Monday, July 21, 2014

Some sweet words about my Grandma.

At the funeral, my Great Aunt Edna spoke about my Grandma.  She had some of the sweetest things to say about Grandma and I asked her if I could get a copy of her talk because it really touched me.  I'm going to share it here:

"My name is Edna Vargas Morales.  I am the youngest sister of Albert Vargas- Anja's first husband.

I felt compelled to give my perspective about Anja since I am the only one surviving of my sisters and brother.

I never referred to Anja as my ex-sister-in-law since she continued to be a big part of our lives after the separation from my brother.  On the day my brother passed away, it was Anja that called me with such love and concern.  She was the one who told me my brother was asking for me the day before he passed and she knew that because she was with him at the end.

But I will tell you where the letter "x" is appropriate to describe her.  She was an extremely hard worker, she was extraordinary, she was an exceptional mother, and she exemplified all the characteristics we value today.

Her hard work was demonstrated in working the night shift so she could be with her family during the day.  When she was going to leave the bank for Yamaha, she hadn't given the bank proper notice so she continued working for them at night and Yamaha during the day for the time required to leave on good terms.

She was also extraordinary in her resilience and strength.  Diane will tell you the full meaning of the Finnish word "sisu."  That was Anja; resilient, strong, and with extraordinary character.  Her past life in Finland and her story was so incredible, I am happy that Diane recorded it in the book she wrote about her mother.  Anja never talked about it or let that part of her life hinder her in reaching her goals.  She was also extraordinary in that she never spoke badly about my brother.  She realized his good qualities and kept the focus on his special talents which I believe helped the children to grow up well adjusted.  It was always amazing to me how she brought in Norman (my brother's son by another marriage) as part of her family when his mother passed when he was 17.  To this day, all the children have remained close as one family.

Anja was also an exceptional mother.  All her life, her main focus was on the best interests of her children and what would help them to grow into responsible, hard working, and caring adults.  Her love of her children gave her an insight into what they needed.  She never kept the children from their Grandma, Grandpa, cousins, uncles, and aunts on the Vargas side.  I will be eternally grateful to her for keeping us close to her and her family.  As you can see, she raised exceptional children who continue to love and remain close to all their family, to lead responsible lives, and to have faith.

Now that I am the only mother left to all my nieces and nephews, I feel a need to continue the legacy that each of their parents left.  For Anja's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, I will remind you what Anja left you: her example of striving to be the best person you can be, working hard to achieve your goals, her belief that when life gets hard- realize that difficulty develops strong character, her actions of always being kind to those who have less than you and may need a helping hand, and lastly, the way she put a priority in staying close to her family.  As you learn about her life, you will discover many more lessons she left, too numerous to mention here.

Thanks, Anja, for the legacy you left us.  May God bless you."

July 12. A celebration.

Two Saturdays ago we had the chance to honor two very special people in my life.  Grandma Anja & Grandpa John.  Grandpa actually passed away November 20, 2012 but we didn't have any kind of funeral or memorial service.  Grandma died on July 1st peacefully at home, with my mom there with her.  Each of her children had been able to visit recently and I hope my grandma knew how much I loved her even though we hadn't been able to visit since almost an entire year ago.  My grandparents were very simple people that did not like attention.  My mom has said Grandma wouldn't have liked us to have any kind of service for her either, but they were too special not to celebrate.  It was a great chance to remember the wonderful, special place they hold in our hearts.  I was asked to speak on behalf of the grandchildren so I've had many thoughts and feelings that I wanted to record in this "journal" of mine.  I'm the oldest grandchild, which gave me the fondly spoken title of "number one."  My grandma would always refer to me as her number one, especially when she'd hug me.  It was a special thing we shared, since she didn't call anyone else by the order they came into the family.  As I prepared to speak at the funeral, I was never really overcome with emotion... Grandma had been sick for a while and it was a great relief and blessing for her to be done with that trial.  I had actually wished for a while that she could be relieved of those struggles.  The emotion all came out when I stood up to speak at the funeral though.  All I had to do was tell everyone I was her "number one" as I introduced myself and I was quickly reduced to tears.  In front of all those people is when it hit me that I would really miss her in my life.  And to honor Grandpa in the same service really solidified the fact that two of my three grandparents I grew up knowing were gone from this life.  I know they are happier in heaven and that I will see them again someday when I join them in the next life.  It's still hard though...

I love these two sweet grandparents.  

There are not a lot of words to say about my Grandpa... he was just sweet, and warm, and friendly, and great!  He really saw the best in people and I grateful for his love and example.  He believed in spoiling us and always bought ice cream when we would come to visit.  His favorite was butter pecan and I sometimes buy it when I miss him.  He could talk and talk and talk, and as the fabulous Texan he was he was kind of larger than life.  Cooking was one of his greatest loves.  We were always fed so well when we would visit.  If he heard we liked something he'd make a ton of it and we would have to eat until we were sick so we didn't get him in trouble from Grandma for making too much.  He bought me a subscription to Taste of Home magazine for so many years so we could share that love of cooking with each other.  He also loved to garden, mostly peppers, tomatoes, and English cucumbers.  He was so good to ask us about our lives and then share whatever he felt most proud of us for.  I loved that about him.  He had funny little sayings that he would say, like "nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs."  He had a love for frogs and there was a funny little motion activated frog in their family room that we all loved.  Especially the little kids.  
He was actually our step-grandpa, but the only one we ever knew.  It didn't matter that my grandma's kids were not his own.  He loved them all.  He even loved the extended family that really wasn't his.  I'll explain that more in a minute... 
And he loved us grand kids so so much.

He suffered from dementia and alzheimer's in the last years of his life and he endured it so patiently.  It was hard to watch his mind go while his body was still so strong and vibrant.  I ended up missing my Grandpa long before he actually passed away.  It's nice to know our bodies are whole again once we leave this life.

My grandma came from a very unique background that blessed us immensely.  She immigrated from Finland when she was 18.  Finland was at war with Russia and it was a dangerous place to live.  Her mom was actually killed in a bombing which left her dad widowed and nervous for his daughter's future.  She never had much family after that, so family was very important to her.  There's a Finnish word, sisu, that means determination, bravery and resilience.  Sisu is about taking action against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity.  My grandma lived with sisu in her heart and taught that characteristic to her family by her great example.  She had a neat accent that I was never really able to identify.  A friend of mine once told me how much she loved my grandma's cool accent, and I was taken aback by the comment.  I had never thought about my Grandma having an accent.  I knew English was her second language and that an accent was likely... but that was just Grandma.  She didn't sound different to me at all.  Even as an adult I would listen to her, trying to identify her accent, and still struggle to clearly hear it.

Below on the left she was on a ship on the ocean, perhaps when she moved to America.  On the right is her as a baby.  The caption in the photo album said she was tasting her first cheesecake.

My grandma had a very quirky sense of humor that was very apparent in the photo albums we found the night before her funeral.  She had a kind of childish, sometimes imaginative, sense of humor in her captions.  It was a funny thing to find because we remember many moments of her sarcasm and humor that seemed a bit juvenile.  

We loved when she would tease us about our "boring grades" since we often achieved all A's.  Even though she acted so bored about it all, we always knew how proud of us she was.  We also all remember fondly the funny antics she had.  There were words that would trigger random silly comments.  If you said the word juice, she would pipe up with "juicy fruit!" out of nowhere.  
In addition to her silly side, she was very intelligent and an extremely hard worker.  She supported her family after being divorced and she provided a good life to them.  My mom and aunt and uncles had many great memories of the sacrifices and blessings they watched their mom live through during those years.  

One of the things that stand out the most in my mind is how she remained close to her ex-husband's family.  They were divorced when my mom was a teenager and he passed away when my mom was serving her mission.  He had remarried and had a son, and when my mom returned from her mission she recalls feeling so strange coming into a room where her mom, step-father, her step-mom and half-brother were all eating at the same table.  (We don't use titles like "step" in our family.  It's just not the way people are considered.  We're all family.)  In fact, all of the family gatherings I remember were with my mom's father's family and my Grandma was always invited.  She had a big heart that was able to love all of those people even though the typical trend in society would be to shun the "ex-family."  Even with the smaller family gatherings of just my Grandma's children (like Christmas, Thanksgiving dinner and birthday parties) my Uncle Norman was always there... he was orphaned as a teenager.  Grandma had the space in her heart to love and include her ex-husband's new son.  It's a powerful example to me to love everyone and focus on the good you have in life.
My grandma was amazing.

Another thing that came from her love of family was the way she would reach out to those around her that had no one and needed somebody.  She cared for and helped so many of her elderly neighbors as they needed companionship and help with various daily tasks.  She had such a servant heart and that example was great for all of us.  

She wasn't a warm and fuzzy grandma.  She didn't get down on the floor and play with us kids, but we always felt loved.  She loved hugs and I could really feel her love for me when she hugged me.  She grew up in the depression so she saved lots of "things" that could one day be useful, but she didn't just keep "stuff."  So her house had a few fun toys for us kids, but not really much.  We spent most of our time at her house admiring her doll collection from her travels around the world, playing around in her yard making up games and songs, and snooping through her things in the bathroom or extra bedroom.  I was the worst snoop in her house.  My cousin Rachel remembers snooping too, but when we were going through everything before the funeral I learned my two younger siblings had never snooped through her drawers and cabinets and I was surprised!  I was probably such a nuisance!

One other part of her legacy that I believe all of us inherited was her love of traveling.  She saw so much of the world and exploring was important to her.  I remember when I was a young teenager, she and Grandpa John took a trip around the world.  I thought it was neat to have such adventurous grandparents because that is not something you hear of every day.  Most of her posterity enjoys traveling and the occasional change of scenery.  I know that came from her.  I had a unique experience the summer before 9th grade when I travelled to Finland as a foreign exchange student.  She knew of a family with a teenage daughter that wanted to send her to America for the summer to improve her English, and as a thank you they hosted me the following summer.  It was such an adventure.  Many people spoke English there, so I was able to communicate with people fairly well.  The father of the family I stayed with did not speak English, however, which created some funny moments as we would struggle to communicate.  I was able to see my Grandma's homeland and get a taste of the culture that made her who she was.  It was a great opportunity that I am so grateful I was able to have.

The day we celebrated their lives was beautiful.  Only two members of the family were missing; my brother who is serving a mission in Mexico and my cousin that is studying and teaching in Korea.  Beautiful tributes were shared about each of them.  We felt much love from everyone and enjoyed having the family together.

The younger kids spent a lot of time playing outside the church and had fun together.  (My kids are the same age as my youngest cousins... Macy being the only girl in the bunch.)  We've talked about taking another vacation to California and the boys have even requested to go play at the church again.  Haha.  It's nice to know they have such fond memories of the funeral.  After snapping a family picture we took some photos of the boys being boys.  What a great time!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Macy Got an Owie

After all of our water fun on the 4th, Macy and Tyler were jumping on the tramp.  We were all out there, but missed exactly what happened.  All I know is Macy was on her belly and crying.  I went to cheer her up and had her follow me to my chair and she wouldn't walk.  After a little while of holding her and cheering her up, we found she still wouldn't walk on it.  Somewhere below her right knee was really hurting so we headed to get x-rays.  I had visions of her running around in a cast (just like Tyler did before his second birthday) and couldn't believe 2 of our 3 kids were going to have a broken leg and both before their second birthday.  She fell asleep in the car right away, thankfully, but woke up only twenty or thirty minutes later really sad about her hurting leg.  *Note: it only took maybe 25 min to get to the St. George Instacare, but they had a long wait ahead of us so we went for a little drive to pass the time and let her nap a little longer.  So much for that great plan.  

Colby decided to grab a water and a snack from Target and Macy made sure to cheer right up before he made it back to the van.

She is the cutest little character.  Even when she was really hurting.

We had a really long wait in the doctor's office.  The doc's first evaluation was that she most likely had a spiral fracture in the small bone in her shin (just like Tyler had) so he ordered x-rays.  Turns out, there were five other people needing x-rays ahead of us so we sat and waited and waited and sat.  Macy still couldn't walk on it or put any weight on it, so we had to get really creative to keep her entertained.  She does not sit still.  Ever.  Taking selfies worked for a little while.  Colby got a good nap in as well.

Once it was time for her x-ray, she was hysterical.  She didn't like the room.  She didn't like laying on the table.  She didn't like the lead blanket.  She didn't like Daddy holding her down.  She didn't like the x-ray tech.  She didn't like any of it.  So the poor guy taking her images gave her as many stickers as he could so she might cheer up.  It didn't make a difference until she was sitting back in the exam room, but they kept her rather busy until the doctor came in to tell us the results.

Turns out, no breaks.  Just a sprain or deep bruise that left her in a lot of pain for almost two days.  But she's a determined little bugger and was back on it, walking with support of the wall, chair, or anything else she could find by the next day.  By the second day, the only real evidence of her injury was slightly less jumping and a little less aggressiveness in her climbing.

We are happy to report she's as good as new and the cutest little patient.

4th of July 2014 :: Water Fun with the Fam

Cassadee & Grandma put together a fun water party for the afternoon of the 4th.  The water slide, kiddie car wash, and pool were on the agenda and kept the kids wet and happy!  Catching pics of the kiddos in action is totally my favorite.  Squealing, laughing, wild children are going to be the highlight of these years.  Here's a few fun shots from the day.



As far as I can remember, this was her first time playing on this slide and she wasn't hesitant at all.  She loves a good thrill.

I love her tiny cuteness.  

Now for a glimpse at the kiddie carwash.  It never disappoints.

Colby was sweet enough to snap a few photos of me swimming with the kids.  Swimming this summer has been a great one.  Macy is wild and adventurous, Marshall is unstoppable, and Tyler is getting pretty independent.  It makes my heart so happy!

I love water fun with the family.  It's the best part of summer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

4th of July 2014 :: City Festivities

 Our 4th was pretty typical; parade, BBQ at Grandma & Grandpa's, hiding from the heat, and watching Daddy in the home run derby & city softball game.  The home run derby was cancelled due to CRAZY wind, but they played the game and it was a fun time.  Here's some photos from our appearances at the city festivities.

It didn't take long to have the kids celebrating here and there for the handfuls of candy they scrounged up.

Cousin Brigham... the kids loved getting these little flags from one of the floats.

Macy was in a kind of crabby mood that morning, but people throwing candy at her helped her snap out of it.  She loves to clean up and put things where they go, so she LOVED picking up candy and putting in in the bag.

Cute little Harper.

 I don't know what it is about the 4th of July, but we always go hog wild taking pictures.  We seem to get the most cousin pictures on the 4th and Christmas Eve.  Here's Cassadee and Carly in the middle of those shenanigans.

The annual photos of the cousins on the grassy hill.  
It's fun that everyone comes to watch Colby play softball and it lends to a really easy opportunity to snap our favorite photos of the kids.

(This one was blurry, but I loved it.  Silly boys.)

These silly face pictures were great, and the fact that Macy was a little late with it (on the second one) but she soon caught on and tried to pull a funny one... so funny!

The kids had the hill mostly to themselves for a while and had a ball playing catch and tag.  Macy had a little crash with Tyler on the tramp earlier so her leg was super sore and she was stuck sitting on the blanket with Mom.  She wanted to get in middle of the fun with the big boys, but she got over it eventually.  She had a blast making cheesy faces at the camera and kissing her little Lambie.

The stormy night shared some pretty sights with us as well.

 It was a beautiful day (minus the horrible winds for that little while in the evening) which lent to a great opportunity to reflect on our many blessings we enjoy living in this great nation.  Happy birthday, America.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why I CrossFit.

I try not to blab about my love of CrossFit too much, because for some reason people either love it or hate it.  I'm not sure why people hate it, because I've never met anyone that tried it and HATED it.  Have the haters really tried it?  There are surely those that have decided it's not the right fit for them and I completely respect that.  But I love CrossFit.

Lately, I notice the phrase "this is why I CrossFit" go through my mind when I encounter a moment that I can really see the difference it is making in my life.  Besides the confidence and power (mental & physical) I have gained from the sport, here is the beginnings of my list:

1. Macy is now 20 months old.  20 months going on 13 years.  She's a handful.  She's clever.  And creative.  And stubborn.  And she's big.  Carting her around is a fairly good workout on it's own, and when she's refusing to walk, kicking and screaming in protest... it's a chore.  Yet I can hold her in one arm while she throws her fit and not be overcome by her size, strength, and aggression.  It's awesome.

This is why I CrossFit.

2. Seven year old Marshall weighed 70 lbs at his well child check a few months ago.  Now, because he's seven, I don't often have to lift him up or carry him anywhere.  But the other day we were swimming and he only had his new tennis shoes that he did not want to get soggy.  We had to walk a bit from the shade to the car, so I gave him a piggy back ride.  It was easy.  Even when I was squatting so he could easily climb on and then had to stand straight up with his handsome, genius, and pure awesome 70 pounds on my back.  I felt like a rockstar.  It was awesome.

This is why I CrossFit.

3. So I can be stronger than PMDD.  I don't want to go on and on about it, but PMDD is something I've come to learn is a part of my life.  It's like PMS, but on steroids.  I end up with "symptoms" that overtake my life... sometimes for a day and sometimes for a week or more.  It's ridiculous.  And stupid.  And today I was feeling discouraged and really low.  I almost couldn't bring myself to head to the box, but I went to attempt a tough workout anyway.  Right when I started, I realized I was probably in over my head.  But I walked into the gym wanting to take control of Me, so I just kept going.  I dead lifted 155 pounds 20 times in a row (as only one part of the WOD) even though my one rep max is 165#.  I had to do them one at a time, yet I kept moving.  It was crazy hard, but I pushed through.  I came in sort of defeated from my day and walked out feeling like I could do anything, seriously anything, in the world.  CrossFit has shown me I can bring my mind over matter, and conquer something that seems impossible (usually through a good lifting session) and remind myself that I am strong, determined, and capable.  PMDD might be monsterous at times, but I'm stronger than that.  I am awesome.

This is why I CrossFit.