To my little sister…

We shared a bed and a room for most of my childhood. I slept on the bunk above you, seeing who would take longer to say their prayers. I tattled on you when you “stole” the raw cookie dough out of the fridge and ate it. You allowed me to do your makeup, unaware that I had no idea what I was doing.

You went to school with me and I’m pretty sure, nope, definitely sure that you were way cooler than me. You even beat me in a cheerleading tournament.

You allowed me to confide in you, offered advice and made me laugh hysterically, even when I didn’t want to.

We shared in our pregnancies, became mothers in the same year and spent many late hours texting each other, sleep deprived, slightly delirious and yet full of laughter.

You will always be my little sister…my best friend. Happy birthday, Rachie. I love you! ❤

30 months…

I can’t help but laugh at the title. 😁😆😂😊 My sweet boy turned two and a half last night. How is that possible?!

I remember pregnancy, though it seems like a lifetime ago. I was blessed with the opportunity to become a mommy. As someone who once said she didn’t think she’d want a child – I don’t know what I was ever thinking.

I recall laying in bed next to Joe one night and feeling something like a fish swim up my belly real quick. It was gone in an instant and took me a moment to realize that it was my sweet boy stretching out in my belly.

 I remember laying on my couch one day while Joe was at work with my hand on my belly and feeling him push against the bottom of my round belly for the first time. Thinking about that moment still brings tears.

When driving or showering or picking out clothes, I used to talk to this sweet boy in my belly. Reading him books at night, mine or his, made me incredibly happy.

The first time he went to Life.Church in Albany, my belly danced along with the music. Every song, every beat, every lyric…this little light of mine was as happy as he could possibly be. He danced throughout my belly and didn’t stop for the entire service. I’d never experienced anything like it…it was like he was singing and praising along with me. I don’t think I stopped smiling that whole day.

I had crazy back pain suddenly on the 4th of July…come to find out, it was the beginning of his entrance into this world. I woke up just an hour or two after falling asleep and was convinced I had a sudden and severe kidney infection. I was googling it while running to & from the bathroom. I woke Joe up, convinced that I needed to go to urgent care. He hesitated before asking me if I was sure that I wasn’t having contractions. Well, shoot. I sure was…and they were already 5 minutes apart.

After a long birth and the doctor saying I may need to have a c-section, my little boy arrived in this world. I held him, instantly crying with Joe in tears by my side. Jacob, the name we decided on that morning because they needed to put something on the dry erase board, was bawling his beautiful first newborn cry. Through tears, as I held him in my arms for the first time, I told him how much I love him and wished him a very happy birthday…over and over again.

The last 2 1/2 years have not been easy. Those first few weeks of adjusting were hard, breastfeeding was a struggle initially and I thought all I did was mess up. As he grew and reached new milestones, I continued to be in awe of him. Everything about him shows how amazing he is. Even in my darkest moments, both before and after cancer, this boy has always found a way to brighten my day and remind me that this life is so incredibly special. 

Yesterday, we surprised him with a Mickey Mouse guitar because we saw it on clearance while picking up a prescription and knew he would love it. His smile was instant and he hasn’t put it down. Add in new sunglasses and flip flops for vacation and Mr Cool Kid was all set. Falling asleep with both of them is a testament to how much he loves them both.

As I lay here in bed, beyond exhausted from this challenging week and in a bit of pain, I am humbled. I am reminded that this little man, this sweet boy, this rockstar, this miracle…is mine. God knew the battle that Joe & I would face and he blessed us with this amazing gift to see us through it – every moment.

Jacob has his own thought process, has an infectious giggle and a kind heart. His smile goes on for days, he loves to play with his parents and he has a fierce love for his relatives.

He is my reason for never giving up. He is the reason I will fight with all that I have in me. He is why I push myself to be a better person. This boy that I call my son…he has my heart.

My baby sister…

I remember being just 7 years old and waking up at 6 am every weekend. My baby sister was just a few months old but her crib was in the room next to me so I heard her cry before anyone else in the house. I’d wake up, walk to her room and open the door to her huge smile. I don’t think there was a better way to wake up.

I’d change her diaper, grab her milk out of the fridge and bring her into the living room. We would snuggle on the couch together and watch Saturday morning cartoons. She would smile brightly and hug me as tight as she could.

Today that baby sister celebrates her 26th birthday. Growing up with 3 sisters, we had our fair share of fights. We were close one minute and not the next…and yet we were always the best of friends.

This sweet girl has been by my side since the day she was born. She visited me in Florida and stayed for a week at a time, she took a leap of faith and moved to Georgia a few years ago to create her own dreams and she has grown into an incredible young woman.

We have met each other for quick trips in Savannah and Myrtle Beach more times than I can count. We have visited each other regularly and won’t leave each other without the next trip planned. Every Thanksgiving for the last 4 years we have spent together. She has jumped in the car to lay by my side in the hospital when I had brain surgery, she drove down to celebrate my double mastectomy with a trip to the beach just 4 days later, she planned a week long vacation to spend with us last year and she traveled down to meet her nephew right after he was born. The miles don’t matter.

We call each other just to say hello, with no agenda in mind. We ask advice of each other regularly, knowing that the other person is listening intently for an idea of what to do. We laugh so hard together that we cry helplessly and breathlessly. I am not afraid to call her crying to vent or with exciting news to share. I was beyond honored to stand by her side on her wedding day. 

We have had a lifetime of memories together…and they are no where near finished. She is one of my very best friends and I am so blessed that God chose her to be my baby sister. 

I love you, Katerdid. Forever and for always. 

The last sunset…

A Facebook memory popped up today. This is not unusual, of course, but they typically involve pictures of Jacob. They always make my heart swell, as he continues to grow so much each day. Today’s reminder was different though and it made me pause.

In 2012, Joe & I spent New Year’s Eve at the beach. We enjoyed dinner, a glass of wine and a walk down the beach at sunset. I have always been anxious to be off the roads early on a night like tonight. The picture was of us, smiling broadly, the beach behind us. The very last sunset of 2012 going down in front of our eyes. 

This year, we unintentionally did the same thing. Jacob woke up with a bit of a cold so we changed our plans. We ventured to the beach, enjoyed appetizers at the same restaurant and visited the beach. The sunset in front of us, closing down on 2016.

The amount of things that have changed in 4 short – or long – years is astounding. The restaurant itself went through a massive renovation and was closed for months last year. It was more of a hole-in-the-wall then than now but still just as good. The ocean has remained constant, with its waves crashing loudly, though I can just imagine what has changed beneath the surface. The sunset is equally as gorgeous and glowed brightly against the blue sky as the sun lowered itself down.

Then there is us. My mom joined us this year, which is the first time in over a decade that I’ve spent this night with her. I’ve gained and lost a few pounds over the years and the lines on my face have deepened with age, stress and tears – of laughter and sadness. I’ve been through many hairstyles – straight, long and bald.

We didn’t have the blessing of Jacob back then and little did we know, a year later I’d be proudly holding my belly as we watched the ball drop…struggling to stay awake.

I started a new job since then. Though the same company that I’ve been with, it has been both rewarding and challenging as I learn new things.

We bought a new-used car and our parents (my inlaws) bought a boat to keep us all busy and enjoy the water.

We have traveled to the Caribbean to celebrate my big sisters 30th birthday, visited Georgia countless times to visit my baby sister and her husband, had multiple trips to my hometown for visits with the people we love and trips around Florida to visit friends and local parks.

Life is relatively the same in terms of where we live and yet it is so very different. It’s hard to imagine life before cancer and even harder to remember life before Jacob. Our routines are so different than they were back then and our priorities are very, uniquely different.

We have made more new friends than we can count and though we lost touch with a few, we all found our way back to each other over the last year.

I have rediscovered my faith in God. Though I never lost in entirely, it has strengthened exponentially and I remain steadfast in my faith and love for our Lord.

Though the sunset is similar, the years between are memorable for so many reasons. Our blessings are unique and huge. We are loved by so many and love hard in return.

As this year comes to a close, remember all the moments – big & small – that you are so incredibly blessed with. This year comes to a brilliant end while 2017 lingers, waiting anxiously in the distance.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope this year is filled with love, laughter and overwhelmingly wonderful memories. Keep spreading the love, my friends. Now & always.

Just a plain-ole-Monday…

Growing up, my parents had a boat. We enjoyed many summers on the local river, spent quite a few nights camping and have a lot of stories and memories to share. It was a point of fun (and frustration) throughout a few years of childhood. My big sister and I took boat lessons and I took pride in being the copilot of my parent’s boat. I could drive it, dock it and set the anchor at a young age. Though I lost many of those talents over the years, they are memories that my sisters and I laugh and talk about now.

The excitement of the past few days didn’t end today. We went out for a boat ride with friends. We spent the day on the river, the boys played at Blue Springs park while checking out the manatees (though they were more interested in running around the grass) and we cooked out at Hontoon Island. We shared stories, enjoyed the sun and were shocked by the massive alligator we saw sunbathing beside us. It was a gorgeous Florida day.

There is an old tree that my family and I always stop to take pictures at. Daddy stuck his hand through it and startled Jacob. Well, that sent him running and screaming (nothing a quick snuggle couldn’t fix). I happened to capture the moment on camera without realizing it. His face is quite priceless!

Despite getting yelled at by the park attendant (apparently they closed 15 minutes before we returned…oops!), the day was amazing. My boys, my momma and Jacob’s friend from the womb (and our good friends!) and the day was built for memory making.

I hope all of you enjoyed the day after Christmas and were able to snuggle your family and enjoy every moment. Happy Monday!

The night before Christmas…

Growing up, my grandparents had a barn on their property. I have no idea what they originally used it for (anyone?) but it became the place that we gathered for Christmas. My grandparents on my momma’s side had eleven children. Add in their significant others and a few dozen (50ish?!) grandkids and Christmas became a rather large event. There was never a discussion about what to do or where to go – we always gathered at my grandparent’s barn.

The grandkids were all gifted wooden stools with their names engraved and a burlap sack. We all brought our stools to sit on while opening gifts. My grandma always arranged a gift exchange between the grandkids and one for the adults. One of my uncles would dress up as Santa and handed out gifts.

The sacks were filled to the very top with gifts from my grandparents. Each grandkid collected something that my grandma decided when we were born. My collection was brass and my sack was always loaded up with different types of brass, mostly antiques, that I would display on a huge shelf in my room and play with all the time.

The gift exchange was no joke. We would sit on our stools for hours while the presents that spread across half of the barn slowly grew smaller as our collection around us grew bigger. There were tons of laughs, lots of hugs and some of the most amazing memories. I would usually fall asleep in the car on the way home, believing whole-heartedly that I could hear Santa’s bells ringing high above.

Since moving to Florida, we spend Christmas Eve with Joe’s family. Though the setting is different and the family is smaller, the love and laughter is there. My cheeks hurt tonight from smiling so big and laughing so hard. We enjoy a fabulous meal of Italian food prepared by Joe’s mom, indulge in cannolis and share gifts that we thought hard about giving each other. We even have a tradition of giving out a bag of coal to one person each year based on something silly or funny that they did that year.

Tonight was no different with the exception of my momma joining in on the fun. I have been enjoying this past week with her here but this is the first Christmas that we have spent together in well over a decade. Having her here and buying matching jammies means so much to me.

And then there’s Jacob. Every age I say “this is the best!” but this age…oh, how I love it. He is truly becoming his own little person, talking and asking questions and learning more and more. He has been counting the “sleeps” until Christmas & Santa and he even left out cookies (cooooo-kkkeeess), milk and a carrot tonight. 

One of his gifts tonight from grandma and grandpa was a pair of binoculars. Although he enjoyed his other gifts, these went around his neck and he didn’t let go. He played with them all night and even looked for Santa in the car on the way home. When snuggling in bed tonight, his excitement was palpable. He looked at me and said, “Momma, I look for Santa?” Sure, love bug. He lifts up the binoculars and looks through the half window above the curtains. “Santa, where are yoooouuuuuuu….hohoho (deeper voice)…Oh! I shink he’s ouside.”  I am fairly certain we did that routine for about 45 minutes (and one potty trip!) before he looked at me, kissed me and said “I go to seep so Santa comes” and rolled over. Oh, be still my heart.

This Christmas is special, like all others. But it’s filled with more love, laughter and snuggles than I know how to contain. I can’t help but smile ear to ear as my mom, Joe and I sit by the light of Jacob’s little Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas to all of you. May you each be gifted the blessing of love and happiness this holiday season and always. Spread the love!

Sister weekend

I grew up with 3 sisters. We did not always get along – we absolutely had our fair share of fights. We shared rooms, sometimes beds, we had 1 bathroom and drove each other batty more often than not. But we were there for each other. Three of us were know as “so-n-so’s little sister” or “little B”. We had our moments of being close and not so much but we were always there for each other…and we always will be.

A few weeks back, my big sister asked in a group chat if we could have a sister weekend. I agreed, expecting it to take some time, thinking it was a pie-in-the-sky idea. When she suggested a weekend that was around the corner and looked up plane tickets, I knew she was serious. We all figured out the logistics and set everything in motion.

Our first ever sisters only weekend was on. My three sisters traveled to me, I snatched them up at the airport and we headed to my happy place – the beach. We stayed at a hotel where every room had a balcony facing the beach and where we were only steps from the ocean. Though Friday was windy, we bundled up and made the day fun. The rest of the weekend weather was pure Florida perfection. A slight breeze cooled the day while the sun shined brightly over our heads. Though the sun set early, the moon, stars and even a planet lit up the sky above us.

We spent the weekend having major belly laughs, swapping stories of the past, encouraging each other about future decisions and snapping photos on our disposable cameras (cannot wait to see how they come out!!!) We seriously laughed until we all cried, we walked arm in arm along the beach looking for shells and the four of us snuggled up on the two full beds and watched one of the movies we grew up watching (Labrynth – which just happened to be on TV last night!!).

We haven’t always gotten along, we all are guilty of “borrowing” each other’s clothes and I’m pretty sure we have annoyed each other at some point. But we are sisters -through thick & thin. This weekend was a wonderful and needed reminder of just how much we mean to each other. I don’t know what I would do without my sisters. They each offer a unique and inspirational perspective to me. I love them all so much.

Here’s to the next Sister Weekend!