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!!

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.)

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.

Home Makeover

After my dad passed away, my brother and I sold his house “as is.” It was in really bad shape, which made my brother and I very sad because my grandma used to take a lot of pride in her home. Well, the people that bought it flipped it and did an incredible job. It was so nice to see the house with “life” in it again. Here are some before and after shots….

Happy New Year!

We rang in 2019 with Grandma and Grandpa this year!  We decided if we were going to make our own party, we needed decorations and fun accessories (even for their dog!), so we headed to Party City!

We watched a movie and played Skip-Bo to keep ourselves occupied until midnight:

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And then it was time for the big countdown!

Cheers to a fabulous 2019!

Winter Wonderland

My parents came to town a couple days after Christmas, and we went to the “Winter Wonderland” festival at Circuit of the Americas!  It was pretty cool….  They had an awesome Chinese lantern display…

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There were opportunities to take group photos…

We rode the carousel…

…and at one point the kids decided to get up close and personal with a light display, hanging out on the steps and running around on the lawn:

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We ended the night by giving the kids a chance to ride carnival rides!

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It was cold, but we had a great time!

 

Loss

I was in Las Vegas this weekend, but not for vacation. I found out on August 8th that my biological father died, and I haven’t said anything because it’s a little awkward to talk about. We haven’t had a relationship for a long time so I’ve been experiencing a lot of different emotions. My brother and I are left to deal with all of the logistics and we’re doing the best we can, with the little information we have.

This weekend we were in Vegas to work on cleaning out the house where he lived with my grandparents and uncle until they died. Mom came along, too, which proves (as if anyone actually needed proof) she has the biggest heart of anyone I know. 

We uncovered a lot of memories in that house. We had fun looking through old pictures of us with our dad and grandparents…

…and getting a glimpse into our family history, reading love letter exchanges between my grandparents during the war, seeing our grandparents as a young couple, digging through old newspapers and artifacts….

We also learned more about my dad’s talents.  He used to sell jokes to Joan Rivers!  He was a great poker player and dealer, as well as writer:

We turned the loose change we found into an opportunity to gamble a little one night. (Stress relief, you know.)

I haven’t dealt with a lot of death in my lifetime but one thing I have noticed in my few experiences is that death has a way of bringing people together. My brother and I have talked more in the last month than we have in the past year. And even though the work we did this weekend wasn’t fun, we all managed to laugh together a lot. Because sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine.

It was a long and exhausting weekend but I’m so grateful for the family I do have that is always by my side, and I’m glad my dad is finally free of the inner demons he battled his whole life.

Thanks to all for the support. Let’s all honor him by living our best lives every day!

Michigan Vacation!

The kids and I flew to Michigan for our summer vacation this year!  The kids were really excited, especially because we normally drive.

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It was a bit of an adventure flying there, as our original flight was cancelled while we waited at the gate, and we had to book a new flight on a different airline.  We eventually made it, though!

It was a really nice, relaxing vacation.  The kids loved swimming with Kacee in the lake (while I “sunned” lol):

My mom took us to the “Ribbit Exhibit” at Dow Gardens, which sent us on a fun scavenger hunt!

And we helped Grandma with her puzzles.  (We became slightly obsessed, actually, and had to buy her more!)

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At the end of the week, the kids got to stay with Grandma and Grandpa while I drove to Chicago for the weekend!  (See next post!)

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