Ten Things

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. They just always seem like ways to set myself up for failure. I suppose that’s why I like the concept of the “word of the year” – it has wiggle room in case you’re feeling claustrophobic by goals and good intentions, empowerment on the days you need it – but nothing too specific.

BUT even though I don’t care too much for resolutions, there are a few things I’d like to practice more this year.

1. Go to bed earlier. Every night. Anytime before midnight is a plus, but I’m aiming to go to sleep before eleven. Dream big, right?

2. Say “yes” more. Just say yes.

3. Be interruptible. I think this one ties in a lot with #2. Putting down whatever it is I’m doing, and saying “yes” to the little things Bubby asks for. Like a few minutes practicing riding his bike outside, or playing with the train set that takes up half his room, or caving into his request to pull out the legos that always stop being fun once they’re completely covering the floor in his room.

4. Compassion. It’s easy to draw conclusions and decide without knowing the whole story why something or someone is the way it appears to be. I am so guilty of this. I’ve been on the receiving end of this stick, so I am without excuse. I should know better. But if I have learned anything this year, it’s this. I want to be different. I want to show compassion quicker than judgment. Love over apathy. Love always wins.

being intentional in 2014

5. Reserve time in the day for social media, rather than pulling it out when a window of opportunity arises. I deleted the facebook app on my phone a while ago, and while sometimes it would be convenient to have again, I surprisingly do not miss it.

6. Let the people in my real-world life know that I love them. Be intentional about it. Show it with gifts, cards, surprise visits and phone calls out of the blue.

7. Get over myself. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what others might think or say or do… and I hate that about myself! I think that breeds insecurity. I am petrified of passing that onto my babies one day. So yes, getting over myself is definitely on this list, as ridiculous and humiliating as that sounds. I want to just go for things. Chase dreams, be true to myself and not change to be or feel accepted, love big and love hard, and most of all, be ready to pick myself up – because disappointment and rejection will share company with those peak moments this year.

8. Write. Write. Write. Write as if my life depends on it.

9. Check my motives. Be honest to myself, why am I doing this? Who is it serving?

10. Speak slowly and listen more. The more I live, the more I realize the less I know… about anything. I used to think I had parenting almost completely figured out, you know – before I actually had one. And then my whole life became this whirlwind which sent any shred of confidence or “know-how” out the window. I find that my babies – all three of them – are my teachers. Having each of them has put every bit of me under the microscope. My flaws are magnified, my imperfections are as clear as day and the Real Me comes out. And she’s not always pretty. Finding that quiet time (even if it is only three and half minutes!), being slower to speak and more ready to listen… I want to open that door for growth. I want to be a better mom. I want to be a better wife. I want to be a better friend this year.

So yes, no new year’s resolutions for me. Just these things that I strive for every year. I just want to be more intentional about them this year.

Do you do new year’s resolutions?

A Year.

2013 the year of letting go, and beginning againThis year had some pretty neat and unexpected adventures.

Pennsylvannia, New York City, Destin, West Monroe, the rodeo, concerts and… many, many trips to the farmer’s market, local dairy farm and Target. The moments that fill the very, very large gaps between those “big ones” are the real life ones. The moments that don’t own any geographic coordinates, but rather landmarks of your heart and soul. The moments of tired babies, embarrassing trips to the restaurant or shopping strip, and sleepless nights. The moments of watching your babies discover the world around them, watching your two babies connect with one another that first year together. The moments of letting go that leave your heart racing and the guilt seeping in. The moments of creating, and misfiring your creation in a way you wish it didn’t go, trying again and again and again… and finally getting that “aha” moment… and actually liking what you create. Moments of a strained relationship with husband or God, and realizing that the only thing left to do is fight for them. Over and over and over. Lots of grace. Lots of forgiveness. Lots of prayer. Lots of tears. Lots of hard heart work. Heart work is possibly harder than any other type of work there is, no? Moments of feeling like a complete failure and wanting to give up. Moments of wanting to walk away from faith because it requires the most intense vulnerability. Moments of falling in love with God all over again and realizing he’s the only chance I have in this world at peace and true happiness – and hope for my family. Moments of sadness, and longing. And moments of sitting on the edge of this cliff with timid dangling toes, anxious to dive into a new year of possibilities.

I am so thankful for the adventures that were set before me this past year. This past year was a year of letting go. I started out this year by talking about how welcoming Evelyn was like “beginning again”. And it was. It was learning to be a mom all over again. It was learning who I was all over again. This year was intense, in so many ways.

Finding grace in new places. Friends in the most unexpected places. Love in the midst of the most fragile and bittersweet time of my life. Hope under failure. And on it goes.

I suppose that is what the years do to us. They grow us in certain ways, and cut off dead wood for more growth and more light… and hopefully one day more fruit.

This coming year I have chosen my “word of the year” to be “held”. I want to remember that no matter how things pan out for my work, or how many things I get to cross off (or leave unmarked) next December, or how much I want to quit, or lose hope or get down at one time or another – that I am held by the one who holds everything in his hands. This past year has been the year that I began to trust God again, like for real. Not the makeshift trust I fabricated during my “rainbow” pregnancies to just get through them without totally losing it, but the kind of trust that finds real rest. I don’t want to forget this landmark because to be totally honest, I never thought I’d live to see this ground again.

One.

CollageWell, we knew this day would come. Or rather, we hoped it would. With heart cries, tears and prayers that often felt zipped of any power or punch. We hoped for you baby girl. And we didn’t just hope for a beginning. We hoped for memories to fill our lives, with you in them. I’ll tell you one thing – when your Daddy opened that envelope with the gender reveal so many months ago, I wasn’t in tears. I was in shock. Another baby girl. I was a mom to two girls. There are days that it still feels surreal.

To call you one. To call you mine. Can I tell you a secret? Sometimes I watch you and your big brother play together and later that night after you two are safely tucked into bed, I want to cry ugly-cry tears because another day with you is behind me. I want the littleness to last forever. If I never make it to Colorado or the Alps or Ireland, I’ve seen all that life can give me. The greatest joy of carrying life and being a mom. And that is God’s honest truth.

A year ago we were sitting by your bedside, bringing Joseph into the NICU every chance we could – he just wanted to see you and couldn’t wait to play with you!! We were soaking in the beauty of YOU. You were six pounds, four ounces and five weeks early. Today no one would ever know. You are pure love, a one year old that is in 2T clothing (!), and you smile at anyone who will notice you in the store or anywhere we go:) You are a big ball of sunshine.

I can’t even put into words what you’ve brought into this world, our home. The healing, the restoration, the newness, the sweetness, the love. It’s all such a gift. I know you had no say in the matter, but God used you in a mighty way Evelyn. I hope you know how much of a treasure you are.

Watching you and your brother grow up, side by side has been this dream of mine, come true. One that I feel is so fragile, so wanted, and for the first time – so real. You and your brother are my dreams come true. You don’t have to be anyone other than you. You don’t have to chase any dreams than the ones your heart and soul seek after, and you will never have to earn my love sweet girl – you’ve had it the second we found out about you.

Happy Birthday.

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Christmas

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I’m finally getting a chance to go through the Christmas pictures. As you can probably tell, I have no idea what I’m doing with my camera in the dark, early morning :) Blurry pictures do tell a story though, don’t they? The hustle, the life, the work or lack thereof put into a photo and the immediate necessity to just capture it already – regardless of it’s quality. #herestomorecrappyphotos

In all seriousness I put “learn to take better pictures” on my 2014 list of goals. We’ll see how that one goes. I get bored reading about ISOs and whatever else it all involves, but I’d like to get better.

Back to Christmas. Christmas was so good. It was actually more like a week of festivities, and we’re right near the end of it. Saturday was Christmas at Pete’s mom’s house, Monday was our seventh anniversary, Tuesday we spent some times playing games and watching the cousins tear up my sister-in-law’s house, Wednesday was a day of travelling, cooking, relaxing, presents and catching up, tomorrow we hopefully get to celebrate the seven years (that actually feel more like two decades) of marriage (yay!), and Sunday… our baby turns a whopping ONE. First of all, that isn’t happening. I’m in denial. Something about her party in two weekends from now will help it feel more official. I think. Second, I just want a break from my break :) I’m exhausted, but a good and full exhausted. The kind of exhausted that makes you want to take a super long nap just so you can jump up and start all these ideas rolling around in your head. And then hug and squeeze life and be okay with a few things slipping out of your hands just as long as the important things stick around.

So somehow we survived Christmas. And when I say “we” I’m actually talking about myself. My family rocks and rolls this time of year. Evelyn has learned their ways. I was holding my breathe and just waiting. I thought it might catch me by surprise. Grief, you know? Christmas Eve I decided I wanted to go down to Texas Children’s and donate a parking pass for another NICU family in need. A family member did that for us when Jenna was in the NICU and well, that gift brought me to tears. I hope it touches someone else. It made Christmas feel more complete and special being down there and doing something in her honor. I won’t get to meet that family but I was able to write them a little card of encouragement and I got to use one of my own cards for it :) I went to visit Jenna afterward at the cemetery. I felt completely inadequate because I didn’t have any flowers or gifts to bring her but I wanted to see her. I talked to her. I feel so strange talking to her, but after a few sentences of awkwardness I started to feel a connection. I doubt she can hear me but something tells me she knows more about this life than I can see. Something about death, it is so silent. You beg in tears and heartache that you might feel a nod of agreement or a hesitant reply or a whisper in love. But the cars keep rolling by in the distance. The leaves keep rustling and falling and the sun keeps beaming on and lighting up this planet as if chaos never visited your doorstep. The world keeps turning. And then one day you find yourself turning again with it. I felt that surge right there on the ground with her. The full circle my grief has made these past four years. I have to assume it will continue to grow and learn and take on new formations.

Christmas felt like Christmas again. And it feels strange to admit it, but it’s true. I’m not leaving her behind, I am bringing her into this new world of light and peace with me. I’ll remember her in new ways and this year we really did.

Christmas felt like Christmas again. I don’t know how that happens. Do you arrive in this place of acceptance? Do you seek it actively or does it just happen? Does the full plate of raising babies water down grief for a while? The biggest question for me is, will it last? Someone once told me (in another context), that you might want a lot of good things in life, but it is what you want the most that will be yours in the end. I don’t know if that’s true for grief. I really don’t. All I know is that this place is a good place. And I will keep chasing this. The place of real pain, real peace and everything in between.

New Eyes

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

- Marcel Proust

living life on the edge.

I’m not from a part of the world that is known for it’s beaches, or mountains or breathtaking forests. I’ve never been out of the country. We don’t travel a whole lot and the truth is when we do, we have to save for it all year round. I don’t have a career and don’t have any plans to pursue one any day soon.

I struggle a lot with being “enough” and I get down about it.

I find myself looking at the proverbial clock until I reach my thirties, which is one year from this coming February, wondering,”Have I done enough?”

I want to let this mindset go too.

Because the truth is the danger of a wandering heart, and adventurous spirit is restlessness. The inability to rest. And the infinite struggle to find gratification. Not thankfulness, but being still… and being okay. When shop sales are not going so great, or blog stats are low, or comments are made that hurt your heart. That last one is hard to overcome. Words. I think we’ve all had a big fat dose of that rubbed in our faces lately, no?

Words are powerful. She worded it perfectly.

“You can mean something — but if you say it mean it, no one can hear your meaning.

Have convictions — but if you don’t have compassion, you will have trials.

Please, say what you believe — but please, always be love.

Or you’re an annoying, clanging cymbal who a whole lot of people will be desperate to make silent.”

As this year comes to a close, and a lot of big decisions are weighing in the balance, I find myself thinking about what I’ve done with my twenties. In my twenties.

I think about parts of my body I’d like to wish away. It’d be so much easier if I didn’t crave so many sweets! But the truth is I have an insane sweet tooth and have ever since I became pregnant with Joseph. You just can’t help things sometimes. Life gives you things, hands you things, take things. It just is.

I have had so much on my heart. I could burst. Sometimes this world is such an ugly, hurtful place I want to grab my kids and run for the mountains, or the country and never look back. We’d leave the internet behind too in this fantasy. I’d grow my own garden and learn how to milk a cow. But that is just not reality. One day I’ll have to explain this all to my kids. How we live side by side with people who will never think like us, or believe like us, or live like us. How we stay different, but do it in love. How we keep and maintain convictions, with grace in our hearts and compassion in our souls. Without compromising, and stedfast, but all in love. How we give Jesus our lives and show his love with our actions, more than we ever will with our words.

How we find contentment. And true gratification in this life. I find that the only rest I have in my soul is letting go. Not hovering over my blog or any other numbers. Not checking emails, not even reading the best blogs I’ve grown to love. But letting it all go. I think He’s got this. It’s taken me awhile to trust him this much (which I feel isn’t enough, but it must be more than I can feel).

But more than anything my soul needs rest. I come here to sift through my thoughts that feel jumbled and only make sense on a long drive when  - of course – it is impossible to write a word of it down.

I’m not a lot of things. And somehow I get tangled up in that messy line of thinking. Forgetting that it’s quite possible that my vision is skewed and things aren’t as clear today as they might be in a few days, weeks or months. And that its okay to feel restlessness, as long as you are chasing down the path of peace with every last fiber of your being. Those new eyes will come.

In time.

*On a completely unrelated but timely note, this is so spot on.

Fantasy Flight

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A few weeks ago we had the chance to join the Fantasy Flight, hosted by United Airlines. Apparently it’s something that the whole country takes part it. It’s such a neat thing! We got an invitation last year but I was all kinds of pregnant and couldn’t think about taking any extra trips, anywhere, I remember it hurting just to walk right around! Anyway, we got an invitation this year again, and it was such an amazing experience!!

We drove up the airport and from the moment you get there, everyone involved (all volunteers from what I understand!) make it feel so welcoming and real – like we are really headed to the North Pole. We even had boarding passes that had “North Pole” as the destination printed out, so neat! The airplane ride took a little over an hour, where we could watch basically anything and enjoy on a light snack. When we landed the terminal was decked out like the North Pole. There were just so many surprises, but we really didn’t know what to expect! From what I’ve learned about Fantasy Flight, it’s mostly for patients but I am assuming they extended the invitation to us because I volunteered in the Family Centered Care for the NICU. I like to think that this was one of Jenna’s gifts to us, especially her siblings. We wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her.  I kept thinking of that the whole time and how she continues to impact our world in some of the neatest, unexpected ways. And I welcome and smile over the fact that it is more than sadness. I couldn’t have believed that even a few years ago, but I do now.

The Week Before Christmas

IMG_5292IMG_5714 IMG_5693IMG_5694 IMG_5692 IMG_5706 IMG_5701 IMG_5675 IMG_5339 IMG_5295 IMG_5294 So this is officially my favorite, FAVORITE time of year. Twinkle lights are everywhere you look, people in general are nicer, and the weather is not blistery cold but cold enough to finally pull out boots, scarves and crazy patterned leggings. Oh, and let’s not forget hot cocoa and all the excuses to bake your little head off.

I also made it a point to close down the shop and unplug as much as possible starting this past Saturday. It’s been a breather. I’m sketching a few last orders and designs but all in all, my work load is shrinking and I’m loving the break :)

I have some plans to pull out my Pinterest boards for some  Christmas craft things. Joseph has been begging me to paint, and December’s just been so crazy we’ve only had one opportunity to actually do it.

I’ve had some dear friends contact me about my post on big changes, concerned-wise. I wanted to make a point to say that there’s no need to be concerned or worried:) Just my little brain has a hard time wrapping itself around change. Change is hard stuff. But growth is a good thing. Growing pains, they are just the painful train that gets you where you need to go. There are some sweet, precious friends and family who are being beyond supportive about these coming changes, so I just know this is the right direction. These next few weeks give my heart a much needed breather from the mundane, and room for all things cozy, crazy and ridiculous fun. I wanted to throw an ugly Christmas sweater party so bad this year, but Pete responded with a very apathetic, “I don’t think so…”. I may just buy a couple of ugly sweaters at the thrift store and throw my own party! #IGPARTYanyone?

I have a permanent pile of laundry that makes my house look messy, but lived-in, a sink full of dishes (this one is another losing battle, no?)… but this week top priority is making even bigger, more glittery (pretty!) messes. Having these babies around at Christmas time makes this time of year cozy. I want to soak it all in!

A Letter

Dear Jenna,

I’m going to go one living. Because that’s one does. Live.

For a while there I never imagined this would be possible and even if it was, that it would be something my heart would want.

But I do.

I’m here. Living. Loving.

This life.

A year or so ago I hit rock bottom, even with the “rainbows” and the blessings that God continued to poor over our lives. All I could see was what I didn’t have. I was so thankful, yet so empty.

I am looking onward, upward. It is a shift in perspective and one I wasn’t ready to take until now.

Time does that you know. It doesn’t heal. Healing is something that will only be accomplished in the next world. When we see Jesus, face to face.

But grace, it has a way of making things alright. Even when your world doesn’t make sense. And behind every blessing is the shadow of pain and loss.

Next year holds some big decisions for me. Some more things I believe I need to let go of. You will never be one of them. But there are seasons, and I can feel a leading that is guiding me to a next chapter or season of my life. Sigh.

Letting go, not my strong suit.

You will live on in spirit. And your name, I will only speak to those who are willing to listen to more than the sadness that illuminates your name and life. I will speak your name and story to those that understand that you are so much more than a storm, than a sad chapter in our lives. You made me a mom. For the very first time. And life has been busting wide open, bleeding with pain and new revelations since that day, but I have to say after all these years you are still a gift.

Joseph mentions your name at least once a day right now. It might only be a seasonal thing. Maybe it’s his age, I don’t know. But I do love to hear your name from your brother.

Sometimes I think about you three together, and it is an impossible dream that captures my mind for a few short seconds.

I’m not sad anymore. Is that wrong?

I get waves of longing, wondering. Even missing those days with you. But the sadness, if it’s here, it’s not the thing I hold on to the tightest anymore. These days, I am holding onto the now.

I am sad only that you can’t be a part of the now we are living. Our life is full of adventure, laughter, love, trials, growth… but one day sweet girl.

One day.

I just don’t have words for that day, because I simply cannot imagine it.

Until that day, I am living fuller because of you. That sounds terribly cliche and I am sorry that words fail me now – but it couldn’t be more true. You’ve given me the unction to be fearless, the motivation to chase my dreams, the courage to do what I love, in the face of failure and opposition.

You’ve given me my life back.

A friend recently shared this quote with me and it describes my life so perfectly. I think it describes so many of us, walking all these different paths of life…

 

A Chasing Love

IMG_5189You know, I used to think that once you became a Christian… it’d be easy to believe in God.

And even easier to trust him.

Trusting has never been easy for me to do. I usually keep people at arm’s length and if I let someone in, it’s rare. I wish I wasn’t that way. I don’t like that about myself. I’d love to be one of those people that can trust, be broken and just trust again.

Needless to say my trust issues has skyrocketed since losing Jenna. I’ve never felt so much instability in my walk with God since losing her.

I found it hard to focus reading the Bible after losing her, and when I confessed that to someone she advised me to stay in the Psalms. I did, for almost a year. It was good advice at the time, but I didn’t attempt to grow. I fell off, I stopped reading. My prayers began to feel like they were hitting a brass ceiling.

So I stopped praying. Because it felt pointless. I threw my hands up for a while there and thought,”If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, so what’s the use?”

I was angry. I’ve been bitter. I’ve been tired. I have wanted to say some horrible things about some horrible and then again, some not-so-horrible people. I’ve exhausted myself with what-ifs and could-have-beens. I’ve thrown elaborate pity parties and each time I have fewer and fewer people that want to join in the parade. I’ve felt alone. I’ve cried myself to sleep. I’ve convinced myself one too many times that God must be done using me. I’ve grieved the Holy Spirit. I’ve forgotten what it felt like to drink of the living waters. I’ve missed being close to God, but it’s been so long that I forgot what that even felt like.

But God.

But God. He has a way of chasing you. He is a gentleman about it though. He waits patiently. He won’t force his ways, his will or even his love on you. But I realized (you’re about to find out just how slow a learner I am…) you have to actually want all of this.

And if you couldn’t tell from my list above, I didn’t. I didn’t want him. I was so done with him and his will. It all felt like one massive disappointment in my book. I was all in when I got saved, and then he decided to go and let my baby die.

But something changed in me recently. I’ve been going through some things in my personal life that have become too big, too much, too quickly. My reckless abandonment of most things spiritual has left me with more questions than I know what to do with. So, I decided to open that door (more desperate measures) and invite him into my life again. I don’t want to be alone in this. I needed him when Jenna died, but the truth is I need him now. I’ve convinced myself that I’ve always had him here, but I’ve been keeping him at arm’s length too.

Turning the knob, I felt anxious. What if he decided I’d been gone too long? Gone too far? Spent one too many days on my own, trying to figure it all out?

But his love, it is a chasing love. I am living proof. I have been a horrible example of a Christian. I am not saying that so that you can assure me that I’m not. I know that I am.

I don’t want Jenna’s life and death to be the peak of my walk with God. It’s not all down-hill from here, it doesn’t have to be anyway. I’m starting to believe that. I think that in some ways it can be sweeter.

The Lovely Raindrop and a Giveaway

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skirt: thrifted(!)

sparkly top: target

necklace c/o: the lovely raindrop

I found The Lovely Raindrop through Pinterest and instantly fell in love with her sweet bird necklace. Well her whole shop actually! She generously agreed to give one piece from her shop (winner’s choice) to one Small Bird reader! Please use the rafflecopter to enter and share away. Such a sweet giveaway for the holidays!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Making Spirits Bright

I caved in this year and finally got a little elf for “Elf on the Shelf”. Mostly because of this post. She spun the “elf on the shelf” idea in a way I’d never seen before. Frankly, I’ve never been able to wrap my heart around the idea of the typical “elf on the shelf” tradition of a naughty little elf making mini disasters. I suppose I just don’t have the energy to 1) make a mess and then 2) clean it up each morning and then 3) explain to my son why it’s really not okay to pour baking flour all over the kitchen floor… or something of that nature. Basically, I’m lamecity.

I also suppose I might be more into the jest of the naughty elf, but right now in our real life, we have a three year old who is going on thirteen. Read full post here.

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Remembering Them at Christmas Time

Remembering them at Christmas time, a list of idea on including your child in Heaven in your Christmas seasonOver the years I have read and heard of some interesting and beautiful ways to include your children in heaven in your Christmas tradition. I wanted to make a list, in case anyone is looking for ideas. I wish I could remember where I found/ read some of them, but like I said it’s something I’ve collected over the years and I want it written down somewhere. :)

+ buy a children’s book, and donate to your local children’s hospital’s NICU floor/ cancer floor in memory of your child

+ create a care package/ memory box and deliver to your local hospital

+ deliver home-baked goods (or flowers) to the nurses/staff /doctors /midwives that aided you at the hospital/ birthing center

+ include a stocking for your child in Heaven and ask family and friends to write a note, a memory or a wish and read them on Christmas morning

+ send a lantern (you can write a message before sending it off with a sharpie) to the sky

+ donate some toys to a child in need, who might be around the same age as your child would have been

+ make an ornament in your child’s memory. This idea is absolutely gorgeous.

+ decorate a miniature tree for your child

+ each year buy your child a special ornament and keep them in a special box, even if you don’t use them all every year

+ donate to a charity or cause in your child’s memory. Ask your friends and family to donate in your child’s name, if you think they might be receptive. Once someone anonymously donated $50 to the Ronald McDonald House in Jenna’s name, and it was one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received. A cause close to my heart is Angela’s book campaign. She even has an option to include your child’s name in her book!

+ Decorate your child’s resting place, and if you don’t have one you can create a small space for your child in your home (maybe around the miniature Christmas tree)

+ host a meal through the Ronald McDonald House at your local hospital

+ Use his/ her handprints and incorporate them into an ornament. Tutorial here.

+ do a random act of kindness everyday in December until Christmas (or the new year!) and leave a note saying who it is in memory of. You might create the note on the computer in a Word Document and print out, or photocopy :)

+ read the Christmas Box books, so good!

+ take part in an ornament exchange, or start your own with the people in your circles

+ write your baby messages in the snow, sand (you know, if you live where it snows… or near the beach)

+ take a mini vacation to a different city and take the opportunity to escape the clammer of the holidays, when your heart can only feel pain

+ decorate a candle in your child’s memory. Tutorial here.

+ start new Christmas traditions. 

+ make a snow globe using one your child’s pictures, photo copy of hand prints/ footprints, or even ultrasound pictures. Tutorial here.

If you have any ideas, feel free to include them in the comments <3

Here’s to You, December

Christmas ornaments for Jenna's treeTo tell you the truth, this year hasn’t been as hard as all the other years of Christmas time without Jenna. The first was unbearable, the second was bittersweet in every sense of the word, so we escaped town for the second time and spent Christmas with just me, Pete and the Bubs. The third Christmas I hit rock bottom. Literally. It was a rude awakening when this post accidentally published that I had written around Christmas time went viral in early February. And then this happened. From that point on I started to let go of my withholdings. This blog became so much more than grief — because I was accepting that my life was so much more than grief.

I will always grieve, but the truth is I do not cry every day, every week or every month.

I rarely get to the cemetery, not because I don’t want to go but because life is just that crazy. And complicated. And let’s face it, sometimes I just don’t want to go. It takes me to a dark place that sometimes is better left unvisited for the time being.

Grief has been a huge, huge part of my life for the past four years. Right now my life looks and feels so different than it did even a year ago. I imagine it will continue to change. I also imagine grief will always be my companion. And sometimes it will be a monster. But it will always be there.

I really wanted to put together another arrangement of “12 days of Christmas with you in Heaven” this year. It would have been the third year. But the truth is, I did not know where to even begin this year. My heart is in a different place. I suppose in a way I have found peace with the way we celebrate Jenna this time of year. I also know so many other baby loss moms are doing similar things on their own blogs (Beth’s “Hurting for the Holidays” and RaeAnne’s “12 Days of Christmas”), so it didn’t feel like it needed to be done. The great thing is that those posts will forever be out there. I’ll repost some of them on the facebook page from now until December 25th. There are some gems. Some really great ideas and beautiful words from the guest writers that made it all possible.

Today I was putting up Jenna’s tree in our living room area and a wave of sadness overcame me. Sadness, and sincere gratitude. Most of her ornaments are gifts that were sent those first two years we spent without her. I remember opening those packages and feeling completely overwhelmed with the love from this baby loss community. Her tree is so perfect, it’s decorated by some of the most beautiful moms around the world.

I so often wish there weren’t states, thousands of miles and even oceans separating us. It feels like we have been through so much together. Losing babies, trying to get pregnant again, having rainbow babies, and some of us more than one.

Life has these seasons. The seasons aren’t usually the hardest part. It’s walking away from them that is the hardest thing to do.

Sometimes.

This season is about taking back what I lost. Learning to walk again. Breathing a little easier. Dancing on what once seemed like impossible ground.

Learning to take flight. And be unafraid of what’s next.

I can’t get her back. But I can get a version of my faith back. A version of myself. A different kind of happy.

Free Christmas Download - 8x10 Print "all i want for christmas is you". Click link for full image size.Click image to download this 8×10 image for free.

Listening love.

A little bit of shop news: You can get half off of anything in the shop through midnight Monday (enter BLACKFRIDAY at checkout).

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.

Hot Cocoa!

Some friends came over yesterday and it was so nice to just relax and be able to catch up. We made our Queen bee shirts and watched the babies play, talk and made some hot cocoa. I had enough hot chocolate mix for one person, so I looked up some ways to make hot cocoa on your own so we could all have some. I found a few recipes and this is what we did:)

Hot Cocoa Recipe

WHAT YOU NEED:

1/3 c cocoa powder

1/3 c sugar OR 4 tsp stevia

4 1/2 c milk/ half-and-half

optional: cinnamon, whip cream, marshmallows, peppermint sticks

1. Mix the cocoa powder and sweetener of your choice together in a sauce pan.

2. Add in one cup of the milk to the mix and heat on low setting. Stir frequently until the cocoa powder is dissolved.

3. Add the remaining amount of milk and stir for about 10-15 seconds.

4. Throw in some marshmallows or peppermint sticks or whatever you might like in your hot cocoa and enjoy!

It’s been ICY cold today. It should be a sin to be this cold and not get to enjoy snow;) Anyway this makes about 3-4 cups. It’s so good!!! I love it because it’s not too sweet and it’s creamy. This recipe reminds me of that Mexican hot chocolate my mom used to make, Abuelita.