Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year

If I had it my way, I would've told 2012 where to go a long time ago.

But let's face it. This isn't Burger King. There's no getting it my way. And if there was, 2012 would've turned out a whole lot differently.

Don't get me wrong. There were some good moments. This one and this one come to mind.

But last year when I hung the 2012 calendar on our mudroom wall, this is not what I had in store for us.

So what did I have in mind?

Well, from the looks of the calendar, nothing too terribly special.

Basketball and BeLoved for Addie, plus piano lessons on Wednesday nights. Tumbling for Tripp and Isaac and a night class for me.

I'm sure the typical New Year's resolutions emerged on Jan. 1. Something about getting organized, losing a little weight, and making sure our finances were in order. After all, a trip to Disney was on the horizon, so we'd better get to saving.

There weren't plans for cancer.

And certainly not death.

I didn't think I'd have to tell two little boys that the big sister they hugged goodbye on Tuesday wasn't coming back.


And I didn't picture myself having to say it again and again and again when they just don't understand.

So if you'd asked me last week I would've told you that 2013 couldn't come soon enough.

But now, on the eve of this new year, I'm not so sure.

Because there's one thing 2012 has over 2013.

And that's two months and 26 days with Addie.


As 2012 comes to a close, look forward and look back. Resolve or choose not to. And no matter how big your babies are, hug them tight.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

And I Was Doing So 'Well'

File this under "crappy things parents who've lost children have to do."

By now the file has gotten pretty thick, but I think there's room for one more item.

How about the Dependent Child(ren) Verification Form from my insurance company? Said form arrived in the mail today marked Open Immediately. So I did (well, after I looked through a couple of Christmas cards and shoved another piece of monkey bread in my mouth).

I figured it was the official paperwork to have Little Miss Landry added to our plan.

It wasn't.

Listed across the top of the form were three names: Addison, Isaac, and Tripp. My children (minus Landry of course). My dependents.

Well isn't that a punch to the gut?

I figured somebody in some office somewhere would have taken care of that after Addie passed (pretty sure I mentioned it to the rep on the phone when going over the medical bills). Or maybe this is their way of taking care of it.

I'm not going to lie. Seeing only Isaac and Tripp's name on the form would have sent me into a tail spin too. But this. This requires me to explain what happened, admit my child is gone. In writing.

I have to do it by February 22 or my dependents' coverage will be canceled. Trust me. I don't want to lose any insurance benefits. But I don't want to check the box that says "Voluntary Removal" either.

To me, voluntary removal indicates choice.

No parent would choose this.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'First' Snow

It's every kid's dream.


Lots of it.

The week before Christmas break.

Forecasters are predicting 8 inches in some areas. That, coupled with high winds, is going to make for some nasty conditions that could possibly result in a (dare I say) snow day tomorrow.

All I can say is thank goodness I'm on maternity leave ('cause I can't think of anything that could get the kiddos more riled up than the possibility of a snow day two days before school is supposed to let out).

And Isaac is one of those riled up kiddos.

"I can hardly wait!" he exclaimed as I tucked him in last night.

Can't hardly wait is right. He and Tripp were up at 6:30 this morning peeking out the windows. You can imagine their disappointment when they realized not a trace of snow had touched the ground.

I reassured Isaac the snow would most definitely come later today. After lunch, I said. It's now 2:11, there's no snow and he probably thinks I'm a big fat liar.

Oh well.

As a kindergartner, Isaac has yet to realize the beauty of a snow day. Let's face it. Getting a day off from school isn't even on his radar. He just wants to see snow.

Not Addie.

She loved snow days. Loved them. And realized what a gift they were.

She and I would sit with our eyes glued to the TV just waiting to see our school cancellations crawl across the bottom of the screen. Because snow days meant sleeping in (as much as an excited kid could stand to anyway) and staying in our jammies all day long.

So it will be interesting to see how things will pan out with this storm. I'm pretty sure the snow will come. And that makes me a little bit sad.

Because who's going to build snow forts with the boys tomorrow?

Tripp, Isaac, and Addie ready for the snow last February.

I've got the baby to tend to, dad will be at work, and Addie's...


Trust me, it's not like I ever forget that. But this is a "first" and anytime there's a first anything I know it's going to be a tougher day than most.

Because my mind will go back to better days and will inevitably settle on the last time we did this or did that as a family.

Like this day taken from Addie's journal:

Feb. 4 Sat.
Age: 9

It snowed finally a lot! We are going to make a fort.

And they did.
Boys vs. Girls
Dad gets in on the action. 
Getting ready to strike.
Take that.
And that.
If I could live in this moment forever, I would.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I know you've said it.

And I have too.

I can't even imagine.

I can't.

And I've lost a child.

But I honestly cannot imagine the horror that took place in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday.

I don't want to.

And yet, I tuned into the news coverage over the weekend, in an attempt to wrap my head around what happened. In doing so, I caught glimpses of parents, their faces awash in shock, disbelief, and grief. I guess it's only natural that I saw myself in them, felt their knees buckle and their stomachs get all knotted up.

But, I'm willing to bet you did too.

As coverage unfolded, names of the victims were released. And then, photographs began popping up on social media sites. Photographs of the children, those sweet, sweet children. And their smiles.

Such a stark contrast.

What was and what will be.

It's not often that I'm at a loss for words, but today there are no words really. Just hurt.

And for that, I'm so sorry.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Close Call

As moms, we're hard-wired to worry.

And I did plenty of worrying before.

I worried about kids crossing streets, the accident that would wipe out my entire family and that sketchy looking guy in the van.

I worried about peanuts and products with peanuts in them, West Nile Virus and H1N1. Remember standing in line for that vaccine?

But today I take worrying to a whole new level.

I worry that one of the boys is going to hit his head on the hearth during one of their infamous living room wrestling matches. Seems like a valid concern, right? How about I take it further than a nasty headache? I know what you're thinking. Concussion. Nope. How about a brain bleed? 'Cause that's where my mind goes.

I worry Isaac's going to pin (pound might be more accurate) Tripp just right, and that heart of his - with its tiny hole - is going to up and stop.

I worry about fevers.

Ugh, fevers.

That's what started this whole thing.

This week Tripp had one two nights in a row. Lucky for me our pediatrician understands I might have the tendency to worry more than the typical mom and gave me her cell number on our first visit. But I don't want to be that mom. Oh who am I kidding? I am that mom. Well, certainly the mom no one wants to be.

But I didn't call (and I hope I don't end up regretting that decision).

Anyway, we're moms and we worry. Usually about all the bad things we anticipate happening.

Considering what our family's gone through, you'd think I'd anticipated just about everything. I thought I had - until Isaac pulled our chest of drawers on top of him this morning.

Scott and I had just finished a conversation as to whether Isaac should go to school today or not. By finish, I mean we had acknowledged the fact that he had a hard-core cold and maybe he'd benefit from a day home taking it easy. But no real decision had been made.

Scott hopped into the shower and I laid down to feed Landry.

I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the shower.

Minutes later, I heard Isaac's voice at the bathroom door. Something about how long 'til you're out of the shower?

Then, a crash.

My God, My God.

The baby's on the bed and I'm...

You know those stories about people developing super-human strength in the face of danger? I'm thinking about the one where the wife is 5-foot nothing and lifts the car off her husband after the jack collapses.

That was me - with a little help from Scott who came sprinting out of the bathroom.

I had no idea what I was going to find under the dresser. I feared what I might find under the dresser. You know where my mind went.

And then.

Screams. Hysterical screams from Isaac. I scooped him up, carried him to the bed, and let my heart and his pound, pound it out.

And thought.

Thank God.

Thank God our bed was where it was (it helped stop the dresser from making full impact). Thank God we had traded the monstrous TV on top of the dresser for a tiny flat screen. Thank God I was only 10 feet away from Isaac when it happened.

So Isaac stayed home with me and we spent the morning nursing that nasty cold and his wounds. I'm not going to lie. He looked pretty rough. But, if the fact that he was fighting invisible bad guys later in the day is any indication, I think it's safe to say he's going to be alright.

But this mom is still a little shaken.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Asked & Answered


Why Addie?

Why our family?

Why me?

These are the questions a mother - with a heart  broken and a spirit bruised - asks her God.

In the morning. At night. On a run out in the country. In the car on the way home from work. 


And there were more.

Why a baby? Why now?

It just didn't make any sense.



As I looked into little Landry Olivia's beautiful blue eyes, I realized this 7 pound, 14 ounce being was sent to save me.

Without her, without this pregnancy, I don't know where I'd be. I don't even know if I'd be at all.

Grief took me to some dark, dark places and some days left me devastated and down-right despondent.

I'd be kidding myself if I thought I wouldn't see those days again.

But for now I can lose myself in the sweet sounds and smells of this little baby who is completely and totally dependent on me.

And hope that maybe, just maybe, big sister Addie and little sister Landry met somewhere between here and the here-after. Maybe.


Here are a few pictures from the hospital...

Just a few minutes old.
Mom, dad, and Landry.

Brothers checking her out.

Addie's favorite stuffed animal Moosey keeps
Landry company.

And here are a few photos from home...

Thursday, November 22, 2012


For the last 22 days I've watched as facebook friend after facebook friend took time out of their days to post the things they're thankful for.

Some said Starbucks; others microwave dinners.

A sunny day. A warm bed. A steady job.

And pie.

This isn't anything new.

Coined the 30 Days of Thankfulness, it's basically what families have been doing for years: going around the Thanksgiving table and sharing what they're thankful for. Only this time they're sharing that info online with hundreds of their friends.

I have to say it's a great idea and I've thought about participating in the past, but when Nov. 1 rolled around this year and the "Today I'm thankful for..." posts began showing up in my news feed, I was less than willing to take part. After all, in a year filled with such sadness, such loss, what do I have to be thankful for?

Turns out, plenty.

Like my facebook friends, today I'm thankful for family.

I'm thankful for the family members who have stepped in and stepped up (held us up, really) when we simply couldn't. I can't hardly name them all and I'm afraid I'd inadvertently leave someone out if I tried.

I'm thankful that not one of these family members insisted we participate in any sort of big family thing to celebrate the day and kick off the upcoming holiday season that used to hold such hope, excitement, and promise for me.

I'm thankful the boys are young enough to not even notice the difference.

I'm thankful my mom is here this week. To cook, to clean, and sit on my bed in the middle of the night. I'm especially thankful that she dusted under the TV cabinet yesterday. Last week I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get me and my big belly off the floor if I'd attempted to dust it. This week, I just don't care (enough).

I'm thankful for my boys. My sweet, sweet boys.

And Scott. Being strong enough to withstand all my tears and strong enough to shed his own.

I'm thankful for little Landry Olivia and the fact that she wants to eat all the time. For it is in those moments that I can completely focus on her and her alone. And forget for a moment the pain that has marked so much of these past few months.

And I'm thankful for the 9 years, 11 months, and 28 days I had with my Addie. Did we live each day to its fullest? Well, I'd say that depends on how you look at things. Here's what I do know:  I'd sure like to have one of those days back.

Give Thanks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Gift

It's no secret I've struggled to come to terms with this pregnancy.


I'm set to be induced in a few hours and can honestly say I've moved to a little bit better place.

(Collective Sigh of Relief)

That's not to say I didn't cry at school today or on my way home or at the cemetery, but something happened this afternoon that brought me some peace. It was a gift really.

And I'd been begging for it, well, forever.

This is what I found tonight while straightening up the basement.

Well hello to you too.

The handwriting is unmistakable; the feeling, indescribable.

A simple little note laying right by the leg of the couch.

I opened it up and -


No matter.

Do I think Addie buzzed down and delivered this message while I was at school today?


That'd be crazy, right?

Was there a perfectly good explanation as to how it got there?

Ummm, sort of.

Do I think I ran across this note at the exact moment I was meant to?


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hey, that follow by email button works

I finally figured out how to place a "follow by email" button on my blog. Look to your right. See it? Yep, right there.

I didn't realize until recently that blog followers weren't receiving email notifications (oops). So, you can thank my mom, a couple of my aunts, and a co-worker for pointing that out to me.

If you want to subscribe, type in your email. It'll have you put in one of those security thingies that are really hard to read. Then you'll get an activation email sent to your account. Click it and wait. Eventually I'll write something and you'll get that email notification.

Sorry it took me so long to figure that out.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Big Enough Heart

When I was pregnant with Isaac - well into my third trimester, I believe - I remember wondering how a mother could possibly find room in her heart to love another child. It sounds awful to admit, doesn't it?

Certainly I'm not the only mom who struggled with this notion.

Let me give you a little back-story here. Addie was our one and only for five years. Five years. Our lives revolved around every. little. thing. that. she. did. Trust me. I have the photographs to prove it. She had our full attention and all the love we had to give every second of every day.

How could we possibly love another as much as we love her?

Turns out, you just do.

I remember everything about snapping this picture of Addie
and Isaac. So precious.
You make room in your heart. Either that, or your heart gets a little bigger. I don't know which.

Then one day you realize you can't hardly imagine life without that second child.

And third.

Welcome to our family, Tripp Maguire.

Sweet, sweet sister.
I have no idea where Baby T is, but I've always
 loved this picture.
Now we're up to four and I find myself wondering once again.

Is my heart big enough?

Gosh, I hope so.

My family.


It is true, you know.

You can't hardly imagine life without any of them.

So why do we have to?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Save the Date

If you've been keeping tabs on this pregnancy, then you're well aware that this baby's due date is rapidly approaching.

In like 16 days.

And if you haven't been keeping tabs on this pregnancy, don't feel bad. I haven't either.

Part of this is the fact that this is our fourth child. I'll be the first to admit I was one of those moms who faithfully read the weekly updates in my own personal copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting during pregnancies No. 1 and 2. Not so much with No. 3. And with No. 4, I'm pretty sure my copy is sitting on the shelves of a Goodwill store somewhere.

And part of the reason I haven't been able tell you exactly how many weeks along I am is, well, I haven't been able to admit time marches on.

Apparently, it does.

I realized this last week when my OB asked whether we were going to induce or not.


Don't get me wrong. I'm tired of being pregnant. The heartburn. The swollen hands. The lack of sleep. The 45-pound 46-pound weight gain. But, once this little one arrives, there's no turning back. We'll have to deal with happiness, sadness, and half a dozen other emotions. Plus, it means I'll have one other person to love. And fear losing.

"What would you like me to do?" I asked.

"I'd like you to induce."

She wants to do this because I've reached "advanced maternal age." In other words, I'm old. Funny, I used to think I was old, but now I feel so incredibly young - considering the fact that I'll most likely have to wait another 50 years to see my Addie again.

I digress.

Truth be told, I probably will opt for induction.

I've done it twice before and I'll be the first to admit my reasons for doing so weren't exactly medical. Isaac and Tripp were both April babies. Do you know what it's like to be a teacher in April? Let me tell you, it's enough to make you want to induce a week early.

So I did.

But this time around I'm just not so sure.

If you know how I feel about certain dates, then you'll understand why picking one is so dang hard.

But I also know over the course of three babies I've cut my labors from 14 hours to four. And I know that we now live about an hour away from the hospital. And I also had the distinct pleasure of Scott hitting every single red light on 144th Street last Saturday. Not a good plan for a mom in labor.

So what if this baby chooses to have a mind of her own and opts to arrive on one of those bad days?

Well, then maybe that day will be a little bit better.

The Dash

March 28, 2002 - March 26, 2012.

The best day and the worst day of my life.

Etched in stone.

Even though every single thing about this is wrong, Addison Shelby's headstone turned out right.

By most people's standards, it's a little on the simple side. Black granite. A few lines. Her picture. Her name. Dates. And a dash.

A dash.

For those not familiar with Linda Ellis' poem The Dash, it speaks of love, loss and the life lived between a person's first day on earth and her last.

It urges us to make the most out of our dash.

To spend time, not money.

To live. And love.

Like most, I've loved and lost family members who've lived well into their 90s.

But I've felt my heart literally break in two when I lost a baby girl who was a mere 9 years, 11 months, and 28 days into her life.

The well-adjusted version of myself is willing to smile and nod when people tell me how much Addie was able to accomplish in such a short time. And yes, I have to agree. She did. The well-adjusted version of myself would also take a cue from Addie and try to live what's left of my dash to the fullest.

But let's face it. I'm not that well-adjusted.

Tonight, the mom in me longs for the little girl who would slide down the hallway in her socks, ask me to sign her planner, and give me two pats on the back when I tuck her in and kiss her goodnight.

As I peek into her room and look at her empty bed, I come to the same, sad realization I do every night.

I have to wait a lifetime to see her again.


The Dash Poem
by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end
He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was “the dash” between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Finding Our Way

"Just keep swimming."

"Just keep swimming."

"Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

Words made famous by a little blue fish named Dorie in the 2003 hit movie Finding Nemo.

If you think this post is going to be about how our family has adopted little blue's sing song-y mantra as our own, it's not.

This post is about choices.

Specifically, the choices we make as parents.

You see, Nemo was Addie's baby-sitter all-time favorite movie from age 18 months to probably about age 4. Pop that baby in and you knew you could get a little work done around the house - if you didn't get sucked into watching it too. Shark Bait, Hoo-Ha-Ha.

But, being the cautious parents that we were, Scott and I always went to great lengths to start that DVD at Chapter 2. If you're at all familiar with the movie, then you know the opening scene shows Nemo's parents, Marlin and Coral, scoping out their new digs. Then a big, bad fish swoops in, eats all but one of the 'lil fish eggs, and mom.

Yes, mom.

Our little girl was not going to play witness to that.

Too scary.

Fast-forward a few years to Marley and Me.

Oh, Marley and Me. I've only seen that tear-jerker once and once was enough.

Even though we have it stored on DVR, Addie the animal lover, never got to see it. Because her parents said she couldn't.

Too sad.

These were the choices we, as parents, made to protect our little girl - along with keeping up with childhood immunizations and enforcing the look both ways before you cross the street rule. Heck, we even kept all of children in rear-facing car seats way past the guidelines just to be safe.


What's that?

There's nothing safe with a cancer diagnosis, but there's a whole lot of scary. And sad.

I'm often left to wonder how this will affect the choices we make in regards to Isaac, Tripp, and Baby No. 4. It sure seemed like we did everything "right" and yet we still ended up with a pretty crappy deal.

What more can we do?

Routine blood draws, I guess. I'm only half-serious. It's not as if I take the boys in every month and request a CBC. But I'd be lying if I said they haven't each had one.

So what about Nemo?

Do they get to see it in its entirety? Yes. But let's face it. We'd relaxed (a bit) in our parenting ways long before this.

And Marley?

Lucky for us, we have a few more years before we have to address that one.

But it's not as if my boys don't know sad.

And that, to me, is sad.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Last weekend I found myself in organization mode. It's too early for nesting (I think), so I'm guessing this was more of a "let's see what I can do to keep my mind occupied for an hour or two" thing.

Whatever it was, I found myself knee-deep in a pile of papers and pictures. In the midst of it all was a note from my Grandma Reynolds dated March 21, 2002. Here's what it said:

Dear Jamie, Scott and Bailey,

My new "cute as a button" picture holder is sitting on the coffee table waiting for pictures of the littlest one! We have plenty of film too! Thank you so much!

We're happy that you could join us on such short notice to meet us at the Cracker Barrel. That was fun...

Now, we're waiting! And we know you are too.



With such anticipation for our first child (and their first great-grandchild) to arrive.

For seven days we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then we scheduled an induction. Not because I was overdue, but because my doctor was going to be out of town and I did not want anyone else to deliver this precious babe.

Addie, it seemed, had different plans and I went into labor the day before the scheduled induction. Oh how she loved to hear the story of me kicking her dad out of our double bed. Yes, double bed. A pregnant woman and her husband slept in a double bed.  I can't even imagine. Anyway, Scott's incessant snoring was ga-rating on my nerves, so I shooed him down to the basement. And two hours later I had to humbly waddle down the stairs to inform Sleepy that I was in labor.

We called the doctor and our moms and dads and wouldn't you know the first people to show up at the hospital were Grandpa and Grandma Reynolds. So excited, so ready to welcome this little human being into their family, so not realizing that they just might play witness to their first favorite granddaughter (me) using language that might best be described as colorful. Don't worry, mom, I didn't let anything slip before the epidural man arrived and Grandpa and Grandma departed.

Throughout the day doctors and nurses came and went, the big hand made its way around the clock, the little hand did too, and at 4:05 p.m. Addison Shelby entered this world.

And you better believe Grandpa and Grandma Reynolds (along with a whole host of family) were out in the waiting room, well, waiting.

Grandpa and Grandma Reynolds, my mom and Addie.

To celebrate.

To ooh and ahh.

To tell this little baby how much they loved her and wanted her to be a part of their lives.

And so last night as Grandma Reynolds took her very last breath, I wanted to be there.

To tell her how much I loved her and how happy I was that she was such an important part of my life.

To know without a doubt that there were two very important people on the other side waiting for her to ooh, ahh, and celebrate that wonderful place we call Heaven and they call Home.

Grandma, Addie, and I shared birthday celebrations
for many years.
In recent years, we had to share birthdays with Isaac
and Tripp too. Here's a picture from last year.

Love you, Grandma.

P.S. Take care of my little girl 'til I get there.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friends & Friday Night Lights

So how exactly did I end up at a high school football game on homecoming night of all nights?

Hmmmm, let's see. It all began about a week and a half ago when Isaac asked if he could have some of Addie's friends over to play. Yeah, I know, weird. I mean what 10-year-old girl is going to want to come over and play with a 5-year-old boy? Even Addie (who in my mind was the best sister ever) had moments when she just did not want her little brother around. Since I didn't think I could possibly bring myself to ask one of Addie's friends to come over and play with our rough-and-tumble boys, I did the next best thing: tell Scott he needed to take them to a football game.

But that still doesn't answer why I was there.

Actually, I can't answer that question. There's really no explanation other than about five minutes before departure time, I found myself pulling out a sweatshirt and checking myself in the mirror. I call it the five-minute window, a time when I either decide to bolt or be bold. Tonight I chose bold.

Typically, the stadium is teeming with kids and tonight (being homecoming and little girl cheer night) was no exception. Toddlers. Teenagers. And everyone in-between.

And then, three of Addie's classmates - donning a heavy dose of face paint - approached us.

"Hi, Jamie!" they exclaimed.

The group grew to four. Five. Then six. Eventually, a whole football team's worth of 10-year-old girls surrounded our family.

And I found that old familiar lump in my throat and tears in my eyes (because of this I'm seriously thinking about pulling a Corey Hart and actually wearing my sunglasses at night).

Tears because there's one little girl missing from the group. Tears because they haven't forgotten her. Or us.

Addie loved those girls.

And we do too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thank You

If you told me six months ago that this is where I'd be, I never would have believed you.

This is hell on earth.

This hurts.

This still doesn't make any sense.

And yet, I'm still standing.

I inhale and exhale.

But how?

I'll tell you how.

The reason that Scott and I and our sweet little family hasn't completely crumbled is because of you.

You and your prayers. Your phone calls and texts. Your apple crisp. And cookies. And casseroles.

It's the notes that you send. The wristbands you wear.

It's the conversations. At work. At school. On the golf course. You ask. You listen. And you listen some more. You watch as we attempt to accept the unacceptable and realize it ain't gonna happen.

You know "OK" is our standard answer when someone asks how we're doing. And you know that's really code for "crappy" and "barely holding it together."

You drop in every once in awhile. Invite us over and understand that sometimes we'll be up for it and sometimes we just won't.

And you say her name. That sweet, sweet name. Without hesitation. Or fear. And you let me say it freely.


You share a memory. A photograph. And tears.

We're still standing.

With a whole lot of help.

And for that we say thank you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Memorials and 'Mom'

Remember when a day off from school really meant a day off?

Neither do I.

But today was one of those scheduled days off.

When I took a look at my school calendar this past summer, I have to admit, I did a double-take. And then I got to scheduling appointments.

I won't go into each and every appointment. Bo-ring. Let me briefly mention the two that happen to represent the very best and worst life has to offer me right now.

Let's do the worst first.

Does it get any worse than making a trip to Lincoln to finalize your daughter's headstone? Let me tell you, it ranks right up there with selecting a casket, designating pall bearers, and picking up the death certificate. I can think of about 10 million things I'd rather do.

But Scott's been after me to get. it. done. Since, like, May. I'm not even kidding. That's when we started this whole pain-staking process. So why doesn't he just do it himself?

Seriously though.

Do you know who monument places market their materials to?

Not 9 year olds.

Let's face it. You're not supposed to die until you've lived a long, happy life filled with home mortgages and home movie footage.

And just how do you go about summing up a life so beautiful on a slab of granite?

You don't.

I finally figured that out today. No stone. No picture. No (ridiculous) dates can adequately depict who our daughter was (or anyone who passes, really).

But do you know what can?

Take a stroll through the cemetery and just look at the trinkets that have been left by those who knew and loved her. Pinwheels. Flowers. Messages. Dogs. Cats. And more. Then you'll catch a glimpse of what this little girl meant to a mom and dad, grandmas and grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.


I told you it was bad.

Let's shift gears for a second and talk about an appointment I was actually looking forward to today.

Lunch with a certain 5 year old.

By the look on his face, he was looking forward to it too.

I've always said Isaac's smile is infectious. It doesn't matter how craptastic your day has been, when he smiles, you smile. And when he smiles, he smiles with his whole face - eyes and all.

So there I was patiently waiting outside the kindergarten classroom as each little one stood in line for their spritz of hand sanitizer when Isaac spotted me. A smile and a wave.

We walked as single file as two people holding hands possibly could, grabbed our napkins, straws, spoons and forks and sat down to a delicious lunch of chicken tortellini. Isaac opted for PB & J.

Lunch was, well, lunch. Probably more talking than eating going on (but isn't that how it always is).

And that 5-year-old boy was absolutely beaming.

So was I.

Then it was recess. Like a perfect host, Isaac refused to leave me alone on the playground. So he showed me how he could climb the "carrots," slide down the slide, and sit on a bench. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench. And talking.

Do you know how many times I got to do that with Addie?

Five years in elementary school and I was able to have lunch with her twice.


Once when I was on maternity leave and once when I had the day before Thanksgiving off and she didn't. Last year, when my schedule loosened up a bit, it was too late.

She was in middle school and parents just don't do that anymore (her words, not mine).

So anyway, back to recess.

Boys were chasing girls. Girls were chasing boys. And both boys and girls were making their way across the monkey bars.

That's when a little first grade boy stopped me and said, "Hey, are you Addie's mom?"

"Yes," I said.

"I'm sorry about Addie."

I said thanks and he went back to the monkey bars, but not without making quite an impression on me.

First, this kid was able to accomplish what so many adults find so incredibly difficult to do. Trust me, I get it. Before this, you could put me in the group of people afraid of saying the "wrong" thing. But you know what? The whole situation is wrong. And messy. And awful.

Second, and probably most important, he called me something I hadn't been called in six months.

Addie's mom.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Second Worst Day of My Life

Some days are worse than others.

Today was one of those days.

So was last Friday.

And you can bet next Wednesday will be bad too.


Simply because the calendar says it's the 14th, the 20th, the 26th. Stupid calendar. Actually, I don't even need the calendar. Like clockwork, it just shows up - along with the knot in my stomach, the lump in my throat, and the constant replay of events that took place March 14-26.

Today we reached the six-month mark.

On March 20, we found out our seemingly healthy 9-year-old daughter had leukemia.

I could go on and on and on about the details of that day. There's not a one I can't recall. But today I'll keep it short.

We naively thought March 20 was the worst day of our lives.

It wasn't.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Boys and Bugs

Like most boys, our 5 year old and 3 year old are rough and tough. They jump off couches and counter tops. They wrestle. Fight. Maybe even bite. They're covered with bruises from head to toe. And dirt. Oh, the dirt.

But there's one thing that makes Isaac and Tripp different from other little boys (well, other than the obvious).

They won't smash bugs.

Not that I'm worried about it (at all), but isn't that something little boys just do?

Like spit and fart (on purpose) and pee outside. Trust me, I'd be happy if they didn't do any of those things.

But the bugs and spiders and flies?

They won't touch them.

Not because they're scared of them. No. Because bugs and spiders and flies have families.

Like us.

And Isaac and Tripp know just how badly families can hurt when they lose someone they love. How moms cry and daddies too. How birthdays get passed over. And holidays. How it's completely normal to pack up and leave church early because sitting there is just too hard. Just like it's completely normal to keep a chewed up piece of gum in the back seat of the car because that piece of gum belonged to Addie.


What's normal?

Is it little boys smashing bugs? Maybe.

Or is it little boys missing their big sister? That seems normal to me. And so unfair.


A bouncy seat for $5.

Polka-dotted sleepers for a buck.

A bathtub. Stroller. Onesies. Blankies. Burp cloths. Anything an expectant mother might want. Right there for the taking. And I walked away empty-handed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about bargains. And there were plenty of bargains to be had this past weekend during our community's annual garage sales. Forty-two sales in all and I made it to at least half of them.

Last year we were the ones pricing items into the wee hours of the morning.

Goodbye, bouncy seat. See ya later, stroller.

Each item, lovingly selected by my own two hands, had served us well as we brought three beautiful children into the world. They saw us through colic and acid reflux and gave me an opportunity to take a shower - albeit a quick one - at 3 in the afternoon (it's amazing how baby is completely content as long as the bouncy seat is in the bathroom with you). But, it was time for them to go. We were done with babies.

We weren't planning on any more.

Just like we weren't planning on cancer.

Yet here we are.

With the best and worst life can throw at a person.

March 14.

A positive pregnancy test and preparations for big changes in our family.

March 14.

A fever and a trip to the ER.

One day. Two events. Two lives. Two daughters.

Inexplicably linked.


I'm not sure we'll ever know the answer to that question, but it's one I ask and struggle with every day.

Which is why I couldn't bring myself to buy the polka-dotted jammies (even though I picked them up not once, not twice, but three times).

And why our reactions to "congratulations" aren't typical of expectant parents. We smile, say thank you, and switch the conversation to something else.

And why we haven't even thought about a name.

We're just not there yet.

We're still stuck missing a perfectly wonderful little girl gone too soon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Own Personal Superhero

Is it possible to endure five months of (keeping it PG) heck and realize for one sliver of a moment you felt a smile creep across your face?


Is it possible to laugh?


I'm not going to lie. This grief thing sucks. This is not the life we imagined, but it's the life we have to live.

And we aren't the only ones left here to live it.

Brotherly Love?
Thank God.

Thank God for Isaac.

Thank God for Tripp.

Thank God for matchbox cars on the floor. Markers on the kitchen table. And messes to clean up every night.

Because I can honestly say I don't know where we'd be without them.


Thank you, Santa, for the Spiderman costume.
It's no secret Isaac has a penchant for this raggedy, old Spiderman costume. If you've ever stopped by our house, you know which one I'm talking about (and you know there's a pretty good chance little brother's going to pop out from behind a piece of furniture in nothing but a pair of Batman underwear and pink cowboy boots). So it should come as no surprise that Isaac insisted on wearing Spidey on a bike ride through the park the other night. I know. What kind of parents would allow that? The same ones that let Tripp wear the boots (after we explained why it's necessary to wear clothes in public places).

To passersby Isaac probably looked like a typical 5 year old kid with a runaway imagination - especially since he managed to shoot webs at a few of them. Sorry 'bout that.

But that kid is a superhero in my book.

Because he was able to do the impossible.

Make us smile.


This guy makes us smile too.

Boots and a sword.
And so does she.

So glad we got to spend this time together.

Monday, August 27, 2012

'Werth' a Lot

You may have heard of NU volleyball player Hannah Werth's decision to write "4 Addie" on her right wrist tape.

If you were lucky, you may have even caught a glimpse of it during this past weekend's a-ma-zing volleyball matchups.

So, how did hard-hitting Hannah come to know Addie?

Sadly, the two never met.

But Addie and I had the opportunity to go to a Husker volleyball game last November and she was drawn to Hannah. Maybe it was her ability to lay it down on the court. Maybe it was the passion she showed for the game. Maybe it was the fact that she wore glasses. Whatever it was, Hannah made an impression on her.

Addie and I at the NU/Michigan State game last year. The best part for her? Seeing Hannah Werth play.
The best part for me? The fact that she said, "Thanks, mom" when I tucked her in that night.

So much that Addie included the following on her bucket list, which, by the way, was penned long before this awful thing called cancer invaded our lives:

Get an autograph from Hannah Werth. This ranked right up there with petting a zebra and a monkey, traveling to Antarctica, being a contestant on Wipeout, rafting with Boppo, and volunteering at the Humane Society.

Well, we know someone who knows someone who knows someone with connections in the UNL athletic department and we were able to share Addie's request when she was still in the hospital and hope was still alive. As you know, time was not on our side and by the time Hannah heard about Addie's wish, she was gone.

But Hannah still signed that volleyball and included a little message as well.

We figured that would be it.

Well, someone who knows someone who knows someone with connections in the UNL athletic department let us know that wasn't it. Not by a long shot.

And when I saw the wrist tape on TV the other night, well, that meant an awful lot.

So maybe Addie was attracted by Hannah's talent, her energy, her glasses. Or maybe it was her heart.

On Cavities and Cancer

So Tripp made it through. Woo-hoo!

He and daddy are snoozing right now and even though I, too, am exhausted, I can't bring myself to close my eyes for a second.

Too much to process.

Trust me. I realize there is absolutely no comparison between cancer and cavities, but I couldn't help but connect the two all day long. I know. It makes absolutely no sense to me either.

Actually, it started yesterday.


Tripp was in his last 30 minutes of slumber and I took this as an opportunity to lay next to him, hold his hand and just watch him sleep. Because what if?

I know. It's an awful thought.

What if the unthinkable happened?


What if I had known which day was Addie's last?

I would have spent every waking minute lying next to her, just watching her take in a breath and let it out.

This morning.

"Goodbye, Tripp," Isaac said as he rubbed his eyes. "I love you."

What if?

What if Isaac had had the chance to tell his sister goodbye? Would it have been better? Or worse?

A vitals check.

"This is going to give your arm a little hug," the nurse instructed as she put the miniature blood pressure cuff around Tripp's arm.

My eyes focused on the monitors while my mind took me back to Addie's ICU suite where I spent my days so fixated on her blood pressure and oxygen levels. Tripp's was at 113. How dangerously low was it that Addie's got that first night?

Going over possible complications.

The anesthegiologist talked about nausea and vomiting, a sore throat and barky cough due to a tube being placed down his nose.

I asked if any possible reactions might occur once we left the hospital.

What I really wanted to ask was is there a chance he might die?

It feels really awful to admit that, but really, nothing is out-of-bounds for me anymore.


Tripp was scared. He wanted mommy to go with him (until they gave him the good-feeling medicine).

And that's when I realized Addie was a warrior in all this.

If she was scared, she never showed it.

Not when they drained fluid from her heart. Not when they placed a central line in her chest.

We. Were. Scared.

But not of death. That notion never entered our mind.

Now it does (no matter how ridiculous that seems). Which is why I'll go and check on the two sleeping babies to make sure their stomachs are still moving up and down and up and down.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tough Conversations

From what I understand, we've been in the hearts and on the minds of people since our nightmare began five months ago. And we appreciate that support so much.

Today I'm asking you to think of us a little bit more.

Please think of little Tripp at 9 a.m. on Monday.

That's when nurses will wheel him down the hall and doctors will prep him for general anesthesia.

Think of us at 7:30 a.m. when a child life specialist tries to explain the morning's events to a 3 year old.

And at 6:15 when we give Tripp a dose of antibiotic, kiss Isaac goodbye, and take off for Boys Town Hospital.

Finally, think of us Sunday evening when we sit both Isaac and Tripp down to explain exactly what in the world is going on.

If you find yourself wondering, "gosh, what is going on," here's the deal: You may remember me referencing an upcoming dental appointment a few weeks ago. Yeah, it didn't go so well for Tripp. He totally freaked out in the dentist's chair and had six cavities to boot. Yes, six.

For goodness sakes, we were just there six months ago and everything was fine.

What happened?

Oh yeah. Six months ago everything in our lives was perfectly fine. Everything.

But then you get a leukemia diagnosis.

And death.

Not to mention total devastation and despair.

And a little boy's dental care got lost in the shuffle.

I can't count the number of times Tripp went to bed with a sippie cup full of juice just so we could get him to fall asleep. The constant stream of Starburst candy Scott fed him probably didn't help either. Neither did the fact that I actually took a 3 year old at his word when he told me he had brushed the fronts, backs, tops, and bottoms.

So that's where we are.

Given Tripp's reaction at the dentist's office that day, the dentist really had no other choice but to do all this under general anesthesia. That means we have to have that tough conversation Sunday night.

Or do we, you ask?

Yes, we do. You can't just show up at the hospital without a little prep work.

But what do Isaac and Tripp know of hospitals? They know that their sister went there to get better and never came back. So when we tell them Tripp needs to get his mouth fixed (I decided to go with mouth, not teeth), I'm not sure what their reaction will be.

If this were any other family, this little dental procedure would be no big deal.

After all, thousands of kids have this type of thing done every day.

Just like thousands of kids get fevers.

But we know freak things happen. We know astronomical odds. We know there's a snowball's chance that something could go wrong. Heck, we were the snowball's chance.

I wouldn't even worry about this conversation with Tripp and Isaac if I didn't think there was the slightest possibility that something could go wrong.

And that sickens me.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to School

Five years ago I delivered a bright-eyed kindergartner to her classroom and made a beeline for Thomas Elementary's Boo-Hoo Breakfast. If you're not familiar with the concept of a boo-hoo breakfast, it's an opportunity for moms (and dads) to get together, shed a few tears, wipe them away, and consume some carbs before heading off to work. Great concept.

Addie's first day of kindergarten

And I'll admit, I was a little teary-eyed that day. After all, I had just dropped off my first-born, I was four months post-partum, and I had a sneaking suspicion that the 17-year-olds I would meet in my first class of the day weren't going to be nearly as excited about the start of school as their elementary school counterparts. Just a suspicion.

This year we dropped off Isaac for his first day of school.

Isaac's first day of kindergarten

And we had our own little boo-hoo breakfast (minus the breakfast).

For all the wrong reasons.

As you well know, most parents who drop off their 5 year olds for their first day of kindergarten do so with tears in their eyes and lumps in their throats. And while I hung on a little longer as Isaac gave me one final hug, I have to admit, my tears were for the child I didn't drop off for school that day.

My forever fourth-grader.

Addie, the fourth-grader, Isaac, the preschooler, and Tripp

The one whose backpack still rests next to the bench in the living room and whose bookmark still marks the spot in the book she didn't get to finish.

I know I'm supposed to emerge from all this a better person, but these days I seem to be the absolute worst version of myself. To prove my point, I'll go ahead and say it:

It's not fair.

It's not fair that Addie won't ever get past basic long division. Or giggle in the stands at a football game. Or know what it feels like to crush on a boy.

Sure Scott and I have thought about those major milestones she won't get to experience (prom, graduation, college, marriage), but it's the little things that bring the most pain. I'm not sure why. Maybe because that's where we're at. After all, she was only 9 years old. Prom was light years away and vet school was even further.

Or maybe, just maybe, because like everyone else in the world, we took all those little things for granted.

So what are we to do?

Savor the moment. Soak it all in.

That's what the better person would do.

I'm not there yet and our little boys are still, well, little boys.

But when Isaac wanted to tell us about his first day of kindergarten, you can bet we hung on to every, single word.

Apparently not everyone is happy about the first day of school.
Addie is still with us in spirit and in the picture Isaac drew of her
in the background.

Isaac, Tripp, and the tree Addie's
classmates purchased in her memory.
Ready to do a puzzle.

And a few more from years past...

First day of first grade
First day of second grade

First day of third grade
First day of fourth grade