Monday, June 24, 2013

Four Blessings

Why am I drawn here on nights like tonight? Ugh. I feel like such a raw mess sometimes. This blog that I once so faithfully updated has lost its main character, and I still don't know what to do about that.

It’s been quite some time since my last post. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it means that I’m coping a little better these days. Or maybe it just means that it’s hard to keep finding words to describe the insane highs and lows of our crazy life. This post will have to include the both the highs and the lows- it seems only fitting.

Oh, Carter. What can I say to even begin to describe our little ray of sunshine? He’s not quite as sunshine-y as he used to be, but he’s still the happiest baby on the planet. His Charlie Brown head is massive, and it stays decorated with bruises most days. (It must be hard to hold it up. :) ) He’s a butterball, but he’s gotten longer and leaner since he (FINALLY) started walking. He waited almost seventeen months to take the plunge, but he’s finally walking on his own. Nothing is safe in our house these days, and even with two boxes overflowing with toys, he manages to find entertainment elsewhere in the house. Things like shoes (a favorite), the dishwasher (that he prefers to use as a recliner) and paper (that he inexplicably loves to eat).

He LOVES Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with a passion that’s almost comical. He has a little Mickey chair that he got for Christmas, and he’ll hand us the remote and go sit in his chair when he decides it’s Mickey time.  He also loves the Nutri-System commercial with Terry Bradshaw. He’ll drop anything he’s doing to go grin at Terry when he’s on the TV, saying, “ba-ba” (Bradshaw?) the whole time. If he ever gets the chance to meet him in person, I think it would be the highlight of his life.

We still have some issues with his eating habits, since he’s super picky about everything. The foods he still loves are string cheese, oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, goldfish, spaghetti and pizza. The foods he still hates are… Well, pretty much everything else. We’re working on it, but it looks like he’s destined to be a picky eater like his Daddy. That’s hard for a Mama who loves to feed people.

One of his favorite activities is opening and closing doors. Cabinets, drawers, doors- he loves them all. And I really think he has bat ears. That kid can hear a door open across the house, and he’ll make a beeline for it, trying to get there before the door shuts.

He loves the animal sound song, still, and loves most animals. However, if Trent moos at him like a cow, he’ll pucker up and cry like somebody burned him. He has no issues with pictures of cows, or cows on his beloved Mickey cartoons, but don’t moo around him! The kid is definitely quirky, but he didn’t stand a chance, with parents like us.

Speaking of quirky, he can’t stand the feeling of grass in his toes. (I think he gets that special quirk from me.) Even crawling, he keeps his feet raised in the air behind him. It’s about the cutest thing ever. :)

The girls continue to grow like beautiful little weeds. Kaitlyn is as tall as me now, and Rylie is pretty close, too. Kaitlyn has the sweetest heart, and she constantly amazes me. She’s one of those kids who has it all- she excels at sports, she’s super smart, she loves to read, she is beautiful, and she is an amazing artist. Her dream is to become a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, so she can help other babies like Holden. She makes a Mama proud, proud, proud.

Rylie bug is stuck at that age where she’s not quite a teenager, but she’s not a little girl, either. She gets a new freckle every day, it seems, and even though she hates them, I love each and every one of those freckles. She is still smiley Rylie, even with the attitude that comes along with this age. She loves animals with all of her heart, and she’s going to be an amazing veterinarian someday. She looks so much like me, it’s scary, and she’s going to be a full-fledged teenager before I know it. It’s a terrifying thought, but I can’t wait to see what kind of woman she’s going to become.

I don’t know how we got so lucky, but we hit the jackpot with our kids. We have been blessed beyond belief with all of them.

Our other sweet blessing is the reason I’m up in the middle of the night, pouring out my rambling heart. I woke up in a cold sweat, with tears running down my face, after another one of those dreams. I pray every night for one of the good dreams. I would love the chance to relive the moments we spent here at home, rocking and snuggling, oblivious to what would soon break us in a million little pieces. Instead, I get the dreams of his last few days. The ones I would give anything to never relive again. I can’t even describe the horror of holding a child while he runs into our Father’s arms. I can’t even try. I so want to forget, but I have solid weeks where the dreams haunt me nightly.

Sometimes it feels like the hole in my heart will never grow smaller.

Sometimes it seems like any healing I’ve discovered in the last two years can disappear in a heartbeat.

I’m always on the edge of panic, thinking the worst. I just know that something horrible is going to happen- something else beyond my control. Again. A text message from the girls’ father? Something awful must have happened. Carter’s running a fever? I keep myself awake thinking about the many things that could be wrong with him. We need to run labs, check all of his numbers. We need to fix it before it’s too late. Of course, it’s usually teething or an ear infection. And my ex-husband is usually just asking a simple question. I know I’m being ridiculous. But I can’t stop the crazy sometimes.

It’s so hard to remember that all good things aren’t temporary.

Everything was always beyond our control. We were so helpless, even as we tried our best to help. Most of the time, we were running on faith alone. You have to have faith in something when everything else is gone. Along the way, you lose faith in everything else. In the medical system. In the doctors, who aren’t gods. Even in ourselves as parents.

I can hold Carter when he falls down and bumps his head, and I can tell him that everything’s going to be okay. I can promise that the pain will go away, and his happy little life will continue as always. I never had that chance with Holden.

“You are loved”. That was the only promise I was ever able to make to him. Not, “You are safe.” Not, “It will be okay.” Not, “Mommy will make it all better.”

“You are loved.”

It’s not a bad promise, really, but it’s a lonely one. I wish with all that I am that I was able to make and keep more promises to him.

I try to continue to give him purpose. To make things better for other kids like him, even though we can’t help our Holden anymore. I know that he’s alive in all that I do. That helps, a tiny bit, to keep him close to me, even when he’s so very far away.

July is almost here, and while I’ve always loved the time of barbeques, snow cones, fireworks and sunshine, those things are now shadowed by a brave little heart we lost too soon. While most people are looking forward to the 4th of July holiday, I’m remembering the nightmare. July is anything but a happy month for us.

I lived close to the edge for so long, and almost two years ago, I fell over it. I lived to tell the tale, but just barely.

As Christians, we’re supposed to celebrate when one of our own makes it to heaven. I’m finding it really hard- impossible, really- to celebrate Holden’s Heaven Day each year. I don’t want to celebrate. As selfish as it may be, I want him here.

I’m dreading this coming month, and I’m praying for mercy. I’m praying for my sweet little man to stay close to my heart these next few weeks. July is brutal.

Many days around this time of the year, I wake up and forget to be thankful through the pain. For another day on the planet. For three remaining children who are happy, healthy and safe. For friends and family who have been with us in our darkest hours, and continue to walk beside us in this journey. For a husband who remembers that “Daddy” is his most important title in life. I can’t promise to be better today- it’s already a rough one, and I’m pretty busy feeling sorry for myself. But tomorrow, now that’s a new day. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up and remember to be thankful. For everything.

Until then, I would really appreciate your prayers.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday, Holden

Oh, my sweet Holden- Today is a hard one. I can't hold you. I can't see you. I can't kiss those sweet cheeks I loved so much. But I hope you can feel my love for you- today and every day.

I’ve been dreading this day for weeks, just like last year. I can make myself physically sick with dread and anxiety, and it never seems to get easier. February 2nd is one of the most joyful and heartbreaking days of the year. I don’t know how it can be both.

I never could have imagined what our future held when you were born three years ago. I didn’t know that your heart was so sick when I held you for the first time. All I knew was that you were perfect. When I held you for the last time, seventeen months later, I still thought you were perfect.

I can’t imagine my life without you in it- even if you exist only in my memories. I can't imagine my life now without those seventeen precious months.

It's such a horrible, sickening symmetry. You were mine for that long, and now it’s been almost the same amount of time since I’ve held you in my arms. Seventeen months since we returned you to our Father's arms.

Seventeen months without you, but seventeen months closer to you, too.

Thank God for the knowledge that I’ll share your birthday with you again. Someday. May the angels hold you close until you're back in my arms where you belong.

Thank you for the extraordinary pleasure of being your Mama. Thank you for being our miracle. Thank you for the legacy you left behind. Thank you for being mine.

Happy birthday, my sweet little man. You have always been loved beyond reason. Then, now and forever.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Holden's days were documented in such detail (a fact that I'm sure would have embarrassed him greatly had he made it into his teenage years), but Carter has never had the same honor. He may not face the same journey as his brother, but it's a journey all the same. I'd hate for him to think that we didn't record anything about his first year on the planet, so here's a post all about Carter. :)

We'll start with the vitals: He is a little over twenty pounds and almost thirty inches long. His head is HUGE- above the 95th percentile. (This has earned him the nickname of Charlie Brown. :)) He has eight teeth, all in the front, and his canines and molars are on their way.

Our sweet little boy has found his voice! After months of being the quietest, sweetest baby ever, he has recently developed a mind of his own. He's still pretty sweet, but he knows what he wants now, for sure. In fact, one of his favorite words is DAT! As in, "I want DAT! Dat! Dat!" All day long, every day, he wants DAT. It would be maddening if it weren't so stinking cute. His other words include mama, dada, hot, dog and bah (bye?).

Most moms are biased, but I really think my baby is a genius. :) He will point to just about anything you ask him. He knows where my nose, ears and mouth are located, and he has already figured out the "Work smart, not hard" philosophy. Of course, that intelligence makes him a little harder to parent, since he seems to be a step ahead of us most of the time, but I hope he keeps that curiosity and quest for knowledge throughout his life.

He's taken a few faltering steps on his own, but he's still mostly content to army crawl his way through the house. He pulls up on anything that stands still, but he's scared to let go to walk. In fact, the only way he'll walk is while holding on to two adult fingers. Not one, but two. He's quite adamant about needing them both, and will plop right down on his little butt if one finger is taken away. One of these days, maybe he'll realize that he doesn't need the safety net. :)

Of course, he may not see the need to walk just yet. His army crawl is quite efficient- and pretty darn cute, too. He is crazy fast, especially if he hears a door open. One of his favorite activities is opening and closing doors.

Crawling has also given him new opportunities to stuff his face with anything he can find on the floor. He's a little Hoover! He can spot the tiniest speck of something on the floor, and it's in his mouth before I know what's happening. I've lost count of the number of times I've said, "That had better be a puff!"

Another favorite thing to do is play with balls. Any shape, size and color- He loves them all! He already has quite the pitch, and I'm hoping he continues to develop that into a professional baseball career. Mama can dream, right??

He's obsessed with feet- his own and everyone else's, too. (God must really have a sense of humor, because I can't stand the nasty things!) We can't keep shoes or socks on him, even when it's freezing cold outside. Somebody should invent some kind of sock that can't be pulled off by a baby's determined little fingers- that person would make a fortune!

Carter is really into Mickey Mouse Clubhouse these days. He'll crawl across the house as fast as he can move those little arms when he hears the Hot Dog Dance start playing. His other favorites include anything musical and (inexplicably) the Empire commercial- apparently, that jingle is irresistible to babies. (You just sang it in your head, too, didn't you?)

Like most babies, he loves to empty things, but isn't so much interested in putting them back where they belong. It's not unusual to find a case of soft drinks rolling around on the floor, or to find an entire stack of paper plates strewn across the kitchen. I could probably avoid the messes, but I like to pick my battles. If it's not a danger to him, I usually let him explore.

Keeping him occupied while cooped up inside has proven to be a challenge. Thankfully, living in Texas means that we occasionally get a break from freezing temperatures in January, and we take full advantage of the perfect 72 degree days. He would still live outside, if we'd let him.

Mealtimes have also become more challenging. Carter would eat anything I spooned into his mouth for his entire first year. Some switch flipped on his first birthday, and now his palate is a bit more discriminating. He continues to love oatmeal, puffs, cheese and yogurt, while new foods are met with a closed mouth. He takes after his Mama in the texture area, and won't pick up anything that has a weird texture. (This aversion does not, however, apply to things found on the floor. I don't understand how that works.) That means most finger foods are out, but we're still working on it. I might still be feeding him when he's ten, but that's okay. He's worth it. :)

All in all, Carter's first year has passed by in a joyful blur. He's mellow, happy and full of personality. If all babies were as easygoing as him, I'd have a million of them. (Or not- they're expensive little creatures!)

I'm soaking in all of the slobbery sugars I can, because I know that these days will be nothing but a memory before I know it.

I am so thankful for that hard-earned knowledge- I know that none of these days are guaranteed. I know now to treasure each and every day while we're still living in it.

We are so thankful for our Carter. Our stinkbug. Our rainbow after the storm.

God is good, all the time. :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Empty Stockings

Here I am, once again, ready to pour my heart out on the pages of a blog. I'm drawn here again tonight when my heart feels too fragile to do anything else. This blog is one of those tiny connections to my Holden that I can't seem to let go.

It's been a hard few weeks. Honestly, it's been a hard few years.

Some days, it's all I can do to keep the smile plastered on my face.

We bought Carter's first shoes this week, and I had no idea how much that would break my heart. It should be one of the happiest rites of passage in a child's first year, and I just want to cry because Holden never had a pair of shoes. He went into the hospital before he ever needed them, and we never thought to buy any. Just one of my many regrets, I suppose.

Holden celebrated his first birthday on the 8th floor of CMC- Carter will be celebrating his this weekend at home. Carter is already in size 4 diapers, and Holden never made it past size 3. Carter weighs more now than Holden ever did. The comparisons are endless and so unfair. These may all seem like such small, trivial things, but part of my heart is a little bit shattered knowing that Carter is already bigger than Holden ever had the chance to grow.

I'm so very thankful, yet still reeling at the unfairness of it all.

It seems harder to hold it together this time of year, because I'm constantly torn. Carter celebrated his first Christmas, and the girls were spoiled rotten by an enormous family who all love them dearly. I am overjoyed by how much love my children have surrounding them. We are all healthy and whole and loved, and I should be thankful for every one of those blessings- yet my heart aches for the blessing taken from us too soon.

This was the second Christmas celebrated without Holden. The second one was worse than the first, I think. The first was so painful, but still so new. I kept thinking I would be okay if I could just get through it all. This year has been so much harder, because it's sinking in that this is a yearly thing. This is forever.

I've been struggling this holiday season, even as my blessings seem to multiply each day. I'm crying more often. I'm not sleeping well. I'm having bad dreams- those dreams- almost nightly, and I wake up aching so much for a little boy who exists only in my dreams and memories now. I will always and forever want more.

Most of Holden's first and only Christmas keepsakes are packed away in his box, but I faithfully hang his stocking each year. Each year it remains empty. It's such a tangible reminder of the tremendous loss that we live with each and every day. His Christmas things should be in his stocking. Not in a box.

This isn't right. This isn't natural. This isn't the way things are supposed to be.

My heart goes out to every parent who has had to put their child's life in a box.