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 29, 2018

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2007. Mattie came with us to Peter's holiday office party. Mattie had a great time and everyone got a kick out of him. It appears that Mattie was posing for a picture with Santa. But Santa is actually a man named Steven, who looks just like the jolly fellow from the North Pole. For years, we all got a chuckle looking at this photo. 

Quote of the day: With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

We visited Butterfly World today. This is a park we used to take Mattie to each time we went to Fort Lauderdale. 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 20,000 live butterflies.
After retiring from a career as electrical engineer, Ronald Boender started raising butterflies and their food plants in his home in Florida. In 1984 he established MetaScience to help supply farmed butterflies to zoos and universities. After having visited England in 1985, where he met Clive Farrell (founder and owner of the London Butterfly House), he decided to create his own facility in Florida. Boender and Ferrell entered into partnership and started planning the facility, which was to be a public attraction, but also a research facility and a butterfly farm.

This is the elusive Blue Morpho butterfly. When I tell you this butterfly doesn't sit still for a minute, I am not kidding! I caught him in mid-flutter!

Aren't they stunning!
To me this makes the perfect Christmas card! A butterfly sitting on a poinsettia bush! The beauty of Butterfly World is not just the butterflies, which are simply incredible, but the breath-taking vegetation, plantings, and classical music they pipe into the Paradise Adventure Aviary. 
The color contracts are eye catching and what you can't see from my photos are the hundreds of butterflies flying all around you as you walk along the pathways of the aviary. 
It's hard to believe this butterfly is for real!
This is the first year I remember seeing sugar water feeders around the aviary. This water attracted clumps of butterflies!
There were many children all around us today. It is the perfect venue for children, to stimulate their curiosity and need for hands on learning. Of course, seeing the children reminds me of our countless visits to this garden with Mattie. 
Can you get the feeling for the number of butterflies flying around?
This is the outside of a Blue Morpho butterfly. Rather ironic no? Brown on the outside and stunningly blue on the inside. 
A Blue Morpho butterfly flying by one of the charming benches in the aviary. There are quotes on every bench. This one says, "We will always have hope in our hearts."
Some of the amazing flowers all around us. What I did not effectively capture were all the butterflies within these plantings. 
The Wings of the World Secret Garden has one of the largest collections of flowering Passion Flower vines in the world. There are many varieties of these flowers. This is one type. 
Another Passion Flower. 
This is hard to see, but it is a burgundy colored passion flower. It is called a passion flower because different parts of the flower symbolize the death of Christ. For example, the five sepals and five petals of the flower represent Jesus' disciples. 
The Jewels of the Sky Aviary is where hummingbirds and other birds can be seen. Just like with the butterfly aviary, in this aviary, birds are flying lose. So it is fascinating to walk in and among them. 
Two cuties! 

We fly home tomorrow. I wish I could say I was feeling better, but I am still congested and can't hear much out of my ears. I am quite sure flying will do me in completely tomorrow. It is hard to imagine returning to gray and cold weather, while people in Florida have access to sunshine, greenery, flowers, and the ocean. 

December 28, 2018

Friday, December 28, 2018

Friday, December 28, 2018

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2007. Each Christmas season we took Mattie to the US Botanical Gardens. I am not sure what was more special..... seeing all the greenery, or the fact that it felt like you were walking into a humid hot house. It was delightful to the senses in the bleak winter. Mattie loved this plant representation of the US Capitol. 

Quote of the day: Each year's regret are envelopes in which messages of hope are found for the new year. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today we visited Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. It is an 83-acre botanic garden, with extensive collections of rare tropical plants including palms, cycads, flowering trees, and vines. The garden was established in 1936 by Robert H. Montgomery, who was an accountant, attorney, and businessman with a passion for plant-collecting. He named the Garden after his friend David Fairchild, a significant plant explorer. Fairchild's travels brought more than 20,000 plants to the United States, including mangos, alfalfa, nectarines, dates, horseradish, bamboos, and flowering cherries. David Fairchild retired to Miami in 1935, but many plants still growing in the Garden were collected and planted by him.

We started the Garden tour on a free tram tour. Fortunately the tour was free, because the sound speakers did not work on the tram and none of us could hear the guide talking to us for the 30 minute tour. Which was unfortunate. 

Do you love the bromeliad plants placed together to form a Christmas tree?
The beauty of the Gardens! The foliage is impressive, well taken care of, and peaceful. There are many ponds throughout the gardens which attract crocodiles and water birds. 
A butterfly house called "Wings of the Tropics" features exotic butterflies mainly from Central America, South America and Southeast Asia flying freely in the 25,000 square foot Conservatory. Butterflies are released twice a day in the morning and afternoon. Among them are longwings, Morpho, and owl butterflies. The USDA-approved facility has butterfly feeding stations, which include a variety of overripe fruits such as banana and mango. 
Inside the conservancy, we met and chatted with a volunteer who was lovely. Ann explained to us that the chrysalis of butterflies are shipped here. The butterflies mature in the chrysalis and once they hatch, they are released into the conservancy. However, she said that most of these butterflies only live 3 weeks at the most. 

Ann even explained that the butterflies expel a red liquid called meconium (the same sort of stuff that babies in the womb expel). This is a completely natural occurrence. Meconium is the leftover part of the caterpillar that was not needed to make the butterfly. This is stored in the intestine of the butterfly and expelled after the butterfly emerges.
The giant owl butterfly. You can totally see how it got that name!
The stunning Blue Morpho. He was elusive and really did not want to be photographed. But I was patient. 
 Do you see this cute hummingbird? 
One of my favorites!

There is a concrete walkway leading around the landscaped enclosed area where we walked freely among the butterflies. There is a triple sets of doors that minimize the risk of escape of any of these butterflies that do not belong to the local fauna.

This glass creation is called End of the Day Tower and was created by the American glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly. In the sunlight, it is absolutely stunning, colorful, and seems to blend in with the vegetation.
My mom and I posed with a statue of Marjory Stoneham Douglas. Marjory is considered Florida's most celebrated environmentalists. She fought to protect the everglades and Florida wildlife.

December 27, 2018

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2008. Mattie's kindergarten art teacher designed this special wreath for him. What you can't see was that on each green leaf there was a message written from classmates of Mattie's. For year's this wreath hung on the back of our front door. It was a visual reminder of all the people behind Mattie and us. It was a horrific time and at the same time, we got to see the inner beauty of people. People who did not really know Mattie or us, and yet went to great lengths to make our quality of life better. 

Quote of the day: My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. ~ Bob Hope

We are safely back to the USA. We landed at the port of Fort Lauderdale at 7am. I have to say that being back in the the States is a wonderful feeling, especially when you are not feeling well. As soon as we got off the ship, I called my doctor and also went to the nearest CVS. Luxuries that I take for granted on a daily basis. 

I would have to say this has been the rainiest Caribbean cruise we were ever on, and currently it is pouring in Fort Lauderdale. We just can't seem to escape the rain! Though back on land, it takes me days to acclimate to being on solid ground as my entire body still feels like it is floating like a cork in the ocean. For people who get seasick/motion sick like me, you know what I mean when I say I need to continue to take dramamine for five days on land, until I get the ship's motion completely out of my body! 

While I am writing this blog, I could hear our ship's horn blowing in the distance, alerting me to the fact that new passengers are now on board, and the ship is leaving. It is quite a reality to know that every day of the year, someone is on a cruise. In fact, there were two passengers on our ship, that practically lived on a Princess Cruise for 8 years! Not sure how they managed that in all reality, because the confines of the ship get to me after a few days. 

What always fascinates me about cruising is the crew itself! It is a floating United Nations, as practically every Country in the world is represented in the crew. I always find it interesting to hear about the lives of the crew and why they chose to work on a cruise ship. I heard countless times on this trip that the income that can be earned on a ship is 12 TIMES more than if the person worked in their own country. Though we deem what they do to be hard work, and it is, the crew is very happy for the work. As it provides for their families and after their six months contracts, they can return home for three months of vacation at a time. 

If you have ever been on a cruise, then you know that the service on the ship is amazing. Every one is there to make your experience as pleasant as possible. It is a level of service that unfortunately we no longer see in our US service industry. In a way cruising is like going to Disneyland for adults.

The highlight of our cruise was our afternoons in the ship's sanctuary. This is a private space on the ship, where you are assigned a deck chair. The space is quiet, no children are allowed, and there are no outdoor movies and loud music playing. It is simply peaceful, where you can see and hear the ocean. In addition, at 3pm each day, they serve high tea with fresh scones, cookies, sandwiches and pastry. If only 3pm everyday could look like a sanctuary day!
I took a photo of my parents everyday in the Sanctuary. My dad was sleeping and my mom was enjoying a scone! I think the scones with clotted cream and fresh jam were one of her afternoon favorites! 
The last night of every cruise, Princess Cruises does a presentation of a baked alaska. Which is an ice cream cake treat. They shut the lights in the restaurant, and then literally you see a parade of baked alaskas being carried by waiters walking around the restaurant to music.
Pictured in the front row, from left to right: my dad, Veronica (our assistant waiter) and me

Pictured in the back row, from left to right:

Nelson (head waiter), Peter, Remus (waiter), and my mom

Remus and Veronica were a dynamic duo and really tried hard to cater to all our needs. Remus is from the Philippines and Veronica is from Peru. 

We had a very rocky night at sea, and between that and being congested, it has made sleeping very difficult! 

This morning, Peter went up to the top deck and snapped some photos of Fort Lauderdale harbor. 
This would have been a sight Mattie would have loved to see. He was a big fan of draw bridges. So this photo is for Mattie. 
The above photo of the bridge was taken from the ship. Once we were on land, we experienced another side of the draw bridge! 
This afternoon we went for a walk and along our journey we came across this wonderful 1957 Bel Air, all decorated for Christmas. Another Mattie favorite! 

December 26, 2018

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. It was Mattie's first Christmas and it was an exciting time for our family. Back then our biggest fears were the typical parental concerns about having a strong willed baby. The notion of childhood cancer wasn't in our lexicon. To me this photo captures our innocence.

Quote of the day: Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone. ~ Charles M Schulz

Today is our last day on our ten day cruise. I am still not back to physically feeling normal, but I am certainly doing better with antibiotics on board. Because we are at sea today, our connectivity is limited to non-existent. So I won't be able to post any photos. 

My mom and I attended a food demonstration this morning. Hosted by the executive chef and Maitre D'Hotel. After which we then went on a tour of the galley. I am always amazed to hear the stats on the food and the number of crew members it takes to operate the kitchen. Literally there are about 250 crew members dedicated to working in the kitchen and another 250 crew who serve the food. So of a total crew of 1,000, food services occupies over 50% of this number. 

We learned today that when we boarded the ship ten days ago, 170,000 tons of food was delivered to the ship. It is hard to believe that this is what it takes to feed 3,500 passengers and 1,000 crew members. We have had incredible wait staff working with us (Leo in the DaVinci Dining room for lunch; Remus and Vernonica at the Botticelli dining room for dinner) and we will miss these wonderful individuals. Not to mention our afternoons in the Sanctuary. Princess Cruises provides for a fee, a special and private deck section which is peaceful, serene, and for adults only. The crew who works in the Sanctuary are lovely (V, Stanislav, Dennis, KaiYing, and Anish) and each afternoon they serve us tea, scones, and other treats at 3pm. They can't do enough for us.

While in the Sanctuary, we have met a couple from Sturbridge, MA. Paul and Paulette are lovely and of course Peter connected immediately with them. We have our own Cheers going on here, as we connect with them each day when we arrive in the Sanctuary. They have even learned about Mattie Miracle. 

I am signing off for today, but will share several more photos of Christmas around the ship and highlight some of our experiences when I am back to land and have connectivity. 

December 25, 2018

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Tuesday, December 25, 2018 -- Mattie died 484 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken on Christmas of 2008, our last Christmas with Mattie. Peter and I did just about everything that day to perk up Mattie's spirits. It was a very difficult and heart breaking Christmas as Mattie's depression and traumatic symptoms were almost too much to manage at home alone. Mattie's friends dropped off Rudolph noses, hats, and headbands. Peter dressed himself up and Mattie, and for that brief moment, there were smiles. 

Quote of the day: Christmas, my child, is love in action. ~ Dale Evans

The connectivity on the ship is a nightmare. So I can only post this one photo tonight. I have been photographing the passenger doors on the ship. Somehow people knew they could decorate their doors. I just love walking down the hallways and seeing people's creativity. 

For practically the entire cruise I have been ill. I am struggling with a host of symptoms..... low grade fever, congestion, clogged ears, hoarseness, a post nasal drip and coughing. This morning the cough was so bad that Peter suggested I see the ship's doctor. 

All the over the counter medications are not working, so at 9am, I headed down to the medical center on the ship. It was my first encounter with a ship's doctor and I hope it will be my last. Her bed side manner was abysmal. She is a doctor who feels she knows better and doesn't listen to her patient. She was a foreign trained doctor and clearly has not learned the art of patient centered care. Nonetheless, she did the right thing and put me on antibiotics, cough medicine, a decongestant and nasal spray. I am hoping to feel more human by tomorrow.  

December 24, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2007. This was Mattie's sixth Christmas with us. Each year, Mattie got a new Christmas sweater for our photos, but the consistent props of choice were his antlers and the Christmas train. Mattie absolutely loved his train and looked forward to it coming out each holiday season. 

Quote of the day: T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. ~ Clement Clarke Moore

We arrived in Curacao today. The name is derived from the Portuguese word for "cured." Early Spanish sailors, suffering from scurvy, found themselves miraculous cured after landing in Curacao, most likely from eating local fruits rich in Vitamin C. 

This is the largest of the ABC islands. Like Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao is also part of the Netherlands. There are 160,000 people on the island. Compared that to Bonaire's population size of 20,000. The island only gets about 15 inches of rain in total a year. But the average temperature is in the 80's. It is a culturally diverse island with over 65 different ethnic cultures represented. 

The port of Willemstad is alive with historic treasures. The island boasts that it hosts 799 different UNESCO World Heritage Sites. What is noteworthy is that in each port we visited, the largest structure on the island was our cruise ship. Yet I can't tell you how appreciative the islanders are to the cruise industry. As tourism is the number one form of income and the ships bring in thousands of passengers with each visit. 

We had the opportunity to walk through a cave today. The Hato Caves have been on the island for over 100,000 years. We literally did a walking tour through the dramatic, underground limestone grottos. We saw stalactites and stalagmites, which produce unusual shadows in the caves' eerie lighting. 

Our guide pointed out limestone structures that resembled a donkey head, a horses head, a witch, and the famous Madonna statue. The caves are also a haven for a colony of rarely seen long-nose fruit bats. Bats that apparently come out of the caves at night to eat the flowers on the Cadushy cactus tree. It is the bats that propagate the cactus on the island. The caves were originally used as a hiding place for runaway slaves and prior to that as a shelter for island natives.

We were only allowed to take photos in this one section of the cave. Prior to getting this this area, we walked through a large section of bats flying over our heads. We were warned that the bats could potentially poop on our heads and clothing. Fortunately we came out unscathed. But the warning was significant and intimidating. 
Peter exploring the caves. We did something like this once with Mattie, at Luray Caverns in Virginia. Mattie was a bite intimidated by the caves but nonetheless absolutely loved the experience. 

From the caves, a bus drove us into the town of Punta. It was there we went on an hour walking tour. We drove over this elevated bridge, called the Queen Juliana bridge. In fact it is the first structure that greets you in the harbor and it is a very distinct landmark that distinguishes Curacao from the rest of the Caribbean islands. 

The architecture on the Island is noteworthy! This is Fort Church, Curacao's oldest Protestant church.

There were many streets in Punta that looked like this with Dutch architecture and a bright Caribbean flair. Many of these buildings date back to the 1700's!
All the buildings are made out of limestone, which makes it remarkable that they remain standing. In addition, you are allowed to paint these buildings any color you chose, which is why you see all colors of the rainbow. 
We had all sorts of weather today..... sun to pouring rain. Yet regardless of the weather, the town was charming and beautiful. I would have to say that Curacao really sticks out from the other islands.... because of its infrastructure, history, and reservation of culture. 
This is the second bridge that puts Curacao on the map. It is the Queen Emma Floating Bridge. It is 
supported by 16 pontoons, the bridge swings open to allow ships to access the port. It is affectionately called the "Swinging Lady," this historic bridge was originally built in 1888, and has recently been totally restored.
My mom and me on the Queen Emma Bridge. Literally the bridge opens like a gate, as it is not a draw bridge. When the bridge opens up, we were told that you can't cross over it for 45 minutes. So you really have to time your walking appropriately. 
This was a floating market. Literally Venezuelan merchants sell their produce straight from their small fishing boats. Now here's the story behind this. These merchants park their very filled boats for five weeks at this dock. They can make $50 a day, for five weeks in Curacao compared to selling the same merchandise in their own country. Which would generate for them only $5 a month in comparison. These merchants live on their boats for five weeks and the fruit and vegetables are never refrigerated. Our tour guide literally walked us through this market and stopped to buy fruits and vegetables for her Christmas dinner. I am not sure how I felt about this, but I truly think she did this in order to encourage all of us to buy from these vendors. Of course, we as tourists are unable to transport such vegetation on a cruise ship. 

We walked for about 3 miles around the old town. After which, we walked back to the port through Fort Rif. They have converted the fort into a local shopping area. Which was very charming and decorated for Christmas. 

In front of the Delft store (where they sell the famous Blue Delft pottery from Holland), they had a cute replica of a Holland clog. 
Curacao appears to decorate their Christmas trees with bird houses. It was an adorable display, colorful, and different from our usual cold weather decorations!