Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 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: 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 31, 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2003. We were at Griffith Park in Los Angeles and this was Mattie's first pony ride. I remember being worried and I asked Peter to walk beside Mattie and the horse. So you can see an arm in a blue jacket holding Mattie. That of course was Peter. I always tried to think of issues that could arise and to try to cut them off at the pass. What I love about this photo was I caught Mattie's sheer joy and smile over riding a horse. 

Quote of the day: Christmas gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us - a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead. ~ David Cameron

We visited the Bonnet House today in Ft. Lauderdale. The house is named "bonnet" after the bonnet lily that grows in the property's slough. It looks like a yellow water lily. 
Peter and I have been on the house's property before but never toured the house and gardens officially. This was a remarkable treat, and I am so glad we did it. The people who work on the property are incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, and you feel like you are transported back in time. 

Bonnet House’s modern history began when Hugh Taylor Birch gave the Bonnet House property as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1919. Ironically what brought Birch to Ft. Lauderdale in the first place was his chance meeting of Henry Flagler (whose house we toured yesterday) at the Chicago World's Fair. Flagler featured one of his train cars at the fair filled with palm trees, oranges and coconuts. Things that seemed VERY foreign to those in Chicago. Birch was SO INTRIGUED by the train and its contents that he decided to visit Florida for himself. After which he bought up a ton of property in Ft. Lauderdale. 

It took a while to understand the family history of Frederic Bartlett, mainly because he was married THREE times. After 19 years of marriage, his first wife died (they had one child together). It was with his second wife Helen that he began construction of Bonnet House in 1920, eager for a winter retreat where he could pursue his artwork and Helen could compose music and poetry. Tragedy struck in 1925 when Helen died from lung cancer. Frederic’s visits to Bonnet House then became sporadic until 1931 when he married Evelyn Fortune Lilly (who divorced Eli Lilly). With this marriage, a renaissance occurred on the site as Frederic and Evelyn entered a prolific period of embellishing Bonnet House with the decorative elements that delight visitors to this day. Frederic died in 1953, but Evelyn continued to return each winter. In 1983, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett gave Bonnet House to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Her contribution—at the time, the largest charitable gift in Florida history—ensured that the site would be preserved for the enjoyment and education of future generations. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1984 and declared a historic landmark by the City of Fort Lauderdale in 2002. 

This is a family photo of the Bartletts. From left to right was Clay (Bartlett's only child, from his first marriage), Hugh Taylor Birch (Helen's father), Helen, and Frederic. 

The house is truly a special place to visit. It has been preserved in the way the family used to live in it and you get the feeling for its whimsy, uniqueness, and character as you walk through the first floor. 

The house sprawls, almost like a ranch feeling. Except to get from one room to the other, you walk outside. As the photo illustrates.... a large square with a courtyard in the middle. Around the square are the rooms and to get from one room to the next you cross outside. It could only work with Florida weather!

The brackish slough (a wetland, usually a swamp or shallow lake, often a backwater to a larger body of water), which features the bonnet lily. 
Check out this wonderful Iguana in front of the slough! Mattie would have loved it. 
The wonderful Florida ibis. They are like our pigeon. You can find them everywhere.

While the throngs of people attending the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair drove nature-loving Hugh Taylor Birch to the South Florida wilderness, the Fair’s fine art exhibits inspired Frederic Clay Bartlett to forsake his family’s hardware business and become an artist.  Frederic graduated from Munich’s prestigious Royal Academy in 1895 and returned to a prolific and prosperous career in the United States.  He worked on mural projects in conjunction with great American architects such as Howard Van Doren Shaw and his easel work can today be found in the best museums including the Corcoran Gallery, the Carnegie Institute,and the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Examples of his easel art are displayed in the Bonnet House studio and Frederic’s murals and faux painting can be found throughout the Main House.
A mural that Frederic and Evelyn painted together on a ceiling within their home. 

But despite his true genius in collecting, Frederic often commented that his greatest artistic discovery was the innate talent possessed by his third wife, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett.  With little formal training but much encouragement from Frederic, Evelyn began painting in 1933.  For five years, she painted prolifically, and her work was featured in well-received gallery exhibits in Boston, New York, and Indianapolis. Evelyn’s works are today displayed in Bonnet House’s Carl J. Weinhardt Gallery.
This is a bronze statue of a monkey. Frederic got these at an auction and featured them at the entrance of his house. The property literally had 60 monkeys living on it at one time, and it became the featured animal in art and even on House china! In fact when college students came to Florida on spring break, they would come onto the property and steal the monkey and transport it around town. 
Evelyn Bartlett was a passionate orchid collector and the varieties she left to Bonnet House comprise one of the largest collections of orchids in the Southeast United States. Various blooming examples are rotated regularly through the estate's Orchid Showroom.
Mrs. Bartlett's love for orchids was matched only by her love of animals. The Bonnet House collection includes two Amazon parrots that reside in the courtyard aviary, Peaches, a Moluccan cockatiel housed in the fowl pen, and a mating pair of mute swans that grace the Bonnet House sloughs and Lily Pond. 

Pictured: Evelyn Bartlett and monkey!

Other animals found on the grounds include a troop of wild Costa Rican squirrel monkeys, gopher tortoises, and manatees that occasionally seek refuge in the estate's Boathouse Canal.

Evelyn's amazing shell collection, which was built for her by Frederic.
This flowering plant is called "yesterday, today, and tomorrow." The flower starts out purple (yesterday), turns white (today), and then falls off the tree (tomorrow)! The gardens at the house are absolutely amazing, and they feature trees from all over the world, as well as a section dedicated to old world Florida!

December 30, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2003. We took Mattie to Travel Town in Los Angeles. Travel Town is an incredible hands on train museum, and a place Mattie absolutely LOVED. I am not sure what Mattie loved more.... jumping on the trains, checking out everything inside the train cars, or walking the tracks. These are not replicas, but actual retired trains throughout the state of California. It was the perfect museum for Mattie because everything was all outside, it involved a subject matter that intrigued Mattie (trains and locomotion), and it was very hands on learning. 

Quote of the day: The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world's busy life and become more interested in people than in things. ~ Thomas S. Monson

We visited the Flagler Museum today in Palm Beach. Henry Flagler is credited almost as being the father of Florida. He built resorts, established a train rail system from Jacksonville to Key West, and was instrumental in the cultivation and transportation of oranges. Not to mention was also a founder of the Standard Oil company with John D. Rockefeller.

In March 30, 1902, a story in the New York Herald described Whitehall, the Palm Beach home of Henry Flagler as, "More wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world..." Flagler built the 75-room, 100,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion, Whitehall, as a wedding present for his wife, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler. The couple used the home as a winter retreat from 1902 until Flagler's death in 1913, establishing the Palm Beach season for the wealthy of the Gilded Age.

This is the grand hall of Whitehall. It is 4,000 square feet, believe it or not. It is an amazing space filled with incredible antiques and frescoes. 
Built in just 18 months, Whitehall was intended to be both a monumental example of high culture and high technology. In 1900, when construction began, Palm Beach was one of the least developed and most remote locations in the United States. It was arguably America's last frontier. However, with 22 bathrooms, electric lighting, central heating, and a telephone system, Whitehall was not only an impressive statement of high culture, but perhaps the most technologically advanced home in America. This is the music room, which included an amazing organ in the back of the room. Even today, there are concerts using this organ, which are open to the public. 

This was Mary Lily's drawing room. The room is lined with a shiny metal and what it turns out to be is alui
During the winters the Flaglers spent at Whitehall, the couple entertained constantly. When Henry Flagler died in 1913, the house remained closed until the season of 1916. Mary Lily visited the home only once more in 1917 as the recent bride of Robert Worth Bingham (her second husband). When Mary Lily died later that year, Whitehall was left to her niece, Louise Clisby Wise Lewis. Ms. Lewis sold Whitehall to a group of investors who added an eleven-story 250+ bedroom tower on the west side and converted the entire structure into a hotel. The hotel operated from 1925-1959 during which period the original portion of the house was used for lobbies, card rooms, lounges, a bar and guest suites. This photo features the restaurant space of the hotel, which literally was connected to the Whitehall. The hotel has since been demolished, except for this space.

This was the Flagler's dining room. It contained a table that sat 24 people and fine details such as a mantel from Italy and a hand designed rug from Scotland. Our docent explained that the centerpieces on the Flager table were always huge, preventing you from seeing guests across the table. Back then table etiquette said that you only could converse with table mates on either side of you. Conversation was frowned upon across the table, so these flower arrangements made perfect sense. 

Henry Flagler's private Railcar No. 91 is exhibited in the Museum's Flagler Kenan Pavilion. Built in 1886 for Flagler's personal use, the railcar was acquired by the Museum in 1959 as an artifact of Florida history and an important part of Flagler's story. 

About a mile from the Flagler Museum is the historic hotel in Palm Beach, called The Breakers.  It was opened on January 16, 1896 by oil, real estate, and railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to accommodate travelers on his Florida East Coast Railway.

It is an amazing property with an AMAZING price to boot. A room fee ranges from $930 to over $6,300 a NIGHT. 

December 29, 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2003. Mattie went to Los Angeles to spend the holidays with my parents. He had his own miniature Christmas tree and what I loved about this photo was I captured him opening presents. In many ways, Mattie loved the wrapping and boxes almost as much or maybe more than the toys and items inside the boxes. I simply love how Mattie was studying and examining the paper in this photo. To me it was priceless. 

Quote of the day: Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas. ~ Dale Evans

We drove about 40 minutes today to the Vizcaya Museum and Garden. Vizcaya was previously known as Villa Vizcaya. It is the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering, of the Deering McCormick-International Harvester fortune, on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. The early 20th century Vizcaya estate also includes: extensive Italian Renaissance gardens; native woodland landscape; and a historic village outbuildings compound. The landscape and architecture were influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Italian Renaissance models and designed in the Mediterranean Revival architecture style, with Baroque elements. 

I would like to say we actually got inside and on the property but there was over a two hour wait in the hot sun. So we left. Which is a shame since this truly looks like an incredible historic sight to visit. However, I would say everyone and his cousin is in Southern Florida for the holidays and traffic is truly on par with Los Angeles and Washington, DC. 

Since we were unable to tour Vizcaya, we drove to Miami Beach and South Beach. I have heard how amazing South Beach is for many years, so we all wanted to see it for ourselves. 

There are aspects of South Beach that remind me of Hollywood, CA. Not in architecture, but in hype. Everyone who comes to California wants to see Hollywood. Once you see it, it is a total let down, because Hollywood in my opinion is fringe. There is no magic there, as the film industry would like to evoke. South Beach has this same feeling, or at least it did for me. 

In the 1930s, an architectural revolution came to South Beach, bringing Art Deco and Streamline Moderne (architectural style emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements) architecture to the Beach. South Beach claims to be the world's largest collection of Streamline Moderne Art Deco architecture. 

The architecture was noteworthy and therefore worth the drive to see and explore. But despite the old world architecture, the town is bustling with people and noise. Everywhere!!! Along with bars/nightclubs... so you get a distinct feeling that it has a VERY busy night life. 

This afternoon we took a four mile walk about the A1A boardwalk. You can't tell from this photo, but there were people everywhere and all around us. Not to mention traffic!!! 

My mom and I posed in front of the Florida snowmen! Rather funny, no?
Peter pointed out this iguana to me! This was a sight Mattie would have LOVED! Mattie was intrigued by anything that was creepy and crawled and got a kick out of the fact that I did not share his same enthusiasm. 
Peter and I on the boardwalk! 

December 28, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2003. We spent that Christmas in Los Angeles with my parents. In my parent's backyard were wonderful lemon, orange, and grapefruit trees. As you can see, Mattie loved picking and sorting fruit in a basket. It was the real life tasks that Mattie always found engaging. 

Quote of the day: Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. ~ Thomas S. Monson

Peter and I flew to Ft. Lauderdale today. I am happy to say that the flight was uneventful and we arrived around 1. At which point, we headed to pick up the rental car so we could drive to Miami to pick my parents up at the airport. It seems to me in the last three days, we have spent a lot of time in a car. The rental agency was a show, and NOT a good one. I have never seen a rental lot with FEW to NO cars in it. Yet there were lines of people who had pre-ordered cars and were very disgruntled. By the time we got to Hertz, we could see very upset customers. One family started talking with me, and explained (like us) they had ordered a car months ago, and yet here they were waiting, with no end or options in sight. Since Peter and I had to drive to Miami to pick up my parents, we were motivated to work the problem. Peter literally went around the rental agency's parking lot to assess what cars were available. He then reported back to me that there were cars outside the parameter but it was unclear who the cars were being held for. So at that point, I demanded to speak to a manager, I knew dealing with the attendants on the lot was a waste of time because they weren't the decision makers. I found the manager, Peter pointed out the type of car we pre-arranged and needless to say the manager complied. People who were waiting in line for a hour wanted to know my secret. So I explained to them what they had to do and who they had to interface with. Moral of the story is ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask to speak directly to a manager, regardless of the situation or problem. In every context possible, I have found this to be most effective. 

This was the sight we saw entering into Ft. Lauderdale. To most people this is an annoyance..... a draw bridge going up. But to me, it reminds me of Mattie. Mattie LOVED watching the draw bridges rise and fall when he visited Ft. Lauderdale. This sight always animated him! We would literally walk onto the bridge (on the passenger walkway), and observe the mechanics and of course the boat that sailed through underneath the bridge. 
It was an official Mattie greeting into Ft. Lauderdale. 
While waiting on the bridge, we saw the Coral Princess sailing away from the port and heading out to sea. 

This photo definitely proves we are not in DC anymore. The palm trees of Florida symbolize being away in a more tropical location. It is very special to see sunshine, to feel 80 degree temperatures and everything green. When you see this, you have to ask yourself..... why experience winter? Maybe if I loved cold weather I wouldn't even be asking such a question. But given I am a summer person, I would be very happy with Florida's year round temperatures. 

December 27, 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016 -- Mattie died 380 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2003. This was Mattie's second airline flight across the Country. This photo features Mattie going to Los Angeles for Christmas. As you can see Mattie was FULL of energy aboard the flight. Some kids nap when flying. NOT Mattie. He was on and playing for five hours straight. I remember coming aboard every plane trip with ALL sorts of toys, books, games, and puzzles. Needless to say we were intriguing to the other children flying with us. 

Quote of the day: Christmas is a time in which, of all times in the year, the memory of every remediable sorrow, wrong, and trouble in the world around us, should be active with us, not less than our own experiences, for all good. ~ Charles Dickens

It was our first full day back in DC and we hit the ground running this morning. Both Sunny and Indie had to be boarded as we head to Florida on Wednesday morning. This is our first time boarding Sunny for a week with a non-friend. Sunny won't be in a kennel but he is staying in a home of a woman named Rose. We were introduced to Rose by a fellow friend. Rose rescues collies and has helped a countless number of families in our area with collie adoption. Ironically I wanted a collie and applied all over our region for a collie starting in February of 2016. But was turned down by many of these agencies because they felt I lived in the city, and not having a private backyard would be limiting for a dog. It is too bad I wasn't connected with Rose before I adopted Sunny, because there are many collies that do need a great home. She practically sends me photos of a collie up for adoption monthly! Yet, I think Sunny was meant to be a part of our lives and I am thankful that City Dogs Rescue has no problem adopting dogs out to people living in Washington, DC. 

We introduced Sunny to Rose about a month ago, to see if she would be a good sitter for Sunny. Rose has two collies of her own that live at home. Sunny got along splendidly with both boys. Rose also has a large securely fenced in backyard. When we visited we watched Sunny play off leash with Rose's dogs, and he absolutely LOVED it. In fact we saw a whole other side of Sunny while visiting. He was running around, jumping, and very playful. Not the sedate boy we typically see. Though I wasn't in the car today, Peter tells me that when he went to drop Sunny off at Rose's, that Sunny immediately recognized her neighborhood and home. Isn't that amazing? Mind you Rose doesn't live around the corner. She lives over the Bay Bridge and it takes 75 minutes to get to her. He is quite a pooch and our home definitely seems quiet tonight without his presence! Same for Indie. Indie has also been boarded. She is at our vet, as I can't find friends who like to cat sit. I never knew that dog sitters would be easier to come by! That surprises me, since cats are much easier to care for. Any case, I remind myself that Patches was boarded at our vet for over a year while Mattie was battling cancer. So I know Indie will be fine.

The next time you hear from Peter and me, we will hopefully be safely in Florida. 

December 26, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. This was Mattie's first Christmas and clearly he was too young to understand the nature of the holiday. Nonetheless, I had him pose in front of the Christmas tree. Mattie loved seeing photos of himself as he got older. He enjoyed seeing how much he had grown and changed from year to year. Mattie always inspired us to decorate for Christmas and we thought we would have a lifetime of traditions together. When I look back at these photos, it truly seems like another lifetime ago. Or perhaps someone else's life. 

Quote of the day: Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'.  Bing Crosby

Peter and I left Boston this morning at 8:30am. We did not arrive back home in DC until after 6pm. A nine hour commute. We hit traffic like this in ALMOST every state we traversed. Needless to say we are exhausted. Yet we came home, got Sunny and Indie settled, unpacked, and am doing multiple loads of laundry. We head to board the animals tomorrow as we fly to Florida on Wednesday to meet up with my parents. I feel like I am on an episode of I Love Lucy, because this is a zany schedule, and I was tired before leaving town. 
As we pulled into Baltimore, I saw a Carnival Cruise ship in the harbor. It is hard to distinguish it because we were moving along the highway. But that bright structure in the right of the photo is the ship!

It is in the 40's here in DC, and I can't believe I am saying this, but in comparison to Boston which was in the teens and twenties earlier today, this feels like a heat wave!

December 25, 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken on Christmas of 2008. This was Mattie's last Christmas with us. He was home between treatments and was absolutely miserable. He was dealing with bone pain, great physical disabilities, and on top of all of that was developing clinical depression and medical traumatic stress. Despite my numerous conversations with his doctors, all of them believed Mattie's issues were physical (e.g., a reaction to the pain meds he was taking was one explanation I was given) rather than psychological. Post-Christmas when Mattie had a full blown meltdown in the clinic,  his doctors finally understand what Peter and I were coping with at home. Mattie acted like a soldier who had just come back from a war. He wanted to be around NO NOISE, did not want us touching him for the most part, had terrible nightmares that woke all of us up, and was easily agitated and anxious. Though this photo may portray a happy moment, I assure you it was fleeting. Mattie was very unhappy and depressed throughout Christmas. Which was why Peter put on these funny noses and hats to try to distract Mattie and redirect his mood. It worked for a couple of minutes. But it was a Christmas that I will never forget and frankly it clouds any of our Christmases to come. 

Quote of the day: Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.  Peg Bracken

Let me put Christmas into context. Peter and I celebrated 7 Christmases with Mattie. As of today, we have had to acknowledge 8 Christmases without Mattie. This is a reality that may not sound significant to our readers, but to a parent who lost a child, these numbers are devastating. Time doesn't heal all wounds, but in fact can make them more challenging to deal with, because as time goes on, I struggle to remember my life with Mattie. I struggle to remember subtleties about him, something a parent wouldn't have the opportunity to do with a child who is physically present. 

Yet how do you celebrate Christmas when you lost your only child? I may look like I am present and in the moment, but there are many aspects that I truly don't enjoy anymore. Such as family gatherings at holidays, watching children of all ages opening gifts and the list goes on. It is a constant battle within to live in the real world with others all around me who do not understand these feelings. Where I find the inner strength and maturity to hear about other children, to watch them celebrate, knowing that I do not get any of these opportunities with Mattie is beyond me. In some of these moments I want to explode, but my self control is excellent because the feelings only smolder inside. 

This is a photo of Sunny I took this morning with his Christmas scarf on!

 The three of us.
Our nephew Will with Sunny. Will loves dogs and these two had a good time together today. 

Peter's family at Christmas. From left to right:

Will (our nephew -- only about 15 months older than Mattie), Nat (our nephew), Chris (Peter's brother), Don (Peter's dad), Barbara (Peter's mom), Lisa (my sister in law), me, and Sydney (our niece). 
Last night while driving around we came across two houses light up for Christmas in a significant way. The two houses were next door neighbors and between the two of them the street lit up like a Christmas tree. Can you see the hot air balloons Christmas light displays?
The house above is located right next to this house. I personally preferred this one, but I must admit from a WOW standpoint the house above was noteworthy!