So, we found a new way to get free entertainment. We checked the train schedule, drove down to the station and left coins on the track. Once the train pulled up and left, we ran back out to the track and found the flattened coins. The boys love doing that. Of course, we put down and pick up only when the train is out of sight.
I know the boys are really missing Maddie. It shows in each of them in very different ways. The other night, William got out of the shower and decided to put Maddie's pink fuzzy bathrobe on. He then thought he would try to "trick" Thomas into thinking it was Maddie by putting her hair piece on. Thomas, of course, went along with it, called out her name several times and hugged him. This didn't sit well with me. I found it to be very upsetting. William did look like Maddie. He does without the hair piece. He sounds like her too. I asked him take both off. He kept winking at me and asking me to go along with "fooling" Thomas into thinking he was Maddie. I told him no.
William has been trying to do a lot of the tricky, creative things Maddie did. She used to pretend a Sugar Fairy existed. The Fairy would leave candy treats under pillows. She always did it to William. William has taken over the role and has been playing it for Thomas. He has Thomas completely convinced. It's very sweet. No pun intended. William sent a balloon up to Maddie, to let her know what he did. It read, "I miss and love you Maddie. Thomas loves the Shuger Farey." How awesome is that?! Then he asked me if I wanted to sign it too. I wrote, "Love and Miss you too, Love Mom" We sent it up together. I started to cry and William's sweet little hand rubbed my back. He's so sensitive and so sweet...when he's not being crazy and silly.
Thomas talks about Maddie daily. People always think the younger kids won't be as affected, are more resilient, but it's not true. Thomas, despite his age, remembers everything, and has been very deeply affected. He asked me the other night, out of the blue, as we were snuggling on the couch, watching t.v., "Mom, when people die, do their eyes get all white?" I said, "No, Thomas. They stay just the way they are when we're alive." He said, "Oh, 'cause I thought they turned all white when you die." Now, here we were watching t.v., and out pops this question. Already having a hard time with my own thoughts, I had to excuse myself and go upstairs after our quick chat. Their minds are always thinking about things, as is mine, despite the fact that all looks ok on the outside. Questions and actions come out at such random times.
I went over to my neighbor Patti's house the other night, to help plan the 2nd annual block party. Her daughter, Molly, was there, along with another of Maddie's best pals, Sydnie, and her Mom, Lynne. The two girls are great pals and their Mom's are my good friends, so they are all so special to me and I love being with them, but at the same time, it's always hard for me to be with all of them without my girl. She would be right there with the other two. Silly, crazy, and happy, growing up together. To this day, it is still all very surreal to me. Most times, I can't even fathom what has happened. While we were there, Molly made me a friendship bracelet. It's so cute. Made out of thin brown, pink, and yellow yarn. I love it and still have it on. I know this bracelet would've gone on Maddie's wrist if she was here, so I accepted it with a heavy but grateful heart.
Took the boys to the pool club. They had a good time. On the way home, I stopped to get ice creams for them. They waited in the car since they were all in their bathing suits and had no shoes on. When I walked in, there was another of Maddie's best friends, Molly C. We gave each other a big hug. I instantly wanted to cry, but smiled. She was there with a friend, after basketball practice, having an ice cream. I got my ice cream for the boys and left. I waved to Molly through the window and drove off. I tried not to cry in front of the boys, but it really just sucks trying to be strong all the time when your heart is so broken. I wanted Maddie to be sitting next to Molly, licking an ice cream. She would've picked mint chocolate chip or cotton candy. I wanted to say, "I'll pick you up at Molly's at 5. Have fun!"
It's so hard to watch her best friends growing up and moving on, but of course, I'm so happy for all their accomplishments, adventures, and happy days, and feel blessed to still be close to them and their Moms. I truly cherish their friendships and I know Maddie will always be a part of their lives and hearts. I'm so grateful for that.
It's hard knowing that life is going on for everyone, including us, because it has to, and Maddie is not a part of it, the way we want her to be. I try each day not to focus on that because it makes me so damn sad, but the daily reminders are so incredibly difficult. I still sometimes "pretend" she's still here, she's just in the other room, she's at her friend's house...I don't know. I really think your mind/body only lets you go where you can still sustain yourself.
What else has been going on...
I'm getting a new kitchen! I am so thrilled! The day we bought this house, I wanted a new kitchen. So, 14 years later, it's happening! Decided to cash out my 401 in order to get it. Some people think that's crazy, but I figured, you can't take it with you and as we've learned, you have to live for today. I really needed an uplifting project. It’s almost done.
When the day came to take down the old cabinets, I thought I would be elated, but I actually got very emotional. I had to step outside for a minute and pull myself together. I didn't want the carpenter and plumber to see me cry. Didn't think they'd understand why I was crying. I truly didn't expect to cry, but a wave of emotion hit me as I remembered all the memories we had in that kitchen. Think about all of the memories we create in our kitchens. When Ernie and I moved in, the cabinets were painted a mint green. I had painted them white and over the years had to constantly do paint touch ups on all the "dings," caused by tossed toys, baby doll stroller crashes, pot and pan lid banging, you name it. I had cleaned so many sticky fingerprints off of those cabinets, my baby bottle drying rack years ago sat on that counter top. We dyed Easter eggs in that kitchen, hosted numerous parties, fixed countless boo boos, dispensed many medications, baked with the kids, made hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...you know what I mean. Then of course, I got very sad that Maddie will never be a part of my new kitchen. She won't leave sticky fingerprints, touch the new knobs, wash her smore's covered face in that sink, bake on that counter...It really was a bittersweet moment taking away that kitchen, but I reminded myself that memories are forever. I know we will create a lifetime of new memories in the new kitchen, and Maddie will see it all.
William and Thomas got goldfish again. Thomas had been asking all week for a fish and I told him when it was a rainy day we'd go. Ernie took the boys the other day and they both came home with two goldfish. William's fish are "Dumb and Dumber" and Thomas' are "Firey and Watery" because one is white with a red patch on his head and the other is all white..
So, two days after the fish arrived in their new home, we already had a casualty! Big surprise. If you recall, last time we had goldfish, William sprayed Axe deodorant into Thomas' fish bowl, killing his fish, then feeling badly, had to kill his own, by flushing it down the toilet, so it was "fair."
Well, after I told the boys to wait for me, they decided to go ahead and clean out their fish bowls without me. Oops, William was cleaning out Thomas' bowl and dropped his fish down the bathroom sink! He tried desperately to save him, but no luck. They both came running downstairs, screaming and crying. I had to unscrew the water pipes under the sink, hoping Firey got caught in the curve, but he was gone. It was quite the traumatic morning. We tried to convince Thomas that he survived the huge water slide, and now lived in a private water resort! "He's the luckiest fish ever!" OK, didn't work, so we went with the happy thought that Maddie now has a new fish to take care of in Heaven!
After everything settled down I got the sink put back together and went downstairs. Next thing I know, the boys are putting their 3 surviving fish into Maddie's pond outside! Yep, Dumb, Dumber, and Watery now live in our pond outside...until something gets in there and eats them!
Friday-- July 16th
21 months today. I keep hoping the 16th of each month won't always serve as a reminder. I can't help knowing what day it is. Just like when you're a new Mom, you always think, "Aw, on this day, so many months ago, the baby was born." Then you re-live it with sweet memories. Right? Well, the 16th of each month is always filled with vivid memories in my head, and I desperately don't want to re-live them. It's funny, I usually go down and leave balloons with Maddie on this day each month, but I ran out of helium in my tank. I wonder if Maddie planned that, as if to say, stop remembering this day Mom. I don't want you to be sad.
The boys are having an ok summer. We really haven't done much. I did go on a camping trip with them a few weeks back. Wanted to get my brownie points early on in the summer before the really hot, muggy weather, when I stay home! Ernie had gone up several hours ahead with the camper, William and Thomas. Michael and I finished up a few things at home and headed up about two hours later. We went up to New Hampshire, way, way up in the woods. Here's a good story for you…
We followed the navigational system, AKA Tom Tom. We got off an exit and headed into the woods, just as Tom Tom told us to do. We had now been in the car about 3 1/2 hours. We drove through the woods, around boulders, passed a fire rescue tower. OK, any minute now, we should be seeing people, cars...our van was literally vertical, trying to climb this mountain and I kept saying to Michael, "Why would Dad pick such a remote place to camp?" "Why would he pick such a stupid location to camp?!" "Oh Boy, this is gonna be fun!!" " Why?! Why?! Why?" I got more and more frustrated and Michael became more and more panic stricken! "Turn around Mom! This can't be right! " I'd shout back, "But the Tom Tom says it is! We'll just go 5 more boulders, if the car can make it!!" It was nuts! I think we were driving on some remote hiking trail and we couldn't get reception on our phone.
I saw the headlines, "Mother and son lost in wilderness trying to find the freakin' campsite!" So, we turned around and drove down the mountain. Think I ran over a turtle. We saw another car coming out of another path and tried that one. SAME thing! Came back down, drove to civilization and called Ernie. He had his laptop and found we were on the other side of the mountain. He gave us directions (another hour away!!) and we FINALLY arrived at camp!
Michael and I were both so tired and frustrated. It had been a 5 hour car ride!! The boys had already made friends. William had a pal Adam, and Thomas played with his sister Zoe. Ernie had settled in and was enjoying an ice cold beer by the fire. He asked if he could pour me a glass of wine, but I hadn't brought any! Figured we were out in nature, on a healthy get away. Boy did I regret that! Early the next morning, Michael and I got back in the car. He wanted something to do while sitting around the fire. We googled a book store, for Michael's summer school reading. It was at least 1/2hr away. I didn't care. I was on a mission to get a book and a bottle of wine!
The rest of the stay was nice. I went kayaking with Michael in the lake, and sat at the beach and watched the boys splash around. I understand why people enjoy camping, I really do, I just don't think it's my "thing" right now. I hope I can learn to enjoy it more, but for now, it's too much "alone time" in my head. No distractions, just more realization, and a lot of sadness sets in for me, despite the relaxing, beautiful scenery. One day I hope to look around and not be sad, but feel peace.
A day or two after getting home, I went on a PMC bike training ride with Heather, a friend and teammate. We stopped down to visit with Maddie and the whole time we were there, of course I kept asking Maddie to send a sign. Secretly, Heather had been asking too. I walked to the water spigot for her flowers and there was an adorable little bunny. I had never seen one there before. I shouted back to Heather to come and see. She came running over and told me she had been looking for a sign as well, and a bunny popped into her head. She wanted Maddie to send something cool, like a bunny, and there it was!! It was so amazing!
Went on another ride a few days later, but this time it was a disaster! Went with Jeanne, and another friend/teammate, Tammy. I had switched to the clip in shoes a while back, and up to this point had no problem. Trick is to click out BEFORE Stopping! So, to start the ride, we got about a mile or two when Jeanne needed her inhaler. We called Ernie to meet us and deliver it. Then Tammy keeled over on her bike as we were waiting for Ernie. Just simply fell over. All scraped up. Then we got through a wooded area that comes out the other side to a downhill soar with a beautiful view with water. I came flying down the hill, soaking in my "victory" over the hills and through the woods. I turned around to yell, "Hey Guys, isn't this awesome?!" Guys?" Nowhere in sight. What happened? Had to end my thrill ride and ride back into the woods.
There they were, they were fine. Tammy had just dropped something. As I slowed, asking if they were ok, I forgot to CLIP OUT!!! I'm going down! Now, when you realize you're going down, it's too late to clip out and there's nothing you can do but brace yourself! Of course, to my side, were huge rocks. I threw my arm up to protect my head, landing on my wrist, elbow, twisting my back, and throwing out my other shoulder! I just laid in the dirt and gave a thumbs up. Man, did that hurt! I was hurting so bad, but I was more pissed off! That was my first fall ever and I had just recovered from ruptured back discs. Now I'm back to moving like an old lady! Felt like I was hit by a bus the next day. Definitely hurt my back again. So, to end the day, we continued the ride, Jeanne made a left to go home and Tammy and I continued for what would've been another 10 miles. OK, we can do this. End on a good note. Then I hear, "Kris, I think I got a flat!" Yep, stopped, called Ernie, and we jumped in the truck. Our ride was doomed from the beginning!
Michael went away for a few days this summer with our neighbors, the Piscatelli's, who brought him and the Altmeyer girls with them up to their NH house. The kids had a blast and made some very special summer memories! I was so glad Michael went and had a good time! It was so good to see him when he came home, tanned, burned, long hair. He looked so grown up and of course, so handsome. I had to dig up some burn cream for his back. He was pretty red and blistering. I told him I had some very good cream. It was Maddie's radiation burn cream. Doesn’t get much stronger. I know she would've said, "Here Michael use this. It works really good. I used it for my burns." She'd probably even put it on him. When I put it on him, the smell of it alone was so familiar. It's a nice smell, just all too familiar.
William and Thomas have been going to "camp" this week from 9-11am at the home of our special friend, Kristan Taylor. She was Maddie's teacher, tutor, and gave a beautiful eulogy. They have been making really fun art projects and enjoying Kristan's amazing outdoor yard and gardens. I really feel like Maddie is there with them, as she would be. It's very bittersweet to go to Kristan's house. Kristan, the kids, the flowers, the ANIMALS! Guinea pigs and dogs! I can see why Maddie loved it so much.
Fun news - Ernie got the Maddie butterfly tattoo! He was #13. He got it on his arm and he loves it! I'm so glad he got one and I know he is too! A few days later, I took Kelley Bernard, Maddie's friend from the hospital, who wrote her college entrance paper on Maddie (it's on our website), to get one too! She was #14. Ironically, that had been her soccer # for five years! She is a cancer survivor and is doing great! She looks so beautiful and happy, and it was so nice to spend a few hours with her and her Mom, Karen. We visited with Maddie. They brought her beautiful flowers and we had dinner together. As hard as it is to spend time with our hospital friends without Maddie by my side, I cherish those friendships dearly, and know Maddie is with us during our visits.
Well, there is so much more to write, but this entry is already long enough. I'll write more in a few days. Off to do another training ride with Colleen Duffy this morning. We rode yesterday. I am so blessed to have her friendship. We laugh and cry about our girls as we ride. We miss them so very much. I like to picture them riding beside us, Meghan on her bike, healthy with both legs again, and Maddie, on her pink bike, whizzing by me, laughing!
Friday-- July 2nd
A few weeks have passed since the last day of school. It was bittersweet. My last Kindergartener finished up, William is moving to the next school, leaving the elementary school, and Michael is going into his 2nd and last year at the middle school, before he moves on to high school!
Maddie's Promotion ceremony was very difficult. I didn't sleep well the night before, and I was a nervous wreck the whole morning of. I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest as I got dressed and as we drove to school. When we walked in, we were shown to our seats. I tried to avoid eye contact or conversation with anyone because I was one step away from falling apart! The room was filled with excited children and parents. Every child was wearing a pink/yellow butterfly ribbon in honor of Maddie and our friends Patti McLaughlin and Lynne Dimond, who made all the ribbons, handed Ernie and I our own to put on.
As the ceremony went on, I took quiet, deep breaths, trying to keep myself calm and "talked" to Maddie. I wanted to do this right, not make the kids upset, not cry and choke on my words, and I needed her to "hold my hand." I had my short speech in my hand and on the bottom of the page, I had writtten notes to myself, "Do this for Maddie," "No regrets, no second chances," "You can do this. Make Maddie proud." "You can do it Mom!" The last one, of course, I imagined Maddie wrote for me because that's what she would say. When it was our turn to go up, I got to the podium, took a deep breath and glanced down at my own words of encouragement before beginning. I could feel my right leg shaking uncontrollably. Thank God both legs weren't going wild and that nobody could see me below the waist behind the podium!
I looked out into the crowd of little faces and ribbons. As I looked closer at the faces nearer to me, I noticed some tear filled eyes, before I began. I almost lost it before even beginning, but reminded myself that this was their day and that I could not get them upset. As I read my speech, I kept my head down, trying to avoid those tear filled eyes. I guess I did ok, but know my voice was very shaky and filled with emotion. Ernie said he thought about stepping in at one point. He was standing to my side.
When the winner, Rachel Stephens, was announced and came up to receive the plaque, I gave her a hug and picked up the plaque. That was actually the first time I had seen the finished plaque. It was so beautiful! The wording and the beautiful personalized butterfly! Perfect! As hard as it was to read it and realize what was happening, I know Maddie would love the way it turned out. I have to thank Janet Curran, the Executive Secretary in the front office, for all of her hard work in coordinating the plaque details with me and for seeing that it got done on time! I had colored in a stencil of my butterfly tattoo and we sent a JPEG picture to the plaque company. They did a great job duplicating it. There will also be a lifetime plaque, with the butterfly, that will hang in the hallway to display the name of the winner every year. Such a wonderful way to remember Maddie each school year.
The class also made a generous donation to Children's Hospital in Maddie's name. They sent it to the 6th floor discretionary fund, but I want all of you reading this from her class, to know that it was directed to a very special place, near and dear to Maddie's heart. The money will be used on the 6th floor to fill and refill the Treasure Chest. When the kids have to get a procedure done in the treatment room, they get to choose a gift from the Treasure Chest. Although Maddie loved looking through the box, a few different things would usually happen. Maddie and I would most times laugh and say there was just "crap" in there, so she often walked away empty handed. Other times, if it was just refilled with either rope bracelets or those Shining Star stuffed animals that were popular like the Webkinz, she would grab one for herself, giggle and coax the nurse into letting her snag a second for a friend. Other times, she would go through the "crap" and pick out a little something for her brothers instead of herself. Thank you Class of 2010! Thanks to you, we will make sure the Treasure Chest is filled with "cool" stuff and you truly will bring a smile to the faces of other kids!
Ernie and I stayed until the end of the ceremony after our part was done. I had thought we would sneak out, not wanting to watch everyone receive the diplomas. I thought that would be too hard. I was right in many ways, it was very hard, but at the same time, I am glad Ernie talked me into staying. I watched each of Maddie's friends, all walk past me, with a big smile. They all grew up so fast in such a short period of time. They all looked so pretty. I tried to imagine what Maddie would've chosen to wear, what her hair would've looked like. I giggled to myself, wondering if we would've argued over the style. I think after all she would've been through up to that point, I would've let her wear anything!
As each friend walked by, I replayed a memory of them with Maddie in my mind. Either a birthday party, a playdate, a day at the playground, a sleepover, a day at the pool, meeting each other's new pets. So many memories shared with these kids. I will miss them all as they grow up and move on. I do know for sure I will stay close with some of them. I hope the others will always say hello to me in passing as the years go on. It will make me feel as if they haven't forgotten Maddie. I hope that's not selfish of me.
After the ceremony was over, the other Mom, who annually awards a plaque in honor of her son, who was tragically hit by a car and killed, right before his 6th grade promotion day, came over to me and gave me a big hug. She said, "I'm so sorry for your loss." I said, "I'm so sorry for yours." We hugged, I cried, and I could feel the instant bond between us. We chatted for a brief moment, but have emailed since. I have a feeling we will become great friends.
Throughout the morning, I had been looking for a sign from Maddie. I kept looking out the windows, for a hawk, a butterfly, a heart shaped cloud, a flicker in the lights, anything, as I sat through the ceremony. My gift, in addition to feeling all the love in the room, came at the very end. The Rascal Flatts song, Maddie's favorite, "My Wish" came on over the speakers. I think my mouth fell open. I couldn't believe it was THAT song. I kept looking around to find a smile or a wink from the responsible party. I listened to the whole song before leaving. I know most of the people there didn't know the significance. We had played that song at Maddie's funeral, her memorial, and other times in celebration of her life. I felt Maddie there at that moment.
I went down to the front office and asked who had done that. It was Janet! Thank you Janet! I can't tell you how much that mean to me. You tied the day up in a bow for me.
The day was beautiful, although bittersweet, and you really could feel Maddie's warmth and love there, and you really could feel the love being sent back to her, from her friends. Thank you friends. My only regret from the day, is that I didn't have the courage to do one more thing for Maddie. I wanted to give her peace sign to her friends, something she always did as she was leaving. So, if you're reading now, from Maddie,