Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mattie Claire's 2nd Birthday in Heaven

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Dear Mattie,

Two years ago today, I thought I was about to get the most precious gift...our long awaited little girl!  My contractions were prominent upon waking up that morning, and they continued to increase in intensity and frequency through the day.  We made final preparations to head to the hospital as I tried to lie down and monitor and time the contractions.  We finally kissed your brothers goodbye and excitedly and hopefully headed to the hospital.  On the way to the hospital, it had started raining heavily, and your contractions were coming even closer together...less than 3 minutes apart!  I was getting anxious we wouldn't make it in time.  By the time we arrived, I consented reluctantly to using a wheelchair and let daddy wheel me up to labor and delivery.  I was given a hospital gown to put on and directed to a bathroom in the triage room.  I managed to get the gown on through some painful contractions and finally got to lie down on the triage room bed for monitoring.  Up to this point, we only thought of the joy of finally getting you here.  We had no cause for concern.  We had made it to the hospital on time.  Everything was supposed to be fine now.  But as the nurse searched for your heartbeat with the doppler, those first little fears began to arise that tried to steal our joy.  After several long minutes where I just figured you were curled up and so low that it was more difficult to hear your heartbeat, my doctor arrived with an ultrasound machine.  And then those dreadful words that were the stuff of nightmares were said..."I'm sorry.  There is no heartbeat."  Anyone who has heard those words will attest to their immediate devastation.  How could you have just suddenly passed away when we should have been hearing your first little cries?  When exactly did it happen?  So many questions.  I couldn't really even stop to think or grieve because of the immediate need to bring you silently into this world.  It is still hard to talk about or remember that night, but I don't want to forget either.  I don't want to forget you.  Probably the second worst thing to losing a child is the passing of time that dims our memories of how you looked and felt.  I remember holding you in my arms all night and the next day until I was released from the hospital.  I selfishly did not want to put you down.  But now, it hurts that I can barely remember what your soft skin and hair felt like.  I don't know what you would have looked like as you grew.  Few babies look much like their newborn selves after the first few weeks.  I don't know what color eyes you would have had.  Would they have been blue like Evan's and Mattox's or turned more hazel like mine and Daddy's and Brody's.  Would you have kept that gorgeous dark hair or would it have lightened up?  Would you have been a good eater like big brother Brody or more picky like big brother Evan?  All of these questions will continue to weigh heavy on my heart and mind in the years to come.  And that's okay.  It helps me remember you.  I am thankful that I can still see the beauty in life and that I can enjoy watching your older brothers and now your little rainbow brother grow.  I cherish the moments we spend together.  I still long to share your life with you too, but I hold onto the hope of seeing you again.  That is what gets me through each day.  I hug and kiss and cuddle your brothers as I would do for you.  We all love you and will never forget you.  You will always be our precious baby girl.  Today, we will celebrate you.  Yes, this is a celebration just like we celebrate your brothers' birthdays!  We will have a little party with balloons, decorations, and cupcakes tonight.  We will think about you and what you would look like eating your cupcake and how cute you would look with icing on your face.  We love you to the moon and back, baby girl!  That will never change!

Love always,
Mommy, Daddy, Evan, Brody, and Mattox

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Perhaps you would have worn a birthday outfit like this one. 

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And I am sure you would have loved a little sparkly shirt like this one.  What girl wouldn't?

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Or maybe you would have been a Mickey Mouse fan like big brother Brody and this little Minnie Mouse outfit would have been perfect for the birthday party theme. 

One thing I am thankful for is the availability of sites like Pinterest that allow me to find such sweet little words that really help explain my feelings for you.  I don't know how I would have chosen to remember you in the days before technology.  I think about parents in the past who went through this loss.  I have heard their stories.  One couple was in a news story recently that especially touched my heart.  They were in their 70's and had suffered the loss of their baby many years earlier.  Despite the custom of the day being to immediately take the baby away so that the parents couldn't see or hold their child because it was believed that would help them get over it faster, these parents never forgot their baby.  They are living proof of the steadfastness of a parent's love for their child even when they never got to hold that child in their arms.  They never got pictures.  They didn't even get to bury their child as the baby was taken and buried in the grave of some other unknown individual.  Somehow, in their old age, they were able to discover where their baby was buried, and they got to go and visit her.  I felt their peace in knowing.  I hurt for them for all the years they went without being able to know and remember their baby.  I don't want that to be us.  I want to look at our daughter's face everyday and remember.  I want to share her with the world.  These are just a few of the words and thoughts that express how I have felt the last two years.

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Anyone who really knows me should know how much I love this story.  I read this part at Mattie's funeral. 

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Sometimes, it is the simplest words that get to me. 

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One of the toughest parts of losing a child is explaining it to siblings. 

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Exploring Historic New Bern, NC {2015}

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Our travels across the state began in the historic city of New Bern, NC.  New Bern has a long and rich history as one of the earliest established towns in the state.  It was founded in 1710, closely following the first established town of Bath in 1705.  New Bern's interesting history began when Baron Christophe DeGraffenried, a native of Bern, Switzerland, first read about the area in Englishman John Lawson's 1709 publication "A New Voyage to Carolina."  The area had already been settled for some time by a Native American tribe known as the Neusiak.  The area is located where the Trent and Neuse Rivers meet close to where they flow into the Pamlico Sound.  Baron DeGraffenried brought Swiss immigrants and German Palatine refugees looking to escape severe hardships in their own countries and make a fresh start in the colony of North Carolina.  Baron DeGraffenried named his new settlement New Bern after his old hometown and hoped it would bring good fortune to his new home.  New Bern still boasts many reminders of its Swiss heritage, such as the four-sided clock tower on the Town Hall building and the flag of its parent city.  In 2010, New Bern celebrated its 300th anniversary of its founding in 1710, and in celebration, it endorsed the placement of beautifully painted bear statues all over the town.  We enjoyed hunting for those bears.

New Bern's interesting history does not stop at its founding.  You will find a treasure trove of centuries old churches, houses, schools, and even a palace all telling the town's story.

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Historic registry signs are located all over town to help educate about the town's rich history.  

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This lovely old church sits in the middle of downtown and just adds so much charm and romantic appeal with its moss draped trees.

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While you may prefer to drink Coca-Cola in other parts of the world, here in New Bern you have to appreciate their beloved Pepsi.  In 1893, a local pharmacist, Caleb Bradham, created a refreshing beverage locally known as Brad's Drink.  Although this refreshment would not carry the official Pepsi-Cola name until 1898 and later the Pepsi name in 1961, the citizens of New Bern have been enjoying it for over 100 years.  Pepsi just celebrated its 50th year in 2011.  

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My boys don't often get to enjoy the sweet taste of carbonated beverages, but they had to enjoy a little Pepsi fountain drink in this shop for history's sake. 

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Strolling along the streets of this old town really does feel like you stepped back in time.  

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The city also has a rich history shared by people of many different ethnic orgins.  The King Solomon Lodge was the First African American Masonic Lodge in North Carolina.  The town was also the site of the first regiment of black Union soldiers during the Civil War .  It also boast the earliest roots in public education with the New Bern Academy being chartered in 1766.  
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George H. White was a prominent African American citizen of New Bern.  He was born into slavery and went on to become a lawyer, a North Carolina legislator, and a U.S. Congressman.  The blue house was his childhood home.  The cream colored house below is the home of Major John Daves, Revolutionary War officer.  
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John Wright Stanly's house is a beautiful, original colonial house built in the early 1780s. President Washington stayed in the home in 1791 on his Southern Tour.

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Evan posing with a sweet little statue of Jesus with the little children gathered around him.  The statue is safely kept behind glass outside of a little church across from Cedar Grove Cemetery.  The Masonic Temple and adjoining Theater have a colorful history.  The 1805 Masonic Theater is the oldest American theater in continuous use.  This was also the site of a famous duel between Richard Dobbs Spaight, a signer of the U.S. Constitution and former governor of North Carolina, and John Stanly, Jr., a lawyer and politician and political adversary of Spaight's.  Spaight was killed in the duel.  

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We took a ride on the New Bern Trolley to see and hear more of New Bern's history.  It was a hot ride, but Daddy kept Mattox cool by pouring water onto a cloth on his head.  The New Bern Trolley Co started in the early 1900's when townsfolk thought the town was headed for metropolis status.  New Bern was called the "Athens of the South."  

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Cedar Grove Cemetery is a center of history in itself.  It's beautiful centuries old monuments just speak of Old Southern charm and beauty along with the moss draped trees hanging overhead.  

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The entrance gates of the cemetery were erected in 1854 after the cemetery was deeded to the city by Christ Church.  The walls are made of local tabby stone which hold water, and the entry was named the "Weeping Arch."  Superstitious legend says that whoever passes through the arch and feels the "tears" spill upon them will be the next one passing through the gate in a casket.  Yikes!  
Fun at the Cow Cafe

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This cute little establishment in downtown New Bern was the perfect place for a cool refreshment and some cool indoor fun. 

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Evan and I enjoyed our yummy milkshakes, and Brody devoured his little ice cream sundae. 

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It was a little hot to fully enjoy the beauty of Union Point Park, but Brody loved climbing on these bears that were in the shade. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

To My Dearest Brody

Some words that I have needed to express to you have been weighing on my heart the past two years since we lost your sister.  I know that you may not understand now, but I want you to read this in your future and know how very much your precious heart has meant to me.  I don't know what I would have done without you.  You have such a special and loving heart.  Your big brother does as well, but he is also very sensitive and often hides his feelings in order to protect himself.  I can see the hurt in his eyes although he doesn't often express it.  You are a bit different in your younger, more innocent way of showing love.  I wish you would never lose that innocence.  When you were barely 18 months old, we announced to you and your big brother that you would soon have a baby sister.  The joy and excitement on your little face just made my heart swell with happiness.

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At the time, I didn't know if it was more excitement over the balloons and big box they came out of or over the announcement of your sister's coming, but in the months and now years that have passed, I see that it was truly excitement and anticipation.  I watched you love on the little baby doll that we gave you to help you understand and prepare for the new baby.  You would hold her, kiss her, and try to feed her a bottle with so much love on your little face.

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In the last days before your sister was to be born, you would lovingly place your baby doll in the car seat that we had ready for your sister.  You weren't yet verbally speaking, but you showed us in so many ways how happy and excited you were.  On that fateful day when your sister was born into this world as an angel, you did not understand the situation.  All you saw was a baby...your baby.  You wanted to lay beside her, kiss her, and love her.  You didn't understand that she wouldn't be coming home with us.  You knew that your home was ready for her, and that she already had your old room and crib set up for her.  The look on your face showed that you were truly happy and excited.  You didn't know why we were all sad and crying.  Evan's sad face really hurt me, but for some reason, the one picture that I have of you laying beside your sister with a huge grin on your face just breaks my heart.

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I could never bring myself to share that picture before.  It just hurt so much because I wanted to give you what you had so lovingly and patiently waited for.  In the days that followed her death, I assumed you would forget all about her even though her pictures are all around your house.  I thought you were so young that you wouldn't remember a baby you never got to really know.  Now, two years later, we have a very expressive little four year old boy, and it just makes my heart swell even more that you still mention your sister almost every day.  You are the one that mentions her name to us the most when it seems like the rest of us cannot speak her name as often because we don't want to be sad.  You tell me that Mattie is in your heart and that you are going to do things for her like make her a birthday card or a cake.  You have been such a comfort to me in these last two years, and I know I have babied you more than most three and four year old's would like.  I still need to hold you and cuddle you because you were the baby I needed when I couldn't bring your sister home.  It is very hard for me to put into words just how much you have meant to me.  You give me so many scares with your fearlessness.  I have almost nightly nightmares about something bad happening to you.  You send my anxiety levels through the roof!  But I love you more than words could ever express!  You will always be my baby boy!  I hope you never lose your amazing ability to love.  As we celebrate Mattie's second birthday in heaven, I know that you will help us show your sister how much we all love and remember her!

Love always,
Your grateful Mommy

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lazy Summer Pool Days

We have been enjoying lots of pool days this past month.  Usually, we like to go to our neighborhood pool in the evening when Daddy is with us and when it is a little cooler and more shady so we don't have to worry about sunscreen.  I did brave the pool a couple of times in the hotter part of the day to have a swim play date or on the weekend with Daddy.  The boys love playing in the water.  Brody quickly picked up where he left off last year with swimming around well with just his arm floats and not being afraid to put his head under the water.  Then, just in the last couple of weeks he started jumping off the side of the pool by himself.  That was a pretty big deal for him.  I know Evan didn't do that as early, and both of them have a healthy dose of caution.  Mattox also seems to enjoy the water.  He immediately gets so calm and relaxed in the water and likes to be in his little float now.  He isn't quite sitting up on his own yet although he does well with just minimal support of his lower body.  He usually just likes to lie back in his little float and relax in the water.  He is so cute kicking his little feet.

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Playing with my littlest man in the pool. 

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Water loving Brody

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Those boys have so much fun.  Evan can always find someone to play with or throw a ball with.  Brody just loves doing his own thing. 

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Brody loves letting Daddy throw him. 

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I just love watching these boys play together. 

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He makes getting thrown into the water look fun! 

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Just keep swimming.  We have enjoyed meeting Brody's little friend, Eli, at the pool. 

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Fun for Mattox. 

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Evan practices jumping into the pool.  He misses the diving board. 

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And Brody started jumping in too!  

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Yes, Daddy and Brody let Evan practice jumping over them. 

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Brody is getting so brave.  


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