Leif’s Story, Day 1, Part 4

Shortly before the girls arrived in a quiet moment in my room, I received a message from my friend, L.A. In it were words sent straight from Heaven. I couldn’t have been more appreciative of the vessel she allowed herself to be when I read:

Baby Bird (The Gift It Is To Be)

Baby bird lays in a tree

Warm and safe ‘neath mother’s wing

Knowing not a world of sin

 Or pain or suffering of man.

He knows of only joy and love

Protections by his God above,

The care his parents give and of

The gift it is to be.

In his egg, he stays untainted

Blue and white and speckle-painted

Content to live unchanged

From his fetal state of life.

For to live a life so short as

Straight heaven-bound from unhatched

Is having not such things as

The devil and his strife.

He’ll know of only joy and love

Protection by his God above

The care his parents gave and of

The gift it is to be.

 

I cried as I finished it and thought to myself, Oh, yes…what a gift it truly is to simply be. I read it to Leslee and said, “Those last 4 lines…they have to go on his headstone.” Leslee agreed.

I had a moment to myself later. No one was in the room. Leslee had gone to get our things and see the girls off. I was alone. Alone with Him. A moment I had been waiting all day for. I looked over at my baby in the crib, sweetly “sleeping.” I started sobbing. Desperate pain and sorrow overtook me. Oh, Father, please give me strength! Give me comfort!  I don’t know how I’m going to do this! I love him so much! I can’t bear this burden, God. I need You! I need You to take this! I don’t know what you’re thinking. I don’t know what path you have me on, but I want you to know I trust you. Please give me peace.

And then the poem came to mind and even amidst the deepest sorrow I’ve ever felt, I felt gratitude, which only brought more tears. Thank you for letting him “be” with me. Thank you for keeping my little treasure. I told You I wanted to raise him to be Yours…This isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I’m grateful, Father. I’m so thankful I got to be his mommy.

 

Leslee

The girls arrived and ran to me. I soaked them up—sight, smell, and sound. Taegan’s little face was tear-stained. Oh, how I wish she could have been spared the pain of this. And oh, how I hoped this didn’t shake her faith or ruin the burgeoning little relationship we saw our daughter enjoying with the Lord. I prayed about that– and sensed it was up to us to model what unshakeable faith looked like for her. I walked them to our room and Taegan was the first to enter. She went straight to Breauna and held on. I had watery eyes. They held onto each other like a lifeline. Taegan saw Breauna’s mom holding Leif and averted her eyes.

“Do you want to hold him or see him?” Breauna gently asked her.

She shook her head.

“That’s ok. You don’t have to,” she said. As mothers do, I knew Breauna could sense every question Taegan wasn’t asking. Every thought she wasn’t speaking. Several family members had arrived with the girls. They hugged each other, offered mutual condolences, and looked at Leif for the first time. Breauna took that moment to quietly tell Taegan through tears of her own, “Baby, you don’t have to be strong right now. It’s ok to cry. Daddy and I are so, so sad and it’s ok for you to be, too. But I want you to know this: God didn’t do this because He’s mad…or because He’s punishing us…or because He doesn’t love us. He is still good and still faithful. I believe that with my whole heart and I want you to believe that, too. Ok? He’s going to get all of us through this.”

Taegan was fighting back tears, but she nodded her head.

She never did look at Leif. Never did ask to hold him. But, when the nurses brought the memory box in with sweet little pictures they had taken of him, a locket of his hair, a special blanket they had wrapped him in, and other little keepsakes they thought our family might like, Taegan untied the green string, looked at every photo, gently touched and inspected each item, and neatly placed it all back in there, tying the bow neatly as if it were something precious. She sat there in a tall chair by Breauna’s bed faithfully for an hour and a half being a little rock. And I can’t number the times she picked that memory box back up and gently, lovingly caressed each item in there while a tear or two would roll down her cheeks. I couldn’t help shedding a tear or two myself as I thought about what she was going through. How much love this little girl had for a baby boy that wasn’t able to feel it. How she had longed to feed him. Longed to hold him. Longed to love him. And in that moment, I did feel a little sorry for Leif. Even though I knew he was in a much better place than I…because he was missing out on Taegan.

 

Breauna

That night was the worst night of my life. Shock was wearing off. Each time I would go in the bathroom, I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t. Everything about me was a reminder of him. I already knew what this felt like. I didn’t need to see it. Everyone had gone home for the evening which left Leslee and I in some much-needed, but very painful silence. Although we were completely exhausted, we didn’t really want to go to sleep.

The nurses were supposed to come take Leif some time in the night so the funeral home could come get him. Leslee had taken it upon himself to make all the arrangements and I was grateful.

I fell asleep some time around 11 and woke back up at 1. I immediately looked over where Leif had been to find him still there. I don’t know why, but this wrecked me. If he had been gone, it would have wrecked me. Everything wrecked me. I was wrecked. If daylight had been unimaginable, the night was beyond comprehension. I let the sobs rock my body. I tried to be quiet because Leslee had fallen asleep, too. We need him to get some sleep, I thought to myself. He’s got a lot on his shoulders right now and I’m too weak to carry anything but this. I reflected on our conversation before bed. As we stood over the crib and looked at our sweet baby boy, I turned to my husband and broke down.

“Will I ever be ok again?” I clung to him and cried my eyes out. “Will this gaping, gut-wrenching hole ever be filled? Because I don’t want to feel like I’ll never recover from this! I don’t want to feel this hole forever!”

All the while, I was wrought with guilt for feeling this way. Salty, guilty tears for having the opportunity to carry on without my baby boy. And wanting to do it without feeling the weight of this misery. People had told me this hole would never be filled, but that time would make it better. That offered me no comfort. It left me feeling like a comeback was impossible. So I turned to the only person that might have an answer for me. The one I trusted most with predicting my outcome. These were uncharted waters for me…but they were not for Leslee. Amidst this present grief, he had been here before. He had walked out of a hospital without his child…and without a wife. He had navigated the unimaginable.

He put his finger under my chin, lifted my face up, and in answer to my question said, “Although I don’t want to say it, you’re not through the worst part yet. But, let me tell you this…you will be ok again, baby girl. We’ll get through this. And just speaking from my own experience, holes can be filled. And it doesn’t mean you love the ones you lost less…it just means you found joy again…and that’s ok. We have two beautiful girls and I love you. I can carry us. We have much to find joy in. We can fill holes, baby. Don’t feel guilty using a shovel.”

He lay sleeping and his words continued to run through my mind. Holes and shovels. I got out of bed and walked over to Leif’s crib. My heart implodes while new tears burst forth. I walked back over to my bed, but decided to sit in the chair next to it. I grabbed my phone and clicked on Pinterest. I wanted distraction. But, as I scrolled, I found no satisfaction. Distraction wasn’t a luxury awarded me. So, I decided to look up comforting Bible verses. I knew them all, but felt led to look again.

“Code blue! Code blue!” an automated voice declared over the intercom system in the hallway. I didn’t know what that meant, but knew it couldn’t be good. I went on scrolling and read verses like Psalm 14:73, “He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.” Isaiah 43:2, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” I continued to seek His word for comfort in this as I continued to cry. And then, as I do when anything affects me positively or negatively, I decided to write. I sobbed as I wrote, but yet I didn’t want to forget the moment.

“Code blue! Code blue!” the automated voice again sounded the alarm. It had been about an hour and I wanted to know what that meant. Cardiac arrest was Google’s answer. A patient requiring immediate resuscitation. I inhaled slowly. Oh, please let that baby be ok.

My tears had started to dry up. It was 4:30 in the morning. My eyes were getting heavy and I crawled back into bed. As I drifted off, I was awakened by a screaming sob in one of the rooms down the hall. Leslee stirred. He heard it, too. I wanted to run out of my room to her, but all I could do was squeeze my eyes shut and grit my teeth knowing there was nothing I could do to ease her pain. I knew that all too well.

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My Girl

…she’s a farmgirl. A tomboy. A daddy’s girl.

…she’s a little shy at first, but then she’ll talk your ear off.

…she’s got a tough exterior, but her heart is easy to reach.

…she has a depth only those closest to her see.

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…she’s capable. Motivated. Responsible.

…she’ll injure herself almost to the point of stitches, try to take care of it herself, and not shed a tear, but a scrape involves wailing and the need for an immediate band-aid.

…she enjoys getting filthy, but is a big help when things need cleaning.

…she’s young, but she’s older than her number.

…she’s got a gifted eye for design.

…she likes to sit by her great-grandmother in church.

…she loves the Bible.

…she hates to shop.

…she is not a fan of frills.

…she likes to be comfortable.

…she marches to the beat of her own drum.

…she’s got a strong stomach.

…she’s got a weakness for chocolate.

…she’s thoughtful.

…she’s wild.

…she’s loud.

…she’s soft.

…she’s talented.

…she’s poetic.

…she’s creative.

…she’s loyal.

…she’s beautiful.

…she’s God’s girl.

…and she’s mine.

All in a Week’s Time

Taegan was home on Spring Break all last week and we always try to do some fun things when she has a little time away from school. Fortunately, she had several cousins staying right up the road at my mother-in-law’s, so that made it even more fun. We started off Monday with a nature scavenger hunt after the farmer finished feeding hay. I took these photos with my phone.

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We enjoyed it. They enjoyed it. And a good time was had by all.

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Also during this week, we jumped in full throttle with potty training Luxe. It wasn’t going well.

Me: Luxe, where do we go pee and poop?

Luxe: In the toe-wet.

Me: So, why aren’t you going in the toilet?

Luxe: ‘Cuz I don’t want to.

I was in need of some reinforcements and the timing of spring break couldn’t have been better. I suggested to Taegan that she might be just the right person for this job and she squinted her little eyes and gave me a look that said, “What are you trying to pull?”

Mind you, this is the child that consistently says she’s never having kids “because they’re too much work.” Astute and accurate observation. I’ll make sure I tell her that she better feel really fortunate that I was not as sharp as she is at 24…otherwise she wouldn’t be here. And then I did it again.

And again.

But back to my story, I decided a different tactic would surely work to get Taegan to give potty training Luxe a shot. She’s competitive by nature, so I said, “I bet you could do this way better than me.” She took the bait. Show Mommy up? I’ll play. She asked Luxe if she needed to go on the toilet. Luxe, of course, followed her back there and I sat her on her potty seat on the big toilet. We don’t use the little one…because she can get off it.

So, Taegan’s in there reading a book and I hear Taegan ask Luxe, “Do you want me to hide?” Luxe says, “Yeah.” Taegan opens up the cabinet door and gets behind it and what.do.you.know….Luxe goes potty!!! I’m whooping and hollering; Luxe is grinning from ear to ear; and I’m pretty sure a person couldn’t have wiped the proud smile off of Taegan’s face for the next couple hours. Because Luxe did it again and again for Taegan. To the point Taegan started referring to it as “working her magic.” She’d call from the bathroom with Luxe and say, “Mommy, I worked my magic again!” Luxe obviously thrives on pleasing her sister. Now, she’s going like a champ for all of us. We’ve had a few accidents since Thursday when we started, but many, many more successes.

So, thank you, Taegan. I gladly bow down to your potty training prowess. 🙂

Meanwhile, Luxe continues to work on mastering the very necessary skill of drinking out of the hose.

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You can’t be a farmgirl and not get this down.

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Then, on Friday, we decided to take the girls–namely Taegan–to chick day at the local feed store. I don’t like chickens. I’ve made that very clear in past posts, but chicks are cute and I thought I might be able to work a little photography around them in spring photos with the girls. Taegan is the farm animal lover. We would have everything if it were up to her. Chickens, bunnies, cows, horses, ducks, goats, sheep, pigs–you name it, we would have it.

 

I’m also the type of mother that has a hard time saying no to things that teach responsibility. Taegan is a very practical, responsible realist.She’s never really been into playing pretend or fairy tales. If she plays, it usually has a real-life component to it and she tends to  give things a long, hard think before she commits her time. And she really wanted some chickens. And she told me she would take care of them and gather all the eggs when they started laying.

Works great for me because I do like eggs.

So, here we are at the feed store with a box.

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This chick is ready for her chicks…even down to knowing what kind she wants. Yeah, we had to have all that figured out, too. We looked up every breed they had available and picked out our favorites. The farmer asked me, “Now, are the ones we’re getting good layers?”

My reply: “Oh, we don’t care about that. We’re going purely based on looks.”

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Here’s the whole fam.

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Luxe can’t figure out why Taegan’s so happy, what we’re doing here, and why there’s all this incessant chirping.

So, we get up to the chicks and they.are.cute!!

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They had ducklings, too! I’m getting some after researching why I would want them. Has anyone ever had duck eggs? I read that they’re more nutritious, better tasting, better for baking, and that ducks lay year round–never really going through a rest time. I also read that ducks are excellent pest controllers (bugs, ticks, grasshoppers, etc), won’t dig up your yard and gardens like a chicken will, and will even kill small snakes if given an opportunity. Sign me up!!! Sounds like the best pet ever!

Seriously, I’m totally getting some ducks.

We told the man what chicks we wanted. He placed them in the box. We paid for them. And now we are the proud owners of some pretty cute little chicks.

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If you ask Taegan, she will accurately tell you exactly which breeds are which, but we’ve got 2 Welsummers, 2 Barred Rock, and 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes.

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And one happy little chicken-loving farm girl.

She puts her shoes on every 20 minutes, opens the front door, and says, “I’m going to check my chicks. You gotta be fast if you wanna’ catch those Welsummers! I just have to swoop in cuz they run!” I think she’s holding a Silver Laced Wyandotte here.

It was an eventful, productive spring break. I miss Taegan when she’s gone. She creates so much material for my creative processes.

Puddle Buddies

We had a puddle jumping session a few nights ago. My sister-in-law, Staci, is visiting along with my two nephews and naturally anytime there’s a good rain, puddles are going to happen.

Where there are puddles there will be muddy children.

Here’s the cast of characters:

Taegan:

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The oldest of the four and instigator of all things ornery. Look at those eyes. Mischief. Intelligence in spades. Spirit. Sparkle. Pray hard for us.

Drayson:

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Rough and tumble, fearless, all boy. There’s very few daring things I haven’t seen this little guy attempt. But, look at that sweet, mud-splattered face.

Carson:

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Carson has always been a calm, quiet type (at least around me). He’s shy, sweet, and is usually more content to observe from the sidelines  (sidelines meaning wherever his mommy is). Give him a rock and a stick and he’s good!

Luxe:

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Prissy. Purposeful. Pint-sized sweetness with a smidge of sass. Puppy dog eyes at level 10. Curls for days. Lover of all things cute and cuddly. This was taken after one too many times of being splashed in the face with mud. That’s a look of “Mommy, PLEASE! Can’t a girl get a little time in the mud puddle by herself??”

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To start things off, though, we’re all still relatively clean. Testing the waters. Onesies and shorts are remaining mostly white.

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Sticks and rocks again…Boy, they’re just the most interesting things!

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A good, dry time is being had by all.

And then…

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there were four.

Taegan thought a little too much good, clean fun was being had. If you’ve been following along over the years, you know my eldest has no problem getting as absolutely filthy as she can get.

Exhibit A.

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Exhibit B.

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“Walk with your nose in the air, little lady…even though there’s dirt all over your hiney.”

 

And the grand finale.

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“Dirt Road Camo”

Yeah.

Naturally, she took it up on herself to show everyone the joys of getting a run at the puddle from above in order to land in it with as much splash as possible.

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The race was on after that between Taegan and Drayson to see who could make the biggest splash.dsc_4330

 

On the days she’s not being heart-meltingly sweet and responsible, it’s this:

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A perfectly timed jump just to splash Little Sis. Even though I felt kinda bad for Luxe, I knew exactly what these kinds of antics do in the reward centers of an older sister’s brain. Let’s all just hope this is as bad as it gets and I don’t pay dearly for my raising…

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Whew! I finally got it to myself.”

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“Ohhhh, I see…feelin’ a little bad now, aren’t we?” Meanwhile, I can’t appreciate Luxe more for bringing out the affectionate side of Taegan. Not only does Luxe get the hugs and kisses that she dearly loves and bestows on all of us, but the farmer and I get to enjoy a few extra from Taegan, as well. That wasn’t the case before Luxe. You were lucky to get to steal them. “Hey, Mommy, is it just me…or would you say I won this?”

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At this point, I’m not sure Drayson’s boots are being effective at their job.

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Dirt roads…country kids…rain…boots…and a love of mud = puddle buddies.