How to say thank you…

What do you say to someone who has changed your life? How do you thank someone that has given you everything that makes your life complete? What do you do when you have never even met this person? Sixteen years ago yesterday, my husbands wife passed away. (Super quick background)  Sixteen years ago, my three oldest children lost their mother. ( She picked me?!) Sixteen years ago, my life changed in a way that I could have never imagined and I had no idea.

At times, I am still overwhelmed by the thought that everything that makes me who I am today, everything that gives me joy, came from a heartbreaking tragedy for those that I love the most. Think about it. Brian went to sleep that night with a wife, three little ones and another on the way. A sweet little growing family filled with love and possibility.  He woke up to unspeakable loss. His wife was gone. Along with the loss of her, was the loss of their newest little one. He had never even gotten the chance to hold that sweet little baby. Just such a sad loss. The three kids were so little that I am sure that they weren’t really sure what was going on. All that they knew was that their Momma was gone. How do you explain death to a toddler? How do you explain that kind of loss to a baby? It makes my heart ache for them. Brian and I have been married for over thirteen years and there are still times when I feel overcome by guilt. The guilt is from knowing that so many people that I love suffered such a loss and it is because of that loss that I have the beautiful family that I do. I know that it was all part of His plan and that is where I find my comfort, but still there are times…

Brian, Andie and the twins

When we were first married, I will admit that there were times when I would feel insecure, jealous even. I mean how could I compare to Andrea? She was Brian’s first real love, his WIFE. She was the Momma of my babies. She was the one that had felt their gentle kicks and flips as they grew under her heart. She was the one that rocked them to sleep when they were fussy babies. She was the one that they called Momma. I would get very overwhelmed feeling that I would never compare to her. People have a tendency to elevate those that are gone to an unattainable perfection. How do you compete with perfection? The simple answer…you don’t.

My husband, in his infinite wisdom, sensed my struggles and suggested that I look through the journals that she had written for the kids. I was hesitant to do that. I felt like I was violating her privacy in some way. Like I was spying on their lives together. Honestly, I was afraid that it would just make me feel worse and more incompetent to be Brian’s wife and DJ, Coley and Jacob’s mom. But eventually I followed his suggestion and I picked up the journals and started to read. That is how I finally met one of the most important women in my life, Andie.

When I read through her journals, I realized that she wasn’t the perfect wife and perfect mother. She was, in reality, perfectly normal! In fact she was a lot like me. She loved her kids fiercely, but she was pretty sure that she was really screwing up. She lost her temper with the kids and would get overwhelmed by the never ending laundry and housework. She would get caught up in a good book or a completely stupid TV show and then feel guilty about it. And while she loved spending time with her little ones, she also loved to have time to herself. The more I read, the closer I felt to her. It also made me feel closer to the kids. I loved to read her funny stories about them. It allowed me to feel as if I were a part of their babyhood in some small way. In addition to her journals, she also made the kids scrapbooks. They are filled with baby pictures and funny little stories about their lives together. I am sure that she had no idea that her time with the kids would be cut so short when she made them. That makes them even more special. I cherish the gift that they are to the kids. It is a blessing to have a tangible reminder of their time together. But I also appreciate the gift that her books are to me. I know that I was not there, but seeing the pictures and reading the stories allows me to “know” my kids in a way that wouldn’t be possible without them.

Andie and Jacob

 I also realized that I already knew her. I recognized her in DJ’s smile, in Jacob’s creativity, in Coley’s natural nurturing manner. She is not here with us, but she is still very much a part of all of our lives. It comforts me to know that in heaven, there is someone that loves all of my kids as much as I do. I know that she is watching over all of us. There are times when I get a feeling that something is off with one of the kids, particularly Coley. I believe that it is Andie whispering in my ear, “Keep an eye on our girl. Something is up.” 9 times out of 10, my feelings are right and something is going on that requires some attention. This is what I like to think of as “co-parenting” at it’s finest! I know that when I ask for her prayers for one of the kids or Brian that she won’t let me down.

Another gift that Andie has blessed me with is her family. The Roses are amazing people. It could have been a very awkward or uncomfortable situation. They could have felt the need to constantly point out that I am not the “real mom.” That has NEVER been the case. I have never felt anything but loved and welcomed by them. According to Jerry, I married his son, Brian, therefore I am his daughter, period. Honestly, I don’t really know what exactly I am to them per societal labelling. I guess that I would be there daughter-in-law once removed?! I have no idea. But it doesn’t matter, because in our hearts we are family. There is no need to label our relationship. It is just love. They have rejoiced with the birth of each addition to our family, loving us all. Dianne and Jerry, aka, Nana Rose and Grampa Rose, make the 8 hour trip from Michigan a few times a year to see all of us. We love their visits. It is always so sad to see them go. I have also gotten a wonderful friend in Raeleen. (She is married to Andie’s brother Jon) She is the “big sister” that I never had. Her visits are eagerly anticipated by all of us. (Especially Isaac when she brings Ethan!) But the family doesn’t stop there. Between Robb and Emilie, Michael and Molly and Raeleen and Jon, there are cousins galore! Our visits to Michigan are sadly few and far between, and never quite long enough. But I love the time that we get to spend with our Michigan family.

So back to my initial thought…How do you thank someone that has given you everything that makes your life complete? To say “Thank You” is so insufficient. It is not enough. But what I can do, is to cherish each day  (or at least most days!) with my husband and  my children. I can appreciate the fact that I am the one that is blessed to have them in my life. I can be thankful that I get to sit down to dinner with them every night. I get to be the one to sit in the bleachers cheering for them. I am the one that will see them graduate and get married and have their own babies (God willing!). I have the opportunity to shape these kids, to help them grow in their faith, to become men and women that Andie would be proud of. I can, in one word, LOVE them. And I do.

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Christmas Magic

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year, especially for parents. Ok, I know that it can be stressful and exhausting but it is magical. Plain and simple, Christmas is magical. I don’t know why it surprises me, but every year it does. It sort of sneaks up on me and I am amazed at the kindness of others. Well, it happened again. I guess that I am kind of slow and I was again taken off guard by overwhelming generosity. After the little boys and I had our  death defying trip to church, we were down a car. Apparently rolling down a hill and landing on the roof of your car leads to said car being totalled. Who knew?! Anyway, after several prayers to Saint Anthony and (literally) hours online looking at cars and checking reviews and safety ratings, we were extremely blessed to find a car. We got a great deal on it and we should end up saving a ton of money on our monthly gasoline costs. Woohoo! Ok, back to the magical part… Thankfully we have good insurance and we were blessed to receive an insurance check that covered the cost of the new-to-us car. Unfortunately December is a very expensive month for us normally, so throw in buying a new car on top of three kids birthdays and Christmas and I was starting to panic. Why I panic, I have no idea. You would think that after years of God taking care of us over and over again, I would finally get it, but I am a touch slow. Once again, He did it. We went to church and Brian was given an envelope from Sister Jackie. When we got in the van after mass, Brian handed it to me and I opened it. I was dumbfounded. Inside of the envelope was a Christmas card addressed to my family with a very generous cash gift. I mean, seriously generous. I cannot even begin to explain how overwhelmed I was. Once again, God had chosen to work through people to take care of us. I am so thankful that these angels on earth were open to God’s promptings. I am beyond touched that they would be willing to share their gifts with me and my family. If you are reading this, thank you. Because of you we were able to tuck away a little bit for an unexpected expense, get new tires for our “new”car, and provide our kids with an amazing Christmas. I know that Christmas isn’t about the gifts that you receive. I get that and we constantly try to teach our kids that very thing. But as parents, we are always telling the kids no, we are always telling them that we can’t do this or that. So to be given the ability to tell them yes and give them the one big thing that they really, really wanted for Christmas is a gift in and of itself. The looks on their faces when they opened up that one thing that they really wanted and didn’t think that they would ever get, well it was magic…just plain magic. So whoever you are, I just want to thank you. Thank you for providing us with a little bit of magic. Thank you for allowing the spirit of Saint Nicholas to live on in you and your overwhelming generosity. I pray that you will be blessed over and over again.

Coley received a beautiful gold chain with a pendant that had belonged to her birth mother. Brian had bought it for Andrea when Coley and DJ were born. It is their birthstone. She loved it. And I loved to be able to give her something from both of her mothers. 

Here you go folks! Look at that face! Do you know what that is? Magic, plain and simple. 
My beautiful girls, Coley, Gianna and Hannah

These are my handsome boys, DJ, Jacob, Isaac, Noah, Aiden and Jonathan.

Here are my favorite gifts, all wrapped up and fancy to celebrate Baby Jesus’ birthday!