Saturday, January 31, 2009

Feeling Flat?

Did you ever have a day that turned out to be everything you didn't want it to be? Feeling a cold coming on, I planned to spend Saturday resting. Perhaps organizing my computer files, but nothing more strenuous than that.
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After school yesterday we discovered my rear passenger tire going flat. Okay, slight change in plans. In the morning we'd air it up and go to Big O Tires for a patch. I'd have the rest of the day to relax.
Airing up a tire. Simple, except every air compressor we tried to borrow was broken or unavailable.
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Our generous friend and neighbor A'Lece offered to drive Jacob and the tire to Big O, and helpful Garry from next-door came over to help Jacob take off the tire.
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The verdict at Big O: beyond repair. I gasped when I read their estimate for a new tire.
Next plan: put on the spare doughnut and drive over to WalMart for a new tire. Jacob installed the spare, lowered the car, and you see the result in the top picture: flat as a pancake!
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So I call AAA and about 45 minutes later our doughnut is aired up and seems to be holding. The AAA guy offers to follow us to WalMart, just in case.
By now it's after 3pm. Luckily we are among the last customers accepted for the day. They say it'll be done in a few hours. What?!
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Jacob and I wander around for 2.5 hours. I could easily fill the time if the shopping weren't already done! We browse the books, jewelry, videos, clothes, car supplies... Plenty of time for mother and son bonding!
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It was nearly 6pm when we got home with our shiny new tire. My body is unrested and my files are unorganized. Yet, looking back, I am warmed by the thought of good friends, neighbors, and business people who took care of us in our need. And, by my way of thinking, a few hours spent with one of my children is always time well-spent.
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No, today didn't go at all as I'd planned, but it was a good day nonetheless.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Middle School Musical

This morning I attended a musical performance by Dylan's 5th grade class. It was called "We Haz Jazz." Every year I look forward to watching Dylan and his classmates singing and dancing their way into our hearts. They are always so adorable!
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Dylan was a little disappointed that he didn't get a speaking part this year, but as you can see in the video below, he still managed to steal the show!
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Keep your eye on Dylan: he's in the purple and gold football jersey on the very top left of the screen. It happens suddenly, so don't blink!

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I didn't know Dylan could move so fast! He could hardly stop laughing after that to sing and remember his dance moves. I've never seen his face turn so red with embarrassment, but he kept his sense of humor. When I asked if he minded my posting this video on my blog, he answered, "That's okay, Mom, I like to make people laugh!"

When the performance ended and the students were allowed to visit with their parents for a few minutes, half his class wanted to watch the action on my camera since they missed it the first time. They got a big kick out of Dylan's disappearing act!

It wasn't exactly High School Musical, but it was certainly a performance I'll never forget! No mom could be prouder!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

First Challenge

This week was challenging with little reward, but I still feel I was successful in my efforts to get healthy.
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Over the 3-day weekend I lost 1.8 lbs, but over Tuesday and Wednesday I gained 2 back! I hoped it was just temporary PMS bloat (I can't believe I still have to deal with that at age 54!), but I was most distraught!
On Monday I had faced down my first big challenge.
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Sarah, Dylan and I went to see Bedtime Stories, but I was prepared: I took along a delicious Ross Dark Chocolate bar (sugar-free) so I could resist the theater popcorn. Oddly enough, I'm not that fond of popcorn, yet it somehow smells so much more delicious in a theater!
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I topped it off with a diet soda and made it through the movie without weakening.
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When we got home, I ate some roast beef au jus before we headed over to Callie's big birthday bash.
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It's a good thing I did, because that helped me withstand the temptation of corn dogs, tater tots, pink jello, Capri Sun, ice cream, and especially that gorgeous birthday cake. Did I mention that the cake had a particularly yummy-looking lemon cream filling? Ahhh, so very tempting! But I stood strong!
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By Thursday morning, though, I was thinking defeatist thoughts: "Just give up, you'll never lose all that weight." That small weight gain had really hit me hard.
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Then the Love Cart came along...
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Once a month Student Council rolls a cart around campus, stopping by each classroom to treat high school staff to 2 choices from the cart: sodas, chips, candies, Ding Dongs, you name it. It's their way to show appreciation.
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I wavered. I wavered hard. Then I said no thanks and suggested they stock some healthier items like nuts.
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How did I do it? Was I picturing my new slender figure? Was I imagining fashionable new clothes? Was I thinking of my health? Goodness, no!

Only one thing could get me through this crisis: my commitment to document both my successes and my failures in this blog! I couldn't bear the thought of confessing that I'd given up.
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So I stuck with it, and now 1.8 of the 2 lb gain is gone again. It turned out that it was just PMS bloat after all.
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Now I know this little experiment is working, so I'm going to keep at it. Thanks for sticking with me for the long haul!
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Added to the weight loss from weeks 1-2, I'm now 12.7 lbs lighter. Not as much as I'd hoped, but nothing to sniff at!
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That's Mary: 1, Junk Food: 0!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bonfire

The other night Jacob, Dylan, and friend Eric heated up the chilly backyard with a small bonfire featuring our dry, bare Christmas tree. They used to enjoy post-Christmas tree burning with their dad, so they continued the tradition.
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You can't tell in the camera's flash, but the red-orange flames and sparking embers were quite a sight in the pitch-black of a moonless night.
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I tried to get a shot without the flash, but it didn't come out too great. I wish you could see how the embers were swirling upward like a flaming whirlwind!
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We didn't have to worry about the flames escaping the firepit, since there was still plenty of snow on the damp ground!
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This weekend, Jacob and his friend Bryce rolled up their sleeves and tackled a truly dirty job: cleaning out the shed.
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The shed was always Mark's domain. He went there to smoke, among other things, when the weather was cold. I haven't set foot inside it in years (other than to the freezer just inside the door). Mark left it in a mess when he moved out 2 years ago, and my sons and their friends have only made it worse since then.
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I put off cleaning it out because, frankly, I was afraid of what we might find inside.
Last night Jacob and Bryce pulled almost everything out of the shed. This is what the pile looked like this morning.
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They spent most of today sorting through everything to see what was worth saving and what was beyond redemption. The good stuff was re-stacked neatly in the shed while the large trash went into another pile to be hauled away by a friend on Monday.
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The boys found a few questionable items, like a broken crack pipe and pages from naughty magazines, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected.
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Unfortunately, most of our stuff was trashed. Old camping supplies, chairs, ice chests, a stereo system, all gone. On the plus side, there is now plenty of shelf and wall space, as you can see here! Now I can actually use the shed again without fear.
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When it comes to hard work, Jacob and Bryce make a great team. Good job, guys!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Red Letter Day

Today, January 20, 2009, is a red letter day in history!
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Oh, wait, did you think I was referring to the presidential inauguration? Goodness, no! Those happen every 4 years, nothing special about that. I'm talking about my niece Callie's 2nd birthday!
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Just 19 weeks ago it was uncertain whether Callie would survive another hour, let alone be with us to celebrate her next birthday. By the great goodness of God she is 2 years old today, and it was with great joy that we gathered to celebrate last night.
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This 22-second video was taken just after the crowd sang "Happy birthday, dear Callie..." I love how her expression changes as she realizes she is the one everyone is singing to!
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The sentiment painted on the wall above Dana's and Callie's heads kind of says it all, doesn't it?
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The near-tragedy of Callie's accident brought that message home to all of us, and we've witnessed the best in so many loving and giving people during the past few months.
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Callie had fun checking out her gifts even though she was getting sleepy by that time.
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I don't think she even realized at this point that all this fuss was for her, the guest of honor!
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Callie especially loved cuddling her new little doll.
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And what could be better than sharing cake and ice cream with Daddy?
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(For dinner, Dana served Callie's favorite foods: corn dogs, tater tots, pink jello, and fruit drinks. I thought that was so sweet!)
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It was a wonderful, emotional evening, and we owe it all to our sweet Callie Jayne, the miracle girl!
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Happy birthday, dear Callie. May God bless you with many, many, many more to come and with as much joy in your life as you bring to those who love you!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Memories in Boxes

Our tradition is to take down the Christmas tree on New Year's Day.
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This year we put it off because we held our family party on New Year's Day and then Karla's family spent 3 days with us.
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Then Sarah, Jacob, and I were sick as dogs with flu (even Diego threw up!) before Karla's family--also sick--even drove away.
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It took more than a week for me to get my strength back, and what energy I did have seemed better spent on surviving work each day.
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I'm embarrassed to admit it, but we FINALLY took our Christmas tree and decorations down this Saturday, Jan. 17th, 23 whole days after Christmas was over!
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It's not as exciting to remove decorations as it is to put them up, but I do enjoy the last chance to revel in the memories evoked by each item as we box it up for another year.
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Each ornament has a story. Many were handmade by my children in school or church. Several were gifts from loved ones, some no longer with us. A few commemorate special events, like "Baby's First Christmas" and "Our First Christmas Together." (Yes, I still have that one; it's a happy memory.)
I buy dated Hallmark ornaments for my kids each Christmas. After the first five "Baby's 1st, 2nd, 3rd..." ornaments, I choose something to represent the child at that age.
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Sarah loves the bunny ballerina from her year of ballet lessons. The fisherman Santa reminds Jacob of fishing with his dad. Dylan's are snowmen doing what he likes to do--this year it's grilling!
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I will continue this tradition until my kids reach age 21. When they move out, they'll have at least 22 nice ornaments packed with memories to take with them for their own family Christmases. I suspect that someday I'll begin a similar tradition for my grandchildren! (Sarah's ornaments as of 2005 are pictured above.)
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Last of all, I remove all of this year's Christmas cards from my laundry room door. I save it for last because they add such a festive feel to my kitchen. I'd leave them up all year, but then they'd be too worn out to save and enjoy in years to come.
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I do have scrap books full of all my old cards, as far back as my 12th birthday. It's fun to see how card styles change over the decades!
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Now our Christmas decorations are safely boxed away and stored until the holidays return many months from now. I will miss them, but in this case it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Good-bye old friends! See you in December!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gift Cards

In addition to Karla's portraits, I got many other great pictures in Christmas cards this year.
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This is my brother LeRoy, his wife Lori, and their kids, Nathan (age 12) and Katie (age 10). Don't you love the card? Lori makes these incredible homemade Christmas cards every year. I always look forward to seeing her latest creation!
Here is the entire family of my brother Jeff and his wife Dana. I will not attempt to name everyone! I'd never fit it all in and you'd never put the names to faces! Suffice it to say they are a very large, very handsome family!
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This shot was taken on Thanksgiving.
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I do not have a photo of Jeff and Dana's firstborn Justin and his wife Alisha and their cutie-pie Aiden. You can see them in the above picture, though: Justin is the one in back with a shaved head, holding Aiden. Alisha is the dark-haired beauty next to Justin.
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These are the children of Jeff and Dana's second child Ashley and her husband Matt. These adorable little boys are big brother Gage and chubby-cheeked Garrett.
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Note of interest: Ashley's husband Matt's sister Monica is married to Ashley's brother Jamison. Got that?

And here is Jeff and Dana's third child Jamison with his wife Monica and son Trenton. Jamison's name is Jamison Trent and they named their son Trenton James. Isn't that cute? Almost as cute as that adorable face!

Back to my sister Karla's family: This is her firstborn Jeremy with his wife Cami and their children, Jeremy-look-alike Jaren and 2-going-on-16 Analyce.
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(Jaren really does look just like his daddy did when he was a baby!)

Brian and Karla's oldest daughter Genevieve, her husband Scott, and their little girls, big sister Brooke the actress and button-eyed Jaycee.

I love to celebrate the gift of family! Now that the holidays are over, it will be months between visits with many loved ones, but we always look forward to the next family event.

Maybe next time we'll also be with our Missouri brother Darryl and his family!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I'm a Loser!

Yes, I'm a loser and I love it! For the past 6 days I have gotten back to eating right and staying on track. I feel better than I have in many months, as if my head has emerged from a hazy, carbohydrate-induced cloud. It's easier to wake up and get right out of bed in the morning. After lunch I'm alert instead of nodding off at my desk. The continual indigestion from all those holiday sweets is totally gone. Even my overall mood has improved!
I haven't focused on exercise yet, and I probably won't for at least a few weeks. Although I did have an opportunity to walk clear across campus and back every day this week, probably close to a quarter-mile trek each time. Walking with me yesterday, my friend Nicole said, "You're walking faster than usual!"
My sister-in-law Lori gave me this great little daily calendar book for Christmas. I'm using it to keep track of my successes. I note any temptations I pass by, and I'll note any temptations I give in to. I hope the idea of writing and reporting will keep me strong!
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I wasn't too tempted this week. At our department chair meeting I actually reached out for a couple of Hershey's Kisses in a bowl on the principal's desk, but I remembered just in time that's a no-no! A student brought in hand-dipped, fresh chocolate-covered cherries and offered me some, but I thanked her and said no. I do expect next week to be tougher.
So how did I do? I lost 6.5 lbs during the past 6 days. Added to the 4.5 I lost when I was sick the previous week, that's 11 lbs gone!!
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No one else will notice the loss until I lose about 30 lbs--I know this from experience. But I can see the small differences, especially in how I feel.
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The weight loss will begin to slow now, but I'll try to remember how much better I feel and continue to hang in there!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Growing Years

Since we haven't convinced my sister Karla to do her own blog, I will share her wonderful family portraits from Sept 2008.
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My personal favorite: Karla with all 4 grandbabies. Standing: Analyce and Brooke. Jaycee is seated and Karla is holding Jaren.

Here is the entire crew. I'm not even going to try to name everyone in this shot!
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It includes all 10 of Karla and Brian's children, their 4 grandchildren, their 2 sons-in-law, and their daughter-in-law.

All the ladies are featured in this shot.
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The 3 in the furthest back are Celesta, Mariah, and daughter-in-law Cami (married to Jeremy). The 4 in the center are Brianna, Elyssa, Genevieve, and Gabrielle. In front with Karla are Analyce, Jaycee, Addison, and Brooke.

We mustn't forget the guys!

In back are son-in-law Scott (Genevieve's hubby), son-in-law Ross (Elyssa's hubby), and sons Jeremy and Josh. In front with Brian are son Julien and grandson Jaren.

Isn't this a gorgeous family? I soooo look forward to watching my own family grow someday!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Resolute!

My New Years resolution is the same as it usually is at this time: lose weight and get healthy!

I've done it before. I know what my body needs and what works for me. So why don't I just do it?
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These pics are from 1998-99. I glued them in my Atkins journal to remind me why I needed to change. I started the Atkins program on 17 Feb 2000, urged by my doctor because my cholesterol level was up. Dr. Paxman checked out the science behind it and even tried it himself, with amazing results.
Talk about amazing! I lost 56 lbs. in 7 months and felt better than I had in more than a decade. I kept the weight off for 2 years before I began to cheat a little here and there, causing the cravings to return and some of the weight to creep back on.
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I got back on track on 2 Jan 2003, re-losing what I'd regained plus 7 lbs. more, for a total loss of 63 lbs. I was so thrilled! I kept most of the weight off for 2 more years.
As you can tell by this year's pictures, I've regained it all plus 11.5 lbs more. The photo at left shows how I looked when I was just 2 lbs. away from my lowest weight (Aug 2003). Wow. What have I done?!
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I confess, I'm a comfort-carb eater. When I'm stressed and overwhelmed, I want sweets and starches. Once I start, it's hard to stop.
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During the period when I realized I had to end my marriage to save my family, during the emotionality of the divorce, during the past 2 years adjusting to single motherhood, I have comforted myself a lot!
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Now I'm ready to put that behind me. I believe I deserve to treat my body better!
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I'm putting this on my blog to keep myself accountable. And I'm asking all of you out there to help me with encouragement, support, and creativity.
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Each weekend I will post any weight loss or gain, as well as list any temptations that made me cave in or temptations that I passed by successfully. Knowing I will be reporting it in my blog will--I hope--help me make better choices and stand strong.
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This is not going to be a Diet Blog or Health Blog or anything like that. Just a weekly update of my progress found among my usual posts.
I intended to begin eating better last weekend, but unfortunately the nasty week-long stomach flu got in the way. On the other hand, I've already lost 4.5 lbs! It's amazing how much weight you can lose when you're afraid you'll throw up anything you eat!
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Today was my official start date and I've done very well. I even passed up those last 2 pieces of leftover Christmas fudge this morning!
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So wish me luck and stay tuned for The Incredible Shrinking Woman!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Family Christmas

I'm finally ready to finish the tale of our family Christmas party. All week I've been dragging myself to work while recovering from a violent stomach flu that started last Saturday morning, so there's been no energy left for anything else. I'm still not all there yet, but I'm up for a blog!
All my sibs made it to the party except baby brother Darryl, who lives too far away in Missouri! I can't wait to see him and his family when we go to Missouri in July. It's a few years since they were in Arizona.
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Here are the rest of us, exhausted after the party at nearly midnight. That's LeRoy, Karla, me, and Jeff (ages 49, 48, 54, and 47; Darryl is 45).
Starting from the oldest, I'll introduce everyone's families.
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Here are my dad Myron and his wife Kathy, both retired. They love to travel and to work on their home 2 miles from mine. I won't divulge their ages, but Dad is 3 days less than 20 years older than me, while Kathy's age is exactly between mine and my dad's. Sorry, couldn't help myself!
Here's my family, whom you know all about if you read my blog! That's Sarah (age 19) in back, our college student who plans to be a veterinarian technician. Meanwhile she is a nanny to her cousins Brinley and Callie.
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At right is Jacob (17), a high school junior. Front and center is Dylan (11), our 5th grade sportsman.
Here are LeRoy and Lori's crew. Nathan (age 12) and Katie (age 10) are good students and athletes.
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LeRoy owns a window tinting business but is thinking about a change in career, possibly nursing. Lori is a substitute teacher and does online work so she can be home with her kids as much as possible. She loves scrapbooking.
All but one of Karla's 10 kids made it to the party. Her son Josh, his fiance Zemina, and Zemina's children had to stay in Mesa due to work. Maybe a wedding soon? We look forward to meeting Zemina and family!
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Here are Karla and her 6 still at home: Brianna (17), Mariah (14), Julien (11), Addison (4), Gabrielle (8), and Celesta (20).
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Celesta is in college and plans to be a nutritionist. Brianna is a senior and a dancer. Mariah is a straight-A freshman. Julien is in 5th grade and loves sports. Gabby is in 2nd grade and wants to become a teacher. Addison attends preschool.
Karla babysits so she can be home with her kids, and she and Brian still own their roofing business. (Brian the workaholic stayed home to--you guessed it--work.)
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This is their oldest, Jeremy (age 26), and his wife Cami. Jeremy is a helicopter pilot and Cami manages a pharmacy, though she will be able to be a stay-at-home mom soon.
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The 2 cuties are 2 1/2-year-old Analyce and 5-month-old Jaren.
Here are Karla's oldest daughter, Genevieve (age 24) and her husband Scott. Scott is a mechanical engineer and is also working on his master's degree. He's a gifted masseuse, too! Genevieve feels blessed to be a homemaker with her little girls, Brooke (age 3) and Jaycee (18 months old).
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Josh (age 22) would be next, but he and his fiance Zemina were unable to attend.
This is Karla's daughter Elyssa (age 21) and Ross, Elyssa's husband since March. Ross takes classes and works as an enrollment counselor for the University of Phoenix. He's also an artist. Elyssa is an assistant kindergarten teacher.
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Poor Ross had a bad cold when they arrived, and they had to return to the Valley at the end of the evening so he could work the next day.
Here are Jeff and Dana with the youngest 9 of their 13 children: Hayden (6), Marcus (16), Amber (18), Elsie (14), Emma (10), Burke (13), Jeff holding Callie (21 months), Brinley (4), Haley (8), and Dana.
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Oldest son, Justin (24), his wife Alisha, and 5-month-old son Aiden were unable to come. They recently moved to Mesa and started new jobs.
Oldest daughter Ashley (age 23), her husband Matt, and their 2 sons, Gage (age 2) and Garrett (5 months), were also unable to attend since Ashley was very ill with the nasty bug that got the rest of us later.
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Here are Jamison (age 22), his wife Monica, and their 8-month-old Trenton. They live here in the White Mountains, where Jamison is a hunter and works in construction. I believe Monica works in an office (please correct me if I'm wrong!).
Micah (20) was also absent, though I never heard what kept him away. Micah works and is an avid reader. I always enjoy talking sci-fi and fantasy novels with him!
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We missed each and every person who was unable to be there, but they were with us in our hearts.
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We had a great evening together, then LeRoy's family and Ross and Elyssa had to head home back down the mountain.
Karla and the rest of her children were able to spend 2 more days with us. The next evening we all went to Jeff and Dana's house for a delicious enchilada dinner and games. Jeremy and Cami's family drove home that night.
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We planned a hike on the Mogollon Rim for Saturday, but most of us woke up sick. I felt so bad for Karla, Genevieve, and the rest, having to make that 3-hour drive home when they felt so terrible.
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Despite the unhappy ending of illness, it was so awesome to get together and enjoy each other's company. I can't wait for the next chance to gather as a family!
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The newest member of our family was born just yesterday! Darryl's step-daughter Tanya had her 4th child yesterday in Missouri, a 10-lb. daughter named Kendall. Be sure to check out her pictures on Darryl's blog! We wish they all could have been here to celebrate with us, but we hope to see them soon!