Walking through the valley of the shadow of death

Today I find myself dwelling once more on that precipice, watching a loved one slowly die.  My maternal grandmother, Marian Krumich, has been anxiously awaiting this day!  Her breaths are ragged and she no longer awakes and though the tears are many, the joy is profound!

We have filled these days of waiting singing hymns and family lullabies, playing flute music, and lots of talking of love and peace.

I have lived a blessed life.  I grew up with my Krumich grandparents just a short walk through the woods.  Idyllic really. In elementary school, I would walk to their house, enjoy a peppermint and perhaps a little morning news or Swiss language lesson before walking down their driveway to catch the bus...knowing my grandparents were keeping a close eye on me through their binoculars until the bus arrived.

I will honor and sustain her memory through sharing the stories of her life, continuing telling the dirty jokes so enjoyed by this upstanding church lady, and the music of the family with my kids who have so enjoyed having a close relationship with their Gigi.


Holiday review

Ah, it's January 1st.  That glorious day when we day dream of all the ways we are going to improve our selves and our lives throughout the entire next year.  I'm loving that it's 2016 because it's our "Sweet '16".  My actual sweet 16 was suuuuper awkward with lots of adults making that horrid joke about being "16 but never been kissed".  It was true and I didn't know how to take that joke.  I hope I can stop myself from ever using that "canned phrase" when the kids in my life hit that milestone :)

However, now that the year is '16, I plan on getting LOTS of kisses and focusing my year on joy.  I'm going to clamp my lips on sharing negative observations and intentionally share heartfelt compliments.

It's easy to feel positive and joyful as we wind down our holiday celebrations. 

As I'm uploading pics, I'm realizing that between my actual camera, phone and iPad...things have gotten quite scattered!  I'll do my best to give a fair representation, but my patience can only handle so much uploading (alas, showing more patience is not a New Years resolution for me :)

We started with a little music video when Hazel lost her 2 front teeth!  For the rest of the Christmas season, she was leery about singing this song out loud because she didn't want Santa to think that's what she actually wanted :)

 Thanks to Llama (Grandma Orris) for playing the accompaniment.  Can you find Santa AND baby Jesus?

Next it was time for Thanksgiving, which is the Orris family FAVORITE holiday because for the past 28 years or so, it has been celebrated with the Lehman family.  Feasting, talking, LAUGHING, napping, snacking... TRADITIONS :) 

Dick joined us a few days early and got to join me as Hazel's "plus 2" for her classroom Thanksgiving feast.  Hazel was super excited for her Grandpa Dick to see what a big girl she has become.  As a formal elementary school principal and most importantly, my dad's best friend, I'm pretty sure it was a really special moment for him too.
 This year was extra special for me because Whitney flew home from London to be with us.  I heart her.

Then it was time to celebrate my mom's (Llama) birthday and Christmas before she headed to Germany to spend the holiday with my sister and niece.
spoiler alert:  it's an Easy Bake Oven

This year the girls decorated wooden spoons for their teachers and grandparents.  It's our best "kid made" gift yet!  They drew their designs with pencil and I traced it with my Grandpa Krumich's old wood burner.
 Next we headed to my Grandma Krumich's assisted living home for their family Christmas party.  It's our 2nd year going and a wonderful event!  The girls talked with Santa, made cookies, rode in a horse drawn carriage, did crafts, listened to a bell choir, and spent time with their Great Grandma (Gigi).
Both girls asked for "real fairy wings and real fairy dust".

We filled the rest of December with other non-snow related traditions like making ginerbread cookies, decorating the house, reading Christmas books, our Advent calendar, and new-this-year...our very own ELF ON THE SHELF!  We held off the past few years because WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?!?  This year however, Hazel was begging and pleading for me to stop "turning away the house elf and just having the window elves that watched us from the windows sporatically".  So, we invited one to stay with us.  The girls named him Elfie.  Jake had the most fun with Elfie, but sometimes Uncle Josh and I took turns.  The photo below is what Elfie left us on his last night...a self portrait.  It immediately inspired Hazel.

On Christmas Eve, we headed to Gibsonia to celebrate the traditional Kosker way...with "Valea" a Polish feast.  It is such a lovely evening.  Jake's cousin, Suzanne and her husband, Steve, host.  The kids love seeing each other, running around thoroughly ignored by the chatting adults.  The adults love catching up and digging in to the feast prepared by Suzanne's brother, Joseph.

It appears that we coordinated the kids outfits...we didn't.  However oldest girls dressed in black w/sparkles & youngest girls dressed in red w/sparkles.  Good sport William, complimented the ensembles perfectly too :)

Moving on to our Kosker quartet's Christmas morning.  I'm pretty sure that we say this every year, but we really tried to have a SMALL Christmas!  Here's our grrraaannnd (sigh...JACOB) tree all ready for the kids to wake up.
 Fortunately, when a bouncing, shrieking Hazel careened down the stairs, she yelled back to us, "There are THOUSANDS of presents!!!!" and a slightly sleepy Heidi declared, "I must've been soooo good this year!".

So, that mommy guilt was for naught and I'm glad that my children felt the blessings we were able to share with them to the fullest intent!
 Hazel got a hand sewing kit from us!  She's been eager to learn.  After her first lesson, her interest waned, but we'll get back to it eventually and she'll be creating stuff animals in no time :)  (Heidi's main gift from us was a doll that comes with her own zipline)

 Here's Heidi trying on her "real fairy wings".  The "real fairy dust" is a necklace that is a tiny glass bottle with a miniature look-a-like fairy in it for each girl along with some of that magic dust.  One slight problem is that the girls think they can now fly and I've had to sternly lecture them about testing that theory. 

When the presents were all unwrapped, Hazel was looking dejected.  She really wanted some Star Lilly talking unicorn that cost about $100.  While she valiently tried to overcome this disappointment (she did tell Santa about it...I found out), Jake and I snuck away and returned with two bundles containing... GUINEA PIGS!  Hazel said "this is WAY better!" when asked about her Star Lilly disappointment later that morning :)

Jake and I had been discussing getting the girls a small pet and were hemming and hawing about it a few weeks before Christmas when my friend Erin randomly asked if we wanted her 2-year-old guinea pigs.  It's a bit of a big responsibility for all of us (especially this non-animal-lovin' mama who seems to be the main care taker), but the girls are IN LOVE and so far they are perfect, quiet, gentle pets!

I refused to let Jake wrap the guineas in their ball or a large box after growing up on the Orris family legend of the time that my Grandpa Orris wrapped his daughter's hamster on Christmas Eve and it was dead by Christmas morning.  Rumor has it, my Aunt Val said "oh cute, it's sleeping!".  hahaha...did NOT want to repeat that one!

Christmas afternoon, Jake left for work and the girls and I headed to visit Gigi.  She had saved her presents to open with us, so it was a very nice visit.  My Grandma's dementia is getting worse and her body is tired, but the girls bring her lots of joy and I like to soak up these memories!

On Sunday, Grandma and Grandpa Baird came to visit!  
 Of all the wonderful gifts they brought (every art supply known to man!), the girls favorite are the super soft fleece blankets!  Heidi got Spiderman and Hazel got Inside Out (which I am planning to steal ASAP).

Grandpa Baird has the patience of a saint and let the girls make it "snow" with some foam packaging!  Then he cleaned it up with the vacuum, what a guy :)

 Christmas dinner, just a few days late!

ON TO NEW YEAR's (has anybody made it this far?  Are your eyes going crossed?)

For about 5 years now, we have a wonderful tradition with Vince and Michelle (Jake's dad and smom).  They join us for New Year's Eve!  We swap Christmas gifts, celebrate kid New Year's (whatever time we feel like it), then the girls GO TO BED and the guys go out.  It's perfection.

This year, Heidi was SUPER proud of herself.  The day after Christmas, Josh joined the quartet for a Christmas hike.  We hiked past some shale and Heidi collected some (in her "hiking purse"/fanny pack from daddy) to give to Pap Pap!  HA!
Such a great photo!  POOR PAP PAP!  Heidi looks quite pleased with herself.  She's wearing the shirt Aunt Marianne made for her...as I am while writing this (honestly, I haven't taken it off since unwrapping it 2 days ago!). 

Heidi digging into her gifts from her Kosker grandparents.  They always stuff army socks as "stockings", cracks me up!  She and Hazel each got a handmade baby doll made to look like their baby photos.  I haven't taken pics of them yet, but they are very special and Heidi is especially into mothering her "baby Heidi".
 They could celebrate New Years for hours...or as many times as daddy is willing to refill & dump garbage bags of balloons :)

One last shot of each girl with their guinea pig.  Heidi named hers Gingerbread.  Hazel initially named hers Fluttershy (a character from My Little Pony), but just decided that Gumdrop fits her guinea better :)  

We wish you all a blessed New Year!


Happy Halloween from the cast of Inside Out!

Three cheers to my family for fulfilling my Halloween dreams this year!  Introducing...

If you didn't catch the Disney Pixar movie, Inside Out, at the theatre this summer, you're probably a bit confused, but as soon as it comes out of DVD, I suggest you HIGHTAIL it to the video store to watch it!  All ages will love this movie and as an elementary school counselor, I LOVE the way this movie explains how our emotions effect our lives...and are all important and necessary :)

Now scroll down to see how my Inside Out dolls morphed into human form!  Oh, what a little Halloween magic can do...

p.s. Disgust is the "fancy" one who simply MUST be stylish.  Fear is the dorky one, cough cough.  Joys is...well, joyful (and just possibly twirled and leapt throughout an entire day at school in this costume.  Sadness is 100% sad in this photo as she just woke up from a nap and cried her way through the photo shoot :)

Happy Halloween!  May your days be full of joyful trickery and more than a few peanut butter cups!


9th Anniversary: Lumberjack and Amish fantasies

Today I have been married to this weirdo for the past nine years of my life.

 Above: Typical Julie face.  She looks like she stepped in poop or sharted.

 Left: Taken during an adventure in the Wind River Range of Wyoming during year two.

Julie has been with her mom in Germany visiting her sis, bro-in-law, and niece Annie. I do miss that kid.

The girls and I spent some time this week visiting with family in Westmoreland county.

 Above left: Gamma Baird and Hazel  

Above: Granmpa Baird and Heidi

Left: Aunt Lou

Below: Pappy and Joey hang out while we make dams and bathtubs  at Loyalhanna Creek/Sleepy Hollow causeway. The girls learned how to freeze a salamander on the ice in our lunch cooler and re-animate it again in the water.

 Ligonier Beach with my step-bro's daughter Kenzley. 

 During the last week I have received a half dozen or so images from Julie.  

She sent me a picture of all this long meat and tells me that she is thinking of our friend Ty.  

Then I think I got these same two images on the next day: fried chicken feet and a picture of my wife kissing Christoph while they drink alcohol.  A few weeks ago Julie approached me in the yard while I was hard at work lumberjacking.  She oohed and ahhed and told me that I looked sexy. I thought that maybe it was because I was sweaty and covered in sawdust and perhaps fulfilling some part of that Amish fantasy she has.  (Ask her about that one.) However, I told her, "I know why I look sexy."  She yelled, "No.!!!!!" as she proceeded to attempt hitting me as I doubled over in a laughing fit of joyous mirth that men only experience when they amuse themselves and no one else.  My wife and I know each other so well that without stating it directly she knew I was referring to Christoph's penchant for cutoff sleeveless shirts and being sweaty (sexy) in general.  I told her it was ok to be turned on by him and that I think he is sexy too. She still won't admit it.  

When I got home yesterday evening I put on my lumberjack suit and had our babysitter take these steamy pics of me.  She was amused for sure. Here is the Jake meat you are missing Julie. See you in two days.


Hazel's SIXTH Birthday:: Art Party!

Oh my, our sweet Hazel turned SIX this week!  Though this blog has turned into a big events only blog, I hope it's still apparent how in love we are with this creature!  She is sweet and creative, loves friends, but often prefers to simply craft on her own.  As mentioned earlier, she had a really nice preK class, so we invited them ALL for her birthday party!  Yes, I broke my "invite as many as your age" rule, but just by a smidge ;)

Hazel started the morning by opening a few small gifts (Hello Kitty Pez tin from me and daddy & Uncle Josh's Transformers collection) and having her ideal breakfast of donuts and OJ.  Then she ran upstairs to get dressed.  She came down wearing her "birthday" dress!!!  The dress Grandma Kosker bought for her FIRST BIRTHDAY!  I LOVE that she thought of this on her own...and it's a pretty adorable tee!

Oh my goodness, look at those chubby knees...  I'm ready to snuggle my computer screen.  SHUT UP OVARIES!

I made the invitation using PicMonkey and used wording from similar invitations that I found online.

I planned a preschool friendly and EASY PREP menu of:  hamburgers ("art of burgers" with ketchup and mustard served in a dish with paintbrushes to paint your bun), veggies chips ("paint chips"), Juice boxes and mango juice ("creative juices"), fruit kabobs ("rainbow wands", both girls could help make these and loved that!), Italian Ice Pops ("frozen water colors"), and cake pops ("paint splatter pops").  It completely cracks my husband up that I made labels when none of the guests could read.  I do it for myself and it made me SO HAPPY!

Keeping in mind that kids love to simply have FREE PLAY TIME, I tried to control myself with all the great ideas for art themed parties that I found online!  Our organized activities were:

  • Splatter painting/ leaf prints
  • Colored bubble prints
  • Paint-filled egg throwing (at a drawing of Hazel!)
  • Color run war
  • Face painting (good ole MFA Uncle Josh took that station)
  • and my favorite...HAZEL MADE HER OWN PINATA!  She mentioned buying one, which I dismissed.  Well, I guess it meant a lot to her, so using an empty Frozen kleenex box and random junk from her art drawer, she made her own!  It was her favorite part of the party!
  • also, we planned to do a water balloon pinata & water balloon fight, but the weather was uncharacteristically COLD so we cancelled that idea!

For gifts, Hazel got everything she wished for!  I wrote on facebook last night that one of the best and most fleeting parts of childhood is that you can get everything on your wishlist.  Granted, I'm disregarding her dreams of riding in an airplane, going to Disney World, and going to Germany...she knows those are unreasonable and so aren't "real" wishes.  This year she asked me for: a brown skinned American Girl doll with matching clothes so they can be twins; a new bicycle; art supplies; and a fashion designer template (that her friend Maddy had at Lutherlyn last week).

Heidi's facial expressions are the best part of this collage!

We got her a brown skinned doll (thankfully she doesn't read and doesn't know that it's from Target, but I THINK the "American Girl" request is more about having a realistic girl looking doll to play with than the brand, if not...sorry future Hazel, you're in for some major disappointments!) and matching outfit.  Heidi gave her a horse riding outfit for her new doll!  Llama (Grandma Orris) gave her A BEAUTIFUL NEW BIKE, Gma Baird got her the fashion designer toy; and everyone else gave her awesome ART SUPPLIES!  It was a very successful gift opening where she truly adored every.single.item!

Now, before I wrap up this post, I must confess one memorable experience from the day.... when the kids all arrived, Hazel immediately took them into the garden to pick berries and RUN.  I thought it was great.  Until they started SCREAMING... Yup, the kids ran smack into a YELLOW JACKET nest and 3 of them got stung!  My kids have never been stung, but Murphy's Law dictates that the first kids to be stung on the property would be party guests.  The kids were major troopers and nurse Jake helped smooth their tears with some predinner ice pops!

Here are a few of my favorite moments from the day:
  • Simple decorations with the "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" banner made many years ago by my sister and I had grabbed lots of pink paint chip cards from the hardware store recently and sewed them together into a simple banner.
  • Llama gave Hazel clues to find her birthday present!  Spoiler alert:  the bike was in the shed.
  • Heidi wanted Uncle Josh to paint her like a tiger.  He's a perfectionist and began to research pictures of tigers.  So, she took it upon herself to make herself painted.  I love her to the ends of the earth. 
  • Hazel snuggling with her twin:  a brown skinned doll.
  • Hazel with rainbow hair during the color run war.
  • Hazel blowing out her candle (3 cheers for Jake who grabs the camera every now and then so that I exist in our picture history).
  • Kids exploring the garden...BEFORE the evil yellow jacket catastrophe.
So that wraps up a fantastic day celebrating the beautiful life of Hazel.  When she grows up she wants to be
 a singer or work at the North Pole!

We are so blessed to be on this journey with her!