Our family just got back from camping at a beautiful spot in the Sequoia National Forest. I don't have those photos uploaded yet, but I wanted to record a little bit about our fourth of July.
It started out with a flag raising ceremony, pancake breakfast, and lovely devotional with our friends from church.
I wanted to get a picture of my children in their red, white, and blue clothing, so I asked them to stand together and put their arms around each other. They all started bickering and getting off balance, so I finally said, "Okay, just stand still with your arms by your side!" So here they are:
They liked this pose much better:
I was glad to capture this photo of Alia and Spencer. They're buddies. Sometimes Spencer gets to have a sleepover in Alia's room, and she reads him stories and gets him all tucked in and then helps him get up quietly in the morning so he doesn't wake up anyone else in the house. It's precious.
Here's our whole family:
After the breakfast, we went to the beach again to go boogie boarding (no photos because I was in the water the whole time), stopped for frozen yogurt (from the "I'd Love To" jar) and headed over to see my mom at her rehabilitation center.
Eric came with us this time, and we started out with a walk around the neighborhood (my children took turns with the camera so they could capture the moments):
Alia gave Grandma Zoe a flower to put behind her ear:
And Eric did most of the wheelchair pushing so I could hold my mom's hand:
Alia's flower slipped out, so I repositioned it (my mom was so happy to have it):
And even though my hair was all messy from the beach and I hadn't put on make-up, I thought about all the comments and advice I've been receiving through this blog and Facebook, and I decided to just savor the moments and not worry about those kinds of things.
Eric took the boys and Grace to get pizza, and Alia and I finished the walk with my mom. (I was originally going to walk with her by myself, but Alia said, "Then who will take the pictures?")
We have a lot more photos I won't post here, but below is a picture of one of my favorite moments.
I told my mom how much I loved her, and then I said, "Mom, I write about you on my blog and my website. Do you know that your example is reaching people all over the world?"
"Oh, I can't imagine that I have anything to teach, April."
"Mom, you have no idea. There are so many mothers who want to have strong, beautiful relationships with their children, but many of them don't know how. I tell them about you and about how you are so sweet to us and how you always help us to feel loved. Other moms tell me that they love to hear about you. They want to be like you--just like I do."
She smiled softly, and her eyes got moist. Then she looked down and kind of shook her head back and forth. Finally, she reached up and hugged me, and we just sat there together for a moment.
During those few minutes, there was no anxiety, no asking about where Eric had gone (she honestly asked that about 70 times on our walk), and no worry about where she needed to be or how to get to her car. It was just quiet and sweet, and she could feel how her influence is helping so many.
I never want to forget that experience.
Then I took her back into the facility (where she's been for a few weeks now), and she said, "Why are we going in here?"
"Have you been here before?" I asked.
"Well yes," she replied, "but not for a very long time."
We gathered in the courtyard and had a pizza party with Eric, and then I got her settled in the activity room with a nice worker named Ivan. I explained that I needed to go back to my house with my family, but my departure was still hard.
She pleaded for me not to go and then asked me to please take her with me. Her chin started quivering, so I hugged her tightly and said, "Please be strong, Mom. Dad will be here shortly, and I'll come again as soon as I can."
I finally had to leave--without looking back--and kept reminding myself, "She won't remember this in a few minutes."
When I got into the car, Eric looked into my eyes and quietly asked, "Are you okay?"
That is when I normally would have broken down, but instead, I thought about everyone who is helping me. I thought about you--my friends on this blog who have encouraged me to take advantage of these moments, even if they're hard. I thought about the support I have from Eric and my children. I thought about my siblings, my dad, and our friends and neighbors who are all working together to visit my mom and help her through this time.
And I was actually able to nod my head and honestly answer, "Yes, I'm okay."
I miss her, and my heart hurts a lot, but there is a lot of power in not being alone. Thank you so much for your support.
(I hope you all had a great weekend, too!)