Thursday, August 30, 2012

Piggy Banks

Peanut -

We bid Big Cedar Lodge "farewell" today after a terrific, fun week with your little brother.  It was a good week.  A great week.  We laughed a lot.  We talked about you. Shared stories.  And felt some (a lot of) heartache.  But more than anything, we felt your presence.

You will be with us every step of the way, as we navigate the future.  You will be sitting on Momma's shoulder as we stack blocks on the floor, making your brother belly laugh.  You will be the butterfly flitting by as we splash around in the baby pool.  You will be with us as we prepare Pickle for school and sports.  You will ride shotgun with him as he experiences his first date. College. Marriage.  Kids.  All the dreams we had for you.

This week Dadda and I wound up with a handful of one dollar coins.  Initially, Momma thought we should just spend the coins.  That idea gave way to the thought of placing the coins in The Pickle's piggy bank.  But Dadda had a better idea.  Let's divide the coins and put half in Peanut's bank and half in Pickle's bank.  Genius.  Perfect.  Done.

Your bank is going to continue to grow.  Why?  Because you still influence and change this world.  This is your legacy.  Your Peanut Effect. And, someday, that money will go to charity.  That piggy bank is yours, and one more thing we will share with your brother.  With love.

Guess how much Momma loves you.  Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much - and more.  To the moon...and back.

- Momma

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Peanut -

Momma, Dadda and The Pickle packed our bags and hit the road yesterday for our annual trip to Big Cedar Lodge.  Family vacation.  Last year this was The Saddest Vacation Ever.  And now, it is one full of new joy and laughter thanks to your brother.  But, still, your absence looms large.

The Lodge has week of Labor Day celebrations and games targeted to kids, and you would just be at the age where all this activity would be terrific fun.  Three years old.  Ice cream socials on the lawn, fishing competitions, boat and pony rides, put-put golf...all things we planned to do with you.  It's why we chose this week - for you.  And now, it will be for your little brother.

I went back and read my letter to you from this day last year.  Peanut Vacation - Without Peanut (8-26-11)  We were almost six months pregnant last August, and were struggling to find hope while grappling with the quiet and emptiness.  Dadda and I were so worried this vacation was a terrible idea, but then we got here and it was like magic.  We felt you everywhere.  In everything.  Every activity.  Every sunset.  It was during this week that Momma's heart truly started to heal.

Now we are going to share this place - its magic, the stories of your visit when you were just about to turn one, the memories - with The Pickle.  Being here, relaxing and having fun, is bittersweet.  Dadda and I discussed last night how the loss of you has motivated us to live life with more meaning.  With appreciation.  With the knowledge it could all disappear in a moment.  This brings to mind a quote:

"Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors."

Dadda and I strive to live with grace.  Because of you.  For you.  Peanut, in life and loss you truly make us better.  In this way, you live on.  In our hearts, minds, actions, and interactions.  Your Peanut Effect.

I can feel you, surrounding us in this beautiful place.  It makes missing you a little less sharp.  Sending you love, joy, appreciation, tinged with sorrow.  To the mooooooooon and back!

- Momma

Peanut's first taste of McDonald's during the drive to Big Cedar.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Peanutmobile

Peanut -

Today started out like most other Monday mornings.  Alarm at 5:30 am, mad dash to get Momma showered and dressed, get your brother fed and bathed, hit the road for grandma and grandpa's house, a quick hand-off and kisses bye-bye, then race to the office for an 8:00 am meeting.  Whew.

But after work, things took an unexpected turn.  Momma and Dadda met for dinner, with your tired little brother in tow, then we visited the car dealership.  And, a little after 9:00 pm we left with a new car.  New car?!  That was the last thing Momma thought we would do today.

This is exactly what happened the day we bought The Peanutmobile.  It was a strangely warm, foggy night in January 2010.  You were 4 months old, and Momma had a nasty sinus infection.  Dadda and I had admired this car for a few months, talked about buying it, then BAM!  Dadda went out and struck a deal.  Despite Momma's sinus issues and crankiness, we signed all the paperwork and drove home surrounded by new car smell and dreams of taking such good care of this car we might eventually pass it along to you.

That car became YOUR car.  Sporty, shiny black, dark tinted windows, creamy tan leather interior.  We laughed about you rolling up to daycare in your slick ride, "Hey ladies!  Here comes Peanut in The Peanutmobile!"  I can still see the dents in the backseat leather where your pumpkin seat was installed that first year.  When I glance in the rearview mirror, I still view your giant, toothy smile, right next to your little brother's reflection.

I'll never forget the first time I drove your car after you passed away.  Your car seat was gone.  Your reflection, nowhere to be found.  Where is Peanut? asked the rearview mirror.  The interior was too quiet, aching for your laughter and babbling.

That car knew you.  It still knows you.

And now...Momma has a new car.  A car more suited to yucky St. Louis winter weather, with ice and slick snow.  A bigger, heavier car made to protect Momma and The Pickle - especially during Momma's killer commute.  But, still...this is yet one more door closing.  Sort of.  More like it's left ajar.  The Peanutmobile will now be Dadda's car.  It's not leaving the family, and Momma can still drive it, and visit that reflection in the mirror.

While we completed the paperwork this evening, the finance manager looked at The Pickle and asked, "Is this your only one?"  Oh Peanut, I didn't have the heart.  We will never see this woman again, and, quite frankly I didn't WANT to share you with her.  I hope that decision didn't hurt your feelings.  The decision to share is so situational...this time it just didn't feel "right."

I hope and pray you understand all these changes.  That you watch these events and smile, encouraging us to continue to move forward.  More than anything, I desperately hope you know how much I love you.  How much?  Oh Peanut, to the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut, livin' large on his Tonka Truck.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shark Boy!

Peanut -

Your final Christmas with us - which was only your second Christmas - was filled with "big boy" gifts and monogrammed, personalized items.  Gifts that expected and spoke to a fun-filled future.  Gifts that were given with images of lazy weekend afternoons, and giggly post-work evenings.  Gifts that still evoke images of Peanut at ages 3, 4, 5...years you will never experience.

The wooden step stool with your name carved in bright, wood-block puzzle letters.  The step stool you would have used to reach the bathroom sink to brush all those teeth of yours!

The keyboard with the giant keys and little horns that connects to our television and still begs for a little boy to stand in front of the TV, banging out tunes that trigger various games.  Every time I hit the horn noise by accident, I see your face light up and hear your hilarious cackle.  When you would hit that button, you would quickly turn around to make sure Momma and Dadda were dancing to the music.

The soft bowling pin and ball set that never got set-up or still sits, packed away in its carrying case.  Waiting for you to haul it to grandma and grandpa's house so they could play with you all afternoon, tournament after tournament.

The toddler Lego set that you and I played with during your last two weekends on earth.  Momma still has your final "creation" saved because it was made by YOU.  Your hands.  Your brain.  Your creativity.  It reminds me how much fun you had with that set, and makes me wonder...what wonderful towers and Lego cities would Peanut have created by now?  I imagine a trip to LegoLand would have been in our future...

The soft, butter colored Wells Fargo pony Momma bought at the office, meant to be the first in an annual now has a mate.  The brilliant white pony issued for 2011 with her red saddle.  This will forever be a collection shared by you and Pickle.

The oversized Pottery Barn futon chair with its navy blue, monogrammed slip-cover proudly announcing your name with a little football stitched below...dreams of you playing pee wee football, into high school and maybe even beyond.

The hooded bath towels with your name embroidered across the back of one, and your large initials - CPM - blazing across the other.  I still picture what you should look like, as an almost 3 year old, running around the house with your blue shark towel - teeth and all - propped on your head, arms outstretched like and airplane, chasing the dog and cat.  Bright blonde curls peaking out from under the towel.  I imagine you would be suntanned after a summer spent learning to swim, and swinging on The Perfect Swinging Tree.

Do I call upon these images, these remembered and created stories to torture myself?  No.  Not one bit.  They bring me smiles.  They remind me that we lived to the fullest with you, each and every day.  Every day was packed with joy and laughter.  And love.  So much love.

The time has now come to purchase some toddler towels for your little brother.  I think I'll pick out his very own hooded towel, with his special initials.  Or, maybe his nickname - Pickle.  And someday he will run around the house, towel flying behind him, the dog on his heels.  And, in that moment I will get a piece of you back.

I love you, my little Nutbrown Hare.  Missing you terribly.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympics and Sand Dollars

Peanut -

The 2012 Summer Olympics ended this evening.  After two weeks of sports, celebrations, world records and mindless banter on NBC we bid "farewell" tonight to the summer games for another four years.  Four years.  It seems like such a small window of time.  But, to our family it is more than a lifetime.

You never got to see or experience the summer Olympics.  Happily, we did get to enjoy the 2010 winter games with you, but there is something different and special about the summer events.  Maybe it's because Momma remembers watching those summer games during childhood summer vacations, and thought we would do the same with you.  Maybe it's because Momma was a swimmer and always pictured you following in her footsteps and cheering on the USA swimmers with passion.

Watching the closing ceremonies was bittersweet.  Pickle dozed on my lap, half watching the bright lights and fanfare.  Back to school ads popped in and out during the commercial breaks, reminding Momma that, once again, we face a new school year that won't include you.  And all I could think was, "Gosh, Peanut would have loved this."  At close to three years old, these events would have been exciting, captivating, thrilling for you.

In the midst of this looming sadness, Momma is trying to focus on the joy you brought to our lives.  The blessing of your little brother.  As I write this, I am gazing at a bright white sand dollar I received on Thursday.  Dadda and I drove for two hours to pick up your older brothers and sister from Camp Erin, a grief camp for teenagers sponsored by Annie's Hope (based in St. Louis).  The camp always closes with a lunch, awards and a ceremony filled with meaning for the campers and their families...we are all linked at the heart by our shared grief.  It is powerful, touching, special.

This year we all received sand dollars and were told a story about the magic and symbolism of their design.  Many people of faith know about the "legend of the sand dollar" but what we heard on Thursday was not anchored in one religion.  It was anchored in faith, hope and love.  In grief.  In the power of sharing and community.  As the ceremony ended, we were all asked to focus silently on our one wish for everyone else in the room.

I know what my wish is...

Peanut, I miss you so very much.  I love, love, love you.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fingerprints and Gates

Peanut -

Earlier this week your little brother started crawling.  REALLY crawling.  The delightful kind of movement that requires baby-proofing and gates and extra caution.  The milestone that has begged Momma and Dadda to bring out your "gates."

Right after you passed away Dadda and his friends dismantled and stored your gate system while Momma was away from the house.  It was a protective measure, since the gate system was brightly colored,  FUN and such a symbol of you.  And, Momma never tried to look at, or touch, that system over the last 19 months.

Until today.

Today, Dadda brought the gates out of retirement. He set them up, anchored them to the walls, and reconfigured them based on past lessons learned.

It was a good moment, in theory.  We are now ready for a mobile Pickle, right?

And then I saw the gate system.  Oh. Holy. Cow.

The past and present met in a head-on collision.  I saw the bright, primary colored gates and imagined you.  I played the musical buttons and saw you crawling and hitting those buttons with your hands.  I remember you chewing on the toy telephone and kissing the mirror.


You must still be here.

Your fingerprints.  Your saliva.  Your DNA.  It MUST still be here.

I am a crazy Momma.  Peanut, I searched those gates for you tonight.  I looked for lick marks.  Fingerprints.  Anything I could touch, smell, feel.    

In the end I realized, the power is in my head.  In the memories.  Still, I hugged the gates that seemed to carry some of you via schmeered handprints.  I kissed the prominent one and, I swear, I felt you touch the small of my back.  "It's all good Momma.  I'm watching over you and Dadda.  And Pickle." sweet Peanut, I love you.  How much?  To the MOOOOOOOOON and BACK!

- Momma

Check out the cool "gate" system.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Music of Your Name

Peanut -

Were your ears burning up in heaven today?  I'll bet they were!  Momma and Dadda spent this afternoon telling The Pickle stories about you, sharing wonderful memories, and laughing, laughing, laughing.  Because, that is what your brought to our life.  Joy, love and laughter.

The story session started when we found ourselves at J.J. Twiggs Pizza, the site of one of your famous diaper blowouts.  As we recalled that incident, Dadda and I naturally started remembering and sharing our stories from your other hilarious blowouts, which led to stories about other Peanut antics.  At one point we were both doubled over with laughter, and it hit me - just how far we've come.

This time last year Momma could hardly make it through a Peanut story without breaking down into a puddle of tears.  Locating and holding onto the joy in the midst of that deep fog of grief was simply impossible.

But now I find unspeakable happiness in telling your stories, saying your name, sharing your pictures.  It is one of the great myths that you should avoid asking or talking about someone's child after they have died.  Bereaved parents long to talk about their child.  It shows that people remember.  It helps keep our child alive in the eyes of the world.  It reflects the impact they had on this world.

Peanut, I speak your name and a smile passes across my lips.  I hear music and laughter in your name.  Connor.  Peanut.  My son.

I love you, sweet Connor Peanut.  To the mooooooon and back!

- Momma

Emergency sink bath - post blowout!

Friday, August 3, 2012


Peanut -

Tonight's letter is a rant.  Not to you, but to a part of life that is wearing Momma down.  It has been a long week...

Momma is tired.  Exhausted.  Beyond exhausted, to be precise.  And no one seems to remember - or care - about our path.  Our journey.

I actually had someone complain to me today at work, "I'm tired of all this change.  It's all we've done for the last 9 months.  It just isn't fair."  Really????  REALLY?!  <sigh>

Come see me when you lose your child.  Your son.  The light of your life.

Come see me when everything that meant anything to you was found dead in a crib.  In your nursery.  In what should have been a "safe place."

Come see me when you have to give your own child CPR and the 911 operators are advising you to break his jaw.

Come see me when you have to spend 45 minutes on the phone with the organ donation group for Missouri only to find out your child isn't eligible to donate.

Come see me when you are forced to write your child's obituary.

Come see me when you have to choose - burial or cremation?

Come see me when you have to pick an urn and the inscription.

Come see me when you have to pick up the pieces and create a life.  To move forward.

Come see me when you have found a way to live and dig into the zest of life while still mourning your son.

Then, I will listen to you.  Then we can have a discussion about what's fair in life.

Until that time, I will simply nod my head and grit my teeth.  I will keep in the front of my mind the fact that I love my family...I love and desperately miss my Peanut.

My amazing son...I love you.  To the moon - and back.

- Momma