Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Goodbye to you

On November 16, my grandfather died.  That statement in and of itself is a sad one--we hate to know that we will never see people we love on this earth again.  It causes us to remember good times with that person and maybe even some not-so-good times and makes us sigh and lament that life sometimes isn't fair, and nearly always ends before we are ready to say goodbye.

In this case, Grandpa Stoehr's (my mother's father) death holds a first for me.  He's my first grandparent to pass away.  I was very fortunate to grow up with all 4 grandparents living very close by.  We would go over to their houses at least once a month, visit, and just be a family.  I remember tractor rides around the property with Grandpa, scratchy haven't-shaved-in-days kisses on the neck, tickles and laughter, how he always called me "punkin" (sometimes "heifer" if I was being saucy) and how one day he looked at me and said "you sound just like your mother."  One anecdote in particular I don't actually remember, but it's been told so often that I feel like I do.  My parents and I drove across the country from St. Louis to Disneyland in California when I was around 3.  We went in my grandparents' motor home with them and my great aunt.  We had stopped for lunch one day, and my grandfather had a large bowl of strawberries that he was just sitting down to enjoy.  I walked up to him and said in a very small and hopeful voice "Grandpa, are you going to eat ALL those strawberries?"  It turned out the answer was no, and I got to share them with him.  My mother never stopped teasing him about that.

The point is, it was always Grandpa AND Grandma Stoehr, never one without the other.  I grew up thinking it was completely normal for all grandparents to be around--of course everyone has 4!  I got an inkling in grade school that it wasn't, in fact, normal at all, but it wasn't until graduate school that it really hit me how unusual it was.  I actually remember the exact moment when it fully sank in.  We were waiting for class to start, and I mentioned I was looking forward to the holidays because it meant seeing all of my grandparents.  My classmates couldn't believe that I still had all 4 at the age of 24.  That's when I realized how special my time with them was.

Starting in grad school 14 years ago, I haven't lived near my grandparents.  I still see them on holidays, and at other times during the year when I get a week off to travel, but it's not really the same.  Those times growing up, when I was young and free of responsibility, were special.  So for me, selfishly, Grandpa's death marks the end of those times.  The times I can say "I have 4 living grandparents," the times when we would tease him and laugh when he got surly with us, the times we were a family.

So goodbye, Grandpa Stoehr, you will be missed.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

21 month pictures

I know I already covered Gabby's 21 month post in the last update, but I wanted to make sure I posted these pictures from this past weekend.  She had such a good time with her friends!

On Saturday, we went to her friend Kate's house for a Megablocks party.  It was a rather small party--just Gabby and Kate--but the girls had so much fun playing with the blocks and each other. 

Gabby was banging the blocks on her head and saying "ow". Kate was too, but was smart enough to stop before I got the camera.

Kate was a bit reluctant to give hugs.

"Get off of me..."

But Gabby wore her down!

And big smiles afterwards.

Gabby modeled some of Kate's cool glasses

And got to take a pair home!  We finally found sunglasses that Gabby will leave on!
I did miss some of the funniest moments, like when they each had a blanket and would run into the kitchen.  Then Kate would run back out with both blankets, and Gabby would run out a few seconds later laughing.  Or when they were playing with Kate's princess castle and Gabby would pick up a princess only to have Kate immediately snatch it out of her hand and say "mine!".  Gabby would giggle and pick up another princess, and Kate would repeat!  This went on for a good 10 minutes!  Definite playdate success!

Then on Monday, we met up with Phoebe and Ellie (and Mimi and Judy) at Fairytale Town.  Gabby and I had never been, and we had such a good morning!

Blurry shot in Cinderella's carriage.  Have you ever tried to get 2 almost 2 year old to look at the camera at the same time?  This was the best I got.

On the slide on Jack and Jill's hill.  Phoebe got bored of this slide very quickly--she wanted the bigger, faster ones!

In The Little Engine That Could

Phoebe finding treasure on the pirate ship

Gabby's a hugger--fortunately Phoebe doesn't mind.  And this time they managed to hug without Gabby ending up on the ground!

2 silly girls

Steering the ship together.

Eating a snack/lunch at King Arthur's Round Table.  As Judy said, not the pizza place.  Don't worry, my Sacramento friends got the joke.

Photo by Judy:  Walking together.  Phoebe wasn't so interested in hand-holding--she had things to do!
We went home for Gabby's nap, and then she and I walked up to Starbucks for a snack and then went to see the ducks.  I don't have any pictures, but I did take a cute video

I think I mentioned that she definitely knows what two is (one thing in each hand), but the rest are just words that she's parroting back. Still, it was super cute to hear her counting in both English and Spanish (even if the Spanish was a bit off, and she got stuck at 5 in English).

I love this little girl so much!

Veterans Day

This is a picture-free post, and also a rather serious one.  You've been warned.

I want to thank all of the service members in my life, both veterans and active duty.  You all put your lives on the line for us and for the freedoms we enjoy, and that debt can never be repaid.  I hate that we only have 1 day a year to celebrate you, so I try to remember to thank you when I get a chance.  I also think it's so important to remember where we came from as a family, and I want to make sure I write this down to share with Gabby some day.

*Note: these are the facts as I understand them.  Family, please feel free to post in the comments if I've gotten something wrong!* 

My family is well-represented in the military.  My Grandpa Pechenino fought in Italy during WWII.  He told me a story a few years ago about how after Italy was liberated, he got a pass to visit his extended family who still lived in Italy (he's first generation American).  He traveled to see them for a few weeks, and when he got back to the base, it was gone!  They had changed the location without telling him!  He had to ask the locals (thank goodness he spoke Italian!) and hitchhike around quite a bit before he was able to find his unit again.  He also ran foot races for the army during that time (since he ran track in high school), but he got his butt kicked by the other runners!   He never talks about the war itself, but he loves to reminisce about his time after the fighting stopped.

That seems to be a theme in my family--no serviceman (and they are all men) talks about the war itself.  My Grandpa Stoehr was in the air force between WWII and Korea, as was my great uncle Jerry.  Jerry ended up staying in the air force and then the reserves until he retired about 15 years ago, so he went through Korea, Vietnam and all of the Cold War.  My great uncle Sam was also in the air force, but a bit later between Korea and Vietnam, although he ultimately went to Vietnam as well.  My uncle Gary and my father were both in Vietnam--my uncle in the air force, and my father in the army.  My father was drafted while he was in college, and just decided to go instead of staying in school and getting the education waver.  None of these men ever really talked about the fighting.  My father would just say it was horrible when asked.  I know he still thinks about being in Vietnam, as I remember him having nightmares about the war several times a week when I was little.  He also reads all of the books on Vietnam that he can find--I can't really recall him reading anything else as I was growing up!  The only stories I've heard are about the rats the size of small dogs that could sniff out open food anywhere it was hidden (even chewing through several layers of canvas and clothing if you hid it in your duffel bag.  Grandma Pechenino told me that he would write home and ask to not have things like chips sent, since he didn't get to enjoy them between the rats and the humidity turning everything into a moldy mess days after opening.  He asked for canned goods and lots of socks instead.  She also said that he would wear night vision goggles on his night watches and see all of the animals that were lurking in the jungle.  He was in the artillery, so not really front-line, per se, but as we all know, front lines during guerrilla wars are very hard to define.

My cousin is currently stationed at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, proudly carrying on the family tradition.  He is a true hero, as are all of the members of my family who have served for our freedom. 

I know Brian's family has military service in its history, but I know much less about it.  His Grandpa Rollinson was in the Canadian army during WWII, and I'm pretty sure he fought in Italy/North Africa.  His uncle Jim was in the service during Vietnam, but he went on leave before deployment and his unit shipped out without him!  His orders were then changed, and he ended up spending the war in Japan and Korea.  Brian's dad and uncle Rob were in the reserves during Vietnam, and didn't see any action. However, his father never stopped worrying about going to war--as his Alzheimer's progressed, he would have days in which he was frantic with worry that he was going to be sent to Vietnam.

Brian's father's worry more than anything should remind us that war really is hell.  But more importantly, they illustrate the mental and physical toll that war (even the looming spectrum of going to war) can take on a person.  The images that are collected by veterans during their service never really go away.  It's for this reason that it is so important to not only thank, but also support our service men and women.  They see and sometimes do these horrible things in order to secure our (and in recent years others') freedom.  For every successful reintegration into society like Grandpa Pechenino's (he went to college on the GI bill, earned his bachelor's and master's in education and became a well-loved high school principal), there are so many others who are never able to leave the war behind. 

So thank you, veterans.  Thank you so much for risking your health (mental and physical) and your lives.  We owe you more than we can possibly pay back.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


As promised, here are a ton of Halloween pictures (and a video) for your viewing pleasure.  I hope you all had as much fun as we did!

First off, my mother-in-law Anne came up to visit from LA the weekend before Halloween.  We ended up going to the Dixon corn maze (Guinness World Record holder).  We didn't do the maze, but we did visit the pumpkins:
As soon as Gabby saw the pumpkins, she sprinted to them, yelling "pumpkin, pumpkin!"

And then touched each and every single one.

Even photo ops can't stop her.

She did enjoy sitting on one, even though it was a bit cold.

She and daddy cut the perfect pumpkin.

Since Anne was there, we have a family photo!

I was jumping around like an idiot to get Gabby to smile, but it worked!

Gabby picked out her own pumpkin.

Because she is 1/2 midwesterner, she loved "driving" the huge tractor.

It was so cool!
Then on Halloween morning, we went up to trunk or treat at her daycare.  I was only able to stay for half an hour, but we got some really good treats, and even saw a friend:

It was impossible to hold her and take pictures, so we only have 2 of them!  This was us after getting all of our loot.
And us with Elmo.  Gabby has asked for "Big Elmo" everyday since then!

And finally, Halloween night.  Here are a ton of really cute pictures of our kitty in her costume:

I'm not the best with make-up, but I tried!

Tickles to get a smile!

Kitty hugs!

With the pumpkin she picked out

After trick or treating

Mmmm, chocolate.

She had a blast putting the candy in one container, then taking it out and putting it in the other.

How did our cats like having 2 more cats in the house?  This should answer your question.

Zoe was completely freaked out by Gabby's costume.

And then she saw mine!

She refused to come close until we took the ears off.  For the record, Dubby couldn't have cared less!
And just because I think it's cute, here's Gabby waiting until it gets late enough to trick or treat.  I'm pretty sure I was more impatient than she was.

Friday, November 1, 2013

19, 20 and 21

At least the last one is a bit early?  I apologize for the silence--I've been really busy with work these past 2 months.  I had an online class in September/October, and then just as that was ending, I started subbing at AR for another prof who brought home his second baby.  It was nuts, and I barely had time to breath, much less post!  I'll try to make up for it with picture- and video-palooza!

First, some highlights of the past few months:

Gabby moved up to the "Toddler+" room in September (basically for 19 month-25 month kids as a transition to the Pre-K room).  She was nervous at first, but now loves her new room!

She's really starting to show fears--she doesn't like the dark at all, and when we were picking out her Halloween costume, she was very scared of the moving decorations.

She's getting better at 2 word sentences, but she tends to say them Yoda-style, with the verb first then the subject, or the noun then adjective.  So when she wants to say that I'm all done with something she'll say "all done mommy", or when she wants to say she has 2 of something she'll say "diaper two".  She's also started with 3 word sentences a bit (mostly "pumpkin mommy please" and the like, but it's progress!)

Here are some names of people she knows; she was so proud to show off!

She shows frustration when she can't get things to work the right way.  I notice it most with puzzles--if the pieces don't go in correctly right away, she'll get mad and throw them across the room.  Very not cool.

Her motor skills have improved hugely.  She eats her cereal with a spoon every morning, and is working on mastering a fork.  It's a huge improvement over the fingers!

She figured out how her light switch works in her room, and was turning it on when she'd wake up at 4 am.  We finally had to start using the pull chain on the fan instead of the switch.

She's changed from calling both cats "dubby" to calling both cats "oey" (Zoe).  This is probably why:

Dubby is lame compared to Zoe!

OK, now the fun part!  First of all, we went to St. Louis to visit my family at the end of August.  Gabby did a great job on the planes, and she really loved visiting with everyone.  We didn't take too many pictures, but here are some we did get:

We met our friends Lisa and Derek and their daughter Lia at Cahokia Mounds. We ate some lunch, and then walked around a bit.

Gabby and Lia insisted on holding each other's hands as well as their mommy's hands

We found a frog, which was so cool!

The 4 ladies walking the path

Of course, eventually they got tired!
These are at Lambert airport.  She loved rocking

But she loved escaping and running more!
Brian found a good deal on a 2T football jersey for Gabby to celebrate the beginning of football season.  You'll never guess which team she supports.
Reading about Biscuit

I've had at least 2 people have asked me if her name is Brady.  I guess not everyone follows football!

Go Pats!
I did another video of her saying words.  The funniest part is at the end (I do apologize for the length).

We had a baby shower for our good friend Christina who is due at the end of this month.  Our friends Justin and Karen came up from the Bay area to visit, and we all met at McKinley park for some fun with the kiddos.

She normally clings to me, but she was so excited to be at the park!

However, she didn't let me out of her sight

She loves the bouncy animals

And she's so brave to slide all by herself!

I stole Ellie for a while.  I'm pretty sure Judy didn't mind.

Phoebe enjoys a snack before playing

Charlotte, our model.


Phoebe is amazing!

Charlotte showing off her soccer skills.

I did eventually have to give Ellie back.  This time to Robbie.

"I love soccer in the park!"

Gabby says volleyball is more her speed.

Although she did get a bit confused.

And just start kicking the ball.  We'll teach her the rules before she actually plays!
Checking out the ducks

This is the only picture we have of mom-to-be Christina!
And some more videos to end!

I let her feed the ducks one day.  Huge hit.

Lastly, she's learning so many songs at daycare:

She also knows ABC's, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Wheels on the Bus.  It's so cute to hear her sing them with us!

I think I'll end this post here, and make another post with all of the Halloween pictures we have.  This is what happens when I don't post for a few months :)