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Monday, December 22, 2014

Celebrate

Here it is. A day that many of anticipated.  The day that Ellie finally took her last breaths here on earth.  It has been a whole year since I held that sweet girl in my arms as her body finally stopped working.  That's how we explain death to children, and the beauty in that is its just "her body".  Her spirit doesn't have to stop working, her spirit is what lives on.  Yes, her body and her face are what we will picture when we think of her, but her spirit is the way we feel when we think of her, its the "sparkly" feeling we get in our hearts.  That never dies.

I just asked Noah if he knew what today was (we had talked about it a few days ago) he said "its the day we celebrate, right?" I have a smile on my face and monkey on my lap (SG had to put monkey down in order to shovel more food in her mouth!).  I think Noah is completely right. As I put my Princess Strong shirt on I feel her all around.

Someone asked me when the hardest part of this was.  Yesterday, since she died on a Sunday or today, the actual anniversary. The hardest part was last night, remembering all that we went through, all her body went through that night, remembering the tears and the prayers. But joy comes in the morning.

"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning". Psalm 30:5

The morning Ellie died, I rejoiced. Cancer had taken her body, but God took away her pain.  No more hospitals or yucky medicine. No more needles. No more sitting on the couch all day while everyone else played. No more fighting over food, no more getting sick. I'm sure people could say, "well God didn't have to give her cancer in the first place."  You are right, but obviously there was a reason for it, there was a plan crafted before the beginning of the world. I can't change that. I can be grateful that He ended her suffering and through His son Jesus, he promised me that I can live with Ellie and Him forever.

So today we celebrate.  We celebrate Ellie, we celebrate Jesus, we celebrate this gift we've been given.  Cancer has made me a better person, it has made my family more compassionate. It has opened our eyes to a world we had know idea about. Cancer has made me better at my job. I listen better, I understand pain better, and I don't let little things bother me as much. Cancer has made me a better mom, I give more hugs and kisses, I take more pictures, I talk more. Cancer has made me a better wife. I try to share my feelings more, and not go to bed or say goodbye with anger in my heart.  (I'm by no means perfect, but I'm so much more aware of just how precious life is!)

When a guest preacher, preached an entire sermon on this one verse, i knew it had to be shared!
"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2 Cor 9:15
His gift to us was His son.  And a promise that even though we lose loved ones here on earth, if we just accept His gift, we can spend eternity with them.  We don't have to perform a million acts of service or sacrifice a cow. Its simple...
 "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." Romans 10:9-10

Today (at this moment) I feel joy, I am surrounded by my family, with a huge feeling of appreciation for all the gifts God has given me.  If you ever doubted God, I think today is the perfect testament to Him.  A day that could be extremely sad, is filled with joy.  We are not miserable, we are not angry, we miss her and I'm sure at some point there will be tears, but God gives us the strength to move through each day, through His grace we can look forward.

So today I invite you to celebrate Ellie with us! Wear some pink and thank the Lord for your gifts.  Spend time with the ones you love, doing something you love!  And Ellie's challenge to you all....
video

And if for some reason you can't see the video, the message is, put your phone down and dance! (I have personally turned mine off...and Richard's isn't working!)

We can thank you enough for lifting us up in prayer this week.  We have felt everyone of those prayers and are so grateful to have you all in our lives.  Thank you for following this journey with us and being a part of our family.  We love you!

Prayers, Praise and Pink
~Carly


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stop and smell the silly string

For a few weeks now I have been trying to find the right words for what I want to say...I know, I know, me at a loss for words!  So many thoughts have come flooding through my head this time of year, I keep putting notes in my phone, of what I want to write about, the thoughts that come into my head...then I try to connect them all, and I don't know how. 

Richard works retail, so from Thanksgiving until after Christmas is always hard in our house.  He works a million hours, and as much as I hate that, I'm very thankful for his job.  But with the emotions that are stirring around this house right now, plus the addition of Richard working a ton, and a new baby in the house...things have been, well a little touch and go.  

Thinking back to year ago, we knew our daughter wasn't going to live, and we choose to let nothing else matter except spending time together.  We didn't worry about jobs, or making other people happy.  We did what we wanted to, when we wanted to and even though our daughter was dying, we were living life the way it was meant to be, filled with love and dedication to our family.  We didn't fight over chores, we didn't stress bills, or who would babysit, we just lived in each moment, because we truly knew what it felt like to not have tomorrow promised.  We let ourselves STOP and live. Now a year later, we are back to the busy life. Back to jobs, bills, babysitters, school, disagreements, tempers....stress.  The other day, when the stress was maxed out...I thought to myself why is it that it takes someone telling you your daughter is about to die, to slow down and truly enjoy what life is.  How quickly we forget to appreciate our lives, our children...how quickly we fall back into the chaos of life, pushing the important things, like family time, aside for other things.  

I was digging through pictures the other day and I came across this picture.
Our family was over, we were celebrating a niece's birthday.  Silly string was involved.  Silly string is something I have never played with, its something I have never even thought to play with.  My brother and sister in law brought it with them and we had a huge silly string fight in my front yard, we have it on video, it was so much fun.  Ellie wasn't too sure about it, but as long as I carried her around, she had fun.  This is the kind of silly and meaningful fun we had last year.  Yes, there was a large "stress" hanging over our heads, but we weren't "stressing" anything.  No worries about the mess, or who got who, or how loud we were or if we looked silly, we just played.  It's a shame we don't do this more. Its sad that we just don't STOP.  This pictures stayed in my head for days.  Why can't life be like this all the time?  Of course I'd love to go back to this time because Ellie was still here, but I loved the way we lived.  I loved what was most important in that moment - just that moment.  We truly lived in today.
We (I) spend so much time trying to rush through life, or we are too busy to enjoy what is going on in our lives. We don't stop, we don't slow down, and before we know it, that time is gone. We can't get it back, those people are gone that we wish we had been nicer to or spent more time with.  Our child is gone that we should have played with instead of saying "hold on".  Our parent is gone that we should have called and listened to even though we didn't want to.  Our old friend is gone that we never forgave or never told them we were sorry.  

This time leading up to Christmas has caused me so much reflection.  I have spent weeks watching others get ready for Christmas, I rarely see Richard because he works so much, I have tried hard to give people ideas for my kids for Christmas, and tried really hard to be excited for this holiday.  I won't lie, I'm not that excited.  I have loved Christmas my whole life.  I was the teenager still up at 6 am on Christmas because I couldn't wait to open presents.  I am the parent who lays in bed, just waiting for a child to wake up so I can see the joy of their faces....this year, I don't have that same excitement, and that makes me sad.  I am digging deep for that Christmas joy, its not easy.  Last year our lights were up in October, this year, there isn't a light to be seen. Its not because we are choosing not to, its just life is "too busy" I guess, and no one is really in the mood.  We just put up the Christmas tree, and that took Noah's persistence - thank goodness, it finally started to feel like Christmas.  To me this is technically our first Christmas without her.  Last year, she was here for the preparation of Christmas, for all the excitement, the beautiful lights...the only part she missed was the opening of the gifts.  Which I got really upset about...and angry for a minute.  But really...is that what Christmas is all about, opening gifts?  It shouldn't be.  She got to enjoy the joy of Christmas time, and then celebrate Christmas with the birthday boy himself.  Last year, I desperately wanted time to stop.  Our world stopped and we breathed in every word, step, giggle, kiss and breath.   

Over the past year I have struggled time and time again with a life that doesn't stop.  Life that continues to move on when one of my children is not physically here with us.  Life that continues to be chaotic and exciting but so lonely at times.  And I know life cannot stop.  My life was not meant to stop when Ellie died.  I am still here because the Lord has more to do with me.  He is not finished using me to spread His word and His love.  I am still here to love my amazing children who are a blessing, each in their own way.  My life is going to continue to be used in whatever way He sees fit.  

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."
 Philippians 2:13

But I have learned that there are some things I need to stop doing and moments that I need to slow down and enjoy.

Stop worrying - about what others are thinking, about what others may say, about messing up, about making the wrong choice.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Stop and take a selfie - These are my favorite pictures I have of Ellie and I.  It's not vain, it's capturing a moment in time, for all you know a moment you will never get back. It's being silly
Stop judging others or making assumptions about them, you never know what they have just experienced or what their day holds

Stop stressing dinner, PB&J is a fine meal and the kids love it!

Stop complaining...when you start, find something to be grateful for

Stop being quiet in the car (the thoughts I'm thinking are usually stressful anyway) - use it as an opportunity to learn all about Noah's day

Stop telling your kids "in a minute" especially if you've said it 10 times already
Stop crocheting and hold the baby (that one's totally for me!)

Stop holding in emotions, people need to understand I feel sad too.
Stop doing it all yourself and take time to shop with your hubby...or do something together.   

Stop looking at the computer, iPad, and phone so much - play with the kids

Stop holding a grudge - we all mess up, we all make mistakes, God forgives us all.  


I ask for prayers, not just for my family, but for the many families who are struggling this Christmas.  Many of Ellie's fellow fighters went home to Jesus this time last year.  And while we all deal differently, I can only imagine their pain is intense.  Thanks for the continued love you surround us with!

Prayers, Praise and Pink
~Carly


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanks again!

My kids are all in bed, my bags are still laying all over the house, there's dirty dishes in the sink and I'm exhausted...physically and now emotionally. 
Today was beautiful.
Today was special.
Today was full of love.

Since posting last night, so many people had reached out and shared Ellie stories with me, so my heart was feeling good this morning.  When we arrived I saw a few pink shirts, and as time passed, more and more pink started rolling in. My team is so good at looking after my children, to make sure I don't loose them. And so good at making sure I remain calm...which I must say I did an excellent job at today.  It was so nice to see just how many people turn out to support St. Jude. So nice to see familiar faces and friends from years gone by that make such an effort to be there to support us. 

When I was asked to speak, I jokingly asked my boys if they'd like to talk instead of me, they both looked at me like I was crazy.  Then one night Noah starting telling me how people should know that St. Jude isn't a sad place, it's really happy. We were working on his fundraising page, and as he was telling me what to type, I again asked him if he wanted to share that with all the people at the walk. He said well maybe I could. He started to get more excited, and last night we wrote down exactly what he wanted to say. We went over how there was going to be lots of people, and a microphone. He was siked! Even told me if I messed up, I could just start over. And bless his heart. When it was his turn, he got out his first line, and fell apart in tears. But I have to tell you just how proud I was of him. This super shy boy, who hid behind me at Relay for Life when I spoke...was now trying to be brave and tell people about St. Jude.  It's funny and exciting to,see how God has changed us and is using us.  I never in my craziest dreams would have imagined myself getting up and speaking at these events in front of hundreds of people.  And after I speak I always hear "I'm not finished with you yet" (it's a song), which makes me even more curios of the plan for my life! I finished Noah's speech for him and then a million people hugged him (thank you all) and we rolled on to the starting line!

I had a flashback to last year and getting to hold Ellie's hand and start that walk...I missed that this year. I missed watching her with all the little girls that wanted to talk to her.  And the little presents they gave her. 

Thank you all who supported our team.  Our grand total is $14,544! That's amazing to me, amazing that God choose our pink team to help spread his love and raise money for St. Jude. 

Thank you again to every one who came out today and I'm sorry that I didn't get to hug you all or talk for more than a minute. And I also apologize if I didn't answer your text or emails or messages today, I put my phone away and tried to enjoy the moment...and go figure there was so much less stress today, with out my phone! In fact I didn't take any pictures, till after the walk was over...good thing I have some awesome friends who take pics! 

So again thank you, I can't say it enough!

Prayers, Praise and Pink
Carly

Friday, November 21, 2014

Let's be honest

To be honest when your child dies, you just want them to be remembered...by someone besides you.  You crave someone to speak their name.  Someone to share a picture or a story about them. In my case, I look for Princess Strong shirts every where I go. I want someone else to remember "that was one of Ellie's favorite songs" and think of her as they sing it....and then tell me about it. I want to hear about your pink dryer lint that makes you think of Ellie! You just don't want your child to be forgotten. And even though people tell me she's changed their lives, they will never forget her, I still worry.  It's probably a selfish thing...but my daughters gone...this is all I have till heaven!

To be honest when it came time to register our team for the St. Jude walk again, I was excited. We had so much fun last year and we had a ton of support and we raised over $25,000! Why in the world would we not do it again? So months ago I signed us up. We sold shirts even had an auction to raise money for this walk.

To be honest, all along I had this lingering thought in my head....what it no one joins our team, what if no one donates? I mean I knew my family would walk...and that makes at least 40 or 50 people...but what about every one else?  Last year our team was filled with family, strangers and old friends. Our team was filled with love, and of course pink, but our team also had Ellie on it. Last year the amount of money we raised was more than I could have ever dreamed of! Ellie's story went viral, and sadly I guess a little girl with terminal cancer raises a ton of money. She pulled at people's heart strings and our story probably made many people think, "what if that was us?"

To be honest, here we are, the day before the walk and I'm not ready.  I've been wandering around the house all day trying to get everything ready, putting together last minute things, making lists (that I will probably lose before tomorrow morning). Oh and a pedicure (priorities!) 

To be honest, every time my phone or ipad dings with an email, I check it. I have watched this team grow from just a few Blaine's to currently 127 team members. I have watched my $10,000 goal for the team come and go, right now we have passed $13,000! 

To be honest I feel very blessed...and a little embarrassed that I doubted. I really wasn't sure anyone would care to help any more since out girl wasn't here. I wasn't sure they'd want to come walk in the cold with out the driving force behind our team.  But the answer is, people do care. Ellie is the reason for our team and the reason we care so much about St. Jude and childhood cancer, but God is the driving force behind it all.  He put this "want to" in my heart...even when I have doubts.

So to be honest...I was afraid to give our team a big goal because I was afraid we wouldn't reach it (I don't like failure), but I also wanted to push myself and our team. So I took a deep breath and went for $10,000, we did it, even without her here on earth. She's not forgotten. God allowed my family to open peoples' eyes to the needs of others...especially my sweet Noah. When I asked him what he wanted his goal to be, he told me "$1000", very sure of himself.  Of course mommy doubted, but went with it. Now he's past $1400...and so excited by it. I keep having to re-write this line...he has passed $1500 now!

To be honest, tomorrow isn't going to be easy.  Last year I had my little celebrity with me...this year I have her in my heart. But she will also be in the hearts of so many others, and her pink will be shining brightly for everyone to see.

To be honest this isn't all about me, or even Ellie, this is about letting others see God in us. Letting other people see and experience what life can be when you let God in. It's about God using my family to help St. Jude. And to be honest, I probably need that reminder more than anyone.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16


If you would like to donate to team Princess Strong, for St. Jude please visit http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Walk/Walk?pg=team&fr_id=20997&team_id=56688

Thank you all who have made this possible, my heart is full of joy and peace right now...honestly.

Prayers, Praise and Pink,
Carly

Sunday, November 9, 2014

What's Wrong?

A question we seem to ask a lot lately, unfortunately I've been struggling to find the answer to that. I don't really know, I will be fine and happy and snuggling my new baby girl, and then it hits me, and the only way I can describe it is empty. That's probably the last word someone would think I would use to describe life right now. My house is busy, we are constantly feeding, washing, driving, changing diapers and sleeping (well some of us). My house is far from empty, and I like it that way. But my insides, those are a whole other story, those feel empty. I'm sure the crazy hormones don't help, but the hole in my heart these past few days, feels bigger than ever. It's unrepairable too it seems. I keep trying to fill it with something and every time I do, it feels even more empty. I've tried crocheting, jewlery, working on auction stuff, even cleaning (I know...I'm desperate) but nothing seems to fill that void. It's still there taunting me, reminding me, she's gone. She's everywhere in this house, in all the pictures, in her sisters, her clothes that SG wears, but she's no where. The empty seat in the van just screams...missing kid!!!  I just want to hold her, or even just her hand, that would make me happy. The feeling of being lost overwhelms me at times. Not like I don't know where I am lost, just without purpose lost. I sit here just hoping it will come to me, I will figure out what it is I'm supposed to be doing, hoping it will fill up the hole just a little bit, so it won't feel so empty, but so far it hasn't come to me.
Please don't get me wrong, I don't spend my days crying all day. In fact our house is full of new life and new love. Lulah is such a blessing. She's sweet and calm. She likes to snuggle and really isn't all that demanding.  Some nights she sleeps lots and some not so much. So tolerates SG's continual kisses, and attempts to pick her up....no worries, SG has not succesfully picked Lulah up, but you gotta watch her!  In fact, for the "non baby" person I am, I feel super attached to her. There's just all these other crazy jumbled feelings.

There's a lot I've learned about grief and a lot I'm still learning. One important thing I've learned is crying is necessary. There are days when a memory creeps in and I can turn it off because I know it's going to cause too many tears for that moment. And then there are times, I don't turn the memory off, I know it's going to hurt to allow it in, but sometimes the hurt feels good....that sounds so weird. 
This was our last trip to chic fila after what would be her last clinic appointment. This was the first time she threw up, and I knew why. I wanted to be in denial, pretend it didn't happen, but when I look back on this picture, I can see how tired she was, how hard she was trying. This is one of those memories that I can only allow through at certain times, because it hurts, a lot.

There's been lots of tears, and often all I can say to Richard is "I don't know what's wrong". It's closing in on a year since Ellie left us. I can't believe it's been that long.  Who knew the further out it got, the worse it would hurt.  I'm just over it. The reality is, it's not going to end, there's always going to be a hole that hurts.  Everything sparks a memory, songs, movies, sounds, clothes, car rides. Even Noah has been more weepy lately, maybe I'm contagious! 

What is my purpose in telling you all this? A release for me, sharing in case someone else is going through the same roller coaster ride and feels alone, or maybe just a big old self reminder that I will never be able to satisfy my needs with things go this world....that one literally just came to me like a huge light bulb! (That's why I blog!) I'm never going to fill my Ellie hole with crocheted hats or a clean house. The pain will never be eased by a shopping trip, even a Target one! Then pain will be eased through prayer, I will find direction through asking for it. This is just another valley I'm traveling through, I'm sure there will be more, but also many more mountains! 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

Prayers, Praise and Pink
Carly


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Princess #3 has arrived

Our newest princess arrived yesterday, October 20th, 2014. She made her entrance at 8:13am weighing in at 7lbs 11oz and 20.5 inches long. She came out a hollering but quickly calmed down once she came to snuggling with me! We have no idea who she looks like, but she's beautiful! 

Her name is Lulah Marie. Many have asked where that came from, so I wanted to take a minute to share with you the sweet way her name came to be. Ellie had quite a few names, not legal ones, just ones we called her.  Along the way she aqurired a few names with Lou in it....Ellie Lou, LuLu, Lou and LullaBelle. When we were trying to find a name for this baby, I really wanted to some how tie Ellie into her name, but not shadow this baby in Ellie. We tossed around a few princess names, but nothing felt right. Once Richard said "I'm just gonna call her Lou" I knew what direction I wanted to head. This name is definetly not a "normal" name for us, and honestly part of me was pretty anxious and like typical Carly, worried what others would think. But the longer I sat with it, the more I liked it. And as Noah walked around calling my belly Lulu, I knew I had to set aside my worries.  I love that she will have a beautiful story to tell when asked about her name.

We are all doing well. Noah is once again in love with another sister. He has ohhhed and ahhhhed over her hair and tiny feet. SG isn't really all that concerned with her, and probably won't be until we bring her home, and she stays there! 

I'd love to thank you all for praying for us, these days have been pretty smooth and there hasn't been an overwhelming emotional melt down. Lulah loves to snuggle with her Daddy, and even her Mommy and that makes everything okay!



Ecclesiastes 11:5
Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. 

Prayers, Praise and Pink,
Carly

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Plans

Last morning of sleeping in for a while. Tomorrow we get up at the crack of dawn to go have another baby. Wow, that just sounds crazy.  I love the look on people's faces when they ask me "is this your first?" And I politely say, no, my 4th. And then they always ask, how old are they? This is where I still stumble. I haven't found that answer I feel comfortable with.

 At the age of 33, I have to giggle, this wasn't the life I had envisioned in my plan for myself some 10 years ago. I only wanted two children, and I told Richard I wasn't having them until he was out of retail because it's too hard to raise children and work retail. I was also going to have them far enough apart that one would be in school before the next one so I wouldn't have to pay daycare for two.  Again, this was all my plan. I also didn't have a relationship with The Lord then, so I really felt like I had control over this all.  So as we approach baby #4, I'm pretty thankful it is God's plan and not my own. If we'd stopped at two, SG wouldn't be here, and as more and more of her personality shines through (although beyond onry at times) I couldn't imagine our world without her. If I had waited till Richard was out of retail, we still wouldn't have kids, we wouldn't have the amazing insurance we have and we wouldn't have had the support of such an a great company through out the past year.

 And as much as this all makes me happy, I'm still very anxious for tomorrow. We are once again facing a life event without us all here. Usually the day before one of these I get all crazy and snappy...at least I'm starting to recognize it now and I can try to better prepare myself for it. When SG was born, I was preparred to do this alone, with Richard and Ellie in Memphis, but then God made this beautiful plan and allowed Preacher to be visiting them and the doctors to let them come come for a few days. I was blessed with the midnight surprise of my life.  That's not going to happen this time, unless Jesus himself shows up. Nobody can drive up to heaven and pick her up, even if only for an hour. I love seeing my new baby's face for the first time, I love hearing that little scream.  But what I have loved just as much, these past two babies, is watching my other children meet their new sibling for the first time. The grin they get from ear to ear just makes my heart soar. I don't get to see that from all of them this time. You just don't realize how blessed your are in that moment. I'm sure I quickly took it for granted and got stressed out about something. Now as this baby arrives, I d give anything for the stress of having 3 children come to the hospital to meet their sister. Or the problem of trying to fit 4 children in our 3 bedroom house. Problems I never dreampt I would have. 
So I won't even try to pretend I know what the next few weeks has in store for us. Going into this with an open mind, but highly aware how emotional this child's entry to the world will be.  I pray that God will help us raise her with a love of The Lord and the knowledge of her older sister that she never met, but whom she will partially be named after....no we haven't shared her name yet. Totally unlike us (well unlike me) to be this last minute in everything, but this time is so different.
So as many times before, I'm asking our friends to cover us in prayer. That today we can be filled with peace, as anixety starts to grow. Prayers for our family who will indeed be hurting tomorrow. Prayers that we can see the miracle God has given us, and possibly feel some princess strength from our girl.  Thank you in advance for your love and prayers.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 

Prayers, Praise, and Pink
Carly