I think in my last post I mentioned something about getting another one done before we left MiMi and Papa's house in Texas. Or not. I'm determined to get the thing done before January is over anyway.
Anyway, a late Merry Christmas to all.
This was a very different Christmas for us. A long overdue, too brief tribute follows.
Just the week before we went to Texas, James' Grandpa Himstedt passed away. He had a several health problems over the years, but for the most part stayed strong until the past year or so. He even went sky diving for his 80th birthday! The year before last he and Grandma moved into an apartment in a retirement community and have been living the good life. They've made friends there and thankfully Grandma will be surrounded by supportive folks during this difficult time. Here are a few pictures of us with Grandpa during happier times.
During our first ever Open House at camp, April 2005. Grandpa and Grandma, us, and Aunt Sherry and Uncle Denny.
Love this picture. May 2005.
Christmas 2008, on our last holiday trip to Texas. This is the last time I got to see him.
Grandpa, James' dad's dad, Fred Himstedt Jr., was a Godly man. He had been a pastor, and a blessing to countless folks. Serving others was his forte and he did it well and without complaint. He and Grandma worked with the Texas Baptist Builders for years after they retired, moving from location to location with their camping trailer to volunteer their time building churches and doing ministry. He was a wonderful father of three, grandfather, and great grandfather. Though James and I haven't been able to see he and Grandma nearly as much as we would like over the years of our marriage (Texas is kind of far away), we have always treasured our time with them. He welcomed me wholeheartedly into the family, and sent nice emails every now and then to let us know how much they enjoyed our family updates. He always set a Godly example for his family, and is leaving a legacy Godliness behind him, for which we are extremely grateful. He will be missed very much.
I'm so glad James was able to make the trip to Texas in August for his Dad's birthday. That was the last time he got to see Grandpa, and he will be forever glad he got to spend time with him then.
We go to Texas for Christmas with James' family every other year, and this year was our year to travel west. We left after church on December 19th and drove until we couldn't stand it anymore, which landed us in Vicksburg, MS. The next day we rolled in Azle, close to Fort Worth, mid afternoon on Monday. James' brother Jason drove up from Austin to join us. It was 82 degrees, really off for this time of year but I was really happy to see it. I felt like I was coming out of hibernation since it had already been COLD in Georgia for six weeks. By Tuesday afternoon the warm was gone, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.
Before I get too much deeper into the story of Christmas 2010, I want to showcase something.
Below are a couple of pictures of the best Christmas present I got this year.
A diaper free life. Yes, after only 7 1/2 years of diapers, some of those years with two kids in diapers at once, we are now once again responsible citizens of the planet, no longer saturating landfills with non-biodegradable, poop-filled surprises. I have only one thing to say about it. YAYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Go Tinkerbell, go. Or is that TINKLEbell?
I contemplated throwing myself a party to celebrate our newly reclaimed diaperless life, complete with cake...chocolate, of course, perhaps with Baby Ruths or Tootsie Rolls on top...
Back to the Texas story.
On Tuesday we got to see Grandma Himstedt when she came to Azle. Life will be hard for her, as she and Grandpa are two of those lucky folks who have spent more years together retired than they did working. I can't imagine the pain and the adjustment.
We spent Monday through Thursday in Azle. Tuesday James and I finished our Christmas shopping. For some reason I was kind of dreading it. The temptation of not having to haul it all with us on the way out to Texas made it easy to wait until we got there. Then within three hours, mission accomplished, all done! Perhaps I will procrastinate next year if it can be that easy again.
Meanwhile Mimi took the kids to the park.
Wednesday James, Jason, Dad H., and Grandma drove to Witchita Falls, TX, Grandma and Grandpa's old stomping grounds (where Dad H. was raised). They met a few friends and family members and had a short final goodbye as they laid Grandpa's ashes to rest. James said it was sweet and meaningful. Unfortunately we missed the funeral service by a few days since we already had our drive scheduled.
Meanwhile Mom H. and I took the kids to the Children's Science Museum in Fort Worth where we met my sister-in-law Jennifer, who drove up from Austin.
She's an excellent insect studier after spending our last semester studying all kinds of crawling things.
...you can spin fast enough to actually get sick. Since my reluctant discovery at Six Flags this summer of what it feels like to have the old, stale inner ear fluid of a 36 year old (my theory on why I now get dizzy so easily), I elected not to try it. I like the room not spinning for an hour afterward and my lunch staying where I put it.
We also hit the 4-D movie, all about how Earth came to be and how oil deposits happened, and how they get them out.
Heh heh, sure it's easy to be all silly now before the movie starts. Just wait 'til that 3-D dinosaur sneezes on you and that whatever it is under your seat whips your legs.
They didn't care to see it again.
We saw a lot of fun things and had a great day at the museum. Then Mimi and the kids got eaten by a giant crocodile. The end.
Thursday we headed down to Austin, about 3 1/2 hours from Azle. When I mentioned earlier that it was a different kind of Christmas, it wasn't just because it was in Texas or just because we lost an irreplaceable family member right before the holidays. This was the first Christmas we had ever spent in a hospital.
In October Jared and Laura's first baby was born, little Voa Lou Himstedt. They knew in utero that she was going to have hydrocephalus, extra fluid in her head due to a blockage that didn't allow the cerebrospinal fluid to drain properly. She has since had two shunts and surgery to try to open the blockage, but infection interfered each time and landed her back in the hospital. One of the nearly three week long stays coincided with Christmas, so we all headed to Dell Childrens' Hospital in Austin to hang out with them for a few days and to meet our new niece.
Our family got to stay at the Ronald McDonald House across from the hospital. What a blessing that place is! It really is a God-send for families with kids who have long term stays at the hospital. More on that later.
And then we got to meet Voa.
She has been through a lot, as have her parents Laura and Jared. It's a learning process for all, and Laura and Jared's composure in the face of it is incredible. We've been asked by many concerned folks (she's on our prayer list at church) what her prognosis is. There's a lot of good news, in that she is very healthy and has never had problems unrelated to the hydrocephalus. Scans of her brain look good. As far as delays in development go, they just remain to be seen. Laura was telling me she will have to grow into her head, and with it being heavier than normal she will be delayed learning to sit up and crawl. They are pretty sure she will get glasses around six months old. Countless prayers have gone up for her already, and they will continue. Every night our kids pray for "Baby Voa Lou." Tonight Elizabeth prayed "that Baby Voa Lou will get bettew." (She has some trouble with her "r" sounds.) I admire Laura's calm. She takes things in stride and is learning all she can.
Voa was in the midst of a couple of weeks of heavy duty antibiotics to treat the infection from her shunt, and was awaiting a clear report so they could put in another shunt and set them free. Up to that week she had spent more weeks in the hospital than out. I'm glad to report that the week of New Year's they put in another shunt and she's now been home for three weeks. Laura reports that she's made up for lost time in people's arms and loves being held and carried.
There's a lot more to our Texas adventures, and I will work on them soon. I need to load more pictures. I need to go to bed. It's nearly midnight and we have to leave for church by 8:00 in the morning to make it in time for the early service. We're in our second month with our new pastor, and so far it's been great. Dr. Levi Skipper and his family (they have four kids, seven and under- CRAZY people) have been a blessing to our church so far. I've never been in a church where the pastor is younger than me. That certainly couldn't have anything to do with MY age. I have remained ageless yet somehow every year there more and more people younger than me. Weird.