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

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Luck of the Draw

Each year 500 children are diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Addie was one of them.

Some odds, right?

I'd have to think the odds of me winning the lottery are better than that. We all know the payoff sure would've been.

But this post isn't about cancer or the lottery. It's about soccer. And a 5-year-old boy who laced up a pair of borrowed cleats this morning to give a sport his mom and dad know absolutely nothing about, a try.

It's about trying to be "normal" and doing things normal families do.

It's about questions. Answers. And maybe even odds.

As the four of us (I hate writing that by the way) piled into the car, we couldn't really get a read on whether Isaac really was up for this soccer thing or not. We certainly weren't pushing him into it, but I'd be lying if I said we weren't hoping he'd want to play just a teeny-tiny bit. And that's admitting a lot. If you haven't figured it out by now, we aren't exactly a soccer family. Somehow we avoided it with Addie all these years (and we spent almost 10 years living in what I would consider the soccer capitol of Nebraska). We just never pushed.

But today, we needed Isaac to play. Sure a little for him, but mostly, for us.

While cancer took away our precious little girl (and that's certainly the worst part of it all), it also took away the schedule. For the first time in years, our calendar is clear. Has been for months. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? Trust me, it's not.

So, we watched a couple of drills and a game. By game I mean a pack of 5 year olds running after a ball (with the occasional player emerging from the pack to kick the ball or return to the sidelines to talk to mom).

It certainly was entertaining, but with anything these days, I found my eyes looking upward and my mind resting on the question I keep coming back to.

Where's Addie in all of this?

Heaven. Earth. Sitting right beside me. Sitting on a cloud. 

"Mom," Isaac said, bringing me back to earth. "Do I get a trophy?"


"Do I get a trophy?"

Not today, buddy.

But he did win a soccer ball in today's drawing.

And so did a little girl named Addison.

Now what are the odds of that?

Isaac and his new soccer ball.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

And the Greatest of These is Love

Sprawled out on the kitchen floor, sobbing uncontrollably, I glanced up at the clock.


Scott wouldn't be home for another hour. And I was having a bad day. It had been building for awhile, the culmination of a series of events and reminders that the absolute worst thing that could happen to a parent did, in fact, happen to me.

So there I lay. Lie? I don't know. I used to be an English teacher and I can't even figure that one out. I'm claiming grief's fog on this one. Whatever.

So there I lay, a crumpled mess in front of the fridge when - 

"Mom," Isaac yelled. "I can't even hear the TV!"

That should've snapped me back into reality (or at least into the same time zone). But, it didn't.

Picture the crumpled mess making her way - on all fours - to Addie's bedroom.

Safe. Secure. But still sobbing.

"Mom," Tripp said as he opened the door. "Who's gonna put milk in my sippie cup?"


Who is going to put milk in the sippie cup? Do the laundry. Make supper. Brush teeth.

Oh yeah. Us. 

Even though we failed miserably in the early weeks (butter sandwiches, cereal, and applesauce for supper) and had a ton of help early on, it was ultimately up to us to make sure the needs of our two little boys were somewhat met.

After all, Scott and I had made a pact in the hospital in the hours after Addie's death. I think of it often.

Even though our lives our ruined, it doesn't mean Isaac and Tripp's need to be too.

All dressed up for Isaac's preschool program.

So, what do little boys need? 

Love. Lots of it. That's something we've been more than happy to give. And receive. 

Answers. Let's face it. There have been a lot of questions and we try to give the best answers we can. Just today, Isaac asked me if I thought cancer was in the basement. I guess that's a valid question since that's where the monsters hang out (according to the boys). And when we don't know the answers we give them the next best thing: honesty. 

Food. Shelter. A limit on TV time.

Whatever they're lacking in the way of nutrition at our house, I'm confident they're getting at daycare and grandma's. They still have a roof over their heads. The house may not be in full, organized order, but was it ever? We've cut back considerably on TV in the past few months, which means I've had to force myself to be a mom and come up with alternatives (no matter how hard it may be).

And so, we color. Make forts. And a stage for a puppet show. Heaven forbid I don't put the stage in the exact place Addie used to. We dress up. Play with the farm animals and action figures. We wrestle. We wrestle a lot.

Earlier this summer, the kittens were a source of entertainment.

We venture out. To the park. The Children's Museum. A movie. And today, the dinosaur museum in Milford. I'm not going to lie. Sometimes this putting one foot in front of the other hurts. 

Can they fix it? Yes they can!

But you're the mom.

Or the dad.

And you do it anyway. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

No Joke

I'm used to getting laughs from Isaac.
Today I got a whole lot more.
"Hey, mom," Isaac said. "You wanna hear a joke?"

"Ummm, sure," I said, bracing myself for 5-year-old boy humor.

He asked me something about leaves and where they live. The punch line didn't match up. At all. Then he asked me if I had any jokes. Of course, I said, desperately trying to recall a Laffy Taffy joke from my youth.

I'm not going to lie. It wasn't my best effort, but it elicited a giggle or two from Isaac.

We traded a few more back and forth and back and forth in the little time it takes to get from the baby-sitter's house to ours. Eventually, the ball lay in Isaac's court.

"Do you know why God has Addie?" 

Oh boy.

"That's not a joke, mom," he reassured me.

I know.

"Because God loves her," I said.

"And that's a beautiful thing."

Yes, Isaac. I suppose it is.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gentle (?) Reminders

Addie, Isaac, Tripp and the caterpillar 
     The call came in late one afternoon.
     And I’d been dreading this one for awhile.
     “Hello, this is Dr. So-and-So’s office calling to set up Addison, Isaac, and Tripp’s appointment.”
     I guess I thought if I took a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach I’d never have to have this conversation with the receptionist at the dentist’s office.
     Of course not making the call could potentially result in a mean case of tooth decay, but all things considered, I was willing to take that risk.
     “Um, actually, it will just be Isaac and Tripp,” I said. “Addison passed away in March.”
     What I’d expected was silence.
     What I got was one of the most compassionate individuals I’ve ever encountered.
     She obviously took the time to express her sympathies, but then she went on. What happened? What symptoms did she have? And how are the boys dealing with it?
     Some may think this a bit obtrusive. Not me. I’m a mom and what mom doesn’t love talking about her kids (whether they’re right here with us or in the here-after)?
     So honestly, what could’ve really been a completely awful end to my day turned into one of the bright spots. Thank you, you wonderful woman at Dr. So-and-So’s office. I’ll be sure to get her name when we visit on Friday.
     Still, reminders of what we’ve lost continue to pop up in the strangest ways.
     Here’s a few other people, places and things that apparently didn’t get the memo.
     Justice. You know, the clothing store designed to meet the needs of 'tween girls everywhere.
    Thank you for continuing to send us your fliers and 40 percent off coupons.
     Could I simply call and ask them to take my name off the mailing list? Sure.
     But honestly, flipping through the flier makes me think of the many exchanges Addie and I had as we entered the store.
     It was always hit or miss for me.
     Sometimes we’d walk in and everything was just cute, cute, cute. So, a hit.
     Other times?
     Thank you, American Girl Doll.
     Even though we never purchased one of your dollies, you faithfully send us your literature and I still pick out the one that Addie and I always said looked most like her.
     And the DVR.
     You’ve been a wonderful addition to our family, recording all of our favorite shows.
     And you continue to record Addie’s favorite shows.
     Animal Cops Houston. Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I Shouldn’t Be Alive.
     Ironic, isn’t it? Because if there’s one person who should be alive, it’s my daughter.
     And you, iPad.
     It’s so nice of you to remind us that Addie’s online pets are being neglected.
     But, I have to admit, you are one of my most treasured electronic devices.
     After all, I look at you and I see Addie.
     First off, I haven’t wiped the fingerprints off the screen since all this happened.
     So mom’s a little crazy. Don’t judge.
     And second, that iPad has her apps, her notes, her videos, her voice.
     What more could I ask for really?
     Oh yeah. Her.