Thursday, December 29, 2016

Merry Happy Everything!

2016 Wrap up:

Today, Elena celebrated the beginning of her fifth month in America. Her English is improving, and she has solidified her place in our family and our hearts. We look forward to having an enduring relationship with Elena and her family in Italy. In fact, we have enjoyed having Elena in our home so much, we are thinking of hosting again next year. The kids enjoy having a big sister, and I enjoy the teen energy in our home. We will always look forward to visiting Elena in Italy and having her return to the U.S. Elena’s friend Asya has been staying with us for a few days. They went shopping and snowshoeing. Asya just left with her host family, and Mason wants Asya to come back. Mason has always wanted a bigger family.
Elena and Asya went snowshoeing with Jim Swanson and friends.
Elena and Asya had fun shopping, eating, and bowling.

We’ve had a lot of fun and travel with Elena. For Thanksgiving, we went to Chicago for five days. I haven’t been to Chicago in a few years, and it was so beautiful. At times, I felt like a tourist seeing the city for the first time, and at times, so many good memories came flooding back to me. We enjoyed spending time with my friend LaVonne and her daughter, Kyla. Kyla calls Audrey her sister. The Thanksgiving Day parade was awesome, the shopping was wonderful for Elena, Dylan’s Candy Bar and Garret’s Popcorn were our favorite stops, and we enjoyed the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. Our home base was the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Wacker. We were on the 32nd floor. We had a beautiful view of the city and Lake Michigan.

Black Friday!

The apple of my eye, my blue berry pie turned two on Nov. 12th. Every day is something new with her. She loves Elsa and all things Frozen. She loves dolls. She loved her birthday party. Elena gave her a cute dress with Elsa on it, and she enjoyed her party. She loves all the attention she can get! She’s not shy, and she is very verbal. I never knew how fun the “terrible twos” could be. She watches my mouth closely and works hard to enunciate words. She’s even learning Italian from Elena.

I moved my 40 year old Kawai piano from Utah that I grew up playing. Now it's Audrey's turn.

Christmas and all the events leading up to it were very special. I try to make a point of doing holiday things throughout December. This December has been extremely cold. We tried to make it through the WinterDaze parade, but Mason started crying because he was so cold. Christmas Eve was very special for us. Mason and Audrey were very excited about Santa Claus. Audrey wouldn’t sit on Santa’s lap this year, but she enjoyed seeing Santa figures and reading books about Santa. Elena helped me arrange the gifts and fill the stockings. The kids loved all their presents. Of course, we missed being with our family in Utah. Our friends here are busy with their own families on Christmas, so we spend the day alone. As the kids get older, it will be fun playing games and watching movies. Going back to Utah will be different now. My mom and dad sold their house in Riverton. They are now living in Legacy House assisted living in South Jordan. Not sure where we will stay when we visit our family in Utah.
Kids playing with Ellen Carlson

Santa came early brining us our favorite ornaments.

We met Mr. and Mrs. Santa at the library. Audrey wanted nothing to do with him!

Our Christmas Eve party included matching pajamas.

And I’m so much older now than I was a few weeks ago. My kids gave me an early birthday present by waking up at 5:00 am, two hours earlier than usual. First came Audrey, standing by my bed in the dark whispering, Mama. I pulled her into bed with me and she rolled around poking me in the eyes and jumping up and down like Tigger. Then Mason came. He played with the dog, turned on the stereo, and at one point, I heard Siri say, “Are you sure you want to call Cheryl Becker?” That jolted me out of bed because I did not want to call anyone at 6:00 a.m. Laying comfortably in the dark room surrounded by love, chaos, and young energy is all I ever wanted. I’m so thankful to have these companions with me on my journey. The lovely Elena is with us, she is on loan from Italy. She is a wonderful teenager, and she adds so much to our family. She is kind and thoughtful, and she fills our house with laughter and spirit. Her family did such a good job raising her to be a beautiful and confident woman.  On this day at 1:57 pm, in Salt Lake City, Utah, I pushed my way into this world on a new moon. I was nearly two weeks over due, and I weighed 9lbs 1oz. I was the first child born to Marvell and Naomi. My mom wanted a boy first, and she had no girl names picked out. My dad decreed that my name would be Glenda (because he still had a crush on a homecoming queen from Utah State University named Glenda). My Grandpa and Grandma Jones rushed to LDS hospital when they heard the news. My Grandma looked at all the newborn babies and said: that is her, she looks like my babies. My Grandma was happy to finally have a girl. I reaped the benefit of her love and admiration for the rest of the time she was on earth. My parents and grandparents made all my birthdays special. I remember my mom making cupcakes for my kindergarten class, and my Grandpa Jones took me to Alberton’s Grocery store to buy decorations. He loved to spoil me with gifts and affection. I love my grandparents for leaving me with such rich memories. I love my children for allowing us to make new memories. Life is good.
Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve dinner at the Swanson's.

Winter Wonderland at Irvine Park


As a nice birthday celebration, my friend Mark, Elena, and I went to see Fun Home at the Orpheum. Mark said the play was more about that story than the music, and I agree. I think it’s a women’s play, but I loved it. This was Elena’s first Broadway play, and she loved it. My favorite musical is Wicked. It will be in Minneapolis in April. I’ll definitely take Elena to see it!

I welcome 2017. I hope my application for full professor is voted on affirmatively. I look forward to my children getting older and enjoying new things. I pray that Mason can be helped with an Augmentative Alternative Communication Device. He has been diagnosed with Auditory Neuropathy. His Cochlear in his ear can hear sounds, but the nerves in his brainstem that translate sound into language are damaged. There is no cure for this, and he has become more withdrawn as he’s gotten older because he knows that people don’t understand him. If we can find the right device, this could augment his voice.

I love you Mason, Audrey and Elena.

And Olive and Ruby

Sunday, September 25, 2016

O Mio Dio

Since I last wrote, our family spent a week at Camp AweSum in Northern Wisconsin at Moon Beach; we welcomed Elena our exchange student from Italy; we all started school (except Audrey who goes to in-home daycare); we went to Wisconsin Dells for a fun Labor Day weekend with our friends LaVonne and Kyla from Chicago; I sold our camper; I turned in my application for full professor; and we, and by we I mean I, added a Jack Russell Terrier called Olive to the family (yes we still have Ruby); My mom and dad have now moved to Legacy House assisted living; and though she’s not quite two, Audrey is officially terrible. "O Mio Dio"Elena says several times a day. This American family is really something.
These two are soul sisters. Elena loves being with Audrey especially when Audrey is not pulling out all the stops on the terrible twos. Did I mention the Audrey throws things? She talks non stop. She's fearless, and she's been known to bite, do flips on the couch, slap Mason, and bite. They don't call it the terrible almost twos for nothing.

Elena gets right in and plays with the kids...but we couldn't talk her into paddle boating in Lake Menomin. It's a long way from the beaches in Sardinia.

First day tour of Menomonie.

She wasted no time making herself at home in the kitchen. We love it when the house smells like garlic and onions.
I resurfaced this tub. I knew that Elena would be put off by the old cracked surface. Okay, maybe I can do even more with the bathroom as Elena has already told me that in Italy, the bathroom is the most important room in the house.

Sisters. One likes to cook and one likes to eat.

The pictures are out of order, but here she comes. I was so excited to see her finally get off the plane.

Mason went on a building spree. He likes it when he has fellow architects to play with.

She's here! I had to go alone to great her because her plan was several hours late. She flew from Milan to Frankfurt, to Chicago, then Eau Claire.

I wanted a dog with a little more pep, so I adopted Olive, a one-year-old Jack Russell Terrier. And by pep I mean...has a pulse and will play with kids and me, of course.
Audrey loves her Elena. It's great to have a sister from Italy. Elena couldn't be nicer. Perfecto!

Leah, Elena, Mason, and Audrey...enjoy the pasta prepared by Elena. Her cooking is one of the great joys she's brought to our house.

Julieanne is 5 already. We enjoy seeing our friends at birthday parties.

Here's Miss Audrey at Julianne's 5th birthday.

Mason was a kitty for the evening at the Menomonie social.

Mason, Audrey, and Kyla. There wasn't a quiet moment.

Our girl squad at Christmas Mountain.

Love the red shoes and the selfie stick.

Here we are petting the two time race winner in the running of the Llamas. I found the event to be overrated.

Shopping is Elena's favorite pastime.

Please say this isn't true. It was on the "what not to wear" rack.

Kyla and Audrey. They were sisters for a few days.  Kyla wanted a baby sister, and Audrey was happy to oblige.

We love Elena's teen spirit. She finds the craziest artifacts to pose with. Here she is with her new boyfriend.

Kyla, Glenda, Audrey, and LaVonne. Livin' the dream for a day.

Elena is a Mustang for the year. She is looking forward to going on the senior trip to Washing D.C. in October, but first this is homecoming week. Watch out world. I've seen this girl in her homecoming dress...and she's a knock out.

Mason's first day of 2nd grade with teachers Ms. Schneider and Ms. Berhow.

Shopping for school supplies. Elena had never seen so many. She starting filming the isles in Walmart just to show American excess (I think).
Audrey says: WHAT?

LaVonne is the one with the awesome hair.

Mason and Kyla at the Dells. Both age 8.

See that teenager taking pictures of Lake Delton? She's with us.

LaVonne and I have been friends since the first day of grad school at UIC.

Moon Beach right after the rain. It was calm and stunning.

More Moon Beach. We will go back every year. We enjoyed meeting the other families. It wasn't relaxing for me since I had to chase two little kids around, but the knowledge I gained and community I became a part of was priceless.

I love how the canoes look when they were all lined up. Such brilliant colors. I feel in love with Northern Wisconsin.

These chairs were full and the beach was brimming with kids and parents every afternoon.

Mason was perseverating on heavy books. He was reading dictionaries and phone books.

Jeff and Shayna Lund took Audrey and me on a canoe ride.

Audrey was too little to be part of the daily group activities. But she enjoyed drumming with the girls.

Just a little bedtime story from the dictionary.

Horseback riding was fun, even in the rain.

That's my Audrey chillin' out on the canoe ride.

Please let me know if you're interested in attending this upcoming workshop:

Autism Spectrum: Understanding the Characteristics to Intervene Humanely

An all-day presentation by Dr. Glenis Benson

October 8, 2016, 9:00-4:00

(lunch on your own)

First Congregational United Church of Christ, 420 Wilson Ave, Menomonie, WI 54751

 Dr. Glenis Benson has supported persons on the Autism Spectrum since 1977.  Her graduate work has all been conducted with persons on the Spectrum.  She has presented nationally and internationally and has journal articles, book chapters and a DVD to her name.  Glenis is a founding board member of Camp AweSum.  She teaches at both UW Madison and UW Oshkosh as well as consults throughout the state and country.