Making Spirits Bright

I saw a thing on Facebook that made me laugh.  It said, “It only snows in November because people decorate early for Christmas.” Blame me if you wish, but we needed to brighten things up over this way! 

There has been a lot going on in my life, some of which I have shared and some I have kept to myself. We’re all processing a variety of emotions. With the passing of my sister-in-law, there is an extra bit of sadness. Like the song says, “We need a little Christmas!” So we decided to put up the Christmas tree this weekend.

The older the kids get, the more fun this becomes. Andrew was just a couple months old last year, so he was especially excited to see the tree and the lights. He and Ella both “helped” handing me lights. They were both extra giddy.

I had the lights plugged in as I walked around the tree with them. That way I could make sure they were placed evenly and all areas has the proper amount of lights.

Andrew, as you know, is everywhere. He gets into everything! So we debated waiting until closer to Christmas to put ornaments on the tree. We also debated not putting any on at all. We did decide to put the tree topper on, and Andrew was the perfect helper!

My dad commented on a picture of the tree on Facebook. He said he was taking bets on who was going to know the tree down – Ella, Andrew, or the cat! For the record, the cat has yet to get near the tree, which is really odd.

We brought up the baby gate and set it around the tree. It’s the “look, but don’t touch” gate. The kids can still touch it, but the probability of the tree coming down is a lot less.

I decided that certain ornaments had to go up on the tree. As ridiculous as it looks, all the ornaments are on the tree from about a foot higher than the top of the baby gate and up to the top. In total, there are maybe 12-20 ornaments on there.

Every year, we got to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth to get an ornament that represents a big even from the year. We got one for our engagement, or marriage, the birth of both kids, etc. We went early this year and at the time, didn’t really have an “event” to get an ornament for. We opted instead for a plaque for the door with a snowman family on it.

When my sister-in-law, Grace, passed away I decided I was going to get Sam and her folks a memorial ornament for the tree. I had seen a few designs in the Bronner’s catalog, and chose this one.

I had hoped to save it until closer to Christmas to give it to Sam, but I can’t control my face. Let me explain.

I took the kids with me to Bronner’s on a day Sam was home sleeping. I kept the ornaments in my car so she wouldn’t see them. Then a day or two later, she was getting ready for work and said, “I was thinking about getting a Christmas ornament with Grace’s name on it for my mom.”

I must have stood there dumbfounded. My face obviously giving away that I had already done it. Instead of just saying, “That’s a great idea. We should do that.” I knew that she would just go and do it. So I walked out to the car and brought inside.

I’m glad it’s inside and I’m glad it is on the tree. Grace already has a special place in our hearts, and now she will have a special place on our tree every year.

If my tree being up brings snow your way, I’m sorry. We needed something help brighten the season, even if it is early.

Another thing I saw on Facebook this week said, “Don’t you just love it when the Christmas tree is the only light in the room?”

Yes. Yes, I do!

Christmas in September

To say that the past few days have been stressful is an understatement. There have been some very good moments and I tried to just take them all in. However, something was on my mind all weekend.

I’m not going to get into detail on that. I could, but I won’t. Let me just state that it is stress related to things outside of my home life. Read into that however you wish.

At any rate, after a particularly emotional and crappy Monday that was the culmination of all the things on my mind, I needed something – anything! My Monday evening walk with the kids helped. I was out in the neighborhood, counting squirrels, saying hello to our “puppy friends” and listening to AJ babble and Ella sing.

Sam knew the weekend and Monday had taken a toll on me. She never said it was her plan, but she suggested taking a trip to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth to look for our annual “ornament hunt.” Bronner’s is “The World’s Largest Christmas Store” and I have blogged about it before. You can read about that here:

We packed the family up in the car after Sam got home and we made the short drive there. It was the perfect day to go. Tuesday morning in September. Sure, there were people there, but not the normal crowd that is there. The sounds of Christmas music were playing through the outside speakers as we walked in.

(Johnny Mathis’ version of Marshmallow World was playing as I walked in. I found myself thinking that the Dean Martin version is FAR superior to this version. As a bonus, Dean’s version played before we left!)

I hadn’t thought about it but this was Andrew’s first trip to Bronner’s. He was in awe of all the lights and him and Ella were anxious to touch everything!!

Every year, we get an ornament that marks some big event that happened in the past year. We have an engagement ornament, a marriage ornament, a mother-to-be ornament, and two “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments. So what big event could we commemorate this year?

Neither one of us changed jobs. We didn’t get a new house or new car. Now that I think about it, the only big thing that happened this year was my vasectomy! I doubt they had an ornament for that, but then again, they have thousands of ornaments for just about every thing! They probably DO have something for that!!! Maybe I will call and ask …

Instead of an ornament, we got a snowman family plaque. You have probably seen what I am talking about. It has mom, dad, and snow-kids.

The one above is not the one we got, but it is similar. So we had them put our family name on it and then each of the snow kids had their name written on them. It came out really cute and we’ll either put it on the mantel or hang it on the main entry door.

Next year, Sam has said that she wants the kids to go and each pick out their own ornaments. I think that is a great idea and a good way to make it a tradition. We want them to have that experience and then every year when the holiday rolls around, they can look back on the ornaments and relive memories.

The kids were both getting a bit antsy, so as soon as the plaque was personalized, we headed out. We stopped for photo ops and walked outside. As we exited the building, there was a huge Santa Claus. Andrew saw it and began to point to it. It was a perfect (and frame worthy) photo.

It was just want I needed to get my mind off all that transpired over the past few days. A welcome distraction with those that I love.

One thing is for sure. Despite all the feelings that are churning around inside me, especially as I think about things, I think on the reasons why I keep going. The people who mean the most to me. I think of my wife and her never ending support and love. I think of my two older sons, and of course, the two little blessings who accompanied me on our trip to “Christmas in September” …

THEY are why I continue to do what I do. THEY are the reason I need to focus on getting healthy. THEY are the reason I am happy.

Twas The Weekend Before Christmas …

Three more days until Christmas. I don’t even know where the time has gone, but the holiday is FAST approaching! This past weekend I was pretty busy, and at the same time there were plenty of wonderful family moments together.

After working four days and coming home, I feel like the kids have grown and are doing things that they weren’t just a day before. I’m not sure if it is the fact that he recognized my voice or my face, but AJ was smiling and babbling so much this weekend. Those baby smiles are exactly what I needed this weekend.

Saturday night, Ella and I were playing on the floor and Sam reminded me that I’d wanted to build a “fort.” So I pulled two chairs together and grabbed a comforter and tossed it over the chairs – instant “fort.” As a kid, I used to love when we’d sit in the fort and read books. Ella loved coming in … and going out. She was in and out and in and out. Believe me, it wasn’t easy to get her to stay still long enough to take a selfie…

This weekend we gave both kids a bath. Sam grabbed Ella and AJ’s bear PJ’s and gathered them up to read….

What book did we read first?? Well, of course, it had to be….

On Sunday, we placed a Meijer order for groceries. On Christmas Eve, it’s sort of been a tradition to have ravioli for dinner. Grandma always made them, and it is a tradition that I have tried to keep going. I refuse to use sauce in a jar for the holidays, so I made a list of everything I needed and spent the afternoon making sauce.

If you are new to this blog, let me explain. I have been trying to duplicate my grandma’s sauce for years. I have gotten close to doing so, and I have yet to master it. In doing so, I have kind of come up with my own sauce. I don’t tweak too much every time, because I don’t want to mess it up too much. This time around, there may be just a tad too much wine in it. Oh well….I will make a note of it and try again ….

While the sauce was cooking, Sam gathered up all the presents to wrap them as Ella took her afternoon nap. It’s always interesting to divide up the gifts. Ella and AJ will get TWO Christmases. We wake up Christmas Eve morning with my sons and open gifts, and then we wake up Christmas morning and open more. Sam bought some two sided wrapping paper from Sam’s Club. Being the smart woman that she is, she wrapped the gifts to open on Christmas Eve with one side and the Christmas Day gifts with the other side. She is brilliant!

After the sauce had simmered about 6 hours, Sam and I decided we’d take a short trip up to Frankenmuth to drive through town and look at Christmas lights. We put on the Christmas station, loaded the kids, and went for our drive. When the kids are a bit older, we want to go and just walk around town. We will definitely pile the kids into one of the horse drawn carriages and ride around town! For now, we just drove around.

We stopped at Bronner’s, which had all their lights outside lit up and it’s always neat to just drive through the parking lot. We weren’t the only ones who were doing it either. They have plenty of things around the parking lot that can be good for picture taking. I was afraid that Ella might run into the road/driveway that was by some of those, so instead, we went to a few that were well inside the lot. She loved it!

We had a feeling that winter time was going to drive Ella crazy! She loves to be outside. There is only so much that she can do in our house. We’ve been trying to limit her TV/Screen time, so she’s getting bored. Before I laid down for a nap before work, we grabbed her boots and coat and we went for a short walk around the neighborhood.

There is still a little bit of snow on the ground, but it will more than likely be gone by Christmas. We left without her gloves, so her hands got cold when she was picking up the snow. As we walked, she realized that we were at the house where her hound dog friend is usually outside during the summer. She kept asking where the doggy was, and I had to tell her it was probably too cold for her friend to be outside.

I was really surprised that she remembered the house!

When we got home, her hands and nose was a bit chilly, but she warmed up quick as mommy had lunch ready for her when we arrived.

There was a knock on the side door before I headed off to bed. The UPS man brought the kids a package from my brother. He had told me to watch for it. Inside were pajamas for AJ and a HUGE Daisy Duck stuffed animal for Ella. I had called him a week or so ago and told him that she was all about Daisy. She was so surprised when she saw it. I wish I had gotten pictures of her initial reaction. She had hands over her eyes and was so surprised. Then she grabbed it and hugged it!

It really was the cutest thing!!!

HA! I just looked at that picture and in it, you can totally see how I messed up hanging the stockings! Last year, we had 5 (Me, Sam, Dante’ Dimitri, and Ella). This year we added the small “My First Christmas” stocking for AJ. I use those 3M hooks to hang the socks. Somehow, I marked off 7 spots instead of 6, so there are three on one side of the fireplace and three on the other and a big space in the middle. URGH. I must have looked at it 5 times before I actually attached the hooks, but I never realized there were 7 spots! THAT is why I rarely build anything from scratch …

3 more days …. I’m looking forward to the holiday….

Gearing Up For The Holidays

I feel like I haven’t really blogged about “life” lately. I kinda feel like I haven’t really even had a minute to sit down and write. Between wacky schedules at work and an even wackier sleep schedule, writing has been a challenge. So here are some highlights from the past couple weeks….

Right after Halloween, Sirius XM radio launched a bunch of their holiday channels and the Christmas music was readily available.

I took advantage of a rare 60 degree November day and put up the outside Christmas lights. I know, I know, people think I am rushing the season. The truth is, I don’t like putting them up in the cold. They have been up for a couple weeks now, and the only time I have turned them on is to make sure they looked ok.

The side porch takes the most lights. I always check the strands before stringing them up to make sure they work. For some reason, one of the strands had a cluster of lights in the middle that didn’t light up. Both ends lit up, but not the ones in the middle. I went through and tested bulbs, but couldn’t find the problem. So I put them up anyway! I just made sure the unlit portion of the lights was covered by lights I knew worked!

We don’t do much to the front porch, though I’d like to. I got razzed about how I didn’t get up and string lights on the roof by some friends. I’ve never been a fan of heights, so, these are the highest my lights will go. Besides, I only have a three step ladder!

Baby Milestone

AJ celebrated being one month old a week or so ago. It is amazing to come home from work and see just how different he looks to me after only one day! He is much more alert and his sister just loves him! He is starting to take notice of a lot of things around him. Recently he discovered the mobile on his swing.

Holiday Tradition

Every year, we take a trip up the Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth (“The World’s Largest Christmas Store”) and get an ornament for the Christmas tree that represents a big event from the past year. Sam and I have one for our engagement, our first Christmas as husband and wife, when Sam was pregnant with Ella, Ella’s first Christmas, and now we needed to go and get one for AJ’s first Christmas.

Obviously, life at our house is pretty crazy with two little ones. We had planned to all go to Bronner’s as a family day trip. AJ was napping and Sam suggested that Ella and I go, since we knew exactly what we wanted. There is an ornament that is exactly like Ella’s except it is blue for a baby boy.

Finding the ornament took all of 5 minutes. The line to get it personalized was long and we stood in line for almost 30 minutes (Thank goodness I had the PBS app on my phone, so Ella didn’t lose her mind waiting!). I had pictures of Ella’s ornament and how they did hers, and we wanted AJ’s to be done the same way. Ella and I walked around a little bit while they worked on the ornament. There are plenty of photo ops throughout the store and outside.

It was close to lunch time, so we snapped a couple pictures, picked up the ornament, and drove home. I hope to be able to take a drive up there one night when the lights are all lit up and grab a couple pictures.

Later that day, I took advantage of nap time and brought the tree up from downstairs. We’ve been trying to decide where to put it this year. We’ve moved everything around in our living room two or three times due to the addition of Ella toys or furniture, so it was unclear where it would go. There is a little nook in our living room where we had moved a lot of her toys, easel, toybox, etc…. We decided to find somewhere else for those things and that the tree should go there.

So, the tree is up and the lights are on it. However, we will decorate it this weekend or next weekend. I did have some help with the lights as I put it up …

…and, of course, little brother had to get into the act …

I’m excited for the holidays this year. Ella is at the perfect age for unwrapping presents! It is going to be a fun holiday season ….

Part II – The Proposal

Yesterday’s blog was an emotional one to write.  I put some things in it that I had been quiet about for some time (depression, suicide, divorce, and unhappiness). It came as a surprise to many, and the wonderful words shared by friends on Facebook, and right here on my page meant more to me than you can imagine.  Thank you for reading, following, and your comments.

But, wait!  There’s more!  The story continues…..

When I ended my blog yesterday, I brought you to the place where I had come to realize what an amazing woman I had been blessed with.  As crazy as it sounds, so soon after a divorce, I knew that everything was right!  I did not want to lose this wonderful woman that had been placed in my life.  She had expressed to me that she was very happy as well.  There was no doubt that we had both fallen deeply in love with each other.

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I knew I wanted to be with her forever.  I wanted to propose and I wanted it to be something special.  I had bought a ring and had kept it hidden.  It was not your traditional “solitaire” diamond.  I liked it, but I kept wondering whether she would like it.  I finally caved and texted her sister and asked for her opinion.  She told me it was “perfect” and that it was exactly what Sam would like.

Now, I had to think of how to do it!

The Plan

Sam loves Disney movies.  In discussing movies, we discovered that we both loved the Disney/Pixar film, Up! (An amazing film, that is a MUST see).  The film begins by introducing us to Ellie and Carl.  They are adventurers!  Ellie even has An Adventure Book to record all of her adventures.  Ellie and Carl grow up, get married and the book plays a big part of the story.  In doing a search, I found the perfect way to deliver the ring!  I found a book that could be personalized and when you opened it up, the ring would be tied to a ribbon!

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It was PERFECT!  I ordered it with the understanding that it would take a few weeks to deliver.  I had made dinner reservations at a nice Italian place we had discovered quite by accident.  It technically wasn’t where we went for our first date, but we both really liked it, so I chose to go there to have dinner after she (hopefully) said “yes”.  We live close to Frankenmuth (home of the world’s largest Christmas store, for those who don’t live in Michigan), and I had arranged for a horse-drawn carriage ride.  The plan was to hand her our book and ask her while we were crossing the bridge in Frankenmuth.

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When the plan fails to come together, you improvise …

As that Saturday approached, I continued to watch the mail.  The book had not arrived yet.  I knew when I order it that I was cutting it close.  When the book didn’t arrive in the mail, because of our work schedules, I decided I didn’t want to wait a week.  I had the carriage reserved, I had reservations for dinner, I would proceed without the book.

We arrived in Frankenmuth and we began to walk toward the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (where the rides leave from).  Sam looked a bit confused, because I had already told her I had dinner plans in another city.  She must have thought we were going to eat there, until I walked up to the horse and carriage.  We climbed aboard and the ride began.  I began to thank her for how she changed my life.  We turned onto main street and approached the bridge.  I told her how happy she made me and how much I loved her.  As I struggled to try to get the ring box out of my pants pocket, I told her I could imagine my life without her in it.  Off in the distance, there was a slight rumble.  With the ring box now in my hand, my anxiety level was through the roof!  As we reached the point – it was time.  As I began to speak, from behind the carriage that rumble had become a load roar!  At the very moment I was about to ask Sam to marry me, this group of 20-50 bikers came roaring past us with a thunderous noise that made it impossible for us to hear each other!

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To this day, I am surprised that the noise didn’t startle the horse that pulled the carriage.  I don’t know, maybe it was deaf!  It had to be.  Honestly, that horse should have jumped and scurried and wrecked the carriage with us in it!  That didn’t happen, thankfully, but by the time the motorcycle gang from hell had passed us, we were over the bridge and the ride was just moments away from ending.  We were almost back to where we started.

All the momentum that I had built up to lead to that special moment was now long gone.  I think, to be funny, I said something along the lines of, “So, anyway ….”  and eventually popped the question before the horse and carriage had come to a stop.  She, of course said “yes”.  There were tears and my anxiety was no longer present, it had been replaced by overabundant joy!

We held hands almost the entire way down to the restaurant.  I think the only time we weren’t holding hand was when she was looking at the ring, now on her hand, smiling that wonderful smile of hers!  We had an amazing Italian dinner at Maggiano’s and we had an amazing day!!

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Now to plan the wedding

The only people we told right away were some family members.  Her folks knew, her sister at least knew it was coming, and My dad and Rose knew.  We chose to keep it secret from our friends and other family members until we decided when and where we were going to get married, and go from there.

With our first anniversary only two days away, that story will be next.

Oh, and that book showed up the Monday after our date!