Argh.  Groan. Ulhhhh.  That’s how I feel when I look back to my ten day holiday travel extravaganza.

You know how sometimes when you worry about something only to have it be just as difficult as you imagined?  Yea. That.

(I’m gonna ATTEMPT to make this trip recap as interesting and comical as possible but you know, some stuff is serious.)

First off the travel, oh my gosh, the traveling.  5 days of being in the car for 8 hours is no joke.  In fact, it’s quite miserable.  Your butt gets sore, your husband won’t stop coughing, you feel so bad for your dog you want to cry, and thought of McDonald’s makes you sick (a tragedy in itself).  I sure as hell didn’t see that coming!  False.  I did, I just thought I’d handle it better.

The transitioning of Grandpa F to an Alzheimer’s nursing home was indeed the most painful part of our normally happy holiday season.  Since he’d only been there a week, it was pretty fresh and unfamiliar for everyone, including Grandma J.  It was also weird navigating how much time he could last with us outside the home versus how much time we were going to spend celebrating there with him.

We ended up visiting his nursing home multiple times and it all hit us pretty hard initially.  It’s one thing to know something’s happening in the back of your mind, it’s another to see your strong role model grandfather walking around disoriented in an adult playroom next to other people who have no clue what’s going on at any moment. We all were in tears or uncomfortable with our emotions at some point over the trip.

At the Alzheimer's Home

At the Alzheimer’s Home

Grandma J was mostly non-functional and her three children really stepped up to the plate, cooking, cleaning, organizing, running errands, and managing Christmas.  The Mother was AMAZING, she went a week early and was a total rock for her mother.  I felt like since my mom was being so strong for her mom, I should do the same but I doubt I was as good at it as her.  Everyone was a little bit on edge and  Grandma J was grieving a different loss than what she grieved when the disease first took him.  This time it was losing her physical partner and coming to terms with what it means to really live alone.  She was also battling the guilt of, “Did I do the right thing?”  Yes, yes she did.  Being a care-taker is an exhausting task mentally and physically, and she did it for almost four years.

Since The Sister and a couple of my cousins were missing on Christmas eve, it just felt like an “off-year” in general.  Auntie B and I kept things light by shouting, “Balk Tradition,” and “It’s a year of change!”  Because everything did feel different and new.  This is hard for a family that’s done the same thing for over 30 years.  But Christmas won’t always be in Bismarck and not everyone will make it home every year and people will get older and traditions will change.

This photo is warm and cozy and makes me so happy.

Presents, games, and family. This photo is warm and cozy and makes me so happy.

Additionally, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was sick, and I was constantly playing a game of dodging coughs and sneezes and hugs and handshakes when I could.  (shudder)

On our drive back to Kansas I called my Grandma to ask how she’s doing and she sounded great!  She was going to my Aunt’s house for a NYE party and had plans to visit Grandpa at the home that afternoon.  Then she proceeded to tell me she thinks that when he says he wants to go home it’s because he wants to go to heaven.  He’s done with this earthly life.  Cue me crying again.  Isn’t that the sweetest/saddest thing you’ve ever heard!?!

Our night back in MN was spent in urgent care getting The Scottish meds for his epic cough, turns out he has bronchitis.  FUN.  Then it was off to Chicago, exhausted but pumped.  The first day and a half were grand and it as so good to hold my nanny kiddos and spend some time with my former bosses, as well as visit our good friends whom we miss terribly.


I still look sick but I was actually starting to feel better this day.

I still look sick but I was actually starting to feel better this day.

But then I got sick.  Like food poisoning or stomach flu sick.  Up all night to the toilet, BOTH ENDS sick.  The next day I literally laid in bed with nausea and the chills, unable to sit up straight let alone do anything with anyone.  We had to cancel a small pizza party we had planned with friends and poor Littlest C and Big C were so sweet to check on me a lot.  They played with McKenna and The Scottish spent time with the family but I felt so damn robbed.  I only get a few days with them every four or five months, why did one of them have to be spent miserable in bed?

By the time we left on Monday December 30th, I was so ready for my own bed.  Definitely a trip for the record books in that it was pretty UN jolly and super NOT festive.  The Scottish even made me count all the GOOD things that happened and all the people I got to see, but I was too busy whining to get really into it.

That said, if I saw you at all over my break, family or friend, it was a highlight for me.  Thank you.

And don’t ever expect us to plan another trip like this AGAIN.

How was your holiday season?  Anyone else battling the plague or new family dynamics?

I leave you with Littlest C in McKenna’s crate.  Adorbs.


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11 Responses to “Germs and Change, A Holiday in Review”

  1. Sara Michelle

    Good thoughts being sent your way…
    1) when you move to MN, that’s one less drive/trip you need to make.
    2) the hubby and I travel to Chicago all the time, so you can make the drive and visit friends with me while he goes and spends money on autographs, at least 3 times a year!
    3) it was great to see you and the ladies briefly on Sat, but I am excited to be able to call you and make other more random plans and make some coffee house “our place.”
    4) I can’t pay much, but you can nanny my booger when he is driving me bonkers over the summer 🙂
    5) what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

    • Stephanie

      1. So true!
      2. Yes, road trip to Chicago, I love it.
      3. Yay for random plans. Now to pick a coffee shop!
      4. Aww, that’d be fun!
      5. Hell yea. 🙂

  2. The Glue

    Great post two-six! Though, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t reprimand you for using “adorbs.” Top 5 worst abbreviations of all time. However, I’m glad you spent all of that time traveling and being in the car to see your fam!

    • Stephanie

      Thanks! 🙂 Of course you can’t let me slide on those abbrevs- oops. (hehe) It was so good to have some quality time with you guys!

  3. Kelly

    I’m so sorry about your grandpa Steph! I can’t even imagine what that was like and what it’s like for your gram. I’m sorry to hear everyone was sick, esp the Scottish with bronchitis! I had it last year and was sick for over a month, nothing to fool around with either – you can get pneumonia from it. Glad y’all went to urgent care. Good luck with packing and moving up to MN. BE GLAD you’re not here today lol

  4. Geno

    Nice post, it certainly was different this year. I am excited for the next chapter; the Scottish, you, and the pup living in MN!

  5. Kelly

    It’s so hard when things change, especially when you see your loved ones suffer because of it. And watching grandparents age is so hard. My heart broke for you, because I have been (and am) where you stand. Thankfully most of you could all be together to bring some joy to both your grandma and grandpa.

    • Stephanie

      Thanks Kelly for the empathetic words. 🙂 I try to remember that we got to enjoy my grandpa for many years, and that is not the case for everyone. We are lucky to have such a close family, it’s really a blessing.



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