It was the fall of my 5th grade year. I went to a private school in an old red brick building surrounded by large leafy oak trees. It was old and beautiful. Every day I had to wear the same typical uniform, red and navy plaid skirt, white button up shirt, blue cardigan, a little blue neck tie and knee high socks. It was classic.
My class was divided into groups of learning abilities. They didn’t tell us this, but it was very clear to me that I was in the upper learning group. I was very awkwardly smart. My strength was math and numbers. I can say that now because my mom brain has completely wiped out every ability my mind once had. In fact, I can’t believe that was me. If you were to ask me a basic math question now, my brain would hurt…but, I digress.
Sometimes it is hard to notice. The day to day is stressful, there is always something to want more of and it is easy to forego gratitude. A while ago I began waking up each morning, immediately shifting my mind to things I am grateful for. Every morning, before I even open my eyes, I mentally list off the things I am grateful for. Sometimes it is huge things and sometimes it is something as simple as feeling grateful for the sleep I just woke up from. Sometimes it is hard for me to see through the fog of stress to see the things that make me happy, but looking back on my life when Hayes was here, I feel overwhelmingly grateful for so many things. I recently read a quote that could not be more true and more applicable to my own situation.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
Isn’t that so how life is? It is easier to feel grateful when you are seeing things in hind sight. But, if there is anything Hayes taught me, it is that life is full of little things to feel grateful for! So, I am launching a 5 Things to be grateful for series. Once a month I will list off 5 things I am feeling grateful for. I am hoping it changes my outlook more permanently! I am hoping it reminds me to be more present and I am hoping it helps me feel more happiness during the dark days and moments.
1 – Reality TV … I know this seems incredibly shallow and unimportant, but you know what? Sometimes I need the mindless distraction. Sometimes I need to forget myself and sometimes I need a good laugh. Reality TV is one of those things for me that allows me to turn my mind off. When Hayes was in the hospital, I would put him to bed and lie in my little corner of the hospital room and watch my crap. Lift my mind out of the heaviness of childhood cancer. It was and still is a magical distraction.
2 – Coke Zero … Here is the devastating thing about Coke Zero, they are discontinuing it. Steve and I felt like crawling into the fetal position and crying many times today after hearing the news, but we stayed strong and cracked open a few extra cans of burning liquid to show appreciation for our favorite source of “hydration”….in all honesty, it really is something I am grateful for. Every day, when Hayes would take a nap, I would leave the room, go for a walk and purchase an ice cold fountain drink and the miracle was that they had Coke Zero! It was my daily vacation from the cancer unit.
3 – Summer Nights …. I am so not looking forward to fall because it means giving up the gift of summer evenings. I love when the sun is going down and everyone glows gold. I love how the air is still warm from the day. I love how lately there has been a slight breeze and birds have been chirping in the trees. I love laying on the tramp and staring up at the darkening sky and thinking of my boy. Completely immersing myself in the memories of Hayes. Escaping for a minute. It is heaven.
4 – Social Media … it is so interesting when people have such disdain for social media. I would have agreed with these people in the past, before Hayes got sick, but I think it is one of the greatest gifts of my life. Like anything, there are negative aspects, but mostly, it is a network of strangers that love and support one another. I feel lifted up daily by good people around the world that send me messages of support and love. I will always be grateful for the community and tribe that lift me up. I am beyond grateful for each and every one of you. I thank each of you for your part in my journey.
5 – I-Phone … no question, my most prized possession outside of my family, is my phone. Weird right? But, so, SO true. The amount of pictures and videos that I have on my phone of Hayes is unbelievable! Before smart phones, I never took time to document. But, every detail, every single beautiful moment was captured. I find a new video at least once a week and a new photo once a day of my perfect little boy. What an incredible blessing! That is why, my phone is my most prized possession. It is my link to my boy. A promise to myself that I won’t forget.
So those are my 5 things to be grateful for in July. Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Notice them.
I received a call late last night around midnight as Steve and I laid in bed. It is always a bad sign when your phone rings after 10 pm. I was informed by my friend that our other dear friend had lost her little 3 year old boy earlier in the afternoon. He had been hit by a car and my friend had lost him to this nightmare soon after. My stomach immediately was in knots and I felt sick. I still feel sick.
I feel like I am surrounded by sadness…a constant reminder of my own loss. I had been at home putting my babies to bed, making my kids take baths, making dinner and had no idea that my sweet friend and her husband were facing the tragedy that I had faced, 7 short months ago. It feels too soon for more pain to be in the world. But, it is. There is pain all around. This world is bigger than our own four walls…sadness, heartbreak and devastation are felt by someone in the world at any given moment, even when our little universe feels fine.
I am not saying that we focus on devastation and negativity all of the time, but I think it puts our lives into perspective. It reminded me, after a hard day, just how lucky I am. I have suffered my own life shattering loss, but I have been able to pick up the pieces and see a bit of hope. I miss Hayes so much. I miss him so painfully much! On nights like tonight I miss him even more, but I also feel incredible gratitude that my boy is happy, running free of cancer. I will see him again and my friend will see her boy again. This is not the end!
Hold your sweet babies close. Motherhood is hard, but it can be swept away so quickly. Live each moment and appreciate every tantrum, every drooling, teething mess…those are gifts that moms of angels recognize. Welcome to the club my beautiful friend….I am so, SO sorry and devastated you are here.
I had cried like I didn’t know was humanly possible. I had been sad before, but this was complete heart break, complete devastation, and complete darkness, with no hope. My sweet baby laid sedated in the crib next to the recliner we sat in. Peacefully sleeping the night away in bed #28, in the glass room we were closed away in. He slept more calmly than I had seen him do in months and ironically he was completely unaware of the horror that had been discovered in his teeny head just hours before. I laid in Steve’s lap and we held each other the whole night, freely crying and weeping in each other’s arms. We were in the PICU, surrounded by families and parents going through their own devastations. Read More
I love clothes, like a lot. I have a problem! But, to be honest, I probably won’t even buy one of these things. Nordstrom is a splurge I rarely allow myself, even for the anniversary sale. They will probably go on my “imagine if I bought these” imaginary shopping list. Here is the thing though, some of these are seriously affordable! A girl can dream right? Read More
I watched him from across the room. He was wearing his perfect, un-walked in, black converse. He basically wore them for decoration, but they also kept his ankles steady during physical therapy when he practiced putting weight on his feet. He leaned up with his hands against the large red exercise ball and proudly “stood” on his chemo, weak froggy legs. I was so incredibly proud and clapped and cheered for Hayes, recognizing that he was doing something harder than I have ever done myself. Reese and Heath walked into the playroom and clapped along with me, not knowing the reason for the show of excitement. Heath walked over to the exercise ball and slapped it with his little hands and Hayes laughed. He was participating in play time with his triplet brother and sister and we were all overjoyed. He was making up for lost time and I was so happy. I had dreamed of this forever.
I remember, I was quickly pulled down from that excitement when the physical therapist explained that Hayes wasn’t progressing as quickly as she would like to see. She told me that she thought Hayes was going to need a walker. She was hopeful that he would respond well to the challenge, but it broke my heart. She told me that within the next month or so, Hayes would need to be fitted for his walker. My sweet boy was cancer free so why did it feel like life wasn’t catching up to the news of normalcy? I decided I didn’t want to believe her and so I shut it away to the back of my mind.
Every so often, my mind would drift to the worry. What if Hayes never knew how to walk? What if he never ate food like all of the other kids? What if he never got to participate in regular childhood activities? Sometimes these worries would consume me to the point of tears. I would get so frustrated for him. I would always have to remind myself of the incredible blessing that Hayes had with built in best friends. Regardless of the circumstances of his physical abilities, Heath and Reese were always going to accept him and love him as he was. Reese was a built in little mom and Heath was a bulldog. He was going to be fine. He would always be protected.
Looking back on that anxiety, I realize how completely ridiculous those worries were. I would give anything to see him grow now. I realize that none of those physical setbacks mattered…he was here! Who cares if he was going to spend his childhood in a walker, or eat through a feeding tube? In hindsight, it obviously didn’t matter. But, it is easy to get hung up on those fears, the worries that those dreams we envision for our children won’t come to fruition. Stepping back and seeing the bigger picture, now I am able to appreciate that Hayes was enough exactly as he was.
It is a reminder to me that my job as a mother is to encourage my children and help them to realize that no matter what they accomplish in life, they are enough. My job is to teach them to be proudly aunthentic. They are my greatest gifts. I hope Hayes knows this. I hope he knows how proud I am of him, how lucky I am to be his mom. I hope he knows that every accomplishment he made in his short life was enough. He is and always will be the strongest person I know.
The 4th of July has once again come and gone. It has always been one of my favorite holidays. When I was little, I went to an elementary school that drove patriotism hard. Every day began with the class standing, with our hands over our heart and reciting the pledge of allegiance in unison in both English and French. I am not quite sure what speaking the pledge of allegiance in French has to do with being a proud American, but I can still recite it, nonetheless. “Je promet une allégeance au drapeau des États-Unis d’Amérique….” See, I am such a patriot. But, I digress. I have studied the beginnings of America and have read up on our founding fathers. I recognize the sacrifices that have been made for me and my children. My dad was a soldier in the Vietnam war. I really am proud to be an American, whole heartedly.
When Steve and I first got married, his hero was Pat Tillman. He was amazed that someone in the NFL would give up a million dollar contract in order to sacrifice and fight for our country. In this day and age, it is extremely uncommon to see someone forego fame and fortune in order to serve. So needless to say, Pat Tillman quickly became a hero to both of us. So much so for Steve that he wanted to name our first born Tillman. While I appreciated the meaning and hero behind the name, I just couldn’t jump on board with that idea. When we were pregnant with Wes, Steve once again tried to push for the name Tillman, and I shot it down again. Finally, when we were pregnant with the triplets, Steve convinced me it was time. So we agreed on the plan to give baby B, Heath, the middle name of Tillman. The problem I soon realized was that our sweet baby C needed a strong middle name as well.
Hayes needed a patriotic middle name to match his brother, so we brainstormed. But, nothing felt right. How can you top Tillman…one of Steve’s greatest heroes?! One night, near the end of my pregnancy, Steve took me on a date to the movie American Sniper. I cried through the entire thing. It was beautiful and powerful and the story of Chris Kyle truly moved me. As the credits rolled at the end, I remember so clearly, leaning over to Steve, wiping the tears from my cheek and whispering, “Hayes’ middle name needs to be Kyle.” It was like the stars had aligned and it all made sense. Both our boys would be named after men that were true heroes.
It is incredibly inspiring to me that Hayes was named after such a legend. So fitting. We obviously had no idea at the time that Hayes was going to change the world, but how perfect that one hero be named after another hero…both of their names etched in stone, forever. Hayes Kyle Tate, my own little 20 month legend.
While the summer sizzles away, I am beginning to cross things off of our summer bucket list. Last week, I did a science experiment with our kids. I had so many people tell me to try making ice cream in a ziplock bag. So I took to Pinterest and went for it. Preparation was shockingly simple. I already had every ingredient in my fridge and kitchen…sugar, heavy cream and vanilla. I was ready to be the best Pinterest mom in history!
The kids started tossing around their bags. The sun was setting, the kids were laughing, getting along and running in the backyard. When the timer went off, we gathered around and opened up the bags. There in the ziplock bag was a picture perfect, creamy vanilla ice cream. I had hit a home run in the Pinterest mom department and I felt borderline cocky. Mia dove into her bag with a spoon and I watched as her face went from excitement to disgusted grimace. “It tastes like salt!”
That isn’t what I was expecting. Everyone tried their ice cream and had the same reaction. Apparently we were a little too rough with our bags and little holes had ripped into the ice cream bags and the salt from the ice had seeped in. Talk about “FAIL”. I really wasn’t too disappointed but I figured I should stop trying Pinterest because I obviously suck at it. But then, I looked over and my kids were laughing and playing still. In fact, the next day, Wes asked if we could make ice cream again! What?!! As it turns out, it wasn’t about the activity or the outcome of the activity! My kids loved it and appreciated it.
It got me thinking about motherhood in general. I feel like a failure often, and I probably actually do fail a lot! But all that matters is that they recognize that I try. Hoping that when they look back on their childhood, they know I tried. So, here is to hundreds more “Pinterest Fails”! Here is to salty homemade ice cream and here is to my kids having a happy childhood!