Friday, June 29, 2012


In February, my Uncle Frank died quite unexpectedly.  We were all so shocked.  Jim and Kathy kept the kids for me so that I could go to Louisiana for the funeral.  In true Frank style, we sent him home on Mardi Gras.  I was able to speak at the funeral about what Frank meant to me.  I have put that eulogy here with a few pictures of one of the most entertaining guys I've ever known.

There are few people in this world that truly embody the term unique.  Frank David Campbell was in all ways, a unique man.  He was an avid reader, a pyrotechnics expert, a drinker of silver water, ambidextrous, a great debater, a cultivator of the earth, and one of the most generous people on the planet. 

As I remember Frank, a thousand different images flash through my mind, but the one I see the most is him standing on the back porch at my grandparents house, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other pacing around the circle of chairs holding court with outlandish tales of a prank he pulled with Bill or Mark or expounding on his political beliefs sparking a great debate.  These stories and debates were all punctuated by the greatest laughter.  Frank had a laugh that made your heart soar. 

The first and only member of the Campbell clan to be born on foreign soil, Frank was an American patriot who loved to exercise his right to the Second Amendment and created an arsenal to keep us all safe under any circumstances.  He was the most prepared person for Y2K that I’ve ever met, with a store of canned chickens that has only recently been depleted.  Like a good boy scout, Frank was prepared for any eventuality.  He created a “compound” for the family, and always told me when the big event happens, have enough gas on hand to get home to him and he’d take care of the rest.  You could put your faith in Frank.  He was ready.

At my parents' wedding - next to the bride.
The scouts taught Frank that you should be a dependable person and always be willing to help others.  This lesson he learned as a child, he applied throughout his life.  When Popo Chapman died, he stepped up and took care of Momo.  He visited, he fixed things, and when Grandma & Grandpa wanted to go out of town, they knew Frank was there to pick up the slack.  When my Grandpa died, we all knew that Grandma would be just fine because Uncle Frank was going to make sure of it.  He visited her everyday.  I can’t remember how many times I’ve called Grandma’s and Frank was there for his afternoon visit, making cracks about deteriorating mental faculties, telling entertaining stories about his work day or his kids, and pushing the silver water to keep her healthy.  The night before he died, I called and he was there with Lynn Dee. 

Frank knew the value of family and was willing to do anything for any of us.  He helped my mom get to the hospital the day I was born after his hard day of work on the mud truck.  He knew that family sticks together.  They stay when times are hard and when things get dirty.  He applied this great love and philosophy to all three of his kids.  When Nicholas moved a country away to Washington, he made sure that Nicholas still knew he was part of the family.  It seemed to me that he was always flying up to get Nick and bring him back to see us.  He loved Mitch and Jamie from the first day he met them.  I remember a few times in the beginning Lynn Dee would have to tell them Frank’s bark is worse than his bite, but in time, they learned that Frank could mean business, but he also how knew how to make things fun.  He was so proud of all of his kids.  When you asked about his kids, his pride was visible – he’d stand up a little straighter, and expound on their greatness – whether it was Nicholas’s computer skills, Mitchell’s courage, or Jamie’s amazing people skills – he was always telling stories where his children played the heroes.  Perhaps the one thing he was most disappointed in them for was the failure to deliver enough grandkids, but Jamie and Danny recently made that dream come true for him. He was able to trade in all those “grand-dogs” for actual grandkids, and he and Lynn Dee both were so ecstatic for Lexi and Aiden to join the family.  I’m pretty sure if they ask for the moon, Frank would figure out a way to get it for them, even from Heaven.  He was an amazing uncle.  I’m pretty sure there is not a niece or nephew who doesn’t have a story of hundreds of dollars of quarters being thrown into the pool for retrieval during their formative years.  

Frank & James
 Frank knew the value of hard work.  The first job I remember him having was at the hospital.  He worked nights and lived at his parents’ house.  I loved getting to spend the night at Grandma & Grandpa’s because I knew that I could sleep in Frank’s waterbed, and in the morning, when I woke up, he’d be there sleeping right next to me.  He had a lot of down time at the hospital, and he used it to read, mostly sci-fi thrillers.  During his time at the plant, I’m pretty sure he spent more holidays with his work friends than with us.  He enjoyed the people he worked with, and I remember how great he thought it was that “The Frank Song” became his work theme song.  When he spent some time in the hospital last month, his coworkers came out in droves to see him, and it let us know just how much impact he had at work.
Frank & Michael
When he wasn’t working, Franked loved being outdoors.  He always spent his vacation at the Camp where he could boat, build fires, and look at the stars.  He learned a loved for growing things from his Grandpa Campbell.  When he first bought his house, he became a cultivator of some of the world’s best hot peppers.  Many a time, he brought his father to tears with his extra spicy peppers.  He grew broccoli, lemons, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a host of other plants.  Many a family meal included something fresh from Frank’s garden.
Frank & Ryan
Frank was effortlessly cool.  He was my own personal Fonzie.  The man owned a waterbed in the eighties, I probably shouldn’t have to say more.  He had a fish tank with a black light.  He had a motorcycle.  He drove a Trans Am with a t-top.  Once he met Lynn Dee, he just managed to dial that cool factor up.  Together they were the most tan and beautiful people ever.  They owned a swimming pool.  They put on spectacular parties which started at six a.m. when their shift at the hospital ended.  They had a sailboat.  Even though they had three kids, it did not diminish the cool factor.  In fact it increased, as Frank took his love of fireworks from a small show at the end of Grandma & Grandpa’s driveway on a random Tuesday night to an extravaganza of epic proportions at our annual family Fourth of July at the Camp.  Frank taught me that cool came with a price.  If you wanted to see the good fireworks, you’d better clap and clap loudly or the next one to be shot off was going to be a lame bottle rocket.  If you wanted to rock the cool Trans Am with the T-Top, you’d better be willing to be cold.  As child riding to Uncle Mike’s wedding in Atlanta in Frank’s car, I learned that it gets cold in that sweet ride.  Frank was unwilling to diminish the cool of the t-top for warmth, but he was willing to pass back an old football jersey to keep Zach and I warm.  After the kids grew up, he and Lynn Dee still were able to bring the cool factor.  They joined a Mardi Gras krewe and brought the party from the backyard to a limo in tuxes and fancy dresses.
In the parking garage at the hospital when my Popo was sick holding James.
Frank’s generosity was legendary.  He always gave wonderful Christmas gifts.  When I got married, my mother-in-law called me and told me I needed to put something on my registry.  I thought I had put everything in the store on that list.  The next day, when I got home from work, I couldn’t even open the front door there were so many packages outside.  Frank and Lynn Dee had bought almost everything on the registry.  Everyday, I pull something out of the cabinet to use that he gave us.  Not only was he generous with his money, he was generous with his love and affection.  He gave great hugs.
Swimming in the pool as Uncle Frank looks on.

Throughout his life, Frank served as an example for others.  He was a trailblazer, a man of action who cast a big shadow for others to hide in, and he did it all on his own terms.  As a young boy, he would climb out of bed, grab his cowboy hat and ride his radio flyer pony back into dreamland.  I like to think of him riding that pony, telling great stories, and impatiently pacing waiting for all of us to catch up with him.  Frank will live forever in our hearts, and in the lives that he touched.  We were all lucky to know him.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Frenzied February

In February, we actually saw Daddy, and Grandma & Papa came home from Aunt Sue's house.
All of my favorite boys checking out the phone.  We are a technology driven family, that's for sure.  We now own enough iPhones (most of them ancient) for everyone to have one.  Of course, they'd all prefer to have the iPad.  Sometimes, when it just gets to be too much phone/iPad time, things have to hide, but it's one of the only ways to actually eat a meal in public with the kids.
Having spent several months on our own with Daddy on his regular travel schedule, the boys and I have learned how to do things in public just the four of us.  Some outings are successful, some are horrific, but all of them involve leaving the house, and just that is an accomplishment on some days.  
Jacksonville's MOSH (science & history museum) has five dollar Fridays, so the boys and I ventured out to see what kind of scientific adventures we could get into.  From our zoo trips, I have learned that the double stroller combined with backpacks is an effective way to keep all my ducks in a row.  We were able to see the entire first floor of the museum (most of it very quickly).
The boys seem to urge each other toward learning new things.  When I read a book to one of the boys, the other two gravitate over to hear; when one discovers something new and fabulous, he likes to share it with his brothers; and they love to learn about animals of all kinds.
Their favorite part of the MOSH was the animal room.  Ryan was so excited to pet an alligator.  You know you live in Florida when you get to pet strange alligators more often than strange dogs.
Michael and James take turns learning what alligator feels like.  Is it wrong of me to think that alligator will one day make a lovely handbag and a tasty meal?  You can take the girl out of the swamp, but not the swamp out of the girl.
The kids loved these tableau drawers.  This blue jay bird's nest was particularly inviting.  Unfortunately, they also liked to slam the drawer closed and open it up, but my general harried state and shame faced apologies tends to make people excuse our behavior in front of my face if not behind my back.
The best part of the MOSH was the hands on play area.  There was a giant tree you could climb in and a water table.  The boys must have spent 45 minutes just hanging out in this room.  We were supposed to meet other moms and kids at the MOSH, but our battery in our car died (AGAIN), and we were late.  After testing by a generator guy, we found out that our battery was being zapped by a faulty connection in one of our doors.  The guy said we could spend a couple thousand dollars to figure out where the bad connection was or just pull the fuse for the interior lights.  Let's just say if you want to get in our car at night, you'd better bring a flash light.
James was king of the water table.  He enjoyed diverting the water, making the water wheels spin, and getting his long sleeves soaking wet.  I think James has an engineers/mechanics mind.  He is always working out how things fit together and operate.  The other day on the carousel, he spent more time looking up to see how the horse was moving than waving to Daddy.  I know that every parent thinks his/her child is brilliant, but I'm pretty sure I can attest that all three of mine are exceptional in almost every way (except perhaps potty training).
Ryan is a hands on guy as well.  He likes to play.  He is always on the move.  I'm pretty sure when Mohammad Ali said float like a butterfly sting like a bee, he was foretelling Ryan's existence.  He is always into something.  He's so independent.  If he wants something, then he'll figure out a way to get it.  I have hidden the popsicles in three different freezers, and he's found them every single time.  I've had to quit buying them so that he will quit helping himself to them.
Michael is my puzzle man.  He is the most independent and territorial of the three boys.  He can play by himself for hours.  He really takes in the information and story lines from the shows we watch.  Days later, he'll start talking about specific patterns he saw on Umizoomi.  He loves his name.  He names the toys he plays with Michael, i.e. Pirate Captain Michael, etc.  He also is the "traffic cop" as Bob calls him, constantly telling the "boys" what to do.  I think he is my best rule follower and my best rule breaker wrapped up into one.  My favorite thing he's started doing is praising himself - after he puts a puzzle together or builds a castle, he'll say "good job Michael."
James making a dam.  I can't wait to go back to the museum.  They have a dinosaur exhibit that I think the boys will just love.  Sadly, now that they are three, they are no longer free.  I guess it's time to find out if membership really does have its privileges.
My boys are great helpers.  They love to sweep the floor while I sweep the floor (no, it's not necessary to keep the dirt in a pile while sweeping), they have a small vacuum to use while I vacuum, they like to put the laundry in the washer then into the dryer, but they do NOT like to pick up their toys.
One of Daddy's specialties is brats.  He cooks a mean sausage, and his best helpers love to pour his beer into the pot, put the sausage and onion in, and then stir, stir, stir.
Future chefs in the making.  They got an outdoor kitchen (or a grill with a fridge, oven, and counter) for their birthday from Grandma & Papa.  There were vast quantities of eggs and sausage being made for all.  I love how they pretend and play so nicely together.  Most of their fights arise when someone doesn't want to play any more.
Michael and my phone.  Recently, my blue cover tore, and I replaced it with pink.  Kathy also has a pink cover on her phone.  For the longest time, Michael would get mad at me for having grandma's phone.  Thankfully, he has come to terms with the fact that we both have pink phones.
A Saturday morning movie with Daddy.  The boys love repetition, all kids do.  They will ask to watch the same episode of Umizoomi 5 times in a row.  This drives Bob completely nuts.  He has done everything possible to limit the amount of repetitive kids shows he has to watch.  Sometimes he's successful (most especially with sports or Star Wars), and sometimes a boy just needs to watch the "backyards."
James and Emma playing nice.  From time to time, Emma will let the boys pet her.  She has adjusted her three pets then bite rule to a pet then bite rule, but still the kids try to catch her.  At least she doesn't hide in terror like she used to.
For Valentine's Day, we celebrated in understated style.  With chocolates and love.  Aunt Mellie sent a care package with this cute mailbox.  I've taken to putting all the mail the kids get into their mailbox.  Currently, there are three postcards from Momo in our mailbox.
Grandma & Papa also got a membership to the zoo, so not long after they returned from Texas, we went to the zoo.  The original plan was to meet at the zoo and then I would take off for an afternoon to myself.  The kids weren't having it, so instead, I stuck around and got to play photographer.
My monkeys monkeying around.
James admires the frogs in the Amazon section.  He loves the different colored frogs.  It took forever to get him to move on to the next animal.
I think Michael was watching the tapir here, but I'm not sure.  We tend to wear out before we make it to the Amazon section, so I've been trying to mix it up and go to different sections of the zoo.  Let's just say, it's not a good idea to skip the snakes or the elephants.
Fountain time.  If only their mother carried change to toss into the fountain.  I am a victim of my mom's 500 pound change purse.  If I have more than two dollars in change, it must be relocated to another receptacle as I am not going to have odd back aches due to copious amounts of change in my purse.
Danger, danger, water is getting closer to the triplets.
Ryan brushes the goats.  He really likes brushing the goats.  He also likes to brush Duke, so maybe he's just very into animal grooming.
One thing we are not into is the potty.  I am going to try and work on this again in the next couple of weeks.  This time, I'm going to get three frog potties and go au natural and see if it takes.  I love the idea of naked potty training (less laundry, more clorox wipes).  We'll see if it works.
Fireman Michael does not like to sit on the potty.  In fact, he will sit in a dirty diaper for hours while I beg him to let me change it.  He is an odd duck, but I love him. Hopefully his future wife does not find this post and think less of him for it.  James will sit on the potty if the mood strikes but there has never been pee that hits the potty - although the other day he was more than willing to pee in my hand while Bob chased him around with a diaper.  Only Ryan has had any potty success.  He pooped in the potty, got the promised Darth Maul toy, and has completely lost interest despite the promise of a young boy Anakin (? should I have to learn the proper spelling of made up Jedis who turn to the dark side?).  If I keep repeating, I am ready to potty train, I am ready to potty train, maybe one of the four of us will be convinced and the pee can hit the bowl.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lazy Days of January

Every time I open my computer to do something constructive like play pyramids or search for Star Wars toys on ebay, a nagging guilt assails me.  I know that I should be spending a small fraction of that time updating the blog.  I really have the best intentions, but then Bob will ask me a question like "how old do you think Russell Brand is?," and I'm off searching the web for irrelevant facts or playing game after game of temple run.  In order to atone for my sins and make a mid-year resolution, I've decided to catch up on what's been going on in the Newhouse world for all my adoring fans (or at least my mother) by putting quick review of each month up and hopefully restoring the rhythm of blogging once again.  
Our first January in Florida alerted me to the fact that unless we go to Texas for Christmas, we will never need to buy winter coat - a good sweatshirt and a pair of jeans will do just fine.  January was fabulous for playing outside.  Here Ryan sports his mouse ears & "rock band" (lego star wars, but who needs to quibble) p.j.s as an acceptable out of doors attire.  Of course, this is the same child that ran outside completely nude to check the mail.  Thank God for safety locks.
My sweet Michael still loves that hat.  We spent a lot of January just the four of us since Bob was off doing all kinds of work things.  I'm not sure why, but apparently the musical instrument business is hopping in January.  I think Bob was home 7 days in January.  Jim and Kathy were still in Texas with Sue, and so the boys and I joined a playgroup through our multiples organization.  It has been a lifesaver.  I've finally got some Florida friends.
Benjamin Button, I mean James, checks the stocks on his iPhone.  It's time for the market to close in China, Mom, I've got to make some trades.
Ryan and the recurring sty in his eye.  Poor guy.  We ended up having to take a trip to the doctor for some much needed medication for this little beauty.  In the mean time, it gave him a sinister air that only a true mafiosi can cultivate.
I know that Michael has never seen Different Strokes, but I'm sure he's wondering what Willis is talking about.
The best part of triplet motherhood is the love.  My guys are always so sweet and loving followed by a swift wack in the head by a toy, but still the love is there.  Michael and his "Mr. A-tay-tuh Head" are virtually inseparable.  Lately, when they have something that has upset them, they get hugs from each other as often as they do from me.  It warms my heart to know our guys take care of each other.
While we practiced the arts of the brush, Daddy was in California hanging out with the Buffet Group.
Across from his booth, Stevie Wonder appeared (not Stephen Tyler, Faith - perhaps our most favorite Faith story of the last few months was when she asked Bob to get her some Stevie Wonder music to listen to because that's who she thought was a new judge on American Idol.  A while later, we were watching Stevie Wonder on the music channel on TV, and Bob said, "Faith, there's your boy, Stevie Wonder."  Faith, in a most shocked and aghast manner that is comical in only the way a twelve year old girl can be exclaimed, "Stevie Wonder's black?")  Not only that, he's blind, and Bob told me that some fool woman kept waving at him and expecting a response.  This one little tidbit of info could spark a rant of epic proportions, but I'll refrain.
Over the months, we've gone through phases in our TV addictions.  We love Dinosaur Train, Cat in the Hat, Super Why, Backyardigans, Wild Kratts, and most recently and obsessively, Umizoomi.  Regardless of our current passion, the toys are always in demand as James makes sure that all are aboard on the Dinosaur Train (also every overpass, hallway, or semi-enclosed throughway has become a "time tunnel.")
We don't limit our love of the glowing box to just TV shows, we love our movies too.  Toy Story 3, Winnie the Pooh (which has some fabulous dance numbers invented by the kids involving sticking out your tummy like Pooh), Cars 2, Mulan, Robin Hood, Sword and the Stone, and Lion King have been big players.  More recently, Daddy has shown us 5 of 6 Star Wars movies, and thus he has fully began the lifelong process of embracing nerd-hood but more on that later.
My favorite times of any day are when one of the kids (or all three of them) come hang out with Mommy for some cuddle time.  I am so lucky to have such loving little men, and every hug, kiss, smile, and conversation make me know that no matter what bills need to be paid, what needs to be cleaned or picked up, or how lonely I am for Daddy/Texas/me-time that my life is pretty fantastic.
Ryan is our biggest talker.  He will literally talk until he runs out of breath (which is never).  He continually discusses our trips to Disney, the beach, the books he's read, Star Wars, etc.  I am counting on him to keep talking.  Mommy is gonna need an informer.
When Bob is away, we tend to take lots of pictures of every day things.  Dinner, bath time, playing outside.  It seems that when I browse through our photos they are just the same things over and over with bigger kids.  I think it helps Daddy make it through those long days on the road, and I know our video chats are key for the kids.  I can't begin to count how many times Ryan has asked me "where's my dad?" in the last few months.  We go over to the map in the playroom and talk about where he is.  Bob told him that he had to go out of town to make him some money, so now Ryan asks "is my dad making me my moneys?"
Here are several of the great people from Buffet.  Bob's got such a nice group of people to work with, and we are very blessed to know them.  Most of his job involves hoofing it across the southeast in his mini-van with his phone attached to his ear, so it always makes me happy when he has a little bit of fun along with his work.