June 28, 2012

Cale's 2nd Birthday

When I was in Denver last year visiting my sister we went to a nearby park that was filled with beautiful gardens. We walked through all of them enjoying how pretty they were, stopped in many to take pictures or sit and talk, and just lazily enjoyed the beautiful day. We came across one rose garden and in it was a large plaque. Since Cale's passing (and even more reinforced after Daren) I have stopped to read plaques, headstones, and memorial markers and signs much more than I used to. The tender words engraved on such things mean a lot to someone or did at some point and I like to, at the very least, just pay my respects and maybe learn a little about a person or a place in the process. This particular plaque in the rose garden was dedicated in memory of a young girl named Judy who I think was 17, maybe even younger, when she died and we learned that she loved roses and tending to them in her own garden. Kate read the plaque and so very sweetly said, "we love your garden Judy." And then we moved on to another pretty area of the park.

I have come to realize that this is exactly what I want for my son. That maybe someday years from now a total stranger can pass by something and stop for a moment to enjoy its beauty before moving on, and it will have been because of Cale. I think this has happened already. I sometimes get sweet pictures from friends who see something and think of Cale, or who write his name in the sand, or do a good deed in honor of him. And for a little boy who never got to walk this earth, I think there's nothing more I could ask for.

The garden we created in Georgia may only be enjoyed by a handful of people over the years, but it's a small pocket of beauty that has been left there in loving memory much like the rose garden in Denver. What I loved most about that garden was that it is one of the places I had my maternity pictures taken.

The tree I was leaning up against in that picture has since died. Part of me wonders if it died around the same time Cale did. A month or so before we moved we had it cut down. We had our neighbor come over with a buddy and take to the tree with a log splitter and make firewood that they hauled off for us. I wanted to keep one stump from the tree through - something I could maybe bring to Texas and put in the new garden. A little silly maybe, but I thought it would be nice to have part of that tree with us. But a few days before we moved, our wonderful neighbors gave us this beautiful stool:

Miles told our neighbor Brian to not cut one of the stumps and told him why I wanted to bring it with me. So Brian kept another part of the tree and worked on this little stool for us. They gave it to us, along with a sweet hand painted mold by their kids, as gifts for Cale's birthday and told us they figured Finley could use the stool one day and it would be a nice way to always have part of the tree with us, without having to lug a big ole tree stump around. They carved the boys' names in the legs of the stool (you can see Cale's name in the picture) and signed the bottom. It's just perfect.

I'll miss that garden back in Georgia, but just yesterday we started on the little area we plan to make his garden here in Texas. His second special place for me to go and think of him, miss him, and be reminded of how much beauty exists in this world because of him. Something I'm reminded of every time I look at his brother.

My son should be turning two today. It's hard to believe and I know would be equally so if he had lived. Two years that should have been so very different and have been void of a little boy who I desperately miss every single day. This last year of grieving for and missing Cale has really been no better or worse than the year before. Because as I was told early on, and believe firmly, it never gets better - it just gets easier. And in many ways it has. Even the build up to today and these last few weeks and days hasn't been as tough as last year. Granted we've been busy moving across country and getting settled at a new house, but I still haven't been as emotional as I was last year. As I mentioned recently, I've just come to a more comfortable (and more controllable) point in my grief. Cale has become a part of my every day and my reality in a way that I never wanted, but I am at least thankful he's there, even just in spirit. I'm thankful for little pockets of beauty that I stop and appreciate because of him.

Happy 2nd Birthday, my beautiful son.

"I'll love you forever, 
I'll like you for always. 
As long as I'm living, 
My baby you'll be."

June 19, 2012

This "Old" House

We are in full swing of packing and moving. Roscoe doesn't know who to bark at anymore and Finley doesn't know what to play with as most of the stuff he likes to get into has all been packed up.

Over the weekend we took down everything off the walls to spackle and paint and started packing up things and sorting all the items we will be moving ourselves (the china, important paperwork, special pictures, all Cale related items, etc) and I was just reminiscing about all the memories we've had in this house. So, venture with me down memory lane for a bit. . .

We bought our home in May 2009, but didn't move in until September of that year. Miles deployed at the end of May and I was in South Carolina attending a course. While there, I would drive down to our new home over the weekends to mow the lawn and slowly unpack. My mom came out for a bit to spend time with me in SC, but also help me over the weekend down in GA. My mom is an avid gardener and I have inherited her love for planting and working in the yard, but certainly not her knowledge or talent. She helped plant our first plants and put the touches on making our house a home.

Packing up the dining room reminded me of Thanksgiving 2009 when both sides of our family came out. All of the men in the family went to Shooters, a local gun store and shooting range. I mean, the holidays are all about bringing family together so you can better prepare for the zombie apocalypse anyway, right??

In the spring of 2010 when I was pregnant with Cale my sister Kate flew out for a weekend to help me set up the nursery. Miles was deployed at the time (yet again) and we had a wonderful weekend together. One of our projects in the nursery was to hang up the cross stitch that my grandmother (who passed away in 1994) made for me when I was a baby. It had been hanging in my house back home as long as I can remember, but when I was pregnant, my mom and dad carefully took it down and mailed it so that it could now hang in the new baby's room. It was quite the endeavor to figure out how to gently hang it without damaging the delicate fabric on the back, and to get it perfectly balanced and straight on the wall.

 Clearly this was the best picture to go with. 
Wouldn't you agree Kate?
I have so many memories of preparing that nursery - the first time as I did it in innocent anticipation of my first baby, and the next time with great trepidation, but also a glimmer of hope which prompted me to prepare for my second son, just as I had my first. When we found out Finley was a boy of course we were ecstatic for many reasons, but one small, trivial reason was that I wouldn't have to take down this decal above the crib - another agonizing project to ensure the lines and spacing were just right.

The nursery is probably the room I will miss the most. But, there is a lot more about the house I will miss based on all the memories associated with it. I will miss our garden in the back yard that we made for Cale:

Picture from Cale's First Birthday in Heaven Celebration in June of 2011

I will miss the times that Daren came over for dinner or just to hang out. . . or to get his head shaved in preparation for Ranger School.

I'll miss our neighborhood and the nice mail man who lets Roscoe climb up on the steps of his truck to get pet. I'll miss our convenient and super friendly grocery store, and the nearby park and nice bike paths. I'll miss so much about this house, and this life that we've known for the last three years. But at the end of the day, it is just a house. And I'm taking with me all the wonderful memories created in it. Like this one . . . my all time favorite.

Here's to happy memories yet to come. . .

June 13, 2012

Our Little Finn

"Rainbow Babies" is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.

This is the common definition I see for "rainbow babies" and thought it was worth sharing again. The safe arrival of Finley and the YEAR we have had with him has not diminished our grief for Cale. It hasn't made us miss him less and it hasn't changed how hard it was to lose Miles' brother Daren. Because those were terrible, tragic things and they have forever changed us. But Finley has forever changed us as well. And he, on his own without strings attached, has been such a true and amazing blessing. Just as the definition above says, he provided hope. Even the idea of him gave us hope. But having him here, getting to snuggle and play with and laugh with this sweet, crazy, silly little boy has been so immensely incredible. Challenging at times, but rewarding every single day. And here we are a full year later. We have a one year old. It sounds so weird. But oh my, has this last year been so very wonderful.

This past weekend we had Finley's birthday party. Seeing that we are so thankful that we get to celebrate this big milestone, it's safe to say I went a little nuts. I wanted a fish theme (only makes sense when your nickname is Finn), and after checking out many crafty blogs and etsy shops, decided that I could make most of the decor and invites myself.  I pretty much dedicated the last month worth of nap times to getting things ready and had a lot of fun doing it all.

Finn did pretty well during the party and I was so thankful for all those who came and helped us celebrate. Thanks to the iPhone, we were able to do FaceTime with some of our family so they could sing Happy Birthday along with us. I think he may have been a little overwhelmed and he was more interested in playing with his cake than eating it and certainly didn't enjoy the bath after when we were cleaning blue frosting out of his ear! And like most one year olds, Finn seemed more interested in the balloons and boxes than the actual gifts he got. He sure is one loved little guy.

And now that the party is over, it's game time in the Hidalgo house. Five days until the movers come to start packing our stuff and only eight days until we move. Yikes!

June 9, 2012

June is so gigantic

It's after midnight and tomorrow (today) we will celebrate my baby's FIRST birthday. While his actual birthday is still a few days away, it's still hard for me to comprehend that Finley is about to be one. What a heck of a year it's been.

My sister once played this song for me by Jolie Holland and said it makes her think of me. I find the first verse so fitting:

June is so gigantic
I have been walking out
Falling further every time
I'm lost and found

I kind of feel like this is my month. I definitely have felt both lost and found during the month of June. Everything beautiful in my life has happened in June. Miles and I got married and both Cale and Finley were born. What a special month. It's fitting that my favorite stone, mother of pearl, just happens to be June's birthstone.

I love this month. But it's a tough one too. I am so happy that my boy is about to turn one and so sad that my other boy isn't turning two.

But off to bed I should go. Because we have a very important celebration tomorrow and for that, I am so very thankful.


June 3, 2012

The one in which I feel like a schmuck

Last night Miles and I drove up to Atlanta to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Some good friends came to our house to watch Finn (and Roscoe) and we got away for a little bit to go to a nice dinner and the symphony. Fancy Schmancy, huh? It was pretty awesome though - makes me wish my parents went a little Tiger-Mom-esque on me when I quit playing the piano and flute after a couple years. Anyway, as we were waiting to go into the symphony Miles started not-so-quietly whispering "so, honey. . ." but by the tone of his voice, I thought he was going to say something inappropriate, or make fun of musicians, or just something that needed a softer voice than what he was using. So I kept hushing him and cutting him off. But eventually he stopped me and pulled out a beautiful ring and said "I made you a promise four years ago and I want to keep good on that promise," and on my finger he slipped this bad boy. . . (the top one)

And instead of politely telling him how much I loved it, I just kept saying "shut up" But not because I actually wanted him to shut up, I just couldn't believe he got it. So more of a "no way!" type of shut up. First, I don't remember him promising me this ring four years ago. I remember nagging a lot and apparently that worked out well for me. But I also felt/feel like a total chump because we agreed NO GIFTS! We were going to go on a nice date to dinner and the symphony and that was supposed to be it! And I followed the rules and got him NOTHING in return. Thoughtful jerk.

I wasn't even going to write about our evening and instead I was going to share our engagement story. But that can wait for another time. If I reveal how thoughtful Miles really is, you'll all wonder why he hasn't left me yet! So instead, if you haven't seen this cute video, please watch it and hate this other thoughtful guy for being so stinkin' sweet.

June 1, 2012

Right Where I Am: Almost Two Years

One year, 11 months, and three days to be exact. That's how long it's been since my son, my first child, died and was born. I jumped on board this project little late last year, a project in which you document right where you are in your grief. My post last year still holds true today. Finley was only weeks old when I wrote that and in this last year, while I have loved getting to see that sweet and adventurous boy grow and develop, it has shown me first hand what we have missed out on, what Cale has missed out on. I wrote about how my grief has changed, but was still a part of my life. And that will never change.

Reading through some other blogs from people who have written about their grief recently makes me feel like I'm cheating in a way. I read these thoughts and feelings and realizations and I have some of the exact ones myself. So I read and think "oh, I should write about that too" and really this may come across as a compilations of how so many others who have lost a baby feel, but that's because the common thread that I'm seeing throughout all these blogs is that no matter how much time has elapsed since we met and said goodbye to our children, no matter how many other children we have been blessed with since, it doesn't change the fact that we miss the ones who are not here. We love them. We ache for them. And that's right where we will always be.

With the upcoming move and upcoming birthdays there is a lot going on in our lives. I have a son who is about to turn one and I am so sad (but thankful) that my baby is growing up. But I also have a son who should be turning two and I'm so sad that my baby is not here. This last year has reinforced what I suspected early on, that I will always yearn for the milestones that Cale never reached. Shortly after losing Cale, a man approached my mom at her church in Arizona and told her that he and his wife lost a daughter who would have been 50 years old. He told my mom that he thinks about her every day. And I suppose that's just how it is. Our children become a part of our lives in a unique way, but they are still there. Even 50 years later. I have been able to have this beautiful and at times fun and happy life in the short time since losing Cale, but he is always on my mind. I guess that is the biggest change from last year - that I have been able to figure out a way for him to be woven into our story and become a part of our daily lives without actually being in them. And maybe I didn't even figure that out so much as it just happened.

I recently got an email from a girl I went to school with and in it she said, "When I think of Cale, I think of possibility.  It's both sad and optimistic at the same time.  Obviously those possibilities that he will not be able to realize because he left too soon, but also the possibilities that will come because he did live.  Cale gave you Finley.  What an incredible gift, full of possibilities.  He gave you motherhood and let you know that indescribable love for the first time.  He makes me see the world for all of its possibilities."

It kind of amazes me to think of all these lives that Cale has touched and words like that give me hope that his life will continue to reach others and help me reach out in return. It's wonderful to think of possibilities because of him. So I'm almost two years out from the most heartbreaking day of my life. But so much has transpired in those two years. While I've been in contact with lots of other people and stories that involve heartache and tragedy, in two years I have seen so much hope and love and unending possibilities . . . all because of my beautiful son Cale. And whereas I worried more a year ago about him being forgotten or how to incorporate him into our lives, I've gained more confidence this past year of how to do that and confidence in the fact that he won't be forgotten. It may not be what we had planned, but...