Thank you

Thank you all so much for your prayers, thoughts, emails, and messages as we remembered Ayden's birthday today.

We've seen so many pictures, already, of balloons going up in celebration of Ayden's birthday! I've read your emails, comments, facebook messages/comments, text messages, etc.

We are truly blessed to have so many wonderful, thoughtful people in our lives who love Ayden and join us in celebrating his life!

I've included a video....I just couldn't resist. This is from my friend Cari, who I met, through reading her blog and her own story of loss, after we lost Ayden. She has since become a dear friend. I had to include her video because it was too sweet not to. Thank you Cari, Andy, Caden, Rigg, and Ryder! And thank you all so much for joining us in remembering Ayden today....and always.


A birthday letter

Dear sweet Ayden,

Happy 2nd Birthday sweetheart. I can hardly believe it has been two years. Two years since our lives were blessed by the birth of you, our sweet, beautiful first child. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I can recall everything - the events of the day before and the day of your birth, the smells, the excitement, the fear, and the elation. We prayed and hoped for you so, so much Ayden. I used to tell you that all the time...about how much we wanted you and loved you....even before you were born...even before we knew about you. You were already ours, and boy did God do an awesome job in choosing you for us....and us for you. We were a perfect match, werent't we buddy?

But, God didn't quite prepare us for the rest of the journey. Well, not in our minds, anyway. However, looking back, he was preparing us for the day He would take you home. We prayed so fervently over you, and we didn't waste a second we spent with you. God put it upon us to consider life without you, which made us live life with you without taking a single moment for granted. I can remember so much. So many memories are still fresh and they happened yesterday. I remember your warmth as I held you for the first time, and that sweet...brand-new baby smell. I can hear your soft, airy coos as you would "talk" to me about your day and everything you were soaking in. I remember your laugh and how happy you ALWAYS were. And I remember our morning snuggles....just me and you....and the weight of you lying on my chest as you slept.

2 years is a long time to go without those things. 2 hours is a long time.....2 years feels like an eternity. I say it seems like yesterday, but at the same time, it seems like forever ago since I held you, kissed you, saw you smile.....and saw those big, bright, blue eyes. Some days, I feel like I can't go another day.....sometimes I beg Jesus to come please make me whole again. I'm not "me" without you, Ayden. And that's so hard. But I know it's part of this.....this plan....this life. Sorrow fills this life, but joy is coming. And when it comes, you'd better bet I'll be running for you. I can't wait to hear about everything you've been doing. I imagine you up there....having a huge birthday celebration! I asked God to tell you how much we love you, especially on your special day, and to give you a big birthday hug from mommy and daddy. I ache to be able to hold you again....but knowing that you're in the arms of Jesus brings comfort to this mommy's heart.

Your little brother will know about you, Ayden. Oh yes....he will know all about you. And in turn, he will learn so much about the love we have for both of you. We love the two of you more than I ever imagined possible. This kind of love is scary....because we know too well that a parent's heart can be shattered, and the pieces never go back together again. But we want you and Collen (and any future siblings....possibly) to know that we are better because of you. This scary love.....this breath-taking fills us to the brim, and it brings us so much joy because you're ours! You're our pride....our joy....our heart...our whole life. You're our purpose, and although our plan wasn't God's plan, and although we've had to endure the ultimate in pain and were still here. You were born, we held you in our arms, we comforted you, we made you laugh and smile, and we love you, and we felt the love you have for us. What a gift! What a blessing! What a miracle!

And that love remains. You aren't with us physically, but we feel you with us every day. My heart knows you're here with us. There are moments when I feel you so close I think I could reach out and grab you. I grow more and more in love with you each day. That will never change. You'll always be my baby boy. You'll always be my Ayden. And I will share your story as long as I have breath. You're so special, Ayden. God's purpose for you is still being fulfilled, and I'm so proud to call you my son.

So many people are remembering you today. You are loved and cherished. It's amazing how many have been touched by YOU and God using your story!

We love you, Ayden. We miss you more than you'll ever know. I have a long list of "I wish"es for today, but I know you're having the mose awesome birthday celebration imaginable.

I will see you soon....

Happy Birthday sweet boy.

Oh, Lord....come quickly.


2 years ago...

Ayden's journey began. I woke up this morning around 3am, just as I did 2 years ago. That morning, though, was such a special morning. It was my birthday, and Ayden had begun his journey! It was the best birthday gift I could have ever been given....sharing the day with my little boy, in anxious anticipation of his arrival. Would he be born on my birthday? Would we share this day for the rest of our lives? When, oh when, would I get to hold my little boy!? Well....we went through the day, celebrated my birthday, and baby, yet. We finally made enough progress to get to the hospital that night, but as you all know....Ayden waited to be born on his own day, which is tomorrow, the 27th.

As I laid in bed, awake and reliving 2 years ago, I just couldn't believe where we are today. It's hard not to dwell on the sadness of it all - that he's not here; that we won't be celebrating with cake or presents or little friends; that Collen will never know his big brother as we know him. I've already shed tears today, and I'm sure plenty more will follow. But....even in the midst of the sadness, there is joy. Ayden was here. He was alive. He IS beautiful and such a sweet, sweet baby boy. He changed our lives, and he will live on with us forever. I laid in bed actually thanking God that I have the assurance of seeing Ayden again. He is living in glory, ultimate joy, and experiencing Heaven with our Father and with Christ. Oh, how I envy him. As much as I would love to have him here (you just don't even know...), part of me is able to see the bigger picture and be thankful that Ayden was spared from this world and the ugly, scary stuff that comes along with it. But, oh how I'd love for him to be here with hug him, kiss him, learn about him, read to him, see that bright smile again.

We will be releasing balloons tomorrow as a family at Ayden's spot. It will be a serene day, but I'm looking forward to honoring and remembering Ayden on his day tomorrow. It's so hard to believe it has been 2 years....

Ayden in my belly....a week before he was born

The day my life changed forever (the first time)


Priceless gifts

First....I'd like for you all to see just how big Collen has gotten SO QUICKLY! I can't believe how much he's doing these days. He's associating words with things - like when we say "light" he looks up at the light. When we say, "yay!!" he claps his hands together. He will pull your hand to his mouth so you can make him go "ba, ba, ba, ba." I promise you he said "light" the other his own came out, "aaa-tt"....but he was clearly saying it while looking at the light. He still isn't crawling, but every day I can see that he's getting closer.

Aaahh....I just love him to pieces. He's such a sweet baby. Collen happens to have a cold at the moment. Please say a quick little prayer that he gets over it quickly. His stuffy nose is interfering with sleep, and he wakes up crying....not understanding why he can't sleep.

NOW...on to the point of my post. This post is actually WAY overdue, and I really have no other excuse other than I just haven't been able to get to it.

Around Christmas-time, one of my former students came to visit, and she had a gift with her (and she brought me breakfast!!! She spoils me). I figured it was for Collen. I certainly didn't expect anything for myself. She gave me the gift and asked me to open it. What I found took my breath away. There, together, were my two boys in the same frame. Tears flooded my eyes to see them side by they should be. She had had someone sketch both of them together from two pictures. It truly captures both of them so well....Ayden with his soft features - light hair, fair skin, sweet face and Collen with his bolder features - dark hair, darker complexion, and his sweet face as well. I will forever treasure this gift. I look at it often and take a moment to look at my boys side by side....something I'll never have in this lifetime, but I can have it this way at least.

A blog reader contacted me while I was pregnant with Collen saying she wanted to do something special for his room. She asked about his bedding/the theme for his nursery, so I sent her a link to the bedding we chose. We went with a sailboats theme with bold colors - navy blue, red, green, yellow. I had no idea what she was working on. She contacted me later in my pregnancy to tell me it was finished! It happened to be at the time when we were living with my parents while waiting for our house to close, so my sister went to pick it up. Megan (my sister) told me how beautiful it was and how it brought her to tears right there in the McAllister's parking lot. I couldn't wait to see it, but then again....knowing it would make me emotional...I was a little nervous.

When I opened the gift and found what was inside, I was blown away. It was so, so beautiful, and I couldn't believe how well the artist had captured the theme of Collen's room! She did such a great job, and it is now the main piece in the room. It's one of the first things people see when they walk in, and they always ask about it and walk over to look at it.

In the middle is a poem titled, "My Guardian Angel." The middle picture is a close-up of the poem; it should be readable. If it isn't, let me know, and I'll edit this post and type the poem out.

I LOVE this gift so much, and it is such a treasure. So many of you have been too kind. We've received baby gifts from many of you....some all the way from England! I have been humbled by your kindness, generosity, and love. You have walked this road with us through tragedy, hard days, good days, happy anticipation of a new life, and now our newfound joy in Collen as we continue grieve the loss of his big brother. We anxiously wait for the day when we'll all be together....when we'll never have to say goodbye again.

Thank you all for loving us so much! We love you right back!

Check out the pictures of the canvas below....


Where have I been??

To my faithful readers (and to know that I actually do have faithful readers is just so humbling...).....I promise, I'm still here.

I was trying to fall asleep last night (takes a while....) and reviewing my day in my head....and I thought, "Wow...I haven't blogged in a while." I wouldn't say my life is so boring I just don't have anything to write about, but really....we're just doing the same old thing these days. Yesterday, I realized that Collen and I hadn't gotten out of the house for 4 days...FOUR DAYS!! No two people should be cooped up that long! So, we got out. Getting both of us ready is a feat in and of itself....he ended up getting a bath while I showered. (Hey...two stone...worked well) Because these days, he doesn't let me out of his sight without a major fit quickly following. *sigh*

We're still working on sleeping. It broke my heart to do it...I said I wouldn't....but I had to let him cry it out the other night. I felt like such a terrible mom. He wakes up several times in the night and it's just because he needs to know that I haven't left him. Usually, I'll pick him up, snuggle him a little, then lay him back down and he's good....he goes right back to sleep. Well, this one night in particular, that method didn't work. As soon as I laid him down, he was crying again. Mind you....this was after midnight, and I hadn't been asleep yet....I was more than tired and so ready to go to sleep. So, I finally laid him down and then laid myself down. He is still in our room (because he's still on the apnea monitor), so he was only a few feet away. I told Jeremy, "He's just going to have to cry. He has to learn how to sleep on his own." Really, at almost 8 months old, he's old enough to learn how to. So, he cried....and cried....and cried...for 20 minutes. It felt like hours. He sounded more mad than upset, but I knew that eventually, he would give up, and he did. He slept the rest of the night after that. Last night, he woke up around 9:45....same deal....had to let him cry....he let out 4 big cries, rolled over to his side....and went back to sleep. He didn't wake up until 6:30 this morning!!!! IN HIS OWN BED!!! I think we're getting somewhere people!!

Now, I have to tackle nap time. I'm going to go ahead and confess....he naps in our bed....with me next to him. A while back, when napping was our big issue, this was the only way he would nap. It didn't bother me, because it gave me a chance to rest. Well, now that he's older and associating more things....he needs to associate his crib with napping instead of our bed. :( This one is going to be tough because he naps so easily in our bed. I may have to tackle this one next week....ugh...dreading it.

This morning, Collen woke up with a fever of 101.3. He had no other symptoms, just a fever and acting puny. So, I called the doctor's office to get him in and have him checked out. I was sure he probably had an ear infection, and so was the doctor, but she checked him, and he was fine. So, not sure where that came from, but he's acting fine....playing and eating well....wants his mommy just a little more than usual, but who doesn't when they're not feeling all that well?

So, that's what's been going on in our little life. Aside from all of this busyness.....Ayden's birthday is on our minds 24/7. I keep forgetting that my birthday is coming up....people keep asking me what I want to do....and really, I don't care about my birthday. I don't know that my birthday will ever be all that important to me again....because now, in my mind, it's just..."the day before Ayden's birthday." He's not here for me to celebrate with, plan with, sing to.....get excited for.....the only thing I can do is honor him on HIS day....which means my day really doesn't hold weight anymore....because in my mind, I always go back to, "This day (my birthday) 2 years ago....I was in labor, anxiously anticipating the arrival of our first baby." When Ayden started his journey on my birthday 2 years wasn't my day became his day...forever. And I'm happy with that. It's a connection we'll always share. It's hard....and my birthday is very bittersweet....but my birthday holds a dear meaning for Ayden and myself...something we'll always share. So, with that said....needless to say, my mind is moving in a million directions these days. Enjoying Collen and the huge blessing he is in our lives every single day.....oh, and looking for a new job for the coming school year (stressfull!!!)....and anticipating yet another birthday without my precious Ayden. It's enough to engulf even the best of multi-taskers.

Most days, I have moments where I'm completely shut off from what's happening at that moment...I kind of drift off....thinking about the fact that 2 years ago, he was born....and what he would be like now....and how desperately I miss him. Then, I come back and am back in the moment again. I guess it's my heart and mind's way of processing it...little by little. I hope you are all doing well. Spring break is almost upon us (next Thursday starts Jeremy's), and I'm so looking forward to having Jeremy home. Maybe we can actually get some things accomplished around here! (mwuahaha....he thought he was going to get a break.....ha!)

If you would, please pray for some dear friends of ours. One of my dearest childhood friends (he and I were Mary and Joseph EVERY SINGLE YEAR in the church Christmas play...for about 12 years) has just been deployed to Afghanistan for a year. He and his family are stationed in Alaska. Waiting for him at home are his wife and his 3 boys. I've followed their journey through his wife's blog and facebook postings, and I know...for heart-wrenching it has been to anticipate this day alongside them....I can't begin to imagine how hard this is for his wife and his boys. They are faithful believers and they have carefully planned and prepared themselves for this, but even with the best of's still hard. Please pray for his safety and the safety of those who have been deployed with him, and please pray for his family as well as the families of the soldiers he is serving with. Their service is so appreciated. Photobucket

Collen's laughs

Collen has a pretty cute laugh...if I say so myself. :)

He doesn't let it out often, but sometimes, I can get him going. This video is the tail-end of his giggles for tonight....then it fades into a little fussing. I get the best laughs out of him when he's sleepy, but then he quickly lets me know he's had enough. You'll get to see him give it back to me....and also wave bye-bye. :)

And...don't mind makeup, looking tired.....just pay attention to the cute baby.


Figuring him out...

I guess Collen is a typical guy already.....just can't figure him out sometimes. :) Thank you all for you advice and suggestions! I'm so happy to tell you that his milk intake has been much better the past few days. I'm not stressing over it.....just letting him cue me in when he wants it. I've been waiting to give him his bottle before nap times, and he gets his last big bottle before bed. He takes a bottle much easier when he's sleepy. There has been less fighting him....and more of him taking the bottle more willingly. I'm thinking teething may have had something to do with it because he is a lot less fussy these days, too. I'm telling you...if it's not one thing, it's something else! haha His sleep has been some better....woke up 3 times last night. That's the minimum. I think he's having some separation anxiety issues. He'll wake up and not go back to sleep unless I pick him up. I've tried patting his bottom, stroking his face, patting his back, but he's having none of that! But once I pick him up and snuggle him a little bit, he's back to sleep and will let me lay him back down - takes all of 5 minutes. He's got a thing for his mommy.... Thank you all much!!! You definitely helped me feel less stressed, and I didn't feel so unusual after reading your experiences! Photobucket

Has anyone else had this issue?

I'm sure we aren't the only parents who have faced this issue with their infant, but it seems so backwards. Collen will NOT drink his milk. Well....he doesn't flat out refuse it, but he won't drink much of all. I'm used to babies sucking down bottles like they're going to be taken away from them!! But ever since we started solids, Collen has been elusive when the bottle has been presented to him.

He is now on formula only. (:(....makes me sad) I tried to keep up, but my body just wouldn't let me. I was on Reglan, trying to boost my supply, but as soon as I stopped using the Reglan, it would drop right back down. For a while, I pumped and supplemented with formula, but then it became difficult to keep up with Collen and find time to pump during the day. So, I had to make the difficult decision to switch him over completely. I think it was harder for me than for him.

Anyway, so the formula doesn't seem to be disagreeing with him. He is on the Target brand of formula, and he actually does better with that than Similac (wooo...saves some major $$$!!) For awhile, he was doing great...taking 6oz per bottle, about 4-5 times a day. And that was with 2 meals a day of solids. For some reason, though, he just won't take in the volume he once did. I'm lucky if I get 20oz in him a day.

Usually, he will take about 5oz in the morning when he wakes up. Throughout the day, I offer him bottles in about 4 hour intervels, (with a snack bottle in the afternoon) and the most I can get him to take is about 3oz with each bottle. By the time 5 o'clock rolls around, he might have had 10oz...maybe 12. He will usually get a big bottle in (6oz) before bed. So, most days, he's getting anywhere from 18-22oz or so.

It's so strange to me, and the micromanager in me starts to become frazzled because I have a number in my head all day....a minimum (I believe the minimum he should be getting is 24oz)...and if hasn't reached the minimum, I start stressing out.

I'm trying to just go by his cues and feed him when he wants it. He isn't dehydrated, he has enough wet diapers, he has plenty of drool. Hopefully, this is just a phase, and he'll get back to taking larger amounts soon.

Still....I have never heard of a baby NOT wanting a bottle....crazy!! I tell him all the time, he's missing out on some good stuff (although, I have no idea how he drinks that stuff...yuck). I don't know if it's teething related or not. He doesn't seem to be bothered by teething, but then's hard to really KNOW when they can't tell you what's wrong. But, if it's his top teeth, I would think it could be a factor because I would imagine those are tough.

He still isn't sleeping well. He wakes up several times throughout the night. I have toyed around with giving him a bottle later in the night....around 11 or so. That was when I wasn't able to get him to take a good bottle before bed. That seemed to help, but he still woke up 3 or 4 times. I'm hoping this is a phase, too....because I stay exhausted. He times it perfectly - as soon as I've gotten comfortable and almost asleep....he wakes up. Makes for a long night.

If any of you have experienced this or happen to have some's all welcome. :) Photobucket

April is here.

Just like *that* - it's April.

In 25 days, he would be celebrating his 2nd birthday.

We would be celebrating our birthdays together....just a day apart.

I would see him blow out his candles, run around and play with his friends, open the tons of presents he would have gotten, kissed sweet, icing-covered cheeks, and given big hugs to my big boy. If only he were here.

All of the would-have-beens are getting to me.

I drift between anger and extreme sadness....and just wishing he was still here.

It's incredibly unfair. I've never claimed to but completely into the whole "there was a purpose" outlook. Part of me knows, and tries to believe that, but the other part of me....the mother who lost her baby....the mother who had to hear the words no mother should ever be told....the young woman who lost so much innocence that day....that part of me just stomps and yells and says, it just isn't fair. I want so badly to just feel the weight of him in my arms hear his sweet, soft voice (which is so different from his brother's deep, husky voice) cuddle him against my chest as he see that smile one more time.

I see pictures of my friends' of their first, second, third year....birthday parties....documenting their lives. I let out a big sigh because all I have is 4 months. 4 months of pictures and videos. I'll never have another new picture or video of him. No update. Only 4's just not enough. Then again, 100 years wouldn't be enough....when it's your child. April is a hard month. And it only gets harder as the 27th approaches. I want to focus on celebrating instead of mourning, but that's easier said than done when the child you're celebrating isn't here to receive it all.


Grieving has been strange since Collen has joined us. I continue to grieve; I'll grieve for the rest of my life. But, I haven't been able to allow myself to grieve as freely as I once could because he does occupy so much of my time. You know the saying, "Teaching is 90% performance."? Well, sometimes, parenting has to be performance. You have to put on a strong face, or a happy face (in the midst of whining, crying, fit-throwing), and you have to put on a calm face in the midst of worry or stress. I guess that type of performance is protection....but get what I'm saying. I've had to comparmentalize my grief, so now when I let it out, it rushes out because it has been held back for so long. Those are hard, hard days.

A 2nd child doesn't fix case anyone was wondering. A 2nd child doesn't make it easier. But a 2nd child keeps you busy, and you're able to put your mommy skills to work....skills you definitely don't take for granted. Collen isn't Ayden.....not by a long shot, so I definitely feel his absence. In the mornings, when Collen is still sleeping, I lie in bed watching him and listening.....imaging hearing Ayden stirring across the house in his room. Wondering what life would be like with both of them and knowing it would be so beautifully complete.


So, April is here, and it will push us forward whether we like it or not.

At least we're another April closer to being with Ayden again. In that, I can find some comfort.