The greatest Christmas 12/23/2016 – birthday edition

December 23, 2016 was hands down the best birthday of my life. It wasn’t particularly glamorous… but it was so good! Declan was up a bunch in the night so Tim went down with the girls in the morning and let me sleep in and they made me cards. We headed back into Central London primarily to ride the carousel next to the natural History Museum that we didn’t have time for the day before, with a quick stop at Kings Cross to see Platform 9 3/4, then walked to Harrods, checked it out in all it’s Christmas glory and had lunch. Then of course, Amy came and Timmy and I headed to Part 2 of the play. Best gift ever. Tim and I toasted and ate Cadbury chocolate caramels and Pringles. (Heads up, the Palace Theater does not sell real food). The play, the trip, our children, how could I ever have asked for more? #ThisWas36

♥️♥️

Truth…and yet, that face makes it all ok.

Tim thought the UK government should pay us for the free birth control we provided on the Tube 😉

Platform 9 3/4!!! (This is how I get a pic without waiting in line 😉 )

#PartyofFive

📞🇬🇧♥️♥️♥️💙

Harrods!!!

They enjoyed Harrods!

The greatest Christmas 12/22/2016

December 22nd 2016 we woke up on a foggy morning in London and it was the night we would see Part One of the play, the very reason we came to London. Giddy with excitement, we set out for the Natural History Museum (high on our list after London-with-kids research). Tim went to will call at the Palace theater to pick up our tickets while I took the crew to an adorable patisserie. Then off for fun and learning at the museum, before we headed home to meet my amazing friend Amy Dole. On the walk back to the tube, Tim said “we have to accept the possibility that after tonight, Amy isn’t willing to come back tomorrow. If that happens, I don’t want you to miss it! Let’s convince Amy to come back and you two can go and I’ll stay home.” 😉 (Fortunately that was not necessary.) The palace theater was absolutely amazing and everything met all expectations!!! ⚡♥️🇬🇧

The greatest Christmas 12/21/2016

Last December 21 was a low key kind of day. We stuck close to “home” in Edgeware, where our milk was delivered in glass bottles outside the door (!!!) and I cooked dinner from groceries we had delivered. Timmy took the girls to the park while Declan and I napped. Annabelle checked out all the work out equipment, Rose was obsessed with putting tiny wooden people in a red double decker bus, and also when I turned my back, put a pink super hero mask on her baby brother.. “Super Declan!!” He accepted it without a sound 😉

The greatest Christmas 12/20/2016

One year ago I posted on Facebook….

Late post tonight but last year on December 20th we trekked out to Leavesden for the Harry Potter studio tour! I can’t possibly get this down to just one photo, Timmy and I had so many! It was absolutely phenomenal; so glad we got the tour in!

We took the tube to Central London to get the bus, past where we were staying out to Leavesden, but also rode in the front top of the double decker and watched the Sorecerer’s stone on the way

Proof they can sleep in daylight…. With severe jetlag.

Goblet of fire and the great Hall!

Nerd girl’s Heaven.

The girls rode Sirius’ motorbike and the Ford Anglia!! 🙂

Geeked out so hard!!!

♥️🎄

Visited Diagon Alley and got some sweets!

Butter beer!!!!

Rose’s absolute favorite: making magic at the Dursely’s… Carrots chopped, dishes washed, knitting needles going…

Beautiful lights in central London on the way home

And…it was a Tuesday…so of course we came home and made tacos 😂😂🇬🇧🌮

The greatest Christmas 12/19/2016

Last year I posted on Facebook every day from December 19-28th my one-year-ago memories from London. While we were in London we weren’t posting in real-time, so it was the first time that I was really sharing our trip. In 2016, everyone thought we were crazy when we took a 5 and 3 year old and a 5 month old to London for Christmas. It was absolutely amazing. When we returned I wondered how we’d ever top that Christmas!! Then when Tim died less than 6 months later I knew we never would. Of course, as I mentioned in my “The Holidays” post, I will continue to try to give the kids the best Christmas experience possible. I would like them to have a good electronic record of that Christmas in London though, the last with their father, even if they personally remember very little or nothing at all. So this year I plan to capture the memories I put on Facebook last year here on my blog for them to call up when they want.

I think I will always consider it the Greatest Christmas.

Here goes:

A year ago we landed at Heathrow. I was seated with Declan separately from the other three so I could have the bulkhead seat with a bassinet, and then they changed aircraft so no bassinet seat…meaning I was awake the whole night holding Declan. (And Annabelle was awake almost the whole night watching movies!) Our friend Stephen met us at the arrivals gate at Heathrow and I whispered to Timmy “this is JUST like Love Actually!!” Then we navigated the tube across London to arrive at our friends’ adorable home, and the girls were so excited to see the tree where Santa would leave their gifts!! 🎄🎅We made ourselves right at home. I know that last photo is Tim decompressing once we finally got all 3 to bed because I see a glass next to him 😉 🍷🇬🇧

The Holidays

The Holidays are joyful, magical, especially for children. The holidays can be difficult for adults. They are difficult for many people. They are especially difficult for grieving people, people in crisis, people processing tragedy.

The Holidays – Christmas in particular – are for children and people in love. This year, I am neither of those. But I do have three small children at home for whom I must ensure the magic.

When I was in the Widow’s support group “the Holidays” was a topic on the giant post-it note paper, and I didn’t totally understand it. It was October, so I think I knew intellectually it was staring us all in the face, but I could not yet comprehend it.

The best that can be said for me last Christmas is that I survived it. I think the kids enjoyed it. I went through the motions. I know this for sure because when I unpacked the Christmas ornaments I found a homemade ornament from each kiddo marked 2017, which I would swear I’ve never seen before, and yet I am positive I must have seen last year. On my birthday (two days before Christmas), I drove to the grocery store and fantasized about running away. My kids were with two people I trusted completely. Certainly, running away was the best option. Tim loved Christmas. He was absolutely kid-giddy about it. When we first took the kids to our new home, the first thing he asked them is where we should put the Christmas tree. (It was June). He loved Christmas lights! I know, without a doubt, that if Tim had died on me before we had children, I’d want to take time off and go to some tropical beach, and completely ignore the holiday. But that’s simply not an option at this point of my life. Not when I need to supply the magic of Christmas to our children. To help them see the Holidays through the lens their father would have showed it to them. I feel the pressure to give them the best Christmas possible, for them, because of what they are missing without him here, and because he was the great Christmas lover. So I ask myself “What would Tim do?” and then I do it… And so often that helps.

Today, I listened to an episode of my favorite podcast, Terrible Thanks for Asking, Happy(ish) Holidays III . In it, a man talks about looking forward to a Christmas that he will spend with his family, including 2 teenage sons, through a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, knowing that this is likely to be his last Christmas season.

And it made me think. What if we all thought about how we would want to spend the holidays if we knew it was our last? How would it change your perspective? How would it change how you spent it?

As much as I wish we could have had so many conversations… to prepare… for ME, I am absolutely thrilled for him that he never knew. Had no idea that this was coming. But if he had known…. If he had known that his last Christmas, would be his last Christmas, how would he have wanted to spend it? Like all things with Tim, because of how well I knew him… the answer comes to my mind immediately: exactly the way he did. Everyone said we were crazy. But he didn’t care. And for once, I didn’t care either! We threw caution to the wind, we planned, and we took a 5 year old, 3 year old, and 5 month old to London for Christmas. We took time off. We traveled. We trusted each other. We relied on each other. There were few gifts that year. The gift was the experience. Exactly the way he always wanted. We said that the Christmas gift we gave each other was paying for expensive airport parking to make our lives easier getting in and out of the airport in the US. Santa had small, modest gifts under the tree in London Christmas morning. The kids didn’t seem to notice Mom and Dad didn’t get anything. Most importantly, we spent Christmas together, simply. We played games, pulled Christmas crackers, I cooked dinner, and had some snacks and charcuterie for “lunch.” We enjoyed each other. Just our small immediate family. And we could not have been happier. I don’t tell myself that’s how he would have spent his last Christmas to make myself feel better. I do it because it is simply true. But thinking that today… it did bring a measure of comfort.

So then I thought to myself…. if I knew this Christmas was my last… how would I want to spend it? Again an easy answer. I would want to spend it with my family. However, wherever, that was. Spending it with Tim is not an option. Yet if this was my last Christmas, I’d want to be with my children, and make it special and memorable for them. I would want to see the magic of Christmas that can only be seen in a child’s eyes. I’d want to slow time down, and just BE with my family.

It’s probably not my last Christmas. But I don’t know that. And elements of it could be “the last”… kids grow and change so quickly. My children’s cousins will be here this Christmas again, but one of them is already in College, so I know that family togetherness is fleeting. If I’m lucky, I will grow old. My kids will grow up, and have their own interests, their own people, and they may all chose to spend it with their own families… maybe then I can try that tropical vacation Christmas.

Somehow, there is comfort in knowing the answer to that question. It’s not a question about Tim, and doing what he would want me to do. It’s a question about me – how would I want to spend it if I knew it would be my last?

I know the answer. And that is just what I am going to do.

For better or for worse

Normally, the “until death do us part” is the part of our marriage vows that rings in my head these days.

But today was a strange day.  I mostly took the day off work to take A to doctor appointments.  And mostly it was an awesome day.  There’s just something about getting a lot of one-on-one time with one of our kids.  They are all seriously amazing, awesome humans.  At their current ages,  and considering I work full time, when we are all together there is a lot of vying for my attention, and they can get nasty with each other, or with me, and exhausting, and just generally challenging the way young humans are.  But A is 7 now, and goodness, she’s just a good and interesting human, and we mostly had a great time together (except when I basically had to hold her down for a flu shot, but…)

A few things stand out.  I had an interview with one doc.  Going through my file he asked, “so what happened with her dad ?”… the usual shock: “Wow…. nothing short of tragic…how are YOU doing?… are you seeing someone? Do you have friends?”  You may think some of these sound blunt, but I typically appreciate the blunt comments to the over-cautious, or completely- ignoring-it ones.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit my eyes filled  with tears a few times during that discussion.

At the next appointment, I got some paperwork I had to update highlighted fields and glance over the rest, all vital PII… down to Marital status: Single.  Choke.   I get it.  I do.  And yet…  Widowed should always be an option.  Single just does.not.cover my status.  That appointment brought us to the 6th level of a building with glass walls and elevators and A kept talking about how if Daddy were here she would not let him near the edge, would tell him not to look down.  Daddy is afraid of heights, yes.   In the present tense.  This discussion with the nurse, who didn’t know.  The anticipation/discomfort I felt for whether she would find out in this conversation (she did not.) The doctor who did know.  the discomfort I felt for her/me/A.  The present tense.  I love that she speaks of him that way.  And yet…

At the end of the day, I had to take the dog to doggie ER.  Hopefully, fortunately, he’s going to be ok.  On the way home with him and 3 prescriptions, I felt myself falling apart at the seams.  The engineer in me tackles. Assesses the situation.  Takes action.  The human in me is secretly always afraid if I take someone I love to the ER, he or she will never come home.  It’s a weird sort of PTSD.  And with a 13 year old dog… is he already living on borrowed time?  I don’t know.  There is the part of me that remembers how much Tim feared dealing with his death – the dog’s death.  The moment for the kids of course, but secretly, I think the thing he feared most was dealing with it himself.  Watching the movie “Marley and me” broke him.

And here is the thing I thought about driving home tonight: Tim, my love, for better or for worse, everything in my life is because of you.  What a strange thing for a feminist to think, to know to be true.  My whole life is inextricably linked to you. This dog that we got together.  This particular dog that you convinced me to adopt, when I was initially turned off by his jumping up on me at the Homeward Trails meet and greet event in Georgetown.  This dog who was our first baby, our first shared love, who stole my heart before our children did.  This dog, these other three humans who made my heart grow and expand and who have all basically defined my life, whether I thought I wanted that or not – for better or for worse.  Everything I do and everything I am is now defined by them.  For better or for worse.  Whether or not it was what I ever thought I wanted.  And I would have it no other way.  I told him that a million times in the 26 days.  And yet. I have to make all the decisions alone now, without him here.  All the decisions for all of them, without the one other person who loved them just as much, who’s life was defined by them as much as mine is.

When I came home, E told me that the kids were asleep.  That the girls had asked if BJ was coming home tonight, or if he would stay forever.  And  for the zillionth time I was reminded:  I’m not the only one with that special brand of PTSD.  I woke them both to tell them I was home.  To tell them BJ was home, and he got medicine and should be OK.  But I remind myself he may be on borrowed time.  And I will need to deliver another message some day.  And the way in which I deliver that message is entirely up to me.

Anyone who has worked with me is likely to tell you that I love to be in charge.  I tend to think I make decisions better than most people.  But there are days when the magnitude of my personal responsibility is crushing.  And all I can do is hope that I continue to make the best decisions possible.

For better or for worse.