Ryan and I just got back from an amazing trip to New York. We visited to see the world premiere of Thank You For Playing, a documentary that was created about our family.
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I’ve had the honor of watching the beautifully crafted film three times now and each time the skillful cinematography and strong editing impress me. For almost two hours, I have my family back and I watch in awe at the love and joy we shared so easily. It makes me miss Joel, but it reminds me that his life still matters, and it was wonderful to see people introduced to him for the first time in this film.
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I wanted to let you all know that you will likely be able to see the film at a film festival near you. You can like the facebook page for continued updates about the schedule of the film. Please encourage friends and family you know in New York to buy a ticket to see the film this Tuesday or Thursday where it is in competition and audience members can vote for the film to win a $25,000 prize. I would love to see the filmmakers celebrated for sharing our story in such a touching tribute to Joel’s life. here are still two more showings, Tuesday at 6:45 pm at the Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 5 and Thursday at 5:45 at the Regal Cinemas Battery Park, the Tuesday showing is $21.50 including fees and the Thursday showing is $13.50 including fees. You can purchase tickets to see Thank You For Playing at the Tribeca Film Festival here.
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Next week, the film will show in Toronto at the Hot Docs Festival, then on Tuesday May 5th, at 3:00pm the film will show at the first ever Bentonville Film Festival in Bentonville Arkansas. This Festival also offers a very large audience choice award so anything you can do to help spread the word to friends and family you have in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri would really help the filmmakers. I believe that anyone you recommend the film to will really appreciate the opportunity to see it (even though I know I’m biased.) Tickets for Bentonville are available here. These tickets are just $8 a piece with a $2 order fee so get a group together and save money on the order fee!
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I think this film is really something special and I hope you’ll help us make sure a lot of people get to enjoy it. A trailer of the film is available on the website (the first link in this post.) Here are a couple photos from Tribeca, the first is Ryan and I with the filmmakers at the Q&A after the world premiere of the film, and the second is Ryan and his business partner Josh giving a talk about the video game.
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I meant to write here on Joel’s birthday, and then I didn’t, so i meant to write something right after it, and I still didn’t. It’s been so long now that I will just sum it up simply to say that the day started out rough and then it was as if the whole day just re-set and it ended up being a really beautiful day of remembering him. I have credited all your prayers for our family for the re-set. So thank you to everyone who prayed for us on Joel’s birthday, we needed it, and I covet your prayers tomorrow, on the anniversary of Joel’s death. On Joel’s birthday we pulled the kids from school, we made colored ice orbs and put them on Joel’s grave, six of them because he was turning sis. Then we drove to a really cool carousel that we rode twice because Joel really, really loved carousels. The canyon we drove through to get to the mountain town with the carousel had the most amazing snow crystals on the trees, so we took a photo of them. When we got back to town we had McDonald’s and frozen yogurt. It was a wonderful day, full of tears and memories and joy. I can’t wait until Joel’s next birthday, it is a great day to celebrate him. Here are a few photos from that day:
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So, now I feel like I have finally caught up what I should have posted, except for the family photos I wrote about and said I would post more of, but I’ll catch up on that in a new post. I wanted to write very briefly about tomorrow.
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A few months after Joel died I decided that I had no interest in celebrating the anniversary of his death. I did not understand why so many people focused on such a terrible day. I had no interest in remembering the day he died. If I had my way, we would let it slip by unacknowledged, forgetting the exact date all together if we could. However, as I was thinking these things a new thought slipped into my spirit, God’s answer to my resistance. “It’s not just the anniversary of the day Joel died, it is also the anniversary of the day Joel entered Heaven, and that is worth celebrating.” It stuck.
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I realized that I had an opportunity to teach my children something valuable about anticipating the fullness of life we gain in Heaven. So, tomorrow morning we are celebrating Joel’s heaven birthday. I talked to them about Zoe, and how, before she was born she was alive, and she liked her little life in my womb, it was dark and she could hear some sounds, she had what she needed and every day was a lot like the day before. Until the day when she was born, then her whole world started to shake, and there was pressure and the warm buoyant sack of fluid that kept her safe burst, and she was probably pretty sure that it was the end. However, on this side of things, we all knew that it wasn’t the end, it was just the beginning. Sure enough, she was born and there were colors, and the mommy voice she had heard was a whole person, and she got to taste things and experience a much fuller life than she had before. She was alive before she was born, but we celebrate her birthday because that was when her life became fuller.
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I asked them how often they had heard people refer to death as “the end.” I told them that just like Zoe, we may think of death as the end, but it really is just the beginning of a new and fuller life. Joel was alive before his heaven birthday, but when he died here he gained a fuller life, and he is experiencing things now that we can’t even understand here. We laughed a little, and talked a little, and there was genuine joy. So tomorrow, we are getting balloons and releasing them into the air, since we really don’t know where heaven is anyway, but if we could we would give Joel balloons for his heaven birthday. I don’t plan on re-living the hard moments from a year ago, at least not any more than I already have. I plan on making tomorrow a celebration of something that is really worth celebrating instead, and I hope that as we do this year after year my children can learn to live for eternity, to look forward to heaven. I believe that is a lesson worth teaching.

We had a good Thanksgiving, and a good Christmas too. Thank you for all your prayers. I never would have imagined that either of these days could have gone as well as they did. There has been a lot of joy in our home. I am so thankful.
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Tonight the tears are close. It was a very good Christmas, simple, and nice, but it does not come close to the joy we had last Christmas. Tonight, with my kids tucked in bed, I will allow myself to miss my son, and to think that in 18 days he would have turned six. It’s hard to imagine him as six-years-old. This past Sunday at church the sunday school kids all came together and sang a song in front of the church, and in the front row, to the left of Elijah, all the five-year-olds were standing together, singing and looking so impossibly old. I remember when each of them were born. They were Joel’s age. I watched them sing, more than I watched my own kids singing, and just thought, “Joel should be standing there with them, singing. These should have been his friends. This should have been his place.”
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It was a good day. We got through it well. Now it’s over, our first Christmas without Joel. It wasn’t as hard as it should have been, and I don’t know how I feel about that, probably mostly grateful. Chances are I will be a mess tomorrow, but today was good.

This morning, just before I woke up for the day, I dreamt I was riding a horse. It was a trail ride, but kind of a wild one. However, unlike me in real life on even the tamest trail rides, I was not even remotely afraid. As the trail ride ended and I had to leave the horse to get ready for dinner, in my dream, I realized I didn’t want to leave the horse and that I really loved it and that this horse really loved me.
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For a little perspective, I have never really cared for animals. I’ve always assumed this makes most animal lovers a little wary of me. I’ve just never enjoyed animals much. I don’t ever want a pet, they seem like a lot of work. So, basically, I have never in my entire life felt about an animal the way I felt about this horse in my dream.
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When I woke up I had this sweet, lingering feeling of love and longing, and I immediately thought of Joel, because Joel loved animals, and specifically he really, really loved dogs and horses. Joel wasn’t in my dream. I have dreamt of Joel a few times since he died, but none of the dreams have ever felt very significant. However, this dream, completely void of Joel, felt very significant.
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I’ve never really believed that after people die they can send us dreams or anything like that. I know many people who have lost someone close to them do believe that and find great comfort in it. I’m not saying I believe that now, but I will say, that I suspect if Joel could send me a dream, he would have sent me a dream just like that, a dream about loving a horse. This dream let me experience something I never have before, and almost can’t put into words, and it helped me understand how Joel might have felt about animals.
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The love I felt when I woke up felt supernatural and reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ writings about longing for heaven, and how that longing is something akin to the purest form of joy.

Every year we take photos in the Fall. Of course we take photos all the time, but certain times of year I become more insistent in my demand for photos. Every Easter I make sure we get a family photo at church, and every Fourth Of July I insist on a photo of all of us at the lake. Ryan and the kids will be quick to tell you that even at these more casual photo times I’m still a bit of tyrant when it comes to getting one good photo of all of us looking at the camera and smiling. There have been years where this was a gargantuan task, but we’ve always managed to pull it off.
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Fall photos are a much bigger ordeal. I plan what everyone will wear. We beg or bribe friends to go with us to some pristine location, and while one friend takes photos we implore another one to stand behind the camera and elicit smiles by whatever means necessary. Sometimes this has involved the use of flying dogs, peek-a-boo babies, and one time famously, it led to the invention of the “butt dance.” If I’m perfectly honest, tears are always involved somewhere in the process of the Fall photos, sometimes they are the tears of an uncooperative child, but most of the time, they are mine. Tears because we are running late. Tears because I couldn’t put together outfits as cute as the ones on Pinterest. Tears because as we are driving home after the photos, I convince myself that we really didn’t get a decent photo this year, because no one is willing to try hard enough. High expectations, disappointed, has led to far too many frustrating Fall photo days for my family.
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This year I was expecting the tears. Not for the regular reasons. I knew there would be tears because on Easter Day we barely managed to take a photo of our family all together, in between sobbing sessions, Ryan and I somehow pulled it together long enough to take a photo of our family, so incomplete, just a month after losing Joel. It felt important to still have photos of our family now, so we took the photos that were hard to take, we cried more afterward, and visited Joel’s grave. On Easter Ryan asked several times if we could just skip the photos this year, but I insisted. By the Fourth of July Ryan knew it mattered to me, and patiently took photo after photo of me with the kids. He even had a stranger take one of all of us. I distinctly remember lying in bed with him that night, looking at the photos we had taken, but only seeing what was missing. We remembered all the Fourth of July photos that had come before, when our family was happy, when Joel was still with us. Ryan was in a funk that whole week. It wasn’t just watching the fireworks without Joel, it was the pictures he was missing from. So, I knew that our first Fall photos without Joel would be hard. I was counting on it.
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This past Christmas, we had been given a gift certificate for a free family photo session with a Denver photographer, by a foundation that gives presents to cancer families. (Jordan’s Angel Foundation is amazing, and gave us an incredible Christmas last year when we couldn’t afford presents.) The certificate for free photos waited beneath a magnet, on my fridge. Joel’s eye turned in just after Christmas, and I told myself we would wait to get photos when he was better, but then he got worse. In the ten months since we received the gift of photos, I have looked at the certificate from time to time, a reminder that we would need to do photos again sometime, and it helped me look forward to it, even though I thought it might be too hard. Could we send a puffy eyed Christmas card this year? People would understand.
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I emailed the photographer a few days ago, I apologized for the delay in using the certificate and explained why we had waited. She was amazing. She scheduled us for just two days after I emailed her, and asked if we wanted to bring along a photo of Joel, or one of his favorite toys. At first, I shuddered to think of making Joel’s absence so present a part of these photos. We decided to bring Joel’s blanket, but I worried the kids would cry when they saw it, or that Ryan, remembering all the nights he slept with the blanket in the heartbreaking weeks after Joel’s death, wouldn’t be able to get through our already challenging photos with that blanket boldly displaying our loss.
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We had our photos taken yesterday. It started out the same way all our Fall Photos do, running late, mom upset that things aren’t working out, dad urging the kids to please be patient and helpful because these photos are really, really important to mom. On the drive, I mentioned, as casually as possible, that we had brought along Joel’s blanket to put in a few of the photos, to show how important he still is to us. There were no tears, no choked back emotions. The kids seemed to agree that it felt right to include Joel.
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It just got better from there. Our photos were fun. The kids did so well. We were glad we had Joel’s blanket, we pulled it our more times than we thought we would. We were remembering Joel, but there was joy in our remembrance. I never would have imagined that our first big photo session without Joel could be anything but heartbreaking. We had one teary moment right at the end, when the photographer was snapping a quick photo of the kids playing in the stream. Without meaning to, they had left a little space, a space where Joel would have fit. The photographer pointed it out to us, and we put his blanket there, and shed a quiet tear or two, but even this was good. It was a beautiful moment, at the end of a joyful experience.
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Today the photographer sent me one quick preview of our photos. It made me so happy, I just had to share it with you and write about our day. She also wrote in her email, “Now I can tell you that I’ve been praying about the session since I received your email. I even asked my prayer warrior friends to pray to so I am not surprised that it went so well. Having a family photo taken without Joel is a important step to take toward some kind of future healing and probably an impossibly hard one. I felt honored to take them and you all are such a blessing. ” So, all this time, there on my fridge had been a gift certificate from a woman who would pray for my family to have a good photo shoot. It is a small thing, but it made such a big difference. I will be able to look at these photos and not remember a hard day without Joel, but I will see grace when I see them, a joyful day where a hard day should have been.
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Here’s the photo she sent me, when I have more I’ll post them too. Also, would you be willing to pray for our Thanksgiving and Christmas? I have been dreading these days. I have been imagining oppressive sorrow and a very stark contrast between our past celebrations and the ones coming up. This photo reminds me that it doesn’t have to be that way, and that I should pray more about these small things that are so big in my heart.
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I listen as Ryan sings to our children before bed, and they sing along, loud and wild, and I realize we are not broken, not really.  We are a strong family with an undercurrent of great sorrow and great joy. These past six months have stretched me, they have challenged everything I believe and made me reexamine everything I know.  Not because what I believed or knew was wrong, but because it was incomplete, it wasn’t deep enough. It never can be, but I feel the stretching even though it is too soon for me to coherently express what is changing in me.

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“In my wrestling and in my doubts / In my failures you won’t walk out / Your great love will lead me through /You are the peace in my troubled sea. / You are the peace in my troubled sea.”

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The sorrow has made more more compassionate, and it has made me hold everything here on earth a little more loosely.  I see these things in my children too, and I’m glad. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have this kind of deep struggle in my life at such a young age.  They ask hard questions about God, questions I didn’t ask at nine, and we answer the best we can, but we are a little quicker to admit that there are things we just don’t know, but we tell them we always want them to ask, and we assure them that we will never lie to them. Then there are the questions I can answer, but not in a way that will build understanding.  Elijah asked me today, “Why isn’t Joel in your tummy?” he patted my tummy and looked at Zoe.  I told him that Joel isn’t in my tummy because he is in heaven, and then Elijah quickly declared, “Joel’s not in church!” I tried to explain again, knowing that it still would not be something he could understand, knowing I would spend the next few years re-explaining again and again. I hope he’s not still trying to find Joel, to discover where he has gone, but I’m fairly certain that he is and that I can’t stop him because he is too young to understand.  I find myself cringing when the questions are asked again, knowing that he still doesn’t know why his brother can’t be with him, why a member of our family is missing.  I worry that it makes him feel insecure and afraid, even though I don’t see any signs of it, just confusion, which is hard enough to witness and not fix.

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“In the silence, You won’t let go / In my questions, Your truth will hold / Your great love will lead me though /You are the peace in my troubled sea / You are the peace in my troubled sea.”

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I believe now that God has done what is best, even though I still kind of hate it. I still don’t understand how it can be true, but I do believe that when I stand on the shore of heaven I will weep and declare, “God, this thing you have done for me and my family and Joel, it is so much better than everything I asked for, how short-sighted I was then, but I see it now!”

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“My light house / My lighthouse / Shining in the darkness / I will follow You. / My light house /My lighthouse / I will trust the promise / You will carry me safe to shore.”

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I’m fiercely proud of my little family.  I love the strength I see in them and how they’ve learned not to be afraid to cry and feel and talk.  It impresses me because I spent so much of my life afraid to feel things too strongly. The pain in my childhood made me stoic.  This pain is transforming them too, but in a different way, it is building compassion in them but it is a compassion that is tempered by realism. They are not afraid of pain, but they are still sensitive to emotions.

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“I won’t fear what tomorrow brings / With each morning I’ll rise and sing / My God’s love will lead me through / You are the peace in my troubled sea. / You are the peace in my troubled sea.”

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I know I need to write more often because the changes in me and in each of them are so subtle right now.  I notice I feel different but can’t pin point what the catalyst was that shifted my perspective. Tonight, I listen to them sing and realize that we have a new theme song.  A song that has carried us through a season. A song that will forever be linked in my mind to this heartbreaking season of healing slowly together. They stop singing and Elijah asks about Joel’s birthday, and they talk about what we should do four months from now when Joel would have turned six.  Ryan says we should do something fun, and Caleb says we will probably just cry all day.  Ryan says we will have fun and cry and then have fun and cry.  Isaac says, in his very silly Isaac way, “It will be like, Wee! Wah. Wee! Wah,” and even Caleb laughs. Ryan says we should find a carousel. Caleb suggests it be a carousel with the golden rings you reach for and throw, because he doesn’t know how rare those are, since he’s ridden two antique carousels with working gold rings. He doesn’t know it is uncommon, because all the special things we got to do with Joel, the magical unbelievable experiences we shared were just normal life to Caleb and Isaac and Elijah.  They’ve never known anything different.  The grief is that way too.

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This is our theme song, “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective, and you will be a little surprised at how loud and joyful a song about struggle and trust can be, and then you will see why it is such a great theme song for us.

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We are home from our vacation and the kids have started school.  Elijah is at “Joel’s school.” A fact he proudly declares to anyone who will listen.  He has Joel’s teachers. Sometimes he seems confused that Joel isn’t at the school with him, and asks me where Joel’s school is, he never seems upset about it, but I do wonder what he was expecting all summer when he wanted to go to “Joel’s school!”

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Zoe is growing like a weed.  All my other children were at the bottom of the growth charts, often falling down to the 3rd or 4th percentile in weight and causing some concern, until they could start solid food and bulk up.  Zoe, on the other hand is in the 96th percentile for height and 64th percentile for weight. She already looks as big as my other babies did at a year old, and she is just 4 months old.

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We get asked a lot how we are doing.  It seems like such an odd question to answer.  I sometimes wonder what people are hoping to hear, “Terrific?”  ”Horrible?” There is no right answer.  What would it mean to be doing well, now? What are the parameters to check off the list that would mean we were successfully grieving? I always tell them that I think we’re doing well.  We have good weeks and bad days that sometimes stretch into a week.  We are mostly very happy and then things happen that make us sad.  We’ve learned to be sad together, to talk about Joel and cry together and not avoid the hard feelings.  Initially the kids wanted to avoid talking about anything that made them sad, but now it’s just part of what we do, and I think it’s good.  Sometimes facebook is hard, because I can scroll back just a few months, not even a year, and there we all are, and Joel is happy and healthy.  With a swipe of my finger he is back and we are not broken, and then I have  a long, hard cry because I realize it really hasn’t been that long at all, and that season of my life is over so concretely that it’s hard to remember that it was just six months ago that he left us.

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So many times since Joel died, I will be driving with the kids in the car, or out at an event, and have the thought, “Do I have all the kids?” I will instantly do the headcount, come up with four, and try to relax, but somehow it just feels off. It feels like I don’t have everyone, and of course, I don’t. It doesn’t feel like they are all here, because they’re not. It’s challenging because I suspect I had these little moments before Joel died too. I think every mom with more than one kid has these double-check alarms go off in their head, but they never meant anything to me before.  Now they are a reminder that something is missing and always will be.

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I’m not angry anymore. God has become bigger and bigger in my theology, because the answers to most of my frustrated questions could only be found in expanding my view of God and focusing more on the vastness of eternity. There are no specific answers, just the reality that God is too big to be contained by my feelings about how things should have gone.  Expanding my understanding of God not being understood within my parameters has diminished the intimacy I feel with God, but given me peace, and I trust that intimacy will return with time.

Green Family on Oregon Coast

The boys skitter down the grassy hill to the beach below, shovels and buckets in tow. Isaac waits for Elijah to catch up and then they both take off running, the wind tugging at their hair and clothes makes each movement feel a little more wild. Isaac spins and jumps and falls into the sand. They turn back and climb up the hill again, Isaac quickly leaving Elijah behind, eventually Elijah’s blonde hair appears again on the edge of the little hill and as he makes his way up he seems impossibly small, climbing as fast as he can, balancing his body the best he can with the large shovel in one hand and the bucket in the other.
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They run up the stairs and show us their prize. A crab claw. “We find it!” Elijah shouts, “a crab arm.”  Isaac gets distracted by his brother’s iPad and Elijah impatiently says, “Isaac, go to beach?” Isaac asks me if Elijah can go alone. I say no, and tell Caleb I would like him to go down to the beach for a little bit. He agrees, with less protest than I expect and the three of them make their way down the hill again. Caleb walks so casually with his hands in his pockets. The ocean breeze does not animate him like it does his brothers, and even at his slow casual pace Isaac and Elijah still have to scurry to catch him. It is surprising when even Caleb’s leaps a little on the beach despite himself. This time they are searching for more crab pieces intentionally. They have told us they want a crab body to go with the arm and leg they have already found, they zig zag across the beach, stopping every so often to crouch down and examine something. Every step Isaac takes has a frenetic energy, a skipping, jumping flailing characteristic, and Elijah must run the entire time just to keep up. Occasionally Isaac scoops something into the bucket Elijah holds. His bucket gets heavier and he holds it with both hands across his stomach still balancing the bright yellow shovel that is almost half his size. Caleb carries nothing and keeps his hands in his pockets until the effort of climbing the little hill back up to the house requires enough coordination that his hands swing free.
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They are back on the porch within ten minutes of their journey out together. I hear the cadence of their voices below as they wash sand off their feet, but I can’t make out any words, just the low rumble of Caleb’s voice and the higher excited sound of isaac’s as they make their plans. Watching them from the large front windows is magical.  Every day they explore or build, search or fly their kites and even though each trip to the cold windy ocean is short it feels significant. They are healing like I am, even though most days you would never guess it. I hope this time here together is a strong salve. I want their memories of this place to be as poignant as their memories from this spring, but they probably won’t be, since there is no great emotional current under the surface here. Iit is peaceful and easy here and so their memories of this time will likely be fuzzy and gentle unlike the harsh vibrant memory of that day at the cemetery saying final goodbyes and crying and holding their mom and just wanting to leave, to be finished.
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“Mom look!” Elijah says lifting up his bucket.  Caleb described all the pieces they found, proud but reserved. He says they are all such random pieces that they can’t match them up. Elijah repeats him excitedly, “We can’t match them up.” But down they go again, to attempt that vey thing.

Frankenstein Crab

Elijah doesn’t notice they have left as he digs his hand into a bag of cereal, and sings a little to himself before grabbing his brother’s abandoned iPad. Glad to find it free for once.
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The older boys are downstairs working on re-assembling their Frankenstein like crab. I can not see them but occasionally their voices rise enough to be heard over the absconded iPad, as they strategize what mixed up pieces of crab to put where. In less time than I would expect the boys re-emerge and Caleb says, “Mom I have something awesome to show you!” The picture they have of the crab is much less crude than I expect, more like a museum piece than the monstrous collection of rotting crab pieces I expect to see.
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The adventure over, they go back to their devices, they will return to the ocean again later for a few minutes. Little spurts of nature interrupting their lazy summer.

We have decided to take another long road trip. Long summer vacations are part of Joel’s legacy for me. During the ten months that Joel was in active treatment I hated not being able to take the family anywhere. As soon as he had a long enough break in treatment and permission from his doctors we took a road trip to a film festival in San Antonio. We had a wonderful time and even spent a day at Sea World. When we returned Joel’s MRI showed that his cancer had returned and he was declared terminal. I was always so glad we had taken that trip.

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In the three years that followed that declaration we took long road trips whenever we could, traveling to both coasts of the country, visiting amusement parks and museums and just trying to cram ourselves into close quarters for as long as possible. For Ryan and I at least, a month long road trip with our kids is one of our favorite things to do, and we find any excuse we can to justify it. Usually we combine it with one of Ryan’s work trips to show the game at a conference. This time we are traveling for about five weeks, hitting two such conferences and spending weeks with family. We are so excited for them to meet Zoe.

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We had only one week out of five where we were going to stay in a hotel. We chose the cheapest we could find and discovered when we arrived the low price was justified. We decided to make the best of it, knowing the rest of the trip we would be staying for free with family. Then when the week was half up, one of Ryan’s friends asked us if we wanted to stay at his beach house. We were so amazed at the offer, and when we got to the charming beach house we were even more delighted. Giant windows look out on to the ocean and the deck opens up to the beach. We have been having such a fun time enjoying the Oregon coast. Ryan works all day, but that’s the other way we can justify long road trips is that he can keep working wherever we go. I brought a friend along to keep me company since Ryan has deadlines with his game coming up soon.

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Anyway, we are having such a fun summer, soaking up the  precious time crammed together in close quarters, thankful for unexpected blessings, and missing Joel everywhere along the way. I’ll post photos soon.

Elijah once told me, “I see my dreams in my eyes, and Joel is in my dreams, and I cry.” Last week, he woke up and asked Caleb what he had dreamed and then he went on to tell Caleb that he dreamed he played with Joel and that he slept with Joel on the top bunk. I’m so glad Elijah remembers Joel and dreams about him. I’m so glad he tells me about his dreams because I never know how to talk to him about Joel in a way that won’t confuse or upset him.
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Since Elijah’s cool dream about Joel, Isaac prays every night that he will have a dream about Joel. I pray with him every night. Isaac says he has never had a dream about Joel and he really wants to. I’ll admit I’m starting to become frustrated because I see how much Isaac wants a dream with Joel in it, and I just don’t understand why God won’t give him a sweet dream about Joel. Would you pray for this with us?
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We visited Joel’s grave today. It is only my third visit to Joel’s grave (and the kid’s second.) Honestly I haven’t been sure how we should feel about visiting Joel’s grave. We have not purchased his headstone yet, but thankfully we have funds waiting for just this purpose because people were so generous with us when Joel died so we have money to get a marker. It just isn’t something we’ve felt ready to do yet. I’m guessing no matter how long we wait, I will cry through the whole process. It has felt funny to leave Joel’s grave unmarked, but then I don’t want us to be in a habit of leaving things for him, since we know that he isn’t in the ground there, he is in heaven with God.
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So, today we decided to pick up pizza and have a picnic at his grave. Isaac does not ever want to visit the grave so he was very unhappy with this idea. However, Isaac had planted a sunflower in a cup at a kids day today and I told him perhaps he could plant it at Joel’s grave, and this idea made him happy. I gathered some things we could leave at Joel’s grave, and decided to choose things that remind us of Joel, so they are memories for us, not items “for” him. I told the boys that I knew that anything that reminds us of Joel can make us sad, but that I hope with time we can learn to be happy about having a place where we put little memories of Joel.
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We got to the grave and it started raining, so our pizza picnic graveside was a bust, instead we just put up our little memory pieces and left quickly. Isaac actually enjoyed this and hung most of the items himself. I think the short trip was good for him. It was a happy trip, there wasn’t much time to get overly emotional, even thought there were still some tears.
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We left a glow necklace from the 4th of July, because we missed Joel on the 4th of July and have a great photo of him with a glow necklace from last year. We left a few little green army men that Joel liked playing with his last week with us. We left the “big brother” bracelet we got for him at the hospital when Zoe was born. We know he would have loved being Zoe’s big brother. We also left Zoe’s hospital hat, it wasn’t particularly fancy, and was a little piece of her we could leave there, along with a giant yellow sunflower and the little plastic cup that had Isaac’s real sun flower plant growing inside. We didn’t have time to plant it because the rain got stronger and we started to hear thunder and see lightning.
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The rain kept pouring and as we drove back to Loveland it got really dark. The only light was a tiny patch of sun, far in the west. Just as we came into Loveland the sun shone so bright I couldn’t even look to the west at all, suddenly the darkness was gone and the light was so intense, and we all looked to the east and saw a giant beautiful double rainbow, more vibrant than we’d ever seen, you could see the rainbow actually shimmering down onto the field, reflecting off the grass itself. The rainbow appeared to end directly in front of us. We pulled over and took a picture.
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And just in case you are wondering, Zoe is growing and doing great, and learning to smile. Here are a few photos of her and one photo of all of us at a Rockies game recently.
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