Tuesday, February 24, 2015

January Leftovers

January is always a blah month for me.  The excitement of the holiday season is over, and we're faced with the long, cold winter ahead.  This January, however, was extremely busy.  It was fun, and it flew by!

We kicked it off with a fun New Year's Eve/New Year's Day celebration, we celebrated many birthdays and went to a lot of birthday parties, Liam got really sick and ended up in the ER, we played in the snow, and I had a special night out with Lexie and Lily!  Other than the sickness, January wasn't so bad!

There were a lot of exciting moments that made the cut for things to blog about, but there were just as many awesome everyday moments!

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We cheered the Steelers on in the playoffs, but unfortunately, they lost.

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Lexie wrote and directed a play starring her siblings.

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We hung out together.

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We snacked and warmed ourselves by the fire.

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SOMEONE learned how to reach the top of the dining room table and swipe food, which resulted in a huge mess! Good thing he's so cute!

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Elsa escaped the house and enjoyed the snow.

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We had a dance party with our friends.

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We got our beauty rest and played a lot!

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Someone decided that she has to make a funny face every time I pull out the camera!

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We learned new ways to hold our cups.

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We were silly.

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We were cuddly.

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The wee dude turned 17 months old!

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Cinderella became a new obsession.

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He made us smile...every single day!

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We did homework and practiced sign language.

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They tested our patience, but always quickly reverted back to their sweet selves.

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Lily traded in her Elsa braid for some Anna braids.

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Bristle Blocks became the new favorite toy!  The entire family loves them!

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We lived, we loved, we rested...

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I have to say, the everyday moments are my favorite!

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Happy 8th Birthday, Lexie!!!

Eight years ago, on February 22nd, at 4:16 PM,  a beautiful little girl entered the world.  Our sweet Alexandria Elizabeth captured our hearts at that very moment, and never let go.

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Last week was incredibly rough for our family, so we were determined to give Lexie the best birthday we possibly could.  We didn't want her to remember her 8th birthday happening during a time of sadness. Birthdays are always extremely special in our family, and we may have stepped it up a notch this year.  She is worth it!

All Lexie wanted for her birthday was a REAL American Girl Doll. We picked one out that had the same hair color, eye color, and skin color as Lexie.  It arrived on the same day that our beloved dog passed away.  After watching her cry, Grant and I decided to cheer her up with an early birthday present.  Although it didn't take away her pain, she was thrilled!  The price may have been hard to swallow, but she truly loved it.

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The day before her birthday, we had two birthday parties for Lexie, during a snowstorm, followed by a sleepover with 7 additional kids.  (That post coming soon!)  On the morning of her birthday, she woke up to a new sweater hanging from her chandelier, a houseful of family and friends, and our traditional doughnut breakfast!

After everyone, except for her cousin and BFF, Aubrey, left, we surprised Lexie with a few extra presents.  One from Dylan, one from Lily, and one from Liam! She loved her FurReal Friends Luvimals Sweet Singin' Bunny, doll camping set, and American Girl Doll Yorkie in a carrier!

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The rest of the afternoon was spent playing and napping!

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We all left the house around 3:30.  My niece met up with us to get Aubrey, and we met up with a friend who let Lexie pick out a gift.  After shopping, we headed over to Olive Garden for Lexie's birthday dinner (her choice), but there was a really long wait.

She was very disappointed, but we compromised with her second choice: A local restaurant called the Deckhouse.  It turned out to be a big success!  Dinner was delicious, we ran into family we hadn't seen in a while, the kids were extremely well behaved, and Lexie got to spin the birthday wheel and won $5!

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After dinner, we ended up at Petco! Lexie had a hamster named Toby for 2 years, and she adored him.  She took such great care of him, and was devastated when he passed away.  We never replaced him, but still had his cage and supplies.  She still mentions Toby frequently, and has been talking about wanting another hamster.  After our dog was put to sleep on Thursday, Grant felt awful, and promised Lexie a hamster for her birthday. 

Lexie picked out an adorable, sleeping hamster.  Well...psycho hamster bit the lady who was boxing her up for Lexie, shook the box the entire way home, then chewed a hole through the bottom of the box and escaped.  Luckily, she has since calmed down, and seems very friendly. That being said, Coco earned the nickname Loco Coco! But Lexie is in love, and I have no doubt they will be best friends!

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That evening, Lexie, Dylan, and Grant went to a friend's house for a few hours.  When they got home, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Lexie, had cupcakes and ice cream, and took a few pictures with our favorite 8 year old!

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As Lexie's special day came to an end, she got ANOTHER unexpected surprise: A 2 hour delay at school the following morning!  She got to stay up late, and finally had a chance to read the special birthday letter I wrote to her in her birthday card.  She was pleased!

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Lexie had a birthday every bit as wonderful as she is! She said it was the best day, and it was full of fun and full of love!

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Happy 8th Birthday, Lexie Bean! You are truly beautiful inside and out. You are a wonderful sister, and you are Liam's number one fan. You take such good care of him, and we know you will always defend him, and everyone you love, with every ounce of your being! You are so smart and so sweet. You are compassionate, responsible, polite, funny, strong, and mature. You love fiercely. You have a beautiful voice, and we see your talent and confidence blossoming. We are SO proud of you, sweet girl! Even though we want you to stay our baby girl forever, we can't wait to see what the world holds for you. We know you'll do great things! We love you forever and ever!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bailey Blue

"Once upon a time there was a dog who was loved very much.

As that dog grew and grew, her family grew and grew. They spent countless hours racing around the backyard together. One million kisses and cuddles later, an entire decade had passed. 

They knew it was time to say goodbye, but it felt impossible to do.

This sweet dog spent her last 24 hours cuddling with her family, posing for pictures, saying goodbye to friends, and eating lots of treats.

She was THE best dog from the very start to the very end."

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Yesterday, Grant and I had to make the heartbreaking decision to put Bailey to sleep. My mind told me it was time, but my heart felt otherwise.  Even so, the appointment was made for this afternoon.  We were left with 24 more hours to spend with our sweet dog before we had to say our final goodbye.

Bailey came into our lives in 2005, shortly after Dylan was born.  We were still grieving from the sudden loss of our previous Great Dane, Morgana.  Months had passed since her death, and we were enjoying our new journey into parenthood, but something was missing.  That something was a blue Great Dane named Morgana's "Bailey" Blue.  

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Dylan and Bailey became instant best friends.  They were both babies, and they grew up together. Bailey was the most loving and patient dog.  She loved kids and was ALWAYS gentle with them.  Great Danes are often called Gentle Giants, and she was definitely that. 

Over the next 10 years, three more kids joined our family. She loved each of them, and they adored her. She loved to go outside, run laps through our yard, chase the kids, and lay in the sun.  We made some incredible memories during that decade that flew by in the blink of an eye. 

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Bailey began to slow down and lose weight in the Fall. Cancer was most likely the culprit.  She was nearing the very end of her lifespan, so we decided to let her live the remainder of her life in her home, surrounded by the people who loved her.

On Monday, it became evident that her time was near. The decision to end her life was the most difficult decision Grant and I have had to make.  Even though I know we did the right thing, the guilt is consuming me.

During her final 24 hours with us, we spoiled her and showered her with love.  We made sure she knew just how much we loved her.  We fed her tons of treats, and took some pictures.  I am so grateful we had that time with her.

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We cried.  We cried a lot.  

Today was tough. 

She had a normal day, and we tried extra hard to make it special for her. She stood by Liam's highchair as he ate, and I allowed her to sneak his food off his tray. She excitedly ran to the door when the doorbell rang. Friends came to visit and kiss her goodbye, and she ran out to greet them. We fed her pieces of lunch meat, stuffed chicken breasts, and an entire package of hot dogs. We snipped off a few patches of fur for a memory book. We rubbed her incredibly soft ears. We sat with her and hugged her as much as we could.  It was a normal, special day, but incredibly sad.

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Dread began to build up inside of me as the clock ticked closer to 2:00.

I took her outside for the last time, and watched as she stared up at the sky.  Snowflakes landed on her soft, silver fur, and she turned to stare at me.  I swear, she knew. 

We attempted a final group picture of Bailey and the kids she loved most.

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My mom came over to watch Lexie, Lily, and Liam.  Dylan rode in the back with Bailey, and my dad came along for moral support. When we arrived at the vet, after a scary, snowy drive, all I wanted to do was run back home with my dog, but I knew that was selfish of me.

Before they took her back, Bailey turned and stared out the window one last time.  At that point, I was positive she knew.  They had to drag her away from us, which just made the pain so much worse. 
They quickly called us into the room to say goodbye. Dylan began to cry, said his last goodbye, then returned to the waiting room to sit with my dad. Then it was time. I wanted to tell the vet to stop.  So many times.

It truly is heart-wrenching. The pain of watching your beloved pet leave the world is something that stays with you forever. I wrapped my arms around her neck, put my forehead against hers and just kept telling her it was okay and that I loved her so much.

Around 2:50 PM, she passed away in the comfort of my arms. 

Everybody left the room, and my tears turned to sobs.  I held her as tight as I could, and rubbed her ears, face, back, sides, and feet, trying to remember every detail of our beloved dog. 

I wept over the dog who was a huge part of our lives for so long.  She lived in our home almost as long as we owned it.  She became a part of our lives shortly after we became parents.  She welcomed three more children into our home and loved them just as much as she loved her Dylan. Our entire parenthood journey included Bailey. I wept because a decade went by faster than I ever imagined it could, and that decade told the story of her entire life.

Letting her go was nearly impossible, but I finally said my last goodbye, said a prayer, and left the room.

It hurts so much.  I know it's nothing compared to the loss our friends experienced this week, but it still hurts. The house feels empty without her.  This is the first time, since I was born, that my home has been pet-free. Several times tonight, I called for her, completely forgetting she was gone, and the tears began to fall again when she didn't come. Every time I close my eyes, I see her sweet face and her huge, puppy dog eyes.  

I always thought she looked like an uncoordinated, long-legged, gray deer.  I can picture her as a puppy, picture her in her prime, and picture her as she looked today.  Every time I picture her, she's outside, where she loved to be.  I can't believe we won't ever see her in our backyard again, or play with her, hug her, or pet her. I can't believe she will never again excitedly run out to greet us when we get home. Unfortunately, saying goodbye is the most difficult aspect of owning a pet.  They really do become part of the family.

I know time heals and the pain will ease.  I've had to say goodbye to two other beloved dogs.  But the pain will never completely go away.  There will be times when it hits so hard that it takes my breath away.

I'm heartbroken.  We're all heartbroken.  She was so loved, and will be forever missed. Even though she's gone, she will always be with us.  She will always be a part of our story.

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Rest in peace, Bailey.  We love you forever. 

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... 
Author unknown...