Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Letter to my Husband

To the love of my life, 

In the every day marathon that our lives have become, I don't think I take enough time out to let you know how much you mean to me, how much you are loved and appreciated. 

The twinkle in your beautiful baby blues, the way you clearly loved your boys so, the easy going way in which you spoke that made me feel like somehow I had already known you forever... All these things and more drew me to you that very first night. I had long since forgotten the feeling of butterflies in my stomach, but it all came rushing back to me under the dark lights of Cannon's Blackthorn. I couldn't wait to see you again, to get to know you better. When you kissed me I just knew, I knew I would be kissing those lips for an eternity.  

We've traveled a long and winding road this last 7.5 years. It hasn't always been easy, but together we have managed to take it all on and come through whatever has been thrown our way. Five kids can be a lot to handle, but I think they are all a testament to us, and the strength of our love; to the value we put on family. The boys especially; they are so good, so genuine, so loving, so strong, and it's all because they have you for a role model. An honest, hard-working, loving man who puts his life on the line daily for the job he loves. 

I would be remiss not to mention all the turmoil going on in NYC right now. It has a huge impact on our lives. First and foremost, I have to tell you how unbelievably brave I think you are. There is no way in hell I could ever be a police officer. I'm far too chicken to ever put myself in a position of possible physical altercation, or to even hold a weapon, let alone having to use one. 
I am humbled by the fact that someone I love is so willing to give of themselves for the safety of others, and so very honored to tell people that I am your wife. 
I am amazed by the ease at which you do you job, the comfort level you have even with all the risks involved. The way you never seem afraid...
In spite of all of that, I am terrified every time you walk out that door.

I never gave it much thought in the beginning. Work was just a place you went, and you always came home, and I never heard much about what happened in between. Then the assault happened. Ever since then I'm always a little nervous when you leave for work, because now I know something can happen to you. You are not infallible.

Now, today, in December of 2014, I am petrified at the thought of you being a walking target. The fear that you could walk out that door for work one day and never come home is far to real right now, and it paralyzes me at times. I can't imagine, even for one second, what my life would be like without you in it. You are the thread that stitches my ripped seams. The glue that holds all my broken pieces together. You are the rock on which I depend for all things. Without you, my world would be dark. Our children would be lost. I truly can't even fathom it. 

I wanted you to know that.

Today of all days, I need you to know that you are one of the 6 greatest gifts God has given me. Of course without you, the other 5 gifts would not have been possible.

You show me love, Every. Single. Day. Even when I'm in a bad mood; when I'm being evil and terrible to you, you always show me love and patience. 
You support me, Every. Single. Day. When I feel like the load of this life is just to much for me to bear, you shoulder it for me. 
When I am down on myself, you lift me up.  
You give me strength, Every. Single. Day. When I lose faith in myself, you encourage me in ways I could never to do for myself. 
You truly are my better half, and I would be so lost in this world without you. 

I pray to God that he will keep you safe; that my mother - my guardian angel, is watching over you as well, and that they will keep you coming home to us safely every single night. 

I love you, my lobster. I will never stop loving you. I will love you with every ounce of my being for the rest of my life. 

Today, and every day,  I just need you to know how thankful I am for the gift of you. 

Forever and always,


A Letter to my Mother

To my mother, my angel,

16 years ago I had to say goodbye to you,  the most amazing woman I have ever known. Beautiful, smart and funny; loving, compassionate and kind. Sarcastic and sassy, yet sweet and gentle, generous and the most loyal person you could ever meet. When I think of how difficult it was to say goodbye, I have to remind myself that no pain was greater than the pain of watching you suffer in those 7 months, and I have to thank God for taking you to a place where you no longer feel pain.

For years I replayed that last day over and over in my head. Every. Single. Detail. Every memory like a tiny needle stabbing me again and again. Now, so many years later, I choose to remember all the days before that last day. We made more happy memories in the 19 years before the cancer than can be erased by those 7 long, hard months. Most days now I can wash away the sadness with a happy thought of you shaking your booty in some ridiculous dance, or calling out to me, "Petunia..." from your perch on the couch. I remember the smell of your Trident Original gum, and the curves of your perfect fingernails. I remember the way you would tuck my hair behind my ear, and wait up in my bed for me to come home from a night out. I remember your round face, and your love of Vienna Fingers. I refuse to remember the way the cancer left you. I won't let it win.

It has been 5,840 days since I gave you a hug, or a kiss, or heard the sound of your voice; and while each of those days it has gotten a little bit easier for me to carry on without you, not a day goes by that you are not on my mind or in my heart. It breaks my heart that my children will never know your love the way I knew it, but I know you are watching over us and keeping us all safe every day. I know you live on in Michele and I, more so than I'd like to admit sometimes(!); and that J, A, R and M all have a piece of your spirit - I see it in the way they love others. To quote a great family friend, "she left an indelible impression on all those who had the pleasure of knowing her. My life is a better place because she was in it". I hope you know how much you meant to everyone in your life, not just us. Your friends still reach out to me to tell me how much they miss you, how blessed they were to have had you in their lives. 

Thank you for keeping daddy safe, and close to us. When I was younger I would sometimes wonder how you put up with him, but I see it clearly now. There has never been a man with more patience, or kindness. You chose wisely when you married him, maybe somehow you knew someday we would need him, and his inner strength and beauty would shine through. I couldn't ask for a better father for myself, or grandfather for my children.  He has kept us all going in your absence, you would be so proud of the way he has opened himself up. Ever since that day at the funeral home when he was showing everyone the napkin you wrote your phone number on for him the night you first met, 20 years before - the way he tucked it into your hands so lovingly, so you could take it home with you. I knew in that instant what true love looks like. So I thank you for giving me that gift, even after you were already gone. 

Mom, thank you for being my rock for the 20 wonderful years we shared on this earth together, and for being my guiding light in the 16 years since you've been gone. Thank you for being the voice in my head that keeps me going when all I want to do is throw in the towel. Your memory, your legacy - they give me the strength to keep going. 

"In my dreams I'll always see you soar above the sky, in my heart there'll always be a place for you for all my life. I keep a part of you with me, and everywhere I am, there you'll be. Everywhere I am, there you'll be". 

I hope that I can be even half the mother to my children that you were to us. I hope that my friends will hold me in the same high regard that yours do you. I hope that my husband knows that even though I am rough around the edges, every edge is carved with fierce love for him and our family, just like yours were. Every day I strive to emulate you, your love & your generosity. I hope that someday I will come close. 

I love you, Mom and I miss you more than words could ever say.

Until we meet again, 

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Monday, December 22, 2014

A Letter to my Daughter

I thought I'd write a couple of letters this week. I'm feeling a little emotional with my mom's anniversary this past weekend, and it always helps me a bit to let some things go. So today I write a letter to my daughter. I'm sure it won't be the last, there will be so many things I want to share with her over the years. Experience has taught me to always write things down, to document them, because  you don't always say what you're feeling in every situation in life, and you never know what direction life will take. You may think you have all the time in the world for recipe sharing, story telling, or explanations, and then suddenly your time is cut short...

To my smart, sweet, sassy, beautiful girl,

There are no words to measure how I feel about you. From the first time I held you in my arms 3 years ago, I knew you were the missing piece to the puzzle. I knew you were the band-aid to my wound, the Spackle to the whole in my heart. Please don't be mistaken, I love your brothers fiercely and with abandon, there are no favorites here... but our relationship, yours and mine, was destined to be different from the start. Not only are you our last baby, and the only baby your daddy and I share together, but as our only daughter, you represent a unique opportunity for mommy. With you I can finish all the mommy/daughter things your grandma and I started but never got the chance to. All of things I never got the chance to share with her, I will share with you. She taught me how to crochet, and needlepoint, and sew, but we never got the chance to do any of those things together as adults. We cooked side by side in her kitchen many times during my childhood, but never as adults and friends. The day I graduated college I looked out into the crowd, and she wasn't there, but I will be there to see you toss that cap. The day you stand up before God and family and promise yourself to your best friend, I will be there... and the first time you hold your own baby in your arms, I will look on with amazement.

Whenever I miss my mom, and I'm feeling sad, I just look at you, and it warms my heart. I see her kindness in your eyes, her sass in the way you tilt your head when you talk, her soul in the way you love everyone so freely. I daydream of all the things you and I will do together as the years pass. Even if it's the most mundane things like grocery shopping or taking a walk, I imagine us doing them together when you're grown, and it makes me feel whole again somehow. The idea of being able to share with you all the things I never got to share with your grandma makes the pain a little more bearable somehow. When I look at you I feel a little less empty, a little less lost.

It's not just because you carry your grandmother's name, not just because you are my only girl...
I hope you know that there are a million more reasons why I love you so.
Every freckle, every eyelash, every single brown speckle in your beautiful hazel eyes...
Every time you open your mouth and something so innocent, or so unbelievably funny comes out... Every time I see you with your brothers, the way you love them so and teach them how to be gentle and kind.
I love you so because I know you will change the world someday.
Your sharp mind and huge heart are going to help you make a difference in this world, this I know for sure.
You have already changed ours so very much.

I look forward to every day with you. I cherish every second we spend together. I love every single mommy/daughter game we play, every adventure we take together. We will continue to journey on you and me, the girls team in our house full of loud, silly, stinky boys. No matter what life throws at us, no matter how far away you drift as you grow and try to find your own place in the world, I know you will always come back to me. I know in you I have a best friend for life, and I am telling you now that in me you have yours. I will always be here for you, I will always be your #1 fan. Forever and always.


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Monday, December 15, 2014

Birthday Fun!!!

We're back!!!

We had a super awesome time celebrating all the kids birthdays at Universal Studios Orlando last month!!! We were there for Halloween, and baby M turned 3 while we were there as well. It was a very relaxing (meaning no set schedule to follow) and fun extended weekend.

We had a photo finish to the airport because my new iPhone 6 (thank you Verizon Wireless for the $200 trade in, making my phone essentially free!!!) shipped 2 weeks early and was basically delivered as we were walking out the door. I am very happy it came in time though, because the camera takes really great pictures and that came in very handy while we were away!

The flight down to Florida was amazing. Boarding went smoothly, and once we were all on board we took off with no delay. That NEVER happens when you fly out of NY....

We had a late flight, so I was a little a lot nervous about the transportation situation. Thankfully the car service provided by Universal was there waiting for us, and they did have a car seat for little Miss M, so things were going way better than expected already!

We stayed at Universal Studios new on-site hotel, The Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Check-in was pretty smooth, although slightly time-consuming - although that just could have been because it was 10:30 at night, and after a long day of work/school and racing to the airport, we were all pretty beat. We got our keys and headed off to the room. This is where things started to go down-hill. Our room was in the main building, which was good, but it was far - I mean, REALLY FAR away from the main lobby and pretty much everything else in the place. We were the second to last room at the end of the longest hallway I have ever walked down. Needless to say, I was already annoyed...  When we got inside the kids were checking things out, and A noticed that the drawers weren't cleaned out. There were some receipts and loose change. Then he checked the fridge, and there was still food in it!!! I immediately called the front desk. While I was holding with them, M was horsing around on the bed. It was then that we discovered the sheets hadn't been changed!!!! Now, I was FUMING!!!! It was so late already, we were tired and cranky, and I was really hoping this was going to set a precedent for the rest of the trip.

Thankfully, it didn't. In the end, the hotel changed our room, and gave us two new adjoining rooms with a much beautiful view of the pool and a better bathroom set up. Once we were settled, things couldn't have gone better!!! The transportation from the hotel to the parks was a cinch. It is within walking distance, but since this hotel is relatively new, the walkway was not 100% completed. We didn't want to chance it with all the kids and the stroller, so we stuck with the bus. It was great! The seats were cushioned and leather, and the ride was less than 5 minutes from door to door. The bus lets you off at City Walk, so there is a little walking required to get to the actual parks, but since the weather was beautiful, no one seemed to mind.

In my opinion, this was the perfect time of year to visit. The temperature was good, a little cool Saturday and Sunday, but it sure beats sweating your behind off!!! The crowds were manageable. We didn't wait terribly long for anything except for Harry Potter Escape from Gringotts. The line for Transformers was also pretty darn long, but they gave us what they called a "birthday express pass" so poor M wouldn't have to spend her entire day waiting on line for a ride she wasn't even big enough to ride. We thought that was super awesome of them!  

We had the meal plan for this trip, and it really was worth it. For a large family like ours, we really did save quite a bit of money. We actually ended up taking some snacks home. I definitely recommend it. Our package came with two complimentary breakfast at Harry Potter, we had some quick but great lunches, and we had some pretty delicious dinners as well. Unfortunately, M's birthday dinner was our least favorite place, but live and learn. If you're down there, skip Vivo Italian Kitchen. It wasn't worth it. Food was sub-par & the service was terrible. They did take some stuff off the bill though, so at least there was that. We did the character breakfast for her that morning at Jake's in the Royal Pacific hotel, and that was a much better experience. The food was great there and the characters were awesome. M was loving it! We all had a good laugh when Gru ran around the restaurant with my cell phone while my mother-in-law was on FaceTime.

While we were away I had a bit of a breakthrough in the body image area. At the request of my husband I did bring my bikini on the trip, although I wasn't sure I would wear it. I let the kids talk me into going down to the pool even though it was only in the 60's, so I had to put it on... and I actually felt good in it!!! For the first time in almost 15 years, I put on a bathing suite and felt comfortable in it. The fact that it was a 2 piece just takes it to a whole other level. I've been working hard for that, and I'm proud of all that I've accomplished. I'm hoping by this summer I'll be even more comfortable! Small victories!!!

We really had a great time, and it was hard coming back to reality. It was nice to have the whole family together for 5 days. We don't get to do that often enough. The kids did not want to go home...

Somehow the time has slipped from Halloween to Thanksgiving and past, and now we are just 2 short weeks away from Christmas! How could this be??? Looking forward to some more family time while the kids have an extended break from school. After that, it will be Mommy & Daddy's turn for a little fun so....

Now I'm looking forward to some alone time with my man... Next up, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend!!! Can't believe I'm running my second half marathon next month, AHHH!!!! 

More on that to follow....

Happy Monday :)

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