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.