Friday, July 27, 2012

Remembering Mr. Cliff

This past Monday the world lost one of the best men I have ever been privileged to call friend. Mr. Cliff won his battle against cancer and went to heaven to be with Jesus. Yesterday more people than I could ever begin to count gathered at our church to say good-bye and to remember this incredible husband, father, friend, and boss, who touched every single person's life he ever met. 

Around the time Eli was born, Mr. Cliff found out that he had an aggressive form of colon cancer. For the next four years, he battled this awful disease with such dignity. He never got down or depressed. He never asked the question, "Why me?" He always wore a smile and trusted that God knew what was best.

There have been so many things that have been written and said about Mr. Cliff since he passed away. He truly was one of a kind. Mr. Cliff was very special to our family. When we moved down here in 2005, he was Josh's boss. I can remember Josh meeting Cliff for the first time. Cliff didn't know who Josh was, he just knew Josh's mom, Sue, but he took a chance on Josh and the rest as they say is history. It didn't take long for Cliff to move from just being Josh's boss to being his friend, his mentor, and his golfing buddy. Josh and Mr. Cliff had such a special bond. He was so much more than just a boss to our family. When Eli was born, he and Mrs. Debra, his wife, were one of the first people to come see us and share in our joy. Anytime we went to the bank to visit Josh, we always made sure to check to see if Cliff was there so we could walk upstairs to see him. Eli loved going to see Cliff. I can remember many days of Cliff crawling on his hands and knees in his office (in his business clothes) chasing after balls that Eli would throw. He was one of the first people to see Eli take his practice steps when he started walking. I can remember him spinning Eli in his office chair making Eli cackle out loud with laughter. He was one of the first to say how good of an arm Eli had when it came to throwing baseballs. He loved kids and it showed!

One of my favorite times to see Mr. Cliff were at our city's annual Relay for Life events. He was such a great spokesperson for cancer awareness. He encouraged everyone he met to get a colonscopy, to donate to the American Cancer Society, and to do all they could to help find a cure. At the Relay for Life events, he was always the one wearing the biggest smile and passing out high fives, hugs, and encouraging words to everyone.

Relay for Life 2009

Cliff was such a vital part of our community. He was involved in so many organizations and contributed so much to the growing of our community. He wanted to make our city a wonderful place!

Cliff was one of those people who enjoyed life and lived life to the fullest. When he got the diagnosis about his cancer, it would have been real easy for him to give up right then and never enjoy another moment of his life. Cliff was just the opposite. He lived every single day as if it were his last. He traveled to places with his family, spent time with his friends and loved ones, ate good food, and made so many wonderful memories. 

Relay for Life, 2010

Cliff with his wife, Debra, and his oldest daughter, Katie

Relay for Life, 2011

This past year Cliff's battle with cancer got harder, but that didn't change Cliff's outlook on life at all. Even when he was in such pain, he was such an inspiration to every person he came in contact with. So many people made the comment that they would go see him and try to encourage him and they were the ones that would leave encouraged and lifted up. He had a way of making everyone he met feel like they were his best friend and that at that particular moment they were the most important person in the world. 

Relay for Life 2012

This is one of my favorite pictures of Cliff

Cliff with his youngest daughter, Jessie, and his wife, Debra

Debra, his wife, is one of the most incredible women I've ever met. She is such rock and was there for Cliff taking care of him, ministering to him, helping him, praying for him, comforting him, and being an incredible helpmate. They had a special relationship and Cliff adored her. I love looking at these pictures of the two of them. 

This last picture makes me smile because this was Cliff. He's taking a picture with Spiderman and is so happy about it. Most people would balk at a picture like this, but not Cliff. Eli asked him to take a picture with Spiderman and he did it just to make Eli smile. Cliff will always be a part of this world because of the impact he left on so many people. His spirit, his kindness, his memory will live on. I know he's in a much better place and I'm so thankful for the promise of heaven. I'm so glad that one day soon we'll all get to see Cliff again. What a wonderful day that will be!

In Full Bloom

When we moved into our house last October, Josh and I were both looking forward to the spring so we could landscape our yard. I am happy to say we are FINALLY finished. We still had one side of the house that we needed to landscape and put down mulch, but we finished that a couple of weeks ago. Whew! We are really happy about all the plants we chose for our front beds and the beds of the sides of the house. Next year, our landscaping project will be the backyard area around the pool, but for now we are D-O-N-E. Now we just have to maintain what we've planted and change out the few annuals every season. I'm really looking forward to fall when I can plant some mums and fall flowers. Landscaping and gardening might just become a new hobby for me :) Here are some pictures of my flowers in full bloom...

My dreamland zinnia's have been my favorite flowers this summer.

Eli's always willing to hep me pull those "bad plants" (weeds). 

Our grass finally filled in and we actually have a yard now!

T-Ball Player in Training

Ever since he could walk, Eli has loved all sports-basketball, soccer, baseball, football. If he's anything like his Daddy was when he was little, Eli is going to be a little sports junkie :)  Josh was (and still is) one of those people who excelled at all sports, even if it's a sport he never really played. He is just a natural athlete. Hopefully, Eli got his Daddy's genes and not his Mommy's. I'm not a klutz or anything 
(Josh would probably contest that statement), but I'm not a natural athlete. I did play basketball, soccer, and softball growing up, but sports never became my thing. 

Eli so far has enjoyed and done well at all the sports we've introduced to him so far. He loves basketball and has gotten much better at dribbling lately. Not having a dining room table in our dining room has actually been helpful because he's been able to practice in there :) He seemed to really enjoy soccer, so we bought him a small goal for the backyard. He and his Daddy have had lots of fun kicking the ball around together. He's got a really good arm on him and can throw the football pretty far for a kid his age and is getting better on catching. 

Most recently, t-ball has been the focus around our house. Eli had the Little Tikes t-ball set from when he was a baby, but Josh thought he was ready for the real thing :) The other day he came home and brought Eli a surprise. A "real" baseball bat, practice balls, and tee! Eli was SO EXCITED and couldn't wait to try them out with his Daddy!

This picture makes me so ready for t-ball next year! 
I can't wait!

My handsome hunk and very proud daddy!

Eli must have swung that bat twenty times and had a great hit every time. I don't know how next year's t-ball season will go, but if he has fun playing that's all that will matter to me. We're not going to be parents that force him to play every sport, but we do want him to be active and be on a team. Plus, playing sports help build confidence and will help him learn teamwork. There are so many great benefits to playing sports. I really do look forward to spending my summers at the ball park next year. I think it's going to be lots of fun-for him and for us!

A Little Science and Some Snakes

Eli and I have thoroughly enjoyed our summer. We've done so many fun things together and have made so many great memories. One lazy Saturday morning, Eli came to me and said he wanted to do the "fizz activity". He wanted to do the colored vinegar and baking soda activity that we did a few weeks ago. I let him and Josh do that for a few minutes and then remembered another activity using baking soda that I had seen on Pinterest. We did the balloon experiment with Eli and he loved it! We had to do it two times and if we'd had enough baking soda, we would have done it some more! If you've never done it before, it's super easy. 

First, gather an empty bottle, some vinegar, a balloon and baking soda. Pour a some vinegar in the empty bottle until it's about 1/3 full. Pour some baking soda into the empty ballon until the bottom of it is full but don't fill it up the entire way. Carefully attach the balloon to the top of the bottle, but don't let the baking soda fall in just yet. When you're ready, hold the balloon straight up and let the baking soda fall into the vinegar. The baking soda and vinegar will make a gas that blows up your balloon. It's pretty cool, super cheap, and fun for the kids! 

The next week at the library we were able to participate in some more fun science. The library had a special guest come to talk to the kids about snakes. They call him the Snake Man! The presentation was really great. We got to see some snakes that are common to our area, but I'll be honest, they still give me the heebie jeebies.

The first snake he brought out was a garter snake. 
I had one of these in my classroom one time...EEK! 
He slithered right past my foot when I was teaching a reading group at my table. 

The second snake he brought out was a corn snake.

I forget the name of this had a nose that looked like a pig snout though.

Then he brought out a King Snake. 

The experience was great, but the stories were really long. Eli really just wanted to see the snakes, but each snake came with about a 10 minute story about the snake. It was definitely perfect for the school age children, but for toddlers like Eli, it was more than his attention span could handle. After the King Snake, I asked him if he was ready to go and he said he was. Maybe next year when the Snake Man comes we can stay for more snakes! We've really enjoyed all the special events that the local library sponsored this summer. That's probably been one of our favorites things this summer!

Fourth of July, 2012

For those of you that come to this blog daily expecting to see recent posts, I'm so sorry. It's gotten harder to update lately just because we're so busy. I have about six posts ready to go, so hopefully I'll get to those very soon. For now, let's go back to the beginning of the month :)

This year for the Fourth of July, we invited the Hargons, Mammy and Uncle Clare, and Zue-Zue over to the house to barbecue and to swim in the pool with us. The food was so yummy thanks to the Pioneer Woman and Pinterest. My life and my waistline have been forever changed because of those two sources. Goodness! I made the Pioneer Woman's salsa and potato salad and they were both SO GOOD! From Pinterest, I made the coconut fruit dip (BEST fruit dip EVER!) and a banana caramel pie. OH.MY.WORD. That pie was incredible. I'll definitely be keeping that recipe :) Josh grilled burgers, we all swam, ate until we were going to burst, and then sat around talking and having fun. Everyone left and our family of three made our way to the river front to watch the annual fireworks show. 

You might be able to see that I'm kind of obsessed with taking pictures in front of the bridges when they're lit up. They're so pretty!

My two favorite boys

Me with my little man

In the past when we've gone, the fireworks show was delayed for a long time. We worried that it would happen this year, but they were very punctual! Eli loved watching the fireworks and sat entranced in our laps during the entire show. Well, until he found out that my watch I was wearing had the Indiglo light and from that point on he just wanted to push that button to make it light up.

I love doing things that make wonderful memories for my family and I am so thankful to all the men and women that fight to protect that right and that freedom for me. Happy Fourth of July to you all!! I hope you and your family had a wonderful day celebrating the wonderful freedoms we have!

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