Thursday, October 30, 2014

a big weekend

Macie's 6th birthday fell on a Saturday. She died on a Saturday, so this was the first we got to celebrate in that ever-so-slightly-more-real way.

We weren't here for her birthday. That tore me up inside for a while beforehand, but we didn't really have any other options. We had to go then to Arkansas to look for a house. It was our only weekend to go, and I had such guilt about it. I still do a little bit.

Spencer's last day at work was the 23rd and we were flying out the 24th so we planned to go to the cemetery that night and do cupcakes and balloons. I don't quite know where my head has been lately but I am not usually so spacey...I totally forgot that the cemetery closes at 4:30 (sometimes that is really inconvenient for me) and because we had piano lessons, everything was suddenly messed up. Luckily we could change lesson times, but as a result we had no time to get balloons. My favorite little tradition wasn't going to work. And on the year when we could all have our own balloon! Grrr. I hate when I am dumb.

Did I mention our house had JUST gone on the market? I was getting 2-3 phone calls a day from people wanting to see it, and keeping it clean was already getting crazy.

I made cupcakes and frosted them pink, so we could still do that part at least. And off we went. I thought a lot about how there is no earthly way to describe the pain when you know your full-term baby inside of you is not alive anymore, how I had always said things like "I could never do something that hard." We all say that, yet we are all somehow able to do it when we need to. Because we don't have a choice. I didn't do as much reflecting this year as I normally do, mostly because I feel like a frazzled person, but I did think a lot about how lucky I feel and how far I have come in 6 years. Having a child on the other side is a very hopeful thing. I don't know if I could have said that the first few months - pretty sure I couldn't have - but I am glad I came to that point relatively quickly.

At the cemetery the kids ran around and we ate our cupcakes and talked about the day we buried her (actually, that was 6 years ago TODAY - October 30). That was the hardest thing I have ever had to do publicly, and I will never forget the foggy, sad, and empty feelings I had. At the same time I have never in my life felt so much love and support. Again, I can't describe it.

We stayed a while but had to get home (they were closing!) and then run some last minute errands before our trip.

Macie's actual birthday was special for me from afar. My sweet mom was here watching the kids, and THEY did the balloons. I loved getting pictures of my kids carrying on this tradition that will be a part of our family forever. I guess Sadie liked her balloon so much and didn't want to let it go. I think this is something that is meaningful for my kids - it is fun to watch them float until they are out of eyesight, with us symbolically sending Macie the only thing that can "reach" her where she is.

6 is a great age. She would be in kindergarten this year. She and Tanner would probably be best friends. (Let's face it - everyone wants to be Tanner's best friend.) I think she would be another little mommy to Sadie - and let me tell you, I sure could use that right now. Instead, she is a mature adult who is busy on the other side.

I can't wait to plant a "Macie tree" in our new backyard in Arkansas, a spot where we can think about her and gather to send her her birthday balloons every year. We are leaving a HUGE part of ourselves here in California, but that part is just temporal. I am certain I will be able to feel her wherever we go.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The BIG Apple (Part 2)

The city. Wow. I have been there a few times before, but not with kids. Little people to be responsible for in a sea of humanity and chaos. It's not my favorite type of place to be in, but we were there, so we plunged in and did it for two whole days!

Spencer still claims it wasn't worth it, but he got a ton of Hilton honors points years ago when he was in a Florida hotel for work and his floor was littered with drunk high school girls who kept him up all night. After complaining several times they gave him the points to appease him. Those points got us our hotel...
Anyway...we pulled in to our Doubletree hotel Wednesday night around 5 pm. And whaddayaknow, our room wasn't ready and wouldn't be for about an hour. The concierge unloaded our things, and while we waited in the lobby they brought us cookies and water. By the time we got settled in our room it was almost 7:00; under other circumstances we would have gone into the city to have dinner but with 4 kids and one being a baby/toddler who was never ever getting a nap, we opted to find some food quickly and then go to bed. There was this little carry-out restaurant, VB3, and while it wasn't fast it was GOOD. And cheap! We had enough leftovers for dinner the next night! We also thought the room we were getting was a suite...but it was just a big room. So yeah...we spent 5 nights in hotels on our trip and just got used to having 6 in a crowded room. Awesome.

We had bought food at Walmart to keep in the mini fridge so we could eat breakfast in our room. By the time we headed out for the city the next morning it was almost 9 a.m. and the subway was insanely packed with people. We had our stroller and I'm pretty sure everyone hated us. It was hot and crowded. And that subway smell - not my favorite. But we made it! We emerged from the subway right by the Empire State Building, albeit about an hour later than we were hoping to.

Yes it was crowded. Yes it was expensive. But it was so worth it! The views are incredible! It was nice to get my bearings a little bit since you surely can't do that from the ground.

And...Sadie's face is pretty much priceless if you ask me.

After that we headed back to the subway and took it to W Central Park. I was just so glad it was cloudy this day. We ate lunch and then rented bikes for two hours (near Tavern on the Green). We rode the entire perimeter of the park, and that was cool and really fun, but we missed out on a lot of the super cool stuff on the interior of the park, because parking a bunch of bikes and locking them up, and taking kids out, etc... was just a time waster. But we did get out for a while near a pond on the north end. We were pretty wasted by then after a huge hill. I remember Spencer making lots of work calls any free chance he could get. (People back at home were starting to find out he had given his notice.)

I took the big kids to see Belvedere Castle (meh) while Sadie slept in the Burley - she did get a 30 minute nap this day, thank goodness!

We returned the bikes and walked over to Bow Bridge (famous), got to see a new NBC show being filmed (even recognized the actress!)

...and then decided to walk over to the temple. We take any chance we can get to show our kids different temples. We walked around and used the restroom even. :)

By this time it was getting late but we figured we were close to Times Square so we should go explore there and maybe get dinner. However, I am pretty sure we scarred our oldest. There were some very inappropriate people out at Times Square, and Emma burst into tears a few times. I wish I could erase those images from her mind (and mine!).

We ducked into the M&M store, bought a few trinkets, then had to head back through "Sodom." We made it to the subway, went back to NJ to our hotel, warmed up our dinner from the night before, bathed the kids, and all collapsed into bed.

The next day was even more ambitious. We had a reservation time at the Statue of Liberty for 9 a.m. so we took the shuttle to the ferry point (NJ side). The kids and Spencer got the headsets and I stayed with an incredibly grumpy Sadie while they went up to the pedestal.

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day. Pretty much perfect. The kids did their Junior Ranger stuff (how cool! A badge from the statue of liberty!)

and we went over to Ellis Island. That would have been neat if there weren't a million people, and if our kids weren't bored. We did go visit the family history center there and ran into some sisters! They are in the Morristown mission. We looked up "Wirthlin" and found out that Spencer's grandpa and great-grandpa both came through Ellis Island. We got on the boat to Battery Park. Once there we walked up to the WTC site, past Trinity Church (gorgeous!)

It was busy there but I imagine it always is. Very somber. The kids were tired and so Spencer took Emma into the 911 Museum - I told them to take an hour. The other 3 and I played with squirrels and birds and just hung out. It was nice to relax and sit for a while. Spencer and Emma came out and looked very saddened. But he did say it was incredibly well done. Someday (for me).

The last thing I really wanted to do was walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. So we headed that way. Sadie was an absolute mess so I held her the whole way. I think most people walk the other way because of the views but we were modifying. And it was still pretty awesome.

Our plan was to eat at Grimaldi's. It was 4:00 on a Friday afternoon, yet the line was out the door and down the block a bit. While we stood there and wondered what to do, a worker from the pizza place next door tried to goad us in. It didn't take much, and in a minute we were seated in Juliana's. OH MY WORD. Best decision ever. We ordered the margherita pizza with pepperoni, and I think it was the quietest meal I have ever had with my family.

Sadie ate almost two pieces herself, and the rest of us declared that it was the best pizza we had ever had. We found out that the people who had started Grimaldi's had also (later) opened Juliana's, so I think we got a good deal and didn't even have to wait. We also ordered a cannoli (meh) and the brookie bridge (YUM). Our total bill, after tip, was $50, and that was probably the best decision we made our whole trip.

We walked to the subway, made a few mistakes down there, made our way back to NJ again, and pretty much collapsed into bed once again.

Our flight was the next day at 2:30 (Saturday) but we had no idea about traffic from the city to Newark so we decided to go to the Natural History Museum for an hour or two. It was raining. The kids wanted to see a few things from "Night at the Museum" but by far the coolest was "DumDum."

We walked around but it is HUGE and overwhelming, so we didn't get to see all we wanted to. We stopped at Shake Shack (it was pretty good, but not as good as I hoped) and headed for the airport. There was no traffic, and the airport was almost entirely empty.

We were super early. As we sat in Terminal B, waiting to board our aircraft, I saw something on Fox News about a possible Ebola patient on a plane at Terminal B. I was thrilled to get on that airplane!

We flew home through Minneapolis again, and then to SFO. Sadie didn't sleep at all, though it was 10 pm to her body we we got home. Sweet Tanner colored on the plane until he was tired, then closed his eyes and went to sleep. I got to wrestle with a stinker toddler while she kicked the chair in front of us again and again and rubbed her eyes and whined. Spencer got to listen to a lot of General Conference. I was so glad when we landed.

This trip was SO FUN. I loved almost every single thing about it. Even though we had 6 people in a hotel room, Sadie was crazy, and it was expensive I would do it again in a heartbeat. My kids love nothing more than looking back at pictures of things we have done together, even (and especially) when they don't remember. The kids had independent study schoolwork that I never had to get on their case about, and it was all done and wasn't even too hard. We did so many incredible things together in those 10 days, and got to experience a new part of the country, and I am so glad we enjoyed this together.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The BIG Apple! (Part 1)

This trip (again, NOT a vacation) was incredibly ambitious and maybe a little borderline insane. I thought that SO MANY TIMES while we were gone. But it was incredible and fantastic and amazing, and I am pretty sure we will remember it forever. OK, Sadie will not remember it and she definitely did NOT appreciate it at all. But you know what? She will look at these pictures forever and remember that we did something so awesome as a family, and know that she was there. That makes it all worth it.

We flew out on September 25, out of SFO to Minneapolis, and then to Newark. We got in at 11 pm but it took forever to get a rental (they lost the van we had reserved so we "had" to use a brand new Suburban - darn) and by the time we got to our hotel it was 1 a.m.

Spencer had just accepted a new job with WalMart in Arkansas (!!) so he had to go get a drug test early the next morning and we all slept in until 9. After eating breakfast we set off for upstate, where we planned to spend the majority of our trip with Nana and Grandpa.

Soon after getting on the road I could tell Sadie was not in a great mood. I figured everyone was just tired. But then she started barfing. In NJ you can't get stop 3 minutes later Spencer finally got off, we cleaned her up, worried about a possible stomach bug, bought some Purell, and continued on our way. She slept a lot, didn't eat much, and cried a lot. That was a long drive. But MAN it was beautiful.

We had to stop a few times but finally made it to our first stop - COOPERSTOWN - where we were meeting Joe and Kathy. Everyone but me, Kathy, and Sadie went into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and we window shopped and walked around the cute town. Sadie was thrilled to be out of the car finally, and seemed to be feeling better.

After, we drove around Cooperstown, then went to Fly Creek Cider Mill, before heading back to Joe and Kathy's house in Whitesboro (Utica). That place is an amazing mission home. We loved every second we got to be there. That night I was awoken at 2 a.m. by puke sounds. Luckily it was Emma (she can make it to the toilet). Luckily she threw up that once and then was fine. But I was even more worried and couldn't sleep.

The next morning Sadie was lethargic again and we opted that instead of our ambitious trip we would stay close and go on the Erie Canal.

Sadie finally perked up, Emma felt better, and we got to ride on a boat and go through the locks. That was fun, and it was the most beautiful day. There was even a revolutionary war re-enactment going on along the banks, in front of the 2nd oldest church in NY.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around at the mission home, and the kids painted pumpkins for Joe and Kathy's front porch.

We explored in their incredible backyard and fed the chipmunks and squirrels. We had the most delectable dinner - chicken riggies - a central NY dish that is super spicy and yummy chicken pasta concoction. Unlike anything I have had!

On Sunday we went to their ward. I didn't even bother trying to get Sadie to go to nursery.

After church we drove up toward Lake Placid. That was a LONG drive and gave us a huge appreciation for the geographical size of their mission. They drive so far, so often! This drive was beautiful - the leaves peaked early this year, while we were there! I have about 50 pictures just like these.

We stayed in Lake Placid and the next morning went on a gondola ride up Whiteface mountain. It was just gorgeous! I can't say that enough times.

We parted with Joe and Kathy for a day and headed back to their house while they headed further north for a zone conference. We were going to Palmyra the next day, out of their mission.

Palmyra. Wow. This was incredible, and so so special for me to do with my kids. Spencer and I went 11 years ago on our way to Boston for his internship, but this time was so much more important to me and to my testimony, especially because I got to see my children experience it.

Hill Cumorah was cool - we were the ONLY ones there, which I know is rare. It was gorgeous and warm. The Smith farm and Sacred Grove were quite sparse of people as well, and our tour guide, Sister Veatch (senior missionary) was so incredible. I will remember her forever for the time she took and for the truths she taught my children. My favorite was how she spent time asking them how all of these things would have felt to them if they were in Joseph Smith's place. She was very thoughtful and sweet.
(Here she was explaining how when the church purchased this home years ago, it had been updated a few times and they spent a lot of time and energy restoring it to how it used to be. And, Tyler was standing on the hearth bricks where Joseph had to hide the plates a few times.)
Below: In Joseph Smith's bedroom.

Sadie had to throw a big fit outside the Smith home and Spencer waited patiently. She was so out of it. But again, she will love someday that she is in all these pictures with us.

We were lucky to go through the Sacred Grove almost entirely alone. There was a great couple there who offered both times we saw them to take a family picture. This couple is walking a mile in all 50 states, and in NY she wanted that mile to be in the Sacred Grove. How awesome is that.

We each tried to decide where Joseph Smith would have chosen to pray. The Grove is massive so it isn't easy to guess at all.

We had some outtakes from our timer family pictures before we got one that was ok.

We were grateful when the couple again was able to take our picture.

Next we headed to downtown Palmyra where EB Grandin's print shop is. We took a quick tour and that was more interesting than I had remembered. We also met some fascinating people and had really really weird slurpee-type drinks. Downtown Palmyra is cool but is a food-FAIL.

Our last church history stop was the Peter Whitmer farm. It was just supposed to be a 45 minute drive but for some reason it took us MUCH longer. But the drive was gorgeous once again. And once again we were the only people at the site. Sister Olsen took us around and showed us inside the home. My kids couldn't believe 50-60 people had been there when the church was organized - it was so small!

We headed to Syracuse to stay the night in the hotel where Joe and Kathy would be meeting us. Spencer decided it was time to give his official notice to EY that he would be leaving after 7 1/2 years of working there. I took the kids into Pizza Hut while he called Tony, and the ball started rolling there. This trip was good in so many ways, but especially because we got to talk so much more about all of our life changes than we would have otherwise.

Spencer's dad gave him a blessing that night, and it was a good assurance that we were doing the right thing, the best thing for our family. Spencer takes every chance he can to get a Father's blessing, as it is incredibly rare these days.

The next morning Spencer took the kids swimming in the hotel pool for a little bit, and then we headed off to the zone conference. The zone leaders were teaching a live facebook lesson to someone, and that was interesting. Wow, missionary work sure is evolving. We had lunch there with everyone, and then headed off for NYC!