Saturday, August 23, 2014

Grandpa's Chair

My Grandpa Lorton passed away last weekend.  I was fortunate to have decided to travel out to Ohio to visit him last Saturday.  He was having a pretty good day and was able to give me a hug and kiss, and carry on some conversation.  The following day, on Sunday, I was there near his bed when he went to heaven.  After traveling back home to tend to mid-week family duties, I went back out this weekend for the services.  I wrote a little tribute to Grandpa that I shared at his funeral this morning.  Some of my extended family asked for a copy, so I thought I would post it here.... if you've never met my Grandpa, I hope this gives you a taste of who he was and what he meant to all of us.

Grandpa’s Chair
Words Written by Bethany, Memories Shared by Many

Anyone who has stayed over at the Lorton house on Stockbridge Rd. could probably describe the location of Grandpa’s chair.  The chair itself changed over the years, but it’s position remained the same - right where Grandpa liked it - in the back corner of the living room, by the window, with a nice view of the TV.  And usually the remnants of a newspaper close by.  Nobody else really sat in Grandpa’s chair… we all knew it was HIS chair… an unspoken rule of sorts.  If you wanted to find Grandpa - the chair was one of the first places to look!   

I took a picture of that chair last weekend. Grandpa was no longer sitting in it, but it sort of felt like a piece of him, left behind.  I could almost still see the indentation in the cushion from where he so often sat.   Although all of us at the house knew that Grandpa would no longer need us to reserve that seat for him, the chair stayed empty for awhile.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, we just left it open.  Although a chair is just a chair, that one just wasn’t quite the same without Grandpa sitting in it.  And we all knew it.  

Just as Grandpa was the only person who could sit in that spot, he also filled a “spot” in our lives that nobody else could fill (or will fill).  The Bible teaches that each of us is made unique, that we are God’s workmanship, made to do good works that He prepared for us to do.  We each have a purpose for being on this earth, a certain calling to fulfill, certain lives to touch.  My Grandpa undoubtedly played a unique role during his time here with us - he walked a path of life that God carved out just for him.  And he walked it well.  

Grandpa was an employee of Caterpillar, a member of a church, a purple heart recipient, served in the US Army, he was a softball player and coach, a golfer, a woodworker, a sports fan, a dancing partner (of Grandma’s), a hat-wearer, a fixer of anything that broke, and much more. He was also a son, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and a friend to many.  

To me, he was my Grandpa.  

He was a Grandpa who you knew could never say “no” to giving you money to go to the frozen yogurt store up the street with your siblings and cousins.  And even though you assured him you could walk there and back on your own, he always followed a few minutes behind… making sure we were okay (though he pawned it off by saying he just wanted yogurt too.)  He was a Grandpa who one summer stood under the big climbing tree in the backyard while us grandkids would race up to the tippy top - reminding us to “be careful” - only to have cut off all the low branches by the next summer just to ensure that we would be (much to our dismay!).  He was a Grandpa who pushed us high on the tire swing, set-up tetherball in the backyard, played wiffle ball, badminton, and horseshoes with us.  He pumped air into the tires of the old bikes in the garage so we could ride them around the neighborhood.  He played pool with us in the basement, and built us many creations down there - signs, stools, doll beds, bus frames, and more.  

He was a Grandpa who always called me, “Bessy.”
And never ceased to have a kind and encouraging word to offer.  

I am thankful God blessed me with such a loving Grandpa, who filled a place in my life that only he was meant to fill - and I’m sure we can all say the same though he touched us all in different ways.  

Grandpa’s chair still sits in the house… he doesn’t need it anymore :)  Though he left an indentation on the chair cushion, a chair is still just a chair, and his is now left for others to leave their marks on.  But the permanent mark he left on each of our lives will never be replaced by another.  And that is the reason he is so dearly missed.  I am thankful to have had many years of memories of my Grandpa, which will stay with me until the day I join him in heaven.  And I know where to look for him when I get there… possibly on the golf course, possibly in a fishing boat, but most likely watching the game or reading the paper - in his new (and likely improved) chair.

In Loving Memory of “Grandpa” John L. Lorton 
(May 5, 1930 - August 17, 2014)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Vacation

We decided to go back to Forest Home Family Camp this summer for our vacation, and once again had a fantastic time.  In my opinion, this summer was even better than last just because we "knew the ropes" this time around and planned ahead a little bit better since we knew what to expect.  Our kids had a blast and Eli and Mikayla had quite a bit of freedom to just run around the camp this year and keep track of themselves... which of course they enjoyed!  They made some good friends and spent a lot of time playing "Carpet Ball" in the game room.

For the third year in a row we left for our family vacation on Father's Day... which mean Father's Day has been "the travel day" for three years.  Props to my hubby for being the great dad that he is and just embracing it :)  As you can see our van was packed out (with cargo on top too)... packing for seven people to spend a week at a camp is not an easy task!

This cabin was our home away from home for the week!  Our family was given two joining rooms again (bathroom in the middle), which was great.

Eli is standing between our two doors :)

This sweet girl slept horribly... but she isn't even a great sleeper at home, so I pretty much expected it. Unfortunately, she quickly mastered climbing out of the pack n' play... so we had to go through the routine of returning her to her bed a gazillion times every afternoon for nap and evening for bedtime.  I came home very thankful that she doesn't climb out of her crib and decided she will be sleeping in that crib for as long as possible :)

One of our family's favorite things about Forest Home is the children's programming.  During the morning adult sessions, our kids attended age-based classes where they played, sang songs, and participated in a fun activities.  They even extended the class times this year so that after the sessions, the adults could just have some free time together before picking up the kids.  That was really nice!  In the evenings, childcare assistants (CCA's) take care of the children during the evening sessions... and sometimes they even had special adult dinners.  Yum!  Our family was so fortunate that both of our CCA's from last summer returned again and were able to be assigned to our family for the week! Our kids were very excited to reunite with them, and they were such a blessing to us!  I always tell people that Addy is as much "work" on her own as the other four kids put together... and I think by the end of the week both of our CCA's could vouch for the truth in that!  Ha! :)  

I thought it was fun to compare these two picures... here's 2014:

And this was last summer, 2013:

The Challenge Course area was a fun time for our family this year... Mikayla, Eli, and Mr. A all conquered the high ropes course with mom and dad!  Last year only Mikayla did it, so I was proud of the boys for being BRAVE!  Of course they loved it and had Micah take them back another afternoon to do it again :)  Micah and I even ventured out to the Challenge Course after our evening session late one night for "Night Ziplining!"  We wore glow sticks and sped down the zipline under the stars.  It was fun, and the starts were beautiful!

Here we are hiking out to the Challenge Course... it's a bit of a distance from where the Family Campers are housed.

Micah and Mikayla went up first...

Then came me and the boys!

Mr A. truly surprised me with the courage he showed to go across some of the sections of rope.  This course is much harder the smaller your legs are, and I was convinced he was going to get up there and freeze... I though Eli would too actually!  But Mr. A typically led the way across the ropes and did awesome... of course Eli followed behind not to be outdone by his younger brother ;)  They both had so much fun and I was so proud of them for trying something new!

Lake Day was a highlight again this year.  The kids loved playing in the sand, swimming in the lake, kayaking, water trampoline, and participating in games on the beach.   None of our kids have been brave enough to try the "blob" yet... which is okay with me ;)

Eli, Mr. A., and one of our CCA's took part in a balloon toss game... they didn't win, but Eli did successfully catch a water balloon in that bowl on his head :)

 Eli and Mikayla enjoyed the craft cabin again this year, and since Mr. A doesn't need naps anymore he was able to join us while the younger two napped in the cabin during afternoon freetime.

All of the kids made bug houses at the craft cabin this year, which led to an obsession with watching and collecting bugs anytime they were outside. They all made little "habitats" for the bugs inside the bug houses and captured various insects that were "lucky enough" to get to move in!  We had a rule that the bug houses were required to stay OUTSIDE the cabin...

Addy LOVED climbing on all the rocks at camp...

 Sisters :)

"The Den" (aka the game room) is where our older kids spent a lot of time.  I love this picture of our younger two teaming up for ping pong.... yes, you should be afraid, very afraid.

On the last day the kids performed some of the songs they learned from "Music Mama" during their morning classes each day.

 A special highlight for us this year was living next door to a family we actually met last year, but had never really connected with.  They have two kids (on the right in the pic), and at the time we were at camp they were just about finished with their process to become licensed foster parents!  How cool is that?  So we were able to hang out with them quite a bit and talk about the ups and downs of foster care, as well as just laughing and having fun.  Our kids all had a great time together and pretty much spent every waking moment playing outside and making up games together.  We look forward to keeping in touch with them, and hopefully seeing them back at family camp in future years.

What a great week!  Though the week was tiring, as vacations with kids always are, we came back feeling encouraged and refreshed for church ministry, foster care, and just parenting in general :)  One thing that was meaningful was on the last night all of the adults gathered for campfire and communion at "Victory Circle."  They laid out what they call the "Book of Remembrance" where people can record significant events that happened at camp or things God did in their lives.  They have a collection of these books from over the years that they keep at camp, so if you return later you (or your kids?  or your grandkids?) can look back through the things that were recorded.  It was neat for Micah and I to be able to record that last year we attended this camp with three foster children whose futures were unknown to us.  This year, we went back with those same three children, one of whom is adopted, and the other two are in the process of being adopted.  So cool! :)

Not sure if Forest Home will be our vacation destination every year, but I am pretty sure we will be back again at some point in the not-too-distant future.  We look forward to it for sure!

Highlights of Summer

This summer really flew by.  Don't get me wrong, some days were long.  But I really can't believe we are only one week away from school starting!  We made the decision not to homeschool this next year, and we are very happy to have found a charter school near our home that looks like it will be great fit for our three older kiddos!  Deciding not to homeschool was tough just because I actually enjoyed doing it!!  But, right now our two youngest kids are just in need of some special attention, and having the three older kids attend school will be the best decision all around.  All three of them are really excited about it!  Eli and Mikayla have already been attending Eagleridge two days each week, so "going to school" won't really be a new thing for them... but getting up and going five days in a row will take some getting used to :)  And we were lucky enough last year to be approved by CPS to keep Mr. A at home an extra year just to give him more of a foundation for school, so he is now 6 and READY for Kindergarten!!  I am so glad we decided to hold him back... he is a different child emotionally, socially, and developmentally.  Night and day difference from last year at this time.  :)

I really tried to make the most of my time with the kids this summer, knowing that our time would decrease significantly compared to prior years, once school started.  Our family went on vacation in June to Forest Home Family Camp again and had a wonderful time... that will be a separate blog post.  The kids participated in swimming lessons, VBS, and we took lots of outings to various places around  the Phoenix area to keep busy and have fun - museums, waterparks, swimming pools, splash pads, movies, etc.  I purchased lots of Groupons last spring and put them to good use during these summer months!!

Splash pad fun...

These three loved their week at VBS!  Little J will be able to join them next year as he will be 5, and he is already talking about it :)

Mr. A turned SIX on the last day of VBS!  He it taking after his big brother Eli and really developing a love for sports... thus the request of a baseball cake.  Like I said earlier in this post, the change we have seen in this kid from last year to now has been remarkable.  His personality has really started blossoming and I feel like it has just been in recent months we have seen more and more of his true self shining through.  He is very sensitive, just like Eli, but also has the same heart of gold that really cares about being a good friend to others and treating people with kindness.  Once he is comfortable in a situation, it is actually hard to get him to stop talking!!  Ha!  Sometimes at dinner I have to tell him to eat a certain number of bites of food before he can speak again :)  He is still learning to trust adults, and still carries lots of insecurities which he tries to hide with humor.  But he has come so far, and our lives are more greatly blessed because he is in them!!  We love you Mr. A and can't wait to see all that God has planned for you in the year ahead!

I co-led a Women's Bible Study at our church this summer, and so many of my mornings looked like this... I find that getting up early and spending time in the Word really has an impact on my day and the kind of wife/mother I am to my family.  Some mornings it's hard to roll out of bed, but once I'm up I always appreciate the peace of a quiet house, and of course COFFEE!  We studied Esther by Beth Moore, and it has been incredibly impactful.  We have two weeks left and I will be sad to be done with this one!!

Our local theaters here in AZ always offer cheap summer movies for kids.  Basically you choose the day you want to attend each week (we did Tuesdays this year) and you pay $7 for entrance into 10 movies!  My kids loved going to the movie theater every week as it's not something we normally can afford to do as a whole family.  Our family friends who will be adopting our foster sons' two sisters got tickets for the same theater and day, so it was a treat to be able to meet up often and enjoy the movies together.  This movies provided Addy's first theater experiences... and let's just say she is not QUITE ready :)  Ha!  My routine this summer was to get the big kids settled in seats, then take Addy with me to gather snacks, then watch a portion of the movie with Addy, then take Addy out to run in the hallways/lobby, then watch another portion, then take Addy to "play" the video games in the lobby, then watch another portion, then take Addy on a walk around the front patio of the theater to throw pennies in the fountain, then watch another portion of the movie, etc.  You get the idea!  :)

Mr. A and Little J improved SO much in their swimming lessons this year.  Last year Little J literally screamed the entire lesson on his first day, and Mr. A cried and cried and refused to do anything the teacher said.  They did great this year and Mr. A is "almost" swimming by himself... I think the capability is there, but he is still battling some fear and just needs a boost of confidence.  He'll get it soon!  Eli and Mikayla don't really need lessons anymore, but since it's no fun to sit and watch they participated in a more advanced class and are becoming quite proficient in their strokes!!  They also both learned how to dive (the real way) this summer and are very proud of that. :)

Here's Little J going underwater by himself!

And Mr. A practicing those "big arms!"

We had a fun 4th of July... the monsoon was in full swing that week so we weren't sure if we would get to see fireworks or not, but the weather was actually beautiful and we had a great time together as family!  The fireworks were great too!!

Sweet Addy got her FIRST haircut this summer in preparation for her 2nd birthday! She did great and it turned out super cute :)

And then she turned TWO!!!  Such a big girl!!  She is definitely two these days... her vocabulary seems to double every day, and she often has us all cracking up at the funny things she says.  She has also learned the lovely art of throwing herself on the ground and tantruming.... multiple times a day.  Her favorite words are "No!" and "Mine!" which she often screams at her older siblings.  ;)  She keeps us on our toes at all times, and often gives us minor heart attacks due to her lack of fear and her enjoyment of heights and climbing.  Good times.  We are so thankful everyday that Addy was born and that we are blessed to be her parents.  We couldn't imagine life without seeing this sweet face everyday!

And that about wraps up our summer... minus all the times I forgot my camera (or forgot to USE it!).  Be back again soon with the highlights of our vacation...