A Letter to Callie on her 5th Birthday in Heaven


Dear Callie,

Happy birthday sweetie!  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. I will never, ever forget the day you were born.  There are a lot of things that I wish I could change about that day and the next, but I know now that God had a different plan for you and I have come to respect that even if I cannot understand it.

We will be making you a cake today and sending you a balloon again (do you get those?) and will sing you “Happy Birthday”.  We promise to do an act of kindness in your name today.  How do you celebrate in Heaven?  I bet it is better than anything I can imagine.

Today, you would have been five here on Earth.  There is something so special about that age.  I would give absolutely ANYTHING to know what you would look like as a sweet little five year old.  When your little sister, Lila, was born, I thought that you girls resembled each other a little bit.  Maybe her face as she grows will give me a hint of yours.  Charlotte looked so different than you, but you share a bond that I don’t even understand.  Even though she is only three, she knows about you and talks about you in a way that makes me 100% sure that you are with her.

You are with all of us.

In my every action and in your daddy’s.

In every breath your sisters (and soon-to-be-born brother) take.

You are with us.

Callie, please know that you are loved and remembered.  I hold you in my heart and send you daily hugs and kisses.  Each night as I go to bed, I always lay on my left side because I see you better that way when I close my eyes.  I see you the way I did 5 years ago, nose-to-nose on your hospital bed.  I can’t fall asleep any other way.

Thank you for sending me little signs lately to bring me comfort.  I wish that it didn’t have to be that way…it should be me comforting you!  But I do appreciate and treasure each gift you have given us and hope with every fiber of my being that I make you proud and that you can feel my love all the way up there in heaven.

We miss you and love you so much!

With all my heart,





August K4C: Children & Update on the Garden

Thanks to Carly and Mark for donating Callie's marker.  It's beautiful.

Thanks to Carly and Mark for donating Callie’s marker. It’s beautiful.


When Callie passed away, John and I had to make the most heart-wrenching decisions.  I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to contemplate things like burial vs. cremation when it comes to your baby.  We felt sick, drained, tortured.  What was the right thing to do?  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a “right” thing to do…no rules, no instruction manual, no guide for the path we were walking.  Ultimately, after discussing it with our pastor, we decided to have Callie cremated and buried her ashes in the prayer garden at church, which we later redesigned in her memory.  We marked her resting place with a rock with the inscription, “Sunshine Angel”, because it was just too cruel to see her name and short life written in stone on a grave.

As time has gone on, John and I have gone on a roller coaster of emotions when thinking back on these decisions.  A lot of times, we wish we could go back and change our minds.  We miss her and wish we could be close to her again.  But we know that no matter what we would have decided, the outcome would still be the same.

She is in heaven.

On Earth, her soul dances in the sunlight on wings of yellow butterflies, or floats to the ground on the back of a feather, or pops up when you least expect it in a million different forms.  I see her all the time everywhere I go.  But I know she truly resides in heaven.

Yet even with this knowledge, I began feeling empty when I looked at the spot where she was buried in the garden.  That part of me that had not wanted to see her little name in stone began longing for just that.  I needed to see it.  And I needed others to see it too.  She mattered, she was here, she was loved, and she will never be forgotten.

We put Callie’s new marker in the garden last month.  Just this past Sunday, we visited her after church and after watching John and I put a kiss on the stone, Charlotte bent down and touched her big sister’s rock just as sweet as could be.  I’m not sure she will ever understand just how meaningful that was for us but it was a beautiful moment that I wanted to share with you.



This summer is going faster than the blink of an eye.  I’ve loved every sweet moment of being home with Charlotte.  She is so active and fun and her smile lights up a room.  This month for Kindness for Callie, the theme is “children”.  I’ve always had a soft spot for kids, but even more so after becoming a mom.  I hope that you can find a way this month to do a little act of kindness to brighten a deserving child’s day!




36 weeks

36 weeks_2

36 weeks tomorrow… 3 to go!

Little Rainbow has a theme song… I can’t stop listening to Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up”.  It’s my very own cheerleader pep song, reminding me to stay positive even when it is hard.

The glow that the sun gets
Right around sunset
Helps me realize
This is just a journey
Drop your worries
You are gonna turn out fine.

…I know it’s hard, know it’s hard,
To remember sometimes,
But you gotta keep your head up, oh,
And you can let your hair down

…Only rainbows after rain
The sun will always come again.
It’s a circle, circling,
Around again, it comes around,

But you gotta keep your head up..

Believe.  Float.  Keep your head up.


I got the motherload of K4C‘s last week from my friend Lindsay V.  She has been doing weekly acts of kindness and I am so majorly impressed and incredibly touched!  Check it out:

Week 3 – 1.18 – armed forces week – we donated to Operation Shoebox which sends requested items to overseas troops
Week 4 – 1.24- Riley’s birthday week so we made a donation to Make a Wish
Week 5 – 1.28 Donated to National Marfan Foundation
Week 6 – 2.5 – Donated to Compassion International
Week 7 – Random giving week, Riley’s favorite – cookies for people in line behind us, quarters on Harry the Dragon
Week 8 – 2.21 – Donated to Molly’s Bears for Beryl’s Birthday Wish
Week 9 – 2.27 – Paid for Starbucks and in turn someone immediately paid for mine!
Week 10 – Random giving week – quarters on games at Red Robin, redbox code on machine
Week 11 – 3.15 – Donated books to the Joyful Life Library in memory of Cora Macclenahan

My friend, Lindsey E., and my parents also donated in Callie’s memory to Virginia Tech’s Relay for Life team.  You can check that out here.

Thanks everyone for contributing to Kindness for Callie.  It means more than you know!


Looking forward to playing in the dirt!

garden spring clean

Callie’s Garden Spring Cleaning




garden spring clean

John and I wanted to invite anyone in the Ashburn area to our garden spring clean on Saturday, March 30th at 11 a.m. to help spruce up Callie’s garden after the long winter.  Please email me at oursunshineangel@gmail.com if you are interested in helping so that we know how many people will be on hand to help.  We’ll be pulling weeds, doing some pruning, and adding a few new plants.  We’ll provide food and drinks!  Don’t worry, I’ll be supervising from a lawn chair 😉


34 weeks


34 weeks along, 5 to go 🙂

p.s. check out a new K4C from my friend Pam!

Me a.k.a. the Weed Murderer

A few weeks ago, I was spending some time tending Callie’s garden.  I had brought some Roundup spray with me to kill some of the repeat offenders that kept popping up and was quietly working on spraying each patch of crabgrass one at a time, thinking about Callie and this crazy journey we have been on as I went along.  After a few minutes, some preschool children came out of the church for outdoor playtime.  Quickly, I became the object of their curiosity.

“Whatcha doin’?” they asked.

“I’m spraying the weeds,” I replied.


“So that I can make room for the good plants.”


“Because weeds make the garden sick.”


“Well, the weeds take away the stuff that the good plants need to grow.”


It was then that I briefly questioned my sanity for switching grade levels to preschool.  I had fallen for the “why” trap and I couldn’t get out!  Thinking I was clever, I tried answering a question with a question…

“Why do you think?” I asked.

“Why are the weeds bad?” a little boy asked back.  Clearly, I had been outplayed.

“Yeah, why do you have to kill them?” said another.  Several children echoed their sentiments.  “Yeah!  Why?”

There I stood, a killer.  Slaying innocent plants for the sole vain purpose of keeping up visual appearances.  For a moment, I actually considered the morality of what I was doing.  And then I remembered that these kids were three and could also make me question the morality of teeth brushing, bed time, and eating fruits and vegetables.

I chuckled and remembered that sometimes the best way to handle the “why” question is with humor…. so I told them I was going to quit pulling the weeds so the garden would turn into a jungle with monkeys in it.  They laughed and ran away.

…But they got me thinking about those weeds.  Are they really so bad?

Weeds are tough.  They can dig deep in the most unlikely of places and plant roots.  They blossom in dirty sidewalk cracks or thrive in the hottest of summer heat waves.  They are resilient.  No matter where that seed gets planted, they bloom.  They remind me of my favorite expression, one that I’ve seen echoed from Kelle Hampton to Joel Olsteen….  bloom where you are planted.

You might be planted in a beautiful field of wildflowers or in a tiny crack of pavement, it doesn’t matter.  Bloom!  Thrive!  Live!

I didn’t want to be planted someplace ugly.  But, that’s where the wind carried me.  So guess what?  I’m blooming.

The next time I see a sunny yellow dandelion poking up through the ground, I am going to try and look at it through the lens of a child.  Beautiful flower, not ugly weed.  It’s shining against the odds, just daring you to squirt some extra strength Roundup on it because honey, bring it.  No weed killer, suffocating heat, or rocky soil can stop it.  It will always see opportunities, dare to dream, and make the most of its tiny patch of dirt.  Because this tiny patch of dirt?  It’s all we’ve got.  And we better start loving it.


What Makes a Mother?

Yesterday was hard.  But I had my helmet on and I did okay.  This is largely due to the fact that we spent most of the day in the car on our way back from a really fun and beautiful wedding…my head was pounding and I am lucky that I didn’t throw up in the McDonalds in Maryland.  Or on the side of the road.  I was worried about that.  After returning home (and a glorious nap), we went to the garden where we found little drops of sunshine by the cross…presents from friends who were thinking about us.  It really cheered me up.  The rest of the evening was spent catching up on DVR and lounging around.  It was peaceful.  Not exactly the Mother’s Day I had envisioned, but I think I am beginning to accept more of the reality of what has happened to us.  It is what it is.

A friend of mine sent me (and some other baby loss mamas) a video that tugged at my heartstrings, entitled “What Makes a Mother?”.  Good question.  I have been mourning what I thought makes a mother…changing diapers, cleaning up spit-up, singing lullabies, nursing, and rocking a baby to sleep.  I realized though, that what makes a mother (or a father) is so much more than this.  It is caring about someone else’s well-being above your own.  Nurturing and caring for another.  Making hard decisions in one’s best interest.  When it comes down to it, I believe it boils down to one simple word:  love.  Mother love.  Father love.  There is nothing stronger on this earth.  I have experienced this love and it has forever changed me.  I hope that one day, we will be blessed with more children to share our love with.  But, for now, I must find peace and contentment in the love we shared as a family in the 35 hours Callie blessed this earth, the love that she shines down upon me, the love I continue to have for her, the deep, strong love in our marriage, and God’s love.

**Guess what?  Callie was with us this weekend.  In the picture above, we saw the most beautiful sunset…which always reminds me of Callie.  When my friend, Elizabeth, stepped back to look at the picture she had taken, she pointed out the little sunburst on John’s shoulder…right where he has a tattoo of Callie’s initials.  Crazy, beautiful, love.**

Callie’s Garden

Today was the most glorious day.  Our angel baby watched over us and put in a word with the Big Man to bless us with the most beautiful weather…and the rain held out until we were completely done.  Just in time to water it!  Creating a garden for Callie was such a wonderful way to honor her.  Our friend, David, put together the most beautiful plan and we had so many wonderful friends and family come out to volunteer their time, effort, energy and most of all, SWEAT!  Halfway through our hard work, someone called out, “Look!  You have your first butterfly!”  As I looked up, I caught a glimpse of a little, yellow butterfly flitting about the new plants.  I believe that yellow butterfly was Callie’s spirit, running and playing in her new garden.  God sends the most amazing signs to prove His love for us, doesn’t He?  At the end of the day, we put the gorgeous rock we had engraved from a shop on Etsy at the bottom of the cross to mark Callie’s resting place.  It was an emotional moment, but I managed to make it through the day without breaking down into a weepy mess.

It is our hope that this garden will be a source of joy and happiness to all who come to enjoy its beauty.  The winding stone path encourages people to wander throughout the flowers and trees.  A bench rests under the shade of three beautiful crepe myrtles.  We hope with all our hearts that people feel welcome to go to this place…to play, to think, to pray.  It is too beautiful not to share.

Many thanks to all who helped today!  Enjoy the pics!

Before #1

Before #2


Sunset the night before our planting...a good omen 🙂