I'm getting really, really tired of saying goodbye.  

This morning was a normal morning.  Everything was going just as it always does.  My mom stayed with us last night, so she was helping me get out the door this morning.  She let our little dog, Tucker, out for me.  As she went to let him back in, she opened the door to hear him yelping.  He had been hit by a car.  Tucker has never/would never walk(ed) on a leash.  When you put it on him, he would freeze...not move at all.  When we moved into this house, we were worried that this would happen.  We had considered a shock collar.  We have an invisible fence for Gracie, but she is bigger and can handle the collar.  I was afraid that with Tucker being so little, the collar just wouldn't be good for him. Plus, it's likely he wouldn't have moved with it on either.  So, we knew we would just have to take our chances.  Most of the time, he was good about not going across the road, but others....he was a typical dog.  He liked to explore...especially if he caught the scent of another dog.  This time, he wasn't so lucky as the other times he dodged cars.  

Obviously, we feel terrible.  We feel like we should have done something to prevent it from happening.  But - he wouldn't go in the backyard because Gracie is there.  And as I said...no leash...and the collar seemed to extreme for such a little dog.  

When I realized what happened, I ran out as quickly as I could.  My mom managed to get him off the road, and I covered him with a towel.  He was able to move himself with his front legs, and as soon as I got to him, he scooted himself right underneath me and rested his head on my leg.  He could not get close enough to me.  He just looked at me with those big brown eyes....as if to say, "Please don't leave me. I'm so scared."  At that point, he was quiet and breathing heavily.  I had already called Jeremy and told him to get home.  I stayed with Tucker until Jeremy got there.  My mom got his kennel and he got himself into it with very little help from me.  He has always been such a tough, strong little guy.

I decided to take Collen and Charlotte to their babysitter's house.  Collen was asleep through it all, so he had no idea what had happened.  I preferred to keep it that way, too.  Once I got to the emergency vet, the vet explained that his injuries were extensive.  He said he could possibly go in and do repairs, but it would mean numerous surgeries and a lot of money.....and Tucker would probably never have use of his back legs.  We knew that his quality of life would be miserable if we took that route, so we made the very difficult decision to have him put to sleep.  I don't know how many times I told Tucker I was so, so sorry that this happened to him.  I know these things happen, but when they happen to you.....it's just awful.  This was my first experience with seeing the aftermath of a dog being hit...one of my dogs...and it honestly traumatized me a bit.  He was so brave, and he stayed so calm.  I don't know what to believe about pets/animals and heaven, but I know they are mentioned in Isaiah in an image of Heaven.  If he is there, my dad has his best buddy back with him.  Tucker and my dad shared such a bond.  Tucker loved visiting my parents' house because he loved my dad. Even after my dad passed away, I could tell that Tucker wondered about him....he would look for him and could always be found in daddy's room.

Jeremy and I got Tucker in 2006.  He was born July 2, 2006, and we got him as a little puppy. He has always been such a loving dog (with us).  He was very leery of strangers or people he didn't know well.  He has been known to nip at people.  He never knew he was so small....because his bark was so big.  He saw himself as our protector, and when Collen was born, he took on being Collen's protector as well.  We were worried that Tucker would not do well with Collen because he normally did not do well with kids.  However, he took to Collen quickly.  He liked to watch him and smell him and give him kisses.  As Collen got older, Tucker would eat any food Collen dropped on the floor.  And just recently, Tucker began giving Collen hugs....and Collen would gladly return those hugs.

We are going to miss our little buddy so much.  He was the best snuggler....you could always find him snuggled under a blanket, especially if one of us was using one...he'd come running to get under it with you.  He loved a ball and would chase it as long as you threw it for him.  He would give hugs on demand and was so eager to please us.  He listened well and obeyed us as a dog should.  The unconditional love of a pet is truly amazing, and it creates a bond that is not easily broken.  And when it is broken by something like this, it breaks the heart in ways you never knew possible.  Is this loss comparable to others?  No...but no loss can compare to another.  Loss is loss...and it hurts.

Collen has only asked where Tucker's bowls are since he noticed they are missing.  He has not asked about Tucker, though.  We don't plan on telling him anything unless he does ask.  At 2, I know he won't understand, so in this case, ignorance in bliss.  Please pray for us as we try to get back to another "new normal" without our little guy.  Gracie has been a light today, and I've given her so many hugs.  She's the only fur-baby we have left.  Collen and Charlotte have kept us busy and made us smile and laugh.  I will continue to count my blessings....our family is healthy....our kids are with us....we are being provided for.  Things like this rock your world and knock you down for a little bit, but the memories will remain, and Mr. Tucker will never be forgotten.

 snuggled up with me

 Letting Collen hug him

I'm going to miss his cute, sweet face

 And this little boy will miss his buddy....

Love and miss you, Tucker...my sweet companion.

Grief: 3 years, 5 months, 15 days....and counting.

I think a lot of people look at me and think, "She's doing great! She has gotten over the tragic loss of her son.  Good for her."  That couldn't be further from the truth.

Yes, I've moved forward with life.
Yes, I've had 2 more beautiful children.
Yes, I smile and laugh and joke.

But inside....the hurt is still there.  Very much so.

I was driving to church Sunday and listening to the Christian music station.  It took me 3 years to really listen to music again; especially music that I knew could surprise me and send me into a breakdown....like contemporary Christian music.  Sunday, though, I felt strong.  I was ready to hear any song that would be difficult to hear.  I could handle it.  Then the following song came over the radio:

I'm gonna wrap my arms around my Daddy's neck
And tell him that I've missed him

Cue the breakdown.

I continued to listen to the song, which is Mercy Me's "When I Finally Make it Home."  Tears streaming down my face at the picture and sounds of Heaven.  All I could see was Ayden and my dad...I imagined what they are seeing...what they are hearing....the voices of the angels.  I was awestruck and so, so sad.  But not so much sad for our loss....sad for myself.  I want to be there so, so badly.  I heard a preacher once say, "If you're not homesick for Heaven, you need to get your heart right."  As each day passes without Ayden and without my dad...this world becomes more and more foreign to me.  For a while, after losing Ayden, I wondered why I felt so disconnected.  Then, I realized it was because a piece of me was no longer in this world.  It was beyond....it was "home."  I just wasn't there yet.

So, 3 years, 5 months, and 15 days later....the grief still hits.  This week, for some reason, has been a week of a "wave."  The waves of grief don't come as often as they used to, but they still come.  I expect them, and I even welcome them.  Grieving has become second nature to me.  Sure, the unrelenting pain has lessened.  I have been able to continue with my life.  However, after 3 years...it still isn't easy.  It never will be.  This week, I have been distant. I have conversations, but I'm not "all there."  My mind drifts and lingers on memories.  Tears flood my eyes as I remember his smile, his laugh, his snuggles, his sweet sighs in the middle of the night, his big hands, and his gentle demeanor.  3 years later I still tell God that I don't understand.  I still say, "I wish...." and "If only..."  In 30 years, I expect to still do the same.

It has been 1 year, 2 months, and 20 days since my dad passed away.  I have not processed this loss well.  With Ayden, I took a semester off of work.  I was home alone...a lot.  I was able to face grief head-on and really FEEL the loss.  I went through each step of grief and really had a chance to process it all in a healthy way....and in my own way.  When my dad passed, it was another unexpected loss.  My life was incredibly busy...and would soon be busier with a new baby.  I had not time to let it sink in...let it process.  I still struggle a lot with my dad's passing.  You would think that being through the loss of a child, I could handle this pretty easily...already knowing the steps.  I've learned that you grieve differently for each loss you experience.  Losing a child can't compare to losing a parent.  The two are completely different and require different approaches.  Thankfully, our church is hosting a GriefShare class.  I plan to attend so I can finally have a chance to process this.  I have been terribly broken over the past 3 years.  I hope I can find some healing through this class.

Time doesn't ease the pain.  It doesn't erase the event or the memory of it all.  Time only passes, and in my case...I encourage time to pass as quickly as it wants.  As time passes, I'm closer to the end and my ultimate goal.  I only pray that as time passes, I do my best to raise my children in such a way that they are with me in the end so we can all be together in glory.

Charlotte - 4 months

Charlotte was 4 months old on January 4th!  I have to say, I was taking a lot of deep breaths that day, and saying a whole lot of whispered "thank yous" to God. Now, I will continue those deep breaths until she is...well, I was going to say one...but really, I'll take deep breaths about my children until I'm not longer breathing.

Here are Charlotte's 4 month stats:  

Weight: 13 lbs 4oz - 50%

Length: 24.5 inches - 70%Head: 41cm - 70%

I was somewhat surprised by her weight.  My estimate was 14 pounds.  She is definitely the smaller of our babies.  At 3 months, 28 days Ayden was 17 pounds.  Collen at 4 months was around the same.  

She is a happy, happy baby!  She has such a sweet personality.  Her smile will just melt your heart!  She loves to be with me and Jeremy.  She does not like to be left alone, so if we leave the room to do something for a minute, she will start fussing immediately once we are out of sight.  She is not a good traveller.  We found this out on our recent trip to Florida.  That was the longest trip of my life. Whew...

Charlotte loves to squeal and jabber.  If you lay her on her back, she squeals and "talks" and coos to her heart's content.  She prefers to sit up rather than lie down.  She does quite well in her bumbo seat. She is sleeping through the night (most nights), and if she wakes up, she is easily soothed with a paci and little rocking.  She continues to love to be swaddled, and I plan to do it as long as she will let me!  To get her sleep, normally all I have to do is swaddle her, put her paci in (sometimes not even that), lie her down, and she will drift off on her own.  Easy, easy baby.

Here is a video of her first laugh:

And here is her 4 month picture. Look at that precious baby girl!

I can't get enough of her!  She is just the sweetest, more precious baby.  God knew exactly what he was doing when he sent her to us!


As I look back over 2012, I realize it all went by so, so quickly! It seems like a blur; although, as quickly as it went by, I have so many memories from 2012 I will cherish forever.  Each year we gain with our kids will be a blessing to us, so having now spent two years with Collen, I feel like the luckiest Mommy in the world.  We have been allowed to keep him, and I thank God every single day.  And Miss Charlotte, oh, that sweet girl. By far, she is the absolute highlight of 2012.  Our little surprise baby!  January 8th, 2012 is a day I will never forget because I got the shock of my life when I learned I was pregnant once again.  Unplanned....and so unprepared.  However, she is just what I needed in my life. And I'm pretty sure Jeremy would say the same goes for him as well.  And Collen...well, he thinks she's the best thing ever.

2012 marked 3 years without our son, Ayden.  As each year passes, the loss is further away than what we are to gain, which is a future with Ayden once our time here is over.  The pain of losing him is still excruciating.  I don't expect that to change.  But the hope that we carry in our hearts is our silver lining. 2012 also marked one year since my dad passed away.  I still doesn't seem real that I've lived these two losses. More like SURVIVED these two losses.  After losing Ayden, I didn't know how I would put one foot in front of the other again.  Laughing or smiling seemed to foreign to me.  I had to learn how to live all over again because a part of me died that day.  A part of me I won't get back until I see him again and see Jesus! - only then will I be whole again.  And then, losing my dad....it hit all over again.  My dad has been my strength for so long.  I think every girl who has a good relationship with her dad can say that.  He and I shared a connection.  We got each other 100%.  I don't know if he ever knew just how much I loved him.  To lose him...a person who brought me so much strength, wisdom, love, and laughter....just brought my world crashing down all over again.  We had all gotten to a point where we could say we were doing okay...making it...learning to live with our new normal....and then our rock is taken from us.  To see that we have made it a year...wow.  It hasn't been easy.  I second guess myself all the time - I think all of us do - because he isn't here for us to run it by him.  But again, hope keeps us pushing forward because a year without him/them means we're another year closer to being with them again.

My prayer for 2013 is that it sees my family through safely, securely, and happily.  Loss is going to come.  We can't change it or stop it.  But hope will always remain.  I say that while in my mind I'm saying, "But please God....please...don't take my kids..my husband...my mom...my sister...and so many other faces run through my mind - faces of those I can't bear to lose.

2013 is bringing changes for our family.  I am starting a new job on Jan. 22.  I actually interviewed for this job last year but narrowly missed it.  I was choice #3, and they hired the first 2 choices to fill 2 positions.  Over my maternity leave, I was being nosey and browsing the job listings for the College of Education at ECU and saw that the same position was listed again.  I emailed to inquire about this and found it they did indeed have another opening.  I was encouraged to reapply, so I did.  I interviewed and later found out I got the job!  Basically, I will be working with student teachers/interns - placing them into their schools and with their teachers, handling paperwork, putting our fires, and anything else I may be needed to do.  I am so, so excited about this opportunity.  It will be great for us all the way around!! I hate to leave AGHS...especially since I just got back...but I can't pass up this opportunity.  I'm going to miss my AGHS family - these are people who have been my support system and true family during the hardest time of my life.  They are absolutely the most wonderful people I have ever known.  It's going to be so hard to leave, but I will definitely be staying in touch.

I go back to work tomorrow after this wonderful Christmas break.  Want to hear something ironic...sickly ironic?  Tomorrow, Charlotte will be 3 months and 28 days old.  Tomorrow is my first day back at work after a break.  Sound familiar?  Yeah...same circumstance as Ayden.  Same age.  Same thing. Do you think I'm a bit scared?  Oh yeah....  Please pray tomorrow.  Pray for Charlotte.  I know she is going to be just fine, but still...pray.  Pray for me as I face a day that will hold a lot of fear and anxiety.  Pray that I can just let tomorrow be just another day and not focus on the irony of it all. Pray that I will come home and pick up my sweet babies and live to see them see another day.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!  I pray that 2013 treats you well and brings you joy and happiness!

I will leave you with a few pictures from our Christmas:

Some of these are a little out of order, but I think you can put it all together.  Some are from Christmas day, some are from Christmas photos with the cousins, and the rest are from our big family vacation to Florida.  The big kids (me, Jeremy, my sister and her husband) went to the Harry Potter theme park (AMAZING by the way!!) and the next day everyone went to Animal Kingdom and had a blast. :)

 Jeremy's cousin - mesmerized by Charlotte.

 My mom, me, and my sister