Sunday, February 23, 2014

Anniversary Anniversary


February 23, 2014

I got through it.  I survived my anniversary anniversary.  I actually did more than just survive.  I enjoyed the day.  Oh sure, a few times I did fight some melancholia and several times on Thursday I thought to myself, “Twenty-one years ago today I was married.”  But I was busy and distracted, which was exactly what I need to be.

Of course, right now, I  am remembering last year’s Colorado trip, which took place over this same span of days that is happening now.  In fact, a year ago tonight, that Sunday, we ate at Olive Garden.  I remember that Paul lost his good John Deere stocking cap (which is now hanging in the closet – we can’t bear to take it down yet) in the restaurant.  Just as we were settling into the car and trying to decide if we should buy him another or let his poor, bald head freeze, the manager of the restaurant came running out to our car, hat in hand.  There had been quite the snowstorm that day in Denver and most everything was closed as a result.  So that night we went to see “Safe Haven” after eating.  I still don’t get the fuss over Nicolas Sparks’ movies.  I haven’t been overly impressed with either I have seen.  Maybe I should just read his books instead.  But anyway…special memories...

Fast forward a year later and, rather than anticipating another romantic and kid-free celebration, I am trying to  merely survive the dates.
Two friends sent me thinking-of-you cards that arrived Wed.  I was so grateful- and teary eyed.  I know wedding anniversaries aren’t necessarily a big deal to everyone and so I know that my feelings surrounding Feb. 20th might not be understood by everyone, but anniversaries were HUGE to Paul and me.  So I am grateful to those that remembered.  I also got a couple of texts and Facebook messages the day of the 20th.
The weathermen were going crazy for the few days leading up to Thursday, predicting a big ice/snow storm.  I remember going through this last year as we planned our trip.  And I remember being reminded last year, as I was again this year, my mom exclaiming, as we planned our wedding, “Who gets married in February?”  21 years ago I didn’t care.  As long as Paul and the pastor made it, we were good!  But trying to make travel plans in Feb. can get dicey.  In the end, I changed our hotel reservations and we went up late Wed. afternoon.  I figured it was better to spend the extra money on another night’s stay than to risk being in an accident or stranded on the interstate.  We might have been ok, timing-wise, but Minneapolis did end up getting a foot of snow.  We went to Mall of America on Thursday and it was still dry when we arrived, but it was nearly blizzard conditions when we left that evening.  Fortunately, our hotel was just a couple of blocks away from the mall!
All settled into the hotel bed - I had to share with the girls.  Ellie kicks - a lot - while she sleeps, I learned.

Even driving home yesterday, parts of the interstate were still icy.  We couldn’t believe how high the snow piles were on the sides of the road and in the median!  But once we crossed into Iowa, all was good.  I’m glad I don’t live in Minnesota!

We enjoyed a nice trip up and were settled into our adjoining hotel rooms around 8 or so.  That was something new, having to rent an extra room.  We always managed to squish our brood into one, but now that there are six of them, I knew there was no way that was going to happen.  Until these kids start leaving home, it’s going to have to be either two rooms or suites.  I found it to be such a treat to tuck the Littles into bed and then to stretch out and watch all the tv shows I can’t normally watch at home because I don’t have cable tv!  The boys loved it too and we asked eachother what do people who have cable at home DO in hotels?  The extra channels would not be a treat for them!  But it’s just as well.  I noticed even in the few days we were there that I wanted to watch more and more dumb tv (Say Yes to the Dress, Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo (dumbest show EVER), Friends re-runs (ok, not so dumb – I miss that show!), and Extreme Couponers) and felt lazier and lazier.  My goodness – if I had those extra channels at home I would never get anything done!
So Thursday we went to MOA.  This was my third trip there, the first occurring, of course, on my honeymoon. I suppose, in some ways, it might have been easier if we had gone somewhere where I didn’t already have Paul memories.  But,   I do like shopping, and MOA is only 4 hours from home. 

Feb. 20, 2014 - my first wedding anniversary as a widow
It was fun to watch Sam.  He was SO entranced by the Lego store.  I think his jaw literally fell open when he saw the larger-than-life lego creations outside the store.  He and David had both brought their money and walked away with several new sets.  Lizzie ended up getting Legos, too, although she bought hers at the Barbie store.

Snack time
Barbie's Dream House
And I did something to myself there.  I haven’t decided if it’s symbolic or not.  It might be.  But then again, it might just be vanity.  I got a cartilage piercing in my right ear.  I have admired those for years.  I think it’s so pretty to see a simple stud winking from the top of a woman’s ear.  I mentioned the idea to Paul a couple of times over the years and he wasn’t all that impressed by the idea.  I don’t think he would have gotten mad if I had done it, but so much of how I presented myself was for his approval, so it never seemed worth it to me.  Paul had been dead about 4 weeks when it occurred to me that now I was “free” to get my cartilage pierced if I wanted.  I almost did it when Kathy came down to see me in August, but I decided that I needed to wait at least 6 months, to make sure I wasn’t going to get a hole poked in me and regret it later because I did it out of emotion.  In the meantime, I had been doing some research and talking to different places to make sure that if I did this, I did it right.  I had finally decided on this one establishment here in Des Moines but then I found out that they had a store at MOA.  So, that settled it.  I would get pierced on my trip.  And I did! 

It hurt (duh), but not that badly.  Ellie banged her head on my ear tonight when she hugged me and that was a little tender, but so far, everything looks great.  But here’s the thing – nobody can even see it, unless I pull back my hair, which I never do.  Only I’m going to know it’s in there (along with the 4 people who read my blog!).  But every time I do see it, I smile.  And I wonder, does this mean that I am moving on, that I can make a decision and take pleasure in something I know that Paul would not have cared for?
Eating at the Rain Forest Cafe in MOA - neat place, but expensive (but then, ALL meals are expensive when you have 6 kids!

The boys waited patiently for me on a bench a little ways away while I had the piercing done.  I got to them and without saying a word, the three older ones all, simultaneously, pointed at Ellie sitting in the stroller.  Poop was oozing up her back, and plopping onto the stroller seat and straps.  Divine retribution for having another hole bored into flesh?  Ugh and ugh.  So, first, I had to run into nearby Macy’s and get her some clothes to change into.

And I had to wait forever to pay while this gaggle of moms, scooping up clearance deals, chatted to one another about child beauty pageants and raffles and other inconsequential, meaningless stuff.  I just do not have patience for that kind of stuff anymore.  Maybe in time I’ll gain a certain level of tolerance again, but I’m not there yet.

The next day we went to Waterpark of America.  The kiddos were all very excited about this day!  This place is billed as the “largest waterpark in North America” and it IS big.  However, we were at the Wilderness Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells in ’06 and to my thinking, that place was actually bigger.  But maybe I’m not remembering it correctly.  There were a bunch of homeschoolers checking in as we arrived, so we were in good company.

Bathing Beauties
Actually, though, it wasn’t too crowded, for which I was thankful.  I had tried to get rooms right there at the Radisson, which is attached to the park.  But they were all booked up because a large group was coming in.  I am wondering if the 12” of snow made for a change in plans.  But the kids all had a blast.  I finally rounded up most of them and decided to climb the 17 flights of steps so we could take a family raft ride down the longest slide.  I wasn’t sure Ellie could handle that much climbing, but she did great.  Ben, however, fell, so we had to pause while I visited the first aid station with him and got his toe bandaged.  I assumed Ellie would be freaking out during the ride, too, but since I’m such a sensitive and caring mom, I made her go anyway.  She loved it!  As soon as we got to the bottom, she asked, “Go, ‘gin?”  So we did.  We made some good memories that day.  Some are still sticking around, like my sore back and stiff neck.  Doing stuff like this was a lot easier with the first batch of kids when my body was a lot younger and limber!

That night we headed back to the mall and ate at Famous Dave’s.  Will ordered a $20 sampler plate and ate the whole thing, which didn’t surprise me.  He was quite effusive in his thanks.  It’s common knowledge that kid can EAT! I hope his future wife likes to cook.   Lizzie had to try the “Devil’s Spit” hot sauce while we waited.  She ended up downing her entire cup of water which then necessitated TWO trips to the bathroom during dinner.  And, being in the mall, this restaurant didn’t have its own bathrooms, so we had to use the mall restrooms.

I noticed quite a few black people at the mall both days we were there.  I don’t know if that’s because Bloomington is near Minneapolis and blacks tend to live in the larger cities.  I have no idea.  There were actually quite a few Muslims there as well.  I’m observant – I notice these things.  But every time I’d catch a black woman looking at the girls while up there, I would find myself cringing.  Lizzie and Ellie are having hair issues right now.  In fact, they hardly have any.  I got both their heads relaxed last Sept. which was supposed to be no big deal.  I had done Lizzie’s about 8 months previously and it worked great – made hair time a lot less painful for her.  But something went wrong this time and they gradually lost most of their hair.  What stayed is just unnaturally flat and greasy-looking.  The natural hair is slowly growing in and I manage to make them look kind of cute with hair bows and bands.  But black culture prizes long hair and I just know other black women are looking at me in disapproval!  Oh, well...

Saturday we went to IKEA, along with half of the Minnesotan population.  Busy place!  Six years ago when we were up there we went, too.  I remember Paul wasn’t too impressed with the place, but I think it’s kind of fun.  Of course, it’s a very European store and I get the feeling that Europeans are very modern in the way they dress their homes.  I’m more old-fashioned so I wasn’t tempted by a whole lot.  But it was still fun to look.  I did find a small dresser that I bought for my new closet that Will is going to build soon.  It should be the perfect thing for holding socks, underwear, and pjs.

I also found some 26” square bed pillows, which intrigued me.  American pillows are all rectangular, of course.  I didn’t buy them because they only sold them in a set with a blanket and I didn’t need a blanket.  On the way home, though, I did some internet research and found some really inexpensive ones on Amazon (billed as “European Square”).  I am thinking they might make a nice contrast on my bed behind the pillow shams.  I’ll wait until I get it all set up in there and decide.

We left IKEA, maneuvered my purchases into the van, and headed home.  I couldn’t think of anything else to do and after three plus days, I was ready to get back. 
We stopped for lunch partway home and that was nice.  I remembered how, at the end of our trips, Paul would always quiz the kids on their favorite parts of our most recent adventure, so I did the same.  They were all pretty unanimous in their choice of the waterpark as the trip’s highlight.  Although, Sam had a hard time choosing between that and the Lego store!

About an hour later I heard Will exclaim, “ARgh, Lizzie!”  I turned around just in time to see her hurling her entire lunch onto her lap.  Gross!  I don’t think she had a thing left in her stomach by the time she got done.  It took a little while to find an exit.  By the time we did, she had fallen asleep, while I panicked trying to figure out how I would get everything done this week if the flu was going to be hitting our house!

So, I managed to pry her off the seat.  Several times, I had to stop while I gagged.  There is nothing like the smell of vomit.  Except maybe diarrhea.  And I was on my own!  At least when Paul was alive he would help me.  After all, he helped create most of these kids and assumed some level of responsibility for their care and upkeep.  But as much help as my older boys are, they draw the line when it comes to body fluids!  Lizzie’s booster seat was absolutely covered in orange, chunky, vile vomit.  I didn’t know WHAT to do with it.  She couldn’t sit in that all the way home, even if I did somehow manage to clean it.  And the thought of having to smell that thing for 3 more hours didn’t exactly excite me, either. Will said, “Just throw it away, Mom!”  I thought for a moment and then chucked it in gas station garbage.  It wasn’t as wasteful as it sounds.  We have another, identical booster seat sitting in the garage and both were given to us.

I got her cleaned up and changed.  Will tried to get me to throw away the soiled blanket and clothes, but Lizzie’s blanket is special.  I wasn’t about to do that to her.  So I just bundled them up and stuffed them under the seat.  But the van was pretty rank by the time we pulled into our driveway that night!  Oh, and Lizzie was just fine.  No flu – her food just didn’t settle right, obviously.

And that is the report of my anniversary anniversary trip.  It feels like an accomplishment.  I actually managed to transport my kids over state lines, kept them fed and entertained, and didn’t lose a single one.  I did it without Paul!  Of course, my next test will be to do it without Will sometime in the future…

I’m happy that we got away.  I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling that the anniversary date has the potential to be harder than the anniversary of Paul's death.  When June 6th rolls around, while I expect it to be hard, I’ll be remembering a horrible day.  February 20ths were always  wonderful days for me and now the date will forever be fraught with the possibility of  pain as I remember the good days and wish for them again.  The kids asked if this will be an annual event – celebrating the start of our family every Feb.  I like the idea of celebrating that.  But I was honest with them and told them that I don’t know if I will always feel the intense need to do it, like I did this year.  I hate to commit myself to that kind of expense every single year if it’s just not possible some years.  So, we’ll see.


When we got home, I eventually went through the stack of mail waiting for me.  In it I found another card from our mysterious benefactor with another $100 Hy-Vee gift card and the simple message, “You are not forgotten.”  This exact same thing arrived last fall. 

I’m not forgotten.  God knew the significance of Feb. 20th for me and He carried me.  He always will, no matter how many February 20ths I have to go through alone before Paul and I are reunited.

PS: About one hour after posting this, David read this and then wrote out some corrections, which were waiting for me on the computer when I got out of the shower:

I got a cartilage piercing in my right ear (which David did not like).

It was fun to watch Sam.  He was SO entranced by the Lego store, (David liked it too.)

Although, David and Sam had a hard time choosing between the waterpark and the Lego store!

David also suggested that I should mention that he had bacon on every sandwich he ordered at every single meal during the trip.



  1. So glad you had this special trip, Sarah. Can't wait to see the piercing :0)

  2. I'm so glad to hear all about your trip. You were on my mind all week-end.

  3. I am sooo proud of you.
    You chose to LIVE on your anniversary instead of just survive.
    We went to MN for my first wedding anniversary as a widow also.
    We only visited relatives, by traveling with young children is always an adventure!
    Praying for you!