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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year?

I'm conflicted.

Am I happy that this year is coming to an end? It was the hardest year of my life.

Am I wanting to hold on to it just a bit longer? It's the last day that I can say Jacob was with us this year.

Starting a new year with one less child seems unspeakable. It's not a happy new year. It seems more like an ending than a new beginning. 
Missing a loved one is such an isolating emotion. No matter how much you are surrounded with love, the ever present absence of that person can only be felt by those within your household. The empty couch. The Star Wars toys and books left unplayed with. Five toothbrushes instead of six. Too much food made for meals, instead of just the right amount. No more key lime pie yogurt in the fridge. Three little pairs of shoes lined up instead of four. Everything is an hourly, if not minutely, reminder.

Grief is depressing. No matter how happy I am to know that Jacob is healed and whole, basking in the presence of our Lord, the emptiness that he left in his wake is real. It's a recognizable void that just can't be filled. While I can thank God for his blessings, which I still see all around me, that doesn't make this all better. That doesn't take away the heartache.

We will trudge on. We will recreate a new normal. But starting out a whole new year without Jacob is not something I am looking forward to.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Angels

The whole month of December I dreaded Christmas.

It involved too many decisions (from the stockings to the Christmas cards to the baked goods - all of which I avoided altogether).

It involved shopping for three children instead of four (and all I ran across were presents that Jacob would have loved - so I bought them anyway and gave them to the rest of us).

I wanted Christmas over with. With everyone wishing others a Merry Christmas and a joyous season I wanted to crawl under a rock. No one wants to think about loss during such a happy season. No one wants to feel the grief of a family missing their shining star. Grief is so uncomfortable for others.

 A few weeks before Christmas, on an especially difficult day, we received in the mail two cards with no return address. Inside were cards and gifts, one signed from a Secret Santa and one from a Christmas Angel. They were like hugs arriving in the mail.

A local woman, who had seen an article about Jacob in the paper this past summer, called and told me her church puts together baskets each Christmas for people experiencing hardships that year and that she would like to drop one off for us. She arrived on a morning when I was out shoveling snow. The flakes drifted around me and I was reminded of that day that Jacob was diagnosed with cancer. When I was out shoveling to take my mind off my fear. When she gave me a hug and started to talk about her own son, whom she lost 15 years ago, I knew that God had directed her to me that day. I invited her inside and we spoke of both our sons. Both mothers, both desperate to talk about the boys who are gone. Both wanting to tell their stories and say their names. Both understanding the pain.

I received a letter from another mother who had also lost a child. A card from a friend mentioning buying a floral arrangement for their church in memory of Jacob. A movie basket from a friend. A huge box of clothes for Amy. A floral arrangement on the morning of Christmas Eve. A photo I had never seen of Jacob before arriving in the mail from an aunt. A package with little wrapped gifts for each of the females in my family and notes for each of them. Which turned out to be Origami Owl lockets in honor of Jacob. With "Faith" and angel wings.
All of a sudden we were feeling the embrace of angels around us. Not in the material items themselves, but in the love that came with them. The thoughtfulness.   
Christmas Eve my sister presented us with a drawing of Jacob. She took one of my favorite photos of Jacob and captured it beautifully. It's a priceless gift.

My brother making a car decal in memory of Jacob. My mom making notecards and stamps with the picture of the cloud that means so much to me.

Some moments were harder than I expected. Some moments found me sobbing on the floor, or in the shower, or on the couch. The sadness was overwhelming.

But I had angels around me. Surrounding our family with love. With prayers. And most of all, with remembrance. Jacob is a little boy that can never be forgotten.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

10 Days Without

10 Days Without; Daring Adventures in Discomfort That Will Change Your World and You by Daniel Ryan Day looked like a very interesting read.

Basically, Daniel started a blog and profiled several different 10 day challenges on the blog in order to raise awareness/money for different causes. For example, going without shoes for 10 days in order to raise money to buy shoes for children in other countries.

The challenges in the book made me think about issues that I probably otherwise wouldn't. Being disabled, not having shoes, being an orphan. Many of us never stop to think how different our lives really could be and how blessed we are. This book brings up all those thoughts and feelings.

Within these pages we have instructions on how to do our own 10 day challenges. I think it would be a great idea for teen youth groups and even families to implement (much like my $1,200 challenge a few years ago).

I just think this book could have delved deeper into the actual challenges that Daniel took part in. Maybe his blog does that, but I don't want to buy a book and then have to search on a blog to get the whole story. There wasn't enough of people's reactions, the real challenges that he faced throughout these self-imposed challenges. For example, did these challenges get easier throughout the 10 days? Harder? Where there pros or was it all cons? The book really seemed to gloss over the daily details of these challenges.

I still enjoyed reading it, I just wish it went deeper into the experiment.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 16, 2013

3 Years

December 16, 2010 - Exactly three years ago today our world changed forever when Jacob was diagnosed with cancer. 4 days later he had an 8 hour surgery to remove his left kidney, nodules in the lungs, and install a port in his chest. He then underwent 11 days of radiation and 8 months of chemotherapy. Only to repeat the process 6 months later and end with a 40 day hospital stay while receiving a stem cell transplant. 6 months later he relapsed again and he passed away 8 months later. He went through so, so much but always kept a smile on his face. Our little boy will never have pain again as he plays in Heaven forever.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Keeping It Real

Friday I went shopping at our local Walmart for stocking stuffers. Well, more like pile stuffers as I can't fathom the thought of getting out my boxes of Christmas decorations and digging through our stockings and running across Jacob's. So I'll probably just pile the "stocking" stuffers under the tree this year.

Every. Little. Thing. stirs up hard decisions. If I were to bring the stockings out would I leave Jacob's in the box? Would I put his up along with ours? Would I leave it empty as a hourly reminder that there is an empty spot in our family? Would I buy something to put in it...and then do what with the gift?

It's so much easier not to decide any of that at all and just forgo the stockings this year.

While roaming the toy aisle at Walmart I walked through the LEGO aisle and wanted to burst out crying and run out of the store. The last time I was in that aisle was with Jacob. He was in a wheelchair, hooked up to oxygen, and tired of being at home so his daddy and I took him for a quick jaunt to pick out a LEGO set. He didn't find what he wanted but we bought him a soda on the way out of the store and drove home to the Hospice workers who were watching our other children for us. 

Those memories hurt. Doing something as simple as buying stocking stuffers, for only three of my four children, hurts.   

It's no wonder I wish I could just skip this month. I'm tired. I'm sad. And I have children who have been through so much these past few years that I feel like everything has to be extra special. That, in itself, is exhausting.

No Christmas cards. No baking. Minimal decorating. It's all I can handle this year. And really, that's okay.

But it's mommy blogs like this that make any normal human feel inferior. Who has time/money/resources to do this?

Luckily, blogs like this bring us back to reality. What you see isn't usually what you get on the internet, just snips and pieces of someone's life.

To keep it real - this month is hard. This month hurts. 

 This is our reality.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Painted Table

While the saying "Don't judge a book by it's cover" rings true, this is another book that I chose because the cover attracted me. The Painted Table by Suzanne Field is a story that spans three generations and focuses on mental illness.

I was immediately drawn into the story and captivated by the writing. Unfortunately, towards the end of the book I felt like important aspects were skipped over and that the end was rushed. I didn't feel as though the story telling was consistent to the end.

Overall, it was an engaging book that I would recommend.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

December IPSY Bag Review

My IPSY bag finally arrived! One of my favorite subscription "boxes", this bag is $10 a month and comes with a decorative make-up bag and 5 make-up items (often times full-size!).
This month the theme is "Celebration!" Each month there is usually around 10 items available. The combination of 5 that you will receive are based upon your profile and the surveys that you complete after each bag you receive. You can see the other items by going to your Glam Room at IPSY.
This month I received:

*Ardell Natural false eyelashes. I really wonder why I keep receiving items like this in my bag when I specify that I do not use these. Maybe their system is on the fritz?!

*Be a Bombshell The One Stick in "Girl Crush". For your lips, eyes, and cheeks. Can't wait to try this out!

*Pop Beauty Eye Shadow Trio in "Naturally Bare". Should be the perfect shade for me!

*J. Cat The Big Lip Pencil in "Caramel Mocha". At first I was disappointed, thinking this was another lip pencil to outline your lips with (which I don't use) but it is also to be used like a lipstick so now I'm happy.

*Signature perfume samples by English Laundry. One for women and one for men. These smell wonderful and the one for men will go in my husband's stocking on Christmas.

*A nice black bag, which I will surely find a use for.

Disclaimer: Referral links included in post.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

PopSugar Must Have December Box Review & Code

For some reason my PopSugar Must Have box always arrives after everyone else's. So of course I had already seen spoilers of the box and at first I wasn't impressed at all. Holiday boxes are usually awesome but I was feeling pretty bored with the box.
After I had the box in my hands it still didn't knock my socks off but I realized that there are some nice gift items in here and some things I will eat use myself.

The theme for the December box is "the wish list you never knew you needed".
*Ghiradelli Squares Chocolate ($4 each) While I think a gourmet chocolate may have been a better choice for a holiday box I will never turn down chocolate! Especially flavors like eggnog and pumpkin spice!

*CC Made Caramel Corn ($3) This is baked by hand using organic yellow popcorn mixed with buttery caramel and roasted nuts. Sounds divine! I'll be sure to share this with the rest of the family or else I would probably eat it all at once myself.

*Govino Go Anywhere Flutes ($12) These glasses look like crystal, but are made from shatter-proof material. I wouldn't buy these myself but they will be something special for New Year's Eve (when the kids get sparkling grape juice, which Jacob always called "little kid wine")
*Mixt Studio Holiday Gifting Set ($9) It feels like newsprint but is so much prettier and is made from recycled materials and comes with tags and twine. I wouldn't pay $9 for this but it will make some of the gifts I give look a little extra special.

*NCLA Peppermint Lane Nail Wraps ($16) These are so cute! I think I will be gifting them!

*Modelco Fibre Lashtend Black Mascara ($20). I really don't need ore mascara, as I have enough already and rarely, rarely wear it to begin with. This will go in the gift pile; I have lots of sisters and female friends who would appreciate this.

*Lulu Frost for PopSugar Bracelet ($75) This brand is known for mixing vintage and modern elements to create timeless baubles.
I don't wear expensive jewelry and would never buy this myself but I liked it when I opened it up more than I thought. I'm now trying to decide if I should keep this or gift it.

All totaled this box is worth $143. It's not my all-time favorite but still a very nice collection of items! If you are interested in subscribing to PopSugar Must Have use the code REFER5 to save $5 off your first box.

Did you get the December box? What did you think?

Disclaimer: Referral link included in post.

Monday, December 9, 2013


*Started off with a baby diaper that exploded all over our bed. Apparently it's now sheet washing day.

*We awoke to about an inch of snow. I know that the kids will be begging to go outside later today. It's been awfully cold here as well so it may take me as long to bundle them up as it will for them to play outside.

*Amy is pulling herself up now. And getting her top two teeth. And getting hurt a lot as she is mobile and constantly on the go. She seriously never just sits there now!

*I did a big shopping trip to start back on the Trim Healthy Mama book and have been loving the recipes. It's nothing like "diet" food and much more like real, satisfying food. This morning for breakfast I had a cup of coffee and steel cut oats with 1/2 cup berries and 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese blended up. You don't mix it together but rather plop the berry mixture in your bowl and dip the spoonful of oatmeal into it. It was delicious and so satisfying! 
*I recently finished the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein which a friend and a reader here recommended to me. I loved it and finished it within the same afternoon of starting it. A great book for a cold winter day!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Trim Healthy Mama Kai Si Ming

I'm still trying recipes from the book Trim Healthy Mama, though I really need to get back into using the plan daily. One recipe that we all love turns out to be a very quick and very inexpensive dish. It is an "S" meal (Satisfying) and there is enough for supper and leftovers for lunch. 
Kai Si Ming

Brown 3 lbs. ground beef in a large pot (we are not big meat eaters so only do 1 lb. of ground beef).

While meat is browning, slice 1 1/2 large cabbages thinly (keeping strands long). Slice 2 large onions thinly.

Drain most of grease from meat, leaving a bit for flavor.

Add cabbage and onion to meat. Put lid on pot and let cabbage wilt down a little for a few minutes.

Add 1 tsp. sea salt and lots of black pepper, 2-3 T. nutritional yeast, a dash or two of cayenne pepper, onion powder, and some generous splashes of soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos. 

Add 4 cups water, or 2 cups of water and 2 cups stock/broth (which is what we do)

Cover pot with lid and simmer slowly, stirring now and then until cabbage is soft and well cooked, about 30-45 minutes.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I'm Dreaming of a...

...Goodwill Christmas.

I really felt like skipping this Christmas altogether. I have no plans to send out cards this year. Can't imagine making Christmas goodies. I didn't have plans to decorate, but my husband decided to decorate the porch and the kids begged me to have a tree but instead of our typical big tree I just pulled our miniature one from the closet. I had no plans to drag out all of the decorations this year.

I also had no plans to do a lot of shopping. This year, if anything, the true meaning of Christmas shall prevail. The whole Black Friday shopping and buying just to buy things makes me feel sad. I joked with my siblings and mom that we should just buy the ugliest thing at Goodwill for each other. The idea stuck. My mom and siblings over 18 are looking for the ugliest, yuckiest, tackiest things we can find for each other. The rules are that it has to be used and has to be under $5. I've actually had fun, as have Becca and Joe, trying to find the perfect gift for everyone! :)

Today, with my husband off from work, we decided to go grocery shopping and made a stop at another Goodwill. I found a few perfect gifts for my siblings and then actually found a few decorations for my own home. The snowman, embroidered picture, sparkly tree, and snowman picture holder (which will hold my holiday cards) were under $10 combined. Decorating the buffet without much hassle or heartbreak? Priceless.  
Yesterday after going to an Amish dent and bent discount store (discounted food products) we stopped at a little out of the way thrift store. I found several miniature vintage wooden ornaments for 10 cents each. Their ugliness drew me to them, the type of ugly that ends up being cute. These are now decorating our tiny Christmas tree. 
I equate this as our Charlie Brown Christmas. Bare. A little ugly. Hopefully beauty is found in it's simplicity.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This Week & Book Winners

*The kids and I went thrift store hunting yesterday. It was a rainy, gloomy day and my husband had to work until 6pm so  figured it was a good day to get out of the house.

It was tough, as we went to a town that the last time we were there was Jacob's birthday. At one point, for no reason in particular, I felt the beginnings of a panic attack. 

Though I don't write much about my journey with grief at this point it is there, every single moment of the day. Which is maybe exactly why I don't write about it much. Sometimes, just for a moment, I want to feel normal. That's a thing I don't feel often these days.

*Back to the thrift store shopping. I was finally able to find Becca some jeans. We've been having a hard time as the regular jeans end up being too big and the slim end up being too small. She tried on several different pairs and we found four that fit her! One new with tags Pumpkin Patch jeans and a pair of Joe's jeans even...all for under $2.50 each.

I may not be able to afford a Dyson vacuum but Amy now has one waiting for her for her birthday. :) A little toy Dyson vacuum was just too cute to pass up for $3.88 and when I looked online about them to figure out the wheels on hers I saw that they are $30+ new and actually suck up some bits and pieces! Joe had fun playing with it yesterday and now it is in the closet for Amy's birthday.

I fell in love with a vintage clock. The robin egg blue second hand and the typeset of the numbers spoke to me. It works and found a place in the living room now. 
*The winners of the Shades of Mercy book were chosen by Random.org and were number 9, 2, and 6. If your comment is posted below please e-mail your address to me at babys_mama1 "at" yahoo.com and I will get the books sent out this week!

I would enjoy curling up with this book some snowy afternoon! I've not heard of it or the author and it would be a treat to try something new. --Dorothea

I love to read--everything and anything. But most of all, I check each day to read your latest post.
I would love a new book to read. Thank you for the chance!


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