Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One Year Memorial Service

My Dad died a year ago today.

People always talk about how tough the first year is. It is.

They talk about tough the first anniversary is. It is.

I wasn't sure if it would be or not. We've had such a wonderful Christmas and I'm so grateful. We've really been enjoying ourselves and having fun and feeling merry. The couple of days after Christmas have been good, too. And then, the other night, while Mark and I were trying out our new Guitar Hero game, images and thoughts came flashing into my mind uninvited--images of my Dad at the funeral home, images of my Dad's funeral procession, us riding in the limo following his coffin, us standing by his graveside, the flowers, back to him sick and dying in his bed. I shook them off and tried to distract myself. Where were they coming from, these unbidden thoughts?

And since then, I've dreamt about him more. I've not wanted to go to sleep nor have I wanted to get up in the morning. It's like the date on the calendar was creeping closer and I knew I'd have to face the fact that it's the one-year anniversary of my Dad's death.

Yesterday, as the clock kept ticking closer to the 31st, I kept thinking of how he died right around 2 in the morning. I didn't know whether to go to sleep or be awake and watch the time. For what, I don't know. I quietly cried here and there yesterday and just felt generally "out of it." Overall, I really am okay. But this is tough. I got to bed before 2 and thought I'd go to sleep. But I was restless. And I saw the time right before going to sleep--2:20. The time he died.

I'm haunted by his dying days--I was the main one administering his morphine. But he had no way to tell us if he was hurting--he wasn't able to speak or swallow anymore and his eyes very rarely opened at all. I followed the directions I was given, but at times he seemed uncomfortable and then I heard it was okay to give it to him more frequently. But before I knew that, there was a time when he raised his arms and flailed them about as if to tell us something. I thought he was just reaching out for us, so I held his hand and told him, "It's okay, Daddy. I'm here. We're here." But after that I recognized those motions as his only way of telling us that he was in pain or uncomfortable or something. Was he hungry? I don't know! If he was, I couldn't feed him since he couldn't swallow and he was actively dying. We swabbed his mouth to keep it moist. At first, he'd suck his lips around it, but after a while, he was too weak to do even that. And anytime he'd raise his arms, I took that as a signal of his discomfort or distress. I'd administer the morphine again. The doses were getting closer and closer together. And all I could think was that, though I didn't mean to, maybe I had inadvertently let him suffer by not giving him the medication more often at first. What if he'd been hurting and I didn't know? I thought he was reaching out to us for emotional comfort, but what if he was trying to tell us it hurt? And what if I took too long to give him the medicine that would take that pain away? It was horrible. I hope I didn't play any part in his hurting. I didn't understand what was happening--how could he not eat or drink? Did his senses naturally dull so the pain wasn't severe? Were his organs shutting down all at once or one at a time? How does that work? Did that hurt? The minutiae of the details of the process of his death were and are confusing to me, but I hope I didn't play any part in his hurting.

Being a part of helping him die was peaceful and beautiful and traumatic, all at the same time. It shook me. There were certain things I'd sort of banked on from the time I was about 18 years old and his death shook the very core of my faith in those things that I felt had been promised. I don't care to go into details of that, because that isn't the point of my post nor is it the most pressing thing on my mind at the moment. I think death is a really sucky part of life and I don't like it. It seems cruel and unfair. Couldn't there be a way that they could still visit or something? It's the missing them that's hard, them not being here, them not being with us. That's the hardest part. The part that seems so monumentally unfair. I miss him and everything I've known growing up seems so very different, especially my Mom being alone and simply his not being here with us in his own kind, low-key way.

We had a very nice memorial service this morning. After breakfast, we got a dish of water and put 4 floating candles in it. We each took a turn saying something we remember and love about Vavo and we each lit a candle on our turn. There were laughs and tears.

Mark went first and talked about how he remembers how generous my Dad has always been and how he'd always take time to really teach someone something. He would take his time and never hurry and spend a long time really teaching and imparting his wisdom. He talked about how he'll never forget my Dad helping him buy his first hammer and how it took 2 hours of carefully balancing and gently swinging and gripping each one to really make sure you got a good one. We cherish that hammer.

Maxim talked about how me liked sitting next to my Dad for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and he liked playing with him.

Kate said she remembers how he'd play checkers and tennis with her.

I couldn't speak without crying. I said how since Vavo is my Daddy, I really miss feeling looked out for by him and he'd always call me "Bibi" and how I miss that. I talked about how when I think of him, I think of someone who loves and was always so good to children. How he's kind and peace-loving and wouldn't argue and be harsh with others. He was gentle. We each lit our candles.

Then, we each took a turn saying what we'd like to say to Vavo. We sent him a message by uttering our thoughts and then blowing out the candles, the smoke rising up representing the messages being sent to him.

Mark started by saying that he would've liked to congratulate him on 50 years of marriage since my Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary is coming up in May and they'll miss celebrating that the way they'd hoped. He said he'd like to congratulate him on all those years of marriage together, raising children together, and all the hard work they've done because that's really special.

Maxim said, "I like playing checkers with you."

Kate said, "I love you, Vavo" and started to cry.

I cried and said that I'd thank him for always being a good Daddy to me and tell him that I miss him and that I wish he could see our garden and our house and our business and that I'm sad he's not here to see all that and to watch our children grow up. And I'd tell him that I love him.

We blew out our candles and watched the messages rise up to him.

I miss you, Daddy.

Mark told me that after I left the room and after our little service, Kate pulled out her "Vavo Box" -- a little box she keeps full of momentos about Vavo. She was tearful and Mark was consoling her with a hug. Maxim walked in and asked why Kate was sad. Mark told him that she misses Vavo. Maxim, trying to comfort her, joined in the hug and said, "Kate, you know he'll be resurrected." And then Mark said, "That's true, but it kind of stinks that he's not here right now." And then Maxim asked, "Daddy, when is he going to be resurrected?" Mark responded, "I don't know exactly, buddy. When everyone else is. I wish I knew." Then Maxim said, "Oh, I wish he could be resurrected on my birthday so he could come to my party."

It's been a nice, reflective morning. I'm glad we've done a little memorial service together to commemorate. After our little service, I told the kids that it's nice to do a little something to remember and commemorate and I know that it's kind of strange since it's New Year's Eve, but also . . . if there's one thing Vavo has always enjoyed it's seeing people eating and happy, so we are going to have a nice holiday and celebrate and enjoy, just like he'd like us to. So, happy New Year's Eve, everyone. And thanks for listening. :) We've received so many thoughtful emails and prayers from people and we are very grateful. Thanks.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Recap

We've had a lovely Christmas! And I'm so glad. We celebrate on Christmas Eve--this stems from generations of Portuguese tradition. We do Christmas at home as a family and enjoy that very much. We start with a delicious dinner--we cook whatever sounds good to us.

Then, if Santa hasn't come to fill our stockings during dinner, we go out and look at Christmas lights while he comes. This year, we heard something upstairs or on the roof of our farmhouse. We looked around like crazy people all over the house. Sometime in all the looking, Santa came!

Putting out cookies and milk and some carrot slivers for Rudolph before dinner

Santa came!

We open our stocking presents one at a time--it's always fun to see not only the couple things the kids have asked for, but how well Santa knows us with the extra surprises and chocolates we get.

Then we open our presents. We don't go too crazy with it--usually one gift for/from everyone. It's still a lot, but it's simple and nice in its own way and we enjoy it. We open presents one at a time as well. We got all kinds of fun stuff--a summer swim pass to our local pool, GPS, fun books, a couple of American Idol CDs, a label maker (for me--and I'm so excited! I'm Monica!), and . . .

Present Time!

Super Hype Excitement!

Sibling Love

Sibling Gifts

Our gifts to the kids

Kate made some finger-knit scarves for us and our stuffed animals

. . . even the ever-elusive Princess Unicorn (thank you to my cousins-in-law Jill and April and my sister-in-law Emily for the help with this--April totally worked it so I could print this up from home)!

This year, after much deliberation, we decided we'd be okay with wii-ing. Our very good and generous friend Jim read our blog and got us a Wii Bundle and Guitar Hero World Tour! Thank you again so much, Jim!

Over time, we had pretty much thoroughly convinced our kids that we would NOT be okay with video games in our house (but the wii is such an awesome way to cave on that since we can play all together). Then, we set up the Wii the night before (and hid it well) so that we could just play when we opened it (empty Wii boxes). And of course, Mark and I had to test it out so we'd know what we were doing the next day. We were up until 3:30AM. I whooped him in bowling:

But then he beat the tar out of me in Boxing (it was a little disturbing).

And since then, we've discovered the wonder of Mario Kart! So, basically, our living room has looked something like this since Christmas Eve:

Our Mario Kart competitions have been FIERCE and lots of fun

Merry Christmas to all
and to all a good night!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I love where we live!!!!!!

Have I mentioned that? I guess I may have, maybe once or twice? Well, it merits mentioning again. I love where we live!!!!!! Tonight, while driving the kids to violin lessons, I couldn't help but look at our house and smile--big, red Christmas bows on our business sign, big chill in the air, and the feel of Christmas everywhere!

And while getting our delicious dinner together, who should drive by our house, but SANTA!! Every year, he joins the local volunteer fire fighters and sits atop a VERY decorated fire engine with spotlights shining on him and he waves to everyone as we all run outside to wave back. Then, all the fire fighters throw candy in our yard and we scramble to pick it up (our town is really big into throwing candy). Santa!

See full size imageI love this time of year. I know a lot of people don't like it because they think we should be like this all year round, but truth is--would that really work? It would become old and routine and trite. The once-a-year Christmas feeling is so magical. I love it! Yes, it's commercial. But it's also FUN and there IS a spirit about it. I love it. I love the mood it puts me in. I love the excitement in our home. I love the tastes and smells and sights. I love that our fridge is plastered with Christmas cards and pictures from family and friends, far and near. I love hearing "Merry Christmas" or "Have a nice holiday" from people we know well and people we hardly know. I love the feeling of this season! I love our coconut nativity scene from Mark's Grandma. I love our holiday music mixes. I love that Charlie Brown gets the pathetic little real tree. I love that Linus tells the Christmas story. I love mistletoe. I love thinking of ways to make things special for people. I love the wrapping of gifts and giving them and opening them. I love the twinkle of the lights on our trees. I love tracking Santa on Norad. I love our little village. I love how Mark gets a new piece for it every year and sets it up without telling anyone and gets excited to see our joy when we notice it. I love how the kids excitedly race to our advent calendar countdowns and do whatever activity is there.

I'm glad we celebrate Christmas. I'm glad we sing fun songs and drink hot cocoa and eat cheese balls and crackers. I'm glad we fill bowls with peanut M&Ms. I'm glad we play games and goof around while listening to Christmas music. I'm glad we watch so many fun Christmas movies and tell such fun Christmas stories. I'm glad we do presents. I'm glad we get cookies. I'm glad we deliver fun stuff. I'm glad we draw names with Mark's side of the family. I'm glad we eat our traditional Portuguese biscoitos. I'm glad we have traditions. I love Christmas!

And I'm positively giddy that Santa came to visit tonight!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

12 Years

Happy 12th Anniversary to us!

We got the kids to bed and had a fancy, late night dinner brought in from our favorite restaurant where we always celebrate our anniversary (either by eating there or take out, whatever suits our fancy). We've decided we're happier than ever and that it's wild to consider that since it's always been good . . . it just keeps getting better and we're very grateful!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Magic Violinist

Thing 1 has been working hard! Be sure to check out her most recent posts. She'd love your feedback on the prized possession question. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Farm Breakfast, Free Chocolate, Hibachi, Oh My!

You know, it's really weird for me that my side of the family is down to 3. I do miss my Daddy.

Here are more pictures from my brother's visit with his new fiance as well as my mom's visit:

When we get visitors, we generally try to make sure we have a Farm Breakfast on one of the mornings--we didn't go too crazy with this breakfast, but we did make some yummy food:

Dutch Babies, sausage, turkey bacon (we're not big bacon fans),
and a local, Amish treat--baked oatmel with blueberries and nuts

What visit is complete without a visit to Chocolate World?
So cool how it's all decorated for Christmas.

Enjoying a Hibachi and Sushi dinner to celebrate Bob and Lora's engagement. Thanks, Jim!
Bob and Lora get married on the 20th of December.
That's our anniversary, so we say it's a good omen--we're happy! :)

We had them sing to my brother for his birthday (December 1st)

The kids were engrossed in their reading together--very cute.
They are best friends and we're so grateful.

It just isn't a visit from Bob without a sleeping and/or computer picture. :P
It's become a family joke.

Visiting Santa

Thing 1 makes her requests
Thing 2 makes his requests

And Vavo makes hers

The Rats lent the kids a 3D movie and glasses. It was hilarious to hear the giggles and watch them try to touch the 3D images as they watched a 3D movie for the first time.

They are SO cute!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Tag

Welcome to the Christmas edition of
"Getting to Know Your Friends".
(I originally got this in an email from my sister-in-law, Jenny. And I blatantly copied and pasted the format from my sister-in-law, e.e. foley)
  1. wrapping paper or gift bags? both
  2. real tree or artificial? artificial. we love our tree so much and love how much we've saved by getting it on sale as newlyweds and using it every year. we also have a little kids' "Hershey Tree" that is also artificial and a lot of fun.
  3. when do you put up your tree? day after Thanksgiving
  4. when do you take it down? january 2nd. Thing 2's birthday is the 3rd.
  5. do you like eggnog? Yes, but not a lot of it.
  6. favorite gift received as a child? cabbage patch kid.
  7. worst christmas gift ever received? can't think of anything that would fit this category, but, because I'm horrible at guessing presents and figuring out clues (hints always confuse me more), one year my parents and brother had me convinced that I was getting a pogo stick and I was SO excited. it turned out to be a synthesizer which is also VERY cool but they had worked so hard to throw me off the track about that, that I was convinced it was a pogo stick, so I think I did feel slight disappointment.
  8. hardest person to buy for? varies.
  9. easiest person to buy for? our kids.
  10. do you have a nativity scene? several (thanks, Grandma Pope).
  11. mail or email christmas cards? omigosh, email all the way--so much easier, so much cheaper. plus our christmas letters are always ridiculously long, so putting it on the web doesn't show exactly how many Word pages it is, giving the illusion of it being shorter than it really is since you get to scroll through the letter and pictures. it's very interactive.
  12. favorite christmas movie? A Christmas Story
  13. when do you start christmas shopping? as early as possible.
  14. have you ever recycled a christmas present? possibly; don't recall.
  15. favorite thing to eat at christmas? oh there are so many--cheese balls and crackers, peanut m&ms, spinach-artichoke dip, Portuguese cookies (biscoitos), various finger foods
  16. lights on the tree? yes. and I love how it looks against our red walls. I can stare at it for a very long time. beautiful.
  17. favorite christmas song? The Prayer, but growing up it's always been Silver Bells. we also love anything that Harry Connick, Jr. touches. and one of our very favorites is "The 12 Pains of Christmas."
  18. travel or stay home? home and we love it.
  19. can you name all of santa's reindeer? can you?
  20. angel or star? old-fashioned papa noel
  21. open presents christmas morning or eve? christmas eve. it's a Portuguese tradition--we eat a big, fancy meal (whatever suits our fancy) and we open all our presents and stay up late enjoying them. we sleep in as much as we please the next day and have a kick back day. we love it.
  22. favorite ornament theme or color? gold and cream balls, deep red and cream bows, a few antique-y-looking ornaments, and a big gold ribbon down both sides of the tree, we really like our little gold manti temple (where we got married) ornament, too. the Hershey tree has all SORTS of ornaments on it--Hershey and otherwise (homemade, etc.).
  23. favorite place for christmas dinner? here, but my Uncle Joe makes an awesome spread as well.
  24. most annoying thing about this time of year? crowded stores.
  25. what do you want for christmas this year? I fear I've become boring. we have no idea what to get ourselves or each other and we're feeling rather anti-stuff at times but we don't want to be "bah humbug" either. ugh. it's a conundrum.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I wrote this like a week ago, but I've been trying to space out my many posts (I caught up--hurrah!) . . .

A year ago at this time, my Dad was on Hospice and we had just moved and we were just starting our business. Walking amidst boxes and mess in the midst of promoting our business while feeling like I was in an emotional haze was not easy and didn't feel particularly festive. I remember that our good friend Denise got us a whole bunch of fun presents as part of a 12 Days countdown--one of them was a 1,000 piece puzzle of the 12 Days of Christmas. That puzzle kept me sane as it was something I could sit and focus on to quiet my mind as we worked so hard to arrange things to get up there and see my Dad before he died. I knew he was slipping away.

I've been doing pretty well these past couple of months. But I think some of my emotions might be just below the surface. We've been doing so many fun things and spending a lot of time with family and friends and things are, thankfully, good. However, every so often, if I allow myself to think about it, details, feelings, smells, sounds, conversations, I feel the emotion well up in me and my eyes start getting wet. I don't want to go there--not that I don't want to remember or even hurt about it, but because I so desperately am working to have a very Merry Christmas. For our kids, for our family, for me. Coming up on the 1st anniversary of his death weighs on my mind. This past Christmas was incredibly difficult and I miss my Dad terribly.

But I also know my Dad would want us to celebrate and have fun. So while we think of him and I desperately wonder where he is and what he's doing and why we earthlings don't get messages from the other side (that just seems terribly unfair to me), we are trimming trees and baking cookies and listening to Christmas music. It IS feeling festive around here and it's a nice feeling. I'm grateful.

We always decorate the day after Thanksgiving--we put on Christmas music and put up our decorations and bake our Portuguese cookies (biscoitos). We love it. It was great to have my Mom here as well as Bob and Lora. I think the company added to the festive feeling. My Mom isn't having the best time with the holidays so we're being really respectful of her wishes--so far, she has wanted to be alone, but I think she enjoyed herself here so much that she's rethinking that. Though we understand if she chooses not to, we do hope that, if she feels up to it, she'll join us for at least New Year's and Thing 2's birthday, if not Christmas as well (but only if you want to, Mom!). It's very comfortable to have my Mom here. Anyway . . .

On to the decorating:

Thing 1 works on the kids' Hershey Tree and Thing 2 puts the tags on the most awesome countdown calendar that my Sweetie made me years ago when I was dealing with a deep depression. I love him and the kids so much.

Thing 2 and I play with the train around the Hershey Tree

My Sweetie

Vavo and Thing 1 make biscoitos--YUM! We eat these for breakfast, snacks, and dessert all through the holiday season. They are SO yummy.

We already love our hutch a lot. Add to it that now we have a place to enjoy our Christmas village and hurrah! I'm pretty proud of myself for setting up the village. :)

Thing 1 decorates with characters and extra pieces

Thing 2 excitedly chooses where to set more of the pieces

Menedy (Thing 1's FAVORITE stuffed animal--Menedy is in many a picture of ours!) got to put Papa Noel on top of the tree this year!

The kids and I put up the tree while Mark worked on the biscoitos. We love our tree--Mark and I bought it as newlyweds on sale and we are so happy with it. As we put it up, I couldn't help but have "rigging up the lights" in my head, so I played "The 12 Pains of Christmas" for our kids--we love that song. In fact, here it is:

"Rigging up the lights!"

We always take our Family Christmas pictures after decorating, too. It was nice to have my brother do it instead of setting it up on the tripod! There are 5 pictures here--which is your favorite as a family Christmas picture for this year?