Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The memories are in the details

Monday was my dad's birthday. I should have visited his grave, but I didn't. It makes me happy to talk about him, to tell stories, look at photos, to remember him, but driving to that cemetery and looking at the grave marker is too difficult still. I wonder if it will ever get easier. Probably not. I am still trying to figure out where I should hang the oil painting of my father, so for now I have it propped up on our buffet. Every time I pass it by, I feel like he is here in a way, in the house, watching all of the comings and goings of the kids and I. That sounds weird when I write it out, but to me that painting conveys his presence in our home and our family.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how lucky I am to have had him as a father. Not everyone has a dad who is such a loving soul, a friend, a supporter. He was a wonderful person. Everyone who knew him would agree. Its funny too, how you remember someone dear after they are gone. Its not the big life events that are with me everyday--its the littlest details. Here are some things that have been on my mind lately:
  • Dad always had dry skin and his hands were so rough. He hated lotion and it would be a battle to get him to put something so "greasy" on his hands. If he gave you a hug, or brushed his hand on your knee or shoulder, it would make a scratchy sound. I think about this when I rub Lacey's back when she is wearing a fleece PJ and I hear my dry hands making that sound too.
  • Dad's car was his office, he drove a lot for work. He would get very irritated with repetitive sounds--change clinking in the tray in the car, a plastic bottle rattling in the cup holder. He also had a very elaborate nail clipper with scissors, tweezers, etc. in his car. Apparently hangnails were annoying as well.
  • My father loved to watch football, dressed in his around the house uniform--a sweatshirt, jeans and slippers. He also loved cooking shows and when I was growing up (i.e. before HGTV) This Old House.
  • Dad always enjoyed a cocktail after 4pm, when he was done driving for the day. A southern comfort manhattan. He would drink some, then add some ice. Often more than once. I used some leftover southern comfort I had for my candied yams this thanksgiving. They kicked ass. Its weird, but the sound of the ice in a glass--the "clink clink" reminds me of him.
  • Thanksgiving was always my father's favorite holiday (mine too). He always made corn chowder to start the meal. My dairy allergy prevents me from carrying out this tradition. After I moved away from home, Dad and I always tried to get together around Thanksgiving b/c both of our birthdays are in November. He helped me pull off my very first Thanksgiving dinner in my studio apartment in Chicago--the one with the kitchen the size of an airplane's kitchen. We always braved the crowds together the next day and did Black Friday Shopping. He would hold the bags and run them out to the car (and probably sneak a cigarette--damn addiction).
  • Dad loved soup, any kind, but especially clam chowder. In fact, he loved shellfish--shrimp, clams, crab, lobster, oysters, scallops. Dad loved to snack--cheese and crackers, crab dip, shrimp cocktail.
Its funny the things that trigger memories, so strong and palpable. They make me smile, but they also make me miss him and wish he could come back. Part of me feels like if I don't record the details of my father, maybe my memory will become fuzzy over the years and I will lose the ability to access any more than just photos and the big life events that Dad was a part of.

Last year, we celebrated the holidays with a bit of sadness, as it was the first year without Dad. This year, I feel happier--it is less raw I suppose, but I feel very focused on remembering him in a very specific way and I also am overwhelmed with gratitude for the person he was and how lucky I am to have had him for my father.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thoughts off the top of my head

I have never done a randomness/magoomba/gumbo post, which is kind of funny b/c I feel like I live my whole life a bit scatterbrained. So here goes, in no particular order:

  • I have the best husband ever. He took me out for my birthday to a fancy restaurant, complete with a sommelier, aka, "wine dude", as I like to call him, who really made the meal fun by pairing a half glass of wine to exactly enhance each course. Wow, it was pure luxury! But what makes my husband the best husband ever is that he had a photograph of my dad holding Lana made into an oil painting. This was hands down the best gift I have ever received. Its so realistic, capturing the essence of my dad, not to mention the roundness of Lana's face when she was a year old.
  • I am obsessing about Christmas gifts--not the kids', but the extended people--what to buy, when to ship, when to shop without distraction (haha, that's a good one). I have very few ideas this year.
  • I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, its my favorite holiday. I don't really like turkey, but I love the side dishes, although mashed potatoes do not taste good without dairy. But the best part of Thanksgiving is the sentiment of gratitude. So so so much to be grateful for.
  • I wonder when I am going to stop being a hypochondriac.
  • Lana has been so lovely lately. She is fun, animated, funny, my mini-friend. I do wish she would wait until I have had some caffeine before she starts with the incessant talking.
  • Lana talks louder since starting pre-K. Even when I shush her, she is still so loud. Between the loudness and the nonstop nature of the talking, sometimes I check my ears to make sure they are not bleeding.
  • I feel like I have no time for anything. But I hate how at the end of the day the house is still a mess and I have crossed nothing off my list. What am I doing all day? Besides making dinner, breakfast and lunch too, cleaning up those dishes, picking up random clutter, keeping an eye or two on Lacey and driving an hour twice a day for preschool dropoff/pickup. Sigh.
  • I have about 100 pages left in The Help, which I hope to finish before bookclub. It will be the first book I have read for bookclub in about a year.
  • Lacey is walking full-on, really well! She doesn't have as many injuries as Lana did when she learned to walk, thankfully. She is much more hesitant and deliberate about her movements. She also likes to throw a ball.
  • We tried to get photos done for our holiday card, but both girls had super snotty colds so we canceled. I like to try to get holiday cards done in November b/c December is always so crazy. It is nothing short of miraculous that I didn't get said snotty cold. I was downstream of every sneeze and cough and the girls used my shirt as a tissue on many occasions. I think this is the first disease that the kids had that I didn't catch. Unreal.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Baby Steps

Make photo slide shows at www.OneTrueMedia.com

Lacey has been walking with help for a while now, but when you let go of her, she has been dropping to the floor so she can crawl. She crawls so fast and she loves it when you chase her. When you actually catch her she just laughs and laughs. While I am in no huge hurry to have her walking and tearing up the house, it does get a little tiring to be carrying her everywhere and not being able to put her down for a second while I pay for something at a store for example. She is heavy and although she loves being carried in the Ergo, my neck does not love it. Ah, aging.

Last week when we were getting the girls dressed after their bath, Lacey finally took her first steps! So, we pulled out the camera. Try to ignore the mess in her room and the goofy expression on my face. It is kind of amusing b/c even though this is all about Lacey, Lana tries to get in on the action.

Milestones are fun!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Show Me the Mommy

I am finally playing along with Show Me the Mommy on Fridays. I am almost never in photos, so I had to do the whole hold arm outstretched and shoot thing. Lana is making a funny face and is dressed up as a fairy ballerina, but for once this isn't about her--HA!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween 2010

I better hurry up and post this before Halloween turns into Thanksiving!

We took a family trip to the pumpkin patch this year on a very sunny fall day and I was hoping to get some awesome photos of the kids. The problem was that both kids were so into looking at the pumpkins that neither one of them could be coaxed into looking at the camera for even a second. This is the best we could do:

We were in Phoenix for my cousin's wedding on Halloween weekend, arriving home around 5pm on Halloween night. Lacey was spent, so we gave her dinner and got her to bed by 6:30, so no Halloween for the baby this year. Not like she cared. Then Lana got all decked out as Mulan and I took her trick or treating, just the two of us. I have never taken her trick or treating--usually Bill does it. I had no idea how much fun it would be! Every time she got a piece of candy, she stopped on the sidewalk and asked me to shine the light from the flash light into her basket to see what she got. She was so thrilled with every piece of candy. When one (or 3) of the houses handed out a FULL SIZE BAR (!!!!!!!) she almost fell over. We tried to stay away from scary houses and after a while she said she was ready to go home b/c she had enough candy in her basket. It was fun for me to see her so happy. I love this age--she is so pure, everything new is SUPER cool. I loved walking hand in hand through the neighborhood at night, seeing all the other families enjoying their kids too.

The next day I put Lacey in her Halloween costume (notice I didn't even clip the tags) and took a few photos. I feel bad that I bought that costume and she never even wore it, especially b/c we already had a duck costume handed down from Lana that we could have used. Talk about waste of money! But here is my adorable little pink butterfly:

All in all it was a good Halloween, albeit busy. I do really love fall around here. Its been sunny (for the most part) and crisp. The air smells so good and the leaves are so vibrant. I love pulling out my sweaters and drinking a warm beverage. Last year Lana was too sick to go trick or treating in the rain, so it was extra fun to participate in the festivities this year. The only downside to Halloween is the full-on negotiations about how many pieces of candy per day Lana can consume. She doesn't even care about the chocolate--only the skittles, nerds, etc. It kind of sucks too b/c I can't eat any of the chocolate due to my dairy allergy, so its just sitting there taunting me. But I have discovered the hard way that under no circumstances can candy be consumed after 5pm or Lana gets too jazzed up to sleep.

All the pumpkins have been put away and I am now planning my Thanksgiving menu, but what I am really excited about is Christmas. Now that our house is done, I want to decorate! Knowing how busy our family has been this fall, my goal for the holidays is to slow down enough to enjoy it. We will see how that one goes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Goodbye dear Grandpa Jim

Three weeks ago my beloved Grandpa Jim passed away. He was my maternal grandfather and since I grew up with my grandparents living 5 minutes away, I knew him well and I loved him very much. My grandpa's given name was Nazzareno, but he had many nicknames: Naz, Nick, Nicky, Jim, Jimmy, even Jr. He was always Grandpa Jim to me. Grandpa Jim and Grandma Rita have been married 61 years (!) and raised 3 kids together, my mom and her 2 brothers.

Grandpa Jim was sick, he was exposed to asbestos on the job years ago, which scarred his lungs and he has been deteriorating slowly for years. He required oxygen tanks 24/7 just to breathe and his mobility became less and less because of his decreased lung capacity. It was a slow decline filled with anxiety about each breath and all the while his mind was intact, which was both a blessing and a curse. This last year he suffered greatly and my poor grandmother was his dedicated caretaker, which of course is not an easy job, physically or emotionally, especially for a woman in her mid-80s.

Grandpa Jim lived a full life. He built his own house in the 1950s. He drew the plans and built the house. He did this on the weekends or after work during the week. Remember, there was no Home Depot or Lowes back then, can you imagine? He worked hard, he enjoyed his family and he was always smiling. He had a lot to be proud of, but he was incredibly humble. One thing that you hear time and time again from people who knew my grandfather is that he never and I mean NEVER said a negative comment about anyone, even if they deserved it.

My grandparents visited us here in the NW twice since we moved here. Once when Lana was 2 years old and once last year, when I was just weeks away from delivering Lacey and a few days after my dad passed away. Each time they visited, they got to see a new part of the country and spend some fun time with Lana. I could see it in my grandparents' faces what a blessing it is to live to see your great-grandchildren. I only wish my grandfather could have met Lacey too. Here are some of my favorite photos of this time:

Two weeks ago, my mom and I flew to Florida for my grandfather's funeral. I left the girls at home with my in-laws and Bill so that I could be there undistracted. My grandmother seemed to be holding up remarkably well, although she could not get past those last few days of his life and his final moments. The funeral itself was small, intimate and our entire small family was there to lay him to rest. It was sad, but beautiful too. At the dinner afterward, everyone took turns sharing their favorite memory of Grandpa Jim. Every family member took a turn. I couldn't do it. I regret not being able to share at the time, but emotionally the entire funeral was hard for me. I have lost two great men from my life in 14 months and it hurts. Anyway, since I couldn't share my memory at the time, here goes: The last time Grandpa Jim was visiting, he was playing with Lana, smiling and he looked to me and said, "The best years of my life was when my kids were little." That one sentence made such an impression on me. I think about it often, when life is so busy or the kids are driving me bonkers, I try to remember that these are the best years. Take a deep breath, enjoy these moments--look at their little faces, these are the best years. Thank you Grandpa Jim for this. It means so much to me. Rest in peace, breathe easier and say hi to my daddy.