Lots to say tonight....

I've got so much to update. I really need to get back into doing weekly updates so I don't worry that I've missed something. The last 15 days have been a constant flurry of activity. My sister flew in from Oregon and my dad and stepmom came from NC for the girls 2nd birthday and Christmas. Like most milestones and "firsts" in this first year since Zoe's death, the anticipation of the holidays and birthday were worse than the days themselves...kind of.

We decided on a Disney Princess theme for the big birthday party. Back when the girls were in the NICU their very first baby dolls were these tiny Baby Disney Princesses...Snow White for Zoe, Belle for Avery, and Cinderella for Lily. Last Halloween I spent way too much money on some pretty cheap costumes for the girls so they could be Disney Princesses for their first Halloween. Well the costumes swallowed them last year and Avery and Lily still fit in theirs this year. My mom, being a master seamstress, offered to "fancy" up the dresses and make them more princess like. She did a fabulous job! It was fun picking out the embellishments with her and the girls truly looked like miniature princesses.

We kept the party small, just our parents, sisters, niece, nephew, Richard's grandmother, and a very close family friend. We still can't have a little kid party for fear of RSV and other nasty infections...but the girls don't know this yet so they were quite content to be the center of everyone's attention. Because we didn't have other little kids, Richard, with the help of my dad, prepared a gourmet meal for us...seafood gratin, beef tenderloin, braised greens, and roasted root vegetables! Not bad considering they did all of the work and I didn't even have to clean up!

I was feeling pretty antsy in the morning so I was able to get out by myself for a couple of hours before the party to get balloons and other last minute items. This proved to be the best thing I could have done because it gave me the opportunity to yell 'til my throat hurt and cry 'til my eyes stung. I screamed in my car by myself and it felt sooooo good! Just to let it out...that deep, deep sorrow just poured out of me for about 20 minutes and then I was done. I drove back home and I can honestly say that I enjoyed the party.

We planned a little project for everyone to participate in to honor Zoe. Richard read in "Swallowed by a Snake" about various rituals that families do to honor their deceased loved ones on important anniversaries. One was to plant a tree and decorate it with things that are natural bird feeders. We didn't plant a tree because we hope to be moving soon so we chose to decorate the enormous pink Camelia that sits right outside the nursery window. It blooms these gorgeous pink blossoms all over...usually in February/March. We spread pine cones with peanut butter and rolled them in birdseed, tied a string to one end and hung them on the tree. We also made garlands out of popcorn, cranberries, and grapes. And we cut Christmas shapes out of pieces of bread, poked a hole through the top and tied a string to hang these as well. It was nice to do a project like this as a group and it also looked really pretty when we were done. We felt like we were feeding life through honoring the life of our little girl.

After we decorated (Avery and Lily helped too) the girls played in their playhouse and slide in the back of the house. When we were coming back towards the front of the house to go back inside, we walked by the camelia and tucked in the back of the tree was one perfect pink blossom. We had not even seen it when we were hanging the decorations, but there it was. I started crying because I just knew this flower was a sign from Zoe....there are no other blossoms anywhere else. And this blossom has since died. The tree is covered in buds, but they're still closed up pretty tight. I felt like Zoe was giving us her seal of approval for our natural bird feeders and also letting me know that she was right there with us.

The rest of the party went really well, the dinner was awesome, and girls liked opening their gifts. We had these beautiful princess cakes that were made by this cake artist in Smyrna. She made three little cakes that looked like silk pillows...one had a crown on top, one had a "glass" slipper on top, and the third had a beautiful lavender rose. Make sure to take a look at the photos as soon as I get the slideshow posted. The cakes were amazing! We turned off the lights, lit the candles and sang...Avery and Lily were sitting so still and seemed really happy that everyone was singing to them. Then they squinted their eyes tight and blew out the candles. The lights went back on and Avery said "yights off. yight candles. sing a-gain." It was so cute! We all laughed and of course obliged. (A couple days later we had a Hanukkah dinner with my dad in which Avery wanted to blow out the candles...a little hard to comprehend why she can blow out some candles, but not others.) Last year the girls were just starting to eat solids so they didn't do the "normal" dive into the cake and get it all over themselves. Well this year they sure made up for last year. Avery asked for "Mo birday cake...mo birday cake". She even signed "please, please".

By the time everyone went to bed Richard and I were spent. We snuggled up in the family room and stared at our "Zoe shrine" and cried. We both just wonder what she'd look like now...how long her hair would be, how curly. She would have been beautiful in her Snow White gown with those glittering green eyes. I can only imagine...that's all we've got is our imagination of what things might be like with her here instead of in Heaven. I have faith that she is where she needs to be, that she is whole and perfect, and happier than I can comprehend...but it doesn't mean I don't still long to have her here with us. I will always wish she was here, instead of there.

So that was December 20th...we still had Christmas coming up. We had a very nice visit with my dad and stepmom and even drove to see "the lights" at Lake Lanier. Much to my disappointment the girls fell asleep before we even got there....I didn't factor in the 2 hour long wait in traffic we'd have to get to the entrance. Oh well, I liked driving through and seeing them myself; next year I'll plan to leave earlier so the girls can enjoy them too.

Christmas Eve was pretty hard for me. Nothing specific triggered the sadness, I was just sad. I just missed Zoe, just simply wanted her with us...just that simple. It's been hard each day since then too. No specific triggers, just missing her. And also knowing that the one year anniversary is less than two months away. In some ways I can't believe so many days and months have passed already and it makes me more sad that it's been that much longer since I last held her. In other ways it still seems like it happened a minute ago. Her last 24 hours are etched into my brain and I imagine they always will be. I've still been trying to remember the good things...and still longing for signs from her or maybe dreams about her. I was napping with Avery and Lily a few days ago...Avery was snuggled up to my back, hands fully entwined in my hair, Lily was snuggled in the front...and as I started to drift off I distinctly felt a weight on my shoulder...but it wasn't either Lily or Avery. I said "Hi Zoe, I'm so glad you're here" and that weight stayed on my shoulder for a while. When I woke up it was gone. But it made me smile just the same.

So...back to Christmas...Gampa had to leave early Christmas morning to pick up Gama Birdie at the airport so surprisingly it was just the four of us on Christmas morning. My mom and sister came later in the morning and we literally spent the entire day opening presents. These girls were completely showered...no I'd say avalanched...with gifts and of course wanted to play with things as soon as they were opened so it took a while. We even still had a few things to open the day after Christmas. It was two days after Christmas when Avery woke up one morning and said "open presents"...little does she know that we have one more Christmas to do this weekend with Richard's mom! Sheesh! It's a little rough having a birthday on top of Christmas...it would be nice if they were spread out a little. I had to use some of their birthday money to buy another shelf unit and bins to organize and put away their stuff...and we got rid of two garbage bags full of baby toys they don't even play with anymore. I am thankful, don't read that I'm not...it's just a little overwhelming, for them and for us.

The day after Christmas we got a very exciting letter in the mail from the IRS (how often have you said that before?) The Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation has gotten the 501 (c )(3) approval for tax exemption. We are officially official! Our website and logo are currently being designed and we hope to have phase 1 of the website up in early 2009. I want to thank everyone who sent donations at holiday time. We truly appreciate your generosity and that you would think of us at this time of year. I also have to send a huge thank you out to my Board members who take their positions on this Board very seriously and share the passion Richard and I have with making this organization a legitimate, worthwhile, productive, and effective source of support and resources for all parents of micro-preemies. You guys are awesome!!! I love you and am very excited for the coming year. Working on this Foundation is very cathartic for me. Just when I'm missing Zoe the most and asking those unanswerable questions the most, we'll have a Board meeting or I'll talk to my committee members about the website, and I just get totally re-energized. Having a purpose that is entwined with Zoe's life makes me feel like I'm doing something right in this world. So, here's to 2009...I don't know what's in store...but I'm willing to face it.


rachael said...

happy new year!

Kara said...

I'm so excited about the last part of your post and your non-profit approval that I have to comment on it first - congrats! :)

I've been thinking about you guys. Loved the Christmas cards, they were beautiful. I'm glad to hear the girls' party was fun.

Take care,

Jen Clark said...

i love how you decorated the camellia!! great idea! and i love that there was one perfect pink blossom there...perfect. it's good that you got some time away on your own and got a chance to let your tears out. i do think that a lot of times, the anticipation of the big day ends up being harder than the actual day. (((hugs))) you're definitely in my thoughts and prayers as i know it's gonna be extra hard approaching the one year anniversary.

All time favorite video of Zoe!

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Bible verses that comfort me

"Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord."
~ 2 Corinthians 5:8

"Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children....Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them"
~ Mark10:14 & 10:16

"...those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint"~ Isaiah40:31