Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good-bye August

Peanut -

Two years ago, Momma breathed a huge sigh of relief when this day had passed.  We were 9 months pregnant with you, and I knew if we made it to September 1, 2009 we would happily be into your 36th week and into a much safer time period for you to be born.  Also, I really wanted you to be a September baby.  A fall baby.  Technically, your due date was September 25, but I knew in my heart you were going to come much sooner.

Two years ago, Momma thought that if we were able to get through a safe delivery, we would have nothing else to worry about outside of raising a good, happy, healthy son.

One year ago, I was planning your 1st birthday party and already thinking about all the years ahead.  September had become my absolute favorite month.  It was YOUR month.

Today, I hear September knocking on the door and I am bracing for a fall full of "firsts."  More than just the holidays, which I know will be difficult - but, at least I can prepare, brace for those.  It's all the unexpected moments I now worry about.  Fall is the one season we got to experience twice with you...and this third fall, this fall of 2011, is going to feel especially empty.  But, at the same time, we will be preparing for your new baby sibling.  A fall full of conflicting emotions.

Peanut, I want to enter September with a positive spirit.  With an attitude of celebrating this month that welcomed our amazing, beautiful little boy into this world.  Dadda and I are still figuring out how to celebrate you on September 12 - your birthday.  Peanut (and readers) please send me a sign, a thought, and idea around how to spend that very important day.  No matter what, it will - it must - be a celebration of you, 'Nut.

So, Peanut, on this last day of August, Momma sends you bunches of noodles of love.  To the moooooon and back!

- Momma

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Peanut Flash

Peanut -

This evening, while sitting outside on a patio watching the sun set over Table Rock Lake, I saw the most rare of all optical phenomena.  Even more rare than the much storied "green flash."  I witnessed a Peanut Flash.  It lasted for just a moment, a second - far too fleeting but very real in my heart.

It happened while Dadda was out of Momma's line of sight, far down a hill trying to snap some sunset pictures.  I was seated alone, enjoying the post-dinner music and advancing sunset, and reflecting on how empty, how meaningless life feels without you.  In the distance, I could see the marina glowing in the orange evening sun.  A glorious but sorrow-filled moment.

As the sun was getting ready to touch the water, I spotted it.  It took my breath away, to the point I am sure I audibly gasped.  There they were.  A Dadda walking towards the marina with his little boy, holding hands.  They looked exactly like you and Dadda, with the same build, same walk, same everything.  And, in that moment I thought, "I DID dream it all.  Peanut is still here!"  But then, it was gone.  The sun faded, and Dadda came into my peripheral vision, alone.

From the moment we arrived at Big Cedar Lodge, I have felt you in the air.  You have been startlingly present, and tonight was further reinforcement that you are here, by our sides, in each moment.  While it doesn't come anywhere near getting to see, touch or hold you again, I have found so much healing, so much comfort in this trip knowing you are with us.

Peanut, I hope you can hear and feel all the love pouring from me and Dadda.  We talk about you with joy, tears, adoration, respect, and a profound sense of love...and loss.  We love you so very much, it has redefined in the best way possible our sense of "love."  And it is that amazing sense of love we send off to you tonight, with a giant MWAHHHHH!  To the moon and back, sweet 'Nut.

- Momma

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Froggies Have A New Friend

Peanut -

We found a little stuffed bear that reminds us of YOU!  From its sweet little face, to the sporty hoodie, he was just too perfect to resist.  He hung out on the mantle last night with your froggies, and by this morning they were all outside chilling on the porch while we enjoyed our morning coffee.

Hugs and kisses -

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cartoons with Dadda

Peanut -

Dadda and I were laughing tonight about what our vacation sleeping arrangements would have been this week if you were here with us.  Over the weekends, when we were home with you, you and Dadda would always get up really early, and you'd let Momma sleep in a bit.  Those early mornings were your special snuggle time, and, even if I was wide awake, I never intruded on it.  Dadda would bundle the two of you under a blanket on the couch, and he'd turn on all the recorded episodes of Handy Manny from the past week.  Sometimes you guys would make it through the shows, sometimes you would take a nice morning nap together.  I so regret I never snapped a picture of that special, sweet early-morning moment.

If you were here this week, I know the two of you would re-create those morning cartoon sessions.  You would leave Momma in the dark bedroom, sneak into the sitting room, and watch Disney cartoons while snacking on bananas and Cheerios.  Eventually I would come out to join you guys, and I know I would be greeted by a giant Peanut smile, excited claps and a hug.  I miss those hugs, smiles, and claps.

We have found so much comfort - so much joy - in the projected thoughts of what you would be enjoying on this vacation, and what we would (should) be doing with you.  I'm thankful I can still picture you as you would be today, in this moment.  I am so afraid of what happens a year or two from now.  When I can't imagine Peanut at 4 years old.  Or 8 or 10 years old.  Who knows, maybe my imagination will take care of that for me?  Maybe I will create the picture of you growing up along with us, as time moves forward?

Peanut, just know you are with us in every moment of this vacation.  Dadda and I miss you sooooooo much, but the memories and stories this week have been wonderful.  We are both sending you our hearts and the moon and back!

- Momma

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Froggy Hitchhikers

Peanut -

Well, here we are, at Big Cedar Lodge for a week of vacation.  There is such an absence, a void, without you here with us but...guess who stowed away?  Yep.  That's right.  Not one, but TWO froggies!!!  They have taken up residence in our room, right on the mantle of the fireplace, where they can check out all the in-room activity while also looking out over the lake.  Perfect positioning, smart froggy friends.

As expected, we are surrounded by memories of you which have led to a lot of stories, memories, laughter and heartache.  It is truly bitter and sweet all mushed into one gooey quote Big Head Todd and the Monsters, "It's bittersweet, more sweet than bitter.  Bitter than sweet."

Dadda and I feel your presence here with us, and we know you are still very much an active part of this vacation.  As I take in the natural beauty of the landscape, the sunsets and sunrises, the wildlife that surrounds us in this amazing place, I feel you living and breathing and surging through my soul.

So, I get ready for a night of sleep and Peanut dreams, and am thankful to be in a beautiful place infused with wonderful, joyful memories of my Peanut.  I know you are still here with us.  I love you sweet boy - to the moon and back!

- Momma

Friday, August 26, 2011

Peanut Vacation...Without Peanut

Peanut -

I've been busy getting everything ready this evening for me and Dadda to leave for a week of vacation tomorrow morning.  While I am so ready for some time away, this vacation is terribly bittersweet.  This is the end-of-summer family vacation we planned at the close of last summer.  The rooms were booked, the week was planned - all around you, Peanut.

We took this same vacation last summer, but a week later - the week after Labor Day.  This is a vacation Momma's family takes every year, but last year was the first with a child - The Peanut - and we all viewed it through new, kid-friendly eyes.  The vacation spot - Big Cedar Lodge - is set in the mountains, right on a large, beautiful lake.  As a family we have always enjoyed spending time on the lake, boating, fishing, hiking but we never paid attention to all the amazing activities designed for kids.  In particular the week BEFORE Labor Day.  So, last year we decided to bump our timing up by a week so you, Peanut, could participate in the kid-focused fun.

Now, we will be there surrounded by families, kids and reminders of everything you were supposed to do during this week.  I anticipate it will be sad, painful, difficult...but also a time for reflection and remembrance.  Dadda and I have already started sharing everything we remember about the drive to Big Cedar with you last year.  From your first-ever trip to McDonald's to the incredibly long, involved grocery store stop where the employees were required to help us take our bags out to the car.

It is likely that many of this week's postings will be centered around stories and memories from last year's trip.  Some sad, I'm sure, but most full of joyful, funny Peanutisms.   Oh, my adorable, sweet son, how I wish you were here getting ready to take a big car trip for a week of fun, sun and play.  I wish I was busy packing up your clothes, toys and snacks.  I wish in the midst of the frenetic packing activity, I was able to poke my head into your room to watch you dreaming, to lean down and smell you, kiss you, touch you.  Love you.  Instead, I am left to sending you all my love via these words, my dreams, my tears...and they are all endless.  To the moon and back.

- Momma

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Seven Months

Peanut -

Exactly 7 months ago tonight, on Tuesday, January 25, I got my last-ever Connor hug.  I treated it like just another hug.  Just another night.  I was so focused on getting you comfortable, and back to sleep, I'm not sure I really paid enough attention to the fierce Peanut love transferred in that last hug.  That last kiss.  That last whisper of, "Momma" before I turned on your nightlight and closed your door.

All those little things I took for granted.  The little things we all take for granted. I assumed we would have the next 80 years with you.  It never crossed my mind how fleeting our time might be.  Because "other people" have bad things happen to them.  Other people's children die.  Other people have to figure out how to survive the loss of their child.  But, not us.  Right?

Wrong.  The veil has been lifted.  The innocence is gone.  The belief that I had earned heaps of good karma and the right to enjoy happiness thanks to a lifetime of working hard, of trying to be a good person, of loving my beautiful child with my entire being - that belief has been destroyed.

Instead, we are left with a lifetime of memories, pictures, stories of you.  We are left with the lessons you taught us in your short time on earth.  We are left to piece together a new life, a new normal.   We are challenged to be better, more loving, more forgiving.  We are left with the knowledge that we will see you again, that heaven does exist, and our reunion with you will be pure magic.  We are left with small, but impactful visits from you via butterflies, froggies, and dreams.

I am re-sharing a beautiful blog posting from our favorite photographer and wonderful friend, Heidi Drexler.  She posted this the day after you died.  I viewed it again tonight, and it brought a flood of tears and memories.  It is...wonderful.

Peanut, I'm sending you so much love tonight, my heart just might burst.  To the moon and back.

- Momma

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dance Party Peanut

Peanut -

On this date last year, you were busy dancing the afternoon away in your diaper with a giant smile on your face.  Your background music?  The singing puppy dog who could switch between music, colors, and various words.  Well, you figured that puppy out within a matter of weeks, and knew exactly which buttons to push to get not just the music, but your very favorite song for bouncing and dancing.

I can't believe you're gone when I watch videos like this one.  It breaks my brain to comprehend that just last year, on this very day, you were dancing, laughing and growing up before our eyes.  Just one year ago, I thought we would have you for a lifetime.

So, I share this video to remind myself just how fleeting life can be.  That perfect happiness is not permanent and should be appreciated every moment of every day.  Take nothing for granted.  Live with love and remember with the heart - not just the brain.

Peanut, I'm missing you so much this week, it hurts.  In the daylight hours I have been able to put on my mask of normalcy, but in the stillness of evening, when I sit down to write to you, the pain is overwhelming.  I love you with every fiber of my being.  To the moon and back...

- Momma

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blonde Curls

Peanut -

When I picture you in my mind, in my heart, I always picture you pre-first haircut, with your amazing head of blonde curls.  I was determined to let your hair grow and grow and grow because I adored those curls so very much.  It took some convincing for me to finally allow Dadda to give you your first real haircut just weeks before you died.  And, while this may sound morbid, I am so incredibly thankful that I have a little baggie full of those blonde curls...a very physical piece of you to hang on to for as long as I live.

You and I used to sit on the couch, and I would run my hands through your hair, which always instantly calmed you.  While you didn't love me brushing your hair, the act of Momma playing with your curls was very different and always delighted you.  Especially if I included a little ear massage, where I would rub the top of your ears between my thumb and the tips of my fingers.  Bliss...

It's the little, often-forgotten moments like these that I miss the most.  These are the snapshots in time that, when I string them together, made up our once very perfect life with our very perfect Peanut.  I miss that life.  I miss you.  I miss your laugh, your smile, your eyes.  I miss your curls.  I miss everything.

But, the days move forward.  Time marches on.  And, we rebuild the best life we can, and hope to find a new sense of joy, of purpose, of hope.  We will never have the old life back.  We will never be the same people, same parents, again.  But maybe in the midst of this transformation, we will retain the best of our old selves, and create something different but also better, thanks to you.

So, I hang on to the pictures, the stories, the memories because they remind me every day of you and your amazing little spirit.  They are the foundation for the new version of Momma.  You, Peanut, are the heart of that foundation.  It is with that thought that I send you love, froggies and butterfly kisses
 - to the moon and back!

- Momma

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Big Little Life

Peanut -

Momma started a book this weekend that is truly inspirational.  Joyful.  Touching.  It is billed as a "memoir" but I think it really is a letter of love and devotion from a man to his wonderful, beloved dog...a dog who was truly his angel.  The author?  Dean Koontz.  Who woulda thunk?  This famous fiction/horror writer, who it turns out has a heart of faith and undying love.  Who discovered new depths in his own capacity to love when this amazing Golden Retriever, Trixie, was introduced into his life.

Peanut, this is the book I would want to write for you.  This is the book you deserve.  As I turn each page, I feel and experience Koontz's love for his furry angel.  His smiles and laughter are shared by the reader.  The book is infused with joy, memories and a sense of true appreciation for everything Trixie taught Koontz and his wife.  While there is a sense of grief over her loss, it isn't the central theme of the book.  And, I love that.

What's interesting is I'm not even 50% finished with this book and I've already discovered a powerful, emotional connection to this family's has caught Momma off-guard.  But I am so glad - overjoyed - that I found this story.  It has inspired me to think better, to act better, to be better because of you, Peanut.  Because of your "big little life."

So, tonight I'm going to continue reading this wonderful book, that inspires so much joy in my heart and mind, and I'm going to think about you.  Because, Peanut, you're what I think about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Sending you oodles and oodles of Momma love and the moon and back!

- Momma

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Little Piece of Healing

Peanut -

Today started as one of those "Momma can't get out of bed" days.  It started with little-to-no sleep last night, followed by a fitful nap this morning.  With all that time to think...well, nothing good happens.  By the time 11:00 am rolled around, Momma decided getting out of bed, getting dressed, eating food, brushing teeth - none of that was going to happen today.  Instead, the focus was on crying, loss and sorrow-based paralysis.

One of the big triggers for today's mood?  The amazing weather.  Clear, blue skies.  Perfect, 85-degree temperatures with almost no humidity.  The kind of weather we should always expect around your birthday, Peanut.  The kind of day when a family should go to the zoo, have a picnic in the park, or just take a long walk with no specific destination.  The kind of day that reminds me we don't have you - but we should.  The kind of day I used to love and relish.  The kind of day that now makes me bitter and desperately sad.

And then...a ray of light.  Dadda and I had some visitors.  And with them, came healing in the form of a little boy who is about to celebrate his 1st birthday.  A little boy who splashed in the pool with delight, giggled at Dadda's funny faces, explored our house with his own version of the penguin walk, and fed himself Cheerios ad banana cookies between smiles.  And, at the end of the visit, he gave Momma a kiss.  Not just any kiss, but a Peanut-kiss.  I swear, in that moment I felt you in the room.  It was almost as if you had given him instructions about how to touch Momma's face, and give her the adorable, toothy MWAH! kiss.  And not just once.  Not twice.  But three times!  And, a little piece of my heart healed.

Tonight I've included two pictures taken almost exactly one year ago.  One of them captures a moment just as you are coming in to give Momma a kiss, even though the camera was in the way.  The other is one of my favorites because it captures the essence of your funny, joyful little spirit.

Sending you love and kisses to heaven, Peanut.  To the moon, and heaven, and beyond - and back.
- Momma

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is THAT A Fish? No! It's Dadda!

Peanut -

As you know, Momma LOVES to sing.  Which, can be a blessing and a curse.  Right now, I'm not sure which.  Over the last months, a phrase that has gotten me through particularly tough times and days has been, "Just breathe.  Just, keep breathing."  Of course, I can't have some wonderful, peaceful Zen way of chanting that to myself.  Oh no....not Momma.  Instead, it has turned into a song.  And not just any song.  A song that is addictive, gets stuck in my head, and makes me giggle at the most inappropriate times.

When you were just about 12-months old, I started watching Disney movies with you, Peanut.  Your attention span was pretty remarkable, and you enjoyed the bright colors, music and dancing with Momma.  One of the first movies we watched was "Finding Nemo."  I knew the vivid colors of the fish would fascinate you and I wasn't disappointed.  I love thinking about you sitting on the floor, staring up at the screen with your mouth and eyes wide open, hands clapping, as you watched the fishies.  Deeeeeeeelightful.

I also have an odd fondness for that movie, partially because of something Dadda did when we were first dating.  We attended a Halloween party, and had to get costumes at the very last minute.  While I opted for something fairly standard-issue and simple, I should have figured that wasn't Dadda's style.  No way.  He wanted to wear a full body, mascot-esque costume.  So, here we are at the costume store, the weekend of Halloween.  It's crazy packed, and totally picked over.  But, Dadda found a costume I couldn't steer him away from - a full body Dory the Fish costume.  Never mind it was unseasonably warm in St. Louis that day.  Never mind the fact that Dory's a girl fish.  Dadda was undeterred.  Well, we get to the party and there are small kids there who LOVE Dory.  So much, in fact, that every child had to have their photo taken with "Dory."  There was NO WAY Dadda could take the costume's head off to catch some cool air, since it probably would have scarred most of those kids for life.  So, he steamed in that costume of over an hour, until the kids went home and he spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out how to hold a beer with his fins.  And, I fell in love a whole bunch with him that night.

So, in the midst of learning how to grieve, survive and continue some type of life without my Peanut, I have held on to the need to just breathe.  And, when I need to say - sing - it to myself, it comes out as the Dory swimming song from "Finding Nemo" - Just keep breathing.  Just keep breathing.  Just keep breathing, breathing, breathing.  What do we do?  We just keep breathing!

And I breathe because I'm forced to laugh, no matter where I am, or how I'm feeling.  And maybe, just maybe, Peanut, that's a little bit of your special magic.  And for that, and so many other reasons, I love you my sweet boy - to the moon and back!

- Momma

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lessons From An Old Peanut Soul

Peanut -

"Eyes are the mirror of the soul."  (Proverb)

I've seen and heard this quote, this proverb, phrased in a number of different ways - eyes are the window into the soul, the reflection of the soul - but I prefer this one.  Primarily because it expresses the sentiments of all the variations, but in a more succinct, beautiful way.

From the time you were born, I often commented on your wise eyes, knowledgable expressions, and your seemingly old soul.  Your incredible attention span, ability to get the joke along with the adults, sense people's emotions with the accuracy of an empath - these all made you truly remarkable in my eyes.

In the months since your death I've had ample opportunity - and a desperate need - to reflect on what a wise soul you truly were and are...what some spiritual or religious beliefs refer to as a "crystal child" or an "old soul."  The theory being these individuals, these souls, have come to earth for a purpose or with a special meaning.  Normally to teach us something, to share love, goodwill, or to achieve something great.  Now, what the death of an old soul means is more conflicted.  Some say these individuals pass on once they have accomplished their goal or greatness.  Others don't really speak to it, assuming these souls live "normal" lives and go on to do a great many remarkable things (examples: DaVinci, Walt Whitman, Bach).

Peanut, I believe you died well before you were meant to, and that you had many, many great accomplishments in your future.  But, I also believe you did achieve greatness in your short time on this earth - and beyond.  You taught me and everyone you touched so many valuable lessons:
To express love without reservation.  
To give fierce, powerful hugs to those you love, and to people who look like they just need a hug.  
To laugh often, with gusto.  
To try every kind of food put in front of you, even if you didn't like it the last time.
To dance, dance, dance even if everyone is looking.
To read books.  Lots of books.
To be patient, try again and again, and eventually you will succeed.
To have a best friend, even if it is a froggy security blanket.
To start every day with an excited smile, and end every night with a really great bedtime story.

I'm sure there are many more, but these are the highlights in my mind tonight.  Peanut, you have made me a better person.  You made me a Momma - the best role of my life.  Your impact, your Peanut Effect, touches and amazes me every single day.  I love you with all my heart, all my soul, and every fiber of my being.  To the moon and back!

- Momma

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Gift of...Memories

Peanut -

Today Momma received one of the best, most precious gifts imaginable.  Over 150 pictures of you that I have never seen before, never knew existed, but are from days and events that I remember.  Some with my own very specific set of images and memories, and some that, despite my best efforts to remember every detail of every day, had actually begun to fade.  But now...oh, the joy!

Is it possible to gain a whole set of new memories around events that happened almost a year ago?  Maybe, maybe not.  Or, possibly "memory" isn't the most accurate word.  Regardless, what my mind and heart feel at this moment is nothing short of pure, utter delight.  Almost as if I've been given a few extra moments of life, of time, with you.

I was worried these pictures would bring tears of sorrow and loss, so I waited until I was safely home, secure in the bedroom with my laptop, to view each picture.  Over and over and over again.  And, yes, there were tears.  But these were different.  These were tears mixed with laughter, smiles, love, and brand new, powerful memories.

My plan for the rest of this evening?  To spend time with these photos, remembering. Telling stories to you and The Bean.  Allowing myself the space to laugh and cry.  The space to miss you while being thankful for every memory of every wonderful minute I had with you.  Oh Peanut...I miss you so very much.  And, love you more than words or stories can convey.  To the moon and back, sweetie!

- Momma

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Work Froggy

Peanut -

Momma now has her very own, special "work froggy" just for you!  He is a very friendly, bright green, blown glass froggy straight from a Colorado-based glass blowing artist.  This wonderful froggy was a gift from a very kind, special person who I happen to work with but consider a dear friend.  She is one of the reasons going back to work was actually a comfort to Momma.

I love looking at this little froggy while I'm at work.  He's a delightful reminder of everything that was green, happy, and "froggy" about you, my Peanut.  And a daily reminder to Momma to live and act in honor of my Peanut.  I wish the pictures I snapped with my iPhone did him justice...

Peanut, I'm sending you loads of froggy love the moon and back.

- Momma

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back To School Ads...Please Go Away

Peanut -

As I've said many times before, it's the unexpected "stuff" that sneaks up from out of seemingly nowhere, and completely sucker-punches Momma in the stomach.  When I can prepare myself for a tough day, a difficult reminder, or an experience that I know will stir up my feelings of loss and sorrow over you, I actually power through in fine fashion.  But the everyday, mundane experiences that unexpectedly carry larger, more powerful meanings?  Ugh...a stab in the heart.

The back to school ads, flyers, promotions, pictures, clothes, on and on and's inescapable.  And a constant, droning reminder of what you will never, ever get to do.  You will never carry a backpack.  Or a lunch box.  I will never buy you pens, crayons, or glue for school.  Never again will I get to buy you school clothes - or a 1st day of school outfit.  We will never stand at the corner of the street, waiting for the school bus.  You won't get to play school sports, or star in the school play.  Never. Ever. Ever.

My plea to the universe - please make this back to school season pass quickly.  Allow me to avoid the brightly colored signs plastered in every store window announcing BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL!  Give me the grace to be happy for my friends who are excitedly sending their children in to new classrooms, new teachers, new schools.

My plea to you, Peanut - don't be disappointed when you view Momma's sadness, anger and jealousy.  It is brief, and will pass.  It is not a reflection of my heart.  Just my brain coming to terms with the permanence of your absence and the loss of your beautiful soul.

Peanut, please know that I love you more than anything in this world and beyond.  To the mooooooon and back!

- Momma

Monday, August 15, 2011

Charlie (aka Mr. Dooley), Can We Talk?

Peanut -

We heard back from St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley's office last week.  The gentleman who reached out to your Momma is a wonderful, compassionate man, and a father of two little guys.  Your story has clearly moved him and has given Momma a ray of hope.  An advocate.

I wish I could say the same for rest of Dooley's office and appointees.

The Director of the St. Louis County Department of Health, Dolores Gunn, wrote and sent back a 3-page response to Momma's letter from June.  And, to be honest, her response made things worse.  Let me give you a few of the lowlights:

  1. In her response she tries to outline all the details of the night leading up to your death...but she has all the details wrong.  Hmmmm...isn't this why I'm asking for them to actually contact the families?  To get their information confirmed and correct?
  2. She tries to defend the ME's office, and their extensive knowledge of SUDC...but she refers to it by the wrong name and then proceeds to describe their SIDS education program which is 100% focused on infants under 12-months of age.  And, she acknowledges there are no protocols for cases dealing with a child your age.
  3. She then defends the ME's finding of Tracheo-Bronchitis as the cause, even though, in her own words they really could not determine a cause of death in your case or in a handful of other deaths like yours...and there really wasn't any cellular evidence to support Tracheo-Bronchitis as an actual cause of death.
  4. And...drumroll please...for the cherry on the last paragraph of the letter she acknowledges their "customer service" and communication needs some attention.  Customer service?  I'm sorry, does she think I had an issue returning a pair of shoes?  This is my son, my baby, my Peanut.  This is a matter of loss of a precious life.  This deserves more than customer service.  This deserves the best these people have to offer.  

So, Momma has decided it's time to demand a meeting with Charlie Dooley and Dr. Gunn.  And to demand some action.  Peanut, you know that awesome, fierce stubborn streak you have?  Well, guess where you got it?  Yep, you guessed it.  Momma.

Peanut, you deserve better than this disappointing, poorly written, shoddily researched response from this appointed county representative who apparently has very little accountability to anyone.  Time for a change.  Momma-style.

So, with a fire in my belly and a heart full of powerful Momma love, I send you hugs, forehead bumps and butterfly kisses.  To the moon and back!

- Momma

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sweet Kicks

Peanut -

How is it you only had two sets of "real" shoes?  I'm not counting the infant faux-shoes we bought when you were just a few months old.  Or the socks with little rubber traction nubs.  I'm even leaving out your cool slipper booties, even though I loved those little things.  But, real shoes made for walking?  Two.

Last September Dadda and I bought you a pair of Robeez tennis shoes while we were on vacation.  It was time to get you used to having something on your feet, especially since we thought you might start walking "any day."  OK, so we were wrong about that!  Those little Robeez were adorable - navy and orange, with flexible soles.  You wore the heck out of the toes since you were still a super active crawler for the next two months and those poor Robeez weren't designed for that type of abuse!

Later last fall Grandma and Grandpa took you to Laurie's Shoes to buy your first pair of true tennis shoes - some sweet navy and white Stride Rites with velcro closures instead of laces.  Oh, how I loved those shoes, and the story behind your visit to the shoe store.  You bolted straight for the big kid in-store slide, and ZOOM! went right down before anyone could stop you.  Grandma and Grandpa's panic turned into peals of laughter instantly.  I'm so glad you created that memory with and for them.

You finally became a strong, no-nonesense walker around 15-months (December), so your Stride Rite tennies didn't get too much wear and tear.  Those shoes bring a smile to my face, and tears to my eyes.  So small, so sturdy.  Just like you.

I sat outside a Laurie's Shoe store located in Chesterfield Mall for a while this weekend.  I was drawn to that area by a little boy who resembled you, Peanut.  He was running through the mall in some little sandals, dad in tow.  They darted into Laurie's, and walked out a few minutes later with some brand new, navy tennis shoes on his feet.  He was walking now - not running - and stepping with such pride and purpose. At that precise moment, I realized we would never buy you another pair of shoes.  And, it broke my heart.

Peanut, I miss seeing your purposeful little penguin walk, made so deliberate by those shoes.  I wish we'd gotten the chance to see you run in those shoes.  And kick a ball.  More than anything, I wish we had gotten the chance to buy you another pair of shoes.

Missing you so very much, it makes we wonder how my heart continues to beat.  Tonight, I am sending you my love, my hugs, my lost hopes and dreams...and all your favorite bedtime stories.  To the moon and back, sweet Peanut.

- Momma

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sleeping Momma

Peanut -

Whoops!  Momma fell asleep, laptop by her side before writing a little "good night" letter.  Just know, I was dreaming of you.

To the moon and back!
- Momma

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Little Bit of Chicken Fried


Momma stumbled across a perfect, special treat this morning.  This Friday morning.  Friday - the day I always worked from home with you and enjoyed the Today Show Summer Concert Series "Peanut style" bouncing, singing and dancing.  This August 12 morning...exactly 1-month before your second birthday.

I was hunched over my computer, getting caught up on e-mails for the day with the Today Show playing in the background in my usual, feeble attempt to dull the echo of silence throughout the house.  Since I'd been running around getting showered and set-up for the day, I missed all the promos for this morning's featured band, but I could hear the crowd cheering. that?  The Zac Brown Band?  And...CHICKEN FRIED?!  Before I even realized it, a huge smile came across my face.

You see, Peanut, your teachers from school shared a delightful story about you just a few months ago.  One afternoon last winter they were playing music, getting ready for school to wind down for the day.  "Chicken Fried" came on the stereo, and before they could change the song, your teachers noticed you were grinning and dancing away blissfully.  Of course, you danced with such enthusiasm you fell down before the end of the song, but bounced right back up!  And, when the song ended, you gave them a look pleading for them to play it again.  So...they did.  Peanut dance party.

I used to play that song in the car with you - me singing along, and you kicking your feet against your car seat.  So, to hear that story from your teachers brought me such created a whole new memory for me, something I didn't get to see or experience, but something that was soooooo perfectly Peanut.

So, when I heard the song playing live, on the Today Show this morning, I couldn't help it.  I laughed.  And, I danced.  For the first time in 7 months, I danced.  And you know what?  I could feel you laughing and dancing with me, right there in the room.

Peanut, your presence is strong and real today.  I can almost feel you and your tight bedtime hugs.  Tonight, I'm sending you off to bed with a hug, kiss and a giant "I love you - to the moon and back!"

- Momma


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finding Comfort In the Words of Others

Peanut -

As I have sought answers, comfort and safe places to grieve over the last 7 months, I have discovered two very clear, plain truths for me, personally.

First, the very clinical, psychology-based "self help" books have been anything but helpful.  They tend to make me feel judged - like I'm not moving through the prescribed stages of grief in the right order or timeline.  Like I should be "getting over" the loss of you.  No thanks, folks.

Second, I have found great solace in the expressions of others who have experienced their own excruciating loss and grief, and choose to express it via words, songs, images.  Regardless of the circumstances, my heart and brain are drawn to other bereaved parents.  In particular, those who are further in their own grief journey than your Momma, because they show me it is possible to keep living.  To survive and rebuild.

Tonight I am sharing a passage from Anne Morrow Lindbergh's journal written the July after the kidnapping and senseless murder of her darling 18-month old son, Charlie.  A writer by profession, she was an avid journal writer.  In the 10 weeks her son was missing, her journal was her safe haven to express her despair and panic while keeping a brave face for the public.  After her child's body was discovered, the journal became her outlet for her grief.  The following passage is from July 16, 1932:

"...I feel obsessed now when I say good-bye to people - that I will not see them again.  Something in me that says perpetually: "Seize this while you have it, remember that gesture, it is the last time."  Something in me that wants to make everything significant because, perhaps, I did not make significant enough the few hours I had with Charlie, spending them recklessly, looking ahead to endless years of him.

But you are always fooled - it is not what you expect that waits for you..."

Peanut, I love you more than I ever thought I could love anyone in this world.  I hope you felt that love while here on earth, and I hope you feel it now.  I hope I made our moments, days together significant.  I hope I made them count.  But, much like Anne Morrow Lindbergh, I worry that I did not.  That I took time for granted.

Mrs. Morrow Lindbergh went on to live a full life, and to publish several beautiful books, form charitable foundations, and to have several more children.  And, she continued to remember and honor her dear first child, lost to her and her husband under such tragic circumstances.  In particular through her book of published diary and journal entries from this at first joyful then tragic time in her life: Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead.  Her strength is nothing short of remarkable.

Peanut, I will continue to try to make every memory count.  To send you love and letters.  To let you know I think of you every single day, from the moment I wake up to the second sleep finds me in the evening.  You are forever my heart and soul.  I love you dear Peanut - to the mooooooon and back!

- Momma

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Toy Story 3. On ICE!

Peanuckle -

Every weekday for the last two months, Momma has had to pass a ginormous, stadium-sized sign announcing that Disney's Toy Story 3 ON ICE is coming to St. Louis in September.  I have hated that sign for so many reasons.  I've resented the giant, smiling images of Buzz Lightyear and Woody.  The thought of all those happy families attending a show so close to your 2nd birthday, not realizing that you wouldn't, couldn't, ever attend.  Agonizing in the knowledge that you will never get to see a Toy Story movie.  Or, any of the other Disney movies I so diligently collected, beginning when we were pregnant with you.

Every day that sign has mocked me and my grief.  It has been a daily knife in my heart.  A reminder of what we've lost.  And, it made me look at other families with a mix of jealousy and amazement.  And a little bit of anger.

I passed the sign again this morning.  But...something was different.  It's still the same sign.  Same event.  Same dates.  But, my reaction changed.  Something has robbed the sign of its magic power over me.  Suddenly, it just became another sign for another event.  An event that will come and go.  It was no longer targeted at me or our family.  Just a sign.

Pretty soon, that sign will come down and I'm pretty sure I'll breathe a sigh of relief...until another sign goes up in its place announcing...Toy Story 4!  On the DARK!

My amazing little Peanut, my heart is so full of love for you.  I'm working hard to make some sense and meaning of your make you proud.  (More to come on that later this week!)  I feel you all around me, and in my soul.  Sending you Momma kisses and loads of love.  To the mooooooooon and back!

- Momma

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Frogs! Frogs! Everywhere!

Peanut -

So...what do you think of your new bright green, frog-themed background?  Too much?  After being weighted down by my very blue mood these last few days, I thought, "Maybe it's time to brighten up Peanut's page...transform the blue page and my blue mood into rainforest frog green!"  Now, what that means to Momma's mood, we aren't 100% sure...

Peanut, most of my memories of you involve frogs.  Your rainforest bouncy seat, multiple frog lovies for sleeping at home and school (a.k.a. thumbies or blankies), the jungle mobile over your crib, the frog bathtub mats in our whirlpool tub, and your awesome Halloween costume from 2010.  The bright green always suited you so perfectly.  Vivid, like your electric personality. Bright and happy, like your smile.  It was such a happy discovery, when Heidi and I realized during your 3-month photo shoot just how much the bright green brought out the startling blue of your eyes.  Breathtaking.

Peanut, green will always remind me of you.  Not just any green.  But that high definition, spring grass immediately after a rainstorm green.  To the point that if color had a personality, that particular green would be you.

So, as startling as the new background on your blog may be, it is perfectly...Peanut.  As is the little frog who has taken up residence on your page, in tribute to your last Halloween costume.  The costume I bought thinking there would be soooooo many more in your future.

I love you, dear, sweet Peanut.  (And, let's keep our fingers crossed that jungle green turns out to be a good mood for Momma.)  I'm sending you loads and loads of love and the moon and back.

- Momma

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Brief Life Is Not An Incomplete Life. (Or, Is It?)

Peanut -

I saw this quote today via The Compassionate Friends page on Facebook.  It generated a lot of discussion, debate and emotion.  For me, it simply brings up a lot of questions.  I'm honestly not sure how I feel about the quote as it pertains to you and your much, much, much too brief time on this earth.  But, here's where I think I've landed.

Do I feel your brief life was incomplete?  Yes and no.  Because I truly believe you are still here with us, watching over us and impacting our actions on a daily basis, I do not feel your life is incomplete.  Your life is ongoing, forever creating ripples...The Peanut Effect.  When I hear stories about the moms and dads who exercise more patience in the midst of a silly argument, who spend more time with their families in the evenings, who share extra hugs and "I love yous" because of my Peanut, I know your life is eternal, everlasting.

But, was your potential on this earth unrealized?  Yes.  I think about the plans, the hopes, the dreams we had for you.  The dreams we had to release to the skies after your death, like the butterflies who keep circling our home.  You were going to play ice hockey.  And play the guitar.  And speak multiple languages.  And graduate from Stanford.  And get married and have kids of your own.  You were going to spread that sunshine smile of yours across the world, and make it a better place.  This world who absolutely needs more beautiful souls, like yours.

So, I now work to make sure your life is not viewed as incomplete.  To make sure you DO continue to make this world a better place.  And to make you proud.  That is what gets me up every morning.  It is what gives me the drive to continue to live.  To have hope.  For you, my Peanut.  My beloved, amazing little boy.  Who I miss sooooooo terribly.  And, who I love - to the moon and back.

- Momma


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Evening Break

Peanut -

This Sunday evening Momma is going to take a break from the blog...just for a night.  It has been an emotionally tough day, and hopelessness and sorrow are my prevailing emotions this evening.  This blog has been focused on balancing sadness with hope, sorrow with love, and I'm not sure my brain can get there tonight.

Rather than struggle and force out a less-than-genuine letter to you, I am simply going to wish you good-night, Peanut.  I love you - to the moon and back.

- Momma

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Little Nutbrown Hare (aka Arnold!)

Peanut -

For the first time in close to 7 months, there is another lovely little life sleeping in your bedroom.  It is so strange to close or open your bedroom door...I keep looking for your crib, for you and your little head to pop up and smile, "Hey, Momma!"  It is sad and wonderful, all at once.  Because, you see, I think our visitor was sent by you.

Two nights ago, Henry the Puppy came galloping into the house with something in his mouth.  He was tossing his head around, and Dadda realized quickly that whatever he had was still alive - ack!  Dadda acted quickly and saved the itty, bitty bunny rabbit who Henry either thought was dinner, or his new best friend.  It was too dark and too late for us to look for the momma bunny and her nest, so we spent the night simply keeping the bunny warm.  In the morning, Dadda set the bunny outside, hoping its momma would head out on a search and rescue mission.  But, 9 hours later, Momma found the bunny sitting exactly where Dadda left him, only soaking wet thanks to afternoon thunderstorms.

So, here we are today.  Protecting this little bunny who still needs care and feeding.  This tiny survivor, who has defied all the odds.  He lived through Henry's snatch and grab.  Made it through the shock of the first night away from his home.  Somehow survived an entire day, exposed at the woods line without any other predator killing him.  He is now protected in our home, living inside a bamboo and net pie storage container.  Contentedly munching on straw, rosemary and basil.  Slurping his fortified milk supplement from a bottle.  Hopping around happily, snoozing without fear.  And, creating a house full of laughter and delight as we watch his sweet, funny personality emerge.  So much like you, Peanut.

We've been calling him Arnold, but my brain wants to call him Little Nutbrown Hare.  He has the little white blaze on his forehead, the tiny, curled tail, and the long, skinny body from your favorite bedtime story.  While I know we can't keep him - he's meant to be in the wild - I sure do love this houseguest.  He has given me smiles I haven't felt in months.  He reminds me of you.

Arnold is now sleeping in his protected nest, safely tucked in your room.  I wished him goodnight, turned off your light and closed the door, just like I used to do with you, Peanut.  It strangely feels like I've regained a piece of you.  Of us.  I am holding you so very close to my heart tonight, loving this new connection I feel to your soul.  I love you Peanut, to the moon and back.

- Momma

Friday, August 5, 2011

Words - Even Incoherent Ones - Hurt

Peanut -

Over the last day or so, Momma became the target of one very troubled individual's rants and rage.  And, rather than direct his anger to me directly, this person has chosen to direct it to me via very hurtful, inappropriate comments about Peanut, my Angel...and the tragic circumstances around your death.

Over the last 5 months, Momma has found solace, peace and support in this public forum.  Sharing my thoughts, tears, fears, smiles and grief has been so very therapeutic.  And, the readers of this blog (and the related posts on Facebook) have been so lovely, so comforting.  My community of support.

But now, regardless of how unstable the individual or incoherent the words, the power of this hurt can't be removed.  It feels as if the purity of my grief has been tainted, and I'm not sure how to process that hurt.

I am taking a pause this evening to decide...what do I do?  The rage from this person originated on FB because I declined a very vulgar "friend request" from someone I don't even know.  But, it has now spread and is breathing a life of its own.  Directly opposed to everything this blog is about.

Peanut, I love you so very much.  Too much to allow this stranger to drop his poison into our well.  So, I sign off for now with a new brand of pain in my heart. Peanut.  I love you, I love you, I love you - to the mooooon and back.

- Momma

Thursday, August 4, 2011

If You Were Here...

Peanut -

If you were still here with us, I imagine you would be getting the biggest kick out of Momma's growing tummy.  My mind has this constant image of you giving my baby bump loads and loads of your famous Peanut forehead bumps, followed by a delighted Peanut laugh.

If you were here, we would be showing you all the ultrasound pictures and explaining that you are about to be given the biggest responsibility a little boy can be are about to be a big brother!  You would listen to us earnestly, eyes wide, fully understanding.  You would be up for this task.

If you were here, we would be discussing what books to read to your new sibling.  What to buy for the nursery.  What exciting things were could plan to do together as our new little family, especially during Momma's maternity leave.

If you were still here, I would also be getting ready to plan your 2nd birthday party.

But, you are not here with us, physically.  You are still here, though.  And, I know you're going to be the best Angel Brother ever.  I know you're already helping out with the baby, acting as a special Guardian Angel.  I know you're watching over Momma and Dadda.  And I know you are so excited about this new addition to our family.  An addition we had never planned on, but are now so incredibly thankful to have in our future.

If you were heart might feel complete.

I love and miss you, sweet Peanut.  To the moon and back.
- Momma

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Stick Figure Families

Peanut -

Every Monday-Thursday morning Momma makes the hour-long commute into work, surrounded by thousands of other drivers.  Many are headed to work, like me.  Others are either driving to drop kids off at school/daycare, or are driving themselves to school.  And others just seem to be taking a morning drive, not entirely sure why all these other cars are on the road at 7:00 am!  Given the start and stop pattern of the traffic, I have a lot of time to observe the other cars and drivers...probably too much time.

So many of the cars seem to have the same series of stickers covering their back windows.  I'm not sure if it is a St. Louis thing, or if it's something I've only started paying attention to since we lost you, Peanut, but I feel like I'm surrounded by these stickers and cars all the time.  What are they, you ask?  Family stick figure window decals.  Here's a sample:

And, I'm never around cars that have a mom, dad, 2.5 kids plus a dog and car.  I'm always surrounded by the family with 13 children, and a herd of family pets.  It feels like they're mocking me.  "Look how many kids we successfully had - AND, they're all still alive.  And you, you 39-year old mom who put her career before her heart and family, you thought you could have your one perfect child and be safe and happy.  WRONG.  And now, well, good luck with your plan to have more kids."

I hate that this is my internal voice track.  But I can't deny it, those stickers make me cry every single morning.  Why can't I enjoy the love put into those stickers?  I mean, some parent lovingly thought through the customization, placed the special order, and carefully applied it to their back window.  They didn't put it out there to taunt me or our family.

Maybe it just feels that way because all I wanted was to be a mom.  Your mom, Peanut.  And now, I just want to feel the joy of being a Momma again.  To hold my child, feel more hugs, read books, sing songs and laugh.

So, tomorrow when I see the stickers I will try to smile and think about the love that went into creating that sticker.  I will think about another parent who read "Guess How Much I Love You" to their little boy or girl every night.  Who sent their children to sleep with the same goodnight wish I send to you every night:  I love the moon and back!

- Momma

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Damn You, Celine Dion. Damn You!!!

Peanut -

First things first.  Momma does not like Celine Dion.  Not even a little bit.  Nothing against Celine or the millions of people who must adore her since she sold out her show in Las Vegas for how many years???   But, her brand of music tends to be a little melodramatic for Momma's taste.  Yet, somehow Ms. Dion has appeared in my iTunes library, and is now on the iPod I keep hooked up in my car.  Curious...

So, on the drive home tonight, I had the always dangerous iPod shuffle rotation in full swing.  Peanut, I think you sneak into the car and turn on songs that will speak to Momma in ways she never, ever imagined.  Like tonight.  I'm cruising along, minding my own business, when that Celine Dion song from "Titanic" starts playing.  You know the one - "My Heart Will Go On."  It's billed as the romantic love theme from the movie, but I realized tonight it truly is a love letter to the most precious person in your life in the midst of heartbreak.

Anyway, here's what happened as I'm DRIVING.  The song starts playing with those telltale flute-like instruments.  For some reason I don't forward to the next song.  The lyrics kick in -

Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on

Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on

At this point, I realize I'm crying.  Just a little cry.  Not too bad.  I throw on my sunglasses to prevent strange looks from other drivers.  

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

Little cry is turning into a big cry. it still safe to be driving along at 50 mph?  Sure...

Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never let go till we're gone

Love was when I loved you
One true time I hold to
In my life we'll always go on

Commence the sobbing.  Dammit.  I'm in the center lane.  Time to start thinking about getting pulled off the road.  Other drivers, please do NOT be alarmed!

Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

CUE THE DRAMATIC KEY CHANGE!  This gets me every time, whether it's in a commercial, a happy song, a love song.  Doesn't matter.  Sobbing turns into hysterical, heaving crying.  At least I'm finally pulled off the road in a random strip mall parking lot.  Classy, Momma.

You're here, there's nothing I fear
And I know that my heart will go on
We'll stay forever this way
You are safe in my heart
And my heart will go on and on

Oh, thank god.  The song's over.  The little flutey things are winding down.  Hmmmm...let's play it again!

Of course, I listened to it three more times.  In the midst of the final replay, I looked to my right and saw an amazing sunset behind a bank of clouds.  Four giant rays of sun were poking out in each direction, and I felt your warm smile.  Then, I got home tonight to find 4 - FOUR - froggies hanging out on our kitchen window.  Bonus Peanut visits.  So, with that my darling boy, I send you giant kisses and tell you I love you to the moon and back...on and on and on!

- Momma

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sweet Potato, Sweet Pea!

OK Peanut -

Let's talk turkey.  Well, actually...let's just talk food.  You, my little food motivated Nugget, were a wonder to behold at mealtime.  Even when you were only 2 days old, and barely 5 pounds.  Breastfeeding just was NOT working; we had to resort to bottles, pumping and formula.  You drank twice the amount of bottle than most babies your age, to our stunned surprise.  The nurse told us, "Give him as much as he'll take."  Um, OK!  We did.  And you did - a lot more than we expected!

This continued as we moved into rice cereal.  When other kids at school were hardly getting 3 spoonfuls down, you were eating an entire bowl.  Yet, you remained in the 40% in terms of weight.  Peanut - did you have a hollow leg?!

When we finally got to move into real foods and flavors, I prepared myself for the worst.  Difficult meal times.  Food flung across the room.  Crying.  Screaming.  Yeah, right Momma.  We had none of that.  Instead, you found delight in pretty much anything we put in front of you.  Sweet peas.  Apples.  Carrots.  Squash.  Sweet potatoes.  I think part of it was your total trust in Momma and Dadda.  You would briefly regard whatever was on your spoon, raise an eyebrow and look up at us like, "Are you SURE this is cool?"  We would smile, push the spoon towards you and just like that it was down the hatch.

Later, as you reached 1-year, I would steam and give you real, fresh veggies.  Again - bliss!  Apples and grapes.  And homemade chicken nuggets.  Turkey meatballs.  Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.  Graham crackers.  Goldfish.  Oh...the Goldfish.  You actually shoveled so many of those into your mouth one day at school, you started choking and turned blue until your teacher saved you.  Whew!  But, did that teach you a lesson?  Of course not!  Bring on more Goldfish!

Peanut, your love of food - GOOD, healthy food - never failed to bring a smile to Momma's heart.  Meals were always soooo much fun, thanks to you and your delighted laughs and claps.  Can you maybe have a heart-to-heart with the Growing Bean about food?  I sure would love for the Bean to enjoy meals and tasty treats as much as my Peanut.

So, my wonderful, amazing Peanut.  I love you with all my heart and soul.  To the moooooooon and back!  (Air kiss - MWAHHH!)

- Momma