Thursday -- December 31st

Well, Christmas has come and gone. It was very hard, as I knew it would be, but we did our very best to get through it.

Christmas Eve day was spent just hanging out in our pj's. Ernie had to work, so I hung out with the boys. I baked cookies for Santa, cookies for dessert, two loaves of banana bread, the boys' favorite, and a lasagna for dinner. William and Thomas helped me bake, but Michael wanted to just hang out by the fire...can you blame him? The afternoon had been full of all different emotions going on in the house. Everyone seemed to be extra moody, sensitive, argumentative, and emotional about various things. I think there was just a lot of underlying emotion happening.

Christmas Eve, we had the Knowles family for dinner. "Mr." couldn't make it, but Theresa came with the four girls. Michelle had flown home from Florida, Steph drove from Virginia, and Christina and Heather were home too. It was really nice. Ernie got home early and the Knowles' arrived for dinner around 4:30. I had cooked the lasagna so we were ready to eat! It was very nice. It just felt so rushed, by the time we chatted for a bit, sat and ate, it was time to do a quick clean up and get to church.

When we got to church, we saw Jeanne, Dean and the kids on the end of a row, so all 9 of us were able to squeeze in and sit together. It was a very nice mass and I felt surrounded by family and loved ones. What more could one ask for?

I wanted my Maddie. I just felt her absence so strongly, but at the same time, pictured everything she would be doing if she was there. I pictured her, with her smiling face, hanging on one of the Knowles girls, or lovingly shushing William and Thomas, or giggling quietly with Michael when they should be quiet. Sitting with Abby on her lap or helping Charlie follow along in the song book. She would do it all. I imagined what she would be wearing. How she would've asked me to help her put some kind of an outfit together, only to wear the opposite of what I'd pick!

We came home, wrote our Santa letters, scattered our reindeer food out back, and set out our cookies and milk for Santa. The boys fell fast asleep. I, on the other hand, had a complete melt down when all was said and done. Completely fell apart when I laid my head on my pillow. Ernie and I were up very late. I was very emotionally drained in the morning, but woke to William and Thomas begging to go downstairs. They had awakened to chocolate Santas all over their bedroom floors and the hallway. I told them the night before that we would go down at 7am. 7am arrived and I "changed my mind!" 7:30! I declared, but then felt badly and dragged myself out of bed.

The boys were very pleased with what Santa had left them, and I will say, it was not a whole lot. I was worried that at least one of them might complain or notice that there was less than in past years, but I was so proud of all of them, in their complete joy with what they received. "Santa's" note said that there "were other children in the world who need so much more than our boys, so he left only what he felt they truly needed." The boys were all cool with that and I was proud, and quite relieved. Phew...

Santa's note also told the boys that he spoke with their Angel Sister, Maddie, and she told him how good they were, and all about the love they share for each other. They were happy to hear that. OK, for the record, obviously, Michael knows the whole truth about Santa, but he'll keep it quiet until he gets the ok to spill the beans!

After they opened their gifts, they all went to their stocking, and among little stuffers, found their envelope with the note I had written to each of them. William's eyes got big and he looked puzzled when he read, "To William, Love Maddie." I actually drew a heart instead of writing "Love," something Maddie would do. The note told them how much Maddie loves them and that she is always with them. There was $10 for each of them. The $ came from Maddie's bank account, so it is truly a gift from her. I know they were all very touched, but they didn't say much. Thomas' reaction was pretty funny though. He screamed at the top of his lungs as if he was holding up a $100 bill! He shrieked with delight!

Taking the money out of Maddie's account to give to the boys was very hard. I stood at the counter, with my withdrawal slip and I felt so sick. I felt so sad doing what I was doing, but at the same time, I know Maddie would want me to do it. I just looked around and thought to myself...everyone is here making deposits, withdrawing to go buy gifts...I'm taking money from daughter's account because she's not here anymore, but I want to give each of her brother's a gift from her... I don't know, it was just such a bizarre moment, depressing, surreal, just crappy.

Anyway, Christmas morning came and passed and we stayed in our pj's all day. It was very relaxing not to have to be somewhere or drive three hours to family. Our next door neighbor's, The Altmeyer's, came over for homemade pizza at 4:30. It was very mellow and very nice.

Before Thanksgiving, I was at Home Goods, in line for the check out, when on the shelf next to me was a bunch of boxed porcelain trinket boxes that caught my eye. They were boxed up, so all I could see were the tops, with black monogrammed letters, surrounded by pink and yellow colors. I thought how perfect! There was an "L" and a "K." So, I grabbed them and put them away for the girls (Lauren and Kristen) next door, for Christmas. I never opened the boxes, but loved that they were pink and yellow. So, when they came over Christmas night, I gave them the boxes and when they opened them, the feet of the boxes were yellow balls and when you lifted the covers, there was big pink heart in the bottom of each! Come on! If that's not Maddie telling the girls she loves them, then birds don't fly! There is NO doubt in my heart or mind, those boxes were there for me to find and give to the girls for Christmas! I truly believe Maddie wanted to tell the girls she loves them and she was there with all of us that night, on Christmas, having pizza!

I received so many signs over Christmas week. The day before school break, I volunteered for lunch duty for Thomas' class. After lunch, we headed outdoors for recess. There was a lot of snow on the ground, so the kids took off across the street, into the fields, and I stood on the other sidewalk with two other teachers. As we were talking, I looked across the street at a snow embankment, where a boy was kicking snow. Right to the left of his foot, I saw a snow heart! I looked away, thinking, "No way, I'm going crazy..." Then I looked again and it was still there. I was meant to see it. Just as the boy was ready to unknowingly smash it with his boot, I ran over, held his foot for a second, grabbed the heart and held it up. Yep, perfect heart. Without saying anything, I walked back across the street and held it up for the other two women. They both said, "Oh wow, a heart!" I said, "I know! I know you'll both think I'm nuts, but my Maddie sends hearts all the time and I know this is from her!" Neither of them doubted it. One said, "How did you even see that? And "Why did you see it and not me?" It was truly amazing. I held that heart the entire recess. I was bringing it home with me. Now, I'm not saying Maddie actually made the heart, but she made sure whoever did, left it there and that I saw it.

A little girl came over to me and said, "Oooo, Mrs. Savoie, can you make a heart for me too?" I told her I didn't make it, but talked her through making one of her own. She wanted to take hers home, but since that wasn't possible, I told her to put it by the front door of the school, so when parents and kids came to school, they'd see it and smile. So, she did just that and before you knew it, three other girls were working with her! It was crazy! Then, Thomas ran over with three boys, saw what I was holding, said, "That's from my sister Maddie!" and started to make snow hearts with the boys. There was quite a pile by the front door when I left. It was so special. Spread the love!

So, I did take my heart home and put it out on the back deck. I foolishly didn't take a picture, thinking it would last, but it melted. That's ok - I had lots of witnesses!

Ernie came home from work a few nights before Christmas with a gift from a woman who works at his company. She and I have met. Inside the gift bag was note she wrote me, filled with beautiful compliments and reassuring words. Then, she wrote that she felt like Maddie would want me to have the gift she picked up. When I saw what it was, it literally took my breath away and practically brought me to tears. It was a boxed set of note cards. The box was decorated with butterflies and the word LOVE at the top. The quote on each card reads, "Where there is great love, there are always miracles." When do you ever see that in stores?! When Maddie was in the hospital, I wrote those exact words on a piece of paper and taped it to her window in her ICU room, so that if she ever opened her eyes, she would see it and believe it. I read it to her, told her I believed she would be a miracle and read that paper over and over to myself.

After Maddie passed away, I remember ripping that paper off her window and crumpling it. I remember Michael asking me why I did that. I think I just told him I didn't want it anymore. I do remember feeling a little bit guilty or wrong for ripping it up, but at that moment, all I knew was that my miracle didn't happen, and it certainly wasn't due to a shortage of great love.

Now, here were those exact words, coming back to me. Why? From this kind woman? I don't think so. I truly believe that Maddie, or the Lord, worked through her, to get those words back to me. I can't stop thinking about that gift. It's as if Maddie is telling me, "Mom, I was a miracle, I am a miracle, and I'm not done. There are miracles happening all around you and the best is yet to come. Where the is great love, there are always miracles." I do believe.

The day after Christmas, we drove down to CT. to be with my entire family, at my brother's house. They hosted a beautiful day. I knew being there would be hard for me, feeling Maddie's void, seeing the cousins all together, feeling the very different vibe. I held together pretty well, until it came to gift time. Maddie's name is still in the grab. Whoever pulls her name, gives to one of her charities in her memory. This year, Abby had Maddie. We had Jackie, as Maddie's name pull. As much as I want to keep her spirit alive and her presence felt, it's very hard, doing things in her name, without her being there. However, I did know exactly what to get Jackie...everything that Maddie would love. They were so much alike. Towards the end of the night, Jackie wanted to sing for the family, so we all gathered around. She chose a set of Judy Garland songs. I instantly knew what that meant. A few songs in, she sang "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," such a symbolic song for us in so many ways. I lost it. Sat in the stairwell and bawled. Then she sang another symbolic song for us, "You Raise Me Up." We played the Josh Groban version at Maddie's memorial. It was a painful moment for me, but I sat through it, hiding my face, knowing Maddie would want me to sit and listen to Jackie, with a smile on my face. Michael came over and hugged me, and my nephew, Stephen, rubbed my back. I really didn't want to bring anyone down, but I was really struggling. Jackie did sing so beautifully and I was very proud of her. I hope she pursues her passion.

So, the rest of the school break has been ok. The boys wanted to spend their gift $ at Target, so we went shopping for a day. That was fun. I only took William and Thomas, since Michael is into online shopping these days. They were very good about how much they had to spend and not going over, and I was very good about enforcing that!

On Tuesday, we met up with Michael's friend, Drew, and his family, to go see the Chipmunk Movie. Michael protested, but even we adults had a few giggles. I will say, if those Chipmunks were for sale in stores, they'd sell out. They're so cute! I thought about Maddie a lot through that movie. That was such a Maddie movie. She LOVED the Chipmunks. She had their songs on her IPOD. In fact, when she was really having a hard time in the ICU, I played her IPOD for her. The song that kept playing was "You Had a Bad Day." It was ironic, but I thought she would be giggling inside and played it for her. She couldn't speak or open her eyes, so maybe inside she was thinking, "Mom, shut that stupid song off!" I don't know. I just did what I hope she wanted...

Took the Christmas Tree down Wednesday morning. Taking it down seemed almost as hard as putting it up. I went through every single ornament again. Put them all in their individual boxes. Of course, nobody wanted to help. I hadn't yet made the kids their 2009 ornaments. I make them all one every year. I had bought a beautiful angel when we were at Target the other day, so I wrote Maddie's name on it and 2009. As I wrote it, I talked to her, held it up for her to see, cried, and added it to her ornament box. I still have to make one for the boys before I put their boxes in the attic.

In the afternoon, I took the boys, and Lauren and Kristen, and we were joined by Keegan and his Mom, my friend, Stephanie, on an outing to Friendly's. Not terribly exciting, but it has kind of become our thing to do together. The kids all got huge ice creams and had fun. I'll tell you, even taking a few kids for an ice cream these days, costs a fortune!

Today was really fun. I went with the boys, Stephanie, Keegan, Lauren and Kristen, and their Grandmother, to Jordan’s Furniture, in Avon, to see the Polar Express in 4D, a Laser Lite Christmas show, and the Enchanted Village display, that is a historical display, which used to be displayed in store fronts in downtown Boston for years. It truly was a very cool day. The kids all had fun and it was great to get them out of the house.

We came home and Ernie was ready to hit the road with Michael and William. He took them up to NH, to our friend's, the Coletta's, house for the night, to go skiing tomorrow. I stayed home with Thomas. I had a nice night with him. He and I got into our pj's, played Wii sports together (he beat me in bowling!) and then tried to put a fire in the fireplace so we could make smores. The fire was not cooperating tonight, so we ended up microwaving all the ingredients! It was just as tasty, without black fire soot on the marshmallows!! I laid down with him around 8:30, in my bed, and he fell right to sleep. I came downstairs and contemplated writing this entry or watching a movie...guess I had a lot to say and get off my chest.

2010. When I say that number, it sounds like Maddie has been gone for two years, since she passed in 2008. She has been gone for 14 months, not two years, even though we have now gone through two holiday seasons without her. The passing of time is so strange to me now. It just feels like as each new year starts, we get farther and farther away from Maddie. I don't know if I'm making sense of what I'm trying to explain...

I don't want to get into my own deepest thoughts and heartaches. Instead, I want to look positively ahead into this new year, and pray for continued blessings, continued signs from above, and continued healing. I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year! I hope yours is full of love, happiness, good health, and an over abundance of laughter. I also hope it is full of miracles when you least expect them! Look for them, believe, they're there. Where there is great love there are always miracles!!!

Wednesday -- December 23rd

Ran around all week, running errands, knowing I won't have time next week, with the boys all home on vacation. My Christmas shopping has all been done for a while. I don't remember buying gifts last year. Actually can't remember. I was a robot. I know I did it, but don't remember. This year is more raw in a lot of ways, because reality has sunk in. I'm aware of what's going on around me, fully aware of where we are now, what has happened. Maddie is not coming home. Reality. I am just trying to stay extra busy, out of the house, distracted.

Went down to visit with Maddie the other day, before the snowstorm, and put all of her gifts from others, all of her pretty little things, into a box. I didn't want any of it to get lost under the snow. I think I'll put some of it back down on top of the snow and keep the rest safely in the box until the Spring.

One of my errands was to go down to the Town Hill Christmas tree and hang an ornament on it for Maddie. I went and hung a big, beautiful, sparkly gold butterfly and attached a note to the wing, with pink and yellow ribbon. Last year, the whole family went, my sister and her family, and our neighbor, and we all hung ornaments we had made for Maddie. We almost took over the tree. This year, it was just me. I didn't ask the boys if they wanted to do one. Maybe I'll do that tonight...

I hung the butterfly and stood back. It was freezing cold and windy, but I got so lost in thought. I can't believe a year has gone by. I thought back to all the years my kids have run around on the town hill. It seems, in so many ways, like just yesterday, when all four of my kids were running around this annual Christmas tree, attending the lighting service, meeting Santa, drinking hot chocolate, laughing with their friends. Now I stood and looked up at this lone, beautiful butterfly. I felt so lonely and sad all of a sudden, and went home.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. It just doesn't feel like it. It's certainly white outside and freezing cold though! We had our "annual" Christmas gathering on Sunday afternoon. We started this about 6 years ago. It started out with just two couples and has slowly grown into about 40 people, with adults and kids. I didn't host last year for obvious reasons. Another friend did. This year, the boys wanted the party to be at our house.

We all had a nice time, with our spread of food and desserts, and the always fun, gift swap. We really do have such a fun group of friends and we always have lots of laughs together. It's amazing to see how big the kids have gotten each year.

I was walking around, missing Maddie and walked into one room where three of the girls were sitting. They looked so sad, quiet, and bored. It's definitely not the same without Maddie's silly laugh and crazy antics. If she was here, they would have all been up in her bedroom, playing the keyboard, her CD player, singing, dancing, writing a show to entertain us with...

As I stood in that room with them for a minute, Ernie came in and told me to look outside at the sky. It was unbelievable! It was all pink and bright. It was now getting dark out, but the sky was illuminated in pink. I asked everyone to look outside and said, "Look, Maddie's letting us all know she's here with us." It was so beautiful, right outside our front window. We all took a moment to look. I should've taken a picture. Thomas said, "Maddie colored it for us." Yes, she did.

All of these kids have known each other since they were little, so there's laughing and also fighting amongst them. At one point, William was downstairs, crying in the hallway. He had gotten into a disagreement with the gang and was very upset. He said, "Maddie would always play with me." It just really upset me. It's so hard knowing how much the boys miss Maddie and knowing there is nothing I can ever do to take that pain away for them.

Michael was drinking hot chocolate the other day and left his mug on the table. I went to pick it up and put it in the sink (I know, I should make him do it!) When I looked into the mug, there was a perfect dried chocolate heart at the bottom! I called Michael into the room to see it. We were both amazed! Have gotten so many hearts this past week. Have them all on camera.

Had coffee with Colleen yesterday. She and Frank go away every Christmas now, since Meghan's passing. They go to a warm, sunny island for the week. She and I exchanged gifts. She gave me a beautiful little angel ornament, made out of a shell. She is holding a heart. I put her right in the front of our tree. I gave her a rod iron, leafy tree, wall hanging, with three candle votives in the leaves. It's really pretty and I thought it represented her family.

Someone plowed or shoveled the walkway leading to Maddie's site. Isn't that so incredibly thoughtful? You can only get to Maddie for now. Thank you to whomever was thinking of us and did that.

Maddie's cards are still selling out in the stores. I am so proud and so thankful that we are able to continue to give to Maddie's two favorite charities. I am working on some other items that will hopefully be ready by March, around her birthday. One is a beaded Maddie bracelet and the other a bumper sticker. So, things to keep me busy in the Spring. Also think I might start looking for a part time job of some sort.

Speaking of charities, I think today I will knock on the front door of a man who lives near the cemetery. He walked over and introduced himself one day last year. He said he sees me visiting Maddie every day and says a prayer. He asked if he could say a prayer right then and there, and he got on his knees and did so. It was very sweet. He told us he has been out of work and told us where he could be found if we knew of any openings. Anyway, I have seen him around and don't think he is working yet. I would like to give him some money, in Maddie's name, for Christmas. Maddie would be thrilled. She always wanted to stop the car and give to the unemployed or homeless, walking the streets with signs, every time we drove to the hospital. So, I'll go do this for her today.

I took my bike to the bike shop yesterday to have a piece put on my wheel, so I can hook it up to the trainer and ride inside. Plan to start doing that after Christmas. This way, I won't be behind in my PMC training. I'll be ready to go!

I volunteered in Thomas' class yesterday. The kids are all so cute. I have to do lunch duty for his grade today. They eat lunch at 10:45. Why?! Makes no sense, but it's fun seeing them all. It's such a cute age. Thomas is very excited I'll be coming in. I told William I'll stick my head in his class and say hi. He told me not to! He'd be embarrassed! Oh no, he's starting that phase!

We will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas at home this year. After Christmas, we will take a ride for the day to visit with my family in CT., but I am glad to be staying home in our pj's this year. Well, I have to close and get a hundred things accomplished today. I don't know if I'll write again before Christmas and I didn't send cards this year, so I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! May it be filled with love, laughter, good health and good cheer! Cherish every moment.

This was mailed to me yesterday:

I still hear the songs,
I still see the lights
I still feel your love on cold wintery nights
I still share your hopes and all of your cares
I'll even remind you to please say your prayers
I just want to tell you, you still make me proud
You stand head and shoulders above all the crowd
Keep trying each moment, to stay in His grace
I came here before you to help set your place
You don't have to be perfect all of the time
He forgives you the slip, if you continue the climb
To my family and friends,
Please be thankful today
I'm still close beside you,
In a new special way
I love you all dearly
Now don't shed a tear
I'm spending my Christmas
With Jesus this year.


Thursday -- December 17th

Wow, such an emotionally draining week. I have so many things running through my head and don't even know where to start...

Last Thursday night Thomas had a birthday party to go to. It was during dinner, so I dropped him and took Michael and William across the street from the party, to Friendly's, for dinner (yuck!) The three of us had a really nice time, just chatting. Michael asked why I wasn't eating a meal for dinner. I told him I was saving my room for dessert! I can never pass a Friendly's without getting a soft serve frozen vanilla, in a dish with chocolate sprinkles and a cone on top! Make that a large please! Maddie and I would always stop at the Friendly's in Medfield, either on the way to, or on the way back, from the hospital or clinic. In fact, our last treat together before her admittance was a Friendly's ice cream. I had my usual and she had mint chocolate chip.

As I sat at this Friendly's, in Norwood, with the boys, I thought about that, and then I smiled to myself thinking about all the times I was with all four kids getting soft serve cones. All of us would get the vanilla, all except Maddie. She was always the only chocolate. Isn't that funny...

Anyway, Thomas had a good time at Monster Golf. It was good to see him run around and laugh. I let Michael and Thomas play a few arcade games when we went to pick him up. Yes, spend $10 on games and with all the tickets you acquire, you get a tootsie roll! What a deal, huh?!

As I stood there watching them run around, I thought back to the weekend Ernie and I brought the kids to golf. We have a picture of that day on the website, in the Dec.'07 pictures. Maddie didn't even try to conceal her bald, beautiful head, out in public, playing mini golf. I look at that picture and I marvel at the strength, courage and selflessness it took for her to do that. I so admired her and learned so very much from her.

We put the tree up Friday night. It was very hard. Very hard. I tried for as long as I could to keep from crying, but when it came time to open Maddie's ornament box, I lost it. I felt Michael put his arm around me. I was trying so hard not to let them see me sad, but at the same time, knowing it's not healthy to hide it or pretend. I know everyone was missing her, but trying our best to make it fun. I hung her ornaments and at the very bottom of her box, were two hand written separate notes, "I Love You Mom" and "I Love You Dad." I stuck both notes on the tree, like ornaments. Those notes will be our Christmas gifts from her, every year.

I found a new tree topper this year. I thought we'd use the old one, but it was perfect. It's a huge, twinkly, pink star! I brought it home and asked the boys how they would feel about a new star, in memory of Maddie, and they all loved it! So, we have a one of a kind, pink, sparkly star!

I hung the stockings a few days later. Last night, Thomas said to me, "Mom, does Hope have a stocking?" I said, "Yes, but it's in the attic. I didn't bring it down yet." Then he said, "But there's 4 stockings?" I was so sad that he didn't know that one was Maddie's. I told him I put Maddie's up again, just like I did last year. "We'll always hang her stocking because she'll always be with us" As I did last year, I plan every year to put a little envelope with money in it, in Maddie's stocking, for each of them. I will take it from her savings each year, until it runs out. I know she would want to do this for the boys, and it will make it feel like she really is here on Christmas morning. A little gift from her to them.

Later that night, I was tucking William and Thomas into bed. As we were brushing our teeth, I noticed William staring at me out of the corner of my eye. I looked at him, my mouth full of toothpaste, my hair in a big ol' hair clip, and mumbled, "What?" He said, "I love you." How sweet is that?! I said, "I love you too," through a foam filled mouth. We both smiled.

Tucking them in, Thomas had something to say. Nothing important, in fact, I can't remember what it was, because of the way he said it. Totally caught me off guard and captured me. He took my face in his hands and was stroking my hair as he said it, looking directly into my eyes. It was just so precious. The love he was feeling as he was talking, was awesome.

Thomas said something so funny the other night at the table. I was telling the boys that my Uncle is going to fly here from California, in January, on business, so they will get to meet him. Thomas said, "Yeh, right Mom, we're not buyin' it!" I said, "What? What do you mean? I'm serious, he's flying out here." He said, "Yeh, we're not fallin' for it Mom!" I said, "Why do you keep saying that? I'm not making it up." Then he said, "Mom, we're not fallin' for it - guys can't fly!" He actually thought I was trying to convince them that my Uncle would be literally flapping his arms to fly here! Maybe you had to be there, but it was so funny. The way he said it and his facial expression, like he had me beat! We all just burst out laughing!

Took Michael for a haircut the other night. I usually do haircuts at home with my set, but Michael has decided he wants to keep his hair growing "longer." Well, how much longer? I don't like long hair on boys, but I have to let him express himself right? Within reason. So, I thought he better at least have it scissor shaped properly if he's going to grow it out a little bit from the usual buzz. Went to the salon. The same salon I used to bring him and Maddie to years ago, when they were very young. Michael sat in the chair and I stood behind, ok, over, the woman's shoulder, keeping a close eye. When I looked at Michael's face in the mirror, I saw him as a little boy again. It was weird. I saw his "little boy" face in the mirror. His huge, striking, blue eyes. He used to have lighter, curly hair when he was young and now it's very dark and straight. He just looked so handsome in the mirror. I really did drift off, going back 10 years for a moment there and it was so nice...until William and Thomas snapped me back to the present! They were playing with the toddler car, where little ones sit for their cuts. Beeping the little horn, spinning it around. Surprised it didn't fly off the stand! Go sit down!

Ernie and I had to go into the Freeman School today for two reasons. First, I have been wanting to get in there and see, first hand, Maddie's beautiful paintings hanging in the hallway. I have been too afraid to go alone, knowing I would fall apart, being there, for so many reasons. When we got there, her paintings were the first thing we saw. They truly brighten the school lobby. Wow! They are breathtaking! As I knew I would, I fell apart. Hearing and seeing all of her friends, her graduating class, walking to class, and seeing the artwork she had given us all, was so overwhelming. Then there was her picture, smiling with her pink cap on, on the dedication plaque. I really had a harder time than I thought I would. I pictured Maddie running down the hall, bumping into us, saying, "What are you doing here?!"

Maddie sent me an angel in that instant, her friend Sydnie. Sydnie's little face appeared in front of mine and I grabbed her. I told her, "Perfect timing - I need a hug!" I hugged her and we chatted for a minute. She told me about a present she has been working on for me. I was so thankful she came along. To this day, she and Molly McLaughlin still give me Maddie's trademark peace sign from the bus window, every morning and every afternoon. I'll miss seeing it after this year, when the girls move onto the new school and different bus. Exchanging our kissed peace sign every day means the world to me. I love you girls.

Anyway, we had a nice visit with the Principal. The main purpose for our visit was to let her know that we would like to start a gift award in Maddie's memory and award it to a deserving recipient every graduating year. We cashed out Maddie's college savings and with this money we'll give the awards, until the funds run out. It's so special that we'll start this year, which would be Maddie's graduation year. It will go to a classmate of Maddie. We know this is something Maddie would want us to do.

Took the boys for their H1N1 shots at the school this afternoon. They were scared to have it done, but we talked about how brave they are and how brave Maddie was. They talked about how many things Maddie had to do that she didn't like. We stood in line for 45 minutes, in the hallway. Of course, William and Thomas were the two craziest ones, running up and down the hallway, sliding on the floor. Yeh, it was great. So, they got their shots and as we were walking out, they made sure to tell all the waiting kids how badly the shot hurt! Nice.

Well, that's really all. Just trying to stay on my feet. Really just trying to get through each day. I'm having a very hard time, but I'm always trying to remind myself that Maddie does not want me crying. She wants me to be happy. I'm trying to smile and laugh. For Christmas, I'll try extra hard. I'll try for the boys, Ernie, and Maddie. That would be a nice gift to all of them. I know Maddie will be watching. She'll be right there with us.

Tuesday -- December 8th

This past weekend was nice and quiet. We had no social plans and it felt great! It was nice to just hang out. We're used to casually having friends over throughout the weekends, so this was a change. On Friday night, the boys and I wanted to find something fun to do, so what did we come up with? A water balloon toss. I have no idea why. It was freezing out, but the boys had a blast! I stood inside at the door watching them. Tempted to go out too, but I had my wits about me! They had the biggest smiles on their faces and I loved hearing them giggle. Luckily, nobody got drenched. Had that been the case, the giggles may have turned into crying or fighting! When they came inside, William gave me a huge hug and said, "That was awesome! Water balloons, what a great way to start the weekend!" Isn't that cute? The littlest things...

We had the fire going all weekend and got a lot done around the house. The boys were thrilled when it snowed. They couldn't wait to get outside. Well, William and Thomas anyway. Michael wasn't really interested. Hope was anxious to get out too, but didn't last long. She came right back in - just what I didn't want! There is NOTHING worse than the smell of a WET dog! Well, of course there are worse things, but I gotta tell ya, wet dog smell is pretty high up on the list. Snow frozen to her paws and beard. Can't stand it! It's going to be a long winter. Believe me, I wish I could just learn to accept that I have a dog and learn to "like it." I really do try. Maddie made me promise and I'm still working on it.

Went down to wipe the snow away from Maddie's site. I hate that it will be covered with snow now. Someone had left a beautiful snow globe. Inside was a pretty brown haired Angel, holding a heart and the globe read "Watch Over Us." It's beautiful. I left it down there for everyone to see, but had to bring it home after the snowfall. Thank you to whomever left that. It's very special.

Maddie's garden pond at home is covered with snow. Her flowers and her butterfly bushes all covered and bent. Such a bummer. Loved looking at the garden every day and listening to the pond. We bought a heater for the pond so that the fish will survive the Winter. Can't wait to watch the garden bloom happy colors again in the Spring.

Did some shopping for Christmas. Not really enjoying it. I think about last Christmas and I don't remember shopping. I truly don't remember gift shopping or wrapping. I don't remember so much of last year. I was a robot. Walked around in shock, on auto pilot. This year is more raw in a lot of ways. Most of the shock has worn off ( well, I don't know if it ever fully wears off ) and now I'm more aware. More painfully aware of the reality of things. I've talked with my Mom friends who have lost their children, Colleen, Joanne. They know, they feel the same. Colleen is one year ahead of Joanne and I in her grief, and the pain is still so raw.

William has been wanting details again about Maddie's passing. Every night lately, he has been asking questions. As much as I don't want to have that conversation, it's necessary. I do omit many details. I tell him only what he needs to know. Michael has been talking a bit. It's only a little bit, but it's a start. Michael and his peers read our site, so I do have to respect his privacy in my writing. Thomas, he talks about Maddie often. He just wants "one more hug and kiss."

So, back to shopping. I picked up a battery powered pencil sharpener in my travels. Why? I don't know. Seemed like a good idea. Got it home and the boys thought it was cool. Guess I was tired of having pencil shavings all over the place every time the boys sharpened a pencil with the little hand held sharpeners. They're the worst. The tip breaks fifty times before you can manage to keep a tip on it. Right? It starts out as a new pencil and after you sharpen it, half the pencil's gone. Anyway, we had the sharpener 5 minutes and William decided to flip his pencil over when I wasn't looking, and sharpen the eraser end. Broken pencil sharpener! We had it 5 minutes! That's my William. He has to check everything out, try it in the most unconventional way, take it apart. After the threat of taking his money to pay for it, I hope he learned a lesson...doubt it.

It just makes me laugh. It's just so funny how these little things in life, these little inconveniences, can be so frustrating. I had to go "ALL" the way back to Target (we live 10 minutes from the store) to return the stupid sharpener. William felt so badly. I just thought to myself, it's just a sharpener and it's what William does. Why was I even surprised?! He's "exploring," "discovering," "learning," "studying" right? Not just breaking and taking apart...

Oh yeah, he also opened my brand new lip pencil, drew a picture on paper with it, then told me how cool he thought the new crayon I bought was because it had a built in sharpener! Nope, won't be able to return that one.

Had parent/teacher conferences for Michael the other night. Before I left the house, I asked Michael for his locker combination so I could check out his organization this year so far. It was a big issue last year. The teachers had stressed that he needed to be more organized. I had gone into the school a few times last year to clean out his locker. Threw everything in the car, brought it home, and re-organized him. He made a promise to stay organized.

So, anyway, he wouldn't tell me his combo. Conferences went well and his teachers are all very nice. On my way out, I decided to break into the locker and good thing I did. There was a pile of papers and garbage up to my waist! OK, time to straighten this out! Came home, chatted about his conferences (he's doing well) and then I told him what I found in his locker. His jaw dropped. He was both busted, and shocked that I broke in! His first thought, of course, was "did anyone see you?" I told him, "Yep. I just smiled, waved, and told everyone I was Michael Savoie's Mom." Just kidding, relax!

The next day, after school (out of view of anyone), I went in, armed with a huge duffle bag, and threw everything into it and brought it home. EVERYTHING went into the trash! There was not one thing in there he needed! Michael admitted he was so grateful and promised to keep up with it! He said it felt so good to go back to school the next day to a clean locker. I slept better myself! Mom's, check out those lockers for kicks...

Thomas has been exercising every day on the Wii Fit. He got so upset the other day when the Wii told him he was "overweight." He's 5 and now concerned about his belly! He lifted his shirt and said to William, "Look William, I'm fat. The Wii told me I'm overweight." So, now when I walk into the room , Thomas is either jogging in place to the Wii or down on the rug in his Yoga positions, following the Wii's commands. It's so funny. I walked in to find him with his legs up in the air, his body held up by his elbows. I laughed and he said, "Don't laugh Mom. I'm concentrating. I have to do dis purfectly." Oh man, it really starts at 5?! He'll grow tired of it. I keep telling him he's already perfect!

William and Thomas were playing a Wii game the other day and they pulled up Maddie's Wii character (called a Mii or Mi? Self designed to look like you) to join them in a three player game. They took turns controlling her and I heard Thomas say, "Don’t let Maddie lose! We can't let Maddie lose. That wouldn't be fair!" I was so touched by that. They still want her to play, to be included, and they want to protect her, even if it just means playing with her through a game.

Michael went to his first "mixer" dance at school a few weeks ago and I don't think I posted about it. He had a great time and I was so proud of him for wanting to go! He looked so handsome when he left with his friends. Before he left, I offered to teach him how to dance. He thought I was nuts! The thought of it, I guess, just grossed him out! So, he was on his own. I didn't want to show him my moves anyway! One of the Mom's hung out here with me that night while our boys were at the dance. We were both so nervous and anxious and couldn't wait for them to get home and tell us all about it! They had huge smiles and said they had a blast! No broken hearts, no drama...phew. That will all come in time.

Have a lot to get done this week. Haven't put up our Christmas tree yet. Thought we would do it this past weekend but I couldn't do it. Not ready to go through all of the boxes, personalized ornaments. Last year, the boys handed me Maddie's box of ornaments to hang for her. Not ready to do it again, but I have to. The boys need Christmas to be the way it should be. I'm thinking maybe I'll put the tree up when the boys are at school, hang Maddie's ornaments while I'm alone. That way, I won't get anyone upset when I cry. I can just let it out, unfiltered. Then the boys can come home and hang their things. If we all cry together then, that's ok.

Was sitting on the couch early this morning with Thomas. He leaned over and whispered a question in my ear. "Mom, when a baby is born, does it come with clothes on it?" Isn't that so cute?! I told him no and then he asked "Why?" It was all so sweet and innocent and made me realize just how young he is. I think about all he has been through in his short little 5 year existence. His experiences. In so many ways, he has grown up way too fast, and then in these innocent little moments, I'm reminded that he's still just a little boy with a world of questions, just trying to make sense of everything.

I'd like to ask a favor.  I know it's a busy time for everyone right now, but I'd like to ask you, at some point during your day, to please say a quick prayer for all of our friends, and strangers alike, who are still battling cancer. Please pray for Irene Reilly's son, Andrew. She shared her story on the Guestbook. Please ask God to watch over all of them, to protect them and keep them strong throughout the holidays. Pray that they can all spend Christmas at home with their families, where they belong. Thank you


Tuesday -- December 1st

Thanksgiving has come and gone. It was a long week for us. We left Tuesday afternoon for the drive to Virginia, to visit with Ernie's sister, Michelle, her family, and his Mom, who was staying with them. We drove well into the night and stopped at Mike and Priscilla's house, in NJ, around 10:30pm, to spend the night. We were all exhausted and so happy to be out of the car. There was so much to entertain the boys once we got there. There were at least 4 Christmas trees, an electric train running under one, tons of decorations, and a great kids playroom in the basement. I finally got them settled and to sleep around midnight. Michael and I crashed right along with them, but Ernie stayed up to visit for a bit.

We woke up early to homemade French toast and the boys got to make homemade donuts. It smelled like a bakery. Before leaving, William and Thomas wanted to find a souvenir of our stay. So, in a basket on the bathroom counter, filled with toiletries, they each found a shower cap! They thought they were the coolest things! With Priscilla's permission, they got to take them home! They were psyched!

Back on the road. We had to make a stop in Delaware to pick up Lauren and then got to Virginia around 3:30 in the afternoon. Again, we were so glad to be out of the car. I must say, the boys did very well travelling. We watched two movies and they played with their hand held toys. Once at Michelle's house, the boys discovered the cat, who became their new friend, for as long as she could tolerate it, and they found their entertainment for our stay - sliding down the stair wall railing. They even managed to talk me into trying it, so I did. It was a little scary, but fun! Michelle and Hank have two big dogs as well, who love to lick you. I swear dogs have a keen sense of who doesn't care for them and they come in for the kill. They follow you around like you're their new best friend, trying to convert you to a dog lover. Didn't work.

Thanksgiving night was hard. At one point I stepped outside. I needed to let out some tears and didn't want to do that in front of everyone. I tried to call my Mom or my sister but neither answered their phone. Got a hold of two friends and let it out over the phone with them. Came back inside and made the best of the night.

At bedtime, the three boys all broke down. Ernie was still up with his family in the other room, and I had the boys all up in the bedroom. I was getting them ready for bed and I'm not sure who started first, but the tears came flowing. Such sad things were felt and said like, "Why did Maddie have to get cancer?","I just need to hug and kiss her one more time.", "I just want to die and be with Maddie.", "I just want to leave this family so I won't be sad anymore." As if they could run away from the pain. " Mom it hurts so much.", "None of this would be happening if Maddie didn't die.", "I just want to go home! Can we please go home!","I hate my life." Just horribly sad, painful feelings spilling out. I tried so hard to keep it together, but I lost it too. I wanted so desperately to take their hurt away but I couldn't. I can't. I comforted them the best I could. The two boys fell asleep and Michael and I sat in the dark and talked for a bit before we fell asleep. It was a very sad night.

On Friday, we took the kids into Washington. They thought it was cool seeing the White House and other monuments, but I think for William and Thomas, the coolest things were the black squirrels. They chased them all over the place and tried to feed them their pretzels.

We got to visit with Stephanie Knowles, who now lives in Virginia, for the late afternoon. We drove to her condo, about 15 minutes away. It was great spending time with her. She and I shopped with William and Thomas and then took them out to lunch. Ernie took Michael back to their condo, with Steph's boyfriend, Jesse, to play video games. It was a fun visit.

Thank you Michelle and Hank for your hospitality. It was very nice to see you and the kids.

We got up and on the road Sat. morning around 9am, a little later than we had hoped. William and Thomas again walked away with a souvenir. Michelle let them each take home a glass turkey candle holder and a candle. I think they loved those more than the shower caps! We dropped Lauren off, drove several hours more and stopped in at my parents house for a quick afternoon lunch. From there we were only 2 /12 hours from home.

When I walked into my parents apartment and looked around at Maddie's pictures, I fell apart. I just wanted to go home. I had not been back there since I was there with Maddie, the weekend we drove down to go see Hannah Montana in New York with friends, in May 2008. I just got hit with a wall of emotion. All the memories of Maddie in those rooms, plus all of the bottled emotions from the whole week, were just too overwhelming. I was ready to get home.

The boys were so happy to pull into our driveway and get in the house. All of them kept saying how great it was to be home. There really is no place like home. Hope was happy to see everyone. Thank you to the Altmeyer's, Stephanie next door, and Theresa Knowles, for taking care of her. We unpacked, bathed, and the boys were out cold when they climbed into bed. I stayed up to unwind a bit, shut my brain down, and then crashed.

While we were gone, friends visited with Maddie at her site every day, knowing I couldn't do it. I am so grateful to you all. That gave me such peace. It was so hard not being able to go down there every day, especially Thanksgiving Day. Although I know Maddie goes where we go, I still need to visit her site.

While we were gone, gifts were left for us. There was a beautiful Christmas wreath with huge butterflies left on our front steps. We have gotten this gift every year and still don't know who the giver is. I hung it on the front of the house. It is so special. We also found two wreaths on our back screened in porch. I think we were home when those were dropped off, because I didn't notice them the night before. How did we miss that gift giver? Very sneaky! We are so grateful for your thoughtfulness and generosity. I decorated the two wreaths with butterflies and hung one by Maddie's sign on our front fence and the other on the garage door. They look so beautiful. Thank for motivating me to get some Christmas decorations going, despite the fact that I don't want to. You keep me going!

So, as I was hanging the wreath on the front fence and feeling sad, I looked down and found my sign! It's a leaf with a heart on it! A huge white heart. Not a cut out this time, but it's almost like it's stamped on it. It's very pretty and it was literally at my toe! I know Maddie was there and she loves the wreath.

I also went down to change out the decorations at Maddie's site. Changed over to the Christmas theme. I did bring some gifts that some of you have left, home for the season, but I promise I'll bring them back down there in the Spring.

It's very sad. Just a few spaces over from Maddie, another young person is being buried today. His name was Sean and he was 19 years old. He, too, passed away after battling cancer. I never knew him but remembering hearing of him. He had cancer for one year. As I was decorating Maddie's site, I looked at the massive tent, the chairs, the hole in the ground, and the outer coffin lid, all waiting for Sean and the family. I felt so broken hearted, sick, and depressed. I tried not to look at it all. I thought about the Mom who will bury her son today. I thought about how unfair, devastating, and horrible cancer is. I'm sure I will meet Sean's Mom very soon. What a horrible place to strike up a new friendship, a new bond, at the cemetery, mourning the loss of our children. Until then, I will be thinking of her.

Went to bed last night and found a gift on my pillow and Ernie's. William had left us both a card he had made. Mine said, "Mom Rocks" and Ernie's said "Mom Rocks," ok just kidding, his said "Dad Rocks." What a sweet bedtime note. It was a sweet way to end the day, with hope in my heart that I'm doing something right.


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