Ten Months as a Widow

I use these monthly check ins to see how my five year old and I are managing since my husband’s death ten months ago. It has been a busy month. Totally crazy in every way imaginable. On top of coronovirus and stay at home orders, we also moved house in the past month.

We started the move by taking a car full of boxes each time my mother was at my house, so just two loads of items a week. Then on the 5th of April I rented a Uhaul and we moved the rest of our things. We’re just a few days in at the new house and everything is still a disaster, but I’m slowly creating homes for our things. We still have to go back to our apartment for a few things we forgot and to do a lot of deep cleaning before I am done with that place forever. I can not wait.

We’re adjusting pretty well to the new house, though it’s out of the way even more and I feel a bit isolated. That’s good for quarantine I suppose, but I’m not looking forward to needing to walk down and then back up a steep hill just to check the mail.

Pepper is doing okay with the move. She loves our new house, but I think she’s having trouble more than she thinks. She is using a lot of baby talk again, like she did after Jason died, especially just before bed time. Otherwise she loves it here. She has a yard and room to ride her bike and play in her sand box. She has a big room for all of her toys and another room for our crafts and exercise equipment, and yet another room just for our books. I can’t wait until everything is all unpacked and things feel slightly more normal again.

The house has some strange quirks and repairs that are needed, but nothing I can’t adjust to or figure out how to fix once the world is open again.

We also have a cat. Through a series of events, the cat ended up needing to go with the house. Pepper is excited for her first pet, but I’m not really an animal lover and Pepper gets anxious when the cat runs from one of the house to the other at night. Pepper then refuses to go anywhere in the house unless I’m carrying her so the cat doesn’t run in to her. During the day though Pepper is giving the cat lessons on how to do ballet, yoga, be a doctor, etc. It’s cute and she loves the cat, they both just need some time to get used to each other.

My anxiety is going crazy with the coronoa virus stuff going on. Do we still see my mother as planned? My father in law who lives alone and has no one else on this side of the country to keep him company since my husband died? It’s a hard decision to make each time a situation is presented. All I can do is go with what feels like the right decision at the moment and then move on with my day and my life.

The only other news is that I finally got Pepper’s social security benefits from Jason’s death set up for us. The amount is enough to keep us going long term as long as nothing happens to my work and there are no emergencies, so money isn’t a huge stressor for the first time since April 2017 when my husband lost his job. I am struggling with knowing that I can breath a little easier now only because my husband is dead. I am trying to look at it as a way my Jason is still taking care of his girls, even in death. It doesn’t make it hurt less though.

This week we had an Easter Egg hunt in the yard for Pepper. I break up a small Lego set for her and put the pieces in plastic eggs. She has to find all the eggs and then build the kit. She loves it! She took it apart and rebuilt it five times in the same day.

Today we will dye eggs, and then on Sunday she will get her basket of goodies. She is so excited! Do you want to see a post with what she got for Easter?

Honestly I’ve been too busy and too anxious to have much time think about or miss my Jason this month. Moving is so much work. We always joked that we wouldn’t move from our apartment until we could afford to hire movers, but that didn’t work out for us. I think Pepper and I could be happy in our new home though.

 

Entertaining the Kiddo at Home

We’re not officially quarantined, but even if we wanted to go any where and risk getting sick, we couldn’t because everything is closed except grocery stores. So we’ve been staying at home.

I work from home and Pepper is homeschooled so we’re used to being at home a lot. Many other parents are not though. Something about it being an unknown length of time is making each day feel completely overwhelming. Sure we can survive today, but can we survive this every day for a month (or longer) with no break? I don’t know.

I made Pepper a list of things that we can choose from to do each day and we’ve been making our way through some as needed. We draw, we read, we watch youtube, but we also have several challenges we are working through. A 30 day lego building challenge, a gratitude challenge, a daily affirmation challenge, a non-screen activity challenge, an exercise challenge, a photo challenge, some reading challenges, and a drawing challenge. She’s doing school, playing with playdoh, and video calling grandma. And we’re playing lots of board games.

The biggest helper to filing our days though has been the countless live streams that are being offered by so many people and organizations. I’ll include a link to the google spreadsheet where everything is broken down by hour. There are story times, and drawing lessons, yoga and ballet classes, zoo tours, and so so much more.

The creator of this list keeps adding more and more things. There are more on here then we can do in a day so I’m sure you and your kiddos can find at least a few that you will love and look forward to each day. And almost all are saved so you can watch replays on the weekend of ones you’ve missed throughout the week.

Our personal favorites so far are circle time with Miss Cady at 10, Pete the Cat Storytime at 12, Lunchtime doodles with Mo Willems at 1, Draw with JJK at 2, Cincinnati Zoo home safari at 3, and the Josh Gad story time at 730. We’re in bed for the last one so have been watching the replay the next morning.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1d9vA4JUnr1xFafSY5n7iF75eCb3fX2Azy_6rZOOzH_8/htmlview?usp=sharing&sle=true&fbclid=IwAR0xd6KK0FXcvzK_Jg9kFXh3uw7JXYxVElZDZvdGDYzbVMlSmC9AXAsG9F4

Our favorite activity we have done this week is an Easter Egg hunt. We had the plastic eggs out to get ready for Easter and I filled the eggs with slips of paper that gave her an action she needed to complete. She had to find one egg, bring it back to me, open the egg, and then do the action (ie. sing a song, do 10 jumping jacks, quack like a duck, etc). Then she could go find another egg. She loved it. It got her moving and laughing.

What are you doing with your kiddos to keep everyone calm and having fun?

Nine Months as a Widow

My husband has been dead for nine months. Oh my goodness. It feels like no time at all and like I’ve been without him forever. In that nine months we could have had the second child we were talking about having either last year or this year. We could have finished building our savings and purchased a house like we had planned to do last year. We could have done and experienced so many things together that we’ll never get to do now. Nine months in and there are still so many things I’m missing and grieving and crying over. I don’t expect anything to be easy, but I do keep hoping things will be a little easier, but so far that hasn’t really happened.

This past month we had my birthday, Pepper’s birthday, and Valentine’s Day all in a row. We survived and Pepper, at least, had so much fun. Now we’re getting ready for a small Easter celebration.

This past month we also attended a family birthday party, something I haven’t done in many years. We went ice skating and rode bumper cars on the ice. Pepper had a blast and I had fun too. Ice skating was hard for me. The first and only time I have ever been ice skating was when my Jason took me one year for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to be there and share Pepper’s first time ice skating without him, but I went. I skated the ice rink one time and was finished. Pepper made it a short distance before she was done. We both loved the bumper cars though.

My biggest concern with the ice skates was that I could not fall and be injured. I don’t have any backup so if I’m injured we are both royally fucked. I have the same thought about anything potentially dangerous these days. If I die Pepper will be an orphan. If Pepper dies I won’t survive it. She’s the only reason I’m still here since my husband died. Did any of you other widows get less brave and more fearful after your husband died or did you get more daring because you didn’t care if you lived or died? I feel like if Pepper wasn’t here I would do every crazy thing I could find to try until something eventually killed me.

I’m still feeling lonely. Pepper is amazing, but it’s hard not to always have a grownup to talk to and laugh with and cry with and complain to. I miss my best friend so much. It’s getting a bit better though I guess. We went to that birthday party where we saw people, other adults, even if I didn’t know any of them very well. We’re trying to get to some more events too. We’re going to a Mommy and Me Cupcake decorating event at a local play place tonight.

Events are hard though. I can’t drive because of the cataracts, glaucoma, iritis, and whatever other issues the eye doctor finds at each appointment. Thursday I go for more eye tests. I think it involves a shot this time too. But because I can’t drive and there isn’t much in walking distance it takes a lot of effort from several people to get us to any events. It’s often not worth the effort of trying to coordinate a ride and I feel like I need to save my ride requests for grocery shopping and doctors appointments, at least until I eventually get my eyes fixed.

Pepper had her five year old well visit this past month as well. She is growing like a weed, very bright, and strong. The only things we need to work on this year are getting her to eat more fruits and vegetables and to get her established with a dentist. She’s doing great and I know it, but it’s always nice to hear from a professional too.

The only other real news is on the moving front. My mother is moving to be closer to her husband’s job and Pepper and I will be moving in to their old house.The plan to have both houses fully moved by May 1st.

I’m so very torn. I don’t want to leave this apartment. Jason and I moved in here 9.5 years ago together and this is the only home we’ve ever known together. It’s the only place Pepper has ever lived. I don’t want to leave behind the only place we’ve ever been a family and couple together. I don’t want to risk losing any of that love or those memories. I don’t want to leave my home.

But we have to. This is the best choice at the moment. Pepper just turned five and in New York we have to start reporting her as being homeschooled in July. I want us in a different school district before we do that. One that is less harmful and pushy about public schooling. Not by much though because they are still the same regulations.

It will also get out of this apartment where the land lady has started being very difficult to deal with. The biggest reason to move is that it will be $200 less a month across bills which will help our financial situation dramatically. Pepper will also have a yard to play in and we will be off of the busiest street in town. We will however be even more away from everything and there will be nothing we can walk to if we don’t have transport. It’s a 15 minute walk down a steep hill just to check our mail! I’m not looking forward to that.

Location-wise it is not my ideal, but because my freelance income can be difficult to prove my renting options are limited, so renting from my mother is the best I can do at this time.

Pepper is having reservations about the move which is making me more fearful too, but this is really our only option and I’m trying to remind myself that this doesn’t have to be forever. It doesn’t have to be for a decade like this apartment was. It’s just the best choice for now and there are so many positives about this move.

  • The money saved.
  • The yard.
  • Being away from this landlady.
  • Being away from the busy traffic and violence of this neighborhood.
  • Having a whole room that will just need to house our bookshelves. I’m excited about our library. So so excited about that.

This is the right move to make even if I really don’t want to leave my Jason and my home behind. We’ve started moving some smaller furniture and boxes of things already. It’s too late to turn back now. It’s time for a new adventure for Pepper and I.

Birthday Gifts for a Five Year Old

Today is Miss Pepper’s fifth birthday. My sweet baby girl is getting way too big, way too fast. This year she is having her first real birthday party with extended family and some of her friends from storytime at the library. In years past it’s just been Pepper, Jason, myself, and Pepper’s three grandparents. I think the newness of a big birthday party will help edge out some of the sadness of not having Jason here to celebrate with us any more.

Pepper has asked for a mermaid themed birthday party and the most important part was a pin the tail on the mermaid game. I ordered the decor and plates on Amazon.

She has asked for pink cupcakes, shaped like a mermaid tail, and juiceboxes.

The goodie bags we put together for her friends are filled with bathbombs, nail polish, and lip gloss.

The gifts that I bought for her to open at her birthday party are a set of mermaid themed chapter books, a cooperative mermaid boardgame, a card game called Sleeping Queens, and a few surprise boxes that have llamas in them and one that has a dressup costume.

 

She also has four gifts she will get to open when she wakes up that day. These gifts are Zoob building sets. She seems to end up with a new building set each year on her birthday. Last year it was big girl Legos and this year it is Zoob. The special part about this gift is that Jason and I bought them while I was still pregnant with Pepper. We chose three sets that fit in our budget at the time, but there was another set Jason really wanted her to have too so he used his personal spending money to buy it for her, knowing it would be years before she was actually big enough to play with it. So eight months after her daddy died, Pepper still has a gift to open that he chose and bought especially for her, before she was even born. That’s a pretty special kind of birthday magic.

I can’t find the exact kits she has here because we bought them over five years ago at this point, but here is a picture of an example.

Pepper chose a special bow she wanted on her gift from Jason and she asks every day if she can open her present from daddy first.

There are other gifts too of course. Gifts shipped in from relatives around the country and ones that the party guests will bring, but I think it will be hard for them to top a gift hand chosen for her by her dead father.

I just hope her day is special and happy and filled with love. I’ll do my best to make it so.

Happy Birthday to my amazing little girl!

Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentine’s day is the day after my birthday, so it’s never been a big holiday, but it’s always been my favorite. Growing up our parents always gave a gift to my little brother and I and I’ve continued that with Pepper.

This year, our first year without my husband/Pepper’s father, I wasn’t sure how the day would go. It was traditionally a daddy spoils his girls a little kind of a day and without him it seems mostly meaningless.

Pepper and I are on opposite ends of every holiday though. I want to skip them all since Jason died and she wants to celebrate them all to her fullest extent.  So we’re going somewhere in the middle.

We each have one gift apiece and one gift to share. I chose things that would make us laugh. My goal for the year is to laugh. And my Jason would have wanted us to laugh and enjoy each other as much as possible.

Pepper is receiving a joke book with a dinosaur on the cover. Her and her daddy both loved dinosaurs and Pepper loves to make up and tell jokes. Her newest joke she made up is:

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Pepper

Pepper who?

Pepperoni on your pizza.

I think we will all get a lot of laughs from a new joke book. The Big Book of Silly Jokes for Kids by Carole P Roman

For a gift for myself, I asked on Instagram for recommendations of books that would make me laugh. One of the suggestions was Furiously happy by Jenny Lawson. It’s subtitle is a funny book about horrible things and my late husband and I had a knack for laughing at horrible things that shouldn’t be laughed at. Our dark and twisted senses of humor are one of the things that made us work so perfectly together. I’m expecting to love this.

Our shared gift is one that will make us think of our Jason while we use it. Jason was an avid rubik’s cube fan. He had mastered the 2×2 and 3×3 versions in the year before his death. He was just working on speed at that point. He was given a 4×4 last Valentine’s Day, but he was pretty far in to his dying by that point and never really got to start that one. Pepper loves games so when I saw this card game I thought it would be a perfect option to help us think of Jason on Valentine’s Day and every time after that when we play it.

Pepper also a few chocolate hearts and a card I made for her.

It won’t be a romantic holiday this year and it’s likely to be the saddest Valentine’s Day I’ve ever lived through, but there will hopefully be a little laughter in our home in Jason’s honor.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

 

Birthday Interview

Today is my birthday. I never thought I would have to celebrate another birthday without my husband, but here we are.

I have my daughter fill one of these sorts of sheets out every year to see how her answers change as she gets bigger. Last year I filled one out too and decided we should do it again this year. My answers are first and Peppers are underneath.

Name: Lori

Age: 33

Favorite food: potatoes

Favorite color: Blue

Favorite show: I don’t watch shows. I used to really love Gilmore Girls though.

When I grow up I want to be: Someone that gets paid to read books and drink coffee. This will always be my answer.

I like to play: Slot machine games on my phone.

My favorite book: I need to do a reread to be sure, but I’ll say it’s still The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.

My favorite restaurant: Red Lobster

My best friend: My late husband.

My favorite cartoon: Dinosaur Train

My favorite place to go: The book store.

My five year old’s answers:

Name: Pepper

Age: 5 (on Saturday)

Favorite food: Happy face fries

Favorite color: Pink

Favorite show: Anndroids

When I grow up I want to be: A ballet dancer and doctor

I like to play: toys

My favorite book: The Princess in Black

My favorite restaurant: Chinese Buffet

My best friend: Shannon, Jayla, and Stella

My favorite cartoon: My Little Pony

My favorite place to go: The library

It is interesting which things changed and which things stayed the same from one year to the next.

Sticker by Number

Sticker by Number

Reading is my favorite and most time intensive hobby, but a current obsession of mine is Paint by Sticker books. Depending on the brand of the book you’re using they are sometimes called Sticker Mosaics or Sticker by Number or Sticker Puzzles or some variation on those four. I love to do them while I watch booktube.

I discovered these just after my husband died in June of 2019. They have been such a wonderful way for me to relax and destress. Pepper helps sometimes and we have completed around 200 pictures at this point. I share them on a second Instagram account. I actually have three Instagrams. One for books, one for sticker by numbers, and one for the postcards I receive from postcrossing. I pick up my sticker books anywhere from The Dollar Tree, to Michaels, to Walmart, to the grocery store. But most have been ordered off of Amazon.

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The premise is so simple. You have a picture with small spaces that are numbered

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You have a page of stickers that are also numbered.

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You match the numbers to the spaces until all of the stickers are finished

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and at the end you have finished picture.

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I have books of mermaids, unicorns, cats, sea creatures, robots, music icons, travel posters, famous paintings, and more. I have started or finished 32 separate books.

The ones with the simplest pictures are by Publications International. They publish as Brain Games Sticker by Number. The pictures usually have around 50 stickers. They occasionally have issues though. I had one book that had the numbers labeled wrong. There was a sticker numbered 52 and the puzzle only went to 50. The stickers were all there and it turned out okay, but the labeling was incorrect and frustrating. However, the stickers are big and easy to place. These are even simpler than the children’s versions other brands produce.

The  best put together and most impressive books are through Workman Publishing and are called Paint by Sticker. They have an adult series that is wonderful. The finished projects are beautiful and detailed, but you are looking at several hundred stickers per creation. I think the most I have seen is 450 stickers to create one picture. But they look amazing afterwards. Very worth it in my opinion. The children’s line from this publisher has a flaw that they are working on. The kids books sometimes include glitter stickers and they are beautiful and fun, but they don’t stay stuck. They curl and unstick from your completed project and in some cases from the sticker sheet they come on. I messaged the company and they are working on a solution, but in the meantime we either laminate them when we’re done or just put them in the trash.

That ends up being the fate of all of our projects. Some we laminate and display, some we cut up in to bookmarks to keep or to share with friends and family, and most end up in the garbage can. The process of building them is where my enjoyment and value come from, not from the display. There is no way we could display 200 of these anyway.

There are other books that are really more of a sticker puzzle then a paint by number. Those ones don’t come with numbers or labels of any kind. You get a page with shapes and a page of stickers and have to figure out where they fit together. Those are way less fun for me. I want the process to be fairly mindless so those are just too much work for me, but I have a couple of those as well.

There are all sorts of varieties, complication levels, and subjects so if you want to give them a try I’m sure you can find some that will interest you.

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Have you ever tried these before?