Thanksgiving

2013 ThanksgivingIMG_5205 IMG_5206 IMG_5212 IMG_5220 IMG_5224 IMG_5231 IMG_5236 IMG_5238 IMG_5242 IMG_5246think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. - anne frank IMG_5273 IMG_5259 IMG_5262 IMG_5215 IMG_5245 IMG_5266

By the end of the day, I decided that my boots were overrated and bare feet on chilly ground was the way to go. The sun was setting on what couldn’t have been a more perfect first Thanksgiving at our home. I was nervous, I’ll admit it. I’d only ever cooked one other turkey before and this one was 24 pounds so I felt in over my head, but determined to make it happen. Thankfully The Pioneer Woman came to my rescue, on just about everything I made for our feast. God bless that woman, I’ve convinced myself that I just need to go ahead and get her cookbook! Her mashed potatoes and Chocolate Pie… are to DIE for.

Anyway, we had some of our bestest friends in the whole wide world join us. They are like family to us. We love their kids. They love ours. Something special happens when you see someone not related to you by blood love your children. It’s unspoken, but a bond is made. We’ve been through a lot together. These friends, they’re as good as family.

Pete and Joseph headed out to the Thanksgiving Parade in the morning. I ran around like a chicken without a head (in my pajamas!) all morning, actually for two whole days, peeling apples, boiling potatoes, trying to figure out what Ree means when she said I need to “brine the turkey”! But three o’clock rolled around and it actually happened.

I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. Tuesday night I let my writers at Still Standing know that I would be taking a few days away from facebook (we have a group there so we can stay in touch), and the minute I shut down my laptop that night, I felt free. I woke up, not too worried about work, or pumping out designs for my shop. Just free.

So we built a fort in the living room, me and Joseph.

We read books.

Played.

Talked about Thanksgiving.

And he “helped” me make the apple pie. He stood next to me eating apple peels as I tore the skin off. I remembered doing the same thing with my mom so many years ago.

I made butter crust for the first time.

And it just felt good to be cooking. And baking. Bare feet, with some country music flowing through the kitchen because for some reason Christmas tunes didn’t feel quite right.

I kept thinking how much I couldn’t wait for Thursday, because Pete is finally getting not one, but FOUR days off, after weeks of working seven days a week, and long hours at that. We are thankful, thankful for the work but we all miss him. So we are soaking in these days.

Today we wasted no time and grabbed a tree today, and replaced our scant fall decorations with some of our old and treasured Christmas decorations and ornaments.

I. Love. This. Time. Of. Year.

the end.

ps – I’m giving away TWO $50 gift certificates to my shop. One on facebook here. One on Instagram here.

Treats

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Oh my goodness. Halloween was by far the best it has ever been since being a mama. We had a pretty busy day last Thursday. And on top of all the hustle and bustle of events before that actual evening, it was raining. Not just any rain either – it was the kind of rain that makes you wonder why you ever left your door step and also makes you wonder why you don’t invest in a good umbrella! I ended up spending a few hours before meeting up with the family at Chic-fil-a. Bubby skipped dinner out of his necessity to play and burn all his excitement over this sugar infested holiday. It’s one of the best, I tell you. Where people actually SHARE chocolate. I’ve tossed my “cleaner”-ish ways of eating out the window these past few days. Something about candy, it just welcomes all the grains, and pastas and starchy foods with open arms. Ahhhh….

That evening we visited Pete’s Grandma with a few other family members in the nursing home where she lives. We gathered in this large room, with a pool table and the kids had a ball. They were all dressed up, and even though we didn’t do the traditional trick-or-treating it was good.

One of those moments where you are so glad cameras exist. And these memories can last forever and ever.

Fog Rising

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Today Bubby asked where Jenna was. Again.

Of course, he knows the answer but this age. Oh, this age. He just likes to hear my answer again, and again and again. I think it is a security thing, making sure nothing has changed in the past five minutes or past five days. I love that he wants to know even a little bit about his big sister, but it is all so very bittersweet. He also asked if she was playing, and I kind of lost it for a minute.

The truth is this new life, it swallows me up whole. And at first I was resistant. I fought every bit of it. I felt guilt about warming up to the idea of laughing so hard that tears come out, and smiling so big that your heart carries it over your countenance for the entire day. Happiness is scary stuff after losing a baby.

One of my friends posted something on facebook a few days ago, and it has been on my heart ever since.

“I am more than my sad story. So much more. It just took some time for me to remember.”

I am so much more than my sad story.

I get scared sometimes admitting that here, because I realize that so many readers have probably experienced a loss very recently. I never want to write something that makes someone want to throw their laptop out the window or hurl. I want to write real life. And the truth is, some days grief just takes me by surprise and I am angry, hurt and exhausted. Other days are the so-called “good days”. But the entire thing, this life after loss – it’s messy. Just messy.

That part about “it just took some time for me to remember”, well yes. It took a couple of years for me to accept that I wanted to be truly happy again. Smile at people, go out of my way to be friendly (I am a ridiculous introvert!), buy myself something that makes me feel good about me. Find me. Whoever that might be now.

And be completely and incandescently (as Mr. Darcy would put it) okay with that.

Through the fog rising, I see this life. The laughter, the smiles, the friendships, the bonds, the fire of passion. I’ve tasted how beautiful it can be, even this broken vessel. And I just want every bit of it.

Sick Day

sick daySomething about today.

I cracked.

I guess it could be that Evelyn is going on two weeks of being a little sick, and three days of being way too sick to play and talk and giggle like a normal chubby almost-nine month old. And part of it is due to my own shame. I’ve been caring for a sick one for two weeks. And it feels like an eternity since I’ve seen her playing like she would on a normal day.

You’d think I of all people wouldn’t take the “healthy” for granted, but I do. I sit here thinking about parents who are spending weeks, months, years in the hospital beds next to their young ones. Something about illness, it makes you realize how vulnerable you really are. How short life is and how big the universe can suddenly feel. And something about the healthy days, you wonder how you didn’t sanitize every thing every single night, just in case.

It turns out she just has a virus, and it just has to run it’s course.

Still, seeing her this way made me peek into my own heart and how desperately shallow it can be at times. I’ve barely glanced at Facebook and I have deliberately avoided Pinterest. That place will only make me depressed right now! I’m half-way joking. But it all feels so empty when life shakes you a little bit.

I hugged Bubby extra long tonight. He was chattering on about something, I don’t remember what but I just had to hold him. I felt like I was going to wake up in the morning and he would be all grown up. That’s about how it’s going to be, right? It will feel like yesterday he was this little. Right now he’s missing time with his sister too.

Aside from cabin fever, and a few sleepless nights all really is well tonight.

I’ve been given the chance to be their mama. And at least on the sick days I get more snuggles out of her.

Writer’s Block

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When I can’t write…

When words fail me…

When it feels like my emotions are running through my veins at a crazy pace in every direction, and they have no outlet whatsoever…

When the writer’s block is at all time peak…

I find myself creating.

That’s how I tick. I have to be making something. Like homemade pizza. Or snapping pictures. Maybe something fun like chalk paint for Bubby. Or something completely horrible, but tasty like Nutella cookies.

But I miss writing. Writing is setting my soul free. It allows me to feel my soul EXHALE. And something about it makes every inch of me ready for another day of this thing called life.

Big things happen. Little things. Moments that make my heart ache with so much curiosity and wonder. Yet words fail me. A lot lately, it seems. So I turn to other things to express what my soul just can’t bear inside.

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I think a lot about God being an artist. Being surrounded by so much beauty in Florida last week – the water, the sunset, the impeccable grains of sugary sand, the sea creatures that found themselves at our feet that week… it amazes me. What a great God.

Last week I checked facebook or instagram, I can’t remember which now. But I saw Diana’s update on her precious newborn son (she has lost twins in the past few years, in case you don’t follow her blog or know her), at the time she said he was taking a turn for the worst. That same day, only a few hours later my husband got a text message that a co-worker had been murdered. Twenty-five. Leaving behind young children. It felt so wrong to be vacationing. Enjoying life, when someone else is living through hell. Or dying a completely senseless death.

*sigh*

There just aren’t words sometimes. Only tears. Silent prayers that feel like they hit a brass ceiling or soaking the ground beneath us.

When my feet hit the water for the first time last week, it was at dusk. Jenna instantly came to my mind. I meet her at the beach. I have always loved the beach, but since losing Jenna, it is my heart’s desire to be by the water permanently someday. I feel close to her there. Watching the waves crash, collide and retreat back into the sea help me process the waves of grief. I thought a lot about our eldest girl. I pictured her in the back seat with our precious babies. I so wished I could see her interact with her new baby sister. Bubby is so in love with Evelyn. He just swoons over everything she does. He calls her ‘gorgeous’ and refers to her as ‘my baby’. He lets her play with his favorite toys (now that is love!).

I can only imagine what Jenna would have thought of Evelyn.

I just missed writing tonight… and I’m a blubbering mess now. It’s ridiculous. Sometimes I just forget how much I really miss our Jenna. I think about her every single day, but somedays the ache is too strong to keep inside.

But I am also desperately thankful at the same time.

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The Carousel

The birds are not singing yet this morning. It’s too early I suppose. I’m turning in earlier these nights, and enjoying early, early mornings before the babies awake. I hope I can keep this going. I ran once this week. My feet hurt for three days. Does that tell you how desperately out of shape I am? I hope to run Monday. I was sore, all over actually, but it felt so good to push myself that way.

Lately I’ve been thinking about life and how it doesn’t stand still. Instead it pushes along like the music on a carousel dances the horses and ponies, dragons and lions along, going round and round, only your carousel doesn’t go round and round. It goes on. And on. And in my deepest corner of my pieced-together, fragmented heart, I fully expect to come ‘full circle’ on this mocking carousel of life. Somewhere along the way, I have started to believe that life is not just one horribly cruel joke… but a gift. And somewhere along the way I began to  crave a real relationship with God again. On this carousel ride, I’ve stepped off the broken mustang that nearly threw me off the God-forsaken ride completely. I ventured over to the friends and family that held my hand and heart through the deepest nightmare of my life. And as the years grew on my grief, I felt a little braver and stepped out into the world, rubbing shoulders with those that know nothing about the loss of a child but know how to be a friend.

Somewhere along the way I found laughter again. And freedom in it.

Somewhere along the way I forgot how horribly distraught I felt pulling off of the broken mustang’s back. Weak. Broken. Guilty.

And here, among friends and family. Between whispered prayers and singing songs with the rainbow babies I find this carousel ride a complete joy.

I find myself curled up on the couch, beneath a whirling, buzzing fan and the dark morning hour. The wall of our lives is on the hanging  in misaligned black frames throughout our house. I catch a glimpse of the one with the three of us. Holding our first girl for the first and last time.

I ask God,”What was that?” Almost like he made a horrible mistake. Still wondering where I stand in all this. Fully questioning how that horrible moment in my life fits into the life we now lead.

THAT is your story. It’s so clear this time of day, without distractions.

I collapse in a shredded retreat. Why couldn’t my story be something easier to talk about? Something people don’t click away when they read about, and something people don’t try to make into some fantasizing fairy tale? My daughter died. That is usually such a tie breaker when we meet new people, and our conversation finally “gets” there… minutes or weeks later.

I feel a bit clumsy thinking out loud today, asking God about this. I don’t regret any of it, I just wonder at life. It streams effortlessly along, like this forever long carousel ride. Almost as if it is so sure that you will make it off the broken mustang’s back just fine. The music plays while your heart is shattering into one million and one pieces…

The music keeps playing when you feel so alone…

Until one day you wake up, and the same tune is playing somewhere in the background of this life you never wanted to love again.

But you do.

And you realize that life doesn’t wrap so tightly around this fate of grief anymore.

In fact I had a dream about her on her due date, last Sunday. It was the third dream I can remember having of her since she died. And like the rest, it wasn’t good. This one was just plain mortifying. But in a weird way it assured me that she doesn’t belong in this world.

So however jarred I might feel whenever I do share about her and the incredible way she changed our lives, it’s okay. For whatever reason God gave me this story. I don’t take that lightly.

This carousel also makes me cringe thinking of coming “full circle”, or in this case having the other shoe drop… and starting all over at square one on that broken mustang’s back that sent excruciating pain throughout my soul with every jib and jolt of this carousel ride.

Many days I can stand on the brink of the ‘what if’ and wonder how long the carousel must keep going before lightening strikes again. And there are days, like last Sunday, that it’s hard not to question it all. How on earth was I ‘fit’ to mother a dead child? I feel like I don’t do enough for her, talk about her enough? And to some, maybe too much? But who is ‘fit’? That begs me to question why not me? 

One day, I cannot wait to ask God these questions that pound my head this early in the morning. Until then I have to believe there is so much more to this story than I can see. I will hold onto that hope today.

And believe with my whole heart that she was always meant to be our story.

the carousel ride

After Naptime

When her naptimes are over, and we hear her through the monitors waking up, Joseph usually stops whatever he might be doing if he is in ear shot and say “Mama, she wake up!”

He watches me eagerly to follow my footsteps into her room. He loves this part of the day, and I love that we get to experience this sweetness more than once in a day too. He loves calling her “gorgeous” and “precious”. He’ll even say,”Mama, I love her.” I promise there are twinkles in his eyes when he talks about her. Every time.

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Summer, how I love you.

Memorial weekend always feels to me like the unofficial launch of all things SUMMER.

Friends, I am so excited.

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Summer usually means business slows down a bit, which actually is okay with me. You see, when Jenna died it was around this time of year. Summer was about to begin and as much as I don’t love the heat, the heat of the summer that first summer without her was one of the most bittersweet memories I have.

Summer is like the sigh of relief after a rough couple of months every year. I feel it building after Christmas and building, and building. Until May 18th comes around and I can feel my chest split wide open.

And then, almost like magic, I can breathe again.

This is summer.

Maybe not officially, but I feel that revitalization in life again.

Inspired a bit, actually a LOT! I am working on a project with a handful of other artists and I just can’t wait to spill more about it. Sometimes I wish I could tap away at my keyboard and make money doing just this, because writing to me is like therapy.

Maybe one day. But until then I will squeeze moments throughout my day to keep at this. It helps me process life. And release whatever my heart is struggling to put into words on so many occasions.

But summer. Oh, summer. I cannot tell you how glad I am that you are almost here.

I can already taste the strawberry lemonade and the feel the damp humidity that lingers well into the evening. And while you bring a plethora of mosquitos and sunburns along with you, I welcome you. Because you are the constant, faithful reminder that life is here. Life is now.

And I am so, so ready.

I have a few things on my bucket list so far… do you have a bucket list for summer time?

Also, four days ago this young man lost his battle against cancer. His legacy is pretty amazing. “You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.”

ps… I wrote on the MOB Society yesterday on childhood memories and the magical outdoors!

This Mess

messIMG_1174 IMG_1176 IMG_1179 IMG_1182 IMG_1189 IMG_1191 On a typical day, this is what my living room floor looks like.

Dump trucks, stuffed animals and books scattered all over our worn out carpet. Rubbed out spots on the floor, from peanut butter or ice cream.

Laundry covering the smaller sofa. I can hardly keep up these days. I think I’ve given up actually, and I’m okay with it really.

That saying about having a messy home, but happy kids… it’s kind of true.

The other day I was spending some time on the living room floor with my babies. My world. The mess of a typical day surrounded us. All I could think of was how happy I am to have the chance to clean this up.

Because there is only a mess where there is LIFE.

My son’s days are spent tirelessly, effortlessly sorting through games, toys and books. Dragging mud pies through our kitchen, and not-so-accidentally tossing play dough off the kitchen table, making semi-permanent red and blue stains throughout our kitchen floor.

I look forward to seeing what Evelyn will choose to do. What her mess will look like.

Sure there are days, where life can just feel chaotic and tiring. But this mess… the never-ending task of putting the dump truck back, re-shelving the books, vacuuming the nabisco crackers off the carpet for the hundredth time in a week… it’s something I’ll never be able to do for Jenna. I often wonder what her mess would look like had she lived. What books and toys I would be looking forward to storing away, to someday pass down to her own kids. What toys would have been her favorite.

Her mess looks a lot different than I imagined it would. But it’s a mess nonetheless. A mess that I look forward to picking up and sorting through each day. The art, the cards, the canvases, the emails, the connecting with other bereaved moms… all remnants of the life she lived.

There is only a mess where there has once been life.

Conversations With My Rainbow Baby

Sometimes she whispers.

Sometimes she’s far.

And it’s almost like it never happened. It’s easier for grief to be so close it hurts. Isn’t that so backwards though?

In the beginning it was unimagineable to think that I’d have to carry this pain for the rest of my life. And now that ebb and flow of life has gifted us with some amazing, amazing new memories and times, the raw place of grief is a rare place my heart visits.

It’s easier to celebrate her with tears. And I use the word ‘easier’ because I can’t think of another way to describe it. It’s a terrible word to pair with grief actually, but I hope you get the idea. Tears are visible. They let the world know I have not ‘moved on’, and I have not forgotten. They strangely make me feel close to her again.

The remembrance ceremony was more emotional than I imagined I would be, but the hospital did an immaculate job at making it such a special time for newly bereaved parents. The nurses even hand painted rocks for the babies! That, I think, was my favorite part. Well they also had a harpist (harp player?) present, which was magical. That might have been my favorite. Either way, every part of the ceremony was carefully thought out.

And I cried, during the speech, after the speech… but since then, I feel that sadness leaving for now. It’s almost a sense of relief. An allowance to breathe this most bittersweet week of the year for me. Maybe this is just what happens when you’ve reached the four year mark from holding the baby you never imagined you’d lose?

Maybe I’m in denial?

Or maybe, just maybe… I am ready to truly celebrate her with everything I’ve got. I honestly don’t know. I suppose this week will tell. As the kiddos get older, I don’t want them to always associate Jenna with tears and sadness, because she is more than a sad something that happened. She was a miracle. She was a fighter. She continues to be such an inspiration. And she is their big sister… who lives with the Jesus Joseph is learning so much about these days.

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Lately it’s not uncommon for Joseph to mention Jenna in conversation. It usually goes something like this. A short conversation, but a treasure nonetheless.

I’ll be in Evie’s room, changing her diaper, with Bubby close behind me. He sees two big brown, cardboard boxes opened enough to see part of colorful odds and ends – toys to him.

“Mama, this Evie’s?” pointing at the white pony stuffed animal, resting on top of one of the boxes.

“No buddy, that’s Jenna’s”.

He looks down at the pony, a little confused, but eager to know more.

“Jenna’s your BIG sister…” I glance back at him, wondering if he might understand this a little better now that he knows what a sister is.

“Where’s Jenna?” so not a question I was ready for.

Without hesitating I blurted out,”she’s in Heaven Buddy.” breathing now, relieved I got those words out without a blubbering mess. “With Jesus.” I added, thinking he might actually understand it better.

“Jesus alive!!” He didn’t even blink. Thank God for his Sunday school teacher who planted this beautiful seed in his heart.

“Yes Buddy, Jesus is alive.”

If his little heart can believe in his childlike faith that Jesus is in fact alive, then knowing his sister lives there too, I suppose it can’t always be sad when we bring her up. Because if he is alive, then she lives too. And what a beautiful hope.

The Moments You Live For

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Watching your son. Doing this. On his own. Enjoying it, and believing that his mower is making as big a difference as his daddy’s – because – you know – it is! He’s so proud. He smiles shyly at you when you try to take the picture, but then turns his sweaty red face back the task, eager to join daddy again.

I held him tonight, as he fell asleep. This rarely happens these days. He usually falls asleep on his own in his big boy bed. But lately it’s not until I hold him that I realize I don’t have a baby boy any more. He’s so grown up. He no longer feels like a squishy, chubby baby in my arms. Not even a borderline-chubby toddler. He’s a boy.

I think something about holding another baby in my arms really confirmed this for me. That, and I’ve been in major denial about him growing up. It’s all happening too fast. (He turns THREE in two Fridays!)

I have to admit, that when Pete asked me to come over because he wanted to show me something I was a little annoyed. I thought to myself, “Really? I’m nearly done! and Evie’s actually letting me get this done…” I think I was in the middle of washing the never-ending pile of dishes. But when he walked back over to the lawn mower, and motioned with a backwards nod of his head to watch Bubby, I melted into a puddle.

This is what we live for.

Not the clean dishes, the shiny floors, the tidy living room…

We live for the moments that make you want to cry buckets of tears, because how on earth did I get so lucky? How is he really mine? Ours?

The moments that make you want to cry happy, jubilant, life-loving tears.

**update! I’m writing for the first time on The MOB Society today! Check it out here!

After All This Time

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I still miss you.

I still think of you.

I still hurt when the word ‘family’ is mentioned. We are a family, but a big chunk is missing. So in essence we are a broken family. At least that’s the way it feels.

I still want to know who you would have been.

I still wonder.

I still cry, though not much at all.

I still think about the things I’ve tried hard to forget.

I still wonder who that girl is in the pictures who never realized she could and would lose a baby someday.

I still think of you sweet girl. Every. Day.

But in all this stillness, I’m here. I’m living. I’m breathing. And I’m loving the life that is surrounding this once shattered heart.

Not a day has gone by since we said goodbye that you haven’t crossed my mind in some little or big way.

Thank you for changing me, for releasing me, for teaching me, guiding me, and choosing me.

Happiness is…

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the park, the little man’s face when he sees the park and time. lots and lots of time.

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sunset at battery park.

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people that believe in spontaneity. it’s rare in today’s hectic world. but it keeps life interesting.

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people who will dress up like these two sesame street characters. verdict is still out on the blue one though, he doesn’t totally resemble cookie monster.

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coffee in times square.

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grapes on steroids! seriously, these things were huge!!

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happiness is finding yourself in one of the most magical cities in america, when you couldn’t have dreamed you’d be there just a few weeks before.

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happiness is light. and freedom. and friends.

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and being able to see the stars at night.

Beginning Again

evie mommy + evie  flowers bestie

daddy + evie meeting baby sister her pulse ox

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princess meeting baby sister

These last few days have been filled with so much.

So much love.

So much hope.

So much anxiety.

And surprisingly so much grief.

When the nurse came into the room and announced that we would be taking the baby that night, it was everything I could do to not cry.

I fought back the tears. This birth, this experience, this moment did not have to be surrendered over to grief. Or to my loss.

It could be beautiful. It could be it’s own thing.

And it was. Somehow the past could not steal the moments that filled the room where she would take her first cry.

Since giving birth, I’ve fought tooth and nail to walk again and gain my strength.

Seeing her the first day in the level 3 NICU was intense. They were mostly monitoring her breathing and resting heart rate. She has since been moved to the level 2 NICU, and we hope to bring her home in a week or so.

If this year has taught me anything it would have a lot to do with beginning again. Embracing again. Believing again.

Letting go and living again.

This past weekend of welcoming our last child, a beautiful daughter, into this world on the very same days that this year comes to an end, sealed that into my heart like nothing else. The pregnancy, the days leading up to her birth, writing out everything involving pregnancy after loss from thought to paper… held some incredible moments of victory, hope and healing.

As I watched my husband hold our sweet Evie in the level 2 NICU tonight, my heart could almost cry. These are the very moments – preemie moments – we had so hoped for with our first. What a bittersweet life this is.

I look forward to this coming year, welcoming a new beginning. Bringing all the lessons from grief, and the way she has molded me over the past few years… with a great deal of this newness. This new life.

This year I begin again.

Leaving Christmas Behind

34 weeks

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six years!

Jenna's gravesite

It feels strange leaving Christmas behind, and to be standing what feels like only inches away from holding our newest child.

I wrote a few days ago on visiting the cemetery, and how it had been months and months since going to see Jenna. After Christmas turned into just another normal day today, grief doesn’t feel so close, so bitter, or so strong. It just is. It’s there, like a precious book on a shelf. Something you know you have, something you can pick up and learn so much from, and something you know you will hold onto for your entire life. The something that’s changed you through and through.

This past Christmas was probably the best Christmas we’ve ever had together. It is a miracle in itself that I am still able to be at home, with my son and husband, and not strapped to a hospital bed. Both previous pregnancies I have had to be on hospital bed rest for at least 2 weeks or so before giving birth. I can’t stop thinking how good God’s been, to just allow us to spend Christmas at home, and together. Especially now, since Joseph is finally at the age where he can appreciate all the big and little things about Christmas like lights, wrapping paper, snowmen, baby Jesus.

My heart is full.

And… this. A sneak peek of the possible book cover for Celebrating Pregnancy Again. I’m so excited I can’t stand it!

Celebrating Pregnancy Again