a birthday.

Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 56. And yesterday was his Deathiversary. Yes, he died the day before his birthday…30 minutes before, actually. This first week of March is usually a rough week. Lots of memories.

My dad was first diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 1999, when I was 13 years old. It’s a death sentence. First he lost his speech (bulbar form), then he couldn’t walk, and by the end he was on a feeding tube completely dependent on care. It’s a truly horrific disease.

He entered Hospice in February of 2003…I don’t think I fully understood what that meant at the time. We missed a lot of school that month. We’d go and read to him, and I’d paint his toenails, and we’d watch TV together. I guess we just tried to surround him with love, while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. I just can’t believe it’s been 10 years, even though it does feel like a lifetime ago. I was 16.

He was a great storyteller. He was a former Navy Seal (Frog Man), and a great lawyer (asbestos litigator). He loved the Green Bay Packers, and sports in general. He would read to us every night before bed, even when we were older…the books grew with us. He had a sense of humor. He loved going to movies (one of his favorites was The Fifth Element). He was my biggest fan at my soccer games. And he would play four-square with me in the driveway. He was a great dad.

We went on vacations to Mexico or Jamaica at least twice a year, and I am lucky to have amazing memories of both my parents. For that I am very grateful. But I just can’t help but feel cheated. I lost both my parents by the time I was 24.

Anyway, I was going through a bunch of pictures, and I found these gems. I loved reminiscing, even though it made me bawl like a baby (hubbs can vouch). These darn pregnancy hormones are getting the best of me today. Sheesh.

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Me & my dad, circa 2000.

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Mom, me, Dad, and my sister. Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica.

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Isn’t this epic? Awesome 70’s photo. I think it was his senior picture.

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Me as a newborn. September 1986.

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Happy 237th Birthday USMC.

First of all, happy 237th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps! Especially my favorite Marine, my wonderful husband, Jon. 2 Iraq combat deployments as a machine gunner, and I was so happy to have him home. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since he got out…he’s grown so much. And now he’s about to graduate from a top tier university. I’m so, so proud of him and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the past 10 years with anyone else.

Anyhow, this weekend we’re going “Up North” to visit Jon’s cousin. It will be so fun! They have a 2 year-old daughter and I’m sure she and McKenzie will get along marvelously. More “life” updates to come soon. =)

Girl’s Night Out & A Birthday Weekend

The past several days have been so fun! On Thursday, I had a “Girl’s Night” with my friend Anna. We had a delicious Italian dinner and then went to the comedy club! It was a blast…and long overdue. I LOVE the comedy club. It was really fun, although I’ve seen better comedians. He was funny, but a bit of a misogynist…I mean, I can enjoy a vagina joke here and there, but seriously, his entire routine was about vaginas. (Actually, I lie, there was one joke about an uncircumsized penis looking like a snuffaluffagus. Classy.) It was entertaining, but it’s just got old after like 10 minutes. But we still had fun (in part, thanks to the 2 drink minimum)! Ha.

Then, on Friday we made the 5 hour drive to Minneapolis to visit my sister (Jessica) & her family for my niece (Abbey’s) 4th birthday party! She and McKenzie are exactly 2 months apart. We went to the Mall of America for dinner and McKenzie and Abbey went on a carousel ride. Then on Saturday we went to Abbey’s Halloween-themed dance class…McKenzie dressed up like a princess, and Abbey was a fairy. They danced and frolicked. It was so much fun to watch. *Mental note: Get McKenzie into classes of some kind.*

On Saturday afternoon we went to Jessica’s in-laws for Abbey’s party. There was an obscene amount of presents. And an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen (yum!). McKenzie got some “un-birthday” gifts. That was always a tradition in our house when I was little…because once I cried when I didn’t get any presents on my sister’s birthday. It’s like the song from Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland,” get it?…”A very merry un-birthday to you!” Anyhow, McKenzie got a walking/barking puppy, dress-up clothes, a puzzle, and a painted glass project. Fun! She loves the puppy a lot. She named it Snowball, since it’s all white.

Then on Sunday we went to their cabin. It’s always so fun! They wanted a photo session there, to which I happily obliged…although, Dan was not a willing participant (*cough, cough*), so it’s not my best work. Haha. Buuuut, I love that my sister always poses for me! She’s such a good model, and helps me get my portrait practice! I told her that when she publishes her first book, I get to take the photo for the back cover. =) Other than that, McKenzie and Abbey played in the leaves, and our dog (Logan) followed us around on the ATV. Then we drove back to Madison. Long day, but a very fun trip! I always love to watch McKenzie and Abbey play together.

Airplanes & A Birthday

First of all: Happy Birthday to McKenzie, the most genuinely kind, smart, and fun little kid I know! As I mentioned in a previous post, we’re spending her birthday in California to visit Grandpa Jeff, who she hadn’t seen since Christmas. We’re having a little party for her tonight, (with her annual dirtcake!) so I’ll let everyone know how that goes later.

We got to Cali late last night (well for her it was like 9pm, an hour past her bedtime…but it was only 7pm here). Traveling with an almost-4-year-old is so much easier than even 3. She hadn’t been on a plane in a year, so she was pretty excited, and we lucked out and got the window seat on both flights. She was SO good and pretty much just watched movies on the iPad the whole time. She has TV restrictions at home, but definitely not when we’re traveling…I’m not trying to make my life miserable. Haha.

Anyhow, she wore this outfit for the plane ride (pictured above). Layering is perfect for travel because if if kids get too hot, just take off the jacket (which did actually happen this trip…the plane was like a sauna). Needless to say, I was very glad she wore this outfit. Oh, and I would never use those air vents that blow in your face to cool off…I hate those…not only do they dry out my contacts, but they make me paranoid I’m blowing other people’s germs in my face. And I’m no germaphobe. Recycled air just grosses me out, okay? Haha. ;)

  • Jacket: $4.99 (Children’s Place, thrifted from Children’s Orchard)
  • Dress:  $9.99 (Oshkosh, clearance at the Johnson’s Creek Outlet Mall)
  • Shoes:  $1.99 (Old Navy, thrifted from Goodwill)

It’s Almost Birthday Time!

It’s almost McKenzie’s birthday! I can’t believe she’ll be 4. Time is running away, and I just wish it would slow down. She’s such a sweetheart. She’s seriously the most genuinely kind little kid I know. It’s hard to believe that 4 years ago right now I was ridiculously pregnant waiting to pop. I was nearly 2 weeks overdue when she made her arrival…who knows how long she would’ve waited! But she was born on Sunday, August 24th at 7:54pm. And our lives have never been the same. ♥

SOOOO anyway, I just learned how to do collages with Photoshop (I have CS5). I used this tutorial. It’s so much easier than I thought! What a relief. I was sick of the tiny pictures. Haha. I took these photos last week Friday before our trip to Milwaukee. I love this outfit! And it was super-reasonable too, around $18 total:

  • Hoodie: Oshkosh, $9.99 (on sale at Target)
  • Undershirt: Thrifted, $1.99
  • Jeggings: $3.98 (on clearance at Target). These are a little short on her because they’re 3T, but if you cuff them at the bottom–voila! You now have Jegging-capris.
  • Shoes: Thrifted, $1.99 local Goodwill. I always throw shoes in the wash and they look brand-new!

This year for her birthday McKenzie and I are flying to visit Grandpa Jeff in Laguna Niguel, California. Sadly, Jon needs to work so he’s staying behind in WI. We’re gonna have a little shindig at Grandpa’s place with a few local friends. It should be fun. Birthdays are always fun when you’re little! Then on the weekend we always go out on his boat in the ocean and see dolphins and seals…she’s gonna have a blast. AND he has a pool and beautiful playground at his community center.

Lemme just say: McKenzie has improved SO much at swimming this summer. We have a pool here at our condos, and she’s a little fish. Last year she used those ridiculous little arm bands with a circle-floatie. They were nice and cheap, but I definitely did not feel safe having her more than an arm’s reach away. When we were at the pool one day another kid had a Puddle Jumper…they are seriously the BEST! She has so much more confidence in the water when she wears it. Now we never go to the pool without it…and it’s Coast Guard approved, which makes me feel good too. Granted, she still goes under if she jumps in, but it brings her right back up (but doesn’t like going underwater anyway). I don’t know if it’ll fit in our luggage for our trip to California, but I might just buy one there since they’re cheaper than a baggage fee! ;)