Random spontaneity

It’s been bugging me for a couple months now. This insatiable itch to do something a little crazy for a widower with two preschoolers.

I love road trips. I’m not sure why, but 12 hours each way to Myrtle Beach every single year has nothing to do with it, I’m sure. And 24 hours each way to Colorado Springs, once on my own and once with Stephanie, also had no part in solidifying that. Sprinkle in a month-long vacation to California and back and countless other locations through my life, and I’m sure there’s no reason I should like road trips.

But now that it was just me and the kids, the task seemed a bit daunting to do alone – no one riding shotgun to divvy out snacks, drinks and entertainment. However, I’ve heard from so many various people how much fun they had when their parents would just up and take them on the road to some undisclosed destination at the last moment. I also fondly remember our various trips growing up.

And so it happened. As I started lunch one Friday less than two weeks ago, I had no plans for the weekend. As I finished lunch, and thanks to a random conversation on Facebook (oh, technology!), I was then giving serious thought to being in Chicago for the next two days.

Dinner came and went quickly due to the promise of time at the pool. (A six-hour drive looming in the near future and we’re at the pool – surely, I’m crazy!) We made quick work of the nighttime routine, after which point I packed up all I could think of in preparation for an early morning drive. Four AM arrived, and we were on the road, presumably while the kids slept and I enjoyed music or podcasts or both.

To my chagrin, the kids stayed awake all but one hour of our drive, but they did really well. We had extra stops for bathroom breaks, but I’m impressed with how well they handled it. In our fifth of six hours on the road, there was also the call from Brady, “Daddy, can we please just go home now?”

He changed his tune for the ride home, though. To say the weekend was a success is a vast understatement. We all had a great time spent with good friends and my cousins (who have four boys under 12). For our ride home, Brady was asking that we spend not one night, but two nights with my cousins.

We’re building memories. It’s not always easy for me, but I’m learning what works for me and the kids that we all can enjoy. And I’m so thankful to my cousins for letting us stay on such short notice and for my friends for hanging out over the weekend at the last minute.

Chicago: we’ll be back!

Brady enjoying the water
Brady enjoying some swimming

Oh, Summer, How I Missed You!

Dear Summer,

I’m sorry that we had a temporary break in our relationship last year and we didn’t spend any good time together. You see, I’m no good at family event planning. That was Stephanie’s department, and I feel most women/mothers are much better than me at that.

Frankly, I didn’t have the strength in me last year to make our time together worthwhile. I was too busy being a widower with two kids. I didn’t hear your knocking at the door above the absence in my heart. I was too wrapped up in the old memories: walks in the park, ice cream Sundays, everyday pool days, and hours in the yard.

I hope this year will be different. Just like my random bike ride recently after years of not touching my bike, I plan to make this just like riding again. My ride last week sparked all of this, in fact. I was able to just get on my bike and ride until I was afraid I’d be too tired to make it back the same distance. (It reminded me of pre-license days when we would ride our bikes what felt like miles to buy trading cards.)

This year, I’m not a widower with two kids. Instead, we… are a family. And we’re going to make new memories as well as reinvent the old. We’ll splash in the pool. We’ll walk to get ice cream. We’ll enjoy the park and have picnics there. We’ll play on the swingset or go to the playground. We’ll go boating. And we’ll find new things to do. Maybe we’ll try camping or a random vacation just the three of us.

We’re going to make it happen, and I am so thankful that you are back, summer, because I missed you. I didn’t even realize how I missed you, because I was too wrapped up in missing someone far more important than you. (No offense, and I wouldn’t change that if I could go back.) I’m glad you came back to me even though I left you in the lurch. And I’m so excited to be ready to enjoy you this time around.

Thanks for being perennially committed. Here’s some proof that we’re already starting.

Brady loves vehicles
Halle captures pure joy in her smile

The Story of Stephanie’s Feelings for Brad

In celebration of my anniversary on May 14, an email sent to me from Stephanie dated March 1, 2004 – the day after we started dating.


You wrote in one (of the many) of your emails about how I’ve been thinking about this (that would be: us) for a year or possibly more. I wanted to just come out with it and let you know how everything happened. This is more or less a synopsis, because it would be way too long for all of the details.

Hopefully you don’t think I’m a loser, but I wrote the entire thing down as a third-person story. It just made me happy to write it that way.

Enjoy the educational reading,
S. :)

Once upon a time, in a land not too far away, there lived a young lady named Stephanie. Stephanie was your average girl-next-door, who was content to work at her church and spend time with her friends. Among those friends there existed a college student named, Brad. Stephanie didn’t know Brad all that well, but every once and a while their social circles would cross and she would have an opportunity to spend time with him. She looked forward to those encounters because she always found herself in good conversation with Brad.

Years passed. The college student graduated. Stephanie was now going to a different church – one where many people her age surrounded her. That church was not so far from where Brad lived and he also started attending. Their social circles crossed more frequently. Stephanie was able to talk with Brad at a local restaurant after church, and she always looked for him there. She knew there would be quality conversation, lots of laughs and many good times when he was present.

Then God gave Brad the opportunity of a lifetime at a place called FFI. That was a land, which was far, far away and Brad left for several months. Stephanie missed her friend very much, but wasn’t quite sure why she was feeling so sad. She knew he would be returning home eventually, but she missed looking for him at church. She was disappointed with her time at the local restaurant. There were many conversations, some laughs and okay times, but it wasn’t the same.

…But then Brad began sending out messages to his friends and family, telling about all God was teaching him at FFI. Stephanie also received those letters and read them over and over again. Some letters made her smile, some made her laugh, and some made her cry because she was rejoicing in what Brad was learning. Each letter was like a glimpse into his life, his heart, and his mind. Stephanie came to better know and appreciate the person that Brad was. She began to realize that he was a quality individual, unlike any she currently knew. Stephanie found herself thinking of Brad and apparently she spoke of him often – too often, because her roommate, Rebecca, was tired of listening about him (Stephanie knows this because Rebecca later told her).

Time continued to pass and letters continued to come. It was late in October when one letter in particular came and impacted Stephanie so greatly, that she could not even speak after reading it. That is when she realized that something had changed. It scared her. She wasn’t ready to go down that road again. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling, but she knew that her heart had changed for Brad. She began thinking about all the things he had written and what an impact they had made. She started thinking back to things that happened over the summer. Then she went further back and remembered things that had happened while he was in college. Then she sat down in shock and amazement, because she realized that all along it had been him.

Not knowing what to do with this new revelation, she began to pray. She knew that if left to her own control, she would just make a mess out of things. She also knew that God had a plan for her life and that because He is sovereign, He would not make a mess. She began seeking God to know what to do. She didn’t tell anyone at first, because she wasn’t sure where her feelings were going. She knew that Brad’s time at FFI had been the turning point in her awareness of how she felt about him. Still, she wasn’t sure of how to proceed. This lasted until Brad (finally) returned home.

Stephanie was now nervous and awkward around Brad. She didn’t know how to act. Stephanie knows that she wears her emotions on her sleeve and that she can’t hide how she’s feeling. She didn’t want him to know yet. She needed time to sort things out. She didn’t know what God wanted her to do.

Stephanie invited Brad to a party she was having at her house. She was overjoyed at his attendance there and she once again had an evening of quality conversation, lots of laughs and many good times. It was after this party that Stephanie went public about her feelings for Brad. She told only her closest friends so they might be praying for her. Christmas turned to New Year’s and Stephanie was then invited to Brad’s party. She was so nervous that she could barely speak to anyone in attendance (plus she didn’t know anyone there besides Brad). She left the party early, but not before she made a new friend named, Tim. She liked Tim from the moment she met him and within fifteen minutes thought, “This is a quality guy.”

Stephanie, Rebecca, Tim and Brad began spending a lot of time together. They went out to eat, they played games of skill, they watched movies, and became very close. Stephanie looked forward to their times together. She felt safe. She felt she could be open. She felt like she could be herself, because she didn’t fear judgment from her friends. This continued for several months and Stephanie began to thank God daily for the blessing of her friends.

Then, after the best week ever, Stephanie and Brad were finally able to talk about what was going on. This was some scary, big stuff, and they’re working through it to figure out what to do. The best part of Stephanie and Brad is that they both care more about what God wants than what they want. Because of this, they know that He is going to work all of it out, and that everything is going to be okay. They are not afraid. They are taking God at His word, and they trust and have faith in Him. It’s exciting times and it’s scary times, but they know that no matter what happens, there will always be good times.

Daddy Time

Brady has never been a very good sleeper. It has taken quite a bit of work to get him into his own room regularly, and even still, he rarely stays there the entire night. One of the things that gives him comfort is for me to check on him – something started by me to encourage him that he’d be okay, but which has now become a ritual for him.

Every night, he reminds me, “Check on me in 1 (or 2 or 4) minutes.” I confirm the reservation every night. I’m recently trying to get him to realize he doesn’t need to remind me; that I always check on him.

He has also added my routine to his schedule, apparently growing more aware of what I do after he and his sister go to bed. After marking my mental calendar with his 1-minute-later checkup, he plainly tells me to watch a movie: “A bad one, but not too bad.” He apparently also understands that I watch movies that are not appropriate for him or Halle, but that there are movies even I (or anyone) shouldn’t watch. I wasn’t sure my explanation to him hit home when I tried to tell him that there are some people who don’t believe in God like we do and they don’t think “little eyes [need to] be careful what [they] see.”

So, with that, I better stick to my duties and close my computer and go watch a movie that’s not too bad.


Call me a dork, but I love playing handbells. I played for about 7 years through middle and high school until I went to college, after which point I had no outlet for swinging the brass. Fast-forward to 3 1/2 years ago when I found out my church (different from where I grew up) has a handbell choir.

I’ve been so thrilled to play again every year since then and I get embarrassingly excited to put on white gloves and play. But, I can’t deny who I am. I just love it that much. As it turns out, we’ll be playing again in all the church services this coming weekend (April 9 and 10) at Cuyahoga Valley Church. Even more exciting for me is that I get to play a solo, which is so much fun to do.

Of course, I can’t help but think of how proud Stephanie always was of me and how excited she got to watch me play. And I know how crushed she was for me last year when I completely screwed up my solo. The last time I played, unfortunately, started a week of utter badness. I mentioned the failed solo, but it was also that week that Stephanie had her first seizure, which terrified me more than I can tell you. That’s not all that happened, but it is all that’s relevant. I certainly hope to not repeat a week like that. Anyway, keeping in mind the joy she had for my ringing, my solo is very much in honor of her, and the song (which I’m not divulging) is very fitting.

I’ve done my best not to shy away from doing those things which are meaningful to her or to me or to us, despite her not being here any more. I’m still the person I was, and still love the things that I love. There’s no benefit in denying who I am simply because Stephanie died. I feel like I’m working my way through all of those things as this year continues on. It’s very therapeutic and freeing.

I’m so thankful to the bell choir for postponing our “season” until this spring, since the fall was obviously not going to work. I’m so thankful to the church for even having handbells and for our director, Jo, for leading us. Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t sing, so I thank God for the chance to worship Him through music in such a way.

In short: I can’t wait!

Brady the Doctor

I am amazed at how smart my little man is. Last night, after Halle went to sleep, he wanted to play this game of Cranium that he got in his meal at Chick-Fil-A (it was miniature and not as full-featured). I had to modify it since he can’t read quite yet, so many of the tasks had me drawing or acting out things for him to guess. He guessed correctly almost everything I did – from castle and treasure map to hot air balloon and baby. The best part, though, was when he got off the couch and told me it was his turn. He “acted” out a Buzz Lightyear space helmet after telling me, “This a really hard one to do.” He proceeded to use his hands to draw in the air or indicate the shape of things in order for me to guess what he was doing. What most impressed me was his patience. Brady has always gotten frustrated and started crying when someone doesn’t understand what he’s saying to them. Stephanie worked with him a lot in order to get him to explain what he meant or show us what he wanted, and he’s gotten much better with that, but he still has his moments. I was so happy that he understood well enough to know that it was okay for me to guess a bunch of times until I figured out what he was acting out.

Next, he wanted me to play dead so that he could be a doctor and make me feel better. (I was uneasy that he suggested this at first, but I can’t help but hope that this is healthy for him, that he understands playing dead and understands that doctors can make people feel better in most cases.) He showed me how to do it – you have to stick out your tongue from the side of your mouth a little bit – and he ran and got his doctor kit. He knew how to use every last tool, which is a credit to how much Stephanie played with him. Nonetheless, I was impressed by it all. He gave me a couple shots and told me that some people are scared of those. It was so much fun to see him go back and forth from his tools to me and to use them all in order to make me feel better. He even went back to his room one time and came back out with sunglasses on. I’m not sure why he did that, but he was certainly a stylin’ doctor. After I felt better, I got to be the doctor.

There have been many nights over the past couple weeks where I have been completely wiped out at the end of the day. I resent my actions on those nights because I am often not very compassionate towards Brady, especially if he is not falling asleep so I can get some time to myself. Last night was so refreshing, and I’m so thankful to God that I had energy left to play with Brady even though it was late. And I’m so glad for how much fun he was having and that he and I really had some good times together. He really amazes me, and it did me a lot of good to be able to appreciate that.

The Best Things

As hard as things can be with the kids, they of course make life an absolute joy, as well.

Brady is the sweetest little boy ever, and he has such incredible compassion and always has. He always knew how to be good for Stephanie when she wasn’t feeling well and he would cuddle her and tell her it was okay. He’s doing the same for me. I mentioned in my previous post that I suggested we watch a movie and eat popcorn, then started crying soon after. While still in the bath, he put his hand on my arm and gently rubbed up and down in order to comfort me. After getting out and while I was cleaning Halle, he gave me a great big long hug from behind and told me how much he loved me. He also constantly reminds me that he loves me and Mommy and Halle (and sometimes even the dogs). And he affirms that “Daddy’s the best and Mommy’s the best and Brady’s the best and Halle’s the best. We’re all the best.” Like I said, he’s such a sweetheart.

One morning this past week, he had grabbed a framed photo off of Stephanie’s dresser before I got out of bed. It was a picture of her and I from our honeymoon. I didn’t realize he had taken it until I came out to find that it was properly standing up on the couch where he was playing. He told me that he wanted it there because he missed Mommy. That borders on being one of the hardest things, but it’s good to me to know that he understands as much as can be expected (and then some).

And then there is Halle. She is just like her mother in so many ways. One of those ways is that when she is in a good mood, it bursts forth out of her like sunshine and you can’t help but end up in a good mood just watching her. My baby girl can make me laugh so hard just from watching her bounce around so happily. She babbles excitedly and has such personality and always knows what she wants. It’s a great deal of fun to ask her questions just to see her shake her head with conviction either yes or no.

And I know that God loves these little children so much. For all the grace I feel that He has given to me, it is exponentially greater towards them. I thank Him for that. And I thank Him for the best two things in my life: Brady and Halle.

The Worst Things

I’m finding that almost everything I know to do with my kids is because of what their mother knew about them and did with them. I know how much my kids loved those things and don’t want them to stop by any means.

One thing we would do after Halle went to bed was to pop some popcorn and put on a movie that Brady could watch and the three of us would cuddle on the couch and watch. One night last week, I told Brady during their bath that we could do that if he wanted. He was very excited and couldn’t wait. As soon as I mentioned the idea, though, I started crying quite a bit. It ached to think of the times we all did that together and how we can’t have that again.

Something else the kids love and I was sure to do last week because of good weather was to go to the zoo. Stephanie loves animals, and was so glad to get a zoo pass last Christmas for this year. (Sadly, due to the seizures, she was never allowed to drive and couldn’t go nearly as many times as she wanted.) Again, I knew the kids would love to go and thought it would be good for all of us to get out. I guess it’s good that I didn’t realize beforehand just how painful it would be to be there. Otherwise, I might have been tempted not to go at all. I almost kept expecting to see her walking next to me every time I looked over.

I’m sure these moments will continue. Stephanie always would do those things that the kids loved, even if she wasn’t up to it. It’s easy to remember what the kids enjoy. It’s not until after I start those activities that I realize how painful it is for me. What makes them “the worst things” is because I’m not going to stop just because it’s hard for me, and it’s a mixture of enjoyment I get for my kids along with the pain it is for me.