Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nemo Trick and Shimmer Poop -- Day 2

Saturday morning we awoke to discover that Nemo Trick and Shimmer Poop didn't make it back to the North Pole the previous night.
They wrote to Santa a letter instead, outlining that they wanted to stay to watch and make sure Banx and Bond stayed in their beds all night.  They also wrote to let Santa know that Bond says "poopy diaper" more than anyone they have ever met.
(It's his term of endearment when referring to his sister.)

Christmas Parade

Even though I missed the live action this year,
I was able to see all the pictures of what an awesome parade it was this year.
Our town has done a remarkable job!
Here are some photos that Osky News and an attorney I work with, Diane Crookham-Johnson, posted:
My favorite float!!  Haha.
"Christmas Vacation" is by far my favorite Christmas movie! 

I think it's clear why this has become such a huge attraction for our town! 

They're Baaaack!

Last Friday morning the kids discovered that Nemo Trick and Shimmer Poop had flown in safely from the North Pole.
The kids just love this time of year!
It's like you experience the magic just by hearing their laughter and see their eyes sparkle!

The Little Things

 I am trying harder these days just to stop, listen, breathe, be aware, and just enjoy the little things that I often take for granted.
I am also learning at saying "NO!" to things that will cause me more stress.
Last Thursday we had made plans to go to the Christmas parade as a family.
I had a rough, long day at work, so I did a first (the kind of "first" I don't necessarily like).
I didn't go to the parade with my kids for the first time.  Ever.
Austin took the kids so they wouldn't miss the fun.
I just couldn't do it.  I knew there would be a substantial crowd.
It was starting to get cold.
And I just really didn't feel like talking to people.
Yep, I'm becoming an introvert, and I was looking for every excuse possible not to go.
Quite frankly, I just decided I needed time for ME.
I needed some quiet time and some time just to stop and enjoy the little things.
That particular night the little things ended up being taking a long hot bath, wrapping presents and adding extra love and time to them, reading a good book, and cuddling with Ivy.
The kids weren't gone long, maybe 45 minutes.  (Banx informed me she only likes it when I take them because I haul blankets for them to sit on and get out the hot chocolate.  Haha.  I've got to train Daddy better on those things, apparently.)  But that time was long enough to just catch my breath and rejuvenate myself.
Sometimes us moms need to do that!

The next night was our traditional "First Friday in December" celebration, where the kids always look forward to opening up Christmas jammies and a Christmas movie to enjoy during the season.
We then cuddled in front of the fire, ate popcorn and watched "A Christmas Story." 
Bond was excited to "meet" Ralphie and determine that they really do look alike!
The kids giggled at the movie until they hurt!
These "little" moments make my heart feel the biggest!

Oh, Christmas Tree!

We started the tradition last year of getting a real Christmas tree.
This year we went as a family to pick out the tree (a beautiful Fraser fir).
I think this was the first year that the entire family participated in decorating the Christmas tree!
I love "firsts" like that! 
I have to admit...despite the messiness of live Christmas trees, this one is the most beautiful tree I have ever seen.

A "Bright" Holiday

These are some photos that local people captured right after our town square was lit up.
I LOVE the new tradition of the completely lit square! 
The same night that the holiday lights turned on, a friend posted this: 
That also brought to me a different kind of brightness.
It made me realize that this Christmas can still be full of love, despite our grief.
We can take what my mom loved to do and her traditions, and we can pass them on, and we can do our best to make those who are less fortunate also feel a little brighter.
Life is about love and passing that love on.
Let it shine brightly!


Advent is here!
Advent is traditionally known as a season of hope and anticipation.
My hope is for my family to remember the true meaning of this time of year, and my
anticipation is for us to all get through this holiday with minimal sadness and new happy memories while honoring the past traditions.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Zoe Izabelle

Twelve years ago I was forced to put my first dog, Bailey, down.
Austin and I had just met.  He went with me to the vet to do the dreaded act, and I will never forget that day.
I left the vet's office crying, thinking that I would never be able to love another dog.
A few weeks went by, and I was so, so lonely by myself in my house.
I stopped at a farm on my way home from Montezuma on a Friday afternoon.
My eyes immediately went to this cute little black fur ball, and I just knew I had to have her.
I found out that she was born on the day Austin and I met.  It seemed to be a sign that she was meant for me.
It took a matter of seconds before she was my "baby," and Austin treated her just the same.
She became so much a part of the household that I decided to get her a friend, and that's how Ivy came to be.
I got Zoe a playmate, only to have picked a dog who hates to play!  It made for an interesting relationship!
Zoe was our first "baby" together, and we rarely did anything without these two! 
Next came Charlie, who Zoe loved from the start!
And then came Banx, who Zoe was immediately obsessed with.
In fact, during both of my pregnancies, Zoe chose to cuddle next to my growing tummy.

And then came Bond, whom she also adored.

She rode thousands and thousands of miles with us pretty much anywhere we drove.
She was a constant friend and playmate to the kids and was so very loyal!

The past year we could see signs that something was wrong with her.
She started losing her hair and just wasn't quite as "perky" as usual.
The past month really took its toll on her.
By the time we got home from Wichita, she was completely succumbing to her illness.
We let the kids know, and, as brave as she constantly is, Banx wiped her tears and went and grabbed a book to read to Zoe.

We spent the next two nights completely surrounding her and trying to let her feel our love one last time.

Ivy and Charlie also stayed close to her.
It's like they knew.
Monday came, and she had gotten substantially worse.
Austin and I made the difficult decision together that it was time to put her down.
We both took her to the vet, and I held her the entire time, until she drew her last breath.
My emotions got the best of me, and I just couldn't contain the tears.
It was yet another loss.
I know she is no longer suffering, but, gosh, we miss our little Zo Zo!
The kids will occasionally cry for her still,
but we have so many wonderful memories with the cutest little puppy ever.
She was a member of our household, a constant in our lives.
She was playful and was always a puppy in spirit.
Zoe Izabelle, may you rest in peace!
Thank you for being the best dog we could have ever asked for!
You will always be our first "baby," and we will love you forever.

Converse Thanksgiving

Austin, the kids, and I arrived back home just in time to quick change, check on our poor Zoe (who was failing fast), and then make it to the Converse Thanksgiving.
Thank you to Elsie who stayed with Zoe while we left.  Elsie is my lifesaver for so many reasons!
My sister, her husband, my cousin, and one of our "adopted" cousins (he's more than a friend to all of us!) worked all day to prepare a fabulous dinner for us.
It was important for us to continue Mom's beloved tradition of hosting the Converse holidays in her home, in her kitchen.
She worked so hard for that tradition, and it was one of the most important events of her year.
We knew it would be hard, but we knew she wouldn't want it any other way!
Paige, Joe, Caleb, and Shawn worked so very hard to make this Converse Thanksgiving happen, and I am beyond proud of them for their hard work, and I know Mom would have been beyond proud!
I can just hear Mom joking...
"Last year your sister wouldn't even help with the dishes, and now she has taken over my kitchen!  And she can actually cook!"
That would have been said in a sarcastic and proud tone all in one.  Haha.

Austin drove fast that entire day and missed out on an extra day with his family so that we could make it back in time.  That also meant so much to me!

This year has been the hardest year of my life, by far.
There have been so many obstacles that have been thrown in our path, and there are days we just can't seem to catch a break.
The sunlight to the darkness of 2017 has most definitely been the addition to our family of this precious little girl, who has stolen all of our hearts! 
Despite the stories, smiles, kids running around, the smell of delicious food,
the night was still full of an absence...of Mom.
We had each other, and we made the best of it.
(Well, until I shut myself in Mom's closet just to smell her and try to feel her presence...sometimes you just have to melt down!)  
But most importantly, we had these rays of sunshine, who are innocent enough to be able to just enjoy Nana's dream home and go on with each other, despite their pain. 

They were trying to make us all laugh, so we were entertained with a custom dance!
We ended the evening by going around and saying what we were thankful for this year.  This was one of Mom's traditions that she made us all do, no matter what.
I was secretly hoping we all would just avoid this, but my brother-in-law insisted, and, despite not wanting to at first, I am glad we did it.
We got to Dennis, and his tearful reply was, "I am thankful to have loved a woman so much that it makes not having her hurt this bad."
Wow.  Just wow.
Those are words that I just know my mom heard from Heaven! 
I will never forget my last Thanksgiving with Mom and what I said I was thankful for.
(This was in my eulogy I read at the funeral, so forgive me for repeating myself.)
I said that I was thankful for second chances...all the second chances that I have been given in life.
One of those second chances I am thankful for is that our extended family had a second chance to come together and be reunited.
I feel as if God was just waiting to take Mom home until that happened.
It did happen; and it truly made her life complete. 
Being there together (even without Mom) was such a blessing during such a difficult holiday.
I cannot thank Paige, Joe, Caleb, and Shawn enough for making it happen.
We went home that night, and I looked out the window and felt as if Mom was smiling down on us, happy that we were continuing on with something that meant so much to her.
It hurt like hell, but it warmed my heart at the same time.
Happy Thanksgiving in Heaven, Mom!
Now send us a sign where you left the recipe to your stuffing muffins!

Thanksgiving in Wichita

Thanksgiving 2017.
Our first holiday without Mom/Nana.
I knew it would be hard; however, I didn't know how to prepare myself for all the emotions.
I'm such a planner, so when I'm faced with the unknown, it freaks me out even more.
I awoke Thanksgiving morning at Austin's Granny's house, and the first thing I thought was,
"I need to have the kids call Mom and Dad and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving."
And then I remembered.
The kids did FaceTime my dad; however, there would be no phone calls to Nana.
Austin's family always works all day long to prepare a wonderful feast.
As I looked around at one point, it hit me even harder...the fact that never again would I be in the same room with my mom, my grandma, and my children cooking and celebrating a holiday.
I am still getting over the fact that Grandma Peggy is no longer here for such events, and now we just add Nana to that list.  It's still just so unreal.
I will admit that a twinge of jealousy overcame me that Austin has something I will never have again.
However, I am so, so glad that my children still have these family members who are with us!
I made it through the day with minimal tears, but I ended up retreating to bed super early to just reflect on this time of year and how much more it makes me miss Mom.
She was always big about calling us right after Thanksgiving for our Christmas lists (a want, a wear, a need, and a read gift).
It's not at all about missing writing a list of stuff for her;
it's about missing her and her traditions this time of year.
Again, I just thought there would be more time with her.

The day after Thanksgiving, a day I generally am up for Black Friday shopping (or any kind of shopping for that matter), ended up being a day I just wanted to spend with my babies.
They were going to go see the movie "Wonder," and I decided to go with the guys and the kids to see the movie.
(Because I hadn't cried enough lately, I thought I needed to cry more!)
This was our first movie with Bond in a theater, and he did so amazingly well!
The movie was beyond excellent, and I am sooooo glad we went to see it!
If you have not seen the movie, go see it!
As a reward for his good behavior, Bond was able to play a video game after the movie with his new best friend, Cousin Jess. 
After the movie was over, we headed to Austin's Aunt Susie's house for a bonfire.
Because when it's in the 60s the day after Thanksgiving, you take advantage of that weather! 

Of course Banx quickly found a baby to hog! 
It was a fun day spent with loved ones, and it certainly pooped this princess out! 
Our final morning was spent with lots of reading!
Banx reads non-stop these days, so she was excited to get to read to Granny!
Bond was excited to have Jess read to him as well. 
We got on the road at a good time on Saturday to head back to Iowa for more Thanksgiving festivities.
Until next time, Wichita...

A Kansas Birthday

We made the trek to Wichita this year for Thanksgiving to celebrate with Austin's family.
We arrived late Wednesday night, but the family was waiting to celebrate a late birthday with Banx.
She felt pretty darn special! 
We then celebrated with more on Thanksgiving day with more cake!
There is no such thing as too much cake. 
Four generations of Blackwells were together to celebrate the last seven years we have been blessed with this little lady. 

Our Little Bubby

I think Bond was feeling a little left out with all of his sister's birthday fun, so he asked one morning to get a picture with JUST him and Mommy and Daddy.
How could we say no to that?!
I just love this ornery little Mama's Boy!

Dancing Diva

Since Banx has started competitive dance, the costs keep rising, and the demands keep increasing.
I was told last summer that we would want to "invest" in a good dance rolling case.
I looked them up....and then I fainted.  Holy dollar signs!
There was NO WAY I was going to pay that much for a case, so I did some research and decided to make her a case and surprise her for her birthday.
I found a deal on eBay for this rolling tool case for like $40 or $45 with free shipping.
It obviously did NOT look like it fit in with dance, so I did some modifications to it.
And voila!
We have a happy birthday girl and a sturdy rolling case with all the compartments needed!