The Zoo, A Funeral, A Birthday Party

Whew! It’s been a crazy few weeks! I’ve been trying to update the blog once a week, but it’s been nearly impossible to get on the computer much the past few weeks.

On April 25th the six of us went to Memphis to meet up with a dear old nursing school friend of mine and her family. Serena and I have kept in touch over the years through Christmas cards, occasional e-mails and occasional phone calls, but we figured out that it has been nine years since we’ve seen each other. It was so great to get to visit with her, see how her oldest daughter has grown into a beautiful young lady, and to meet her youngest daughter. We both agreed that it felt like we picked up where we left off. We had lunch and then went to the Memphis zoo. The dads were awesome! They took over watching the kiddos so that Serena and I could visit. Thanks, Rick and Tommy! Rachel was excited about the zoo, and she hit it off with Serena’s three-year-old daughter.

Zoo photos (not the greatest, forgot camera battery so these are iphone photos):

Love this photo of Eli! YOU ARE SO COOL!


Rachel watching panda eat bamboo





Titus, Tommy, and Rachel on the carousel



Rachel and her new friend


Eli and Tommy being silly


We were already planning to spend the night at Tommy’s mom’s about an hour from Memphis and were planning to visit his dad also. But throughout the day we were at the zoo, we kept getting phone calls that his dad was in the hospital and was not doing well at all. Tommy’s parents are in their 80s. His dad has been in assisted-living for several years, his mind and health have declined, and he was just recently moved to a nursing home. He has been going downhill for years and been in the hospital several times when he was not expected to live. But somehow he always pulled through. So for years Tommy has realized that each time he saw his dad could be the last.

We continued our day at the zoo and had supper with Serena and family before traveling to Middleton. Tommy dropped the kids and I off at his mom’s house and went on to the hospital where he and his oldest sister spent the night. At this point his dad is in ICU with pneumonia and sepsis from ruptured bowel. They were told that his body was shutting down. Not knowing how long his dad would hang on, Tommy picked the kids and I up the next afternoon and took us home planning to get his car and head back to Tennessee. But as he was about to leave home, he received a call from his middle sister saying that his dad had gone into respiratory failure and died.

We sat down and told the boys. Sweet, sweet Titus grinned really big and said, “HEAVEN!” Oh, the faith of a child. 🙂 He had told me a few days before that he had a dream while he was sleeping about heaven and that it was lots of fun. One night I was reading the Bible story of Eli and Samuel to Titus and Rachel. We talked about God speaking to us in our hearts. Titus said, “I know! He talks to me!”

On Friday Tommy returned to help with the funeral arrangements. The kids and I went up to Tennessee early Saturday morning to attend the visitation and funeral. Rachel charmed everyone there. She was able to meet many of her relatives, including Tommy’s three sisters and one of her cousins on his side of the family.

Neat thing about Rachel’s name. Through all of my pregnancies “Rachel” was always our girl name partly because we like Bible names and partly because one of Tommy’s favorite aunts was named Rachel. Aunt Rachel died a while back, but her daughters were thrilled to meet our “Rachel”.

The funeral service was short but quite moving. Tommy’s dad was an alcoholic when Tommy was younger, so life was pretty rough during Tommy’s growing-up years. But for many, many years later in life he was very active in Alcoholics Anonymous. Tommy would occasionally have people tell him how much his dad had meant to them in their own recovery.

The minister who performed the funeral service was a very young man who had met Tommy’s dad through AA. Tommy’s dad drove him to AA meetings for two years while his license was revoked. Over that time they became close friends. The young minister shared how people would see them together and think that Mr. Stewart was his grandfather. He shared that it was strange for someone his age to have an 80-year-old man as a best friend but that is what Mr. Stewart was to him.

The graveside service was very moving as Tommy’s dad served in the Marines during World War II. Two Marines were present. One played “Taps”. Then they folded the flag on Mr. Stewart’s casket and presented it to Tommy. They said, “This is presented to you on behalf of a grateful nation in honor of your loved one who fought to defend her.” It was so touching. Then one of the Marines was so kind. He came up to Tommy afterward and asked if he could refold the flag because this was his first time to do this. He did not get the edges as crisp as he wanted, and he wanted to get it right.

After spending some time visiting family at Tommy’s mother’s house, we headed home because my sister and her girls were in town to meet Rachel for the first time. Her girls are 6, 4, and 1 1/2. They have been dying to meet Rachel. As soon as we pulled in the driveway at my mom’s house, they came running out to greet us. Nora Blayre, the youngest, and Rachel almost immediately got into an argument over a doll. Eliza who’s four played babies with Rachel. Odd to me because Rachel never plays with her multitude of baby dolls at home. I guess she just needs to be around girls some. And Mary Carsen, the oldest, was so great about explaining things to Rachel. Rachel had fun playing with Mary Carsen and Eliza in the bathtub.

My sister took more photos than I did, and I haven’t gotten them from her yet. But here are some.

Nora Blayre, Rachel, and Eliza having a tea party in Rachel’s room


Much time was spent playing with/traumatizing Granny’s kittens during the weekend. Here’s Eliza holding one.


Titus, Caleb and Mary Carsen playing in the mud


Rachel and Aunt Christy


We had planned to spend the night at my mom’s to see them as much as we could since they were leaving the next afternoon. But Caleb, our daredevil who had to get stitches twice within three months when he was five, was playing on Granny’s exercise machine and broke off half of his permanent front tooth exposing the nerve. Caleb’s a tough cookie, but he was in a tremendous amount of pain. We couldn’t get in touch with our pediatric dentist. But we talked to two dentists (one is Tommy’s brother-in-law) who both said that if the nerve was exposed Caleb would need a root canal. So Monday morning early we were at the dentist’s office expecting the worst. But a new dentist in the office we go to said that she wanted to try something. She did some things to encourage the nerve to heal itself and reattached his tooth. Only time will tell if it is healing successfully, but so far so good. If he begins to have problems with it, he will need a root canal.

As far as things with Rachel, since we hit the two month mark, things are starting to feel more normal. I have been working hard to have a daily routine. She is slowly learning what is expected of her during our school time–mainly to play quietly while I work with the boys. She likes to do her school too and asks me when she can have school. I’m not doing a whole lot with her right now–some pretty basic workbooks with drawing, cutting and gluing and reading lots of books. I figure what she needs most is time to play and just be a kid for a while. She and Titus have been spending lots of time outside since the weather has been so lovely. She has gained five pounds since we’ve been home and grown 1/2 inch. She still loves to eat!

Rachel and Mom


Yes, we are absolutely rotten! This is the first family photo we’ve taken since we’ve been home.


Last Sunday my darling Caleb turned nine! He had a sleepover on Friday night. It was a combined party for Caleb and his best friend Robert. They were born eleven days apart. Robert’s mom and I think they were friends before they were even born. They are soul mates. I really think that they will always be friends no matter where life takes them. I am so thankful that Caleb already has a friend like Robert in his life.

Caleb and Robert blowing out their candles


Best buddies!


Caleb is a warrior at heart. He is the most competitive of my three competitive boys. He is passionate. Whatever he feels, he feels strongly. Whenever Caleb is happy, he is a delight to be around and loves to make anyone who is upset laugh by his clowning. 🙂 Whenever he is unhappy, he makes us all miserable. 😦 He is frequently a defender of his brothers and now Rachel whenever they are in trouble with Tommy or me. He is daring, not afraid of anything, exulting in danger. When he was a baby, he went from crawling to running and climbing on anything he could find to climb. He was perpetually covered with bruises, scrapes, and bumps on his head. I have written before about how he is a natural athlete. He was just made to move and is beautiful to watch. And on the ball field, you better watch out, because he is intense. He was the only kid on his team who took t-ball seriously. I am very much looking forward to seeing what God is going to do with his passionate heart and his talents. Whatever it is, I know that the journey there will be thrilling.

Caleb and Mom


Caleb with Molly (four months old!). She is going to be HUGE!



At our house we are so excited that it’s baseball season again!



I love to garden! Each spring I take the kids to pick out flowers and plant a pot of their own. Here are Rachel and Titus preparing to plant their flowers.




My boys usually spend Friday nights with my mom. Rachel always wants to go with them. She frequently packs her suitcase on her own and tries to go. Then she’s disappointed when I tell her that she cannot. I’m partly worried about my mom handling all four of the kids, and I partly have felt that Rachel’s not ready to spend the night away.

The Friday night of Caleb’s birthday sleepover I decided that this would be a good time for Rachel to stay at Granny’s. It would get her out of the boys’ hair, and she and Granny could have some one-on-one time. She had a blast! Note: my mom is a perfect and typical grandmother. She lets the kids do almost anything they want and will do whatever they want with them. Granny said that Rachel kept pointing to the floor at her house saying, “HuiHui stay Wai Po’s.” (Wai Po= grandmother). They made cookies, went to Wal-Mart to get candy, rings, and a Barbie, and who knows what else they did. Rachel was excited to get home though. I heard her before she even got to the door yelling, “MOM! MOM! MOM!”

Granny and Rachel


Rachel loves to put stickers all over her face and her body. Here she is in the car last Sunday on the way home from church.


Her brothers told her to put all of the stickers over her mouth, so she did.




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