December 31, 2015

Christmas with Cale

A couple days ago I received a message from the sister of a guy I went to high school with just letting me know that she was thinking of me and Cale and was curious if we had any traditions for him during the holidays. She is not someone I'm close with, but just a really nice and genuine person who has reached out to me several times over the years with kind words such as her latest message. I wrote her back and told her that it means so much, to not only know that she thought of Cale, but that she actually wanted to know about how we remember him and honor him. And even better than just wondering, she took the time to ask. Those people are gold, they really are. I happily shared with her our few traditions and thought I would share them here as well. 

Each year we try to "adopt" a child that is in need off one of the Angel Trees. We try to find a boy who is close in age to the age Cale should be. This year we didn't find a five year old, but did get to adopt a six year old boy who needed clothes. We got him a jacket, several pairs of pants, a few shirts, Star Wars underwear and a Star Wars shirt, and some toys - we got this boy Legos as those seem age appropriate and I suspect Cale would be really in to Legos just as his brother is starting to more and more. It feels good to get to buy for a child in need, but to do so because of our love for Cale. 

Every year when we decorate I pause and wonder if I like the stocking set up. The damn stockings plague me every year and I think I've found something that feels as close to good as it can, but definitely not right. Right now I have four stockings on the mantle with our initials. Then I have a smaller stocking for Cale hanging from a bookshelf with his Christmas name in the sand.  When we put the tree up, I have a little tradition where the first thing that is hung on the tree is one of our Cale ornaments. On Christmas morning I light a candle either next to his sketch (which is always on our mantle) or next to his stocking and leave it lit all day. 

Love this growing collection of ornaments. Three of them are from
my annual Baby Loss Mom ornament exchange - something I look
forward to each Christmas. 

The other thing that I struggle with each year is what to write on our Christmas Card in regards to Cale. I feel like I say the same thing; "we miss him, we love him," but not saying it also doesn't feel right. Last year I didn't mention him in the short blurb, but signed the card, "with Cale forever in our hearts" which is similar to what a lot of my loss friends write and I like that it's a simple, yet powerful way to remind others that Cale is never far from heart. This year I mentioned him by acknowledging that he would have been five this year and also included his Christmas name in the sand on the back of the card as well as a picture of Finn and Mary. It felt like the right thing to do this year and I've learned that I just have to do whatever feels best and brings the most comfort.

That's about it as far as traditions go. I'd love to hear about any you have and hope that the holidays were especially gentle to those of you missing loved ones.

December 25, 2015

Santa Pictures

We had a pretty low key, but nice, Christmas today. My parents (Nana and Pop) are spending the holidays with us and the kids really enjoyed tearing open their gifts. We stuck with the "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" theme as well as getting them Santa gifts. Finn's Santa gift was a bow and arrow set (sort of like a nerf version) and Mary's was a shopping cart which she's a huge fan of - she immediately started loading things in it and was pushing it around the house all day. We went to see Santa just two days ago and that will probably be the last time I wait that late in the game as it was pretty crowded and even though the wait was only about 45 minutes, it still felt like an eternity with kids who want to run around everywhere and a husband who gets annoyed easily in large crowds (malls are basically his personal hell). 

Mary kept saying, "I wanna see Santa" and I thought she was actually going to be excited and sit there and smile, but when it came time to seeing the big guy, she wanted nothing to do with him and fortunately threw a fit giving us an awesomely classic picture:

Finn told Santa he's "just been good and bad" which is 100% accurate. He told him he wanted a bow and arrow (good thing since Amazon had already delivered one!) and Mary was instantly better once I picked her up and kept saying, "bye bye Santa" which probably was her polite way of saying, "get away from me Old Man."

I was looking through previous years' Santa pictures and wanted to share those as well. In 2014 Mary was a little fussy, but not in full on panic mode like this year:

In 2013 Finn saw Santa at a toy drive our property managers in Texas hosted where you got a picture with Santa in exchange for bringing a toy in for Toys for Tots. We were living in Texas and we took advantage of this opportunity shortly before Mary was born:

2012 was in Tucson, Arizona when Finn was staying with my parents while Miles and I ditched him for a trip to Germany. They braved the lines to get us a Santa pic:

2011 was also in Arizona for Finn's first Christmas and the little cutie fully cooperated for his first Santa picture:

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!


December 16, 2015

Mary's Second Year

As cliche as it sounds it really is hard to believe Mary is now two. It's been a fast, but fulfilling year with her. 
January 2015
Miles returned from a deployment shortly after her first birthday, but thankfully just got back from another so was here for this birthday. It's been really special to see their relationship develop and they are becoming fast buddies. 
Mary is sweet and cuddly at times and will bring you endless books and plop herself in your lap saying, "book, read dat." 
Other times she is feisty and sassy and overly dramatic. As a result, she is very familiar with timeout. Fortunately she resets quickly from timeout and will give a hug and say "saw-ree," helping you forget why she was there in the first place.
She loves her "bruh-ber" and runs in to his room in the morning anxious for him to wake up and join her. Occasionally she will cry when we drop him off at school and is always so excited when we go pick him up. While she often wants to play with whatever he's playing with she's starting to express her own independence more and more and is also content to do her own thing.

While she was slow to walk and talk she has blossomed just fine in her own time. She saw a speech therapist for a few months, but was eventually graduated from the program as her development caught right back up to where it needed to be. It's fun hearing her use her words so well now and string little phrases together. My favorites are "Roscoe stinky," "Daddy get you" (for when Miles' tickles her) and of course, "I lub you."

She still is our little "Meatball," though sadly her delicious thighs are thinning out a little. She still loves most food, but definitely has a sweet tooth. She's been known to throw a fit over a cookie or treat. I'm grateful she's so short as it has helped make her feel like a baby longer :)

Mary pretends to be the "Mary Monster" and will growl as Finn and Miles hide in a fort away from the vicious beast. She loves to play outside and loves water - the beach, pool, water table, you name it.
She likes Curious George and often asks to "watch George Monkey." She's a perfectly balanced little girl who loves to carry a purse and play with her babydoll, but also wants to play trains and gets excited about diggers. I'm hoping Finn's fascination for construction equipment continues to wear off on her as I find it pretty adorable.

She has a puppy she loves to snuggle with at night and during naps and still very much a fan of the binkie during those times as well. She will nap well at home, but if she falls asleep for any amount of time in the car her crib nap is totally ruined.

She loves her shoes, her rainboots in particular, and we are in trouble in a few years as she already will look at a pice of clothing and say, "cute." She is good about wearing bows, but doesn't care for me to put her hair in pigtails despite how darling it makes her look.


Mary is friendly and often will say hi to strangers, bringing a quick smile to their face. She loves the playground and often forgets she's not a big kid, but isn't always a huge fan of sliding, she much prefers to climb and swing.

She is my favorite girl and on this day as we celebrate her turning two, I'm reminded again just how incredibly fortunate we are to have her in our lives. It is a joy and an honor to watch her grow, I only wish she would slow down a little.


December 8, 2015

Trip to Korea and Japan

Last month approximately 48 hours after the crap-tastic Marathon I was on a plane headed to link up with Miles in Eastern Asia! For three months Miles was deployed to South Korea and oddly enough (fortunately enough!) his unit was given a week of leave just prior to his return home. We figured since the Army already paid for his ticket, we should take advantage of the opportunity and try to get a kid free trip in while he was over there. It wouldn't have been possible without my sister and my mother-in-law who both helped watched the kids while I was away.

I flew from the states to Seoul, South Korea then hoped on another flight to Tokyo, Japan where I met up with Miles. We spent three days exploring Tokyo before flying back to Seoul for another three days. In Japan we stayed in an AirBnB which was wonderful! It was close walking distance to the subway and cheaper than a hotel. Plus we were able to eat there if we wanted, though we mostly ate out, and do laundry. In Korea we actually stayed at the hotel on one of the Army posts there (in Yongsan) which was WAY nicer than I was expecting. It also was conveniently located to the subway and lots of the places we visited. On the day I was supposed to fly home my flight was overbooked and I got a bonus day in Korea where I was put up in a fancy hotel (near airport), given meal vouchers, and $800 travel credit! Thankfully grandma wasn't set to fly home yet and was able to watch the kids one more day and Miles was able to come out and spend the evening with me after getting some work done at his base. It was a really wonderful trip and I'm so grateful we were able to see a part of the world neither of us had been to before. It makes me anxious to do more traveling and check more off the life travels bucket list.

I'll let the picture overload tell the rest of the trip in more details.

Shibuya Crossing - Tokyo version of Times Square
Top Pictures: Meiji Shrine where we saw a traditional wedding procession
Bottom Pics: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
View of the SkyTree Tower
We toured the SkyTree at night which provided a really awesome view of the city.
In the plaza of the SkyTree was a German Christmas Market! We were excited to get Gluhwein
which we last had in Germany three years ago!
Right Pictures: Sensoji Temple. 
Tokyo Tower - a smidge taller than the Eiffel Tower, but not at tall as the SkyTree
I left 100% of the navigation up to Miles.
Nom Nom. Top Pics: Sushi in Japan
Bottom Pics: Korea. Nothing about the churro picture screams "Korea,"
but they were some damn good churros!
Korean War Memorial. This place was massive and incredibly well put together.
The statue in the top left depicts two brothers, one who was forced to fight for the
North Koreans and they found one another on the battlefield.

Top Left: View from our hotel. All other pictures are from the Changdeokgung Palace
I don't have nearly as many pictures from Seoul as I do from Tokyo, but that's largely do to the fact that about half the time it was rainy and overcast out. The fog was so bad on the day I had hoped to see the Seoul Tower, we ended up scratching that off the list. Of course the weather cleared the day I left. Nonetheless it was a lovely trip!

One page filled! (I actually was kind of bummed they squeeze all the stamps on the same page)
About a week after I returned home, Miles and his unit came back and we are so grateful to have him home for the holidays. As Finn said, "we really missed you, Daddy."