I feel like we have been on a whirlwind tour of the United States the last few weeks. We spent 5 days in Vail with our best friends The Browns snow skiing, sledding and meeting with Pastor Tracy-a minister that we were put in touch with through my friend Mackenzie. She lives in Breckenridge, CO now and shortly after hearing about our loss of Olivia she and her husband Shawn made an appointment to go and speak with their minister. She told me that she really didn't know why it had affected them both deeply enough to want to talk to Tracy about it (we had not seen each other in years, but grew up together in Tallahassee), but the Holy Spirit was moving them to do so because you won't believe what happened. When they met with Pastor Tracy that night and told her of our situation, she said, "I know exactly what they are going through. My husband and I lost our baby girl Madeline at 9 months to SIDS as well." When Mackenzie sent me a letter telling me of this with copies of sermon notes that had helped Tracy and her husband to heal, along with their weekly church bulletin asking the congregation to pray for us, my jaw nearly hit the ground. Cannon and I both knew that we HAD to meet this pastor who had lived our exact situation and was still around to talk about it and dare I say, was even happy now?! It took 3 months, but thanks to my sweet grandfather's Delta miles and Nancy's dad's Marriott points, we got the opportunity to sit in Tracy's office and hear her advice and wisdom. She was extremely real-no beating around the bush-and gave us such hope for the future with how they had felt during a future pregnancy and that first year with baby Nathan after loosing Madeline. It was wonderful to hear that having another baby had been the one thing that had helped them to heal and encouraging to hear that she had a lot of anxiety during pregnancy, but after he was here the first year was not horrible at all with worry that it could happen again. She learned to trust God and rest in his peace and mercy, knowing that whatever happened He could use to work together for good, no matter how difficult the circumstances. She was also the SIDS representative for Colorado and worked for years training first responders how to treat families living the nightmare that we did that morning.
As a bonus to our meeting with Tracy, we got to hang out with Mackenzie, Elsie Ann and Shawn and go sledding and to lunch. We felt like regular locals at the sledding hill-we never would have found that fun activity without Mackenzie's suggestion-thanks, girl-for that and putting us in touch with Tracy. I know that God orchestrated the whole thing and I thank you for being obedient to His urgings.
Nancy and I bundled up at the sledding hill. It was about 1 degree that day and not much warmer the rest of the week. We skied in face masks...it was that cold!
Cannon wore flat soled hunting boots to go sledding. Needless to say, this was not the only time he slipped on the snow and ended up flat on his back. It got pretty comical after the first few times. Ever the frugal one, he saw no point in buying any snow-appropriate boots. He said he'd rather slip n' slide all over town. Hey-at least it provided all of us some entertainment!
"Uncle" Karl found a floaty turned sled at the top of the hill and took Parrish on a whirl before Mack got there with true sleds and saved us from ourselves. Cannon and Karl get pleasure out of using random objects in the snow. One year it snowed in Birmingham and they got the bright idea to hook a ski rope to our golf cart, sit in our blue plastic baby pool with the kids and pull each other up and down our street. I am pretty sure my neighbors were wondering what kind of rednecks lived next door to them. They did it so much that the friction actually created a hole in the bottom of the baby pool (and their pants!)A family shot after sledding. Karl got the bright idea to peg me with an enormous snowball IN THE FACE right before this picture was taken. Sad to say, I never got around to getting him back on this trip, but his time is coming!!
The rest of the week we spent skiing in Vail. Parrish and Trotter did great at ski school. They never quite mastered the "pizza wedge" stopping technique but they had fun trying and were most excited about riding the "magic carpet" back up the bunny slope to try again.
Riding the Breckenridge gondola.
The boys after a long day at ski school. After this we hit the heated pool (their favorite) and Parrish was so tired that he fell asleep in my lap at dinner! If only there were these winter sports in Alabama to wear our kids out that much!
Trotter and Parrish goofing around while waiting their turn to ski
My little ski bunny. He informed us that his "mask" made him a superhero-specifically, Spiderman.
Parrish skiing for the first time. Go Parrish!
Since we've been home, Parrish has performed at Muffins for Moms at school, singing "Hey, Good Looking" and "Happy Valentine's Day to You" with the rest of the kids at Tiny Blessings to us moms. It was tough and wonderful to be back at school again. I loved getting to catch up with everyone and so appreciate the love and support they show us there, but I find myself drained after these outings. (It probably didn't help matters that I had little to no sleep the night before after arriving home late from the airport). Anyway, I was a sobbing mess as Olivia's sweet nursery teachers, the director of TB and Haley presented me with a scrapbook of Olivia's time at school in addition to a letter of thanks from the family of a little boy who will get to attend Tiny Blessings next year thanks to the Scholarship North Shelby Baptist set up in Olivia's name. I spent the rest of the day looking at the pages of the book-new pictures of my baby girl at school I had never seen-she was twirling those toes and having a grand time in every one of them. She got to play with shaving cream, crinkle leaves in a bag, play with scarves with her best buddy Macie and hear stories from Miss Rochelle. The funniest picture in the whole book was one of my little Livy craning her neck to look at the handsome firefighter who was visiting her class during fire safety day. None of the other babies sitting at the table were giving him the time of day, but she sure was! We joked that Cannon would have had some serious trouble on his hands later in life with us living close to so many fire stations!! :) Olivia never would take a bottle from anyone at school and I was secretly proud that she only wanted to be fed by me. Feedings were always our alone time to rock and talk. I miss those times so badly it physically hurts.
To continue our whirlwind tour we took Parrish to the Monster Truck Jam in Atlanta Saturday night. His sweet friend Christopher gave him the ticket for his birthday and he was so excited to go. Afterward we asked him what his favorite truck was and he said, "Blue Superman and Red Iron Man." Surprise, surprise. That baby boy LOVES himself some super heros. It is endless fun to listen to his narration of battles between his superhero figures. I love this stage and have been telling myself that I really need to get one of these battles of his on video so I can remember how funny and creative it was.
On our way home (because we had so much energy and all) we stopped by Scott's Antiques. I got a few great things but spent most of the time researching pricing, etc. As I was browsing I came across a booth selling gorgeous heirloom baby clothing. I spent forever going through the racks picking out things Olivia HAD to have and then had the realization for the millionth time that she is really not coming back. This stage of grief has been the hardest in a way because as you come out of the shock and fog you really have to start admitting to yourself that your baby is gone and this is not a dream. Every time I see a baby I just want to rush up to the mom and ask if I can hold him/her. I am pretty sure they would call the police if a stranger was begging them for their baby, so I restrain, but that doesn't mean I don't entertain the thought.
These last few weeks I have been clinging to these verses for dear life:
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. Psalm 55:22
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
I will trust and not be afraid, for the Lord is my strength and my song. Isaiah 12:2
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5
I know this is the longest blog post in the history of mankind, but I'll leave you with a few pictures of my little Valentine doing a "project" to get his valentine's ready for his classmates and family. He is his mother's son and LOVES to do all sorts of art projects, especially ones that involve the use of scissors and glue!
The finished class valentine's next to the framed heart footprints of Olivia they did at school a few days before she went to live with Jesus. I was so thankful for this picture that arrived home right after she passed away...it was like she was telling us she loves us from heaven. We will especially cherish this tomorrow as we long to see her all dolled up in pink playing in the melted chocolate we use to dip strawberries every year. This is the first holiday we're experiencing without her that she was here for last year. I have lots of great memories of her, at not even 1 month old yet, dressed up in her valentine's clothes from Katie, snuggling on the couch with me while we waited for our strawberries.
As I look back on this picture I am realizing that she started smiling within weeks and never stopped!
Parrish's homemade Valentine's. He cut out the heart and "o" that looks vaguely like a bird on the left. That was his card to Sissy and he dictated the message for me to write:
Happy Valentine's Day to you, Livia! You're my BEST baby girl. I love you, Livia, and miss you so much. Love, Brother
My friend DeAnna has put a smile on my face so many times with happy's like these precious stickers she made for Parrish's valentine's cards. She is so talented. If you're needing any cute stickers for your kids, her stuff is great!
Parrish having fun with the scissors, his favorite because "I can do it myself, Mommy. See, I'm being careful."
Stuffing his valentine's. Oriental Trading had what I thought were the cutest treats for little boys to give. They are rolls of bubble gum tape that say, "You measure up, Valentine."
I always order Parrish's valentine's from Tiny Prints because I can't resist them. They are too cute with their tiny little envelopes and original artwork.
Happy Valentine's Day!