Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy Birthday - A weekend of mixed emotions

Tomorrow is my birthday, 59, in case you are wondering. Courtney, Paul, Tizita, Alissa and Nathan all came home to celebrate my birthday with me just as I wanted. We had planned this in early January before our lives were changed forever with the news of our precious Natnael.
I approach this birthday with mixed emotions, I approached this weekend with mixed emotions, truth be told, I am approaching life with mixed emotions since the news. I knew it would be good to see everyone, but I knew it would be hard to see everyone.
Courtney had a set of pictures made for us. There are about 15 or so photos taken of Natnael while he was in the care center. Nati with balls, nati doing silly tricks, Nati smiling, Nati eating, these photos are priceless treasures, but I could not even look at them yet. The pain is too new, the sadness is too fresh. I look forward to really studying them some day down the road when the emotions are not so raw.
Some parts of this weekend seemed so normal and so much like life was before the news of Natnael. We started out Friday with a dinner at El mariachi. We smiled, we laughed, it felt good, it felt normal. For a little while, at least, it was good.

Courtney and Paul love El Mariachi, they needed comfort food. They are sad, but their smiles shown through at times and for a little while it all felt normal and good.

Tizita is still Tizita, the joy of our lives and she made us laugh by her silliness, her innocence, and her genuine love for all of us.

After dinner, we headed over to Lyon's Pub for a beer or three. More laughs, more normalcy, more good times.

My mom babysat for Tizita so that we could continue our night at Ann's.

With these three men in tow, how could it not be a terrific evening?

And this is my beautiful family. I am so proud of my daughters who have grown up to be the best of friends. They may be separated by miles but when they get together, the time is fun, normal, good.

The night was good. It was filled with reminiscing about good times, laughter, normalcy.

On Saturday, we had a slow, lazy day made to order. We opened gifts in the afternoon. Tizita helped me with the goody box. I did not fare so well, guessing only nine of the ten and taking myself out of the running for grand champ.

Another picture with my beautiful daughters and my yummy eau claire torte made by my mom.

My best gift of all is this precious little girl who can make me smile no matter what. We had lots of time to spend together this weekend and that was nice.
We ended Saturday night with a slide show and an early bedtime of ten.

On Sunday, my Preschoolers sang in church. Tizita came with me to hang out with some of her friends before church. I love how much they love and miss her. We all need friends just like this.

We surprised Courtney, Paul, and Tizita by putting two plants on the altar in memory of sweet Natnael. Not much, but a symbol of our love for him and his life. They are live plants that they can take home and take care of.

And these are my sweet Preschoolers singing, "I am Jesus' Little Lamb."

The words of this song wrap up my feelings for this post:

Who so happy as I am, even now the Shepherd's lamb,

And when my short life is ended, by his angel host attended,

He will fold me to his breast, there within his arms to rest.

Such a comfort to think that Natnael is resting in Jesus' arms right now.

So, mixed emotions all around this weekend.

I know it will get easier as time goes on and some sort of normal will return, but I don't think it will ever be quite the same again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Life Goes on , one day at time

I don't want to post a new entry because it means I am leaving the only picture we have of Natnael to get buried in my blog along with all the other photos.
But, life goes on and so must we. One day at a time has been the motto around here.
We may never have met our sweet Natnael, but he will be in our hearts forever, he will be our first grandson. I will work hard to keep his memory alive.
John and I went to Elias last night using a gift card that Courtney and Paul had given us as a thank you for taking care of Tizita while they were in Ethiopia. We had not been to Elias for a long time and it was even better than we had remembered it. We had a great night out thanks to Courtney and Paul. I actually feel we should have paid them for allowing us to spend 11 days with Tizita.
So, we will keep moving forward from here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

There are no words for such sadness

This is the only picture that Courtney and Paul will ever have of their precious little Natnael. To me, this picture is worth way more than a thousand words. (I think there is an old saying to that effect or maybe I just made it up, my mind is a bit jumbled these days.) I just love the way that Natnael is looking at Paul out of those big beautiful brown eyes. He knows his papa and his mama, too, of that I am certain. I also can just see what a wonderful addition he would have been to our family. Those eyes say it all. Sadly, we will never know anything about these eyes or the beautiful soul behind them until we meet in heaven.
This is unchartered seas for us. We don't know how to act right now or even exactly what to feel, so all we feel is sadness along with some unbelief and despair. How can he look so healthy in this picture which was taken about a week before he died? Not for us to know right now.
How can God take such a precious little boy that was supposed to be in our lives? Not for us to know right now.
So many questions will remain unanswered this side of heaven, but that is how God operates at times and we know He has a plan and it will be perfect for our family.
One thing I am so grateful for is how many people genuinely care about our family and our sweet little Natnael at this time. As I told people at work today, they had tears in their eyes, real tears for our pain and our loss. I appreciate all of these people that God put there today.
So, for today, at least that is enough. All those people that touched my life today, that is enough for now.
Keep praying for us.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sad, Sad News

Courtney called today with some very sad news. Our dear, sweet, precious Natnael died today in Ethiopia. I am just so sad.
All of my hopes and dreams for this little guy died today, too.
I never met him, but he held a special place in my heart and he always will.
God has a plan, we just need patience to watch it unfold.
Good bye sweet Natnael.
See you in heaven.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This and That

It is hard to get back on the blog wagon after all the exciting posts about Tizita's stay with us. Everything seems a bit boring to me now as far as writing goes.
John and I did have a nice relaxing weekend which would have been darn near perfect if the Packers had won their game today, but instead they are now done for the season. We debated whether we should ask for a refund for our stock or fire the whole lot of them. The debate is still in process.
We spent Thursday and Friday just getting back into our routines without a five year old in the midst of things.
Friday night we went out to El Mariachi with Vikki, Kev, and my mom. It was an much needed adult night out. We enjoyed yummy Mexican food and a few beers there. We ended up at Lyon's Pub for a few more cold ones. Lots of good conversation and many laughs.
Saturday, we slept in till 8:00, that felt really good. We did our shopping and enjoyed a nice lunch at Berres Brothers. John had a coupon for a free Birthday lunch so we took advantage of it. We watched a few movies in the evening and had a nice fire.
Today we slept in once again, then church, a nice long walk, and a crummy football game!
Tomorrow it is back to the old grind.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

And they're back

And just like that, in a flash, our 11 days with Tiz are over. We took her to the airport tonight to meet Courtney and Paul as they deplaned. Here she is perched up in a high spot so she could spot her mama and papa as they walked down the exit.

And, boy, did she ever take off when she spotted them!

The happy family is reunited.

Handmade gifts for mama and papa.

Helping with the luggage.

New scarf from mama and papa.

A last hug for Grandpa and

a hug for Grandma, too.

Our house is quiet, but I know the Van Auken family is happy to be together again. Now we just need to get Natnael home!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Final Countdown

We just put Tizita to bed for the last time. (Well, not the last time, but the last time in this adventure in Grandparent babysitting) It was another easy bedtime. She requested Grandpa as usual and he read her some books and she fell asleep.
It is hard to believe that just one week ago today we were just starting this adventure and we had lots of concerns and worries about how it would all go. My biggest concern was if Tiz could follow our routine especially in the morning and at bedtime. All that worry was useless because things could not have gone better.
We made lots of happy memories together and got to know Tizita on yet another level.
Tonight after dinner she wanted to organize and play a few games, so Grandpa, Gigi, and I followed her rules and played some very original games. She has boundless energy and an imagination that does not quit plus her vocabulary is unreal. I noticed that everywhere she goes, people love her and she just seems to light up their world. Such a blessing!

Tomorrow after school she has a play date with Addi Faltersack, then we leave for the airport after the play date.. What a happy reunion that will be and although we will miss her so much, we know that she belongs back at home with mama and papa.

Our house will be quiet, but we are old and we need the quiet sometimes!

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Day with Grandpa

Today John took the day off to spend it with Tizita. At first we thought she would spend the morning with me in school and then go to lunch with Grandpa, but those plans changed. The two of them were lazing around in bed this morning and Tiz decided she did not want to come to school, so she and grandpa spent the entire day together. When I got home I found them both in this large fort that they had constructed. They even had a lighting system in the fort. They told me they had even eaten lunch in the fort! They also went to the library and checked out a stack of books. A few books were about princesses and ther were two books about how elevators work, They were both interested in the workings of an elevator since they spent so much time on the one at the motel in Bloomington.

This was her preferred spot for the rest of the evening. It seems that she and grandpa bonded pretty well today. I think one of the things she likes about grandpa is that he lets her run the show completely and spends every minute with her.

She did still have a few hugs left for me though.

Tomorrow Vikki brings her to school and I am taking the afternoon off to spend time with her. It will be a good day. I cannot believe our time with her is almost over.
We will certainly miss having her around here.

Road trip to Bloomington, part dos

This is Tizita after Cheddah put her to sleep on Saturday night. She has been such a great sleeper for us and falls asleep almost as soon as her head hits the pillow! She always wakes up in a great mood, too.

Here are Alissa and Tizita at CJ's restaurant where we ate on Saturday night.

Our motel breakfast was awesome. Tizita enjoyed sitting at the high bar. We had waffles, bagels, cereal, muffins, milk, and juice.

Here we are ready to leave the motel. We were heading back over to the Hunter house to visit the dogs a little more at Tizita's request.

Tizita and Webster. It is hard to believe that this little girl was so afraid of dogs just a little bit ago. Granted these poodles are so laid back, no barking, licking, or jumping. That makes it easier to like them.

Poodle time was followed by some Wii dancing. Tizita beat all of us handily. She and Cheddah are dancing to Mashed Potatoes here.

I beat Cheddah in this dance off to a Beach Boys hit, although it was not handily, it was just by a hair.

After a little blanket swinging for Tiz and Cheddah, we headed home. After a stop at McDonald's for lunch and Rochelle for another Barbie, we made it home by 4:00.

It was a great weekend.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Our Road Trip to Bloomington

We just returned from a great weekend in Bloomington celebrating Alissa's birthday. One of the hightlights was seeing the beautiful moon, almost full. Courtney and Paul told Tiz to look at the moon each night and to know that they would be looking at the same moon in Ethiopia and thinking of her. We looked at the moon and thought about mama and papa tonight. Now getting back to our trip. We left on Saturday morning. Of course, we had to stop at Rochelle. We always stopped at Rochelle on our way to college visits and we couldn't go to Bloomington without stopping. Tizita picked out a Barbie doll and a few other goodies. Marge said we could shop there for hours.

We had our lunch at Wendy's. Both Marge and I agree that the new pickles they use are not very good. We prefer the dills.

Here Tizita is helping Grandpa move the luggage into our rooms. We stayed at the Fairfield in adjoining rooms and we could not be happier with the accomodations. We will return.

Tizita and Grandpa went swimming right away. Tiz has really become a great swimmer and both of them had fun. Alissa and Nathan arrived at the motel and we started the party.

Here is Tizita with the birthday girl. We celebrated with cake and presents in our room.

After the party at the motel, we headed over to Alissa and Nathan's to visit with Darrel, the poodles, and to see their new living arrangements.

Tizita decided that she really enjoyed the poodles, especially Webster and she asked to return again on Sunday before we left.

After visiting the Hunter home, we all went out to eat at a nice restaurant which used to the airport. Then Alissa and Nathan returned to our motel for a few beers.

Nathan put Tiz to bed. It was a great day. I will write more in the next post about Sunday, more poodle time, wii dancing, and our trip home.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thank God it's Friday

Well, we made it through the first week without a hitch, but I am still saying TGIF because we need a few days of rest. It will be nice not to have to get up by 5:00 this AM. We may sleep in until 7:00! That will be nice for Tizita and for John and I, too. Vikki brought Tizita to school for me again today. Tizita had to spend the entire day with me today, but since it was Friday, I figured it would be all right and it was better than all right, it was perfect.
Of course, there was crafting going on again today.

After the playdate at Carlee's, Tizita and Carlee are attached at the hip. Such a sweet friend.

Cooper and Tizita had a great time in the afternoon. They played at the train table for quite awhile.

Here she is enjoying the train track they made.

Tonight we went to Culver's for dinner and then to Walmart for shopping. Tizita was so good at both places. We told her she could pick anything out as a treat for such a great week. After awhile, she chose some Polly Pockets. When we got home, she and Gigi spent quite awhile playing with them.

Tomorrow we leave for Bloomington to visit Alissa and Nathan. We are looking forward to our visit with them. It is Alissa's birthday so we will be able to celebrate that with her, too.

Thanking God for his blessings of a great week.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another fun, full. successful day

This grandparenting stuff just keeps getting easier and easier. Tizita has adjusted so well to our morning routine. Our schedule goes like this:
5:00 I get up, showered, and start computer work
5:20 John gets up, showered and has breakfast
6:00 John leaves for work and Tiz wakes up at this point to give him a hug and say good bye
6:00 - 6:15 Tiz watches TV while I compute
6:15 Tiz and I have a race to see who gets dressed the fastest. She always wins.
6:30 I leave for school while Tiz moves to the living room to have breakfast with Gigi and watch TV
7:45 Vikki or Mallory bring Tiz to school and our day begins

Our evening schedule goes like this:
4:00 I compute and catch up on the days news, Tiz watches TV
4:30 We craft or play. Gigi also plays with Tiz.
6:00 John gets home and we eat supper.
7:00 We start to get ready for bed
7:30 John reads to Tiz, prays with her, and she falls asleep.

See how nicely it is all working out.
It is getting easier as time goes on. I think by the time we have to send her home, we will really be in a great routine.

Today Mallory brought her to school. She had a terrific morning as usual. After preschool she went over to her friend Carlee's house for a play date. I get to know many of my Preschool parents pretty well, but there is something about Angie (Carlee's mom) that I really like. I will miss her next year after five years of having her children in class. She reminds me of Courtney in many ways and in other ways she reminds me of the way I was as a mom. I knew that Tiz would have a great time with Angie and Carlee and she did. Angie returned her to school at the end of the day and we came home. We made a card/book for Alissa's birthday and then if was bedtime. John put her to bed again.
No photos today, but I did want to document today for Courtney and Paul.

Happy Birthday John (Grandpa)

John had a special gift with him on his birthday this year! And here she is. She woke Grandpa up in the morning with our musical birthday cake and so began his special day.

When John got home from work we celebrated with tator tot hot dish, which by the way was not my best ever. I cannot seem to care for a grandchild and cook at the same time. The Snickers cheesecake was very good though. Tiz is singing to Grandpa here.

The two of them eating cheesecake together.

After dinner, it was goody box time. John went 10 for 10 which puts him on the leader board with Mallory and sets a high standard for the rest of us this year. Tizita kept track of the goody box items for us.

This is the beautiful card that Tizita made for Grandpa at school today. I think it was by far his favorite one. After gift opening, John read books to Tizita, said prayers with her, and put her to bed.

Finally, he ended his day with a cigar while scraping some leftover ice off of the the driveway.

Pretty near perfect way to spend a birthday, I would say!

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