Gifts for Mom, Grandparents, Besties and YOU🎄 ➔

This week my first grader came home with a paper bag and an assignment to fill it with items from our household that represent our family. In weeks to follow, students would be presenting these items to the class, little historians excavating and explaining treasures from their families of origin.

Anderson, this first grader of ours, knew exactly what he wanted to excavate. He was halfway into the garage, about ready to yank the cord that pulls down our attic staircase before it hit me: he’s hunting for Duncan’s pacifier.

Our fall break trip this year, just weeks before, took us back to our old stomping grounds of Ohio. We have always spoken of Duncan, the son we lost at five months of age to congenital heart disease, to our four living children, but now that we are living in Colorado, 1,300 miles from his grave, Anderson doesn’t remember the frequent visits we used to make to it. Which means he’s also forgotten many of the accompanying stories we’d told while on those visits.

RELATED: Here’s to the Keepers of Warrior Hearts

Now, at seven years old, both the impact and his interest are higher than ever.

“What happened to his body?”

“Why did his heart not work right?”

 “Will my heart stop working right?”

 “Is he in Heaven?”

“Will I ever get to see him there?”

My husband and I do our best with the answers. But the best way we know to honor Duncan, beyond getting any answers right, is to tell about who he was and what he did in our lives. So, in light of the recent visit to Duncan’s grave, we took extra measures to do this storytelling on October 26, the 12-year anniversary of his death.

Scott, my husband, told how Duncan would always raise his arms, like declaring a field goal, when he was getting a diaper change. I explained there was this one obnoxious, blue pacifier Duncan preferred, and it would take up half his face it was so big. We explained how soft his head of hair was, fuzzy as the plushest of stuffed animals.

And we spoke about how, at the time, we were overcome with love from loved ones. Countless cards received during Duncan’s frail five months of life and the season of grief afterward. Folks who showed up to rake our leaves and clean our toilets and take out our garbage. Friends decorating our house for fall or Christmas just so we could have a sense of festive amidst the difficulty. And meals lined up to spare us from the work of feeding ourselves for months. We spoke about this love and how it was as close to the unconditional love of God as we’ve ever known . . . that we couldn’t reciprocate it, and yet it just kept on coming. In this way, Duncan’s life and death showed us, through people, just exactly how boundless the love of God is.

RELATED: A Letter to My Mama, From Your Baby in Heaven

Turns out, after all that, all our Anderson took away from that conversation was the adorable image of his brother sucking away on a clunky, blue pacifier. When he and I found ourselves up in the attic swapping our Halloween decorations for Thanksgiving ones, he caught out of the corner of his eye a small chest painted in pastel colors. I had forgotten it was up there—it was Duncan’s chest, where we kept his pictures, keepsakes, favorite clothes, and hats. Eyes big as saucers, Anderson asked, “Is Duncan’s blue pacifier in there?” I said that I thought it was and, sure enough, I was able to show that darn thing to Anderson. There, sandwiched between pumpkins and bats and pilgrims and gourds (and cobwebs and exposed insulation) was a tearful, sacred moment between him and me. 

So, when he came home with it, it clicked that that’s what he was eager to take in his brown bag.

But then, the next set of questions: Was it OK to send a kid to school with an object that involved a story such as Duncan’s? Would Anderson’s classmates be able to handle the explanation that came with the bag’s contents? Would Anderson be able to handle the questions from his classmates?

RELATED: Aiden’s Crib

What nudged me toward yes to all those questions was when I checked in with Anderson, “Love, why does the pacifier feel like the right thing to put in your bag?”

“Well, that’s easy. We are supposed to pick something that makes our family our family and Duncan is an important part of what makes our family our family. He loved the pacifier, so I want to share it with the class.” 

Well said, Anderson.

After a bit more fact-checking and preparing him, he was ready. Ready to share a story about a soft-haired warrior named Duncan who in his short time on this side of life had a preference for a big ol’ blue pacifier and a heart, while defective, that showed us how big everyone else’s is.

 

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Tricia Arthur

Tricia Arthur lives in Denver, Colorado with her family, which includes a husband, four kids, and a guinea pig named Frank the Tank. Her writing has been featured here on Scarymommy, the guest blog for ADDitude Magazine, and her own personal blog, www.triciajoyarthur.com. When she is not running, reading, writing, meditating, or schlepping around her brood, she is working to improve how she manages her ADHD neuroatypicality and that of her unique kids.

I Love You At Every Stage

In: Kids, Motherhood
Three children at park, color photo

Confession: I love the 1-year-old phase. Our youngest is one and such a joy to be around. He’s still so cuddly, finds such joy in the smallest things, is learning new things every day, and smiles at every little thing his big brother and sister do. I love the 3-year-old phase. Our only girl is three. She has a flair for the dramatic, but she is very forthright with her feelings. “I’m having a hard time.” “I just miss my daddy when he’s at the Fire House.” “I’m a princess.” “God made me beautiful.” She is quick to be a...

Keep Reading

10 Lessons I Hope You Learn Playing Youth Sports

In: Kids, Motherhood
Boy dribbling down basketball court, black-and-white photo

Last night was my sixth grader’s last basketball game of the season. He played with many of the same gang of boyhood friends he has known since kindergarten. This year, however, they were introduced to a traveling team, older players, and much stiffer competition than they had encountered in the past. They stood the test and played their little boy hearts out. I am proud of my son, his team, his coaches, and all the familiar faces we came to know in the Greenwood Laboratory School cheering section each week, sometimes two to three times in one week!  Here’s to...

Keep Reading

Simple Moments Shape Childhood

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy in shallow water of beach

Sometimes it’s the little things that can turn out to be the biggest things. Motherhood has made me appreciate the everyday moments, the simple moments, differently.  Being outdoors with my boys can be simple in theory, but I absolutely love the adventures we take. Whether we are hiking, biking, swimming, exploring, or checking out a new park, this momma knows it is time well spent.  RELATED: I’m Watching You Grow Up in the Little Moments Because whether they realize it or not, these memories being made are the special ones. The ones my boys will carry with them in their...

Keep Reading

I Promise to Show Up for You

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in garden

My child, I hope you know you can count on this: I will show up for you. I will show up when you wake in the middle of the night, when you get up too early or stay up too late. I will be there to make your meals, read you a story, and tuck you into bed. I will show up when you are sick—taking time off work, bringing you to the doctor, cleaning up your throw-up, and sitting up with you. I will show up at every game, sitting in the stands or a camp chair, freezing or...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Growth Is Tangible, and When It Is You Hold On Tight

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom putting bike helmet on child

I never expected my sign to come in the form of a plastic bag. As a parent, you’re told over and over how fast it all goes, to cherish these times because they’re gone in a blink. You see the gradual changes in your kids as they move through milestones. One day, they can hold their own spoon. They begin stringing words into sentences. Their ages are counted in years and no longer months. You watch these things happen every day, but I didn’t realize some transitions would come in tangible ways, like a grocery bag filled with wet swim...

Keep Reading

Some Nights They Need You a Little More

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy sleeping, color photo

Some nights they need you a little more, mama. Because of the bad dreams or the bogeyman they are adamant is under the bed. Because firefighter daddy’s schedule leaves him missing goodnight tuck-ins and bedtime stories several times a week, sometimes leaving them a little needier and more emotional. Some nights they need you a little more, mama. RELATED: I’ll Lay With You As Long As You Need, My Child Because they are sick. Because they feel safe in your presence. Some nights they need you a little more, mama. It’s not always easy. It’s not always (okay, hardly ever)...

Keep Reading

Sweet Babies, I’ll Be There

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two children lying in bed, color photo

When your world is calm and peaceful, I’ll be there. When your world is chaotic like an ice cream shop on the hottest day of summer, I’ll be there. When you need a Band-Aid applied and a boo-boo kissed, I’ll be there. When you want to perform in your Frozen microphone like you’re performing for a crowd of 20,000 people, I’ll be there. When you feel lost and alone, I’ll be there. When you feel you have nowhere to go, I’ll be there. RELATED: I Will Always Be There When You Need Me, My Son When you need a pep...

Keep Reading

I’m in the Big Little Years

In: Kids, Motherhood
black and white photo of little boy and little girl standing in a window together

I’m in the big little years. It’s when you’re no longer in the tender season of babies and toddlers—those sweet, smothering, exhausting years of being constantly touched and needed . . . . . . but you’re not yet in the big kid years—navigating boyfriends and driver’s licenses and bracing your heart for the impending ache of an empty nest. I’m somewhere in between. I’m in the years of having littles that aren’t so little anymore, but still need you for so much. They have big feelings. Big ideas. Big dreams. But they have mostly little problems (even though they...

Keep Reading

1-Year-Olds Are Wonderful

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
1 year old baby smiling

Newborns—who doesn’t love them?  The captivating scent of a brand new baby, their fragile little bodies laying so delicately on your chest. Everything that comes with a newborn baby is just absolute magic. But have you ever had a 1-year-old? I used to think the newborn phase was my favorite, nothing could ever be better than having such a tiny helpless little human rely on you for absolutely everything. I could hold my newborn for hours, soaking in every tiny little detail before it became nothing but a beautifully distant memory. But I’ve realized it’s 1-year-olds who have a special...

Keep Reading

My Kids Are All in School Now and It’s a Little Lonely

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman looking out window alone

I had just dropped my children off at school. All of them. My youngest has just started full-time. It was my first full day on my own since she began, and I had really been looking forward to it, so I took myself into town to do a bit of shopping and grab a coffee. Just me. The kind of days dreams are made of, right? I could suddenly breathe again.  I only had myself to answer to.  I got my latte and something to eat. And then I cried.  My eyes filled with tears as I sat in the...

Keep Reading