Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

Our big girl!

Our big girl!
Growing so fast!

Kylie 1 day old

Kylie 1 day old
Curling up

Bryleigh Addison

Bryleigh Addison
Our youngest miracle


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Supporting those who grieve

In the initial days, weeks, and months after a loss of any kind, the grieiving ones find themselves surrounded with love, support, kind words, hugs, and sympathy from all over. As a year approaches, we often find that people again are sympathetic for that day or two, and then, it is dropped. After the one year mark, you are expected to be okay. You are expected to move on, to forget about the loss, to not talk about it anymore. That is of course, all of these things happen if your loss was "noticeable" to others. People are more likely to be okay with extended grieving if it's a spouse, a parent, a child that lived on this earth. People are NOT as likely to be okay with extended grieving for a pregnancy loss, or loss of a baby who did not have a chance to live on earth or who did not live a long time on this earth. Why? Because we don't want to acknowledge that people lose babies. Every day I offer myself as a source of support for grieving families and parents, and I see so many things that infuriate me and break my heart when it comes to how OTHER people handle the grieving person.

I have noticed that the longer time goes on since I lost Kylie, the less people want to talk about her, the less people want to support us in our grief, the less people want me to share her story. I have found that people have a hard time being sympathetic now that we are three years into this journey. At her one year angelversary, so many people commented on our Facebook walls, expressing their concern, sorrow, sympathy, and hurt for us. Three years? Not near so many. Three years for Chris? Almost no one acknowledged his pain as a father for the child he so dearly loves but could not protect and save. 

It made me think about things and grief and the unfair time frames we put on ourselves and on others. We have all been told in grief support groups that true heavy grieving can last on average 1-2 years, but in reality, grief lasts a life time. We will always miss our children, our loved ones. We will always have a difficult time at the holidays knowing there is a missing seat at the table. We will know in our family pictures that someone isn't there that should be. We will recognize the emptiness on family vacations, on dinners out. We will always know what other people do not see, and that is the pain of living each day without the precious child that was supposed to be there. 

I'm not saying people should dote on baby loss moms more than anyone else. But what I have come to notice is that as time goes by, we forget that moms are hurting and that families are hurting, and then we think, because we have moved on and are no longer affected by the pain that these families have, or because they don't talk about it as much anymore, that they have moved on too. And that isn't the case. We expect them to "magically" be okay in a certain amount of time, and then we down them for what we will never understand. 

My best friend lost her mother in September of this year. A month later, she lost her grandfather. In two months, she had two significant losses. As she was dealing with her mom's funeral, she had to take care of her grandfather's health and get him to a hospital, and she handled most of his health decisions and care for the next month until he passed. As I stood by her, trying to be any kind of support I could be, I noticed that for her mother's passing- people poured out love and support for the loss of her mom in those initial days and weeks. But even now, three short months later, the support and thought of her mom isn't there. We talk a lot about things I used to say (and still do) since losing Kylie, and how she understands them so much more now because it's true. It's like, everyone else moves on, and you are stuck standing still in this horrible bubble that is reality. And the hardest part for  me to watch was how few people came to support her in the loss of her grandfather compared to her mother. Not that it is a competition, but it just shows to me how people handle dealing with loss and how people view it. 

Less than a month ago, I lost my granddaddy, a man who has been a hero in my life since day one. He is a man I have always put on a pedestal, a man I have always been so fond of. From the day I was born, he was my number 1 fan, and I spent so much time with him while growing up. Every Saturday, he came to see me. When I was younger and went to the babysitter's, he would pick me up early almost every day. As I got older and could drive, I would go eat lunch with them on school holidays and during the summer, or just go visit on Saturdays. When Jaycee, Nick, Kylie, and Bryleigh all came into our lives, we spent time visiting with the kids. Granddaddy and Granny went to the NICU multiple times of Kylie's sweet little life to visit her and spend time with her. My Granddaddy was a special, special man, and every single day, I have cried. I have hurt, I have missed him, and I have wished so much that things were different. He died on my 29th birthday. For 29 years, I was blessed with the best grandfather anyone could ever have. He truly, truly, truly loved his family, and he would do anything for any of us. He was so proud of us, and he loved his grandchildren and great-grandchildren more than any words could ever express. And I did have some support, and words of kindness and sorrow, but not nearly as much as I would have thought, and barely anyone checks to see how I am feeling, how my sister is feeling, how my mom and dad are feeling, or my uncles, aunts, or cousin is feeling. Each day, Jaycee tells me she misses her Granddaddy, and my heart breaks because no one is checking on HER and her pain... 

When people die at an old age, it is easy to think that people just deal with it easily and get over it more quickly, so we just don't offer much support for them because they have to go back to work so soon, have to get back into the routine of things, have to care for their children, have to do this, that, and the other. I had to go back to work just a few days after Granddaddy's passing. It's like going back to work makes it official, and people expect that you're ready to live life and move on and go on to being "normal." However, it's not that simple. Life doesn't just go back to normal. You have to find a new normal. And just because someone gets back into the daily routine because they have to pay their bills and provide for their families doesn't mean that they aren't still hurting, suffering, and sad. 

When people die suddenly, unexpectedly, young, middle-aged, or old, it is a bit easier for people to offer more support- they are shocked, too. But soon, the routines of life go back to being normal for them, and it is so easy to forget the pain and suffering that someone is going through internally. 

Do you ever wonder why people stop talking about their own grief? It's because they've been told they should stop talking about it, or they've been made to feel that talking about it isn't  healthy, or they've been told that it's time to move on. It is so easy to make a grieving person feel uncomfortable, and so many people do a good job of hurting the grievers more than helping them. By telling someone "it's time to move on," or "no one wants to hear about it anymore," "are you ever going to get over it?" "don't you have anything else to talk about?" "your mom wouldn't want you to be sad all the time" ... the list just goes on... by telling someone those things, you are hurting them. A huge way to get through dark grief is to talk about it, to talk about the person you miss, etc. 

Another problem I see comes with miscarriage. People have a hard time accepting that mothers can be and should be emotionally attached to a child they have not yet held in their arms. From the time conception occurs, a new life has formed. A true mother loves her children no matter what, and loves them from even before she conceives; seeing your baby on ultrasound, hearing a heart beat, seeing a little butter bean, they are all parts of the wonder and joy of motherhood. Knowing that you are carrying such a tiny, perfect life within your womb, a little life that you are responsible for, well, that is just such an overwhelming since of pride, responsibility, and excitement. For mothers who miscarry, guilt is overwhelming. Questions of "what did I do wrong?" "Why couldn't I carry this child?" "What happened?" "How could I have done this differently.." "What if..." "If only.." - those thoughts haunt a mother's mind who would do anything NOT to lose this baby. I have found that those who have had miscarriages get the most hurtful statements, the least understanding comments, and even fewer supporters than any other situation. Why? Because no one else could see/hear/feel what the mother (and father) felt. It is hard to understand what we do not know/see/etc. However, that doesn't meant that they do not hurt, and it doesn't mean that they will ever forget this pain. They need support, and they need to have their losses acknowledged as well. 

Something I haven't told a lot of people, is that when pregnant with Kylie, it seems that we had two babies, TWINS, which caused problems in the beginning of the pregnancy, which is why things started off rocky. It seems, from an ultrasound at my fertility doctor's office after my OB/GYN refused to do an earlier ultrasound (we were concerned about the possibility of twin pregnancy with one being in the uterus and one being in the tube from my symptoms), it seems that there was a baby behind Kylie, and was already not making it- which is called vanishing twin syndrome. The twin was basically absorbed, and though I was so sad because twins would have been amazing, I realize now that that sweet baby was giving Kylie a chance at life. Though my situation isn't the same as others, I essentially lost 2 babies, not just one, and it wouldn't matter now anyway, but the thought of a miscarriage terrified me, and is always in my mind when considering another baby and was when I was pregnant with Bryleigh. 

I say all this to say that anyone who has suffered a loss will always miss their loved one and will always hurt. Just because the person had a long life on earth, or never had the chance to be held or breathe the air on this world, does not mean that the grief is any less and that we shouldn't support our loved ones who grieve. I will always hurt for Kylie, and I will always hurt for Granddaddy. This Christmas, I will be missing both of them for the first time, and though they are together, I ache just thinking about how empty I will feel on that day with no Granddaddy to unwrap presents with. 

Remember that the holidays are difficult for anyone who is missing a loved one... and be there even if it's just to offer a hug and say "I'm always here for you." 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Granddaddy

Yesterday, on November 28, my 29th birthday, my wonderful Granddaddy left this world to join our Savior in Heaven. The pain and hurt just is so difficult to sort through right now, and I am lost and hurt and broken. But, I have so many amazing memories of my Granddaddy, and I am so grateful that we were so incredibly close. He means the world to me, and we have always had a special bond because I was the first grand child. For nearly 5 years, I was the only grandchild, so needless to say, we spent a LOT of time together.

My dad reminds me often that he just laughs when he thinks about  Granddaddy finding out he was going to be a grandfather. For one, he said he was "too young" to be a grandparent, and then the second thing he said was, "Well, I'm  not going to be one of those doting grandfathers." And my dad just laughed, because the minute I was born, he became that "doting" grandfather, and we've been inseperable ever since.

When I was a little girl, I didn't go to daycare; I went to a babysitter. Nearly every day (at least a few times a week), Granddaddy would pick me up early so we could do things together. Sometimes, we went to the park, or to the train depot downtown. Other times, he would take me back to "the office" (the construction company), to a job site, or to his and Granny's house. When I was little, Granny was the secretary at the office, and so I would sit on her desk and she would paint my fingernails and toenails. I would play store with the office supplies in the cabinets. More importantly, I would sit in Granddaddy's lap in his big blue leather chair at his desk, and we would draw and write, and color, and talk. He let me help him write checks, and he even, for a few summers, paid me to work at the office- I made copies and licked envelopes and stamps (before the pre-sticky ones), and cleaned up. On the days that I spent the night at their house, we would go to the office on Saturday mornings to clean. My FAVORITE part about the office visits? The ice cream man. He drove by in the afternoon, and we could hear him coming, so Granddaddy and I would RUN outside to flag him down, and we'd get an ice cream together. My favorite? Mickey Mouse ice cream (the chocolate ears and all, you know, the awesome stuff). He would get a popsicle sometimes, but it just depended on the day.

I spent a lot of time at their house on the weekends, during the week, etc. Every Saturday night was steak night. Granddaddy had a grill built in to the stove in the house, and he would grill our steaks (filet mignon only) on the grill inside the house (how freakin' cool is that?!) and bake the potatoes in the oven, and I will always remember him tossing the potatoes with his oven mitts because they were so hot... and he would take us outside to the backyard and swing with us, and play croquet with us, and the best yet; we got to shoot a BB gun at a Mr. Clean bottle (or anything we could find, really). Every Halloween, we went to their house- Granddaddy loved walking us around the neighborhood to all his friends and neighbors, the same ones who had watched my dad and uncles trick-or-treat, and many of them made us special candy bags. He would walk with his hands in his pocket, or holding one of our hands. He was so proud of us.

Granddaddy had tea parties with me, and watched us dress up in Granny's costume jewelry and high heeled shoes. He took us shopping, and nearly every time he or Granny saw us, they pulled out a $20 bill or a $10, or anything at all. He always made sure that there was plenty of stuff for us to do, and he came to every event that they could possibly come to. Kindergarten graduations, my DARE graduation in 5th grade, 8th grade graduation, high school, and both of my college graduations.

As we got older, it became more important to go to lunch with Granny and Granddaddy. We would go to a few places, but Granddaddy's favorite seemed to be Long Horn. Red Lobster wasn't far behind. Over the past several years, I would make sure that every school holiday, every summer, and every chance we could, we went to lunch together and enjoyed a meal and good company. He always said, as we left, "the food was good, but the company was even better." One of my most favorite places to visit with him was Big Spring Cafe. Love, love, LOVE going there, and sitting on the stool at the counter beside him. He always seemed so proud to have any of his grandchildren as a lunch date, a breakfast date, a dinner date, or just hanging around.

Growing up, we also had Auburn season football tickets. The WHOLE family- Granddaddy, Granny, Uncle Mark, Aunt Linda, Brad, my parents, me and Sissy... we all sat together for years. Granddaddy would take us to the playground to play when we arrived in Auburn. He would buy us pom-poms at the gift shop. He would cuddle close to us when we were cold, and he would take us to breakfast at the cafeteria... he did everything with us. We loved every minute of being with him.

While many people on the business side, or even older adults in the family, saw the Lanford streak of stubbornness, or the commanding way that he could speak, or the forceful nature he had, that side almost never came out to his grandchildren. He was always gentle, kind, and happy with us. Always.

So many things make me think of Granddaddy. Granddaddy LOVED IBC Cream Soda. He loved Klondike bars. His favorite meal was a steak dinner with baked potato (and again, a filet mignon only). He used to keep strawberry candies AND caramel squares in his office. He preferred water to drink. He always kept Citrus Magic spray in the bathrooms at his house and the office. He loved old westerns and old country music. He loved guitars, and he loved the holiday gatherings with us. He always carried a hanky. Terry's Pizza. Dessert- he had a sweet tooth for sure. Basset hounds. Dress slacks and button up shirts no matter what. Cadillacs with leather seats. Money clips. Auburn football. The list goes on and on...

My heart hurts so bad, but I am so, so grateful that I have 29 years of memories, love, and laughter with one of the most amazing men I've ever met. He demonstrated what a long, happy marriage is about. He held doors open for all women. He called us "doll" and "hun". He loved to play with the kids, and his laugh still echoes in my soul. He would scare the heck out of us with his powerful sneeze, but it always made us giggle.

Three years ago, when my Kylie was born, he and Granny went to visit her many times. And when we lost her, he felt so heart-broken, not only because he lost her, too, but because he couldn't fix my hurt. Even up until last Wednesday, mentioning Kylie put tears in his eyes. He loves her, too, and missed her. My great joy in the midst of all of this hurt is that my Granddaddy is now holding Kylie for the very first time. He is rejoicing in the presence of our Lord, with his great-granddaughter in his arms.

After 5 long, agonizing months, battling with chemo and cancer and sickness, Granddaddy's body is at peace. His soul is resting, and his body is healthy and strong. No more chemo. No more miserable days. No more struggling to get up in the morning. No more "waiting" for something bad to happen. God answered my prayer by healing my Granddaddy's body. I know I will have a lot of spoiling to undo when I finally get to Heaven, but Kylie is going to create memories with her great-granddaddy just like I did with him. Nothing in this world will ever replace either one of them, but knowing them and loving them has changed my heart forever.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What hurts the most...

For the past few weeks, my Granddaddy's health has deteriorated rapidly. We are now possibly down to days before his passing, and my heart is grieving heavily already. My Granny is in the nursing home and doesn't know what is going on, and my Aunt Vera is in a rehab home for her partial hip replacement from last week.

All of this is enough, but the grief is bringing back those bouts of depression and extreme, severe loneliness. The past few days, barely anyone has commented to me. Barely anyone has "liked" my statuses or posts. Barely anyone has said "I'm so sorry you're going through this, Amber." Even the people I am supposed to be closest to haven't either acknowledged this pain at all, or they have not checked on me and what is going on. I have felt so shut out and shut off, and I know some of it is the grief, but other parts of it is reality.

I really want to know what I have done so wrong that makes people look at me differently. I really want to know why people don't acknowledge me or what I've said, or don't feel the need to check in on me. What have I done that is so wrong that people do not like me anymore? Apparently, a lot of people have decided not to "follow" me or see my updates anymore, because many more people used to see and say things about my posts. I feel so alone and forgotten, and completely and utterly hopeless and overwhelmed.

No one truly understands these feelings, because they aren't me, but many people are probably laughing as they read this "oh, she's such a baby... she's so needy... she needs to grow up and get a life." How would you feel if someone who meant so much to you was dying and no one cared about it?

My granddaddy is someone I have looked up to my entire life. He is someone I have spent much of my childhood and adult life with. We would go to lunch, to go shopping, to the train depot, or I'd just stay at their house and visit or spend the night. I went many places, even job sites, with Granddaddy, and at almost 29 years old (my birthday is Wednesday, which makes it all the more difficult), I just want to curl up in my Granddaddy's lap and lay my head on his shoulder while he calls me "doll" and reads me a book or watches tv with me. I want someone to make it all stop, to take the pain away. This all-too-familiar grief had left me for a while... the deep, most painful part of grief, anyway, but I forgot how consuming, how badly it pulls you down and brings you down. No one ever comments on my blog anymore either, so I guess I'm safe to put my emotions out here in my blog because no one will read it. I just, I wish I knew more people cared. I don't expect lots of comments and posts on all that I do- just expected that some people who I thought were dear friends would be more concerned and caring.

So my heart is broken because I'm watching my Granddaddy die, and my heart is broken because I don't have much support in the loss of him. I just cannot take much more of the desperately lonely feelings...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pride and Joy

God never ceases to amaze me. Really. His love and blessings and mercy just flow over me daily, and I am so grateful for the grace I have found in the love of Jesus. Today, I am just bursting with pride... so much over the past year has been so positive, and it has given me such a happy perspective on life, regardless of the bad things that have happened.

I know I have said numerous times before that God answered my prayers when Kylie was sick; I asked her to be healed, and He gave her the ultimate healing. And with her healing, came the breaking of my heart, but each day, God helps to mend the wounds that still lay gaping and to fix the scars that are still stretching. Her life gave me something that I don't think I would have had in the same way if we had not lost her. I feel that Kylie was put here on earth to place within me a servant's heart. She taught me how important it is to give back, and so I hope that I am honoring her life by doing just that. We help the March of Dimes. We minister to families in their grief. We run a support group for families no matter where they are in the grief process. We run the October 15 Memorial Ceremony here in Huntsville for families who have lost. We are trying to get Kylie's fund up and going. We are doing so much, like making NICU memory boxes and donating special items in her memory. All of this, because of her. And this morning, I received an email from someone I had never met who came across my blog in a search for an angel picture, and my life was touched that someone I had never met, someone I have never crossed paths with, found me and was touched by our story. So God is using our sweet Kylie to reach out to others, to impact others, and I am so grateful that I am able to be in this position to help others and be there for others.

In a different story, Bryleigh is growing like a weed! She is crawling now (she officially crawled on October 21), has 6 teeth, and will be completely on whole milk only after tomorrow. She is saying bye bye and waving, saying ma-ma, da-da, and bah-bah (bottle i believe). She is even giving kisses. She gets excited and giggles when she sees me, and she is learning to eat with a spoon. She is completely off baby food and is trying to pull up to stand. One minute, she was my tiny baby cuddling in my arms, and the next, she is all grown up and doesn't need me as much!

And finally, Jaycee got her very first school report card today. I am so, so proud to be her Mommy. I am so thankful God chose to keep her in our home and in our lives. Without her, I don't know what I'd do. This kid met or exceeded standards in all but one category that she only meets some standards in, and that is in rhyming sounds. I should have seen it coming when I asked her last night what rhymes with mat, and she is like... cat... POGO STICK! Lol. Last night she also started a conversation that went like this:
J: Mom, I love Miss a-Jessca and Micah and the whole family.
Me: Well, that's good. I do, too.
J: When is Micah going to have a baby sister?
Me: Um... well, I guess he isn't.
J: But I have a baby sister and Micah needs a baby sister. Soon I'm going to have a baby brother.
Me: Says who?!?!
J: Me
Me: Where will the baby come from? Because I am NOT pregnant.
J: It will grow in your belly. There's a brother in there now.
Me: No! There is no brother. And plus, we can't just pick what we want. We get whatever God gives us.
J: I'm going to ask God for a baby brother. Can I talk to God about a baby brother?
Me: You can talk to God as much as you want to. You just ask right away.
J: Well, we need to get another bed and put in Bryleigh's room so our brother will have a place to sleep.
Me: No, because there isn't a brother!
J: Well there will be, and I will take good care of him. I will even let him color. No, I won't, because he will bite. I am ready for a brother.
Me: :/

And so folks, I have three beautiful girls. Three unique girls. Three girls who know how to make my heart swell with pride and my face light up with smiles. Am I a lucky mom or what? These three are definitely MY pride and joy. =)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Fall down seven times, stand up eight."

"Fall down seven times, stand up eight." - Japanese Proverb

I have been thinking about this statement all day. It is in the front of our novel, Touching Spirit Bear, that we started reading in class today. I wrote in on the board in red, and asked my students to write it down and then respond to it, to tell me what it meant to them in their own words. This was part of their pre-reading, but I have found that this quote has been reverberating in my mind all day long. This evening when catching up on Facebook posts, a friend had this as her status, and told me she had seen it on Twitter.

To me, this quote means that you never, ever, EVER give up. No matter how many times you get knocked down, you HAVE to get back up. Kind of like falling off of a horse... you have to get back on immediately or you never will. If you give up once, there won't be another chance. No matter how many times you fail, you keep trying. Giving up isn't an option.

And so, this quote stood out to me and made me want to write about some things, but first, I thought it would be fitting to post some verses that are related...

Romans 5:3-4 NIV Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope

James 1:3 NIV because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Revelation 2:3 NIV You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow.- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. - Thomas A. Edison

Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent. - Marilyn vos Savant

Every wall is a door. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. - Nelson Mandela

In my life, I have learned that no matter how hard you try, how hard you work, and how much you do, there will be someone there to tear you down, or to try to tear you down. The devil works in so many ways and sneaks his way in and about your lives, trying to destroy the good that God has brought us. No matter what, the devil HOPES that we don't get up that eighth time. He hopes that we treat the wall as a wall, that we never get back up when we fall down, that we don't persevere through hardships and trials in God's name. He hopes that he doesn't have to deal with us growing stronger. He wants us to give up and fail. 

Well, I'm here to say that I am absolutely NOT a quitter. I keep going. I keep trying, and I keep finding a way to make it work. I fight for what I believe in, and I stand up for what is right. I do what I feel is right each day, and I am working really hard on making good decisions and not judging someone else for theirs. The hardest part of anything for me is not taking things so personally, because I tend to internalize and take things so much to heart, even when the intent was not to hurt me or go against me. 

I have worked so hard to get to where I am in life, and I am truly proud of myself for all that I have accomplished. I couldn't be here without the support of the best family in the world and the most amazing friends a girl could have. But most of the time, I don't like to talk about ME. I like to talk about what I'm DOING, because it draws attention to the projects we have going on to support others and help others. My life isn't about me, and what I want. My life's purpose is to give to others, to do for others, and to provide things for others that they wouldn't otherwise be able to get. I want to teach, to reach out, to minister, to guide, and to support others in various situations. That is who I am. I am not selfish. I am not greedy. I am not unkind. 

The hardships that we have endured over the past three years seem small to so many people, but they really do take a toll on a person. No one should have to bury their child, but we had to three years ago. Because of that, my grandparents were in a car accident that caused my granny to need surgery. Unbeknownst to us, anesthesia speeds up the process of dementia/Alzheimer's (we didn't even know she had it), and since then, her health has rapidly deteriorated, causing her to have to move to a nursing home for care. Because of THAT, my granddaddy's health declined rapidly as well, and for a whole year, he was in and out of the hospital, sick, and no hope of a diagnosis, until this June when he was diagnosed with blastic plasmacytoid dendritic neoplasm, and now, we have to come to the grim reality that he will not be with us this time next year. 

Somethign that I learned from Granddaddy many years ago is that you always take pride in what you do and you work hard to keep a high level of effort and success in your projects. My granddaddy's pride, though sometimes frustrating, is one of his greatest traits. Though it sometimes came across the wrong way to me, he always lived what he told me and I never had to look at him and think "why does he say one thing and do another?" He has pride in his appearance, in his construction company, in his sons, in his wife, and most importantly, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He takes pride in showing us off, in bragging on us and our accomplishments... so much pride that when he talks to us or about us, his eyes sparkle with excitement and youth, something that we don't see very often anymore. He's tired. But, he hasn't given up yet, because it is not in the nature of a Marine of the United States of America to just "give up." 

In honor of my Granddaddy, who taught me so much about living life and being a good person, I have decided that giving up is no longer an option. If he can fight through life and be stubborn (yes, stubborn. It's the number one trait of a person with the last name of Lanford. I have plenty of it myself!) and prideful, and still turn out okay from it all... well, there are some lessons to be learned from it. 

So to everyone who keeps knocking me down with your hurtful words, to everyone who knocks me down because you mock me, talk about me, and laugh at me behind my back... to everyone who tries to hurt me intentionally, to everyone who is jealous of me for some unknown (and ridiculous?) reason, to everyone who tries to lash out at me or my family members because you don't understand us or what we are going through... to everyone who tries to pass false words about me and my missions for parents who have lost... to everyone who wants to drag me down so you can feel better about yourself... 

I won't give up. I refuse. I'm stronger than that. I will keep getting back up. I will keep fighting back. I will keep being ME, and I will no longer apologize for the traits that make me who I am, even if you don't like me. 

I love my children. I love my husband. I love my family, my friends, my job, my life. I love volunteering for the March of Dimes. I love supporting the NICU at Huntsville Hospital. I love being an advocate and resource for parents who have lost a child. I love being able to share our story with others to impact them in positive ways. I love that I have the opportunity to help others every day. 

So, keep on trying to bring me down. Keep trying to make me give up. You are only motivating me to keep trying harder. You are only going to encourage me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if the journey is slow and difficult. 

I. Will. NOT. give. up. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kylie's 3 year angelversary

To my dearest Kylie Brielle,

It is so hard to believe that it has been three years since you passed. Three years since you took your last breath on Earth. Three years since I held you in my arms. Three years since my heart broke beyond all repair. Three years since I told you goodbye, even though I didn't want to.

Sweet angel, so many things have happened and changed in the course of three years. Though my grief is different now than it was 3 years ago, it still hurts so much to know that I have to wait a lifetime to see you again. It is something that I will carry with me forever, and something that will never be forgotten.

Two years ago, if someone had told me I'd be where I am right now, I probably wouldn't have believed them. At one point, I thought my pain was so deep, so raw, so consuming, that I couldn't see past the grief to see what would come out of it. All I knew was that it wasn't fair, that life without you was miserable, that I would give anything to go back and try again. I knew that I hated my life without you, and that I was angry at God for taking you away from me.

Last year, I was a hormonal emotional wreck because I was 35 weeks pregnant with your little sister. I was mourning your loss while preparing for the birth of a new life. It was a very difficult and conflicting emotional time, but one thing remained: the pain was deep, consuming, and aching. However, it was a little bit easier to get through the day. It was a little bit easier to breathe and remember you without feeling like my heart would rip out of my chest.

This year, my body, my heart, and my soul aches without you here. My heart is comforted, though, as well as my soul, because this year, I have a peace in my faith that has helped guide me through this past year of pain. It hurts just as bad today as it did then. It aches just as much as it did one year ago, two years ago. The piece of my heart that left when you died is still missing. That part of me that died with you will never come back. But this year, sweet girl, I have learned so much about you, about me, and about God. This year, I have a renewed faith and a renewed outlook. It doesn't change how much I love you and how much I miss you. I still think I'd do just about anything to have you back. I still wish life was different, that I could kiss your nose any time I wish, that I could reach out and hold you in my arms all night long. But, reality sets in, and I remember that isn't going to happen for a very, very long time.

Your life has inspired me and has changed me. You are the reason I want to help other parents. You are the reason I want to make sure that no one else has to find help when they lose a baby. You are the reason I want to do all kinds of things in your honor and memory. You are the reason I keep putting one foot in front of the other. You are the reason we have Bryleigh. You are the reason we are the Ambassador family for the March of Dimes this year. You are the reason we cherish each second we have as a family. You are the reason we love deeply, speak kindly, and share constantly.

Your LEGACY is love and hope. You are pure and innocent, and you showed such strength and courage in your brief two weeks on earth. You inspire me to be better every day, and you inspire me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if it seems impossible or too difficult. You have left footprints on my heart, and they will be there for eternity, even when I am long gone from this world. My hope is that your legacy continues to inspire others, to give them hope, and to offer comfort and guidance in the most difficult days a parent could face. Your life lives on through us, and I hope that we have made you proud with all that we have done and will continue to do in the future.

Today, Kylie, I am so honored and so blessed to be your mommy. I am thankful for the peace that comes in knowing you are in the arms of Jesus, and that one day, I will join you and then can raise you as I always dreamed. One day, I will get to rock you to sleep every night, and I can kiss your precious nose all day long. One day, I will be able to look in your gorgeous eyes like I did three years ago, and you will just melt my heart with your sweetness. One day, we will be a family again, all of us, and we can do the things that families do as we walk the streets of gold in eternity.

Until then, I must find some peace and comfort in telling your story, sharing your life with others. I must find hope in talking with other parents who have been chosen to join this group that we didn't sign up for. I must find inspiration and strength from you, from your life, and from your legacy. I must keep going, because I am not just a mommy of an angel, but I am a mommy to three beautiful, unique, precious girls.

Thank you for being my daughter and for showing me a love that I never knew existed. Thank you for watching over us all and for protecting us. Thank you for guiding me and inspiring me with every day that passes. There isn't a moment that goes by that you are not on my mind. Every day, I miss you. Every second, I love you. My love for you stretches far beyond any physical limitation. You will always be in my heart, and no one can tear apart the bond of mother and child, even across a distance like Heaven and Earth.

Happy 3rd angelversary, Kylie Brielle Keith. I hope that you are celebrating in the biggest of ways in Heaven. Please, sweet angel, be with me tomorrow, as well as your daddy, your Grammy and Paw Paw, your sisters, Aunt Ashley, Uncle Jon, Nick, and all our friends and family as we mourn your passing and try to get through the day. You are a very special little girl who is loved and missed by many, many people.

I love you to Heaven and back, and I miss you just as much.

With my most sincere love,

Your Mommy

Friday, August 31, 2012

Keep on keeping on...

Mrs. Ibezim, my 8th grade Science teacher, didn't teach us much about Science. Seriously. We had a folder for vocabulary, a folder for section questions, a folder for chapter questions, and a folder for end of chapter reviews. Then, we went through the book and taught ourselves and then had a test on it. However, I DID learn a lot about life. Morals. Values. Sayings to last a lifetime. (MXR peeps will remember: You need to get your ducks in a row! and... Put that in your pipe and smoke it!) Though she may have been intimidating, though she may have been unconventional, she loved her students and she taught each group that came through what agape love meant, what it meant to truly love yourself, your family, your friends, and yes, even God. She loved God with a passion, and it was okay for her to talk about it then. (Don't think anyone would have ever done anything anyway). She also taught us about respect. She sang to us. It was fun, but now looking back, it was also very important in my development before going to high school. Mrs. Ibezim probably knew what she was doing that year. I think she knew she was teaching us greater lessons that we would appreciate later on, and that we needed to hear those things to survive high school and the world beyond. I know that her life lessons have stuck with me, and they come out in the strangest situations, but always at the perfect time. For instance, as the title of this blog posts suggests, I'm just trying to: "Keep on, Keeping on."

Today I am overwhelmed with things on my plate. Between Kylie's 3rd birthday, Bryleigh's 1st birthday, October 15, and Kylie's fund, along with being a mommy, a wife, a teacher, and everything else.... I've just gotten a bit disappointed. I know people see me coming and run because they are afraid I'm going to ask them to buy another thing or participate in another fundraiser, but fundraisers are the only way to keep up with the things that mean so much to me. We are barely making ends meet ourselves, and I HATE not being able to participate in the things my friends are doing. I know people are mad at me because they think I am being selfish, that I never want to buy from them but want everyone to buy from me, but that's not it. I absolutely would help every cause possible if I had the means to do so. Unfortunately, my money situation won't allow me to even help myself. Trust me, if I could go forever without having to ask for money for the October 15 event or Kylie's birthday or the March of Dimes, I would- I would support my own things in my own way. I just don't have the means. I've put a lot of money and time in each year, and I am NOT complaining- I wouldn't have it any other way. I just wish that the funds were more readily available.

I know some people don't mean anything by it, but I get so disappointed and hurt when the SAME people over and over again refuse to support anything I do, even if it is showing up for Kylie's birthday party or coming by the Family Fun Day for the MOD. If I invite someone, it's because I think a lot of them. I don't just invite random strangers. I invite people for a few reasons- one, I think it's something you might be interested in. Two- I don't want anyone to think I was intentionally leaving them out. Three- I know that it is a cause that has affected your life as well. Four- It is important to me and I want to share it with people who are important to me. I just wish that I knew that those people WANTED to support me, because people think that it's about donating $20s and $50s and $100s... when the big thing is to help spread the word, pass along the info, support us in our endeavors, and if you can scrounge up $2 in pennies, I'm all for it! $2 more than we had to begin with...

So in closing, I guess I'm just saying that I do need lots of support. Financial, emotional, everything. Every tiny little bit helps. Every bit.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What infant loss does to a mother...

Today started off with tears and memories, and so the whole day, those things have been at the forefront of my thoughts. And when those things are in the front of my mind instead of that whisper in the back, it affects how I think and feel about everything else. So, sometimes, I find  myself wondering if I'll ever be the same person I was before... if my grieving heart makes me harder to love, harder to befriend, harder to like. Like maybe being a bereaved mother makes me some kind of weird contagion, or some kind of walking plague. I often feel that way- and it's because I refuse to NOT talk about Kylie. I refuse to let people think I only have Jaycee and Bryleigh as my children. I refuse to keep her tucked away and out of conversations and situations.

Baby loss is a taboo subject. It really is. People do not want to think that baby loss really happens. If you hear about it, then you have to accept it, right? Well, no matter what you want to think, believe, or feel, every single day, a mother says goodbye to her baby. Every single day, a father comforts his wife as she kisses her baby for the last time. Every single day, a brother or a sister has to let go of their dreams of what it will be like to have another baby in the house. Every single day, grandparents lose a grandchild. Every single day, a baby in the world takes his or her last breath.

This is reality. Just concerning NEC, the condition that Kylie had, over 10,000 babies die per year because of it. 10,000 babies. That averages to just over 27 deaths PER DAY. That is so heartbreaking, because so many babies die every day from OTHER causes, so you can only imagine where the number can go.

So many people think that what they say is helpful or heartfelt or sincere, and it may very well be said with the most innocent and sweetest of intentions, but that doesn't mean it is the RIGHT thing to say (or do). Here is a list of things NOT to say to a bereaved mother, no matter HOW many years it has been:

1.) You are young, and can have more children...
2.) Don't you think it's time to move on?
3.) She/he wouldn't want you to dwell on it your entire life. Your child would want you to be happy...
4.) Well, at least you know you can have kids...
5.) Are you STILL crying over it?
6.) You need to control your emotions.
7.) God doesn't make mistakes.
8.) There's a reason for everything.
9.) You wouldn't want her to suffer in life anyway...
10.) Aren't you glad you don't have to deal with this when she was older?
11.) I don't understand why you're still so upset.
12.) I'm sorry. I know how you feel. I lost my: pet/uncle/grandma/dad/brother/neighbor/etc...
13.) "It" isn't suffering anymore (resorting to "it" instead of her/him, etc)

I could go on and on. And yes, I've heard many of those things. But let me tell you... just as you never forget your loved ones who have passed on before you, such as a grandparent, a parent, a friend, an uncle, an aunt,  a sibling... we never forget our babies. The loss is with us for eternity. The loss goes with us wherever and whenever we do anything. The loss is there and an empty space is always in our heart... every family gathering. Every family photo. Every birthday, every angelversary. Every holiday. Every dinner. It's always there.

The loss changes and alters who you are, because you cannot ever be the same as you were. Grieving changes you, but specifically, losing a child takes something out of you that you didn't ever expect to let go of. It takes a piece of your heart and soul... and that piece will never be replaced, healed, repaired, or mended. It will be gone forever, just as the life that you created will be. Reality is so difficult sometimes, because it is more painful than pretending that things will be okay one day...

Be kind to the grieving mother. Be there for her, but don't force her to move on. Be a shoulder to lean on, pat her back, and offer support, but don't make her feel she is wrong for how she feels, acts, or responds. A grieving mother has a lot to go through already, and really can't be made to feel "guilty" and "bad" for missing her child.

All for her...

I have not cried like this in a very, very long time. I have not had uncontrollable sobs in months. But today, in a house that is quiet while the kids sleep and the husband is at work, and after my first week back to teaching and all the events of the week... all of the pain, the hurt, and the brokenness has found me once more.

Twice this week, TWICE in one week, we were told in two different ways by two different people that they talked with or saw someone who received one of our memory boxes at the hospital. How ironic, don't you think? Twice in one week.

The first message touched my heart so deeply. It was so unexpected, and yet, it was like Kylie was standing there beside me, and that she was in a way, trying to hold my hand to tell me that we ARE making a difference. The words that my "little sister" used to describe the situation took my breath away... that box in that woman's arms will be her most priceless physical possession, I am sure, just like mine is. But then the thought also slammed me... that I HATE the fact that there is still a need for the boxes, that I am so glad we can help provide these boxes, but broken in pieces that families still have to walk out of the hospital with a box instead of their little miracles.

The second message came from my mom last night. Jennifer told her about a family that had lost a baby, and they had told her about the box they received, and in turn Jennifer told her about us and what we have done with the boxes and for parents concerning bereavement groups and such. And when I sat in my mom's living room and she told me last night, it took everything I had to hold back the tears, because again, Kylie is living through these boxes, through me, and through all that we do for others, and I was taken aback at the impact that I just now realized she had.

And with these two instances, I am reminded of that day... the day that I had cried so much I didn't know if I could ever cry again... a day that made me numb and that changed me forever. A day that no parent ever would want to, or should, have to experience. That day, I held my daughter in my arms and watched her slip away to be with our Lord... the day my heart broke beyond healing.

I remember the box being placed in my arms when we left, and being wheeled out of the hospital with a box in my lap, while my daughter was being placed in a beautiful basket, and was taken away from the hospital in a hearse from the funeral home. I remember the searing pain, the desire to be anywhere but in that situation, to turn back time, to fix whatever happened... I remember the agony inside my body as my heart, mind, and soul were at war with each other.

I remember getting home and opening the box, and going through each item as tears poured down my face, wondering why God would ever put me in this position, why He would take away a child who was loved more than any words could ever say, and why He was punishing me by taking her away.

I remember the next night, while sharing her box with some family, reaching in the bottom and finding a little baggie that I didn't realize was in there, and at that moment, losing all self-control, because I had a physical piece of my child that I didn't know I had... a baggie with the tiniest locks of beautiful, perfect brown hair, that Miss Carolyn had taken from the back of her neck and saved for me... and at that moment, the importance of the box became ten times more than I thought, because this box held the last physical piece of my daughter... my only true physical connection. That hair was on her beautiful, round head... that hair was created by me, her daddy, and God. Her hair was proof that she did exist, that she did live, that she was ours.

And then today, her box is still my most priceless physical possession. If anything were to happen to it, I don't know what I would do. And that is why we continue to make boxes for the hospital. This box means so much to me, and I know the comfort and feelings these boxes give to other families. In the end, Kylie lives through these boxes, in giving back to others. Her legacy, her memory, is still alive and strong, and in giving to others, they get a piece of her spirit.

So, that is why we do it. We do it because we know how important these boxes are to families, because we are a recipient of one ourselves. We do it because Kylie would want us to keep on helping others. My life's mission, in her memory, is to help parents who have suffered a loss of a baby through infant loss, pregnancy loss, etc.

This week, Kylie showed me, through two special instances, that she is proud of us and what we are doing in her memory. She reminded me that it doesn't go unnoticed, and that it means more than we remember sometimes.

Thank you, sweet angel, for being mine. Thank you for showing me your kind heart and loving spirit in everything that we do. Thank you for reminding me to keep going, even if it is hard, and thank you for showing yourself to me when I need it most. You are truly a beautiful child, and I could not be more proud to be your mommy. God definitely broke the mold when He made you, and there will never be another YOU ever, ever again. You are perfection, as are my other girls, and I am forever BLESSED because I carried you within my womb, birthed you, loved you on Earth for two weeks, and love you across Heaven and Earth for eternity. You are my own special guardian angel, and for that, I am grateful. I love you more than I could ever tell you, and I miss you just as much. <3 are="are" being="being" brielle="brielle" for="for" girl.="girl." keith="keith" kylie="kylie" little="little" mine.="mine." nbsp="nbsp" one="one" p="p" special="special" thank="thank" very="very" you="you">

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Our big girl!

It is so hard to believe that 4 1/2 years ago, God blessed us beyond measure by bringing Jaycee into our home and our lives. At 8 months old, Jaycee was the cutest, pudgiest, sweetest little girl we had ever met. What was intended to be just a few weeks' stay became the most wonderful 4 1/2 years I could ever imagine. Jaycee Elisabeth stole our hearts the minute she came into our home, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to have her in our lives. With Kindergarten fast approaching, I have been reflecting on her sweet little life, and how blessed we are to have her as a part of our family.

In 4 1/2  years, we have held 5 birthday parties, 4 Christmases, 4 Thanksgivings, 4 Easters, 4 Halloweens, 4 Independence Days... We've had 2 full years of dance, 4 years of daycare, a preschool graduation, 2 dance recitals, and more love and happiness than we ever imagined. We have experienced the birth of two beautiful, perfect daughters to add to the family, and we have had our share of struggles and problems. We have moved once, to a new, bigger home. We have lost our first born, and we have buried my "first" baby, my precious Murphy. We have experienced money struggles, grief struggles, and life struggles. We have gone through family changes with family members in and out of hospitals, life-altering diseases and conditions, and multiple surgeries. We have seen weddings, and births of many precious babies in our family and circle of friends.

In the first few months that we had Jaycee in our home, I finally learned what it was like to love someone with a mother's love. I knew that I would give my life for her the minute I met her. In many ways, we needed Jaycee just as much as she needed us. She came to us when we were hopeless, lost, and broken- we were so broken from failed fertility treatments and the inability to become pregnant. When we received the blessing of Jaycee coming to our home, she gave us hope, laughter, love. I can't even begin to tell you how much her life brought me joy.

Jaycee's first birthday was a 1st birthday princess party- and we were blessed to celebrate with family and friends who had fallen in love with her just as much as we had. Her second birthday was a Disney Princess party, and her third birthday was a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse party- and each year, we were overwhelmed with joy as we realized just how special she had become to everyone around us. No one cared that she wasn't "blood" related- Jaycee was a part of us, and a part of them. Her fourth birthday party was Tinkerbell themed at Jump Zone, and this past year, we had a carnival in our own backyard. Looking at the pictures from each party makes me speechless- I am just overwhelmed with pride and happiness as I see how much this little girl has changed me and everyone who meets her.

Jaycee has always been a happy, smiling little girl- she is one of the most loving children I have ever met. She will hug just about anyone, even if she doesn't know you. She hugs waitresses at restaurants, family members she meets for the first time, and other kids her age that she meets at dance class, playgrounds, etc. She wants to love everyone, and it just melts my heart with pride to see how she always wants to love on everyone.

And oh, she makes the cutest little "model" for Halloween! She has been a pumpkin, a witch, Tinkerbell, and Hannah Montana! This year, she asked to be all 4 of those again, so we're having a bit of a time getting her to change her mind. =)

And recently, my heart has been warmed to listen and talk with Jaycee about the love of God. We listen to WAY FM in the car, and one of my favorite things to do is sing some of our favorite songs together. There is nothing in this world more innocent, pure, and special than a 5 year old singing "My hope is... in you Lord..." or "All I know is I'm not home yet, this is not where I belong..." - melts me into a puddle of Mommy happiness. And she tells me: "Jesus died for us so we can all go to Heaven" and my favorite is "God lives in our hearts. All the time. And we live in God's heart." This child has a pure love for God that inspires me, awes me, and brings me to my knees. It is such a beautiful relationship, and I am so excited to watch her grow in her love for Christ and mature into a strong Christian young woman one day!

So many people say that they commend us for loving Jaycee and for treating her as our own child for all this time. I tell them thank you, but they really don't understand that it wasn't even a choice- she is such a special little girl, and our lives are better because of her. I really see it as we are the lucky ones- she is a joy to have in our home and family, and we couldn't imagine where we would be if we didn't have her here. When we lost Kylie, I got up every day for Jaycee. She kept me going. If we had not had Jaycee in our lives, I know my life and the way I dealt with Kylie's loss would be completely different, and it could have ruined me. Jaycee was the first person to give me an even greater purpose in this world- she showed me what being a mother is about, and she showed me that blood doesn't mean anything when it comes to family.

I remember holding her in my arms, cradling her while she held her bottle... and I remember thinking that I never wanted that moment to end. Even now, as big as she is, I sometimes have the urge to hold her close, and I can almost imagine her as that sweet, chunky little baby girl with the cutest dimples in her smile, and my heart just leaps with love and overwhelming emotions.

And now, at 5 years old, she is witty, intelligent, kind, loving, clumsy, silly, goofy, sweet, stubborn, hard-headed, strong-willed, confident, cautious, precious, amazing... I mean, i could really go on all night. She has become such a big girl, and I wonder where all that time went. Where did my sweet baby girl go? Really, she's still there, just buried deep with in. Over this summer, I really feel we have gotten closer in our relationship with the time we have spent together- and it just makes my day for her to run to me and tell me how much she missed me while I was away. I know I may baby her some, but kids don't stay little forever, and by golly, I will spoil her and love her every moment of every day if I can! =)

I know it rambled, but it's so hard to organize your thoughts when you are fighting off tears that you have a sweet girl going to Kindergarten!!!!!!!! It just doesn't seem fair!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spoiled rotten and pure love

Hello. My name is Amber. You know a lot of things about me, but something some people don't know is that I am the very first (yes, making me the oldest) grandchild on my daddy's side of the family. My grandparents had three boys, and I am the first of only three grandchildren. So needless to say, I am 28 years old and have been spoiled rotten since the moment I entered this world. AND, I wouldn't have it any other way =)

With the difficulties my family is going through right now, the past few days have been full of quiet, reflective thoughts on my life as a grandchild of Frank and Betty Lanford. I have been so blessed to call these two amazing people my grandparents, and they have impacted my life in so many ways. My relationship with my grandparents has always been special, and the love I have for them could never be put into words. Words just can't do justice to what they mean to me.

My granny is the sweetest little lady you could ever meet. She has always been short, and she would often tell us that the reason she was so short was because everytime she tried to grow, her older siblings would knock her down into the ground an inch to keep her short. =) She is particular about her clothes (Alfred Dunner is almost all she would wear), and her favorite perfume is called Beautiful (yes, at the beauty counter in the department stores). She was always done up with make-up, had a perm, and went to the beauty shop once a week. Granny always called us "hun" and "darlin", and she rarely ever said a cross word about or to anyone. But, if she was really upset or offended, she would often speak her mind, and it always made me giggle when a bad word came out of her mouth.

My granddaddy seems tough on the outside, but he has such a soft heart for his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Granddaddy was a Marine, and he is a very, very prideful man. He takes pride in dressing well- he says it says a lot about a person. I've only seen him in jeans maybe 5 times in my whole life. Granddaddy is stubborn, too. Pride can do that to a person. =) He walked around on a broken foot for 6 weeks before agreeing to go to the doctor. He used to avoid the doctor, because He was a MARINE, and he didn't need a doctor. =) I often saw and heard him speak harshly to others, but it has been only once or twice that he spoke harshly with me. But, something that I always, always notice about him is that he is a gentleman. He holds doors, and he stands up to greet or say goodbye.

When I was little, I had a baby sitter. Often, Granddaddy would pick me up early from the babysitter and he would take me places. We often went to the Depot, to the park, to a store, or back to "the office." My favorite was when he or Granny would take me back to the office or to their house. I spent many, many days  and hours with my grandparents. Now that I am older, my mom told me that at first, my granddaddy was NOT happy about having a grandchild; he didn't think he was old enough to be a grandpa. Then, he got mad when he found out I was not going to be a boy. But, my parents told me when I was born, I couldn't be more perfect in his eyes. And when my sister came along, he was the same about her, and of course, the same also when my cousin Brad came along 11 years after me.

I remember going to the construction company (my granddaddy's company- he started it at home and then moved to his own office when my dad was little. His father built houses, as well) many times. Daddy, Uncle Mark, Uncle Frank, Granddaddy, Granny, and even my mom worked there when I was little. Granny was the secretary, and I loved sitting in her lap and helping her open envelopes, write messages, and eating crackers with thousand island dressing. Her bottom desk drawer was full of nail polish: every red and pink color you could ever imagine, all in one place. She would paint my fingernails and toenails every time I asked, and would often touch up her own. I have always been jealous and in awe of my Granny's fingernails- they are always (even now!) perfectly manicured, and long, beautiful, strong nails... and for as long as I could remember, her nails were always perfectly painted.

Granddaddy would let me help him make copies on the copy machine, write on the marker boards (I was destined to be a teacher even then!), and play "store" in the supply cabinets using the calculators. Sissy and I would pull out this old metal stool with rubber grips, and we would use it as a desk to play school. I even had my very own little pillow that I kept under my mom's desk, and I would sleep there.

On the weekends, or just any time we went to Granny and Granddaddy's, we were treated like royalty. They had a small sitting room that we called the antique room. The furniture was old and "royal"- velvet red cushions, decorated lamps, and a beautiful tea set that sat out all the time. Granny was never afraid of us breaking her tea set, and let us play with it all the time. Then, she would open up her drawers and drawers full of jewelry, and we would try on her rings, necklaces, and earrings- lucky for us, most of her earrings were clip on- and we would walk around in her high heels. Granddaddy would cook filet mignon every Saturday night, on this awesome grill built right into their stove, and would always prepare baked potatoes and salad and BBQ bread (the kind with seasame seeds on top!), and then after dinner, Granny would pop us popcorn ON THE STOVE (I know, right!), and let us stay up and watch movies.

All of these things will be forever engrained in my memories and my heart, because they helped mold me to who I am. This strong family relationship encouraged me throughout my life, and it has become the inspiration for much of what I do. Every Christmas lunch was spent at Granny and Granddaddy's house. Every Halloween, we made the trip into town, grabbed KFC for dinner, and then took it to their house. Granddaddy had so much pride and joy taking us trick-or-treating in the neighborhood that he has lived in for so long, where we often knocked on the same doors, rang the same bells, and trick-or-treated at the same houses that our dad and uncles had visited as children.

And let me tell you- there was nothing too good for their grandchildren! Granny IS a shop-a-holic (Now you know where I get it from!), and if you went shopping with her, she would buy anything you even touched- not to spoil us, but because she genuinely wanted to get it for us and make us happy. That was one of the major ways she showed you how much she loved you. Granddaddy and Granny both would often pull out cash before we left their house; $20 here, $20 there- because they just wanted to. AND, they wouldn't take no for an answer. We even went on beach family vacations together, and they supported everything we did in school- every graduation, every special event, dance recital, everything. They were there and supporting us.

I guess I'm writing this because I am afraid when the time comes for me to have to write something, I am afraid my emotions will be so insane, and my heart and soul will be hurting so much that I won't have the ability to write these things. The reality of losing them is becoming harder and harder to handle, and I have spent much of the past few days literally in tears because I am not ready to lose them. I know that being in your 80s is a good, ripe age. I know that being 28, almost 29 years old is an amazing feat to still have three of my four grandparents AND a great-grandmother who will be 103 in October. However, no one is ever truly ready to say goodbye to those that they love. There is nothing that can prepare me for losing my precious grandparents. NOTHING. And yet, the reality is, it will probably be much sooner than I ever cared for it to be. Treatments are hard on Granddaddy right now, and Granny's situation will not ever improve. She deteriorates more each day. So I guess this is my way of trying to make sense of it all. I know God's timing cannot be questioned. He already granted me my prayers for my Granny to meet and hold Bryleigh, and so I can't be selfish. I can't wish for them to stay here forever just because I am  not ready yet. It wouldn't be fair for them, and it wouldn't be fair to anyone else.

So please forgive my momentary lapse down memory lane. I am trying to savor each memory, each moment. Each hug, each kiss. Every holiday, every single vacation, every single dinner or lunch out. Every moment of my life has been transformed by the love of my grandparents. I live to make my family proud of me, and to be an adult and see things differently... God, I am so lucky!

And now as a mom myself, I have seen my grandparents experience a new joy of being great-grandparents. They are truly head-over-heels in love with these babies, and my heart melts to see that this must be how they feel/felt about me, my sister, and my cousin when we were born. They are just so different when the kids are around; Granny smiles and seems more herself, Granddaddy is chipper and laughs a lot.

So tonight, I won't pray for a miracle. I won't pray for more time. I won't pray for a cure for any of these things, because quite honestly, I know there's not enough time. However, I will pray that each moment with them is special and full of love and closeness. I will pray that Granny and Granddaddy will have peace and joy in their time here on this earth. I will pray that God grants us the wisdom to make educated and good decisions concerning their care and health. I will pray that God helps guide me through these emotions and feelings. I won't be bitter this time, because God knows what He is doing, and though I may not like it, I know that it is His plan. I know that there will be one tiny, special little girl waiting to greet her great-grandparents at the gates of Heaven though, and I know that I will have a whole lot of spoiling to UN-DO when I arrive to Heaven myself. So please keep my family in your prayers, and please hold your loved ones close- you never know when you won't get to do it again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In God We Trust...

Okay, this is a rant, and this is REAL. This isn't pointing fingers at any one person, but it is something we should all consider.

I am a proud American. I am glad to live in a country where I can express my opinion (hence this blog) and be free to worship any way I please while living a life of my choosing. The same is true for every American citizen. Our country was founded on the ideals of freedom, without fear of persecution for just being different.

However, what most Americans have forgotten, is that while this country was built on the idea of religious freedom and the concepts of a democracy and rule by the people, for the people, it was also built on the principals and ideals of the Bible and Christian beliefs. Our founding fathers felt that a country built on God's word would be successful. By building our country on God's word (you only have to look at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and many other first documents to see this evidence), they were saying this: Our country is based on Christianity. By being built on these teachings, we accept anyone and everyone to this country, just as Jesus accepted anyone and everyone to worship him, come to know him, and live amongst him and his people. This meant that NO ONE would be FORCED to go to the Christian church and worship one set religion. You could bring your religion, your faith, your religious texts, your temple, your church, your monastary, whatever... you could bring it here and worship freely without fear of persecution or trouble.

With that being said, our country has forgotten God. There are citizens who want to remove "GOD" from all money, all documents, all items in this country. Even the pledge is under fire because people want to remove "UNDER GOD" from this. No one said that you had to believe in God, but the founding fathers made it QUITE clear that God and the Bible were the building blocks of our country and what we stand for. If you take God out of America, there will be no America.

We have gotten so far from the basic principles of our country's democracy that it is scary. Freedom of speech was intended to give people the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions without fear of being  jailed, killed, tortured, hurt, kicked out, etc. Freedom of religion was intended to make the country safe no matter what beliefs you had. The right to defend yourself meant that you were able to protect what you worked so hard for.

Yet, today, those of us who work hard for a living are told we don't "give" enough for other people to mooch off of. We are told that the working class of America has to keep working to pay for those who DO NOT work. Welfare, WIC, food stamps, unemployment, etc. were all created as temporary fixes to a temporary problem. However, people are making a life living off of the system. By allowing this to happen, we are allowing our country to produce lazy, irresponsible, non-productive citizens.

Today, those of us who express our love for God are told we cannot voice our opinions if they might hurt someone who believes differently. We are being criticized, slandered, and mistreated by fellow Americans for trying to stand up for our beliefs. We are being persecuted, in many ways, for acknowledging the truth in God's word and for trying to uphold the beliefs that He teaches us. If we use the Bible or Christianity in our arguments, they somehow become invalid or no good.

Today, when we try to defend our homes, our property, our families, our reputations, or whatever, we are considered racist, sexist, discriminatory, prejudice, or whatever. We are told that because we think or live or look different from someone, that means that it becomes a hate crime or that we are fueled by hate or evil.

Does anyone else see the trouble with this? The further we get away from God, the further we get away from the wishes our founding fathers had for our country. This country is unraveling at an alarming rate. It is a sad day when these things occur:
1.) People LEAVE their jobs to "occupy" parks and fight for something that is really hypocritical to what they are doing.
2.) People depend on the government to take care of them and their children.
3.) People do not accept that there are differing opinions in the world, and just because you don't agree, that means you have to fight and boycott them.
4.) People are no longer safe at a college pool party, a movie theater, a school, a gas station, a restaurant...
5.) Justice is no longer served to people who commit crimes due to "insanity" pleas.
6.) People want to take "God" out of anything political.
7.) It becomes wrong for a person to explain that they are Christian or to pray privately without influencing others (regardless of where they are).
8.) People in government feel it is okay to choose how sick a person has to be in order to be denied health care.
9.) People in government now tell you what you can or can't do in your own bedroom, how to provide or not provide for your own health, and many other things that the government has no business being involved in.
10.) Many people who vote are not educated on the candidates, their stances, and their histories.

This list could go on forever. Guys, we are getting it all wrong. Get back to God, and things will fall into place.

This being said, it is ridiculous that people want to boycott businesses and/or people because they choose to stand up for their own beliefs and rights. It is sad that we cannot even express our own opinion without being ATTACKED for it.

The Bible states that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. God created man, and then he created woman as man's companion. He created a man and a woman to procreate and keep the world going. He gave men and women the ability to think, feel, and learn. We were given the right to choose. We were given the right to use logic and to reason. God intended a relationship to be between man and woman, because he did not give man the ability to birth children, for a reason.

Now, that being said, I think that if you choose to be in a same-sex relationship, that is your choice, and I do not think ill of you. I do not have anything against anyone who is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, etc. You don't bash me for my choices, I don't bash you for yours, because it is not my place to judge. I do feel though, as a Christian, that while your relationship is your business and who you live with and what you choose to do are your business, that marriage is for a man and a woman as God intended. I don't disagree with the option for a civil union or other acknowledgment, but because of my beliefs in God and as a Christian woman, I stand by God's holy words.

Does that mean I won't be friends with someone in a same-sex relationship? No. Does it mean I hate gays? Absolutely not. Does it mean that I don't support my friends/family who are gay? Heck, no. It DOES mean that I believe in marriage between a man and a woman. It means that I believe in my God's word and that His guidelines and rules are far more important than worrying about what someone thinks of my opinion on this matter.

Since I'm just a normal ole' person, the world isn't going to boycott me for my opinion. I might lose some friends, but then again, I guess they weren't really friends after all if they are going to boycott me for this. However, because someone holding a high position in a well-known and well-liked company expressed this same exact opinion, the world is in an uproar. How fair is that, my hypocritical fellow Americans?

My point is this. We have to stop this nonsense that America is becoming. We need to focus on raising respectful, responsible, law-abiding, God-fearing young men and women. We need to get back to the basics and be humbled in the great power our founding fathers left us with a democracy and freedom. We need to appreciate the America we live in.

God Bless America!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ever really thought about it?

Have you ever really and truly just stopped and really thought about someone else and what their life might be like sometimes? Have you ever wondered what you DON'T know about someone? Ever been curious as to what you don't know, haven't seen, or just wonder- how much is someone really like you, what are their pet peeves, what do they do when they are upset, and what is life REALLY like for them?

A lot of people don't really wonder those things, but I have before. I try to put myself in someone's shoes and really think- I wonder what life is like for that person. Sometimes, life's situations can really alter a person. Sometimes, people are really good at hiding their true selves (good and bad). Sometimes, people are really good at making you believe something totally different.

For the most part, I try to be transparent. I am very forward and vocal, and I am very open with a lot of things. If you really want to know something, I tell you. If you really want to ask a question, I'll give you a chance and 9 times out of 10, I'll answer it. However, I've come to realize that there is a part of every single person's life that MUST be (and in many cases, should be) private, even to those who are closest to you. Sometimes, things just aren't worth dragging other people in to, and sometimes, things aren't worth causing other people hurt because of what you have been through.

I wouldn't wish some of my deepest hurts on anyone. Namely, I would not wish even my worst enemy to experience the pain of losing a child. It is something that I will carry with me until I die, something that will always be a part of me and who I am... something that is my "new" normal. I wouldn't wish some of the things that have happened in my life on anyone.

Now I say this because lately, I see so many judgements. Now I am not an innocent person. I have made judgments before, and I probably will in the future, but I try so hard to really think about a person before I jump to too many conclusions. I ask myself, 1.) What do I already know about this person and his/her life? 2.) If I were in his or her shoes, what would I do?  3.) What other things do I need to know to make that decision?

Some things are pretty black and white. If you see a man, who you know is married, making out with another woman who is NOT his wife, then you can pretty much make a decision that he is cheating (because to me, a kiss is cheating). However, I cannot determine why or what all, so I can't condemn him. If I walk through a journey of losing a child, it is pretty easy to see that I am hurting and that the situation is not good- and it will probably make me emotional. As it did....

But sometimes, you think you really know someone, and you really don't know anything about them at all. The way you thought they were, the way you thought they lived their lives, the things you thought went on at home... nothing is further from the actual truth. And today, I just want people to know that anyone could be going through anything. Pray for your friends, your family, your neighbors, your church, your community, strangers... anyone and everyone. Because, honestly, you never know what REALLY goes on... some people have it tougher than you ever would realize... just pray.

Remember, we don't know everything, and we aren't supposed to. We are, however, supposed to be kind, uplifting, and supportive. True story.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's all good. ALL is good.

So today during church, I was reminded that there is one being in this world who loves me and cares for me regardless of what any earthly being does to me, says about me, or thinks about me. GOD, in his infinite understanding and grace, knows the person I am, for He created me. He made me in HIS image, and He takes pride in his creations and wonders.

Today lifted me beyond the hole I was slumping myself into, because you see, I care deeply what other people think about me and say about me. I know it is a petty, trivial thing, but I am always worried about what they say and think about me, and how they feel about me. If I think of someone as a friend, it hurts to know that they think otherwise of me, especially when I do all I can to be nice and to be a good friend.

However, I have just decided that being nice sometimes isn't enough to change people. "Kill them with kindness" may work for a bit, but it doesn't change the person ultimately. It doesn't make people like you any more or any less than they did before. I have decided that there is no need to apologize for being ME. Because you know what? If I'm good enough for God, then I'm good enough for anyone else!

If more people in this world would lift people up instead of pushing them down, if more people would praise the good instead of harping on the bad, if more people would support and help instead of tearing down and degrading, then this world would be much better off. If more people remembered to act in God's image, to be more Christ-like, to be more forgiving, then we would be better off. If more people chose to be honest, to be nice, and to be realistic, we would be better off.

I think a big thing is that we all judge. I'm guilty, too, but I have been really trying to improve here. The thing is, what works for one person may not work for someone else. Everyone has had a different life, a different situation, different raising, different everything. It doesn't mean that it's wrong, or that it's a bad thing. It just means that we are all DIFFERENT. You can't judge me for the choices I make, because it is not your place to judge. We can all disagree, and we can all dislike choices that others make, but you are no better than me just because you do things differently from me. There isn't necessarily a right way or a wrong way to live life, but some people act like their way is the ONLY way, and unfortunately, that is not how life works.

I know what kind of person I am, and I know where my heart is. I found this great image on Facebook today, and it says, "You know my name, not my story. You've heard what I've done, not what I've been through. If you were in my shoes, you'd fall the first step." I think this is 110% true!

I've been told so many times over the past 2 1/2 years how strong I am, and until recently, I didn't believe it at all. I felt weak, broken, and damaged. I felt beyond repair. I felt like I was a mess. But now, I know that I am still standing. I am still fighting, still surviving. I have gone through the worst hurt any parent could ever experience, and that is the fact that I had to grow a beautiful child within my womb, birth her, and then say goodbye to her, all in about 29 weeks. If you haven't had to bury a child, or say goodbye to a child through miscarriage, you will never understand what I'm getting at. To many people, they feel like enough is enough, and I need to move on. However, it is not that simple. No person who has ever lost someone close to them ever forgets that person or stops missing them. How is my child any different? But, I am surviving. I have endured the cruelest of words being slung at me in my darkest hours of grief. I have withstood trials and tests that many people will never even have to imagine. Despite this, I still stand, doing all I can to provide a life for my living children while carrying on the name and legacy of my heavenly angel.

You know what? If you don't like me, that is your problem and your loss. I have a lot to offer to my friends and family, and that is not me being stuck up or anything. I just give 100% to those I love and care about. If you have a problem with me, address it with me up front. I am tired of "wondering" what I've done so wrong to make people dislike me, talk about me, or mistreat me. I am always here for anyone who needs me, and I do my best at everything I do. I like to succeed, and I work my butt off to do just that. I am a good person with a big heart, and sometimes, I do have "doormat" written all over my forehead. But, it's all good. All is good, because I know that God loves me just the way I am, because after all, He made me this way! And that is good enough for me!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sticks and stones...

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

Anyone agree with this? Because I don't. I may be 28 years old, but I wear my heart on my sleeve, and words DO hurt. Probably more than breaking bones sometimes, and I should know; I've broken at least 6!

I often tend to think more of others than they think of me. I treasure friendships and love to do nice things for people, regardless of what I get in return. My mom has been a good role model in that; she does and does and does for others because her heart is pure and kind. I try to do the same. I will cook for you, give you what I can, when I can, and however I can. I will give because that is what I do. I don't expect things in return, and I don't expect to be compensated. I love to do for others.

In life, we have all made poor decisions. Some decisions affect us long term, some do not. As newly weds, Chris and I made some bad decisions, which still affect us today, but we have worked so hard in the past several years to overcome those bad decisions, and I am very proud of where it has put us.

And, we have had the worst of the worst happen to us. No one anticipates having to bury their child, and that is something that has changed our lives and our home forever. Costs that we did not plan for, situations we did not plan for, life that we did not plan for. The stress has taken it's toll on us health wise and financial wise. Chris has struggled with his health, and part of it I think is from internalizing his grief and not knowing how to deal with it all. Stress can cause so many problems, and unfortunately, we have both suffered from it. It is normal, but everything seems to add up.

I guess since losing Kylie I am extremely emotional, more so than before, because I feel like less of a mom, less of a woman, and less of a person because I couldn't carry my child full term, because I couldn't help her and protect her, and because I couldn't do for her what I needed to do. I feel like I am a bit more protective of Jaycee and Bryleigh now because of all we have been through, and so, yeah, I do get hurt and upset and broken hearted when words hurt.

Words can be like a knife, especially when you are clueless as to what you have done that is so wrong, and you would do anything to figure out why you deserve the pain and the hurt that those words cause. I feel like a doormat a lot of times, and I would give anything to know what I have done so horrible. And you know, words aren't always directed to one person in particular, but the things that people say sometimes make you wonder if they would ever really understand you and where you are coming from, or if they even cared. Words are painful. Yes, I take things personally, but that is just how I am. I am a people-pleaser; I want people to be happy with me and I want to make others happy. Maybe I just am not good at that, I don't know. But still... words hurt. Words break hearts. Words are powerful. I just wish I didn't have to wonder about words and how they were meant for me.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pure Mommy Love

Tonight, I was able to attend my first RTS meeting in a few months. It is amazing to me when I go what kind of perspective I get on myself, my life, my grief journey, and my motherhood. I always feel much better when I am in a safe place to talk about my sweet Kylie, where no judgements are made, no hard feelings are created, and no pain is gained from sharing her story. I always feel important, validated, and accepted. It is amazing what a difference several years can make. 2 1/2 years ago, at this time, I was a horrible mess. My life was in shambles, my world was shattered, and my soul was severed. Today, I have come a very, very long way in my journey of grief.

Today, I can talk about Kylie without bursting into tears. I can share her life with a smile, and I can present to others the amazing things I am doing in her memory, and I can laugh over the cute little things she did in her brief time on earth. I can share her life and not break down. Today, I can smile with pride, I can share her with a  new-found joy. Kylie is one of my biggest heroes. She has taught me so much about being a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, and a good person in general. Kylie has taught me the gift of giving, and of doing for others. Because of Kylie, I am a totally different person today. I am grateful for her life, albeit short. I am thankful for the opportunity to be her mother. Let's face it, I am so lucky to have such a perfect angel watching me and protecting me each and every day.

There is one thing I have never doubted, even in my darkest days of grief: I have never doubted that Kylie knew how  much I loved her. I have NEVER doubted for one second. I know she knows my love for her, and I know she loved me. When she opened her eyes and looked into mine, I knew at that moment that nothing in the world would ever compare to that feeling... that feeling of complete and total innocent, pure, no-boundaries love. She loved me for being her mother. Even on her sickest days, and in her last moments, she held on for me. She let go for me. She fought and valiantly bowed out for me. You see, Kylie was braver than I could be. But yet, she LOVED me, for being her mommy. No words ever had to come out of her tiny little lips, because I saw it in her eyes. She loved me, and she loved me deeply. Her acknowledgement of my voice, my presence, my touch... all of those things validated that. And I am so, so deeply thankful for those two precious, priceless weeks with my little princess.

I fought so hard for her safety, her health, and her happiness. I fought so hard for her to stay with us here on earth. I did everything in my power, because I loved her, to give her a chance at life. Even today, my love for her is so great, and I would do anything to give her a chance at life. However, that is not what God had planned for her, and now, I accept that. Kylie opened the door to a future I never would have planned for myself, but here I am, with this precious little family and all of these opportunities to serve and do for others.

Tonight, when we got home from picking Jaycee and Bryleigh up from my parents' house, Jaycee said, "Mommy, I want to spend some time with you. I missed you so much while you were in town!" My heart melted, and I sat on the couch. Jaycee climbed into my lap and said, "will you hold me like a baby?" So my big five year old girl curled up to me, and I held her and rocked her like a baby, while my heart nearly leaped with joy and love right out of my chest. This little girl knows how to melt my heart in ways I never knew possible. She is so sweet, so kind, so full of love, and she shows me in the most precious of ways how  much she loves me. I don't think I could ever put into words how grateful I am to have her in my life, and how much she taught me about being a mother and loving unconditionally. So many people would not have taken in a child in the situation we have been in for fear of growing attached and then having to say goodbye. However, I have NEVER regretted our decision to have Jaycee in our home and in our lives. She is our daughter, and she is a very special part of this family. Her love has taught me that a mother's bond is far beyond blood and birthing. A mother's love stretches to boundaries unimaginable... and for that, I am forever  grateful to her. Every kiss, every hug, every "I love you," is just another stamp of joy in my life map.

And my beautiful Bryleigh, who has given me the joy of motherhood the way I always envisioned it and then some... I am so in awe of the fact that she was perfectly healthy and happy when born, and that everything I felt "robbed" of before, I got to do with her. And life is amazing with her in it. Every day, Bryleigh's smile when she sees me makes my heart melt into a big ole gushy puddle. It takes my breath away to watch her sleep on my chest, or to watch her wake up and see me there while she breaks into this huge grin... this baby girl is unbelievably sweet and loving! The life I have with her in it is such a wonderful place. She has proven that life isn't about money, or what you have, or where you're going... it is about the love you have and the people in it. She loves unconditionally as well, and she reminds me so much of Kylie at times. She even looks like her! I can imagine that if Kylie was still with us, she would look much the same as Bryleigh does... and that makes me smile. Bryleigh has a very studious, serious side, and that makes me smile, because I know she is that way for a reason- one of the many reasons I love her so much.

Each of these children are so important to me and make me who I am today. Kylie affects each relationship I have in life, including those with my surviving and future children, and that is a good thing. Since Kylie's birth and death, I appreciate everything so much more. I appreciate time, people, belongings, things, events... everything has much more meaning and importance than ever before. I embrace things I never used to embrace, and I try not to take things for granted. My life, with my children, is much better than it could have ever been without children. Being a mother is truly a gift from God.

Since Kylie's birth, our lives have been full of some scary and difficult situations. It seems like when it rains it pours, but I am trying to keep my head up and be positive about things. We have really been working on our finances and getting our credit in order from poor decisions as newlyweds all those years ago. Chris's truck was out of commission for over 2 years and then we had several months of struggling with getting the motor problem taken care of. Chris has had two or more seizures in the past year and a half (almost two now) and was out of work. Losing Kylie kept me out of work for 3 months+, and I missed 9 weeks with Bryleigh (and had no sick time left from being out with Kylie). Chris and I have both had our gallbladders out in the same time period. My granny was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, dementia, and Parkinson's and in the last year has been moved to a nursing home, where her health has steadily declined. My granddaddy was diagnosed with blastic plasmacytoid dendritic neoplasm, a very, very rare leukemia type cancer. My daddy had a heart attack last February. My uncle has congestive heart failure and is now on dialysis as well. Bryleigh was admitted to the hospital at less than 3 months old. Chris was out on workman's comp for a shoulder injury, and now he needs knee surgery. Due to my maternity leave, my paycheck is significantly from this past Feb until the end of August, which is a huge cut, basically the amount of our house payment. It seems like a lot has happened, and we are trying desperately to overcome some of the negative to bring out the positive. Chris and I are trying to do the best we can to provide for our family the best way we know how. However, we can offer something to our children that so many children lack, and that is LOVE. Our kids know they are loved and cared for. They don't want for anything, though they may not have the same things that others have. They are blessed with wonderful families and friends who love them and love to do nice things for them, and they are truly special, special children. Despite all the horrible things we've been through, we will come out on top one day, and we will be surrounded by our children (both heavenly and earthly), and we be proud of our lives and what we have accomplished. <3 So, tonight, I celebrate my children, who deserve the world, the moon, and the stars and beyond. Mommy loves you, Jaycee Elisabeth, Kylie Brielle, and Bryleigh Addison!