October and November

The months of October and November have been so full of love. We've enjoyed the change of seasons, the time spent with family, the extra learning at school, the projects at work, and the view of farmland from our windows. 

At the beginning of October we were able to spend a day up in Michigan to celebrate the coming of Ezra David, my brother and sister-in-law's son due in December.

The sister-in-law's now outnumber the original four sisters! So cool that there are 9 of us Mangione girls now!

Newlyweds Nate and Yoonju came all the way from California to visit us along with our Florida brother Tony, Marissa, and their two children Reyna and Louie!

At the beginning of November Missi and I met our friend Steph in Fort Lauderdale for a couple of days on the beach to celebrate Stephanie's wedding! Stephanie was a bridesmaid in both Missi's and my wedding, and since Stephanie is having a very small, parent/sibling only wedding, Missi and I decided to whisk her away to make sure we got to celebrate her wedding too!

The weekend after that was Grandpa's funeral, but then we celebrated Thanksgiving at home in Ohio with our Ohio family. Thanksgiving was full of amazing and more-than-we-could-possibly-eat food, lots of laughter, giggles from kids, naps, and games centered around a beautiful table set by my mother-in-law, Linda. 

(Thanksgiving pictures stolen from my mother-in-law's Facebook page - haha!)

We're only missing pictures of Aunt Vicki and Aunt Chelsea (Aunt Vicki took the picture and Chelsea came later after work). 

Our Thanksgiving Day family photo:

After Black Friday shopping on Friday, we spent Saturday morning before the Michigan vs. Ohio game picking out a tree at the local tree farm and then after watching the game with our Ohio family, came home to decorate the tree and the house.

December is right around the corner and we can't wait for Christmas at the farmhouse!

Charity Rae

Nine days before my Grandpa passed and the day before CJ's Birthday, Charity crossed her electric fence and ran head on in front of a passing truck in the street. She was killed instantly.

She was pretty spooked when the combines came to harvest the grain that day in the surrounding property of our house and we think that is what caused her to cross the fence.

Charity was our first dog and we definitely struggled with her hyper puppy stages. OK, I struggled with it the most! But the last few weeks of her life she had really calmed down and we had started to bring her in at night and at meal times so she would feel more a part of the family. Even my non-pet-lovers-heart had grown attached to her.

Losing Charity hit us all hard since she was so young and it was so unexpected. We will always remember our first dog at the farmhouse!

March 10, 2017--November 1, 2017

Capri and CJ's Birthdays

Capri's Birthday comes only a few weeks after Chris's, and then CJ's follows Capri's exactly two weeks after. Fall is the Birthday season at our house!

Capri wanted all things unicorn for her Birthday. She got a unicorn cake, slippers, robe, doll, and book for her birthday, and I think it is safe to say she is still loving unicorns and now has all the "stuff" to prove it. She is a spunky, frank, loving, and gentle little four-year old. We never know what Capri will say next and are always amazed at how deeply she reads and loves people. 

CJ got the Star Wars LEGO's Death Star for his Birthday and then a party at the bowling alley. We did a small immediately family party for him at home, but he was so overjoyed with his LEGO's and bowling that I am not sure he has stopped bouncing off the walls since. CJ has worked so hard with his dad and I on this house, taking care of his sisters, and keeping up with all of his chores, that we really wanted to spoil him this year. He couldn't have been more grateful, and that grateful heart makes it all worth it for his dad and I. I can't believe he is already 11 years old, but then he's been acting 11 for a few years now and deserves it. 

Grandpa's Gone

My Grandpa passed away a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. We knew it was coming. We had been prepared since the spring. But as many of you know who have experienced loss, being prepared doesn't really make it any easier. I've discovered just how selfish I am now that I have lost two special loved ones. Instead of focusing on the deceased's happiness, I focus too much on the gaping hole in my life that they've left behind. 

The final curtain of life leaves everyone left behind wishing for an encore, and with Grandpa it was no different. I wish I had visited more. I wish I had asked for one more story. I wish I had sung one last song with him. The Grandpa who inspired and challenged me in so many ways is now gone. He was the guiding force behind so much of what shaped our family. He passed on the stories, the debates, the musical talent, the desire to win, and the sarcasm and sharp wit that we all boast of today. One of the most stubborn people I've ever known, he never missed a chance to argue his point, but also always listened to the opposing side, encouraging them to continue the debate. Always the encourager, he respected those with drive and never doubted his children's ability to succeed. 

My early memories of him involved a lot of teasing that would make me laugh, a lot of pranking or provoking that would normally get me in trouble with Mom (but Grandpa would get me out of), and a lot of singing. As I got older, the teasing turned in to more serious talks. Grandpa spent hours telling stories of his Army adventures in Europe, his theological beliefs on Christianity, his perspective on American history, and his successes in the music world. When he wasn't engaging in stimulating conversation, he was outside playing football (even in his 70's) or doing some heavy lifting as if it was nothing. Grandpa was 5'2", but he was every bit of six feet tall in my eyes.

I got to visit him in May to say goodbye. He was already mostly gone. I knew he wouldn't be here much longer. Even though he was in a lot of pain and barely there, he made a point to hold my hand, hug me, kiss me on the cheek, and tell me he loved me.

There is nothing like a Grandpa's love and I miss him so much. 

Five other siblings and myself drove out to Idaho for the funeral (the other siblings flew). Driving 30 hours without stopping except for gas was an experience. We saw Mount Rushmore, which was cathartic. I could hear Grandpa's philosophies and discussion of American history booming in my head as I marveled at the monument and the states we drove through that I had never seen before. 

We were greeted by Mom and Grandma when we made it to Idaho and Mom was beaming like I've never seen her before. She told us how Grandpa's passing was as beautiful as it could be. He was surrounded by all of his children and his wife. Grandma was telling him how much she loved him, and he was telling everyone how much he loved them. There were prayers, there was singing, there was the promise of heaven, and Grandpa made it known that he had received God's love and was excited to see Him soon. My Mom loved her Dad so unselfishly, that she was focusing on her happiness for her dad to be rid of earth and walking with Jesus in heaven. Her enthusiasm was catching and we all relished being with the family in honor of Grandpa's passing. Happy tears, laughter, love, and joy filled Grandma's house as we reminisced about Grandpa's life.

I have always been more selfish than my Mom, but seeing her unselfish love for her Dad pricked my heart and convicted me. The tears flowed and my heart softened towards letting loved ones go. My Grandpa worked hard and loved hard here on earth. He would be so happy for us that we all have each other still. That we loved him so much. And that we were all there to celebrate his life. But Grandpa is truly so much happier to be over with the pain and stresses of this world. I realized then that I really am happy for him, even though I miss him so much.

Grandpa's viewing and memorial service was beautiful. As taps were played when he was laid in to the ground, I couldn't help but think about all the times that Grandpa had proudly played his trumpet. Music was perhaps Grandpa's number one love on earth outside of his wife and children, and he would have been proud to hear those brass notes played as he was laid to rest.

This Thanksgiving I focused on one of the gifts I am most grateful for. The gift of having a grandfather. I am so thankful that I got to experience the joy of loving and being loved by my grandfather for the past 35 years. I am also grateful that I know that my grandpa is happy in heaven now. My children are blessed with the best grandpas around, and now I get to sit back and watch them interact with their grandpas the same way I got to with mine. When I look at it like that, my selfishness dissipates. There really is no gaping hole. The next generation of grandpas are still here and loving and being loved just as fiercely as the generation before. . . and for that, I only cry tears of joy. 


Family Pictures 2017

I couldn't wait to re-create our Christmas picture from last year so we could compare how much the kids have grown. Hard to imagine that we've owned this house for one year now and this is already our second Christmas picture taken here. I love the warm and moody Autumn day we had that each of these pictures capture, but I especially love all the beautiful smiles and love that I see here. 

Christmas cards will definitely get out early this year since they are already ordered--I can already hear Christmas music playing in my head. I CANNOT wait till Christmas this year! Our first Christmas spent at the farmhouse and I know exactly where I'll put the tree and all my decorations. 

We're on the countdown to get more house projects done, so I'll be posting more pictures of the house soon, but until then...gaze upon these beauties . . .