Another Christmas...

As I've mentioned in the past, the anticipation of the holidays - especially the firsts without a loved one - is worse than the actual holiday.

Leading up to Christmas, I had no idea what the day would hold emotionally for everyone. I knew that I would be okay because I would be distracted by Collen. This was our third Christmas without Ayden. The first and second were super, super hard. I fought back tears and held a lump in my throat through the entire day both years. This year, Collen kept us so distracted, it was hard to focus on the loss we were feeling. But it was there. When we gathered together as a family and I looked at Collen playing...imagining the 2 and a half year old who should be there also...running around...excited about Christmas and spending time with family. I never forget that there should be another excited child in the room....never.

My dad's absence was greatly felt. When it came time for the blessing for our meal at my grandma's (my dad's family), my dad always spoke the prayer. This year, my uncle stepped in - as it should be - and through tears and a broken voice (and heart), he spoke a beautiful prayer over the family. Candles were lit in memory of our loved ones in heaven. It was hard to see that extra candle on the table this year - my father's candle. Not hearing his voice, his laughter....not seeing him with Collen...was very, very hard. But like I said, Collen was a great distraction for all of us. We had to be strong and watching the joy on his face was enough to keep us joyful and mindful of our blessings despite our pain. I "heard" my dad there with my family as my uncle responded to Collen's jibber-jabber with "You did?!" - my dad ALWAYS said that to Ayden and Collen when they would coo...or speak that baby jibberish. I sat next to my uncle purposefully. I needed to feel the presence of a big, daddy body next to mine. I needed to loop my arm through his, as I would my dad, to help me feel closer to him again...especially at Christmas. My uncle is a lot like my dad in demeanor and even it helped (if that makes sense...hope it does). We all had our moments where we broke - and that was okay. It helps me to see others hurting. I know that sounds terrible, but don't misunderstand my meaning here. When I looked over and saw my cousin crying....knowing that his dad's sadness and tears (my uncle) triggered his tears...triggered the loss he helps me to see that because it shows me that they miss him, too. My mom,my grandma, my uncles, my sister, DJ, Jeremy, and myself aren't the only ones missing him. The extended family members miss him...neighbors miss him...friends miss him...people he met a handful of times miss him. It just helps to know he is not forgotten. Just as I've said in the past with Ayden - it would hurt me more to feel like people forgot him. And people continue to remind me that Ayden is not forgotten. And my dad won't be forgotten either.

Collen's Christmas was filled with family, fun, too many gifts to count (he is absolutely blessed beyond belief!), joy, laughter, and so many smiles. It warmed my heart to spend this Christmas with him. Last Christmas he was 4 months old. I was excited but full of fear. 4 months will forever be a milestone of fear for me - it's the one Ayden missed by 2 days. We thought we were in the clear. We thought we were past the "peak" time for SIDS. And like most parents, we thought it could never happen to us. Last year, I was operating on auto-pilot...surviving...praying fervently for each day to come and go and allow me to keep my baby. We have now seen a 2nd Christmas with Collen. This Christmas was much more relaxed. I allowed myself to enjoy it and revel in the twinkle in his little eyes on Christmas morning. Even if he didn't really understand, he knew he was surrounded by those who love him most in the world (and in Heaven...I believe his big brother, PaPa, and Great PaPa and Grandpas were there, too.) I made it a point to fully immerse myself in this experience with Collen. 1. because I didn't want to wallow in what we were missing. I wanted to dwell on our blessings and all the joy we still have in our lives. 2. I know better than most that I'm not promised another day with my child. So, I make it a point to do my best to never take a single second for granted. It can be gone in the blink of an eye.

My mindset has evolved over the past 2 and a half years. Yes, I miss Ayden. More than anyone could ever imagine. He is my first born, and I will forever share a bond with him that I won't share with any of our other children. I was his mother first. I felt his kicks and jabs first. I loved him first (don't confuse that with "most" because I love he and his brother equally and just as fully). I found my purpose as a mother through Ayden, and I am a better mother today because of him. And my heart was shattered when he had to leave my world. I have experienced the entire realm of grief....and have gone through the cycle numerous times. I find that now, I am a point where I can say, "I'm okay." I know that Ayden is safe. I know that he is okay. I know that I will be with Ayden again. He's waiting for me, and each passing day is one more step closer to him. My purpose, now, is not to dwell in the loss and the grief, but to live my life so that I can be joined with him again...and so that his brother and future siblings (if there are to be any) will also join him in Heaven. This life is full of loss. I don't like it. It's hard to accept. But, if you're able to find can face loss head on knowing that it is only temporary. Ayden isn't gone forever. My dad isn't gone forever. We have only been separated for a short time. If I look at it that way, facing the hard days here aren't so daunting.

I hope you all had a blessed Christmas. I know that many of you had difficult holidays due to loss and missing loved ones. I pray that you find comfort in your memories and that you are able to find hope to help you through. God bless.

"Christmas" Movies

I think everyone has their list of movies that are their "must-sees" for Christmas. I thought it would be fun to share mine with you. Comment with your must-see Christmas favorites!

1. Meet Me in St. Louis - starring the incredible Judy Garland. This is my #1 must-see! I try to watch it every year on Christmas Eve. It puts me in the ultimate Christmas Spirit. Beautiful of my all-time favorites!

2. The Family Stone - I watched this one early this year because I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it at Christmas time this year. I love this movie for so many reasons! Mostly because I love Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, and Dermot Mulrooney! :)

3. Elf - This is one I have to watch while wrapping gifts. Never gets old!

4. A Christmas Story - We don't have cable anymore, so I never get to see the 24 hour marathon! haha, but I do manage to catch glimpses while we're visiting family. Fa ra ra ra ra!

5. Lord of the Rings Trilogy - According to my sister, these are "Christmas" movies. Every year for the past few years, we have bunkered down and watched the trilogy together. Last year, (I believe) my sister, myself, and my dad attempted to watch all 3 together. It never happens because one of us always fell asleep, but we shared a common bond with these movies. We love them and enjoy breaking them out at Christmas!

6. The Nativity Story - Let's not forget the reason for the season! I love this movie, and it will become a movie we watch together each year at Christmas to remind us of the true reason we celebrate not just at Christmas, but throughout the entire year. Celebrate the birth of Christ and the sacrifice He made for us!

What are your must-see Christmas movies?

I promise I haven't fallen off the face of the earth...

....I have just been incredibly, unimaginably busy. And, to be quite honest, a little lazy. We recently joined the world of smart phones, and my poor laptop has been neglected. That, and the power cord for our computer died, so all we had for a little while was our phones. Blogging, from my phone, takes forever.

I really haven't had much in the way of writing material. Life is life. And I'm struggling with that. I had a job interview about 2 months ago, and I was so excited about the opportunity. It fit me so perfectly. I had made it to the top round of candidates - narrowed down from 16 to 4. I was honored to have made it that far. The interview went very well. Then the waiting game began. And I waited, and waited, and waited. Then got the dreaded rejection email. :( I did inquire about what I might need to do in the future to better my chances and was told that the only reason I was not their top choice was because the other 2 they hired had more experience - one being a lead mentor teacher and another with administration experience. Hey, I can't argue with that....they definitely have more experience. However, had one of them not accepted, I was next on the list. I'm trying to remain encouraged, but (in my whiniest of little girl voices) "I really wanted that job!"

So, on I go with my 8th graders. I just finished The Hunger Games with 2 of my classes. They absolutely loved it! Every single day was a thrill because they were so eager to read and learn more. Most of them had read the entire series before we finished the first book as a class. They couldn't quite grasp the idea of "studying" a book....they wanted to zip through. They did, however, revel in the purpose, characterization, and symbolism. Go figure!

I plan to read Night with them next as we go into our non-fiction unit. I know it's typically reserved for high school, but I'd rather go with something I'm familiar with. Plus, I know they'll enjoy it. My 10th graders always do.

I'm beginning to get the hang of middle school. I don't hate my job in any way. I don't leave work unhappy every day. And I love the people I work with. I love my kids (I said love...I do love them. Liking them all the time is a different story.), and they seem to really like me. High school is still where I feel most comfortable, though.


We had our first family Christmas gathering without my Dad this past weekend. It was more than obvious that he wasn't there. My dad had a big presence. His spirit and laughter could fill an empty room with just him alone. When you were with him, there was just a fullness to the space around you that only he could create. I kept looking around the room at my family...noticing the places my dad would have been sitting. The ones (everyone) he would have made a point to talk to. My mom's family has been through a lot this year. My cousin lost her husband unexpectedly 5 weeks before my dad also unexpectedly passed. She has two young kids. So, we were all feeling the loss of two good men in our family. It was our most somber, relaxed gatherings yet.

With the holidays approaching, not getting the job, and just the hustle and bustle of work and trying to do it all....I had a rough week last week. I hold a lot in regarding my grief for my dad. I don't talk about it much. I talk to my mom, but with her I hold back because I don't want to upset her. However, I know how important it is to have those honest talks where you just let it all out. The day I found out I didn't get the job, more than anything I just needed to talk to my dad. Other can reassure me and encourage me, but it usually takes my dad saying "those things" for me to begin to believe them. Life hasn't turned out at all like I thought it would. That has been the hard realization I've been struggling with lately. I hadn't told anyone I had been feeling this way or thinking this way because I felt so guilty about it. Jeremy picked up on it (of course he did! I forget how well he knows me...) and has been so great about being sensitive to me needing space or just letting me talk when I feel like it. I have felt guilty because with everything I had to be thankful for and happy about.....I just haven't felt happy lately. I don't like what life has given me to deal with. I'm without a son. I'm without my dad. Who else will I have to lose? I hate to even think about it. I watch Collen and just ache thinking of the possibility of him not being here. Or Jeremy....can't even go there. I just have to keep repeating, "This is not my home. This is not my home. This is not my home."

Thank goodness for Christmas break. I chance to relax, process, recuperate, and prepare for another year.

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers. I have gotten your comments and messages. Thank you so much!

A different perspective

I've looked at life through a whole different point of view since Ayden passed away. After losing Ayden, I became very guarded. I was scared to love..fully. To put my whole self out there again. Because, what if I did, and I lost someone else. Then, I began to realize - in this life, there is loss. Period. And there's nothing I can do to stop it. All the more reason to approach life and loss with hope....doing your best to muster up all the hope you can find amidst the pain.

When October rolled around and we had gotten past the 2 year mark (August 25th), I began to look at the coming holiday season with more joy than I had felt in the past 2 years. I was hopeful....looking forward to finally experiencing a somewhat "normal" holiday season. One of so much much perspective. Then, October 21st reared its ugly head. And it all fell apart all over again.

BUT....because of our loss, I have approached the loss of my Dad much differently than I expected. At first, I was completely torn apart. I felt so down....I begged God to take me HOME...."take me to Heaven because I can't do this anymore....I can't go through life constantly waiting to lose something/someone else." Then, I began to think about my Dad and how he would approach this. How he would tell me to treat his death. My dad would be more upset with me if I continued to dwell...continued to focus on the loss...because that would mean I wasn't focusing on the joy he is experiencing right now. The joy that is to come when we meet again. After we lost Ayden, he was the only one I would really listen to. I've always valued my dad's opinion and advice (well...except during my teenage years....because when you're that age you "already know everything" right? But even then, I did consider what he was telling me...), and I know that he knew I needed him. He knew I needed his sound advice....even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear. And yes, there were times when I was frustrated with him because I didn't understand how he had been able to move forward (or seemed to), but he did it because we all needed him to be strong for hold us up...and he knew we needed a hopeful perspective. And...that was my dad. Always hopeful....because there's no reason we should live this life without hope.

Over the past few weeks, I've struggled. Today was hard. But I didn't show it. As I've said, I've kept this loss more private. I'm not sure why. In a way, I guess it's my way of sharing my pain with my the moments when I'm alone with my thoughts and memories....alone with his words, laughter, smile, and wisdom running through my head. In those moments, I'm with my dad, and we're sharing our time together...just the two us....moments which were so very special to me. That's when I break down. I was determined to approach Thanksgiving with a grateful heart. I don't want to be angry and bitter. I just want to live with hope. To me, letting myself get bitter and angry is letting this world win....because I would be clinging to this world, this life, a life that is going to pass away and is not guaranteed to any of us. This is not my home, and it is not my son's home...or my dad's home....this is not where I will spend eternity with my God. That doesn't mean I'm not sad or hurting....because I am. So much. I was doing okay today until Jeremy's uncle hugged me - he's about the same height and stature as my dad. When he squeezed me....and held heart broke. I have missed that more than be in my father's arms was the safest I ever felt. And now, I realize I have a heavenly father who wants me to look to Him for that safety and security....He wants all of my hope to be in Him. I'm so glad he understands our hurt and our pain and our questions. He can take every angry moment or bitter blame we throw at him. He knows our sorrow, but He always knows where our Hope should be, and I am determined to give him all of my hope.

Aside from all of the loss we have experienced these past 2 years - Ayden, my Dad, and just last sister's dog (you might say, "It's a dog." But Paisley was more than a dog to all of us....especially my sister. She was there for my sister at her lowest moments and she was our hope for my sister during those times....her absence is felt greatly!)....I still have so much to be thankful for. I have lived a blessed life - A savior who loves me unconditionally, wonderful, Godly parents who I credit so much for me being the person I am today, for the values I hold, and for my faith, a loving husband who adores me, two beautiful boys with bright blue eyes who have made my life complete, a sister and a best friend all in one, wonderful family who love me and have shown me what family should be, a supportive and compassionate church family who never fail to amaze me, friends who have stuck by me through it all, a roof over my head, food to eat, and clothes to wear....every basic necessity, and nothing but wonderful memories past, present, and to come, and most of all....hope for a future with no more pain, no more tears, and a reunion that is beyond my imagination.

And while I certainly don't like the circumstances that have been allotted to me, and I would never have greeted them willingly, they have given me a new perspective....a new focus. And for that, I am grateful.

Forgetting...then remembering....stinks.

Obviously, I haven't been keeping up my blog as I should. I wish I had more time to devote, but time is scarce these days. I was already behind at work when everything happened with my dad, then I took a week off, and I became even more behind. Not saying that I really care....I did what I had to do to take care of myself and my family. So, I'm slowly but surely catching up....definitely slowly.

Lately, I've been having those typical moments after loss....when you forget. I would talk to my dad on the phone every couple of days - either on my way to work or on my way home. On my way to work this morning, I had some down time after dropping Collen off and then driving to school. I had the sudden urge to call my mind was saying, "You haven't talked to Daddy in a while." My common sense kicked in just behind that thought with the obvious answer as to "why". Those moments are hard. When, for a split second, you forget that that horrible event ever happened, and then you're quickly reminded and hit with it all over again. It happened again on my way out of work. I was walking across the grass to get to my car, and I saw all these little holes in the an animal had tunneled all these little holes, and just as I was thinking, "Daddy would know what made these...." reality hit me again. ugh...

I've dreamt of my dad twice, and I have to say, it is quite comforting to see him there. When I'm awake, I feel very lost without him. Then, when he shows up in my dreams, everything feels "right" again. In my last dream, he was lying on the couch at he and my mom's house. I was so overcome to see him because I've missed him terribly. In my dream, I went over to him and knelt down....laying my head on his chest....just sobbing. He said, "What's wrong, sweetie?" And I answered, "I miss you, Daddy." And I think I remember him saying, "I know you do" in that tone of his that would say - "I know you're sad and upset, but everything is going to be okay." Oh, how I miss that voice and brought such peace and calmness into my life.

28 years with someone is a short span of time when you're looking at the big picture. But, 28 years of memories, routines, traditions.....that's a long time to build a life with a build such a secure and meaningful relationship. And now that that is gone, so abruptly, it has been very hard to get used to.

The grief I am experiencing through this loss is much different than losing Ayden - as it should be. Losing your child is probably the most tragic loss anyone can ever experience. It's not isn't expected. Now, I certainly didn't expect to lose my dad at 28, but my heart was beginning to prepare itself for his loss. I knew it was going to happen, and Daddy has been trying to prepare us for years now. But, as much as you anticipate it and try to wrap your mind around life without someone you cherish, you're never ready when it happens, and it hits hard. I haven't expressed my grief emotionally very much this time. I've held a lot in. A lot. Instead of feeling overwhelming pain, I've felt more of an overwhelming sense of confusion....feeling very lost and uncertain about everything.

I've been very open about how loss has affected my faith and relationship with God. No doubt, I've gone through a lot of questioning. A lot of doubt. A lot of wondering.....about everything. All the "what ifs" take over because you can't help but consider them. At first, I would push it all away....shocked that I would even think that way....that I would even doubt! Then, I realized, it's normal...and it has actually made my faith deeper. I've had to search my heart and really own what I believe.....really get into scripture and theology....and decide what I believe in the hardest of situations. I still have a long way to go, and before this, I felt like I was finally getting somewhere....finally getting to solid ground. Although this did spur the questions again, my foundation is much stronger. And I have my Dad to thank for that because whenever I questioned....whenever I doubted....he was one of those voices of of the people who helped me keep my faith. But, now, I understandably feel a little lost now that that is gone....but luckily, I can hear his voice still....telling me to keep leaning on the Lord.

We are taking a much-needed family vacation this weekend. We've never gone on a trip where it was just the three of us. We decided to take advantage of the last little bit of warm weather left and take Collen to the NC Zoo. I haven't been in a very long time. I'm really looking forward to it! We are planning to take our time...taking Friday and Monday off...and just spend time together as a family. Please pray for safety as we travel.

I know so many of you continue to think of us and remember us in prayer. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It means so, so much...especially when I just can't find the words to pray sometimes. I know God knows my heart, and he knows our hurt.....He knows what we need. I'm so thankful for that.

Back to work

I meant to write about Monday on....well...Monday, but this week has gone by very quickly. And here it is, Thursday night, and I'm staring the weekend in the face (thank God!).

Needless to say, going back to work Monday was not easy. It's amazing how quickly you get out of the groove...especially when teaching. It was as if I was meeting my students all over again. Most of them, though, were very gracious and sympathetic. A couple of them actually had flowers sent to me during class (I was holding back tears at such a kind gesture from middle schoolers!). Of my 3 three, a majority of them were extremely sympathetic and cooperative. But, you always have those few.....the ones who can just ruin it all. I choose to ignore them and just focus on the ones who make it worthwhile.

I did not teach on my first day back. I had planned to. I had notes ready to go. But, I just couldn't get my "teacher voice" going. I needed to my legs back under me. So, I did what every good teacher does - we watched a movie. It was why not? And I chose two movies that were both based on literary works. For my advanced group: The Count of Monte Cristo (they LOVED it!!) and for my standard groups: Because I knew it might keep their attention more - The Others (based on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw). My 2nd group loved it, and I loved watching them squirm when that suspenseful music started to play. My 3rd group...well, they're my challenging group. We survived it....and that's an accomplishment.

I have gotten back into the swing of things, and being back at work has been a good distraction. It's just strange, though, because I feel like I have a split personality. All day, I'm in teacher mode, but my grieving side....the daughter who desperately misses her dad....tries to push through all day. And I have to push back in order to keep my composure. On the outside, it looks like I'm handling it all well, but on the inside.....I'm not. Once school is over, and I'm in the car on my way home, I'm breaking down.....the emotions surface....and I'm a meltdown waiting to happen. It definitely takes a toll on you when you have to handle it this way.

I'm so used to picking up my phone on the way home and calling Daddy....or him calling me. I miss that so much. That's what I have missed the most this week....hearing his voice. It is becoming more real, which is just plain hard. But, I am able to find comfort in knowing that my dad is up there in heaven....with Ayden. They're together. 2 friends have made allusions to butterflies this week....both mentioning my dad and Ayden together represented as those butterflies. It's such a sweet image.....warms my heart a little bit. I also find comfort in knowing that my dad is worshipping....boy is he worshipping!! I loved to watch my dad worship the Lord. For his memorial service, we chose the song, "How Great Thou Art." There was no question in my mind what had to be sung at his service because that song IS my dad. As a child, I remember watching my dad sing this song....belting it out....raising his hands...and tears rolling down his face. He meant every word. He was always in awe of God. He taught me to be in awe of God. We shared so many interests - nature, weather, animals (birds in particular), the Universe (he and I loved looking at the constellations, planets, pictures of galaxies and stars), and we would talk about the return of Christ because the book of Revelation always fascinated us. I'm really, really going to miss sharing those things with him because those were things that I shared only with him.

As the song was sung at his service, I sat with my eyes closed....taking in every word. It had been a while sing I had last heard the song, but I knew most of it by heart. I hadn't realized, until that very moment, just how perfectly it fit my dad.

Stanza 1:
O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The world Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout
The universe displayed;

Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

Stanza 2:
When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze;


Stanza 3:
And when I think,
That God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die,
I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross,
My burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died
To take away my sin.


Stanza 4:
When Christ shall come,
With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
"My God, how great Thou art!"

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that joy filled my father's heart in the moment that he met Christ face to face. My prayer is that, here on earth, I can be half the person and believer my dad was every single day.

The fog is lifting...

Me and my family have spent the past week in a literal fog. I know I, personally, have been deep in denial that it all actually happened. That my dad is gone. It just wasn't real......

....until we came home. We have spent the past 9 days at my parents' house. You would think that would make it more difficult, but ironically, it has made it a bit easier. Even though Daddy's absence was clearly felt, it was easy to pretend that he was just in another room....out of sight....about to pop in at any moment. We had gotten so used to him being gone on business or in his office working, so we were used to him making a short appearence only to go back to work or to lie down.

Jeremy and I came home today. I have to go back to work tomorrow after being gone for a week. I absolutely dread it. I know getting back into a routine will help, and it's exactly what Daddy would tell me to do, but it scares me. I'm worried that my students won't be patient with me....and that one little thing will put me into a meltdown.

Speaking of meltdowns. As I said, I was okay, for the most part, until we came home. Jeremy had a coaches' meeting, so he left as soon as we got all of our bags and stuff into the house. It was just me and Collen....and a house I hadn't stepped foot in in a week. I was quickly overwhelmed with everything that needed to be done: cleaning, straightening, unpacking, schoolwork, planning, bathing and feeding the baby, putting him in a crib he hasn't slept in in over a week (he slept with me....hard transition). A meltdown came, and it came quickly.

My dad has always been my constant. When things were turned upside down and I was sure that life was never going to be the same again.....he was always there. He could calm nerves and ease my worries. At a young age, I dealt with anxiety. I would wake up at night crying, not sure of why I felt so anxious and worried....I just was. Daddy would come into my room and sit next to me. He would calm me down, talk to me, and pray for me. He would stay with me until I fell asleep. I cherish those moments with him.....stolen moments, just me and Daddy. I have a great relationship with my mom....I know I don't talk about it much, but she and I do have a wonderful relationship, and I go to her for so many things. However, with Daddy....I never had to explain myself....he just got me. I guess because he and I are so much alike. I would do anything in the world for my Dad. I was a bit more stubborn with my mom (sorry mom ;) I guess that's how mothers and daughters are, though). Daddy has always been the one person who made life stable. And now, without him, I feel completely unbalanced. No one can fill the Daddy-sized hole in my heart. 28 years of memories. 28 years of nothing but wonderful, treasured memories.

I've tried not to think about everything Collen will miss out on. I can't let my mind go there, yet. Collen adored my dad. All anyone had to do was be in a room with them for 2 minutes and the connection was clear. My dad is the one person Collen would go to over ME...his own mother! As long as Pa Pa was in the room, no one else mattered to Collen. He would light up at the very sight of Daddy. Collen is blessed with two great men for grandfather's, but I hate that he will only grow up really knowing one of them. I know what he's missing out on, and I ache for what he's missing. He won't go without knowing about his Pa Pa, though. We'll tell him all about him and be sure he knows how much his Pa Pa loves him. Collen is a lot like personality and looks....and that means he's a lot like his Pa Pa. I love that....

I was telling my mom yesterday that out of all of us, I know Daddy was the most ready to go. Meaning....he was happy to be here while he could be, but if it was his time to go....he wasn't going to argue. I knew that, and the human side of me feared the day it would happen. Aside from losing a child and losing my husband, losing my daddy was at the top of my list of most-feared things. But, I knew that I couldn't have him forever, and I knew that given the opportunity, he'd go willingly. I'm thankful that we didn't have to watch him in a hospital....waiting. I'm thankful that he went quickly and peacefully. And i'm thankful that he is where he longed to be. He talked about it daily. I know he was so ready to get to Heaven and worship our God. Our loss is certainly Heaven's gain.

And as my mom said, "The world is just a little emptier, and the sun doesn't shine quite as bright anymore." And anyone who knew my dad, would just isn't the same anymore.

I know I say it all the time - Lord come quickly.....

Back to where it all started...

Starting the grief process all over again is very strange. I'm conflicted because I know what my dad would be telling me to do right now, but my heart may burst from the pain of it all. My dad was always very real with me....verbalizing reality to me whenever he could. "You know I won't be here forever. You have to accept that." He would explain to me and my sister where we could find the insurance information or how he wanted things done. I remembered my dad saying, "Don't make a fuss over me. I don't want to be dressed up." He never gave himself credit....for anything.
When 450 people showed up to his service, at 2 on a Monday afternoon, I was not surprised in the least. Wherever my dad went, he touched lives. Just being around him, you could feel the grace flowing through him. He was never quick to judge...always considering others before himself. He was a bit old-school about some things, but for the most part, he kept his opinions to himself. He was "Heaven-focused." It was all he talked about. I knew that I wouldn't have my daddy with me forever, but I didn't like thinking about it. He made that difficult though, because he was always talking about Heaven....about Christ's return....about the day when he would finally make it. I'm more selfish...I guess. I need my dad for so much. When I needed a reassuring word, a vote of confidence, or just a "Hey, sweetie" I would call my dad. When Jeremy needed help with anything around the house...or going to pick up something...I'd call my dad. My dad loved Jeremy. He loved being able to hang out with his "son." And as Jeremy put it at Daddy's service, "It's not often that your father-in-law is one of your best friends." Daddy was a friend to everyone he met. I spoke to a perfect stranger yesterday - a lady my dad found while working on genealogy (one of his passions) - and she spoke to me about how much daddy had touched her life in the very short time she had known him. When you met my dad, you were met with kindness, acceptance, grace, humor, and love.
I've been walking around the past few days wondering how the earth is still spinning without this man. How has life continued without him? It shouldn't be possible. I find myself wondering how in the world I'm able to get up and put one foot in front of the other, and I'm met with "because that's what he would want you to do." Daddy would tell us, "Girls, I'm okay. Don't you worry about me. Just take care of your mom." I know he's okay, but I'm not. I never would have imagined that I would lose my dad at 28. It still isn't real. We are still operating under the "daddy's coming home any day" mode (since he travelled a lot for work). But, days pass, and he still isn't here.
I spent the first couple of days after he passed feeling extreme anger. I had the compulsion to kick things, throw things, break anything I could. Since I've experienced grief....the full process...I guess I skipped a few parts of the process. I sat through the decisions and arrangements unable to speak....just not wanting to accept it. I wanted to run out and get as far away from all of it as I could, but I knew I had to be there. I'm the oldest. I'm the one who has to stand up and keep things moving. And I will because daddy would want me to.
Thank you all for your kind comments, encouraging words, and your prayers. Please keep them coming. We definitely need them.

desperately in need of your prayers

Our family received devastating news yesterday. My dad passed away unexpectedly while at home. The EMS suspected a heart attack. Needless to say, we are all shocked, hurting, broken, and devasted. I saw my dad last weekend - spent practically the whole weekend with he and my mom. He helped Jeremy and Jeremy's dad put Collen's swingset together. He acted goofy as always...with his bubba teeth in. He helped me get Collen ready for bed and just ooohed and aaahhed over his "little man." I gave him an extra I always did...just in case. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Daddy's girl. I've always been called "little Thurman" because I am so much like my dad - in looks and personality. My dad is the first man I gave my heart to, and he taught me that trusting my heart with somone wasn't something to take lightly. And that if I felt the same magnitude of love for another man as I did my dad....then I had found the right one. I never felt so close to that love until I met Jeremy. I knew my dad would approve. And he did. He loves Jeremy so much and is so, so proud of his "sons." He loves Megan's fiancee as well....thinks the world of the two men his daughters gave their hearts to. My dad was/is hopelessly devoted to my mom. He thought the sun rose and set with her. I've watched him many times look at her or talk about her with such adoration. They are best friends....such a great team. It doesn't make sense that he's gone. It is more real to me now than I think it would have been had we not endured such tragedy before now. After losing Ayden, the only thing holding me up was that I still had Jeremy....and I still had my dad. They are both rocks in my life. And now, I'm without my firmest, hardest rock. My voice of reason. My dad whose hugs and reassuring words make everything okay. I never imagined I'd lose my dad at 28....he was too young (58) and seemed so, so healthy. We (and he) had no idea.... My dad was/is a devoted Christian. We know he is in Heaven glorifying the Father. It's all he's ever talked about, especially since he lost his dad. He couldn't wait to get there. Then, after we lost Ayden, it was all he could ever talk about - it was the one thing he looked forward to. He said to me the other day, "I feel like it's going to be soon. Very soon, we'll be there with Jesus....and my dad....and Ayden." He was talking about the return of Christ, of course, but the fact that he said that....just hit me really hard. I have been hard on myself since I hadn't talked to my dad since Sunday, but as a friend of mine so graciouslly put it, "Lindsay, you didn't need to." Which is true....Daddy always knew what I was thinking. We could finish each other's sentences, and he knew what I was going to say before I said it (and vice versa). He was my best buddy, and I always wanted to be like him. I like to think I've gotten close over the last 28 years, but no one....NO ONE can top Thurman Tyson. There's not another like him on this earth. Please pray for our family, especially my mom. We are being strong for Daddy, but it's incredibly hard. Obviously, our hearts are broken and they will be for a long time. But we know that Daddy is where he wanted to be. For that, I rejoice for him, but I ache for our loss.

12/13 month pictures!


Everyone needs a good belly laugh....

....even 13 month-olds.

I wish I had captured it in video form, but I didn't. So, I will at least record it here.

Collen is definitely becoming more and more independent with each passing day. It's fun watching his personality develop....seeing the things that make him "Collen."

Up until now, he hasn't been a big laugher. Now, though, he giggles and laughs at pictures, children, us, animals, books, TV shows, and himself. It's so funny to watch him get see his sense of humor.

Tonight, mine and Jeremy's parents were here helping put Collen's swingset together. We were leaving to grab some supper, and Jeremy's dad was walking out with Collen. He had a rag/hankerchief that he kept swishing in front of Collen's face. Collen thought it was hilarious! He kept giggling and giggling until he finally let out a squeal....bent over...and just let out a big belly laugh! It reminded me of grown ups who bend over and slap their knee because they're laughing so hard. To see such a little person do was just priceless.

Hopefully, I'll catch it on video soon because really....who doesn't love a good baby belly laugh?!

When Great Trees Fall
by Maya Angelou

*Thanks, Megan, for posting this on your blog. Hope you don't mind me swiping it and using it here!*

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker downin tall grasses
,and even elephantslumber after safety.

When great trees fallin forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly, see with
a hurtful clarity.

Our memory,
suddenly sharpened,
examines, gnaws on kind words
unsaid,promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to them,
takes leave of us.
Our souls,dependent upon their nurture,
now shrink, wizened.

Our minds,
formed and informed by their radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold caves.

And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored,
never to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be better.
For they existed.

Goodnight Prayer

I prayed with/for Ayden every night as he was falling asleep, and I would say the "traditional" nightly prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Yeah, very ironic.....and just plain hard to read those words. This was the prayer my parents taught me, so I carried it on to our first child....not even knowing he would live that prayer. Although I meant them when I prayed them, those words haven't been on my lips since the last time I prayed them for Ayden.

When Collen was born, I knew I couldn't bring myself to say that prayer over him. I was too afraid - even though I know I shouldn't have been.....but how could I not be? So, I sought out a new bedtime prayer. For a long time, I just said a generic prayer. Then, we went to visit my former pastor - a man of God I respect so highly. He was the minister at mine and Jeremy's wedding, and he cried and rejoiced along with us on that special day. He is such a strong man - so sound in his faith. After our visit with him, he said a prayer over Collen:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May His face shine upon and bring you peace.
May He be with you when you are asleep and when you are awake.
And may the Lord watch over you all the days of your life.

I had him write it down for me, and since that day, it has been the prayer we have spoken over Collen every single night. I didn't realize that the first two lines were from Numbers 6:24 until I read it for myself. I love that....because these words were spoken by God. God's blessing is in each word.

So, if you're a parent who has a lost a child and you have gone on to have another - if you're struggling with prayer for that child - this is one that brings so much hope and peace.

Blessings to you all....

Ayden Brooks

Dear Ayden,

I often write about meeting you in my dreams. It doesn't happen as often as it used to, but in a way I am thankful for makes the dream even more vivid and memorable. It is a treasure I can cling to....grace from our Father. I truly believe He gives me these glimpses as a way to help me bide my time....until we're together again.

Today, I was napping with your brother. I slipped into a deep sleep and began dreaming. I thought it was real....I hardly ever sleep so soundly! In my dream, I was watching a video of the two of you. You were both around the same age....about 10 months old. I was amazed to see my boys together...side by side. The two of you were doing what all brothers do - playing/wrestling together. Throughout the dream, I had the biggest smile on my face, but as usual...I kept wondering how it could be. How were the two of you together? And then, again as usual, I decided that didn't matter....I would cling to the moment as long as I could. It was beautiful to see the two of you together.

And then, of course I woke up, and I realized it wasn't real. I quickly closed my eyes again, praying to continue the dream. There you were again, but this time - it was you and me, sweet boy. :) I was holding you, marvelling at your beauty (you truly are/were a gorgeous baby....), and giggling about your pudgy rolls and porcelain skin (traits you surely got from me!). You were all smiles, as usual, and so was I. It was one of those moments within a dream that you pray you never awake from. But, of course, I did.

My heart has been heavy lately. I miss you....I always miss you....but I have moments when "missing you" feels like my heart being ripped out all over again. I have described grief as an ocean, with waves that sometimes come as small ripples and then at other times come as tidal waves, crashing relentlessly. I still experience those crashing waves from time-to-time. Not as much as I did in my earlier stages of grief, but I want mothers/parents out there to know that although the waves don't hit as often.....they still hit. The pain remains. And as the years pass, I expect the waves to continue to come. I've done a lot of, "I just want him here" and "Lord, please come quickly" lately. The prospect of Heaven is more urgent with each passing day....the opportunity to finally be with finally be a whole is always on my mind. I long for that day.

This time of year is hardest for me because I am taken back to the days, weeks, months after passed away. That was the lowest I have ever been. The closest I have ever felt to being completely without my senses....just numb and vacant. The holidays are hard. Music continues to be difficult for me. I still can't bring myself to hear the songs we played at your celebration service. It hurts too much.....still. It probably always will.

I want you, and others to know, that although your physical absence is are not absent from our lives and our hearts....and our love. You are remembered every second of every day. You are a very present part of our lives, and we live our lives differently because of you. Our steps are more cautious, more considerate, more purposeful, more deliberate. There is no question what our ultimate goal is: to be in Heaven with Jesus and you. There is no question of our hope, and we do our best to live that hope and let it shine through us each and every day.

We love you, Ayden. We know you know that. We know you are okay. We know you are safe...and waiting. And we are waiting (im)patiently to be with you again. 4 wonderful months with you.....and life here without and heartache....all to experience eternity together. Lord, come quickly.

13 months and on-the-move!

Somehow, 13 months came quickly....and it's close to being past us! Collen seems to continue to follow his trend of slower physical development vs. faster mental development. I attribute that to his very large head, which he most definitely got from his genius-Daddy. ;)

He has always reached verbal/mental milestones very quickly and physical/motor skills milestons a bit slower than average. I'm think he'll have my coordination (meaning: lack-of). He said his first word at 7 months, yet he didn't start walking until 13 months. I guess I always thought the two types of milestones happened at the same times, but I'm learning that is not always the case. I, personally, have loved that he was a late roller, sitter, crawler, and walker. It gave me more time with him as a "baby" cuddly and needing mommy. Once he started walking, he didn't look like a baby anymore! It was immediate!! It seemed like overnight, he became a little boy....*sigh* sad for mommy. However, I am LOVING this age! He is so funny and interactive, and now that he can interact, we can ask him to "bring us a book" and he will! Or, we can say, "Eat your chicken"...and he knows which thing on the plate is chicken! He is a pro at the few signs we have taught him - "more", "all done" and "please." We're still working on "thank you."

Last week, he was wearing 12 month clothes comfortably. This week, we're moving into 18 month clothes! So crazy how fast they grow! Collen is definitely getting into his "chunking up" stage again. He'll get chunky, then gain some height and slim down, then he'll get chunky again. I love the chunky stage. :) So cute!

We are finally making some headway in the sleeping department. Out of nowhere, the other night, he "asked" to be put in his crib. Before that, I would either rock him to sleep or stand over his crib....waiting for him to fall asleep as I rubbed his back, hair and face (which can take a long time....). Then, the other night, I was rocking him, and he reached over and patted the side of the crib and grunted as if to say he wanted to get in there. Ever since then, he has gone to sleep (still with one of us having to stand by the crib) and has slept ALL night. Typically, he would wake up 2-3 times, eventually to end up in our bed out of sheer exhaustion our part. Now, he seems to be sleeping until 5ish, and then he sleeps the remaining 2 hours of his sleep schedule in our bed. 13 months.....whew.

We are having so much fun with Collen! We love watching him learn and being a part of his learning experience! He is such a sweet child with a very friendly disposition. Praying it stays that way as we get closer and closer to age 2!

Here are a few 13 month highlights....

Walking to Daddy after the football game. When Ayden was born, this was one thing Jeremy couldn't wait to experience. He has waited 2 and a half years for this moment. We both had tears in our eyes as we witnessed a dream coming true.

He LOVES to be outside...exploring and learning!

Beep! Beep!

We'll definitely be saving this one....

Catching up

I'm not doing such a great job of updating my blog these days. I have my reasons, which definitely include laziness, too little time, and pure exhaustion.

It's not that I'm lacking in quality information to write about....I just don't have a lot of time. But, tonight, on this beautiful Saturday night, I am MAKING time!

I struggle a lot with the purpose of my blog. I have a lot of readers (if you're still sticking with me!) who came to my blog after Ayden passed away: grieving mothers who could relate to the anguish and felt less alone by reading the words of another hurting mother; friends and family who just wanted to be connected to me without having to constantly ask me how I was doing; countless others who came across our story and followed our story as prayer warriors and quiet encouragers. Now, 2 years have passed since Ayden went to Heaven, Collen was born, another chapter has been added to our story, and although our hearts are less broken than they were.....we are still a family living with loss. We are affected by it every day. But our lives do not revolve around that loss as much as they once did.

So, I struggle....because I want to be sensitive to those who have also lost a child....looking for hope, strength, and encouragement. I don't want to flood my blog with images of us that make it appear that we have moved beyond the grief....updates on Collen and how happy we are that make it seem like we have everything we ever wanted.....images and information that I know (because I've been there) are difficult for grieving mothers/parents to read and see.


I do my best to be sure I update my blog with both information about our life with Collen and how life with a child after loss is...difficulties and joys. And I also try to continue to update on our loss and how we continue to cope. As I've said, the loss of a child isn't something you move past. Not saying you move past any type of loss....but this type is just different. There's no closure to it....
It boggles my mind that people actually ask grieving parents why they can't get over it!! Or tell them they need to get over it. Really?!

Anyway....I will continue to do my best to update my blog....with Collen AND Ayden posts....because my heart beats for both of them. <3

Speaking of my boys....see the following (actually they will post above/before this one in blogger's order) posts about them both. :)


1 comments spend my entire weekend with this sweet little boy. :)

13 months old is officially my favorite age so far. LOVING every second!

Mommy fail...

There are moments in parenthood that you try your best to avoid. As a mom, I am super cautious and overly times. I plan every moment of an outing in my head and do my best to make it go according to "plan."'re laughing...yes, it almost always doesn't go to plan.

And it never fails that when it seems like it is going too smoothly....a hiccup is about to present itself.

This brings me to this morning:

This story is retold in dramatic fashion as my speech and presentation were clear and calm, but my mind was frantic!!

We were up getting ready for work. Collen had slept in his crib all night long (waking up twice) and woke up in his crib at 7am. Wonderful start to a Monday morning!! It looked as if we were going to early/on time for once! Bags were packed, food was ready for daycare, baby was dressed, milk was ready to go. On our way out the door, I let Collen hold my keys since my hands were very full. I got everything in the car, got Collen into his seat; he still had the keys. I switched them out for his sippy cup and threw the keys into the front seat. Shut the door....walk over to the driver's side....and let out a long, "Nooooooooo!!!!" and then a few, "No! No! No! NOOOOOOO!!!" The keys...and Collen....were locked inside!!! On the outside, I appeared to be calm....on the inside, I was panicking and becoming irrational! I ran (and I don't run...) to my neighbor's house....who I've never met. I bang on their door....determined that they ARE going to answer....if it means I have to bang on every window, door, surface of the house!! They come to the door to find me standing there, blurting out, "Hi...I'm your neighbor...I've locked my keys in the car, and my son is in the car!! My phone is in there, too!! I need to call someone!!" They were very gracious and quick to respond...finding a number to a locksmith, which didn't work because they were closed. So, I called 911 and explained the situation....and quickly grew frustrated because I didn't understand why the year and model of my car mattered.....and why the age of my child mattered....and why I was left being told, "Someone will get there as soon as they can." WHAT?! I leave them with my neighbors' number and go back to my car to wait. At this point, Collen has realized that something isn't right. At first, he laughed me playing peek-a-boo with him, but then he became very upset that Mommy was outside and he was inside....and not understanding why mommy wasn't taking him out of the car. So, he soon became a crying mess...and I was trying my best not to join him and just remain calm for his sake. 15 minutes later, a sheriff arrived and got the doors unlocked. Collen was pretty much traumatized....poor thing. He sniffed all the way to daycare because of the hard crying he had been doing. :( And then he wasn't too happy when I dropped him off. Poor thing....such a rough morning for a Monday.

Lesson learned: Get a spare key for the car.


Women of Faith

I am currently attending the Women of Faith conference in NC!!

We got here late, but we were able to go to the night session. Wow....amazing!! The theme of the weekend is that none of us are perfect, and God doesn't expect us to be perfect. So, why do we push ourselves to be perfect and then grow so disappointed with ourselves and our "poor performance?" As long as we are living for our Lord, spending time with Him, making Him a part of our every day lives.....then we're okay. He never said we had to be perfect. He just wants us to love him and live for HIM. I think that's a small request considering the sacrifice He made for us.

A lot of wonderful women are here presenting. We heard comedian Ken Davis tonight - HILARIOUS! Then, we heard Natalie Grant sing - she sang the song Held - I cried like a baby. Held is a song that so many recommended for us when Ayden passed away. 2 years later, it is still very difficult for me to listen to music. The loss is still so raw and fresh....I guess it always will be to a degree. I'll never stop missing him, thinking about him, loving music is likely to always affect me. I knew she would probably sing this song....and always, when she gets to the part about "when the sacred is torn from you life" - yeah....that's how it felt to lose my baby. All that was sacred and right with the world was gone in an instant. Yet, God continued to hold me through it He held Ayden in His arms.

I'm looking forward to the morning session and just spending time with women of faith....soaking in the goodness of our Lord. It has been refreshing.....I needed this.

Smell Memories

Have you ever caught a whiff of something and it took you back....way back....and you could pinpoint the exact moment you first smelled that smell???

This weekend, I traveled with my parents to celebrate the life of my cousin's husband. The service was this afternoon. It was a beautiful memorial to Chris, his life, the person he was. It absolutely broke my heart to see my cousin and her two children being addressed....a young widow and two children who no longer have their daddy. I found myself in the position that I'm so many were in when Ayden passed away - I had no idea what to say. So, I said nothing. I had not been to a "funeral service" since Ayden's, and it took me back to feelings and memories I haven't visited in a while. I remember people speaking to many many condolencs....but the ones who just looked at me, with tears in their eyes and pain their hearts....and said nothiing....those were the ones who touched me the most. And I realize now why they didn't have any words. Nothing I can say can fix this. Nothing I can say can bring Michelle's husband back....or those kids' daddy back. Please pray for this family. They have a long road ahead of them.

I haven't forgotten the odd title of my post...

This weekend, as I said, we've been traveling, so we have been out of our normal surroundings. You know how people come to your house and say, "Oh, I love the way your house smells?".....but you can't smell your own house? Well, you can't until you're away from it, and you smell it on your clothes, in your luggage, on your linens. It is then that you can put a scent with yourself. I know this seems weird and random....stick with me. has been 2 and a half years (almost) since Ayden was born. It has been almost 2 years and one month since I last smelled him. You know...that sweet, wonderful baby smell that is so unique to your baby? This weekend, I caught a whiff of Ayden. It was ever so subtle and a mixture of scents that were surrounding clothing mixed with Collen's, the smell of a sterile bathroom (reminded me of the hospital), the leather of the seats in the rental car, and various other scents. All put together, I was taken back to the day we took Ayden home from the hospital. His scent, even now, is so distinct, and I was overjoyed that after 2 and half years, I soon as I smelled it...that I was reminded of my child. The connection is still there....

Picture of the week....


Some days, it is incredibly hard to believe that this is my reality.

I pray that they share a bond like no set of brothers has ever shared before.


I'm not sure how coherent my last blog really was. I woke up this morning vaguely remembering that I actually did write a blog post last night....and I remembered typing that I yelled at my students. ahaha....mainly because I was thinking, "Oh, they're going to think I'm such a jerk!" because I didn't explain why!! I had taken Nyquil before bed last night, and I think I was slipping into my Nyquil-induced coma as I was typing.

I have three wonderful groups of kids. Really, all of them are wonderful in their own ways. However, when you put some of their personalities together, it's a whirlwind of attitudes, conflicts, and NOISE. I have one group that doesn't stop talking from the moment they walk in to school to the moment they walk out. I don't know how they don't exhaust themselves. And their talking gets them in trouble....with me, with themselves, and with each other. My one really rowdy group is made up of kids who just haven't been disciplined. They've been allowed to do whatever they want...whenever they want....and getting loud and yelling is how they know to get their way. Yeah...that doesn't work for me. They learned this week that I won't tolerate any of it. I expect more, and they hate it. One day, though, they will learn why I demand so much of them. Looking at these kids, I see high school students I have taught who have come to me at the end of their senior year saying, "Thank you for being tough on me and for pushing me. It made all the difference, and I wouldn't be here if you hadn't." Right now, though, they just see a mean teacher who doesn't let them get away with much. And that's okay with me. :)

Sad news - my cousin's husband did pass away last night. I don't know details other than that he was in liver failure, and they had tried everything they could. His kidneys began to fail 2 days ago, and last night, he went "home." I honestly can't begin to imagine the pain my cousin is feeling. She married her best friend - literally. Whenever she had guy problems, she went to Chris....and he had loved her for such a long time, but he knew he couldn't tell her until the time was right. Finally, the time came....and she was so happy. They have two beautiful children who are 7 and 5. I can't bear the images of pain and heartache on those little faces. I can't bear the thought of the pain my cousin is feeling. I know I have felt tragedy and heartache....I know what it is like to lose someone you love with every ounce of your being. But I don't know the pain of losing a husband, and I know that losing Jeremy would crush me...absolutely devastate me. When I look at my life - I see him. When I look at my future - I see my Jerms. No one else. He is my soulmate, helpmate, and the man I have devoted my life to, and I really can't imagine life without him. (A friend of mine asked me recently - how do you really know when you're in love with someone? And I told her, "When you can't imagine life without that person. When the thought of losing that person...not having them in your life...brings you unbearable pain....I think that's when you know.) My cousin is 41 (I'm pretty sure) and much too young to be a widow. And her children are much too young to lose a father. My heart breaks for them. Please, please say a prayer for them....that they will be able to find comfort and remember all of the good times together....and that they will grieve with hope.

A quick bit of Jones family news: Collen is walking!! WOO!! He's a week away from being 13 months old, and he is getting closer and closer to being a full time walker every day!

He still prefers crawling as his main method of getting around, but he'll let go and take a few steps here and there. He's definitely becoming more secure with the idea!! He's so proud of himself!

And, I never updated on Gracie. SHE'S HOME and SAFE AND SOUND!! She had walked close to 8 miles or so. She walked up to someone's house - and they happened to be dog rescuers who volunteered with the animal shelter. We had put out flyers and someone from a neighborhood called and said we should check out a flyer at the gas station closest to our house - that a flyer with a lost dog's picture had been posted - and that the lost dog looked a lot like Gracie. I raced down there, and sure enough, it was Gracie!!! I went to get her right away, and now she's back and secured into the backyard. No more escaping....unless she digs out. It's such a relief to know she's okay and to have her home. We all missed her so, so much.

I'm so glad this whirwind week is over. I'm praying for a better week next week. If not....I'm looking for a new job! This stress is wearing me out - I have a fever blister and a cold - and it always happens at the beginning of the school year. Lack of sleep, stress, and a lot of burnt energy does it to me every time.

Y'all have a good weekend.

What a week...

Sorry blog world. I have been terrible about updating my blog lately. And I have been in desperate need of some writing therapy, but time...these days...isn't something I don't have a lot of.

Let's break it down:

New job = new content to learn and plan for, new resources, having to plan all new lesson plans and read up on material I have never read so I can determine what I will teach and in what order, stress because I've never taught this grade and I don't really understand middle schoolers and what they need as far as learning goes (I'm picking it up as I go...and I hate that!), trying out said lessons...hoping my kids are receptive and actually learning something they didn't already, balancing duties with teaching and deadline after deadline quickly approaching (and I'm way, way behind!!), and trying to wrangle a very, very loud, rowdy, disrespectful bunch of students (only one class). A lot of time, energy, and tears have been put into this past week, and I feel so beaten down.

I have caught my first cold of the school year. To be expected, I guess. Collen caught it, too, so we are sharing a times. The only thing that works for me when I have a cold is Nyquil, but that means Jeremy has to get up with Collen when he gets up in the middle of the night (yes...he's one...and he still gets up...several times). I, apparently, slept through a very long night last night with Collen. Poor thing(s)....

On the other side of things - please pray for my cousin, her husband and their family. Her husband's liver is failing, and it is looking like he could pass away at any time. Words can't begin to express the heartache I feel for them all. I hurt for my cousin for losing her husband, and I just ache and hurt for their children - 7 and 5 - who will lose their father much, much too young. It's just not fair. I don't understand it.... Please pray for them to find comfort and peace in such a difficult time. Chris has been my buddy since he and my cousin got married. He always shared my love of old movies, and we would often talk about musicals and good, good music. He always encouraged me and made me laugh....I always loved being around him. He completes my cousin like no one else can, and I can't imagine the pain she is feeling...knowing that her time with him is so limited. Please, please pray.....I know they will feel them.

I hope you are all doing well and have had a good week. I'm trying to keep a positive perspective. Although, this week, a very negative point of view has crept in. I have yelled at my students...I have lowered my expectations....and I have been very impatient. Love is not any of these things (although, I realize there has to be structure and discipline in a classroom), and I'm hoping that I can get to a point with one class where they can actually see that I do care about them....and that they can understand why I'm so hard on them. For now, we're going to have to push through with frustration and tough love....ugh...such a hard job. But very rewarding in the end...

My sister is engaged!!


Congratulations Megan and DJ!! We are so happy for you. Collen already considers DJ his uncle, but now we can make it official. :) Thank you, DJ, for making my sister so happy!! We love you guys!

12 Months Old

I apologize that this post is long overdue. I have felt so terrible about not getting this one done on time. I mean...come's his ONE YEAR post, and I'm lagging behind on it! Bad, bad mommy. In my defense....Collen's birthday was on a Monday. On Tuesday, he was sick with a high fever. (He's definitely my child. You can almost always count on me being sick around my birthday and major holidays) I picked him up early from his babysitter's house because he had his 12 month appointment that day. She told me he had not been acting like himself....was very lethargic....and seemed very, very warm. She hadn't been able to check his temperature, but we were both certain that he was running a fever. I got him home, took his temperature - 102. When he runs a fever, HE RUNS A FEVER. There is no "low grade" with's always high. They gave him his shots anyway (I don't, for the life of me, understand why they did that). On top of the fever and shots, he had 5 teeth coming in. Whew.... So, we(I) spent that week cuddling, snuggling, sleeping with, and medicating a sick, sick boy. At one point, his fever got up to 104. I took him to the doctor, and as usual....a virus. Not a thing to do except Tylenol and let it work its way out. So frustrating....and leaves me feeling helpless. :( Needless to say, I couldn't get a good picture of him that week. started....and Hurricane Irene hit. We stayed with my parents for 2 days during the Hurricane because of Collen being so sick. We knew our town was expected to get hit worse, so we wanted to be sure we could get to an ER if we needed to. was out, we were all a little lazy and enjoying time started back...craziness again...getting back into the routine...and now, we are finally getting a rhythm going.

All of that to present to you, his 12 month picture:

12 Month Stats:

Weight: 23lbs 7oz (50%)

Length: 30 1/2 inches (75%)

Head: 49cm (95%)

Things Collen is doing:

Words he is saying: "Hot", "Juice" ("jzooce") - He tries to mimick other words. He had tried to repeat "Gracie", "hurts", and "ouch." He used to say "no, no" all the time, but for some reason he has stopped saying it?? And he doesn't say "see" anymore. Not sure why he let those two go...."no, no" was so stinkin' cute!

Teeth: 8 teeth! Up until 2 months ago, he had 3 teeth. In 2 months, 5 new teeth!! Luckily, he doesn't complain about teeth much at all. They don't seem to bother him (thank God!).

Sleep: He still wakes up during the night, but we are making progress. Last night, he only woke up once (opposed to the usual...5 times a night....then him ending up in our bed) and stayed in his crib until he woke up for the day!! We had been having major issues with separation anxiety, but now that he is getting into a routine and loving his babsitter, we have seen an improvement. :)

Walking? Not yet....but we're getting close. He takes a few more steps every day and is gaining more and more confidence and balance.

Clothes - He can still wear most 12 month clothes. Around the waist, 12 month fits with a little room to grow. However, getting it over his hips is the hard part. In shirts, 12 month is too small, so we stick to one piece outfits right now while he's in between. 18 month clothes are becoming more and more comfortable.

Favorites: Elmo, any toy he can push around the room, any toy that can function as a "car" and can be pushed around while making car sounds, chicken nuggets, green beans, any kind of fruit - especially strawberries and blueberries, pancakes, sweet potato, milk, any dog or cat, kids...loves to watch them, "reading" books. He doesn't have much interest in TV, but he loves books!! He likes for us to read them over and over while he turns the pages.

I am loving this age!! The transition from 11 months to 12 months was tough for him and us - I think it was more because of routine changes than anything. But now that we are all into a new routine, I am seeing so much about this age that I LOVE!! He is so interactive and playful. He and I like to chase each other around the house. I'll chase him one direction (as he crawls as fast as he possibly can!!!), and then he'll chase me back. He's becoming more interested in actually playing with his they were designed to be played with. It's amazing watching him learn something new every day!!

Being the parents of a SIDS baby, reaching the one year mark was incredibly momentous. I think we all felt a little relief knowing that he is 99% unlikely to be affected by SIDS. But, we are still guarded. I think we always will be. We know it's impossible to protect him from everything and anything, but we sure are going to try to protect him from as much as we can....

I am so thankful for this time we've been given with Collen. Being a parent is so rewarding. It's hard work....but to see that little face and know that he loves me more than anything...even Elmo...just melts my heart. We love him so, so much and couldn't be more blessed to have him in our lives.

First Steps!


He still prefers crawling as his main mode of transportation, but we're getting closer! You'll have to turn your head to watch it....haha...can't rotate it.

where has 2 weeks gone?

Where have I been? Here are some phrases that sum up my last 2 weeks:

Started back to work
Having to relive my first year of teaching.....feeling like I am barely keeping my head above water
Hurricane Irene - fortunately we had very little damage
Charger for computer crashed....waiting for new one to arrive
Collen transitioning to daycare
Collen running 103+ degree temp for a week
Collen cutting 5 - YES FIVE- teeth
12 month shots while teething and running a fever

To sum up the past 2 weeks in one word: exhausting.

And now our dog - Gracie- is missing and I am heart broken :( I am praying she will come back.

Thank you all for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers.....and for always remembering Ayden.

Once my computer is working again, I promise a one year old pic of Collen!

August 25, 2011

My Dearest Ayden,

Facing today may not have seemed difficult for me on the outside looking in, but I fought back tears all day. I couldn't fight the tears, though, when I told my first group of students about you. I had looked at my watch and realized that it was only minutes from being 2 years, officially. They were touched by your story, and I was relieved to share you with was a way for me to be with you today. I talked about you throughout the day, and I remembered our wonderful times together. Of course, it's difficult to face today without thinking about what happened, but I was able to focus more on our future....together. Each day that passes is a day closer to you....what comfort I find in that!!

It was so hard to go back to work today. I was missing my boys. I wanted you in my arms, and I wanted your little brother in them as well. I wish so much that I could see the two of you together. I feel robbed of so many things. I feel heartache and joy at one time, and I find myself balancing grief and happiness a lot these days. To say I miss you doesn't even touch the longing I feel for you each day. I still watch families and wonder.....what could have been? I still ache when I see a little boy the age you should be. I watch them play and giggle and being such boys....and I just miss you. I miss the future we could have had together here, but I find hope through imaging the future we will have for eternity. I constantly ask Jesus to return quickly....tomorrow would be great.

I love you more than ever. The love and adoration I have for you continues to grow with each passing day. I am so, so proud of first born. I will forever acknowledge you. You made me who I am. You showed me the absolute bliss that motherhood is and the completion that exists between mother and child. I know that while you were here (and even now) I loved you recklessly....with every ounce of my being. Losing you didn't change that. I love you and you brother in that same holding back, loving you both fully and deeply. It is the most amazing thing I will ever experience.

This day will never be easy. So many people were thinking of and remembering you today. Prayers were lifted for our family. You might have heard some talk of it up there...maybe? You are so's awesome. God has touched so many lives through you, and we are so, so proud of you for that. We are probably the proudest parents a kid could ask for!

Wait for us....we will see you soon. We'll be the ones racing to get to you!

Love always,

2 years...

2 years ago, tonight, I kissed him goodnight for the last time.

2 years ago, tomorrow, we had to say goodbye.

Missing my Ayden so, so much.

Tomorrow is another August 25th. Another first day with students while I'm away from my child. Another reminder of the tragedy we lived through and continue to live each day. A reminder of the big brother who should be here.

Hard to believe it's been 2 years. It feels like I've lived an eternity without him already.

He's ONE!! Happy Birthday Collen!!

Today, Collen is a year old!!! It was surreal to wake up and see my little baby boy...and realize he's been with us for an entire year! In any other instance, a year wouldn't seem like such a long time, but it has flown by so quickly! We've learned so much about Collen over the past year. He has taught us selflessness, how to play again, the importance of laughter, and the genuine love that only a child can share with his parents....and vice versa. He is such a delight, and we consider him to be a blessing and a miracle! God brought Collen into our lives at the perfect time - a time when we needed him the most, and he has brought light, laughter, and joy back into our hearts and our lives.

I'll update tomorrow with his 12 month "Collen-isms." Until then, enjoy some pictures from his birthday party (we went with a sock monkey theme!!) and his birthday!! He had a wonderful party and did brilliantly the entire time! He loved his cake (which was by far the healthiest birthday cake I've ever seen! Score for mommy!!), and he seemed to truly enjoy the friends and family who were they to celebrate such a special occasion!

The party was held at our church in the youth meeting area - "The Loft." It was the perfect place for a birthday party!

Eating lunch

And now...the cake!

"Mmmmmm!!! Mom and dad have been holding out on me!"

Opening gifts. He was more interested in playing with the other kids who were playing with his gifts. ;)

Happy Birthday!!

Shortly after being woken up by mommy...snapping pictures and exclaiming, "Happy Birthday!!!"

Mommy's boy...

Day One: We survived.

Today was the dreaded day - the day Collen and I would be separated for an entire work day.

Leading up to today, I did all that I could to ignore the fact that it was around the corner. Last week, I had some half days where I had to attend orientation, so we used that as an opportunity to get Collen used to his babysitter. Overall, he did well, but there was definitely some crying when he got dropped off and some resistance on his part. Going into today, I had a terrible feeling that it was going to just blow up....and I would have to walk away and hope that he did okay after I left. Thankfully, his babysitter is super, super patient with him and understands that this is a big transition after staying home with mommy for a year. Plus...he is hitting the height of separation anxiety - one day he'll be okay, the next....I can't be further than 2 feet from him without him losing it. I realize it's part of the age (and I'm so, so, so thankful to reach this age with him. I'll take the clinginess and getting up several times a night any least I have my baby.) so I'm trying to be very patient with him and get him through this phase.

Last night, I was a nervous wreck. I was making spaghetti for some friends of ours, and I was standing there crying as I was stirring the sauce ( was a sight). Luckily, I was alone for this, so no one had to witness my near breakdown. I told Jeremy that more than anything, it's fear. I'm reliving 2 years the day. We started back on the 17th. Ayden was put in day care. We had to face the transition. We had gotten adjusted and feeling good about it all......and then, the 25th. He was gone. It is more than traumatic, and I have no idea how I'm not on medication right now to calm my nerves. I'm so terrified of losing Collen. It is my ultimate fear, and I know that my heart couldn't take it again. However, my rational side keeps saying, "There's no point in living in fear. God's plan is in place, and you...His child...has to accept that He is in control." (that's hard to swallow sometimes...)

So, this morning, we tried to do everything as normal as possible. Luckily, I didn't HAVE to be at work until 8:30 (when school starts back officially, it's a bit earlier), so we took our time getting up. Jeremy and I both got up and got ready before Collen woke up. By 7:15, he was still asleep, so I had to wake him up to get him ready, give him his milk, and let him wake up a little bit. I got him to the babysitter's house by 8, and since I had some time, I stuck around for a few minutes to make sure he was comfortable. Well, we walked in....and I could tell that he immediately felt at ease. He was looking for the dog and pointing out things he remembered from last week. As soon as he hit the floor, he was crawling around, playing, looking for the dog. I was shocked. I waited until the right moment to leave - he was at the back door pointing outside for the dog, so I said "bye bye", he waved, and I know he saw me walk out - and he didn't shed one tear.

But, I did. :( I was so relieved and so thankful that he jumped right in and did so well. But my heart just hurts. I miss Ayden so much, especially on days like today when I'm remembering dropping him off and not knowing that I had so little time left. Remembering his face as I said goodbye for the last time (I can still see it so, so clearly). I keep telling God, "I can't do it again. I just can't. I won't survive it." So, I took a lot of deep breaths, and just kept moving.

Once I got to school, it was nonstop for the rest of the day. Middle school is going to be a HUGE transition for me. I'm used to the freedom of high school, and now I'm going into lining up my students, designating locker visits, taking them to lunch, etc. Wow!! Such a different world! I already love my TEAM and the grade level colleagues for the 8th grade, though, so I have a very positive outlook for this year. It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm excited about something new. I do, however, miss my AG family terribly. I miss my friends, and I miss my kids. My heart is always with my AG family.

So, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for your prayers. All day, I've just kept repeating, "PRAYER WORKS!!" God showed us so much grace today and brought me so much peace. What a mighty God we serve!! He bring comfort, healing, and peace in the moment when we need them the most. I pray for an even better day tomorrow.