I can’t say enough about how strong my mom has been since my dad’s passing. She has been the epitome of grace and strength throughout the past seven weeks. She is facing all the challenges that come with losing a spouse head on, and though it is incredibly difficult for her, she continues to impress me by her ability to move forward even in the midst of such sadness and loss. I think she has balanced the grief with moving forward perfectly, and whenever I find myself struggling with how to handle all these emotions, I look to her for an example.
Mom has said that the hardest part of my dad’s death has been coming home from work. My dad was retired, and so she came home every night to him. He usually had dinner cooked, laundry going, and golf on TV. Their house was busy and active, just as they both wanted it to be. Without my dad, the biggest adjustment my mom has had to make is coming home to a quiet house at night.
She didn’t have to tell me how hard that was. It was the part of this whole grieving process that upset me the most. I miss my dad so much and I carry the weight of his passing with me all the time, but the sadness is starting to diminish a bit. I can think about him now and not become sad. I can talk about it and it actually makes me feel better instead of worse. And, finally, FINALLY, that feeling of panic and breathlessness when I think about him is gone. I still experience those things, but they aren’t part of my day on a routine basis anymore.
The one thing, though, that can bring me to tears faster than anything else right now is thinking about my mom. There’s no one else I want to be around because she reminds me of him, but she breaks my heart. Not because of anything she does, but because I know that when we leave, we leave her alone. My sister and I can do a lot for my mom, but we can’t be lonely for her. And I don’t think there’s anything worse than thinking of your mom being alone.
A few weeks ago, my mom was spending the weekend with us and she mentioned that she hadn’t slept well, so she Googled cats for 2 hours. We knew this was a joke because the day after my dad died, my mom told everyone, “Please don’t buy me a pet.” But after she left that weekend, Chris saw that my mom hadn’t been kidding. There were tons of cat adoption websites in our browser on the laptop! We didn’t say anything to my mom about it, but a week later when she asked us to go with her to pick out two kittens, we weren’t surprised at all.
“I just need something to come home to,” she said. And though that thought just about broke my heart, I knew she was right. Having two awesome dogs, I know the joy of pets and what they can bring to your life. I knew that was what my mom needed and I was proud of her for figuring that out for herself.
So, last weekend, me, Chris, and the kids went with my mom to PetSmart where they were having kitten adoptions. My mom was so excited. She knew just what she wanted. Two sibling kittens who looked similar to a Siamese. And she found just that!
She wanted to name them after famous sisters, so she named them after the Gabor sisters. Zsa Zsa and Magda. And they are awesome! They are playful, but not crazy, and they love hanging out with my mom. She said they just follow her around to every room she goes in at the house. Just what she needed!
Kittens don’t replace my dad. Nothing ever will for any of us, especially for my mom. But they do help plug the hole his passing left in my mom’s daily routine. I’m so happy for her. Those little kittens just reaffirm what I’ve always known – pets are good for your soul.
This was a big year for our family. Bean turned three, which meant that he was now able to play any and every sport offered at our local YMCA. Chris and I were pumped. We had our sideline chairs polished up and read to go. This was also the year that both kids were enrolled in Safe Start infant survival swimming lessons. I was totally ready for this one, too. Nothing scared me more than having a home with a pool and two kids who can’t swim.
Swimming lessons for Bean ended up being awesome. Truly one of the greatest experiences we’ve had with kids. He learned how to flip himself over in the pool if he were to fall in and float until he could swim to the side and hold on until help came. I can’t tell you how proud I was of him. By the end, he could jump in the pool in full winter attire (long sleeve shirt, winter coat, pants, socks, and shoes), and swim/float all the way to the side.
His teacher could even flip him head over feet in the water and he could still get himself to the surface and float/swim over to the side. It was pretty spectacular.
It took Bean six weeks to complete the course. Gracie took twelve weeks. Every day for twelve weeks, I hauled that little redheaded spitfire up to the YMCA so that she could learn how to save herself. And every day Gracie screamed and pitched a fit through the lesson and refused to swim. It got to the point where they had additional instructors from Safe Start come out and try to help Gracie. At one lesson one afternoon there were THREE instructors in the water with her. And still, nothing.
Finally, I told her very sweet (and highly experienced) teacher that I just could not keep coming every day. So last week was our last week with Gracie at the pool. By the end, she could TECHNICALLY float. Kind of. Sort of.
When she got out of the pool on the last day of lessons, her teacher tried to make me feel better by saying, “I’m PRETTY sure that if Gracie fell in the pool, she could PROBABLY float…”
Who was she kidding? We both knew Gracie would sink like a rock. But I appreciated her effort. Truly. In fact, we decided that in six months when Gracie is a little older, we would bring Gracie back to that same teacher for real swimming lessons, not just Safe Start classes. We all agreed that Gracie, though technically the age that was required for the program, was just not ready.
Which brings us to soccer.
Bean started soccer in September. He had practices on Thursdays and games on Saturdays. Bean loved the idea of soccer. He loved all the equipment, like the shin guards and soccer balls. But he just never got into the actual game. He stood out on the soccer field and watched everyone else run around. Chris and I spent more time running around during practices and games trying to get him to play than he did.
On game days, he got really excited to GO to the games, but when we got there, he would say, “Can I sit in the shade with Gracie?” or “Let’s go home and see the doggies.” Still, Chris and I wanted him to learn about commitment to his team and all that other sportsman stuff, so we cheered loudly and dragged him out on the soccer fields during games and practices.
But last weekend, when it came time to get ready for the soccer game, Bean started crying because he didn’t to go. And at the game he cried because he wanted to go home. And on Thursday, he cried when he had to go to practice. Finally, we realized what was completely obvious. Bean was just not ready for a team sport yet. No matter how much we tried to talk to him about sticking with things and not quitting, he was just too young to understand that concept yet. All he knew was that he HAD to go do something that he didn’t want to do at all, and everyone kept telling him how much fun it was supposed to be.
This week I emailed his coach and told him that Bean wasn’t going to finish out the season. He wasn’t surprised, really. Bean was the youngest on the team and was the only three-year-old to make it this long into the season. Two others had already quit after the first two weeks.
So, we learned a parenting lesson this fall. Just because your kids are the right age, doesn’t mean they are ready for things. We also learned that just because Chris and I are excited about something doesn’t mean that our kids will be, too. We are dialing it back a couple notches and settling down a bit. I mean, they’re only 18-months and three-years-old for Pete’s sake! Mommy and Daddy need to take a chill pill.
Chris and I have been spending some time (and money!) on fixing up our house. When we moved in, we finished anything that was necessary. New carpet, a neutral wall pain throughout the house to replace the horrid wallpaper from 1974, and a couple new light fixtures, bedroom doors, closet doors, and other odds and ends. We took a break from the fixing up over the summer because we went down to one paycheck since I was on summer vacation, but as soon as my first fall paycheck hit the bank, we fired up the home projects again.
We’ve decided to take things room at a time. A couple weekends ago we painted the dining room a beautiful blue color that really makes our living room pop now. And then the following weekend, we painted our kitchen sort of a marigold color. I’ll post about those when we’ve finished the little odds and ends in each room, but it is already looking better.
We did Bean’s bedroom over the summer, and I was super happy with it. New paint, curtains and clever bookshelves gave it a fresh, little boy feel. It’s now my favorite room in the house.
The next room we are doing is Gracie’s nursery. We’ve decided to actually switch her bedroom to a different room in the house. The room she is in gets direct sunlight all day long, and by 3:00 in the afternoon, her room is sweltering. And the heat never really cools down. It stays hot in there all night long. So, we’re moving her to a room that doesn’t get direct sunlight, and hoping that takes care of the temperature control issue.
Because we are moving her room, we decided to go ahead and start on her room now. We are going to do a garden theme in her “big girl” room. I think we’re actually going to use the green paint we originally painted our kitchen. It was too pale for the kitchen, but it will be really pretty in a bedroom. Our friend, Trey, is an amazing artist and he has offered to paint this big white tree with little white birds on one of the walls for me.
For art work, I am using these prints from Etsy. This one was the inspiration for the nursery theme, and when I went to the girl’s Etsy shop, they were actually super inexpensive.
The biggest thing that is changing in her new room is that Gracie MIGHT be getting a toddler bed from Santa Claus if she is a really good girl. She will be 22-months-old at Christmas, and so we’re going to try moving her over to a toddler bed. Next week she is moving up to the next classroom at school, and she will begin taking naps on her little cot instead of in a crib. We’re going to see how she does with that at school first. If all goes well, then we’ll be picking out her toddler bed in the next few months and passing along the idea to Santa.
Even with all this change in her room, though, there will definitely be things that stay the same. This lamp will go with her wherever she goes. It was made by my mom for me when I was born and was in my bedroom throughout my entire childhood. Mom kept it for me until I had a daughter of my own, and so it has been in Gracie’s room since she was born, too. (FYI – It’s not as creepy as it looks in this picture…)
Gracie’s books will also go with her wherever she goes. Books are Gracie’s favorite things right now. She always carries one or two with her (just like her momma!), and she’ll just stop wherever we are and plop down to read. Her room has a ton of books in it, and those will definitely go with her.
All around Gracie’s room are stuffed animals and baby dolls. I keep them in overflowing baskets and use them as decoration. I think they are a super cute way to store toys and decorate at the same time.
But my favorite thing that will go with her is this little plaque. It has hung over the light switch in both Bean and Gracie’s nurseries. I just love it. I’ve looked for it in stores before to give as gifts to people, but have never found one I liked as much. This is something that I will keep my entire life, long after my babies are grown.
Big changes are coming around here. New paint, new rooms, new beds. The possibilities are endless! But it’s nice to know that when we move forward, we get to take parts of the past with us.
This weekend my sister and her husband, John Michael, brought their wittle bitty newborn, Tillman, down to visit. I was so excited to see them. The last time we all got together it was for my dad’s memorial service, so I was ready for a happier reason to get together. And the weekend did not disappoint!
Ginny actually got into town on Wednesday, but since Chris and I were working, she spent a few days with my mom. That gave Nana some good one-on-one time with her newest grandson. On Friday, they headed down to our house in Orlando to spend the night. We picked John Michael up from the airport that night, too, so we had a full house! It was a great feeling!
I got me some good snuggle time in with Tillman, too! Turns out being an aunt is AWESOME. You get to snuggle and cuddle and blubber and nibble all you want, but you never had to change a diaper! It’s the greatest thing ever!
Gracie, however, was no so sure about Baby Tillman. She loved the idea of him. She’d stand across the room and yell in her high-pitched little voice, “Hey, Baby!” But she didn’t like him moving around and crying. She’d stand close to him and talk to him, but the minute he moved, she’d bolt across the room with a look that seemed to say, “What the heck is wrong with that baby doll????”
We are a football family, so Saturday morning we got up early and everyone donned their school’s football gear. Chris, Ginny and Bean wore Gator gear. Gracie, Nana and I wore FSU. John Michael wore Auburn. And Tillman seemed to change clothes multiple times depending on whose team was playing. It was a fun, laid back day.
Even Sarah came by for a few baby snuggles, though Gracie took up most of those…
Saturday evening, the plan was for all of us to head back to my mom’s house to spend the night. But I had been battling a terrible sinus headache all day and was not feeling good at all, so we sent Bean off with Nana, Aunt Ginny, Uncle JM, and Tillman, while Gracie hung back with me and Chris at our house. We put Gracie to bed right away (she’d been a pill all day and was just exhausted!), and Chris and I sat up a bit to watch Florida State break my heart.
We got up and going early on Sunday and headed to my mom’s house to hang out for the morning. She was actually playing golf with her golf group, so we all hung out around her house without her for a while. It was great to watch my sister and JM in parenting action. They are SUCH good parents already. It seems like they’ve been doing it for years. They are laid back and funny and calm, no matter what’s going on. Ginny is breastfeeding like a freaking rock star – no problems whatsoever for her or Tillman – and they are using BabyWise to schedule Tillman. He is like a little champ when it comes to his schedule already! Ginny will say that he’ll need to nap in about ten minutes, and in about nine minutes, Tillman would fall right asleep all on his own. It was incredible! I’m so happy FOR them and proud OF them.
We took the kids for a walk in the late morning, and it was hysterical. So many little kids! Ginny and I kept saying, “I can’t believe we had all these babies!”
(Look! Chris and Bean are finally as tall as Uncle JM!)
Halfway through our walk, Gracie got tired. So she stopped. And stood there. For five minutes. She totally zoned out and went to her own little world for a second. “She’s in Graceland!” Ginny laughed. She finally snapped back to life when she saw Bean get up on Chris’s shoulders. Of course, the first thing she squealed was, “Me, too!”
We met my mom’s golf group up at the country club for lunch when they were finished. It was so much fun to be out and about with Ginny and her little family. We rolled up into the restaurant with four adults and three kids – ages 3, 18 months, and 7 weeks. I thought it was going to be insane. But it was actually a lot of fun! The kids were good and well behaved, the food was great, and we got to talk about things like home security systems and daycare costs and taxes! It’s like we’re real adults!
We spent the rest of the day just lounging around. My Grandma came over and played for a while, and the boys went to take care of some things for my mom that she needed done around the house. Ginny and I played with the kids and the kitties, and watched Gracie give mushy kisses the sliding glass door. And life was just generally good.
As good as it makes me feel to see my family, it can still be a little hard. I feel like we are constantly waiting for someone else to show up. It’s not a sad feeling. Just a different one. And that can make it a little tough sometimes. But we keep my dad with us when we’re together. We talk about him and laugh about him, and I know that he would be so proud of the way we are all working towards moving forward.
But, gosh how I miss him. I miss him in the big milestone moments, like when Bean played soccer for the first time. And I miss him in the little moments, like sitting around together watching football. I miss hearing him talk to my kids and goof around with my mom. But mostly I miss him talking to me. He’d always find time in the weekends we were together to hug me and ask me about work and tell me what a good mom I was and how proud he was of me. It’s not that no one else in my family says those things to me or makes me feel important. But I miss hearing it from him. Most of the time, I can push that feeling of something missing aside with schoolwork or housework or reading or something else that occupies my mind. But on weekends like this when we’re all together as a family, just enjoying each others company, it’s hard to ignore the one big thing that is missing.
All of this is to say that I am a very blessed woman. I have a family that makes my heart full and happy. I have children who make every day fun and exciting. I have a husband who thinks I hung the moon. And though it sometimes feels like someone is missing, I know that my life is not really missing anything at all. It is only readjusting to fill that hole until I see my dad again.