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!