November started out with the usual excitement of Caroline's birthday. For the first time we did not have a party at home. Since Caroline was hoping for a large present from the American Girl store we told her that any party would be small and low key. She requested a trip to the Butterfly Pavilion with two friends, two cousins and one brother. Deal! It was a fun day and although I didn't get to hang anything from the chandelier or decorate the house, I was able to slip a few crafty elements into the day.
|My little girl is nine!|
|The kids spent most of the time like this, hoping and hoping|
a butterfly would land on them.
|Max was one of the lucky ones!|
On the heals of Caroline's birthday, Ray and I had a large surprise for the whole family. We both have a habit of talking about something for years, never acting and then, boom, in a split second we make a major decision. Left alone for a date weekend with plans to go out to eat and a trip downtown to the art museum...we ended up buying an RV! This has been a life long dream of Ray's and one I have stalled on for years. I always said that an RV would be my life, only smaller, and how would that feel like a vacation? But that was before children and special diets and travel goals to see all 50 states. We both assumed an RV would not be in our budget either...but then we saw a used RV and the wheels started to turn and with in a day we were the proud owners of an 18 year old, much loved, much driven, 32 foot motor home! We kept it a secret until we were able to take delivery of it and then we surprised my folks, the kids and my nieces all at the same time. It was awesome on so many levels. Ray has made so many of my dreams come true, it was really special to have his dream become mine too and for it to happen.
|She may be old and faded, but she is ours!|
One of Ray's secret wishes with a motor home was the idea of driving his father up to Sacramento in it. His dad had been in poor health for so long and the family had begun discussions of both his parents moving to Sacramento to be closer to Ray's sister. With his dad often in and out of the hospital, we were not sure he could fly, the RV would be a way to get him there comfortably. Sadly, with in days of us getting the RV, Ray's father had a stroke. Two days later Ray was at his bedside saying goodbye. It was such a tough time and so very sad. Caroline cried and cried when I told her and Max, unsure of how to react chose to recite the 23rd psalm to anyone who would listen. He had just committed it to memory and his little logical brain though this would be the best thing to say. He didn't know that Ray had read that very psalm to his father with in hours of his final breath. Ray stayed out in California for a few days and then came home to us, so we could all fly out for the funeral together. Although it was a tough time for everyone, there were bright spots during our time in San Diego. The kids got to spend time with their beloved cousins Rebecca and Steven. They played their hearts out, as only children can with out a firm grasp of death and loss. It was a balm to all of us to watch them together. Another highlight was seeing Ray's cousins. We rarely get to see them, as we are all scattered about the country, but those girls wasted no time getting to San Diego to honor their uncle and to cheer us all with their smiles and quick wits. I don't think I have ever met a group of four sisters who can joke and laugh like they can, something we all needed.
|We arrived home at 4AM due to plane delays. Max could barely walk or stand.|
Right in the middle of the passing of Ray's dad and the funeral was Max's birthday. He had only one request after last year's not so smooth karate birthday party. He wanted a family party, only his parents, grandparents, cousins and sister were allowed and it had to be at Chuck E Cheese. He wanted a full party with 4 kids and 4 adults and he really didn't understand why it had to wait. So in the few days that Ray was home before we all left for the funeral, we went to Chuck E Cheese. Although I had little desire to be there (Chuck E Cheese is rarely on any adults top 10 list), and none of us were really in the mood for a party, it was great fun watching Max have fun. It was equally touching to watch Ray dutifully play "air" guitar along with Chuck E Cheese and Max, knowing full well that he had so much on his mind and heart. We lost a great man in Ray's dad, but I see him live on in Ray. I hope Max will follow in the footsteps of men who delight in their children. That is one thing I will always remember about Ray's father, he was just so proud, interested and engaged with his kids and grand kids.
We came home from the funeral to Thanksgiving and then the rush of getting ready for Christmas. This year Caroline danced in the Nutcracker. Having a part in the ballet was really a family affair with how much she had to practice. And with the worst timing ever, I came down with flu during her tech week. She had to be two towns away every night to rehearse on stage. This was not a grab some tissues and get on with life kind of flu either. It was a lay in bed, not sure what day is it, and did anyone remember to feed Max, kind of flu. With the help Mom, Jim and Ray we all made it through the week and I was just well enough to make it to the performance. Oh the joy, she was so adorable and thrilled to be in two shows of the ballet. She was the sweetest little mouse up there and is already planning for next years show.
|Sadly this was the ONLY picture taken. Ray was able to snap it on her way|
to the dressing room during rehearsal one night.
Although I was over the worst of it, Christmas looked like this for me.
And to compound things my mother got the bug too. But not from me, I am sure of it! So there was no Christmas eve dinner at our house, no Christmas day party at her house. Everyone just stayed in their PJs. We did welcome Jim to our house Christmas night for dinner, he decided we were the least germ ridden and had better food than my poor mother.
So there you have it. Two months that were filled with highs and lows, birthdays, ballets and flu bugs. As we close out this year I couldn't be more thankful for my family. A line in a book I read recently really sums it up....Your cup of joy can only be as deep as your cup of sorrow. It is so true. The sad and tough parts of life are never welcomed, but they are the counter point to the joy and in many ways what makes the joy so rich.
So we continue to try to live each day to the fullest and to choose joy at every turn. I look forward to 2014.