Saturday, June 28, 2008

6-years-old!

This morning I've had a jingle running through my mind. "Everybody doesn't like something...but nobody doesn't like Sara Lee!" Is the tune going through your mind now as well?

This is the jingle my dad chose to alter a little bit to describe my oldest daughter's personality. He'd sing "Everybody doesn't like something...but nobody doesn't like Nike!" It's a statement that echoes her life this far.

Today she turned 6-years-old. I realize there isn't much life there to have done something to make people dislike one that age. Still, I'm certain we can all think of those little ones that we'd rather not be around. Since the day Nikelle was born, couples without kids have considered having children because of her. She knows how to make people smile simply by being present. Her hugs come at just the right moment. Innocent as a newborn, her heart is still moldable and she desires to please God and others.

It's hard not to want to give her the world. She appreciates life. Every little piece of it. The decorations around our house for her party were done by her. Simplicity is more than fine in her eyes. When it comes to comparison, she doesn't always rank at the top with athleticism. At times this can bring her down. However, she is learning that God made us all different. Unique. With different strengths. Nikelle is likely to thrive in the arts. She loves art, dance, music, and being on center stage. We can find her drawing and writing much of the time. I love to read her "books". She spells phonetically and it's fun to see her brain learning.

I could have never fully comprehended the miracle we received 6 years ago at that time. Certainly, I have yet to completely grasp the full blessing of having Nikelle Evadne Carlson in our lives. Today we celebrate her as we thank God for every moment of her life this far.

Happy 6th Birthday, Nike!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My little addict

I've been incredibly busy this month. June is always crazy with birthday parties and other celebrations.

One thing I've had to fit into all this is purchasing new beds for the girls. They've been sharing a queen size bed (which Nike moved to when Jaycie was born because it was the bed already in existence in the guest room) and it just hasn't been working out. They talk until all hours of the night. They fight. Jaycie cries at being bumped ever so slightly. Jaycie calls us upstairs only to inform us that part of Nike's blanket is on her side of the bed. The other night Jaycie through a decorative rock that Nike owns at Nike and slightly chipped her tooth. As you can tell, we could no longer put off separate beds. The girls and I went out, found a sale and purchased two twin bed sets. They were delivered yesterday. This required moving furniture around, cleaning and vacuuming prior to their arrival.

Nikelle was on the PBS kids website in the morning which she often does. Jaycie was by her side demanding "My turn. My turn." Being the kind, generous, older sister that she is, Nike got Jaycie set up and went to do something else. It was cute watching Jaycie utilize the mouse to click and drag and make little dancing shoes. When the shoes would dance she would bob her head and groove her shoulders with the music. Then it was back to designing more shoes. I went upstairs to vacuum and prepare things for the bed delivery as well as Nike's birthday party this weekend.

Before I knew it, I was checking on the kids an hour later and my 2 1/2-year-old was still on the web! I told her she had two more minutes and she was done. To say I have a little addict on my hands is an understatement. She had a breakdown when I pulled her away. I closed the browser and walked away with her kicking in my arms. As I walked toward the naughty bench to address the kicking and screaming, I felt a little bad for her and a little guilty that I allowed that much time to pass. At the same time, I was intrigued to realize that this little girl has the ability to do what many adults cannot catch onto.

Just one more thing to pay attention to. Thankfully, she has yet to discover how to enter the world wide web by herself!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2 1/2 more months

Last night, Rod, the girls and I went out for pizza. We had been to this restaurant once or twice before and the girls seem to like it.

We informed the hostess that there were four of us and she lead us to a booth. Watching Nikelle scoot into the bench, I could tell that something wasn't right. The benches at the boothes move and this one was just too close to the table. I couldn't move it either because someone was already sitting on the other side.

With everyone watching and Nikelle already making herself comfortable, I had to inform the waitress that this wasn't going to work.

"I can't fit," I stated.
"You want me to get you another table?" she asked.
"I can't fit," I stated again.

How was I supposed to feel? Clearly, any adult couldn't fit into that spot. Still, with hearing recent comments such as "You're really gaining weight" and "I don't know where the other three months will go", this was just icing on the cake.

Thankfully, I was able to keep myself together. I rationally told myself that not even a normal size adult could not have fit there comfortably, let alone one with a belly like mine. We were seated at a table and enjoyed our dinner.

Only a few comments came from my daughter about this scenario.

"I wanted to sit in the booth."
"You fit last time."
"What happens if someone's too fat and sits in the chair."
I just smiled as she answered herself, "They'd squish it."

At least I know she didn't mean any harm by her comments.

2 1/2 more months. [sigh]

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day Tradition

This weekend holds a lot of emotion. Father’s Day. That I can recall, we have never had a year where we didn’t spend the day with my dad. Mother’s Day was spent with Rod’s family which allowed us to guiltlessly spend Father’s Day with mine.

Brookfield Zoo. That’s been the tradition on Father’s Day for years in our family. I recall last year specifically. Dad was battling this darn cancer. He had no hair - not even the little he had before the disease. I have a picture of him soaking up some of the misting water from the cooling stations they have at the zoo. I picture a healthier dad from years past drinking his coffee at breakfast with his plate piled high with food at Old Country Buffet and making wise cracks. I picture him opening homemade cards from the grandkids and sporting his “Please act shocked that I’m a Grandpa” t-shirt. It’s hard to think about Father’s Day without my dad.

Every year since I was little, it was a tradition to visit Brookfield Zoo once a year. It was another thing that he felt was kept special by limiting the visit to only once a year. We used to eat at McDonald’s when we were kids on the way to the zoo every year. I can picture it in my head. The specific “zoo” McDonald’s for our family. Dad was always so generous when it came to special occasions. At the same time, he remained frugal. I’m really not certain how he did it. He made these moments special. We didn’t take home souvenirs, we didn’t eat lunch at the zoo (or lunch for that matter), we didn’t do anything that cost extra at the zoo other than the children’s zoo and yet, we didn’t feel the least bit deprived.

From our pictures on the stone lions to petting the goats at the children’s zoo, there are so many memories from one day of tradition over the years. Whether it’s holding my Daddy’s hand or watching my girls hold Papa’s hand as I now held the hand of my husband, memories flood my mind and fill my heart.

We’ve always ate dinner at Russell’s BBQ chicken. No one purchased anything growing up other than the BBQ chicken meal. There is a large round table that we liked to sit at due to the size of our family and being so hungry, the chicken always tasted fantastic.

Our day was completed with ice cream at the Plush Horse (recently rated #2 in Chicago for ice cream). Despite his frugality, everyone was expected to get a double scoop and eat it. I loved this tradition despite my tears more than once. I don’t know why it was my misfortune, but more than once, my double scoop ended up on the ground rather than on my taste buds. Because of my mishaps, we learned to order the double scoops in a cup with the cone on top. I can still picture dad smiling as we recall these memories while he enjoyed his butter pecan and coffee flavors outside.

Over the years, we’ve changed things slightly. Not everyone attends every part of the day. It’s better that we all do what will keep our families happiest so we don’t end up with fights and tears. I’ve learned to bring snacks or a small lunch for my family (especially myself) so that the end of the day isn’t spoiled. Our girls will get chicken nuggets at Russell’s and only a kids’ scoop at the Plush Horse. Still, in honor of Dad, we hold to these traditions while the heartstrings pull.

I’m looking forward to a day of fun and family tomorrow all the while anticipating that I will be choked up at numerous moments fighting back the tears. I’m grateful my girls have their Daddy to store up memories with. My heart will need to learn to treasure our altered “family” times as I thank God for a Dad who held tightly to traditions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

LaValle Parade



This is the current condition of the street in LaValle, Wisconsin where we attend the parade with Rod's parents every year. Just one more reason not to go this year.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pure brilliance?

In purchasing Father's Day cards the other day, I thought I would attempt to avoid an emotional breakdown in the card shop. Last year, being the first year without my paternal grandpa, I began to weep in the store as I habitually pulled out two Father's Day cards for my grandpas. This year I would not have a replay of that scenario. I went into the store, purchased the cards for Rod and left. I was quite proud of myself for avoiding the potentail tears. As I was doing more shopping, I realized that although I avoided being overwhelmed with my emotions, I also avoided purchasing a card for my grandpa who is still alive. Pure brilliance? Almost. Thankfully, cards can be purchased just about anywhere.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

She's In

We received the acceptance letter yesterday that Nikelle will be attending Eisenhower Academy next year. She is excited as one of her friends from Kindergarten was accepted there as well. It's a good feeling to know what the plan is for the fall... at least on that subject. It'll be an adjustment having her in school all day. Just one more reminder as to how much she's growing up!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Growing Up

Lately, Nikelle has been growing out of her clothes and shoes. She is getting so tall. Along with her physical growth, she is becoming very independent and knowlegeable. I like to joke with her that I'm going to shrink her so that she stays little forever. She tells me to go ahead and try. I place my hands on the top of her head and attempt to push down and shrink her. With a big smile across her face, she contently and confidently states, "It didn't work, Mommy." Every now and then, I still attempt to shrink her as she continues to beem with pride that she is growing up.

Yesterday morning, I was reminded of just how much our little girl is growing up. She woke up and came downstairs. I, very appropriately, was sitting on the Lazy Boy. Afterall, I didn't feel like doing much of anything. Nikelle began to pick up toys without being asked. I was watching curiously as her eyes caught mine. "I've decided to clean up the family room," she stated. As this was the first time I've ever seen her take on this kind of responsibility, I knew she needed some words of affirmation. "That's very responsible and grown up of you, Nikelle," I said attempting to encourage her.

No longer could I justify remaining in lazy mode, so I got up to unload the dishwasher. Asking her if she wantd to help (at the same time I made certain their were no knives in with the silverware), she assisted in returning all the dishes and silverware to their appropriate places. "Thank you for helping, Nike. Unloading the dishes went very fast with your help."

(I'm attempting to be careful with the words I choose due to the book I am reading by Kevin Leman that I've mentioned previously entitled "How to make children mind without losing yours". He states that children should be encouraged to be helpful because they are part of the family and this is what families do. He is not much for the rewards system or authoritarian parenting. I'm finding that Nikelle responds very well to the encouragement he refers to. I'm not in 100% agreement with everything he has to say, but overall, this book has been very helpful in parenting my girls.)

As I thought about some friends of ours whose kids I've watched empty the dishwasher, clear the table, and do other responsibilities that come with being part of a family, Nikelle interrupted my thoughts with a question. "Can I have a wet rag to wash the table?" she asked. I handed her the rag and went back to my thoughts. These friends have children who are very responsible and therefore, I've always considered their example when it comes to raising my own kids. I wonder what other advice I could gleam from them?

As we headed out the door, the house was a little cleaner than normal. My almost 6-year-old inspired me to get things cleaned before we left the house. It's a satisfying feeling to know your child is taking responsibility and growing up. Afterall, when a child is growing, it's a healthy child. I'm so grateful for the two healthy children God has given us and I need to focus more on helping them grow up as that is what I'm called to do.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Remembering Dad Carlson

This is what I had to say about my father-in-law:

Just about 12 years ago, I married into this family. I was welcomed warmly and given the freedom to refer to my in-laws with whatever title I felt comfortable. Using “Rod and Joy” to refer to them just seemed inappropriate because of the way I was raised. “Mr. and Mrs. Carlson” seemed too informal. Still, the words “Mom and Dad,” were difficult to say because those titles were reserved for my own parents. Over the years, however, I grew quite comfortable with referring to my husband’s parents as “Mom and Dad”.

When I think of Dad Carlson, I think of eating pizza together at the kitchen table. We would often go over there on Wednesday nights or every so often on the weekends and order pizza together.

Wisconsin will always remind me of Dad as well. Every year, we enjoyed the tradition of visiting New Glarus and LaValle along with the Dells. It always seemed to be the highlight of the year for Dad and Roddy. Although attending a small town parade and doing quite a bit of driving took some years for me to appreciate this tradition, it is now one of the dearest memories I hold. My heart is warmed with memories when I think of him holding Nikelle in his lap and making her feel safe as the sirens cleared the parade or picturing their hands interlocking as we walked to the restaurant. I remember how he sat with Jaycie as she napped so the rest of us could mini-golf and how insistent he was as we’d head to the Dells that we couldn’t forget to have the Old Time Photo taken.

The card game of spades will always be associated with Dad as well. We would make sure to reserve the adjoining rooms in the hotel so that we could put the girls to bed in one room and play cards in the other. We would snack and play until a winner was declared despite our better knowledge to stop the game and get some sleep. (I shared Dad’s early to bed; early to rise philosophy of life.)

I think the dearest memory for me will be from that of the title he gained almost 6 years ago as “Grandpa”. Nothing could brighten his day like Nike and Jaycie did.

The memory from this last time he came home from the hospital is etched into my mind. We brought him home to keep him comfortable expecting him to leave us very shortly. Never did I dream I’d ever walk into that front door again and hear his smiling voice welcome us with “Hi, Nike. Hi, Jaycie” the way I did the following day. As I watched him hold out his hand for theirs, we were given a miracle to cherish forever.

As we look through pictures and are reminded of his failing health, we are also reminded of how nothing could get in the way of his time with the girls – not even Leukemia. Hugs and kisses were always abundant and there was always a welcome place in his lap, as he’d say to the girls, “Come and sit with Grandpa.” Despite his terrible back pain, he would still find strength to go to the front door and hug the girls goodbye. All the way to the end, he mustered time and energy for these little girls. He only wished that he could live to see this next grandchild as well.

It’s our privilege to keep his memory alive. Be it while we cheer for the Cubs or the Illini; while we eat Pizza King or make a visit to the Dells; or when we color and read to the girls. All the while we will remind our kids of how very much Grandpa enjoyed doing things with them and how he was filled with love and pride for his grandchildren.

Dad was always the one capturing the memories with his camera in hand. Now we cling to these memories of a man who loved life and family. He lived an example of appreciation for life. We didn’t often hear him complain. Even in the end, he told me he was content being right there at home in the bed surrounded by family. “I’m fine just like this,” he told me in those final days of blessing we were given with him.

He never gave up. From buying a piano just months ago so he could learn to play it; to working on the house until this disease forced him to stop; even bringing himself to drink juice from a straw just hours before he left this world – he fought.

We will honor his life by appreciating what we have of ours. We’ll remember the example of a life without complaints. A legacy of a life filled with love for his family is what he’s left us to hold so dear. And we won’t give up.

We are told to encourage each other with words found in the Bible in the book of 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4, verses 16 and 17. They say “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

I am forever grateful for the years I was given the honor of calling Roderick L. Carlson: “Dad”. So, we say “So long for now…” and I long so much more for heaven where the Dad who raised me and the Dad who welcomed me so warmly 12 years ago are both there with Jesus even as we speak.