Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preschool Christmas Programs

This week both girls entertained us with their preschool Christmas programs. Olivia was first up having her program on Tuesday. She did a beautiful job! The teachers who were sitting in front helping lead the children said she was maybe auditioning for her part in the program for next year. When the Innkeepers didn't say their line right away, Livi was standing up in front whispering, "There is no room!". She knew what they were supposed to say. :)

"My heart Rejoices!"

Grammy came up to see both programs. Getting snuggles from the girls after Olivia's program.

Mommy, Daddy and the girls

Little cutie 

Ella's program was today, Wednesday. What a beautiful little angel she was! So excited to see us as she walked in.

Tallest of all angels as well. Look how high her hands are compared to her friends!

She liked her wings.

Daddy, Mommy and Angel Ella

All 5 of her fabulous teachers! We LOVE Miss Angie, Miss Dale, Miss Kristin, Miss Kris and Miss Niki

Thank you to Grammy, Grandma, Aunt Carrie and Owen for coming to enjoy the Christmas programs with us!
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Gingerbread" house fun!

We decided to finally try "gingerbread" houses tonight. Both big kids came home talking about it. Ella actually made gingerbread houses at preschool today and Aidan designed one in art class I guess. I have had the stuff sitting on the kitchen counter for like 2 weeks, but neither Aaron or I have ever made gingerbread houses before. We decided tonight was the night! And I keep putting "gingerbread" in quotes because we actually just made them out of graham crackers. Works for us!

Here Aaron is strategically cutting the crackers so we can easily assemble the houses. He wanted me to take a picture of his little house "kits".

We also added some upside down sugar cone ice cream cones. We thought they could be like a castle. I put what candies I had into a little dish in the middle of the table. but quickly just put some of each candy onto each child's tray. Much easier than reaching over their houses and getting frosting all over their shirts.

I thought this was a fun little series so made a collage. Livi patiently waiting for daddy to assemble her house. Found some candy or drip of frosting. Lick it off her finger - BUSTED! Cheese! What a little knucklehead.

All three kids LOVED this activity. I had to cut it off at the hour mark because it was 8:00 and time for bed. I loved that they loved it. We will have to start much sooner in the evening next time we try this project.

Olivia was very focused putting her candies on. I think it was like, 1 for the house, 1 for me, 1 for the house, 1 for me. :)

Pretty Ella Bear wanted me to put a frosting cross on the side closest to her so if Jesus saw her "gingerbread" house he would like it. :)

Aidan really liked the whole thing. He loved decorating and wanted help adding doors and everything.

As a side note, Sixer fell over on the counter while we were working. Aidan told me to go get my "special" gloves on so I could help Sixer sit back up. I did and then I told the kids that I had read somewhere that there was a special rule that on the last night Sixer is here this year, Christmas Eve, Sixer is allowed to get hugs from the children before they go to bed. Sixer will be able to keep his magic so he can still get back to the North Pole. The rule only applies to Christmas Eve so children and their elves can say goodbye until the next year. I wish I would have had a camera to capture how excited they all were at this prospect. LOVE IT!
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Ella is 5!!!

This shirt is so perfect for our little bear. It reads, "Smiles all the time".  I can't believe she is 5! For some reason that just seems really old to me. How can she be 5?! She will go to Kindergarten next year!

We had a lovely little family party for her a few days before her birthday. She requested homemade pizza and an awesome cake with Ariel on it from Aunt Em. And that is exactly what she got. :) Here are a few fun pictures from the day:

Livi pretending to take pictures with her invisible camera.

Happy with all her gifts!

Checking out her amazing cake.

Our smiley birthday girl.

Not so sure about everyone singing "Happy Birthday" though.

Brother and sister sure enjoy singing it though!

Blowing out the candles, at least 1 blow for each candle. 

Happy Birthday sweet Ella Bear! We love you!

Friday, November 2, 2012

More random thoughts

I have had some other random thoughts lately that I wanted to share. These are kind of all over the place, so bear with me. It helps that I finally uploaded all my iPhone photos onto my computer this morning.

My first random thought is about the last gift we gave to dad. I saw an idea on Pinterest that a girl had done for her dad. For her dad's 60th birthday she asked friends and family to write down little memories and fun stories. Her goal was 60 envelopes with a different story in each one. I decided this would be the perfect thing to do for dad. Not for his birthday, as that is in February, but just something I hoped would make him smile and a fun reflection on life.
So I got some email addresses from mom and sent out a little note asking for help. Then those people forwarded it on to others they knew who knew dad. I immediately had several emails back from people who were excited to help with this project. I was so excited that this might actually work! For the next 2 weeks it was like Christmas morning for me every time I got my mail. I had about 3-6 letters every day. My goal was to collect 63 stories because dad was 63. We got 80!!!!! I was a little sad I didn't get to see dad open up all the envelopes, but mom and Chris said he really enjoyed them. My goal had been to give this gift to dad, but now, really, the stories are a gift to all of us. Mom had put all the letters in a binder once dad had read them, so I took the binder and copied the stories and made a binder for Chris, Carrie and myself. (Merry Christmas brother and sister!  ;)  ) It is so awesome to have these precious memories from so many friends and family. They make me cry, they make me laugh, and definitely give us an insight into different sides of dad. Who knew he used to drag race on the roads outside Sheffield growing up?! Such a blessing that all those people were willing to be a part of this project and took the time to share their memories, and such a wonderful gift for all of us.

That week while dad was in hospice I had posted a status on Facebook praying for peace, comfort,strength. I posted this picture later with the caption, "Grandma said Ella could sit in Papa's chair this morning. Ella said it was comfy cozy". Aaron's Aunt Jana commented that that is part of the comfort I was praying for. It just stuck with me that day. :)

We had some fun while at hospice too. Have to with little people to entertain. They had a lovely little walking path around the building so we would take the kids outside. Here is Uncle Chris and Ella being goofy.

One fun surprise of the week was that my mother-in-law and her friends had gone on a girls week to New York City. Their first morning there they went to the Today show and Paula was selected for an ambush makeover! Such an amazing experience for all of them and such a fun diversion for us. 

Mom had decided to take the girls for a walk over to a park. She had received inaccurate information from a nurse as to how far the park was. What she had thought would be a couple of blocks was actually about 10 blocks. But I guess the girls were troopers and made it all the way. They had a good time at the park, though since it had taken so long to walk there they ran out of time at the actual park. Oh well, still a nice afternoon with beautiful weather.

Luckily my girls are perfectly happy as long as they have a handful of little figures to play with. They could play with their little princesses and Star Wars figures for hours.

This isn't even in good focus, but they both have such nice smiles I had to share it.The closed door in the background was dad's room.

Uncle Chris taking a nap. The girls decided he needed something to make him a little more comfy. So here he is cuddling Ella's bunny and covered in her sweatshirt. Tee hee. :)

Mom's friend Mary Ellen had a new puppy, Maddie. She was so nice to bring Maddie over to hospice house for the girls and Owen to play with. Ella loved that cute little puppy. She kept asking if Mary Ellen could bring her over again. Here they are playing at Grandma and Papa's house. I call it puppy love therapy.

That is all the pictures I have to share, but I do have a couple more thoughts to share.  At the visitation so many people came to pay their respects. It was so nice to see so many people I have not seen in years! And meeting so many of dad's co-workers and putting a face to the stories they had shared for our gift of memories project. We joked with Doc before people started arriving that there would be 2 people to stop in to see Chris. Always have to give Chris a hard time. Its fun. :) When Chris's high school basketball coach stopped by I had to laugh and tell him he was one of Chris's two people! Even though we could count him as ours too because he was my government and economics teacher as well. But we'll let Chris have him. A little while later, Sully, who was a teacher and coach, but who I never had came through and told me that Coach Schulte had his Xavier football team say a prayer for dad and our family at practice. So sweet. A couple people later, there was Coach Schulte. Now I did really well holding it together through the whole visitation. I got a little teary when my aunt Nancy walked in with red eyes and when my friends who drove from 2 hours away came in. But when Coach walked up to me I almost lost it. He was one of my History teachers, Theology teachers, and my basketball coach. I actually think I only played 1 year for him. My senior year I decided to just be the statistician or something. But I have such respect for this man, that seeing him come and take the time to talk to each of us really affected me. I still call him Coach. I cannot think of another coach that I still refer to as Coach. I think that title deserves respect, obviously from current players for any team, but that is takes a truly great person, great coach to keep that title even after you no longer are part of that team. Coach Schulte and his Xavier football team are playing tonight for a chance to go to the UNI Dome. I will be anxiously waiting to see the scores from tonight's games and maybe we will get to take a little field trip to Cedar Falls next week. Go SAINTS!

Okay, I guess I have one more thought to share, but I think it deserves its own post. Thank you everyone that has 1) taken the time to read through my lengthy posts and 2) all those that left such sweet comments, either on the blog or on Facebook.

Random thoughts, to be continued....
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Some thoughts

It has been three weeks now since dad passed. I meant to do this post earlier, but it took some time to get myself and kids back on schedule and caught up with things that had been put on hold while we were driving back and forth to Cedar Rapids and being at the hospice house for a week. I just want to share a few thoughts, mostly for my own memory.

During the month of September I took each of the girls back to Cedar Rapids to visit so they could spend a little time with Papa. I was planning on taking Aidan home on Sunday afternoon, September 23. Mom called Saturday morning the 22nd to say that they were going to the hospice house to try to get dad's ammonia levels in check. I was hosting a baby shower at my house in which friends were staying overnight that day, so I kept with that plan and took Aidan to Cedar Rapids Sunday afternoon. Dad was sleeping when we got to the hospice house, but before we left he sort of woke up and Aidan waved to him and said hi and Papa waved back. Gave him a kiss and said we would be back in the morning. That was the last time I saw dad awake and aware of what was going on.

He slept the whole time we were there on Monday. We met with the hospice people and made the decision to keep him at hospice house because we were having a hard time keeping his pain under control and were more comfortable having instant access to the nurses and doctors to adjust medication as needed. We were very sad about this because dad hated hospitals and had really wanted to be at home. Had we taken him home though we would have had to call a hospice nurse, wait for her to get there, have her assess, call the doc and adjust medicine, go get medicine, etc. Just too long to get the needed pain relief.

Aidan and I had to go home Monday, but I decided to come back Tuesday with both girls and we would stay until the end. Tuesday was the worst day. I got a call as we were driving that they were taking dad to the hospital because he had pulled his catheter out and now had blood clots and problems from doing that. Got another call that the hospital doctors gave them the option of surgery to try to remove blood clots or take him back to hospice and just make him as comfortable as possible. Mom, Chris, Carrie, (and I agreed) chose to go back to hospice, as surgery and anesthesia could have gone bad. Justin was awesome and volunteered to watch the girls for the afternoon so I could be at hospice house and help while they got dad's meds where they needed to be. It was the hardest day in my opinion because every 10 minutes dad would try to get out of bed, so we had to stop him and convince him to lay down again. I have no idea how Mom, Chris and Carrie did this all day long. 

The rest of the week seemed to be smoother. His pain seemed to be under control and he slept. The girls did amazing. There was a little play area very close to dad's room so the girls could go in there and play kitchen, babies, color, watch videos. The hospice house and staff were amazing as well. The nurses and other staff I believe must be angels here on earth. They were so kind and caring to all of us. They have to care for their patients and make them comfortable, but also comfort the families who are enduring such difficult times.

Friday afternoon I told Aaron he didn't have to come until Saturday after Aidan's football game. He gave Aidan the choice and Aidan said they should go to Cedar Rapids and help mommy. I am so thankful they did. I think Tuesday-Thursday nights Carrie and Mom stayed overnight with dad. Friday night Carrie stayed but went home when Chris got there at 5:00ish I think. This was the earliest Chris had gone. Because Aaron had come I was able to get up and be over there about 6:30. I stopped at HyVee which was right near hospice to grab some donuts for everyone. When I got back in the car the song "If You Get There Before I Do" by Collin Raye was on. This was a song we had chosen for the slide show we would show at dad's visitation. I have not heard that song on the radio in a long time. I felt it was a sign that maybe I was too late and hurried the 2 blocks over to hospice house. Chris was sleeping in the corner. I sat next to dad for awhile, but it was dark and I was tired so I laid on the couch and started falling asleep. At 7:11 my best friend, Sara, texted me, "Are you awake?". I again cannot tell you a time that she has texted me that early. It did wake me up. A couple minutes later the nurse came in to do the shift change just as dad made kind of a moan. Chris and I popped up and went over, she listened to his heart, told me to call mom. She had just called the hospice asking for an update, they had walked down to ask, I called her and told her to come down. Chris and I held his hand, I stroked his hair, he took a few more breaths and was gone.

I am so thankful that Chris and I were able to be with him. I am so thankful Sara felt she should text me at that time. Looking back at the song on the radio and the timing of Sara's text, you might think I am nuts, but I feel they were my signs I needed to be awake and present in that moment.

After we had the room all packed up and Chris, Carrie and I were standing outside by our cars, Carrie said something about wondering what dad was doing up in heaven right then. She said he was probably getting a tour. Chris said he was probably asking about the power grid situation and how everything was powered. Carrie said that they probably told him the power source is God and dad would have been like, good deal, pretty reliable source. :) The next morning at church, as the pastor was starting to give his message, he put up a graphic of a simple circuit (battery, wires, light, switch). He started talking about how God is the source of power! We all looked at each other and smiled. How amazing! It was like dad was confirming our thoughts from the day before and letting us know he had made it okay and all was well. :)

Visitation was Tuesday and was so lovely to see so many family and friends. I dressed the girls in red dresses which I don't normally do because I don't like to be really matchy matchy. But on this night I discovered it was super easy when someone asked me which were my kids I could say find the girls in red, and the cute little boy narrating Papa's slide show for anyone that had a question about any of the pictures. :)

Dad's Navy picture, flag, picture of his ship, the USS Saginaw

Flowers, Dad's bible, wooden cross he held his week in hospice, urn he made for himself, yellow rose from mom because dad always gave her a yellow rose on special occassions, picture of mom and dad, framed quote I made that Dad had by his bed at home since he was diagnosed. It reads, "God Our Father, Walk through my house and take away all my worries and illnesses, please watch over and heal my family. In Jesus name, Amen."

Cute girls in red

Funeral was Wednesday. This is the only family picture we have from that day. The lovely woman in the middle is Helen Martinson. She was my Grandma and Grandpa Van Sickel's best friend. Dad has always kept in close touch with her. Aidan wore a tie because, well, he is super handsome. :) But also because he wanted to wear one to one of his preschool Christmas programs. Mom and Dad had gone to that program and ever since then Dad joked if Aidan wanted to wear a tie again whenever he was dressing up. He got such a kick out of the fact that Aidan had wanted to wear a tie to his preschool program.

All of my Van Sickel first cousins were able to be there. All of them. And 2 second cousins. So happy that our family that lives out east was able to make it back.


I am so thankful for everyone's prayers, cards, messages, and hugs. Friends that drive 4 hours to spend 2 minutes with me to give me a hug at the visitation. Friends who let me borrow dresses so I don't have to stress about shopping for something suitable to wear. Friends that drive 10 hours in 2 days to give me hug and smile and randomly propose going on a girls trip to give me something happy to look forward to. ;) Thankful for friends and family whose gifts of memory stones and wind chimes allow me to have tangible things to look at and remember this time. I am so thankful for all the amazing people that surround me and my family...and my new angel up in heaven watching over us all. 
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Aidan's first day of 1st Grade!

Well, little man is a 1st grader now. We were much more calm about starting first grade than kindergarten. Much easier when you know a little about what to expect. Though Aidan did admit on the way over he was both excited and nervous.

We have heard good things about his teacher, which is always nice. She seems nice and has already had excellent communication through email, which we like. She will be having a baby sometime so hopefully they find a fabulous guest teacher during her maternity leave.

Aidan came home with a few interesting details about his class. He has a boy with hearing difficulties so the teacher wears a microphone and the boy has a speaker on his desk so he can hear better. Aidan said, "Isn't technology wonderful!". He has 24 kids in his class, but one was missing on the first day because she was in the hospital, though he was not sure why.

He asked me if I remembered him telling me that a boy had pushed him down last year. I had not, though the boy's name did sound vaguely familiar. He said that boy was his teacher's son and that he was doing Kindergarten again this year. Interesting detail.

Before he got in his line to go into school he went over to give his Kindergarten teacher a hug. Mommy made him go over to say hi to her since he was a little nervous, but once he got close and Mrs. Swanson saw him and another Kindergarten friend her face lit up and so did Aidan's. He got over his shyness and went to give her a hug. We loved Mrs. Swanson last year and hope he can have her again next year as she has moved up to 2nd grade.

I think he really enjoyed being back at school. He came home and told us all the new rules in the lunchroom, rules in PE, rules for bathroom breaks, basically a day of re-learning the rules in every aspect of their day. Can't wait to hear more from day 2 when we pick him up this afternoon!
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Aidan's Spring Program

Last night Aidan had his Kindergarten Spring program. It was so good! All the kids did an awesome job and it was a lot of fun. All of the kids had a special role to play and Aidan's was being a reader. He was one of the first ones and he did a great job. I uploaded the video of his reading to YouTube -Aidan video.

They were tossing around balloons in the audience at this point, Aidan obviously got a kick out of that. :)

With Grandma and Papa Van

Grammy and Aidan

Our family

Great Job Aidan!!!