Friday, December 15, 2017

Grandma Mary Lou

Great-Grandma Mary Lou Koester, Grandpa Lindy Koester, Shannon Koester Ridenour, baby Thomas Koester Ridenour
Last night Grandma Mary Lou passed away from complications due to leukemia.  She was 86 years old.  The "greats" (great grandkids) took to calling her simply "Grandma Lou."  She LOVED the kids and was always doting on us/them.  She had six of her own, 14 grandkids, and twenty greats and counting!  A week before her death my family got to have a "Christmas" celebration with her.  My dad and Jon Rastede went to her house, found lots of presents she has been buying all throughout the year, and wrapped them up for each of the kids.  What special gifts.  Right now I am wearing a gold locket she gave me for my high school graduation.  It has my name and year engraved on the back side.  As the last week wore on I was able to sit with her on two occasions, feeding her ice chips, and talking with her.  What an honor.  I remember a couple months ago telling my uncle Doug that he has really been busy after having taken grandma to multiple doctor appointments recently.  He said the same thing: what an honor.  Monday of this very week marked my grandpa Duane's 21st year not being with us.  Grandma lived twenty one years without him.  She was an amazing woman.

So many of my childhood memories include Grandma Mary Lou.  When I think of her old house on highway 9, my memory explodes with childhood nostalgia.  Playing with cousins, building "tents" to sleep in, our Christmas stockings that she crocheted with our names (mine was green and a little brighter than the others!), the hallway to the basement stairs, the storage room with wonders to explore, dressing up in square dancing skirts and performing skits for the grown-ups, grandma making pancakes with hot dogs in them for breakfast (yummy!), the dining room table full of extra places for aunts and uncles (this very table and the matching hutch now reside in my very own kitchen!), sitting on the couch in the front room reading my English assignment before late basketball practice, the famous snack drawer in the kitchen, and the list goes on...

Her new house in Allen symbolizes more recent memories, and is what my own children will remember of "Grandma Lou."  Her great box of toys in the closet, her fridge always stocked with juice boxes, her graduation pictures of us in the hall, her baby pictures of us in the basement, riding our bikes across the street at the Methodist Church, spending our Halloween nights with her trick or treating, Christmases, Thanksgivings, summer family nights...

There was never any doubt in my mind that grandma loved me.  She could be blunt and call it like she saw it (maybe that's where I get it???), but in the end you just knew she cared so much.  She was incredibly proud of her family.  I remember many times when we would go out to eat in Allen at the Village Inn together as a whole family.  She would walk in proud as punch to be the charge of this Koester Klan.  I have been thinking lately how none of us would be here without her.  What a debt we owe to those who go before us.  To our elders.  To our grandmothers.  I wrote her a note shortly before her death to let her know how proud I am to be her granddaughter, part of her legacy.  We live on, and so does she.

Thank you grandma.  I love you.

P.S.  I am so glad I got this picture.  As you can see Thomas can't take his eyes off of grandma.  She got his very first big grin about a month before this picture and this day he was talking her ear off.  We found out about grandma's illness very shortly after Thomas was born.  I am also glad I chose Koester for his middle name:)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

random tuesday

Privilege continued...

Yesterday was Tuesday.  When Mikey got home from preschool we ate lunch with Luke, fed Thomas, cleaned up the kitchen, and then he and I made gingerbread cookies.  This is something he has been begging me to do with him for a few weeks now.  And we did it.  Just he and I.  Jude and Cora at school, Luke and Thomas napping.  Just Mikey and I and some ingredients, a blender, an oven, and cookie cutters.  We had a great time (amazing how doing something with one kid can actually be enjoyable, even for a control freak mom such as myself!).  And I was thinking.  Wow, how lucky am I that I get to spend my afternoon making gingerbread cookies with my four-year-old on a random Tuesday.  I LOVE it!  There are long days.  There are hard days.  There are lonely days.  But I am so so so privileged to have my dream job right now: taking care of my little tribe.  Oh, and I also made chicken and dumplings for supper on this random Tuesday:)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Privilege

I have been thinking a lot about and learning a lot about privilege this year.  I have many I have come to realize.  We like to focus on what we lack.  Money, accomplishments, things perhaps...But when we take a look at what do have our perspective shifts.

Today I realized my greatest privilege.  While having lunch with my parents, brother, uncle, husband, and our youngest three sons (what a privilege!), my husband said about halfway through the meal, "Where's Tommy?"  Tommy is our youngest son at nearly three months old.  I informed Gil that he was right there beside me in his carseat carrier.  Gil said, "Wow, I hadn't even thought about him."  Now to his credit he was helping with the other two boys on the other side of the table.  But my immediate response was, "Well, you have that luxury, that is your privilege!"  As I thought later about this interaction I came to see I had it completely backward.   It is my privilege.  It is my privilege to know the constant whereabouts of this sweet little babe.  It is my privilege to know his schedule; when he needs a nap and when he needs fed.  It is my privilege to provide him with all the food he needs to grow at this point in his young life.  Yes, it is even my privilege to wake up with him in the wee hours of the night to give him this sustenance which also soothes him back to sleep.  What an incredible privilege to get to come home from that lunch and hold him in my arms for an hour while he eats and squirms and smiles and kicks and finally drifts off to sleep.  And then hold him sleeping in my arms.  No place he or I would rather be.  True, I am sometimes overwhelmed and even feel burdened by this immense privilege and wish that just once someone else could feed the baby, someone else could wake in the night, someone else could try to get him to sleep.  But it is my privilege and I will keep at it.  I have an amazing husband who stands beside me, whom I could never parent without.  But I get to privilege of being the mommy; of being this tiny babe's almost entire world right now.  And I love it!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Thomas Koester Ridenour--Hello World!

Our sweet baby Thomas has arrived!!!  Once again our baby did NOT follow my birth plan AND was born in the wrong month!  My goal was to make it to September, and my induction was scheduled for  Tuesday September 5...BUT Tommy wanted to come in August I guess (with 5 hours to go before September!).  I am trying out both Thomas and Tommy because I am not sure which we will call him yet.  I like both!

So quick recap of the birthday.  On Monday at my appointment I was dilated to 3cm.  At that point I had my doubts I would make it to September, let alone through the day!  But as the week went on it seemed more likely.  However, on Thursday morning I could tell something had changed and that it might be the day.  I started contractions at about 12:30pm, but thought I would give it a while to see if it was the real deal (I have had TONS on contractions during this pregnancy and even went in on July 29 because I thought I might be in early labor).  I laid down with Mikey and he fell asleep (had a rough day at preschool...that is a whole other topic!).  Then I sat down and ate some apple crisp.  I was still contracting,  but not super regularly, so I started canning the tomatoes I had on the deck table.  At about 2:15 Gil drove by in the semi from taking a load of beans.  I called him to say he better stick close by.  Then I called again at 2:37 to say we needed to go now.  My tomatoes were about half way done...oh well!  Dad and Brett came to get Mikey and Luke (who had both just woken up from naps) and we took off.  It was a much more pleasant ride to the hospital this time; almost no contractions.  But once again by the time we arrived on the Jackson bottom I was pretty sure it was the real deal.  We arrived at about 3:45 and they put me right into a delivery room.  It took a while to get things checked and going, but I was at 5 cm, so something was happening, but not too fast apparently (thank God!).  I labored for a while but only had about 3 hard contractions.  I got an epidural after a little debate as my platelets were down to 85 (they had stayed around 100 my whole pregnancy).  And when Dr. Aldrich broke my water I was at 7cm.  Thomas's head was not quite where it needed to be which may be why things weren't moving as fast as usual.  I laid on my left side with a "peanut pillow" and in no time I was fully dilated.  Thomas Koester Ridenour was born at exactly 7pm (right at shift change as my nurse had predicted so the room was full of the current and new shift nurses!).  I was surprised that at 12 days early he weighed in at 8 pounds 1ounce.  He was just perfect and I don't think I will ever get over that feeling right after giving birth.  What a miraculous and heavenly transformation/feeling/experience.  It truly takes my breath away!  I also cannot stop taking pictures.  I think it has a lot to do with knowing this is my last baby.  I want to remember these precious first days/weeks/months/years...

Thomas is just a name we both liked and that we thought went well with our other children's names.  It is also a saint name which was important.  Thomas is the name Jesus gave one of his disciples named Judas and it means "Twin."  Maybe he will be like Jude's little twin.  Koester we chose because we wanted to use a name from my family and Koester just seemed most appropriate.  In honor of my dad and my grandpa Duane and all the Allen Koester family!

We love you Thomas!!!  Welcome to the crew!!!

Our family of 7 right after he was born.

Thomas Koester Ridenour

He has a lot of adoring fans!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sweet Six Year Old

Cora Clare turned 6 years old (finally!) on Monday.  She is the last in her class (by 2 days) to turn six and she has had to watch all of her brothers have their birthdays first.  It was finally her turn and boy was she excited!  On Saturday we had our first girl's day with Grandma Lori and Katie, Ashtyn, and Skyler.  We got our nails done, had lunch, and did a little shopping.  Very fun!  Then on Monday she started the day with some presents.  We got her a new bike and helmet, a Moana shirt, and a Moana play set.  She also opened a Moana doll and another new shirt from the Hendrixes.  Last week she got an Elsa towel and learning to read books from the Herricks and a Frozen hair-do set from the Picks.  It was also the first day of VBS in Allen.  So she went to bible school and after that opened that pretty yellow dress and some melting beads from grandma and grandpa Ridenour.  After lunch we watched Moana (of course!) and then it was about time to scarf down some frozen pizza before heading out the door to Jude's first baseball game.  It was a bit of a chilly night for baseball, but he did a great job and all the kids had a good time because grandma and grandpa Koester came, Picks came, and grandma Mary Lou came too!  After the game we headed home for a quick bite of cake with everyone before bedtime.  It was another full birthday!  (Then the next morning she woke up with a tummy ache and spent the morning throwing up...poor girl!)

Cora, you continue to be such a joy and a delight!  You are happy, smily, sweet, and a little sassy too!  You have learned so much in kindergarten.  You are beginning to read very well, you still love to draw and color and now write, you love school and friends and people.  You play very well with all of your brothers, but you still love to be by yourself in your room sometimes (mostly "organizing"). You are into clothes and fashion, and make your own statements in that realm sometimes!  You need to work on eating better...hopefully that will come.  When I put you to bed at night you usually just want to chat and snuggle instead of sing songs.  You ask a lot of questions about the new baby, and even though you were a little disappointed to not be getting a new sister, you will be a great big sister once again for this little guy.  Your dad and I enjoy your works of art you create for us and especially all of the "I love mom and dad" pictures we get.  But most of all we enjoy you!  Love you my sweet girl!

Birthday Girl!

Moana Cake

Make a wish!

We love you Cora!

Pretty new dress from grandma and grandpa Ridenour

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

8 is GREAT!

Birthday breakfast

Dairy Queen and balloons

Easter Family picture

Judas Maccabeus turned 8 years old yesterday!  We started the day as the first day back to school after Easter a little tired! He opened his second present from us, a Batman Movie Lego.  He also got a new dirt bike he has been breaking in all weekend:)  He brought cupcakes to share at school and when he got home he and Tucker played out in the "spiky woods" for a while.  The Pick girls all stopped by to say happy birthday before we had take off for West Point to meet John and Carolyn for supper at Dairy Queen (our van's emergency break was stuck and we had to drive their car home on Sunday so we needed to switch cars back).  We had a yummy meal there complete with birthday balloons which were enjoyed by all!!!

I realized the other day that like almost all games and most things you buy say ages 8+.  Jude is now in this category!  Really growing into big kid territory!  This year he has learned to read very well, excelled in school, become a good swimmer, become more interested in sports, remained a lego master builder, grew in his responsibilities at home and what he can help dad with, grew in adult teeth, and so much more!  This coming year he will play baseball instead of t-ball, play sports at school (maybe!), start third grade with his first male teacher (Mr. Blohm), become a big brother for the fourth time, and so so much more!

Jude you are funny, feisty, creative, smart, curious, caring, thoughtful, intuitive, and such a great kid all around.  Dad and I are so proud of you and love to watch you grow and learn!


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Luke is 2!

Our little Lukey pie turned 2 on Saturday.  Unfortunately we were all (minus Luke and I) recovering from influenza A so we were not able to have much of a party or go to Council Bluffs and see the Lego Movie like we had been planning for the past two weeks.  Instead we stayed home, rested, ate out at Runza, cleaned up Mikey's puke out of the pick up from the ride home, and had some birthday cake...

Luke will tell you right away that he is two!  He really enjoyed his special day and was very proud of his tractor shirt and cow cake, but not until he had pouted about his new present (an avengers tent), his breakfast, and having to wear the new shirt (typical two year old!).  Luke is a smiley and easy going little boy.  He gets along very well with all of his big brothers and sister.  He is a little clingy to mom and dad (we call him our lap dog because he is always wanting on our laps!), but he loves to be around other kids and especially grandmas and papas:)  Luke loves to play with cars and trucks and puzzles and balls.  And he wants to do whatever the big kids are doing.  He decided for himself that he needed out of the crib and onto the table quite a few months ago.  And recently has declined the baby spoons and bowls for the big ones.  But he still refers to himself as a baby and is not at all offended by the title!  Luke is talking more and more each day and it is so fun to listen to him and try to figure it all out.  Like his older siblings he is never out of something to say!  Luke still takes a great nap and is sleeping well in his crib.  He thinks he needs out of that too, but mom and dad are not so sure!  He isn't a great eater although he thinks he wants everything on his plate.  He prefers to drink his milk and juice/water mixture from his sippy.  I simply cannot get enough of his little pitter patter run that he has!  And he is always excited for daddy to come home.  We love you little buddy!  Happy 2nd Birthday.  Can't wait to see what this year has in store...ready or not you will be a big brother soon!!!!

Luke with his present...he liked the hats better!

cowie cake

proud birthday boy

proud brothers and sister!  jude and cora obviously think it is summer, but the snow outside proves that is not the case...