Wednesday, April 8, 2015

save the date

A celebration of Jason's life will be held on 
July 25th, 2015
at the Meeker Golf Course and Club House

We hope that many friends and family will be available to come spend an afternoon/evening together in the spirit of Jason with good food, good drink (Dirty Hippie of course!), many good stories and wonderful memories.

Spring break

About two weeks out from our spring break... and prompted by an off-handed comment about the resurgence of tourism and safety across the AZ-Mex border... I decided it would behoove our clan to get a little beach time... and the easiest way to do that was to drive south past Phoenix until we hit the Sea of Cortez and the little Mexican town called Puerto Penasco!

So we rented a house on the beach - specifically the exact same house that we rented back in 2009! - and were nothing less than thrilled to have this as our view for the last week of March:

We traveled as a pack, and while we changed the personnel up a little from our last trip to Penasco, there were definitely some nostalgic moments... a couple of which we felt we needed to recreate!

The weather was perfect... and the water was ideal! It was calm and shallow in the mornings so that we could take the house kayaks out, and wavy and cool in the afternoon for swimming. The boats were a big hit - the boys would go out first thing in the morning and paddle around for an hour. The boats never sat on shore for long... and one night the boys took them back out for a sunset trip!

When they weren't in the boats or in the water, the boys spent a lot of the day in the sand. Castles, moats, islands, holes... it rarely mattered. They just dug and dug until they (well, Hamp anyway!) literally fell asleep...

And the best part was that Gabe got to be a beach dog for the week!
While he didn't exactly over come his fear/dislike of the water, he at least realized that is was good to cool off - as long as he could touch! But it was the cool sand in the morning and the warm sand in the afternoons that really appealed to him...

It was a simple, easy, beautiful, relaxing, fun, wonderful and much needed getaway.
I already miss this view....

Saturday, March 21, 2015

House -part II

There are so many special places in our home now...

With the house construction totally complete, and the boys & I completely moved in... 

I have taken the time to notice all of the very personal effects that I have either saved (!) or received since the house fire - all of which make me very happy and very proud to be home.

For instance: 

~ our "sun" from local retailer and friend that always graced the front of our house is back!

~ a beautiful tulip vase given to us by friends (thanks Goettels!) warms up our front room.

~ speaking of the front room, we inherited the piano from our dear friends (who so kindly transported it via 4-wheeler and a trailer! It was awesome! Don't worry musical friends... it's already been tuned.) The boys have been tinkering on it - and they will start back up with lessons in April. I just don't know how I could NOT have a piano in the house...

~ the big, cushy couch downstairs fits like a dream (although that wasn't the case when we tried to get it in the house!) and with "Bandit" watching over us it makes a perfectly comfortable game room.

~ the guest room is a mix of old, new and personal... a beautiful bed frame given to us by dear friends, a funky new end table, an antique glass lamp also given to us by sweet friends, and my grandmother's cedar chest that we rescued from the house!

~ the master bathroom sink is particularly special because it was something Jason wanted installed when we moved downstairs last year.
The bowl was made for us by 3G Pottery and installed by our awesome friends. 
And lastly, Lalah might recognize the framed print given to Jason years ago... 

~ the boys' room might just be my favorite room in the house!
Our dear friend kindly offered to paint the room for us - which is beautiful.
The boys' quilts were specially made by a sweet friend and they are perfect.
The boys' initials were again rescued from the house - they hung over their crib when they were babies!

This room is full of special pieces and memories... the paint, the quilts, the initials... 
but also their cool hand-built Playmobil shelves; a caricature of the boys from the San Diego Zoo in 2008; Sammy's self-developed Asian zen garden (!); a really cool thrift store painting Yaya & Papa purchased for the room; a sweet "Family Rules" sign from Aunt Jei & Uncle Alec; and a beautiful painting of our family from a dear friend... to name just a few!

~ even the dog and cat are not only happy to be home, but happy to have their own space. 
They are even a little more apt to share that space!

~ final touches make it feel like home. Lights in the window are the perfect nightlight.

There are still so many more things  - too many to show here! - that surround us in this house with love and kind words and uplifting thoughts. It counteracts the emptiness that comes at night when the boys are asleep and I sit and think about the life we shared with Jason and how happy he would be with our home. He is here with us, in everything we do and everything we see. That is what makes it feel like home.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

house - part I

After 8 long months.... we have moved back into our home!

It has been an adventure in and of itself, for sure.
I now have a full appreciation for both the folks that stay sane throughout a house project and for those who forgo the house project because they know it will drive them insane!

With sanity intact (though that qualification is arguable!) I present to you part I of the house update.... the kitchen!

A special shout-out to my dear friend Mary Frances who saw this house on HGTV Fixer Upper and thought it might work as a new floor plan for the Hightower house. It worked, indeed! As did the suggestion to upgrade to vaulted ceilings!

gutted and boarded

wall removed and new roof going on

dried in and sealed

drywall and new windows

new floors and finished walls

kitchen cabinets and lights

appliances... almost done!

... and we're home! Time for Happy Hour...

Of course, moving and resettling is a process.
There are still many boxes to unpack and plenty of 'things' that need to find a new home somewhere in those empty cabinets and on those bare walls!
More pictures to come - and more 'Thank Yous' to share as I start to realize how indebted I am to everyone that helped make our house feel like a home again.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The 3 Ps - or what we've been doing the past 3 weeks

Perseverance: to continue on in the face of adversity

Time waits for no man... and it certainly does no favors for the grieving.
So while I longed for the earth to halt it's movement and for everything to stop and stand still and acknowledge the loss of one of its precious inhabitants... 

... there was the 2nd grade pirate musical to prepare for!
... and a 5th grade Broadway review to enjoy!
... and there were all of the daily life activities to attend to. There were grandparents here to love; there were basketball practices and gymnastics lessons and spelling words to learn. There were books to read and a dog to walk and friends to visit.

Progress: moving forward

There has been little opportunity to sit still... 
or rather, we have been given so many opportunities to get up and live!
So we have hiked with our friends and savored the sunshine (even as it has melted all our snow!)

And in the meantime, our house is almost finished!
It has been great to see daily changes being made and to know that we'll be home by the end of the month. I do not particularly enjoy shopping - any shopping! - but I am happy with the choices made so far to complete the look and make it almost complete.

Providence: divine direction 

There have been many moments where I have felt the universe working to make good things happen.
(Meeting Jason 14 years ago was perhaps one of my favorite such moments!)

But just this week I have known that some events and conversations and moments were happening for a reason and I have tried to recognize those times and appreciate them. That is exactly how I ended up newly, gainfully employed! So just as we are moving back into our house, I will be starting a new job. I am trusting that it will be a good way to bring structure and productivity to my life and a fun, new adventure for our family.

I've thought of many other "P" words that would help describe the past few weeks: 
patience, pensive, peace, packing, pinot grigio... 
and if you asked Sam it would be purple, panda and pizza!

But knowing how we persevere through our grief, make progress on the house and on our healing, and respect moments of providence as they appear seems to complete the picture of how we are living these days... may we also remember to infuse them with positivity and we will be ok!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Eleven and Eight

Unbelievably, in the midst of the worst week of my life - I was celebrating.
It turns out, no matter what is happening the sun still comes up and the new day dawns.
And a couple of those days were pretty special:
Hamp's & Sam's birthdays!

Having birthdays six days apart lends to a week-long celebration every year! Which I think is perfectly ok. These boys should be celebrated... they are pretty awesome.


First, Sam partnered with his buddy Skylar for a joint 8th birthday party out of town at the trampoline park. There were 9 kids and 3 huge rooms of nothing but trampolines = crazy fun!

The next day (on Hamp's actual birthday) we took to the mountain in honor of our best bud Carter turning '12'. It was one of the most perfect ski days ever: sunshine, clear blue skies, good moods all around (not always the case!) and a pack of friends to ski with!
birthday buddies

Then the next weekend (on Sam's actual birthday!) we headed out of town again for Hamp's first basketball game of the season. The team is great, the coaching is excellent, and Hamp played alright for only having 2 practices so far... it's going to be a fun couple of months in the bleachers!

Finally, we made it home just in time to wrap up the birthday week with a small gathering to celebrate Hamp turning '11'!

This has, obviously been a year of incredible growth for both boys.

I do not know if living eleven whole years normally comes with such insight, but for Hamp it has proved an age of equal parts wisdom and insolence. (Fortunately, he uses his wisdom to keep his insolence from getting him in too much trouble! A good balance, I suppose.)

But just when I find myself at wit's end because he is acting inconsiderate or ungrateful, he comes in for a seemingly sincere apology and a hug and I melt into forgiveness.

He has been labeled my 'zen child' because he lives so solidly in the moment. He does not concern himself with old grudges or past problems... nor does he look to much into what will happen next. (Which is where trouble finds him - consequences are relentless!)

Not too long ago, in a moment of feeling sorry for myself I cuddled with Hamp before bedtime and lamented 'I just want to go home'. He responded perfectly with 'We are home. Home is wherever we are together.'

And when he awoke in the middle of the night recently and puked all over our bed (twice) he roused gently the next morning and said, 'Thank you for being so protective of me last night.' When I replied, 'That is what we do for the one's we love.' he came back with another gem of 11-year old reasoning, 'Then that is what I want to do for everyone.'

And then there is Sam.

He continues to be the creative, unique and thoughtful spirit we have always witnessed. He has not wavered in his love for the color purple, for panda bears, or for learning and creating. He has excellent handwriting, is a good speller, and enjoys reading (so... the polar opposite of his big brother!) and even enjoys taking on creative learning projects all on his own. 

In fact, he recently won a prize at school for a model of the solar system that he made at home entirely out of recyclable material. The only assistance he received from any adults was to make sure he had the order of the planets correct!

And lastly, to touch on the resilience of children and how they handle what life throws at them, these are the comments from the boys the day after their father passed away:

When asked how his day at school was Hamp replied, 'I got so many pats on the back I think I got shorter!'

When the principal came to Sam's class to tell them of Jason's passing she offered Sam the chance to excuse himself... he responded, 'It's ok. I'll stay in case anyone has any questions.'