Bitter or Better

I wrote this post about a week ago. I’ve held onto it struggling to post it. I’m not sure why I’ve hesitated but now here it is…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard theese questions.

How do you do it?
How do you face each day?
How do you get out of bed?
How have you not lost it?
Why haven’t you fallen apart?

Say it how you want but everyone wants to know is why haven’t I locked myself in a closet screaming in the midst of a total mental breakdown…

Honestly, most days I ask myself how I do it as well. But I think the biggest reason I do it is because I am still a MOM. My job is to be a loving mother first. It was my God given role in life. I have 3 children who all need me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. They come before all else. I have a brilliant 7 year old that needs me to show him love. Drew wakes up every morning eager to start the day. He needs me to show him strength. He needs his mommy and daddy there for him to get him ready for school, take him to play baseball, and teach him how to grow into a stunning young man. I have a beautiful 21 month old daughter who is not yet independent enough to take care of herself. She’s ready to greet the world every morning but needs our help to make her breakfast, change her diaper, and tame that hair in order to start her day! Kaylee needs her mommy and daddy to teach her about life. She needs us to hug her, hold her, and teach her to love. And because they both need us to one day find joy and teach them the joy that Nate had too. I have a husband that I love dearly. He is my very best friend. We will do this together as a family. I have Nate. And I will always have Nate. I want to live like Nate did. A life full of love and each day full of life. We will take one day at a time and each day we will wake up and make a choice to be bitter or to be better. Each day we wake up we choose to be better. We will be better for Nate. We will teach and show GREATness for Nate.

Is life fair? No.
Do I have answers? No.
Am I sad? Yes.
Do I miss Nate beyond words? Yes.
Do I trust in hope? Yes.
Do I trust in my faith? Yes.
Do I long for the day I can hold Nate again? Absolutely, in fact, I wait for that day.

I wait for the day that Nate greets me in heaven and we go running into the arms of Jesus together. We have sad days but we hold to the hope of our faith that Nate is with Jesus dancing and smiling in heaven. I long for the day we all go home with the Lord so we feel no pain or sorrow and I can have my baby again. But until that day my life on earth has a purpose. I may not fully understand it and may never comprehend Nates death this side of heaven but I know we have a purpose. I know that there may be more purpose to my life than I can see right now. But in this moment my purpose involves 2 children and a husband that need me.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:28, 29 NIV)

This has been a week of ups and downs. We had nice visits from family and friends. We had amazing generosity and support for last weekends bake sale. We had another great fundraiser Monday night at McDonalds. The last 3 days raised
just over $4,000 from the bake sale, Stacy Hart Photography, and the McDonalds fundraiser. I’m jumping with excitement for a giving community that has restored my faith in giving hearts. I’m feeling blessed with family and friends that have sacrificed so much to support us and help us.

But there is still a piece of me missing. I’ve struggled with what most may view as little things in their daily life but to me they have been big things. Sorting laundry, stripping bed linens, prepping the shoe bin for winter and cleaning out the summer shoes. I walk into the playroom and its oddly clean and for a moment I feel relief because there’s a clean room then I realize it was Nate’s mess we were always stepping over. I look in the pantry at uneaten cereal boxes and realize they were Nate’s favorites. So when I’m asked if there is pain. Yes, there is. But each day I will continue to be better and to be Great. I will continue to seek God and I know he will continue to give us the strength we need to move forward.

All my love,


The schools fun run fundraiser was a success and they had a banner made Go Out Be Great!  Love it.

Bake Sale was a huge success!!!  Thanks for everyone who donated baked goods and volunteered.  We couldn’t have done it without you!


In 2005, Katie and I were so excited to welcome our first son into the world. I remember being nervous about bringing a child into a world that was so imperfect. I assume that other parents feel the same but I was nervous for all of the things that I didn’t know. I was nervous about having a baby and about all of the things that could go wrong. I worried about the big things – will he be healthy, will he have 10 fingers and 10 toes, will he be “normal” (whatever that is), will I be a good parent. I worried about the little things – will I be able to change a diaper, will I be able to afford the things that every parent wants to be able to provide, will he be “cool” (whatever that is).

Katie’s pregnancy was rather normal and we found out that we would be having a boy. I was so excited to be having a boy. A boy! A wrestler! A Baker boy! Katie was the prefect mother-to-be and although I doubted my skills, abilities, and readiness to parent a child, I never questioned her readiness for the challenge. I knew she would be a great mother from the time we found out she was pregnant.

I was the son of a union coalminer and grandson of a union steelworker. I have always been proud of that and I knew that having a son would allow the Baker name to carry on through me. No matter what happened in life – no one could take away my family name or the hard work that made us who we are. I knew that naming my son was one of the most important decisions that I had and would define who he was. I wanted his name to honor my family and define his character. Katie and I decided on Andrew Jason – Andrew after my father and Jason after my brother. I couldn’t think of two other people who defined what the Baker name meant to me – hard work, loyalty, and integrity. Andrew means – manly, brave, warrior. Little did we know at the time that he would need all of these qualities at such a young age.

Shortly after Andrew was born we knew something was not quite right. The doctors noticed that his breathing was labored and they decided to take him to the NICU. We were in a hospital with a level 3 NICU and were confident that he would be ok. For the next several days they worked on Drew and his breathing. He would seem to get better and then have a setback. I remember how deflated we felt – we had a son who we were not able to hold or feed. Someone else had to provide the basic needs that we were supposed to be providing. I remember how scared we were and hopeful that we would be able to bring him home soon. At the time, it was the most unimaginable thing for two young parents.

The feeling of having to leave the hospital without your child – your first born child was not one we ever prepared to experience. I remember Katie and me leaving the hospital and driving home without Drew. We were just praying that he would get well quickly and we could bring him home. Shortly after coming home, the phone rang and I answered it. I remember the female on the other end saying she was a doctor at the hospital. She went on to say “Drew crashed. We are bagging him and he is going to be transported to Johns Hopkins. You need to come to the hospital immediately.” I have been around paramedics and doctors long enough to know that “We are bagging him” is not good. I don’t remember telling Katie what the doctor said – I just remember telling her to get into the car. We got to the NICU and sure enough – they were bagging him, by hand. Forty five minutes later a transport crew from Johns Hopkins arrived to transport him. The doctor introduced himself – Dr. Quack. Seriously…….Dr. Quack? Of all the people on the earth – you send me Dr. Quack!

Drew was diagnosed with PPHN. Basically the blood vessels in his lungs would not expand and therefore were not getting enough oxygen. He spent almost a week at JHU in the NICU and I remember thinking about how lucky we were to live near this world renowned hospital with great doctors like Dr. Quack. They took good care of Drew and he gradually got better. I recall looking around at the other children in the NICU and thinking how lucky we were. Here we were – our son hooked up to every type of machine known to man and I knew that he was in better shape than most of the kids in that unit.

True to his name, Drew was a fighter. After a week at JHU he would be transferred back to the local hospital and then released a few days later. After we were home for a few days Katie came down the stairs and was holding an empty bottle. She said “Look at this.” I looked and thought nothing of the empty bottle. She again said “Look at it!” She was clearly agitated. I looked closer and noticed that the label said Baby Boy ????? – Not Baby Boy Baker. I said “Did you feed that to him?” Yep, we fed our son some other lady’s breast milk. A call to the charge nurse revealed that “Mr. Baker – This happens more than you would think.” Wrong answer! I spoke with Risk Management and our pediatrician was granted access to this very nice ladies medical records. Everything was fine. To this day – he is healthy as can be.

Drew began reading when he was 3 and everyone has always been amazed at his memorization and ability to learn. He likes school, loves math and science, is a tech kid and knows more about my iPhone than I do. All I can say is this – he didn’t get it from Katie or me. Had I known that some strange lady’s breast milk was that good – I would have stocked up.

19 months after Drew was born, we were blessed to be having another son. Again I was excited but hesitant after going through the complications Drew had. Katie and I again took the choice of naming our son very seriously. Katie’s father Chris is a worker – a self-made businessman who never asked for anything and could build anything. Her father has worked hard every day of his life and we wanted to honor him. Nathan Chris was born on December 23. He took the name Chris after her father and brother. I am not sure why we decided on Nathan but I know that Chris – not Christopher was done for a reason. Nathan means – He (God) has given or Gift of God.

Nathan was curious and a fast learner. He was walking at 10 months old and was always aiming to keep up with Drew. Although he never had a real interest in the things that Drew had a knack for – reading, math, books, video games, etc. He always looked up to Drew. He knew how smart Drew was and used it to his advantage. The boys always wanted books at bedtime. Drew would read a book each night and Katie or I would read to Nathan. If that wasn’t the case, Nate would look at pictures or climb into bed with Drew and have Drew read to him.

Nate excelled at physical activities. This summer I taught them both how to ride a bike without training wheels. Nate was the first to learn – he had more time to practice since he was not in school. He picked it up quick and was off and riding. The day that Nate learned how to ride, Drew got home from school and we practiced riding. Nate was zipping around and almost taunting Drew. Riding close to him and weaving inside and outside of Drew as he tried to learn. Drew was nervous and was getting mad at Nate for getting so close. I yelled at Nathan to “knock it off.” He just laughed and rode on. That was Nate! He was outgoing, confident and cocky at times. He didn’t always know the answer – so he would just make it up. Nate was relaxed and let things roll off his back. He was carefree. Drew is more reserved, exact, and always rights. He strives to make sure things are perfect and takes things personal. He is a perfectionist in everything that he does. We always said that Drew would design or develop whatever it is and Nate would build it.

I have always been so interested in how two kids can have the same parents and turn out so different. Both boys are perfect in their own way but so different. Katie and I often talked about this and whether or not we raised them differently. I don’t think we did. I am not sure if it has something to do with birth order or just the fact that they are uniquely different in their own way. I’m not sure but I do know that it is fun.

Recently I have spent a lot of time with Drew and Kaylee. I am extremely proud of both of them and honored to be their father. We talk with Drew nightly about Nathan and recall memories that we all shared together. We will strive to make sure that Drew and Kaylee know everything that we can remember about Nate and the love that he had for them. We try to let them feel the love that we have for all three of them. I can’t describe the love that I have for these three kids. I am not sure that parents are capable of defining the love that they have for their kids. It is overwhelming. It is something that every parent knows but can’t describe.

Nathan – He (God) has given or Gift of God. We were blessed with more than 5 years of loving Nate. Watching him grow and live each day so full of life and love was a blessing. Someone once said – It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I struggle to buy into this but know that I can’t imagine not knowing Nate’s love. I am proud to be Nathan Chris Baker’s father and honored to have had the opportunity to have shared his life and feel his love.

Go Out. Be Great.


A Big Brother With a Big Heart

One thing was clear the day Kaylee was born. Nate was finally a big brother. He was proud. He wore   the title proudly. He loved being Drew’s little brother but I think Nate   really loved being a big brother. It gave him a sense of control. It gave him   the role of being a caretaker. He was always Daddy’s helper, but when Kaylee   was born, he took on the role of Mommy’s Helper. Nate always had a soft spot   for babies. Maybe because he had a heart full of love or maybe because he   knew he was older and felt he had authority… probably both…, but as wild as Nate was he would stop and acknowledge a baby in awe. He was in awe of Kaylee from the day she was born. When I delivered Nate December 23rd, I was insistent on getting home to Drew as quickly as   possible. Drew needed his mommy home and I needed my family complete for   Christmas. As with Nate’s delivery I chose the same route after having   Kaylee. Some mothers like the quiet time in the hospital. I liked the chaos   of my house. I came home from hospital 24 hours after having Kaylee as well   to be with my boys. I was in love with a beautiful baby girl but my heart was   at home with my boys. They were my world. At home is where my family would be complete. Our first night home I spent in my cozy green rocking recliner that so comfortably took me through   three pregnancies and months of nightly nursing for 3 babies. Nate ventured downstairs at some wee hour that first night home with Kaylee and he climbed   right into that green recliner with Kaylee and I. He snuggled into me then   wrapped an arm right over top of Kaylee as if he was caring for her too. He   laid there with me for hours that night. He watched Kaylee sleep, and eat,   and then eventually fell asleep in the chair with us too. He filled my heart   with so much love. You know how there are some moments that can be ingrained   in your brain as a picture forever… This was one of those moments. Drew was   his best buddy. Daddy was his hero. Mommy was his love. Kaylee was his heart.   His love for her was clear from the moment he laid eyes on her. I knew that   night he was going to have a heart so big and love that baby girl!
Nate holding Kaylee

Nate just watching   Kaylee in awe. A moment captured in time.

Nate spent countless  mornings under a pink cupcake blanket snuggling with his sister, he helped   change her diapers, he and Drew tucked her into bed each night, he was always   so mindful of her feelings. She often demanded him to do what she wanted. As   tough as Nate was…. He wasn’t with Kaylee. He did as she said. She would   drag him across a room by his shirt and he listened to her. Those who know   Nate will know that he didn’t like being told what to do… But what Kaylee   wanted Kaylee got when it came to Nate. He played with her kitchen set   proudly. He pushed the pink shopping cart with a smile. He rode in her pink   coupe car without a care in the world. Did he love her toys? Yes, he did. But he loved playing with her with the toys more.
Nate riding with Kaylee in her pink car
Nate reading toy   magazines to “sissy”

As I think of Nate in heaven it brings me comfort to know he will always be her angel. He will always be watching over her. There is a hole in my heart that hurts so bad to   think that Kaylee will not remember how much Nate loved her. But I promise   you Kaylee that I will make sure I do everything I can to tell you how much   your brother loved you. I’m going to make a picture book of the hundreds of   pictures I have of him holding you and snuggling with you. I’m going to tell   you about how big his heart was under that tough exterior. I’m going to teach   you how to love like he did. Your daddy and I will continue to teach you and Drew how to BE GREAT. Anyone who knows Kaylee knows that she is so much like Nate.  She reminds us of him daily.  She is full of life, loves to be outside, can throw a tantrum that may just beat his, can give a scowl look that burns, but can smile and laugh and light up a room with joy.  Kaylee, God gave you to us with a touch of Nate’s soul.  Kaylee Grace…  you are our Saving Grace.

With Love,



Taking care of his sissy at Hershey Park


Godspeed Little Man

I have found a lot of comfort in music the last few weeks.  Some songs make me smile and some songs I can actually feel the love of Christ as if the Lord has wrapped his arms around me to remind me of his love.  Some songs, admittedly, make me angry.   And many songs make me sad.  I’d listened to the song Godspeed by Dixie Chicks years ago but when I heard it again just recently it took on a whole new meaning.  Emotionally, it hit me.  It hit me hard.  I cried…  the pour tears kind of cry.

This song is my prayer to you Nate and I promise you that every night I WILL fly my love to you on angels wings.  I know you know how much we LOVE you sweet pea.

“Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)”  By Dixie Chicks

Dragon tales and the “water is wide”
Pirate’s sail and lost boys fly
Fish bite moonbeams every night
And I love you
Godspeed, little man
Sweet dreams, little man
Oh my love will fly to you each night on angels wings
Sweet dreams
The rocket racer’s all tuckered out
Superman’s in pajamas on the couch
Goodnight moon, will find the mouse
And I love you
Godspeed, little man
Sweet dreams, little man
Oh my love will fly to you each night on angels wings
Sweet dreams
God bless mommy and match box cars
God bless dad and thanks for the stars
God hears “Amen,” wherever we are
And I love you
Godspeed, little man
Sweet dreams, little man
Oh my love will fly to you each night on angels wings
Sweet dreams
The rocket racers all tuckered out, Superman's in pajamas on the couch….  reminds me so much of you.  You played hard, you worked hard, you loved hard, and when you fell asleep at night you slept hard too.   You were my rocket racer.
God Bless Mommy and Matchbox cars, God Bless Dad and thanks for the Stars.  Nate was a boy that loved his trucks and cars.  He has at least 250 matchbox cars and given the choice he’d use allowance money each week to buy one more.   Nate had already decided he was asking Santa this year for a gas powered 4 wheeler.
Oh, my sweet Nate,  I love you buddy.
We will be GREAT for you NATE.


The dictionary defines Quiet as follows: making no noise or sound, especially no distrubing sound. Free or comparatively free, from noise. Silent. Restrained in speech, manner.

Almost every parents seeks it. At times we beg for it or demand it: “SHHHHHH”. “Be quiet”. “Can you be quiet for one minute?” “Hush.” “Let’s play the quiet game.” “QUIET!” “Shut up!” Any way you say it or have said it, you understand where I am coming from. When you have kids – you long for just a moment of Quiet. Just one single moment of silence so that you can collect your thoughts and get your head right. Just a moment.

I admit that my hearing is not great. I have a hard time dealing with background noise. This is especially true when someone is trying to talk to me. Not sure what the cause is, maybe it was the excessive level of the car radio in high school. Maybe it is from the noise at work. I am not real sure why but I have always had a hard time listening to someone talk while there is background noise. This extends to my thinking. I have never been good at concentrating with noise in the background.

Nathan was that “noise.” It was a constant with him. He was always busy doing something. That something always required noise. If it weren’t the random noise of him getting into something, it was the sound of his voice.

Drew has always been relatively quiet. He is a thinker. He is a rule follower who does everything with precise intention. Never one to break a rule, cause to much commotion or rock the boat. Definitely not one to create much noise.

It was totally opposite for Nathan. Since Nate was born our house has always been buzzing with noise. He was a well behaved kid but always one to test the limits and see if the rules really applied to him or if there really were consequences to breaking the rules. I think at times he would break the rules just to see what the consequences were.

I remember Katie and I sitting in the room and hearing a noise from the kitchen pantry. We could both tell that someone was digging in the pantry and so we called out “Nathan – what are you doing?” Nathan replied “Nothing.” The rustling continued and we again inquired about what he was doing. He advised that he was getting some goldfish. A few moments later we could hear him digging through the pantry again and we again asked what he was up to. He advised that he was just getting some goldfish. When he walked into the family room we immediately noticed the chocolate smeared on his face. We questioned him about this and he was adament that he had not had any chocolate. We questioned him more and he got defensive and denied eating any Hershey kisses. When we confronted him with the evidence still smeared on his face – he got somewhat angry. It was that “noise” that gave him away. He was never good at admitting that he had been caught.

Lately our house is awkwardly quiet and it is not something that we are used to or comfortable with. Kaylee is much like Nathan and provides some noise to relieve that silence that is so evident within the house. It is just not the same.

I realize that Nate’s “noise” broke those moments that were filled with silence. It was that “noise” that broke the monotony and made life so exciting. The rustling of Nathan getting into something that he shouldn’t or the arguing between him and Drew. It was the noise that I did not appreciate at the time but have come to miss greatly.

I find myself looking for things to break the silence. Some reason not to be still or silent and think about the events that have occurred over the last few weeks. I long for that “noise” that made every day at my house “crazy town.” Kaylee will help with this in the days to come. Anyone that has been around Kaylee knows that she will keep Katie and I busy as she grows. She is a nut and I wouldn’t want it any other way. She reminds me a great deal of Nathan.

The next time that you seek that moment of silence – take a minute and listen to that “noise.” Think about how great that “noise” really is. Think about how stir crazy you would be without that “noise” in your life. Think about what that “noise” really represents. It is a “noise” full of life and joy. A “noise” that makes each day challenging and different. It is a “noise” that makes your life what it is. That “noise” is what life is all about. No life has ever been exciting without that “noise”. Take a moment and enjoy that “noise.” Do not supress it or silence it – cherish it! It is the “noise” of your life.

Go Out. Be Great.


The Grass

In August 2006 while Katie was pregnant with Nathan we decided that our family needed a new home. We knew that our 2 bedroom townhome was just not going to be able to accomodate our growing family. We purchased this home with an acre of land and I was excited about the growth of our family and the size of the yard. We were moving to a place with just over an acre from a place that seemed to be the size of a postage stamp. A place where I would finally have a need for a riding lawn mower and from a place that I could cut the grass with a weed-whacker. We were moving up like George and Weezy. We had finally made it!

The day we moved to the new home I went out and purchased the new lawn mower. A brand new Cub Cadet with a 50 inch cut. I was so excited that I failed to buy gas for the new mower. We had to push it to the shed. I was so excited that I failed to measure the opening of the shed. Needless to say – the mower was not going to fit in the shed. My friends who had gathered to help me unload the mower suggested that I just leave it outside until other accomodations could be made. Me being the proud owner of this new machine that proudly displayed Made in the U.S.A. on the back was not going to allow this fine piece of machinery to sit outside. I quickly got the saw and cut two notches in the shed so that the mower deck could fit inside. A bit hillbillish – I admit.

I enjoyed my time cutting the grass. I have always enjoyed being able to be alone, to reflect on life, work, etc. and hash out the worries of the world. Just me and myself in my own head. A lot can be fixed in the world by a person on a riding mower. I would plug in the iPhone and turn on the tunes…….all was right in the world.

Nathan was born in December 2006 and grew to love that lawn mower. By the time he was able to walk he was ready to ride. He would sit in my lap and just be in awe of everything. I can’t recall how many times that he rode the mower with me but it was many. I remember the times that I would go out and cut the grass without him and seeing him standing at the front door looking out at me. I couldn’t help but drive up to the front and pick him up. Even it were just for a few passes through the yard – he was happy. I have many, many fond memories of cutting the grass with Nathan on my lap. It had recently reached the point that he was almost to big to sit in my lap so he would stand between my legs and ride. He had become pretty good at steering and paid close attention to where he was driving. He knew that I was particular about how the lawn was cut and he was developing the same OCD tendencies. He loved it!

I remember filling the lawn mower with gas once and Nathan telling me “Dad, I love the smell of gas.” I talked with him briefly about how it was not good to smell gas but thinking to myself – I love the smell of gas too. I mean what red-blooded American boy/man doesn’t like the smell of gas? As I filled up the lawn mower today and the smell of gas came from the can – I thought about Nate and how he was all boy.

Often we would listen to music on the iPhone as we rode. I would give him one ear-piece and I would have the other. I remember holding him in my lap as we rode and just hugging him and telling him that I loved him. He would always respond “Love you too Dad.” Those rides were times that I will hold tightly and never forget.

Today I cut the grass for the first time since Nathan’s death. I plugged in the iPhone and walked to the shed to get the lawn mower out. I struggled through cutting the entire thing. That being alone, just me and myself, in my own head was hard to deal with. I knew that I needed to be out there working through it. I mean you can’t live the rest of your life without cutting the grass. It didn’t make it any easier.

A small job around the house turned out to be one of the hardest moments that I have had to deal with since his death. As I rode around the yard I began remembering all of the times that he was sitting on my lap riding that mower. I thought about how small of a task it seemed at the time and how much of an impact that small task with my son had on my life. I am not sure that I will ever enjoy mowing the lawn like I did when Nate was around. I do know that Nathan loved cutting the grass and his OCD about the grass would not allow me to neglect it. He would have insisted that we go out and cut the grass.

Each day we are faced with small things that seem so minor during the hustle and bustle of the real world. These small things that often seem like work are in retrospect the very things that we live for. I always knew that I enjoyed cutting the grass but never realized how much I enjoyed it until Nathan became part of that small task. I imagine that without Nate being part of the equation – it would just be another chore that needed done weekly. With Nathan – it was Great. Something we both loved! He made the small things in life – the great things in life!

Go Out. Be Great. Take a moment to enjoy the little things in life.


Nate the Great

Find Nate the Great on Facebook

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I promise that Katie & I read these posts daily along with the FB posts, text messages, email, voicemails, etc.

We are committed to keeping Nathan’s memory alive and promise to post stories, photos, and videos in the days ahead. I tried to post tonight but just couldn’t bring myself to type. It will come.

We thank everyone for your posts and all that you have done for our family. Please continue to share your stories about “Nate the Great” with others.

You can also visit a FB page created in honor of Nate: Nathan Chris Baker : Go Out. Be Great.