Monday, December 28, 2009

Another big milestone

I thought I would take this time to update you on how we are handling this first Christmas Holiday without Brian. I get the impression that a lot of people are wondering and are concerned. If you do not care to hear all this, then please forgive my presumptuous attitude.

We started our first Christmas celebration on the 20th of December with Brian's Dad's extended family. As always, it was an enjoyable time together eating and chitchatting. There were over 20 of us present.

The kids still had school on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday evening, the onset of the holiday sadness fog began to creep in. I decided very last minute I needed to get out of the house. I texted my friends and within 5 minutes, I had three offers for dinner plans. Because we are THOSE kind of friends, I chose the best-sounding option and no one got upset. I love THOSE kinds of friends. We went to Kobe Steak House for some Teppanyaki-style cooking and so my boyz could ea.....CHEESE STICKS! Wth? Then we wen to another friend's house and the kids all played together. I have the very best friends anyone could ask for.

Wednesday, we had the 2 of the 3 B's (cousins) over in the morning while Cheryl worked. Wednesday afternoon, the B's and G's (my boys) went to MommO's house to decorate gingerbread houses and to see the Squeakel. I stayed home and wrapped presents. I cried most of the time. Historically, when Jan would take the grandkids and do something fun just prior to Christmas, it was BRIAN'S AND MY TIME. We would wrap together and he would say, "let me see what we got them this year." We would share a few drinks together. Often, we would go grab some Mexican. I missed that time and that man as I sat here alone wrapping presents.

Thursday was Christmas Eve. My parents arrived around 11 am. We went to my church's Christmas production about which I will remain silent because of the whole "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all" attitude I am trying to model for my kids. Then we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for a meal, then back here for a few drinks and conversation.

At about 6:15 on Christmas Eve, Gavin was busy doing something in the kitchen. The next thing we knew, he had a plate full of cookies, a full glass of milk, a carrot and a note in his hand heading toward the fireplace while dressed in his pajamas. He declared it was probably time for everyone to go pretty soon to ensure Santa didn't pass us by. After a good chuckle, PoppO showed him Norad. Gavin spent every 5 minutes for the next 2.5 hours tracking Santa's global progress. As soon as Santa hit Canada he was ready to hit the hay. It was very adorable.

The boyz and I exchanged our gifts on Christmas Eve night. I wanted to ensure I got proper credit for at least SOMETHING in their eyes they didn't get overwhelmed on Christmas morning with what I gave them plus what Santa gave them. The boyz adorned me this year with earrings, bracelets, a Victoria's Secret bag and two pairs of pajamas.

Christmas morning, the boys awoke around 7:30. I missed it as I woke around 7:40 to Gavin exclaiming, "MOM! MOM! Wake UP ! IT'S CHRISTMAS! SANTA CAME. HE ATE THE TOP OF MY GINGERBREAD HOUSE!" I was bummed I missed their initial reactions, but I have been having a bit of a hard time awaking in the mornings.

The boyz are most excited about this gift from Santa:

And to ensure this doesn't happen,

They also got these:

While, technically, Gavin did not ask for the weapon, only Grant did, Santa brought one for each of them. Santa knows that in this house, what is good for the gander is also good for the other gander. And sharing does not come naturally.

After the stockings were investigated and all the presents were opened, I was able to get in a 2.5 mile run on the treadmill while the kids played with their new toys and my parents went to Catholic Mass. That afternoon, we headed to Sean and Cheryl's (Bri's bro n sis in law) and the 3 B's for dinner and more presents. It was a great afternoon/evening.

Saturday, We awoke to a few inches of snow on the ground. After helping shovel, my parents left. After they left, I got in another 3 mile run while the kids played Wii. Saturday, I felt rather melancholy. I began to look around at the overwhelming mess that still exists this Monday and realized that this is it. There is no one here to share this with. The sad and lonely fog crept in again on Saturday. Mike and Jen (Bri's other bro) and McKenna were coming Saturday evening and Jan was having HER extended family to her house for another celebration. Saturday it snowed ABSOLUTELY ALL DAY LONG AND INTO SUNDAY MORNING. We had well over 6 inches when all was said and done. It was so beautiful, but it kept us from trying out the kids BBguns.

Sunday, we had an impromptu gathering of just O'Neills at Ed and Jans. It was a great day. The boyz got to shoot their BBguns. We went for a hike in the woods in the snow. The boyz got to play with Ziggy (the dog) as well as their cousins. It was a great, very fun, relaxed day.

Today is Monday. I am packing. I am cleaning. I am doing laundry. I am organizing. The boyz and I leave tomorrow for my folks. We are going to stop at Dave and Buster's in St. Louis to see a couple relatives. The boyz will have the week to shoot their guns, play their games, ride 4 wheelers and be boyz. We will celebrate New Years with my sister and some friends at Mom and Dad's. On New Years Day afternoon, we are opening presents with my family. We will return on the 3rd and the 4th the kids start school back up.

Anyway, I like to think we have this first Christmas milestone under our belt, but it is still continuing. Each day I find myself unexpectedly swelling up with tears at odd moments. I have been thinking of Brian a lot. Being with his family naturally makes me think of him. I miss seeing how he completed that dynamic - especially between his 2 brothers and him.

I am sure all the O'Neill's would wholeheartedly agree that while we are blessed and thankful this Christmas for what is in front of us, it isn't the same. It never will be.

Something is missing.

Sometimes it is just more obvious than other times.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

legendary traffic jam

Christmas night there was a traffic jam of legendary epic proportions at our house, or on our roof, our outside our windows, or in our chimney or something like that...

Thankfully, there were no accidents to report, and we didn't even need to install a traffic signal to assist the flow. Grant and I were discussing how the tooth fairy really gets the shaft on this whole gig, as we hid his tooth under his pillow - the tooth that literally fell out of his mouth onto his shirt at Buffalo Wild Wings (after one hefty tug from mom that only made him cry a little). Santa works one stinking night a year. The tooth fairy doesn't get a day off. I wonder if the tooth fairy gets double time for working on Christmas.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

man in the mirror

So, I knew it was coming. I knew the holidays would provide some time of sadness and melancholy this year, what with being a FIRST YEAR WIDOW and all. I have learned to expect these feelings at times that would have in other circumstances been emotionally blissful.

I was, however, unprepared that I would seemingly be going about life JUST FINE in my own little world so quickly losing sight of whom else is living under my roof this first Christmas without Brian. I have lost enough relatives over the years to know better. How could I be so stinking BLIND? How could I, in my own selfish chapter of life, forget that my OWN CHILDREN are experiencing their first holiday without their daddy? Honestly, ever since I started dating, I have become a different person in my own home. I am horrified looking in the mirror God has placed in front of me these past few days.

And do you know what it took for me to remember this GLARINGLY OBVIOUS FACT??? It took my son's crying during Home Alone. It took many minutes of prying and comforting to get him to talk to me and finally just confess that he misses Daddy. It took a picture Grant drew today at school of our family - the four of us with Daddy in a casket. While taking a moment to look around this house at the ornaments that bear Brian's photographs or the very obvious FOUR stockings on the mantle, I can see the constant reminders to their innocent little memories. I am sure the constant display of TV shows and movies and holiday specials that revolve around family traditions or families reunited are knives in their chests.

So, these next couple weeks, I am taking a break from the dating scene that seems to have overrun my thoughts and my priorities. I am concentrating again on my children. I am refocusing on them and their needs and their emotions. I am realigning my priorities to spend time with them instead of out on a date, to stay up late reading and watching TV with them instead of texting new acquaintances, to share a root beer float and a game of MarioKart instead of a glass of wine and awkward conversation with a nearly perfect stranger, to lovingly smother them with hugs and kisses instead of determining if a date is good-night-kiss worthy.

I am so embarrassed that my own selfish desires and my own earthly pleasures lately have clouded my judgement with my children. One thing that I feel I have handled SO well in this entire event since 2007 was my focus on the boyz, ensuring I was in tune with their emotions in any situation.

The thing is, since I started dating, God has not been my number one priority, either. The fact that I have been slightly oblivious to my children solidifies that God is not first in my life. I know better.

While I do not like the image God has revealed to me in my mirror this week, I am incredibly thankful that He showed me this just in time for the Christmas break. I have plenty of HOME time to make some things up to the boyz.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

tootin my own horn

Lately, the boyz have been all about blanket forts. Forts in the computer room using my my computer chair. Forts in the family room taking my kitchen chairs and leaving them all nilly-willy in front of the TV. Forts in the basement using every blanket imaginable draped over barstools, airhockey tables, my treadmill and whatever else they can find to anchor an all-too-heavy fleece blanket or 5 pound flannel quilt.

I thought about explaining the basics of structures to they boyz - how their choices of materials (fleece, flannel, etc.) are not the wisest for building a place beneath which they could play without having a roof collapse or using too many supports scattered throughout. Because all experienced fort makers know that a lighter and larger surface like a BEDSHEET is the most logical and effective fort-maker. However, being a smart mom, I also know that telling them this will now ensure my family room, computer room, and basement are not only laden with blankets, but now BEDSHEETS. So, I didn't share my essential knowledge with them.

Until the other day when they asked for no less than 5 straight days if they could have sleepover in a fort in the basement.

Being the supercool mom I am, I caved and agreed. Being the smart mom and experienced fort maker that I am, I knew that their makeshift forts were not going to cut the mustard for durability in the event of an overnight stay. I knew that my services would be needed no less than twice an hour to mend and support their sub-par shacks.

So, being a cool mom, I constructed a fort made of bedsheets and half the barstools and supports they had become accustomed to needing. And I had a perfect little area for each of their sleeping bags and pillows and whatever EXTRAS they required for their basement campout. EXTRAS such as every stuffed animal known to man. EXTRAS like the Wii remotes and every Wii game we possess. EXTRAS such as a plastic baseball bat in order to beat up any sort of burglar that would find his way near the fort. EXTRAS such as every hot wheels car imaginable elaborately laid out as a booby trap for possible intruders.

Being a smart mom, I ensured the the fort was JUST big enough for TWO. I slept in the spare room just a few short steps away from their 100% cotton, 400 threadcount castle.
I think the half day of clean-up required the next week to tidy the remnants of the night has cured them of wanting to do this anytime soon. Because I was cool enough to let them do this and to construct the fort myself, but I was smart enough to make them clean up the mess.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

9 months


3/4 year.

9 months.

275 days.

Feels like yesterday.

Feels like an eternity ago.

We've come a long way.

We've barely made a stride.

We've endured many a milestone.

We've a lifetime of milestones remaining.

I have been thinking of Brian a lot these past few weeks. I am sure it is due to the sentiments of this time of year partially. I am sure it is also because I am dating now and one of the first thoughts that crosses my mind when meeting someone new is "Brian would think this guy is a total tool." or "Brian would say, he's a nice enough guy." or "Brian would really like this dude. They could be buddies." (only, by the way, I haven't met anyone that meets that last criterion. I have met some of both the other criteria.)

I will admit that the last few 17ths came and went without my noticing. This one is glaring at me today. I miss that man like crazy. Once again, because of this time of year. Once again, because I am dating and I realize that I had one really great guy - he was dedicated, loyal, attentive, independent, honest, fun, smart, enjoyable, charming, funny, laid-back, respectable, hard-working, relaxed, witty, spiritual & philosophical. He was a guy's guy. He was a leader. He was a great kisser. He treated me like a lady. He took care of me when he could. He loved me deeply and made sure I knew it.

I miss his gaze. I miss his touch. I miss his humor. I miss his voice. Oh how I miss his voice. I miss his smile. I miss his laugh. I miss his kisses. I miss his silliness. I miss his presence.

I stare at this screen as I have done so often in the past few months just YEARNING for the words to express how I feel. There are no words to express how I miss him. I hate the word MISS. It doesn't touch how I feel. Yet, there are no words to express how due to his impact in my life, I feel SO EMPOWERED to move on. There are no words to express how I fear the path my boys will take without his direct influence in their lives. Yet, there are no words to express how I know they will be SO fine because of his indirect impact in their lives through family and friends and memories. I just wish I had the words.

275 days.

9 months.

3/4 year.

Feels like an eternity ago.

Feels like yesterday...


Friday, December 11, 2009

Dear Gavin, Dear Grant

Dear Gavin,

Yes, honey, I realize that you have a stuffy nose. I do. I am sorry for this. I also realize that a stuffy nose can make it difficult to breathe. YES, GAVIN, I know your nose won't let you sleep. And YES, I know that stuffy noses occasionally will release a little bit and drip. So, USE THE FREAKING TISSUES I KEEP GIVING YOU. Now that you are 8, it would be VERY beneficial to you to learn to BLOW your nose. We breathe in through our mouth because of that whole stuffy nose thing - you know, so the air can actually get INTO your lung since your nose won't allow a clear pathway for it - and we blow OUT our nose. NOT the other way around. Holy Cow, dude. JUST BLOW! BLOW! Okay, mommy is going to have another beer cup of coffee and try again.

Also, Gavin? It doesn't STINKING MATTER WHO ATE THE FIRST POP TART OUT OF THE PACKAGE OF TWO. The other one does not have cooties and isn't pre-destined for the original opener of the package. You can eat it. No, you may NOT open another box or bag just because a perfectly fine single pop-tart that is nicely baggied and awaiting consumption was first touched by your brother. GET OVER IT!

I do love you. Really,

Dear Grant,

Now that you are 6-1/2, it is time to work on your oral fixations. You REALLY need to keep your thumb out of your mouth. Your teacher says you suck a lot all day and is constantly reminding you. I remind you all day, but it appears these reminders are insufficient. And it isn't so much that I know this isn't going to be a difficult habit to break, it is that you are a total stinking, bad-attitude BOOGER about it. The thing is, lately, it has become even more than your thumb. If you thumb is not in your mouth, then your collar is in your mouth. You have stretched out and stunk up more shirts than I care to admit. And NOW? Now that we are constantly in long sleeves, you seem to think that your shirt sleeve needs to be in your mouth.

And just sucking is not enough. Now you bite your sleeves. And put holes in them. Awesome. Because the average 1-2 pairs of pants that come home with holes in them due to the fact that you spend more time rolling around on the floor than you do on your feet during any activity (wrestling, riding a scooter, jumping on tramp, playing tag, playing soccer, playing basketball) wasn't enough. Realizing that I am not going to buy you an average of 1-2 new pairs of pants per week, I must either tolerate the judgments that most people think I don't know that my child has dressed himself in hole-ridden clothes or the sideways glances of those that see your tattered wardrobe.

How about a piece of gum? Oh yeah, then the oral fixation become a hand fixation. And the gum doesn't STAY IN YOUR MOUTH!

I do love you. Really,


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas theme songs

I can't stop listening to this song.

As the boys moan and roll their eyes every time they hear it lately, I have been explaining that it is my theme song for Christmas this year. I have been telling them I think it should be our family theme song.

They disagree.

They think these should be our family Christmas theme songs:


Monday, December 7, 2009

something that bugs me

Some days it bothers me that everyone, myself included, trivializes what Brian endured as though it were MY cross and burden. This may not make sense, but it seems as though Brian's illness is often equated to a pawn in the chess game of MY life rather than his own, like his slow decline and his eventual inability to get around and speak was something I had to endure. Just because he died, his illness was still HIS illness. How he handled it and how he carried on despite it all can never be discounted. I guess part of this bothering me is how quickly everyone, including myself, seems to forget Brian. I worry his mark on this earth will be falsely credited to me.

Does this make any sense?


Friday, December 4, 2009

before and after week - my jewelry

Before (size 5-1-4):
After (size 5-3/4):

(To change my ring to my right hand was very deliberate because it didn't fit my right hand. I had to take it to have it re-sized and spend money on it. It is just too beautiful not to wear every day. I want it to always be a part of me. Brian loved my ring. He would fuss at me to clean it up when it would get cloudy with lotion and hair products. He would sometimes just hold my hand and then put my ring up to his very near-sighted eyes and gaze at it. I miss that gaze.)

I am who I am. I am emotional. I am thoughtful. I am a good listener. I am a talker. I am deep. I am a writer. I am analytical. I am outspoken. I am encouraging. I am an all-in type of person.

What many people don’t know all that well about me is this: I am also afraid. I am also lonely. I am also insecure. I am also approval-seeking. I also have a short temper.

That makes it hard to be me. It makes it hard to suddenly be single. Insecurity, fear, loneliness and approval-seeking are not good attributes to have while entering the dating scene again.

Yes,, I have officially entered the dating scene again. In the month of October, I wrestled with all my emotions and stirrings and new sensations regarding men. I spoke with my counselor. I prayed. I spoke with other widows. I cried. I perused through old videos and photos of Brian and me. I decided that one cannot have a love like Brian and I had and not wish to be loved and to love again. There is no set time-frame in determining if this is something one wishes to phase back into one’s life. There is no mandated grieving period. I have been grieving part of Brian since April 2007. I began realizing he was dying in April of 2008. It was confirmed for me in October of 2008. It happened drastically from January to March of 2009. My grief has been ongoing for 2-1/2 years. I realized that I am not betraying Brian, but rather honoring him by wanting this in my life again.

I am 37. I think, relatively speaking, I am young. I think, relatively speaking, I have a lot to offer.

Yes, I have had a a few dates. It is strange, but not really, which I realize makes no sense at all. I will not elaborate on my dating on this blog at all as it is very private and personal and not something I wish to bring under any more scrutiny than I already feel is present - scrutiny that I realize is self-perceived. Plus, it is embarrassing and I do not at all wish to bring anyone into what feels like school-girl crushes.

Being who I am – emotional, thoughtful, all-in, insecure, talkative – I realize vests me quickly and deeply into relationships. My earnest prayer right now is for guarding of my heart. I give my heart away too readily and easily – perhaps naively – and I realize that can be dangerous. I just don’t know how to be anyone I am not. The protection of my children and their hearts is the one thing that I know will keep me grounded in this.

And dating is selfish. Dating requires time away from the kids. It is all about me. Talking with my friends later about a date feels very selfish – totally me centered. Hiring sitters so I can go out on dates requires money away from what the kids and I could do. Then hiring sitters so I can actually go out with my existing group of friends adds to that. Dating is strangely selfish when you have kids.

And then there is the insecurity – am I pretty enough? Am I intelligent enough? Do I have enough to offer? I have two kids that are part of the full-time package. They do not go away on Thursdays and every other weekend. Who could love my kids? Who could handle their energy and eating habits and sometimes rude bathroom talk? Why would someone want me and all the baggage I have – that I have a love for a man that will always be part of me, that I have kids, that I have bad habits, etc?

And then there is the fear – how do I stay safe? How do I protect my heart from being broken knowing that I throw too much of myself into relationships? How do I be true to myself and not get hurt? What if I am rejected? Etc.

Having the type of personality I have and forming the type of relationships that I form make this very difficult to balance against being logical, smart and safe.

Please pray for me as I enter this next phase.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

before (during) and after week - my Christmas tree

Today's Before and After Theme:

Our Christmas Tree.

Okay, TECHNICALLY, this is not OUR Christmas tree. I didn't actually take a picture of our tree before it was decorated because I didn't have the foresight for the before-and-after theme week on this blog. If I HAD taken a picture, it would look a lot like this one, only more real looking and full because this year I bought a new Christmas tree that kicks serious Yule arse in its authenticity, shape and fullness.

These pictures were taken DURING the decorating process. The same morning Grant found the tooth fairy did not indeed stiff him this time around, Gavin awoke to find that mommy had erected the tree the night before while they slept. The boys LOVE decorating the tree, but I do not LOVE their help assembling the tree in preparation for its adornments. They THINK they would love this part, but I know them well enough to know it would NEVER be good enough for Gavin and Grant would start decorating it well before it was ready.

I insist upon listening to Christmas music and drinking Baileys on the rocks hot chocolate during this decorating process. The boys love to hear stories about Christmases past while we do this. They love unwrapping each ornament and hearing the possible story that explains it. This year, Grant had one meltdown when he came across this ornament from 2001. He could not understand why his name would not be on it. I explained that in 2001, this WAS our family. He threatened to break it and went upstairs to his room and cried for a several minutes.

I captured these next two during shots as the boys were busy decorating. I think these two shots could not better describe my boys personalities without their actually being present in the picture.

Each year my mom gets the boys a keepsake Hallmark ornament. Often, they get ornaments from Brian's mom, too or various great aunts and uncles. My mom writes what year from Memaw and Papa on each ornament for the boys to remember whose is whose. They LOVE opening and putting these ornaments on the tree. These are their favorites because they know these ornaments are THEIRS FOR LIFE. I take great care in storing these ornaments in their original packaging (plastic, bubble wrap, box and all) so that when the boys are older, and these ornament go with them some day, they will last, because again, THEIRS FOR LIFE.

The first shot is how Grant opens and cares for his ornament packaging.

The second is Gavin.

After all was said and done, here is our tree:

Some day, I may have a Martha Stuart tree or a themed tree with coordinating colors. For now, it is filled with homemade clay sculptures too heavy for the branch, pieces of paper with doodling on them from the boys preschool years, star wars, scooby doo, spiderman, indiana jones and robots. It is quite perfect. In fact, I will be sad when those Hallmark ornaments go with the boys some day. I will be sad when one branch does not contain 5 ornaments. I will be sad when my ribbon is symmetrical and evenly spaced.

I need to remind myself of that lately.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

before and after week - my Christmas present

Today's before and after theme:
My Christmas Present.

Each year my mom and dad struggle with what to get my siblings and me for Christmas. Two years ago, they gave us the. best. present. ever. They decided to repeat it this year:

I took this BEFORE picture of the present over Thanksgiving

While I do not yet have an ACTUAL AFTER picture yet, tonight we had a glimpse of what it will look like:

I think I will wait to explain to the boys exactly how THIS BEFORE present translates into several packages of frozen beef AFTER. Right now, thanks to Mom asking them if they wanted to see their mom's present, they are just worried how we will keep these things in our backyard. Our neighborhood bylaws include a no-fence policy.

By the way, I actually COOKED that steak, sweet potato and broccoli tonight. The steak was only slightly overdone, but the wine overshadowed that. Grilled steak necessitates red wine as an accompaniment.


Monday, November 30, 2009

before and after week - (Ma)Hannah

Hello to all!

This past couple weeks at Chez Angie, I have actually taken my camera from its bag and used it for its given purpose a few times. I was noticing that I have a few before and after shots of some things you probably couldn't care less about important events. So, I am dedicating this week to a before and after theme.

Today's Theme:

Me and Hannah. I call her maHannah, as if she were mine, even though TECHNICALLY she belongs to my sister and Matt. She was born in July of 2008 just before Brian took his more drastic decline. She was a breath of fresh air for me in a dark time of my life. When she would come to visit, as so many someones did during Brian's illness and dying process, (by the way so many someones? - the door is still open and the roads to Peoria are still in tact) she was a reminder of life and development and future - mmmmm..hahhhh, did you hear that? That was, again, that breath of fresh air. Also? She was the first girl born into my family after 5 grandsons on Brian's side in 14 years and 3 boys on my side in 11 years. So, again, Breathe it in and Breathe it out. That is fresh air - GIRL air!

Today's before:

Today's After:

Anyway, the before picture is on Thanksgiving Day. Me and maHannah. The after picture is me and maHannah after her face met the springs of the trampoline in the 2-1/2 seconds someone let go of her to get on the trampoline herself. Seriously, folks SPLIT SECONDS. Still, accidents happen, and beautiful little girls look like they get in bar fights and have liquid stitches, but still look beautiful. Just slightly mangled.

By the way, do you like my shirt I am wearing in the after pic? My good friend, Michelle, designs and sells those shirts. Happy Family Creations. You can get them to represent all the people in your family. I'm gonna get a new one that has just two boys on it since that after picture shirt is actually now my before shirt.


Friday, November 20, 2009


A few random thoughts and events.

1) My van has fruit flies. I know fruit flies need some sort of feeding/mating/breeding/hatching ground. The thought of finding whatever in my van that is their feeding/mating/breeding/hatching ground is more disturbing to me than the fruit flies. So, I live with the fruit flies now.

2) Grant lost his front tooth yesterday - the one that has been dangling from one side for two weeks, but would not fall out. A neighbor popped him in the mouth with a toy gun. Wish I had thought of that. Or that it was legal. I KID. I KID!

3) My kids awoke at 5:30 today. Well, one did. He was crying that his lost tooth was gone from his pillow, but nothing was there. I told him to check again. Turns out, when he turned on the light, he found a huge pile of fairy dust that looks a lot like glitter leftover from his last project and $2. His squeal woke up Gavin. Neither fell back asleep, but Grant laid his head back down very happily on the other side of the bed. That fairy dust was too messy. Now I am washing his stinkin' sheets that I just washed 3 days ago. Damn tooth fairy!

4) I miss cooking. I am no longer good at it. Groceries rot in my fridge.

5) Lately my kids are driving me nuts. They are whining and fighting and seem to have a severe case of cabin fever. And it is only NOVEMBER. Thanksgiving at my mom and dad's with room to roam should be proper medication for this fever.

That's it for now.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

guy time

Gavin and Grant recently had some opportunity to spend some time with this amazing thing called THE SAME GENDER.

Here is a bit of what they did.

Nothing warms my heart more than seeing my boys get to be boys when I don't have to pretend to be one myself. Although I am very willing to do so for their sake, there is great comfort for them in the company of other males leading the way.
Thank you to our friends for teaching them a bit about testosterone. I won't mention who the friends were because the photographer is embarassed he used his phone camera instead of a real camera and doesn't want the credit for the poor quality of photos. I am just ecstatic to have the photos as proof the boys are being boys.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

just a general update

I got nothing. Really, I have been feeling so uninspired to write lately.

I thought I would just give you a general update on our lives.


Second grade is going okay for him. He isn't showing as much interest in reading as he needs to as this is really the last year they "learn to read." Next year, they "read to learn," so he needs to start picking up the pace on this. Getting the kids to read is a constant challenge. He is right at state requirements, but a little low for the class. Not the bottom, though, so he won't get any extra school help. Math is getting harder as they have started borrowing in subtraction. Gavin isn't great at subtraction - he always has to use the number line or his fingers. Brian's aunt, a dear, sweet, wonderful, lady who also happens to teach first grade, has offered to start coming over on Wednesdays to work with boys boys on school work a bit. I think this is a great idea to give them a fresh look at homework and to give me a break. And they really like Zach's grandma Deb.

Gavin is home sick today with a fever for the third time in about 7 weeks. He seems to get sicker these days than any of us. He still eats terribly, so I swear that his immune system is weakened. Sometimes he scares me because he always looks a bit peaked and gray to me.

Gavin is continuing counseling for a while. When I told him we were wrapping up our sessions because counseling is not supposed to be forever, he freaked out and started carrying stuffed animals around all the time and sleeping with Daddy's things again saying he can't stop because he is still sad. I explained it was okay to be sad and he will FOREVER be sad some, but he was okay. The counselor and I agreed that despite losing our insurance coverage and going to private pay, we will continue until it appears the decision comes more from Gavin. Also, the group where we attend counseling is introducing a support group for 8-12 year-old's who have experienced a significant loss. I think this will be great for Gavin.

First grade for Grant is going about the same as second is for Gavin. He doesn't love to read, but needs to do more of it. I have been very concerned about him academically, but have noticed in the last two weeks, he seems to be making great strides in his printing and some decent strides in his reading. His teacher informed me that is common after the first quarter. In the end, I did not do much academically with the boys all summer, so it is no wonder they would be a bit lost when school started again.

Grant is doing well with his grief. We all had a hard week the week of Brian's birthday. Halloween, the announced end of counseling, Brian's birthday all falling together took every one of us to a bit of a melt down stage. We all three had some crying episodes. And we were all there for each other. We all understand this need for each of us to express this in any way we can at often very random times. Grant is finished with his counseling, but he still sees the school counselor.

Grant is my protector. When he sees me crying, he sniffs, puffs up his chest, comes to me and immediately hugs me gently and firmly. After he does this for a while, he THEN asks me what is wrong. Do you have any idea how WISE and comforting that is?? To not have to explain why you are crying when you sometimes don't KNOW why you are crying anyway and to just have an unconditional loving pair of arms there to hold you and allow you to cry? I tell him he is never more like Jesus than when he is like that. Anyway, he usually waits til I calm down then gets me a tissue or asks if I need some water or writes me a note and brings it to me a few minutes later. He is so incredibly sweet inside that very rough outer surface. I love that boy.

I have been good. I struggle with creativity and motivation. I don't cook much anymore as I have stated in the past. I have been working out a lot trying to lose some of the 15+ pounds that I gained since 2008 that I had lost in 2006. I am making strides suddenly with that. I often forget to eat. Seriously, some days it is 2:00 and I realize I am starving because I have not eaten since yesterday at 2:00. I am trying to get better at eating at least little bits all day if not full meals.

I am leading a Bible Study now to my group of women from my Mom's group at church. I am very excited and we will have our first discussion on Thursday. Please pray for me. I have never led a Bible Study from beginning to end. It is called Wisdom for Mothers. It concentrates on your relationships in life starting with God, your spouse, your children and your service - IN THAT ORDER. I am super passionate about your relationships being prioritized IN THAT ORDER and especially a mother's relationship with her spouse. It seems we as moms often fall into the trap of putting our spouse on the back burner and focusing on our children.

I have been doing well in my grief. Not sure what the holidays will bring. I may attend a seminar this weekend put on by Hospice about tips on how to handle the holidays. As my wonderful dear wise counselor has stated, this year is my road map. I am figuring out what moments in time are difficult, what events or situations remind me of Brian, and what works for handling it all.

I have been doing a lot of reflecting on "what was I doing this time last year." My counselor says this is very normal. I have been a bit flooded with emotions around this time. It was last October that we found out the tumor had been growing despite the second chemo. It was this week last year where I had the worst, then best, then worst, then best week of my life ever.

It was the first week of November last year when we thought Brian was dying. He had excruciating headaches, loss of balance, little blackout spells and confusion. He had pressure in his ventricle and after a whirlwind 3-1/2 day stay in the hospital, he had a shunt installed and walked out of the hospital a new man who lived over 4 more months.

It was during this hospital stay that my mom took the boys to her house for the weekend because Gavin had a fever and we didn't want to risk his getting Brian sick while we were so unsure what was happening in the hospital - making this horrific decision to spend time apart not knowing how much time Brian had left. Brian got home from the hospital on Saturday afternoon. I picked up the boys on Sunday morning. Gavin was still so sick - going on 4 days now with almost no food or water intake. Then, at 2:00 am, I could no longer handle watching him moan and shiver with a 104 fever. I was not waiting for the 8:30 am office to open. I knew he needed more. We went to the ER and he was admitted a few hours later after he kept nothing down and his fever could not easily be controlled.

Little did I know when I left that hospital at 1:00 on Saturday, I would be back 19 hours later for another 3-1/2 day stay WITH MY SON and I would once again have to decide which family members to spend time with. You can't imagine how incredibly painful that is for a mom, a wife and a caregiver. Just thinking about it right now floods me with tears. My counselor says this is so normal. She likens it to a soldier's post traumatic stress disorder. At the time, you are in survival mode just doing exactly what you need to do to get through the day and take care of those that need to be taken care of. Then, you think back on it and can't believe you survived it. It haunts you.

Anyway, other than that, things are going well. Still building my road map. Still figuring out trigger points. Coming to terms with moving on, but with little guilt. Praying for guarding of my heart as I consider dating again. Trying to rekindle friendships and family relationships. Starting some new friendships. Beginning to think about what to get the boys for Christmas and what new traditions we can begin. Contemplating. Analyzing. Playing. Praying. Living.


Friday, November 6, 2009

is this how it is supposed to work?

Dear Brian,

It seems as though people are starting to forget. Ever since September, the phone call, email, random text, letter and card influx inquiring as to how the boys are I are faring has slowly faded to nearly a complete halt. A couple random texts or contacts every other week or so occurs. At first, I was very upset by this. How could people forget you so quickly? How could the fact that your physical presence is no longer with us allow everyone the opportunity to so easily go on with their lives and slowly erase you from their memory?

Lately, though, I have been a bit, actually, a LOT conflicted regarding my own thoughts and you. It seems I am thinking of you less. At first, as is in my nature, I tried to analyze if it was truly less or just differently. I have come to the conclusion that I am actually thinking of you LESS. And I don't even feel that bad about it. Strange?

Sometimes I WANT to think of you more. But lately, it has been occurring to me that continuing to focus on you to the extent that I was focusing on you is living in the past. Brian, you NEVER lived in the past. In fact, when I had a hard time forgiving myself for sins of the past and wallowing in regret, you often would help me snap out of it calling the past exactly what it was - OVER. You did like to playfully and fondly recall past stories as we all do, but you didn't live there.

But calling you my past and calling the past over seems so strange. In the end, though, Brian, you are never coming back to me on this earth. I cannot continue to focus so much of my energy and my emotions into thinking of what WAS. Just as you made it abundantly clear to me that you wanted me to move on with my life someday, I have to start thinking about what MAY BE. And one of the only ways I find to do that is to simply think of you less. The only way I can prepare my heart and mind to open to the possibility of someone else is to simply free some space.

I still think of you and what you would think of this or that decision with the boys.

I still think of you as I try to determine how to let these little boys turn into big kids.

I still think of you when I develop a woeful attitude quickly snapping out of it.

I still think of you when I lie in bed at night.

I still think of you when a certain song comes on the radio.

I still think of you when I look at our bathroom in the basement that you built with only one working arm.

I still think of you a lot, but just not as much.

I think this is how you would want it. I THINK.


Monday, November 2, 2009

New Birthday Traditions

Happy Birthday to you....

Happy Birthday to You....Happy Birthday Dear Brian/Daddy....Happy Birthday to you!!
Today, You would have turned 37, dear Brian. THIRTY-SEVEN. And I would have reminded you 10 times in the last month how old you were because HONESTLY you had a terrible concept of years. You had no idea how old you truly were even when you were healthy.
This morning, the boys blew out candles on a package of cinnamon rolls. Grant got two candles to blow to balance the fact that Gavin found the only remaining green - your favorite color -candle.
Yesterday, we started a new Daddy birthday tradition. Since we can't buy you gifts, we bought ourselves gifts. This is a sampling of what the boys picked out:
Aside from being dreadfully alarmed that this is what Timothy McVeigh's childhood pictures may have looked like, I am pleasantly reminded from friends that boys are boys are boys are boys.
On another note, Mom got jewelry!
Isn't it lovely?

Seriously, though, I couldn't justify buying myself a gift when I have been spending plenty of money on house projects, painting, a few new articles of clothing, etc.
Anyway, Brian, we wish we could celebrate your birthday here with you today. I miss our own little private.... ahem.... birthday parties. The boys just want cake. I wish I just wanted cake.
I would think there are no birthdays in heaven. Not sure about that. From what I understand about heaven, there is no concept of time. How do you measure time in a place of eternity? So, while we know you are blissfully enjoying heaven, we remember you today. We celebrate you today. We miss you today.
And everyday.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How Google saved my son's life...

So, the other day, this guy who claims to be my kids' grandpa suggested he come over and torture me help out with the pumpkin carving this year. I told him I was maybe going to let the pumpkin carving tradition fade away, but agreed this was probably not the right year to do so. He wanted to come help me out because he knows that while THIS is adorable:


Makes me feel all, like this:

While we were starting our clean up process, I noticed this on my beautiful, expensive kitchen table:

And I realized it was THIS:

So then I was all, like THIS:

So, after some attempts at wiping it with various non-abrasive, non-surface-defacing products, and some sharp pointed comments towards the culprit who was soon formerly to be known as Grant, I decided to google: "How do I get sharpie off my wood?" And wouldn't you know there were several hits! I knew, by experience, not to use the Magic Eraser if I wanted to keep my finish, so I found an article that said to use this:

And guess what? It worked. After I buffed out the eraser smears and wiped it with some pledge oil, it is barely noticeable. So, then we were both all, like this:

Thanks Google! The child still known as Grant thanks you, too.


Monday, October 26, 2009

take a compliment

Brian used to say I was terrible at taking a compliment.

When he would delight in something I made for dinner, I would discount it by pointing out how THIS wasn't quite done or I couldn't find THAT ingredient or simply shrug it off as being OKAY.

When he would tell me I was beautiful, which was JUST often enough to be believable, I would dismiss his words of praise by commenting about the spot on my sweater or my smudged make-up or how my hair just didn't cooperate that day or how my pants were too tight or how I had a pimple on my hairline or how I needed to brush my teeth, OR... OR... OR...

And sometimes he would jokingly and sarcastically say, "EW. I didn't notice that. Now that I know that, I take it back. Yuck."

And sometimes he would say, "You are no fun to compliment because you discredit everything I say."

So, over the last two years, I learned to just say, "Thank you. Now kiss me and prove you mean it." MOST of the time, that is. I still discounted the compliments some.

The funny thing is that today I MISS THOSE COMPLIMENTS. I miss being told I am a good cook. I miss being told the house looks nice. I miss being told I am smart and capable. I miss being told I look sexy or even NICE. I miss being told I am beautiful. I cannot begin to tell you how much I crave hearing those words today. When I get even an unsolicited, I LOVE YOU from my boys, it takes me through the day and into next week. Rarely hearing a compliment anymore is one of the most difficult aspects of losing my beloved.

Because when you stop hearing those things, you stop believing those things. I never realized how much Brian was validating me with his words of encouragement and love.