Sunday, September 26, 2010

School Days

Just like that, my little girl has gone from goofball sticking her tongue out, giving me silly toothless grins and wearing silly hats to suddenly knowing she will be off to school, meeting new friends, and learning new things.

Today Nora and I talked more about school and what she needed to do at school, and that she needed to listen to her teachers and do what they ask her to do. I told her she'd make new friends and play "in the park" (the playground near school).

She's very excited about going...we'll see if she's so excited when I get her up at 6:30 to go!

For me, I have a week of school, and will hopefully get in. I'm still an alternate, and I'm waiting for word of whether or not I'll get in. In the meantime we're off tomorrow for our big adventures!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Coast Day

It started out with lunch at Mo's in Lincoln City. Nora and I took off today because Brian didn't get today off due to a leaky fuel tank in Medford at a cell site!

She really enjoyed the kites that were flying -- there were several HUGE ones -- like big-as-your-house kites. Nora liked the crab one that was low to the ground, but there wasn't anybody to tell her not to touch them. ALL of these were just anchored to the ground with these huge supports. Very fun and interesting!

Nora was FASCINATED with the waves. After our week in San Diego (where the water is a tad warmer), Nora loved taunting the waves and trying to get me to run into them. So much so that *I* got wet up to my ZIPPER and I had to grab her a couple of times to keep her from being neck high in the water.

It AMAZED me how many people let their toddlers/small children play in the waves alone. I didn't let go of her hand unless I could see the next wave was teeny!

It was gorgeous out though. There's nothing like 60* weather at the coast on a September day...low wind, the sun finally cracked around noon, and we could all go out and enjoy it!

...and sorry kid, you've got my toes!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And Then It Hit Me...

A guy who was in my class in 6-8th grades and again in high school out of the blue asked me that question today on Facebook:

"Are you happy?"

It's funny how someone you don't know well now but knew you back when we had Mrs. Larson and Mr. Ball for teachers can ask a question so personal, and there you are thinking "Not many people ask THAT question."

It didn't take a second to think about it. My answer was : "Yes...very."

But as I added quickly: It's not like it's all been rainbows and butterflies for me.

Life has thrown it's share of punches at me. I don't think I've suffered MORE than most, but I certainly have taken my share of knocks.

And while some people might say I've suffered a lot (and sure, I have), I love the proverb about looking for someone who has never suffered, and you will look forever! Because no matter where we are in life, comparing pain isn't going to do you any good. We ALL suffer.

But that question got me realizing that despite all those hard things that happened, they no longer define me.

My future lies in the future, not in the past.

I have family and friends who are supportive and love me. I am capable of reinventing myself as many times as it takes.

And even my worst enemies can only say they can't stand me because I have confidence and ask people to get along, and boy howdy, I might actually come off as a bit cocky while doing it.

Too bad.

So yeah. I'm happy. And I don't even really have to think about it.

Thanks, Bruce.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Few Birthday Pics

Miss Nora had a great third birthday party! She audibly gasped when she saw her cake, and just loved having so many people come celebrate with her!

Her Daddy told her how we would light candles and sing to her the "Happy Birthday" song, and we practiced it a few times so she'd get it. So when the family and friends assembled and we lit the candles, out her arms went and she just enjoyed it so much!

She blew them out and then quietly turned to me and said "Again please, Mommy!"

So I lit the candles and everyone sang another time.

And she blew out the candles. Again...

And then she turned to me and said "More please!"

So we all belted out "Happy Birthday Dear Nora!" with lit candles one more time, and I said, "OK, well that's three times for three years" and we were allowed to move on!

Uncle John and Aunt Jill were there, and they gave Nora a bunch of furniture for her play house, which added to a kitchen Bestema had gotten her. It's amazing to me how she loves playing "pretend" stuff with dollhouses and pixie costumes now, where a month ago you couldn't have gotten her to do either!

Many people brought her great presents -- Aunt Judy and Uncle Jeff gave her the bulk of their railroad that goes with Nora's Thomas & Friends wooden railway, so now she could probably build a railroad around the house; and Oma and Opa brought her a bunch of presents from her week with them in San Diego!

Brian and Bestema and I all went in on this playhouse I got on Craigslist. I bought it from a gal whose daughter is growing up and too big for it. I ordered new decals for the burners on the stove from eBay and a new faucet from Little Tikes, and a good washdown it was good as new.

Nora was so stunned she wasn't even sure it was hers! But within a few minutes she went in to play and didn't come out for a long time.

At first she wasn't inviting any adults in. She left us all outside, but with time she let Erik in (he's 14.9, so I guess legally still a kid, if not physically.

But we all enjoyed watching her play with her new toy, and she still, three days later, is having the time of her life in her new toy/house!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Nora's 3rd Birthday Party Cake!

I took this idea off the Internet, got the cake topper (a couple of rings with Percy & James and the Thomas train, plus the carnival background).

I bought Bertie The Bus separately and decided to make it their "Great Race".

Nora's so excited about having a "Thomas Cake" and she hasn't seen it yet. DH said "She's going to FREAK!"

I bombed at making a chocolate mousse filling -- twice. So I ended up making a chocolate cream center. The cake itself is white on the bottom, chocolate on top.

Wilton got way too much money out of me for this, but now I have stuff to make more if I ever am crazy enough! LOL

I suck at piping, for the record...And I will now go pour myself a glass of wine.

Third Birthday Girl

This magical moment was captured when Miss Nora was about 3 months old, and had already developed a couple of chins, thanks to a very nice eight-times-a-day eating schedule...

But September 17, 2007 was her birthday...and today she is THREE years old.

Our girl who has gone from little fragile preemie to "off-the charts" tall is now three, and talking a blue streak like her mama does, and is as curious and artistic as her daddy.

Miss Nora, this past year has been an another amazing year, just watching you grow, talk and potty train and bask in doing "what mommy does"... or you put your hand to your chin and say "I'm THINKING MOMMY!"

I am proud to be your Mommy, and especially proud of how you care for others, even if they're strangers by adult standards.

Happy Third Birthday Miss N!

We Love You!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Smorgasbord of Stuff:

Nora's birthday is coming, (she'll be THREE on Friday!) and unlike last year when she was pretty much oblivious, the past few weeks have been filled with discussions about her birthday, and her practicing singing the birthday song.

Sometimes it comes out "Happy Birthday to YOU!"

Other times it comes out "Happy New Year to YOU!"

She's picked out her birthday cake design, and here it is...I'm making it, mostly from scratch, and we'll see how it turns out.

If I bomb, I'll order from Safeway or Costco like I did in the previous years...

This week has been super busy.

In nursing school news, I'm still an alternate for the program at the college I applied to, and I've moved up a bit...I went to orientation today and it was really tough to just sit there among 48 people who are IN (one of whom I know cheated on an exam) and not be official.

But afterwards I talked to a few gals who were alternates last year, and it helped to hear that some of them waited even two years to get in for personal reasons. Yes, you fill your life in, and it will come...

I will attend the first week of classes and then I should know something by the end of the month. We will see.

We had some nice weather last week so I finished painting the house. I worked hard after our vacation to get the south side of the garage, which was CLEARLY neglected for AGES to get some boards replaced and get the rest of the house painted. It looks so much better. I can't wait for the next sunny day to take "after" pictures since I have a lot of "before" pictures from when we bought the house.

I like to shop for good quotes now and then. Winston Churchill is a good Brit with all the good fortitude that any American should covet and aspire to.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill

Saturday, September 11, 2010


It's been nine years today that the towers in New York fell, the planes crashed into The Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, and the world changed forever for a generation of the whole world, not just Americans.

Five years later I "met", through this project of 2996 , Fred Cox, a friend of my friend Kristen. A young man, transplanted from Arizona who was in the Trade Center and killed that day like many other people -- with friends not knowing what happened to him -- and simply gone from this earth.

Lots of people from many nations died. This wasn't just an attack on us, but it was an attack on our freedoms.

How we live our lives will tell everyone what kind of people we've become. To quote the Dalai Lama: "My true religion, my simple faith is in love and compassion. There is no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine, or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are - these are ultimately all we need."

Compassion for everyone, no matter who they are. For the victims of 9/11, those who serve our country, and those who mourn the dead. Today no matter what my politics, I remember with sadness the pain of the day and those it impacted most: The survivors and victims of the direct impact of those airplanes, and the first responders. Thank you to those who went on, who survive, and make something good come of this horrible mess.

And here's a re-post of what I wrote for Fred Cox:

Think for a minute about who in your life has touched you.

Someone who has lit up your life. Someone who has changed it forever.

For many of us, that list is a short one.

Among the lucky, they met, knew and loved Fred Cox.

Fred Cox Jr. was only 27 years old when he died in the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. Working as an investment banker at Sandler O'Neill & Partners, Fred had talked and perhaps charmed his way into a job he loved. He worked on the 104th floor of Tower 2.

He was known to have called the World Trade Center towers "his twin girls" and loved his adopted city of New York.

Like the Towers, Fred Cox was as big as life, and will never be forgotten among the friends and family he left behind who live in his other hometowns -- in Georgia, where he was born, in Phoenix, Arizona, where he moved when he was 14 to live with his father, and New Hampshire, a favorite family spot.

All of those who I talked to while researching Fred's life for today's remembrance have a million ways to describe him -- just a few were giving, caring, devoted son, friend and love.

And his no-holds-barred approach to life was infectious.

As I began to put together the various pieces of information I could get from Fred's life off the Internet and from friends, I realized the best way to honor Fred would be to simply share Fred with the world through the eyes of those who knew him best, at least as many as I could find in these past few weeks.

One of his best friends, John Sebald wrote me after I asked his friends to tell me a bit about Fred. In an e-mail to John, I wrote that from what I was gathering, Fred was quite a character, which would prove to be an understatement of proportions as big as Fred's life was.

John wrote back "Fred was the epitome of one who took everything he could from life. All those who surrounded him -- family and friends -- went along for that ride, and quickly gained a deeper appreciation for life and all it has to offer."

John said he met Fred his freshman year in high school. "He sat behind me in my English class and consistently tried to copy off my tests. I didn't think much of him as he was a tall, gangly, skinny guy with funny hair. He had just moved to Arizona from Georgia, and didn't have many friends. He tried relentlessly to befriend me, but was such a pest that I didn't want anything to do with him."

"I finally gave in, had a serious conversation with him, and found out what a terrific guy he was. We had so much in common, and he seemed almost like a long lost brother."

Aaron Kuhl, another friend of Fred's, said "No one was more sincere than Fred. One of the most memorable ways he expressed that was in his bear hugs. If you'd extend your hand, he'd bring you in for a bear hug. This was sincere love."

Aaron also gave me some insight into Fred's precociousness, charm, and generosity.

"In college when Fred and I went to sell books in Georgia, after a few days in the car and a few days in a Motel 6, Fred found a mansion for us to live in for $10 a week. One morning he was messing around and ran over my bicycle. A few days later, he replaced it with a 1967 Cadillac Limousine at no charge to either of us. It was unbelievable, but just like Fred."

Fred would often get people to do things for him and his friends that no one else could have done. "After we missed our flight to Cabo, Fred arranged for a tour of Mexico with a stop in Mazatlan and a flight connecting to Cabo for us a few days later at no additional charge. He brought Lance, Brian and I along for the ride," Aaron wrote. "And last year at my wedding (in 2000), Fred had the bellhop give him a ride on the luggage cart to his room. The stories will last a lifetime."

For Heather MacLean, her life changed when she met the love of her life, Fred at a high school football game.

As a freshman at an all-girls school who had never dated a boy before, Heather was at her first high school football game the night she met Fred.

"One of the few older boys I knew from the all-boys school next door called my name so he could introduce me to someone inquiring. "Heather this is Fred. Fred, this is Heather," and that was the very moment my life changed forever. He was larger than life from the moment I met him to the last telephone call I had with him on 9/9/01. He stood 6 foot 5 inches tall, had the most mesmerizing beautiful green eyes that you would ever want to see, the darkest of brown hair, the most genuine of smiles, and the character that would match a king."

She said Fred never did anything average or normal. Everything he did had to be better than exceptional, and he strove to be a perfectionist. "From being the best son...the best friend, the best listener, to giving the best honesty, to be the best partier, best boyfriend, to sending the best flowers and finding the best maple fudge..." Heather's list of Fred's bests goes on. "He not only longed to be the best...he was just that...the best."

In 2000, Heather was with Fred when they found a sign while visiting his favorite place in the world where his family had a summer home in New Hampshire. The sign said Do What You Love. Love What You Do. Heather said that little did she know while they hammered that sign on that amazing tree that the quote would be forever synonymous with everything Fred did and lived by.

Heather's Mom, Barbara MacLean, also wrote me an e-mail about her "son" Fred.

"The first day he came into my kitchen he called me Mom", she wrote. "Every time he came home from New York he came to visit and would always say 'Mom, play Amazing Grace for me.' We would go to the piano, and he would sing all the verses."

On New Year's Eve, Barbara MacLean remembers how handsome Fred looked as they got ready for a party. She remembers how he loved the gift of a white terry cloth robe Heather had given him and how he put it on over his clothes and wore it all over the house.

Just a day before 9/11 happened, Fred called Barbara to talk to her as she was enroute to her sister's funeral. "He said 'I wish I was there to put my arms around you during this sad time,'" and she said his just saying that helped her feel his arms around her.

"How could I have known that the next day, he would be gone. Why did his final words to me end with "Do you know how much I love you and Lee Lee?" (Heather's nickname).

This final photo I found among the memorial photos posted by family and friends on tribute boards for Fred following the 9/11 attacks. It's one of his nephew on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. As I look at this photo, I think of the profound loss of Fred and the 2,995 others who were lost that day, and wonder about the legacy and memories that each of us leaves behind.

The hard part about learning about someone as wonderful as Fred is realizing that I will never meet him because of that awful September day that is burned into each of our collective memories.

But for those who lost Fred that day, 9/11 isn't just a national event of losing people in general, but it is a day that they lost their friend, son, and love.

I think it's important to share the day of the loss of Fred in the words of his friends because it's a testament not only to the profound sense of loss for all the people who died, but a memorial to the fact that we each go on after a loss and grieve in different ways. It's not pleasant or easy, but the important thing is that we do go on, if for no other reason than to honor those we have lost.

Heather wrote to me "Everything I thought would be in my life forever, changed forever, with a glance to a television 5 years ago. It is a loss so deep that words can't even come close to expressing the significance of my world's loss that day. To lose someone that you love so publicly, makes the healing process almost impossible...It shows its horrifying face when you are watching the news, seeing a movie, reading a paper or a magazine. It comes up in dinner conversations and is forwarded to you in e-mails. That deep, all-consuming, soul-filling grief is felt each time I hear or see anything that has to do with that disastrous day, immediately takes me back to the morning of 9/11/01."

"I was so blessed to be given 10 years with someone so unmatchable in my life, and I continue to be blessed; I have the very best guardian angel walking by my side, every step of the way...while on this earth and after," Heather said.

For John, he wrote that he often wonders what Fred was thinking when he knew he wouldn't make it out of the towers, or was there even time to think about that?

"Unfortunately over the years we had seen a lot of tragedy with the loss of some close friends, and we had actually talked about death," John said. "I grieved for Fred as anyone would, and as many did. I still miss him and get a little sad, but at the same time I smile and chuckle every time I think of him. That might sound a little weird, but if you knew him, you would understand."

Fred's lessons for John didn't end with his death, John said. "I think I was stuck in cruise control until I met Fred. I gained a greater realization that I was missing out on a lot in life. After Fred passed away, I feel I finally realized many of the secrets to life. It was as if my eyes had finally opened. Fred had been teaching me the whole time to fully live and appreciate life; and I finally got it after he was gone."

Barbara, Heather's Mom, wrote:

"I will hold in my heart his boy-like giggle, his asking for me to play one more time "his" song, his twinkling green eyes, his patting the pillow and saying "come over here and sit by me, Mom", Barbara wrote. "I look at that seat where he sat and feel his long lanky arm around me still. He and I were buddies and I will forever miss him and forever love him. He was bigger than life. A life that can't be snuffed out, as his spirit shines on in all who loved and knew him."

A note from Jules of PlanetJules: This tribute to Fred Cox started because a friend told me about a massive project by bloggers to honor each of those lost on 9/11 with an individual tributed -- called 2,996 -- and that she was disappointed because as of that day, her friend Fred Cox had yet to be assigned someone to honor him.

My only aim initially was to help a friend by signing up for this project, and to specifically choose Fred so my friend's pain would be somehow comforted by knowing he was not forgotten.

But what I got back was so much more. It is an honor to take the time to get to know someone like Fred, and to try and do justice and honor a man who so many people loved, adored, respected and ultimately lost, but whose character lives on in the hearts of many.

For a full listing of the blogs honoring all 2,996 of those lost on 9/11, go to click on the title of this post.

Here are some additional links to sites to learn more about Fred:


From The New York Times:

The New York Times Memorial Page:

Fred's Memorial on The Fred Society website, of which he was a member:

Also, a scholarship fund has been set up for the memory of Fred at the University of Arizona, where Fred graduated:

Fred Cox, Jr. Scholarship Fund
Karl Eller Center, Berger Entrepreneurship Program
McClelland Hall, Room 202
1130 East Helen
P. O. Box 210108
Tucson, AZ 85721-0108

Thanks to all of Fred's friends who took the time to help me write this tribute, who were willing to go back to that dark day to remember someone so wonderful. All of Fred's friends and family will be in my thoughts and prayers for their continued healing.



The Gibbons

Nora seems to have one of those Dr. Doolittle "Talk to the Animals" appeal...

Today at the zoo, two Gibbons in the new red ape/orangutan exhibit came on over when Nora started imitating whe she says are monkey sounds "Ooo ooo ooo. Ahh ahh ahh" and they hung there and checked her out for a while to see what was up!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Science Girl

Wednesday morning Nora and I woke up with no plans, bad weather, and well, I'm too sore from painting and fixing the back of the house to start my next painting project, so I asked her if she'd like to go to OMSI, and off we went!

It is AMAZING to wait a few months and see how differently she approaches the same places. This time, she played and played with some of the optical exhibits up in the physics area, and even if she won't get the science behind them for years.
In the medical/biology lab, Nora ran for the teddy bear and the doctor outfit, and said "I'm Dr. Altschul" and then later said "I'm nurse Nancy" (the names of her pediatrician and her nurse. Then Nora said "I'm Dr. Nora!"

And just like that, she decided to treat the teddy bear by saying "Checkup!" and using each of the tools the way they were used on her.

Again tonight at Mom's she "played doctor" with a teddy bear too, and today I found a little doctor kit on Amazon and it'll be here in time for her birthday next week!

Our girl is about to turn "THREE!"

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Cute Pictures Of The Day

Nora got into her cousin Hannah's lion costume today and boy howdy did she LOVE IT!

A little chocolate brown eyeliner made some whiskers in just a few minutes, and before I knew it, she was roaring around the house and ultimately, stopping to sit in her chair and watch a little Sesame Street.
It's been so neat how just in the past month or so, her imagination has taken shape, and she LOVES to pretend to be animals, or a mommy to her "babies". She plays in such imaginative ways, but she's REALLY loving the dressup!

Bestema Pants!

Today was a busy day...heck, this weekend was crazy! I painted the back of the garage (after doing a boatload of repair work to replace rotten boards near the foundation), I sewed new curtains for Mom's new room (see butterfly curtains in the picture), and I made Bestema and Nora matching pajama pants.

I made Mom a pair of PJ pants (she likes pants that have deep pockets and she'd stolen a pair of men's pants I had laying around), so when I was at the fabric store I picked out this fabric and had enough to make a pair for Nora too.

I love how Nora isn't so hot on something until she sees it's "just like Mommy's" or "just like Bestema's". How all of the sudden being "just like" a grownup is just the coolest thing in the world -- is just so cute!

When we got to Bestema's house today, Nora was VERY happy to show Bestema her new pants, and show her how they matched!

Monday, September 06, 2010

I Know..I KNOW!

It's been way too long...

Facebook steals way too many pictures and time...and we had a recent vacation to San Diego (where Nora got her first and second ever face paintings!) and we saw some of her very favorite characters from Sesame Street at Sea World.

The week was FABULOUS. We went with Oma and Opa (Brian's parents), and we stayed in a hotel North of town, where we had easy access to all of the sights.

Miss Nora was in heaven, and she did GREAT with her potty training. I actually packed her potty in my checked luggage and she HUGGED IT when it came out at the hotel...

We had a wonderful time, and I WILL blog about some of it soon, but so much is happening this month it's crazy.

I'm going to start nursing school this fall -- as an alternate -- but I've been invited to the first week of classes with the possibility of continuing.

That means I need to shop daycares this week, among many other things...

And Miss Nora's 3rd birthday is coming up!

She can now inform you that's she's TWO, and that her birthday is coming soon and she'll be THREE. And she pulls a cake mix out of the pantry and asks for "Birthday Cake Please."

More soon!


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