Saturday, March 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today would have been the day my dad turned 66. It's hard to believe that a little over 2 1/2 months has passed since he left his cancer filled body and was healed forever. I'm sure some of you have noticed that I haven't blogged in awhile. To be honest, life has been busy, but it has also been difficult to process this huge loss in our lives. If you had asked me a year ago if I had thought this was where I would be, I would have said "no way!"

Around April of last year my dad was told that his cancer was back. I happened to be there for that first chemo treatment and it was HORRIBLE! He had done chemo treatments before, but this time was just terrible. I knew that we were headed down a very scary road. Over the next couple months my dad fought so hard to beat the cancer, but it just wasn't working. In October I received a call I never wanted to get; "Sheri, you need to come home, dad is not doing well." I scrambled and got there as quick as I could. That weekend was one of the most painful and heart wrenching moments of my life. He had lost SO much weight, had quit working, sold his business, and was using a walker to get around. But I was so blessed to be with my dad and spend time with him but I knew I couldn't stay forever. He was on a feeding tube and we were starting to discuss hospice. That time was so difficult for all of us to admit that we had done all we could and God was just saying "no." I knew I had to return home, so I said THE hardest good-bye I had ever faced, not knowing if I would see dad again.

We were so grateful that after I left, he seemed to rally a bit. He stopped losing weight at such a fast rate and seemed to just maintain a new norm. He did decide to go on Hospice and they were doing a great job of managing his care. We decided that we were going to spend Christmas with my family and knew that it could be a possibility that we had to go early. But God answered our prayers and we were able to see Dad again on this earth. God blessed us with an incredible 2 1/2 weeks together that I will never forget. These weeks were some of the toughest, most stressful, and emotionally charged weeks. It really didn't seem like Christmas, but we were still able to create some beautiful memories together.

When I look back, I will forever remember the precious moments God allowed us to share: my dad being able to see his last grandchild baptized, opening Christmas gifts one last time as a family, setting up my dad's Christmas village with him so that we would always know how to set it up, watching old slides of his Vietnam days, digging through boxes in the basement to locate pictures, memorabilia, and old toys of dad's. We spent a lot of time reminiscing of when we were little and the fun things we did as a family. I remember painful moments of helping him cough, giving him ice chips, swabbing his mouth when he wasn't able to drink anymore, helping him get comfortable, and trying so hard to let him know how proud we were of him. I remember moments of helplessness when he would look at me and say, "Why am I still here? Why is this taking so long?" He was so ready to be free of this world.

I remember joy filled moments when my dad (who had been staring at the same wall for days) asked his OCD daughter (me) to help him (who also was OCD) to rearrange the books and pictures on the wall so they were straight and symmetrical. We had some great laughs as everyone poked fun of us and thought it was so silly what we were doing. I totally understood though and I was often called back in his room to fix a book that just wasn't right! :) I remember some tear-filled moments as we sang (or attempted to sing through the tears) by his bed. There was one incredible moment when I was sitting in his room and he just started waving. I asked him what he was waving at and he said "I see heaven!" Oh the mix of joy and pain that brought, but to know that my dad was ready and so close to experiencing the wonder of heaven. It was a few days after that when he said to one of my sisters that he heard God call his name. Nothing can explain the feelings that brings and the mix of emotions that come with that. We were praying so hard for God to release him from this earth, yet clinging so tightly not wanting to say good-bye. The unfairness and questions we asked God during this valley was a daily struggle. Why did dad have to suffer and leave us now? Why couldn't he have 20, 30 more years left with us? Why him? Why now? Why?

The day before dad passed away, we were finally all together as a family. People had been coming and going over those 2 weeks, but we were finally together again. Dad had some spells where he thought he was dying and he would call all of us in his room. He would count the grandkids as they came in and tell us exactly how many hadn't come through yet! That accountant mind was always working! That night before he died was horrible. My mom hadn't been getting much sleep and my dad was really struggling with getting comfortable and managing his coughing. My sister Lisa and I decided to take shifts being in his room. When it was my shift my sister said that he was just really struggling and hadn't gotten much sleep at all. We finally decided to call Hospice to come and help him. They spent 2 hours stacking his meds so that he was able to sleep. This was the last time that he was awake. The next day he was sleeping very deep and we tried to stay out of his room to let him sleep. In the afternoon, the dad's took all the kids swimming and it was only my mom and us 4 girls (and the little babies) that were home with dad. We think that he was waiting for some peace and quiet! I had just gone into my dad's room to see if he was awake. He was sleeping very deep and I tried calling his name. He didn't wake up. So I just whispered to him, "I love you dad" and quietly left. About a half hour later my mom went in to give him some more meds and she came and got me and asked me to check him as she didn't think he was breathing. My heart stopped and I ran in there. NOTHING can prepare you for the moment of death. We knew it was coming, we knew it was for the best, and we knew he was completely free of cancer and we knew where he was. But to have death stare you in the face was heartbreaking. As a family of 6 we gathered in there and cried for our loss, we cried for the man we loved so dearly, and we cried for the unfairness of life.

Looking back, we see all the ways God's hand was in everything. One, that we were able to be there just the 6 of us and say good-bye first without our kids there. Two, that we had all been able to see him before he left us. And on and on and on the blessing went. God is always with you, even when you feel overwhelmed by sorrow, He is in the plans and the details. When the dad's came back with the kids, we took time as families to go in and say good-bye to our Dad and Opa. Nothing prepares you for how to talk to your kids about this experience. I was so blessed by Ryan's insight and ability to handle their questions. It was so good for them to see our grief and sadness. The other moment that will forever stick with me is this: as we are standing there by his bed saying good-bye and the tears are streaming down my face, I told my kids that the ONLY thing that matters in this life is that they love Jesus. I told them that it didn't matter what Opa was wearing, or how much money he had, or what toys he had. The only thing that mattered was that he loved Jesus. And if they wanted to see him again, they needed to follow Jesus and love him with all their hearts. That is what Opa would have wanted. What an experience as an adult to be faced with the shortness of life and that we can work so hard for stuff, status, wealth...and for what? To die young? We are working hard as a family to remember that moment, and to remember what's important and what we need to trim from our lives. All that matters is Jesus.

Thanks to those of you that stuck with my novel. It's been therapeutic to process my experiences. These 2 months have been hard. The grief comes in waves and random little things set it off. Church is a difficult time for me as music is what speaks to me. To hear songs we sang at his memorial service, and to remember the pain of those moments is so difficult. We so appreciate all your support in so many ways. Please keep praying for all of us as we continue to live day to day in the new reality of life without dad. We loved him so dearly and he left an amazing legacy of God's faithfulness. Our prayer is that we continue this legacy for generations to come. Happy Birthday Dad! We hope you are having the best birthday party ever!!!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

A few more pics...

The boys each wanted a different cake this year. I didn't have the heart to say no.

Joel wanted Batman

Caleb wanted a dirt bike cake



Birthday party with cousins

Friday, December 6, 2013

Time Flies!!!

Where has the time gone? I can't believe it's been 5 months since I've updated this blog. Life has definitely been crazy. Here's a little overview of why:

-After our WA vacation in July, we took it upon ourselves to paint the exterior of our ourselves. We planned on this being a weekend project. Well, it ended up taking us at least a month. We spent hours and hour and hours (did I say hours???) scraping every square inch due to the previous owners using cheap paint. Then we had to caulk, patch, replace, prime, paint, and do the trim. I will NEVER paint this house again (or any house for that matter). I told Ryan we should have had a bonfire to burn the brushes. Ugh. At least it's done, looks great, and our neighbors got quite the entertainment watching us for days on end. Our yard was definitely the social place around 5:30 every day.

-During this painting fiasco, I was going through a major decision. The school that Kiera attends was searching frantically for a part time music teacher. After much prayer I went in to see if they would be interested in me helping out temporarily or to just test the waters. They ended up being very willing to work with me and around the first week of August I was hired! This meant I had 2 weeks to prepare 6 preps, get my classroom ready, and figure out how life was going to change! It was a bit hectic to say the least, but I survived and am loving it! It has been such an incredible blessing to have another income, a wonderful work environment, a different challenge that has every day a little different, and the perks of being at the same school as your kids. I am now working on getting my credits up to date so that I meet the 2 year requirement for a ongoing certificate. The boys took a little bit to adjust to the daycare, but now they love it. Every morning they ask numerous times if it's time for school yet. They would be happy to go all the time. We still enjoy preschool together at home some mornings and they get the social interaction afternoons which has been good for their twin development. The first week they both ended up with hurt arms. Caleb fractured his left wrist and Joel broke his left wrist...same bone...same place...same piece of equipment. I am pretty sure we have been flagged at the orthopedist office! Ah, the joys of twins!

-Throughout all this my dad's health has been failing. In October I flew out to WA to be with my family and say my good-bye's to him. This was extremely difficult, but such a blessing to see him. He is now on hospice and his health continues to decline daily. We are very thankful that he is still with us and we love seeing his smile on Skype! We are looking forward to spending Christmas together but definitely covet your prayers as we walk through this valley together as a family. What a blessing it is to know, though, that my dad loves the Lord and is ready to meet his Savior!

-We continue to do life together; Kiera started 2nd grade, practicing piano, giving piano lessons (I now have 4 students), homework, wrestling matches with daddy, meetings, church activities (Kiera is now in GEMS which she LOVES), and  spending time with my sister and her family over Thanksgiving. Today we celebrated Caleb & Joel's 5th birthday! It's hard to believe how fast they have grown. I would definitely say they had a Super Hero birthday. Batman and Superman are the theme around here. They wanted to go bowling tonight which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately I couldn't beat Ryan this time, so I guess we better get the Wii bowl out again where I am guaranteed a win! :)

Hopefully these pictures will give you a snapshot of the past 5 months. Thanks for sticking with this long post! I promise to try to be more faithful in my updates!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Washington Vacation

On June 14, the kids and I (Sheri) left for St. Paul, MN. We spent the evening at the Mall of America. The kids didn't know until the night before that I was planning to do this. To say they had fun was an understatement! We walked around the entire mall and they were just in awe of everything. We spent quite a bit of time at the American Girl store for Kiera. She was in heaven and just drooled over everything! Next we headed to Legoland for the boys. They had so much fun looking over all the sets and then we spent some time building things out of legos. We ended the night at the Nickelodeon fun park. I let the kids choose 2 rides to go on and they picked the Ferris Wheel and the Balloon Ride. It was so fun to see their joy and excitement and I loved the time we spent together. Once our evening was over, we headed to the Amtrak station to catch the 11:30 pm train to Washington. The kids did great on the train trip there and back. Unfortunately Joel got altitude sickness both times we went through the mountains in Western Montana and Washington. Other than that, they did amazing and handled everything very well. They slept great each night but I must admit that it was very stressful for me and I don't think it will be our choice of transportation in the future. It was an experience that we can say we've done! Overall we spent over 70 hours on the train. Whew!

When we were in WA we had a super fun time as always. The weather was GORGEOUS the entire time! I am always overwhelmed by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I feel like I just can't soak it in fast enough when I am there. It was great to see my family and see the kids enjoy being with their cousins. Our time consisted of fun at the beach, swimming in the backyard, going to the Children's Museum, Jungle Playland, swimming at the lake, slumber parties, bonfires with s'mores, hiking in the woods, holding little cousin Kaiya, Target runs, Red Robin, swimming at the pool, playing school (because that's what you do in the summer), reading stories with Opa, fireworks, parades, horseback riding, running in a track meet, visiting with Great Grandma DeGroot, at least 10 games of Settlers, and lots and lots and lots of laughing! We made some great memories and it was never a dull moment when you went anywhere with 8 kids!

Personally it is always such a refreshing time for me. I love spending late nights talking with my mom and being spoiled by her. I love the endless chatting I get to have with my sisters and enjoyed all the Diet Cokes we enjoyed together! I love all the great meals my mom makes and the yummy goodies always available. Going in June is always a bonus as it is the peak of fruit season. Every meal we had a huge bowl of assorted fresh fruit and I thought we would turn into strawberries after all the fruit we ate! My favorites were the fresh strawberry pie, fresh blueberry muffins, and strawberry shortcake. We already miss all the yummy fruit!

Another special experience was being there for my niece Kaiya's dedication. My sister asked if I would sing for it and it was fun to be a part of this special occasion! 

Most of all, I was blessed to spend time with my Dad. A few weeks before we were to leave for WA (God's plan for us to already have had a trip planned was amazing, wasn't it?), we received news that my Dad's cancer had returned. He was diagnosed 6 years ago with Stage 4 colon cancer and had already beat it several times. Over a year ago he suffered a stroke and by God' grace and strength was able to make almost a full comeback from that. To hear the news that his cancer was back was particularly difficult for all of us. I was anxious to go out and spend time with him. I was able to be there for his first treatment. I will never forget praying with him the morning he left for the cancer center. It was difficult for both of us, but we placed the treatment in God's capable hands and continue to trust Him for healing and strength in the coming months. It was hard to see my dad so rundown and sick, but I was thankful that we still were able to create some great memories together and enjoy each other's company. I spent a lot of time working in his yard as he has not had the energy to do that. It seemed like the one thing I could do to help him and encourage him in his battle. It was fun one day when some of his siblings and spouses came to help us. We had a fun yard work party and it was very rewarding for all of us. If you would like to keep up on his health situation he has a Caring Bridge site at We would appreciate your prayers for all of us in the coming months!

As you can see we had a great vacation! Ryan was unable to join us this time as he is very busy getting ready for a week long SERVE project at our church starting this Saturday. We missed him a ton, but were very happy to Skype together quite a bit. The kids definitely haven't left his side since we've been home. I must say that it was WONDERFUL to come home to a clean house and a fridge full of food! Ryan is so incredibly helpful and I appreciate all that he does for us! We celebrated our 11th anniversary on the 6th and I am so thankful for the wonderful father and husband God has given me. It's been a fun ride thus far and I am excited to see what else God has planned for us!

Hope you enjoyed the pictures...I decided to put them in a slide show as there were just too many!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Black Hills Vacation

Over Memorial Day weekend, Ryan's folks rented a gorgeous cabin up by Terry Peak in the Black Hills. It was beautiful weather and we had a fun weekend there with Ryan's whole family. The cabin was big enough for all of us and had a hot tub (which the kids LOVED), a pool table, foosball, darts, and lots of hiking spots around it. We spent a lot of time relaxing, playing Catan and Phase 10, and being with family. On Saturday we spent the day seeing Homestake Mine (a gold mine that was in operation until 2000 and is now used for cutting edge medical research), Mt. Rushmore, Custer state park, and Crazy Horse. It was fun to get some hikes in and spend time in the beautiful mountains. We did decide that we live on the wrong side of the state. There is so much to do over there! We will definitely have to go back for more sightseeing (if only the part from here to there wasn't so boring).  On our way home we took the Badlands loop and enjoyed some more hiking and enjoying the incredible scenery. It was a relaxing weekend and thank Dad & Mom Link for giving us a gorgeous place to stay! Enjoy these pics from our weekend...there were just too many to post one by one!

Monday, May 20, 2013

No more training wheels!!!!

Let me begin by saying I never thought it would be this easy. I think my mom said it best when she stated, "It's about time something went your way!"  About a month ago we purchased the boys new bikes. They were getting too tall for the little 12" bikes and needed bigger ones. Because they were so excited to get new bikes, we left the training wheels on them so they could enjoy them awhile. (We were also waiting for the weather to improve). They had a ton of fun riding up and down the street. Finally the weather got consistently warm and I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get those training wheels off. We packed up the little 12" bike minus the training wheels and headed to a BIG parking lot. Joel hopped on the bike and took off. I about fell over. I couldn't believe he did it just like that. I thought to myself, "what are the odds Caleb will do the same?", and so Caleb hopped on and promptly took off. After roughly 3 minutes of being at the park, both boys knew how to ride a two wheeler without tipping over. They were pretty proud of themselves.

The next hurdle was to try their bigger bikes. A few days later we took them back to the parking lot to try their big bikes. They were a little more nervous. Because they had done so well on the little bike, I figured that once they got going they would be fine. So the plan was for the boys to ride their bikes in the parking lot while I ran (and got my workout done too). Ha ha ha. Not so. I would get one started then go help the other start and the other one would have stopped already. I could never get both going at once. Finally I got everyone going and I started running between them. Let's just say the utopian bliss I had imagined quickly fell apart. Caleb started veering toward Joel with me in the middle. Eventually I was hurdling boys and bikes while trying to rescue whomever and whatever without falling on a child. To anyone who happened to witness this catastrophe: I hope you laughed! I then decided that we would just practice one at a time. Whew. For all the mom's of twins out there: TAKE ANOTHER ADULT WITH!!!

After this little jaunt, we tried again a few days later. I was a little nervous that they wouldn't be very excited. But the 3rd time was a charm! They learned very quickly how to start, stop, and make turns. After 5 days of practicing, they are now riding up and down our street confidently and with as much gusto and excitement as when they first got the bikes. YEAH!!!! What a joy it is to see their excitement and pride at knowing how to ride. Hopefully this will mean lots of family bike rides in the future! Allow me a moment of pure pride at reaching another dreaded milestone with twins! Whew!

Joel and his Shark bike

Caleb and his Rocket bike

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day Program

This past Wednesday, Kiera's class had a special Mother's Day program for us. When we arrived, each mother received a corsage to wear. When the kids came in, they gave us a gift bag saying it was for all the presents we would receive. For the program, they would do a poem or a song and after each one would bring us something that had to do with that poem. We received flowers, bubble bath, a ceramic tile with their hand print, special projects made specifically for mom, Hershey Kisses, and a hug box. After the program they had refreshments for us...cupcakes, ice cream, mints, and punch. When we were all finished we went outside to release balloons signifying the release of 1st grade! It was such a special time to share with Kiera and we had fun together!

All the gifts we received

Releasing Balloons

The treats table

"Here's your hug box mom!"

One proud mama!