The cruise was my first ever. Barcelona had been so amazing that I couldn’t imagine anything comparing. We took off and began our trip south. I immediately was taken aback by the rockiness of the boat. But even worse than the rockiness was that we were headed straight for an oncoming cold front. Little droplets of the ocean would hang onto the bitter cold wind and sting my face. Steve and I would have to gear up to cross the outdoor walkway to the restaurants. Every time was a bundle up, hunch down, run to the other side. It was SO cold. But the excitement was tangible. We were headed for the Strait of Gibraltar. Read More
I remember this one particular evening during treatment. I went to the Ronald McDonald Room, a large room on the 3rd floor of Primary Children’s Hospital where food is donated by organizations and restaurants for parents of sick children. Hayes had gone to bed and dinner was being served. I made my way down there so that I could have something besides cafeteria food. You walk into this place and no one is smiling…it is SO depressing. But I was desperate for some non-hospital food so I got my dinner plate and made my way to a long table with 3 other parents sullenly sitting in silence. Read More
I remember when my giant of a man child, Bo was a baby. He was the first of my six kids and basically my “trial & error” child. He came out literally 10 pounds, not the figurative, “Yeah, my baby was huge. He was practically 10 pounds”. No, he was literally 10 pounds 0 ounces…to put that into perspective, he was 3X bigger than Reese was when she was born. He was so big that my siblings called him “Uncle Bo”. He was my stay puffed marshmallow man! As a result, Bo was hungry 126% of the time. Read More
I have something to admit. Remember a few weeks ago when I said I had gained the courage to take Hayes’ crib down finally? Well, I have a confession, I just moved his crib to the opposite side of the room. I couldn’t bare to take it down so I just moved it in front of Heath’s closet. I literally had to shove it out of the way every time I needed to get clothes for Heath. So at least twice a day. But, I just couldn’t do it. The thought of taking it down felt like letting go of my baby. The guilt has been overwhelming. Read More
It was around 11:30 on Sunday night when I started to feel that all too familiar sting…the cyclical sting that comes on those special days and anniversaries. I realized that exactly 3 years before that very moment I had been getting prepped for my cesarean. I had unexpectedly gone into labor at 31 weeks 5 days with the triplets and my OB saw that my babies were coming whether I was ready or not. Read More
The trip had been in the works for 2 years. Although we were dreading leaving our kids, we have had so many amazing experiences in Europe, so to say we were looking forward to our 15 days in Spain is an understatement. Steve speaks Spanish so we were so excited to completely dive into the culture! The trip was set to start in Barcelona for three days. Read More
Let me start out this post with a preemptive warning that I actually believe that toddler “education” is not something to stress about. When Bo was 18 months old, he was no joke, a baby genius. He said his first word at 7 months and his words skyrocketed after that. He was literally reading by 3 years old. I will be honest. I was kind of cocky about it and I sort of took credit for his success. I read books with him, worked on his sounds, colors and shapes and pretty much, from what I could tell, I had created a baby prodigy. All the signs pointed to his genius mom.
Then Mia was born. I took the exact same steps with her. I began reading her books and “testing” her on her knowledge and bless her sweet heart….she wasn’t a baby genius. In fact, not only could she not read by the time kindergarten rolled around, but she honestly knew maybe 5 of her letters, if that. Mia ended up doing fine and actually is super smart now. What I came to realize was that I actually didn’t have as big of an impact as I thought. I feel like kids cognitive interests will be perked when they are ready. So then what the heck is the point of trying to teach them at all?!
I decided that teaching my babies is actually the perfect opportunity to spend time with them and for them to spend time together. Maybe they aren’t becoming baby geniuses but the time together is kind of perfect! There is a lot of laughter, a lot of bribing and frankly, sometimes a little toddler tantrum thrown in the mix. But at least I am exposing them and giving them the opportunity to learn. It can’t hurt!
There are a few things that help me find success. First of all, high chairs are key for most of the activities! I can strap them in and they can’t get easily distracted with toys. Second off, I bribe them. Their bribes of choice lately are suckers. They will list off the parts of the face like Einsteins if they see a sucker on the horizon. It actually is kind of how I am with Peanut Butter M&M’s, but I digress. And thirdly, we sing A LOT! I wouldn’t necessarily say my voice is the voice of an angel but it motivates them enough to have me wondering if maybe it is!
Another activity I have found success with is stringing Cheerios on spaghetti noodles or skewers. This keeps them busy forever! Supposedly it helps with fine motor skills but it also will provide you with at least 10 minutes of quiet time. Que the Coke Zero and peanut butter M&M’s.
Last thing I usually do is work on colors. I usually draw about 6 different colored circles on a paper. I then have them sort fruit loops into coordinating colored circles. I have found that these things have worked for us. Even if it is just small things to help them follow directions, I feel like I am helping them become somewhat decent members of society.
Let me know if you try any of these. I am curious to know if it works for other kids. And if you have different ideas, I am always on the hunt for more!
I remember as a child sitting next to my dad on the couch and watching the Miss America pageant. I was fascinated. The women were beautiful, dressed in sparkly gowns, they were incredibly talented and on top of all of that, they were smart. I am sure he could see the amazement in my eyes and my dad asked me if I wanted to be Miss America. I responded with a shrug and my dad answered the shrug by looking me in the eyes and telling me I could be Miss America if I wanted. He followed it up with, “You can be the president if the United States if you want. There is nothing you can’t do.” He believed it…I had no doubt he believed it, but what I didn’t say out loud was that I doubted both…I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t pretty enough and I definitely wasn’t talented enough. I was probably 6 years old and I didn’t feel enough.
You know that feeling of letdown after a vacation. Well ever since I lost Hayes, I dread that letdown even more because I come back home from a trip that was healing only to realize life is the same. Hayes isn’t here. So when we came home from our last trip to California this past month, the feeling was no different. I really was not looking to coming home.
After a long road trip home, we pulled up to our house and oddly enough, Steve didn’t pull into the driveway. He put a movie on in the car for the kids and told me he had something to show me in the house and he grabbed my hand and walked me into our seemingly empty house. He walked me up the stairs to our master bedroom and I opened the door to a magazine cover. No way was this our house!
I was completely beyond shocked! Our house was definitely not empty. A camera crew, producers and a few other people were stuffed into our bathroom ready to surprise us. And then the sweetest couple walked in behind us to give us a hug and formally present us with the gift they had given us! Two people I did not know had taken a week out of their lives to offer us a gift I so desperately needed….a sanctuary. They were Cara and Tom Fox. A couple that designs and builds the most beautiful homes you have ever seen. They had reached out to Steve to surprise me with this unforgettable gift.
I feel incredibly grateful and still blown away every time I walk into my room. The peace, the little #HayesHints and the beauty of the room has truly lifted me up. Thanks are of course in order to Cara and Tom of Fox Group Construction and Overstock for the gorgeous furnishings! You made my home feel more like home. So thank you!
I recently read the beginnings of a memoir by a 46 year old man that was diagnosed with endocrine cancer. As different as my situation is, I related so much to the cancer experience of this man. The journey from symptoms to discovery to diagnosis….I have walked that path. But as a mother as opposed to the patient, our paths diverged. As I read him describe his “painful” chemo cocktail of etoposide and cisplatin for 3-4 months, tears began to burn my eyes. Not only did Hayes have those exact “painful” chemo drugs, but he also had 8 more chemos over the course of his 8 Month protocol. My sweet 10 Month Old Baby was exposed to those same drugs and more. It was our only option, but as parents you do anything. You do anything to keep them safe and comfortable while at the same time, knowingly giving them poisons that nearly kill them, day after day. But that is our only hope. It is the only weapon we have to fight the monster that is just as relentless as we are.
Looking back over the battle we had, I realize that during that fight, I really didn’t recognize the magnitude of what we were facing. I was devastated and scared, but every day I clung to the hope that chemo would fix my baby. Having hope was the only thing I had control over and I unceasingly held onto it.
I remember so vividly what I was doing a year ago today. It was Halloween of 2016 and Hayes was Home. I woke up early, got my kids in their costumes and excitedly dressed my 3 babies in their themed carnival costumes. Life was beginning to “normalize” and I had nearly let go of all the fear of cancer I had accumulated over the past 8 months. Although Cancer was in the rear view mirror, a deep, hidden part of me knew I was forcing it away; running from the monster that would forever stalk us. But, I ignored it and I have no regrets about my denial…it allowed me to feel peace and happiness and joy which my family so desperately deserved. Life was blissfully naive for a few short months.
I feel like my life is mostly in black and white now. I still smile, my kids still smile and there is laughter. But, that rich deep feeling of life that is seen through saturated color is not felt very often anymore. I sat through my kids Halloween parade today and watched as my kids marched through the halls of their elementary school, proudly showing off their costumes and my babies danced to the Halloween music playing over the loud speaker. I smiled as the scenes unfolded before me, but then it hit, it always does, that Hayes should be here and the magic of another holiday vanishes. It is painful. Steve and I always smile for our kids, but deep down, we want to hide. Sleep away the winter that brings with it all the painful reminders of our sweet angel boy.
I don’t like to focus on the pain, I really don’t, but this is also our story. Life isn’t easy, unfortunately. But, in a strange juxtaposition, what gets me through these hard days is hope. Hope for a brighter future, hope for a happy tomorrow & most of all, hope that I will see my Hayesey again. Hope is what got me through that original fight and ironically, it gets me through my days without him now. I will continue to slap that smile on my face with a hope that one day it won’t be so forced. With hope that one day I will be able to have a life where Hayes is simply a warm, happy memory and not a painful reminder of loss in my heart. Until then, I hope.