Friday, December 21, 2012

We are officially back up and running!  Our faithful netbook bit the dust a few months ago, and we have finally been able to get a new lap top. It is difficult to try and type a post on my phone! It has been a few months since I posted. Sarah Jane celebrated her first birthday in September- we had a cherry themed birthday party.  She is growing beautifully and continue to be such a joy.  Samuel is doing great in 5th grade- the transition to intermediate school went smoothly. We celebrated his 11th birthday in October. When did he get so old?? We were unable to go to Chicago this year like we usually do because we had a conflict on that weekend.  The Lions Eye Bank held a luncheon to honor all the cornea donors in the past year, which included Luke.  We were able to share a picture of him and a short blurb about him. We then were able to find out that his corneas were both successfully transplanted into two people that live in New York. They both regained vision because of Luke. We were overwhelmed with thankfulness that Luke's beautiful brown eyes have improved the quality of life for two people. Benjamin is enjoying 2nd grade and doing well- especially in math.  We had a great time this fall watching him run cross country for the first time.  He placed 5th at the State Tournament and then went on to the regional meet in Chicago.  He placed 12th and qualified for Nationals in New Mexico!  I did not work out for us to go our West, but we were so proud of his hard work and effort that helped him go that far.  He and Keith run together a lot which they both really enjoy. I started working full time in October which has been a VERY difficult transition. I am getting used to it and am so thankful that Keith is such a rock star Dad. He is by himself three nights and mornings a week and does an amazing job. We are in our second round of holidays, events, and plain life without Luke. Thanksgiving was hard this year- last year we took the boys to Disney World and just kind of escaped. I found myself in Mejier last month buying some gifts for the boys when I found something that I thought Luke would like- before I caught myself. I then realized that I was shopping for an 8 year old Luke. Luke would be almost 10. What would be into now? What would be enjoy? I don't know 10 year old Luke. I had to smile though. His "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" song that we played at the funeral came on over the speakers. Coincidence I am sure, but it was pretty amazing. I cannot say that missing him has gotten any better. Life is not easier. But I am learning how to live without him. We have done our best to enjoy the holidays- remembering the past and making the present special for the kids. We are so blessed and thankful this holiday season. Blessings to all! Erin

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Luke's Homecoming Day

On August 29th, 2011,at 810 in the morning, Keith and I sat next to Luke's bed in the PICU and watched his heart stop on the monitor. We held his hands and let him go Home.  I am not sure how we did that, but we knew it was the right thing to do. They had resusitated him several times and he was at the maximum dosage off all the different medications they could give to keep his heart going.  They were not working- his lungs had failed which caused his heart to fail. We did not have to take him off the ventilator. His lungs were unable to exchange oxygen even though the ventilator continued (at maximum settings) to breathe for him.  The choice for him to let go was not ours to make, but we were able to give him a dying experience in which I layed in bed with him and rubbed his head, hands, and his chest around the chest tubes. His family was able to gather and say good bye. I put his hands to my belly to feel Sarah Jane. Our pastor led us in prayer.  Benjamin and Samuel both got a chance to touch him one more time and say goodbye.  When we could see he was close to passing, we asked everyone to step out of the room and Keith sat on one side and I on the other and we held his hands. That was the end of our earthly son, and we gave him back to whom he came from,  A year later we are so thankful that we ever had him- that beautiful boy.
Keith, Samuel, Benjamin and I lit a candle at 810 in the morning this 29th to start our day.  We served a lunch at the Ronald McDonald house at Riley in honor of Luke. It felt good to give back.  In the evening, we had a small gathering at the cemetery and had a dove release, readings, and a balloon release for the kids.  We shared several of the poems that Luke's friends wrote for him.  Keith and I both shared. Mine was as follows:
My little Bear,
 I continue to be overwhelmed by how much I love you.
I am so proud of you each and every day.
My heart longs for you, but in truth, you gave me enough joy to last a lifetime.
You were a son that anyone would long for.
I enjoyed you so much- your humor, your love, your thoughtfulness.
It has been a struggle dealing with your absence.
I miss what you brought to our family,
But I remind myself daily that there are no "whys" in God's world.
We have tried to sit back and watch the fruit of your life be harvested.
There are babies in the world because of your influence.
You have led people to Christ or helped strengthen their relationship with Jesus.
Mothers have hugged their kids a bit closer.
There are people who have nominated kids for a Make A Wish because they heard your story on the radio.
Your memorial donations have granted several wishes.
Your presence in Heaven has given people comfort that you are with their loved ones.
You have encouraged acts of kindness done in your name.
We hope to continue to see the beauty that has risen from the ashes of your death.
You are more that my sick little boy who died- you are a joy, a triumph, a blessing, and a gift.
Daddy and I saw what you lived with every day.
We were amazed to watch how you dealt with the bleeding and the limits of your breathing.
I wish more people really understood how brave you truly were.
You rose to the occasion each time you needed to.
You did everything in this world that you were asked to do.
You dealth with the disappointment, pain, anxiety, and the fragility of your life with an uncanny awareness.
You are my motivation everyday to stay in the land of the living.
All you ever wanted to do was to just live your life- your disease may have taken your breath away, but it never got the best of you spirit.
I never took the best of you away from me.
Your last words to Daddy and I were of love and courage.
You found the best in each day and you motivate me to do the same.
You see fully now why this happened to you.
I am content that you can carry that for me until I see you again.
I can imagine your excitement when you hear that I am coming and you can show me what you have been up to.
And then I can hold you again.
Until Lukey, I will live my life with your soul in my heart.
I will parent your siblings with all the love I can.
I will continue to see you bear fruit in this world.
I love you, Luke- then, now, and always.
Your Mommy

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Facing Future the sequel

  We are now at 11 months since Luke died. The Make A Wish walk felt like the start of the time period that counted down to Luke dying. We had a wonderful day with many friends and family who walked with us during the walk and many who donated to Luke's team. "Luke's Pineapple Express" has raised a little over $4,000 and we are so grateful.  Luke would have been thrilled and so excited. He had wanted to have t shirts made last year, but we did not get around to it.  We did it up right with bright yellow t shirts with a pineapple on it, the name of the team, and the saying, "Make A Wish made Luke's dream come true".  We missed him so much that day, but we know that we are doing what he would have wanted us to do.  We are gearing up to go back to Ocean City next week. Very mixed emotions about it. The boys are really excited and we love to see Keith's family.  That week was hard in many ways with Luke. Keith and I really saw the decline in him that week. Things changed almost as soon as we got home, We had some very special time with him and he had a blast with all of his cousins. Things are never the same without Luke, but it does not mean they have to be bad.  Life was just that much sweeter when Luke was in this world. Luke gave us enough joy to last a lifetime.  We try and concentrate on that more than the "what ifs" if he was still here.  I feels very real to me that he is not here, but I have to take a moment to grieve the loss of him when I buy two pairs of school shoes. Two sets of school supplies. I fill out two forms to register for VBS. I have a hand for each boy to hold.  Life was just that much sweeter...
Sarah Jane is amazing. We just eat her up. She loves her brothers and cries when Benjamin  leaves the room sometimes.  She is her Daddy's sweetheart.  She is like food for my soul. Our little "cherry on top" is living up to Luke's expectations.  I watered Luke's flowers today on his grave and when I opened Sarah's door to get my watering can, Sarah was waving Hi to Luke- or at least looking at his marker and waving. I hope someday she can understand who Luke was and how much he loved her.  I cry everyday for Luke, but I laugh every day.  I enjoy Samuel, Benjamin, and Sarah. Keith and I plan for the future as we talk a lot about the past.  We have been able to move past a lot of the trauma of Luke's last weekend and allow ourselves to let those images fade. Luke is so much more than a little boy who died, as we are more than parents who have lost a child. Luke and the loss of him are woven in to the story of our family.  I will never feel the same as I did when he was here, but I am filling that hole with the joy that was Luke. What a lucky Mommy I was/am.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lost for words

Writing was so helpful to me when Luke was here and I am so thankful to have that record of his last 3 years.  Now I am finding very little ability to put what is in my heart down. Overwhelmed a lot with very conflicting emotions. I am missing Luke so badly, am enjoying Benjamin so much, so proud of Samuel and who he is becoming, and am busy with Sarah- enjoying her babyhood.  So many wonderful things, yet there is a big Luke sized chomp out of everything. At Brooke's Place last night, one of the other moms and I were talking and reminded each other that you never get "used" to your child being gone.  You never get "Over It".  Time does not heal all wounds.  They may scar- but they never heal.  Although Luke is in Heaven and happier than we could ever be, I am selfish that I was not done with him. His brothers were not done with him, and his sister never got a chance. I have to trust and believe that God has a plan for all of us and someday I will understand. Matt (our friend and pastor) said at the end of his eulogy at the funeral some words I have carried with me daily. Luke is fully known and fully sees.  I had a daydream the other day and imagined Benjamin as a husband and father. Maybe he will have three little boys close together and he can enjoy watching them grow up together- something that he did not get to do. That would be precious.  I find it troublesome to my heart as time passes how I will be able to continue to fit Luke into this world.  Right now I can say, "Luke would have enjoyed that" but what do I say in 10 years?  Eight year old Luke would enjoy that, but what would have 18 year old Luke been like?  We have a finite amount of stories, memories, pictures of Luke. Never more.  No 40 year old Luke with kids and a mortgage. Forever my little boy. How is that going to feel in 15 years, 30 years, 5 years? Taking each day a step at a time. Trying not to be jealous of intact families. Cutting myself some slack about a lot of stuff.  Trying to get back into life. Reminding myself that I do not need to pick one emotion. I can be truly thankful for what I had and so completly sad that it is gone all and the same time. There is never a day that I am not thankful to be the mom of those 4 beautiful children and the wife of my husband. I wish that gratefullness was enough to fill the empty spot in my heart.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Disaster Pants

"Disaster pants" is our new nickname for our little princess.  Sarah is crawling everywhere at light speed. She eats ANYTHING she can find on the floor. I have swept more in the last two weeks than I have in years! She was 8 months on Friday and doing all kinds of fun stuff- pattycake, waving bye bye, sticking her tongue out, and Benjamin's favorite- raspberries!  She is so funny and very sweet.  She has had a pretty rotten cough at night for the past few weeks which always makes me nervous.  I do not have much reserve for any kind of lung issues anymore.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sweet Benjamin

As we come up on 7 months after losing Luke, I am continually amazed that we are still standing.  It is only through the grace of God that we continue to move forward.  We have had a very special week, but it has taken a lot out of us.  Last Wednesday was another night of counseling for the kids and the support group for Keith and I.  Keith stayed home with Sarah and the boys and I went.  It helps us all, but I come home so tired.  Thursday we spent a beautiful evening at Riley at a memorial service for all the kids that had died a Riley around when Luke did.  A room filled with families that will be ever changed... it was a well done service.  Keith and I were proud to stand when Luke's name was read.  We were struck that this will be the only time that we will hear his name be called in a list- no graduation from high school or college. We usually do not spend much time or energy on what could have been, but that was pretty blatant. Forever stuck in time at 8 years old.  Benjamin sat on my lap and stroked my head as I cried.  He was so tender and loving.  He was sad and touchy on Saturday and I took him on my lap and begged him to tell me what was wrong. He kept saying "nothing" which is not unusual for him.  I gave him some suggestions and I finally said, "Are you missing Luke?"  He got quiet for a little bit and then said in a quiet voice, "Yes".  This has been the first time that he has been able to put together that he was feeling sad because of losing Luke. He has had such a hard time putting together why he feels the way that he does.  It hurts my Mommy heart that he has such a hard time grieving and letting it out.  Our neice and nephew were visiting on Friday and were able to attend a Sock Hop that the student council at the kid's  elementary school put on. They did it as a fundraiser for Make A Wish in memory of Luke.  The kids looked great in their 50's style clothes and were so cute.  They did all kinds of group dances and even had a hula hoop contest!  Luke was a really good hula hooper! He would have enjoyed that part! Keith's brother and his wife and kids stayed for dinner and the kids got to play together. Our neice and nephew spent the night with us on Saturday and we all  had a great time.  Our nephew (who is only 9 months older than Benjamin) spent the night in his room which made him so happy. /He has not gotten used to sleeping alone yet.   Sunday morning Keith's sister and her family joined us at church. We watched the Music/Arts/Drama performance that the kids put on twice a year. The kids used to be involved when Luke was here. It was excrutiating to watch and I had to leave. After I got myself back under control, I was able to watch the rest. It was great and the kids did a wonderful job.  Some memories are just too painful at times.
Last night at work three of my families were really grieving and needed a lot of TLC.  To be honest, I am a little weary of dealing with grieving people- I get a little sick of myself sometimes.  Thankfully I have tonight off.
Samuel has decided to try the track team and school and I hope that is something that he will enjoy.  He looked great doing the warm ups and I am really proud of his effort.  He has been rather uncommunicative lately and really in his own world.  I would love to live in his world for a day and truly see how he looks at the world and those of us in it;
We have recently spent way too much money on our "free" shelter cat, Winston Churchill. We have had him for a year and just had him declawed, and he needed most of his teeth removed.  He was shedding so badly that while he was under, we had him shaved.  A clawless, toothless, and hairless cat.. He is a sight to see! HE has been a "lemon" since the beginning, but we love him anyway...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Best of Me

We got to a place called "Brooke's Place" twice a month for grief counseling for the kids.  There is a parent support group that meets during the kids session which Keith and I attend.  We have only been three times but the kids have enjoyed it.  I was so encouraged today with Samuel.  He has been so quiet in his expression of grief for Luke and I have been worried that he has not been able deal with it.  The staff at Brooke's place helped him make a memory box which he really got into. Tonight he wanted to fill it, so we went through Luke's things and he chose many special things to fill the box and called it his "precious memories".    He chose 5 pictures to paste on it of Luke.  He placed it on his bedside table so he could see it in the morning when he wakes up.  Then Benjamin took one of Luke's wooden boxes and put a few special things in it himself.   My heart aches for those little boys and what they have lost.  I thought that Sarah would be harder for me- that they never met.  But in truth I have had much more trouble adjusting to the boys.  They were an incredible set of three. Luke brought out the best in both of them and was a champion for his brothers. I thought that I was meeting their specific needs and looking at them as individuals. I was rather enjoying them as a unit, my "pack of puppies".  The easy and comfortable relationship they shared with each other was beautiful and seamless.  I am so proud of Samuel and Benjamin for doing the best that they can to establish a new relationship with each other- it just hurts my Mommy heart.

Last February when Luke was so sick, Keith and I talked only one time about the logistics of Luke dying.  We chose a funeral home, decided what to do with his body, and decided that we would do everything that we could to continue to have joy in our home. We then decided not to have that conversation again until we needed it.  I felt peace knowing that those decisions were made and that we would not have to make them again.  I decided then that I would not bury the best of me with Luke.  I gave it to him when he was alive and I owe it to Samuel, Benjamin, and Sarah to continue to be the Mom I need to be to them.  Those babies are the joy of my life and I do want them to continue to lose. They have suffered enough.  That being said, the hole in our family and in my heart feels so big. There is not a moment that I do not feel Luke's loss. I read in a book an interesting analogy that really feels true-  when a leg is amputated, the wound will eventually heal.  You may even walk again- but you are always missing a part of you and your gait is never the same.  I pray that the rawness of my grief will heal into something more manageable, but the Erin I was died with Luke.  I am a work in progress of the women I am to become. I am trying to take the best of what I was and learn to be the best I can be. Facing the day to come takes so much energy and making the choice every day to move forward is hard.  The kids keep me going.  Sarah is so healing for me.  She is nothing but love for me- her hugs and toothless grins soothes my aching soul.  She felt everything I felt when I carried her and has kept me going after her birth. Making sure Samuel and Benjamin feel loved and cared for motivates me to keep going.  I am trying.

We marked a year a few days ago of the day that we brought Luke home from his lung transplant evaluation. We had no idea that we would lose him in 5 1/2 months.  We felt such joy that day- seeing all tree boys tucked in their beds. We were so thankful that he was alive and so proud of how strong and brave he was.  We knew then that we had seen a miracle. We had time to enjoy him, spend one more summer, and in retrospect, say goodbye. This was God's continuing gift to Keith and I.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Not a big fan of Valentine's day

When Luke was 3 weeks old, in the winter of 2003, he went in to respiratory failure from RSV on February 13.  He spent a week on the vent and gave us a really good scare.  That was when we thought that was going to be the most traumatic experince that we would have with him.  I had some post partum complications that day and spent Valentines Day in the ER with Keith going back and forth between Luke and I. The next year involved several bouts of pneumonia- one being in February, prior to his lobesctomy that spring. A few years later we were in the hospital again the month with the bleeding episodes. This was the month that we took him from the hospital without a diagnosis or any treatment options and started the process of reconciling that.  Skip ahead 2 years... Luke was again placed on the vent February 10th of last year during that third episode of massive bleeding. So sad that we might have been marking 9 years without Luke or a year after losing him. We are so thankful that we were given as long as we were with him, but pretty unimpressed with Valentine's day all the same.
We have had some wonderful things done for Luke recently that have really picked us up from a really bad stretch- many milestones that we have passed without Luke.  The Szempruch family from our church had a star named after Luke- which especially Samuel (who loves space) thought was really cool. We were so touched and honored to have Luke remembered that way.  Brooksschool elementary is going to have a scholarship named after Luke to be given to a senior that had attended Brooksschool. We will never get to send Luke to college, but it means so much to us to be able to keep Luke's memory alive in the kids that do get to go on.  We have been surrounded by such love and thoughtfulness and for that we are truly grateful. My sister in law, Elizabeth, worked very hard to compile a book full of memories, stories, and pictures of Luke.  It is breath taking and I think that I have read it a thousand times already.  Four of my dear friends from college came down this weekend and it was a wonderful distraction. Three of my sorority sisters came earlier this fall. Reconnecting with old friends has been wonderful for me in many ways- but having something to look forward to is a good way to distract myself. I had to change our status on our Children's Museum membership because I could not handle them asking if we had "all three kids with you today".  The kind lady a the info desk changed my card for me and was so kind and gentle about it. Her family had a recent loss and she understood how hard things like that are to do.  We got notification this week that a memorial contribution to Make A WIsh was donated from Luke's "friends at the Children's Museum".  We were so touched and amazed that they would do that in his memory. We spend a lot of time there together and have many wonderful memories. Such beauty and compassion continues to pour into such a big wound for us.
Keith and I realized that we have all had birthdays since Luke died. None of us are the same age that we were when we had him.  The year has changed. I would like to say that things are getting easier, but it is not. We will be marking 6 months on the 29th and I hope each day the weight of his loss will start to ease. I almost wish that I was angry or questioning of God about this. Then I could work through those feelings and make peace with them.  I just miss Luke. There is no healing or working through that emotion. It just is. I am thankful though for my Valentine, a husband that continues to walk this road with me- through the pot holes and all.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pokagon State Park!

Today we spent a wonderful morning toboganing in Angola, Indiana at Pokagon State Park. My cousin Emily came home from Texas, Uncle David and Aunt Victoria hosted us all. Tyler and Elizabeth brought the kids and we just had a blast. We celebrated Gramma's 83rd birthday (coming up on 2/13), Elizabeth's (2/27), and Benjamin (2/9) with cake and ice cream. Colin and Benjamin (with Keith's help) have made an obstacle course outside. They have been cracking us up!  Family time is so healing for us right now- being around such love helps make our days more tolerable.
Mommy and Sarah Jane at Pokagon State Park

Sarah Jane in her cupcake hat- with a cherry on top!  She was too little to sled, but watched her brothers and cousins go down.
All five of us after sledding- missing Luke today- he would have LOVED the run!
Emily and the Girls

Mom and Lindsay took care of Sarah Jane while we went sledding.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Benjamin and Sarah

 Had an incident where I tried to upload picture from an SD card that was not in my camera... so... not able to put on our recent weeks. I will though share a bit about Benjamin- who we are so proud of. Benjamin has been the sweetest big brother! He is so loving towards her. He makes her laugh- belly laughs.  It makes me feel so good that he likes her so much. 
Her little outfit has a cupcake with a cherry on top.  It amazes me that cherries are so popular right now on girl clothes.  At Sarah's 20 week ultrasound, all five of us went.  When the technician announced that she was a girl, Luke said that "she is the cherry on top of our sundae of awesomness".  I am a total sucker for anything with a cherry on it.  I love that connection between the two of them. I was amazed the other day when I found an outfit that I had bought for Samuel (before he was born- we were surprised for the first two boys). I have had that outfit for 11 years. The beauty of it is that it is covered with cherries. A promise of something to come... We have so little that connect Luke and Sarah in this world and we cherish what we have.  I have one picture of all three boys and I when I was pregnant and I think that it is one of the only ones I have of all four children together. I have that picture framed in our room. Benjamin found it the other day and moved it into his room. I did a collage of pictures of Sarah and Luke that she has in her room, and I think that I will put one like that for each Benjamin and Samuel. Maybe I should do one for Keith also.  I have started doing a memory book with Benjamin. I have one for all four of us that we will eventually do.  Elizabeth (my sister in law) put together a book with pictures and stories that is simply amazing. I miss that little boy with every bit of my soul and  I cannot get enough of anything that even sniffs of him.
When I am able to download the pictures and feel like I can, I will share about last week- Luke's birthday, luau, our 5th month without him,and Great Wolf. Difficult week- very emotional, but precious.  The boys started counseling this week. It is group counseling with other children who have experienced a loss and adult facilitators that are trained to work with grieving children. They have a parent group that runs at the same time that I went to. The boys were very happy when I picked them up and Benjamin said that he talked. Keith and I have chosen not to ask them what they talked about, but were so pleased that he seemed to be comfortable being there. Samuel also was happy.  Samuel right now is cracking us up.  He is so funny. He is growing up.....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Elizabeth saves the day!

Elizabeth saves the day again and again! I am so bad with my computer and can do so little.  She is so patient to teach me and help me get things set up. She showed me for the third time how to put pictures on my blog.  I will catch up our last few weeks. Here is Sarah and I in her Moby wrap. That sweet little girl fills my world with such happiness.  She is smiling, playing with toys, and really getting into the world around her.  She is growing beautifully- so tall.

This is Sarah smiling at very pretty baby... I love watching her discover.

I finally bought stockings for Keith and I this year. Always a hard one... are we a family of 6 or a family of 5?  I guess it is possible to be a little of both.  I find myself thinking of my life in terms of WL (with Luke) and AL (After Luke).  Pictures like these where they overlap are confusing right now.

Keith and Benjamin got to enjoy a lot of chess over Christmas break.  We were slugs and did not go out much.  We all needed some downtime.

Samuel received a "very accurate" watch which he was SO excited about.  He is really growing up.

Sarah Elizabeth and Sarah Jane.  Keith's cousin is a precious woman. I am hoping that our Sarah grows up to have many of her attributes.

Sarah Jane is totally infatuated with her big cousins- Here is Kate and Allison. Abby is not pictured here, but she is the oldest girl on Keith's side. All three of the little girls think she is the best!
Samuel, Benjamin, and Sarah Christmas morning.  We found joy that morning- we remembered Christmases past.  We shared stories about Luke.  Sarah Jane slept through the present opening, but her brothers opened her gifts for her.  We kept it happy. After all, it was Sarah's first Christmas. Christmas Eve was harder.
I am back at work and doing well. Much better transistion than the one in November.  We are anticipating Luke's birthday this month.  Luke will be forever eight.  He is frozen in time for us.  It will be so odd someday when we say, "He would have been 42" or something like that.  He will always be just a little boy to us.
Samuel and Benjamin made a good transisiton back to school.  We are so proud of them. We have been on a wait list for the counseling place but have been notified that we will be able to start in February. Hope that will be good for us all. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcoming 2012

Sarah Jane's first Christmas was about as good as it could have been.  We played our traditional song, "Baby's First Christmas" by Connie Francis that we played for all the boys.  She slept through the present opening, but we fussed over her when she woke up. My parents came over for our traditional brunch.  Christmas eve we spent with Tyler and Elizabeth and their kids at Chick fil a and then service at their church. We then came back to Castleton for the 9:00 service.  Keith and I were pretty emotional Christmas Eve, but we got through Christmas pretty well. Every day has hard moments and we miss Luke in so many ways. Christmas did not seem much different than any other day right now.  I miss him when I grocery shop, do laundry, put the kids in the car, make dinner.......  Christmas was just another thing to do without Luke.  Keith and I do feel strongly that the holidays need to remain happy for the sake of our other kids.  I never want them to feel that they are not worth joy and excitement.  We are starting some new traditions to remember Luke. We have a palm tree Christmas tree up and have started putting special ornaments up for Luke that represent his life.  I got the kids a book from Luke that is not about loss especially, but fits beautifully our situation.  Making a Snowman by Allison McGhee.  I think that we will read it every year. We were flooded by memories of the 8 Christmas seasons we had with Luke.  He had pneumonia for two different years, was in the hospital for yet another one, last year we surprised them with the house.... he could unwrap a present faster than the speed of light!  I almost bought him a few things this year, but decided not to. We have made a donation to both the Ronald McDonald house in St. Louis and the one inside Riley in his memory.
I am back at work (again) and am doing much better than when I came back in November.  I am still struggling with some nightmares and some nausea.  I feel anxious a lot but I know all of these things are just part of grieving. It often feels like someone is sitting on my chest.  It has been wonderful to have the boys home from school this past week. We have been staying at home a lot which the kids have really enjoyed. I think they were really ready for a break.  I know how much energy it takes for me to be a part of the world right now- they have to feel that way too sometimes.
We rang in the new year with dear friends and some tears.  Happy to be moving past 2011 but so sad to enter a year that Luke will never see.  We asked the boys what they enjoyed about 2011 and they gave us a long list of good things:  New house, moving to their new school, new friends, Ocean City, meeting one of the Colts, our trip to Kansas, Disney World, and of course Sarah Jane.  This was not even the whole list.  Benjamin then said, " But Luke died."  So proud of them and thankful that they can still see the blessings and happy times that we have had.  A good lesson to all to continue to find happiness despite sadness. Sweet litle boys...
Sarah is starting to play with toys and continues to be a smiley and sweet baby. She is starting to give us some giggles. She is growing so fast and so tall!  She is stretching out of clothes left and right!  Benjamin is so gentle with her and loves to hold her.  He was so happy and proud the other day when he made her laugh for the first time (that he had seen).  She likes to sit with Samuel while he watches TV. I have not taken many pictures of the three kids together.  I have not been avoiding that on purpose, but I did not realize that I had not done that until recently.  I need to be better about that.  It is just that I have 4 kids, not 3.  The "Luke sized hole" is seeming huge right now. Just another thing to work through.
Happy New Year to all!  Erin