Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

On the eve of first grade: Letting the butterflies go

It's the night before first grade. Our baby heads to first grade tomorrow. Not really 'our' baby anymore I guess, but 'my' baby. Because it's just me now. I'm the keeper of the milestones from here on out.

And even though her siblings are off to sixth and third grades this year, there's something about the babymy babyheading off to first grade that's kind of killing me tonight.
I've said it before. I've got a love-hate relationship with Back to School, so I'm actually ready to kick them out of the house. But another part of me is grasping, holding onto them so tightly, wishing they didn't have to keep growing up. I'm wishing these milestones would slow down or stop. Because they are all milestones experienced without him.

This is just one of the many life events he's missing out on.

The night before first grade was certainly a frazzled one, trying on uniforms, packing backpacks with crayons, glue and Clorox wipes, and trying to make it to bed on time. This baby of mine was cranky, she was whiny and had no desire in the morning to meet a new teacher in a new class with new faces. Tonight was quite different than the previous nightour last "non school" night of the summerwhen she spent the day at her brother's soccer practice, sweaty and chasing after what she thought was a Monarch butterfly (I didn't have the heart to tell her it was a moth) and once she finally caught it in her little hands, she didn't want to let it go. She begged for me to put it in an empty water bottle to keep in her room. After that thing was being suffocated for half an hour, I yelled from the bleachers for her to set that ever-lovin' (butterfly) free or else.

The night before first grade, she didn't want to wear her pajamas. She insisted on wearing a dirty shirt she's had on for two days despite my pleading for clean jammies. So she went to bed with her "My Daddy Rocks" T-shirt. She clung to a wrinkled picture of her daddy holding her, just as she has for months now at bedtime. She begged for stories and for me to stay longer in her room. I don't know how or why I chose a book from the shelf about Winnie the Pooh, but it was surprisingly appropriate because his friend, Christopher Robin, was going off to school. Christopher Robin told Pooh to feel stronger, braver and smarter than he thinks he is. He told Pooh that "even if we're apart, I'll always be with you."

I told her we can remember that tomorrow, that even if we don't see daddy here, we know he will always be with us. Somewhere he sees us. He knows tomorrow is a big day for a new first-grader (and a sixth-grader and two third-graders).

The night before first grade, just before I turned out the lights in the bedroom of my babyour babyI noticed her dirty T-shirt had a butterfly on it. In a message I now hear loud and clear, I realize I'm going to have to keep setting these ever-lovin' children free. One milestone at a time.

I know too, even though he's not here, he'll always be with me.

This post was also published Aug. 16 here at the Today Parents forum.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

This is six.

My youngest just turned 6.

She was the child who was never meant to be after doctors said she probably never could be. She certainly wasn't planned. She was supposed to be the boy her brother was hoping for. She helped mend a broken marriage that needed her. She was the missing piece in a now puzzle of four kids.
She made us a family of six - until we weren't anymore. She was the last bit of legacy created with a man taken too soon from me. 

I am trying to heed the warnings of those seasoned moms who keep telling me, "enjoy it, it goes fast." So I look at her, watch her play and most days find myself squeezing her so tightly she can't wriggle free. I'm trying to keep her this way. I'm begging time to let 6 stay just a little bit longer.

Because 6 is letting mommy hold you on her lap even though you are getting too big.
6 is dragging Corduroy the teddy bear around everywhere you go.

6 is giggles.
6 is delighting in notes from the Tooth Fairy.
6 is believing in so much beauty and loveliness in the world.
6 is worried about ghosts and hides her eyes under blankets at the scary parts.
6 is happy with Goldfish snacks and peanut butter sandwiches.
6 is writing your Js backwards

6 can be whiny.
6 can be endless chatter.

6 is laying in the grass seeing shapes in the clouds.
6 isn't grossed out picking up roly poly bugs.
6 is sleeping with pink dollie every night.
6 is innocent bliss.

But no matter how tightly you hold, 6 will never stay.

This blog was originally posted Aug. 7, 2018 here at Her View From Home.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Slow down, and nobody gets hurt with a fork

Some days I go too fast. The summertime is no exception. I try to rush and fill their days with ‘summer fun’ or check activities off our to-do list. “Hurry, we must have fun, only a couple weeks left!” my brain screams.

I rush around keeping things in order — picking up a million toys or nerf bullets, scooping poop from the yard, folding endless laundry. That’s a switch many mothers just can’t turn off. Things must be in order—there is no other way.

We rush out the door to make it anywhere. After we leave anywhere, it’s usually a rush to get home for dinner and bath and a rush to get them to bed so I can sit down for the first time that day. It’s always a race to the sweet freedom that bedtime brings each night.

Sometimes my rushing around causes some guilt at the end of the day. Did I hug them enough? Did I tell them ‘I love you’? Did I really listen to their knock-knock jokes or just drown them out with the vacuum?

Sometimes the rushing around causes a nagging sense of being unfulfilled, even though everything technically got done that day. I hate the feeling that I rushed around all damn day and did a million things but not one of them made my heart happy. I don’t remember laughing at anything with them most days.

And then sometimes all my rushing around can cause me some pain. Not emotional pain— I’m talking about real, physical pain. Like ‘being-impaled-by-a-fork’ kind of pain.

That kind of pain came tonight when I was again rushing, racing to do the dishes so I could finish the laundry to get the beds made up to get the kids in those beds. My hands were not running as fast as my brain was, so when my left hand was putting away a stack of forks in a drawer, and my right hand decided it was time to slam the drawer shut, that was when one dinner fork sticking up got caught on my middle finger (the same middle finger that is put to good use sometimes while I’m rushing in interstate traffic) and pierced through the bottom half of my fingertip then came out the other end of my fingertip.

My rushing around mentality failed me tonight. It’s not working anymore. Being everywhere and anywhere at nonstop speed just can’t be maintained.

While I’m ok and my finger is ok (ask me how fast impaled forks can be ripped from human flesh)— I learned a lesson here. F-ing slow down. Your life isn’t a race. My kids won’t remember if I left a dirty pot in the sink, or that I didn’t fold the towels, but they’ll remember if mom listened to their stupid jokes. They will remember my laugh. They’ll remember that I kissed them goodnight.

So just slow down.

Because being impaled by a dinner fork is seriously not fun. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

I played fortnite with my son, maybe you can too

I lost my son for a bit. 

He doesn't talk much. I know 11-year-olds don't talk all that much anyway but I'm surprised if he says more than a few sentences out loud each day. It’s been eight months since his dad went to heaven. But before he left, he somehow handed down to his son his introverted, quiet demeanor that both intrigued and irked me for the past 20 years. I guess his little sisters do more than enough talking for him these days, but I really don't see or hear from him outside a grumble when I tell him to put his laundry away. This boy does his summer homework, goes to basketball practice and occasionally rides bikes with his buddies, but as every mom of a boy this age can attest, our sons are most likely holed up in the basement playing Fortnite. And it's hard as hell to get him out of there when he's lost in that game.

So I recalled that old saying the annoying one my mom burned into my brain as a child "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

So I joined him. I asked my son if I could play Fortnite with him. You would have thought I just told him he could pack up and go live at Dave & Busters forever and eat Twizzlers for every meal. I never knew such excitement still existed in a boy whose life has been a whole lot of grim lately.  

I hadn’t touched a video game since I played Nintendo Super Mario Brothers in my next door neighbor‘s basement in 1989so this was going to be quite comical, I thought. My son definitely agreed.

For the next hour, I jumped out of a flying bus thing (or what looked like a bus) onto several different terrainsbecause, of course, I got killed many times right off the bat. I ran through bushes and alongside mountains. My son showed me how to bust through cabin doors and showed me how to get what was inside the treasure chests. He told me all about the tricks in each world Lucky Landing, Anarchy Acres, Tilted and he tried to give me the best way to stay alive and ultimately win. I screamed at a scary guy dressed in a black suit that I was told, "never gets killed, mom."

I was completely focused on staying inside the 'circle' thing before the 'storm eye 'thing caught me. I was dizzy trying to get turned around because I didn't know which buttons controlled what. I never knew how to acquire any guns or new ammo and I would somehow get stuck in a corner just whacking a wall. My son found my skills amusing every time I went the wrong way and he laughed his hardest when a gamer called Speckled Sauce killed me from behind. "Well, that wasn't very nice of him," I said, enjoying my son's laughter.

I can see how these boys are tuning their moms out, as we yell from upstairs to turn it off. Because I wouldn't have noticed if an intruder was burglarizing my house that night and stealing away with everything but my kitchen sink. I was taking in a moment. A moment of happiness with a boy I'm so in love with but I can't tell him that, because it would shut him down. He laughed with his momma and joked how terrible I was with the controller. He'd grab the controller and help me stay alive. He talked more in a span of 58 minutes than he has in his entire life it seemed. He was happy (and I was happy because he told me I came in 11th place out of about 50 people, so I'm definitely winning at the Fortnite thing).

I got caught up in a moment of happiness with a boy who is and forever will be that beautiful baby boy that his daddy and I brought into this world to love and protect at all cost. Sometimes it means you jump out of a bus thingy. Sometimes you run through bushes or alongside a mountain. And you run into walls. Sometimes you face scary guys, too. Sometimes you have help, but other times you are left to it on your own.

Moms know we will go to any lengths, to any world, to find our lost child. To find and give happiness to our children. That's the win.

This post was published July 19, 2018 here at Scarymommy.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The words that got me through another day

I’m on vacation alone with four kids in Florida for the next two weeks. 
I thought getting away would be fun. I thought I could take my mind off missing him, looking for him, wanting him back here with us. Maybe it would help my heart, help my anxiety and guilt —about being seven months out and life around me is going on like normal... the people go on. They post normal things, they celebrate their birthdays and go on date nights with their husbands and take their kids happily on boating trips and to summer festivals together and all that fun crap. But all I feel is anger, envy, horrible guilt and regret and heartbreak that I’m the one left here and he’s not. 
I have a fear so profound of being alone (long story short I’ve never really been alone— I always had a boyfriend and then I married Matthew) that it physically makes my heart hurt. Maybe coming to the beach watching all these couples walk hand in hand was a stupid idea after all.
While watching the sun set on the Gulf tonight, I witnessed a couple get engaged —their family and friends cheering with joy and excitement. So much love and promise for the future before me but all I felt was sick seeing them. I felt annoyed and bitter and sad. I wanted to tell them it’s all fun and games and love and big diamond rings until you’re sitting in front of that once strong, virile man who now weighs less than you clinging to every breath as he remains alive only from the shit in a feeding tube and a vial of blue liquid morphine.
Will they love and forgive each other when they still have time to do it? Will they squander years fighting the same fights and spend countless nights going to bed angry at each other? Will they realize the things that are truly important here in this life before it’s too late? 
I’m tired of being the only one here. Tired of hanging on by a thread every day. Tired of yelling at the kids for misbehaving, not listening or bickering over everything when we have everything we ever could need (thanks to him). I’m tired of telling them how much I miss their daddy.
I’m tired of these shitty widow feelings and lack of love, empathy or feeling for anyone anymore. Tired of not seeing beauty in anything anymore.
I let the kids stay out late tonight, collecting shells in the water as the sun set. Still mad that he can’t be here with us like all these other people around... my kids pointed out the pinks, oranges, blues and purple in the amazing sky over the sea. 
I mumbled through tears to my 6-year-old, “I wonder if your daddy can see this sunset too.”
She said, “Mommy... maybe he IS the sunset.”
And just like that, I saw the beauty in the things tonight. One more day that I made it through.

This post was published July 14, 2018, here at Today Parents. 
This post was published July 27, 2018 here at The Today Show Facebook page. 
This post was published July 27, 2018 here at the Kathy Lee and Hoda Facebook page. 

***I posted this the other night in an online support group for widows. I debated laying it out there, here for all you ‘normal’ people. But this is what (widows) need you to know, that these are the heavy feelings and moments that take our breath away and crush our hearts some days. It’s ok if you don’t get it, be glad you don’t have to. 
But sometimes what helps us most — spoiler: it’s not the trite advice to make new memories or comparisons to losing your grandma or even thoughts and prayers —it’s just being able to leave our hurt, our grief, out there for someone to HEAR.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Making a house a home

After a few months, the kids and I are finally settled into our new house. We bought a big white house with a pool. It’s a house that daddy would have loved, I tell them. 

Now we’re doing our best to make it a home.

We picked out new paint colors. Payton picked purple to match her princess canopy bed drape. The twins chose a green so lime you'll ask for a Corona when you walk in their room. Brayden chose grey, which I liked so much I carried it through to much of the first floor and my bedroom too. 

I remember when I tried to get him to paint his office at work a nice grey and accent it with light couches. He said no. It was my Fifty Shades phase I suppose. I realize now you can't turn a country boy into Christian Grey. Maybe he'd laugh at all this grey, I think.

The kids love the pool. We invite friends to swim with us and I'm pretty sure the neighbors are tired of hearing "cannonball!" every three seconds. One of the twins said she thinks daddy would have liked to swim with her and show her the butterfly stroke. I tell her he absolutely would have loved that. 

That was his best stroke —and it was fascinating to watch. The girls started swim team last month and after a couple false starts, some crying about the backstroke and a first place blue ribbon—I think he'd be proud of how amazing they are doing carrying in his (footsteps) wake.

I tried to grill burgers a couple times this summer. I burn the shit out of them every time. After they keep accidentally going up in flames and I douse them with a little beer, it looks like we are eating charcoal briquettes. The kids remind me, "Daddy's burgers were way better."

They are right. My husband used to make the best burgers. He added just the right amount of Worchester sauce and salt and pepper and he sliced the tomato perfectly symmetrical to go between the buns. He always remembered to put the tater tots in the oven, too. He freaking loved tater tots.

I try to mow the lawn like a normal person. By ‘normal,’ I mean as normal as possible while mowing in a bathing suit and flip flops uphill in 99-degree heat. There are zigzags and lane changes and circles around trees, you'd think I was running the mower around with a swarm of bees chasing after me. 

I am remembering the beautiful straight lines he left in the grass, two houses ago, back when I took for granted that the yard was always edged. 
I tried dressing up the yard by decorating the beds with special rocks his co-workers painted in his honor after his funeral. I wonder if he can see me pulling weeds and scheming to chainsaw down a couple trees out back. (I'm waiting for his sign to tell me 'NO' on that one.)

Juno the German shepherd has decided she doesn't care for the plush dog bed we had hoped she'd sleep on here. When she isn't guarding the foyer, she takes her place as the warm body next to me in bed. She is who hears me say "I miss you Matthew" every night.
I remember back when he and I wouldn't allow dogs upstairs, on couches or on beds. We set those rules presumably with hopes for a cleaner house, an easier time with our babies sleeping and peace at our own bedtime. I think he'd probably agree with me this time around, that sometimes you just need an 80-pound stuffed animal cozying up to you at night. She helps make this a home too. 

There is still some yelling around here. There are still some tears. But there is also laughter and goofy smiles and playing with friends and living loud going on. 

That's how you make a house a home.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

To my kids, on your first Father's Day without a father

Dear Brayden, Mia, Therese and Payton,

He didn't want to leave you.
He wished to stay an eternity with you. 

This wasn't in our plan. The plan that automatically pops in your head when you see two blue lines on a pregnancy test. The plan that is set in motion that day in the delivery room when you realize what the words 'elation', 'euphoria' and 'love' really mean. The plan you figure out after calculating how much to save each year so you can take your kids on vacation and just watch them play on the beach every summer 'til they’re 18.

There was a kink in our plan but I promise we'll get it straightened out. I know it's sucky and scary and rocky right now. I know I yell at you and I get frustrated a lot. He hated when I yelled. I'll try and do better. I know I'm tired and sometimes I cry in the car if Luke Bryan comes on the radio. It's because we've got a Luke Bryan concert story. I'll tell you about it when you're older. I know I get quiet when you tell me how much you wish daddy were here to play Legos with you. Don't stop telling me those things though, because I want to hear them. 

I miss him, too. The daddy that used to play, laugh, talk and joke with us. I don't want to forget him. Yesterday I couldn't remember for the life of me whether or not he liked Rice Krispie treats and that kills me. I know that your daddy loved Kool-Aid- especially grape Kool-Aid. He would sometimes order a Shirley Temple at fancy restaurants. I'd joke about how he acted like a child sometimes. He was a big, goofy kid, your daddy. I'm trying so hard to keep and grasp all these memories I have for you because I'm our only memory keeper now. I'm holding the memories of him for you- like the memory of how he nervously asked me to marry him atop the revolving restaurant overlooking the city all those years ago (as if I'd say no!?). Like the memory of his surprised face when he saw his firstborn child was a boy. Like the memory of the smiles he elicited from you kids making gestures and silly "faces" with his hand. Like the memory of his laughter on the boat. Like the memory of how much he enjoyed sitting outside having drinks on the river at LBYC, where I'll probably take you all for lunch today to honor that memory.

I found this book in the study. One of our friends gave it to your daddy before he died. It's a journal for someone to tell their life story as a memory for their loved ones. The pages prompt the writer to tell all about their childhood, adulthood, about beliefs, values and their memories young and old. The questions ask things like, "What advice about life would you like your family to remember?" "What do you consider to be your life's greatest gifts?" "What is the one thing you would never change about the way you've lived your life?" "Is there a poem, passage or quote that has been meaningful in your life?"

As if my heart needed shattering one more time, I turned the pages to see the book was completely empty. The pages are all blank.

The book came too late. He was too weak, too sad, too heartbroken to fill out these pages. I know he felt like it was going to be goodbye. He wasn't ready for goodbye. He didn't want to leave you. 

So I promise today, dear children, I will find the answers to all the questions about your daddy's life and I'll write it for you. I'll keep it for you. I'll talk to his family, I'll ask his friends. I'll go through every email or letter he ever sent me and I'll compile your daddy's life story. I'll finish writing his story. I'll give you all the memories I have. You'll always know that you had the greatest daddy ever. 

You'll always know he never wanted to leave you. And someday, I promise, you'll get to have an eternity with him.

This post was also published June 18, 2018 here at Today Parents. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thanks to all the kick-ass fathers

This year will mark the first that my children don't have a father to celebrate Father's Day with.

His favorite place - on a boat, 2014

And they had a real kick-ass father, too. He was the one who went tubing with them off the end of the boat, crashing into the wake during those summer lake trips. He was the one who drove them for "special time" to get a treat or to buy a cool gadget or to hike at grandpa's farm. He was the one who made pancakes on Saturday mornings and wrestled on the floor with them before bedtime. He did all those 'fatherly' things right.

This Father's Day, four children in a small city in Kentucky will instead visit his grave and whisper their Happy Father's Day greetings toward the clouds. The Father's Day crafts and cards their teachers will have them make at school will all end up weighted down by rocks ontop of a silver headstone at a cemetery off Ky. 16.

These past several months have been a blur of emotion - a tidal wave of grief and sadness, anger and fear. There have been countless times my children have felt the stinging absence of their father during this time. I saw it in their sad eyes at Easter mass this year, as we sat in a pew behind a father holding his newborn son. I saw it when they noticed the little boy in front of us in line at Dunkin Donuts, who was holding his father's hand as they ordered munchkins and milk together.

With his mini-me at grandpa's farm, 2011
I saw it when the twins left for their father-daughter dance at school wishing daddy was taking them instead of their uncle (sorry Justin!). 

I see it in my little one's eyes some nights when she cries to be "normal" again and have her daddy back home. I see it when my son glances over to the sidelines during the soccer games-- yep, it's still just me here, buddy, and I'm sorry. But I can tell you with every piece of honesty in my being that he would have given anything to be here watching your game, too.

Now more than ever, I notice other fathers with their children. I study their interaction and painfully watch every touch, every smile, every word between fathers and their children. I envy it. I miss it. I wish it for my own children again. But as painful as it is to see and although it usually brings me to tears, I also celebrate it.

Adjusting to life with twins, 2010

These fathers-- who only by beautiful chance and luck get to be alive and well here with their children every day-- are doing a good job. Simply by being present. They are cheering them on at soccer games, they are devoting time to coaching their daughter's basketball team, they are treating their son to donuts on Saturday morning. They are giving piggyback rides and wrestling on the floor. They are laughing and loving on their kids every day.

So this Father's Day, I want to thank all those fathers out there who are doing it right. Thank you for loving them right. Thank you for spending time with the most precious commodity you have in life. Thank you for being a father and cherishing that role. Thanks for being a kick-ass father-- the kind who might be wishing from Heaven that he could be here doing it too.

This post was originally published June 13, 2018 here at That's Inappropriate Parents.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

It's good to be the beautiful mess

I found a chunk of hair the other night.

There was a trail of hair clippings leading to a huge 3-inch chunk of beautiful, sandy-brown, curly hair in the hallway bathroom. The hair was intertwined with those sticky Bunchem craft ball things that you mesh together to create God-knows-what because they only end up stuck in hair or in the dog's mouth. Of course, the trail led to the only person in this house that could be responsible for cutting these precious locks from her curly head—and she was already fast asleep in bed.

I found her in bed and ran my fingers through her tangled, curly locks as she slept, seeing the spot where it was shorter and wincing at the thought of those scissors snipping through that mane. I wanted to wake her up and scold her for doing this. I wanted to ask her why in the world she would cut her beautiful head of hair? In a house full of perfectly straight-haired children, my 5-year-old is the only one gifted with naturally curly, textured hair—how could she butcher that?

But as I sat there looking at her sleeping, I took a deep breath. We've had a lot of "scissor incidents" in this house over the years, mostly Barbies, but at least she still has hair left. I will probably look back someday and laugh about it.

The next morning, I told her scissors are for cutting paper only and she's not allowed to use them on her body. Or on hair. I asked her, "why didn't you ask me for help getting those sticky things out of your hair?" She told me, "I cut it because I hate my hair."

I realize how many times a day we call this child "curly Shirley." We usually laugh at how she squawks and gets angry anytime someone draws her with curly hair—crazy and wild. We joke with her about how she gives new meaning to the term "bed head" when she wakes up. We have to plug our ears at the blood-curdling screams when we try to brush it. She refuses to wear headbands, barrettes or bows. Her crazy, curly locks match her feisty, spunky personality perfectly, though. It is the one unique, distinguishing feature that makes her HER. It's what we love most about her.

But she hates it. She sees it as being different. And she doesn't want to be different. She doesn't want people to point it out or call attention to her. She wants to be just like her sisters, do the things they do, wear the clothes they wear and play what they play—and have straight hair like them, too. She has spent all of her five years in the shadow of two big sisters. She's trying so hard not to be that awkward little third wheel who tries to squeeze in next to them.

When I was younger, I remember how I looked up to my two older sisters. They were the cute, short and sweet cheerleader-types. Everyone liked them. Everyone had a good story about one of my sisters. I was the gangly, taller sister with a raspy voice and the obnoxious laugh. I went through a short-hair phase in fifth grade that made me look like an ugly boy (think Ralph Macchio as a girl). There was nothing "cute" about me. For years, I tried to fit in and be as popular and well liked as my sisters were. For a while, I didn't really like "me" either. It wasn't until I was a grown up that I even started to be OK with who I was. Thankfully, there are many people in my life who love me —if only for being the beautiful-yet-ugly mess of a person that I am today.

Being different isn't easy. My little one is finding that out already. This is just one tiny learning experience in the big challenge that will be loving herself her entire life.

I want to assure her she can only be the best by being herself. She needs to rock her crazy, messy, curly-headed mane and be proud of it. Life is too short to waste time worrying about what you look like compared to all the others. I want her to be happy and in love with who she is her whole life. I want her to be content being the beautiful girl that God made and gifted to us. Because nobody else can do it better, my sweet and crazy, curly-haired child.

This post was published April 27, 2018 at Her View From Home.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Closing a chapter on a crappy book

You know when you are reading a really good book and you don't want the book to end?
The kind where you can't wait to get to each chapter? But then sometimes the book has a really crappy ending and you are left sitting there saying, "Seriously? That can't be it."
I suppose sometimes if the book has a sequel, it can redeem itself. Maybe.

This is how I'm feeling as I pack up the last box to leave this home. We're at the end of our chapter here. We're closing this book. The kids and I are moving from a house my husband and I bought five years ago, with the promise of "never moving again." It was supposed to be our "forever home." We had four kids under the age of 6 when we moved in. We were so happy to have found a home in my husband's childhood neighborhood and only a mile from the school we wanted our children to attend.

The yard here was huge, perfect for kids to run around in. Countless shoes lost a battle to the dirt and mud in the creek and woods behind us. The well-worn wooden playset and sandbox here saw action every single day - or at least every day that it wasn't raining, snowing or 30 degrees out. The kids drove me nuts chasing the dog up and down these stairs, scratching up all the hardwood floors along the way. Daddy riled up and wrestled with the kids on these carpets (precisely at bedtime, of course). Lots of diapers here. Lots of Band-Aids. Lots of Legos probably lost and buried in the bowels of this home (as the new owners will soon find out). Memories of bare feet, sidewalk chalk and popsicles in the summer and snow angels and snowball fights in the winter here.

The dark cherry kitchen cabinets and outdated tile backsplash here were going to get an HGTV-style facelift, too. I was hoping to one day channel my inner Joanna Gaines to make this a gourmet kitchen for cooking, baking and entertaining (actually, since I suck at cooking and baking, it was probably just going to be an entertaining kitchen). We were going to add another bathroom upstairs so the girls wouldn't have to share one sink as teenagers. That stupid swingset was supposed to one day be the very spot where we'd put in a pool for the kids to splash around in with friends for the rest of our summers in life.

But if I've learned anything in 42 years, it's that you shouldn't get your hopes up and make too many plans in life. Because life doesn't let you make plans. The chapters aren't written by you.

This chapter here ends with the reality that no more kids need diapering. No more children will be learning to ride a bike. Santa Claus is just a fairy tale now to (at least all but one of) them. Someone else will get to decide whether to put a pool in here. My kids' father isn't here to see his daughters at the top of this staircase banister all dressed up for prom night in 10 years.

We're at the end of this chapter. It seems like a crappy book, doesn't it? Her husband f*ing dies and her kids don't have a father anymore, she's got to move 800 boxes out alone and she never even got to swap out that hideous tile backsplash. This can't be the ending.

I don't know the next chapter. I don't know if it will be happy or sad. I don't know how many more moves we will make or if this one will be the last. I'm sure wherever we go there will be Band-Aids and Legos and scratched hardwoods and infinite memories of the best daddy there ever was.

But I hope, my friends, that I get a sequel. I hope I can find a way to redeem this crappy ending. I'm not going to try and control it. We're going to do our best to live out a best-seller from here on out. Thanks for reading along though, as our chapters write themselves.

This post was also published May 17, 2018 here at