Yet another step

What a day it has been.

Several months ago, I went to inquire about headstones that I talked about here. Just recently, my kids pointed out a commercial from this same place that was advertising a sale for headstones for the month of October. I love sales and deals, but it was kinda depressing thinking about checking out a sale for headstones. But that's what the kids and I did earlier this week. After the kids homeschoolers gym & swim class, we went down the road to see what they were offering in their sale. This location had 3 stones to offer that they wanted to move out of their stock. The guy told me about 2 of them, then I asked him if by chance he had anything in black. He was like well actually yes. See, back when I looked at them before, I asked about what is required to have a picture etched on a stone. I was told it can only be done on black stone. Which of course is the most expensive stone. Not to mention what it cost to have a pic done. So as much as I wanted that, I knew it was out of the question. But I thought with this sale, it was worth the chance to ask.

So when he told me they had not only a black one included in this sale, but one that would be perfect, I was intrigued. I explained to him about my previous visit and my hopes for a picture of Noah on it but that I didn't think we could afford it. He showed this stone to the kids and I and said he is actually the person who does the etching (the gal I saw before was tied up with someone else so he showed me the specials). He said he'd be willing to etch Noah's pic at no added cost if I wanted this stone. W O W!!!!! (keep in mind I was quoted that this would cost about $600 to do). He wasn't able to access the price book but told me a rough cost of this headstone which was actually attainable. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to both cry yet cheer! I didn't think the headstone I wanted for Noah would ever be within my grasp and yet here it was almost available.

Long story short, and thanks to some very special people in my life, we are able to get the headstone we wanted for Noah. So today, we went to start the process. It was bittersweet for sure. First off, we were in the midst of a snow storm as we headed out. Seriously, this much snow in October is unheard of so that in itself makes this day one to remember. So add in picking out Noah's headstone with this snow and it's definitely a day we will all remember.

As we sat down to start discussing details, doesn't the song "Blessing" by Laura Story come on the radio. I could've cried, what a sign that was!!!! Gave me chills.

The kids had suggested an idea for Noah's stone, we are waiting to see if we can make it happen. This was definitely a family event. We wanted the kids included in this as well as we will all spend years to come visiting Noah's precious earthly resting place.

I should've been thinking about what Christmas gifts to pick out for my almost one and half year old, not designing his headstone. While doing this brought a sense of peace in having something special picked out for my son, it was also a reminder of the finality of it all.

Which downright sucks.

I miss my son......more than words could ever express!

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, the vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved. It is in our most trying times that our real character is shaped and revealed."
~ Helen Keller


Yesterday I finally had some time to tear up my kitchen (and maybe having 40lbs of sausage in the freezer that I only paid about $13 for played a part in my cooking itch lol). I decided to make 3 different kinds of soup for not only supper last night but to freeze as well for those days I need something quick for dinner. I figure if I'm chopping up stuff for 1 kind've soup, why not just keep chopping and make several pots of soup. In the long run, it cuts down on work doing it all at once.

I made 2 soups I've cooked many times, chicken corn noodle soup (which was simple to make with the chicken stock I've made and frozen in the past) and Zuppa Toscana that I previously shared here . I also tried a new soup recipe as well. I just got my favorite magazine last week in the mail, Taste of Home, (I'm a field editor of this as well!). When I saw a Lentil Tomato soup listed, I knew I had to try that. They gave the basic recipe then at the end there was some suggested added ingredients you could also toss in (sausage, kale & garam masala).

Lemme tell ya, the kids & I loved this soup! It was simple & inexpensive to make & tasted really good. I added the sausage & kale and while I didn't have garam masala, I had a few of the seasonings that make this up so I added what I had on hand. I made a double batch so I'd have plenty to freeze.

Since several of you on facebook were asking for the recipe, I just figured I'd share it here to make it easy to reference. :) And of course, a recipe isn't final without a picture.....
Lentil-Tomato Sausage Soup in back
Lentil-Tomato Sausage Soup

4 1/2c water
4 med carrots, sliced
1 med onion, chopped
2/3c dried lentils, rinsed
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp dried tarragon (I didn't have this)
1/4 tsp pepper

In a large saucepan, combine the water, carrots, onion and lentils, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 min or until lentils & vegetables are tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients, return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5 min to allow flavors to blend.

*If you want, you can add any combo of the following: a 1/2lb-1 lb of cooked sausage, 3c of fresh kale the last 5 minute of cooking or 3/4tsp garam masala.

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.
~ Ann Landers

A little bit of this'n'that...

I can hardly believe we are creeping up on the end of October. I still feel stuck back at the end of summer.  Pretty much since Olivia has been born things have kept us hopping (not like having an infant isn't busy enough! lol) Here's just a quick, scatterbrained recap of a few things from the last few months....

I started schooling the kids shortly after she was born because A) it was so hot out & the kids didn't want to be out during the hottest parts of the day and B) what else is there to do when I am spending 24/7 nursing a newborn! When Olivia was about 5wks old, we went on vacation with some friends to the beach which was unfortunately cut short due to hurricane Irene. We were forced to evacuate & drove home at 11pm. Oh the other memorable thing that week was the earthquake we felt while sitting on the beach (5.8) So the kids thought it was interesting in the span of a week they experianced both an earthquake and hurricane!

Also shortly after Olivia was born, Erik started playing midget football for the local school district (even though we homeschool, Pa laws allows homeschooled students to participate in sports). For the last 2 yrs it's all he has talked about wanting to do as he had to be 8 to start. So that has kept us busy, 3 nights a week of practice then games on the weekend. For being such a tiny guy, he has done really well & has impressed his coaches!

Here is a clip of him at a recent scrimmage. He is on the right hand side by the coaches, watch what he does to the kid twice the size of him! (he is #31)

Our homeschool co-op has also kept us hopping lately. I am teaching Anatomy & Physiology as well as a baking/cooking class, both of which I enjoy. We've also been doing some activities together as a group outside of co-op (such as a picnic and a recent fall fest) and I am helping to plan some future activities for the moms which I am looking forward to. So thankful for this great group of gals I've been blessed to have in my life!

In September, Kevin & I had our birthday as well as our 13th wedding anniversary (yes, all on the same day), the twins 12th birthday was last week.....everyone is just aging around here lately!

I attended a great conference last weekend entitled The Anatomy of Grief that I hope to share more about here in the future.

Olivia is doing well, though still wearing newborn clothes lol. But that's how my other kiddos were so it's not too surprising. The funniest comments I've received lately are when out in public & one of us is holding Olivia, people actually think she is a doll! They do a double take when she moves & they come over to us to comment and see her.

But the most precious thing lately is when I'm holding Olivia and I face her towards me, it doesn't matter if she's fussing or what, her eyes lock on my necklace of Noah (I have 2, she does it to both) and as soon as she sees it, she starts smiling and cooing at his picture and just stares right at it. It like she knows Noah... brings tears to my eyes!!

Here is Olivia wearing the precious onesie a sweet friend of mine gave her! So thankful my friend understands & included Noah in this way!! I love it!!
 It says
 "Noah's Baby Sister"

"What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"

October 15th....Remembrance

This is my candle that I lit for the Wave of Light in honor of Noah's precious life along with remembering so many other babies our arms ache to hold and who are so deeply loved & desperately missed!!

This candle is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always still a small light of hope. Praise God!

  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Yesterday evening, we participated in the Sweet Pea Project's 2nd annual balloon release. We were apart of the 1st release last year as well. It's a mix of feelings, feeling a sense of peace at being surrounded by so many who are just like us, for once we are the norm & not the exception, but yet feeling sadness that there are so many other parents who are missing their precious children as well. We were able to write Noah notes on seed paper, so when the notes fall back to earth, they will bloom flowers in his memory.  I have to say I was moved at seeing other families who had friends & extended family there supporting them as well..... siblings, parents, grandparents, etc..., how blessed they were to have the added support in remembering their babies!

It was so wonderful hearing Noah's full name read aloud as we released his 7 balloons, one from Kevin, myself and his 5 siblings. But oh how I wished we didn't have to be a part of the baby loss world, where we find healing in someone simply saying his name outloud & recognizing his short but significant earthly life.

Our 7 balloons heading to Noah

 Our balloons joining the many others

The following is an article that was recently published that has really blessed so many of us BLM's. Oh how I can relate to every. last. word!!!!

Did you know that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? I'll bet not. Despite the infant mortality crisis that's been at the forefront of Milwaukee's public health news for months, the only people who have more than a cursory comprehension of what it means to lose a baby are those who've lived it.

Infant loss is nature's cruelest practical joke. It's investing all of the required time and effort into pregnancy, only to be robbed of the result. It's cradling a body that grew within your own and trying to reconcile the cold, lifeless form in your arms with your memory of the baby who turned double flips in your womb.

It's worrying that you'll forget what your child looked like and snapping an album's worth of photos that no one will ever ask to see. It's sobbing so hard you can't breathe and wondering if it's possible to cry yourself to death.

Infant loss is handing off a Moses basket to the nurse who's drawn the unfortunate duty of delivering your pride and joy to the morgue and walking out of a hospital with empty arms.

It's boxing up brand new baby clothes and buying a 24-inch casket. It's sifting through sympathy cards, willing your foolish body to stop lactating, clutching your baby's blanket to your chest in hopes of soothing the piercing ache in your heart.

It's resisting the urge to smack the clueless individuals who compare your situation to the death of their dog or who tell you you'll have another baby, as if children are somehow replaceable.

Infant loss is explaining to your 7-year-old that sometimes babies die and being stumped into silence when he asks you why. It's watching other families live out your happy ending and fighting a fresh round of grief with every milestone you miss.

It's being shut out of play groups for perpetuity. It's skipping social events with expectant and newly minted mothers because, as a walking worst-case scenario, you don't want to put a damper on the party.

It's listening to other women gripe about motherhood and realizing that you no longer relate to their petty parental complaints because, frankly, when you've buried a baby, a sleepless night with a vomiting toddler sounds something like a gift.

Infant loss is pruning from your life the friends and relatives who ignore or minimize your loss. It's recognizing that, while they may not mean to be hurtful, the fact that they don't know any better doesn't make their utter lack of empathy one whit easier to bear.

My baby girl would have been 5 years old this month. I don't know what she'd look like, what her favorite food would be. I've never had the privilege of tucking her into bed, taking her to the zoo or kissing her boo-boos. I will never watch her graduate or walk down the aisle.

Infant loss is more than an empty cradle. It's a life sentence.
Article Link

A fellow BLM shared the following on her blog, oh-how-true! Thank you for voicing this Molly for all of us!
Do Unto Others

"You don't get over it, you just get through it. You don't get by it, because you can't get around it. It doesn't 'get better'; it just gets different. Everyday... Grief puts on a new face...."
  -Wendy Feireisen

National Pregnancy & Infant Death Awareness Month

"Most people know that October is breast cancer awareness month, but did you know in 1988 President Reagan designated October as National Pregnancy & Infant Death awareness month? More than 1 million pregnancies in the US end in the death of a baby (miscarriage, stillbirth, etc) and approximately 27,500 babies born alive die before their 2nd birthday, yet you rarely hear this talked about. Help break the silence, talk about & remember all these precious lives gone too soon and the families that will forever live with that hole in their heart." ~Me

I shared the above quote on both my facebook page as well as my blog facebook page (found on the sidebar to the right). It's my hope & prayer to help break the taboo subject of infant & child death (this includes miscarriage, stillbirths, etc). So many people don't want to acknowledge what we go through which make many people like myself suffer in silence. I have read & talked to so many people & we all have similar feelings in that losing a child isn't something you "get over", rather you learn to live with the grief for the rest of your life. A part of you will always feel missing and you will still have bad days & go through waves of grief for many years to come. The more we are able to talk about our children & include them, the more healing it is for us.

Tomorrow, I am participating in several events. We'll be taking part in a balloon release to remember Noah & many other babies and we will also be lighting a candle at 7pm for the International Wave of Light. Then next week I am attending a conference on the anatomy of grief. I would encourage any of you who feel led to participate to join us right where you are. We will be releasing balloons at 6pm our time (EST) and the lighting of candles takes place at 7pm your time (see pic below). In addition, for the rest of this month, I want to remember all of your precious babies. Please feel free to leave a comment here or on my facebook page or email me (see sidebar) and let me know your sweet baby's name or nickname. I would love the chance to pray for your family and towards the end of the month, I will make a post with all the precious childrens names as I know how much it means to see their name in writing for everyone to see (and this includes miscarriages as well!)

 Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Noah's 1st Birthday

We had planned for quite sometime just what we wanted to do for Noah's birthday. We had wanted to have a big birthday party. Kevin had even arranged to take off work so we could all spend the day together celebrating our precious boy.

God had different plans.

Olivia was born on Noah's birthday. It made for a bittersweet day as I talked about here & here . I am thankful I was able to get Noah's cake made and decorated before going into labor. I had planned for many months just what I wanted to do for his 1st birthday cake. (yes it was all edible. The animals & ark I made from homemade fondant).

I started working on his cake Tuesday, July 12th. It took a good part of the day. That night I went into labor. The kids were understandably bummed we weren't able to celebrate with his cake on his birthday. I came home from the hospital on Thursday 14th, so that evening, we put Noah's candle on the cake and sang Happy Birthday to him. I admit, I choked up and couldn't finish singing. I stood there holding Olivia in my arms with tears running down my face. It felt so unfair to be celebrating his birthday without him there. He should've been sitting in his high chair making a mess out of his cake by digging into it. Instead, we sang to him and had the older kids blow out his candle.

We were given 1 birthday card for Noah. We also received a beautiful flower arrangement for him on his birthday from a dear friend. I admit, I was saddened that we only received 1 birthday card for him. Had he been here, I know he would've gotten more cards. Just because he spent his birthday in Heaven, doesn't make his birthday any less significant to us. To those of you reading this that have a baby loss mama in your lives, please know that it would mean the world to receive birthday cards on that childs birthday. It may seem weird to you but trust me, to that precious mom, it would mean the world to have her child celebrated and remembered! Even in a Christmas card, write her childs name. I can't tell you how much it means to me when others include Noah both in conversation and written word. That is the best gift ever!!!

We weren't able to make it out to Noah's grave on the 14th, the day he died, due to only coming home from the hospital that evening (same day/time we left the hospital last year). So we were very thankful for our friends who made the trip out and took him flowers, taking the time to remember him!

Backing up.....we told the kids we would spread out Noah's birthday celebration that we had planned for him. We said we'd just take our time celebrating his miraculous life over several days rather than on the one day we had planned.

Back in May, Sarah had won a pinata. She said she wanted to save it for Noah's birthday party....awww!! So on Saturday July 16th, the kids asked if they could break the pinata for Noah. So outside they went to bust out the candy for their little brother!

On July 20th, we made the trip out to his grave. I can't begin to put into words how this trip felt. Thinking back to 1 year ago seemed unreal. It seemed both like it was just yesterday but yet at the same time it felt like a lifetime ago that everything happened. And we felt like we were reliving that day as well as his funeral all over again. I can still feel that gut wrenching feeling of seeing my son in his casket, something I don't think that will ever go away. But this is our new "normal", one that we are still trying to adjust to and figure out. Going to Noah's grave w/balloons and cake is "normal" in the life of a family whose child died.

The kids had made a seperate piece of cake they wrote his name on. We left it by his grave marker. We had also bought a butterfly and a small birthday balloon to leave on Noah's grave. We bought balloons and the kids wrote notes so we also released balloons like we did at his funeral. This time though, we had 1 extra balloon as we sent one to him from his little sister.
(yes there is an "E" on the end but the stick covered it here in the pic)

It was definitely a sacred time we spent together at Noah's grave. It was obviously Olivia's first time since being born that she visited her older brother. We all sobbed as we each reminisced about Noah and look forward to sharing with Olivia about her brother and the special bond they share.
My 6 precious kids!!

Our balloons and notes going to Noah

The kids had expressed how they wanted to physically have a tangible piece of Noah with them all the time like I do wearing his footprints, so we got Erik a dog tag with pics of Noah and the girls lockets with Noah's picture and gave them to the kids at his grave. The girls really liked the way Erik's dog tag came out so I was able to get them something similar in a heart shape. (I snagged an amazing deal on all these, total w/shipping was only $1.99 each, great quality!)
These aren't the greatest pics due to the glare but it gives you an idea of both sides. They look much better in person. Erik's says "brothers"

Erik's says "I love you Noah" & the girls say "Noah"

I realize it took me awhile to share some of what we did to celebrate Noah's birthday (I couldn't begin to cover it all. I also had a video I was putting together for his birthday I didn't get to finish but when I do, I will share it.) It was partly due to timing and just being so busy.  But it was also in part due to emotions. Writing all this out brings to surface all the emotions and once again is a painful reminder of the finality of it all. I can't explain it, unless you've been there you'd understand. It's hard and I imagine in some ways, will always be. We are thankful to know that Noah IS alive and well today but just not here with us, which is SOOO hard!! I am blessed beyond words that he was given to me as my son! What an amazing gift from God my Noah Alexander is!!! I miss & love you my precious son!