The Missing Trick-or-Treater

Our family always does holidays big. 

Patrick and I are continually trying to make sure that Madeline can look back on her childhood and see magic. We want her to have memories of all of the special traditions that we have started with her and will continue for years to come. 

Halloween is no exception. 

This past month we have gone to the pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect pumpkins. We have painted pumpkins. We have done Halloween themed crafts and made treats. We have gone to our town’s yearly Pumpkins on Parade. We have visited fall festivals, Halloween parades, and trunk-or-treats. We have gone to Boo at the Zoo and played dress-up for days at a time. Tonight we will trick-or-treat and pass out treats of our own. We have created amazing memories with our brave little Supergirl. 

All throughout all of these special moments there is that one piece missing. 

That one piece of our family that is always missing, yet we feel it all that more intensely during these special holiday moments. Joshua. 
We always miss him, every moment of every day. 

But these holidays. 

These special, magical, amazing family moments we get to have with his little sister make his absence felt even more than usual. 

We have four years of adorable photos of our sweet girl dressed up as a ladybug, a black cat, Princess Sophia, and Supergirl. With each costume I wonder what her big brother would have wanted to be. Batman, a Ninja Turtle, a Ghostbuster, a dinosaur, Superman to match his little sister…

I look at the matching sibling costumes that my friends post, I see the adorable Poppy and Branch Trolls costumes, the Catboy and Owlette PJ Masks outfits, and my heart wonders if Josh and Maddy would have wanted to dress-up together. 

The very first thing I ever bought for Joshua when I was pregnant with him was a pair of My First Halloween pajamas. We didn’t even know if he was a little girl or boy at that point, but I saw the soft pumpkin covered pajamas and just knew that our baby had to have them. When we dressed his sister in them two years later, my heart ached knowing that this was not the way I wanted to be passing down his things…unused. 

That feeling of missing is always there, but these holidays…they make it especially hard to fight back the tears and the longing to know just who he would be now. 

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A Broken Crayon Still Colors

I often find myself telling Madeline that broken crayons still color.  


I think it’s one of the more profound words of wisdom I have given my three year old so far. While I’m quite literally reassuring her that the broken Crayola in her hand will in fact still color in her coloring book just as beautifully as before, it means so much more. 

This is advice that I hope she is able to apply to more than just her crayon box. 

In life there are times where she will feel broken. Her heart, her spirit, her motivation. I want her to remember that she is still full of beautiful colors that even when broken can still color. 

She was made for a purpose and even if it might not always feel clear to her, she was created to do great things. 

We call her our rainbow baby because she was born after the storm of our loss. She brought light and color into our lives where there was much darkness and pain. Everywhere she goes she leaves a path of color and joy. I believe this is part of her purpose. Joy. She brings joy wherever she goes. 

I want her to remember that even those days where she feels like the world is working against her, that smile of hers is enough to bring joy to someone around her. A broken crayon can still color. 

Even while she is nursing a broken heart and feels like she might never love again, she can hold a door open for someone and that might make the difference in their day. A broken crayon can still color. 

If she someday finds out that her best friend has lied behind her back, she can go and sit at the lunch table with the new girl in school and make a new friend. A broken crayon can still color. 

I want her to always remember that she is here for a reason. She was created for a purpose. Even when she feels lost and aimless God can still use her and work through her. Sometimes it is that very brokenness that He uses. 

Our own brokenness gives us empathy and grows our compassion. It helps us know the right words to say when we meet someone walking down the same broken road. 

While I wish nothing but sunshine and rainbows for my beautiful little girl, I know that she will face the storms too. I know that she will unfortunately get her heart broken, have her spirit broken, or just feel broken down at times. I just pray that she will have the strength to know that even when broken she is still beautiful inside and out and capable of changing the world. 

That sparkly pink crayon can still color just as bright even if it breaks. 

But for now I’ll just keep buying her new crayons when hers break. I’ll fix as much of her brokenness as I can for as long as I can. 

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We Spoil Her, but She’s Not Spoiled


This face is why my child often gets ice cream before bed or a new Shopkins from Target.

“Please, momma.”

And those eyes and that lip is just too hard to resist. I know we spoil her.

I do.

I know she doesn’t need another Barbie, another Shopkins, another anything, but I want to buy these things for her. It’s my choice as her parent to say yes more often than no.

And yes, she does hear no.

We also know that she is grateful. Every new toy is met with a giant hug and more “thank you”s than we can count. We may spoil her, but don’t ever call her a spoiled brat.

She has a generous, giving spirit. One that we got to witness at the Fourth of July fireworks display last week.

We had set our chairs up next to a mother who was there with her three young children. We noticed they were calling the youngest girl, Maddy. This made our Maddy very excited. She loves to meet other little girls that share her name. She smiled and waved at the girl and said hi.

Later, when as it began to get dark and we got out the glow sticks for Madeline to make bracelets, Madeline decided she wanted to share one with her new friend. Together we walked over and gave the other Maddy a glow bracelet. Madeline was so excited to share with her.

Madeline is always willing to share her toys, snacks, whatever she has, if her friends want to play, she invites them to join in. This is why I don’t worry about spoiling her. She appreciates what she has and loves to share it with others. Her heart is big.

Then there is always that little nagging part of me that wishes I was buying toys and clothes for two, so sometimes I over indulge my guilt and grief and she reaps the benefits.

We currently are in a place where we can say yes to her requests. Thankfully, her requests are usually small. This won’t always be the case. As she grows those wants will too and she will have to hear no more and more. So we say yes now while it’s still exciting for to get a toy from Target’s Dollar Spot or a $3 Shopkins blind bag. Soon enough she’ll be asking for a car and we’ll be a little slower with that yes I’m afraid.

Speaking of spoiling… today is Amazon Prime Day and Melissa and Doug has a special offer for Life with Madeline readers:

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On Her Own

Currently, Madeline is asleep in her own room.  In her own bed.

 

I realize that she is three, and that for most this seems like this should be an obvious statement of facts.  However, this is the first time this has ever happened.  I have mentioned before that we co-sleep with Madeline.

Now that she is three, I know that she really should start sleeping in her own bed.  At least occasionally.  That said, I’m still not sure I’m ready for that.  My anxiety is high.   I’m finding myself staring at the monitor even as I’m typing this.  I’m watching.  I’m resisting the urge to run in and either crawl into bed next her, or just pick her up and bring her back out her with me to cuddle up where I can hold her and constantly reassure myself that she is breathing.

I know that she is fine.

My rationale mind knows this.

It’s just there is this crazy, anxiety-ridden part of my brain that keeps telling me that I need to check that she’s still breathing every 30 seconds.

And I wonder why I’ve been exhausted for the last 4 years.  I basically haven’t slept since I was pregnant the first time around.

She is fine.  I keep staring at the monitor and telling myself this.  The volume is turned all the way up.  I’m just staring now.  I can see the rise and fall of her chest as she breathes.  This reassures me.

She looks so tiny in her big girl bed.

I know I will still go and get her before the night is over.  She won’t stay in there all night.

I’m not ready for that.

Not just yet.


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Portrait of a Dad

To most this is just a photo of a dad holding his newborn daughter, but let me tell you, it is so much more. This is a photo of a dad who less than 14 months earlier had held his first born, his son, for the first and last time all at once. It’s a photo of a dad who has been through a tremendous tragedy and yet been an unwavering rock of support for his wife through the loss, another pregnancy, and now the birth of their new daughter. It’s a photo of a dad who is already so in love with and filled with wonder and amazement at this tiny little girl in his arms. It’s a photo of a dad who has just felt his broken heart heal a little bit while looking into his daughter’s big beautiful eyes. Today, that little girl is 3 years old and says daddy is her best friend. I’m pretty sure that feeling is mutual.  There is a reason this is forever my favorite photo of you two.


Patrick,

I’m not sure I can put into words how grateful I am to have you not just as my husband, but as the father of my children (but you know me, I will try). I remember the day we got married. I thought I loved you such an incredible amount then, but then that day I saw you holding Madeline, our sweet, beautiful, daughter in your arms for the first time it was like falling in love with you all over again. Watching you become a dad has been the most incredible thing to witness. From your willingness to change cloth diapers (thank goodness we are past that!), to watching you patiently let our little Princess try to “make you pretty” with her tiaras and beads. You have become such an amazing dad, and Madeline and I simply adore you. The days where Madeline has gone into full threenager status and is driving me crazy, you know how to talk us both down off of the ledge. We love our family adventures with you, our movie nights, our game nights, and our just be silly nights. You make everyday and everything a little more fun. I am convinced you are the world’s greatest husband, and Madeline knows you are the world’s greatest dad! We just know we are lucky to have the best! We love you bunches!!!

Happy Father’s Day from your two favorite girls!

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Working It Out

I’ve spent the last year working out. Really in more ways than one. I started using the My Fitness Pal app and a FitBit, and tracking what I was eating and how much I was working out each day. It actually became fun. I enjoy getting up and working out. Mainly because I’m not doing just a more series of sit-ups and squats, but instead I found Refit. It’s basically Zumba, but they incorporate positive music (Christian a lot of times) and they are just super encouraging. So instead of a boring workout routine, I just basically dance for 30-60 minutes everyday depending on how crazy my day is. Madeline usually even joins in. It’s been fun and honestly I’m wearing a size I haven’t worn in years and I feel so much healthier.
Last night while Madeline and I were doing our dancing. We started the routine to Mandisa’s Unfinished.

Not scared to say it, I used to be the one

Preaching it to you, that you could overcome

I still believe it, but it ain’t easy

‘Cause that world I painted, where things just all work out

It started changing and I started having doubts

And it got me so down
But I picked myself back up

And I started telling me

No, my God’s not done

Making me a masterpiece

He’s still working on me

As I stood there following the choreography on the screen, my daughter by my side, tears started to form in my eyes. These last few years have been hard. Very hard for me. I’ve always been the one who has believed, who has had faith and trust that God will just take care of things, and then when things fell apart, when we lost Joshua, when Patrick was laid off while we were pregnant with Madeline, when I was laid off the following year… year after year…blow after blow. I started to wonder each time where was He? Where was the God that I believed in since I was a little girl? The one that I prayed to and trusted and had faith would make all things good?

I don’t deny the blessings I’ve received. I have a beautiful and amazing daughter and a supportive and wonderful husband. We have a lovely home and we both (now) have jobs that we truly enjoy and where we feel respected. That said, you lose a child and it’s hard not to question everything you’ve ever believed in. Every bit of faith you’ve ever had goes out the window and no matter how firm you thought your foundation once was, it cracks.

So those words… I understood them.

They resonated somewhere deep within my heart and the tears came as I continued move to the rhythm of the song.

See I’ve been working out lately, but not just my physical self. I’ve been working out my emotions and my feelings towards my spiritual self. I’m not quite sure I have it figured out yet. I still believe. I do. My faith and my belief has just taken a much different shape than what it once was.

I have struggled because church and me don’t really get along anymore. Where my faith shakes out and what I often hear preached from a pulpit don’t mesh, so I don’t go. I can’t listen to a lot of what I hear preached without rolling my eyes, because  when I’m told just to pray more and that will make everything work out. Or that if I just have enough faith, or if we are good enough Christians then good things will happen… it’s hard to reconcile those kinds of false and ridiculous statements against your newborn child dying in your arms while you cried out to God for a miracle. So forgive me if I don’t believe if I just pray harder good things will happen. I’ve never prayed harder than I did that February morning and I’ve never felt as abandoned as I did that February morning, so…

See me and God still have some things to work out 4+ years later.

But that’s okay. It’s just unfinished business.

 

For more of my thoughts on faith visit: Struggle of Faith.

“I have always considered myself a Christian.

I was raised in Sunday School.  We went to church on Wednesday nights and said our prayers before bed each night.  I thought I knew exactly who I was and what I believed, and then I watched my tiny first born son take his last breath in my arms.

Everything I thing I thought I knew changed.

I suddenly had questions that no one could answer.  The basic Christian sentiments that my friends and family were saying all felt like stabbing knives into my already bleeding heart.” Continued at Still Standing Magazine

 

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Irrational Rational Fears, Overwhelming Anxiety 


The news scares me. Legit, straight up terrifies me. I can remember being a small kid and seeing the nightly news and hearing about the scary things and asking my mom if we could get an alarm for our house because I thought that would make me feel safer. So basically this is nothing new. But now, since having a child, since knowing the reality that is losing a child, the nightly news is nothing but a horror show full of terrifying images of things that could happen to my daughter, to my husband, to my family, and I don’t know how to stop the crazy anxious fear that seems to overtake my mind when I hear or read about what is happening in our world.
Don’t watch the news you say. Sure. This would seem like the logical thing to do. Except I would also have to avoid all forms of media and most social interactions with people because at some point I’m going to hear about the awful, terrible, horrible, no good thing that has happened and my mind is going to spiral into the anxiety ridden fearful place that shouts, “this could happen to you.”
When you watch the bottom drop out of your world, you quickly realize that all of those seemingly irrational fears aren’t really all that irrational anymore. Those things that seem to have small odds really CAN happen to you. You start worrying about lightening striking twice and you find yourself checking that your daughter is breathing fifty times every night and having a panic attack when you think you feel her skip a breath.
Anxiety really can mess with a person’s head.
My anxiety is watching the news story about a little toddler who went to a carnival in a nearby town and was electrocuted after she touched a fence while standing outside of a bounce house. Then having a panic attack when you realize that the same group is putting together the local carnival that you planned to take your daughter too and swearing to your husband that your child will not go anywhere near the carnival area because you are too afraid of what could happen.
My anxiety is reading the story of a bombing at a concert of a pop star and wondering if it is safe to ever go to a concert, or the mall, or the airport, or school, or the bank, or really anywhere anymore.
Anxiety and fear seem to be best friends in my head. They play so nicely together, but always against me.
I always wonder if my “crazy” fears are normal mom worries or if they are over amplified because of everything we went through to get to this place. I wonder if losing Joshua has made my fears of losing Madeline that much bigger or if my anxiety would have always been this intense.
Anxiety has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember, fear following not far behind. I worry that at times the intense fear and overwhelming anxiety I feel when it comes to Madeline might do more harm than good.
Madeline started sleeping through the night very early on. She’s always been a good sleeper. I however haven’t slept through the night in years. I wake up in a panic almost nightly, having to rest my hand on her chest or tummy to assure myself that she in fact still breathing. She is three. I’m aware that this is not normal behavior. When we go to the park I am that mom that stays close. My eyes never stray from her. I am almost always within an arms reach. I watch her play, but I am always right there – in case she needs me, in case she falls, in case someone with ill-intentions is watching. I am always right there. My anxiety, the little voice inside my head running through all of the possible worst case senarios won’t let me go anywhere else. I can’t sit on the park bench and relax with the other moms and watch from a distance. My anxious mind won’t allow it.

I wish I had the magic answer here. The solution that would calm my fears, stop the anxiety, and make the constant worrying cease. But I don’t. I’m not sure that I’ll ever stop worrying about Madeline this intensely. I’m not sure the panic attacks and nightmares will ever fully stop. Right now I’ll just keep breathing through them. I’ll keep trying to remind myself that we are doing everything we can to keep her safe and happy and that is all we can do. I will try to remember to pray a little more and worry a little less, and I’ll hope that in time the anxiety won’t feel so suffocating and the fear won’t feel so much like drowning.

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When Mother’s Day is Hard

Mother’s Day is hard. Even with my sweet, little, beautiful Madeline, it is STILL hard. I look at her and I know that I am blessed.
I know that I am lucky because there are so many that are still longing with aching hearts and empty arms to hear the words “momma, I love you” and for that I know that I am blessed. And even still my heart aches and my soul longs to hear those words come from another little voice too.

My arms, no matter how full of hugs from my sweet girl, will always still ache at the inability to hold her big brother. I feel the weight of her body as she cuddles in each night still wanting to be held before falling asleep (don’t say she is spoiled – you can’t possibly understand the reasons we do what we do) and I feel the weight of so much more than just her tiny 26 pounds. I feel joy and grief dancing their every present tango inside my heart.

I miss him.

Often it is that simple and that complicated all at once. I just miss him. I long to be with him as much as I am with her and that is simply an impossibility this side of Heaven.

These holidays are such aching reminders of what was, what is, and what could have been. They bring up wounds that never heal. They make me cry tears that never really dry. They leave my heart feeling vulnerable and wounded.

I know I am not the only one. That makes me sad too. As much as my heart aches for my Joshua, my heart aches for your child too.

My heart aches for the ones that are still tearfully and prayerfully waiting for a positive result on a test that you take month after month just hoping that the odds will be in your favor this time. My heart aches for those who have seen those tests turn positive only to have your heart break weeks or months later. My heart aches for the ones who have watched the ultrasound machine anxiously as the doctor searched for a sign of hope. My heart aches for those who, like us, have held your tiny child in your arms as they took their final breath. My heart aches for those of you who have had to say goodbye at any point, at any age, for we all know that 15 minutes, 36 hours, 15 years, 36 years, none of it is enough time with our children. My heart aches for the moms (and dads) I know that right now are watching their little ones fight battles that are far bigger than they should have to fight. This motherhood gig is not for the faint of heart.

So today while my heart somehow feels both full and broken, I am still grateful. Grateful to the little boy who made me a mother. I miss you more than words could ever express and I love you to Heaven and back. And to the little girl who made me a momma, I love you. Thank you for helping to heal your broken momma’s heart.

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Missing

I’m struggling to get out of bed today. This is the day I spend 364 days a year dreading. I would much rather stay in bed and skip over this day. The memories that too easily come and play on repeat. There are some images that a mother and father just shouldn’t have in their heads. Today is a day that is impossible to turn them off. The nightmare that never ends. I miss him. We miss him. It hurts. Today more than ever… 2/20/2013 – 2/22/2013 – 36 hours was not enough.

 

 

And then there is this…

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Madeline really does know how to fill our broken hearts with joy. Four years ago I watched my husband hold our son and my heart broke as it was for the first and last time all at once. Every time I watch him with our daughter I am overwhelmed with love for him, for her, and just for the opportunity to watch them together. I love how they love each other.

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What Dreams Never Come

I haven’t written in awhile. Madeline keeps us busy most days.

‪Sunday marked one month until the 4 year anniversary of the loss of our son, Joshua Patrick at 36 hours old. ‬We had so many dreams for him. Many of which revolved around baseball and our favorite team, the Kansas City Royals.

We had planned a baseball themed nursery. We had bought Royals onesies and already talked excitedly about taking him to Royals games and signing him up for tee ball someday. This year he would be old enough to play.

So Sunday morning while getting ready for the day, Patrick’s phone buzzed with a sports update. I quickly realized that this was more than just the normal injury report or score update. The look on his face and the exclamation out of his mouth told me that something was wrong…very wrong. He turned the phone around to show me. I read the news, Kansas City Royals pitcher, Yordano Ventura had been killed in an automobile accident. I could feel the tears start to form in my eyes. My heart hurt. For his family. For his friend. For his teammates. For our City who cheered him on and cared so deeply for our boys in Royal blue.

As the day passed on I would see updates from other players and fans and my heart continued to break. Once again my mind asks questions that I just can’t find answers to.

The weight of February approaching feels almost unbearable. The ache and grief that come with the days ahead have already begun to feel heavy upon my heart. Memories of four years ago fill my mind along with all of the wondering of what should be now.

It may seem crazy, but hearing the news of loss of the Royals player on Sunday, exactly one month away from the date of the anniversary of Joshua’s loss, seems to have triggered something for me. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m sad that a player for a team that we love to watch is now gone at the too young age of 25. Reading the stories of the man he was off the field. Thinking about his loved ones, his child…his mom. 25 years old with such a huge talent and an even bigger heart from everything I read…and now just gone. I never can understand these things. A mother should not have to bury her child no matter the age. It’s not the way life is supposed to work. For that matter a young child should not have to say goodbye to their 25 year old dad either. It’s just not okay.

Maybe it’s that I’m just sad that we never got to take Josh to a Royals game like we had dreamed of doing so many times. We never even got to decorate his nursery in the Royals baseball theme like we had planned. Maybe it’s that I realized that this year Josh would be old enough to sign up for tee ball and maybe start really understanding the game being played at the K. I can almost picture him running around in a little Royals jersey practicing his baseball while his little sister practices dancing around the yard. That was the family we were supposed to have. Those were the dreams we had. Those are the dreams that hurt now.

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