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 28, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2009. We took Mattie for a walk in the Hospital rose garden and we stopped to take a picture by this beautiful red azalea. A color Mattie and I both appreciated. Mattie preferred being in pajamas during the day time. Rarely was he in clothes while in-patient. This was his choice, which I certainly could appreciate, since the hospital was cold inside and typically Mattie was feeling ill from treatment. Therefore, being in something comfortable and cozy made sense to me. I never fought him on that, and frankly while living in such chaos and with such a crisis, I learned to pick my battles and worried about only the things that mattered.


Quote of the day: My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer. ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson


I spent a great deal of the day working on Walk plans, issues, and other Foundation items. I most likely would never have left our home or the computer today, if my friend Tina did not invite Peter and I to her daughter's school play this evening. Tina's daughter, Leslie, and her fifth grade class, performed a play I never heard of before. It was Twindererella. Twinderella is a children’s comedy by playwright Charlie Lovett. The play is a modern twist on the old story of Cinderella. Twinderella follows not only Cinderella’s story, but also that of her twin brother, Bob. Basically two orphaned children, living with mean guardians, whose lives are running in parallel. However, as most fairy tales do, this play had a happy ending.

I recognized many of the girls in the play tonight, since I met several of them during Leslie's birthday party in February. Some of my faithful readers may recall that I was invited to Leslie's party which entailed a journey to all the great cupcake bakeries in town. So in a way I have seen several of these girls in multiple contexts. The play was lively, the kids were humorous and witty, and the story line moved along very well. It is wonderful to see children being taught about the arts, to see them appreciate live theatre, and to also see them acknowledge the adults in their lives who made this production possible. One of them being my friend Tina, who was the play's coordinator, which I imagine was no easy task given the number of children in this production.

Naturally visiting a school and seeing children doing "normal" things is very bittersweet for us. On one hand we are happy to be included in the lives of our friends, and yet on the other hand it is hard to know we will never see Mattie doing any of this. I do think Mattie would have liked a school play, and I think he would have had fun being a part of a team production like this. Once the play was over, Peter and I stayed behind to chat with Tina and her family and to also help Tina clean up in some way. In the midst of Tina's busy night, she handed me a beautiful artistic pink butterfly she brought back for me from her most recent trip. She did not have to say anything, I knew exactly what the butterfly meant, symbolized, and represented. In a way, Mattie was there with us tonight.

April 27, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2009. It captures the energy and zany way Mattie did physical therapy on the pediatric floor. Without an entourage, all of these great accomplishments would never have occurred. In this scene, you see Linda (Mattie's Child Life Specialist) pushing Mattie's IV pole, which was a feat in and of itself, since the thing weighed a ton, and you had to move it carefully so it did not pull on the broviac or central line coming out of Mattie's chest. However, on the left were Anna (Mattie's physical therapist in purple) and Meg (an amazing child life intern), who became Mattie's racing buddy. Remember at that point, Mattie had 3 limbs operated on (right and left arms, and right leg) and he needed to relearn to walk as well as regain strength. Anna created an obstacle course for Mattie on the pediatric floor, and in this portion of the course he had to use a bat and knock down the animals off the plastic bricks. As you can see Anna was blocking Meg, so that Meg couldn't knock down the animals before Mattie. Perhaps you could have figured this out from looking at the picture, but I not only see the scene in the picture, I can distinctly recall it and its sounds in my mind.


Quote of the day: The purpose of life is a life of purpose. ~ Robert Byrne

My dad sent me this quote, and today my purpose was clearly to learn about the ridiculous permit policies created by the City of Alexandria. Why am I bothering myself with this? Well our Foundation Walk, for the past three years has been held at Mattie's school, which is located in Alexandria, VA. This year the school brought to my attention that I would need to comply with Alexandria City ordinances, which requires anyone hosting an event open to the public on an Alexandria City property (even if it is private property) to file for city permits. That may sound easy enough, after all, in today's day and age, such applications should all be on-line and paying for these permits should be electronic as well. FORGET IT!!! Nothing about this process is easy, streamlined, or can be done electronically. In fact, MOST of the applications are not even available on-line, which means that I will need to visit City Hall and find an individual who is willing to work with me through the process.

Mind you we are NOT talking about just one permit. So far here are the listing of permits I need to apply for and keep in mind each one has a FEE associated with it: 1) Special Events Permit, 2) Fire Prevention Permit, 3) Open Flame Permit, 4) 2 Department of Health Permits for food, 5) Electricity Permit, 6) Temporary Building Permit (this one I LOVE, apparently our Rock Climbing Wall constitutes a temporary building!!!!!), 7) Noise Permit, and 8) A Stage/Riser Permit. Some of these permit offices are not housed together, so it means dealing with different offices and people. In addition, to the permit applications and money, on the day of the event a fire marshal and health inspector will be on site examining our set up and food. If all of this isn't bad enough, I have to tell you that in fees, the Foundation is paying the City of Alexandria at least $1000. Not only do I resent the bureaucracy of this, I particularly despise knowing that money which could be going to helping children and families, is going to support this permit factory.

I am all for protecting the public, but each vendor we bring into our event is a professional, they have their own liability insurance and work very hard to make sure that everyone in attendance is safe and secure. What this is telling me is the City of Alexandria apparently feels that organizations and private companies who provide food and entertainment need to be regulated by them and the bottom line is they care and are concerned about their own liability. I am not sure why other groups are not shouting from the rooftops about this, but I think asking for non-profits to pay such fees is not only unfair, it simply robs charitable groups from effectively meeting their missions. I personally feel this $1000 would be better spent by the Foundation, than by the City of Alexandria, and I resent this time consuming paperwork and legwork that I will need to complete ASAP to qualify for all these permits.

The irony is Mattie's school just found out about the need for permits in the Fall. The school itself has to request permits from the City, even for its own events. Mattie's school is trying to learn the procedures necessary to follow, and in turn they are trying to assist me. But at the end of the day, I am the one who will have to fight City Hall (never thought I would be writing this statement on the blog!). I left messages for people today at City Hall, and naturally no one returned my calls. So I need to find the energy to be pleasantly persistent, but honestly this energy would be better spent planning the walk. There is one of me, and yet I feel like the City is asking me to split myself in half in order to now jump through their hoops.

Nonetheless, I realize the Walk is a vital part of our Foundation fundraising, so the City of Alexandria has got me this year. My first visit to City Hall is on Monday, and with me I am armed with as much information as possible. I feel non-profits work hard enough and asking us to apply for permits adds a whole other layer of complexity. A complexity which I imagine will detract groups from having events in Alexandria City and thereby decreasing non-profits' effectiveness to meet the community's needs.

April 26, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2009. Mattie and I were sitting on the couch posing for a picture before heading to the Mattie March. An event Mattie's team coordinated for him to show their support and friendship. The "March" was a socially and physically taxing day for Mattie but one we will never forget.



Quote of the day: Some things, like a parent's love, do last forever in a time and place where all broken hearts will forever be made whole. ~ Richard Paul Evans


I had the opportunity to begin my morning with Patricia. Patricia is a mom at Mattie's school. In fact, she has twins in Mattie's grade level, and yet while Mattie was in kindergarten I never met Patricia. However, when Mattie battled cancer, Patricia and her family volunteered to work at the Mattie March. Once Mattie died however, their support only grew and continued. Patricia and her family coordinate food and beverages at every Foundation Walk. This is a huge undertaking and a labor of love. Yet Patricia makes it look easy, and pulls it off each year without a hitch. Last year, Patricia suggested we meet for coffee to go over walk plans. I certainly was open to that and wanted to support her in any way that I could. We continued the tradition and had a coffee/tea meeting today, and what I love about this, is in the process we are getting to know each other better. It is always nice to connect with someone and I consider it a priority to get to know anyone who is going to work closely with the Foundation.

After my meeting with Patricia, I went shopping for some last minute raffle basket fillers and while shopping someone called out my name. I am embarrassed to say that I did not recognize this mom initially until she told me who she was. It turns out that Mattie and her son were on the same recreational soccer team together. Alexandria City is a small world, and despite the fact that I live in DC, when I go to Alexandria, I seem destined to run into someone I know. Which is funny since it isn't exactly a small town.

For the past two days, I have picked Ann's son, Michael, up at school since she was visiting a sick relative. Michael and I understand each other, and as soon as he sees me at school, I get greeted with a smile and he is eager to talk. This is a very different greeting than Mattie would give me. In a way, Mattie was like me. After school, he was grumpy, and really did not want to talk. Naturally Mattie was only five and Michael is 12. With Mattie, the way to his heart was to help him into his car seat, give him milk and a snack while driving home from school. It was while he was snacking, that he would eventually begin to talk about his day. Michael and I chat about a host of different things, and also we chat about how certain people make us feel. Needless to say, each day, during the entire ride back to Ann's house, Michael and I conversed and a part of me sits back and wonders.... would it have been like this for Mattie and I if he lived to age 12?

Later in the day, I went to visit Mary, Ann's mom. For the past two or three weeks, we have been reading another Richard Paul Evans' book, The Timepiece. This is the sequel to the Christmas Box, which I read to Mary in March. I had never read the Timepiece, but it was a beautiful short story. I included a link to it below if you would like to read more about it. However, tonight's quote I pulled from the book. It was one of the last lines in the book, and it simply resonated with me. Evans does a great job at portraying the heartache of losing a child in both books, and his characters enlighten the reader that the death of a child changes one permanently. In so many respects one's life completely ends, and you feel shattered and broken. Yet how do you continue to live in this condition? He has no answers, but stating "a place where broken hearts will forever be made whole," is so meaningful to me. Because a parent's love is just that. There is no time or boundaries to it, and therefore broken hearts are repaired or made whole in the radiance of that special kind of love. Even if that love isn't physically present or tangible anymore.

http://www.richardpaulevans.com/books/timepiece

April 25, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2009 at the "Mattie March." As I mentioned before on the blog, Team Mattie is the true creator of our community walks. They created a framework upon which the Foundation has built upon, expanded, and shaped over the years. In fact, many of the key players in the Mattie March are still a part of our Foundation Walk planning committee. In this picture, Mattie sits between his two very close kindergarten buddies, Charlotte and Campbell. My faithful readers may recall that Mattie considered Charlotte his girlfriend and actually gave her a plastic engagement ring, and Campbell is the fellow who I recently mentioned made a donation to the Foundation on Mattie's birthday and also gave me a chocolate bar because he deemed I needed that kind of support. Charlotte always told me she, Mattie, and Campbell were going to go to college together and actually share a dorm room. That comment always made me laugh, but it spoke to the level of closeness this threesome shared. Typically a group of three friends may not work out so well, because one usually can get left out. But that did not happen with these three. It was a special kind of friendship.


Quote of the day: The possibilities for tomorrow are usually beyond our expectations. ~ unknown


Tonight's quote captures the tone of my whole morning. Last night, as I was preparing for my last kindergarten session on Matisse and Picasso, I could never have imagined the actual art work that was going to be created today. It is actually way beyond my expectations. Today's class content addressed the friendship or better stated..... rivalry that existed between Matisse and Picasso. However, like any great nemesis in one's life, there is a strange allure, intrigue, and desire to understand why the other person is better or perceived as better than we are. For Matisse and Picasso, this rivalry became almost an obsession. As obsession that caused each of them to study the other's art. INTENSELY! Not only study it, but adopt some of the techniques and integrate them within their own works. So for example, Matisse was considered the master of color, and therefore Picasso examined Matisse's style and over time, integrated colors, patterns, and textures into his own paintings. In fact, I showed the children numerous PowerPoint slides depicting this and at times it was hard to know which painting on the screen was a Matisse and which was a Picasso, that is because their styles became so well integrated.

The children found the story of these artists' love-hate relationship fascinating. But what needs to be noted is that each presentation I did with the children enables me to be in their classroom for 90 minutes to 2 hours. This is a great deal of time to engage such young minds and bodies, but they soaked it up! You would be amazed at their retention. Can you believe they remember that Picasso's painting style is called cubism? The list goes on as to what they remember. As part of my presentation today, I explained to the children that Matisse and Picasso both loved painting still lives. I then asked them what they thought a still life was. Some of the explanations were fascinating, such as a "person who is alive and not moving." Which is definitely a good guess. But then one little girl said, that a still life captures trees, grass, and flowers. Which of course was absolutely right, still lives, depict mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural (food, flowers, plants, rocks, or shells) or man-made (drinking glasses, books, vases, jewelry, coins, pipes, and so on).


I set up a still life composition in the middle of the classroom. It included a tablecloth, two bowls of arranged fruit, and sunflowers in a colorful vase. The children were then asked to paint what they saw using components of what they learned about Matisse and Picasso. Meaning they could paint this still life based on form and shape like Picasso, or capture the color like Matisse, or integrate the styles like both artists did later on in their careers. Naturally this gave the students a great deal of flexibility and the ability for them to use their imagination. I snapped a picture of one of the four tables working today, and as you can see even though they were all working with the same still life, each creation was UNIQUE!


I wish I took a picture of all 15 creations today. But I did not get the chance to do that. However, I want to show you a sample of some of the amazing art that flashed before my eyes. This painting captured my attention immediately. The colors and shapes were beautiful and you can see that in my fruit bowls I had bananas, limes, lemons, and one large naval orange.

 
I watched a little boy create this painting today and he was clearly giving us his interpretation of what he saw. Very reminiscent of Picasso. In addition, this fellow developed a fascinating way of spluttering the light blue paint on the canvas. It caught my attention, because it gave great depth to his painting.

To me this painting reminds me of Matisse. The colors are bold and fluid. Matisse was labelled a fauvist, meaning that his paintings looked wild. In addition, Matisse sometimes selected colors for objects that didn't obey the natural color or order of things. So a Matisse lemon could be purple for example. In my still life composition there was no pink, and yet based on this artist's vision the flowers and bowls were a vibrant pink.  

This painting also intrigues me because I feel the quality of it is so well done. To me this student has a real feel for capturing the world around him/her and expressing it in art.

This painting may be the most realistic of the paintings seen today. Realistic in that it is true to the color scheme I designed. In addition, I marvel at the intricate details this artist placed on the blue vase. Keep in my mind that my actual vase had painted sunflowers on it! I love the bananas, lime, and flowers too!

This painting reminds me of a Picasso, and yet the colors and pink pattern seem to capture the style of Matisse. What all the paintings indicate to me is that not only do the children like creating, but they actually were able to operationalize what they learned about Matisse and Picasso over the past three weeks. It was a beautiful way to end our time together. 

Within each session, I always bring in a themed snack. Since they learned about still lives today and actually painted fruit, I thought it would only be appropriate for the children to have a fruit buffet. I had Donna survey a couple of days ago the top three fruits in the class. So today, I came armed with their top three: strawberries, pears, and watermelon. In addition, I brought caramel, fudge and marshmallow sauces for the children to dip the fruit into. I provided them with colorful plates and napkins, and literally there were two buffet lines going within the classroom. I can tell you that the fruit was TOTALLY wiped out! It was a hit and some of the comments of appreciation from the students were just darling and will be remembered.

April 24, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 -- Mattie died 137 weeks ago today. 
Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2009. By this point we knew that Mattie's battle was a terminal one. As you can see, Mattie looked very sick here. His eyes were dull and by that point he was in excruciating pain. The black box next to him was a pain pump. He received pain medication around the clock whether at home or in the hospital. Getting released from the hospital to go home was a mixed blessing. It was nice to have privacy and to be in our own home, but it was also downright frightening and overwhelming. The amount of medications we were managing required careful record keeping and since all medication got hooked up to Mattie's broviac (central line coming out of his chest) sterile procedures needed to be followed, otherwise, he would develop life threatening infections. In 14 months time, I developed skills that were absolutely foreign to me, but it is amazing how one can rise to the challenge when pressed. Jenny, Mattie's art therapist, worked very hard that day in clinic to engage Mattie. She brought in a remote controlled dinosaur, which under normal circumstances would have made Mattie happy and smile with excitement. But that day really visually captured the fact that cancer was winning and slowly taking Mattie away from us.


Quote of the day: Your life is what your thoughts make it. ~ Marcus Aurelius

Thoughts most definitely influence one's life and for the past couple of weeks I have been pondering an issue a doctoral student from my Alma Mater brought to my attention. This young woman is interested in getting clinical training in a hospital, particularly working with children with chronic or life threatening illnesses. Naturally from an outsider's perspective that probably sounds great and you are asking so what is the issue?! The issue is it is very challenging for PhD candidates in my geographical area to find a pediatric psychology externship/internship within a hospital. So I naturally began by connecting this student to the clinical staff at Georgetown University Hospital.

Today, I met with the director of pediatric psychiatry, Dr. Matt Biel (who was Mattie's psychiatrist), and Dr. Paul Jones (who heads the HEM/ONC pediatric psychiatry team). Psychiatry has moved offices and it is no longer located on the main Georgetown Campus. So locating the new building was an adventure, but once I found the offices, I realized it was a much better location and space. The offices themselves have huge picture windows looking out onto trees. That alone seemed therapeutic to see. I remember the old building vividly. It had an elevator in it that absolutely scared me. It was the size of a telephone booth and OLD! I always felt when I wheeled Mattie's wheelchair into it we were taking our lives into our hands.

Mattie related very well to Dr. Biel and in some ways seeing Matt today brings back certain emotions. Matt is very interested in my desire to start a clinical training program at Georgetown for PhD candidates, and this is actually a function I would like to see the Foundation help spearhead. As I told Matt today, I can't think of a better way for the Foundation to continue to help meet the psychosocial needs of children with cancer, than by training future clinicians. Matt understands without me saying it that my motivation to help others is always firmly rooted in Mattie's memory and keeping his legacy alive. Before our meeting ended, Matt paused and said... "you know in this light, you look exactly like Mattie." Indeed! We looked a lot alike and I wonder what Mattie would have thought if he was in the room with me today watching me talk to Matt. The beauty about Matt and his psychiatry team is they believe in talk therapy, not just pushing medication and medication management. Which is why I believe this would be a very good training ground for doctoral candidates.

Naturally I understand the complexity of starting such a program, and a lot of information needs to be collected from my perspective from PhD educational programs in my area. But as tonight's quote says... your life is what your thoughts make out of it.

Later in the afternoon, I met up with my friend Ann and we walked almost 4 miles together. I can't even remember the last time we walked together, and with that said, I can't remember the last time I went to zumba. Time for exercising doesn't seem to fit into my daily routine anymore.

After two months of weekly acupuncture, myself and the therapist concluded that it isn't working for me at all. So I had my final session today, and continue to be plagued with daily headaches. I tried to be open minded and really hoped this alternative method would work since I know it has been successful for so many people. But I remind myself, as my neurologist told me, I fall into 2% of the population who have daily chronic headaches. These headaches are rare and much harder to treat than migraines. 

Tomorrow will be my last session in Donna's kindergarten classroom. The last session is also labor intensive because it involves setting up a still life for the children to paint and I also treat the kids to a buffet of fresh cut fruit which they can dip into caramel, marshmallows, or fudge sauces. I figure if they are going to paint a still life, they might as well eat it once they are done! So stay tuned for still life painting pictures on Wednesday.

April 23, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2009 in Mattie's hospital room. Mattie loved claw like toys and typically I was the recipient of the claw. Though it was a toy and at times I did not care to be pinched, I put up with it because this was a good form of exercise for Mattie. Anything that caused him to use his arms and hands I welcomed. When you think of all that Mattie physically endured, you have to just marvel at his energy. Once Mattie began treatment, we lost his 7:30pm bedtime routine. With cancer, very little caused Mattie to sleep, even chemotherapy infusions. Mattie developed what Dr. Shad affectionately called intensivitis. Which means when you are living in a place that is "ON" 24 hours a day like a pediatric intensive care unit, this impacts one's sleep and wake cycle. So much so, that it almost feels as if you are constantly living in crisis and are hyper alert. This "ON" feeling lasted throughout Mattie's 14 months of treatment. I am not  sure how we managed to live on little to no sleep, but I am quite sure this way of living has permanent consequences on one's mind and body.


Quote of the day: He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


This is a very powerful quote indeed, because what it is saying is we all need a purpose to live. Having a purpose motivates us in extraordinary ways. Though this winter and spring for the Foundation have been beyond busy, I have found being busy gives me a purpose. However, my purposes have to produce outcomes or tangibles that I can quantify are helping others. I can put up with almost any kind of busy work if I assess that there is an ultimate benefit. Not necessarily for me, but for the Foundation and those who it is trying to support. This is Foundation Walk planning season, which is an intense time of year for me. However, my mind always leaps ahead and thinks about what happens after May once the Walk is over? The answer is I don't know, and this is always a scary notion for me. Because it means I go from intense Foundation work, to a much more normal schedule. In addition, I also know that summer is approaching and though I love the hot weather, summer is a season that reminds me of Mattie's diagnosis, his start of chemotherapy, and the time of year when most of my friends who have children begin summer plans. For them summer is a busy time of year, filled with kid activities, and for me, well it is no longer that way. 


Yesterday before I left our home, I snapped a picture of Peter in the rain with his plants. Peter has lined the walls of our deck with perennials. He cultivates all sorts of things from roses, gladiolas, to black eyed Susan's. He also has a ton of basil growing as well. I have yet to plant our annual plants and with this cold and rainy weather I am not motivated to be outside at ALL!

Today was another day in which I spent a great deal of time in the car. I drove to Maryland to pick up Miranda Lambert tickets that were donated by WMZQ to our Walk raffle. Then I headed to Northern Virginia to the American Girl store at the mall. One of our raffle items this year features American Girl items and I had some items to exchange. I have never been in the store, so this was a first for me. I walked right into the store and got a salesperson to help me and talk me through the most popular products, since our ultimate goal is to attract little girls to our raffle basket in order to sell tickets and reach our financial goal ($25,000 for Georgetown University Hospital's Child Life Program). Needless to say I had a good time in the store and selecting items. Ironically one of the hot items for this particular doll (who is a gymnast) are crutches and a cast. I had an absolutely visceral reaction to these items and told the salesperson, I wouldn't buy these. Somehow crutches and a cast remind me of children battling osteosarcoma, which is a serious illness and requires great strength and courage to undergo physical therapy. So to me, these items did not belong in our raffle. Nonetheless, by the time I was finished, I can say this doll has every accessory possible! Which should be a little girl's dream.



When I got home, I received this lovely picture by email from my friend Liz. Liz's daughter is in Donna's kindergarten class this year and has sat through two out of my three art sessions. While Liz's daughter was visiting her doctor's office today, she noticed this poster hanging on the wall. Liz said her daughter immediately recognized the art work and told her this was a Matisse. Which is 100% correct! This is Matisse's Red Fish. It is amazing to me what children absorb and process, after all, this was almost a week ago! All I know is at age 5 or 6, I did not know who Matisse was, much less did I know he was the Master of Color!
Receiving this picture made me happy. Happy because I have introduced art to children in an interesting and social-emotional way! But because I feel as an educator (not trained to work with this age group), I am getting my message across and inspiring children to look at the art, color, and shapes all around them!

April 22, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2009. Mattie was sitting on his bed at home and had just lost his front tooth! In his hands was a tooth fairy box. Mattie placed his tooth in the box, and awaited a gift from the tooth fairy that night. Mattie did not want the tooth fairy to leave him money, instead he always had specific requests. So much so, that to spare the tooth fairy any confusion, we always wrote her a note and attached it to the box, so she knew what Mattie's intentions or expectations were! I thought that was an absolute riot. Mattie would request things like a hot wheel car, or one time he asked the tooth fairy for a necklace made out of uncooked pasta. Don't ask! One December (before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer), we took Mattie to Deerfield Beach in Florida to meet up with my parents. Near our hotel was a walking path, and one afternoon, my mom and I took Mattie for a walk. On our journey we went into a shop, and the shop was featuring tooth fairy boxes. I loved the notion and had Mattie pick out a box of his choosing. This box, along with the last tooth that he lost, sits in my nightstand drawer. Along with other important keepsakes of mine!


Quote of the day: The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. ~ Steve Jobs


It was a cold, damp, and rainy day in Washington, DC. My absolutely least favorite kind of weather. Typically on a weekend day like this I wouldn't want to leave our home, but I planned to have brunch with Mattie's kindergarten teacher, Leslie, today. There is probably a reason I gravitated to the field of education as a professional. Teachers are curious about different subject matters, we have the need to find a way to convey information to various audiences, our interests are diverse, and we like to talk and communicate with one another. I grew up living with the ultimate teacher, my mother. Her students and administrators loved her and while growing up, I spent a lot of time with her teacher friends. Spending time with Leslie today, reminded me of those days, and also of my own love for teaching, talking, and connecting.

In our conversation, I learned that Leslie has kept a story Mattie wrote for her kindergarten class. This is absolutely fine with me, since I have a ton of his kindergarten works. Yet what this told me is keeping his writing was important to her and reminds her of the time Mattie was in her classroom. While Mattie was in kindergarten, I visited Leslie's classroom, three times. Once to do a gingerbread project, another time to share with the children a story about a transatlantic journey I took with my family as a child, and the final time was to do a coconut project. Perhaps it is the educator in me, but I wouldn't dream of coming into a classroom, without PROPS! For young ones, I always brought hands on activities, pictures, information, and ALWAYS a snack related to the topic on hand. So if we were learning how to cut open a coconut (which is close to impossible if its husk is still on), I would bake coconut bread for the children to try. I know that Leslie always appreciated my efforts and today we reflected on those visits and the beauty of Mattie.

Besides Leslie being Mattie's kindergarten teacher, she also ran his favorite after school club, construction club. Leslie introduced Mattie to building with everyday objects like cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, bottle caps, etc. That year, Mattie came home with some fabulously creative inventions. He loved being able to work with a hammer, scissors, and a hot glue gun. Fortunately for me, Mattie had excellent fine motor skills and a cautious sense about him, so in my mind he would be safe using these things with supervision. However, as I told Leslie today, construction club taught him life skills. Skills he used each day he was in the Hospital. The skill was the art of creating, building, and entertaining himself with everyday objects. Objects which were also available within the Hospital. Mattie's boxed creations in the Hospital caught the attention of MANY people. So much so, that over time, people would save boxes just for Mattie rather than throwing them out!

In losing Mattie, so many things have changed for Peter and I. Particularly our friendship circles. We no longer have the occasion to interact with our friends at Mattie's school, and the commonalities between us and our friends fade because our glue was Mattie. Our weekends are not busy with weekend events, birthday parties, homework, and the list goes on. We have become empty nesters, and yet age wise, we do not fall into the typical demographics of this group. It leaves us in a quandary at times, feeling isolated, misunderstood, and for me at times angry that my friends have what I no longer do. It is complicated on many levels because this loss comes with memories of a cancer battle, and yet at times, I struggle to remember that I was a mom and that for seven years this was my life and world.