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!
My sweet, spunky, fireball of a little girl turns two years old today. Happy birthday, Halle Charis.
You are so much like your mommy, and it’s so wonderful to see your personality coming out more with each day. I’m so thankful to God that I got to have a daughter after having a son, and I’m even more glad that Mommy got that, too. She was so hopeful that you would be a girl; and you are all girl just like Mommy. You already love shoes and clothes, and Brady assures me that your favorite color is pink because “you a gerl, Ha-yee.”
Just like Mommy, you’re able to light up a room with your smile and personality and make people happy just because you’re around. You are so good at making people laugh in the most unexpected ways. And you always have your little projects, and do not like people to get in your way of finishing those projects. I have no doubt you’re going to use that about yourself just like Mommy did.
I love the way you know just what you want, even if it does result in you yelling at me when I don’t get it for you. You just want things to be efficient and you always know a better way for things to get done.
You’re adorable and such a joy in everyone’s lives, and Mommy would be so happy for all the ways you’re so like her. As much as I wish she had more time with you, I’m so thankful for the 18 months of your life that she did get to spend with you. Your middle name means “grace” and it was Mommy’s favorite thing about God. It was His grace that gave you to Mommy. After three miscarriages, we weren’t sure we’d ever get to have another baby, and it’s clear that you are the exact child God wanted us to have.
We love you so much, and I can’t wait to continue watching you grow (as a person, at least, since you don’t exactly grow too much physically, my little peanut). I know you’ll make me and Mommy so proud.
I love you, Sugar.
No, I don’t mean “Santa’s…”. I speak of my son once again. He still continues to amaze me. Last night, while I was up in the late hours trying to stuff my Christmas cards, he woke up with a coughing fit. I suspect his allergies are yet again to blame, but that’s besides the point. After some cuddles, he asked for juice and eventually an apple, which I peeled and cut up for him, leaving the peel, peeler and core in the sink. I was pretty tired by this point and laid down with him on the couch, falling asleep pretty quickly as long as his coughing wasn’t keeping me up. He asked for an orange at some point, but I must have fallen back asleep and not gotten it for him. I don’t know how long he was up, but it was at least a couple hours before we moved off the couch.
This morning, I made my way into the kitchen to notice the step-stool by the sink. Peering in, none of the peels were there and I found the peeler put away looking clean. In the living room, there was an orange with one or two missing pieces along with little chunks of its peel on the table. His pajama pants were on the floor. When he woke up, I asked him about it. He did, in fact, clean the peeler, wash the apple peels down the drain and peel himself an orange by hand. While cleaning, he apparently got water on his pajamas and needed to change them, so he did that as well. Now, he’s my firstborn, so I don’t know when kids learn these things, but this sounds to me like something that you pray that your six-year-old might do if you ask him, let alone of his own volition. Brady, on the other hand, is always trying to help. Most of his sister’s anger towards him is because he is taking something from her that she is not supposed to have or that could hurt her. He’s usually trying to protect her and help me.
I know this is entirely how God made Brady. And I don’t think the timeline for him doing these things is simply because Stephanie is gone. I am thankful to God for that timeline and that Brady is such a sweetheart to know that it would be helpful to me. I thank God for who He made Brady to be. And I am just so proud of that little boy and thankful to God for all His wonderful blessings. I’m sorry if this comes across as bragging, but so be it. I just had to brag on my kid.
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.
I realized that I never mentioned anything about how Thanksgiving went for me. A lot of that has to do with how the days have gone since then – they’ve been busy and I end my day just needing to do nothing besides maybe watch TV.
Overall, Thanksgiving went pretty well. My mom put out a candle and lit it before we prayed. I’m so thankful that she did that and thought of it. It’s a great way to remember her, and yet I hadn’t even thought about it. At that point, though, I started weeping pretty hard and just had to put my head down and let the tears fall. I certainly didn’t eat as much as I have in past years. Later that day, we played a card game, which was great because I love games and had fun with that. The day ended pretty uneventfully.
The next day was spent at home putting up the tree and a few other decorations, which also went surprisingly well for the most part. Strangely enough, the hard part for me during the day was not the Christmas decorations. It came at a moment where I was looking for the last box of ornaments that I had missed during my earlier journeys to the attic. I saw a box which contained a large Jim Shore pumpkin that Stephanie got from my parents last year for her birthday. Having a fall birthday, it was always her favorite time of year and she had so much joy putting up fall decorations. Seeing this pumpkin made me remember her excitement about such things and that she never got to put up those decorations this year. She only had one year to enjoy this pumpkin that she was so excited to get, and that had me weeping in the attic for a little bit.
The rest of the weekend was spent seeing “Tangled” with the kids and their cousins, hanging out with friends and their kids, and getting pictures taken. I’m happy to say that it really did go pretty well.
Regarding the pictures, I had a couple 8x10s printed of Stephanie in order for us to include them in our shots. Halle took notice and was all about touching the picture and smiling at Mommy. She looked at me to hear me tell her that it was Mommy. It was sweet and she was just happy to see Mommy’s face. I was unsure if she would get upset, but she didn’t. I have every intention of getting some photo books for the kids, and this just affirms that idea.
So many people showed so much love for me at such a time, and I appreciate it so much. I do hope that all of you had a great Thanksgiving spent with family and that it was a time to relax and just enjoy your loved ones. I know the holidays can be stressful with family, but I pray that Thanksgiving and the future holidays can be a time of happiness with your families and appreciation for having them.
Photographs were a big deal to Stephanie. They were so important, in fact, that her “push present” for having Halle was family pictures, and that was all she wanted. Thanks to a friend of ours, we have some beautiful pictures from that time. I’m so glad for her always working for us to take and have lots of pictures because now I have so many memories to look back on during our life together.
I keep finding reason to revisit our collection of pictures. Usually, it’s to remember how Stephanie put the house together for things such as Christmas. Unfortunately, I find it absolutely gut-wrenching as I scan through the images of her. I always think that this will be the time that it won’t crush me, but I’m always wrong. I often end up finding something that I didn’t even remember. For instance, last night I found some images that she used for birthday/Christmas gift projects she made for me. It was great to see those things again and remember, but it also ripped out my heart as it always does, to be reminded that it’s all over.
But pictures were always important to her. When everything first happened, I had no intention of sending out Christmas cards this year because I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing just three of us in the picture. But, soon after, I realized how much I wanted to do those things we’ve always done even as painful as it would be. And, I don’t want to lack pictures from this year because of my grief; that would just cause me more grief years down the road. So, today I had that same friend I mentioned earlier come over to take pictures of me and the kids. Some of the pictures even included a framed photograph of Stephanie. Sending out Christmas cards this year is also kind of my way to praise God for His faithfulness through all of this. I would be giving in to defeat – even if in some small way – to not do something we’ve always done and something in which Stephanie always took great joy. And she always took great joy in our family and sending out that picture to show how good God has been to us. I don’t want this year to be any different.
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.