Nearly every time she gets sick (this winter was bad), she lands in the hospital with throwing up and frequent seizures. She has tests after tests with changes to the way she takes in nutrients or the nutrients themselves but nothing, so far, has been successful. Some days/weeks are really bad and she cries continuously but other times, she is such a brave and happy little girl.

All I can do is keep praying for all of them. I know that Val and Tim need to feel God’s power and comfort so they can keep being strong but I’m never sure what to pray about for Cassi. There are so many things. I just ask God to do what He knows best.

Vacations were much different this year than last. Val and Tim went on their own and so did Rachel and Mike. They even went to different places at different times. I did not go with either of the families so I created a vacation of my own. I have a friend, Holly, from elementary school, believe it or not. I have been keeping in touch with her all these years. She moved away from the area when we were in sixth grade but I traveled by bus to visit her many summers or we met at a summer camp. When she married, she moved to many different states but came back to visit with her family here. We always made some time to meet, even if it was only for a few hours. She moved farther away and most of her family did too, so we didn’t meet for many years. But, we always wrote many-page letters to each other at least twice a year.

In 2008, I flew to North Carolina to meet her for a week. It was such a magical time. I hadn’t flown since my honeymoon in 1975 and I couldn’t count that as actually flying since everything has changed about security since 2001. A few years later, she and her husband moved to Las Vegas, so this summer, I decided to visit her again.

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Welcome to Las Vegas!

This required  a change of planes on the way down and an overnight flight home three days later. I found out I LOVE flying! The taking off is so thrilling – that thrust of the engines that pushes you back in your seat and the moment that you see the plane leave the earth- what a rush! Landing is a bit stressful – that earth comes up SO fast! Too bad it’s so expensive to fly anywhere because I’d fly all over the United States. I was frustrated that I could not sleep on the plane like I hoped so I’m not too sure how I’ll do with a flight across the ocean. It was a wonderful to see Holly again. We went to see a Cirque du Soleil show and a made trip to the Hoover Dam. IMG_1801I did not do ANY gambling. I just could not take my hard-earned dollars and let a machine gobble them up knowing that I would never see that money again. And I wouldn’t enjoy the time while it disappeared. What do I know of gambling? I don’t even play the lottery for the same reason! I certainly didn’t mind spending my money on good food and great places to site-see. Hoover Dam was totally awesome. I am an info-junky so I loved the tour and the tour-guide’s talk in the power plant. I read every sign on the walls. We walked up to the bridge over the Colorado River to see the dam from high up and I straddled both Nevada and Arizona on the walkway. IMG_1803The hardest thing to see, and I never got used to in Nevada, was the lack of green anything. The land is brown, brown, and more brown.

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Colorado River

The houses are all stucco and painted very light colors. Greenery is palm trees and cacti. Too barren for me. I was glad to see the lush lawn and summer flowers of my own home when I returned.

Holly, and her husband, Dan, are discussing retirement in the next year. They plan to leave Las Vegas and move back east, maybe buy a travel trailer and move around the country. I hope to catch up with them in the future but I don’t ever plan to go back to Las Vegas. Once is enough.

I learned:

  1. We just never know where life will take Cassi. She has had so many improvements since her first birthday. I know she is in God’s hands. I just wish I knew what His plans were for her.
  2. It still amazes me that Holly and I can still pick up as good friends after all these years. We are so different! She and Dan returned from a bike ride on Tuesday morning because it was raining. Dan said Holly was giving him a hard time because he wimped out and only rode 8 miles! I struggle to walk up the street and back. I do not like exercise, unfortunately. She was never afraid to do things on her own and went many places with just her son and her little car for years. I am just now getting brave enough to try and travel on my own. But, we both loved reading, and that was always our bond. She is an amazing friend.

Ya-ya’s Adventures – Year Two, Episode 1


Now, that a year has passed in Ya-ya’s Adventures, the format will change a bit. Instead of posting about the weeks in my life, I will post adventures as they happen, not in the weeks that they occur. I still have much to tell about my life, my children’s lives, and my grandchildren’s lives, especially updates on Cassidy with her ongoing battles with her disabilities. The adventures may be grouped together as events or they may be posted as one adventure.

The month of June brought about Vacation Bible School again. This is a week long event for children ages three through sixth grade and involves singing, Bible stories, crafts, games and snacks. It is held in my church for five mornings. I have volunteered for this for many years now and it is an exciting time. This year, both Delilah and Leah attended. I would LOVE to have Mary and Aaron’s children come also but I just didn’t have the time or the transportation to include everyone. I would need a mini school bus for that. I tried to convince Aaron to bring them but it was difficult to get them all ready and to come across the city to the church, I suppose.

Delilah remembered the fun she had last year so she was so excited to attend. Leah was a bit reluctant but she got into it once she was there. The teachers and assistants in her class were great at directing her to an activity so I could slip out the door.

The first day, all children decorated megaphones which went along with our theme. At the closing of the morning, over 200 children were seated on the church pews and tooting into their megaphones. It was pure chaos! Pastor Dave tried to corral the noise by having every child toot into their craft for a minute or two at the beginning of the closing exercises. But, the children were loving the noise too much to put them down when he asked! Thank goodness, the noise makers (children AND megaphones) went home at noon. Only the children came back the next day, thank goodness!

On the last day, all the children stand, by classes, on the front steps of the church sanctuary to sing several of the songs we all learned during the week. Each song has a series of very energetic motions to go along with the singing. Leah and Delilah were just a few rows apart so Leah pushed through the other children so she could stand next to her cousin. Parents are invited to attend the closing exercises so Rachel and Val both watched their children be as cute as they could be – together and Delilah sang and Leah watched her. It was so sweet to see Leah trying to do the motions just as her big cousin did.

On Father’s Day, I went to visit my parents for the afternoon. My father did not understand what Father’s Day was anymore but he did enjoy my company. Mom says that he is more confused in the evenings. He has asked where his children are, as if we still live with them. And, he has even asked about his brothers that are no longer on this earth. He forgets that he is not a young boy living with his brothers in his parents’ house.

This Fourth of July, America’s birthday, I had a cookout/party for all my children and grandchildren and my parents. I was in my glory with seven of my eight grandchildren all running around together. Jared was on vacation with his father and step-mother as he usually is this time of year and Hannah didn’t actually run since she was only four months old. Val was not there either because it was a working night. After the picnic, Tim, Mary and Aaron and their children went to the community park for fireworks. Rachel’s family stayed home because of the late hour and Cassidy was with a sitter. It was a crazy time because we had an hour to wait until the big event. We got there early to be able to find a decent parking spot and place to put our chairs.IMG_1725 The kids ran around screaming and chasing each other and all the parents were put to the edge of their sanity until the fireworks went off. Mary and Aaron’s crew had never seen fireworks before because of the late hour for the little ones. James yelled to me, “Nana! It keeps making a loud sound!” The next day, Mike set off some small fireworks on the street in front of our house for Leah to enjoy. She was frightened of the popping and screaming and she cried. Better luck next year.

Later that week, Trinity came over to spend the night with Delilah at our house. They just love to be together! IMG_0049Now, Leah is so excited to join her big cousins, even though they are not as excited to have her with them. The next morning, Rachel and I packed lunches and got four little girls ready for the pool. “Moana”, the Disney character, was going to be there to read the children a story. After the story, she sang her theme song and invited all the children in attendance to sing with her. My eyes teared up as my three oldest granddaughters sang the song – word for word- along with Moana.

Leah wearing her lei.

Trinity with Moana

Even three year old Leah knows all the words. After the singing and storytelling, everyone got a lei. We were near the back and when it looked like the adults were going to run out of leis to hand out, Trinity pushed her way to the front to get leis for her, Delilah and Leah. Story time was followed by several hours in the pool. Trinity was just as daring as Delilah, maybe more so even though she has never had much opportunity to go swimming in a large pool such as this. I just stood in the three to four feet of water and watched them chase each other in the pool and continuously jump off the side to make big splashes all over me. When Rachel and I announced it was time to leave, Trinity walked as slowly as she could to the exit. All three girls cried because they didn’t want to leave (and they were very tired) so it was quite noisy in the car!

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I learned:

  1. My church does an excellent job of presenting God’s Word to many children. The weeklong event of Vacation Bible School takes many, many volunteers to make it run smoothly. All of these people, men, women and teens, take time out of their lives to devote to these children, many of whom are not members of our church. God is good indeed and so are His people!
  2. The times with my children and grandchildren are so precious! I cherish each moment we spend together as a family. My heart fills to overflowing as I enjoy my time with them!
  3. The times with my parents are just as precious. I don’t know how long these times can continue since both of my parents are in their mid-eighties, but I’m going to enjoy them every moment we have together!

 

Ya-ya’s Adventures: Weeks 51 – 52

Aaah, Summer!
This post marks the first anniversary of Ya-Ya’s Adventures! What a busy and eventful year!

June marks the “halfway” point of all the spring/summer birthday celebrations. Leah’s birthday was next, on June 10. She was very excited about this birthday. Leah is quite aware of what a birthday means and what happens during a birthday celebration. She was quite excited for her special day and finally turning three years old. Rachel and Mike took her on a day trip to celebrate. Mike’s mother came to the house to watch Hannah because I had a wedding to attend.

My good friend, Kim, from my teaching days, invited me to celebrate the wedding of her daughter, Meredith. I haven’t been to a wedding since Aaron and Mary’s wedding three years ago. I knew Meredith growing up and it is wonderful to see her as a successful young woman. She has completed her pharmacy degree and she and her husband, Joseph, are both completing residencies in a hospital in another state.

Joseph’s father is a minister and he officiated at their wedding in a beautiful chapel in a city nearby. The ceremony was intimate and lovely! The reception was held across the road from the chapel. I had the privilege of sitting at the table with Kim and her husband and the rest of their family. I sat next to Kim’s mother and really enjoyed the evening chatting with this dear lady. I hope I’m as sharp and healthy as she is when I’m in my eighties! It was an enjoyable evening. And I got there and home all by myself (GPS helped).

The next day was Leah’s party. Friends and family gathered outside for the festivities. Leah is totally into princesses so she wanted a Rapunzel party. Her cake was Rapunzel’s face and the cupcake icing was her long hair. Leah and her cousins and friends played on the slides and got thoroughly wet with the sprinkler. I sat with my parents and ex-husband under a tree where it was a bit cooler. The water balloon fight was great fun for Mike, Tim and all the kids! I bought Leah a Rapunzel dress since she loves to dress up. Her third birthday was a great event enjoyed by all.

The following Sunday, I made a move outside of my box again and took a bus to Dover, Delaware to see a NASCAR race. People who “know” me are surprised that I like to watch car racing. I know I don’t fit the “typical” persona of a NASCAR fan but I do enjoy racing. I don’t have a favorite driver, but I do root for several different drivers. I watch the race every weekend from beginning to end. Growing up, my family loved sprint car racing. My parents would take the three of us kids to the local tracks. My mother’s parents followed racing so the tradition went back a few generations. Mom’s sister is die-hard racing fan. She has one favorite driver that she routes for and has memorabilia stored in a special room in her house. On race days, she flies a NASCAR flag from her mailbox. We email back and forth about the race we are watching and it’s lots of fun.

I had never, ever been to a real race. Dover is close enough to make a day trip so I went online several months ago to see what tour buses were available. A gentleman, named Jack, ran sports tours very close to me and had a bus scheduled for Dover. I made my reservation and paid my fee so there was no backing out. It was interesting that Jack emailed me asking if there was one or two people coming. Guess he wasn’t used to scheduling trips for single people, especially women.

When I retired, I made up my mind that I was going to go places and do things that I wanted to do even though I was alone. I go with friends to many places but I like some things they do not, such as classical music and NASCAR racing. If I want to see these things, I must accept the fact that it is okay to go by myself.

The day could not have been more perfect. There was a threat of rain in the forecast at the beginning of the week but by Sunday, the rain chances were down to 20%. It was very sunny but cool. I wasn’t sure what would be comfortable to wear – jeans or shorts. I settled on capris which was perfect. The length kept the sun off the top of my legs yet were cool enough to feel good. Since the race was dedicated to “Autism Speaks”, I bought a t-shirt that said, “I support autism because of my grandson”. I added an “S” to grandson to honor both Jared and Zae. I had a small purse that went across my body so I didn’t have to carry it and carried a small cooler filled with water and a few snacks. I drank all the water during the race plus grabbed another water at lunch. Lunch was a tailgating affair hosted by Jack with a buffet lunch under a canopy by the bus. Even though I drank all that water, which helped with the heat, I did not have to use the bathroom during the race. That was a good thing because my seat was on row 55. The stadium had 60 rows. There was an elevator that brought us to the 30th row but we all had to walk up 25 more rows. I was so out of breath climbing up that I sat down on a seat at row 45 to catch my breath. I just hoped that no one came to claim that seat. There was NO way I was going to climb back down those steps until the race was over!  IMG_1693

The race was so exciting! I was high enough to see the entire track. Turn two was the farthest away and, as luck would have it, that’s where the most wrecks were. My aunt recommended that I listen to MRN, the racing station, so that I would know what was going on but my phone just could not connect to the Internet consistently. So, most of the time, I had no idea what was happening. There was a tower that posted the lap number and the top twenty cars in order but most of the race, the car number in the lead was not one I was familiar with. I know who drives that car now, though.

I sat in turn four which is where the cars start “pushing the petal to the metal” so they are up to speed when they pass under the green flag on the front stretch. The first time that they started upping their speed to the green flag, was so loud and exciting that I just screamed! I wasn’t the only one, of course. I will never forget the fun I had but I’m not sure if I’ll go again. There was way too much walking and climbing for me. It took two days to recuperate when I got home. My poor legs and back! I sent three emails to my aunt detailing all my experiences! She was the only one I knew that would understand the great time I had.
I learned:

  1. This is the second bus trip I have gone on by myself. Last summer, I went to New York. Both times, I had both seats to myself. That may be the norm when you are single but it sure is more comfortable.
  2. God is still taking care of me when I try something new. I was “worried” about several things, such as how hot it would be, what the other people on the bus would be like, and wether I would like the tailgating food. Anything could be off and take away the enjoyment of my trip but all was wonderful. Thanks be to God – again

Ya-ya’s Adventures: Weeks 48-50

Aaah! Spring!

Since Val and I had been to a Paint Nite evening in March, I wanted to go with my other daughter-in-law, Mary. Since she works nights – Monday through Friday, starting at 9PM, it was hard to find a workable time for her schedule plus Aaron works 4PM to close at a restaurant in the city. They rely on her mother and sisters to help with the children, along with Zak, who is Draven’s dad (Draven is BJ’s oldest son-six years old). Once we settled on an evening, the next thing was to decide on a painting that both of us would like to do. With both of those items settled, we set out with water and snacks to Pinot Palette to paint a sunset. It was lots of fun and I love the painting. Mary is not shy to ask lots of questions of our guide. Me, I’m so centered on not bothering anybody, that I seldom ask anything of anyone unless I absolutely need to. But, sitting next to Mary, I benefitted from her questions because they were the same questions that I had.

Mother’s Day and my birthday are always a few days apart which can be expensive for my children. I have always told them to chose one special day or the other to celebrate, not both. They always give me cards for both special days no matter what. Aaron celebrated Mother’s Day by taking Mary’s mother, Mary, BJ, and me to dinner. He even called ahead to make sure they were open and if they had a special Mother’s Day menu. This was a pleasant awakening on my part. Yes, I know he has three children and runs a tight household on a limited budget. But, to actually think ahead and make plans is a pleasant assurance that he REALLY is an adult. I keep thinking he’s that forgetful kid I knew long ago.

My birthday was just two a couple of days later. My parents took me out to dinner on the following Sunday, Tim brought me flowers to plant in my large planters and garden, and Rachel and Mike treated me to a very good homemade dinner. I love their diversity and appreciate their thoughtfulness. Everything was perfect! And the flowers are beautiful!

With Tim’s flowers, I was excited to get the gardens, deck boxes and planters filled again. But, it rained and rained and rained! By the time Memorial Day came, I was so sick of rain and cold. I wanted to get out of slippers and my shawl and go barefoot with shorts and short sleeves. When was that going to happen?

Finally, the rain stopped for a few days, long enough to dry out the gardens so I didn’t plant in mud. I love choosing flowers for the garden. I grab a cart at a local garden store and make my way up and down the aisles trying to decide on what to buy and what color. Since this is our fifth year in this house, you would think it would be easy. But, there are so many wonderful kinds of annuals in a myriad of colors! I have to think of what works in the deck boxes and containers as opposed to the flower garden in the front of the house. I have to think of what flowers need full sun and what flowers need lots of light but little or no direct sun.

Over the years, I have planted enough perennials to fill in most of the garden, including day lilies, roses, black-eyed susans, and coneflowers. I just buy annuals for the front border of the garden, the planters, and the deck boxes. Once I am finished, the garden blooms all through the summer with different flowers. It is most beautiful!


I learned:

  1. It’s nice to “hide” behind someone who is bolder than I am when it comes to getting answers to questions. I get irritated with myself when I have questions and comments but lack the nerve to “bother” the hostess. It’s not that I’m shy but that I don’t want to bother anybody, even though the hostess always tells us that questions are welcomed. When someone else asks the same questions I need answered, I can get answers without making myself uncomfortable.
  2. My children and grandchildren make a point to recognize me on my special days. All the other holidays and gatherings are for other people, usually the children, but Mother’s Day and my birthday are just for me (yes, I make time for MY mother, too). It’s nice when I feel their love.
  3. I never forget that it is by God’s design that the earth is covered with such a broad amount of floral beauty! He didn’t have to go to such lengths to give us such awesome detail. But, He certainly did!

Ya-ya’s Adventures: Week 45-47

Spring!

Rachel and I welcomed the first day of spring by getting free cones at Dairy Queen, a franchised ice cream shop in this area. We picked up Delilah from school and surprised

her with the visit. While we were there, several other children from Delilah’s preschool came with their parents or grandparents. I guess we all had the same idea!  Leah dropped her cone on the ground so I gave her mine. After all, I’m her NaNa, right? A reporter from our local newspaper dropped by and took pictures of the girls. Leah wouldn’t look at him so he “tricked” her by pretending to take the picture one way but took it when she turned her head. Two of my grandchildren had their fifteen minutes of fame as they say. Hannah missed out because she was sleeping in her car seat. She’ll have her turn another day in the future.

The month of April starts the season of birthdays! My mother, Delilah, and Mary finish out April. Rachel starts the month of May with me, Trinity and Aaron finishing the month. There are more in June and July, too. I go to a local card store and buy all the birthday cards at once along with Mother’s Day cards. Last year, I lost the whole envelope of cards. That was money wasted so I  took extra care to keep a watch on those cards this year!

Since my father is slowly losing his mind to dementia, he has forgotten my mother’s birthday. This is sad because he always made a big deal of it. Last year, was the first time he did that and she was so disappointed about it that I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be forgotten again. I could have taken them out to eat but I wanted it to be more intimate plus I wanted dad to enjoy it more. He would, if he was in his own home. I could have purchased something to take but I decided to make the birthday dinner. This is another “outside the box” moment for me. I did not cook dinners when I was married because I worked until five o’clock and my ex-husband worked third-shift and was home to cook. He was very good and he enjoyed it so he continued to be the dinner cook all of our marriage. The downside was that others assumed I couldn’t cook and he did nothing to change their thoughts. When he had a heart attack and I needed to take over, he complained about my cooking constantly instead of encouraging me.

All of this negativity destroyed my confidence so I always felt rather inadequate when it came to preparing meals. When I lived alone, my younger brother, the chef, taught me how to cook several things so that I didn’t exist on frozen box dinners. I wasn’t very confident in my skills to make Mom’s birthday dinner but I was determined. That has become my motto through all of these new things I am trying with retirement. I planned on the menu and made sure I had all the ingredients ready. It was a long day with Rachel working all day and me having Leah and Hannah until Rachel came home. I had to run to the store for groceries that I was going to be out of so I started to prepare the meal rather late. Mike and Rachel were using the grill so I had the oven and stove to myself but we jockeyed for positions in the kitchen as Mike and I prepared our meals in the same very small space. I kept asking Rachel: “The potatoes are to be baked at five hundred degrees but the chicken is to be baked at three-fifty. What temperature should I cook the food? I could not find fresh green beans at the market so I bought frozen. What changes should I make to the recipe?” She gave me advice as I prepare the meal. Add in two little girls who both decided to cry and scream during this time and you can realize the pressure I was under. I used techniques that my therapist taught me whenever I become overly anxious so I was slowing my breathing and sighing to keep everything under control.

Rachel helped me pack the chicken, potatoes, green beans and dessert into the insulated bag and I left for Mom and Dad’s. I called from my car to tell her I was on my way and to heat up the oven to finish the meal. When I arrived, all the food was still hot. I added spaghetti sauce and mozzarella to the chicken. Then, all was ready. I feared that the chicken would be dry and the beans would be limp, but it was all delicious!  I triumphed again!  Who-hoo!  My mother was so delighted and her birthday was celebrated again!

Hannah-2 monthsHannah is growing so much. She has discovered her hands and works so hard to get them into her mouth. She loves to lie on her playmat and take swings at the toys attached to the bar over her head. I watch her practice over and over. She is still an easy baby, with crying mostly for needs. She takes a bottle of mommy’s milk with delight. Delilah and Leah say she is SO CUTE!

Leah and Hannah

My friend, Peggy, and I went to another musical at our city’s performance center. The musical was Rent, a story set in New York in the nineteen-eighties. The main theme is about young adults struggling to live in New York, hunting for jobs and relationships while having AIDS. My brother, Quinn, loved this movie because this was his life, not in New York, but in Baltimore. He, too, had many good friends that died of AIDS, some by suicide before the disease could destroy their dignity. His deep depressions stemmed from survivor guilt – why did he never contract the disease while so many did? He told me that he took the same risks as those around him. But, his alcoholism and drug use helped cause his early death in 2009 even though he actually died of pneumonia brought on by bronchitis. I think of him so often because he was my best friend and helped ME through some very bad times. I used two of the recipes he taught me when I created Mom’s birthday dinner. That’s the best way to honor him.

The hardest days of babysitting are when I have all three girls all day. Two keep me busy because there are very few minutes of downtime. With three, the day is crazy!  No matter who I am trying to care for, there two more that want my attention, too. I asked Mom and Hannahmy parents to come over to help. They arrived around ten-thirty, eager to be useful. I gave Hannah to Mom and I took the older girls to the kitchen table to play some games and do a puzzle. Mom got to love on Hannah without interruption. They left right after lunch, when Leah went down for her nap. This was very helpful and we plan to do it again every time I have all three, which is every Tuesday in May.

My 2011 iMac desktop computer had a hard drive going bad. I knew that because I had run tests on it to find out why it was all wonky. I took it to Best Buy instead of the Apple Store because it was closer. Best Buy sells all types of electronics and just recently started a repair service for Apple products. They had it two weeks. At the end of the first week, I got a phone call asking for approval of the estimate- $400. I was disappointed that it was higher than I expected but it IS an Apple and the cost to replace it was more than twice that which would have been for a laptop, not a desktop. The gentleman on the phone also told me that the LCD panel was damaged in shipment and had to be replaced. So, all that weekend, I worried that the company was going to try to charge me for that.

When, I went in to pick it up, I asked if I was being charged for the LCD panel and the representative, Chris, assured me I was not. Then I said I was afraid that the high price for the hard drive included that price for the LCD panel. He looked online and said “there’s a zero balance”. I said that it was probably already charged to the card on file. He excused himself and went into the back and came out with his boss, Ryan.

Here’s the kicker- Chris, with his boss standing there, told me that I my bill WAS zero! Since the LCD was damaged, not by me, they were apologizing by paying for the entire bill! Who-hoo!!!!

In this day and age, where the customer is NOT always right, it was great to be a recipient of good business practices!  Thank you, Best Buy!

My Miss D, as I call Delilah asked me last September how long it was until her birthday so she could be five years old. I told her that she needed a complete year to learn how to be four before she could be ready to be five. We went over the holidays between September and her birthday in April. As each holiday slipped by, we would change all of my room decorations and door wreaths to match the new holiday. Then, we would eagerly wait for the next holiday. As the year moved on, Delilah learned how to count to one hundred and to recognize and write all of her letters. She is ready to learn to read and we are working on that. When Easter passed by, she could see her name on my calendar for her birthday. The days grew closer and closer and then, it was finally here! Val and Tim took her to the Butterfly Museum to celebrate the day. I recorded a message for her on Facebook.

The following Friday, we all celebrated with pizza, ice cream and cupcakes in an intimate family gathering. She had asked me for her own princess Polly Pocket dolls for a birthday present. Leah received them for Christmas. To my consternation, the dolls have been discontinued!  So, I looked on eBay and many people had them for sale – for sixty dollars and up! Single dolls were being sold for twenty dollars each. I hunted and found an older set of five princess and two dresses apiece for thirty dollars and I bought it outright. I also found a very large collection of Polly Pocket princess dolls with their castles and villains. I placed a bid on that for twenty-nine dollars but I lost out. The set finally went for one hundred and twenty-five dollars. It was way over MY budget. Val gave me a list of other gifts she wanted and I chose a game. I love Delilah’s joy when something special is happening. We sang and enjoyed the food and she opened her presents. She was delighted with all of her presents, including mine. But, her most special present was a two-wheeler bike from her parents!

I learned:

  1. Time with my parents is very precious. They ARE in their early eighties. Every chance I can spend with them is a very special time. I’m grateful that they can be here to help me with the three girls. It gives them more chances to be around my family. And that is so, very, very good.
  2. I CAN conquer my anxieties! Even through preparing my dinner with Rachel’s family present with all their activity and noise, I kept myself calm and collected and got the meal accomplished. I give thanks to God for helping me, also!
  3. The year really keeps moving on. It was much easier without teaching and with my grandgirls around. Before I really could think about it, spring and nicer weather was here. I thank God for that, too!

Ya-ya’s Adventures: Weeks 38-44

Rachel had six weeks of maternity leave and Delilah was mostly on her week-off schedules with mommy having her no-work days so I had much time to myself and few adventures to write about. My life actually became quietly routine. Three weeks ago, Rachel returned to work and Hannah became my baby during the day. I had Leah all day for two days the first two weeks and Delilah only three days of those weeks since the Easter holiday occurred during this time. In addition, Rachel only worked half days. This was an adjustment with Hannah being an infant. It was last summer with Cassi since I had to deal with bottles, burping, and sleepy times. 

I’ve had Leah and Hannah together several times but only one day with all three. That day was very difficult. But, it was only frustrating for three hours as Delilah slept late and Leah played quietly by me while I attended to Hannah. Once Delilah was awake and fed breakfast, the battle began. I can’t begin to tell you how often I heard, “You’re not the boss of me!” and that was from BOTH girls. They fought over toys and who was allowed to do what. Once, they were pushing and shoving each other which should have called for a time out but I didn’t want to deal with the crying and tantrums during time out so I got the girls up to the table for a craft.

Mugs of chocolate

There was a cute winter craft I had planned for our snow day but Tim kept Delilah home that day and I did not get to do it. I traced a picture of a mug onto cereal box sides and cut them out. The girls were to paint the mugs with paints so I had plenty of newspaper down. I gave Leah paint dabbers of blue and red while Delilah got the paintbrush and paints. The girls loved it but I had to hold Hannah most of the time because she was fussy so I was stressed because sleeves were dragging through the paint and there was mess everywhere. 

For the top of the mug, where the hot chocolate would be, I poured a line of chocolate syrup and the girls spread it around. Rachel came home at that moment and saw all the girls and I working on the craft with Hannah sleeping on my shoulder. The scene must gave looked so calm and controlled! But, I assured her that looks were deceiving and filled her in on my crazy morning. She and I agreed that it would get better as all settled into a new routine.

The second week was Holy Week so I had Leah and Hannah on Monday and just Hannah on Tuesday through Thursday. I was to have Delilah on Thursday but Cassidy was having problems with her g-tube and Val had to take her to the specialists to figure out what to do. Val had no sleep all day Wednesday with Cassi’s appointments so she did not go to work that night. This meant that Delilah would stay home with her on Thursday and home with daddy on Good Friday since Tim had the day off. By the end of this week, I had Hannah and a routine set in place. Two of those days, I took her for a walk in her stroller. She loved it!

My church had a Maundy Thursday service in the evening. Our new eduction director gave the message. I liked it very much. He’s about twenty-five years old so this is his very first appointment. He’s doing a very good job of adding elective Bible classes to our schedule in the evenings and during Sundays. I like his vision of Christian growth for children and adults. 

Holy Week

When I attend a church service, with a sermon, I take notes on my iPad. Before iPads, I wrote down my notes. I have been keeping notes of sermons for several decades. My bookshelf is lined with ring binders of notes from all the messages I have heard over the years. I started this during college when I realized I had a knack for writing down notes. As I listen, I zone into summarizing the message. It helps me remember the message because I am attentive throughout. I have also gone back through my notes in subsequent weeks to refresh my memory of the message. I truly feel that since ministers spend so much time preparing these messages, that I should honor their work by making it more permanent than just within my memory. 

Good Friday’s service involved all of our ministerial staff. Between reading passages of Jesus’ arrest and cruxifixction and music from our contemporary team and the choir, several of the staff did soliloquies from the perspective of Judah, Mary Magdalene, and Peter. It was very moving to me and certainly put me in the correct mood for Easter. They do such a marvelous job of depicting the characters and getting their message across. 

There were twenty-nine relatives and friends at our Easter celebration. We used the same facility as we have for this past Thanksgiving and two Easters past. We all marveled about how lovely the weather has been for every event. This is ideal since the children have a lovely playground to use. Every grandchild but Jared was there, including BJ’s two boys, Draven and Eziah. My cousin, Matthew, gravitated to Cassi. His career as a rehab nurse gives him a different perspective than the rest of us and he loves to hold her. James latches onto my other nephew, a Ben, and my brother has a special rapport with Zae and all his autistic tendencies. Zae was worried that bugs were gooing to bite him so my brother “attacked” all those nasty bugs before they could get near Zae. Rachel only held Hannah to breastfeed her. The rest of the day, she was passed around from relative to relative and loved. Trinity, Delilah, and Leah spent the day playing together, mostly by running and screaming. We had a gigantic egg hunt for the seven that understood what it was all about. The men in the family hid the eggs while we were cleaning up from dinner. I loved the excitement on the children’s faces as they lined up by the door to the outside, baskets in hand. As always, my mind went back to my brothers and I waiting in anticipation to hunt eggs as little children and then, watching my children as they did the same. Now, it’s my grandchildren’s turn and the eagerness is just as heightened by the wait by the door as it was for those generations past. 


I was delighted to put my new van to use! Rather than have Aaron, Mary, and the five children using his very beat up van to travel to the Easter celebration, I took them all in my van. Poor Aaron had to climb all around the back to get the car seats hooked up correctly, and then to get three of the boys settled in those car seats. Trinity and Eziah took the middle with Aaron in the front with me. Mary took BJ’s car with all the supplies and food. This was the first time I had the Odyssey completely filled and it worked very well! The NanaVan is going to be very useful indeed!

I learned:

  1. Oh, the sweetness of a baby! Sure, there’s poop and spit up, and uncontrolled crying, but it doesn’t take much to calm Hannah. And, oh my, she is such a snuggle-bunny! She loves to nestle in to the side of my neck and drift off to sleep. So angelic! I’m liking this babysitting gig even more. 
  2. I feel like a queen driving the NanaVan around. All those specialties from the moonroof, to the ability to link my phone, plus climate control within this automobile make me feel very pampered. Imagine! My phone rings and my car answers it! All I have to do is talk. 
  3. Holy Week and Easter will always be a wonderful time to take stock of my dedication to God and get myself on the right track if I’ve been drifting. And being surrounded by family and grandchildren recharges my batteries.