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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hard Goodbyes.

2007 can go down in the history books and the memories of my mind as the year that was. Yes, the year that was.

The year that just about everything that could happen in a year did and somehow we're still here and still sane. (I think.)

I'm not going to go backwards and review the year and all the happenings, both good, bad, excitingly wonderful and devastating, because if you know me, or if you've been reading along here, you've seen and heard most all of it.

Amidst all the craziness of having a family, most of the things we ran into this last year were normal things that just come with the territory. Kids are kids, and with that comes busyness, school events, sports, sickness and injuries. Normal life.

Losing my mom though, that wasn't normal. It was hard. And I shouldn't be using the word was, because it IS hard.

In general when someone asks how I am, I tell them I'm alright, because I am really alright. I miss my mom and worry about my dad and sometimes feel overly overwhelmed but I'm doing alright.

The visitation and the funeral were emotional and hard, seeing, talking to people, about something as personal as my mom. I thought I was doing pretty good, trying to keep myself together as much as I could with my dad.

The funeral was such another story. The moment I set foot in the church I knew I would break at any moment. The moment finally came as pictures of my mom flashed throughout the foyer and my uncle came to give me a hug. Uncle Richard stood holding me and reassuring me that it would be ok and I wouldn't let go.

Even a 25 year old wife, mom and stepmom wants her mom.

The day my mom died J and I stopped to see T and M at their mom's house that evening. Unfortunately, because I apparently have no data privacy even though all three kids have enough data privacy to lock up Fort Knox, the school had already given both kids the news. Yet, I knew they'd have questions and I wanted to be able to answer them.

One of M's questions was if I ever got to say goodbye. And I told her that yes, because we knew she was sick we made sure we said all the things we needed to before she died. We left nothing unsaid and nothing undone between us. We said our I love you's, we said our goodbyes. Having this conversation with a six year old while trying to remain in control of my own emotions was anything but easy.

Lots of well wishers and those offering condolences have repeatedly said that the last seven months must have been so hard. They try to remind me that my mother is at peace, that she's no longer in pain. Yes, they are right, she is at peace, she's no longer in pain, and yes the last seven months were hard. But the last seven months were nothing compared to the feelings you have after someones gone. Especially your mother.

For the last seven months we knew that this illness would take her life. We knew that she would die. We didn't know what that would look like or how that would feel until it was here. And even though we knew she would be leaving us, we still had her.

Seeing her in the hospital in pain was hard. Knowing it was the end was hard. Watching my father's heart break before my eyes, that was hard. But, the hardest part of all is after her death, after the visitation, the funeral. After all the thank you's are sent and the out of town guests gone, when you get back to 'real' life. After the sympathy cards and flowers stop coming and you hear your dad's voice on the phone wondering how we're going to do this.

This real life thing.

This real life that you're not sure how to navigate anymore now that the tears aren't as fresh and you're not sure what normal is anymore. The real life where you're used to calling your mom five to ten times a day about anything and everything. When I want to tell her about H getting naked every time he sees his new potty chair or about M writing all of her own thank you notes this Christmas or T wanting to take guitar lessons. Or even asking her if she thinks I can handle another baby or if I should be done and just raise the ones we've got.

The real life where my dad had the love of his life right by his side and now he needs to figure out what he wants, what he needs and who he is without her.

The real life thing where it's time to take my dad's Christmas tree down and holding each ornament that holds such meaning for us. These are the ones mom made. These are the ones we made for mom. These are the ones mom got from...

So 2007, it was the year that was. And while the date on the calendar will soon be changing to a new year, and I'm feeling ok, yet still at a loss, I know that this will take time to heal. Like I said just last week, drawing closer to my dad and helping him seems to help my healing, so I'll continue on.

I may not say much more about this. Because this is raw, this is real. This is me.

This is me, figuring it all out as I go.

One moment at a time. And even realizing that even amidst the grieving, there is joy, especially with three kids around.

Goodbye 2007. May 2008 bring peace, comfort, joy and more reason to smile.

20 month old H, one of our three big reasons to smile and find joy in the everyday. He's lovin' his trucks these days.

Sorrow may last for the night,but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Friday, December 28, 2007

Quality Friday: Date Night!

It's Friday Night and we're having a much needed, way over-due date night tonight. Babysitter arriving in T-minus 27 minutes.

Enough said.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And Then There Was The Day After Christmas.

As I type this I feel as though my house looks like a toy store, and I am not exaggerating. Cars and fire trucks, magic kits and magnetix, furry dogs and cats that act as though they are alive.

You name it, we've probably got it.

Every year I feel as though J and I try to be more intentional with the gifts that we get for the kids. Making sure it's things they like, will use and sometimes even need. The kids are bombarded from every angle with things at Christmas from all of the extended family they have. Two homes and four sets of grandparents for T and M, makes for a lot of stuff. It makes me even more intentional with the traditions we have incorporated into our family, the stories we tell and the giving things we do. I don't want to go overboard at Christmas though I know at times we have, adding just this or that all the way up to the day before. I want to give, I want the kids to give and also receive but I want them to understand that while the gifts are nice, there is so much more in life than that and just how overly blessed we all are.

M is such a natural giver already, give her a roll of wrapping paper and she will wrap everything in her room to give away. She loves giving gifts and can barely stand to wait until someone opens it. Now if only she wasn't wrapping things like her dirty socks and old notebooks we might be making some progress on de-cluttering our lives.

I'm glad it's the day after Christmas. I had a lot of anxiety about the day, and felt ill prepared considering I hadn't really focused on Christmas in over a week. But it was here and now all our celebrations are done and I expect that our decorations will be put away shortly.

H and Grandpa sharing some lunch on Christmas Eve.

We spent Christmas Eve with my dad and trekked out to one of my aunt's houses for a bit. Then we picked T and M up that evening from their mom's. We got home, opened up our monumental Christmas Eve pajamas and sent the kids to bed. Then J and I exchange gifts. Thankfully I'd shopped for him weeks before. Each year we go through the same charade telling each other we don't need to get each other anything, yet we both get each other more than we need to. I know just how strange that sounds.

Christmas morning started early (H was up and bouncing at 5:30, M followed shortly after.) Needless to say our home was filled with wrapping and boxes by 7.

By mid-morning, we were at my in-laws having Christmas brunch and opening the first truckload of gifts for the day. If you think I'm joking about the truckload, think again. I am completely serious.
You know those old commercials 'this is your brain', 'this is your brain on drugs' well this is "me at my in-laws". Take it to mean whatever you'd like.
The usual Grandparent/Grandchildren picture at my in-laws.

By lunchtime we were at my dad's, again eating and opening more gifts.

Like I said before my mom had most all of her shopping and wrapping complete. It was such a bittersweet feeling knowing that these were the last gifts we would open that she'd picked out. One of Henry's many gifts was a monkey that you could record a message and play on it. As I opened it and pressed play, my heart stopped with hope that I would hear my mom's voice.

Grandpa Mike and Tyler, Henry and Madison.

By evening we were headed home and this was what you could see.

So now it's the day after Christmas, new thank-you's to write, games and toys to play with, snow to play in. One full week left of Christmas break for the kids and I, one more week of vacation time for J. Lots to do, but lots of time to relax, reflect and just be, too. Something we especially need this year.

I hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas and that you took time to enjoy and appreciate all the people around you and the memories you're making.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Eve.

I love Christmas and was really excited for the season this year. But just as quickly as that excitement came, it went. Right now I'm not feeling that Christmas spirit like I usually do, for lots of reasons. If there weren't three little people, I fear I would have taken down the tree and all the decorations already. But I haven't, and am actually looking forward to T and M's return home tomorrow and celebrating, in a different sort of way.

I haven't been in the mood for sharing more traditions, though I had lots more I wanted to, including our pajama tradition, a new holiday recipe and some daily giving activities we had been doing. I haven't even been in the mood for filling the remainder of the advent boxes. They've been empty since the 11th. And I feel bad about it, I do. I just have been overwhelmed and swamped and like everything needed to happen at once. This year I will have to chalk it up as being a slacker, and thankfully T gave me grace this past week by informing me I can make up for it next year.

I've gotten e-mails and voice mails this week wondering where I am or what I'm doing. And in case anyone seriously thinks I've been sitting on my couch sipping wine and eating bon-bons, I actually prefer eggnog and homemade fudge.

I've been with my dad every day the last ten plus days except Saturday, which was spent finishing my own shopping and organizing. My mom had all but one of her Christmas gifts purchased. And all but two wrapped. Organized could have very well been her middle name and still wouldn't adequately define her level of organization. I helped get some of those loose ends tied up for my dad and wrote countless thank-you's. Some just required addressing an envelope, others required notes and messages and signatures. I'll be sending my father my carpel-tunnel bill. All kidding aside, I was glad to help and have instructed my father that unless he tells me what to do and when to do it, I will probably do everything and smother him until I drive him nuts. So far, I believe he's enjoying my company and our daily conversations on life, love and what we've both lost and though I have resolved to the fact that I can never make things better or heal things, drawing closer to my dad and being there for him, seems to help my healing.

The week was both long and short, if that's possible. It flew by, yet seems like so long ago. And while the week wasn't one to go down in the record books as my favorite times I do want to highlight a few of the more light hearted moments...
This is my Uncle Richard and me and this picture is probably funny only to me, but just before this picture was taken I had gotten a little stern with him calling him by his first and middle name. Just who do I think I am?

This is a ball pit that now lives in my living room. This was an early Christmas present from Lori. I'm not sure if it was more for me or Henry. Let me get back to you after I pick up all one-hundred fifty balls. I definitely may be looking for some ideas for a reciprocal sort of gift that can live at her house.

This was Miss. M today at her second Christmas musical and as I type this I realize I never even shared pictures of the first musical. (Oops, there goes that stepmom of the year award I was hoping for.) This was today's, where she played an angel and did a beautiful job. Saying goodbye to Aunt Laurie, who flew back to Virginia Beach today. (In case you're confused she's the one in the middle.)

And last but certainly not least was the ladies group having coffee at church this past week who asked me if my father would be moving into Covenant Village, a Christian retirement home affiliated with our church. I hated bursting their bubble by telling them no, my 53 year old father would not be moving there anytime soon.

As I sit writing this, I have non-Christmas music softly playing and lefse on a plate in front of me. My husband just finished snowblowing the driveway and left to do some of his own last minute shopping. (Is that really a surprise?)

It's just a typical Minnesota winter night this night before Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Still Standing.

On Thursday, December 13th at 1:05 a.m. my mother, my mumsy, passed away. She left the pain and the illness she'd been living with and fighting for the last seven months and went home to be with our Father in heaven.

While I'm glad that she is at peace and out of pain, I am sad, because she was my mom. And a mom can not ever be replaced. Even though there are so many people who love me and are willing to do anything and everything, my mom is still gone.

The last several days have been a whirlwind of activity and details to take care of. My mother left us in many ways more prepared than we could have been. Details already attended to, instructions taken care of. Even as death came closer to her, she took care of her family, because that is what she always did.

I will not idealize my mother, instead I will tell you just how she was.

She was loving and beautiful and funny and smart. She was honest and tactful and knew how to present herself in any and every situation. She was strong.

She loved the Lord and showed that to us not by being a Bible-thumper, but instead by the way she quietly lived her life for Him and loved all people.

She loved her husband and even after thirty years of marriage and thirty-six years together was still madly in love. When people asked if she was married, her response was always, "Happily."

She loved her children and wanted the best for them in every way possible. She worked hard and made sacrifices so that we could have every experience and have everything we ever needed and more. I think I am safe speaking for both my sisters and myself in saying, we never went without anything and we took it all for granted.

She loved her grandchildren and made each one feel special in their own way. The joy that I saw in her during my pregnancy and birth of Henry will never be forgotten and will surely be passed on to him as he grows and learns more about her.

As I read an article about our blended-family on Saturday morning and then flipped to find my mom's obituary in the same paper, I couldn't help but chuckle knowing she probably wouldn't have had it any other way. We didn't know when the story would be published and the timing wasn't ideal but I knew that she was proud of the mom and the stepmom I'd become and she made sure I knew that.

As I sat in church on Monday morning I could not help but think of the many Christmas programs and youth activities that took place in that sanctuary. Confirmation and choir activities. My wedding. I could not help but realize that the day of her funeral was the day Henry turned 20 months.

I will miss her. I talked with my mom several times a day and saw her at least two times a week. She knew just when to give me advice and just when to listen. Just two weeks ago, we had what was our last great conversation, she knew she was dying, I knew she was dying, but I just wanted her to tell me what I could do to help make it better. "Just be you. I want you." She said through tears.

I am sad not only for the loss of my mother, but also the great loss my father is experiencing. His partner in life, his wife, his confidant, his everything.

He will miss her, but he also knows that she is at peace and celebrating while she's getting everything squared away for when we arrive in heaven. Just like she's always done.

She is happy and probably wants nothing more than for us to be happy too.

I am not sure right now how much I'll be writing these next days, there is a lot for me to do and take care of myself. My dad and my family are what I need to attend to right now. Phone calls and thank you's and details we need to wrap up. And then I'll get my own family ready for Christmas and a new year.

I will probably never know the reasons or understand why now or why her. I will never be able to make it all go away and be better. But I can stand there next to my dad and I can hold onto his arm and tell him that I love him and how much I love her. How thankful I am that I was born into that family, with those parents, and that life. And even though the last few days have been hard and the next several will be hard too, I know that I am not alone.

I am still standing. Even when I don't know how, I am. Because of the prayers and the love and the people in my life. My husband and children, extended family and friends. Still standing. Because of the mom I had, and the dad I still have. We're still standing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

She Fought A Good Fight.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

John 14:27

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


It is late and I am much too tired to still be awake, but sleeping is hard. While I could have stayed at the hospital and slept, I wanted to come home, to my own bed, but yet I still lie awake.
I roll from side to side, thinking, praying, wondering. My husband asks what he can do.

Nothing. This will all be a process I know. An unfamiliar, uncomfortable process I must trench through.

Oh what a day it has been.

Her body and her mind are failing her now and she wants to go home. She wants to go home before she goes to her heavenly home. And if my father could, he would pick her up and carry her to the car and take her there. But he can't. Not yet, anyway.

Hold on mom. One more night, it's ok. I repeat into my mothers ears as we hold her. She wants to go home.
Tomorrow we can go home. My dad tells her. And I pray he is right.

Continuing to pray, in the words of Madison, that the good Lord keep her safe on her way to heaven. May He also keep her comfortable and at peace and hold all the pieces of my dad's heart together just a little while longer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Life Changes.

Today was our last ECFE class until after the holidays and while I'm sure there will be a time to tell you of my feelings about class and the actual friends I have made, that time isn't now.

When Henry and I arrived at class today, I didn't feel right. I still can not put my finger on what was bothering me, but something wasn't right. I typically leave my coat and bag in the classroom but today decided to hang it up in a locker outside the room and as I closed the locker I worried that I would miss a call.

I quickly put the thought to side, who would be calling me in the middle of class and even if I heard it ring would I answer?

We went about our busyness of class and enjoyed the naivete we were able to have for just a short while longer. For once we left class, more truth came my way via voicemail.

It is amazing how life changes in just moments.

There is something about the way my dad's voice sounds now. It has changed. Over time. It is hopeful, yet honest, sad, yet unconvincingly upbeat. It is older, worn down and at times, beat.

My mom is in the hospital again and I can't stand this feeling of helplessness I have. I can't make the pain go away, I can't even talk to her. All I can do is sit inside my home, while my busy toddler sleeps and wait.

For the phone to ring again, or an e-mail to come in, for news of some sort. Of some hopeful, happy sort.

There is so much going on in our lives right now that is good. That is good, and busy, and full of love and joy. And then there is this. This cancer and this pain and goodbyes that will come too soon.

I get angry when I hear about others having conflict with their parents, I want to shake them on their shoulders and tell them to get over it and enjoy the time they have. I get jealous when I see grandma's with their very little grandchildren.

That should be my mom and my son, I think.

Today, I am sad. There are days, I am more together and more at peace and more excited about the good and the happy things, but then there are days where the truth and the reality hits me like a ton of bricks and this feeling of helplessness overwhelms me to no escape.

Wishing and hoping will do nothing. Crying will help, but praying for peace, for comfort and for a reason to laugh may have to be what gets me through.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Three Words.

Recently learned about this project, ABC has been doing called I-Caught.

If you aren't familiar, watch the below video or go here. (Better yet, watch both.)

What three words would you want to tell the world?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Stepmom Stuff

About a month ago, author and stepmom Karon Goodman contacted me about her new book and a blog tour she was doing. Even though I realize more than just my parents and my husband read my blog now, any time I am contacted by a company, author or publisher, I get a little excited. (Ok, more than a little.)

I agreed to have her send me a copy of her new book, Stepping Stones for Stepmoms, with hopes that I would read it and be able to review it. Reading it didn't happen. I'm just being honest, I didn't get to read it.
The thing I was most intrigued about with this book is that it is from a Christian perspective, and honestly I don't think there is a lot of that when it comes to divorce/remarriage/stepfamilies. Some of the Christians I've met are pretty quick to judge and that makes being a Christian stepfamily harder than it needs to be.

I have said before that when I met, started dating and eventually married Jeff, I got a lot of slack. Especially from the Christian crowd. Friends gave their criticisms, loud and clear.

Sadly, before I met J, I probably would have acted the same exact way.

I think it is very neat and inspiring that Karon can write a book aimed at a stepmother from this Christian perspective. Karon's book could offer a good glimpse to a Christian woman who enters into a stepfamily. I did skim the subject/chapter headings through the book and it looks like Karon is pretty thorough in her topics ranging from jealousy and anger to being able to love ones stepchildren. Honestly many of the topics would not have been of interest to me, as I have been fortunate not to have some of the feelings or issues that she discusses, but I am sure there are women that would need to read and hear some of those truths and scriptures to rely upon. I think that with a very specific audience her book will be very successful. For more information about Karon and her works you can also visit her blog.


This subject of stepfamilies is a personal one because we are all different. We being each family, situation and environment. They all come with their own set of rules.

The way I think about it is this; when you get married, you and your spouse are joining ideas, values and beliefs about life. You will never agree 100% on EVERYTHING. (If you do, please write to me and tell me how you do it!!!) There will always be something come up that you might see a little differently. Now let's add two more adults to the mix, stepmom and stepdad, who each come from their own backgrounds and have their own ideas, values and beliefs about life. It makes for one big blended family salad getting tossed about. That is why every situation is different. There are different issues for each family that one parent might see as a non-negotiable and another parent or family might see as no big deal.

I read a few books when J and I were engaged and also newly married about stepfamilies and being a stepparent. None were from a Christian perspective and none helped me. Rather, they frustrated me. They were not informative, they were not realistic and most of all they were just plain annoying.

What I want out of a stepmom book is the plain truth...the ups, the downs, the dramas and the non dramatic events. More than just the feelings and more than just sugar-coated goodness. Real life stories of being a stepmom. That is what I truly think will help someone in the thick of it.

There are a number of stepmom blogs out there, but sadly there are many (not all, but many) that are negative, nasty and degrading to their stepchildren's mother, I don't relate.

Last week there was a lot of attention here because I wrote about making cookies with Maddy and Lori for Christmas. I wish that was more the norm than the exception. For us, that day of baking was no big deal. We don't mind being together or doing things together. Shouldn't we want to do things together for the kids benefit?

Over time I think we've realized (and continue to realize) that we may be more alike than different after all.

That's not to say there haven't been moments where we've wanted to poke each other's eyes out, but what it comes down to is realizing you're on the same team trying to do what's best for the same kids. Would hating each other help us do that better?

Being a stepmom, and also now a mom, has changed me a lot. But I think the changes have been positive ones. I see a lot of things differently, with a different set of eyes.

It's also been an evolving process. I entered in as a naive 22 year old without a clue of how stepfamilies and relationships with an ex work. I have grown alongside the kids, figuring out things that work and don't work. I have written things I've learned a long the way. Snippits here and there. I don't always do the right thing or say the right thing, but that's what life and learning are all about.

And maybe something I have to say or write will help someone else think about things in a new way.

I have said many times over, if someone would have told me years ago that this would be my life, I would have laughed.

Thankfully, most of the time, I still do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmas Traditions #6 & #7

St. Nicholas Day.

In our house we don't do Santa.

My reasons for not doing Santa are my own, and I don't think badly of anyone who does do it. It's just not for me. I was that kid in the first grade that ruined it for everyone else. You think I'm kidding? Ask my parents.

H, will most likely never sit on the big guys lap whispering his list and will most likely never know the difference and in the end, I am completely ok with that.

So with that said, today is St. Nicholas Day where the kids stockings are filled with little somethings. Little things like a little candy treat, some gum, chapstick, hat and gloves and their annual ornament. They know it's from J and I and look forward to getting the little things.

I grew up celebrating St. Nick Day and LOVED it. It is such a fun, holiday celebration that breaks up the month of December.

St. Nicholas Day also ties into the next tradition, which is Ornaments.

Our Christmas tree is a tree of history ranging in ornaments from J's childhood, mine and now the kids both homemade and store bought.

I have seen some very pretty trees in Macy's or Crate and Barrel. Decorated to perfection.

Our tree will never look like that and I still think ours is one of the prettiest. I love all the history behind each ornament, whether it is one I may have made in school for my mom and dad 20 years ago or one that one of the kids made last year. Growing up my parents gave us each an ornament each year that symbolized our year and now we do the same. I love looking back on the ornaments I both have received and given. J and I get an ornament each year as well now as a family ornament. While I'd love to show you each and every one, that'd be impossible to photograph so here are a few of my favorites.

Our family Christmas tree of history.

*What are some of your Christmas traditions? I'll be sharing several of mine (and ours) from now through Christmas and would love to know some of yours too...*

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas Traditions #5

Christmas Cards. I love getting and sending mail. Actual letters and cards that break up the monotony of bills and ads. That's why from Thanksgiving until Christmas, I love getting the mail. My favorites are the photo cards with a little letter. Love getting to see people's faces and read what they've been up to over the year.

This year I made our cards again. So simple. I basically ordered prints of our family photo. Bought red cardstock. Typed up a little little letter and assembled with shaped brads, glue and a hole punch. They turned out simple, yet nice. And they were so easy.

I go back and forth every year about whether I should make them or just buy them. I think that the making them is so much more fun and means more.

How do you feel about Christmas letters? That's another thing I go back and forth about each year. I try to put together a little something with a sentence or two about each family member. Short and sweet. I love getting letters, so I want to send them, but what do you think?

I also try to include the kids in the process. They add to the list certain people they want to send cards to and decorate some of the envelopes. (Not all, because then my cards wouldn't get out until March!)
T accompanied me to the post office to mail them off with love. Most* of our cards went out this week. I say most because there are still a couple I'm assembling or waiting for new addresses.

*What are some of your Christmas traditions? I'll be sharing several of mine (and ours) from now through Christmas and would love to know some of yours too...*

Monday, December 3, 2007

Christmas Traditions #3 & #4

Hide the pickle.

We have a pickle ornament that was given to us as a gift that we hide in our Christmas tree each year. It's a game to see who can find it.

This is nothing big and nothing too creative, yet something fun that the kids enjoy and ask about every year.J getting ready to hide it in the tree. No I didn't have to pay him to pose like this.

The Minneapolis Holidazzle Parade.

Though I don't suggest going on the very first night with three exhausted children, including one 19 month old who will not sit still.

I spent more time and energy trying to express to H how "fun" the parade is than actually having fun. Oops.

During our 2-hour wait T and M occupied themselves with games like Mancala and Pick Up Sticks. H was a completely different story.
The parade is a 30 minute evening parade of lights that goes down Nicollet Avenue. We (mostly me) like to stay warm so we camp out in the skyway between City Center and Gavidae and watch from above.

*What are some of your Christmas traditions? I'll be sharing several of mine (and ours) from now through Christmas and would love to know some of yours too...*

Saturday, December 1, 2007


I am giddy with excitement to point you over to Stepmother's Milk to meet the new Ms. December.

Lori, my step-kids mom.

There is much more to come from both her and I this month on the subject of stepfamilies. It seems we're paving the way towards a new perspective on stepfamilies/blended families.

Seriously, giddy.