Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Choo-Choose You…

When Jeanelle started this blog many, many moons ago, I was somewhat involved but not that much. We would post together periodically as we eagerly awaited the arrival of our firstborn son, Evan, but overall, the blog was a place that Jeanelle made her own in every way.

Most of the posts here serve as a document of our family life and a way for friends and family to keep up with all the latest, but I wanted to take the time this Valentine's Day to come back and let my beautiful wife know how important she is to me and how so very much of my life revolves around the blessing she's brought into it.

I am a curmudgeon. Ask anyone. There are days when I feel like I sold my wife a lemon when it comes to my personality and the man she thought she married and the man she now shares life with on a daily basis. I'm grouchy, impatient, easily angered, and difficult. Jeanelle is anything but. My wife has joy and laughter and humor to give everyday. Even when things aren't the best, she has the silver lining. Whenever things are overwhelming, she brings perspective. Whenever I want to feel sorry for myself and complain (which is more often than I care to admit), she doesn't coddle me--she encourages and gives things to me straight. And she's always right. Mostly. :)

Jeanelle is an incredible mother. She spearheads every program and activity, play dates, and much more. She is always aware of the school schedule and takes the time to document everything having to do with our children, showering them with love, but also a firm hand when they need it. Our son and daughter simply love their mother. From snuggling with Aida to making sure Evan has a partner to play video games with, Jeanelle is always there. Always.

My wife is also a caretaker of tradition and family. She is constantly making sure that our family is taking part in the traditions her mother passed down to her and always mindful of big family get-togethers and what that means to the kids and us.

Did I also mention she's an excellent cook?

Every week there are at least 3 new dishes Jeanelle conjures up. She's always on the lookout for new recipes and things she can share with the family, and it's all DELICIOUS. People I work with are always intrigued when I bring in some new leftover item asking me what it is and how it was made--I've had multiple requests for Jeanelle to become the in-office cook.

What else can I say? There's definitely more, but I've already gone long here. All this to say, that I love you Jeanelle. I know I say it a lot, but actions speak louder than words. I hope that by flying my heart flag out here in blogland for everyone to see you would know just how much. A long time ago, I can remember praying that God would bring me someone that truly loved me and that I could love back with all my heart. I made so many wrong decisions, but every single day I wake up, I see how richly God has blessed me. You and the kids are the jewels in my crown.

Happy Valentine's Day. I love you.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

I could have written so much more

This obviously isn't the most recent picture of Mom and I, but it's my favorite.
Yes, it has been a very long time since I’ve posted something here.  I’m fairly certain no one stops by anymore, and that’s ok, because this post might get a little personal.  When I started the blog, I did so as a way to chronicle our journey through parenthood and hoped it would serve as a reminder of all of those important milestones that I was sure to forget.  My last post was Aida’s second birthday.  So much has happened since then, but I don’t think I’ve been ready to sit and reflect much less document those moments.  But this is as much for the kids and their eventual nostalgia as it is for me and my opportunity to journal the events that shape their lives.  It may have been a difficult 6+ months, but it’s one I know I’ll want them to remember, so here goes…

Mom holding Evan for the first time
My Mom passed away on October 23, 2012 after a hard fought battle with breast cancer.  In May, after months of chemotherapy, we were very hopeful that she was finally going to be able to have a mastectomy.  I never attended Mom’s doctor visits, and looking back on it I wish I had, because I think that I was hopeful under false pretenses.  I thought the worst was about to be over, and I had not prepared myself for the possibility of losing her.  October was a brutal month, but at least I had time to prepare for the grief.  On May 17th when she told me that they weren’t going to operate and that her tests had come back devoid of any hope, I realized the worst was actually still to come and I was devastated.  I was hit so hard by the onslaught of grief that it was like I had already lost her. 
Mom holding Aida for the first time
It took a few days for the fog to lift and for me to decide to make the most of what time we had left, rather than beginning each day like I was attending a funeral.  Of course, I distinctly remember Mom telling me that the doctor thought we had anywhere from 2-5 years with her.  I don’t know if she didn’t want to give me more bad news, if she honestly hadn’t heard him right, or if it was just a mistake, but later I learned that he had actually said 6 months to 5 years.   It was the hope for those 2 years that helped lift the fog, so maybe the error was a good thing, but it didn’t take long to realize we wouldn’t have that kind of time.
Over the next few months we spent as much time with her as possible, especially for the kids.  Even as her health started to decline, I still took the kids with me whenever possible.  I didn’t want Evan and Aida’s only lasting memories of Grandma to be those when she was sick, but it was better than not making any memories at all.

Mom and Aida at one of Evan's soccer games
When she died I tried to minimize their grief and confusion by not talking about her as much, but then I started to worry that they would forget her.  I’ve tried to find a balance, but it’s hard.  I know that Evan will always remember my Mom, although maybe not as clearly the “good times,” before she got sick.  But I know that Aida’s memories will mostly be through stories and pictures.  Just the other day we were in the store and she saw an older woman and she asked me if it was Grandma.  I was so sad because the woman didn’t look anything like my Mom.  Grandma has probably already become more of a concept for Aida and less of a tangible memory and knowing how much they loved each other makes that a very sad reality for me. 

Mom and Evan looking for "crawdads" 

Evan and Aida, your Grandma loved you both so much.  Evan, you got to spend several weekends with her and Grandpa and even though I’m sure her patience was tested sometimes, she loved having you.  She enjoyed bringing you to church and showing you off and she loved giving you almost anything you wanted, especially candy J She dedicated a day each week to watch you while Mommy worked and she even took you to preschool on those days.  Grandma was a very big part of your little life.  Aida, when Grandma first got sick and couldn’t watch you both anymore, she was the most worried about you forgetting her because she hadn’t spent as much time with you.  But the exact opposite happened, you talked about her all of the time and if you saw a picture of her you would walk to the door and cry “brama.”  I think it warmed her heart to know how much she was loved in return.  You never got an overnight visit with Grandma and I deeply regret that, but I know that you had a beautiful bond of your own with her, even if you won’t fully remember it. 

I wish I could fully express what she meant to me, but I don’t think it’s possible.  I can only give you glimpses...shadows of the real thing.  I don’t remember there ever being a time when I needed her that  she wasn’t there.  She was present at every school event and function, and she was there every day when I got home from school.  She even made a 4 hour trip once when I was in college just to watch me play in an intramural football game. Until she got sick, and even after when she could, she was always there for our family.  If there was ever any way that she could help us, or anyone else for that matter, she did. She was an amazing woman of God and even through many trials, her faith in Him and His goodness never faltered.  She helped shape my faith and relationship with God in ways that I’m still realizing.  She had a fabulously eclectic taste in music and I remember as a little girl getting lost in her Simon and Garfunkel or Led Zeppelin vinyls, and I hope the love of good music is something of hers that I’m able to pass on to you both. She was strict, which is something I now appreciate, but she still found ways to give me independence and the space to discover who I was and who I wanted to be, like letting me blare my music.  I remember how she comforted me during a broken heart with the words that I have shared with many friends since and will undoubtedly say to you one day, “Remember everything good and loved about that person and that relationship and then know that if God saw fit to take that away, it could only mean that He has something even better waiting for you.” Or how the day we brought Evan home from the hospital, she came to the side of my bed and cried with me as I struggled through all of the emotions of being a new Mom.  

Mom and Aida at Evan's preschool graduation

Then there are the obvious things that everyone knew about her, like how much she loved animals and garage sales, and her heart for missions work.  Of course, she loved to shop but she was always shopping for other people and she loved finding the best deals.  We’ve benefited tremendously from those deals.  In fact, you’re probably still wearing clothes she got from a garage sale.

Mom and Evan at his preschool graduation
If I've learned one thing during these last few months, it's that you always need your Mom and to not take for granted the time that you have with your loved ones.  I took my Mom and all that she was to me for granted and there are so many minutes and even seconds that I wish I could have back.  Evan and Aida, know that I love you and that I hope to be the type of Mother that elicits the kind of love I felt for mine.  I can only hope to be half the woman your Grandmother was, and I will miss her every day of my life.  I will do my very best to keep her memory alive, whether through stories, pictures, or by making her favorite desserts as often as possible.  Hopefully, I've taken another step by writing this post.  

Taken a week before she died

I don't know if I'll keep updating the blog, but I certainly didn't want the blog to end without acknowledging something so monumental to our 2012.  

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

2 Already?

Dear Aida,

Sometimes you look at me and say something in your sweet little voice that makes me think that there is no possible way any other little girl in the history of the world could ever have been this cute.   You're simply amazing, and I constantly see your little mind working.  You speak in full sentences and mimic everything you hear, which of course keeps all of us on our toes.  You're almost as extroverted as your Brother, but you also appreciate your own space and don't mind playing by yourself. You adore Evan, but you have no problem sticking up for yourself if he's trying to boss you around.  You do not get pushed around - I really admire that about you :-)

You love animals, especially kitties and puppies.  If a book has a kitty cat or puppy dog in it, you are all about it and you're always asking us to draw them on your doodle pad. You play the cutest game with your Daddy where you ask him to be a kitty, and then you say, "give me hug, kitty." Then you wrap your arms around his neck and it's ridiculously precious.

If you were asked what you wanted to be when you grow up, I'm fairly certain you would say either a ballerina or a princess.  You love all things girly, but you also like to watch super hero cartoons with us, so I think you're going to be well rounded.  Besides princesses and baby dolls, your favorite toys to play with are probably still your Little People.  And your favorite Little People? The baby, the Mommy, and Noah.  You're crazy about those three! 

We had your party this weekend and you loved all of the sweets.  In general, you're not that interested in tv, but if you had a favorite cartoon, it would be Super Why. You request it by name and it seems to hold your interest the longest.  So, we decorated your cake with the Super Why gang and skittles. I think you approved.  I made the butter cream frosting for your cake and ice cream cupcakes, and it was my first time ever attempting it.  I love butter cream icing so dearly that I've never wanted to take the chance I'd mess it up.  It wasn't the best ever, but it was good enough that I'm willing to keep trying to perfect it.  We'll see how Evan's cake turns out!

You loved all of your presents, but you did not like it when we sang happy birthday to you.  You made this face...

This is going to be a big year for you. You've been showing a lot of readiness, so we've already started preparing for potty training but we'll officially kick things off at the end of the month.  I think you're going to do great!  When Evan starts school, on days that I work, you'll be going to daycare all by yourself.  No more big Brother to lead the way.  Your speech continues to advance - you no longer call Evan, "Emmy," and that makes me sad.  About a month ago it just changed overnight to a completely clear "Evan." You're growing up and changing so much every day.  You're not nearly as clingy with me as you used to be, and although it means I'm able to get a lot more done, I miss it.  Ever since getting a big girl bed, your naps are fewer and farther between, and you've been asserting your independence more too.  For awhile your favorite phrase was, "No I not!" The truth is that I really just want you to stay my baby forever, but I know that can't happen.  You're going to be a "big girl" whether I like it or not.  But I am so tremendously honored to be your Mother and guide on this journey! We love you Aida Bear - Happy Birthday!!

Aida's official stats from today's Doctor's Appointment: 3 feet tall and 34 pounds light.  She's in the 90th percentile for height and 95th in weight.  She's an overachiever :-)

Friday, May 25, 2012

He Graduated

So, it would seem that everyone but me is ready for Evan to go to Kindergarten.  He even has a preschool diploma to prove it.  Evan had his graduation this week, he thought he was a celebrity with all of the cheers and camera flashes.  In one of the pictures you'll see his arms raised high, and I'm certain he thought everyone was there for him :-)

He went to his new school a few weeks ago to complete the Kindergarten screening process and he loved it.  He can't wait to go back.  He has a few friends that will be going to Kindergarten there next year too, and I'm glad he'll know some of his classmates.  I was of course "that parent" that requested his testing results and I was devastated when the principal responded with failing scores.  Of course, he quickly realized he'd sent me the wrong scores and the real ones showed that he crushed the test.  He was above average in every category, and I knew he would be.  But I also learned from that experience just how much I want him to do well.  I want him to succeed and excel, but I also want him to enjoy school.  I'll need to be careful not to pressure him too much in order to strike that balance!

It's going to be so strange next year having him gone all day.  The drop off/pick up routine of preschool was getting old by the end of the second year, but it will be sad not having him home for lunch every day, and I know Aida will miss him too.  On the plus side, I'll finally be able to dictate my own schedule on the days that I'm home, and Aida and I will have more time for chillin' and running errands.  I'm definitely entering a new stage of life, and so is Evan.  Together, I think we're going to meet the challenges head on!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

How about some Easter in May?

April went by so fast and I'm fairly sure that May is going to go even faster.  So much happened in April.  Of course, there was Easter, and the annual Easter egg hunt at my Mom's.  This was Aida's first year to join the hunt and she thought it was fantastic, and how could it not be?  My Mom throws an amazing Easter egg hunt!  I think there were even a few eggs that we adults didn't find this year.  Mom was in between chemo treatments so she was feeling well enough to organize it.  I was so glad because Easter would not have been the same if we'd had to skip it.

Then there was that other major event in April, my turning a year older.  I'm 34 years old now.  Hmm, Maybe that's why I ignored the blog. This year's birthday was fairly low key.  Jeff and I decided to get each other iPads for our birthdays/anniversary, so that was obviously the bulk of my fanfare.  We had said we would wait until the iPad 3 came out in order to see how much the 2 went down in price.  We were able to get a great deal on two refurbished iPad 2's from Apple.  I almost never get the MacBook out anymore, and the iPad has seriously improved my time spent on the treadmill.  Because of space limitations, our treadmill faces a corner, sans tv.  I was watching netflix on my iPhone, but the iPad is so much better! We also used our monthly date night on my birthday and saw Hunger Games.  But don't worry, even though I read all three books in 2 days and saw the movie, I'm definitely still Team Twilight :-)

I successfully registered my first born for Kindergarten in April, so that happened.  He'll be going to full day Kindergarten and the powers that be decided it should be free, so our budget is super excited.  However, his Mommy isn't so sure.  I'm nervous about so many things: should he ride the bus, dropping his food in the cafeteria, the potential for arm breaking at recess, whether he'll make friends, his ability to sit still for long periods of time.  But I know he's going to love it and I'm excited to start this new adventure...I think.

We're all getting really ready for Summer around here, which by the way, starts in 3 1/2 weeks!  It's a little shorter this year, and I'm still coming to grips with that reality.  I have always been on a school calendar.  As soon as I was done going to school, I started working in one.  Summers are an institution that I'm not ready to give up.  But having longer Fall and Spring breaks will be nice and I'm so glad that we're all on the same schedule.

We had decided not to plan a full vacation this Summer because of my decreased hours at work, but then with the new "from home" duties, they turned out to not really be decreased.  Plus, I found out that she wants me to keep up that 1 day per week over the Summer in order to randomly audit documentation.  But by the time we figured out all of those changes, we were already really excited by the prospect of visiting friends in Atlanta.  So, we decided to rent a cabin in the mountains on the way for a few nights.  It's crazy how many more amenities you can get for less in a mountain cabin versus a beach cabin.  I'm talking hot tub, game room, full cable, gaming systems, and my personal favorite wi-fi!  We don't usually get any of those when we go to the beach!  Although maybe after this trip, we might start. 

I'm going to end this post with a video clip.  I think I mentioned this awhile back, but Aida's name for Evan is "Emmy."  Hearing her call him that might be one of the cutest thing ever, so I had to share it.  Is it even possible this cute little girl is going to be 2 years old in only 1 month?!?!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Could they slow down a little?

Last week was Spring Break and the biggest thing on our agenda was a trip to IKEA. It had been so long since our last visit, I almost felt guilty when we walked through those big glorious doors. As always, we only had a few hours, so we decided to try a new tactic this time. We usually make a shopping list on their site, but this time we started in the pick up area. We used the list to get all of the things we knew for sure we were going to buy and loaded them in the car. That left the rest of the time to leisurely browse. We felt it was an effective strategy, especially when you have limited time.

The main reason for this trip was to purchase Aida's "big girl" bed. We got her the Malm and she loves it. It's really low to the ground, so I don't have to worry about her falling out. I was worried that the freedom to get out of bed would be too much, but she's done a really great job with the transition. She's still napping, and bedtime has even gotten easier. But, when we check on her before going to bed, it's so surreal seeing her asleep in that big bed. I sold her rocker on Craigslist and I got a little emotional last week when I knew I was rocking her in it for the last time. Aida has stayed a "baby" so much longer than Evan, and I've loved every moment of it, but I know they have to grow up sometime.

We moved her name to the opposite wall and used IKEA flower lights as a border. They function as nightlights too, and I think those have helped with bedtime as well.

This is her dresser after being painted and detailed. I also used different fabrics to cover the knobs and I love the finished product. It's a completely different dresser and so girly and it fits perfectly in her room. The mirror is IKEA, as is the lamp, but the jewelry holder is from Target - that girl loves her necklaces :-)

Aida's room is really small, but I think we've made the most of her space. She has 2 little nook areas - one for reading, and one for playing. She also has her dress up clothes out where she can get them now, which she loves. And she thinks she is so cool when she sits at her table. The shelves and hooks are IKEA. The bins are Target, and the table and chairs, that my Mom painted, are from a garage sale.

The second major item on our shopping list at IKEA was a desk for Evan. He has recently entered the world of Legos and he had long outgrown his little kid table. He needed a workspace and something that could grow with him. If all goes well, this will be his desk until he leaves home. This acquisition has been a major game changer. The other day, Aida and I were downstairs and I realized he wasn't with us. I went to his room and there he was, with his door shut, working on his legos. Let's be clear here, this child NEVER voluntarily goes to his room or anywhere that is not where everyone else is. I was shocked. I think he really likes the space to create and focus. It's a good thing because he's about to be a Kindergartener! I registered him this morning. Ack! I hope this Summer really drags, because I don't think I'm ready for August!

And of course, Mommy had to get something on this trip too. Remember last year when we put in a patio and I got a chaise lounge, but really wanted 2? Well, it just wasn't in the budget then, but I'm glad we waited because they dropped significantly in price, so I was finally able to get the second one. Don't worry, Jeff wasn't left out - he also got a new desk. It was a great trip and a great Spring Break! Too bad work starts tomorrow...