Sunday, April 29, 2012

Life + Lemons = Lemon Loaf

We are trying this new" waste not, want not" thing (read, we need to stretch our grocery budget)For the next two weeks I am trying to use everything in the fridge, while not having to throw anything  away....I discovered a bag of lemons that needed to used tonight we made lemon loaf.
 Aren't they pretty....and my house smells better than a candle shop.

I have had this recipe for years and have no idea were it came from....but it is soooo good.
We quadruple the batch and it just fits in my Kitchenaid. I then have to hide it from the rug rats who are capable of snorkeling through all four loaves in seconds.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Memory Quilt

Look, I finished a project the same week, I started it....

Kelli had gone to California the weekend before Dad's passing to pick up his car and bring back his pictures and other personal effects. She also grabbed about thirty of his favourite sweat shirts and thought we could make some quilts out of them.

Now Kelli's a sewer...I mean she can actually use a machine without the manual and without curse I'm just learning....But I was not to be out crafted by my sister (us competitive?) so when she offered to make my memory quilt for me, I said, no I can do it....

I've never made a quilt before....but I do know how to google.

Now google said to interface the t-shirts....I didn't want to look like an idiot at the fabric store so I didn't do it...I should have...interfacing stops it from stretching...

I then made patches to dress the quilt up a bit....I googled simple colouring book pages and then cut the picture out of felt.
Once I finished the top I had no idea where to go from there...I didn't have a quilting frame but found a great tutorial here

All I needed was my laminate floor and painters tape and safety worked great.

Then I sewed the crap out of it....

It turned out better than I thought, as long as you don't look too close, it looks like I knew what I was doing :)

Any one who knew my Dad well knows why this is funny :)

Judge Not My Grief

Alright, this post has been rolling around in my head for a few days, maybe someone should take the key board away from me....I've been trying to talk myself out of the fact that I got my feelings hurt, trying to pretend it didn't matter ....I am super sensitive right now {trust me I know that}, watching a parent die, planning a funeral etc. tends to do that to a person....I think what has surprised me the most, even before my Dad died, is the judgement I've felt.... the fact is we judge each other, even in our grief....we judge each other......

One several occasions even before we left for Utah....people questioned why I didn't leave immediately to go be at my Dad's bedside. "You know you're going to regret it." I was told in the hall at church. "If that were my Dad, I'd be there."

{How on earth are these kind of comments helpful}

I instantly felt a need to explain and justify my actions...but was just to incredibly tried to do so....these comments only added to my heartache....

My decision to wait was a deeply personal, heart wrenching one and the only person that needed to understand it was me.

I needed love and support, not judgement.

I was so surprised when I heard the comment again, after returning home...."If it were my parent I would of gone immediately."


That's nice, but it wasn't your Dad...IT. WAS. MINE.

Years ago, when my Mom passed away, there were several of my friends who lost their mothers around the same time....I was in the hallway at Church when I saw one of my friends having a hard time, In a brief conversation she said to me...."well at least you know what its like" (to lose your mom)....I said, well I know what its like for me to lose my mom, but only you know what its like to lose your mom...

Each persons experience with grief is unique. Even a death (or any trial really) is felt differently by each persons heart.

Loss and grief is not a competition, its a deeply personal journey with God.

Please don't judge my grief (or the way I parent, or keep my house, or the dinner I don't cook, or my laundry mountain or my Superman, you get the point)....

Is it helpful?

Is it kind??

If not, kindly keep it to yourself, and I will do the same.:)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Confessions of a Crazy Mom

I thought Sundays were supposed to be a day of rest ....

My angelic offspring are driving me CRAZY....Wait, what??? Let me re-phase that...I am crazy, my angels are doing their absolute best in a strategic tag-team effort to see how close their mother{ of the year} can get to the insanity edge, without going over....

My kids are the normal ones and I missed them and their constant commotion, while we were away. But coming back into home life has been a bigger adjustment than I thought.....

In the last hour I've:

Told Alex to get out of the tree and no a trap does not make a safe hammock....

Turned off the hot tub, its been running full tilt for who knows how long, (BC hydro, you're welcome)

Told Dallyn that a two popsicles did not constitute dinner.

Reminded Madison that discussing the dietary properties of corn during dinner is ALWAYS inappropriate.

Screamed at the top of my lungs{parenting genius}, to tell #2, #3 & #5 to stop yelling over who was getting pizza and who was getting chicken for dinner. (we had one frozen pizza and 4 chicken things, cause I can't do math while grocery shopping)

Told the Superman (who was home for a dinner break) to stop chasing Madison with the dart gun {making tater go mental} I mostly didn't care but the windows where open and the neighbours already think we are nuts.

Reminded #1 that it didn't really matter how #5 cut the pizza, especially cause she wasn't eating IT!

Kicked the kids downstairs with their dinners...Because the bickering over the pizza/chicken dilemma was going full steam....All as my second born says..."You're the one who decided to have too many children, Remember?!?!

"It's hard to forget when your screaming at me"....that's what I wanted to say but didn't :) Because for a brief moment I remembered that my children are just as crazy as me my biggest blessing and all this crazy Mom needed is/was a few minutes of peace and quiet....

Tomorrow is always a new day, plus my angels will be in school  (sorry teachers ;)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Temple Squared :)

After my Dad's funeral we had two days left in Utah....Sunday we drove out to Manti, Utah to see the Temple there...a first for both of us...

It was absolutely beautiful!!! For more than an hour we had the temple grounds to ourselves, such a peaceful way to spend the afternoon. The colour of the granite blocks was an amazing coral colour that changed as the sun came don't do it justice.

Manti is out in the middle of nowhere, and Utah weather is crazy in the spring, we left Nephi in sun, hit snow in Mt Pleasant and needed our AC in Spanish Fork....put had a great drive.

Monday we spent the day at Temple Square. It has been nearly a decade since our last visit....

The spirit and beauty there hasn't changed.

We found out after we got to Utah, that one of our favourite sister missionaries who had served in our Courtenay ward, had recently moved to SLC with her husband. I was thrilled that Kamaile was able to sing at Dad's funeral. She did such a beautiful job. Being able to spend the day at temple square with her was just plain awesome.....

The Superman would never try to push his loving wife in the reflecting pool, would he????

We then toured the Conference Center....It seats 21,000 and as we entered the auditorium I had to catch my breath, its size is AMAZING!!!
{ We woke up the next morning to find out there had been a fire directly above the pulpit, less than four hours after this picture was taken. There was major water damage right where we were weird. Check out news report here }

Our day was the perfect way to end a difficult two weeks in Utah....Peace is possible, even in grief ... Families are forever :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Final Goodbye.

 I have thought long and hard about posting it, death is a part of life, but for many it is a difficult, if not taboo subject.

 In the hours and days following our Dad's death, I was instantly aware that others were grieving the loss of our Dad too. As my sister phoned his brother, a sister-in-law, friends in the minutes that followed,  I felt terrible that they had to feel our heart ache too. There was an instant need to comfort others...

Most were completely unaware of my Dad's rapid decline....The torment and torchure of his dementia, the malnutrition and weight loss it caused.He really suffered. For me, his death meant a release, a peace of sorts, his suffering was over....We found ourselves explaining again and again that we were at peace, this was a blessing, that at least he didn't linger, his suffering wasn't long...word of comfort for others. But are hearts ache and ache....

The hardest two moments for me was seeing my Dad in the casket for the first time as Kelli and I had the arduous decision of having an open casket veiwing or closed...We knew his apperance would shock people and in no way wanted to add to anyones heart ache...he looked slightly better than we had anticipated so we had the casket open....

Seeing my Dad one final time as they closed the casket was the worst moment ever {it was at my Mom's funeral too, so I was sort of perpared} Final goodbyes will always be hard. We honoured my Dad by burying him in a red and black track suit and red Converse high tops...anything else would not have been him.

Funerals are never fun. Planning one is even less fun. The funeral director was an amazing man, though, so down to earth and helpful...He was the first director I've met that didn't creep me out. This made the process so much simplier the second time....

Dad's service was perfect. Full of a few tears, but many more laughs....just the way we and he wanted it. It was amazing to me those who long friends, family, even a handful of my Mom's cousins. Saying good bye is so hard but it helps to not do it alone....

His surviving brother, son-in laws and nephews carried Dad to his final resting place.

A brother says goodbye.

So does his Grandson and name sake.

Good bye Dad.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Okay, as kids we never looked like siblings, much less twins,  but as adults I have to admit we look way more alike....

I saw a sign in the airport once that said: "God made us sisters, Prozac made us friends"
Now it wasn't Prozac for us, we needed stronger meds  ;) It is an unbreakable bond that forms when you share a childhood and beyond full of joy, difficult heartbreak, uncertainty, loss, and hopeful optimism. One of my sweetest tender mercies in life is my sister...Heavenly Father knew I would always need someone by my side and because of my twin, I have never had to walk through loss or heartache alone.

We were asked twice in the days following my Dad's death. "Soooo, how does it feel being orphans now?!?" I'm thinking they meant well, but not exactly the first worlds of comfort that I would think to share....The first time I stood there slightly stunned, because the fact that we are now orphans hadn't really sunk in...the second time I had to walk away, because the crazy comment made me snicker and want to break into a rousing rendition of "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow"...its just how my brain works....

How does this orphan feel...
It sucks.
It makes me sad.
It is a relief of sorts.
You know that feeling you have right after you get off the scrambler or zipper at the carnival....that's really how I feel. Like my body is going through the motions but my head is still spinning. Its going to take sometime to catch my breath.

 {So please be patient with me, but don't ignore me, my heartache, or grief}
The last two weeks have been hard, really hard, but I know one thing for sure,  
My sister is a super me. I guess she's bat(wo)man and I'm Robin :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Gratitude for Grandpa

Burying a parent makes for a difficult heart wrenching day....but for now I will be forever grateful for a day to honor my Dad.

Today's gratitude list...

Brad, my cousin who eloquently captured Dad's life in words filled with love, laughter and a good dose of Merrill wit, that obviously does not skip generations.

Uncle John, who shared "Les" stories that had us laughing and shedding a tear, as most could relate our very own "Les" experience

Kamaile (Sis Pung)(& Jorge) who sang beautifully, and was my little piece of Courtenay comfort on a sad day

The Superman who shared his testimony of our eternal nature and comfort in our grief.

Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who showed endless love and kindness to two grieving daughters

My nephew Zach who grabbed my hand as I followed the casket out of the chapel, and said when he noticed I was crying "It's ok Aunt Robin, you'll see him again"

The vast array of jello salads at the luncheon, that reminded me yes we are in Utah and gave me something to secretly mock, I mean smile about.

And my sweet Superman who as we were collecting flowers after the graveside service, looked at me with a big bunch of roses and said "Happy Anniversery!?!" giving Kelli and I (and I'm sure Dad) something to laugh at.

The chance to say goodbye in the way we chose.

My knowledge that families are forever.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dad's Obit

Writing a parent's obituary is much harder than you think, but Kelli and I managed to muscle through it ....

Leslie (Les) Eugene Merrill, age 76, of Yorba Linda, California, passed away April 6, 2012 in Nephi, Utah, after a brief loss of independence due to dementia.  We will dearly miss his contagious laugh, Merrill wit, brightly colored glasses, crazy tennis shoes and perfect jazz rhythms. The world is a little lonelier now with one less Merrill brother, father and friend.

Dad was born October 14, 1935 in Logan, Utah to Beena D. Peterson and Wendell William Merrill. Always a Logan boy at heart, he graduated from Logan High School (1954), and Utah State University with a Bachelor’s of Science (1962) and Master’s of Music (1968).  He served in the army for two years.

Dad married, Lynne Elaine Hamilton (deceased), on a weekend whim, August 31, 1963 in Las Vegas Nevada. After years with empty arms their family was complete with the birth of twin daughters in 1974.

Dad’s life long love of music, especially jazz percussion, led to successful careers in both teaching and performance. A public educator for 40 years teaching at Santiago High School, Santa Ana College, and Cypress College in Southern California. He taught thousands of students to love music. He found great delight later in his music career as a long time adjudicator at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.  He also enjoyed tennis, skiing, sightseeing, travel, and could almost always be found with a camera around his neck.

Survived by twin daughters: Robin (Grant) Kramer of Courtenay, BC, Canada and Kelli (Jason) Stilson of Nephi, UT, brother: John (Beverly) Merrill of Bakersfield, CA, and grandchildren: Holly, Bailey, Madison, Alex, Dallyn, Zachary, and Mya, sister-in-laws: Ardella Merrill of Logan, UT and Alice Merrill Simonsen of Salt Lake City, UT.

Proceeded in death by his sister Ollie Jean, brothers William, Peter, and Robert, his mother and father.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, April 14th, 2012 at 11am in the Nephi 1st Ward LDS Ward Chapel 222 S. 100 E., Nephi, UT.  A viewing will be held one hour prior. Internment will follow at the Nephi City Cemetery 400 N. 400 E.  Funeral arrangements by Anderson Funeral Home.

The family would like to thank the medical staff of Central Valley Medical Center and Heritage Hills Care Center but especially Dr. Rasmussen and Central Valley Hospice for their kind and compassionate care.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Four Goodbyes

We had planned for weeks to leave for Utah on Good Friday....

Monday, "If you don't get on a plane now you will lose the chance to say goodbye" The thought had gone through my mind all day, but when the Superman called from work and said the same thing, I knew I had to put my flying phobia aside and listen...

Within minutes Grant had the time booked off and the tickets reserved...

We arrived in Utah 36 hours later.

Recognition, joy, confusion, agitation, fear, frustration, torment, peaceful rest.

Forty four hours and four goodbyes. Then one final goodbye. Good Friday.

Time and goodbyes a sacred gift.

We are so blessed.

Until we meet again Dad, I love you.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Utah Tears and Joy.

I've discovered many things about my self in the last few days...

My fear of flying is nearly cured while playing fruit ninja at 37,000 feet.

Not latching a airport washroom stall tightly provided great entertainment for some Japanese travellers.

Sharing your fight with missionaries heading home, lessens the airplane crash phobia considerably.

Seeing my twin sister after six years AWESOME...I didn'T realize how much I have missed her.

Nothing could have prepared for seeing my Dad, Nothing....My understanding of suffering was defined by watching my mom suffer, I never thought you could suffer more than that. I was simply wrong. The image of his sunken eyes and withered body will haunt me. As a grabbed his frail hand my heart wanted to run from the heart ache. The tender mercy, he knew me. The light returned to his eyes for a moment, and he knew me....That will always be a sacred moment to me.

From heart ache to joy....Meeting our niece and nephew for the first time. Zach met me with the biggest bear hug a four year old could muster...."Aunt Robin , I love you!" Mya, gave Uncle Grant a big smile and a high five. They are absolutely delightful.

Today Dad was scared, confused, and was not able to form much of what he wanted to say...Help and I want to go home was all I could make out from his mumbling. Witnessing his struggle to swallow and cough was tramatizing. My heart ached for him and tears flowed freely.

Why must those we love suffer... It is question I am really stuuggling with...

I am grateful that we came down earlier than planned, I will never regret this chance to say goodbye.

One a brighter note, the rug rats are holding down the fort nicely, Holly said "Don't worry mom I stopped Dallyn from drinking Windex and told Madison and Bailey to put down the sledge hammers. And then Dallyn says " I told them bikinis only in the hot tub.

Man I love my kids, they can always make me laugh, even when I'm crying.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Not Fine!

I don't need an easy button...What I desperately need is a pause button. Sadly neither exsist. I feel like I can't catch my breath. Waiting for a parent to die, moving, dealing with mental illness takes a lot more energy than I care to actually admitt. It's been such a LONG year.

 I'm fine! We've done this before, we can do it again. We've got tons of support. I've said this over and over again in the last days and weeks trying to convience others but mostly myself that I'm fine.

 I'm not fine. My dad is dying, would you be fine???

Just because I've done it before, by no means I'm any more prepared to lose a parent again.

I'm overwhelmed, it takes so much energy to deal with the simplist things, I can't remember the last time my kids had a meal that I was in charge of, that didn't involve the question "would you like fries with that?" or "preheat the oven to 375F" If it weren't for my rugrats my house would be a disaster area.

I wouldn't have gotten the last house clean without a visiting teacher who scrubbed along my side for hours until it was done. This house got completely unpacked in less than a week and Grant even made Sunday dinner....that's normal life, right?

For what every reason, a relatively minor bump in the road today sent all the emotions of the last two months, but year really, crashing down and all I could do is cry...a lot. The superman took over and helped me realize its time to go to Utah now, so I will have a chance to say goodbye. Something I thought I didn't need, but I was wrong. We will go as soon as we can arrange flights.

Two phone calls today from loving family members who did not know my Dad is dying...Its surreal....Dad is no longer able to swallow or cough, efectively or use the washroom or stand without falling, or remember his breaks my heart. As I relate his situation for the first time I allow myself to feel the pain, I allowed myself to cry. This is harder the second time because I know whats coming, and I want to run.

Now I just pray for courage and strength and that his suffering will stop.