***Since I have so many updates to share with everyone, this blog will be a 2 part post: the first post with all of our personal updates and the second post giving a medical update on Caleb’s treatment***
Hello! I know it’s been a while! I have missed giving everyone updates, and I am very excited to share what’s been going on! We had an extremely busy Fall/Christmas season. We were a part of many events for St. Jude, which I will tell you all about in this post. We also had Thanksgiving and Christmas in our NEW HOME! There was a lot of magic, and a lot of memories, but pulling all of that off took hard work and late nights. So, I do apologize for the lack of updates, but just know that life has been good 🙂 And without further ado, here is what we have been up to…
Well, where do I even begin? Going back to just before Thanksgiving we were invited to our first Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey Game. We were invited by the organization 1 Voice, as they were given tickets to the Cally’s Crew (Ryan Callahan Foundation) suite. Both are wonderful organizations in the Tampa area that help cancer families in different ways. The boys LOVED their first Lightning game and immediately fell in love with the team and the whole experience. We have since had the opportunity to attend 2 more lightning games, in which my niece and nephew also were able to experience their first Lightning game. At one of those games we were invited to walk on center ice during the national anthem as part of Hockey Fights Cancer night. It was a night dedicated to everyone fighting cancer, and loved ones who have been lost to cancer. It was an incredible night and an experience I will never forget. We were standing on center ice looking up at the crowd, who all had their cell phone lights on and it looked like a room full of stars. It was a very special and unforgettable moment. My favorite part of the games though it watching the kids go crazy when the Lightning score a goal. Especially Caleb… he cheers and jumps up and down and gets so excited! Here are some pics from the lightning games we have been able to attend so far, and I see many more in our future! The boys also now play hockey inside our house on our tile, and street hockey outside whenever they get the chance.
I am so thankful that we were able to host Thanksgiving at our new house. About a year ago we closed on our house, but since we were not settled in yet, and then had to go back to St. Jude in early December, we had not gotten a chance to celebrate a major holiday here. It was so nice to hit that milestone and have everyone over for Thanksgiving dinner! Of course my mom and I started the morning off with our annual turkey run (so we could eat more later ha ha!) Then in the early afternoon we had everyone over for dinner. I am grateful for all the family that was here, and time spent together, even though we were missing those no longer with us.
This season of life has been blessed but also has not come without heartbreak. In less than 2 months we lost my aunt unexpectedly, and we also lost my Oma who was 92. It was hard going through the holidays without them! I know they would have loved to spend the holidays in our new home, watching the boys get excited about every little thing. But they lived good lives and will always be remembered. Loss is hard, but being grateful for everything I do have is what keeps me going. Aunt Susie and Oma, you will always hold a special place in our hearts!
As I mentioned in the start of this post, we have been able to be a part of many St. Jude events here in Tampa. In our minds it is just a small way way we can give back to St. Jude. If Caleb’s story inspires others to give then it will help Caleb and so many others. St. Jude has given us so much, and for that we feel like we can never fully re-pay them. The first thing we did this Fall is go to our local iHeart station and record some sound bytes for the St. Jude Radiothon. The Radiothon was back in November and was all about raising awareness in the Tampa Bay Area about St. Jude’s Mission. The Radiothon is a national event, so this is something that radio stations are doing all over the country. For our area, it was on Country Station US103.5. During the Radiothon some of our sound bytes played, my favorite being Caleb’s little voice saying “Thank you for donating to St. Jude!” I giggled every time I heard him on the air. The last day of the Radiothon I volunteered to answer phones. People would call up and make their donations to St. Jude. I didn’t realize how emotional this would be, as I had callers telling me about how they lost loved ones to cancer, and why they wanted to donate. The callers and myself were in tears at times. It was really touching that people were inspired to donate and I am happy I was able to personally thank everyone who called to donate to St. Jude that day. Here are a few pics from both the day we pre-recorded our sound bytes and from the live Radiothon.
Here are a few of our audio clips (just screen recorded from my phone, so ignore the video part).
On top of the Radiothon, Caleb and I were also asked to be a part of the St. Jude fashion show in Orlando. St. Jude partnered with Dillards, a corporate sponsor of St. Jude, to put on a luncheon. A portion of sales from shopping that day also went to St. Jude. When they first asked me to speak and walk in the fashion show, it was at least a month away so I said “sure!” But as the fashion show got closer I was SO nervous. I am not going to lie I wondered what I got myself into! But once I met the coordinator of the show at Dillards, the stylist, and all the other models I was immediately at ease. They all made it a really fun event. There were also a couple other local St. Jude patients there and I really enjoyed meeting them and hearing their stories. Part of my nerves were about how Caleb was going to act. He is only 4 after all, and sometimes gets shy around large crowds. But even he had a great time and secretly I think he was soaking up all the attention! They fitted me for a beautiful dress, and Caleb for an adorable little suit. So we walked down the aisle together (without tripping HA HA!!) and I spoke for a few minutes about our story and our experience with St. Jude. It was a wonderful afternoon, and I am thankful for James and our family and friends being there to support me!
And if Caleb wasn’t enough of a local celebrity already (HA HA!) he was also on national TV in a commercial with Michael Strahan. I loved hearing from everyone who saw him on TV yelling “Florida!” He was also on the poster for GNC and many people saw his poster in local stores. We even took him to see himself and he was pretty amused! He was also in several other email and digital ads. Thanks again to everyone who messaged me or sent me a text every time they spotted him! We don’t have an official copy of the commercial yet (but we will soon), however a friend recorded it straight from the TV for us so enjoy that along with all his digital ads:
Caleb’s treatment has been going pretty well with only some minor hiccups (as I will explain in part 2 of this post). But we have been very fortunate to have had him feeling good the majority of the time. He was able to enjoy Thanksgiving, Christmas, and many of these other special events we have attended. He has even been able to enjoy a little time at school. From spirit days to his Thanksgiving feast with his class, Caleb has enjoyed every moment he’s been able to be at school. I was able to join his class for their Thanksgiving feast and I soaked up every minute. I loved watching him interact with his little friends, and he showed me his favorite centers that he plays in every day. If you read his little placemat that he made it says “I am thankful for mommy’s kisses.” OH MY HEART!!!!
As we moved closer to Christmas we decorated our house and attended many fun events that helped us get into the Christmas spirit. As a present from my mom we took the boys to see The Nutcracker Ballet (and to my surprise the boys really enjoyed it!) They were captivated by the music and dancing. We attended an amazing Christmas party put on by The Children’s Cancer Center. We resumed our yearly tradition of riding The Polar Express at The Florida Railroad Museum. And to top it off the boys helped me with my Christmas baking and cookie frosting (and cookie frosting always ends with a frosting fight… it’s tradition ha ha!)
One of my most fun memories of the season was a HUGE surprise for the boys. Caleb didn’t get a chance to go to his regular Santa visit. We snapped a quick pic with the Santa at the Polar Express, but each year we usually go to the mall, or to their Grebbie’s work place for real pictures with Santa. However this year we were afraid to take Caleb out where there were a lot of germs since his counts were low most of the month. So we had Santa come to us. I knew the boys would be excited but I didn’t realize how fun it would be for our whole family. Our amazing friend and photographer Jennifer Griffin took the photos and the memories are priceless. Tyler and Caleb had a lot of questions for Santa, and he handled all their questions like a pro. He also gave them reindeer food and explained how things work since we don’t have a chimney in our new house. It was a great time for all! We ended that evening with letting the kids open their Christmas PJ’s and watching a Christmas movie, which is our annual tradition.
One night, a few days before Christmas I walked into our living room to this scene… what is so special about 2 boys sitting in the living room by the Christmas tree? It just hit me in that moment that we are really home, and both of my boys are here, by the magical glow of the tree lights. What is special about this picture is that there isn’t really anything special about this picture. “Normal” life in our home has never felt better!
So that pretty much brings us to Christmas. I love the excitement of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning probably as much as they do. Christmas Eve we put out the cookies for Santa and put the reindeer food in the front yard. The boys get up early on a normal day, but they were up SUPER early on Christmas. Tyler came to get me at 5:30. But I can’t even get mad because the excitement and joy in their eyes is so magical. Christmas Day was wonderful!
We spent the rest of break with our family. We did a little bowling, played games, went to the movies, and rang in the New Year with friends!
As 2019 came to and end I thought a great deal about all we went through in that year. I am glad all of it is behind us. I pray we never have to go through any of that again. But above all I am grateful for what 2019 taught me. I learned to let go of things I can’t control and live in the moment. I learned to be grateful for everyone in my life every single day. Our faith became stronger as a family. We made so many new friends both in Memphis, and here at home. I let go of what I thought my life was supposed to be like and am just letting it lead me wherever I’m supposed to be. I am not sure what 2020 holds, but I go into it with a new outlook on life and how precious it is. Thank you to everyone for your continued love and support. Don’t forget to read Part 2 to find out about Caleb’s treatment as we enter our LAST ROUND OF CHEMO!!!!!