Kids’ Weekend with Aunt Jen

Brian’s sister was in town for a conference this weekend and she offered to take the kids for the weekend so she could spend some quality time with them, and I could have a weekend off! I invited my BFF Katie to visit, and while we had a pretty low-key weekend of talking, eating, talking, a movie, more talking, Netflix binge-watching, talking and shopping… the kids had much more of an adventurous time with their aunt! Here are a few photos she shared with me of their time together:

I’m so thankful she is in their lives. She is a very positive link to their dad, and they had a great weekend (as did I)! Thanks, Aunt Jen!!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

We are definitely ready for a fresh new year. We had a low-key party at home. Chloe took it upon herself to be the party planner, picking out the decorations, food and activities. She also had to arrange the food herself. Apparently she loves to do this! Who knew?

During the day we played a lot of ping pong. The kids brought paddles and balls from their dad’s house and I got them a net for Christmas.

After dinner it was time to get everyone ready! And I do mean everyone:

We played games (Alexia helped)…

…and watched Star Wars. Before we see the new one I need to get caught up, because sadly I have not seen all of them. This was next on our list:

And of course at midnight we counted down, tossed some streamers and said cheers to a new year!

Every year I do a New Year’s “mantra” versus a list of resolutions. A list of all of my mantras is on the “Christine” tab if you’re interested. This year my mantra is….

Reboot.

I looked up the definition and it said, “to start (something) anew: to refresh (something) by making a new start or creating a new version”. I think that pretty much sums up where I am in my life, and I’m looking forward to creating a new “version” of our family in 2020.

Merry Christmas!

My parents came for Christmas this year, which was awesome. It was nice to have a distraction, especially on Christmas morning, which had the potential to be a little sad. On Christmas Eve we made cookies for Santa, and everyone helped decorate!

After the kids went to bed I had a lot of last-minute wrapping to do, so my mom helped!

When it was all said and done, everyone had overflowing stockings, and the tree was well stocked. Every year the sight of the tree lighting all the gifts in the darkened living room takes my breath away.

The next morning the kids had to find the pickle ornament. I’ve always had a pickle ornament on my tree because it was a gift from someone, but we never really did the whole “find the pickle” tradition. This year the kids told me to make sure I hid it for them to find in the morning, because they used to do that at their dad’s. Apparently I did a good job because they had to bust out the flashlights! Chase found the pickle so he got to play “Santa” and pass out the gifts. (But he eventually let Chloe take over, because he’s sweet like that.)

The kids got what they asked for from Santa. Well, Chloe did. Chase had no idea what he wanted this year so Santa just guessed. Chloe asked for a Fitbit, and Chase got a wifi projector so he could project his games/videos from his phone onto the wall for better viewing.

And of course we couldn’t forget the fur babies! They got new blankets, bones, and toys… and of course I had to dress them up a little, too.

Oh, and the old folks got some stuff too:

The framed artwork was from my brother and his family in Idaho. We knew we were getting a framed something (just by feeling the packages), but had no idea what. We opened them at the same time and my mom and I both started bawling. It is such a meaningful gift to me. I honestly don’t have the right words to describe how it makes me feel. It’s hard having my family so spread apart, especially right now. But my brother flew in when I needed his help with the dogs and such, my mom was begging to come for whatever I needed after Brian died. My parents weren’t planning on coming down for Christmas this year, but those plans quickly changed. Family truly knows no distance. I love them all so much.

My kids got me very thoughtful gifts this year, too, and my parents helped them pull that off. About a week before Christmas Chloe got a little panicked because she said she knew what she wanted to get me but had no idea how she was going to do it because their dad always took them to do that stuff. I told her to text Grandma, and they worked it out from there. Chloe found the item online and sent her the link to order it for her, and then paid her back when she got in town. Then on Christmas Eve my parents took Chase to Target to make sure he had a chance to get me something, too. Chloe got me a set of new cell phone cases (because mine was cracking and she took note of that… how sweet!), and Chase got me a pair of fuzzy slippers with hard soles so I could wear them outside when I take the dogs out in the morning. So thoughtful. I love these kiddos so much, and I am thankful that my mom stepped in to help them get me something I would use and love.

Of course while my parents were in town we had some other adventures as well. We decided to hit up “Christmas Towne” at Old Settlers in Round Rock. There was a carnival set up that Chloe saw one night while we were driving by that she got really excited about, so we went on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately the carnival was closed then and Chloe was super bummed… but it was just kind of “open” so we got sneaky and explored it anyway. (Shhhhhhhh…. We are so bad!) lol

Even though the carnival was closed, we were still able to explore the rest of Christmas Towne:

The adventure actually inspired us to take some pictures there for our New Years card photo shoot with my mom a couple days later. This time there was a worker at the carnival who actually let us get on some of the rides so it wasn’t so illegal.

The photos turned out so nice, but this one has to be my personal favorite. It just says everything:

Man, I’m tired.

My dad wanted to help me with something at the house so I asked him to replace my exterior lights that I have hated with a PASSION since I moved in, and I am so thankful he did that for me. What a difference! Every time I look at them they make me happy. It’s the little things!

And then of course I have photos of us just being goofy. Because that’s who we are:

This holiday was weird. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster… in ways I hadn’t anticipated. It wasn’t like I sat around feeling sad about the kids not having their dad around or anything like that… it was more like I was totally fine until something happened and I lost my cool, and/or broke down and cried. My parents were so understanding. We had some fun, but we had some tears and frustrations. It’s OK, though…. They came because they knew I needed them… not because they thought it would be a party. That’s what family is all about, after all.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Lots of love to you all.

Conversations With a 9-Year-Old: Living with Grandma

So while my dad and I worked on installing new outdoor light fixtures at my house, my mom helped the kids clean their rooms! Anyone who really KNOWS my daughter and her hoarding tendencies can imagine what a monumental task that was. So later that night as I was tucking her in and telling her how great her room looked…

CHLOE: Mom. I don’t know HOW you lived with her.

ME: (laughing) Why is that?

CHLOE: She kept saying we were almost done but then we never were!

ME: Oh, you mean like I do?

CHLOE: Well yeah, but she was just so… HAPPY about it.

(So basically my mom isn’t as bitchy as I am. I’m sure everyone who knows her is SHOCKED to hear it.)

Chloe’s Special Christmas Experience

Chloe’s school counselor chose her (along with 15 other kids) to be a part of their feeder high school (Hendrickson)’s “Adopt a Child” program because “she needed a little sparkle”. Chloe got to fill out a Christmas wish list (which included a skateboard, stuffed puppy dog, and a neck pillow), the high school students fundraised to get gifts, and she got to go on a field trip over there this morning for a special Christmas party. I expected her to come home with a handful of gifts but instead I picked up TWO FULL TRASH BAGS of stuff. She definitely got some sparkle today. Her school counselor has been AMAZING and I am so grateful for her!

Happy 13th Birthday, Chase!

I officially have a teenager, y’all!! We had a busy birthday night. Chloe had a soccer party while Chase had his school Karate (KickStart) belt ceremony. He’s now an orange belt in Karate in addition to his almost-black belt in Tae Kwon Do… so he’s officially my bodyguard. Oh, and his old belt makes a great scarf, doesn’t it? (Chase wasn’t amused.)

After his belt ceremony he needed food so I told him I’d get him whatever he wanted for dinner. That meant Chick-fil-A (a place I refuse to go because I’m way too liberal)! *sigh* The things you’ll do for your kid sometimes lol!

Afterwards we grabbed a cake at Baskin Robbins and met Chloe back at the house for candles and presents!

Happy 13th Birthday to my “little” goofball, who underneath all the crazy has a heart of PURE GOLD.

Brian’s Memorial Service

We went to St. Louis over the weekend for Brian’s memorial service. He died almost two months ago, so it was hard living it all over again… harder than I had anticipated. In no way did I think the experience was going to be fun, but I did not anticipate just how emotional I was going to be. I started crying the moment I entered the building.

Jen, did a phenomenal job putting the service together. I remember years ago Brian saying he wanted his service to be more of a “party”, and though we were definitely not partying, there were fun, upbeat activities around the room for people to participate in, including a photo booth area of things Brian liked (Clark Kent glasses because he loved Superman, Mizzou tiger ears, and unicorn headbands).

At another station people could write a memory of him on a piece of paper and toss it in a bowl. At the end of the service, Jen pulled a few of them out of the bowl to read aloud. She managed to pull both of my kids’ memories. Chloe’s card read:

“We went to a drive-in this summer and watched a new movie and now I love the movie so much, it is a good memory. Love, Chloe”

As Jen pulled Chase’s out of the bowl he said, “Oh no oh no oh no oh no….” Ready for it? Here goes:

“We were in the car and he kept farting. I can still smell it from here.”

Lol! It was a great tension breaker, for sure!

The kids were also asked to create a memory board to display at the service, which was right up Chloe’s alley. Originally Chase didn’t want to participate at all, but he did end up helping her a little. Side note: Right after she wrote “freinds” she said, “Oh no! I switched the e and the i!” I assured her no one would care. She did a beautiful job:

After the service we all met up for pizza, and Jen surprised Chase with a birthday cake, since his birthday was 2 days later:

The morning of the service I woke up and checked Facebook, only to see this pop up on my memories from exactly 2 years ago:

Obviously as exes we had our differences, but for the majority of our divorced years we had the type of relationship all divorced people wished they could have. I miss that.

We drove to St. Louis instead of flying, since flying would have cost us about $1,000 in airline tickets for the weekend. Driving was the fiscally responsible choice, but after 15 hours in the car Friday I thought to myself, “Oh man…. I have to turn around and do this again 33 hours from now.” Yeah. We should have flown. I was exhausted. We got a hotel with a pool so we’d have a chance to do a little unwinding and of course the kids wanted to hit the water as soon as we got there. They swam, and I just tried to stay awake:

You know, loss has a way of bringing people together. When I lost my dad last year it brought my brother and I back together. This loss has brought Brian’s family back into my life and I am so grateful for that. I look forward to keeping that connection through the years, for the kids’ sake… and for mine.

Conversations with a 13-Year-Old: Mustache Madness

Conversation with Chase in the car today:

CHASE: (looking at himself in the mirror) Mom, I’m getting a mustache.
ME: I know. It’s freaking me out.
CHASE: Why?
ME: Why are you getting a mustache? Or why is it freaking me out?
CHASE: Why am I getting a mustache? At my age??
ME: Puberty.
CHASE: Haha, no but seriously. Why?
ME: Seriously. Puberty.
CHASE: Oh gawd.
ME: Yeah. It’s freaking me out. I don’t know anything about shaving that stuff so I don’t know what we’re gonna do.
CHASE: I’m gonna be one of those 8th graders with a big furry mustache!
ME: Um NO. No you are not. We will figure it out. YouTube can help us.
CHASE: Oh good.

NOTE: He would absolutely kill me if he knew I posted this. So shhhhh….!

Kicking for Miracles!

This year’s Kicking for Miracles fundraiser was extra special. Every year Chase’s Tae Kwon Do studio raises money for Dell Children’s Hospital. They give out prizes for the top three fundraisers. The first place prize was an overnight stay and 2 days of play at Great Wolf Lodge, second place was a pack of Texas Stars hockey game tickets and a meet and greet with the players, and third place was Beats headphones. Chase really wanted to win first place to give our family a weekend of fun, so I hit up my wonderful friends and family on Facebook. They donated $400 to the cause! Both of the kids then contributed, we cashed in our bucket of coins, and I rounded it up to $500 from there. When we turned in our money we found out two other students donated over $1,000, so we thought we were out of the running.

The day of the event they started the announcement of winners. They started with, “In third place, with a donation of $500…” and I grabbed Chase’s arm. We just stared at each other, wide-eyed, and then they said his name. He was beaming. Sure, it wasn’t a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, but he really wanted those headphones. In fact, I had already put them in my Amazon shopping cart for Christmas, after hearing him talk about them so much. (And man am I glad I didn’t have to pay for them!)

It seems kind of silly but I cried watching him run up there to get his headphones. I hadn’t seen him beam like that in awhile and it was just nice to see pure joy come out of him. It was a ray of light through the clouds in his life these days. I am so thankful for all the friends and family who donated to the cause. All together the event raised over $16,000 (and both kids had fun breaking boards, too)!

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