Ever since I was a little girl, December has always been my FAVORITE time of year. I love the weather, the music, the shopping, the decorations, the Christmas trees, the Christmas parties, the church events and just that feeling of excitement in the air.
But this December, well it was a little different and filled with lots of bittersweet moments! We still celebrated, as we have in years past, but our hearts ached in all that we did! We started the month with what would have been Tristan's 1st Birthday and then quickly moved right into the holiday season. We were really not sure what to expect, but realized every event would bring about feelings and emotions because Tristan was here with us last year and it was, by far, the most incredible Christmas we have ever had. The Lord not only blessed our family with 56 days but He allowed our family to celebrate Tristan's 1st Christmas with him. Those are moments that will forever be remembered and cherished.
We are so thankful for our 2 sweet boys that forced us to live "in the moment" and kept us laughing on the most difficult of days. And then, there is this precious little girl that we are fostering, what a miracle she is to our family. Obviously I cannot give case details but I do want to share a few things about her: She is now 3 months old, she weighs 10 lbs (she was 4 lbs at birth - 7 wks early), she has a little bit of brown hair, bright blue eyes, long eyelashes, she is smiling, cooing, rolling over, grabbing her feet and giggles when Trayc tickles her. The boys are crazy about her! Tanner has taught Tayden how to say "sister" which is so cute to hear and when she cries Tayden says, "It's okay" and runs to find her pacifier and put it in her mouth. Tanner loves holding her, putting her in the swing, putting her on the playmat and playing the piano for her. She is NOT lacking any love or attention around here! These moments are priceless. For us to relive these kind of "baby moments" again is almost too much to even explain without tears of gratefulness rolling down my checks. We never dreamed we would be able to experience this again. We had decided not to get pregnant again due to my age, which is why after Tristan passed away we began the adoption process and looking for 2 girls over the age of 3......little did we know that 9 months later we would have the awesome privilege to bring home another newborn from the hospital!!!!!! Our God is so good and even in the midst of our sadness it is so evident that He is working in our family.
Here are some pictures and a glimpse of how our family celebrated the month of December. And, even though Tristan is not in the pictures this year, he was talked about every day and was remembered at every event:
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (12/12-12/13)
This is a family tradition. We love going to Disney World for this event...the tickets are cheaper, there are only a limited number of tickets sold, the ticket is for 4:00 pm - 12:00 midnight, the weather is cooler and there are no lines so you can walk straight onto the rides. We had a wonderful weekend.
Visit with Santa Claus (12/22)
We went to see Santa Claus at the St. Johns Town Center, which is the same place we went last year with Tristan. We parked in the same lot, we walked the same path, we stood in the same line and we even had the same Santa. How do I know he was the same Santa? Well, we also had the baby girl with us and Santa said, "You finally have a girl after 2 boys". Okay, let me stop and say that I love for people to make that comment or ask how many children I have because it gives me an open opportunity to talk about Tristan and to witness! So back to Santa's statement. I said, "Well, actually we have 3 boys, our little boy Tristan lived 56 days and passed away in January. We brought him here last year to have a picture made with Santa". Santa said, "You know what, I was the Santa last year and I remember your little boy and your story." I began witnessing and then went on to explain that we began the adoption process after he passed away and have been praying for 2 little girls but then received a call in October about a newborn baby girl and felt as though this was what the Lord wanted us to do, to take in this new baby even though our hearts were not originally prepared for a baby again. He was really sweet and said, "Oh bless you for all you've been through, losing a baby has to be the hardest thing to go through and yet you are here and living life with a smile on your face and you are willingly putting your heart out there to possibly be hurt again with all the uncertainty that this baby girl brings. I pray that this is your Christmas miracle." Little did I know my encouragement that day would come in the form of Santa Claus. But you know what? I needed that, I needed that so bad. I needed that right there, right in that moment so that I could stop and savor the moment we were sharing this year with our 2 boys and the baby girl even though we were missing Tristan.
For privacy reason we have blocked the baby girl out. And as you can see, Tayden is attempting to escape Santa's lap.....10 pictures later this one, which was the 1st picture we took, was the best. Gotta love the 2 year old stage!!!
Sunday before Christmas (12/21)
Last year we dedicated Tristan in the Sunday morning service before Christmas, so this Sunday was hard too, but we knew we needed to be at church. We got up really early so that we could take pictures before we left for church - needless to say that was very interesting with 3 kids (mainly the 2 yr old), thank goodness for a camera timer and tripod.
As you can see, we all matched. But really, is that a surprise? If you followed our blog last year then you know I always dressed the boys in matching Hartstring clothes, but that changed the moment Tanner began Middle School in August and now he refuses to wear what he calls "baby clothes". So I decided that since Tayden is too young to have a say in his clothes that I could match him and the baby girl. Then I realized I had a matching outfit and Trayc had a matching outfit and then, all of a sudden, Tanner decided that he wanted to match, just not in a Hartstring outfit. So, here's the family picture, and again for privacy reasons we have blocked the baby girl out (she is in my lap).
Christmas Eve (12/24)
Our church had a candlelight service at 5:00 pm. Another difficult night because we were reminded of the candlelight service we had at home last year with Tristan. But once again we got ready and went to church. It was a sweet time of worship, communion and lighting of candles. Imagine thousands of church members quietly standing and holding their candle - a deacon coming to the end of each row and lighting the first person's candle and then that person turning and lighting the next candle and so on, around the entire church. I stood in awe, in that moment, thanking the Lord for my family, for my wonderful husband, for my 2 sweet boys, for my little boy that I miss so much and for the gift of this beautiful little girl.
And, since I can't post a picture of the little girl, I just have to tell you what she had on since I am having so much fun dressing a little girl. Okay, she always, always, always has on PINK but obviously it's December and I know she needs to wear red so we've bought her some beautiful little red fancy dresses. I just love the one she wore to the service, it was red velvet on the top and red satin from the waist down with red lace over the satin, a white fur collar and a red headband - that my talented husband made. She looked absolutely beautiful.
After church we went out to dinner and then headed home so the kids could get in early since Santa was coming the next morning.
Christmas was one of those days I just wasn't sure if I had the emotional strength to make it a sweet, fun, memorable day but knew I had to, not only for myself but for the sake of my children. They are here and their little lives still go on and I do not, in any way, ever want to hinder them or take away from the moment because my heart is aching for Tristan.
We had a very busy day. Our morning started off with Tanner running up the stairs into our room saying "It's Christmas, everyone needs to get up!" Of course Tayden was still fast asleep and Tanner didn't understand why Tayden wasn't awake and running downstairs to see what Santa had brought. Tanner said, "Why isn't Tayden excited it's Christmas?" I said, "Honey, he doesn't understand exactly what today is, but he will be excited once he's opening presents!" Tanner woke Tayden up and held his hand as they walked down the stairs all the while Tanner saying, "Tayden it's Christmas, let's see what Santa brought you!!!!"
We made a big breakfast and opened presents most of the morning. Tayden was excited once he started opening toys that were Pooh, Mickey, Handy Mandy and Thomas the Train. Tanner got FL Gator stuff, Nascar cars, a sports watch, DVD's, CD's, play station games and his big present was a trip to Universal Studios. And finally, after 18 years of marriage, 3 boys and a house full of hot wheel cars, race tracks, legos, trains and balls.......we have a baby doll in the house!!!!
My parents came over around 12:00 noon and we opened presents from them and then the boys spent the rest of the day playing together with all of the new toys. Then we went to the cemetery and placed a red stocking with a silver initial "T" on Tristan's grave site and ended the day at my parent's house for dinner with them and my grandparents. It was a busy day!
Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure (12/27-12/28)
As I mentioned above, Tanner's big present was a mother/son trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. Tanner was so excited because he's never been to Universal plus this was only the 2nd time we've ever done a mother/son getaway. We went with my best friend, Jami, and her kids, Tyler and Anna. We left early on Saturday morning so we could be one of the first in the park at 8:00 am. The crowds weren't bad and the weather was, well Florida weather, 80 degrees in December. We had so much fun riding roller coasters and movie rides and watching the Macy's Parade. We left the park at 10:00 pm and stayed at a Marriott hotel that was really nice and the best part was that it had a Starbucks on the main level - which was great because Starbucks is my and Tanner's special little place during the week! The next day we slept in because we had NO babies (ha ha!) and and then we went to Downtown Disney all day. Tanner and I had the most incredible weekend getting to spend one-on-one time together.