Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cell Phones and Preschoolers

I found a link on FB that said, "I don't care how old you are or how badass you think you are, when a toddler hands you their ringing cell phone, you answer it!"

I really thought these pictures fit well with this quote. It amazes me how even my two year olds know exactly how to handle our play cell phones. I have not witnessed any texting yet however, but I bet I will see it soon.

I have a regular telephone in my house corner, you know the kind with the cord and very few of my kids even know what that is!

I remember learning how to dial a telephone in the third grade when Watertown was going to dial phones instead of operators. Wow, how things have changed.

My grandma's number was 745J and I remember telling the operator that number so often. Why does my mind hang on to such trivia? I bet I could use that brain space for something more useful.

Anyway, hope you enjoy my little phone post.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Tribute to my MIL MaryAnn Damman

My Mother in Law, MaryAnn Damman passed away early on Saturday morning. She had been diagnosed with cancer about a month ago and had spent only seven hours in Hospice care. A quick, for the most part painless death, a blessing.

The one who will suffer most in this is her husband, my Father in Law, Jack. He has been in a care center for over a year with some type of disease, originally mistaken for Parkinson's, but recently the cause of all his issues, unknown. MaryAnn visited him faithfully every single day until she got too sick to go. She went at the same time every single day and fed him his lunch. Her dedication and love for this man was inmeasurable and his for her. He will miss her dearly and I predict he will follow her soon. (I may be wrong here since I do not know God's perfect plan, just a feeling)
The last time we saw her she was inpatient in the same care center. She was in excellent spirits and we left feeling good about the visit. I will be holding on to that memory of her.

I was putting together a collage of pictures to use at the funeral. I felt like it was something I could do for her, my last gift to her, so to speak. In looking through all of my pictures, which by the way need to be organized in some manner to make these searches easier. Remember this is before the days of computers, so I have about a hundred photo albums and the task is time consuming to say the least.

I found so many photos of MaryAnn smiling, laughing, having a great time with her family. She lived a great life, God had blessed her with opportunities that some of us will never have. It made me feel good to know that she had enjoyed life so much.

In recent years, we have distanced ourselves from John's family, not for any particular reason. I guess it was just that our lives got busy. We still did the big holidays and birthdays, but did not visit like we did when the girls were little. I was thankful to go back to relive some of those happy memories from the good, old days. It made me remember how much fun we had with his family as the girls were growing up.

MaryAnn liked to be in control, much like I do and two controllers often don't go well together. Sometimes I didn't like how she made me feel when we chose not to celebrate at the exact time she wanted us to be there celebrating. She never let go of a grudge. I don't mean to be speaking ill of the dead here, just honest about my feelings. I think at some point she made her bed and as the years went on she had to lie in it. I am happy to say that I never told her how I felt and our relationship was always a friendly one. She was very generous with monetary gifts and never missed a chance to give gifts. She was a great cook and enjoyed making elaborate dinners for her guests. I fear a few of her favorite recipes have gone with her.

There, those are my thoughts on the passing of my Mother in Law. I believe she is in a better place although she did not speak of any faith she may have had. I know she grew up in a Catholic home and I like to believe you never really lose that.

The funeral is on Friday and after that I may have a much gentler, kinder feeling. We shall see.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reconnecting with our long lost friends

We just got home from Mishawaka, Indiana where we spent yesterday reconnecting with our friends, Patti and Tom Kovach. We had lost touch with one another when life got in the way over the last twenty years, but when we

gave one another that first hug it was like no time had passed at all. The conversation started and never stopped. That is the way it is with true friendship, time cannot change those feelings.

I was so excited to see Patti again and I was not disappointed.

We did promise to never let that happen to us again. We are staying in touch from now on! It was amazing to see Tom and Patti waiting for us when we walked into the motel lobby.
We had gotten off to a rather rocky start when enroute we learned that John's mom had passed away after only 7 hours in hospice care.
We stopped over at his sister's house to chat and touch base.
There was nothing else we could do at that point so we went on to our weekend which turned out to be so theraputic.
After all what could be better than spending time with caring friends willing to accept us no matter where our emotions may have taken us after the news we got.

After a few beers, picture exchanging, and non-stop talking in the lobby, we headed over to a pizza place for dinner.
More conversation, lots of laughs, and yummy food made for a perfect evening. There is no where else we would have wanted to be at that moment.

Our wonderful husbands got us some more beer for the rest of the night.

This was the patio that we had outside our room at the Marriot.

We moved our party out there after dinner.

More laughs, more conversation, more beer, it was perfect.

We had breakfast at Bob Evans today and reluctantly said our good-byes, but we know this is just the beginning for us.

A new second beginning.

How thankful we are, not everyone gets second chances.

Patti and Tom, thank you for a wonderful visit.

We love and appreciate more than you will ever know.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good bye summer, Hello Fall

No school for me today due to a teacher's conference that I choose not to attend. I decided years ago that I already know all the stuff that they try and teach me at those conferences. I have been teaching so long that I know what works for me and my kids and I know what my parents like. No need to fix it if it ain't broken, right?
Anyway I had a very productive day. Fall is in the air and is all around us today. The sedum have turned into their beautiful fall colors. We have many, many sedum in our yard because they transplant easily and they are one plant that I cannot kill. The garden is showing the final signs of productivity, not that it was a particularily productive garden this year anyway except for tomatoes.

There are still probably a good six dozen cherry tomatoes to harvest yet as long as it does not freeze and there is one more nice big tomatoe. We will have BLT's as soon as that one is ready. I am planning tacos one night this week while we still have the cherry tomatoes, too. I do have a good number in the freezer to use for spaghetti and pizza sauce this winter.

I have started my Christmas shopping which is also a sign of fall around here. I love to start early and buy a lot. I have found a site called Sophia's Styles where I order Christmas, Easter, and other festive dresses for Tizita. I have five outfits hanging here, but I don't want to give them away. Suffice it to say that they are not a disappointment and I cannot wait to see her in them.

Today mom and I went out to the cemetery to get the graves ready for fall. We found some nice flowers and leaves on our shopping trip today and took them out to the graves.

Fall is a time for school fundraisers around here and these are the brownies that I ordered from my neighbor girl to support her dance team. They look so yummy and due to the fact that I paid $15.oo for them, they sure better taste even better than they look. I think John and I will break into them tonight for our bedtime snack, we deserve it for various reasons.

I also baked some pumpkin bread which made the house smell like fall. The recipe came from a friend, Sarah and it was so easy to make. I added many chocolate chips which should make it taste even better. I think we will have some of that tonight, too. We deserve it for various reasons.

And finally, I have put up the Packer yard flag. If you recall that very sign had a piece of black electrical tape through the G a few years ago when John was less than happy with the Packer performance. So far he is happy and the sign will stay as it is for now.

On a side note, we got sad news about John's mom. She is going to hospice and has only two weeks to live. Wow, that was fast, but at least she is not in any pain. I wonder if she will make it to her birthday on Oct. 9 or maybe she will be celebrating this one in the best place ever!

Tomorrow we leave for Mishawaka, Indiana to meet our long lost friends, Patti and Tom Kovach. I am so excited to see them and catch up. I will post pictures and details on Sunday.

So, good bye summer, welcome fall. Winter, you can just stay away this year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Winnie the Pooh and the Packers, too

John and I are not going to be able to attend the Alpha Resource Center Silent Auction this year due to a conflict so instead of attending we are going to donate two gift baskets.

I wish I had taken a photo before I turned the baskets in to the center, but I didn't, so I will describe what I put in each basket. This is more for my future reference than anything else.

Both baskets were centered around hats donated by Courtney.

The first basket was called a Winnie the Pooh Basket.

It included the beautiful hand crocheted Winnie the Pooh hat made by Courtney,

A Winnie the Pooh stacking toy,

A Winnie the Pooh sound book,

A stuffed Winnie the Pooh,


Some Winnie the Pooh flashcards.

Value of the basket was $70.oo

The second basket was a Football lover's, especially Packers, infant basket.

It included a hand crocheted football hat and football diaper cover made by Courtney,

A Packer sleeper,

Packer booties,

A Packer meal set with silverware, a plate, dish, cup, bottle, and bib,

A taggie stuffed football.

Valued again at $70.00.

I really hope the baskets go for their value or higher and I hope the recipients enjoy the contents.

I wish I could be there to watch it all unfold.

We are giving Ruth and Larry permission to bid on a few items for us not to exceed a certain amount of money, so even if we cannot be there in person, we will be there in spirit and we will be able to spend a bit of money.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Busy Saturday, Lazy Sunday

We have just had a fun, busy Saturday, now I am looking forward to a nice, relaxing Sunday with a big Packer win.
Saturday started out with our Son Shine Saturday at St. John's. I made two lambs out of powdered sugar donut holes to go with our theme of, Jesus the Good Shepherd, and, No, I did not take a picture. My mom couldn't even tell that what I had made was a lamb, so I didn't think it was photo worthy. Although, the little children attending the Bible time knew it was a lamb. What can I say? I know my audience.

After the somewhat sparsly attended Son Shine Saturday, (this means lots of left over donuts for John and I), I had lunch with my good friend, Lynne. We were celebrating her birthday and we were so happy we could actually meet for lunch so close to the actual date of her big day which was Sept. 15. We enjoyed some tuna crunch salad and lots of great conversation. I am so blessed to have a friend like Lynne. You know the kind of friend I am talking about, the one that you can sit down and chat easily with no matter how much time has passed between visits. I am so thankful she decided to apply for the teaching job at Mary Linsmeier all those years ago. Although, I like to think that our paths would have crossed anyway, we were destined to become friends. We went to Upper Crust for our lunch and noticed lots of older ladies lunching there. Hard to believe that that will be us in the not too distant future!

After lunch John, mom, Mallory, and I headed to Milwaukee to take Alissa out to dinner. We ate at The Chauncery, Mallory's choice. The food was yummy, the beers went down easily, and the laughs were many. Mallory had the usual freshman college stories to relate to us, bringing back memories. It was a good night all around. When we got back to Watertown, John and I went to On the Rock to end our evening with a few more beers. Here are a few pictures of our dinner.

That brings us to right now, Sunday morning. Plans today include church, mom's chili for lunch, Packers, and nothing else! A lazy Sunday and lots of powdered sugar donuts is just what the Doctor ordered.

Let's hope the Packers do well, so John is happy with his Sunday, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to Ohma

This is Ohma, my mom's mom. Today is her birthday. She died when Courtney was just four months old, so sadly, my girls did not get to meet her.
Ohma was a very faithful woman, loved her Lord and her church. She did not have much as far as material possessions went, but she never wanted for anything either. She was always happy and full of love.
She had a hard life, my Opha died when my mom was only nine years old. He had been a teacher in a Lutheran school in Clyman, WI, so when he died she lost her big beautiful home which belonged to the church. She and my mom moved above my Uncle's ice cream store where they shared one bedroom. Her stories were so wonderful to hear and I wish she were here to share them with all of us once again.
I know she is having the time of her life up in heaven and I look forward to the day I will see her again.
Until then, Happy Birthday Ohma! I am thinking about you today.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Annual Zoo Trip

I like traditions. John and I started one three years ago when we took Tizita to the Milwaukee Zoo for the first time. 2009



On Saturday, Sept. 10, we took our third trip to the Milwaukee Zoo. We headed up to Oshkosh early on Saturday morning and took off for the zoo from there.

We always start our zoo adventure out with a ride on the train.

This year, Tizita chose the car right behind the engine. We were able to hear the whistle very loudly from this car!

We talked about the fact that next year we will have Nathnael with us on our trip to the zoo.
Tizita decided he would sit by Grandpa on the "man's" side of the train car and we would sit on the "lady's" side.

Now we don't have to concern ourselves with that, done, done, and done!

From the train, we head to the merry-go-round. Tiz chose to ride a bear this year while I rode a beautiful white horse.

Tizita's mode of transportation was the best place ever, up on Grandpa's shoulders.

This year Tizita discovered the plastic molding machines and let me tell you, there are a lot of them throughout the zoo. At $2.oo a crack, it is not cheap, but still the four animals she made were a better value than stopping in the gift shop. We did have one slight accident when the alligator got stuck in the machine. He arrived with a small hole in his back, but a band aid fixed him up.

We fed some goats and had our lunch.

It is now noon and we have not seen one animal (besides the goats and the ones on the carousal) and this is a Zoo!

Okay, on to the animals.

We did have to take time to ride Apache.

Here we go, we saw many, many animals.

It was a near perfect zoo day, weather wise and all the animals were active.

Grandpa's favorite, the Polar bear.

We did wonder what happened to the poor Preschooler who was sitting on that purple chair.

We decided that God created some odd looking animals, but they are all beautiful in their own way.

It is a well known fact among my family and friends that I do not like snakes. In fact, I am very scared of them. It is a phobia.

So, each year we take a picture by the snake sign.



and 2011.

What a fun, great zoo trip.

Building memories together.

John and I were discussing how much Tizita has changed each time we have taken her to the zoo.

This year she really enjoyed learning about all the animals and her vocabulary is astounding for a four year old.

It is so nice for us to share this day with her and we look forward to it for many years to come.

Note to Nathnael: We cannot wait to take you to the zoo with us next year. It will be so much fun to watch you see the zoo for the first time and to have your sister help you do all the things that she enjoys there.

Luckily, we have your spot all picked out on the train!

Hurry home and be happy and healthy until we see you!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Happy Third Tiziversary to our sweet little Tizita Desta

Three years ago today, on September 12, 2008, this is the face that greeted us as she stepped off an airplane in the Appleton airport. This little lady had just completed the longest trip of her life, all the way from Ethiopia to Wisconsin, USA. She had been on different airplanes for many, many hours and yet she was bright eyed and busy tailed that first time we saw her. We had been in love with her from the first time we saw her picture and knew her name, but now we had a real smile, real eyes, real hands to hold, real arms to hug us. It was a magical moment, one which I will never forget. On September 12, 2009, I decided we needed to celebrate the Van Auken Family's Tiziversary commemorating the day they brought our first grandchild home.

This is the beautful dress that Courtney and Paul had brought home from Ethiopia for Tizita and she wore it for the first time on her first Tizitversary. She looked just like a little Ethiopian Princess.

Since she liked Curious George so much, I used him as the theme for our first Tiziversary.

On September 12, 2010, we celebrated our second Tiziversary with a dinner at the Ethiopian Cottage in Milwaukee. This outfit was another one that Courtney and Paul had brought back from Ethiopia and this was the first time Tiz wore it.

This year she was in love with pandas ever since seeing the pandas at the zoo in Washington D.C. so pandas became the theme of our second Tiziversary.

This brings us to the celebration of our third Tiziversary. John and I began the day with a fun trip to the zoo. I will cover that trip in my next post. Taking Tiz to the zoo has become a yearly tradition for John and I. This year it just happened to fall on her Tiziversary weekend.

After the zoo, Courtney, Paul, and Gigi met us and we again ate dinner at the Ethiopian Cottage. It was a yummy wonderful meal.

In true Ethiopian tradition we shared a common plate with many Ethiopian dishes and injera.

Tiz and I share a moment. Unfortunately John was not able to join us due to a flat tire after the zoo. We felt it best that he head home and tend to that tire. We missed him, but we did have a great day with the three of us at the zoo.

Gigi and Tiz share some coffee after we were able to experience a traditional coffee ceremony at the restaurant. She is wearing another dress brought back from Ethiopia.

On Sunday, we continued our celebration with church and a Princess party

This was the year of the Princesses, so the cupcakes and decorations were all about Princesses.

And there in the midst of it all, was our very own little Ethiopian Princess! Happy Tiziversary Sweet Tizita! We love you more than you will ever know.

Note to Little Nathnael: Remembering the happy, happy day that your sister walked off of that plane and into our lives makes us so much more anxious to meet you. We are already in love with you, but cannot wait to see your real eyes, real smile, real hands, and to give you a big hug!

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