My four siblings and I took Mom’s ashes back to New York last week to bury them in Obi Cemetery beside Dad. It was a bittersweet trip, rekindling the grief of her death, but also bringing much joy as we spent special time together remembering her life, as well as our early years in western New York. We were joined on the journey by two spouses (Dianna and Gisele), and Heather. One of the best parts of the trip was getting to spend time with Dale’s three kids and their families. Karen and Damon, Jen and Louie and their three kids, and Dave and Lisa with their three daughters came to the rental house for the weekend to share food, fun, conversation, and lots of love.

Dianna, Karen & Carmen

Lily, Lucy & Harper

Jen & Louie

Dale with Olivia

Damon & Dave

We rented a beautiful house on Cuba Lake, and it was the perfect spot for our large crew. Ten of us slept there, and at one time following the burial, we even accommodated 25 adults and children eating pizza, laughing, crying, chatting and playing. If the weather had been better (it rained or snowed every day), we might have enjoyed being right on the lake even more. Here are pictures of the burial and gathering afterwards. (Some of these are Heather’s.)

Five siblings placing Mom’s ashes into the grave. (pc: Heather)

Mom’s beloved cousin Barb (on the couch on the left) and her family, who drove up from Pennsylvania

Sharing eulogies

We spent three additional days driving around exploring and rediscovering the area where all five of us were born and lived until 1958, and also to take in some local sights. Thankfully, we had Richard with us, as he remembers EVERYTHING, and was an excellent tour guide. He took us all over Cuba and Rushford, pointing out all the different places Mom, Dad and we had lived, gone to school, played, worked, worshiped, and bought our cheese (a very important part of our childhood history).

We were all born here

The house Dad built

The house where Mom grew up

An old abandoned lock on Oil Creek near Cuba

Cuba Lake

On Tuesday, we went to Olean and visited the Cutco Knife Factory and the Zippo Lighter Museum. Both were interesting and we enjoyed the day. On Wednesday, we drove to Corning to tour the Corning Glass Works and Museum. Part of the museum is filled with beautiful glass artwork, and we participated in a guided tour of that. There are also demonstration areas where we could watch glass blowing, glass scultpure and a very interesting presentation on optical fiber. We wandered around an “exploratorium” that had hands-on attractions, all related to glass and it’s amazing impact on, not only our daily lives, but the scientific world as well.

Flag made of Zippo lighters

One of the awesome lighters in the flag (Go Cards!)

Zippo lighters have had a myriad of design choices

The very first Zippo lighter

Beautiful glass

Stained glass window

Carved glass (I could not get rid of the glare from the glass case)

Guided tour

Our last evening, we stopped back at the cemetery to lay flowers on Mom’s grave and take a few pictures. Then we went on to Sprague’s Maple Farm restaurant for a delicious dinner of meatloaf with maple glaze (yes, we ALL got the evening’s special!)

One last look

At the cemetery on Sunday, I looked around at the hills to see a beautiful splendor of fall colors, and knew Mom would have been so pleased that we laid her to rest during her favorite season in her favorite place — autumn in New York. For all that she gave us over the years, I’m glad we could give her that one last gift. Rest in peace, Mom. We love and miss you so much.

We took a trip to Disneyland the last week of February. Brian went with us this time, as well as Kris, one of Lauren’s providers. The day we arrived, it was raining pretty good, so Kris stayed at the hotel with Lauren while the rest of us braved the elements and went to the parks. We thought the crowds would thin out with the rain, but I guess everyone thought the same thing because it was pretty crowded. We stayed until about 6:00. On the way back to the hotel, Carrie tripped in the crowded Downtown area and fell flat on her face, hands and knees. She scratched both glasses lenses, cut her nose and bruised her hands and knees.

We hoped for lighter crowds on Monday, as it was still very cloudy and sprinkling much of the day, but, like us, everyone trudged on. We found many of the rides down, some for scheduled refurbishment and some that were just out of order. We got Fast Passes for the Frozen show and got in out of the weather for a while. Late in the afternoon, as we were about to get on Toy Story, Lauren went into a seizure. We had no oxygen because the travel tank had accidentally drained during the trip. So Carrie gave her seizure meds and after a bit, she came out of it. That sure put a damper on the day, more than the rain had. After a long rest and some dinner, Kris took Lauren back to the hotel and Brian, Carrie and the boys and I stayed to watch the Electric Light Parade, which recently returned to Disneyland after a 21 year absence.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade!

Tuesday brought some sunshine, but unfortunately, we still found many rides out of order. In fact, Disneyland even had a power outage in part of the park that morning and most of the rides in Adventureland, Frontierland and Critter Country were down for a few hours. We found other things to do to make a fun day, and then Brian had to leave to catch a flight home that evening. Kris took Lauren back to the hotel while Carrie and the boys and I stayed in California Adventure to do the Bug’s Land rides at night. That’s become a tradition for Nathan and me. We love that little land after dark with the twinkling lights and buzzy sounds, and (best of all) no LINES!!

Lauren enjoying the Jungle Cruise

In the Tiki-Tiki-Tiki-Tiki Tiki Room

Our last morning was a beautiful spring day, but by then, the boys had had enough disruption and they were full of monkeyshines. We spent a good part of the day dealing with behavior issues, and I almost had to use my “mean voice”, which the boys do NOT like at all! At the end of the day, Carrie had to take Andrew back to the hotel with Kris. Nathan and I rode a couple Bug’s Land rides and headed back ourselves. Everyone was ready for bed and home.

As I drove home, I thought, “I have had my fill of Disneyland for a while”. But then I remembered what it was like to get up every day and go to work. And I realized every moment of each harrowing day was so much more fun than working, and within a week, I was ready to return!

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Every year, our lovely ballerina, Megan, performs in The Nutcracker with Idaho Regional Ballet. This year was her final year, as she is graduating next spring and will be off to college. So I was not going to miss this final performance. Additionally, Steven was the Nutcracker Prince, so that was a double delight.

A few months earlier, Robin asked me to come up to Boise the week before the show, since I was not working, and Ken was going to be out of town on business. I loved the idea, but as I started thinking about what to do with Hanna if I was going to be gone for 10 or 12 days, I thought, “Maybe I’ll take my motor home!” I thought I could make a four day camping trip of the journey north, and then rent a space in the RV park near Robin and Ken’s. Then I’d journey back home for four days. Cozy and fun, huh?

Well, the weatherman did not like the idea, and each time I checked the forecast, Boise and Eagle were slated for colder and colder temps and more and more snow. When the forecast showed 13° two nights that week, I knew it would not be a good idea to take my Minnie up there. So just a few days before I planned to leave, Carrie and Nathan agreed to keep Hanna for me, and I started packing my car. I made the drive in two days, stopping at a hotel in SLC for the night. The roads were great from Phoenix to Twin Falls, then I hit a snow storm that lasted about 50 miles, but I pushed on and made it into Eagle around 2:00 p.m. the second day.

Robin, as usual, was busy finishing up more costumes for the ballet and I got to help a little bit. She praised my careful tiny stitches and perfectly placed crystals, and told me I was hired to join her volunteer team of seamstresses.  LOL, if only…

Ken’s parents arrived a few nights later and his sister and niece (Tami and Annika) flew in the day after that. We had a wonderful time catching up, enjoying great food, watching the snow fall, and of course, going to see the spectacular Nutcracker performance. Robin and Ken were gracious hosts, finding space for all of us to sleep, and showing us the property they have purchased where they plan to build their new home next year.

I made my way home with only ten days left to do all my Christmas shopping and preparations, but once again, I enjoyed the glory of retirement by shopping during the weekdays, baking and decorating, and sewing up a storm in my free time. Every cookie was frosted and every gift was wrapped and ready with time to spare.

And oh my, the ballet! Megan was the Russian soloist, one of the party mothers, and a snowflake in the Snow scene. Robin had made new party mom costumes, and a new Russian costume this year, and they were spectacular. Megan danced beautifully, and it made us all well up with tears to watch her. Steven, as the Nutcracker Prince, looked suave and handsome. Enjoy a few photos below.

Robin made nearly every costume on stage.

In the finale clip below, Megan is the Russian soloist (appearing right after the Chinese dancer).

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Our special girl Lauren is 16 years old! When she was diagnosed with Sanfilippo Syndrome 12 years ago, we didn’t know what her future would be. Statistics said her life expectancy was around 14 years. But with modern medical technology and lots of divine intervention, she received an umbilical cord stem cell transplant at age four. Her doctor says it has stopped the progression of her disease and has contributed to extending her life. So this milestone was a celebration, as well as an opportunity to lavish our love on this young lady.

Family members came from all over the country to help us celebrate. Many of them were directly involved with raising funds for Lauren’s transplant, and have also contributed to the work of Lauren’s Institute For Education, so it was an honor to have them here to see the far-reaching results of that support and generosity. Robin and Steven came from Boise (Megan was deep into Nutcracker rehearsals and Ken had to work, so were unable to make the trip).  Richard & Dianna and Daryl & Gisele were there. Carrie’s mother was well enough to come to the party. Many close friends attended, and all of Lauren’s therapists and providers were there. But the one person who beamed the most was our darling, Lauren. She had such a good day, and seemed to enjoy every moment, smiling at everyone, giggling at the music, and even dancing with her daddy.

Here are a few photos to remember the occasion.

Our beautiful girl

Brian, Lauren and Carrie

Me with my grandkids

Me with Robin and Steven

Lauren loves her daddy

The Lafferty family

Not a dry eye in the room during this dance.

A couple weeks later, the staff and parents of Lauren’s Institute held a “Thank You” event to honor Brian, Carrie and Lauren for all the wonderful ways they have blessed the special needs community by opening the center ten years ago. It was an emotional and beautiful get together with hundreds of special needs families whose lives have been changed because of Lauren.

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When my saguaro cactus was destroyed last year, I didn’t get enough compensation from my insurance company to replace it, and neither did I want to. I decided to go with a less expensive option, and added a few small cactus plants myself, as a temporary upgrade. But this year, I heard from the City of Mesa court that the guy who ran into my yard was being prosecuted and I could file for victim restitution through the city prosecution office. The case hasn’t come to trial yet, and I may not see my money, but I decided to proceed with more landscaping upgrades anyway.

I hired a professional crew to do the work and made sure that they included excavation of my driveway so I can (FINALLY!) get my RV out of the back yard. They added some additional cactus plants and refilled the gravel. Here is the finished look:

I had more extensive work done in the back yard. The existing grass had gone to weeds and the Sissoo tree had grown so tall, it was partially blocking my solar panels. Besides that, the roots were very shallow, the tree was leaning and was at risk of falling.

So I had it chopped down.

Boy, did it look bare out there, then! I had to negotiate with the landscaper about adding a few small plants along the west wall until I can plant another tree later this fall. (The tree guy said I should wait until cooler weather.)

I had them remove about half the grass area, add a second brick border and fill it in with matching rock, and then sod the remaining grass patch. (Hanna needs a place to poop!) Here’s the finished yard.

West side

Southeast view *

*The second picture was taken a couple days after the first one and the grass is working to take hold and green up, but the landscapers will babysit it and guarantee it for the first month, so I assume it will be lush and pretty by August.

Incidentally, Daryl helped install a security camera system a couple weeks ago, and yesterday morning I spied a stray cat leaving a calling card on my brand new grass!

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