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

December 23, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2006. Mattie was four years old and clearly got the art of smiling for the camera. In all of our Christmas card photos, Mattie featured an adorable sweater! In addition, you can see Mattie's Christmas train riding around the tree on its track. Mattie loved that train and from that year moving forward, Mattie's train always surrounded our tree. It became a tradition.
 
Quote of the day: The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood. ~ Richard Paul Evans



Today was a day at sea, and tomorrow we dock in Miami. Amazing how fast a week goes by. Peter and I had a chance to sit in the stern of the ship for about an hour, watching the water, the birds, and even flying fish!!!

In recap, this was our cruise on the Viking Sky:







  • Miami
  • Key West (tour town and Hemmingway's home; tour guide was Lora)
  • At Sea
  • Belize (tour to Altun Ha; tour guide: Ken and on-site: Esther)
  • Cozumel (tour of the ruins at San Gervasio and tequila distillery... Regalo De Dios; tour guide: Gustavo)
  • Merida (tour of Chichen Itza; tour guides: Alesanjdra and Ricardo)
  • At Sea
  • Miami
Favorite people we worked with on the Viking Sky:

  • Johann (Restaurant Manager)
  • Ramanito (Cabin Steward)
  • Jeffery, Marie, Ariel (Waiter, Assistant Waiter, Captain)
  • Steven (Shore Excursion Manager)


This was the beauty of the stern today! The Viking Sky is a very peaceful ship to traverse on..... as you can see, passengers do not crowd in public spaces and there is a place for everyone to talk, read, play cards, etc! Very different from previous Princess Cruises we have been on..... with constant noise, congestion, lines, and non-stop marketing of items to passengers. NONE of this exists on Viking. 
This was the view we had on the deck tonight. We have seen some amazing sun rises and sunsets on this trip!
The beauty of the atrium! The ship is very high tech. The blue photo you see at the top of the staircase, is not a photo or a painting. But an LCD screen, which changes the image periodically. 

Though there are over 900 passengers on this ship, the atrium space is never congested or crowded.
The primary colors on the ship are blue and beige. This is what the Restaurant on the ship looks like. 

The one disappointment to me on the ship was the quality of food. Portions are very small and the foods typically have a lot of cream. I prefer more Mediterranean based foods. On top of that issue, the cruise is advertised at "any time dining." Meaning that you can be seated to eat dinner at any time between 6 and 9pm. Sounds too good to be true and that is definitely the case. Literally the restaurant manager advised us to eat at 8pm, in order to avoid terrible crowds. The problem with this is while we are eating, people are leaving the restaurant, typically leaving us eating alone and worse with the staff cleaning tables all around us. Which doesn't make for a lovely dining environment. 


This is the explorer's lounge on the ship. I think it is a beautiful space, filled with light. 
The photo of our spacious cabin. I would say the Viking really thinks about their cabins, and makes it user friendly for guests. Every passenger cabin has a balcony!







My overall likes and dislikes of a Viking Cruise:

LIKES:

  1. No crowds
  2. No loud noises and music
  3. More mature passengers, and no children (which for us around the holidays is a blessing)
  4. No marketing materials, no constant promotions of drinks, photos, shopping items, etc
  5. No charges for bottled water and house wines for example
  6. A very clean ship
  7. Very accommodating staff
DISLIKES:
  1. The quality and lack of food variety
  2. Timing of shore excursions (too tight, and no free time to experience the port after a tour)
  3. No handrails in common spaces (which are a recipe for disaster, given the demographics attracted to Viking)
  4. Heated floors in the bathroom (You can't shut the heat off. Probably great for a cold weather cruise, but it's like a sauna in the bathroom)
  5. Can't attend any evening shows given the timing of dinner
  6. The stores on the ship need to be better provisioned. The main focus in the shops are Nordic items. I don't know many people on a Caribbean cruise who want to buy Nordic sweaters. 

December 22, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2005. Mattie was sitting outside of Tower Oaks, which was one of his favorite restaurants in Rockville, MD. You can't tell, but behind Mattie was a man made pond. In the spring and summer, Mattie loved the pond's inhabitants. To me the pond and its vegetation made the perfect backdrop for Mattie's photo. A photo which was featured on the front of our 2005 Christmas card. 


Quote of the day: Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.Hamilton Wright Mabie





The Viking Sky docked in Progreso, Mexico today. We then took a two hour bus trip through Merida, to Mayan ruins located in Chichen Itza. Our guides were a brother and sister duo, Ricardo and Alesjandra. Both were fantastic, passionate about their culture, and love their job. They imparted a great deal of knowledge on us today, as they literally talked for two hours on our way to Chichen Itza. Our guides told us that Chichen Itza is NOT the name of the ruins, but the name of the town where the ruins are located. 

The ruins are classified as one of the seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We toured the ruins with our guides for 90 minutes. There were a ton of people, as you can see the line up trying get in to park. But what is also noteworthy is the heat. I like heat, but as we were outside, I was getting light headed and thought I was going to pass out. This has never happened to me before. Typically to Peter, but not me. Whereas Peter was fine today!

These ruins are in the Mexican state of the Yucatán. It was one of the largest Mayan cities and was often referred to in later literature as a mythical city.  It displays a great variety of architectural styles with researchers believe are because of the diverse population from different cultures that inhabited this ancient city. It is one of the most visited ancient sites in Mexico with over a million tourists traveling to the Yucatan to see the wonders this ancient Mayan city.

The temple has 365 steps—one for each day of the year. Each of the temple's four sides has 91 steps (you can see the first 91 here, they are the center stairs going straight up), and the top platform makes the 365th. Devising a 365-day calendar was just one feat of Maya science. Incredibly, twice a year on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow falls on the pyramid in the shape of a serpent.

The Mayans were very concerned about water and sun, two vital forces to farming. Therefore during the spring equinox, when the shadow on the temple revealed the serpent, it signified to the Mayans that it was time to plant crops. When the shadow was revealed during the fall equinox it meant it was time to pick the crops. 

Chichen Itza thrived between the 9th and 13th centuries A.D. Archaeologists are still trying to figure out how this ancient urban center, more than 740 acres in size, came to be.

You may not be able to see this, but there is a metal door at the base of the temple (on the left). This of course is not part of the ancient structure. But was designed at one time for tourists to enter the pyramid, to see that there were actually two other pyramids beneath this structure. Why? Each pyramid was built and dedicated to the leader/priest at the time. So literally this structure reveals the leadership or reign of three different priests. 

It is thought that the above temple was built over a cenote or sink hole. Archaeologists have found inside other local sink holes human remains and artifacts. It is thought that these sink holes served as both cemeteries and places to make sacrifices to the gods. 


Though the color has faded off the Temple of Kukulkan (above), it at one time was thought to be colorfully painted like this! 



















Even though Chichen Itza had collapsed by the time the Spanish Conquistadores arrived, it was not completely abandoned. Yet when the Spanish saw Chichen Itza, they only saw the pyramids covered in jungle like vegetation (the photo our guide was illustrating here). The Spanish interpreted this mess of vegetation as an abandoned and unimportant area to the Mayans. So they moved along, leaving these ruins preserved. Which was actually a major blessing for this area and for the Mayan culture. 










Sculptures of plumed serpents run down the sides of the northern balustrade of El castillo or the temple of Kukulkan.  

During the Spring and autumn equinoxes sun strikes off the northwest corner of the monument casting a series of triangular shadows against the northwest balustrade; thus creating the illusion of a feathered serpent “crawling” down the pyramid. Millions of tourists gather to watch this phenomena.




This stone is the representative head of Kukulkan (this is the Mayan name for this god, but the Toltec name for this same god was Quetzalcoatl), the Feathered Serpent. He is the god of intelligence and self-reflection, a patron of priests. 





This platform was dedicated to the planet Venus located north of the Temple of Kukulkan. It was said that the Temple was aligned with the planet Venus. It is a rather amazing concept that the Mayans understood astrology without having any instrumentation. 







This detailed carving, reveals a jaguar in the center and it was bordered by eagles. The jaguar was the symbol of power and strength for the Mayans. Typically the jaguar was pictured with the priests and governors of the community. Whereas the eagle was the symbol of power and strength for the Toltecs. What this carving illustrates was a blending of the two groups (Mayans and Toltecs) that once lived in this Chichen Itza community. 


The temple of the warriors is another amazing construction. The Temple of the Warriors complex includes a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of carved columns that depict the Maya warriors. It is however, thought that this structure was created by the Toltecs and not the Mayans, since it is not ornament, meaning it contains no carvings. Which was typical of Mayan structures. In addition, the temple celebrates force, fighting, and warriors. Something more noted with Toltecs than Mayans. 

This was the Wall of Heads. It was found that there were 300 skulls buried here. These were the heads from the winners of the ball games, which were played on site. I describe these games below. Do note that the heads were buried here, but the bodies were placed in a cenote!





My mom and me in front of the Temple of Kukulkan. You can't really tell how high off the ground this pyramid is, and what is even more incredible was there were no tools or technology used to build this structure. 








Peter and me!























The Ball court located to the north-west of the Pyramid “El Castillo” It is the largest and best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica.

This game involved two teams, comprised of 7 players. The players used a ball, and could only touch the ball with their elbows, hips, and knees. A little bit like soccer. However, do you want to know the reward the leader of the team who WON the game received? He got beheaded! It was a human sacrifice to the gods! Why? Because the Mayans wanted to sacrifice their BEST specimen/player to the gods. To die in this ball game was considered an HONOR! 
This is the stone hoop that one had to get the ball through to win the game! If you look at the above photo, you will notice how high off the ground this hoop actually was, and therefore what a feat it was to win. 

















The wall where the hoop was located, there were intricate carvings that depict the story I just shared with you. This was a carving of the actual game ball. 









This was a carving of the decapitated head of the winner.





















This was the leader of the losing team who was responsible for the decapitation of the winner. 




















Coming back to the ship after 7 hours of touring! This gives worn out new meaning!









December 21, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old and by that point understood more about Christmas. He also got the fact that when taking a photo he had to sit still. Smiling came the next year! This photo was featured on the cover of our 2004 Christmas card.



Quote of the day: He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ~ Roy L. Smith



We visited Cozumel, Mexico today. There were 7 other large cruise ships in port, which means about 40,000 passengers in total transcended onto Cozumel. 

Cozumel, a mostly undeveloped Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea, is a popular cruise ship port of call famed for its scuba diving. Specifically around 35 cruise ships visit Cozumel, and we were told that tourism and tips fuel the economy. 

People visit Cozumel for its resorts, scuba diving, and snorkeling. 

The name Cozumel was derived from the Mayan "Cuzamil" or "Ah Cuzamil Peten" in full, which means the island of swallows (the birds). 







We visited the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio. Look who greeted us upon entrance into the ruins.... do you see the large iguana?










Iguana are prolific! I don't know if you can see this, but there are two lying in this tree. They perch on the branches. 

I did not mention this but in Belize (where we visited yesterday), we learned that they eat iguana and gibnuts. What is a gibnut? Try a rat!
Another view of the greeting iguana! He absolutely blended into the limestone!!!













San Gervasio's pre-Hispanic name was Tantun Cuzamil, Mayan for Flat Rock in the place of the Swallows. 





The ruins were once a hub of worship of the goddess Ix Chel (pictured here), an aged deity of childbirth, fertility, medicine, and weaving. Pre-Columbian Maya women would try to travel to San Gervasio and make offerings at least once in their lives. 

The goddess features many symbols in her illustration. There is a snake on her head which symbolizes water, her body the earth, and the vessel she is holding illustrates water trickling from the snake to the earth. So basically there is a connection between the earth and water, and the goddess was the necessary instrument to provide for the growth within the soil (which was also a form of fertility). 



In 1560, the Spanish historian, Diego Lopez de Cogolludo, wrote: "The pilgrims arrive at Cozumel for the fulfillment of their vows to offer their sacrifices, to ask help for their needs, and for the mistaken adoration of their false gods." The bishop of Yucatán, Diego de Landa, wrote in 1549 that the Maya "held Cozumel in the same veneration as we have for pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome, and so they used to go to visit and offer presents there, as we do to holy places; and if they did not go themselves, they always sent their offerings. The thatched roof was considered the temple were human sacrifices were made to the goddess.

If fact this flattened ruin is where they suspect humans were chained and organs removed while they were still alive, so that they could be offered in the temple to the goddess.

My mom and me at the ruins!















This arch is the main entrance from the north and west to San Gervasio’s  Central Plaza. It is a simple arch about seven feet tall that straddles the main religious pathways. The pathway apparently went on for seven miles. 

At one time around 10,000 Mayans lived at this ruin site. We asked what happened to these people! It is thought that they contracted small pox when Spanish explorers came to Cozumel, whipping out the population. The Mayan's have both a very progressive side (developed an 18 month calendar, were known for astrology, and medicine) and a more savage side (as they made human sacrifices to multiple gods). 


From the ruins, we went to a tequila distillery. These are blue agave plants! Beautiful no? Tequila is made from these plants, specifically the fruit under the earth. 


This is Ryan. His family owns this distillery called, Regalo de Dios. Ryan is an excellent salesman and truly is passionate about tequila and his family's success. Literally all of us on the tour got to sample at least 7 types of tequila. I am not a hard alcohol drinker, so I tasted each, but then passed my sample cup off to Peter. Tequila when aged is not clear. Some of the Tequila's we tasted today were aged 10-22 years! Unfortunately it was wasted on me, as I can't say I am a fan. Yet it was definitely a fascinating experience.

I would have to say many beautiful hand made products are made in Mexico. They are proud of this fact, and told us nothing was made in China! Unlike in the USA. They have beautiful silver jewelry of black coral, turquoise, and other lovely gems. 


Personally it is the bottles themselves that truly caught my eye. To me they look like big perfume bottles. 

December 20, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2003. Mattie was about a year and a half old and was a live wire. So much so that it was impossible to get him to sit still and pose for a photo. That day, I dressed Mattie in a Christmas sweater and we took him to Home Depot and Lowe's. These were the only stores Mattie gravitated to and was fascinated to look around at the displays. So we put him in a shopping cart and went to the holiday aisle of Lowe's and began snapping photos. I am quite sure others thought we were nuts. But this one photo was featured on the cover of our 2003 Christmas card. 


Quote of the day: Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. Norman Vincent Peale




Formerly British Honduras, is an independent country on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. 

Belize has an area of 8,800 sq mi and a population of 387,879 (2017). It has the lowest population density in Central America. Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world.

Over half the population is multilingual. English is the Countries language, with Spanish being the second most common spoken language.


Our tour guide's name today was Ken, and our bus driver was Dwight. They were a great team. Clearly they are proud of their Country. Belize has a significant Mennonite population, of about 12,000 people. The Mennonite's provide corn and other crops, housing, and chicken to most of the country. This was fascinating to learn.

Only elementary school is mandatory, which was clear to me as I saw many older children wandering around by day (a day which is typically a school day). Ken explained that in Belize NO ONE goes hungry. No one dies of starvation and that is because of their community focus and helping one another. I tried to snap photos as our tour bus was driving by. This was a local fruit stand that caught my attention. 

What always catches my attention while in the Caribbean is two things: 1) the animals always are roaming around and look emaciated and 2) trash is strewn everywhere and there doesn't seem to be infrastructure to deal with this wastage. 


It is clear that upkeep on houses is very difficult in Belize. But then again, I am evaluating this from my own lens. 












We took an hour long bus ride to Altun Ha! 

Altun Ha is the name given to the ruins of an ancient Mayan city in Belize, located in the Belize District about 31 miles north of Belize City. The site covers an area of about 3.1 square miles.

Stones from the ruins of the ancient structures were reused for residential construction of the agricultural village of Rockstone Pond in modern times, but the ancient site did not come to the attention of archaeologists until 1963, after the stones were unearth during a 1961, Hurricane Hattie. 

The above photo shows the expanse of these ruins. At one time it is said that 10,000 Mayan's lived here. To live in this community, you had to be well to do! The 'regular' people lived outside in the village. This area was divided into two sections, as you see above. The part on the right was the ceremonial area and the part on the left the more residential area. 

Peter and I climbed up this ruin. It may look easier than it actually is. The steps are very steep and high! With no railings. 

In the Mayan culture, 7 and 13 are special numbers. You will see this reflected in their temples, with 7 or 13 steps up. Seven signifies the levels of the underworld. Everyone in the Mayan culture, when they die must battle the spirits at each of these 7 levels. Once they get through these levels, then they have the opportunity to move through the 13 levels to get to heaven.  

Me on top of the temple ruin you see above! Men were vital in this culture, and if the king died before the queen, the queen was killed. Killed so she could assist and support her husband as he fought the spirits in the 7 layers of the underworld. 





Check out this 54 foot climb were did! A major exercise routine!


The largest of Altun Ha's temple-pyramids, the "Temple of the Masonry Altars" is 52 feet high. 

Given that it is hard to upload photos, due to slow connectivity, I am not showing you a close up of this stone. But in the stone, is carved people with cone shaped heads and crossed eyes. This was considered beautiful, and when babies were born their heads were put between boards and tied, to make their heads flat and pointed. In addition, a bead was tied around the child's head that would dangle between the eyes. Naturally a baby would land up staring at the bead, helping it to become cross eyed. People like you and me would be considered ordinary and common. 

Peter on top of the temple! It was SUPER hot and humid. The sun's intensity was beyond describing!
My mom and I in front of the 54 foot tall temple!