Friday, July 11, 2014

Lessons from Disneyland and Death

Last month, my family experienced the wonderful gift of going to Disneyland.

It was my first time as well as my 3, 6, and 9-year old kiddos. 

Three days at Disneyland, a day at Lego land and 2 days at Venice and Newport beaches were absolutely amazing. 

Here are some of my favorite pics:

It really was magical....

Especially when you're a mama of little girls and an unabashed lover of princesses...

And mermaids...

Especially, the ocean...

Where my heart lies...

Watching my children giddy as they meet every Disney character, conquer every ride...

Build every Lego known to man...

All with the gift of family by our side...

And then, 10 days after we came home, we were launched into a horrible dream as we learned that my father-in-law was in the hospital, unexpectedly fighting for his life.  A battle that was not meant to be.  And within hours, he was gone.  Grandpa Mike had gone to Heaven too early, too soon.

And so, I remember the lesson he taught me...

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm deathly afraid of heights.  It's not a weird thing.  Lots of people don't like climbing up ladders, looking over ledges or zooming their faces off on roller coasters.

So, when we arrived at Disney, I was completely prepared to ride lots of sweet, tame rides with my 3-year old princess, while my older two daredevils went with their thrill-seeking daddy and fearless cousins, aunt and uncle up and down lots of insane rides.  It was never on my radar to join them..ever.

Until the morning of the first park day, my husband said, "I know that you're afraid...but I want our children to see you doing something that they know you're afraid of...and that you choose to do anyway."  Essentially, he wanted me to punch fear in the throat and to go for it.  He wanted me to embrace my 2014 mantra, "Fuck fear." To which my initial reaction was fuck that.  Have you seen the "Scream" roller coaster and those fucking water rides that go through the dark and launch your ass down stream?

And so, I reluctantly said yes.  And I'll never forget it.  I was walking with my father-in-law, Mike to the roller coaster and I was really, really scared.  I know it seems ridiculous, but I was petrified.  And because he'd grown up in California and ridden virtually every ride in the park multiple times, I asked, "Am I gonna die?"  To which he replied, "No you're not gonna die, you're gonna live...and you know what, you'll probably wanna go back on it again.  Just watch Kate (6)...if she can do it, well..." And the conversation ended with a big smile on his face.

Standing in line, I thought I was going to hyperventilate.  I started to get tears in my eyes.  And then, my mother-in-law sat next to me and said, "Breathe and whatever you do, open your eyes. It's better that way.  Then, you don't miss anything, especially if this is your first and last time."

And well, I kept my eyes open for a portion of the time, but not nearly enough.  It was a fucking insane, make your stomach do flip flops, slap you in the ass and call you Susan ride and it rocked my world, but it was amazing.  Amazing to do something that I was so afraid of...prompted by my 60 plus-year old father-in-law and my 6-year old daughter.

And that is what stands father-in-law gave us the trip of a lifetime...a chance to make memories that in the end, will be the last ones of him that my children remember.  And he wanted all of us to go for the gusto, embrace it, ride the ride, do the thing that makes you afraid.

That's what life is about right?  It's magical.  It's scary.  It's unpredictable.  You're never fully prepared.  You don't know how you'll respond.  But, the test lies in going for it.  Because you never know when it's your last time to go around on the Ferris wheel.

What a life.  What a trip.  What a lesson.

Here's to living every moment, every day, always.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ode to Kate on Your 7th Birthday

You woke up this morning and announced, "I'm seven and I want to go to the art museum!"

And just like that, we were off.

The truth is, it's been a hard week.  With Grandpa Mike's unexpected passing two days ago, it's been challenging to get into the spirit of celebrating.

But that's the amazing thing about all of your wonder with the present moment, you remind us of what it means to live.  You teach us that life is for the living and that really, when you stop and breathe it all in, there is so much to be grateful for.

And so, here you are forging your own path...

And there you are, with your crazy brother and sister splashing in the fountains.

And, opening your the top of your list, wise old owls and books.

And finally, getting ready to blow out your birthday candle.

As I write this, I still can't believe that you've turned seven years old and that in the fall, you'll be starting second grade, and that already, you're an amazing reader, writer, artist, re-purposer of all things that get into your hands, an incredible big and little sister, a kind friend, a beautiful singer and dancer, and a lover of every bird that God ever created.

Thank you for being my not-so little girl.  Thank you for letting me braid your hair every morning and for praying with me every night.  Thank you for liking dresses and roller coasters.  Thank you for reminding me when I'm afraid that all of us can do whatever we want, if we just decide that we're worth it.  Thank you for loving princesses and dirt and for knowing that sometimes it's okay to slug your brother and to apologize later.  Thank you for laughing and smiling and getting caught up in the little things.  Thank you for being slow and intentional.

Most of all, thank you for sharing your life with me and with the world.  We are all so much better for having you here.

The happiest of birthdays, Kate.  May your seventh year be more blessed than you can possibly imagine.

Love, Mama