This morning when Laura brought the kids in to wake me up, Riley said “Happy Fathers Day!” Lydia thought for a moment and said “Happy Birthday!” We all laughed. Laura assures me she had nailed it in rehearsal.

We had some yummy muffins to tide us over ’til brunch, then took the bikes to the shady park for a while. It was already nice and warm out, enough that the wind felt perfect. Lydia’s getting brave with climbing, it can be a little nerve-wracking to watch.

Back to the house for brunch. Laura made me huevos rancheros. My brother-in-law came over and helped, and stayed to hang out with us all day. Lydia napped for a while, during which time I fiddled with bike accessories. Laura helped Riley with his own little bike, and he sweetly decided he wants to pull Lydia in the trailer behind him.

When the nap was over, we all went to the neighborhood pool here in our subdivision. We hadn’t been yet. The kids had a ball and wore themselves out. Lydia indicated that she wanted to swim herself in the big pool, rather than being held, so I faced her away from me, held her up by her bottom and balanced her under the water. She is now 100% confident in her fictitious ability to swim. Her proud little smile is just impossibly endearing.

We had takeout barbecue for dinner. Riley was really tired, but super sweet to me. He rested his head on my hand for a bit, and melted my heart. (He’s not like that often, and certainly not with me when he’s got his Mommy right there.)

The day was one enormous gift. I wish I could box it up.

Thanksgiving ’08

The menu:

  • Cornish hens, brined, grilled, basted in a vinegar sauce. Positively succulent. They took longer on the grill than expected, but that’s probably because we grilled six birds rather than the four called for in the recipe. Also because I had the grill open a lot to flip them or check the temperature.
  • Bread stuffing, made from scratch. Just baked in a casserole dish, though, not actually stuffed into the birds. Turned out very crumbly, but oddly enough, not dry. Excellent flavors and texture in the mouth.
  • Baked sweet potatoes. I did these ahead because I thought we might need the oven today. They got a little overdone, and didn’t reheat well in the microwave. They had yummy caramelized bits in them though. We doctored up the potatoes by mashing them with cream cheese, which turned out delicious.
  • Steamed broccoli with garlic vinegar dressing. We have it pretty often anyway, but what it lacks in “special occasionality” it makes up for in flavor. A nice kick to add punctuation between bites of comfort food.
  • With special guest: Store-bought pumpkin pie. It didn’t blow my socks off but it served its purpose.

My mom’s here visiting for the weekend, she got here last night. Riley’s been pretty open with her, right from the beginning, which is great to see. He’s interacting with her on a level that he hasn’t before, it gives me hope that his communication issues are on the way out. Lydia showed some predictable skepticism of Mom at first but is warming to her quickly.

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. It’s so laid back, free of expectations. It’s about appreciating, sharing, and food, and nothing else. It’s a pity that it’s perpetually eclipsed by Christmas in terms of travelling home. Hmm, maybe I should stop letting it be.

My grandfather passed away last night. He went quietly in his sleep, I can’t ask for better than that. I’m mostly all right, I’m at the point where I’m just grateful for the time we had. But I miss him already, even though I haven’t gotten to see him all that often since I moved from Missouri.

His funeral will be Wednesday afternoon. I don’t feel like I need to attend for my own sake. Part of him is with me all the time. I’m debating going anyway, for the rest of my family, especially my aunts and uncles. But it would mean taking both of the kids, so that complicates the whole thing considerably. Everybody’s going to be supportive either way.

I missed my grandmother’s funeral two years ago, and it’s not even guilt that I feel about it, but I just felt so isolated from my family, it still bothers me. I mean, I live almost 800 miles away, and even farther in recent years; it’s not like I get a lot of chances to act like family. And Lord knows I’ve squandered enough chances already. But then I wonder if it’s selfish of me to drag the kids out there for such a reason. On the other hand, it feels at least as selfish to be whining about the logistical difficulties of air travel with two kids. Anyway, I need to decide tonight, if I have any hope of making it there.

Update: I am going to go after all. Laura’s taking a couple days off work to watch both kids, which frees me up to take late night flights. It’ll be a really short trip, but I know I’ll be glad I made it.

Grandpa Bill

I found out yesterday that my Grandpa Bill has cancer in kind of a late stage. He’s at the Mayo Clinic right now getting looked at, and within a few days he’ll decide what course of treatment to take, if any. He cared for his wife Jeanette through her death by lung cancer, and so he knows only too well what he’d be facing with chemo.

Grandpa Bill is my hero. He’s funny, creative, and adored by pretty much everyone. His personal theme song is “Accentuate the Positive,” and he actually lives it. I try to follow that example, but I’m not nearly as good at it as he is.

And the man knows no embarrassment. He’ll throw pride out the window to coax a smile from a child. And he sure can; children love him perhaps best of all.

He taught me how to fish. He helped me feel better when I accidentally swallowed a quarter. He came to all my performances and cried with pride. He let me drive his tractor.

And the thing is I know I’m just one of so many people he made feel special. He’s a light in so many lives. It couldn’t be less fair. My aunt Brenda said “He’s had a hell of a life, I’ll tell you that. But the thing is, he isn’t finished. He just bought a plane!” And it’s true, he’ll never be at a good stopping point.

So we’re all trying to accentuate the positive. His life is full of blessings and adventure, so we’ve got some good raw material in this effort. I have so much more to say about him, but I don’t want to sit on this post for another day trying to write it better.

ETA: If you’ve ever seen the movie Big Fish, Ed Bloom reminds me a lot of Grandpa Bill. (And if you haven’t, you should see it, it’s an excellent movie. I really need to read the book.) Except Grandpa’s more jovial; more like a cross between Ed Bloom and Santa Claus. And I don’t have quite the same feeling that the son Will had of not knowing the real him, but I do wish we were closer.

Another of Riley’s colds has nestled into my sinus network, and I can feel it in there now stretching out lazily. I seem to be handling it better than he did, though; poor guy was miserable for five solid days, got an ear infection and is now on antibiotics that he doesn’t even like the taste of. He’s hardly eaten anything solid for the past three days. But today he had a little of his gumption back, so here’s hoping he’s over it completely within a day or two.

My mom sent a couple MiniDV tapes of her reading fairy tales, along with the book she was reading them from, for the kids. I finally got them all burned onto a DVD today. I’m sure Lydia will just love it, I hope Riley will too in time. It’s up against some stiff competition though. It was such a sweet idea, and bless my mom, she really pours her all into the readings. I just hope she’s not disappointed with Riley’s reaction when she comes to visit us in a couple of weeks. He’s back in full mommy-fixation mode again. (I’m a distant second; I don’t exist if she’s around, but am a sufficient substitute when she’s not and any other people try to make friends with him.)