Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Final Goodbye

Since my Grandma Rosalie's funeral on January 14th, I hadn't been back to Bellingham.  It makes it easier on me I think because I don't have to drive around town avoiding places filled with old memories.  However, I have had moments of unexpected tears.  First it was Valentine's Day.  The week before I ordered personalized Valentine's cards for our loved ones.  I ordered special cards form the kids for the Grandmas.  It hit me, I didn't need to order a card for my Grandma, she was gone.  I cried for hours and eventually turned the water works off.  Then Issac pooped on the potty for the first time & I wanted to call my Grandma because at Thanksgiving we had discussed potty training.  But what should have been a happy Mommy moment became a sad moment of emptiness. 
We have tried to do some research so we know how to help the kids understand what is happening around them.  We talked about each ceremony before it happened, bought books and discussed deaths we see in movies like the Lion King.  No way is the right way but I want to offer age appropriate answers for Issac's questions like; "Gi-Gi sleeping forever Mom"?   I still can't read the kids any of the children's grief books I bought them without crying, but Tyler has better luck.  We can tell Issac is understanding the content because he becomes uncomfortable & tries to move on to another book.  We can usually finish reading the current book & follow it with something fun by Dr Seuss.  Issac still points to the pictures on the walls & points out Gi-Gi.  One day he told me; "I don't like Gi-Gi because she's sleeping".  I'm smart enough to realize that his innocent comment is just his brain processing her death.  However, the comment hurt my feelings & I cried for hours as he said it on repeat. 
As time passes the days get easier but I have tiny moments of amazing memories brought on by my daily activities.  Sweet and Sour Chicken makes me remember the many Chinese lunches I shared with my Grandma.  When I was young we always went to the same place; The China Star, the owner Christine took good care of us & she knew what we wanted to eat when we walked in the door.  An iced Grasshopper was the 1st alcoholic beverage I didn't spit out. It was made for me by my Grandma to celebrate New Year's Eve.  A Pepsi. Yup, a simple Pepsi in Utah reminded me of the many years before my Grandma was diagnosed with diabetes.  She ALWAYS had her Pepsi near bye, later in life she replaced it with a Diet Coke.  Pork Chops, oh wow how my Grandma made the most fatty but yummy pork chops. Grandma's pork chop secret is; ha ha ha, like I'm going to tell YOU!

My Grandma had one sibling; a sister, my Great-Aunt Sharon, pictured above, who lives in Oak Harbor.   My Great-Uncle Richard works over seas & was unable to join us for the Memorial Service in January.   So once we knew when he would be home, my Mom scheduled a small private family service to spread my Grandmother's ashes.  My Grandma was never shy about what she wanted when she died.  We knew she wanted her ashes placed near my Great-Grandmother Esther in the Still Waters part of Green Hill Cemetery in Ferndale.

 It was a perfect sunny Spring day.  In addition to my Great-Aunt and Great-Uncle there was also my Uncle Philip, my Aunt Nicole, her BFF Amy, my cousin Michelle, my Mom, Tyler, Issac, Josie & myself.  Each of us took a turn pouring some of my Grandma's ashes into the hole & then my Mom & Issac filled the hole up with dirt. Afterwards each of us placed a rose on top.

 I took a few pictures because I know my children will not remember anything about my Grandma Rosalie no matter how much I want them to, they're simply too young.  I wish that my children would remember their Great-Grandma the way I remember all mine, my Great Grandma Esther, my great-Grandma Dorris, my Great-Great Grandma Garnet and my Great-Great-Grandma Willis.  But I find peace in knowing that they are together.  Bellow is a few of the pictures I took to capture our private moments for the children and myself. 

God saw she was getting tired and the cure was not to be,
so he put his arms around her and whispered "Come with me."
With tearful eyes we watched her suffer and fade away,
Although we loved her dearly, we could not make her stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands to rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us....

He only takes the best.

Monday, April 16, 2012


My Mom lives in Ferndale and Tyler’s Mom lives in North Marysville.  Knowing it was the first holiday since my Grandma had passed away I had already planned on spending Easter with my Mom.  In early March Tyler’s Mom sent us an invite to join them for Easter.  I told her I planned on spending the holiday with my Mom, Laura understood & extended the Easter dinner invite to my Mom as well.
My Mom took the Saturday morning Amtrak train from Bellingham into Seattle where we picked her up.  We then stopped for lunch on our way to the Woodland Park Zoo.  Because our children enjoyed the zoo so much in Utah & we enjoy the Woodland Park Zoo, Tyler bought us a family membership that is good for an entire year. The zoo had an Easter egg hunt going on which was a perfect way to introduce the idea of an egg hunt to the kids.

After the egg hunt we walked around the zoo and saw all the animals. To no surprise the kids enjoyed the elephants, giraffes, hippo, and monkeys the most. The monkeys were putting on a show outside in the sunshine, making loud noises & playfully swinging in the trees. The birds and the elephants were also having Zoologist lead presentations.  To complete our trip we finished off with a ride on the Carousel. 
 Above: Josie & grandma Mel.
Bellow: Issac & Grandma share a moment of Joy.
When we got back to our house I made Pork Chops for dinner while my Mom gave the kids their Easter gifts from her.  Issac got a Leap Frog numbers tracer & Josie a Purple Leaptop.  My Mom also delivered the kid’s gifts from Auntie Nicole’s recent trip to Disneyland.  They got the cutest fabric eggs that had a stuffed Mickey chick & Minnie chick inside them. 

Easter morning I was grateful that my kids are too young to be so excited that they wake up before the sun comes up because they both slept pass 8;30 am.  Josie was first up & it didn’t take her long to notice the colorful eggs the Easter Bunny had left behind while she was sleeping.  Once Issac woke up he quickly joined in on the holiday fun.   

With both of our children being under 3 we focused on filling their baskets with non-candy items.  Each basket had some bath toys, bubbles, a shovel, a hoe, a pair of sandals, a ball, some bathtub body paints, 2 books, a new outfit in the bottom (in lue of grass) and a DVD.  We filled three dozen plastic eggs with teddy grams before we hid them around our house.  The kids loved everything in their baskets.  Josie was most excited about her new bath toys.  Issac was squealing with excitement over his new Lightning McQueen sandals & Mater books.

As the kids played with their new toys and watched one of their new movies I made breakfast.  After we finished our lemon blueberry pancakes & sausage we all got showered & dressed to make the drive north to Tyler’s Mom’s house in north Marysville. 
Once we arrived at Laura and Mark’s house it didn’t take the kids long to locate their Easter baskets.  After diving into their baskets we headed out front for another Easter egg hunt.  In typical Sipress fashion, both kids got a little boo-boo. Issac fell during the egg hunt & hit his head & Josie walked straight into the barbecue on the back deck when she was blinded by the sunshine. 

For dinner Laura made a delicious ham with a pineapple glaze, mashed potatoes, salad and rolls.  For dessert I made a sunflower peeps cake. It was a recipe I found on Pinterest.  It was simply 2 round 9 inch yellow cakes covered in chocolate frosting.  Then on top you place 20 peeps facing inward around the outside, then place chocolate chips in the center.  I will say, the recipe said to place each chocolate chip facing upward, but I was lazy and simply sprinkled them on top the cake. 

After dessert we made sure we captured a few family pictures.  The kids were done for the day & tired but we got a couple good pictures.  I know Issac looks mad but remember he’s almost 3 so he is experimenting with his facial expressions; in these pictures is his “show my teeth smile”. I hope everyone had a sunshine filled easter like us. 
 Above: Tyler & the kids with his Mom, Laura.
Bellow: My Mom with us & the kids.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Our First Family Road Trip

We had planned & canceled a trip to Utah last fall because Tyler was out of work due to injury & we couldn’t afford it. However, since my Grandma’s death it has weighted heavy on our minds that none of Tyler’s grandparents have yet to meet Miss Josie. To fly to Utah with Josie on our laps would have been close to a thousand dollars. However to drive was only about $350 in gas round trip. Once it was confirmed that Tyler was able to line up his work vacation with his school’s Spring Break, I began to plan everything out.  Before, during & after our trip  EVERYONE kept asking us why we choose to drive the "long" way to utah through Montana.  It is simple, we wanted to spend some time with tyler's younger brother & his wife in Spokane. 
We saved money on this trip in many ways. First off we drove instead of flying. Second, we took up every offer from different family members to have dinner with them so the only 2 nights we ate dinner out was when we were on the road. Thirdly, I packed our lunches for the driving days. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday. I also brought the kids snacks, cheerios, goldfish, banana chips, string cheese, juice boxes, animal crackers and fruit cups so that I always had something within an arm’s reach for them to snack on. I also preplanned out our activities & took advantage of online coupon sites to get the most for our money we only spent $92 on family activities on our trip. 
The kids were very cooperative in the car and behaved themselves in new places as best as can be expected of a 15 month old girl & an almost 3 year old boy. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I planned & packed everything in advance from the snacks to toys, books and the kid’s outfits. Tyler & I had sat down one night & planned our driving route to & from Utah including spots to stop for food & gas. On the trip, everything went smooth & we didn’t have to make any trips to target to purchase anything we forgot.

The kids, all smiles in the car.
Friday March 16th
Tyler went to work early, at 4am. He worked & then went to Green River community college to take his finals in the testing center. I packed up everything & cleaned the house. When Tyler got home we loaded the car & jumped on the freeway heading over the mountains on I-90 to Spokane. The kids slept most of the drive & we arrived at Tyler’s brother’s house just before 11pm.
We enjoyed St Patty’s Day with Uncle Jayson & Aunt Andalyn in Spokane. We went for a walk after breakfast because there was a crack of sunshine, but then got hailed on two blocks away. On our walk Issac located some amazing puddles; he was soaked through his pants & had an inch of water in the bottom of his boots at the end of the walk. Then we watched Dumbo, played with their dog Cooper and tossed some pine cones around the yard. It was a perfect low key Saturday. For dinner Jayson cooked a yummy roast and veggies.
Jayson made us super yummy breakfast as Andalyn got ready for work and we began to load the car for a 10 hour car ride. In the busy morning bustle Josie had been playing with the juice jug & cardboard in the kitchen recycling bin. Without a fussy or anyone noticing she located a refried bean can & cut her hand up. I noticed blood on Tyler’s chest as he was holding Josie and we searched for a source. When I located the wound on Josie’s little hand I knew it was from the can I had just taken away from her not 5 minutes before. We got the wound to stop bleeding and uncle Jayson wrapped it up in gauze and we left Spokane around 10 am, a little later than planned. 
Uncle Jayson, Tyler, Issac & Josie
We took I-90 from Spokane, through Idaho and passing into Montana. We stopped in at Fort Missoula for a brisk walk, got gas at Costco and enjoyed some McFlurries before getting back on the freeway. Montana was beautiful and we hit a ton of snow & slush but never had to go below 40 mph or stop & put on the chains. The entire drive was sourounded by snow covered mountains and Issac kept telling us to stop the car so we could go for a walk and play in the snow. 
We then took I-15 south through Idaho & into Utah. As it became dark & we drove further south the snow begun to fall hard. After we stopped for dinner in Idaho Falls, we switched drivers. Tyler drove us safely to his Uncle Dave’s house in Sandy, Utah as the kids and I slept. We arrived just before 11pm mountain time. 
We woke up Monday and enjoyed some waffles with Tyler’s Uncle Dave & Cousin Paul. Then there was a knock at the door & what might appear a tiny version of the kid’s Great Grandpa Don Neeley. Over the summer Don had a gastric bypass surgery and he sure looks great. He is more alert and active then I have ever seen him!! After Grandpa Don left we all got showered & ready to go to his house and see Great Grandma Cindy.
We spent the entire afternoon with Tyler’s grandparents, his uncle Chad, Uncle Dave and cousins; Paul, Crayson, Sky & Shae. It was fun to catch up with everyone and let the kids meet some more of their extended family. Then we headed back to Dave’s house for dinner. Dave’s wife Angie made this yummy Sicilian lasagna, which I WILL be making at home.
Tyler & I took the kids to The Living Planet Aquarium. The Aquarium is less than a block walk from where we were staying so we didn’t have to drive anywhere which is always nice. At the aquarium it was fun to see how excited the kids got as they checked out each little critter from the fish and frogs to the eels and penguins. They both extremely enjoyed touching the Sting Rays, watching the Shark Tank and the Penguins. The Otters had a super cool display but there was so many children we didn’t spend as much time at that exhibit.
 At the Aquarium
In the evening, Angie made Chimichangas for 12 people. (BIG THANK YOU).  Tyler & I tried to help by grating the cheese, shredding the chicken and washing the dishes.  Angie loves kids and she let issac help her in the kitchen whenever possible, so he helped her mix & make a mess.  Once the Grandparents; Don & Cindy and the cousins arrived it was a full house. It was a fun filled family dinner.
 Above: Aunt Angie cooking with issac. Bellow: Tyler & Paul shredding cooked chicken breasts.
Issac slept through dinner but woke up as everyone was having cupcakes. L Tyler wanted Issac to eat some of his dinner, they fought back & forth until Issac was kicking & screaming on the floor. Oh, to be two! Once the fuss had ended and Tyler turned his back, Auntie Angie gave Issac a cupcake. When I found Issac, he knew he was getting away with murder & I caught his guilty look on camera!
On our fifth day away from home it was time to do some laundry. We enjoyed a low key morning of Mickey Mouse Club house and Little Einsteins while I cleaned out the car, reorganized the room & did 3 loads of laundry. Then we enjoyed lunch at Five Guys Burgers. Seriously the best burger I have ever had topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions, yummmmmm! Then we took the kids to a park to let them play & enjoy some of the amazing weather outside.
Around 5pm we headed over to Tyler’s Aunt Valerie’s house. When we arrived we were able to briefly see Tyler’s Aunt Christy. The kids played outside with their cousins Gage and Whitney in the wagon and on the swing set. For dinner we enjoyed chicken tacos with Valerie, Burke, Kyle, gage and Whitney. It was fun evening, the kids didn’t fuss once, just played the entire time. Sweet Whitney kept the kids happy & safe the whole evening so the adults could catch up, then she cried at bed time because she wanted to spend more time with us.
 Above: Whitney & Josie. Bellow: Tyler & his Uncle Burke with Issac & cousin Gage.
Last time we went to Utah I was grouchy about us never going “downtown”. So Thursday we did just that. We parked at some fancy shopping center and took the Salt Lake City light rail, called TRAX to the Discovery Kids Museum at the Discovery Gateway Mall. We saw the downtown Catholic Church and the sacred Mormon Temple. It was a beautiful day filled with fun. For dinner Angie & I went to some bakery she loves & picked up sandwiches that put Subway to shame. Fresh baked break, inch thick slices, fresh sliced turkey and cheddar with cream cheese and cranberry sauce.
 These 2 pictures are from on the TRAX.
The Discovery Gateway Children's Meseum was fabulous. Unlike the Pacific Science Center that is best for school aged children, this was largely aimed at the pre-K aged kids.  It was perfect for both our kids and randomly while we were still in Utah Tyler got a living social deal for the Discovery Kids Meseum on Bainbridge Island. So we plan to take a day trip on the ferry sometime this summer. (FUN).

Above: Josie in a mini treehouse.
Bellow: Issac playing at the water station.

Bellow: the kids making music with Mom.
Being our last full day in Utah we jammed Friday packed with family and fun. First we took Tyler’s Grandparents to lunch at Red Lobster (our splurge meal of the trip). After lunch with Tyler’s grandparents & his Uncle Chad we spent a few hours hanging out at their place with Tyler’s cousins and took some family pictures before we headed to meet Paul after school.
 Above: Tyler with his Grandparents.
 Above: Tyler & issac with Great Grandma Cindy. 
Bellow: Tyler & Josie with Great Grandma Cindy & great Grandpa Don.
We picked up Paul & headed to the Zoo. The kids had such a great time. Paul being 14 wasn’t as excited to see the monkeys swing from tree to tree or to watch the giraffe lick a pole for 15 minutes but he was a good sport & enjoyed seeing the kids get excited. Besides the animals, the kids each had a favorite part of the Hoggle Zoo. For Josie it was the Carousel ride. At first she wasn’t impressed but just as she started to vocally express her dissatisfaction, the horse began to move up and down. She loved it, giggled & smiled the entire ride, then fussed when we got off.
 Above & Bellow: The Carousel Ride.

 Above: The kids seriously were laughing outloud at the monkeys playing in their cage!
Bellow: Cousin Paul is an APE!!!
The one thing that was cool for Issac was that the Zoo has a Train!!! Now as an adult, the train is small in size, just a bit larger than the little blue & silver roller coaster cars at the fair, but for a toddler, it was a train! The train ride was lame, we could only see a few animals & the ride lasted less than 12 minutes but the kids LOVED it and at the end of the day, that is what counts!
 Above: issac when he realized we were going to ride the train.
Bellow: Tyler, Paul & the kids on the train.
 Bellow: the kids & Mom on the train.
We got & on the road around 8 am. We drove north on I-15 passing from Utah into Idaho. It was a beautiful sunny day so we stopped in Boise at Camelsback Park for lunch & so the kids could play. Just as we passed from Idaho into Oregon we were passed by a guy driving over 90 mph swerving in and out of traffic driving a white Honda with Sims Honda license plate frame and a WWU sticker. I knew he was from Whatcom or Skagit counties. As we pulled into La Grande to stop for dinner we saw that young man flipped upside down on the side of the highway & we both said a prayer for his life. We enjoyed salad & pizza at a small town place & finished our drive home. We crossed into Washington & came home on I-90, arriving home around 11pm. The dogs were happy to see us & the kids were happy to be home. Vacation is nice, but there simply is no place like home. 
Thank you to everyone who took the time to see us on our trip. Thank you to Jayson & Andalyn for letting us stay with you for two nights. Tyler & I want to give a BIG THANK YOU to his Aunt Valerie for making us dinner and opening her house to us for the evening. Also a LARGE THANKS our friend Shobi for house & doggie sitting; we didn’t worry about our animals one second. Finally we want to give an X-LARGE THANK YOU to Dave and Angie Neeley who opened their home to us, providing us with our own guest bedroom and bathroom, feeding us and letting our children give their dogs a rough time. It was a fabulous family & fun filled vacation.
Another Sipress Success.
~ XOXO Leah, Tyler, Issac & Josie