Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dinner and a Game

This was my dinner last night...

...which can only mean one thing, Jennifer's here! (because heaven knows I'm not that capable in the kitchen.) In fact, while Jennifer prepared our dinner I sat at the counter and played Words with Friends on my Ipod. What can I say - I'm better at creating words than creating food.

(Except against you, Libbie. For the life of me I can't ever play a good word against you.)

(And for the rest of you out there, do you play Words with Friends? What?! You do? Well good then, let's start up a game. My username is 'Greenstan'. Tootles!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Minimalist

I have a phobia. A phobia of 'stuff'. (Is there a name for that?) Probably, but I just like to refer to myself as a minimalist.

For example, I don't like having a ton of clothes, knick-knacks, kitchen appliances, you name it. When the house, closets, and cupboards start filling up, I start feeling a bit anxious - which explains why I am a regular at the Goodwill donation center.

But there is one exception; I love books. And I never feel overwhelmed by books. We have piles of books all around the house and I welcome them with open arms. I find that there is great value in books. They educate; they entertain; they are beautiful.

So a few times a year Donald will stop at a local antique shop to buy books. We have found that not only do they have a fascinating assortment, but the look of an aged book is simply charming. The day before last Donald went book shopping again. And they were having a sale.

This is what he brought home:

And the total?


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life's what you make it.

Back at the Vatican...

[Inside the Vatican Museum]

One day while in Rome my sisters and I went to the Vatican. While there I was approached by a woman holding a cup, begging for money. She looked me straight in the eyes with the saddest, woe is me face she could muster up, glanced down at her withered arm, and then at the cup her other (perfectly fine) hand was shoving towards me.

"No, sorry." I told her.

Her eyes widened with anger and disbelief. Then she glanced again at her withered arm with a look that said, 'Excuse me? I am disabled, how dare you not feel sorry for me'.

Well, here's the thing, I have Elisabeth. I know disabled. I live with disabled. I take care of disabled. And when I thought about my little Elisabeth, who cannot walk or talk or eat or see past the end of her nose, this woman's withered arm didn't look so bad.

She stood there, waiting for me to drop a Euro or two into her cup.

"No, I have a disabled child and I'll save all my extra money for her," I said.

Now I know she didn't understand my English, but she did understand that I was turning her away - and boy oh boy was she put out with me! She huffed off, filled with anger for me and still feeling sorry for herself.

A short while later we were at the ticket counter inside the Vatican museum. I told the man behind the window that I needed one ticket,

"15 euros," he said.

And as he reached forward to take my credit card I noticed that his arm looked very much the same as the woman out begging on the streets; withered and deformed. But this man wasn't sitting around feeling sorry for himself (or trying to convince others to do the same). Yes, he had a disability, but he wasn't letting it stop him from living his life.

The more I thought about these two encounters with these two different people, I was struck by the lesson to be learned.

We all have challenges in life. Perhaps it's something physical (like a withered arm), or perhaps it's a trial of a different nature (financial, spiritual, emotional, etc). But it's not about the challenges we face, it's about how we face them.

Do we sit around and feel sorry for ourselves like the woman out on the street? Do we wallow in self pity? Do we refuse to look past our hardships and trials to the abundance of blessings all around us?

Or do we do as the man in the ticket booth and say, How can I make this work? Yes, I have a hardship to overcome but I'm going to make the best of it.

Life's what you make it.

[The Vatican]

Monday, July 25, 2011

Home (again)

Two years ago I wrote a post titled, Home. It's actually one of my favorite posts. It's about the home my grandmother lived in for over 7 decades - and about the legacy my family was creating in our own home.

At that time we expected this home to be our forever home. In fact, when we purchased this home back in 2005 that was the idea; that this was it; this would be the place where we would raise our children; this would be where we would grow old and gray.

But at the time I wrote that post, Elisabeth was a completely different child than she is now. Did she have brain damage? Yes. But nothing compared to how she is currently. Two years ago she could eat. Two years ago she could drink bottles. Two years ago she could even crawl around the family room. But things have changed for the worse as far as her brain is concerned. Infantile Spasms stole away most of the abilities that she once possessed and Donald and I have gained a clearer understanding of what we are facing as she gets older. She won't talk. She won't walk. She won't eat. She will permanently remain in an infant state. We also came to the realization [last Fall] that our current home, our dear and beloved home, just wouldn't be compatible with caring for Elisabeth. It's just not - shall we say - Elisabeth friendly.

So last October we decided that it made the most sense to start from scratch; to build a home that would be comfortable and practical for raising Elisabeth. We started making plans. We had a builder. We had a lot. We had a floor plan.

But then we faced obstacle after obstacle. Everything just kept falling through. Every time we made a plan, the plan had to change for one reason or another. It was exhausting. We went through multiple builders and many, many lots. At one point in time we even made an offer on an existing one level home - but even that fell through.

Finally we thought we had everything set. The perfect house plan. The perfect lot. And a builder who was going to help customize everything perfectly for our dear Elisabeth. Everything was finally falling into place.

And then we got a call while we were vacationing in the Grand Canyon. Once again, plans had changed. I won't go into details - but let's say that our builder sort of betrayed us.

Donald and I looked at each other and decided we had had enough. It just wasn't going to work out to build a home. Instead, we would just make it work.

When we arrived home from vacation we walked in the front door of our home - our beautiful, wonderful, lovely home. My heart was overflowing with joy. We were [are] home to stay and it felt good; it felt right.

We have since started making plans. Building an addition for Elisabeth on the main level; a ramp out front; a roll in shower; things that will make life a little simpler (as far as caring for a handicapped child goes). And while we're at it we have a few other things planned. Some remodeling and redecorating - just for the fun of it. Go big or go home, right?

(Or in this case, go big and go home.)

[To celebrate the fact that we're staying, Donald and I bought these new numbers for our house. I'm in love with them. Out with the old gold and in with the snazzy silver!]

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Secret Garden

We didn't plant a garden this year. Mainly because we expected to be moving from this house. So really, what was the point?

Of course, now we are not moving; but that's a story for a different day.

Today I want to talk about the abandoned garden. The one that we neglected this year. The one that was a bare patch of dirt when we left for vacation.

Well, when we left town it got busy. And it grew and grew and grew. And three weeks later - when we returned to our beloved home - we found this waiting for us:

Well that was quick. And surprising.

(It appears to be pumpkins!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wash & Wear

I don't know if I mentioned it, but we chopped off Elisabeth's hair.

It's pretty - and practical.

And trust me, when it comes to children like Elisabeth, being practical is what it's all about.

I think this shall be her signature 'do, henceforth and forever.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Summer Adventure: Part XXI

The Rock Wall

First Alexandra:

and then Lorelai:

They made that look easy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Summer Adventure: Part XX

Do you have cousins? I don't. Not-a-one.

I always felt like I was missing out on something special.

So it tickles me to no end to see my children with their cousins. Ahhh.....I love that word: cousins. Cousins, cousins ,cousins. Everyone should have one [or two or ten].

*At the Malovich home on July 9th.*
Salt Lake City, UT.

Alexandra and (I'm going to take a guess here because they are identical twins) Benjamin at the piano.

Alexandra and Katya.

Lorelai Leigh...................................Kristin, with her son, Matthew.

Top row: Matthew, Daria, Katya, Jacob. Bottom row: Benjamin, Alexandra, Lorelai, Peter.

Where's Elisabeth you ask? Well, she was doing this at the time:

3 week vacation = Zzzzzzz......

And finally, a quote from our visit to the Malovich home:

Me: "Lorelai, are you excited to go home tomorrow?"

Lorelai: "No."

Me: "What???" [puzzled because we had been on the road for so long and I thought she would be thrilled to return home.]

Lorelai: "Well, I'm excited to go home, but I just don't want to leave my cousins."

True, true.

We miss you, Malovich Family!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Summer Adventure: Part XIX

I told you it was going to be
an adventurous year:

[Me, heading out on a Grand Canyon mule ride. Yeeehaaa!]

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Summer Adventure: Part XVIII

Grand Canyon

(The North Rim)

Our log cabin:

Home sweet home (for a few nights).

A Trail Ride:

[Ready to go!]

[Standing on the rim. It was spectacular. Never, in all my days, have I seen something so amazing; something so breathtaking. It didn't seem real, or, as my girls put it, "it looks fake".]

[The girls with my brother, Michael. I love how Lorelai is peeking over the edge in this photo.]

[Alexandra, participating in a lecture at the lodge on the California Condor.]

Me and my family. Summer 2011.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Summer Adventure: Part XVII

Famous Houses

Donald and the girls stumbled across these homes while they were vacationing in Southern California:

1) The Brady Bunch House


2) The Arnold Home - from The Wonder Years

We watch The Wonder Years all the time, so the girls were especially thrilled about this find! And, as it turns out, it's just a few blocks from my brother's home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Summer Adventure: Part XVI

Pawn Stars

Do you watch Pawn Stars on The History Channel? Please tell me you do, because if not you are missing out on one of the best shows on TV. It's like antiques roadshow - but with humor.

Anyways, when the family and I were in Las Vegas last week we made it a top priority to stop by the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop where Pawn Stars is filmed. Alexandra and Lorelai were giddy with excitement. In fact, when we were almost there Alexandra said,

"Do we have anything in the car we can sell?"

Ha ha...she totally knows the show!

[The shop....looks just like it does on TV!]

[The line to get in......]

[Inside!! Now where are Rick and the guys?]

[Yes, Elisabeth is mid-seizure in this picture. (she has them all day every day)]

[This picture seems very patriotic to me...)

[And one of I could prove I was there :)]

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Summer Adventure: Part XV

A Story about Cheese

One day in Florence we popped into a small little restaurant for some lunch (and to escape the heat). My sister, Kristin, ordered a caprese salad (tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella) and had offered me a bite.

"Oh no, I'm fine," I said, and kept eating my lemon ice cream.

A while later she offered one last time,

"Are you sure you don't want to try some?"

"Well....okay," I said.

So I took a bit of that cheese and let me tell you:

It was like I was tasting cheese for the first time. Oh, it was divine!!! In fact, it immediately had me thinking of the children's book, Santa Mouse. There is a line where it talks about a piece of cheese and the mouse said it's 'the kind that makes an angel want to sing'.

Well, let me tell you: this was the most heavenly bite of food I have ever...EVER...eaten.

So naturally I insisted that we go back the next night for dinner. I just had to have more. So we did. And I ordered a caprese salad. And when I ordered, the owner said,

"Wait till you try the mozzarella."

To which we replied, "Oh we have, that's exactly why we came back."

Of course, he was thrilled to hear that we were return customers. He explained that his cheese is delivered fresh from Naples every morning. And then he quickly collected our menus and said that he was going to prepare us a very special dinner.

And he did. Right in front of us, in fact.

It was divine.

[There's that cheese.....mmmmmmm....]

[Tony, preparing our meal.]

[spaghetti carbonara]

{Happy Birthday, Abbey!!}
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