Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

It's almost like I have been holding my breath for weeks now, in anticipation of Christmas. The holidays inevitably stir up emotions surrounding family. Whether it's relational conflict, joy over reuniting with those you love, traditions, expectations, or reminiscing of childhood memories. Holidays are a heavy "family trigger"...for better or worse.

When someone who has been an integral part of your world is gone (whether through death or disconnect), holidays somehow shine a spotlight on that loss. I have felt that loss over the years, whether it was grandparents, my aunt, a friend, or my mom. Now, that loss includes my spouse and father of my children. I never like to compare grief or loss, because every situation is so unique...but I know for me, as one who has experienced some pretty significant loss, Christmas without my spouse has, by far, been the most difficult.

So, today was hard. I won't sugar-coat it. But, it also held some true glimmers of joy. I found myself able to smile a little more, cry a little less, and just be in the moment with my boys. I am thankful for that gift. I know part of it is time, which heals. I also know that it is because I have an army of people praying, reaching out, and simply caring for us. My phone blew up with texts and I don't know if I even responded to them all...but people were thinking of us and praying...and I FELT IT!

My neighbor bought gifts from each of my boys and had them come over to wrap them and put them under the tree for me. My dearest ladies group that has been together for years got together and gave a bag full of gift cards, lotion, candles, candy, socks, and more to my oldest to put in a stocking for me. I texted with a couple of fellow sisters who were spending this day, feeling the weight of their loss, as well. There is something in knowing you are not the only one on this journey and being able to connect with those people during hard times. All of these things were continuing to remind me...I am one blessed girl. is my "practical application" part if you know a friend walking these shoes:

I can just say that if you know someone who is parenting children after losing a spouse, one of the most thoughtful things you can do for them is help their children get them a small gift or just do a little something for them yourself. I'm not really a "gifts" person. I would take a hand-written note or card that someone took the time to think about any day....but, at Christmas, when you have done all the thinking, planning, wrapping and giving of gifts for your kids and everyone else, it is truly comforting to know someone thought to do something (even just small) for you. Without your spouse, younger children are not likely to even think about it, and not having a single gift or something in the stocking (that you didn't purchase for yourself), is just another reminder of the loss that is so real, as your spouse is the one that would have made that happen for you.
Christmas Eve Service

We enjoyed having about 50 neighbors over for a Birthday Party for Jesus (right in the middle of tornado warnings, I might add). We worshipped at our Christmas Eve service at church. Then, we were able to spend Christmas Eve with dear friends, enjoying a wonderful dinner and lots of laughs. The boys had a sleepover in my room and we stayed in pjs all day today! The rainy day was actually perfect and I was glad to not feel guilty over staying inside. The boys' Papa got to come over for a little while and visit and our neighbors came over tonight to see the boys gifts and have a glass of wine. So, even though I was ever so aware of who was not with us, I clung to the beauty in the moments happening around me. I also clung to the PEACE that permeated my heart throughout the day, and I really do treasure that it overshadowed the sadness and loneliness this year.
Birthday Party for Jesus
Boys with their Papa
On a side note...

This was a big year for us. I took the plunge after 2 years of constant begging, and decided to get the boys a puppy. We pick him up next week and their reaction was so priceless. They were really in shock and it was SO much fun. It was truly the highlight of my day. Bama, the Cockapoo (Cocker spaniel/ poodle mix) will be loved, and probably therapeutic in some ways!

And, yes...I know I am crazy...but is he not the CUTEST?!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our Thanksgiving 2015

Thankful for these guys right here! Even if Colby and Cooper don't look too happy to be in the picture
This year we went to Arkansas for Thanksgiving. I had a new baby niece to see and I felt like it would just be good to get away this year. Whenever we go see parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, it lifts our spirits. It is always busy and non-stop with activity, so it's also a good distraction from the fact that we are missing a part of our family. 
The sunset was truly just gorgeous as we crossed the Mississippi river on our way into Arkansas

We went to Playtime Pizza, which is a lot of fun for everyone...go carts, laser tag, bumper cars, games, bowling, and a huge food buffet, that is all you can eat (I know...that is just what we needed right before a Thanksgiving feast)!

I think Go-carts are our favorite. I don't know what comes over me, but I get super competitive driving those and don't mind knocking someone off course! I's probably something I need therapy for. Colby thinks it's a blast riding with his crazy momma, even though I'm not the best example of driving!
The boys had a sleepover at their Aunt Heather's and at Uncle Craig's house. When they go to Aunt Heather's they stay up LATE watching movies and love playing with Paxton. They also usually get Shipley Donuts for breakfast, which are amazing. Craig absolutely loves his "guy" time with them, playing video games on all the tv's he sets up for them, until early morning hours! Needless to say, they are exhausted after all the late night shenanigans with their cousins and aunt and uncle.
I need to make a note to self to NOT pack many clothes for them. I think they stayed in the same clothes for 2 1/2 days...somehow the pjs and change of clothes I send with them, just stay in the bag. I guess they are having too much fun to change!

I got some good snuggle time in with Lily Kate, my new niece. She looks just like her daddy and is so sweet. She even went black Friday shopping like a champ with everyone!
Me and my sister, Lauren, and niece Lily Kate

We didn't get all the cousins together for a picture at the same time, but we did manage to get a picture of ALL 5 of us siblings. That doesn't happen too often.

Love these sweet nieces, that now live in Arkansas!
The sibs....Craig, Lauren, Heather, me, and Jeff
Ethan, Paxton, Carson, Lily Kate, Colby, and Cooper
Cousins and 2nd Cousins
Connor, Cooper, Cayley, Emma, Anthony, Colby, Paxton, Kiley, Carson, Alea, Caitlin, and Paisley

Thankful for family!