Monday, September 8, 2014

Meeker Classic

What a beautiful weekend for our (ok, my!) favorite annual event:
the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials!

We go every year, and the boys are old enough now that they understand the meaning behind the event: carnival-style food!!!
Seriously, I am a little embarrassed to say that the boys were anxious to go this weekend, not to watch the dogs perform or take in a little rural, pastoral culture...
they were excited to have funnel cake.

And it didn't end there. They also wanted corndogs, kettle corn, snow cones, and cotton candy!
So I obliged and they got to run around with their friends while I sneaked a peek at some of the trial.

Now, just to be fair - Sam's whole 2nd grade class did get to spend one day at the Classic learning about sheepdogs and herding, wool spinning, leather crafting, canine therapy, and of course some native Scottish Highland clothing and music!

So when the boys and I went together on Saturday it was warm, sunny, full of good friends to hang out with and many fun things to see and experience. We even made it home with a few non-edible souvenirs and an appreciation for the whole event.

On the wagon ride home - with kettle corn, cotton candy and snow cones in tow!
Can't wait until next year!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

a long weekend

Last Thursday kicked off a very long weekend indeed for us.
Jason was scheduled for another follow-up MRI and appointment with the oncologist and neurosurgeon. Having reached a tipping point of sorts from chemotherapy treatment, post-radiation exhaustion and several months of wondering "is all this even working?" we were anxious to have some results. Any results - as long as they were definitive.
rockin' out to a little Van Morrison while we wait...

The results were fairly definitive... and not necessarily uplifting.
The tumor appears to still be growing.
We understood upon original diagnosis that a GBM type tumor would most certainly reoccur after treatment - but I don't think either of us expected it to show up again so soon.
a comparison of MR Images of Jason's brain:
The RIGHT image is from late June.
The LEFT image is from last Thursday.

So we came back to Meeker that afternoon with a clearer picture of Jason's brain...
but a cloudier idea of what the road ahead would look like.

  • We knew that we would spend the next several days sharing thoughts, conversations, emotions and concerns with one another and our dear friends and families.
  • We knew that we would reach out to certain people that could help us make good decisions and understand what kind of road we were on.
  • We knew that despite not knowing where we were headed - we would continue to love every second of the journey and appreciate the time and freedom that long, holiday weekends offer.

And in doing so, we somehow came to a place where we knew we were headed in the right direction, at least!
In between a high school football game, dinner parties, a trip to the Glenwood Hot Springs and of course running Hamp & Sam to and fro whichever play date or sleepover was arranged, AND with the help of friends and family who are behind us every step of the way, we called the oncologist's office this morning and requested addition drug treatment.

So the road trip continues...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer is officially over

Despite the still warm weather and the August date, summer for us came to a grinding halt this morning as the boys eagerly stepped on the bus at 7:30 am for their first day of school! 

There were no tears of lament over the changing of the season - the boys had one of the very best summers of their lives! 
Some of the summer highlights were, of course the beach vacations with the Hightower family and the Etheridge family, and the camping trips with friends...

But we wrapped things up pretty spectacularly with little adventures here at home (or close to home!) with friends and family:

  • There was a family-fun day in Glenwood Springs (including back-to-school shopping, but also a nice lunch and a visit to the hot springs pool!)

  • There were good times with great friends celebrating Iowa sweet corn and August birthdays!

  • There was definitely LOTS and LOTS of time spent with friends...

  • But perhaps the best adventures had this summer (or at least, my favorites!) were the ones Hamp & Sam shared together!

ready for 2nd and 5th grade!!!
(and for the record, YES they are wearing the same shirts as the first-day-of-school last year!!!)

Saturday, August 9, 2014


I never imagined it would be so difficult to simply say "thank you".

But the outpouring of kindness, generosity and charity that we have experienced over the past 5 months has humbled me to the core.

As a dutiful Southern born woman I am bound by etiquette to take a moment and hand write a thank you note to properly express my appreciation for something. And yet the magnitude of both the donors and donations to our family has paralyzed me with shock. So I have laid silent for some time...

I have had to take this time just to process how to possibly even accept all that has come our way.

When a card and thoughtful words were sent ~ I was uplifted.
When a monetary gift was sent while we were in the hospital ~ I was grateful
When a stranger stopped us at a restaurant and handed us a $50 gift card to have lunch ~ I cried

Then the cards and thoughtful words and prayers multiplied exponentially everyday, as did the monetary gifts and kindness of strangers. I became overwhelmed and out of fear of appearing ungrateful I accepted. Meanwhile, under the guise of graciousness I struggled to understand where all the charity was coming from... and more importantly how we could possibly be deserving of it.

Everyone suffers through the trials of life ~ and I can think of friends and family who have weathered greater battles than the ones I face now. Besides, we are so lucky for so much: time with Jason, good health care, health insurance, home-owners insurance, a supportive community, and the love of family. Therefore, I worry that I am not worthy of what others are doing to help our family... and that I will never live up to the generosity bestowed upon us.

But as I consider the names of friends, family, family-friends, friends' families, co-workers, long-lost buddies, high school gangs, in-laws, out-laws, and occasionally the perfect stranger ~ all who have in some way reached out to our family lately with a word, a thought, a prayer, a gift ~ I am compelled to rethink my idea of charity. I must realize it is not something to be earned or even repaid. It is something to be paid forward; it is a way to live. And I realize that the only way to deserve the charity of others, is merely to be charitable in return. That is the cycle of kindness that usurps all the horrible things that people do in this world.

And lastly, I realize that perhaps when someone is charitable there is only one thing they hope to hear:
"thank you".

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Beach vacation part II - the Atlantic

Next stop on our whirlwind beach tour: New Smyrna beach!

Here we were able to get some more cousin lovin'  - as well as remain water logged!
The ocean was a little stronger than the gulf, but that didn't stop the boys from surfing the waves.
(what did eventually keep them ashore were the several shark sightings throughout the week! yikes!)
But not to worry, the sandcastle building was a serious endeavor.
And when that got tiresome, there was always time for the pool, which was right off the back door of the condo!
That's Hamp and Uncle Alec out there... no sharks in sight.

Best family night out?
a delicious dinner on the garden patio at our favorite New Smyrna spot, The Garlic!

I did get to celebrate turning 39 while at the beach...
and 'someone' insisted on getting a cake to make it official. I think everyone enjoyed it!

Of course, continuing the vacation theme of FAMILY was wonderful - but there is nothing better than the opportunity to finally meet a new member of your family!
Sweet little Jack, born December 28th, was a joy to hold and play with - everyone loved getting to know the newest addition to the Etheridge clan.

THANK YOU DADO & MOJO for making it all possible!

The entire 10 days between the Gulf and the Atlantic beaches was amazing.
As always, I crave the sand in my toes and the smell of salt water... so it was particularly satisfying for me to get my beach on! But even more satisfying is watching my children play in the sand and surf with their cousins and their aunts and uncles and grandparents. And even more satisfying still is knowing that family is there for you, no matter what. Thank you for taking such good care of us this summer... ♥ 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beach vacation part I - the Gulf

We followed through with our big summer vacation plans this July and it was worth every penny of airfare, every second of travel, and every ounce of worry and stress about travelling!

Getting there was actually not a problem...
and once we were finally in Orange Beach, Alabama - WOW!
Behold, the view from the 29th floor of the brand-new condo complex where we stayed!

But while the beach was beautiful, and the accommodations were extraordinary...
what we really came for was FAMILY!

These sweet faces greeted us when we pulled up to the condo - and the cousins were almost inseparable the rest of the week!

One of the big hits at our complex was the lazy river! Everyone got in...

Best family night out?
Happy hour, playtime and dinner at Lucy Buffett's restaurant (as in Jimmy's sister!)

So, between the lazy river, the water slide, and surfing the gulf waters the kids were water logged:

While we loved the water, the warm gulf sand, collecting sea shells, watching movies while the afternoon storms passed, catching crabs on the beach at night, and listening to the kids all play...

I am simply so glad that there was time built in to just sit and visit with one another and laugh and laugh at... er, with each other! It is so wonderful to have a family that likes to be together and appreciates having time to relax and enjoy life together.

THANK YOU PAPA & YAYA for a memorable beach vacation!