How many more sleeps?

This post was originally posted in March of 2014 and reposted today because I miss my travel partners.

plane

“How many more sleeps till Nana’s house?” The question asked hundreds of times in past 7 years.

Anna would always be so excited about our pending trips back to Ohio. She loved visiting Nana and Papa, so much that as a toddler she would announce to the entire plane “We’re in Ohio”, upon landing in Cleveland.

During these many trips across the county we developed some really fun games, learned how to not kick the seat in front of us and found that novel toys and new Wonder Pet videos were the key to a day of traveling. We also had many discussions about what the “little bag” was for. Anna, in her 7 years, never once got sick. For her the barf bag was more of a means to make an awesome hand puppet to entertain her Mama.

In 2011 Abigail, Anna and I made a trip to Ohio for spring break. I knew that it was going to be one of many trips back East that the three of us would take during this time. I promised the girls that we would try to get back every year during the Spring to see family and to go on a little adventure together. They loved that idea. In the Fall we were already planning our March visit to Nana and Papa’s new house.

During that very first trip I knew that Abigail was a little nervous. She had never really flown without her dad before and although she was really comfortable with Anna and I, I knew that she was probably going to get a little home sick. I felt so blessed to have her with us and to introduce her as my daughter. Anna was excited to show her Nana’s house and to introduce her to Isabella.

On the first leg of our trip all was going according to plan until Abigail looked at me, a little green, and said she wasn’t feeling well. I knew this was going to turn from a joyous plan ride to a smelly, yucky, barforama real quick. I can deal with a lot of stuff but one thing I can’t deal with is someone throwing up, not even my own kid. So here I am, in a very confined space about to experience something I knew was going to make me gag. I was hoping she was just imagining that she was sick, you know when kids just feel a little woozy and nothing really happens. This was definitely not the case as she was starting to convulse a bit. I looked at Anna, eyes wide and said, “quick Anna, give me the barf bag.” Anna promptly reached into the pocket in front of her and grabbed the hand puppet, I mean barf bag.

I put it up to Abigail’s face and, as she held it, I rubbed her back saying a little prayer, “please God, don’t let me barf.” Abigail did get sick but I never saw it, everything went into the bag. When she was all done she looked at me and said, “I feel much better.”

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

I was so proud of her that I stuck out my hand and gave her a high-five along with telling her she was a rock star. We all laughed and continued to give the high fives every time we retold the heroic story of how we, all three of us, worked as a team to make sure the barf went in the bag.

I’m smiling as I type, thinking that my girls are giving each other a high-five as I retell the story.

Our first trip back East as a threesome was amazing. My family loved Abigail as their own and the cousins bonded as if they knew each other since day one.  My heart was full each night as Abigail would give my dad a big hug and say, “good night Papa.” I know his heart was full of love too.

We did have some issues with delays on the way back home but ended up in a fancy hotel in Chicago. Every trip since then my girls would pray that we would have delays so we could jump on the beds in Chicago again. Such great memories of our adventures together.

spring 18 spring 6spring 32 spring 13 spring 21spring 30

This week my heart has been heavy. I’ve been struggling to pinpoint the cause, worried that maybe it was due to bringing Linus into our lives to soon. I’ve talked with friends about their spring break plans, I’ve watched the weather change as the sun beams through our windows and sensed the spring fairies presence as I watch the tulips and daffodils starting to take form in the front yard.

This morning the reason for my heavy heart dawned on me.

This week, Anna would be asking over and over, “how many more sleeps Mama till we go to Ohio?” I would be replying in single digits. We would be dusting off the suitcases and I know that both girls would have a pile of their favorite clothes sitting neatly on the floor waiting to be packed. They would ask if I was secretively putting together a goody bag for the plane and secretively I would be.  They would want to sleep in the same room, something they loved to do when something exciting was approaching.

We would all be so excited!

My heart is heavy because I want to hear Anna ask, “how many more sleeps Mama?”

100_0258

Photo taken by Anna on a trip to Ohio.

As for bringing Linus into our lives too soon. He is our healer sent from God and I truly know this to be the case. As my heart is heavy, he fills it with Joy. I’ve watch all week how this little guy has brought happiness to those he comes in contact with. Our community, our close friends and especially Anna and Abigail’s friends needed Linus. We needed Linus. He brings a smile to everyone that comes in contact with him and that brings a smile to my face.

I just wish my girls could snuggle with him, he’s a good snuggler and so are my girls.

Family

I remember sitting around my grandmother’s antique table eating dinner with Miss Anna. It was just the two of us, our little family. We would say a prayer, talk about the day’s adventures and discuss what our plans were for the evening. Anna would suggest putting on “a show,” which was never really an actual show but rather lots of funny antics in preparation for “a show”. I have video that I’m sure I’ll share at a later date.

I remember sitting at the table thinking about how simple and wonderful my life was but also thinking that I knew there was something missing: A husband, siblings, grandparents that lived close are all something I longed for in Anna and my life together. That longing was brought to peace when I finally gave it over to God and asked for peace with my circumstance of being a single mom. God gave me that peace, allowing me to cherish the treasured moments that Anna and I had together, allowing me to focus on what we did have and he started to place in my heart that the perfect mate for me was not someone who I would seek but rather someone He was preparing.

Tom, when entering my life, was just that. A gift from God. He was everything I wanted in a mate and he even had an English accent. Tom did not come alone, he came with three siblings for my little Anna to love, jump on, pester and adore and three children for this Mama to love, nurture and treat as her very own.

Our courtship was short because we knew that we had finally found “the one”. We had both gone through a lot in our years leading up to finding each other and through those experiences we knew that God had always been preparing our hearts for each other. It was so obvious to us and still is.

I was very privileged to be able to spend the day-to-day with Abigail and Anna. Our two oldest, Emily and Ben, were with us on weekends, long holidays and one night a week for two years until they moved South. We now see them less frequently, which of course is hard, but it doesn’t change how I feel about them. They are my children. We are not “step” or “half” in our family we are brother, sisters, mom and dad. From the beginning we decided that our family would not be defined by being “nontraditional” but rather by being a family that loves each other dearly.

Anna and Abigail adored their siblings and as soon as they would walk in the door you would hear screams from upstairs, “EMILY and BEN are here!” Emily would promptly go hang out in Anna’s room rocking out to Taylor Swift while Abigail would want to take Ben across the street to play ball. As they all got older, their interest changed. Sometimes it was Abigail and Emily talking for hours before bedtime and Anna climbing Ben like a jungle gym. No matter what the combination they were a true siblings in every sense of the word.

This afternoon Emily will arrive and there will be no screams from upstairs to celebrate her arrival. Instead there will be giant hug from her Susan waiting, a lick (and probably a little nibble) from her new puppy and a Taylor Swift CD in Anna’s radio waiting to be played.

Our kids have experienced something that no child should have to, the loss of their siblings. I pray that their hearts know the love of God and that they feel the peace that comes from trusting him.

There is a certain calm that comes when Emily and Ben arrive to the house. It’s as though the girls are whispering in the wind, “Finally, Emily and Ben are home.”

During our first Thanksgiving dinner together I remember sitting around my grandmother’s antique table, all six of us. I remember thinking how crazy and chaotic our lives had become, there were so many moving parts. I also remember thinking how blessed we were to have found one another. We prayed, we talked about what we were thankful for and we discussed that evenings activities. The kids were going to put on “a show.” They were going to retell the Thanksgiving story with costumes, props and hopefully lighting effects. It was perfect and I remember thinking that what we had found was what Anna and I were missing: Tom, Emily, Ben and Abigail.

Anna hugging

ben

Anna’s favorite way to travel…on Benny’s back!

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Solace

I remember wondering where Abigail was, going upstairs to find her door shut and music turned up loud. She was inside being a kid that was trying to make sense of her life. Finding solace in being alone in her space. She would write, draw, play with her littlest pet shops or polly pockets. Creating a world that was hers and one that she could control. Learning how to navigate with a new little sister, a step-mom and dad that was no longer just her own.

I remember Abigail telling me that she loved Anna, loved me and loved that we were a family!

I remember tucking Anna into bed and her whispering that she missed our old house. We would recount a time when it was just the two of us. Our routines which included a nightly bath time, midnight visits which turned into nightly cuddle time, undivided attention towards one another, no sharing needed.

I remember Anna telling me she loved having a brother and sisters and that we found Tom.

I remember a time when I day dreamed about having a big family where everyone talked over each other. We would sit around the table sharing our daily adventures, laughing and creating traditions that would be shared with generations to come.

I remember a time when I looked around our table at my family and felt so incredibly blessed that God answered my prayers. I remember thinking that life was good and exactly the way it was supposed to be.

I used to think that God brought Tom and I together for us, so we wouldn’t have to navigate our lives alone. I now know that the plan was so much more than that. As we (Tom, myself, Emily and Ben) navigate through our lives, our girls, their sisters, are together in Heaven. Even though we are separated physically we are all still very much together. We have each other, they have each other and God is taking care of all of us. I have trust in his plan.

As with my girls, it’s going to take some time to figure out how I’m supposed to be in this new space of mine. I know that God is good and will guide me where he wants me to go. I am doing my best to listen and to honor every thought and prayer that comes to mind. I find solace, like Abigail did, being alone in the space we share with the girls and with trusting God and his plan. One day, I know without a doubt, we will be together again, laughing and sharing our adventures.

I can’t wait for the girls to show me how to make a rainbow.

family photo