Unseasonable

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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It's unseasonably warm.  Yesterday, it felt like early fall or mid-spring... Temperatures in the high 60s-early 70s...  Me in short sleeves and flipflops (okay, so I'm often in flips regardless of the temps...), the kids in their Giants shirts (long sleeved) (although us sporting our team pride didnt help, since they got creamed by NO).  It was gorgeous; we played outside at home and went to a local playground twice.  We finished off the day making some cookies.  Fun day.  Warm day!

Today, another warm one, albeit rainy.  I did a speed run this morning (only 2 miles, but faster than my normal running pace) and came home soaked.  Then I topped it off with a lovely morning spent on the porch with some coffee, listening to the rain and birds...  Later, the kids and I dropped off our library books and angel tree gifts, then I took them to a local farm store, where we bought eggs and glassed milk. 

I remember the days of the infant seats, snapping them into the stroller and maybe even running them through rain (who am I kidding- I can't think of one time that I purposely took them out in the rain).  Then, there were the days of getting them out and carrying them because they were no longer in the infant seats but were still too little to walk.  Then, the walking but immediately putting in a cart.  And now, the walking...  Sometimes even without holding hands.

Yesterday, at Target, I pushed a cart and, after a while, Bobby wanted down so he held my hand and I pushed.  Then, Maya wanted out of the sling.  So, down she went.  She was fine just walking and telling me what she saw, versus Bobby who still wanted my hand.  So, there we were, the three of us, no one "riding", all walking.  Today, at the farm store (which is not a place you want kids to run hogwild), they walked.  No hands, listening to stand by me while I loaded our 8 dozen eggs and got our glass jar of milk... While I paid and signed the receipt... While I loaded our canvas bag on my shoulder... Then, listening, taking my hands, Bobby opening the door and us walking back to the car in drizzle.

Babies no more, toddlers... rapidly moving quicker than I dare admit, towards preschoolers.  The first two years flew by; will the rest of this year do the same?

Maya talks ALL-THE-TIME.  She is never without something to say.  Bobby, although quieter, is mroe than happy to school you with letters and numbers.  They both know (and recite regularly) the alphabet... They can count to 20...  Bobby can count backwards from 10...  Maya makes the sign of the cross ("In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit").  They tell us what they need or want, and, in many cases, sign it too.  (We've taught them, thanks to an on-demand Comcast collection, about 30 signs and they picked them up super fast).  Even under the weather (Maya had the sniffles Sunday and Monday), they manage to surprise me with something they've picked up every single day.

Our tree is up with no gate; the kids love it but dont try to take it apart (to the point that we are thinking of getting a small tree for the playroom that they can decorate with soft, kid friendly ornaments).  In my head, I still see those two tiny babies nestled against my chest, but when I blink, it's the two of them standing there... Growing up... 


When I was younger, the years seemed to drag by and then, the older I got, the seasons moved quicker through their moons... Unseasonably fast... Now, even more so...

Robert's Run 2011 Photos

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A special thank you to all who donated in Robert's memory.  We were only $5 shy of our $500 goal due to your generosity.


Sharing a Room

Saturday, November 26, 2011

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I mentioned earlier that Bobby and Maya are now sharing a room.  It's quite the interesting thing around here!

They enjoyed sharing a bedroom while we were on vacation.  When we got back, we discussed it for a few days before deciding to give it a go, but ultimately decided to go for it.


The downsides first.  The kids moved into Bobby's room, which was by far the larger of the two.  But, with the step 2 beds (which we still ADORE), it's definitely a space that doesnt need more furniture!  They have their changing table in the corner by the door, their bean bag chairs stay under the beds unless they are playing with them, and their 3 drawers each moved into the closet.  It's clear to see in the closet that Maya has more clothes!!!  (We get a lot of girl handmedowns but not really boy ones).

The good stuff...  Naps are shorter to start (15 minutes is now a rare long event; I can do them both in easily 5-10 minutes- including a diaper change beforehand) and last longer (up to 2 and a half to 3 hours from 90 minutes to 2 hours).  Bedtime hasnt seen a reduction in duration, but we implemented story time, prayers, and songs while on vacation and it's really nice to do that as a family.  The kids grab their night-night books and we all settle down in the space between their beds.   That part is really nice.  But, after bath, bedtime ritual is still easily an hour (and sometimes more) which I'd like to shorten (namely because I am so tired by the end of the day that I want to collapse into my own bed! :) )

So, all in all, this is really working out for us and we're pretty excited!

And what's going on in Maya's old room?  That's for another post!

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

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O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Amen.
-Samuel F. Pugh

Love, Aunt Sarah

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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Hi Cuddlebug!!!
Happy 3rd Birthday!!  It hardly seems like 3 years, but then it some ways it seems like forever since you graced us with your presence for a short time.  I've felt your presence so much more this year than in years past.  Feeling you on runs when the street lights flicker on, and knowing you are here when the doorway lights flash on and off.  They are doing that more and more lately, and I know that it's because you don't want to be forgotten.  Don't worry little one, you are not, and never will you be.  :)
I love your encouragement.  There have been several times in the past few months where I have parked myself on the couch, debating on getting something started, and procrastinating in true Aunt Sarah style.  When I finally decide to get up and get going, and commit to getting off the couch, I see the lights flicker in the doorway.  I love this and I know it's your way of saying "Good job, Aunt Sarah!  It's the right choice and I know you can do it, I am proud of you!!"  This was really special when I decided to go out running right before a storm.  I knew that I would get home safely because I could feel you cheering me on.
Thank you for encouraging Bobby and Maya to take chances and be fearless. Thank you for being you.
Much love,
Aunt Sarah

Happy 3rd Birthday, Alexander

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My Sweet Cuddlebug, Alexander.  Today is your third birthday.  Three years since I held you outside the womb... since your soccer legs kicked their way into this world in a breech birth... since you curled up inside the warmth of your father's hands and fell asleep...  Three years of sleep... Of missing... Of wanting... Of loving...

Your peace still radiates in our home and our lives.  The gifts you gave us simply by being our son make their ways known in the things we do as we traverse our journey here on earth.  My gift... My peace bringer...  How much I will always be thankful for you as my son, words will never be able to express.

While your older siblings have always come to me in the rain, I feel you more in the breeze.  Sometimes it is a cool burst of air on a hot summer run...  Othertimes a deep inhale of icy frost as I walk to the postbox...  But always there... Always with me...  (And, whenever the street lights flash during my runs, I always know for sure, that you my little soccer player, are running the miles alongside me.)

Three years since the pushes that brought you here... Since the time that you held on for days, against all the odds...  Since you gave us hope and peace and strength that we didnt know even existed.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy.  I love you so much.

The Last Three...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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Today was the last day I held Alexander on the inside, three years ago.  It was this day, around 11pm, that an ultrasound showed his placenta detaching from my uterus.  The doctor had shook his head... Our little guy, who had beat the odds to get fully back in the womb after his little feet dangled beyond the cervix... Who had stayed put in spite of his amniotic sac breaking...  He was telling us that it was time to be born, both into this world and the next. 

There was a peace that I can't explain, once we realized that his time for this dual birth had come.  There were tears too, but the knowing what the road would hold helped.  Knowing what would need to happen... What we wanted for our son and ourselves and our families...  That knowledge was powerful and helpful.  Priests were called, prayers were said, miracles were asked for, preparations were made.  And, early the next morning, on the 23rd, Alexander came into our arms and passed quickly into the Otherworld.

I dont have anger any more about that.  I'd be lying if I said that my sadness has completely been replaced by peace and harmony about his life and death.  But there is peace.  With him, perhaps, more than Nicholas and Sophia.  Maybe it is because little Alex is my running buddy.  Perhaps it is because he was such a little bundle of peace himself.  I dont know.  But as I recite what I consider his mantra (below), the heaviness on my soul is lightened...  My lips turn up in a smile as I remember the pitter patter of him playing soccer with my bladder...  And I can take a breath and smell the sweetness of him. 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


VACATION!!! Recap

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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Over Halloween and into the first week of Thanksgiving, we took a vacation to the Massanutten Resort, outside of Harrisonburg, VA.  After braving an unseasonable snow storm (and yes, I was wearing flipflops on the way down... not my lightbulb moment), we arrived and ended up having a GREAT time.

The kids especially loved the Children's Museum (to the point that we went enough it made it worthwhile to purchase a year's membership- which also allows access to the Please Touch Museum in Philly!)  Bobby rode a horse, they both loved the waterpark, and Maya- through her signing- made friends with a child who was deaf (and mourned when he left the waterpark for the day).  Peter and I even even snagged a date day, where we visited a Whole Foods (no joke...), ate delicious locally grown foods at small cafes, and wined ourselves with local vineyards!!!  The kids wound down each day with storytime and a shared bedroom (which they loved.... We are trying it at home, but that's for another post!)





All in all, it was a wonderful time!!!

For all the great pics, you can check out our Vacation PicturesOctober and November are up, too, and in the November ones, you can check out the future coaches of the NY Giants!!!

2 years ago...

Friday, November 18, 2011

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2 years ago...
Bobby came home from the hospital... 
Maya came home from the hospital...
My mom and grandma visited...

And now, these guys are active toddlers who talk up a storm and my mom just visited (and went home, sob sob sob).

What a huge difference 2 years makes!!!

Storytime with Daddy, Nov 2011

Newly home and together at last, Nov. 2009

World Prematurity Day

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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Today, Nov. 17, 2011, is World Prematurity Day, a day when we try to bring awareness to the plight of premature babies (and their families).  Recently, I was discussing prematurity and the discussion of "full term", "post dates", and "prematurity" were all on the table.  It's funny to believe that eons ago, a human was expected to bake around 10 months or 40-42 weeks (from conception, not LMP dating).  Then, we decided that 38-40 weeks (conception dating) was full term, then that became LMP dating, which deducted another 2 weeks.  And then, we expanded the range from 37+ LMP weeks as full term, which, in theory means that the newly "full term" born human is actually about 5 weeks premature.  First five weeks?  Babies are learning how to hold their necks up, breast (or bottle) feed, sleep, roll... Things that newborns of other species have us beat on...  Not that anyone is keeping score (or are they???).  It's crazy when we think about that special first 5-6 weeks of the full-term newborn...  What would that be like if, evolutionary wise, we still carried our babies that long?

But when most people think of premature, they are thinking of prior to 37 weeks.  You have your "late preterm" (typically 32-36 weekers), your "preterm" (28-31 weekers), your "premature" (25-27 weekers), your "micropreemies" (22-24 weekers), and then the "severely preterm" (2nd trimester born alive babies through 21 weeks) who very rarely survive. (I only know of one 21 weeker who has survived and is now 4 years old, although I'm sure there are more). 

We humans need that third trimester- and all (or at the very least most) of it- in order to get the best we can of our life on the inside.  Many organizations are calling for better prenatal health and education to try and force down the statistics of prematurity.  They are asking that doctors not schedule C-sections or induce prior to 42 LMP weeks (some places stop at 40 weeks), unless there is a significant medical (read: NOT SCHEDULE) based need.  Will that happen?  Who knows...  What is clear is that we arent, in my lifetime at least, going to wipe it out completely.  Issues like IC, HELLP, Pre-eclampsia, TTTS, and other life-threatening (to mother or child) issues will always be there and until we can wipe those off the map, premature babies will be the victims of issues beyond modern medicine's control, and all we will be able to do is mitigate the issues that follow.

It will always break my heart to know that Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander were born too soon for the "mechanical womb" of the NICU to save, even as I also know that a mechanical womb (today at least) cant replicate for babies what a mother's womb provides... That birth is the culmination of life in the womb and trying to fix that when the womb goes defunct for a day or a lifetime doesnt stop the effects that prematurity can have.  I am eternally grateful for the NICU (and its doctors and nurses) who saved Bobby and Maya and supported their journey into a healthy infant and now toddler hood.  There aren't words for our family's gratefulness to them...  But when you think that 1 out of 13 premature babies will die... That birth before 37 weeks gestation is THE #1 KILLER of babies...  There aren't words for that either... 

It's my dream that one day the world wont need a prematurity awareness day... That, one day, we will have the technology available to save mothers the ache of birthing perterm babies at any stage of prematurity...  That babies wont have to struggle in order to live...  But until that day comes, we owe it to each and every one of them- those who died, those who live with severe disabilities, those who live with handicaps we cant see, and those who live with good health- to educate ourselves and those aware us.  To make this issue known.  To make sure that preventable cases of prematurity are prevented and to do our best to mitigate those that arent preventable.  One day at a time, one step at a time.  Thirteen MILLION babies are born prematurely each year and one million babies die every year because of prematurity; one day, let's drop that number to less than one. 

Give the voiceless a voice.  Blog it.  Speak up.  Educate.

I am a preemie who gave birth to preemies.  I long for a world where my children can say "I am a preemie who was able to give my children the fullness of life in the womb."  It may not happen, but it is my dream and my hope for my children and their children and their children... And yours.

World Prematurity Day on Facebook
March of Dimes: World Prematurity Day
EFCNI Prematurity Awareness

For those in the United States...
In 2006, Congress passed the PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450), which expanded research and developed a public-private agenda aimed at reducing preterm labor and delivery. Since passage, the U.S. has seen a decline in preterm birth for three years in a row. The PREEMIE Act needs to be reauthorized in order to continue the important work that is under way. If enacted, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act (S. 1440/ H.R. 2679) will enhance research, education and interventionactivities aimed at improving pregnancy outcomes. Show your support for World Prematurity Day by calling your Members of Congress now and urging them to cosponsor the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 1440/ H.R. 2679).

THANK YOU!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

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A huge thank you to all those who made donations to Alex's Lemonade Stand for Robert's Run or who made local donations in Robert's memory.  Your heartfelt generosity deeply moved our family, and we are grateful for your support.

(My official run time was 29:47.  No records broken but it was a fun time!)

Final Countdown...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

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Only 2 more days to go!  Help us fight neuroblastoma and win!!!

Deja Vu

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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Sunday afternoon, we dressed in our blue and watched a scoreless first half followed by a nail-biting second half that ended with the Giants taking on a win against the Patriots.  The commentators made several references to this being the first time the two teams had met since the 2008 Super Bowl, when the underdog Giants won against the undefeated Patriots.

Peter and I had watched football rarely prior to that Super Bowl.  Laying in the hospital, cradling our dead son and praying for our daughter who was hanging on for life in the womb, we watched that game tick away...  And, as insane as it may be, I clung to that game as though my life- and Sophia's-depended on it. 
2008 Super Bowl
Just as the commentators talked about the Giants having no chance against the undefeated (and, according to them, much better) Patriots, the doctors were telling us that we had no chance to leave the hospital pregnant... That Sophia would be born in hours... That we should prepare for her death in utero if we refused induction...  Somehow, hearing those odds didnt bother me nearly as much as hearing that the Giants, whose season wasnt Patriot beating worthy, were going to lose.  They couldnt lose... Not if we were going to walk out of the hospital pregnant... Not if Sophia would have longer... Not if, not if, not if...  In my mind, the two became somehow linked.  The Giants would win... And we would go home... I wasnt sure how much time we'd have but I just wanted more of it... a second, a moment, anything... two weeks...  When the Giants won- and they did win- I remember breathing a sigh of relief and simly believing that things would be okay for the moment.

On Sunday night, as we watched the two teams meet up again- this time with Bobby and Maya cheering them on in their adorable Giants shirts- I was struck with a lump in my throat... There were tears...  There were questions... (Why did that game in '08 bring me such relief?  Why did that one night change so much?)  We watched, we cheered, and ultimately, our team won!  (although the last 2 minutes were pretty harrowing!).  It was a sense of deja vu as well as a sense of awe to be watching this game... with Bobby and Maya...

Giants VS Patriots, 11/6/11
Whenever the Giants kicker, #9 (Tynes), came on the field, Maya would yell "NINE!!!" and clap.  My jersey is for Jacobs, #27, so she also has a fun time reading the back of it (seven is her favorite number).  Bobby would do a dance during touchdowns (he has an adorable Irish jig he performs for us...River Dance here we come!!) and whenever I would cheer, he would cheer with me and applaud.  (He also, much to Daddy's chagrin with the no-tv-touching rule, can identify Eli Manning #10 on the screen... Not that I was proud and not telling him not to touch the tv or anything...)  When the TV came on, Maya pointed and shouted her traditional "FOOTBALL!!!!!" (which she also yells whenever we are outside and she picks up the football to play with the trees... Yes, my daughter "plays" football with the trees outside...  And it's hysterical!)

 It was insane...  In a good way... In a nostalgic way...  In a my-heart-is-full sort of way...  And it really is...

Samhain

Monday, November 7, 2011

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Samhain (pronounced sow-wen) isn't widely celebrated anymore (except by non neopagans or earthworshipers or those who carry on the Dia de los Muertos traditions of their culture), since cross-quarter days (the days that fall directly inbetween equinoxes and solstices) usually pass by without notice.  This year, Samhain falls on Nov 7th at 1:27pm (eastern time), although the observance is traditionally Halloween-into-All Saint's Day.  Most of the hoopla (for lack of a better term) is the same.  The dressing up, the trick-or-treating, the foods commonly associated with Halloween, the jackolantern...  Bonfires...  Milk and honey by the door and a candle in the window for the ancestors... Ancient traditions, some kept and some put away, for the modern age.  In our home, we tend to celebrate both days, Halloween for some of the more secular things and Samhain for the more hallowed parts (although, I usually still light the candle and put out the treats on Halloween as well...this year doing so on our Halloween vacation!).



Viewed as a time when the veil between the Otherworld (call it Heaven, the Summerland, the After Life, etc) and this world is at it's thinnest thus allowing the spirits of the Ancestors easy passage (which with all the fog during my morning run today, I could totally see!), the time of year is associated with the living remembering their Beloved Dead.  In the middle of November, our parish celebrates the parish All Soul's Mass, where the names of all those who have died from the previous November through that celebration are read off.  A bell is tolled... A candle is lit...  A rose is given to the living family members to remind them of the rose that has passed from their lives.  I remember that Mass in 2008.  I was pregnant with Alexander and we were lighting candles for Nicholas and Sophia.  It was surreal... Being pregnant with one child while mourning two others.  And then, 2009.  It was the first time Bobby and Maya were brought out in public, days after coming home from the hospital.  We lit the candle for Alexander and again, that surreal feeling... Remembering my dead child while holding my two living ones against my chest.  The bell ringing...  I can still smell the incense that lingered on Bobby and Maya long after we'd come home that night if I think about it hard enough.  2010... The first year we knew of the Mass and didn't get an invitation(it's by invite only and is for parishioners who have had a loss in the year)...  2011...  Here again.  Already.  How time flies by...

But Samhain.  Lighting candles.  Leaving out food.  No longer harvesting from the garden (the remaining crops are viewed as offerings for a prosperous garden for the coming year as well as a thank you for the goodness of the fading year and, no doubt, as nourishment for all those who need it for the coming cold weather).  We were on vacation on Halloween, but I still lit a candle.  We didnt have matches, so it was interestingly done, but Peter made do!  I put out a dish of sweet milk and honey on my makeshift "altar" with Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander's box.  (One word for why it didnt go outside as we do traditionally: BEARS... Yeah... It was indoor... After all, I joked to Peter, we were only doing the observation.  The "real" holy day we'd be home for and would do it "right").  But I still wept.  That's something that doesn't change.  Samhain, be it on the astronomical date or on the observed Halloween, still brings me to tears.

Wake on this feast of the dead and remember the ones who have gone before us.
Light and candle and leave it in the windowsill for the veil is lifted at dusk.

I can't open my eyes on Oct 31/Nov 1 or the astronimical celebrations (this year Nov 6/7) without a heaviness.  It's there.  There's a lightness too, as it gives rise to that feeling of "togetherness" with the Ancestors.  The remembering.  The candle lighting or the Mass in memory.  But there's an ache too.  It's hard because Halloween (and the astronimical Samhain) are the only holidays that I had them all with me...  We conceived Nick and Sophie on Oct 27 and, although no test could tell me so, I knew as I handed out candy on the 31st that I was pregnant.  A few days after Samhain, I had a positive pregnancy test.  The next year, as we carved pumpkins for Nick and Sophie, I was pregnant with Alexander.  We lit candles for our children who had died.  We remembered them.  We felt them with us.  The three babies... I didnt know then that they would always be my three eternal babies.  And then...  Halloween 2009... In the NICU... With Bobby and Maya in preemie onesies (for 3 pounders) that were too big...  Samhain that year... Rushing home to light the candles for the windows... To place the milk and honey by the kitchen door... To welcome the ancestors- to welcome Nicholas and Sophia and Alexander- home.  The stones, their names etched on them with another rock... Stones thrown into the river afterwards... 

On this third harvest we celebrate rebirth through death for we know that death is not the end.
On this Samhain night of magic and chaos, our joys and our sorrows become one...
As through this decay new life soon will begin...

Death is not the end... Of this I am sure.  Just as the decay of the life before gives way to the new life of vegetation in the spring, just as it feeds the earth so that the earth can be bountiful...  This life that we live, I have no doubt, is just the foundation for one that is to come.  My children arent gone, they are simply not here...  Just as one day,  I will not be here.  I belive this.  I know it in the depths of my soul... And yet, the mourning is still there.  The missing is still there.  They may not be dead to me, but they are lost to this world where I remain.  And that is the deepest of hurts...  To me, to their father, but to Bobby and Maya less I think.  Because, for them, they still share the bonds of the World Before and the World After, and I feel like they spent so much of their time- regardless of veils being thin or not- communing with their siblings.  The smiles, the laughs, their voices as they say "Neeko", "Sofffffe", "Xander"...  Perhaps they miss them less... Because they dont miss them at all; they play with them and love them and they are here.  Tangible.  Because no one has told them otherwise.  Joy and sorrow as one... For me, at least.


Leave the crops that remain...
Light the bone fires...
Mark the stones with the names you hold dear...
Leave food offerings on the altar...
Leave milk and honey by the door...

Our Samhain 2011 indoor altar, Nov 7, 2011

And so today... November 7th...  We'll take a note of the garden and offer the remaining tomatoes and broccoli and peppers in thanksgiving.  We'll light a bonfire and tell the stories of the ancestors, remembering and loving... Knowing they live on and are welcomed as long as we never forget.   We'll mark the stones with their names and set them around the Blessed Mother shrine in our front yard.  Before going to bed, I'll put local apples and squash on our altar, surrounded with pictures of those we love.  And, of course, the candle in the window... To guide them home... To let them know they are welcome...  With milk and honey by the door (in case they'd rather not come inside while we sleep) :)


Thinking of you and your departed loved ones this blessed and holy day, as we remember those we love who have gone before us.

Another Good-Bye

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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Halloween passes into All Saint's Day...  And the wheel turns on another year that Robert has not been with a family who loves him- and misses him- dearly.  24 years...  Almost a quarter century.

We're together this week: Peter, his parents, the kids and I.  Keeping close together (if not close to home).  Focusing on the family.  Remembering for those that can and the rest of us sharing in the memories.  Eating his favorite meal... Thinking of the boy who fought so hard and loved everyone in his life so much.


Thinking of you, Robert, and where you rest until those who love you hold you in their arms again.