December 21

December 21.  A day that forever changed my life and the lives of my 3 children.  My husband and their father passed away early in the morning.  Monday marks the one year anniversary of his passing.  What a year this has been.  We miss him so much every day.  But I do have to say we have gotten to a point that we can frequently laugh at memories we have of him.  For an early Christmas gift, I made each of the kids a photobook with pictures of them with their dad.  They loved it.  It was so healing to look through the thousands of pictures I’ve gathered over the years to whittle the number down to 59.  It brought back so many amazing memories of Stefan.  I got to relive so many moments.  I loved it.  He was such an involved dad.  There were so many pictures of him wrestling with the boys, snuggling with all 3, helping them learn to ride their bikes, building projects together, playing in the snow, etc.  It was so fun to hear the kids’ remarks on the pictures in the book.  They each had such cute comments about the pictures.  It’s astounding what they remember.  I’m so glad they have these books.
So, on Monday, we will definitely be thinking about the man we lost.  But we will also be thinking of the many ways in which he helped equip us to take care of ourselves.  He was so good at instilling independence in the kids.  That has helped so much in this last year.  He was also so good at helping me be independent.  Specifically, our last family vacation in Myrtle Beach, he was so insistent that I tell him how to get from the restaurant where we ate dinner to our condo.  I remember him telling me that if anything ever happened and I came by myself, I would need to know how to get around.  The very next week he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer.
We still miss him dearly.  But we celebrate his amazing life as well.
I am so thankful that God gave us the time we had.  I wish it had been longer, but I also realize that God’s timing is His own and is perfect.
So, if you don’t mind, as Monday comes, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

A Time of Thanksgiving…

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  We spent Thursday and Friday at my parents’ house.  My mom, sister, and I went shopping for a few hours on Friday.  Before too many of you think how lucky we were, let me add that we took a 5 month old, a 9 month old, a 4 year old, and a 10 year old.  We still had fun, though.  The real reason for my post is to mention a few of the things that we as a family are so thankful for.  Our pastor at our church gave two messages about true thanksgiving.  Wow.  I realized how many things we have for which we can be thankful.
1.  A husband who taught me so many things.  I find myself drawing on those things every day.  So, while I miss him so much, his life lessons are carrying me through.
2.  The unusually warm weather this time of year.  The sunshine so improves my mood.  And my kids LOVE to be outside, so they’ve been able to play outside even in late November.
3.  My “Delaware Girlfriends.”  These girls (and one from Dublin 🙂 ) come to my house EVERY Tuesday night for a girls’ night.  After the kids are in bed, they head over and hang out for a few hours.  This allows me to be with adults and not stress over finding and paying for a babysitter. Thanks, girls!!
4.  My “10 friends.” These girls have committed to praying for me for this past year.  They’ve also been bringing meals since late October.  They’re bringing one per week to help out as the kids and I navigate these 10 weeks remembering last year when Stef went into the hospital until he passed away.  I cannot say how I’ve felt those prayers and NEEDED those prayers.  So, thank you, girls, for doing such an amazing thing.
5.  My family.  They’ve surrounded me and checked in on me.  I know it’s hard for them because I’m the baby of the family.  My mom and dad have helped out by watching my kids and my sister and her family have helped out with the kids as well.  Thanks, guys!
6.  My niece, Kristen.  It’s so fun having her live so close.  We love hanging out.  It’s been so nice to become such close friends.  Thanks, Kristen, for being right there for me.
7.  My neighbor, Lisa.  She has been such a help with the “Tarapchak Zoo.”  She helps out with our dog, guinea pigs, and fish.  Our dog adores her and her amazing dog, Summer, and she is actually watching two of our guinea pigs for a few weeks to help us out.  Thanks, Lisa.
8.  My friend, Kendra.  I have been so blessed to have such an amazing friend walk right beside me through this journey.  Our husbands knew each other really well, so we knew each other that way, but had never become super close.  Through Stef’s and my journey, she became such a true and amazing friend.  I truly don’t know what I would have done without all our late night talks either at my house or over the phone.  She consistently prayed for me and encouraged me to draw close to God.  Thank you, Kendra, for being a constant friend and prayer warrior for me.  I so treasure our friendship.
9.  My friend, Melanie.  Melanie and I have such a comfortable friendship.  I am so thankful for all the hours we’ve hung out, shopped, sat by the pool, worked out at the gym, etc.  It’s so great to have that type of friend who you are comfortable to walk in their house without waiting for them to answer your knock.  Thanks, Mel, for your friendship.
10. My 3 amazing kids.  I love these children.  They’re my reason for getting out of bed every morning.  Even though they can and do exhaust me, I love seeing the joy of life in them.  They each have such different personalities.  Derek is like me.  I love his type A tendencies.  🙂  Justin is a free spirit.  He makes me see a totally different side of life that I’m not used to seeing.  And Carley… that sweet girl.  She makes me laugh.  I mean, really laugh.  She doesn’t mind the randomness of life.  And she is truly her own person.
11. My neighbor, Kelly.  She is my morning walking buddy.  We take our two dogs for a 2 1/2 mile walk most mornings.  It’s great exercise and I enjoy that adult companionship.
12. All the amazing people who so often check in on us.  God blessed us with amazing people in our lives.  So many people I talk to can’t believe the support system we have.
13. Our church youth group.  They came and raked all our leaves last week.  I had been complaining about those leaves for a couple weeks.  I just couldn’t get out there to finish what I had started.  Well, they texted me on Sunday afternoon to see if they could come do that for me.  I’m so thankful for their hard work.  And it was so amazing that a task I was dreading was totally taken care of by them.
14. My friend, Jen, who brings us a meal once a month.  Not only does she bring us a meal, but she brings us a gluten free meal that Justin can eat.  She has 3 children and one on the way, so she is plenty busy at her own house, but does this amazing thing for our family.  And she brings them on Tuesdays, which is my busiest day.  Thanks, Jen.

I could go on and on and on.  It just hit me as our church was talking about this same topic that even though this is an extremely difficult time of year for me and the kids, we have so many amazing things to be truly thankful for.  And please understand that this is just an abbreviated list.  I could have listed so many other people.  I am so truly thankful for everyone who has been there for us and helped us out.  We’ll pay it forward!!

So here’s what we’ve been doing…

Wow.  That was a long break.  But it was a break we all needed.  We were so busy over the summer.  We took a 2 week vacation to Florida with my mom and dad.  The kids had so much fun going to the pool and the beach.  And they loved hanging out with grandma and grandpa.  Derek kept us so busy with soccer.  I have so enjoyed watching his love for the game come out.  He has always loved soccer and done well, but over the last 3 or 4 months, he has flourished.  He had practice or games 4-6 times per week.  That’s a lot of running.  But I LOVE watching him. He has just finished up his outdoor season and has already started his indoor season. No rest for the weary.  However, the time commitment is much less.  Justin took up tennis.  It is so exciting to see him finally find something that is his own and that he loves.  He takes lessons once per week and has so much fun.  We might just have found his sport! Carley is in gymnastics and loves it.  If you ask her, she is the best and has mastered everything there.  It is fun to watch her have so much fun at the gym.
School is back in full swing for the kids.  Derek is now a 5th grader, Justin is a 2nd grader, and Carley is a pre-schooler.  They are all doing very well and for the most part don’t complain about school.
Finally, many of you may not know, but Stef’s grave marker was finally set.  It was emotional to see, but it also was nice to finally have closure.  This also is a season that brings many, many firsts for us.  Stef’s and my 15th wedding anniversary would have been this Thursday, November 12th.  It’s the first one without him, and I miss him dearly.  Then, there is the obvious Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We’re wondering how we’ll do, but we also know that the Lord will provide some really special memories for us.  And finally, December 21st is the one year anniversary of Stefan’s passing.  I really don’t know what that day will bring.  So, if you think about it, please pray for us as we encounter these different dates.
Thank you to my amazing friends who have so diligently prayed for us this past year.  I have friends who travel 30 minutes EVERY Tuesday night after the kids are in bed to just hang out here with me at my house.  I love you girls!!  I also have 10 amazing friends who are providing one meal per week these next 10 weeks as we walk these “firsts.” What a help.  And thank you to that dear, sweet friend who has challenged me so much to stay close to God through out all this.  You know who you are and I love you for it.  God has truly blessed me with the best, best girlfriends.  They have shown themselves to be true friends that have stuck with me through everything I’ve gone through.

Taking a Break

Florida January 2009 171

I found this picture when looking through pictures from our trip to Florida in January.  So relaxing.  So peaceful.  So inviting.  I thought this was the perfect way to announce that I will be taking a break from blogging.  I will hopefully be back near the beginning of school.  Enjoy the rest of your summer!!

Cracking the Sky

I sat rocking Carley tonight and reflected over the day.  What a day it was.  I was so frazzled.  I think all 3 of my children got together and decided to join forces and go against me.  Derek sometimes sees himself as “the man of the house” and my equal.  That presents a challenge when I tell him to do something or not to do something.  Most of the time, he is a fantastic child, but every once in awhile, he decides to go toe-to-toe with me.  He did that today. Very difficult.  Carley is my “I’m going to challenge all the boundaries” girl.  She can be so sweet.  But today was a constant battle with her.  Very tiring.  And Justin is my tenderhearted child.  However, tonight, he didn’t like a decision I made, so he decided he was running away.  Wow.  It was hard to let him go.  Very emotional.  I cried as I watched him turn around to look at me and then continue on his way.  My good friend brought him home a short time later.  Thanks, Mel.  I know most of you have probably dealt with all these things and might even be chuckling.  Today was draining for me.  Maybe someday I can chuckle, too.  I so miss that “grounding” capability Stef had for me.  He was able to calm me down like no one else could.  I know he would have given me a hug at the end of the day, and it would have made everything else seem not so bad.  So, after some cleansing tears, I pulled myself together, and tried to focus on something positive.  That’s when I remembered a cute story from lunch.  Carley stood up in her chair and remarked on how tall she was getting.  She said, “Mom, I’m almost tall enough to crack the sky.”  When I asked her why she would want to crack the sky, she said, “Because then I could see daddy.”  If only it were that easy.  So, if I could crack the sky, I guess I would just want a hug for a hard day.  Hopefully, a good night’s rest for those 3 precious children will help all of us.  Hopefully, we’ll all be refreshed for tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is another day.  Another day to start fresh.  Another day to be thankful that I have 3 healthy children.  Another day to appreciate the sunshine.  Another day…

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl

Today, my youngest turns 4.  Happy Birthday, Carley.  A lot has happened in 4 years.  I remember that day so well.  It can’t really be possible that it was 4 years ago.  This is her first birthday without her daddy.  She misses him so much.  So, while we have another “first” today, we are truly celebrating the life of this sweet little 4 year old girl.

Missing Daddy

I hope this won’t bother anyone. I wanted to post a couple picture of Justin and Carley that I took on Father’s Day. I think they so capture the innocence of these two precious children, but at the same time they show the intense feelings of loss they have for their daddy.  Carley and Justin sprinkled the rose petals on the grave just before the pictures were taken.

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Thank you for allowing me to share such an emotional, but healing moment.

So, while we intensely grieve for Stefan now, we have the hope that we will see him again someday.