Sunday May 4, 2008

Cindy writes:

Hello from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. What a whirlwind the last 10 days have been! We are now in our third hotel for the trip, and tomorrow will make our way to number 4 in Orlando (the FINAL destination). We began with one very sleepy day in Wash. DC (the kids didn't get to bed that night until 1 a.m. Eastern time - which they thought was VERY cool!). We then moved on to the very slow paced life of Chincoteague, Virginia (because Dave was working out of NASA Wallops Island), which would have been fine had the weather been co-operative and the stores open, but really no big deal, we did school and toured around to anyplace we could find within a 60 mile radius. On our last day there Mother Nature finally co-operated and the kids were delighted to finally play in the pool.

We left for Myrtle Beach yesterday morning. Actually, yesterday was a really big day for Dave in which he finally felt like he had matured into fatherhood - in the footsteps of all dads before him, he was able to wake his family at 5 a.m. to get them on the road before sunrise for the 9 hours drive ahead! Sam also fulfilled his duty as "child-of-early-waking-father" by asking "are we there yet?" every 20 minutes. But it was a good uneventful drive and we got here in plenty of time to swim, eat, play, and eat some more. Today we spent the whole day on the beach, in the pool, playing putt-putt and yes, EATTING! All us pale-faced Washingtonian's are now sufficiently burned to begin our week at Disney. We will be leaving in the morning . . . but not nearly so early.

We are having a really wonderful time together. This is the first official "vacation" we've had with them (not including trips to Kentucky and a couple weekend road trips). They are loving every minute of it and we are considering the time with them priceless! We have great kids and they are so much fun! There's been a few melancholy moments, but mostly laughter and joy. We were (of course) watching the Kentucky Derby yesterday. The horse I choose was Eight Belles, who sadly broke both of her legs after crossing the finish line. It was decided by the kids that Maddie must have liked Eight Belles a whole lot because she was Mama's favorite horse and so now it is Madeline who is riding her in heaven.

Monday May 5, 2008

Cindy writes:

Side note: We never did have internet access, so this is the "update" as it would have been had we been able to post. Sorry it's so long being all updated at once!  (Vacation pictures are here).

So we realized the error of our calculations. The 5 hour trip we thought we had ahead of us Sunday night, upon further map-questing turned out to be 9 hours. Oopsie! Also forgot to charge the Nintendo and the video player. Double oopsie! We left Myrtle Beach at 9 a.m. Around noontime we approached Charleston SC. We began to cross the Ravenel Bridge and BOOM! We blew a tire just as we hit the midway point of that massive piece of steel. Dave tried hard as he could to keep trying to drive us off of it, to no avail. Smoke was pouring off the back left tire and it quickly became un-drivable. I can honestly say it was the single most terrifying moment of my life. There is no emergency pull-off lane on that bridge and all we could do was sit there and watch cars come zooming up behind us at 70 mph. Dave quickly called 911 and in the 5-10 minutes that we waited for them we just prayed our little hearts out for a hedge of protection. Thank you Jesus the police came and hedged us in, helped us get a spare on and then directed us to the nearest tire place. Thank you Charleston Police! I've never been so grateful to see flashing blue lights pulling up behind my car! That was definitely NOT on the agenda for the day! Thankfully we got into Orlando with no other mishaps and pulled into the condo at around 9 pm.

Tuesday May 6, 2008

We headed out for the parks after a breakfast at one of our favorite places - Cracker Barrel (which we don't have in Washington). After bellies full of pancakes we hit EPCOT. We quickly found out that home schooled kids who don't watch a lot of TV may not "do" the parks quite like other kids. We started them both of the "Explore Space" ride (but the easy version) - they were both terrified and thought we really were going into space. Then we tortured them with "Test Track" - Anna enjoyed it, Sam was terrified. So we took it down a few notches to the Nemo ride and finally Sam relaxed. Then it was time to hit the countries. I believe their very favorite ride in the park was the boat ride through Mexico - we went twice. We ate our way through the nations and ended the day with a smorgasbord in Germany and fireworks over the lake. It was wonderful, and despite a few scary rides the kids loved it. Madeline would have hated every minute of it.

Wednesday May 7, 2008

I'm quickly realizing that my eyes were bigger than my belly as I tried to make plans on how we would do the parks. Even after reading every book I had about Disney you still just don't really have a clue till you get there. It's enormous! Today we began at Animal Kingdom and started out with a bang with Expedition Everest. Wow! What an amazing ride! However, it was the nail in the coffin to Sam actually believing us when we tell him "no, this one's not scary!” After that we went of the Jungle Safari - he was afraid we really were being chased by poachers. I had to keep reminding him that it was all make-believe and we were pretending, to which he'd ask, "Mommy, is this real?” - and we'd go through the make-believe conversation again. Too cute! We really enjoyed Animal Kingdom but left midday so that we could hit the water park "Blizzard Beach". What a great time! Nothing like a big ole lazy river to rest some weary legs! We finished the day at EPCOT so we could watch the fireworks again. For a mom that's usually a "sleep Nazi", I'm really getting a lesson in trying to be laid back and "go with the flow". We had originally anticipated going to the MGM Park in the later part of the day, but after seeing how the kids were afraid of a good portion of the rides decided to opt out for the sure-fire bet of swimming. I believe it was yesterday after about an hour or so in the park that Sam asked if we could go back to the hotel and go swimming. It was then I realized I needed to switch gears! It was truly another amazing day!

Thursday May 8, 2008

Finally, Magic Kingdom! We have been withholding the best for last! Our plan is for 2 days in Magic Kingdom, and last day at Sea world. Don't know if that's going to happen or not.

We got there early and started working our way around the park counter clockwise. I can't imagine this place when it's at peak season. We are here at a really wonderful time. It's warm (ok, hot by our standards) and the crowds aren't too bad. We've figured out the Fast Pass system and have been working it well. We've still managed to get Sam on the Train Coaster and Splash Mountain (my personnel favorite here). After a fairly full day we left to go to the Medieval Times dinner theater. Now that, Sam loved! Anna too. They really got into it and we had a great time watching them more than the performers. By this time our kids are now in possession of every possible thing that lights up at night. They are rapidly becoming human glow sticks! As we were leaving the park last night Anna looked at me and said, "Ya know what Mama? - This really is the place where dreams do come true!" I couldn't help but laugh - that's my drama queen for you!

Friday May 9, 2008

We found out yesterday that Disney hosts what they call the Pirates and Princess Party occasionally. They close the park at 7 pm and open it to only people that have bought into the party - yep, we bought! And we are so glad we did (though I did require everyone to take a nap midday before hand because the party went until midnight). There's nothing quite like Disney without all the people! We were able to walk right on to each and every ride for 5 straight hours! We did it all!!!! They also had a parade featuring all the Disney princesses and pirates (loved Tinkerbelle!). The kids would definitely tell you that they loved the Winnie the Pooh ride and Small World the best. Dave and I found it all just amazing. The attention to detail is phenomenal! They also had a treasure hunt and the kids would run around to each place that had an X and collect "treasure" - it was great!

Saturday May 10, 2008

Ok, so Sea world was probably a bit too optimistic. We decided to just go back to a water park for the day. So today we hit the other Disney water park, Typhoon Lagoon. Again, the lazy river was awesome (though our kids actually run the entire thing without tubes) - Dave and I are the lazy ones! We splashed and swam and went sliding for most of the day. We ended our last day in Florida with a bang by going to the Cirque Du Soleil's "La Noumba". It was truly amazing! We were 3 rows back and enchanted from beginning to end. The kids just couldn't stop talking about it. For me it was the highlight of the trip. We go to bed tonight with visions and memories of the best vacation of our lives. Thank you.

Sunday May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day to all our Mom's! We are so grateful to have you all and we love you dearly!

We've spent the entire day traveling. It was a great, wonderful, fantastic, joyous journey - but it's also good to be home. Goodnight.

Thursday June 5, 2008

"Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief." Proverbs 14:13

"You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." John 16:20-21

Cindy writes:

Washington seems to have forgotten that it's summertime - we have yet to see even a hint of it yet up here!  Cold and rainy.  But we are very adept at that and so we just grab the sun when we have it.  One of the beauties of home schooling, we can take advantage of the sunshine whenever it happens to hit!

I must confess, it has been a rough couple of weeks.  In some ways things seem to be getting harder.  The kids and I were in a friends' wedding two weeks ago and that seems to have been the catalyst for much sadness.  It was a wedding that Maddie was supposed to be the flower girl in.  Anna carried a "heart wand" down in her honor.  They mentioned Maddie in the program as throwing flowers from heaven.  I think we really felt her absence there watching just two of our three kids walk down the isle (but I must not forget to add that Sam, of course, added his own element to the whole thing by skipping down the isle and dragging Mina the flower girl with him . . . thank God for laughter!).

I remember writing a quote a few months ago from Nancy Guthrie about being "deeply and profoundly sad".  I do believe I am.  I am not depressed, just sad.  I have found myself becoming more and more reclusive.  It's hard to be around large groups (unusual for me, the people person).  My memory has quit working completely (such as I completely forgot to pickup Dave's car for a week down at the local hotel when he left on business last week . . . or finding my cell phone in a bag of apples in the crisper drawer . . .). I know that in time all of these things will recover, this is just our 'season of sadness'.  We can still laugh and have fun and be silly, but underlying it all is "sadness".  And so, we just keep trudging on with our hearts fixed on Heaven.

This month has much to look forward to in it.  Dave and I will be going to San Diego for a few days next week (he for business and me as his "help-mate").  We are really looking forward to that because our dear Nurse Cracker's is down there and we will be meeting her for dinner.  We both can't wait to see her.  I've also never really been to San Diego (except when I was 7) and so I'm just thrilled to see it.  Dave and I will also be celebrating our 15 year anniversary this month!  Wow!  A lot has sure happened in 15 years.  Can't imagine what the next 15 will hold - and I don't wanna know.  Then later in the month we are leaving on an Alaskan cruise - in part for our anniversary and in part because Dave will turn 40 the day we leave!  I can't give him too much grief because I'm just a mere 6 months behind him.  So June turns out to be quite an exciting month.  I believe we are both really looking forward to getting away, just the two of us, for a wee bit.  I think it will do our hearts some good.

And last of all, the real reason I wanted to put an update out is to tell you all that Madeline's memorial stone was finally placed last week.  It came out quite lovely and I believe was worth waiting for.  It's more than just a name and a date.  Hopefully it's a small glimpse of who she was and what she meant to us and the God we've entrusted her to.


Monday July 14, 2008

Cindy & I are forever grateful for the prayers our family received in the past and continue to receive today.  We have no doubt that they are still holding us up.  Even though we will never fully say good-bye to our beautiful Maddie, the stories we tell on the web will transition from her life story to a general journal of our family.  We still welcome everyone to stay tuned, but realize that Maddie’s passing marked the end of a great story (and that’s okay).  There are about 700 subscribers on this distribution list.  We are going to wipe out the list and start from scratch.  If you still want to receive updates about the life and times of our family, please send a new email to, “Madeline@TeamATC.net” with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.  Sorry for the hassle.  On to the update . . .

My mind cannot even conceive that it has almost been 6 months since we kissed our little girl goodbye.  Again, that weird time thing.  If I stop and think long enough it can feel like yesterday.  If I stay really busy, it seems like eternity.  We have now been home for as long as we were away.  It really felt longer than this - but I guess when you sit around doing basically nothing day after day time will seem to drag on that way.  Oh how we miss our baby girl.  It's settled into a numbness now.  If I tried I could cry on a dime - I usually don't try.  For the most part I just try to hang on for the ride.  I still find about half of my brain missing (though I'm happy to report that I haven't put my cell phone in the fridge again) and that I should consider it success that my house is still clean, laundry done and we've all had three (for the most part) meals a day.  Anything more than that is just bonus - praise God.

Summer has FINALLY arrived and we are all beginning to dry out and thaw.  I am grateful to be able to be out in my garden pruning, digging, mowing and all that other therapeutic yard work stuff.  I am in the process of creating a "Maddie Memorial Garden" and really enjoying the planning of it.  Our Kentucky family began it for us with a plaque, a fountain and some money for plants.  When I finally finish it we will show you all how it's come out.  The fountain is precious - it is a statue of a little girl (who looks much like Madeline) bending over a pond.  Thank you, we treasure it.

Our trips were great and so good for Dave and I.  We have so much fun when we're together.  In San Diego we had the privilege of meeting up with dear Nurse Cracker's (Graeme) and her husband Derrick.  She had moved down there about 2 weeks before Maddie died and so it was such a treat to be with them.  It was great just being together and remembering - we laughed, we cried and we laughed some more.  We even managed to sneak in a visit to Seaworld with her (though we did fit in quite a bit of work stuff as well, just in case anyone is interested).

The cruise to Alaska was breathtaking.  It was neat to be able to leave on Dave's birthday.  We went bike riding in Juneau and zip-lining in Ketchikan.  We saw glaciers and played Bingo . . . speaking of which, Dave also managed to win a Caribbean Cruise for 2 playing Bingo!  Which is pretty funny because the whole time (before winning) I kept giving him grief that since this was his 40th birthday present I was expecting equal treatment for mine . . . And so alas, we'll be going again!  Too cool!  In Ketchikan we ran into my old bosses from the Christian bookstore I used to work at in Louisville!  Wow was that ever amazing.  They were there on a cruise as well but different ship.  God's just so cool to orchestrate that chance meeting!  It was wonderful to get away - but so good to come home as well.  We missed Sam and Anna a lot.

Glacier Bay - Breath-taking (Apparently Titanic taught us nothing!)

Glacier Bike Trek

Zip Lines and Rope Bridges in Ketchikan

The kids are doing well.  It's interesting to watch how they process things. They love to talk about Maddie and they really love for us to tell stories about how silly she was.  They are comfortable with just saying "I miss Maddie" - and we'll all agree and talk about what we miss.  They don't cry too often, but every now and then out of the blue tears will come.  Sometimes a song will trigger them or just a passing thought - not much different from Dave and I.  I know Anna is jealous when she sees other kids with their little sister's and that will usually make her sad.  We did get a bunny.  His name is Rex.  He's the size of a small dog.  We just might weaken and get a dog as well (don't tell anyone I said that).  Not quite a sister but it's a start.  Oh, we've also gotten our second hermit crab - as the first one ran away and is in the abyss of Sam's room.   Something tells me someday we will probably discover a petrified hermit crab.  Ahhhh, life!

Anna with Rex Rabbit

Wednesday July 16th, 2008 (6 months)

To my dearest Madeline,
It is my hope that God will read this to you, that He will allow you to see my heart. My mind can hardly conceive that 6 months ago today I kissed you goodbye. I miss you so terribly. I long to bend over you again and tickle you with my hair and kiss your forehead. To hear you yell out "Mommy" as I walk into the room with your arms wide open awaiting a hug. That is exactly how I love to picture you when the day comes that I join you in Heaven. We all miss you so badly and talk of you constantly. Sam and Anna love to hear silly Maddie stories - and I'm so glad that we have so many to tell them! You were a delight to us all and have left quite a hole around here. It's funny, since you left, I'm different. You've changed me. You deepened me, enriched me, and grew me into a better person. I thank you my little one. Not too many three year olds can do that. I needed what you offered and you were worth every minute of pain and suffering. My heart longs for the day we are united once again - I am learning much patience. Until that day, just know, not a minute goes by that I don't long for you. I was reading in Romans the other day about how our present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us (on that day) - I tell you, I cling to this. And I marvel that you already know and have tasted that glory. We will experience it together someday. I can wait. I can be patient. Until that day, just know, I love you to the moon and back! You are ever in my heart.
Oh Maddie, just like mama said, I want you to see my heart too.  On the outside it sometimes looks like we're over this, but you know sweetheart your mama and I cry every day.  There has not been a day yet that Anna and Sam don't talk about you and share some story about something funny you did.  When Anna was born, my understanding of God's love for His children grew a mile.  When Sam was born, I grew again, because he's a boy and I could see even better God's love for His son.  When you were born I didn't know how I would learn anything new.  Then you died and I understood much more and I had some peace that God knew what I was feeling.  Oh buddy I miss you every single day.  I miss you on the rainy days because I'm lonely and I miss you on the sunny days because I can't share them with you.  I wish we could have had just one more trip to the zoo together. The biggest part of me wishes that none of this had ever happened to you.  For my own comfort, I would give anything to have you back.  Still, deeper down I know how many lives you impacted and continue to affect and I have to eventually get to that place where I am grateful for how your life was, though I'm not there yet.  If we live the way we believe, then we know you are in heaven.  Many, many times in the day we smile for you.  You made it little one.  What more could a parent hope for their child.  I'll see you soon, and miss you always.  ~daddy

Matthew 19:14 has new meaning for me.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."