Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween 2014: An Adventure in Neverland

Happy Halloween from the W. Family!

I see no reason to stray from the tradition of the last two years, so let's tell a little tale in honor of the holiday, shall we? (See 2012 and 2013, if you want to refresh your memory!)

Once upon a time there was a boy named Peter Pan who lived in Neverland and never, ever wanted to grow up. (For the record, his mother was completely on board with this plan, although she doesn't get credit for that in the actual story.)

Peter Pan was accompanied by the Lost Boys and his faithful fairy companion, Tinkerbell.

Tinkerbell was a lovely little pixie, with lots of spirit and love of adventure.

And Tinkerbell loved Peter dearly.

They were always side by side.

In the evenings, Peter Pan would often visit the window of Wendy Darling to hear the bedtime stories her mother would tell. One night Wendy and Peter met each other, and Wendy offered him a kiss. Not knowing what a real kiss was, Peter gladly accepted her thimble.

Peter invited Wendy and her brothers back to Neverland. Tinkerbell was jealous of Wendy, but did her best to hang on to her beloved Peter Pan.

Now, Peter Pan had a longstanding conflict with the evil Captain Hook.

In an effort to find Peter Pan, Captain Hook played on Tinkerbell's jealousy of Wendy and convinced Tink to lead him to Peter Pan's hideout.

Captain Hook raided Peter Pan's home and kidnapped Wendy and the Lost Boys. He tried to do away with Peter, but, despite her initial betrayal, Tinkerbell was prepared to do whatever it took to protect her dear Peter Pan and Hook's murderous plan was thwarted.

When Peter Pan learned that Captain Hook had kidnapped his friends, he met Hook for the ultimate battle of good vs. evil.

While they dueled, a hungry crocodile looked on. Many years before, Peter Pan had fed Hook's hand to the crocodile and ever since then, the croc had been following Hook around, eager for another morsel of the captain.

And so the battled waged on.

Ultimately, Peter Pan was victorious! Captain Hook had met his match!

Having had their fill of adventure, Wendy and her brothers returned home, and Peter Pan and Tinkerbell lived on in Neverland.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Five years ago today was a scary day for the W. family. I can still hear Eric's voice on the phone when he called me on his walk home from work. We were getting ready for an evening of Halloween fun at Trinity Church in NYC but that all changed when I answered Eric's call to hear him say, "Something's wrong with my mom." Eric is a very stoic man, very calm and levelheaded, but I could hear the worry in his words. That tone of voice was (and is) so rare for Eric that I can still hear it plain as day in my head. We skipped our holiday plans that evening to wait by the phone for updates.

Five years ago today, Toni had her stroke. This day sent the family on a nightmarish ride, so much so that for some time we didn't see any way that we would make it through with Toni still with us. Eric and I joined the rest of the family in Florida and we spent day after day holding vigil in Toni's hospital room, filling the space with love and prayers and hanging on every update from the doctors. The stroke was massive, the ensuing coma unrelenting. We tried our best to stay hopeful in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Ever since I first met Toni years and years ago, I have known that she is one of the strongest women I have ever personally known. Five years ago, she proved that yet again and, against all odds, she woke up. We didn't know how much damage was done so we adopted a "wait and see" approach.

And what we have seen over the past five years has been nothing short of remarkable. Although Eric and I have often wished we were closer and able to see Toni more often, our distance and the gaps in time between visits affords us the ability to really notice the developments in Toni's healing. She has moved limbs that we thought would never move. She has regained so much memory. Every time we see her, she is more conversational than the last. Every single time we're with her, we notice great improvements and marvel at how far she's come.

There are days when it's still hard. I notice that for Eric, and I feel his pain with him. I know he often wishes he could call Toni with a question about parenting or cooking. Or that he could send our children to Nonnie's house for a day, so they could really get to know the woman that he knew as a child. Unfortunately, those things just can't be. Toni is wheelchair and nursing home bound, among other all-too-noticeable changes, and that can be a tough pill to swallow sometimes.

BUT. She's here. She gets around in her wheelchair. She may be living in a nursing home, but she's close to Gramz and is able to visit with her regularly. She tells jokes. She offers advice. She's with us for Christmases and birthdays and baptisms. She is able to know her three grandchildren, and they're able to know her. She still quite obviously fiercely loves her family. Likewise, we love her so much and are so thankful for all the prayers and well wishes and love and support that were given to her and the rest of the family in her time of need. How else does one make it through a thing like that, and come out on the other side against all odds?

Toni's strength can't be denied when I look back over the past five years and see how far she's come. We are so happy to have had all these years with her that we weren't sure we would have. She is an incredible woman, and I'm thrilled that my children will have the opportunity to get to know her. I'm so thankful for her, for so many things - for always putting her children first and raising them to be such kind, loving people; for raising Eric to be a man who values his family above all else; for welcoming me into her family with open, loving arms; for inspiring me as a mother. She simply is like no other.

A very small sampling of great moments with Toni in the last five years! We love her!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Family Farm Fun

A couple of weekends ago we spent our Saturday at Connor's A-Maize-Ing Acres for some fall family fun on the farm. We first went to Connor's farm last year and had a great time, so we were excited to go again this year!

That's the spirit, Ellie!

Riding in style through the farm!

Hey, make that two kids riding in style!

First things first, as you see above, we had to make sure the youngest member of our family was dressed accordingly.

Cute baby in a pumpkin hat!

Thanks to the TimeHop app on my iPhone, I also know that Ellie wore this same hat on the very same date exactly two years ago, and both kids felt similarly about it:

Left: Ellie in the pumpkin hat on October 18, 2012; Right: little brother E.J. rocking the same hat on October 18, 2014!

At the farm, we decided to start things off with a marquee event: the pumpkin patch. Ellie wasn't feeling particularly camera-ready, apparently, but we did get a couple cute pictures of Mr. First Halloween himself.

I'll take the pumpkin on the right, please.

E.J.'s first pumpkin patch!

This is the best we could do for a photo of both of them in the patch. It's totally going on the fridge.

Pumpkin Ellie!

After the pumpkin patch, it was off to an activity much more up Ellie's alley: horseback riding! She selected the horse she wanted to ride and off she went. She was so excited!

"I want to ride this horse, please, Daddy!"

Petting her trusty steed before riding off into the sunset

Is she a natural or what?

Look at her go!

Then we stopped in to visit some animals, another highlight of the day for Ellie. She took a particular liking to the bunnies, so now I'm pretty sure we have to buy one.

Visiting the pigs

E.J. is super excited

Petting the sheep

Baby chick!

So happy.

This picture is too cute for its own good.

We then took a break for lunch, which included delicious BBQ pork sandwiches and french fries. After lunch, the kids did a little lounging in hay and Ellie spent some time playing with the toy tractor, primarily putting hay in the bed and taking it back out. Simple pleasures, my friends.

Kids in hay

Happy boy!

Kids in the toy tractor

Loading up the hay

We also took advantage of some photo ops...

American Gothic!

Silly E.J.!

...then played in the corn tub, which Ellie enjoyed far more this year than last. (E.J.'s feelings on the matter, however, were more in line with those of 2013 Ellie.)

Playing in corn!

Not impressed.

Sweet and happy, all buried in corn!

Then it was off to ride the little train, and Ellie rode in a car by herself for the first time! They just grow up so fast.

Ready to ride!

Off they go

Looking good, kid.

Then it was back to the pumpkin patch for a few more photos and the purchase of a couple of small pumpkins for 75 cents a piece.

Considering her options

Ellie in the pumpkins

Hanging out on the farmhouse porch with her little pumpkin

E.J. following suit

We debated sticking around and taking the hayride out to the corn maze, but both kids were taking a turn for the very sleepy so we decided to wrap things up and head on home.

It was a great day at the farm! What a fun way to get into the fall spirit!

Yay, family fun!