Thursday, November 7, 2013

Upcoming Holidays 2013

As the holidays start to roll around, we all tend to get wrapped up in the gift giving and receiving. Most don't take the time to stop and give thanks for all that they have, like their family. I for one, have always been one of those people until last year. Last year the Lord threw a kink in my chain and made me stop and realize that my gift TRULY is that my loved ones are still in my presence. I have since then became so much more aware of my family's presence and well being. Ava Grace was no mistake. Her diagnosis was no happenstance. She was my family's miracle. Our family was blessed with the most precious gift of all............a angel. She brought our family closer than close. She made us appreciates the seconds in the day, not the hours. She made me appreciate a healthy pregnancy and child. She made me realize that in a blink of an eye, someone can be gone from your life forever and you shouldn't wait until the next time you see someone or hear from them to tell them the meaning in your life. MAKE THAT CALL, DRIVE THAT DRIVE. Heck, send that text. As we roll into our holiday season, my family will give back.

Last year The Oakes and Casavechia family merged together and started a new family tradition in memory of our own angels, Ava Grace Oakes and Hayden Brent Casavechia. We started the gift of giving. Not to each other, but to the children that reside at Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson, MS. This is where our angels lived in and out of, until their last day on earth. Most people don't know about or even think about sending their children to Mississippi's only children's hospital. Everyone has heard of  Le Bonheur Children's Hospital or St. Jude, but have yet to hear about Batson Children's Hospital. That's where we are coming in. We want everyone to know of this magnificent hospital that we have right in our own back yard. We want people to know about the children that are treated there every day and have fantastic results. We want everyone to know that what a compassionate, kind, child-friendly environment this hospital has. This year we want to give back to the hospital family. We want each child that is in the hospital this year at Christmas, to receive a Christmas stocking full of goodies. We want them to feel like they are not missing out on the most important day of the year just because they are ill.

This year will be our second year as "one big family" that will give back to our second home. We plan on doing this with the help of our friends, family and community. On December 2-7th we will be accepting stocking drop off's at Oakes Toyota in Greenville, MS from 9am-4pm daily. With each stocking that is dropped off, we will enter your name in a drawing for wonderful prizes that will be given away throughout the final day (December 7th). Local businesses have come together and donated various products, certificates, and other items to be given away. This is a way for our community to unite and help bring in as many stockings for these earth angels as possible. Did you know that Batson gets approximately 9,000+ admissions a year? Did you know that their bright and vibrant Emergency Department sees over 100,000 children each year? These are your neighbors, your family or your friends. My oldest was also recently hospitalized for a illness that was treated as best as possible locally, but needed admission and more intense treatment than was available at home. We immediately drove to Jackson. I do not regret a moment of that drive. The emergency room welcomed us like we were a "no knock on the door friends". They were compassionate and understanding, not only to my son, but to a mother that had lost her little one a year earlier. They don't "treat" you here, they "help" you. There is a huge difference.

Can I hear the gears grinding in your head, trying to figure out what you can stuff your donated stockings with? I sure hope so. This year when we drop off the stockings at Batson, we pray that there are so many stockings that each of the children get one. Not just the children who are staying there short term, but the children that live there indefinitely, because upon being diagnosed their parents decided that they could not have/take care of a special needs child. There is a whole floor dedicated to the resident children who call this cheerful hospital HOME. There are babies in the NICU that will call Batson home. While Ava Grace was in NICU, there were 4 babies that called Batson home. It was bittersweet. Bitter in the sense that they would possibly never know home in my sense of the word (unless adopted). Sweet because the nurses fought over who got to take care of these children because they were step in "mom or dad". Could you imagine not having Christmas or worse, not knowing what Christmas is truly originated from? This year our family will also be including Christmas angels with their story book of how Jesus is the reason for Christmas. These will go into the stockings to be given to the children of Batson. We will also have a Christmas angel on site and a Santa to take pictures with. If you've never heard of the Christmas angel, it's like the elf on the shelf, but MORE meaningful and comes with a wonderful story in restoring the spirit of Christmas.

We will also have a fish fry from 11am until we run out. Last year this fish was so wonderful that we ran out quick. The plates will cost $10 per adult and $5 per child. All proceeds will go to Batson Children's Hospital. T-Chelle's Confections will be donating a cake also. If you have not had her cakes, you are definitely missing out. She has personally became my go to person for cakes.

In all this event announcing, I seemed to have left off the most important thing........LOVE. Having the support of everyone for this event, not only brings awareness to the hospital, gifts to children, but it brings LOVE and HOPE back into mine, Bryan, Lauren and Brent's hearts that our children are not forgotten. It shows us that there are people out there that remember our children's faces and their stories. Our stories have brought many people to the Lord. They have brought them closer to each other. To hear these words and see the support of a cause that is so dear to us, warms our holidays up dramatically. The Lord is the reason that we are still standing. He is the reason that we stand tall and proud and are able to show our appreciation to HIM for loaning us two of his angels. We know that they are still with us and nothing will ever change that. We were truly blessed to have such awesome children in our life to remind us of the importance of each other and the work that the Lord is capable of.  Thank you in advance for your support and understanding of our SECOND reason for the season.  We love you.

Ava  Grace Oakes

Hayden Brent Casavechia's blog:
“If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.”
- Elizabeth Edwards
“Comfort comes from knowing that people have made the same journey. And solace comes from understanding how others have learned to sing again.”
― Helen Steiner Rice

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ava Grace's Re-Birthday (1st)

Well today was the day that I have been stressing and crying over for the past month. My sweet little angel girl turned 1, so in honor of my ladybug we decided to give her a re-birthday party. I have planned and planned what I would do to honor her. I literally burned pinterest up on my phone. Not too sure my husband doesn't think that me and pinterest are in a love affair. Looking for ideas for a angels birthday party is hectic. There are absolutely no ideas of others. We spent most of the morning cleaning the house and then out to the graveside. We cleaned there as well. Bryan cut the grass, while me, Landon, Trace and M.I.L. cleaned and organized. All of Ava's and Mary's angels were really dirty from the last storm and their bench was dirty too. Once everything was tidy, we all just stood around Ava's grave and a silent prayer was said in hopes that it would reach my baby girl. Many, many tears have fallen over the past few days. Emptiness had taken over my heart and turned my stomach inside out. I don't know how my feelings have been so repressed for so long, but the one thing I can tell you is that they have surfaced. I miss her. I miss her so much. God has blessed me with friends and family that accepts me for the pain in the butt that I am and still loves me through it. Lord only knows what has gone through my husband's head lately. I don't even want to know honestly. I would never wish the pain of loosing a child on my worst enemy. She is my daughter. My one true mini me. I may not have her by my side, but I have her in my heart.

We decided that it would do us all good to take a few steps away and go swimming with the boys. Trace mastered the waterslide all by himself today. Wow, huge step. We spent a couple of hours there before flying off to visit some of the sweetest people I have had the pleasure of encountering. If you have never been to The Sweetery in Cleveland, you MUST go there. Their cakes are fantastic and their personality surpass that. Did I mention that they made Ava's cake for her re-birthday party? Did I mention for free!? They are Godsent! Lauren is such an amazing person. They too had a loss of a young loved one and know the heartache. Lauren puts her heart and soul into making people smile through a tragedy, such as AG's cake today. This cake was amazing (you will see). This cake would have easily fed 50+ people and it was ate by 23 people with very little left. **So much for my diet today** :) I totally understand why transporting a cake to a location is so stressful. Running 30 minutes behind and having my 10 year old hold my cake and telling him a bazillion times to "hold on to the cake", "Don't let the cake fall", "Don't stick your fingers in the cake". My poor child was finally like "I've got this, geez". haha got to love him.

I did mention that I have great friends and husband right? Well bless their heart, by the time I got home, Bryan had finished the last few chores at the house that I was stressing over. Jason went and got the food and also set it up. Gretchen got the last minute things that I forgot. I am a very organized person and am a big  planner, so for me to forget stuff for this is abnormal. I believe religiously in a Excel spread sheet for organization purposes. The house looked good, the food smelled good and once I got the cake in and set up, it was precious!!!! All of AG's ladybug decorations were in place. Finally when everyone arrived and ate (way too much per them), it was time to paint AG's stone gifts. We told everyone that PRESENTS were not required,  only their PRESENCE was. I could list all my fantastic family and friends that attended, but they are in the pictures :). All of the kids and some adults painted their own stone to go in Ava's flower garden as presents to her. They did so great. I am so proud of them. Then we planted Ava's tree. Explination: Amy Guidry Oakes gave me a tree seed with a sweet little poem on it when we received the diagnosis of Ava. It is a "memory tree and as it grows, you think of me". We never planted it before because we knew that the house we used to live in was temporary and did not want to have to worry about transplanting. Well tonight was perfect. Bryan and I planted her seed,  just as her memory is planted in us and grows daily. We had a ton of lit Princess balloons that was hot pink and glowed in the dark. It was heartwarming for all of our friends and family to be present to release them with us. No sooner than we released them, the sky became brilliantly pink. I absolutely DO believe that this was a sign from AG. She was telling us thank you for the re-birthday party, balloons and still remembering her with love. She is my lit sky, my spunky peanut, my ladybug and above all my heart. Her tiny hands and miniature feet have left a huge print on my heart. I will not lie to you, I hurt. Bryan hurts. My children hurt. It is beyond any pain that I have ever encountered. Sometimes I feel like she is laying in my lap swaddled in her pink, satin blankie and looking at me like "mommy, I love you". She had these beautiful eyes that looked into my soul. She communicated with those eyes. Her older cousin saw an owl and said that "the owl reminds her of Ava Gayce". I never thought of it until it was pointed out, that the owl reminded her of AG because of her big eyes. So wise, so small. Ava Grace loved her family. That was present from day 1. We received many gifts today: a willow tree angel that had  a metal balloon that said "birthday girl", flowers, balloons, cake and a personalized photo album of Ava Grace. It is so beautiful and made me smile so big. It was perfect.

My little girl changed many lives. I received a text today that said that AG's story and our love for her and the Lord, led her to the Lord. I was stunned. I knew that people have said their life was forever changed by AG and that she is/was a positive influence in their outlook on life, but never that she led them to the Lord. That was it! That was the Lord's purpose of giving us a angel temporarily. If only one person was led to him, then that was all worth it to Him. I am not a "bible thumper" (as a friend of mine says), but I am a true believer that the Lord will bring all of His believers back together some day. Until that day comes, I will be holding on to the temporary physical presence of my little angel girl and all her physical features and love. She taught me a lot. I have spent more time and taken less for granted since she was here. Everyday with my loved ones are a miracle, not just a gift. "One has to experience the pain of death and loss, in  order to appreciate life and feel love within." My family and friends made tonight the happiest that I've been in a while. Thank you all. Everyone changing their profile pic to AG, made me cry tears of joy all day long. I seriously can not thank you enough. My BIGGEST fear is that Ava Grace will eventually be a memory that is shoved to the back of the brain and never thought of again. This will not happen in our house and I pray that it doesn't happen in yours. Thank you all for the support and love. You all made my day less painful.

In honor of Ava Grace, I am renaming my online store "The Spunky Peanut". :) She will then be worldwide. wink wink.
Little gifts for my sweetheart

Pink balloons fly high over both car lots in honor of my sweet girl's birthday.

The sod is not down yet, but her flowers were perfect for the occasion and the wreath matched her perfect.
A little swimming to lift my babies spirits

Such a perfect cake.  Sure my ladybug would be jealous of not being able to taste this cake:) 

Everyone blowing up balloons to prepare

What a beautiful sunset that came right after we let all the princess balloons go

Love my girls!!!!

The kids are painting their stones for Ava's flower garden.

Landon painted the ladybug. Every time he's sees a ladybug he screams for me and Bryan. He says its his sister. Of course trace looks at them like "that's not my sissy". 
Painting must be hard work :) 
Landon and Meg did fantastic work! The kids were so proud of their gifts of art to Ava Grace and so were we.

My re-birthday girl's birthday girl willowtree angel.
Our personalized photo album gift from my M.I.L. It's filled with memories of Ava Grace. Here are a few:
Ava Grace loved riding. The last one was her first trip home from the hospital. Just she and I. Nerves of steel must have kicked in because I don't remember looking at anything but her during that trip home. I remember walking into the house for the first time in two months with my little girl in her cars eat. I honestly don't think that anything will EVER feel better than that moment. It was like all my worries were gone. Everyone rushed to our side to see her, including her brothers who had only seen her under tons of blankets. It was a miracle in our home. She was the miracle. She still is the miracle in me. As I dry my eyes to see the screen, I want to thank everyone again for all of your love and support. It's amazing how the small community can make someone feel like a queen to the princess during the rough times. I love y'all! A special thanks to my closest friends, Stancey, Gretchen and Landry. 

Forgot this photo in original blog. This is of Bryan and I planting an "angel tree" that was given to us by Amy when we received Ava's diagnosis. 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV) ❤😘

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's been a while, this I know

So many people have private messaged, emailed, called, texted or visited in wondering how our family is doing since we lost our precious Angel. Lately, the days have been more bad than good (I hate to say). I feel my irritation rise more often inside than before. My heart literally hurts when I think of her tiny feet and her sweet little hands that they said would never open. WRONG! My angel opened her hands. Her little fingers so tiny that they didn't wrap all the way around one of mine. I remember her gaze into my eyes and stare at my soul. No words had to be spoken, we "just knew". I prepared myself for the worse, or so I thought. Oh how I laugh sarcastically at that thought now. Nobody can prepare for the loss of a loved one, especially a child. I sit here in tears. My heart overflowing with so many emotions. So happy that she is not in pain, not fighting for life every single day, no more apnea, no more cardiac arrest, no more life long struggles and fighting doctors to believe in the right for life. I anxious, to meet you in Heaven. The one thing that this whole experience has taught me above all others is that I'm not afraid to die. NO, I do NOT look forward to dying, nor am I leaning in that directions. If you lose a child you will understand that death is not an ending, it's just the beginning, of something so perfect. The Lord guides me daily to be a better mother, a better wife, a more "well rounded" person. Without His strength nothing would be possible. Even when Ava took her last breath in my arms, I felt the love of my family there and the embrass of the Lord. I felt whole in that moment. I had the chance to witness and hold a miracle angel in my arms and get to be called her mommy. I will FOREVER say I am her mommy. When someone ask the name of my youngest child, I ALWAYS say Ava Grace. She will always be counted and always be remembered and spoke of often. She changed me in so many ways. Before Ava, my life did not belong to the Lord as it should have, I would never had thought of training for a half marathon in her and her angel buddies honor. I would never have agreed to go on a radio show to talk of the deepest and most gut wrenching experience of my life, in hopes of raising money for such a WONDERFUL children's hospital. Batson NICU nurses and dr's truely set the bar high in the medical field. One of her nurses called me tonight, just to say hey. I miss you guys. Love you Amanda and Jessie! I've worked in the background of the March of Dimes many, many times, but never been in the "spotlight" per say. Ava has given me the strength to tell her story to many people in hopes that they will see how precious these "special needs" and preemies are to us as parents. I am not nervous in the least. I am once again anxious. People all over the world has read Ava Grace's story. To spread awareness of Trisomy and other genetic abnormalities that far away, speaks volumes! A lady in Argentina sent me a message last week and as soon as I can finish translating it, I will send her big hugs. So many emotions, one for each hour of the day.
      The loss of my brother has haunted me lately and made me miss him so much. I don't think I ever really grieved over him, as he died suddenly a month before Ava was born. He was my go to man when my husband was working. He had a way of saying the harsh truth and then sprinkling some sugar on top with just a few words. I miss his face, his hugs and his texts. He always made my day with his sarcasm. He was definitely right to tell me Ava Grace was going to be our miracle baby. That she was bubba!
     I've often been asked "how are your other children"? Well, Landon has his days where he wants to go to the cemetery to see his sister. Some days I catch him with tears in his eyes. Other days he talks about her like she was the best thing since chocolate and that she is perfect in every way. Heartbreaking when your 9 year old tells you that he would take Ava Grace's place in Heaven so she could be here with me. ****Tears rolling down my face**** I can not tell you how precious and tenderhearted this wonderful little boy is. He has been through hell and back this year and still manages to live life as normal as possible. God bless his soul! Trace, well he is a different story all together. He has freaked me out a time or two. He was laying in his bed one night (keep in mind he just turned 2) and made a startled sound. When I turned to him he pointed above my head and said "zizzy". He continued to point and followed his finger with his eyes, moving higher and higher until he said "zizzy go bye bye". If that doesn't give you chills, check your pulse. I instantly started crying. After a few experiences similar to this, I absolutely believe that children can see things we can't. They haven't been "mind altered" by the non believers in this world. My child saw something and amazingly he saw his "zizzy" floating above me all these times.
    Ava Grace is still with me in spirit and in my heart. I will forever carry her in my heart, until I can hold her in my arms in Heaven. The Lord did me the greatest favor by allowing me to meet, hold and get to know my little spunky peanut before He took her home. I only pray that the people that He has chosen for this same journey, can find some peace in knowing that God only chooses the parents in "need" of something "special", to care for a "special needs" baby. He knows that we will give them the utmost attention and dedication that a person can and will. Not only with a open mind, but a open heart as well. God bless everyone who has walked side by side with us and especially those who have and will, walk in our shoes.

 I am wearing a pair of shoes

They are ugly shoes. Uncomfortable shoes. I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes. They are loo...ks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in this world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think
about how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.
Author~ Unknown

                                   Beautiful baby girl! Kissing you through the stars and clouds!
                                 My whole, sweet family all together. How I miss these days.
                                                    My brothers seeing me for the first time
                                           Move your paci Ava, I can't see your sweet face
                                           She almost got her little fingers all the way around
                                                              My mamaw loves me :)
                                             One of her first smiles that I caught on camera

                                                                                                                                                                He absolutely proved that! Thank you
 Ashley, Amanda and Amy for all the little notes and signs you made of encouragement. I love you guys so much!
      University Medical Center / Batson Children's Hospital will always be true heros in my book!
They've set the bar high for others to attempt to reach for. Good luck other guys! "skillz" as the nurses in NICU say. :)
                                      "That's Ms. Spunky Peanut to you" :) "Diva of the NICU"
 The shirt that I will wear in the Color Me Rad race, along with some other "pink and blue" for Ava's little boyfriend that's with her in Heaven. Love you Hayden!
The shirt that Landon and Trace will be wearing during the race. "Delta Angels" on the front. (We don't want to get our other shirts stained with paint.
                                            Borrowed this from Trisomy Angels Memorial