December 24, 2012

Christmas Card Bloopers

A friend shared an adorable idea with me about having Finn dress up as Santa and Roscoe as his reindeer. I knew that Roscoe would cooperate - I threw some antlers on him, and he was good to go. Getting an 18 month old to stay still is another story. Throw a Santa hat in the mix and you can forget about it. So, we did. And this ended up being the card we sent out.

Card read: Wishing you the happiest of holidays . . . Seriously.

And here were some of the others that didn't make the cut:

Too dark. Besides Finn looks as though he's saying "Sup Girl, can Santa get your digits for Christmas?"

Cute, but neither of them were looking in the right direction and you can't see enough of Finn.

 "I don't know who keeps taking the ornaments off the tree."

"We're done, right mom? Ok, good."

"Mom, do you want this ball? You do? Ok, I'll bring it to you."

"What are these doggie? But you already have silly ears - you don't need any more"

Finn: Get this hat off me. 
Roscoe: Get this kid off me.

 "I hate my life."

And a Merry Christmas to all!

December 19, 2012

Christmas Decor

I love Christmas decor and am just antsy to have a "forever home" that I can go crazy decorating. Moving around every few years is hard because you don't really know if your decor will work in every house. So we don't own too much (although I'm sure Miles will beg to differ), but it won't stop me from pinning a billion ideas for the future.

Right now I'm big on a mostly gold theme. I sprinkle in bits of champagne color and other neutral colors that blend well. We own a fake tree, but the compromise is that one day, when we are actually home for Christmas, we will put up two trees - one fake and one real. I grew up in dry Arizona and we had a fake tree my whole life. I like that you can buy one tree, with lights already attached, and not need to worry about watering it or cleaning the carpet each day. Miles grew up with a real tree and loves the fresh smell and the enjoyment of picking out a tree with the family and bringing it home. I'm fine with two trees anyway - one that can be a theme for the OCD side of me, the other that can display all of our random, home made, special ornaments.

Here is our current tree - thankfully after a few days of it going up, Finn lost interest, but for those first few days I had to re-arrange some ornaments as he was pulling some off and bringing them to me and saying "ball". . . errr, good job kid, now leave it alone!

 I never found a tree topper that I liked,until my mom sent me this butterfly and I thought it was perfect:

I have a lot of Cale related items on the tree, specifically a lot of pretty little butterflies. For Christmas of 2010 my sister-in-law sent me an ornament with his name, birthday and cute little baby feet. That ornament is now the first to go on the tree every year. And while I want to always include him in the holiday decor, I don't want it to just be about him - it's not Cale's tree, but rather our family tree.

So I've included other ornaments that either have significance, or I just thought were pretty - fish for our little Finn, I fell in love with the globe ornament I snagged a few weeks ago at Kohls, and the sparkly french horn makes me smile and think about my sister. In fifth grade you could try out an instrument and join the band. I picked the flute. Kate picked the hardest of the bunch - the french horn . . . .she was no longer in band by the time middle school rolled around.

Here are some pictures of other items in the dining room near the tree:

Moving into the family room, the only thing that is really decorated is the mantle. This was the hardest to decorate because of the stockings. For Christmas of 2010 I just put up two stockings, but it killed me that I wasn't putting up three. We didn't decorate last year as we were getting ready to put the house on the market, so this year I was faced with having to decide how I wanted to display our stockings. I felt like having one up for Cale would be nice so that he was included, but would it just sad and more depressing? I played around with it a little bit, but ultimately decided to do something my friend Brandy did. I hung a stocking for Cale, but it's hanging from a bookshelf in the room near the other stockings, but not along with them. Right now his sketch is by the stocking, but I've ordered a Christmas Tree from Carly Marie and will frame that and put it on the shelf instead and his sketch can go back to the mantle where it normally is displayed (as shown in the bottom right pic). I may even change his stocking and make it a bit smaller and more unique from the rest, but for now this is what I have:
I ended up making our stockings this year. I wanted something either with burlap or linen, but when I looked on ETSY they were at least $20 per stocking. So I went to Hobby Lobby and bought fabric I liked in matching fabrics (the stockings themselves are canvas) and made four for $40.16 and I have a ton of fabric and lace left over. I was going to take pictures of the process and blog about it, but that didn't happen and who really cares. If you are interested, I followed this tutorial which was really helpful.
My next sewing project will be to make a tree skirt that matches the stockings. I'm thinking something along these lines, but that will probably wait until next year.

So there you have it. Christmas decor a la Casa Hidalgo.


December 15, 2012

Too Much

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."
-- Mr Rogers.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

I just don't even know what to say. No one does. But this blog is cheap therapy for me, so I will ramble away regardless.

I don't remember when, but awhile back I was sharing a story of loss with Miles and was just saying how it's all just too much. There is so much sadness in the world. I don't even remember what event or tragedy prompted this particular conversation, but of course I connected with with our own sadness over losing Cale,  over the fact that his entire life that was cut short, over the sadness of losing Daren, and the confusion as to how to make sense of any death that occurs during war. How Daren died a hero, not only doing a job that protects our very way of life, but wanting to make life a little better for others - for children who should have a peaceful future and for and a nation that can't rid itself of evil and of terrorism that is killing their people (and ours), and moving their nation backwards.

And at the time I just felt overwhelmed. I just felt sad. I told Miles it was all just too much. And then he said it is a lot, it's a lot to deal with and a lot that doesn't, and won't ever, make any sense. But it wasn't too much.

He meant that for us - for our life, for going on with our day-to-day events, it wasn't too much. Because we will still go on living. We will still try our best to give Finn everything he needs, raise him right, teach him how to be kind and loving and confident and determined. We will still try our best to enjoy life and make the most of it and in the process, should we be so lucky, make it mostly happy, mostly wonderful.

Yesterdays tragedy in Connecticut . . . it just seems like too much. And it seems foolish to say that it's not. There have been far too many terrible things happening in our world, in our own country, over a short period of time. But everything, EVERYTHING, is so much more tragic when it happens to a child. They were just babies.

When I was pregnant with Finn I wanted to do everything possible to ensure he was safe. I got extra appointments, I was induced early, I took precautions that I thought could maybe help change his outcome. He made it, but was it because of everything that we did? Not necessarily. Most of that was to help me cope, to keep me sane. But taking deliberate steps to prevent another tragedy was something I needed to do - for both of us. I know that each time a Soldier is killed in combat, the military does the same. The unit will take time to see how things could be made safer, what different courses of action could be taken next time. Can we improve the uniforms, the equipment, the vehicles. . . so much has been done to protect our Soldiers to the best of our ability - I honestly believe that. But it won't ensure they all come home. There is still evil in the world. There is still free will.

There's no answer to any of this. I wish there was. I think that's why I struggled to fall asleep last night. Because I can't solve anything, but how to we collectively solve at least some things? I just don't know. Right now I just am sad. I'm heartbroken for all those families who are forever changed. Who don't know where to go from here or what to do next. I don't understand their pain. I hope I never will. I can barely understand my own grief at times. But at some point, we will want to move past the tragedy. And help others in the process. We will want to take whatever steps possible to ensure that something like that won't happen again. We will want to not feel like it's too much and go on living and do good . . . for all those who weren't so lucky.

Edited to add this: 26 Moments that Restored our Faith in Humanity This Year. A must to read for today.

December 13, 2012

Do Good - for Rich and Daren

After Daren was killed one of the first calls his parents made was to Pat and Mary Donahue. The Donahue's live in Wisconsin and have been good friends of the Hidalgo Family long before I came in to the picture. They are wonderfully kind and loving people. Mary's son Rich was best friends with Miles' older brother Jared. Over the years I've heard so many stories about shenanigans Rich and Jared were involved in and things they did together. They even signed up for the Marines together only Rich enlisted and served in the 24th Marine Regiment, a reserve unit out of Wisconsin and Jared would later get commissioned as a Marine officer after graduating college. I remember hearing a story about how Rich would give Jared a hard time about wanting to be an officer and told him he'd never salute him. Jared was commissioned in December of 2005, a year prior on December 13, 2004 - his best friend Rich was killed in Iraq.

It's almost hard to imagine - that two families who had already been close would go on to both lose a son in the war on terror, and understand each others pain and grief in such an intimate way - a way you hope that no one would ever understand. But I've learned over the years that this world really isn't as big as we think. Far too often are we connected not only by happiness or circumstance, but by tragedy and pain. And those connections are often times some of the most beautiful and enduring connections we form in our life.

I'd like to share the tribute video that was made for Rich. It's similar to the one that was created for Daren. Please take a few minutes to watch it and say a prayer or send a loving thought to Rich's family - who not only grieve for the son and brother they miss and the eight years they have been without him, but who celebrate the life he had and impact he left:


Last week I tried to donate blood. I have been wanting to donate for a long time but I knew I'd have to wait a year after coming back from Afghanistan, but by that point, I was pregnant with Cale and you can't donate while pregnant. Then I was pregnant with Finn and never found a good time after he was born to go donate. So it was on my "to do" list before getting pregnant again. I got pregnant for the third time sooner than I expected, but after my miscarriage I decided that I could, and should, finally go donate. So last week I had a friend watch Finn and I went to the blood bank that is on Fort Hood - I wanted this particular one because all the blood donated goes directly to Soldiers or their family members. When I got there I saw a sign that said they needed platelets in my blood type so I asked about donating those. I filled out the paperwork and met with a girl who reviewed everything. Because of the baby aspirin I take daily, I was prevented from donating platelets (can't take aspirin for 72 hours prior to donating), so I asked if I could at least give blood. One of the questions you have to answer is if you've ever been pregnant. The girl looking over my paperwork asked when my last pregnancy was. I told her I had a miscarriage and gave her the date of my D&E. She awkwardly wrote this down, never bothering to pause and say "I'm sorry" or God forbid anything compassionate, and continued to review the rest of my questions. She then left to go check about me donating blood and came back and told me I'd have to wait - that it had only been six weeks from my miscarriage and it has to be over six weeks. My eyes starting to get teary - from frustration with not being able to donate when I've been looking forward to it for so long, and for the smack in the face reminder that the reason why was because I had a miscarriage too recently. Another nurse asked me if I was ok (she seemed confused as to why I was upset, not sympathetic as to why I might be) and I just hurried out of there so I could get in my car and call my sister and cry. It just sucks - when you want to do something good and you can't.

Anyway, the reason I shared all that is to just encourage anyone who reads this, who is able, to go donate blood. You could save three lives. THREE. I should have found the time earlier, but will try again soon. I'm motivated by stories like that of Nick Vogt, an Army Lieutenant who received 500 units of blood - the most of any casualty survivor.  I'm so thankful that he was able to be saved by the donations of others. I wish the circumstances were different and that Rich and Daren could have been saved. I wish they were here with us now, but they aren't, so it's especially important that we go out and do good for others . . .for them, because of them. It doesn't have to be by donating blood either, but it's the holidays and there is no better time than now to just go out and do a little bit of good for others.


December 12, 2012

Aaron Rodgers Day

Today is my boyfriend's Aaron Rodgers Day! Like no joke, the state legislature of Wisconsin has declared 12.12.12 to be Aaron Rodgers Day (umm, he's the Packers Quarterback in case anyone was wondering).

And those classy Wisconsinites aren't stopping there - they are turning today into a donation drive for the Midwest Athletes against Childhood Cancer which Aaron Rodgers supports - because he's so darn classy himself.

Happy Aaron Rodgers Day to all, and to all a good night!


December 9, 2012

Family Tree

A little over a week ago I got some sad, albeit not unexpected news, that my "Nana" Teresa had passed away. She was 96 years old. Teresa married my grandpa after my grandma had passed away. Her and her husband had been good friends with my grandparents and when it was just her and my grandpa left living, they got married. Teresa once told me it was just for the companionship and that he proposed to her by writing her a letter and asking her to think about it (getting married) and get back to him. So sweet and old fashioned, and humorously business-like. They were married for only five years before my grandpa passed away, but I am so glad that Teresa was a part of his life for those years, and our family's life for all the years after. I know they were happy together and I'm grateful for that.

When I heard about Teresa's passing I opened up our digital copy of our family tree. My grandma on my mom's side, Adelaide, put a lot of work into tracing our family tree. She was also a proud member of the Daughter's of the American Revolution and there are two traceable members of our family who served in the Revolutionary War. When she passed away in 1994 my Uncle took the reigns of filling in the gaps on the family tree and making it digital. He has shared the program (Family Tree Maker) with me, but still does a LOT of research/work into our ancestry. I have added Miles' side of the family and done some more research into my dad's family, but have really just enjoyed playing around with the program and reading about my family members from long ago.

I thought I'd share some neat facts about my family tree as well as some discoveries I made recently.

William Sayre is the furthest person we can trace on my family tree. He was born in 1512 in Bedfordshire, England. I took a print screen of all of William Sayre's descendants - to be able to see all of them on one screen I had to shrink it way down. The star at the top is William and near the bottom is me. I am his 12th great-granddaughter. You can see my little family to the right of the star (Miles and our two boys branching off from us).

This picture doesn't even show how extensive our family tree is and all the work that's been put into it. This only shows the decedents of William Sayre, but I can select anyone and view a tree of that particular family. It's really pretty amazing to look through.

I also learned that I have a relative (I am his 2nd great-grandniece) named Abraham Lincoln Gorsage. Interesting name, right? He was born in July of 1860 though and Honest Abe didn't take office until March of 1861. So who knows if his parents just were big fans of the presidential candidate at the time, or if it was just a coincidence.

When looking at our family tree I stumbled upon Find A Grave - which is a free website where people take pictures of headstones across the country and upload them and you are able to view where a person is buried. When searching on my dad's side of the family I found a lot of people we had never heard of, as well as some pictures of those relatives, including a picture of my grandparents that even my dad had never seen. I got in touch with a woman in California who had uploaded all this information only to discover that her husband shares the same great-grand parents as my dad, hence all her knowledge about my relatives. She has since sent me a lot of information and pictures of over three generations worth of family members dating back to 1814.

The below picture is of Sarah Melissa Hardin. She is my great-great-great-grandmother.

Sarah was one of eight children. When she was young her family moved west to California by way of wagon. In the documents I got from my California connection, I learned that Sarah's brother Isaac was scalped by Indians in Texas and when they got to Arizona her brother Ted, who was her twin, died of cholera. Throw in a snake bite or a wagon fire and this is real-life Oregon Trail! (which of course was real-life, but I'm talking about the video game we all grew up with). 

The next picture is that of my great-grandfather Harlston. He married Sarah's daughter Eliza. 

Harlston and Eliza, who went by Ella, had three kids; my dad's dad Harold, another son named Jack (who was in the FBI) and a girl named Ruth, my great-Aunt shown below.

I remember Ruth when I was young (she lived in Wilcox, AZ), yet I remember silly things like the fake fruit she had as decoration and plastic flamingos in her front yard. I also remember flattening coins on the railroad tracks with my brother and sister - because there just ain't a whole lot to do in Wilcox, Arizona people.

Anyway, I really could go on and on about all the little things I am learning and it's exciting to know there is so much more that has yet to be discovered. 

So, am I the only genealogy nerd out there? Anyone discovered any interesting or juicy stories from their ancestors? 

December 4, 2012

How Quickly Things Change

I debated whether or not I would share anymore posts relating to my miscarriage, but I recently heard of a someone else's loss and decided that this would be worth sharing. Because people have told me that by opening up about baby loss, and all the experiences and complexities of it, it helps others understand, show compassion, give support, etc. And if just one person can benefit from this and help just one other person - then it's worth it for me to continue to share these personal reflections. The first is just a short entry I wrote one night when I had only known I was pregnant for a couple weeks. The second, written one month later, is a recap of the day I got the D&E.
. . . . . . . . . . . .

Originally written September 23, 2012:

Dear #3,

My friend Brooke had a clever nickname for her second baby while she was pregnant. . .the Deuce. Her first baby Eliza passed away too soon, like your brother Cale. I kinda wonder if we should have a nickname for you before we know a little more about who you are (ie –if you are a lad or a lassie).

I just felt compelled to write you tonight. At this moment, at only six weeks pregnant, and totally unsure what the future holds, I am incredibly excited about you – about the idea of you, about the life that we could maybe have with you. And I’m really happy to be this excited. Here I am, pregnant for the third time, with a history that could rightfully so make me want to crawl into a hole and wait for nine months to hopefully pass uneventfully, but instead, right now, I am just happy. So thank you baby – thank you for exciting us with possibility.

I love you already.
. . . . . . . . . . . .

Originally written October 25, 2012:

The D&E was today. We woke up early to be at the hospital by 6:30, and to drop Finn off at a friend’s house. Sadly, this meant Miles actually got to sleep in a little bit. But it was a very early morning for Finn and me – we sure do love our sleep.

I looked for something to wear that I could maybe throw out later. Because whatever shirt I put on I would always associate it with the shirt I wore to the hospital the day I had a D&E. I remember doing the same thing with a bra I wore during Cale’s delivery. I had to throw it out. It was forever ruined.

I looked in the mirror and told Miles that my successful pregnancy outcome was one in three. He gave me a kiss and said if I was a baseball player that would be a good thing. I smiled briefly, then continued to get ready.

We got to the hospital and checked in with no problems except that we were already running late and didn't know it. Apparently we should have been there at 5:30 but were told the wrong time. They took care of all the pre-op stuff pretty fast though and all the nurses were wonderfully kind. I had blood drawn, an EKG (should something have gone wrong during the procedure they would have had this baseline), they put funny boot/socks things on to prevent blood clots in my legs, started an IV in my hand, took my blood pressure and all the other stand questions and pre-op procedures.

Eventually Miles was let back and sat with me as they started some of the meds. I remember talking to him and getting heavy eyes. And then I remember being in the surgery room and talking to my doctor. Don’t remember getting there though or saying goodbye to Miles. I remember asking if this is where they did C-Sections because it looked like it from pictures of C-Sections I've seen. I vaguely remember having to move to a different bed (gurney?) and I don’t remember much else – I remember a slight burning and tingling sensation as they administer the anesthesia and I’m not sure, but I think I said “my son who passed away was named Cale” – I think I wanted to tell my doctor that for some reason. She is kind and sweet, but his name had never come up in any of my previous appointments. I guess when I was woozy on meds and on my way out, it was important to tell her. After the surgery was complete she went to give Miles an update and had told him that I had gotten a little emotional. Maybe that’s what she was referring to. Before the surgery they said they’d need to put a tube in my throat to help me breathe. They didn't need to put one all the way in, but the air that was going in really dried out my throat and mouth and even as I type this at 9pm at night, my throat is probably the main physical discomfort I have.

When I “woke up” I was in another room. I said my throat hurt and they brought me some ice chips. The nurses were just as kind as they had been before everything. I smiled and asked my doctor if I still had my uterus. She said I sure did. Yesterday I had to sign some paperwork stating that in the event of an emergency or severe hemorrhaging  that a hysterectomy would be performed. Obviously a very, very rare and minor risk. But seeing as though statistics don’t really encourage me much anymore, it was nice to hear that everything was still intact when I woke up.

Then I was wheeled back to a room similar to the post-op room and Miles was let back to see me. He said my Doctor had come out to let him know that everything went fine and she thinks she got most of the tissue so I shouldn't bleed as much. I had to take some meds, go to the bathroom, and sign some papers and then was discharged only a few hours after arriving. I wasn't in much pain and haven’t really been throughout the day. Just tired and a little crampy. And my damn throat is annoying me more than anything. But overall, not a very physically demanding day. The emotional aspects are obviously different than the physical ones. I’ll work through those later though because they will be there for a while. For now, I’m headed back to bed.

. . . . . . . . . . . . 

My miscarriage was not quite six weeks ago. I'm at a much better place of acceptance with it all than I was five weeks ago and I think the same will be true six weeks from now. I think a lot of that has to do with our experience with Cale - with losing a child that we saw, held, and felt like we knew. But a loss is still a loss and it's hard.

My friend Brooke (same one mentioned above) wrote a beautiful piece today about how far you can come from such horrible tragedy, and how much you can gain from it - but at the end of the day, how painfully sad and unfair it all still is. Please read her post as she writes it much better than I ever could.

To Addison and Andrew and Eliza . . .Happy Birthday precious ones. Wish you were here. 

December 2, 2012

Home Sweet Home

When Miles and I first got married we lived in an apartment in Clarksville, Tennessee while stationed at our first duty assignment located in Fort Campbell, Kentucky (for those not affiliated with the Army - Ft. Campbell is on the TN/KY border). We didn't live there long before we both deployed to Afghanistan and within a month of returning the following year, we moved again - Miles to Fort Benning, Georgia and me to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Miles deployed again almost immediately (for only a few months this time) and the timing was actually good as I was in school (captains career course) in South Carolina so we were already going to be separated. I finished the career course a week after Miles came back from Afghanistan. When I moved down to Georgia we had been married for 28 months. We had lived together for seven. So needless to say, it was wonderful to be under the same roof.

That roof was our first house which I've talked about here. I miss that house and the memories created in it, but the Army definitely teaches you that no matter where you are, as long as you are with those you love, you can make it home. I don't really want to test that theory on places like Fort Polk, Louisiana, and kind of feel like we are paying our dues here in central Texas, but hey, it could be worse.

We definitely made our house in Georgia a home. And I think we're managing to do the same here. Recently, I hung something special in our home and I wanted to share. When we closed on the house in Georgia, we received a needlepoint with the following letter from Miles' mom:

. . . . . . . . . . . . 
Dear Miles and Caroline,       
The following story is true. 

     On a cold October evening in 1983 the Duty Train pulled into the station in Berlin, Germany. The Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade were returning from a field training exercise in the zone. Several of the troops were ill. Within days, two battalion wives mysteriously miscarried. I was called to come to the hospital ASAP, my unborn child of three months and I were at risk. We were put in isolation in a hyper-oxygenated room with an antibiotic IV, IV, oxygen, fetal monitors, heart and blood pressure monitors, and warming booties (my feet were cold). For days we stayed in isolation. My husband, Jorge, and young son, Jared, visited occasionally waving from the glass window across the room. I passed the hours reading, praying, and working on a needlepoint kit. The kit was done with each stitch taken in deliberate hope. The kit title was "Home Sweet Home." We were discharged when risk passed. I framed and hung the work above our crib, anxious to bring my baby home. 

     Our child was born healthy on April 13, 1984. He had an unusual birthmark on his tummy shaped like a kiss. The nurses and I knew that was where the Angel kissed him six months before. He would not go to Heaven early but would go home safe. The embroidery has hung in all our homes since. It is yours now. May you both always come home safe and believe each house you make your home is Home Sweet Home. 


The needlepoint and the letter are hanging in our current home, side-by-side.
. . . . . . . . . . . . 

And because I'm the best wife ever, and Miles is in the field (again!) and unable to stop me, I went in search of a picture of him without a shirt on to showcase said birthmark. I threw an arrow on there because I knew it'd be hard to focus on the task at hand with adorable 11 month old Finn in the picture. But can you see his lip shaped birthmark? I love it. And I love it even more knowing the full story behind it.

Wherever we are - as long as I've got these guys, I know it will be Home Sweet Home.