January 22, 2011

Texas and a tribute

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 wasn't going to start the potty training process until after Christmas because of the long drive to Texas and back for the holidays. I figured it would just be easier not to have to stop every hour. She decided on her own that she wanted to use the potty, so the whole process has been very low key and easy. She's been wearing pull ups (pool ups, she calls them), and now big girl undies for about two months now. So at 2 1/2 she's potty trained, and it turns out we had nothing to worry about on the long trip. She made it across three states with no accidents, and she could hold it as long as we can. It's nice to have an advanced kid. A potty genius. She must take after me.

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.

The kids were very happy to see her.

It won't be easy for her. We pray for her every day. I wish she lived closer.

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.

Back to Mimi's!

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.

My kids have never even seen a normal Lite Brite, let alone a giant one. I might have to see if they still make them. We wore the one at my Granny and Paw Paw's out when we were kids.

She's an excellent insect studier after spending our last semester studying all kinds of crawling things.

Ah, the power to create a tornado. I just wish I had the power to make them go away. I think it's the scariest kind of weather anyone could ever think of in real life. I managed not to run away screaming and looking for a basement under simulated conditions however.

And this thing goes round and round.

It you put your leg out it slows down to demonstrate..er.... something scientific....and when you pull your leg back in...
...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.

Aunt Jeni at 23 was a much better candidate for a spinny scientific principle demonstration, and actually seemed to be having fun. I remember those days and am jealous.

And she can also hula hoop. Turns out I can too. I learned that day that most adults don't think they can because the hula hoops they try belong to their kids and are too small. If you get one big enough you can still do it with little effort. Give it a try, go on!

We also visited an area where artsy craftsy things were going on.

Aunt Jeni has an art history degree, and is quite talented artistically as well. She and the boys made some sail boats.

Shannon promptly drew a mud-boggin' buggy on his sail, naturally.

The girls made party hats. In honor of Jesus' birthday, perhaps? I don't know.

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.

I thought the filming of the Big Bang was spectacular, especially considering how life hadn't chanced to come about yet from the gasses and goo and there were no humans around yet to have invented the camera. Perhaps I shall have to revise my speculations on the origins of life, now that I've definitively seen it with my own eyes on film.

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.

They did like the dig part though, and played the part of paleontologists digging up dino bones.

I suspect they were concrete bones, but that didn't lessen the fun

Somehow the fact that it was no longer in the 80's but now in the 50's with a relentless wind didn't "dampen" the water play fun for them either. It did for me, but I was a good sport and stayed outside until I couldn't stand it anymore. Then I stood inside in the heat and watched them through the big glass doors.

Yes my hands are freezing off and I am cold, but I would never tell you that Mom!

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.

When we got to the hospital the kids immediately got busy in a well-stocked play area on Voa's floor.

In spite of the struggles being lived out by families all over the hospital, it actually is quite a cheery place around the holidays. It was for our kids anyway, seeing that they were quite healthy. (Praise the Lord for that, a thousand times over.) At every turn someone was handing them a toy or some other Christmas treat.

And then we got to meet Voa.

She's a sweet thing. It was a real bummer that we couldn't hold her. The last shunt that had gotten infected had to be taken out so the fluid was being removed through a tube into a bag, and she couldn't be picked up because it would interfere with the tube doing its job.

Voa and Papa.

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.