Summer of Fun 2013: Go on a Hike (Big Bend National Park)

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When we were planning our Summer Fun List, I knew that Sean and Gabriel had a special trip planned.

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Once or twice per year, they take a little trip with two other dads and their sons.

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We have known them all since Gabriel was in Kindergarten, and we have been blessed with some wonderful family friendships.

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This year, they decided to take a trip to Big Bend National Park.

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As an added bonus, they swam in the Rio Grande River and enjoyed a little touch of Mexico.

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The boys were so excited that even the 8 hour drive did not deter the excitement.

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I stayed home and had special time with Summer and Ethan,

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while Sean and Gabriel made memories that will last a lifetime.

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I had no idea how much I could possibly miss them until there was no telephone reception the first night.  By the time I heard their voices the next morning, it felt like I had not talked to them in a week.  Poor Ethan was so sad, as he choked out “Bubba” through tears.

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I was so happy that they were able to take a special trip to a special place….but I was even happier once we were all reunited as a family.

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The Hardest Last Day of School

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We have had some hard last days of school.

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When Gabriel was in Kindergarten, we were all excited to start our summer adventure.  We were in the car, and I looked in the mirror at Gabriel.  He was crying.  I quickly asked him what was wrong, and he told me that he missed his teacher.  We unloaded the van, ran back into the school, and cried as we gave her more hugs, thanking her for a wonderful year.

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Fast forward one year to when Gabriel was in 1st grade.  They almost have to kick us out of the building because we are all clinging to his first grade teacher in tears.

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The next year, Ethan was in Kindergarten, and it was a leap of faith for us to even have him in school because there were just so many unknowns.   Ethan did not have the same teacher that Gabriel had, and I remember Ethan’s teacher thinking that we would be disappointed.  I remember feeling so bad that she would think that.  I remember being so happy that she cared so much about what was best for Ethan.  What I remember even more clearly, though, was the last day of school.  I remember hugging her and having tears unexpectedly, but naturally, just flow out of my body in a gentle sob.  I am not sure if she knew, until that moment, how much it meant to me that I was able to trust her to take care of my Ethan every day.  I had to silently thank her because I could not speak.

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Last year, we finally made it through the final day with very few tears.  Ethan’s teacher was the same teacher who we were clinging to in 1st grade with Gabriel.  She is a huge part of our lives now, and we knew that we were not telling her “good-bye”. Gabriel’s teacher had just been moved back to 4th grade, and I was choosing to believe that Gabriel would be in her class again. We were all at peace and happy because it did not feel like we were really saying “good-bye” to anyone or anything.

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Imagine how happy we were to receive the calls from our teachers this year.  Ethan’s Kindergarten teacher would now be Summer’s Kindergarten teacher.  Gabriel’s 2nd grade teacher would now be Ethan’s 2nd grade teacher. Gabriel’s 3rd grade teacher would now be his 4th grade teacher.  It was all so perfect.

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It stayed perfect until the last few weeks of school.  Our beloved Kindergarten teacher decided to leave our school district.  The day that she told me she was leaving, I was a substitute teacher in her classroom.  I knew that she was probably leaving, but I just was not ready for the emotion that over-came me when she told me.  I had to leave the classroom to compose myself.  Needless to say, the last two days of school did not go any better.  Graduation was rough.  I looked over at the end and saw her standing alone, fighting back tears.  It took every ounce of strength in my body to stand up, walk over to her, and hold on to her for dear life.  We were a sobbing wreck.  The last day of school, I could not even say “good-bye” to her in front of Summer.  I had to take Summer home, go back to the school, and say our good-byes without my daughter having to witness just how hard it was.  What she did for Ethan, for Summer, and for me just cannot be put into words.  Yes, she is a friend now, and yes, she will be in our lives forever.  It will just be hard not seeing her face at our school every day.

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It was hard, and it did not get any easier when I went upstairs to say my good-byes to Gabriel’s teacher.  I knew that she might be leaving, too, and I was struggling with it.  When I arrived upstairs, she had asked the students to sit on the floor.  She asked them to close their eyes, and she talked to them.  She spoke to them like a mom who loves her children.  She told them to remember that no matter what happened in their lives that they would always have her in their corner cheering for them. Her voice cracked. She managed to hold it together. I did not.  The students did not know that she was probably leaving.  I did.  It was one of the most emotional, beautiful, touching things I have ever witnessed.   I still cannot think about it without crying.  When she hugged Gabriel, she told him that teachers dream of having students like him and that she was hugely blessed because she had him twice.  I saw the sincerity in her eyes, and I knew that she meant every word.  Gabriel and I felt the same.  Parents dream of having good teachers for their children.  Having a teacher who truly loves and understands your child for two years in a row is something that was truly a dream come true. She was a dream come true.

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Two of the best teachers who I have ever known are leaving our school.  I am honestly a better person for having known them. Our school is a better place because they taught there.  My children are better students because they shared their knowledge and wisdom with them.  Our hearts are fuller and happier because a part of them now reside within it.   Saying “good-bye” was hard, but it was so worth it because it means that we first had to welcome them into our lives and into our family with a simple “hello”. As I have told them many times, once you enter our hearts, you never, ever leave.

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Let Her Be Little

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I am not going to lie.  It has been a rough few months.  Yes, there has been good.  There has been so much good.  But, there has also been bad.  Thankfully, I have a husband who understands that those vows…the sickness and the health ones…were serious.  It is easy to stand by someone during the good times.  It is the bad times when you realize what you are made of, what those around you are made of, and definitely what your soul mate is made of. Mine is made of iron.

That must be where my little girl gets it.  Summer has been sick off and on since October. I have taken her to the doctor exactly 12 times since October 25.  Most of those trips resulted in a new medication to try.

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You see, my girl is full of sunshine.  She is the child who laughs and giggles and smiles her way through life. Do not get me wrong.  She can have her moments of crying and fits and, well, being a girl.  At her core, though, is the definition behind “zest for life”.  She has it…so much so that a little boy in her class asked her teacher this year, “Why is she always so happy?”  We loved that.  To be asked why you are so happy should be a goal that all of us have in our lives.

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So, needless to say, watching her get sick, deal with exhaustion, lose the spring in her step, and develop dark circles under her eyes has been heartbreaking.  All of the medications would work for a few days, and we would see the sunshine beginning to emerge again. Then, the next thing we knew, she would be tired, sick, and back at the doctor.

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This went on and on until we took her to the ENT last week.  He took one look at her history and knew that surgery was in her future – tonsils and adenoids out and ear tubes in.  I wanted it done immediately, but they could not fit us in until two weeks later.  I called and left messages begging for them to move it up because I was afraid to send Summer to school, knowing that her little body could not handle another infection.

I decided to send her last Wednesday.  She lasted three hours before she came home sick. By Thursday morning (1 am, to be exact), she was crying in pain.  At 8:30 am, I took her to the pediatrician, where she continued to cry in pain.  At 3:15 pm, I took her to another ENT, where she continued to cry in pain. At 4:50 pm, we were walking through the doors of the Emergency Room, in a state of shock.  We had been sent there because the ENT suspected meningitis.  That is a scary word.  When we arrived, it only became scarier, as they told us that being ill that long was not normal, that they needed to do a brain CT for a tumor.  What they did not tell us is that they were also testing for leukemia.  We were there for four hours. Thankfully, my sister was there with me so that Sean could be home with the boys.  I am not sure how I would have survived it all alone.

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The results of the test were good, overall.  Summer does not have leukemia, meningitis, or a brain tumor.  What she did have was a severe ear infection, a migraine, and severe sinusitis. The reason, most likely, that she has been so sick is because she does, in fact, need ear tubes, her tonsils and adenoids out, and sinus surgery.  We have that all scheduled for next week and could use your thoughts and prayers.

I do always try to hard to see the silver lining.  I truly, truly do.  And, there is one this time, as well. We have decided to keep Summer home from school until after the surgery.  Being at home with her this past week has been an absolute joy.  We sit, snuggle, play games, and watch cartoons.  Most importantly, though, is how I look at her.  I study her face, trace the lines of her chubby cheeks, and think to myself that she is just a little girl, my little girl, my baby girl.  Just a few months ago, I am not sure that I was as aware of the fact that she is still so tiny and young.  I was given this extra time to spend with her to make sure that I really hold on to these moments, to appreciate that she is my last baby, and to remember how it feels to just sit and stare at her sweet, beautiful face.  Of course, I wish that she was not sick and that she was not having surgery next week.  However, since I cannot change any of that, I choose to focus on the fact that, for this moment in time, I can just let her be little, because, I know that I will blink my eyes, and she will be all grown up again.

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