Friday, February 22, 2013


What a fitting title.  Finally I have some time to sit down and finally write about it finally being 2013 and how this crazy/exciting/boring/hard/fun/poor-yet-rewarding time is about to finally be four months, June 15th to be exact.

For those of you just tuning in, Hi!  I'm an inconsistent blogger who likes to complain, yet knows that I am truly blessed, yet hoping to become even more blessed this summer when my husband's medical training will finally be over!  He has been in school of some sort since the day I met him, August 17, 1999 to be exact.  That was the start of my freshman year in college, his sophomore.  Since graduating from THE University of Florida (GO GATORS!), we have endured 4 years of medical school (with and added year of earning his MPH, so that's 5 years), 3 years of a pediatric residency and 3 years of a dual fellowship in Neonatology (taking care of preemies and sick newborns) and Health Services research (RWJCSP).  That is 15 years of higher education.  15 years of getting paid nothing at all and then basically minimum wage when considering the hours put in.  

Now, before you start thinking I'm a desperate housewife who is looking for the big payoff, please know that I am just as excited, if not more so, for my husband who can finally start his career and stop jumping through all these hoops.  He has so much to offer this world, his patients and his family and while he has already given so much, I feel like I will truly see a different man come June 15th when he finally gets to see, feel, breath and live the culmination of so many years of literal sweat, blood and tears.  

With the end of the journey and the beginning of a new one approaching, there is a possibility of a new location as well.  For those of you who know me well, you know I've been counting down this possibility since the day we moved to MI.    I have missed FL dearly ever since I drove over the state line that June day in 2007.  After mourning the fact that a move back to FL would not be in my husband's best interest for his specific interests/career goals, I have had to come up with the next best thing.  We are now in the midst of "Decision 2013" which may be just as important as "Decision 2012".  While I'm pretty sure we made the right decision in 2012, I am hoping we undoubtedly make the right decision for 2013 and beyond.  

Without further ado, and in the words of my favorite song from The Clash, should I stay or should I go?  Midwest or the South?  Miserable winter or land-locked hot summers?  EST or CST?  Comfort of friends or closer to family?  Shopping at three different grocery stores or Publix?  'Eh' or y'all?  BIG10-craphole or SEC-heaven?  Ann Arbor or Nashville?  

It is time to finally make a decision.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Annie's 2 year and Ella's 7 year updates

Ella - 6/2012:

Height: 46 1/4" (50th percentile)
Weight: 48.2 pounds (50th percentile)

Annie - 10/2012:

Height: 36" (90-95th percentile)
Weight: 28.1 pounds (50-75th percentile)
Head: 19" (75th percentile)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Annie's 18 month update

Wow, this got here fast.  18 months.  And boy girl, were there some changes!  Thankfully, I can talk about talking in this update.  My little burst of craziness has finally decided to form words instead of reaching/pointing and "uh, uh"-ing at everything she wants.  I have not necessarily been worried these past months.  I know comparing her (or any child) to Ella for milestones is not wise as Ella was most likely talking IN the womb!  But, when the pediatrician asked at 15 months if she was saying any words and all I could say was "nothing other than 'ma',  'da' and what I thought was "ball", I was really hoping to be able to say a few more words at her 18 month check-up.  It was encouraging at that time that she was definitely understanding things that we said, so we chalked it up to the "second child" syndrome.

Well, I am happy to announce that Annie is talking!!!  Like most girls (except her mother), she loves talking on the phone.  She babbles away at anyone who will listen (or whoever she pretends is listening) and scarily, she knows how to dial her father's cell.  For now, he thinks it's cute (granted, at the beginning, he thought I was putting her up to it).  Although, every time someone calls my cell she automatically thinks it's Stephen and she proceeds to yell "dada, dada!" until I can finally make her understand it is not him I'm speaking to.  For actual words (and some phrases) she is saying, the list includes:
  • ball
  • dog
  • good girl
  • please
  • lala (for Elmo)
  • ickey (for Mickey)
  • Sisssss (for sissy a.k.a Ella)
  • Ice
  • brush 
  • bird
  • night, night
  • nose
  • eye
  • tickle
  • ta-da
As for the rest of the 18 month check-up, Annie was all over Dr. Cooke.  She is a lover of anyone giving her attention.  She is very easy to examine and Annie even told the doctor to look in her ears (my continuously pointing at them and sticking her finger in them).  She had to get one shot (Hep A), but Annie actually cried for maybe 5 seconds, as she was instantly distracted by the Tweety Bird band-aid that was placed on her thigh.  

Finally, what we've all been waiting for....her 18 month stats!!!  Coming in at 24 pounds and 1 ounce, Annie is in the 46th percentile for weight.  Holding strong in the 92nd percentile, Annie is 33.5 inches tall (or long, however you like to say it)!  And she continues to have an above average head circumference at 18.75 inches, which puts her in the 80th percentile.  I'm convinced that her late-ish walking at 13-14 months has to do with her height/weight/head ratios compared to her tiny "Kelly feet" that she and Ella have been graced with.

As for other things going on in Annie's life, she is falling more and more in love with the water.  This makes me very happy as I was worried with her being born in MI and spending the first few years of her life here would stunt her ability to fall in the love with the water, but clearly it's just in our genes!  I'm looking forward to starting her in swim lessons late-Spring and I'm sure she'll be just like Ella and cry and get upset when the lessons are over.  I look forward to having two fish in the family who can enjoy the water together.  Annie does love her sister and wants to do everything she is doing.  I would say that is the biggest difference in having a second child who has an older sibling to watch and learn from.  Annie insists on being outside and hanging with Ella's friends (thank God most of them love Annie, too) and of course, she wants to play with all of Ella's things.  It is fun to see Annie's personality continue to bloom and to see how different from Ella she is, even though they look so much alike.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Beautiful, in Every Single Way"

The following is an article from my March 2012 Real Simple magazine that really made me think.  I thought I would share it with you hoping that maybe it would do the same for you...maybe.*

My friend Jessica says that her  earliest memory hearkens back to when she was a baby.  She recalls watching the sun coming through the slats in her crib, striping her mattress with light.  She recalls, too, the lift and fall of the curtain in front of her bedroom window, and the small rustling sound it made.  My childhood recollections do not go back so far, and if they did ,I'm afraid they would not be nearly so lyrical.  I'd probably picture an infant with a furrowed brow, worrying that her diaper was giving her a muffin top.

For my entire life, I have hated my midsection.  It was also too big for the rest of me.  Sure, my arms and legs were long and thin enough.  But, then, right smack in the middle of my body was my excessively large blubber belly.

Let me enter into evidence the following: as a 19-year-old college student, I once sat at a kitchen table with three of my friends - all of whom were complaining about their belly fat.  I said mine the was worst.  When they doubted me, I informed that I could make a large serving spoon disappear into the folds of my fat.  When they doubted me once again, I said, "OK, watch this," and I showed them, indeed the worst.  they proposed a toast to me, and we drank more scotch.  Which, now that I think of it, probably did not do much for getting rid of my pooch.

A HISTORY OF MY BELLY: When I was around eight years old, I begged my mother for a yellow dress I had seen in the Sears catalog.  It was a bright yellow and had many, many ruffles, and the little girl who modeled it looked scrumptious.  I showed it to my mother and told her, "That one, that one.  I want that one.  Can I have that one?"  I believe my mother tried to gently dissuade me from my choice, but I remained firmly mixed on the image of the child with the curly black hair wearing that lovely lemon-colored confection.

My mother did order the dress for me, and on the day it arrived, I put it on, tied the wide ribbon around my waist, and tehn eagerly regarded myself.  The model in the catalog had looked like a dream.  I, on the other hand, resemebled the Queen Mary, festooned with streamers.  I took it off and never wore it again.

When I was in my 20s, I was involved in a serious romance.  One day the man in questions wanted to take a bath with me.  Swell idea, thought I, and we climbed in the tub together.  I leaned back against him and it was heavenly; the warm water, the wisps of steam rising up, the feel of his chest behind my back, and the vibrations of his deep voice reverberating through my body when he spoke to me.  Then he put his hands on my waist.  I stiffened as though I had been electrocuted and shouted, "Don't feel my fat!"  As you might imagine, that did wonders for our interlude.

It wasn't just intimate moments that made me self-conscious.  Whenever I was in the company of ANYONE, I sucked in my gut.  I constantly adjusted my blouse or sweater, employing a handy three-step technique:
1.  Grasp fabric in the belly area, stretch it out as far it will go (which is to say, as far as it will go without ripping), and release.
2.  Try not to move to the left, the right, up, or down.
3.  Try not to breath.

Even when I thinned down considerably, I was still conscious of my belly.  I never work a bikini or showed my stomach at all if I could hep t.  I was horrified if my gut ever made it into a photo, if somewhat I was captured with those dang rolls hanging out.

The only time I wasn't self-conscious about my belly was when it was at its largest.  But I was pregnant, so that didn't count.  Every pregnant belly is beautiful, for what it hold inside.  But then the baby is born, and guess what's back?

As time marched on, my belly problem only got worse.  Jeans looked good on my legs, but by blubber spilled over the top.  Belts were a no-no.  I turned to elastic waist, which felt good but made me worry that I was somehow cheating.  Also, they made me feel like a slob.  Whenever I got dressed up, I looked OK except in that one place.

Then two things happened.  A few years ago, I was on a trip with my best friend, and we were lying on the beds in our hotel room.  Her blouse was raised a little and I glimpsed her belly, and lo and behold: I saw that it was even bigger than mine.

But it wasn't awful at all.  I was part of her.  And as such, I loved it.

Then, a few months later, on a hot summer's day.  I was with my mother, who was complaining about the temperature.  "You should put on some shorts," I told her.  She shook her head.

"Why not?" I asked, and she leaned in close to whisper, "Varicose veins."

"Mom," I said.  "No one cares."  And then I connected some dots.

I have stopped hating my belly.  Realizing that my mother's varicose-vein anxiety was as pointless as my own adipose-tissue worry was a turning point.  But I have also seen enough of the world and its sorrows to know that this type of thing is not worth my time and energy.  I no longer suck in my gut.  I wear elastic-waist pants, guilt-free.  I also wear belts when I need to.  Yes.  I wear a belt over a top and throw on a cardigan and it looks just fine.

I had a friend who got really sick of hearing people talk about diets all the time: this diet where you don't eat carbs, that one where you eat six small meals a day, another one where you eat only soup, and of course the always popular DON'T EAT ANYTHING, EVER diet.  She said, "OK, you know when its time to diet?  The time to diet is when you have to let out the shower curtain!"

I may not have evolved as much as that particular friend, but I have come to hold a certain respect for fat cells.  They may make us look less than ideal (if you define ideal as those angry-looking models who wear their ribs as accessories), but they serve a few nutrients.  They give us insulation from heat and cold.  They provide protective padding around internal organs.  Isn't it nice to know that the so often maligned parts of our bodies are looking out for us in these ways?

I have also begun to feel a kind of camaraderie or kinship when I see another woman with my "problem".  I feel as though if our bellies could grow little hands, they would reach out and high-five each other.

A long time ago, I saw a movie with a beautiful Portuguese actress with a flat, flat stomach who was lying on a bed when her lover walked in.  In her gorgeous accent, she tells him, "I wish I had a pot...Pot bellies are sexy."  At the time, I remember thinking, You can have mine!

Not anymore.  These days I would say, "Now you're talking!"

-Elizabeth Berg

*OK, so if you read the whole thing I'm sure you're saying, "Whatever!"  Please know, I am not nearly enlightened as this writer and probably never will be, but it did make me feel better and a little more confident.

A quickie...Annie's 15 month stats

Height:  32 1/4 inches (92nd percentile)
Weight:  22.13 pounds (48th percentile)
Head circumference:  18 1/4 inches (63rd percentile)

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Long Overdue Update

So, it's been five, okay six, months.  Sorry.  Life happened.  While life was happening, Annie and Ella have been growing.  Annie has now turned a year old, Ella has started 1st grade, and I've gained 10 pounds...but, we can just forget about that last part (until I try to fit into those jean).  

So, my big girl started first grade right after Labor Day.  She was super-excited and had no issues adjusting.  We were also blessed with THE BEST teacher!  Mrs. Leach rocks.  Ella says her favorite subject is math.  She is a great speller and her reading skills have just taken off!  It's so fun to hear her read to Annie and we also read together.  She also has art, music, P.E., sign language and world culture classes at school.  And I have to say, I started getting into that rut of asking, "So, what did you do at school today?" and getting the same old, "nothing".  Instead, I've started just asking, "Did you have a good day at school?" because that will give me a response and she either opens up more about what she did then, or later in the day...or week...she tends to tell me more things than when I ask questions. I love her stories, especially the BS ones.  She's a great BSer.  :)  

Ella participated in Fall soccer again!  She was great and her team went 5-1.  We've been taking a break this winter, but next month she starts a short cheerleading clinic that will culminate in her cheering at halftime at a Dexter Varsity basketball game.  She is very excited about that!  She is also going to start karate and dance again.  So, it seems like I'll be chauffering a lot more coming up!

Now Miss Annie...she turned 1 in October.  She is now  almost 15 months old and on the go!  She is into everything and in the middle of everything and climbs on top of everything!  She finally took her first steps at 13 months.  She's walking more and more every day and soon will be chasing after her sister and the dogs.  I don't think she's totally convinced yet that it's faster than crawling, but you can see week by week that she takes more steps before falling on her but and she has found out that if she walks with her arms extended up into the air, she has a lot more balanced...which makes it look like we have a little Frankenstein walking around.  

The one thing this girl can't get enough of it food!  She would eat all day non-stop if she could and she eats everything in site.  There is not one food she has seen and not tried.  I can't even really pinpoint her favorite food because she really will just eat anything you put in front of her.  She is definitely a growing girl.  Speaking of growing, here are her 12 month stats even though they've definitely changed by now:  Height 31 3/4" (95th percentile), weight 21.11 pounds (50th percentile) and head circumference was 18 cm.

I hopeful this spring she will be taking her first swim lessons.  Ella started at 14 months, but we were living in FL at the time.  I'm not about to get my pasty white self in a swimsuit in the middle of winter and lug by baby in and out of the cold weather to do mommy and me swim classes!  So, we'll wait a few more months which will put her around 18 months, I guess.  We are definitely looking forward to being outside again with her able to get around on her own and explore the outdoors which she loves, we just aren't in it too much.

Speaking of the outdoors, we have just booked a Disney vacation for the first week of March, so we are all excited to see green grass and feel the warmth on our faces.  This will be Annie's first trip to Disney and Ella hasn't been in a few years, so Stephen and I are excited to see their faces light up when we get there.  So for all your FL peeps, we'll be staying in Orlando March 2-8.  Please let us know if we can meet up!  We do not plan on driving all over the state of FL this trip, so if you're close by let us know.

To wrap this up, we all had a lovely holiday season.  We were in MI for Thanksgiving and Christmas and we were able to spend some time with close friends and also have some quiet time with just the four of us.  It was bittersweet as this was my first holiday without my G'ma, but we all took time out to remember her and reminisce about last Christmas when we were with her.  Annie was fun this year too as she was a little more into Christmas and all the decorations.  She she actually enjoyed her gifts...and not surprisingly, so did Ella!  

I hope 2012 will be a great year for all of our family and friends and I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months.  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ella & Annie - My Pride and Joy

Since my last kid update, Ella turned 6 years old and Annie is now 9 months old!  I know I say this every time, but where is the time going?!  It definitely seems like it goes by even faster with the second child.  I can't believe in three months I won't have a baby anymore.  And Ella, she will be starting 1st grade in a couple months (and then Stephen and I will be turning 32 and 31 respectively)!  OMW!!

So, over the past few months, Ella has definitely moved from her Kindergarten days into a young girl who has shown her blossoming interests and talents.  Late spring she finished her final swim class.  She has aspirations of being on a dive team, but yet this summer she wanted to take a break.  But, I am very proud of her and her accomplishments and her abilities.  She is a great swimmer and has every stroke down (except for the butterfly). 

She also had another great soccer season and scored three or four goals over the course of 6 games.  She has turned into a great team player and finally doesn't think that she has to score a goal every game to be successful.  We aren't sure what's next for her.  She is interested in starting dance or maybe going back to gymnastics, but I'm not sure I (or she) can handle both.  Until then, her summer has been filled with lots of play dates and running around the 'hood with her friends.  She has a little more freedom this summer as she is allowed to ride her scooter or bike (she is officially off training wheels - which I feel took longer for her since we really only ride bikes about 5 months out of the year) to her friends house's as most of them live in the front of the neighborhood like we do.  She definitely thinks she's hot-stuff and it reminds me of when I was her age and I was riding my bike everywhere and into OTHER neighborhoods to visit friends.  But, not only is that not possible as neighborhoods aren't connected or really close to ours, but I seriously doubt I would even let her if that was an option.  It's sad to think about.  Our world is making us all crazy and limiting the fun and freedom kids used to have outside.  Anyway, she loves hanging out in neighbors' blow-up pools and using her slip-n-slide.  

She has also spent a lot of time reading which I love!  It's amazing how much her reading has progressed even over this short summer since school ended.  We take weekly trips to the library where she gets to pick out two books and a DVD.  And she also loves reading to Annie!  Ella has also become a techie...she loves her iPod Nano, which is Stephen's old one.  So no, we did NOT buy her an iPod.  But, she does take over my new iPod Touch that I was finally able to upgrade to.  I'm pretty sure she knows how to use it better than I do.  All of a sudden I saw her on Netflix the other day and I thought she had bought something accidentally, but no, she was just watching some cartoons that she put in the Watch Now queue....seriously.  AND she knows how to use Stephen's iPad.  Come on!!

Oh, as for Ella's (my petite one) 6 year stats...She is a mere 44" tall (23rd percentile) and 43.4 pounds (39th percentile).  For some reason she is very sensitive about being small.  Not sure what to do about that one.  She's kinda screwed since she has me and her daddy's genes.

Now onto Annie.  My chunky monkey is now 9 months old.  Her stats right now show she is 29" long (91st percentile) and 20.5 pounds (76th percentile).  She decided to start crawling the day she turned 7 months old.  She first started out doing a military crawl, but within a month weeks finally got onto her hands and knees.  She also loves music and head bangs to her favorites songs.  She also claps when she gets excited.  She continues to teeth...constantly.  She has at least 9 teeth, if not more.  It's crazy.  Since she has so many teeth we started her on table foods around 8 months.  She loves black beans, cheese, tomatoes, watermelon, french fries...she would eat more if we let her.  She finally started babbling around 8 1/2 months.  I was getting a little worried there as it seemed our pediatrician was going to send us to a speech therapist if she wasn't babbling by her 9 month check up.  Thankfully, she finally started vocalizing some b's and d's...but she is still not saying ''mama' or 'dada'.  Oh well.  I think we're just a loud and talkative family that she's just listening and taking it all in.  I fear to think of what her first words or phrase might be!!  :)

While in Florida Annie was able to experience the water for the first time.  She was able to go swimming at her aunt's house and she also went to Blizzard Beach at Disney.  She also went to Blue Springs and handled the 72 degree water like a champ, unlike her mommy who screamed like a little girl when she jumped in.  Just like her sister, she LOVES the water.  She could stay in it all day.

I'm happy also to brag that both my girls love church and their children's department.  Ella is about to graduate from Waumba Land (birth to Kindergarten) and jump to UpStreet (1st-5th grade).  She is very excited about that, but she is also sad that she will be leaving her teachers that she has been around since she was 2.  And Annie loves the nursery!  Ms. Val is the best and Annie has blossomed.  I'm also happy that the nursery seems to be the only place where Annie doesn't cling to me!

I can't imagine what my girls will be doing during the next update.  I suppose the next one will be in a couple months when Ella starts 1st grade and then again in three months when Annie turns 1.  OMW!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I miss my G'ma.

This is nothing new.  Missing G'ma.  I think about her every day in just about every situation that's going on around me.  I know this is normal and to be honest, it does not make me as sad as it used to.  I'm able to reminisce without tears, but sometimes those tears do fall.  Ella misses her 'grammy' a lot, too.  We talk about her a lot and we end up having dreams about her on the same nights.  I think that's neat.

I have never really been able to put into words exactly what G'ma meant to me or to our family has a whole.  G'ma and I weren't the kind of people who were too lovey dovey, we just knew how much we loved each other and left it at that.  Her passing came too fast and I was definitely not able to talk at her memorial service, although I had the opportunity.  Besides the fact that I knew I wouldn't be able to speak without sobbing, I just couldn't put any words together or memories in a cohesive thought.  I don't regret not taking advantage of that moment, but again, I think about her all the time and miss her like crazy and I try my best to honor her memory and make her proud.  I also want to be able to describe her to Annie when she gets older since she didn't really get to know her.  So, while I was finishing up "Bittersweet" this evening, one of the final chapters is called "Blueberries" and right from the beginning it reminded me of G'ma.  Now, the chapter is about the author's G'ma and clearly there are some differences in hobbies, etc. but the overall thoughts and memories that she wrote about her G'ma and how she will remember her are the exact words I've been looking for.  I guess I'm sort of plagiarizing her thoughts, but I've never been an original.  :)

Once again, I want to transcribe the chapter for you.  I hope you take the time to read it as I'm sure it will be uplifting for those who have had any type of loss in their lives.

An excerpt from "Bittersweet" by Shauna Niequist

My Grandma Hybels passed away on Sunday night with on of her daughters at her side.  Earlier that day, she'd been surrounded by all five of her children and her pastor, and they prayed together, kissed her, held her hands.  She was not afraid, and she was not alone.

At her eighty-fifth birthday party this summer, it was apparent to all of us that the cancer had returned and that it was overtaking her body, even thought she didn't want to admit it to anyone.  As the fall progressed, so did the cancer, and just after Christmas, she was moved to a hospice center.  Her last weeks were filled with visits from her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, until late one night, she passed way gently in her sleep.

When, in the weeks before her death, the cousins shared some of our childhood memories with Grandma, there were three things that came up over and over: blueberries, cinnamon toast and beach glass.  Grandma made the very best blueberry pie, and when my cousin Cameron learned that Grandma recently passed her recipe on to his little sister Melody, he told Mel that he expected Grandma's blueberry pie every time he comes to Chicago.  We all remember picking blueberries with Grandma at DeGrandchamp's in South Haven, which, for out-of-towner's, is widely known as the Blueberry Capital of the World, complete with a Blueberry Festival, Blueberry Parade and Blueberry Queen.

At Grandma's cottage we ate blueberries straight out of the bowl in the mornings, and in muffins all day long, but our favorite was her fresh blueberry pie, with a scoop of Sherman's Ice Cream - the second most famous export to come out of South Haven, right behind the blueberries.

In the last days of Grandma's life, she had no appetite and everyone who visited her worked hard to find something the sounded good to her - macaroni or pudding, something.  At a certain point, nothing worked.  And then my Aunt Marilyn found one last bag of frozen blueberries in Grandma's freezer and brought it to the hospice center.  Grandma said that she'd been saving that bag for her great-grandchildren, but admitted that they did sound good, and she'd just have a few.  For the last few days of her life, those frozen blueberries were the only things she ate, and for anyone who knew her, that doesn't surprise us a bit.

My brother remembers sitting on the carpet watching Dukes of Hazzard at the cottage, because the rule was that if you had already been swimming, you had to sit on the green shag carpet - no wet buns on the couch.  When we were done at the beach for the day, Grandma would line us all up in the front yard and spray us all off in one fell swoop, first all our fronts and then all our backs.  She was forever fighting against sand in the cottage, but with so many little feet, I think the sand generally won.

We fought over who would get to sleep in Grandma's bed with her, the big brass bed, and in the mornings, we all loved having cinnamon bread from Bunde's Bakery in the sunroom, the toaster and the butter dish in the corner always ready for us.

One of our favorite things to do at Grandma's cottage was to search for beach glass, because Grandma collected it in jars like a precious treasure.  Every few days we'd take out all the pieces and spread them out on the dining room table with her and she acted as though we'd found gold every time.

When we came to visit Grandma for the last time, she gave each of us a box, one for each child and grandchild.  In each of our boxes, she had packed up every baby picture, every card we'd given her, and an assortment of family memories and newspaper clippings.  Late one night I  spread the contents of the box all over my dining room table  - baby pictures of my dad that look just like Henry, an invitation to my parent's wedding, and another invitation to my grandparent's wedding.  I found a note that my dad wrote to his dad, who passed away when I was two.  The contents of that box helped piece together childhood memories long forgotten and bits of a past I never knew.

One thing that brought her great joy in the last several years of her life was the time with her great-grandchildren.  Grandma held them and soothed them, played with them on the floor, and collected pictures of them to show her friends and sisters.  It was a very moving thing to watch Grandma care for our children in much the same way she cared for us when we were small.

Luka was born less than two months ago, and my cousin Larissa and her husband, Matt, knew, in the first terrifying hours of Luka's life, when he was hooked up to  monitors and things seemed to change from moment to moment, that Grandma was praying consistently for Luka's health.  And even though she was very sick, she insisted on visiting Luka, and wanted to hold him every chance she got, even when he was fussing.

Just last week, after Grandma had moed to the hospice center, her health declining by the day, she was delighted to hear the my cousin Jake's wife, Sara, gave birth to a son named Logan.  While Grandma never wanted to bother anyone about anything, that morning, she wanted to make phone calls to tell people about the birth of baby Logan.  In many ways, that's all you need to know about my Grandma, that days before the end of her life, her greatest concern was not for herself, but for a child, and for the health and safety of her family.

Above all else, even above the blueberries and the cinnamon bread, what we remember about Grandma, what we knew was most important to her, was her faith.  She prayed for us consistently and asked us pointedly about where we were going to church and what we were learning from our Bible reading.  She modeled for us, more than anything, her deep belief that faith is the center of everything, the foundation upon which all else is built.

At the heart of Grandma's faith was servanthood.  She didn't want to be the center of attention and didn't ask hardly anything of anyone.  Even at the very end of her life, when she needed something from the nurses, she'd ask, "Would that be too much trouble for you?"  They teased her and finally started telling her, "Jerry, this is about you!"  Anyone who knew he knows that she never, ever thought it was about her.

On the last afternoon Todd and I spent with her, we talked about the importance of faith.  She told us that all she wanted at the end of her life was to know that each one of her children and grandchildren trusted Christ with their lives.  I don't think she cared a bit if we went to good colleges or not, or how we looked, or if we made a lot of money.  She cared about our spiritual well-being and prayed fervently and consistently for each one of us.

If you opened Grandma's refrigerator, t looked like and she ate was yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream.  But if you took a closer look you realized that there were odds and ends of all sors of things in those reused containers - bits of casserole, leftovers, slices of pie all stored in rinsed-out yogurt and cottage cheese containers.  She also took crackers and sugar packets from restaurants, and used bread bags to store almost anything.  Grandma never wasted a thing and was never extravagant.  She didn't spend on herself and lived with great frugality, preferring to give to her church, to missions, and to her family.

Although she lived simply, she gave generously to us.  And possibly even more important, she modeled to us her deeply held belief that money doesn't buy happiness, that it isn't ours in the first place, and that wastefulness and extravagance lead to bad ends.  In a world where financial mismanagement and recklessness seem to be the norm, we consider it a gift to have learned another way from Grandma.

In my last conversation with Grandma, we talked a lot about heaven.  She told me she was so excited to go there and that she felt like it was taking a long time.  One of the reasons she was most excited about heaven is because there she'll be reunited with her husband.  For a woman who had been widowed for more than thirty years, I can't imagine the sweetness of that reunion.  She spoke in great detail about wanting to see her sisters and brothers and looking forward to a time when age and disease and pain are gone.

We'll miss Grandma terribly.  We'll think of her every time we eat blueberries or find a piece of beach glass in South Haven.  But we know, with as much certainty as we know anything, that she is in heaven, free from pain and disease, reunited with Christ, with a husband she's missed for three decades, and with sisters and brothers she loved dearly.  And for that, we're so thankful.

The best way to honor my grandma's life, I believe, is to live with the faith, simplicity, prayerfulness and kindness that she lived with every day.  When any of us - her children, her grandchildren, the many people she touched and walked with - live simply in order to give generously, when we serve without wanting recognition, when we put the needs of others above our own, when we pray for the people we love, we will honor the legacy of this tiny, lovely, godly woman, my grandma, Gertrude Hybles.

Well, if you've made it down this far, I hope that touched you as much as it did me.  I felt like I was talking with my G'ma again while reading this as we had those same conversations in her last days and faith was so important to her as well.  I miss knowing that G'ma was praying for me and my family every day.  I want/need to be like that...I want to be like her.  I hope when we see each other again that I will have made her proud.