Gardening 101

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When we first discussed moving in with T almost 2 years ago, one of my major stipulations was that I wanted a garden. I had never had a garden before and I couldn’t keep a houseplant alive to save my life, but this was something that I HAD to have in order to be happy. In spite of all the other work that we needed to do in order to make the house ready for us, I kept insisting. At one point it became almost an argument. I was stressing because if the garden wasn’t planted in time we would not get anything that summer. T fired back with, “With everything that we have to do to get the inside ready for you to move in, what’s so important about this garden?” I answered as honestly as I could. He had his garage to disappear to when he needed to be alone. Peanut had her own room and a playroom of her very own downstairs… a getaway on both levels of our house. Once we moved in, I had nothing that was solely mine. No little nook or cranny that could be my escape. I wanted the garden for that purpose. Once he understood why I needed that space, he let the topic go. The next day, he had built a raised garden bed behind our home. I quickly filled it with a combination of peat moss, manure, and soil and couldn’t wait to plant my vegetables.

The first year I went overboard. Overboard is actually an understatement. In my little 5’x10′ garden bed, I planted over 20 different kinds of plants. I had an app on my phone to help me remember what was planted where, I had researched what plants should be positioned next to each other to ensure the best results. I had even made sure that the ratio of manure to garden soil was correct. In other words, I had done my homework and I was ready to go. Except I was unprepared for the results.

The pumpkins, zucchini, spearmint, and cucumber vines took over like crazy. They killed off some of the plants next to them. At the very least, those plants didn’t thrive as well because of them. However, we got a really good turnout considering I was brand new at this. We had more zucchini than I knew what to do with, we had fresh strawberries, green beans growing up sunflower stalks, herbs, and more. I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to do it again. Last year, however, I scaled back considerably. The pictures above show last year’s crop around mid-July.

This time, I planted the herbs in separate containers with the intention of bringing them into the garage after the season was over and continuing to grow them. That didn’t happen, but the herbs thrived on their own and didn’t take over the entire garden bed. I planted 2 kinds of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, string beans, snow peas, and the strawberries had returned from the previous year. I had so many cucumbers I learned to make pickles. It was amazing.

This year, I’m really looking forward to gardening again. I’m also going to try my hand at growing potatoes out of a garbage can and growing my own garlic. We’ll see how that goes. Now that the playroom downstairs is a comfortable temperature and I’ve cleaned my cluttered desk off, I plan to try one of those little pre-garden pods and start the seeds inside instead of directly planting them in the ground. I ordered organic seeds off a reasonably priced website last fall so that I would be ready to go when the time came, and I picked up the pods and some extra seeds on my shopping trip today. I’m also going to add Epsom salt to the soil this year. I’ve heard great things about its benefits for the plants and soil. Hey, it beats Miracle Gro.

One of the greatest things that I get out of gardening, besides the money we save on produce in the summer, is that I know exactly where my family’s food came from. I know there were no chemicals used in the soil, I know exactly when it was planted and when it was picked. Last summer there was a huge salmonella outbreak linked with cucumbers. I didn’t have to worry because I hadn’t purchased a single cucumber the entire summer. It’s great to bring Peanut back there and watch the progress, to have her help me pick the veggies, and then to make a salad based solely off of the vegetables we grew ourselves. It sounds so basic, and it is. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you need to go back to the basics, both to save a little money and to remember where you came from and what you’re here for. If nothing else, it’s my own little safe haven.

Budget Update: How to Get to Your Goal Little by Little

At the beginning of the year, I went over my strategy to get to my savings goals by May. With March right around the corner, I thought I’d give you an update on where I’m at so far. While I haven’t hit my goals yet, they are still not unattainable by May and I’m not giving up hope.

My bills are roughly $1500 per month. Originally I had set a goal of saving $4500 for maternity leave so that I could take the full 90 days for FMLA. Then I remembered that being a month ahead means that May is already covered by whatever I make in April. That brings the goal down to $3000. Score!! Also, $600 of that 1500 goes into the joint account for the house utilities and food shopping. While I’d still like to keep that 600 in my goals, it’s not the end of the world if T helps out with that portion or we take it from the money saved in the joint account. Worse things have happened. That’s kind of what an emergency account is for.

So, roughly two months later, where am I at? Well, let me first say that I am the kind of person that needs to split up her money and give each little savings goal a purpose. If I just set a goal of saving $5000, per say, once I get to that goal I feel I owe myself something. Then, each time I go shopping I think, no big deal, I’ve got $5k in the bank. No big thing, I can buy this. Before I know it, my $5000 has diminished substantially. It’s depressing, really. You’d think I’d have better self control at 34 years old. What I’ve learned is that if I divide it up and give it a purpose I am less likely to spend it. Hence the “Additional Savings” category in the image below. (Yes, I understand that I am neurotic for keeping track of my income on an Excel spreadsheet. I’m not judging you… Don’t judge me. LOL)

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By giving each savings envelope a purpose, in my mind that money is already accounted for somewhere. The $500 for the car- that’s for any repairs and maintenance I may need on the vehicle. I take from that envelope and pay it back as I go. Soph-vaca? Oh, my 6-year old gets to go to Hawaii in June with my mom and step-dad. She picked the winning ticket at my step-dad’s club and they won the 1st prize trip to Hawaii, so they’re taking her as a reward. By saving $25 per week, she’ll have $400 of spending money by the time she goes. Yes, that’s kind of a lot for a 6-year old to have, but I’m trying to account for food and activities as well as a few souvenirs.

In addition, I break down each bill by week and that’s the amount of money that I put in that envelope each week. When I make extra, the bills are accounted for first, then Soph’s vacation $$, followed by the 52-week challenge, and finally, any extra left over is put into the maternity fund. I also automatically transfer 10% of my paycheck every two weeks into my regular savings account, $10 per week into our joint savings account, and $10 per paycheck into my Capital One account (which is really just a backup account). It’s not much, but it adds up, and I try not to touch any of the savings accounts if at all possible.

So, if I work until May 1st, which is my plan, that means I have approximately 2 months left to save. Am I halfway there? Not quite. Going into the last weekend of February, I have $1209 saved for the maternity fund. ( I forgot to add it to my Excel sheet, but I won $400 on a scratch off the first weekend in Feb and paid back 100 into the Car envelope and the other 300 into the maternity fund.) Not exactly where I wanted to be, but I’m just under halfway there with another weekend to go. There was also the weekend of snow in January where I physically could not make it to work. That took away any potential income there. Also, I’m trying to keep up with the 52-week challenge and Peanut’s vacation money so that I’m not 12 weeks behind when I start making money again or she’s not broke while on vacation. That takes a little away from the maternity fund each week as well.

As I said in one of my previous blogs, I had the opportunity to have a web meeting with Rosemarie of The Busy Budgeter a couple weeks ago and I’ve been trying to follow her steps, as well as the advice of Ruth Soukup from Living Well Spending Less in order to make my blog more focused and to generate more traffic. If I can start earning a modest income off of this blog I will be one step closer to my goal of being a stay-at-home mom with a full-time income by the end of the year. I’m getting there, slowly but surely. And I’m just stubborn enough to succeed.

Have a great night. We’ll chat again soon.

-Candice

 

How to Just Get Through It

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The past couple of weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. From the loss of a loved one, to the exciting potential of a future career, to the usual arguments with my 6-year old, and back up to looking at our dream home, all while being 6 months pregnant… emotional is the simplest word I can use.

A week and a half ago, my grandfather passed away. While everyone in the family knew it was coming and many of us took the opportunity to travel to see him in his final days and say our goodbyes, it didn’t make the loss sting any less. There is a hole in our family that will never be replaced. The thought of never hearing his laugh again breaks my heart. He had a great laugh. I’m just lucky that baby #2 gets to have such an amazing guardian angel looking out for him/her.

Then there were the repetitious arguments with my 6-year old about brushing her teeth correctly, finishing her homework, finishing her dinner, etc. That cycle never ends. I feel like it’s preparing us for the teenage years when we fight over much bigger issues. She’s going to be my rebel child. I just know it. Hopefully the new addition is calmer like my husband and me.

On the plus side, I had a very informative meeting with a professional blogger late last week and she gave me a step by step guide to promoting my blog and getting on the right track to start making an income from it. While my goal is to hit my current income or higher by the end of the year, maternity leave is coming up fast and any income there will be helpful. I’ve also decided to revamp the website and keep track of the process that I go through in order to get to that goal. If I can stay at home with my kids while still earning a decent living doing something I love I have to try it. I’d be crazy not to.

Finally, today we went looking at a house. Not just a house. THE house. It met both of our requirements for what our dream home should have: 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a separate family room that can be turned into a playroom, on an acre of land surrounded by farm land, with a pool and a gazebo in the backyard. It even had a tree on the edge of the property that would be perfect to build a tree house in. T, who is the least impulsive person I know, was the first to suggest we put in an offer as soon as we heard there were 2 other offers being submitted on it today. Then we crunched the numbers and it wasn’t in the cards for us. While we could make it work, there are just too many variables and too many other things we need to get done before we’ll be able to buy it. If it’s already off the market by then, it wasn’t meant to be. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Now, for the million dollar question and it’s very simple solution…

When life keeps throwing you curveballs, how do you take it in stride instead of getting overwhelmed? Well, I’m not exactly an expert, and I’ve been known to get overwhelmed quite a few times, but I’m also pretty logical when it comes to these things. In my family, we always look for the funny side of a situation. That’s just how we deal.

As far as my grandfather goes, it’s cliche to say that he’s in a better place now, but he is. His quality of life had dwindled down to nothing. By default, so had my grandmother’s. She spent every day taking care of him and going above and beyond to make sure he was comfortable. She’s incredible. Now she doesn’t have to automatically decline an invitation to go out to dinner with friends, come out to western PA for a baby shower, or even miss church because she’s unsure whether Poppop will be having a good day or not. It’s the first time in 54 years that her life doesn’t revolve around him. As a newlywed, that feels earth shattering to me. But, at the same time, it has to be a little bit liberating for her. They always loved to travel and she hasn’t been able to for the past few years because of Poppop’s health. Now she can go anywhere her heart takes her. Please don’t think I’m being callous by saying this. My grandparents equally mean the world to me. I’m blessed to have had them both for as long as I have. But if I’m going to look for a silver lining in this dark cloud, it’s going to be her and the opportunities that now stand before her. I hope she’s brave enough to take them.

As for my daughter, I’m going to remind myself that I wouldn’t have the life I have if not for her. If she had not come into my life, I never would have left New Jersey, I never would have decided that I had to set a better example for her and start dating men who were worth my time instead of just taking up my time, I never would have met my husband, and I never would have appreciated him the way I do. So, let her have her phase. We’ll get through it. Hopefully unscathed and stronger for it. I’m going to take a deep breath and remember that this is the life I always dreamed of, even if it didn’t happen exactly how I planned it to.

As far as our dream home goes, I’m gonna chalk that one up to a learning experience. We now know exactly what we have to do in order to be ready to list our current home and we have a plan in place to get it done. We also have a plan to pay down some of our debt, which, in turn, would free up some of our monthly income and allow us to afford a bigger mortgage without becoming house poor. I’d much rather wait and do things the right way than rush into buying this home only to have it all flip upside down on us at the worst possible moment. What’s the point of buying your dream home if you’re not ready and you lose it to foreclosure? Or you ruin your marriage in the process fighting over money all the time? No thanks. I’ll hold off on that one.

Basically, I’m telling you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The situation you’re in right now might not be ideal, but it may be leading you towards a better scenario. Seven years ago, when I was pregnant and alone, do you think I thought it was the best place for me to be? No. But it led me to here. And I’ve never been happier, closer to my family, or had such an amazing group of friends as I do right now in my life. And I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.

How Do They Do It?

I see these moms out there who absolutely adore their children and never get angry with them. They live these perfect lives where finger paint gets all over the walls and they laugh it off with their, “Kids will be kids” mentality. They are honestly proud of each and every minuscule accomplishment. I stare at these women in awe because I will never be one of them. Ever.

When Peanut was born, I loved everything about being a mom. I didn’t mind getting up in the middle of the night. I didn’t mind that I was exhausted all the time. I was so in love with her and I loved seeing the world for the first time again through her eyes. This was my purpose in life. This was why I was here. I was made to be this beautiful creature’s mom. I didn’t care that we were broke or that I had been forced to regress in life and move back in with my mom in order to get back on my feet. Nothing mattered but her.

I saw friends that would get so frustrated with their infant or toddler because the children couldn’t verbalize what they needed. I understood, but at the same time, I didn’t. This poor little being needs you to help guide him/her to what they want. You have to teach them. And teach I did. Before she could verbalize, I looked through an American Sign Language book that I had from college and taught her words in sign. She knew what sound every animal I could think of made. She spoke clearly and in complete sentences so quickly. She was so damn smart and so ahead of herself that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.

I went back to work the summer before she turned 3, which meant she started spending more and more time with my mother, and that’s when our disconnect started. I would wake up in the morning after closing and cleaning the bar the night before and they would just be gone. No note. No text or phone call. She would come home with shoes for days and new outfits galore. I couldn’t compete. I was just starting to get my life back together. My mom gave her undivided attention nonstop and took her on endless shopping trips while I still had other things I had to do- laundry, errands, an erratic work schedule, etc- and bills to catch up on. She started choosing Grandma over me every single time. Every. Single. Time. A part of me died inside. I gave up. I started sleeping until 2 in the afternoon. What did it matter? What was I missing? She was just going to ignore me anyway.

I know this was a childish way to react. I’m not saying I was right. I’m just being honest about what happened. I had tried to talk to my mother about backing off a little. It fell on deaf ears. And who was I to criticize anyone? Me, the single mom, living at her mom’s for free, while my mom babysat for free, trying to get back on my feet. I felt like I had no say in the matter. I was just there and I wasn’t even doing that well.

About a year later I got the job at the casino I work at now. I was working full time, but it was the overnight shift. This gave me much more time with my little girl again. I didn’t leave until bedtime. I was there for dinner and her bath, I got home just in time to get her up and ready for preschool. I was more involved again. Things were starting to get back to normal and I was starting to enjoy being a mom again. Weekends were still the same old scenario, though. I would wake up and the house would be empty. Even on days that I had made plans for us, no one would be home and I would have no idea when they would get home. Or, even better, my mom would make plans with my daughter without telling me. Then, when I already had plans for us and vetoed their plans, I became the bad guy. She still does this.

I started dating T early that fall. By Christmas we were madly in love and discussing moving in together. I told him I wanted to wait until Peanut was done with preschool that May. That gave us time to make sure this was what everyone wanted and time to do things the right way. The truth is that I would have been out of my mother’s house that spring come hell or high water. I love her dearly and I will always be grateful for everything she has done for me. Everything she still does for me. However, we had overstayed our welcome and it was ruining my relationship with my child. I needed out. We moved in that June, spent the summer solidifying our little threesome as a family, and he proposed to both of us that December. I had dropped down to part time at the casino when she started Kindergarten and from then on I have only worked weekends so that I’m home more often and more involved. I thought we were finally on the right track.

Everyone warns you about the terrible 2s. Some people warn you that the 3s are even worse. No one warns you about the psychotic 6s. Or maybe that’s just my kid. She spends 2 weekends a month with her dad, one near his home, the other near ours. The aftermath of these weekends is an entire week of trying to make her act like a human being again because she’s just been spoiled for 48 hours straight. The other 2 weekends a month are spent at my mom’s. The same thing happens. T and I spend the majority of every single week trying to reestablish control over an entitled 6-year old and we’re not the ones causing the behavior. It has strained our relationship on occasion, and it definitely puts a strain on our little family. There are only so many times you can be the bad guy before you start to give up.

Those same friends that were so frustrated with their 2-3 year olds? They have great relationships with their kids now. It feels like our roles have completely reversed. I’ve thought many times about trying to get a more traditional job, even though it would be a significant decrease in pay. I’ve gone for my real estate license and failed at making that into a business. I got certified in phlebotomy, but couldn’t find a job for the hours I was available. I’ve tried to do more with my life than just be a bartender or waitress, tried to go a more traditional route. But the truth is, once you start making the kind of money you can in a restaurant or bar, it’s hard to go back to the regular 9-5 grind. I would have to work so many more hours just to break even, which means more time away from my child.

Basically, I’m at an impasse. I’m hoping things will be better when I go out on maternity leave and I’m home all the time, but I’m also worried about my little attention seeker. If she’s not getting enough attention now when it’s one on one, what will happen when her brother or sister gets here and they need all the attention? Will the outbursts get worse? I don’t know if I can handle worse.

So, to the moms out there whose children can do no wrong, who smile at your offspring and say, “That’s okay” even though the living room looks like a bomb exploded in it, I would like to know… How the hell do you do it? How do you not get so frustrated that you yourself explode when you’ve told them 18 times to calm down and they’ve looked into your face and done the exact same thing again? How do you not freak out when you have the same fights about brushing hair, brushing teeth, putting clothes in the hamper, doing homework, etc, day in and day out for the entire school year? Because I’m at the point where I lose my cool now. I’m over the repetition. I’m over all of it. Seriously, how do you do it?

Meal Prep Follow Up

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I posted a few weeks ago about wanting to prepare some freezer meals to make things easier on myself and my family on busy nights. Well, friends, I’ve finally started.

I started Thursday by prepping some chicken breasts a la the Martha Stewart recipe listed in that post. FYI, an 8 ounce container of Panko breadcrumbs was perfect for 12 thin-sliced chicken breasts.  I baked 6 that day for dinner and leftovers and froze the other 6 in 1-gallon freezer bags with parchment paper between each layer. I also froze 12 additional chicken breasts in the same fashion without the breading and seasoned 2 Eye O’ Round Roasts with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder before freezing them as well. On Friday, I received the phone call that my grandfather had passed. I spent the day moping around and being fairly useless. By Saturday, I had decided to completely turn myself around and be productive.

I started by defrosting about 5 lbs of ground beef. I used 2 lbs of that to make a double portion of baked ziti, which I then separated into 6-8.5x6x2″ aluminum foil containers and wrote the reheating instructions on the lid (pictured above). These containers are the perfect size for 2-3 people, or 1-2 people with some leftovers. My ziti recipe is listed below if you’d like to make it for yourself. The measurements are approximate because I’ve been making it for so long that I don’t measure anymore. I’m sorry in advance for that.

Next, I took the remaining ground beef and used it to make my homemade meatballs. This recipe is also listed below if you’d like it. One of my 1-lb bags of ground beef looked a little short, so when I say I used approximately 3 lbs of beef, that’s why. The recipe I use yielded me 64 meatballs. I put 24 meatballs each in 2 1-gallon freezer bags, one meatball jumped to it’s death and was given to the dog, and I put the remaining 15 in another freezer bag. These are perfect for nights when we don’t really feel like cooking and pasta is a quick option. Throw the meatballs in with the sauce for 30 minutes, and now you have a protein too. Peanut swears these are the best meatballs she’s ever had. At 6, she’s not exactly an expert, but I’ll take the compliment any day.

Because we were driving out to New Jersey for my grandfather’s services and it’s hard for me to be there for my grandmother when we live 6 hours away, I brought 2 containers of ziti and the bag of 15 meatballs. I want to make sure she’s eating well and I know how much it sucks to cook dinner for one. They won’t last forever, but they will last until the next time I visit. It’s a small thing to do, but it’s a way for me to be there for her even when I can’t be.

So, for anyone who’s keeping score, that’s 6 breaded chicken breasts, 12 unbreaded, 2 roasts, 4 containers of baked ziti, and 48 meatballs that I was able to prep in 2 days. Not too shabby if you ask me. And I’m just getting started. 🙂 Press the Read More tag for the recipes.

Until next time!

-C

Continue reading “Meal Prep Follow Up”

The Patriarch

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I’ve avoided talking about it up until now partially because we were unsure what was happening and partly because, frankly, it’s just too hard to talk about. But my grandfather is dying. He’s been sick for years, slowly getting worse then rapidly bouncing back. Last June, I drove out to New Jersey with my wedding dress in tow so that he could see it in case he didn’t make it to our September wedding. By September, he was home and in good spirits. We’ve received the call that he might not make it through the weekend so many times that even my younger cousins are now like, “Oh, it’s January and Poppop’s back in the hospital? Well, he was about due.” And the toll it is taking on my grandmother is getting more and more noticeable.

This time, however, is different. This time he is on hospice – done with the ICU altogether, in the comfort of his own home, sleeping on a hospital bed in the middle of his living room. This time we have family driving in from all over to say their goodbyes and tell him they love him. This time, no one expects him to bounce back.

We drove out this Sunday to see him, not knowing what to expect. Would he even make it until we got there? I wasn’t so sure. Every time my phone went off with a text notification or phone call, my heart sunk. Every time I wondered if this was THE phone call and we had just missed him. Every time I wondered what I would be subjecting my daughter to once we got there. Should she see him? Should she stay outside? Should I give her the option to decide for herself? How do you introduce death to someone so innocent? How do you tell her that this will probably be the last time she ever sees her great-grandfather? How do you put what is happening into words and still stay strong for her?

I got to thinking of my life with him and what he means to me. It’s something I’ve thought about often, but something I’ve always had the option of revisiting… when we made new memories. Now, I think all the memories are made, so I want to share a few. My parents were very young when they started their family, and so we lived with my grandparents until I was 10. I grew up sharing a room with my aunt like a sister would, fighting with my uncle over bathroom or phone time like a brother, and being scolded by my grandparents like a second set of parents. Our family dynamic was nontraditional to say the least, but it’s the reason we’re all so close today – even when we’re not all so close.

In an almost all Catholic house, we were raised Methodist because we actually enjoyed going to Poppop’s church and Sunday school. Poppop was a part of the choir, as were we, and his voice was so deep and so loud that you could hear it throughout the church without a microphone. When standing beside him in the pew it would startle us every time and make us kids chuckle at how loud he was. It’s sad to know I’ll never hear the loud boom of his singing voice echo through the church again. Sundays after church were family days where we would all have “supper” together. As we all grew up and became busy with our individual lives, it somehow became Wednesday night dinners. Even as an adult, I would drive up to their home to share Wednesday nights with them and catch them up on my week.

Each week on his bowling night, Poppop would alternate taking my sister, my brother, or me with him. He would give us money to play in the arcade while he bowled. It was our special one on one time with him. I remember not knowing the pinball machine had a start button on it, and thinking it kept eating my money. When I went to get Poppop to tell him about it, he walked me back, only to find a kid that had been watching and using my quarters for his own games each time I left. Poppop stood up for me and made that kid give me back my money.

We would spend summers in the backyard around Gram and Poppop’s in-ground pool. Gram wasn’t a swimmer. She’s actually terrified of the water. But Poppop would lay out there for hours with us, applying and reapplying baby oil to his skin (hey, it was the 80s). He would watch us swim, and help us move the blue Fischer Price elephant slide over to the edge so that we could slide into the deep end.

He was not a man without flaws. He battled an alcohol addiction for years, he could be quick-tempered and gruff at times, and he has taken my grandmother for granted more times than I can count. But he is a good man. He loves his family to no end. He’s quick to get off of the phone, but always leaves with an I love you. In our family, we all kiss and hug hello and goodbye and we always say I love you. We are always there for each other, because that was the kind of family he and my grandmother raised. We all know an unsettling number of corny jokes – jokes that we have all dubbed “Poppop jokes” – because that’s the kind of sense of humor he has. Some of his favorites include: “Are you alright? No, you’re not; you’re half left.” (when calling)”Did I get you up? Well, were you sitting down?” And, in June when my sisters and I took him outside at the rehabilitation facility he was staying at, we were trying to figure out if a bird in the parking lot had died or not, and Poppop, knowing it had been run over said, “Maybe it’s just tired.” Even though it’s usually one of those, “Wow, that joke was terrible” laughs, he has always found a way to make us laugh.

As I said before, last September, we held our wedding in New Jersey, in the town where my grandparents live to optimize the chances of them attending. Luckily, they were both able to attend, and my grandmother and daughter joined in on the father-daughter dance so that we had 4 generations dancing together. It was a beautiful day, made even more so by the fact that so many of the people who mean the world to me were able to share the day with us. My grandparents had to leave early, so there are not as many pictures of them as I had hoped to get. But the few I have I will cherish for the rest of my life.

All of these thoughts and more passed through my head as we made the 6 hour drive from our home to theirs. Over the past 6 1/2 years, one of the hardest parts of moving out to western PA has been being so far from them. I have known for a while that their time is limited and I have gone out of my way to make sure my peanut knows them and knows what they mean to me. Until I got a full time job a few years ago, I made the drive at least once every month. I have been there for graduations, for family parties, for their 50th anniversary party. I have eaten crow and asked my daughter’s father to take her to see them at home or in the hospital when I could not make the drive.

Taking her out there for what is probably the last time to see him (there will still be many more visits) was absolutely heartbreaking. I had to explain to her in terms she would understand what was happening. I had to put it in a way that she could relate to without completely scaring or scarring her. I did my best. When we arrived, my sister was waiting outside and asked me to step out of the car before my daughter or my husband. I was sure Poppop was gone. She filled me in on his situation and asked if I wanted to keep my daughter outside. As I’ve shown in previous posts, I don’t lie to her. I told her the situation and let her decide what she wanted to do. She wanted to go in.

We went inside, spent a few hours with him, and told him how much we love him. He mostly slept through the whole thing, but he woke up to answer us and to smile. When my aunt and uncle started playfully arguing over who his favorite was, he woke up shortly to answer that Mom was his favorite. It means the world to me that one of my final memories of him has him appreciating my grandmother for everything she has done and sacrificed for him. One of my final memories will be him smiling at my daughter and telling her he loves her. One of my final memories will be of my wonderful husband holding his hand, holding back his own tears, telling him that he loves him and thanking him for holding on long enough for us to get there. We left him late last night because there is nothing else that we can do before the end. I’m glad we got those final few moments with him, though.

So, to Poppop, thank you for everything you have done, everything you have made me, and everything you have shown our family about love and life. Thank you for a wonderful childhood, for sticking around long enough to know 2 of your 4 great-grandchildren, and for smiling up until the end. Thank you for showing me that there are marriages that can go through hell and back and still last over 50 years. T and I hope we are as in love as you and Gram are after 54 years together. Thank you for some of the worst jokes of my life. I will cherish them forever. I love you.