Mattie Miracle 8th Annual Walk & Family Festival was an $88,000 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

Random Shots of Mattie, Family and Friends

April 8, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2008, during Mattie's sixth birthday party. That year we held Mattie's party at a bowling alley and the theme was Scooby Doo. We invited all of Mattie's kindergarten class to the party. Mattie had a great time, despite having a fever by the end of that day. It is hard to believe that three months later, Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. 


Quote of the day: Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. ~ Garrison Keillor


Peter and I ate at Boca Landing last night. It was the perfect setting to say goodbye to the Fort Lauderdale area. The hostess sat us at a banquette facing the intercoastal. We had a lovely evening watching the sun setting and boats going by.  
We took a selfie last night!
This was the sight we saw as the sun was setting. While having dinner, there were many 16 year olds getting on and off boats right in front of us. They were coming to celebrate a friend's 16th birthday. It was an odd feeling to see all these kids, because if Mattie were alive, he would be about their age. Yet in my mind, Mattie is FOREVER 7. 


This was the sight we saw this morning. Each morning we had breakfast on this balcony. I am not sure what I enjoyed more..... watching the water or checking out the people strolling by. There were regulars who exercised in the grassy area you see in this photo. I got so used to seeing a few of them, that I gave them nicknames. 

Peter snapped this photo for me during take off from Ft. Lauderdale. If you look closely you can see many cruise ships in port. 
We said goodbye to the Atlantic. 
As of tonight, we are back in DC. Did a ton of chores and are ready to pick up Sunny and Indie tomorrow morning. Can't wait to see their reactions. 

April 7, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2007, right before Mattie's fifth birthday party. That party was one NEVER to be forgotten. We held it at the National Zoo. The Zoo has a rain or shine policy, and when I tell you it was torrential rain, I am NOT kidding. However, we had the Zoo to ourselves, every animal was out and enjoying the weather and the kids thought walking around the Zoo with umbrellas was a total adventure. The beauty of being a child! That year Mattie had a Lightning McQueen themed cake, since he was in LOVE with the movie, Cars. 


Quote of the day: I don't remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don't even know exist until you love a child.  Anne Lamott


A while ago I bought these socks for Peter. They say "dog lover" on the bottom and at the toes it says, "my dog loves me." Peter wore them today and I know Sunny would approve. 
Each day I monitor how Sunny is doing on Dogtopia's webcam. I am in love with this system, because it makes me feel like I can see him when away and determine for myself how he is doing. However, Dogtopia has sent me periodic text messages with an update on Sunny. Which I appreciate. 















Today is our last day in Florida. Fortunately Peter is feeling better and is able to eat today. We ventured to the Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood, FL. This center has 1,500 acres of coastal mangrove wetlands -- one of the largest urban parks in Florida.




You can see that the board walk took us through swamp like terrain. To our surprise we saw very little bird traffic here. 









There is a 68 foot observation tower at this park. It was quite the walk up!!! 








Here is one of the views from atop of the tower. That is Hollywood in the background. 


The majority of the walk we were in and among the mangroves. You can see why they call them the "walking trees." They have a very sturdy and significant root system. 
We ran across several crabs hanging out in the mud near the mangrove trees. 
Peter snapped a photo of me along our walk. 
Mattie would have loved this! As we were walking, we were joined by a grasshopper. He was springing up and hopping all around us. 
We could hear the pecking of this red bellied woodpecker above us. It was a clear and cooler day today, with NO humidity!

Tomorrow we head home and what I do on the last day of our trip, I record where we went for meals each day, to remind me for future trips. 





Friday -- stay at hotel
Saturday  -- Patio Delray
Sunday -- Tramonti
Monday -- Blue Moon
Tuesday -- Ocean 2000
Wednesday -- Lobster Sea Grille (where Peter got sick)
Thursday -- Chart House
Friday -- Boca Landing

April 6, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2006, during Mattie's fourth birthday party. This party was held at the Riverbend Nature Center in Great Falls, VA. Mattie loved nature and it seemed like the perfect spot to host a party with some of his preschool buddies. That year the theme of the party was dinosaurs. A park ranger did a live animal presentation for the children, took them on a nature walk, and then the children got to excavate plastic dinosaurs out of a very large sandbox. 





Quote of the day: Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ~ Fred Rogers



It was a rough afternoon and night for Peter yesterday. Something from lunch caused him to get food poisoning. Truly horrific when you consider we chose a fine restaurant, which had equally fine prices to match. Needless to say I think Peter is sworn off of lobster for good. Given Peter's fever and that he had all the classic symptoms of food poisoning last night, he is weak today and tired. Not to mention that his throat is very sore and his ribs are aching from vomiting. 


Peter wanted to get out of our hotel room and take a short walk. So we went to Daggerwing Nature Center in Boca Raton. My joke with Peter is that I need to do a guide book for nature lovers because some nature centers and trails are NOT worth visiting. I would list Daggerwing as another one on my "do not go to" list. However, given how Peter was feeling this easy and short walk was perfect for us today. 

As you enter the boardwalk of the nature trail you see this. I would say this is the best sight on the entire journey. Not a good thing to start off on the highest note. 
Within that water area above we saw this big anhinga sitting in a tree squawking. 
We also saw many large turtles!
Not to mention this lovely Great Blue Heron just sitting there waiting to catch a fish. 
 As we walked along the trail, we came upon an observation tower. As we were walking up the tower stairs, we found three vultures (turkey buzzard) just hanging out looking for carrion from this high up perch. 
A view from the tower. You can see the thick green vegetation we saw throughout the boardwalk. Which is definitely wonderful and it gives you a feeling for the various trees that can grow in swampy water. But with that said, the boardwalk really didn't provide an opportunity for birding or viewing other wildlife in the area. 
Another view from atop of the observation tower. 
After walking we went for lunch at the Chart House. This is a restaurant we frequent with my parents and took Mattie to many times. It has an incredible view of the intercoastal. Which is so nice to see while having lunch. 
My favorite thing to eat at the Chart House.... coconut covered shrimp. Needless to say, Peter ate NO fish or shellfish today!

A Mattie Fact... Mattie LOVED shrimp, so much that I called him "shrimp boy." While undergoing chemotherapy, he was introduced to shrimp at a friend's birthday party. Mattie loved it from that point on. He could devour multiple shrimp and given he was so sick, it was thrilling to see him eat anything. 

April 5, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2005, during Mattie's third birthday party. That year he had a Blue's Clues themed party. For the first several years, I had specially designed cakes made for Mattie's birthday (to reflect the theme) at a bakery in Silver Spring. It was a journey for Mattie and I to go and pick up these cakes, but it always signaled that his party was coming! That year, I designed a Blue's Clues treasure hunt game that everyone had a great time participating in! It was also the year I hired a magician to entertain the kids. The magician was a George Washington University student and he even brought his pet bunny, for the magic show, but also for the kids to pet and experience. 


Quote of the day: Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did - that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that - a parent's heart bared, beating forever outside its chest. ~ Debra Ginsberg


Last night at 12:45am, we were awoken out of a deep sleep to the sound of a fire alarm. It was startling and there was an intercom in the room directing us to get out. We literally gathered ourselves and opened the door (after Peter checked the door for heat, and looked out the security hole in the door to see if there was fire) to our room and we located the staircase down. Several of our hall mates were also leaving but some said they were calling the front desk to see if they had to leave their room. One woman told me that the front desk said that the issue was a false alarm in a garage. That made no sense to me, so we proceeded out. 

Once we walked down six flights of stairs and vacated the building, guests seemed confused and didn't know what to do. Peter literally led all of us to the front of the hotel in order to check in with the front desk for information and updates. So a pack of people were following us. The front desk reported that a smoke detector went off in a guest room, but that everything was fine to go back to our rooms. So which is it.... a false alarm in a garage or a problem in a guest room? Peter asked her how do we take the stairs back up to the guest rooms, because with hundreds of people standing around the elevators were going to be full. Literally she had NO answer for us, she didn't know where the stairs were. Again Peter found them and again a group of people followed us up the stair case. When we got up six flights of stairs, I literally found our next door neighbor now in the hallway. She asked me if she had to leave her room because she had a baby sleeping? Honestly! There is an emergency and you have a baby and you are wondering what to do? Fortunately she was lucky this was a false alarm otherwise she and her family would have been in real danger. 

The hotel's management of this potential issue was POOR, and the sad part is a similar incident happened to me years ago when I stayed at this hotel with my parents and Mattie. That false alarm happened at 9pm. So to me this happening twice indicates to me a PROBLEM. What I do know is I am NEVER returning to this property again because to me it has many issues and is managed poorly. 


I forgot to post this photo yesterday on the blog. But Peter and I went down to the beach and created this seaweed creation in honor of Mattie's 15th birthday. In true Mattie fashion we used claimed items from the beach.... seaweed, palm fronds, and sea shells. 





Today we boarded the Carrie B, a sightseeing paddlewheel tour boat. We wanted to find out why Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed the Venice of America and the Yachting Capital Of The World. For 90 minutes we found out why, as we passed homes which sold in the early 1920's for only $4,000 to $8,000 dollars. Today these homes sell for multi-million dollar prices. Try to the 30-40 million dollar range!


Right where we boarded the boat, was the Stranahan House. This House is the home of Fort Lauderdale pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan. Built in 1901 as a trading post and converted into a residence for the Stranahans in 1906, the house is the oldest surviving structure in Broward County. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and today operates as a historic house museum.

The Carrie B is docked in the New River. The New River is a tidal estuary in South Florida, United States. The river is connected to the Everglades through a series of man made canals. After passing through Fort Lauderdale, the river connects to the Atlantic Ocean at Port Everglades cut.












This is the 17th Street Causeway Bridge. A familiar sight to Peter and me. Each time we took a cruise ship out of Ft Lauderdale, we are docked near this bridge. Proceeding south through the 17th Street Causeway Bridge, you enter Port Everglades. On a busy day this port is home to the largest cruise ships in the world. In fact, Ft Lauderdale is known to turn around 46,000 cruise passengers each Saturday and Sunday in the busy season. 

We passed this sight today, but again this is a sight that we definitely recognized. As every cruise ship leaving Port Everglades passes through this channel to get out to the ocean. What I love about these high rises in the distance is they greet every cruise ship that leaves port. They blow horns, ring cow bells, wave signs, and truly make it a memorable send off!

The tour we took today truly did not cover any of Ft. Lauderdale's history. Which is a shame. They focused on homes and yachts. Which is also fine, but at the fast pace they covered them, I can honestly say I don't know much about most of the manisons much less who they belong to! I know the guide rambled through homes now or formerly occupied by Burt Reynolds, Nick Nolte, Gloria Vanderbilt, car dealer Mike Maroone, hot dog impresario Oscar Mayer, Sen. Herb Kohl, the Wisconsin Democrat and heir to the Kohl's department store fortune, and members of the Anheuser-Busch family, makers of Budweiser.

There are two houses that stand out to me from this tour. The first is Wayne Huizenga' house. Huizenga began with a single garbage truck in 1968, he grew Waste Management, Inc. into an entity that would become a Fortune 500 company. Huizenga aggressively purchased independent garbage hauling companies, and by the time he took the company public in 1972, he had completed the acquisition of 133 small-time haulers. By 1983, he grew Waste Management into the largest waste disposal company in the United States.

Huizenga repeated his business success with Blockbuster Video, acquiring a handful of stores in 1987, and becoming the country's leading movie rental chain by 1994. Eventually, he would also build and acquire auto dealerships, from which in 1996 he formed AutoNation, which has become the nation's largest automotive dealer and a Fortune 500 company, and remains his most recent major business venture. 

Huizenga' house has been nicknamed the Lego House. Because it was built in parts, but in all reality it could be called the Lego House because each section within the compound is comprised of a different color. 







The second house that is noteworthy is referred to as the White House. It is an 11-bedroom mansion built in 1938 and lived in for years by the man who made his fortune selling air-conditioning assemblies to car makers. It was listed for $35 million, but then was marked down to $28 million. If you do buy it, we are told you better be prepared to pay more than $600,000 a year just in property taxes. 

Another photo of the White House owned by James L. Hutchings, Chairman of the Board and CEO of S&H Automotive Products. Inc.










I will show you a photo of some of the mansions we saw today. This one is up for sale at 32 million. It has 8 bedrooms, 8 baths, and 20,000 square foot on two acres! 
Another mansion. Keep in mind that all these mansions have docking space in front of them for yachts. I thought it was a riot to know that many of these millionaires have yachts but don't always use them. They RENT them out, try for $300,000 a week or more. This doesn't include the staff and food!
This mansion had a Mediterranean feeling at one time but the owners did not care for it so they stripped it of its character. In the process they made a mess out of this house.  
We learned that many of the palms in front of these houses cost $15,000 each!
Another one. I can't say how this tour made me feel. I do know the tour left me agitated. I am not sure why. If I could afford such a house, I wouldn't buy it here. To me it is like living in a goldfish bowl with boats passing by and looking into your house. I also think what these folks pay in taxes, what they pay for their yachts and the list goes on could be used for better causes. 

This is bahia mar, which apparently is a sought after place to dock your boat. People pay $7 per foot a DAY to dock here. Keep in mind most yachts here are over 100 feet. So at the very least people are paying $700 a day for docking and ships of this size need crew (try 18 people at the least) who live and work on the ship daily. 



April 4, 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 -- Mattie would have been 15 years old today! 
Mattie died 394 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken in April of 2004, right before Mattie's second birthday party. My mom snapped this photo! Ironically I do not have many photos of the three of us together, therefore this photo is very special to me. Mattie had a train themed birthday party that year. Mainly because he was in LOVE with trains, and all things with wheels. Unlike his first birthday, Mattie had a good time at his second party and understood why there were so many people gathered and having fun. At all of Mattie's parties I always planned a special book to read aloud and lots of games and activities for the children. 



Quote of the day: Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you, and their souls the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands. Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God. Be a person in whom they can have faith. When you are old, nothing else you've done will have mattered as much. ~ Lisa Wingate


It is hard to believe that Mattie was born 15 years ago. As of today, we have celebrated more birthdays without Mattie, than when he was alive. That is a challenging reality to face for any parent. How do you even acknowledge such a day!? It is a great question. The answer for us is always to be out of town, as there are no birthday parties to plan and for the most part with time people forget. Not on purpose, but it happens, yet for us, we never forget. Not just holidays and milestone moments, but everyday. Everyday, because cancer has robbed us of a future as a family each and every day. 

I posted a remembrance on Facebook today and I tried to recall all the special characteristics that describe Mattie. There are so many, but here are a few:

  • bright
  • curious
  • engaging
  • humorous
  • a good friend
  • loyal
  • a little engineer (as he liked to disassemble his toys and put them back together)
  • loved nature
  • loved collecting acorns, leaves, stones, shells, pinecones, etc
  • loved Legos (and could build just about any lego kit)
  • loved constructing with cardboard boxes
  • loved music
  • loved to paint and use clay
  • loved vanilla frosted donuts and vanilla ice cream
  • loved bugs, especially ones that scared me
  • loved anything with wheels
  • loved to sing and to be sung to
  • was called Mattie Moon in preschool
  • always included the sun in all his creations (which is why the sun and moon remind us of Mattie)
  • and the list goes on....................................


Peter and I went to Butterfly World today. It opened in 1988, and is the largest butterfly park in the world, and the first park of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The facility houses around 5000 live butterflies.

Butterfly World is a park we ventured to many times with Mattie and my parents. I am not sure what is more captivating the butterflies, the flowers, or the piped in classical music. All I know is the three combined make it a heavenly, peaceful, and moving experience. You are greeted at the entrance to the park with music and these beautiful bougainvillea. 

Once inside the butterfly house, it looks like this. You are able to freely move about while thousands of butterflies are floating about. The whole thing is screened in to protect the butterflies. But imagine strolling through this and listening to music that evokes feelings that transport you to a simpler existence for two hours. 
Peter snapped some wonderful photos of butterflies, flowers, and birds we saw along our journey.
Another beauty. Butterfly World does a good job educating its visitors about all stages of the metamorphosis process, which is most likely why a school group was touring the facility today. 
Two white monarch butterflies. 













This butterfly is called a piano key, maybe because of its black and white stripes at its base. 
 This is a Gouldian Finch from Australia. 













This cutie was traveling around with a feather in his beak. Helping to build a nest.  
To me these are the "triplets!" They hung out and flew around together. 
I had a butterfly visitation today. 
Amazing colors, no? What I love about this butterfly is that you can really see how it evolved from a caterpillar. Look at its body!
A passion flower. The park is filled with incredibly unique and colorful flowers, vines, and trees. 


This flower has a woody vine that has unusual blossoms. Roman Catholic priests of the late 1500's named it for the Passion (suffering and death) of Jesus Christ. They believed that several parts of the plant, including the petals, rays, and sepals, symbolized features of the Passion.
On Mattie's visits to Butterfly World, he and Peter always fed the lorikeets. These birds are medium sized arboreal parrots characterized by their specialized brush-tipped tongues for feeding on nectar of various blossoms and soft fruits, preferably berries.











In Mattie's memory, Peter fed the Lorikeets today. Something Mattie would have approved of!
Peter even jumped on the bouncing suspension bridge. Another Mattie favorite!
On our way back to the hotel, I got a caramel sundae from McDonald's. Another Mattie favorite. Mattie HATED chocolate, and loved vanilla ice cream and caramel.