Monday, July 13, 2009


For those of you wondering how to pronounce that, it's smoke-i-nose. Now say it fast. That's right, smokinose. Ellie said this to me all afternoon one day last week and I never could figure out what she was talking about. Finally, a few days later, she got her face close to mine and said it again, "Smokinose, Mommy!" It finally hit me. She was talking about eskimos - kisses that is! Eskimo kisses! What a honey. I felt bad that she'd been asking for eskimo kisses for a couple days and I hadn't been able to understand. We've decided that smokinose is way more fun to say, so I think it's gonna stick.

Through the past few years we've had lots of fun mispronunciations that have stuck. A lot more from Hannah so far, but there's still time. Here are just a few:

Olivia room - living room
Pink tails - pig tails
foot flops - flip flops
oneie - eleven
Aunt Brownie - Aunt Brandy
Kiki - Blanket
Baboo -Diaper
chicken maggots - chicken nuggets (I know...gross, but Hannah doesn't know the difference)

It's always a little sad the day one of them starts pronouncing those words the correct way. It just means that a little more baby has worn off.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Independence Day

We celebrated 4th of July with my parents, my sister Kate and my brother Chris in San Antonio. Like most holidays with my family, it was all about the FOOD! Papa made ribs, corn on the cob, ice cream and cotton candy and Noni made french toast, hot cocoa and peach cobbler. Doesn't get much better than that! We ate as much as we could at the house and then headed out for Mexican food in the evening. We had great food and heard a very loud band at La Fonda. I'd like to say that the band was good, but I think loud is really the better description. They were a lot of fun, anyway.

We caught a fireworks show in the car on the way home. We pulled onto the shoulder of the feeder road and watched. I have to say this is the best way to see fireworks. You stay in the a/c, you don't get bitten by mosquitoes and there's no crowded parking lot at the end. The only draw back is that we couldn't hear the sound of the firecrackers soaring the air and the pop when they get to the top. Andrew and Kate found a great rememdy to this, however. They made all the sound effects for us. I can hear it now..."Eeeeee!!! Pccch!"
The girls wait in anticipation as Papa checks to see if the ice cream is ready.

The girls give their stamp of approval as they sample the goods. Hannah and Ellie got to lick the paddle from the ice cream maker.

Mother's Day and Mom

We had a good, yet sobering Mother's Day this year. I actually woke up to an empty house that morning. The girls were gone with Andrew to the store getting last minute items to make me breakfast, which turned out to be great. I got to go for a manicure and pedicure, which was wonderful. They really spoiled me.

Grandma reading to Benjamin on Mother's Day

In the evening Andrew's parents came over for dinner and we honored his mom as well as Brandy who recently graduated from culinary school. While it was a wonderful time to be together with family, it was immediately apparent that Mom was not doing well. Her health had declined rather dramatically in the previous couple of weeks. It was difficult to see her that way and we all came away very concerned for where this was leading. Two days later she was admitted to the hospital where doctors did everything they could to improve her health. She was suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a complication of Scleroderma which she suffered from for over 20 years. In less than two weeks it became clear to the doctors that there was nothing they could do to improve her condition and she declined very quickly.

During those two weeks we visited her as much as we could. The girls spent time with her in her hospital bed and brought her their artwork for her room, hoping it would cheer her up. Hannah, especially liked to get up in bed with Grandma to pull the covers up over her shoulders. She knew how cold Grandma could get. Mom was so sweet with the kids even as she was dealing with great discomfort and probably more aware than the rest of us how much time she had left. She took time to talk to them, didn't mind their noisiness in her room and loved their affection. She even played with Benjamin.

At the end, Mom was so at peace with the situation and seemed so ready to go. She passed away on May 25th with Dad by her side. It's hard to comprehend that she's gone. She was so young and it seems unfair. And yet, her faith made her confident. I couldn't see any doubt in her. She even seemed at peace that we would be okay without her. It's truly amazing to me all the things that she endured, especially with this disease and yet she thought so little of herself. Hands down, my mother in law was the most selfless person I have ever known. She was a great mom and the best kind of grandma. Hannah and Ellie both miss her so much. Hannah understand that she can't see her anymore, but Ellie doesn't. She'll still ask if we can call her and I remind her that Grandma is in heaven with Jesus. She simply replies, "Yes, so can we call her?"

In hindsight, I'm so grateful that she lived as long as she did. So many patients with her diagnosis don't live more than a few years. She told us that when first diagnosed she asked God to allow her the opportunity to raise her children. Praise God that she not only raised them, but lived to see her grandchildren and they were able to know her for a short time. It still doesn't make sense that she's gone, but I'm thankful for her example in my life. She gave me one of my life's greatest gifts, her son.

Milestones and fun stuff

We've hit a few milestones in the last several months. First, Hannah made her first dress. I kid you not. She comes down stairs one afternoon and she has made a dress out of a strand of tulle, a rectangle of fabric and some tape. I don't know where the inspiration came from, but I was a little in shock when she came to show me her creation. In true Hannah style, she had the perfect heals to match.

Next on the list, Benjamin learned to sit up at around 6 1/2 months. It all started with the bumbo and he gradually worked his way up to sitting up with no hands. I don't think it matters how many kids you've already had, it's just as exciting every time they learn something new. Now he likes to sit up and rock back and forth. He's starting to get himself up on his knees from his belly now, too. I don't think the thought has occurred to him yet that he might go forward from this position, but I'm sure that will come in less time than we anticipate. Without a doubt, Benjamin is already the busiest child we have had. He's a bouncer and a grabber and a pincher. He doesn't like to be still for long and he really likes attention!
Ben's first time in the bumbo a few months ago.

On top of the world!

Last, but not least, Ellie also had a first. She tasted her first Freebird's burrito in College Station. I think the burrito was as big as her head. She really just liked tortilla. Hannah also had a few bites and she attempted to make her own aluminum foil figurine for the wall. That proved to be more difficult than anticipated.

I must also include the fulfillment of a prophesy. I knew that it would happen, I just wasn't sure when. Hannah has officially made a practice of putting girly dress up things on Benjamin. I'm not always quick enough to get a picture, but here's one of Princess Ben. He wasn't too happy about it and he let us know. Didn't seem to deter her from doing it again.

A day to be joyful!

We love Easter!! It's like a new beginning on the church's calendar. We start fresh with a renewed commitment to live in a way that shows how thankful we are for Christ's sacrifice. That and we get to each lots of chocolate. Hannah and Ellie, but especially Hannah, looks forward to Easter like it's Christmas. We had to count down every day of Lent with anticipation. There were some days that she asked more than once how many days were left. 40 days is like an eternity for a child (and that child's mother).

Well, all the anticipation was worth it. We had an Easter Egg hunt at church. Everyone got plenty of eggs and commenced eating as much candy as possible without delay. Benjamin even got an egg whose contents he generously gave to his Mommy. Yes, I took candy from a baby.
Then we went to San Antonio for Easter weekend. It seemed appropriate to celebrate the holiday as a family with Granny's funeral just passed. It was nice to have a couple days of fun together. Here are pictures of the girls and Benjamin on Easter Sunday. Amazingly, they didn't have chocolate on their dresses yet! However, no one was in the mood to pose for pictures, so we do not have one of the whole family. It's mornings like this when you most remember why it was necessary for God to come to earth as a man and save us from ourselves!! The rest of the day went well, though. All the girls and Ben went to Brackenridge park the following day while the guys went to play a little golf. We all met up for lunch before it was time to head back to Houston.

Benjamin on Easter Sunday

The girls hunting for eggs in Noni and Papa's back yard. Hannah was disappointed to find out that the eggs outside weren't stuffed. I guess the 12 stuffed eggs in her basket weren't quite the loot she was hoping for!

All set for a train ride through the park!

Hold on tight, Benjamin...the train goes at least 3 miles an hour!

Noni with all the kids at the Sunken Gardens. Is that a smile I see on everyone's face. It's a beautiful thing!

This picture documents a record for the closest my daughters have ever come to a live insect. Yes, folks that's a Roly Poly and just a few minutes after this picture was taken an obsession with roly polies began. We've been searching for them wherever we go ever since. Ellie still won't touch them, but she doesn't scream when she sees one. Baby steps.

Family time

This spring brought several visits with family. The kids had a lot of fun with each other. It's so cool to sit back and watch our children play with our siblings' kids. They get along a lot better than we did! The girls especially loved being with the other baby cousins. Molly, Peter and Katelyn are all at really fun ages!

Here are a few of the shots we caught...
Benjamin taking a nap with Uncle Chris...nothing like a sleeping baby to make you tired!

The big girls - Ellie, Hannah and Claire

All the Portele cousins - Ellie, Claire, Hannah, Molly and Benjamin

All the Graesser cousins - Katelyn, Hannah, Peter, Ellie and Benjamin
There are about 6 people hanging over the top of them making weird faces. Maybe that's why they're all looking in different directions!

All the girl Graesser cousins on a trip to the pool. Katelyn is such a happy girl! It turned out to be a pretty chilly day for the pool, but we had fun.


I got a call from Granny while we were at Emmy's baptism reception. It was Sunday and she sounded very weak on the phone. She was calling to say goodbye. Granny had been sick for several months and it had become evident over the past few weeks that she would not be with us much longer. Still, it seemed sudden. I don't know if a person is ever prepared to say goodbye. I didn't think I'd get to talk to her again or see her for that matter, but I called her again that evening and talked for a couple minutes. She wanted to know that we were doing okay. She was concerned how Andrew was fairing with the failing economy. I let her know that we were doing just fine. Then she let me know that she had hoped to see Benjamin again. So with that, although I didn't need any convincing, I made plans to leave the next morning for San Antonio with Benjamin. Andrew stayed home with the girls that Monday.

I am so grateful that I was given the gift of that day with Granny. She was at a hospice care center by that time. When I got there she was talking with the chaplain from Fort Sam Houston, Fr. Joe. What an amazing ray of sunshine he was in that room. I sat down on the other side of her bed and just listened to her. She wanted to be sure that we all knew that there was only one way in life, that being a life in Christ. We were able to reassure her that she had made that clear by the way she lived. She asked several times where Benjamin was and I brought him over to the bed for her to see. I know that Benjamin won't remember that visit, but I will never forget it. It was so hard to say goodbye that night. I felt sure that it was indeed the last time I would see her.

Granny went home to be with her Heavenly Father the following day, March 25th. She lived an incredible 92 years. I miss talking to her and seeing her when we visit San Antonio and it breaks my heart to know the hole she has left in our family. It's hard to think about all that she's taken with her...her wisdom and all her memories. Even so, we have a new saint in heaven inspiring us to do more for God's kingdom.

I love you so much, Granny and we'll miss you more than words can express.

Dipped and Dunked

On March 23rd we were blessed to attend Emerson Vacek's baptism. She was beautiful, as always, and the kids really had fun at the reception playing with all the other kids. Here're a few pictures of the morning...
All the kids - Benjamin, Emmy (all tuckered out), Caroline, Abby, Hannah, Ellie and Brandon

Benjamin and Emmy in their Sunday best

Our little family. First picture as a family since Ben came along!