Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another year has come and gone...

I am not usually too excited about New Year's. In the past I've had high expectations for New Year's Eve celebrations and more often than not they have not lived up to all I hoped for especially when I was in my 20s. And, it didn't matter if I was single or dating someone it ended up the same, another typical night and in some cases even worse than a typical night.

Now that I am older, married, and have a couple of kids New Year's is different for me. My bah-humbug attitude about the holiday has completely changed.  I'm not really interested in dressing up in something glitzy that I can't wear any other time of year, going to a great party with my significant other and sipping on champagne until midnight. I am more interested in what it all means. 

New Year's is a time for looking back on the previous year, a time to celebrate all the wonderful, amazing moments and events that happened during the year. It is also a time for mourning the sad, tragic, challenging events that happened or are ongoing. This time of reflection gives me peace and hope for the coming year. It is in this moment right now that I am looking back at 2011 with gratitude for the year I have had. A year of new beginnings, challenges, happiness, and sorrow. I pray that I will be blessed with another year filled with more new beginnings, more challenges, more happiness and more sorrow that will continue to teach, enrich, inspire, and ground me.

Happy New Year! I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Blessings

Incredible Chase ready to save the world!
It is the day after Christmas and we are spending the day at home, thankfully we have no where to go. The aftermath of Christmas morning still all around us. Wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, toys upstairs and downstairs, and both boys still in their jammies. Although Chase has changed outfits a few times, from his new Batman jammies (thanks, Aunt JJ!) to his Mr. Incredible costume. He wore his new superhero costume all Christmas day, he was quite the sight at Christmas dinner. Although we are all exhausted we are still basking in the glow of another wonderful Christmas spent together.

Our first photo with Santa, much better than our second!
 We are truly blessed. Our Christmas was filled with all the things one dreams and hopes for on Christmas, wonderful family near and far, kids running about playing with toys as happy as can be, and just spending time together laughing, eating, and being merry.  There is always this huge feeling of joy and I must say relief when Christmas day arrives. All the hustle and bustle that goes into planning the perfect day for your family can be so rewarding, exhausting and overwhelming all at the same time. But nonetheless, we enjoyed all the events and activities leading up to the big day. 

Chase's Sing-A-long at school
Our days were filled with baking cookies, shopping at Costco more than once, Christmas sing-a-longs, two visits with Santa, Fantasy lights and Zoolights, finding our Tree at the Christmas Tree farm, decorating the house with lots of Christmas decorations, Christmas music and movies, the Goodman Middle School Christmas party which we hosted, walks around the neighborhood to see all the lights, and of course this year's highlight, Daddy's pink mohawk which is now a bald head with fuzzy hair on top. Scott's hair grows fast so by the time school is back in session, I suspect he'll have a full head of hair! The boys had the opportunity to see the "mohawking" happen first hand. At first Chase was a little board with the whole event but perked up when the pink spray hair paint was applied. I even had a chance to partake and make Daddy's hair nice and pink.

This year was especially fun because Chase was so excited and tried his best to be a good boy every day. We also had an advent calendar made by Grandma Helen complete with little treats that we enjoyed every day leading up to Christmas. Chase was so excited each and every morning, he would wake and say, "Mama, can we do our number now?" He loved waking up and getting his little "number pouch" full of goodies! He often would receive little matchbox cars which he loved most of the time especially the ones that had fire painted on the sides because the fire makes the cars go really, really fast. There were times when he would opt for Colby's treat and "trade" him for his toy. Colby didn't seem to mind. I doubt that will be the case next year.
Alfie, the McD Family Christmas Elf

We also experienced the joy of our very own Elf on the Shelf. He arrived at our house and as instructed we quickly gave him a name, Alfie, and we enjoyed watching him move all about the house, each day a fun, new spot. Chase could always find Alfie after a few minutes... he loved searching for him. Colby even started to look for Alfie in the mornings. Colby is often the first one up and would often spot him before anyone else. Scott and I had fun moving him all around the house in the morning. There were a few mornings where I'd wake up and remember that I forgot to move him the night before and get up and race to move him to a new place before the boys would wake up... I think Chase misses Alfie now that he's gone back to the North Pole.

Colby and Gramdma Nederhood have a moment during our gift exchange

We enjoyed spending Christmas Eve with our family in Olympia, Grandpa Britt, Grandma Helen, Great-Grandma Nederhood, Aunt Betty, Brooks & Annette, and Uncle Mike. The perfect start to the Christmas holiday, lots of gifts for everyone. We drove home that night to be at our house for Christmas morning. After all, Santa was coming to our house and so we had to be home to put out our cookies and wake up to all the presents under the tree. We enjoyed being at home, sleeping comfortably in our beds but we did have a few challenges with little Colby during the night, he's teething and interrupted Santa a few times.
The boys on Christmas morning, excited to see all the toys Santa brought.

Chase slept until about 6:45 a.m., we actually had to wake Daddy and Colby. We ventured downstairs to see the tree all lit up and presents from Santa under the tree and in our stockings. We spent the first part of the morning playing with Santa gifts, we would open one every 20 minutes or so because we had to stop and play with the new toy for a few minutes of course. We then logged on to skype and were able to see our family in Florida, GrandPops, Gram, Great-Gramma, Great-Grampa, Uncle Matt, and Aunt JJ. We had so much fun showing them Santa's presents and opening their gifts with them. It's amazing what you can do with technology these days. It was so special to be able to open gifts with them even though we were so very far away. And, even though we weren't with them, they could see the boys opening their gifts and their joy. Most of the time that is, Chase is often quite honest about the things he likes and dislikes and isn't shy about letting you know about it. He did this with a few gifts but I must say, he's played with everything, even the toys he opened and said "I don't like this." He always comes around, just needs a little time to let new things settle in. Colby was thrilled with everything although he is always curious about what Chase has and we've had a few minor skirmishes especially with the remote control cars and the Handy Manny tools.

Chase comparing his Lightning McQueen car to Colby's.
Among all the gifts, Chase's favorites include his remote control Lightening McQueen car, remote control helicopter and semi-truck, Batman car, new bike with training wheels, his hot wheels suitcase and his Mr. Incredible costume. He's so funny when it comes to superheros, he just loves to get all dressed up in a superhero costume especially one with muscles! He often asks me why he doesn't see any superheros around. I say that we're so lucky to live in a small, safe town we don't have any bad guys around and we don't need any superheros to save us.

Colby has enjoyed all of his gifts, too. He likes everything but his favorites are anything that rolls, his pillow pet and Lightning McQueen car -- he has one, too. He also likes his Rocking horse. The boys also like their new art table but I think that is mostly a gift for Mama and Daddy, a place where the boys can sit together and have enough space for both to color and play. Chase is really enjoying coloring and cutting paper and now even writing his name. He's pretty good, he sometimes gets his "E" and "A" in the wrong spot but he's doing great!

Other gifts for Scott, me and the family, too, were a Keurig coffee maker from GrandPops and Gram!! (LOVE It!!!) and from Uncle Matt, a Wii!!! We just set it up and are learning the all the bells and whistles. Scott is eager to buy games and wants to do a little shopping today. I wouldn't mind investing in the Wii fit, it may help me get fitness back into my routine, although if I don't have time to run on the treadmill, when would I have time for that? 
As for me, today I am content with staying home and watching the boys play, I wouldn't be opposed to taking a nap either. Looks like Colby already has the idea! He's exhausted and couldn't even finish his lunch, this is not normal for Colby he loves to eat!
Colby just couldn't make it through lunch --
completely exhausted from all the Christmas excitement!

I am truly blessed and grateful for so many things this Christmas. My wonderful family and friends, our beautiful and healthy boys, our home, my husband, the chaos, the quiet moments, the joy I feel every day when I hug my kiddos. Throughout the year there are those peaks and valleys, the good times and bad but at Christmas time all those challenging moments just seem to melt away... The joy of the season makes us appreciate those we love near and far and all that we have.

Our Christmas Card this year -- photos from our trip to Disney World in August, 2011
From our family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May your Christmas be merry and bright and the the new year filled with all your hopes and dreams and the wonderful blessings that the season brings. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Remembrance

Today is September 11, 2011. Ten years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the attempted attack on the Capitol. It is hard to believe it has already been ten years. Like many, every year on this day I think back to that morning, where I was, what I was doing, who I was with. Living on the west coast I was asleep that morning when the first plane hit the first tower. I was awakened by a phone call from my roommate Courtney's boyfriend's friend. I didn't know him well and was startled when I said hello and he immediately said, "The United States is under attack by terrorists, turn on your TV!" I was still groggy from being awakened by the call and I think I responded with, "Who the hell is this?" When I learned who it was and he gave me more details, I turned on my TV to the image that has been ingrained in all our brains, the first tower hit, fire, smoke, but not yet the second. The image was being narrated by Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. I remember all the reporters, news anchors trying to hold it together, sound articulate as they did their jobs, trying to hold back emotion... Then the second tower was hit right before my eyes on TV. Seeing that happen was unimaginable, horrific, and devastating. Shortly after Courtney came home with Ethan and we sat and watched in awe, sadness and complete shock for hours. I called in to work, at the time I worked in downtown Seattle in somewhat of a high-rise building on the 6th floor. We were told to come in when we were ready and that we shouldn't worry about an attack in Seattle. I ended up going in around 1 p.m. where we all sat in our conference room in a daze just starring at the TV for hours. 

In April of 2002, Scott and I took a long weekend trip to NYC. We went to Ground Zero. It was my first trip to New York so I never had the opportunity to experience the World Trade Center in all its glory. What we saw shook us to our very core. The destruction was ever present, the area completely blocked off, flowers and thousands of flyers with hand written  messages to loved ones posted on all the plywood surrounding the area. It was heart-wrenching and sobering. I remember thinking that our world as we know it will be forever changed, there is pure evil out there. I'm not Pollyanna by any means and most of the time I hope for the best but prepare for the worst. But, I have never in all my life believed that something like what happened on September 11, 2001 could happen in our country. My heart aches for  all those innocent men and women and children, their lives taken from them, their families who are left to live without their loved ones. Sometimes I just can't go there...While we were there the image that I remember so clearly as Scott and I ventured out into the city was this one... it took me to a place of prayer, peace, calm, hope, and remembrance for all those who lost so much.

So on this day of remembrance, it started as my days often do, up with one of the boys fairly year, this time it was with Colby and I was able to view some of the ceremonies taking place at the exact times of the attacks. After an hour or so off and on as I got breakfast ready and did other things, I just couldn't watch and listen anymore. It has been ten years but it still seems so fresh, the scar not fully healed. Even though I did not lose anyone close to me, I think because I am a mom now it hit home much more than it ever has on prior anniversaries. It is unfathomable for me to think of losing my husband, my children, parents, siblings, any family member or friend for that matter in a tragedy like this. Honestly, the randomness and complete disregard for human life scares the hell out of me. It could have been me, Scott, my mom or dad, brother or sister just as easily as it was those on Flight 93 or the other flights that hit the towers. I just couldn't go there this morning, I had to turn it all off, the TV, facebook all of it and have a day of being thankful for all I have, my kids, my husband and the glorious sunny day we had yet again today. 

And so, after watching for a bit while Colby played, Scott and Chase got up and we made pancakes and got on with our day. I had a nice chat with my mom, and then Chase and I had a wonderful day spending hours outside, replanting our herb garden in a new spot in our backyard, watering the hydrangeas, deadheading the roses and others and going for rides in the wheel barrow over and over again up and down the hill in our backyard... Chase rode that is. I had the wonderful job of pushing him. :) We even found another secret spot in our front yard under one of the cedar trees. So now Chase has a secret spot inside and outside as well. :)

On a final note, I must say a heart felt thank you to all the men and women in our Armed Forces that put their lives in harms way everyday for this country. My brother being one of them who enlisted in July of 2002 after the attacks and served in Iraq for two years. I am deeply grateful to him and so many others for doing the same, for protecting our way of life and for standing up and fighting for all those who perished on September 11th. Thank you for all the sacrifices made by these brave men and women who have this calling in their lives to serve and protect. Thank you, thank you. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Every. Moment. Counts.

It’s been a week or so since we returned from our trip to Florida. I knew when we planned the trip months in advance and even the day we arrived that our two weeks would go so fast and that I’d be home, back to my normal routine…. And here I am. Not that I don’t enjoy my "normal" routine, I do, the funny thing is there is nothing really “normal” about it. With my family we’ve always got some adventure planned or even if we don’t, a weekend or week night at home can be an adventure in itself thanks to Colby and Chase. Every day is a new challenge and series of activities and events regardless of whether it is a work day for me or a day at home with them. I am so grateful for the chaos and wonder and joy and pain and smiles and stress and each and every moment with them. What a gift I have in my little family. So grateful for each and every day!

As I reflect on my visit with my family, it occurs to me more than ever how fleeting life is. Every moment that you share with those you love or really anyone in your life whether you love them or not is so terribly precious. I unfortunately do not get to see my immediate family on a daily basis but I am comforted by the fact that those moments we do share, they are special and keep us connected whether we are together or 3,000 miles apart. I always miss them but even more after a long visit. It makes my heart ache, literally. My mom told me once when I went back to work after Chase was born that it isn’t the quantity of time but the quality of time that matters most with those you love. I thank her for those wise words that have comforted me every morning when I drop both the boys off and make my commute to work, or like now after we are home from one of our trips to Florida and I miss them so much. I would be lying if I said that I cherish every moment, every day with my family and everyone I encounter or interact with during a day’s time, I struggle with this a bit as everyone does with the pressures and stresses of life, family, kids, work, money, etc…how can we possibly soak it all in and enjoy every minute even the tough ones!? That would be impossible, after all we are only human but I do try now more than ever. It is always top of mind especially those moments of complete joy and bliss, and even those moments when you want to pull your hair out or just breakdown, that’s life and isn’t it wonderful to be living it!?

There is a book by Eckhart Tolle called The Power of Now, it was given to me by a former mentor/boss of mine years ago that I thought was a little woo woo at first and I actually didn’t finish reading it. I was younger, single and fearless and this concept of living in the moment was not first and foremost a priority for me. After I had Chase and my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, that all I changed. Fear started to set in for me, fear for my newborn son, for my dad’s health, for all those things that I could not control that could happen, would happen to me or those I loved. I often asked myself the question, how can we literally get up everyday and go on with life with all that is out there? With all the sadness, cruelty, and evil that is out of our control? I would and often still do get bogged down in these thoughts. I try to find a rational or logical way to explain it to myself so I can breathe, move on and focus my energy on more positive things… sometimes I can explain it or rationalize it but most of the time I live day to day with hope and distraction. And, I have also come to understand the meaning of that book. By living in the moment, enjoying the simplicity of the moment, making the best of the moment, what you are doing and thinking right now!!! By not worrying about tomorrow or what happened yesterday you can be present and fearless for yourself and those that need you and love you.

I don’t think I’ve had some huge epiphany but maybe I feel I have a better understanding of the meaning of life (at least for me) and how terribly short and precious it is, and what really does matter. Sometimes it's easy to say, people talk about priorities and what really matters, family first and all of that, myself included, but do we really mean what we say? Or, are we just saying these things to appear to have our acts together and maybe to make ourselves feel better…Do we really walk the walk or just talk the talk? I think we all do a little bit of both, again afterall we are only human, but what would it be like to live utterly and completely with this understanding, living for what truly matters and not all that other stuff…? But even then I don't think that is realistic and what life is truly about…

Life is about making mistakes and learning from them, it is about being selfish and selfless at times in your life, it is about making money and giving it away, it is about making and ending friendships, it is about giving birth and dying. Life is all of that, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The only way to come to grips with the worry and the fear and well, the joy and happiness, too, is to know and believe that life is about the moments that we have, make, and share. Every moment counts.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

There's No Place Like Home, There's No Place Like Home...

No matter how old I get or how long I live in Washington state, I will always think of Florida as home. As soon as I step off the plane and feel beads of sweat come over my brow, I know that I am home... The heat does hit you like a brick wall and it tends to be a little annoying when visiting in the Fall or Winter months when you expect cooler weather but in the Summer, especially this Summer, I cannot wait for it! I welcome being hit over and over by that brick wall of heat, sunshine, and even the humidity! And of course seeing my family is what this trip is all about along with the chance to get away and relax.

We are days away from boarding Alaska Airlines Flight 18 from SEA to MCO. Am so excited but also a little overwhelmed with all that I have to wrap-up, pack-up, and set-up before we escape the land of clouds and gloom for blue skies and sunshine, albeit humid, but I can deal with that. Although yesterday was absolutely beautiful and this upcoming week is supposed to be just as fabulous. The KING5 forecast is predicting sunshine and upper 70s all week, and honestly there is no place like the northwest in the summer time when it is actually summertime. 

We will begin the all consuming task of packing today, getting as organized as we can before we leave bright and early on Wednesday morning. Considering Scott and I both have two full days of work on Monday and Tuesday, this may be the only day we have to really get this done. It's incredible the amount of "stuff" a family of four must pack/take while on vacation... In our case we will have 2 giant suitcases, 2 med-large suitcases, 2 strollers (1 sit-n-stand for both boys and 1 umbrella stroller; although we may opt for the Bob, still undecided), 2 car seats with carry bags, 3 carry on bags (toys, DVDs, iPad, laptop, extra clothes, books, crayons, etc...), 1 diaper bag, and 1 purse. And, this is our version of traveling light...

Whew, I'm overwhelmed just reading this quick list of all we will be taking with us as I know all that will go into these suitcases and bags and we haven't even started packing yet...And, I am a little grumpy, too, due to a 3 a.m. wake-up call from Colby on the baby monitor. He finally went back to sleep at 3:30 a.m. only to wake up around 4:30 bright-eyed and ready to begin his day. He's now sleeping (which took approx. 1 hr 45 mins. to get him down with Scott and me trading off at least 4x before he finally went down for his morning nap.... I think he's teething and fighting a little chest cold. I hope it doesn't turn into anything. The saving grace to the start of this day has been Chase, believe it or not. He woke up in a great mood and has really been wonderful all morning. I love it when he wakes up and is not fussy or moody or stubborn. It happens more often then you'd expect especially when he does not have to go to school. Although this morning he said, "Mama, today I don't have to go to school but tomorrow I do. I like to go to school, Mama."

Well, this post isn't too exciting but a quick update of sorts... now I better get to it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Florida on my mind...

The McDaniel Family is headed to Florida in the next few weeks and I cannot wait! I am so excited to spend just over two weeks in the SUNSHINE state! I have almost forgotten completely what it is like to wake up to a sunny day and have the sunshine all day long, not to mention consistent warm weather. We have had a few of those amazingly sunny northwest summer days but I can count on one hand just how many. And, it is starting to really depress me.... so a look on the bright side.... Florida here we come!

I'm very excited to see my parents, siblings, grandparents and old friends. Also, we will be there on Colby's birthday and are planning a little party for him. We haven't celebrated a birthday there in awhile and this one will be extra special because it is Colby's first. I can't wait to take Colby to the beach, he is going to absolutely love it! Especially swimming in the pool! He is my little fish and LOVES to be in the water. He loves to splash and kick and scoot around in the water... He's not afraid or timid at all like his big brother. We will try to be swimming as much as we can while we are there I'm sure. I also want Chase to get more comfortable, too. 

Chase will have a blast helping Gram with yard work and watering and planting flowers in her garden. Chase is also beginning to love to fish so we will probably do some fishing, too. I am also hoping to plan a trip to see Mickey Mouse but that isn't quite set yet. We're still up in the air as to whether it will be worth it with both boys so young, but I know that Chase would absolutely love it. Whenever we see a Disney movie and we see Cinderella's castle during the intro, he always says, "There's Gram & GrandPops' castle! That's where Gram & GrandPops' live!" It would be so fun for him to see the castle in person not to mention all the really amazing experiences there for kids! Chase isn't too into Mickey Mouse and I guess I really want him to "get it" and be excited when we go but maybe we should just go for it and stop thinking too much about it... I'm sure we will have many opportunities to visit again, especially since Gram and GrandPops live in the castle! :)

Lots to do and plan.... not so hard to do on this gloomy, rainy northwest day that feels like a day in February!! ugh. Dreaming of blue skies, sunshine, palm trees, sand covered beaches, sun tan lotion, mickey mouse, fishing poles, swimming pools, family and friends we haven't seen in awhile and all that is Florida! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For My Dad

This post is a bit late and I'm sorry but I hope timing doesn't matter as long as I get the message get out there. As everyone knows this past weekend was Father's Day. And, it was wonderful and exhausting and sad for me all at the same time. 

It was wonderful because it is wonderful -- a day solely focused on celebrating Dads, our own Dads, and the one we're married to. :-) Unlike Moms, I think that Dads may not get the attention that we do, although I know times have changed there are as many dads working in the home as out of the home and the same with moms so that's not why. I guess it sometimes is the relationship with kids that may factor in that tips the scale in a mom's favor sometimes... But anyhow, I think we all agree that dad's are just as important and deserve the attention, celebration, love, and affection just as much as mom's do. It was exhausting because we seemed to be everywhere doing everything all weekend all wonderful but it was non-stop, and it was sad to not be with my family and my Dad on Father's Day.

For me growing up, my Dad worked outside the home for a time, inside the home for a time, went to school for a time, and then back to work outside the home for a time and still is. :-). He had then and still does today an hour commute each way, four days a week. (Wow, that sounds so familiar!! I can totally relate, Pops!) What I remember most about my father and what I am deeply grateful for is two fold; his commitment to my mother and our family, and his strong work-ethic. The odds were against them both when they married so young and the environment he was familiar with growing up wasn't as stable as it could have been but his love for her, me and my siblings, and his commitment to our family and our life was what gave us a wonderful home and family in which to grow up.

I am also grateful for all I learned from him on how he approached school and work, and the idea of success throughout his life. He has worked so hard for all he has in life, and instilled the very same work ethic in all of his children. We are all doing well because of his example and the lessons he taught us. Again, when the odds were against him, he rose to the challenge, went to school learning all he could in a field he loved and pursued his dream. Throughout the years in his professional life when there were challenges, he again rose to the challenge and persevered. This is an amazing attribute that he has, and I am not sure that he recognizes this in himself but he has it and our family knows and loves him for it. He just never gives up, he just doesn't.

My father is a courageous man. As you may know from my previous post, my Dad is fighting stage 4 cancer and has been for the last 3.5 years.  But, this isn't the reason he is courageous, he is courageous for all the reasons above, for all the times in his life where he had to make a choice as to whether or not he was going to let something or someone define him, he didn't let it or let them. He took his own path and made his own success, his own life by his choice and his rules. 

Me and my Dad, one of my favorite photos of us.
 Thank you Dad, for all your lessons and love and for just being who you are. I wouldn't be where I am today, married to who I am married to with two beautiful children and the life I have without you. I love you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The "C Word"

Cancer has not been something I have thought a lot about until the last few years. Although we have had family members who have had cancer, they have fought the disease and have been in remission for a few years now, and although I know it must have been painful and difficult for them, I did not see or hear of their experience first hand. So, for me it didn't seem so scary or personal until my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon cancer in the fall of 2008.

I remember hearing the news; I was at work in our "small conference room" where back then you'd typically go to take a personal call to get a little privacy. The first call I received was from my brother who told me that Dad had had some tests done and a colonoscopy and the results were not good. I remember my mom mentioning that he was going in for one a few weeks prior. He was just over the age of 50 and was just doing "the right thing" and what all the docs recommend by going in and having the routine procedure done.

I immediately hung up the phone with Matt and called my mom. When she answered I knew something was terribly wrong but didn't realize how bad the news would be. She said he had a cancerous tumor in his colon that was fairly large that had to be surgically removed. At that point we didn't know for sure if it had spread but it was likely because of the size of the tumor and location. I could tell by her voice that the news was not good but we did have hope. After further tests, we learned that the cancer cells had spread to his liver and he was officially diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. The good news, if there could possibly be any, was that it had not spread anywhere else -- and most importantly it had not spread to his lungs. 

The news was devastating to our family but honestly it just didn't seem real. He didn't seem sick, he wasn't really... You just don't think when  you go in for a routine procedure that it will turn out to be the worst possible news you could possibly hear... especially about someone you love so much. This was what we were going through as so many families do when a cancer diagnosis is made. The denial, the shock, the sadness, the fear...

"1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer in their lifetimes"

Cancer is devastating. It is evil, it does not care if you just had a baby, or if you are a baby. It doesn't care if you just got a promotion or bought your first home, or if you're white or black, Asian or Italian. It doesn't care if you just got married, just gradated from college, or just retired and are planning a trip around the world. It doesn't care if you just lost your job, are a single mom and have two small children to take care of, or if you're about to become a grandpa for the first time.

That was my Dad; he was just about to be a Grandpa. I was four months pregnant with Chase, his first grandchild, when we learned this sad news. And, unfortunately I live so far away from my parents, I couldn't be there to see him, hug him, tell him it would be okay like he has told my whole life when I've had a challenge. I couldn't be there to cry with my mom and hold her and tell her we would be strong for him and get through it.

Since his diagnosis my Dad has had painful surgery and undergone the strongest level of cancer treatment his body can tolerate. He has battled his cancer with dignity, strength and a sense of humor. I admire him more than he will ever know. His courage to fight and his commitment to maintaining a normal life and not letting cancer define him is truly inspiring!

He's my inspiration, he has taught me how precious and valuable every moment is and that life is too short to get caught up in the little things that don't matter... Although I sometimes have to re-center myself and remind myself of this when I get too focused on something and stressed about various things that I know don't matter... I know it's true those things really don't matter and I'm so grateful for this life lesson. He has taught me so much more throughout me life not only through his battle with cancer but so many other life lessons but that is a subject for another time...

I know that he will get through this. I know that miracles happen. And, I know that life isn't worth living if you do not have hope and believe in the things that you cannot necessarily touch or feel. These things are what will get you through, and the support of family, friends, and laughter -- A LOT of it!

For my dad and for so many others with cancer, I am participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life this year (last year I was about 8 months prego and definitely not able to do the walking, my how time flies!) Scott and I will be walking together with Team IslandWood tomorrow from 5-7 p.m. If you're reading this and feel moved to make a contribution, I'm so close to my goal of $250 right now but would LOVE to pass it! Please click on the link below to get to my page to make a contribution.

Remember that at some point if we don't stand up to cancer and do something we will all be touched by it either personally or someone we love. I heard the statistic I mentioned above and it literally gave me chills... It numbed me and I felt as if I couldn't move, I couldn't do anything... but I can, and you can! 

We've got to do something, even if it may seem little and not make an impact. As with anything, a lot of "little" things add up and when people gather and stand together amazing things can happen! Please join me and this effort... if you can't make a donation, please say a prayer or maybe do both...?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Beautiful Day

I feel as if I have been a little disconnected lately from facebook, my blog, etc..which is actually really nice. I'm not sure if it's because of my new phone and I'm focused on learning all the bells and whistles or wanting to be in the moment more when I'm with my family (even though I am playing A LOT of Words With Friends these days, and am embarrassed to admit that I have 11 games going right now!) but it's time to get back to it... I've been wanting all week to write about our incredible day last Saturday. Not only was it an amazing day weather-wise, it was sunny and hot (yes, I'm not exaggerating--we actually wore shorts and short sleeves without layers all day!) but we had a fun day with the boys in the morning at the Gig Maritime Festival parade and an AMAZING time at the U2360 concert! It was truly a Beautiful Day!

The parade was Colby and Chase's first official parade where we were seated on the side of the road in our fold up camping chairs watching a variety of decorated floats, bands, old cars, fire trucks, police, high school kids, and various non-profits and business as well as one senator promoting their services.... Chase started out a little shy (as always) but perked up after receiving a ton of candy, beads, balls, and most importantly after seeing all the pirates! We were even given an eye patch and a fake mustache that we each took turns wearing for a bit, even Colby :-) What made the parade even more special was that Uncle Mike was in it! He was drumming with the Seattle Seahawks drum core, the Blue Thunder. It was fun to see him in action and although I didn't get any photos of him playing, I did get video! So cool! (I must apologize for the loud screaming of Mike's name throughout the video but we were trying to get his attention!) 

Here are a few photos from our day at the parade...

Colby with Daddy ready for the parade to begin...

Chase's big grin as the "big, huge" trucks go by...

Colby enjoying the parade with his beads...

Chase in the pirate mustache, he wasn't too sure about it but burst out laughing right after I took this picture...

Daddy's turn! Hmmm, he doesn't look that different really! He's a natural pirate!

Yep, it was my turn next.... I don't think it's as flattering on me as the boys....

Colby with the 'stache -- too funny!

ARRGGGH! Chase is a pirate!!!
Now on to our truly amazing night at the U2 concert. Scott, Mike and I made the trek (it's actually only about 35-40 mins.) to Seattle for the concert. Scott surprised me with tickets on Thursday and arranged daycare, too -- thanks so much Miss Rhonda!

I grew up, as most of us have, listening to U2. I'm always amazed at how they can stay relevant and modern having been in the business for more than 20 years but they most certainly have... I would say that I am a U2 fan probably more so than I am a DMB fan which is pretty big for me, I love my DMB! :-) So needless to say, I was really excited to see them not only because of all the media buzz around the 360 stage, the claw, and of course because I would know every single song that they played, but because well, they're U2!!!! It was incredible, seriously. It was way more than a concert but an experience. You know one of those concerts that impacts you, maybe doesn't change your life but it effects you in a big way... I guess I just don't have the right words to explain... 

The Claw
Upon entering the stadium we made our way to field or stage area to check out "the claw,"  it was massive...then, we were approached by ONE staff asking us to sign petitions (on iPads!) for various human rights causes.... It was not a nuisance as you might think but rather inspiring. The fact that Bono had "his people" out advocating, educating, and garnering support throughout the concert for issues such as 3rd world country vaccinations, pre-natal care for moms-to-be in developing countries, and human rights issues for amnesty international again made this more than just a rock concert. I'm not sure how others felt who attended but I felt a part of something bigger... I was not just there to hear fabulous music, to dance and have a great time but I was inspired by this effort to make a difference, take a stand and join together to help/support/fight for those who cannot...

We had fun hanging out with Mike and enjoying the amazing weather... we actually never made it to our seats as we had the $30 seats at the top of the stadium so we found a really great standing spot or rather "dancing" spot with the beautiful Seattle skyline right behind us....
Mike and Scott, sorry didn't have my flash on for this photo -- OOPs!

Scott and me and my favorite city behind us!
After coming on stage, Bono talked about "starting again," and that he was inspired "to start over" by being in Seattle, the amazing weather and our Beautiful Day, and he told the crowd, his fans to do the same... That we can do it, we can be inspired and change. I may be sounding a little cooky but it was really inspiring... And, I was even more inspired when I woke up the next morning, even though I was a little groggy because the kids were up so early and because Scott and I didn't get to bed until 2:30 a.m., because I had a thank you message from Bono and ONE. Too cool.

All the music was fabulous as one would expect but I must highlight the song Beautiful Day (of course). Not only because it is one of my U2 favs but because of their performance on this night... They patched in Gabby Giffords' husband, Astronaut Commander Mark Kelly, from space to introduce the song and to say a special message to her.... It was amazing. Here it is:

Here are some of the photos that I posted on facebook throughout the night but I had to add to this blog... What an amazing, inspirational, awesome show! I'm still glowing from the experience and am inspired. 

360 video screen before the show displaying statistics around the world
Seattle skyline behind us
Here they come...

Bono close-up, I think this was during One

Another Bono close up shot on the video screen
Cool stage shot with video screen

Love this shot of the claw in green

Monday, May 30, 2011

A River Runs Through It...

We just returned from spending the Memorial Day weekend down at the family hay farm on about 40 acres along the edge of the Cowlitz River in Randle, WA. It was nice to spend the holiday weekend together. Grandpa Britt, Grandma Helen, and Uncle Mike were all there but unfortunately the weather did not come through for us. 

After planning the trip for a few weeks after our Cabela's shopping spree, Scott and I checked the weather forecast almost daily hoping for some sunny, "warmish" weather. And, this past week it looked like Sunday and Monday would deliver! yea! We were especially hoping for good weather because we are officially "tent campers" as of a few weeks ago after selling our pop-camper with all the bells and whistles including a shower and potty! I'm starting to think that we bring the rain with us because every time we go the farm the weather there is rainy and gloom and it is usually nice and sunny back at home.
We did see the sun on Saturday intermittently as we set up camp, but we also experienced down pours, drizzle, and rain clouds. We made the best of it as we had planned to have several covered/indoor areas where we could all get out of the elements especially the boys. We even set up a tent specifically for the boys' toys so they could get out of the rain and play, and the toys would be out of our main sleeping tent. It was a lot of fun to set up "the compound" around the campfire with our two tents, our canopy, and the RV that Britt & Helen borrowed for the weekend. 

Our tent was great, not a drop of rain inside all weekend but I have to say the cots and captain chair loungers were the best investment of all the gear we purchased. The cots were amazing! When we picked them out, I was skeptical but Scott assured me that we would be so comfortable and we were -- they were even better than the mattress we had in our pop-up! Although despite the comfortable cots our nights were rather rough. I haven't slept in a sleeping bag in awhile and found it a bit claustrophobic. Also, the boys did get up quite a bit both nights for bottles, potty, etc... And, we did have an extremely cold first night even though we came prepared with our oil heater from home. We actually ended up with two oil heaters on the second night and were warm and toasty!

Colby did really well despite still having a little cold/cough. This was his first official camping trip and he went with the flow as usual;  although he was eager to scoot around on his own. We held him a lot, pushed him in the Bob for his naps and had him in his portable high-chair or walker that we used as a activity chair. He loved watching Chase goof around most of the time. He had so much fun giggling at him blowing the dandelions. Chase had never done this before and Colby just thought it was hysterical and Chase loved blowing on them and making Colby laugh!

Chase loves the farm! He loves to go down to the river and throw rocks, and is now starting to love "fishing" or rather reeling in the bait. He had fun this trip helping Grandpa Britt pick out the bait (real worms!!!!) and reel it in. Although several times the fish stole the bait and they didn't catch anything! Chase also loved riding in the Mule/Cat ATV that our friend Roy brought over to ride all over the property. I think he will be our little explorer!

Scott and Mike had fun fishing, too. Scott brought his Dad's old fly-fishing rod and waded into the river to practice casting. He had fun although I think I saw him get caught in the line a time or two. 

On Sunday, Grandpa Britt brought Great-Grandma Nederhood all the way from Sunnyside. She spent a few hours with us sitting by the campfire eating hotdogs and banana boats (a new camping dessert similar to S'mores I just learned about from Helen -- these will become a tradition at McDaniel family camping trips from now on!) despite the drizzle. She's such a trooper. It was wonderful for her to visit and see everyone at the farm. She enjoyed sitting in our Captain's chairs, too, and said it felt just like home! 

We also got to do a little work for Grandpa Britt, too. It is a rare occasion where they do not work when we are altogether. It was fun to see Chase wanting to watch their every move and try and "help" them with their work. The job on this day was to lay pipe for irrigation to the top of the property. 

Towards the end of the day it was evident due to their cranky/fussiness that the boys needed a little road trip away from camp to help them fall asleep for their afternoon nap. We ventured up to White Pass, approx. 25 min. from the farm. I was amazed, there is still so much snow on the ground their and the temp was about 40 degrees. Brrrr!!! They fell asleep just as we reached the top of the pass so Scott and I had a nice relaxing drive back to camp in peace. :) After returning to camp, we had a fun visit with Uncle Mike by the campfire while the boys slept then we're off to Packwood to Cruisers for Pizza.

We did make it to the annual Memorial Day flea market/garage sell/auction event that Packwood is known for during this weekend. We toured the various booths but the only one to find a treasure this trip was Uncle Mike who purchased an African drum. We then ended our camping adventure with lunch on our way home in Elbe on an old train which was a lot fun and they had one of the best mushroom/swiss burgers I've ever had!

For me, the fun I had this weekend was hanging out with my boys, all three of them. :-) Although the weekend was a bit of downer due to the weather, I think we made it through okay and had fun with our family. I'm hoping for better weather our next trip. My dream is to sit on the river reading a book (in my captain's chair lounger :) in the sun while watching my boys fish with their daddy. Maybe one day, if we're lucky we'll finally get some sunshine during one of our trips to the farm! I certainly hope so because Chase LOVES the farm especially the river so I bet we will be there often this summer and for years to come!