Mattie Miracle 10th Anniversary Walk was an $119,000 success!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.


As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter



The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

April 7, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006 at Mattie's fourth birthday party. This was the first party we had for Mattie outside of our home. We held it at The Riverbend nature center and the theme that year was dinosaurs. The park did a wonderful job of leading us all on a nature trail, having the kids dig for plastic dinosaur bones, and even getting to hold turtles and snakes. Peter snapped this picture of Mattie and I together right before Mattie blew out his candles. As you can see, Mattie was talking to me about what he was going to wish before blowing out the candles.


Quote of the day: A person starts to live when he can live outside himself. ~ Albert Einstein


It is hard to believe that tomorrow we are driving back to Washington, DC. Five days away went by too quickly, especially when considering that it takes me at least five days just to de-stress a bit. Of course being away and not working on things full-time is a mixed blessing and causes both Peter and I to reflect more upon our grief. It seems like vacation times produce great amounts of sadness and depression, even more so from regular everyday life. If that is even possible. I believe this is the case because for seven years we always went on family trips, like kid focused activities, and saw the world through Mattie's eyes. Now when we go on vacation, the adventures are just not the same, and naturally we can't help but notice all the families and children around us playing around or on this particular weekend celebrating Easter/Passover together. As I have all week, I will describe our day through the pictures below.


Last evening, we went out for our usual walk at dusk. I love going out at that time of night, because chances are high that we will see bunnies. We certainly weren't disappointed last night. Peter captured some wonderful bunny shots. He got so close to this bunny, that the bunny almost seemed domesticated!

Peter took a whole series of photos of this bunny grazing. I am only sharing two in the series with you, but you can see how beautiful this bunny was, and how comfortable she was around Peter.

Along our walk last evening, we heard this bird with his amazing voice. We looked all over for him and finally I spotted him high up on a holly tree. This fellow is a Northern Mockingbird, with an absolutely INCREDIBLE voice. He stopped me in my tracks, and he was very persistent!

This morning, despite the wind, we took a walk on Bethany Beach. The beach is pristine and unpopulated which makes it seem like a wonderful getaway in which you can appreciate the unspoiled nature around us.

Peter took several beach photos this morning. While we were walking we did pass by an occasional neighbor walking his/her dog on the beach. The dogs absolutely love the sand and they just seem so happy to be outside and by the water. The irony about this was every dog came up to greet Peter, so I have nicknamed Peter "the dog magnet!"

As we are walking along the beach, on one side we are seeing the Atlantic ocean and on the other side we are seeing these beautiful houses. This beach offers something for everyone's eye. I love passing by the houses, seeing how they are painted, decorated, and cared for, and imagining who lives in each house. I feel that a house does reflect a person's style and personality, and I have a good old time envisioning what some owners must be like.


I entitle this picture, "beach prints." Because there are not many people visiting the beach at this time of year, it is easy to capture bird prints on the sand. I followed these tracks for as far as the eye could see.

Today, we drove to Rehoboth Beach, which is about 20 minutes away from where we are staying. As you enter into the town, there is a wonderful replica of Rehoboth Lighthouse welcoming you in.

We had lunch in Rehoboth and then walked the main thoroughfare which is filled with all sorts of shops. I am pictured here on Rehoboth's Pier, with Dolles (a salt water taffy store) behind me. What you may not be able to see was the boardwalk was crowded with people and DOGS. At times we weren't sure what there was more of on the boardwalk, people or dogs! Some dogs were even dressed up in t-shirts and YES DRESSES!


As we were walking through the town of Rehoboth, we came across this very unusual tree. The tree has the shape of a pine, but the spiky leaves of a cactus. To me the tree looks like some type of agave, but since I can't classify it on the Internet, I do not have the exact name to give you. Nonetheless, I can safely say I have never seen anything like it.

On the doorstep of one store, was this huge bundle of plastic wrap. However, when you look at this wrapping you realize it was in the shape of a bunny. I love the whimsy of this "Rehoboth Easter bunny."

Later today, we went back to the beach to walk. I was bundled up in sweaters, a coat, and my walking shoes. But we were determined since seeing the ocean is a special sight for us. While walking, we started talking about Mattie again. Our conversations however, produce no answers to all our many questions, and at times it is very easy to get very low and down. If you think our feelings are unusual, and that other parents who lost a child are in better shape and adjusting better, I would beg to differ. It isn't possible to lose a child and ever be better, what the difference may be is how open a parent might want to be with others or the public about the impact of this loss. We walked further this afternoon along the beach, and we passed this Red house. This house caught my attention. The color, its huge windows, and its square footage were beyond impressive. The house almost looks like two or three houses in one.

I am signing off from Bethany. Thank you for sharing in our journey this week. We wish all our readers a very happy Easter and Passover, and the next time you will be hearing from us, will be back in Washington, DC.

April 6, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2005 at Mattie's third birthday party. The theme that year took us away from the color red (seen at his first two parties), and featured the color BLUE. That was because Mattie LOVED the TV show, Blue's Clues. Mattie had a Blues' Clue party, which included 3 clues and notebooks. I had the kids roaming all around our home for clues and just like on the show, when they found the clues they came back to our living room to "think" together and solve the mystery of what Blue wanted to tell Mattie on his birthday.   

Quote of the day: Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. ~ Helen Keller


Peter and I were both in less than happy moods today. It was 57 degrees and very windy, and when I saw this outside when I awoke, I wasn't motivated to get dressed and do anything. So I turned to my computer and developed the Mattie Miracle Walk flyer for this year. Though we are technically on vacation, I haven't been able to get away from my Blackberry at all, and I attribute this to the fact that I am in essence running a small business. The Foundation, in order to be successful, must be run like a business, and as such, people contact me at all hours of the day, and expect a timely turn around to their messages. Not having a staff makes this rather challenging, and therefore, I feel compelled to always be on. This morning while working on the flyer, I received a call from a reporter at Georgetown University Hospital, who wanted to interview me regarding the Foundation's contribution to the snack cart (which offers free snacks to inpatient families), particularly focusing upon the incredible chocolate donations we have made to the cart in July and October of 2011. After working this morning, I could see Peter was restless and wanted to get out and do something, so we decided to head to Lewes, DE. Again, I will tell you about our day through photographs.



Last night, I received a text message from Marisa. Marisa is our bake sale coordinator at our Mattie Miracle Walks, and she also assisted me with Mattie when he came home between cancer treatments. Marisa wanted me to know that she saw an amazing Mattie Moon in New York. As I was reading this, Peter went outside on Ellen's deck and looked for the moon as well. Here is the Mattie Moon over the Atlantic that we saw last night.


As we entered Lewes today, we saw this cute replica of Lewes Lighthouse welcoming its visitors. Lewes was the earliest settlement in the state, and because Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, the town refers to itself as "The First Town in the First State." Lewes was the site of the first European settlement in Delaware, a whaling and trading post that Dutch settlers founded on June 3, 1631 and named Zwaanendael (Swan Valley).

This is what the quaint town center of Lewes looks like. The street is lined with shops, antique stores, and restaurants. For a few moments, shopping and browsing crafts and antiques took our minds off of our thoughts of Mattie.

Peter and I had lunch together at the Buttery. The Buttery is located in this charming Victorian home and we sat outside on their patio, which was enclosed and heated. Surrounding the Buttery was a beautiful garden filled with all sorts of tulips. At lunch we began talking about the funk we were in. However, this conversation was short lived, since it can easily lead us to feeling teary eyed. Once we start crying, it is sometimes hard to stop, and it is also hard for others to understand exactly what our issues are. Not that it is their business, but calling attention to ourselves is definitely not our ultimate goal while having lunch.


As we were leaving the Buttery, I noticed this beautiful floral display for Easter. So naturally I pulled out my camera and started snapping pictures. The manager at the store came up to chat with me and I think she was happy that I thought her composition was attractive, since she just put it together.

As we were walking through the town, outside one of the houses, were lilacs. There is nothing like a lilac, they are intoxicating. I stopped to smell this blossom, and I pulled Peter over too so he could experience it.

Lewes is a very picturesque, small, and serene town filled with parks. This is just one of the parks I snapped a picture of. The town is filled with glorious spring trees.... cherry, dogwood, Chinese maple, Redbuds, and the list goes on.

Lewes has beautiful Victorian architecture, and I entitle this picture, "The Yellow lady."

This beauty is "The Pink Lady!" I am only sharing two house photos with you, but these painted ladies are everywhere throughout Lewes!

This photo has absolutely NOTHING to do with Lewes.  Through the colorful flags, you maybe able to see that there is a purple store whose name is "The Fractured Prune." The Fractured Prune has been a running joke with Peter and I for two days now! Actually this company is a franchise, and honestly when I first saw the store I had NO IDEA what the Fractured Prune could possibly sell! It turns out that the store sells homemade donuts. I was so perplexed by the name of the store, that I googled it tonight and found out this touching story behind its VERY ODD name. I love food, but the words "fractured" and "prune" do not lend themselves to anything appetizing to me.


How the "Fractured Prune" got its name.......................... Back in 1976 when Tom Parshall purchased Josh's 46th Street Market, he was thinking about a new name for his enterprise. Several friends gave him suggestions, but he felt they all lacked imagination & individuality. He had been reading through the abstract of the land he purchased, and an unusual name caught his eye. Back in the late 1800's a woman named Prunella Shriek had owned much of the land in that area. Tom didn't think too much about it until one day he was browsing through the Baltimore Library and came across a book titled "Ocean City Love". As he looked through it, he was thrilled to see Prunella Shriek's name with a paragraph devoted to her. Even though she was in her seventies, she was the only woman who competed with men in traditionally men's sports such as ice skating races & skiing competitions. She was an excellent tennis player, and was county ping-pong champion circa 1895. Being older and somewhat brittle, she often returned from some of the more vigorous competitions in a wheel chair or on crutches. Thus the townspeople began lovingly to refer to her as "Fractured Prunella." When Tom read this, a voice in his head said, "Hello", he would name his enterprise after this wonderful & spunky old lady, and call it "The Fractured Prune®".

While driving back from Lewes, we had to cross over the new Indian River inlet bridge to get into Bethany. This bridge recently opened and cost the State of Delaware $150 million. This bridge replaced the old bridge and its radical change in design from the original bridge means that all supports are out of the water, so erosion caused by salt water to the structural elements will not be a problem. This bridge reminds me of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge in Boston, MA.


Each night, Peter and I go out bunny seeking. Peter caught on camera this wonderful bunny! A real Easter sighting.... I just wish he brought Cadbury Eggs with him!

April 5, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2004, at Mattie's second birthday party. My mom snapped this picture of the three of us before the party began. That year Mattie had a train party. If you look at this picture in comparison to the picture from last night (Mattie's one year old party), you will see the common color theme, which always involved red. Mattie gravitated to trains, cars, planes, and anything that involved mechanical motion. Mattie had definite likes and dislikes, and picking his party themes was always easy. The first year birthday theme was Elmo, and the second year was trains. You will find out about his third birthday tomorrow night.

Quote of the day: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love, but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday. ~ Kahlil Gibran


As I find is always true with me, special Mattie occasions (a birthday, a holiday, the day he died, etc..) are naturally challenging, but it is the days after these occasions that I find particularly troubling. Perhaps it is because I brace myself for the actual day, almost numb to feelings in order to make it through. However, once the day is over, the reality of it sets in. That reality hit me last night around midnight, and then I found I couldn't go to sleep until after 2am. This morning, my mood continued and the fact that it was grey and chilly outside, did not help matters in the least. Again, I will describe our day through the pictures below.


We ventured to the Assawoman Wildlife Refuge State Park. I don't know about you, but this name troubles me immensely. So much so, that I looked up the derivation of the name.
"Assawoman...The name is Indian and the two opening syllables (assa-) seem to be from either Algonquian acaw- 'across,' or Algonquian asaw- 'brown, yellow.' For technical reasons the rest of the word cannot be satisfactorily solved, and the full meaning of assawoman remains unknown."


The Assawoman Wildlife Area remains one of the best-kept secrets along the Delaware-Maryland coast. The preserve was created from 9 farms, ranging in size from 30 to 325 acres. All were lost during the Great Depression and purchased by the U.S. Forest Service. Assawoman has been managed as a wildlife area since 1943. Today, we took an auto tour of the park which was designed by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Numbered, wooden stakes along the edge of the dirt road guided us. One of the stops was called "Strawberry Landing." This is what it looked like!


At Strawberry Landing, is a wonderful pier that juts out over the water. I snapped a picture of Peter on the pier. But the special part was standing on the pier and looking out at the water and hearing the sounds it made as it hit the pier. This notion wouldn't have crossed my mind, until Peter told me to stop moving and just listen! It was a very special sight and sound. Almost as if we were one with the water.

In October of 2010, Peter and I went with my parents to the Grand Canyon. Along that journey, I learned about the Ponderosa Pine. Today, as we were driving through the state park, I had Peter stop the car, because to me these looked exactly like the trees we saw at the Grand Canyon. Indeed they were! The park had Ponderosas as far as the eye could see. The bark of Ponderosa Pine helps to distinguish it from other species. Mature individuals have cinnamon-red bark with black crevasses. Younger trees have black to reddish-brown bark. The tree can often be identified by its characteristic long needles that grow in tufts of two or three, depending on subspecies. Its needles are also the only known food of the caterpillars. Sources differ on the scent of the Ponderosa Pine. Some state that the Ponderosa Pine has no distinctive scent, while others state that the bark smells like vanilla if sampled from a furrow of the bark.

As we continued our journey we came along this observation tower. It was about 50 feet off the ground, and Peter stopped the car and we climbed up!

As I approached the tower, I joked with Peter that my name was already on the structure. I do not like people defacing public property, so it is atypical of me to take a picture of this, but I was in that kind of mood today.

I snapped a picture of Peter climbing up the tower. He always leads the way on things like this, which is funny, because based on his commentary as he climbs, this helps me determine whether I will be following him or staying down below.

On the top of the tower, Peter took a picture of me freezing! Peter was wearing shorts, and I was wearing two sweaters underneath my blue fleece.

Behind me in the picture above, was this beautiful and lone swan. Not a sight I was expecting to see!

From the tower we could also see this wonderful marsh.

At the end of our journey at the Park, we came to a landing which gave us a bird's eye view of Fenwick Island Lighthouse in the distance. The second lighthouse I have seen in two days.


We then headed to the Bethany town center. Greeting us as we entered the town is "Chief Little Owl."
The 24-foot statue at the downtown entrance to Bethany Beach has been a landmark since 1976. The original statue was created by sculptor Peter Wolf Toth, a humanitarian who wanted to give thanks to the United States. The sculpture was donated to the Town as part of his “Trail of the Whispering Giants” project. He created more than 50 wooden sculptures of famous Indians and donated at least one to every state. He also has some located in Canada. The first statue stood from 1976 until weakened by termites, it was destroyed by high winds in 1992. The remains were relocated to the Nanticoke Indian Museum in Millsboro, DE. Today, only the sign remains there, hanging under a portrait of Chief Little Owl. The second, done by sculptor Dennis Beach, lasted until 2000, when rot forced the Town to take it down. Toth created this newest version from a red cedar log from the Pacific Northwest which should last from 50 to 150 years. It was dedicated on July 15, 2002. During the ceremony State Senator George Bunting, D-Bethany Beach, said “it’s a landmark that says ‘you’re in Bethany’ and it pays honor to the Nanticoke nation. It ties us to our heritage.” Charlie Clark, a descendant of Little Owl, blessed the sculpture in traditional fashion with song, prayer and tobacco.


Easter has clearly hit Bethany. I thought the plastic colorful eggs hanging from the trees were adorable.

While eating lunch, I could see these amazing beds of Tulips in the town.

I would like to end tonight's posting with three more messages I received regarding Mattie's birthday. The first message is from our friend and Mattie's oncologist. Kristen wrote, "I can't imagine how you spent your day today...but please know I was thinking of you. I know no matter what you did, who you saw, or what you chose not to do, it was a difficult day for you. I wish somehow I could have reached out and given you both hugs of support. I mailed a care package for you in honor of Mattie's Birthday complete with "Cars" Band-aides. I'm not sure when it will arrive but at least you will know it is on its way. I miss you both incredibly and am thinking of you on this day which I can only think of as bittersweet. Bitter because it is Mattie's 10th birthday and he should be here celebrating with you. And sweet...because of the sweetness Mattie brought to this world and the sweetness of his cheek against yours and the sweetness that through you Mattie continues to give to others."

The second message is from our friend and Mattie's sedation nurse angel. Debbi wrote, "Yesterday was so busy I never got to my computer to send you an email of love and remembrance. Work was busy, but Mattie and you were on my mind. I was all over the hospital, and kept picturing Mattie there. The battle he and you all went through here is rarely far from my mind when I'm at work. Every time I wrote the date I thought of you all. I hope you and Peter both made it through the day knowing how much you are loved and how much Mattie's short life has impacted so many!"

The third message is from a newest friend, who is a social worker who we have had the wonderful opportunity to work with twice, once at the DC Palliative Care Conference, and most recently she was our co-facilitator at the Foundation's Symposium parent panel. Kristen wrote, "I know I am a day late, but I wanted to let you know Mattie did cross my mind many times yesterday. I just didn't get this e-mail written to you on the day of his Birthday. My apologies... I hope that you and Peter got through the day okay, and in a way that you felt honored Mattie. From your blog post it certainly seems that you did. And how amazing is it that Mattie, in his 7 short years on this earth touched so many lives. The e-mails that you received and the special ways your friends (and Mattie's friends) remembered him are astounding. What a special boy he must have been. I only wish I had the opportunity to meet him. I think I have told you many times before, but Mattie's story, and yours and Peter's has touched me in a profound way. I am inspired by you and Peter...by what you do for others....by the kindness you each exude...and simply by who you are."

April 4, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 -- Mattie's 10th Birthday!


Tonight's picture was taken at Mattie's first birthday party. Mattie was a HUGE Elmo (Sesame Street Character) fan, and therefore it just made sense to decorate and do an Elmo themed party that year! Mattie always loved the color red and where ever Mattie was in our home, he would stop in his tracks to hear Elmo. As you can see in this picture, Mattie was fascinated by his Elmo cake and literally was reaching out for it, most likely to put his hands right into the frosting.


Quote of the day: The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers, and cities; but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us, and though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden. ~ Goethe


There were two options for today. One was either to bury one's self in thoughts and sadness, or two, try to do something with the day. Since Peter was already up by the time I awoke, that motivated me to get moving and see what he wanted to do today. As it is Mattie's tenth birthday, I can't help but realize that our day would look very different if he were alive. Instead we have to remove ourselves from our daily reality to be able to cope with the profound nature of the day. I want to thank so many of you for contributing to the Foundation between yesterday and today in honor of Mattie's birthday and of course for all the emails of remembrance. I will explain our day through the pictures below.  


Yesterday while driving to Delaware, we passed rows and rows of beautiful forsythia along the road. Typically we do not see the forsythia because of the time of year we visit the area, so this was a real visual surprise.


Those of you who know me well, know I love black and white cows. I have for the longest time, I am not sure why, perhaps it is the contrast of color. As Peter was driving yesterday on our journey, I managed to take this photo. I am surprised that it wasn't blurry especially since the car was moving.



Last night, at dusk, we walked through Ellen's neighborhood. I like to walk at that time of day because without disappointment, I always see bunnies. Last night, this huge bunny was crossing the road, and I snapped a picture! Mattie would have absolutely LOVED this! I remember one year we rented a house in Duck, NC. The house was in a neighborhood with a lot of vegetation. At dusk, the bunnies would come out, and Mattie simply loved this special treat. A treat that we would never be able to see living in the heart of Washington, DC. So in honor of Mattie, we go bunny seeking at dusk!

After spotting the bunny, we then walked to the ocean. Mattie Moon was there right above the ocean to greet us!
This is the first sight Peter saw this morning, which rang in Mattie's birthday. This was the sunrise Peter could see from Ellen's deck.
    
When I got up this morning, Peter encouraged me to take a walk on the beach. Some people need coffee in the morning to function, I need a hot shower. So it was a first for me to just fling on clothes and go out walking. But I did it. Along our journey, we were greeted by a seagull who seemed to be the welcoming committee to the beach. While walking, I spotted a horse shoe crab stuck in the sand, with no possible way to get back into the water. So Peter picked up this fellow, and walked him back to the ocean. Several residents were on the beach, and apparently were watching us. They later came over to thank us for a job well done! Rather funny I think!!!


Though I felt lethargic, Peter suggested we try to bicycle ride on Cape Henlopen State Park. We did this last May and enjoyed it so much that I was happy to do it again. With an admission fee to the park, you can get access to bicycles for free which is a lovely way to see the park.

Along our bicycle ride, we saw such lovely scrub pines and other beach-like vegetation that instantly alerted us to our new terrain.  

Along the bicycle path, I saw this beautiful forsythia bush and jumped off the bicycle to get a picture with it. The forsythia makes Cape Henlopen look like it is glowing!

At the end of our bicycle journey, we saw Lewes Light! This was a first for me, since last May we did not make it this far along the trail. I am a lighthouse affectionato, I love their history, their structure, the stories behind them, the families and people who operated them, and of course the fact that they are considered the guardians of the sea.

After bicycle riding, Peter took me to Dairy Queen. If you want to see an instant smile on my face, you just need to buy me ice cream. We had vanilla ice cream in honor of Mattie! As we were driving back to Ellen's home, we passed a lovely farm, with its beautiful irrigation system working its magic.

This afternoon, I prepared lunch, and we took it with us to the beach and sat, watched the waves, and ate. While walking to the beach, with camera in tow, I snapped a beautiful flower bed which I entitle, "spring has sprung!" I just loved the composition and colors.
When I got home from the beach today, I received a fluttering of emails from my friend Tina. In one email, Tina sent me this picture and in the body of the message it said, "love you!" What this means, was it is a message of love from Mattie. As Tina knows, I seem to connect the sighting of butterflies with the spirit and presence of Mattie. So today I received an electronic message of love.

However, the pictures from Tina kept coming. She then sent me pictures of bees! Mattie loved all kinds of bugs, and I was trying to determine what these pictures were trying to tell me. Then I received a couple of text messages from Ann. She was sending me pictures besides Mattie's remembrance tree. So I put two and two together and realized Tina and Ann were together.

Tina went to a floral supply store and found these charming and playful bugs in honor of Mattie. Tina is a very sentimental type like myself, and she took it upon herself to find a way to acknowledge Mattie's tenth birthday. What better way than by going to Mattie's oak tree and decorating it with bugs. Ann and Tanja joined Tina as they remembered Mattie together! This is a fascinating oak tree. In the winter it does NOT lose its leaves. The leaves dry out red, but they never fall off the tree. Then in the spring, I suppose the old leaves fall off and the new leaves are born. But this tree is NEVER barren. As my faithful readers know, I have nicknamed Mattie's tree the Twinkling Tree. Over the years, I have placed many wonderful ornaments on it, that the tree has a glimmering life of its own!


When the kindergartners saw Tina, Ann, and Tanja, decorating the tree, they came over to help and admire the tree.
Here is a picture of the Twinkling Tree! You may be able to see the blue butterflies on it that I made in honor of Mattie's second anniversary (September 8, 2011), and red pine cones I placed on the tree for Christmas of 2011. However, the tree also hosts origami cranes that my dear friend Junko and her mom made for Mattie's first anniversary of his death in 2010, a bird house my mother-in-law gave me for the tree, a wind chime, and a beautiful golden butterfly our preschool friend Erica gave us for the tree in Christmas of 2010. All the pieces on this tree have meaning. Which is why Tina's gesture today to add bugs is so thoughtful and symbolic. Mattie does not have a grave site, but the symbol of his life is alive and well on his school's campus. A symbol which can be visited not just by us, but by all who knew and loved him.


Ann sent me this beautiful picture today. This plaque sits right by Mattie's tree, but the new addition to it were all the playful bugs around the plaque. Mattie would have thought this was very funny, but I look upon it not as funny, but as the impact my son had on the adults in his life.


I would like to end tonight's birthday posting with some of the messages I received. The first message came to me yesterday from Mattie's head of school. Joan wrote, "I know that Mattie's birthday is tomorrow. His light still shines brightly at our school! Thinking of you and Peter."

The second message is from Katie, a Child Life specialist at Georgetown University Hospital who has been working closely with me and the Girl Scouts. Katie wrote, "Just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you today since it is Mattie's birthday. Even though I never met Mattie, I feel like I am getting to know him through you both. He was such a lucky boy to have such great parents. Thank you for all you do for the Child Life department at Georgetown. You both continue to amaze me in all that you do for us and the families that we service. I hope you are enjoying your time at the beach!"



The third message is from Mattie's art teacher. Debbie wrote, "Thinking of you on Mattie's birthday and most every day!"


The fourth message is from our friend Debbie, who also happens to be our co-chair of the children's activities committee for the Foundation Walk (three years in a row!). Debbie wrote, "We Keefe's are thinking of Mattie on his birthday. Thank you for the lessons you teach us about how to live life . What a wonderful tribute to your son!"


The fifth message is from our friend and instrumental leader of Team Mattie. Alison wrote, "You are in my thoughts and prayers, everyday, but never more than on special occasions, like today. Hard to believe ten years have passed since Mattie was born. I'm sure in some ways it seems like yesterday, in some ways like a million years ago, and in still other ways, as though it was all a dream. I know that it will be a very difficult day, but I hope that you are able to remember the happiness this day brought you with the arrival of your special angel - the joy and smiles and even the tears. Here's hoping Mattie is smiling in heaven, surrounded by vanilla frosted cupcakes."


The sixth message is from my friend and freshman college roommate. Leslie wrote, "I've been following all your wonderful foundation activities on your blog. You should be very proud and exhausted! I got up this morning and realized it was the 4th and thus Mattie's birthday. So I wanted to send an email to let you know I am thinking of both of you today."

The final message is from our friend and Mattie Miracle Board member. Tamra wrote, "Today is the birthday of a beautiful boy who impacted so many with spunk, genius, sweetness, tough, bravery, cupcake connoisseur gregarious, lost too soon. Ken, Louise, Meredith and I honor his birthday and will never forget our friend. In memory of Mattie. We love you with all of our hearts."