August 31, 2011

Cale's Advocate

 I have a wonderful friend (hi Deb!) who, when I was pregnant with Cale, was due a little over 7 weeks after me with her first baby - beautiful Bryars. We were excited to have babies so close and had plans to raise them together. We joked about them dating and looked forward to being parents at the same time, of kids the same age, in the same grade, etc.

Bryars and Cale - May 2010

But then that was no longer the plan.

Yesterday was Bryars' first birthday. A few weeks before that, also the day I came home to this, I received an invite in the mail to Bryars' birthday party. Granted I was already on edge because of the mess Roscoe created, but the invite made me cry as it reminded me of something I never got to do with Cale. And then I cried some more because of the guilt I felt for letting my grief overshadow the happiness of the occasion.

But the other day as I talked to Deb on the phone and apologized for not sending Bryar's birthday gift in a timely manner (ie - my lazy ars still needs to scoot on over to the post office) Deb was the one who started crying. She told me how Bryars' milestones are bittersweet for her because Cale should be hitting them just a couple months before her, that we should be going through this together. She told me how baby Cale is often talked about in their house and always thought of and his picture is in their nursery, looked at every day.

These are the things - the thoughts, the words, the kindness, that literally mean everything to me. To be reminded that Cale is never forgotten - it's what I crave as his mother.

Maybe I am redundant. Maybe I convey that sentiment too much. But at the same time, as his mother I feel I can't stress that enough. I once talked about this with my sister. And she said something that really stuck with me. She said it'll always be my job to acknowledge him and to talk about him because I'm not just his mother - I'm his advocate.

At work I have recently been dealing with the parent of one of my Soldiers. (Just a little background - all of the Soldiers in my unit are being discharged from the Army - most of whom should be). But every once in a while we get guys who genuinely want to be in the Army, but just don't meet entrance standards for one reason or another, usually for a medical reason. The father I've been in touch with clearly just wants what is best for his son. He wants him home and wants to know what can be done to make this happen as soon as possible.  He wants to know that his son is ok, and wants to take care of him. I don't blame him and I don't get annoyed by his constant phone calls. Because he's doing what a good parent should - he's caring and he's trying everything he can to be his son's advocate from afar.

I'm trying to do the same.
And I will for the rest of my life.

August 29, 2011

Welcome Baby Norah!

This past weekend was spent in sunny, hurricane-free Florida. It was a fun weekend that I will blog about later in the week, but I wanted to share some really happy news first.

Yesterday, my good friend Rhiannon gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! Norah Grace Johnson was born at 3:19pm on August 28th weighing in at 6 pounds, 12 ounces. Her big sister Harper is in Heaven with our little Cale. Norah came a bit early as Rhiannon was scheduled to deliver her on the 12th, but what a wonderful surprise she was! I'm just so happy and relieved that she is here - alive, healthy, and absolutely perfect!

  Finn's Girlfriend Miss Norah Grace

With any pregnancy, there is obviously a lot of anticipation and eager excitement. But I am even more anxious for all of my friends who have already been through hell and back and are expecting a baby. I don't even want to think of who I would have become if something had happened to Finley. And I'm so glad I can breathe a sigh of relief now that Norah is here. In fact, she is the third of my friends to deliver a "Rainbow Baby" within just the last two weeks. Next up . . .Maddux Hope! Maddux is the second son of our good friends Greg and Lauren. Their first son John was stillborn three months after Cale. Maddux's daddy is scheduled to return to Iraq soon, so lots of prayers for the safe (and hopefully soon) arrival of Mr. Maddux would be much appreciated. I'm certainly looking forward to sharing his happy news soon!

August 21, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action

This post is for Aunt Kate who has been anxiously awaiting some video of Finley. Since I've yet to post any, here are many. Probably too many for one post, but egh, whatever - you don't have to watch them (but if you don't there's something wrong with you, because quite frankly, he's adorable) I've put them in age order  . . . enjoy!

3 1/2 Weeks Old - 7/6/2011
In a milk coma wanting to fall asleep, but has the hiccups

 5 1/2 Weeks Old - 7/22/2011
Finn sporting his fin onesie (courtesy of Aunt Kate)

8 Weeks - 8/8/2011
Cute baby sneeze.
(The sound is a little muffled on this video and it's a little harder to hear than the others)

9 Weeks Old - 8/15/2011
Almost every time we put Finley in his swing, he stares out of it as if he's looking up at the mantle in the direction of a sketch of Cale. I realize that he really can't see too far now anyway, and what he does see is blurry, and chances are he's just looking in that direction not necessarily at the sketch itself, but we still think it's neat that it's always the same direction he looks while in the swing - never anywhere else.

10 Weeks Old - 8/21/2011
This video was taken this morning.  Finley is usually really mellow and alert in the morning - Roscoe is all mangy-like trying to scratch himself and is not nearly as cute.

I've also been trying to upload another cute video from today where Finley was cooing a lot, but the file is too big to upload or I'm too impatient to figure out how to do it. Plus I think five videos is obnoxious enough for one sitting, so I'll leave you with these cute pictures of our little Packer fan, excited that the preseason is here.

August 17, 2011

Reasons to Celebrate

I went to a baby shower today. I was very torn about it. For one, I don't even know the Mom. She works in the same organization but until today I had literally never even seen her before. And for two, babies showers will never be the same for me. I feel like I should always be pointing out that you are just "expecting" a baby, but you aren't guaranteed one. I hate that I feel that way, but mostly I hate why I feel that way. I don't want to be a downer. I'm so thankful that I had a beautiful and full pregnancy with Cale (as it was with Finley only 1000x more nerve wracking). I feel like that's how pregnancy should be - happy, blissful, enjoyable. An expectant mom certainly deserves that. But then, the bitter and hurt part of me feels like expectant moms should also be aware of the cruel world we live in. They shouldn't be so naive and they better appreciate every single second of their pregnancies.

A friend I work with was sudo-hosting the shower and was worried that no one would be there. It was a pot-luck shower so I said I'd make a dessert regardless of if I came or not and brought a gift from my company. The sudo-host had sent out an e-mail to a lot of people at work, hoping to round up some support and attendees. And in her e-mail she said, "Celebration is always in order when a child is being brought into the world." And you know what . . .she's right. So I decided to go. This may be sad/horrible/true/whatever of me to say - but we don't know how that baby will be brought into the world. He many be born alive. He may not. (yes, she's having a boy and yes it's her first - so kudos to me for going right?!) She's about three weeks away from her due date, so anything tragic certainly can happen. Of course I hope not. I hope that she has a healthy delivery. I hope her baby gets to live. I hope that she can continue on with life blissfully happy, not jaded or bitter. And the sad reality is that if she does get all this, I will be happy that her little guy made it, but I will be sad that Cale didn't. I will feel sorry for myself and wonder why my first had to die. And that's just part of the reality for baby loss moms, or families for that matter. Our grief for our children and our sadness over what has happened sometimes clouds our happiness for others. It sucks, but it's reality.

The shower itself wasn't too bad. I cringed at one point when she laughed about how she was unable to give up her Monsters (the giant energy drink) and had at least one a day. {again, bitter and hurt (and responsible) Caroline thought "tisk, tisk you shouldn't have that much caffeine while pregnant"}, but overall I didn't feel like too much of a Debbie-Downer. She's having a baby and that is a wonderfully exciting thing. Babies are great. So I'm glad I went, if nothing else to help me focus on things like what my friend pointed out . . . that a celebration is in order - a life has already been created and that life deserves to be celebrated an acknowledged. I'm sure glad that was the case for both Finn and Cale during my pregnancies with them.

So today I celebrated the upcoming arrival of a little boy. If you had to pick just one reason to celebrate today, what would it be?

August 14, 2011


For about the last week a few things happened that kind of got me thinking about decency. Well, really the lack of decency that unfortunately seems prevalent at times. But then as the week progressed it seemed like there were several reminders that decent people really are all around and things like manners, kindness, and just overall decency aren't lost on society.

I guess it started early last week when I was still on my maternity leave. I was out running a few errands one day and was leaving a store and was pushing the stroller. A woman was standing by the double doors (on the inside of the store I was leaving) and appeared to be looking for her ride. She saw me approach and then just went back to looking out the door. She didn't move over any, she didn't open the other door, she just stood there and watched as I struggled a little to prop the door open enough to push the stroller through and follow behind. Not a big deal, I realize, but how hard would it have been to either move over a little or open the door for me?

I think the next day my friend Rhiannon sent me a text about how she was at Target and overheard a conversation someone was having on their cell phone in which they told their friend to hold on while she flushed (and explained to the person on the other end why she was flushing - leaving nothing to the imagination). Rhiannon's text reminded me of my BIGGEST pet peeve ever - people talking on their cell phone while in the bathroom. It's gross. It's rude. And it is even worse when done in a public restroom, Come on people!

The other thing that stands out was when I looked over at a stop light to see the girl next to me lift of her hand to flick her cigarette out the tiny crack in her window. I look a little further back to see her two kids in the back of her car. Sweet. Things like that infuriate me. People like that infuriate me. Quite frankly, I don't think they deserve to be parents. They deserve to be punched.

But like I said, as the week continued things didn't seem as doom and gloom for society. I guess I just ran into people who restored my faith in mankind. Take for example this blog I read from my friend Jessica. Sure it's somewhat depressing, but people like her remind me of all the good that exists - that people want to help, want to make society better, and actually do! There's certainly something to be said for practicing what you preach and Jessica always seems to do just this.

I returned to work on Thursday which of course sucked, there's no other way to put it, but as my friend Bridget pointed out, returning means that the countdown can begin. And she was just one of many people who sent me lots of messages of support and love and it really meant a lot. (Thanks friends!) Of course I cried during and after dropping Finley off but it made spending time with him at the end of the day that much sweeter. Plus my day was instantly better when I got these beautiful flowers delivered at work:

My advice to young girls everywhere . . .marry a thoughtful man.

And in the mail on Saturday we received a couple of great books from the mother of one of my friends from college. Along with them was a note that had me in tears. Granted it doesn't take much, but in it she just wrote the most beautiful words - telling me how her family thinks of Cale often and how happy they are for the joy we have in our lives because of Finley. It just never gets old to hear that Cale is thought of and that he's not forgotten. 

So, thanks to Jessica, and all the encouraging calls and texts I got on Thursday, and Miles, and wonderful mothers, and of course sweet moments with sweet babies, I finished out the week on a positive note - hopefully it'll carry through into next week.

August 8, 2011


Last year when I went back to work after my maternity leave was up, the hardest thing about my first day back was that I didn't get to drop my son off at daycare.

This year, the hardest thing will be that I have to do just that.

My first day back to work is Thursday. Yes, kinda a weird day to go back to work, but at least I don't have to face a Monday and a full week right away. This way I ease back into it all. I knew I'd need to do the same with daycare, so today I dropped Finley off for a few hours. I brought all the stuff he'll need in his little cubby - diapers, wipes, extra clothes, etc. and figured out how it works with the codes for the building and checking him in and out of the computer. This way when I go back on Thursday, I will at least know what I'm doing and won't have to worry about any of the logistics and will be able to solely focus on not having an emotional breakdown. At least not until I get to my car.

But even today I struggled. I really like the daycare we are bringing him to - it's off post and the providers are incredibly sweet and had things (his crib, bouncer seat, cubby, etc) all ready and labeled for him. When I walked into the room they said "oh, hi Finn! We've been waiting for you!" So I really do feel that he's in good, loving hands, but it's just so hard to say goodbye - even for just a few hours. I knew I'd be back to get him soon and that I didn't even have to go to work today, yet as soon as I got into my car, I couldn't help but shed a few tears.

While I was away from him, I went for a bike ride. I wanted to do something that I couldn't do with him, because I think I would have felt guilty for dropping him off in the first place if I did something he could have been with me for, so figured I would use my test run at daycare to get in a little exercise and get back on my bike.

Last summer, after we lost Cale, we bought nice road bikes and road them fairly often. And then I got pregnant and stopped riding and hadn't again until today. I rode down a nice bike path Columbus has along the Chattahoochee River. On our first bike ride last year we went along the same route. It was maybe a few weeks after Cale was born and quite the emotional bike ride as not only did I fall over when I couldn't unclip my foot from the pedal, but when we decided to turn around and head back, we saw this statue at our turn around point:
"In Loving Memory of Our Lost Children"

I mean really. . . only a few weeks post loss and you run into something like that on a bike ride?! That's just asking for a breakdown! Fortunately, today's bike ride was not nearly as emotional. Sure, I was sad about living Finley at daycare and having to do so every day for the next seven months until I stop working, but I'm thankful I have to do that because Finley is here healthy and alive. And I love passing by this statue (sculpture? Monument? What would you call it?) on bike rides it's an opportunity to think about Cale and all the other lost children out there.

So after my bike ride I went to Target to grab a few things and treated myself to a decaf mocha frappachino from Starbucks - something I craved often during my pregnancy with Finley. And then I went back to pick Finley up, not even three hours after dropping him off. The two providers in his room were really sweet and told me he did really well and that it was as if he's been there before as he just seemed very content. . . If only his momma could be as content!

I told the ladies at daycare that Finn wouldn't be back until Thursday as I plan on soaking up all my time with him these next two days!

Headed home from my first stint at daycare!

August 3, 2011


I love my dog. I really do. And I brag about him a lot (in case you haven't been able to tell by all the ridiculous pictures I post). But there are days, like today, where I want to kill him.

Let's take a walk down memory lane for a second. I adopted Roscoe from a shelter in the summer of 2009 when Miles was deployed.  I was living in South Carolina and we knew we were going to get a dog soon and wanted a boxer. Most weekends I would drive down from SC to our newly purchased home in GA to check on the house, water the plants, and visit the shelter looking for a dog. One weekend I was about to leave when an employee recognized me and asked if there as any particular dog I was looking for. I told her we liked Boxers and she had me fill out an application and said she would annotate that we wanted a Boxer and contact me when they had one. At the same time, the vet walked by and said that they actually did have a Boxer who would be released from quarantine later that day (they fix all the animals, give them their shots, and microchip them before putting them out for adoption). He asked if I wanted to see him, brought Roscoe out, and it was love at first sight. I went home with him that day.

For the first couple of weeks, I was convinced I had just adopted the greatest dog ever. He was so well behaved, house broken, and just very lovable. I would leave for class and come home to a clean apartment and a happy dog. Life was good.

Then Roscoe started to get a little comfortable. And a little bored. And a lot destructive.

I came home to this one day:

Yes, that is dog poop. And tampons, and oreos, lollipops, socks, goldfish, flip flops, you name it . .. Roscoe got into it. Just a side note - I had and still have a lot of friends deployed and {most} of the junk food was meant for care packages which I assumed I had put away and hidden well enough. I was wrong.

Another day, I came home to this:

Flour and sugar this time. Roscoe wanted to bake Miles a cake I suppose. How thoughtful. And he was polite enough to not open the ingredients in the kitchen, but rather drag them across the tile floor to the carpet. Thanks dog. But little by little Roscoe started to behave better. He also became friends with his crate and I got better at dog-proofing the house.

After moving to GA, we kept Roscoe in his crate for over a year until this past January when we assumed he had grown up a little and was less destructive. And for the most part, he really has been good. Most of his incidents have been as a result of our (mostly my) failure to dog-proof the house adequately. Take yesterday for example. I came home after running some errands. I had purchased some chocolate flavored candy to use in a chocolate fountain for a baby shower I'm hosting on Saturday. Like an idiot, I forgot about it when I left to go grocery shopping. I had purchased two, two-pound bags. Only one was remaining when I came home. Fortunately it was not real chocolate, but rather artificial chocolate, but still lots of sugary crap a dog should not eat, much less two pounds worth. And sure enough within an hour of being home, Roscoe began to vomit. And vomit. And vomit. Last night Finley slept for almost FIVE hours straight. This is the longest stretch he's had. I would have LOVED to enjoy it (ie - gotten to sleep during that time), but I was up at 1:30 cleaning up dog vomit. Sweet. Fortunately by 4:00am it seemed to be out of his system.

But as annoyed and sleep deprived as I was throughout the night, I knew that it was my fault for leaving the candy out in the first place. A dog is still a dog. I was just thankful it wasn't more serious. And today, after going back to loving my dog who I was thankful I didn't kill by accidentally poisoning him, I came home to a mess making me wish the artificial chocolate had killed him for me.

I ran out for a few errands - was only gone for maybe three hours. As soon as I walked inside, Roscoe ran into the garage looking guilty and scared. I walked into the family room and saw this:

Confused, I thought "what did he get into this time?" Then I realized it was some bread I bought yesterday. An entire baguette to be specific. But I thought, "huh, how did he get to the bread, we keep that behind the wine" . . .and that's when I walked into the kitchen to find this:

Oh. My. Word.

Yes, I dragged him over to the scene of the crime and smacked him. Yes, I yelled, and yes I even cried a little. Mostly because he managed to not break the bottles of white wine, but rather the red wine that got all over my somewhat new kitchen rug.

My dear friend Rhiannon came over with some cleaner and was sweet enough to hold Finley, who had started to get fussy, so that I could clean up Roscoe's mess. I'm not sure which one, or if it was a combination of the three, but after applying these miracle liquids and hosing down the rug, I was able to get the stain out:

And thankfully this little guy helped keep me sane and much more calm than I would have been:

At the end of the day I still really love my dog. Yes he can be a pain and be obnoxious and even expensive, but he's given us so much laughter and love and even comfort over the years. He has been great company during Miles' deployments and he was so wonderful to have after we lost Cale. It's as if he knew our hearts were broken. After Miles called to tell me Daren had been killed, Roscoe came and sat by me and wouldn't leave my side. So be it vomit or diarrhea, broken glasses or stained carpets, having a dog, Roscoe in particular, is so worth it for moments like this:


Halloween 2009

Telling Miles I was pregnant with Cale. I'm happy Roscoe was a part of that special memory

And since I'm going crazy with the pictures and videos here's a few more.
 Tormenting the dog