Without the Birthday Boy…

Ten years ago, at this moment, I was in labor. I was 4 hours and 35 minutes away from bringing my beautiful son into this world. I was rocking permanent dents into the carpet of my bedroom with every contraction.. trying to stay quiet in my new rocking chair so my family could rest, elated that my baby boy would soon be snuggling in my arms. No matter how many crazy worries went through my head, I never imagined I would be here tonight without my son.

Josh would be SO happy to be celebrating double digits. And we would be happy to do anything he wanted for his birthday. The January before he died, we started the tradition of decorating the dining room with birthday streamers and a banner and balloons and really going all out in the simple ways that make a kid feel special. I could tell he was a tiny bit jealous of his little sister that day, and I was so looking forward to spoiling him in that same way for his birthday 6 1/2 months later. We never got the chance. We spent the days leading up to his 9th birthday trying to wrap our heads around the fact that our son would not be there to celebrate. Our little boy was dead. Forever 8 years old.

We spent his last few days making promises to him- ways we would celebrate his birthday and spoil him when he woke up. Not “if.” We would help him build the treehouse of his dreams. We would even call Pete from Treehouse Masters if he wanted. I would let him skip the next year of school if he wanted, and just spend time doing everything he had ever wanted to do. We meant every word.

On August 3, 2015 at 5:35 AM, Joshua Quentin Kaye will be 10 years old, but he won’t be here to celebrate, to hug, to spoil. I will do my best to hug and love and spoil whoever I am with- all day. I hope you will do the same. #ThisIsForJosh

Josh at NEWC fence JKF Stamp

 

 

 

 

Marking A Year…

We lost Joshy just 27 days before his 9th birthday. Those were the some of the saddest days of the saddest year of our lives, but so much love was shown to us. Losing a child forces lessons on parents, siblings, and friends. We realize that life is short and tomorrow is not guaranteed. The little moments with our children matter more than anything. And telling someone you love them shouldn’t wait!

As we mark our first whole year without him, we’d like these next few weeks to be filled with love. Tomorrow, 7/7 through Josh’s birthday, 8/3, we’d love it if you’d join us in spreading joy and love by sharing how you stay present in the moment, share your love, or spread kindness, using the hashtag #ThisIsForJosh on social media.

Joshy Tying Little A's Shoe

Joshy Tying Little A’s Shoe ❤️

How NOT to Do Customer Service

Oh. My. God. I just hung up the phone with Panasonic customer service and I am ready to pull out my hair.

I bought a Panasonic canister vacuum in January from Target.com- I even sprung for the extended warranty. Well, the vacuum stopped working- just stopped, won’t turn on. Things happen, no big deal, this is why warranties exist. So, I called Target. Super short call with a very nice person who advised me that the vacuum was still under the manufacturer’s warranty, so I would need to speak with Panasonic directly. She even transferred me. Super easy.

After a few minutes of automated prompts, followed by a few minutes of hold time, a nice Panasonic employee answered the call. I explained my situation and she said I would have to drop the vacuum off in South Windsor. Very nonchalantly, like that was the next town over from me. South Windsor is in CONNECTICUT. 1 hour and 50 minutes away. I told the agent that it was too far a drive. Oh, not to worry- they’ll “be happy to reimburse for 50% of the cost of shipping.” I’m sorry… WHAAAT?!?!

I calmly explained that since the vacuum broke less than 6 months after purchase and there was not a service location nearby, it was enough of an inconvenience to have a broken vacuum and to have to lug said vacuum to a UPS store, but to have to pay (prob $100?) was not something I was willing to do. When she said there was nothing more she could do, I asked her to to transfer me to a manager.

A manager got on the line after a few minutes and sounded like she was reading a script. She literally told me that when I purchased the vacuum, I automatically agreed to the terms of the warranty, which, according to her, state that 50% of shipping would be covered by the customer. (I’m not sure how I was supposed to agree to something I couldn’t see inside a sealed cardboard box, but, for kicks, I looked it up on their site. And- surprise!- there is no mention of the customer being responsible for 50% of the shipping costs.) Once again, I explained the situation and why I felt a customer should not be responsible for paying for shipping in this situation. I asked to speak to her manager. She insisted she did not have a manager, but told me I could write to consumer affairs. No telephone number or email- snail mail only. Seriously.

I know, from experience, that there are far worse things in this world, but I don’t have patience for things that waste my time. And, as a business owner, I can not wrap my head around the way Panasonic has failed to empower their customer service managers to resolve issues in a reasonable and responsible way.

This is exactly how NOT to do customer service.

-M

Almost a Year…

It’s June already. Soon enough, I’ll be marking the one year anniversary of the day he got sick. The day we went to the ER. The day he was transferred to ICU. The day he coded. The day we learned he would never come home with us again. The day we left the hospital without our boy.

Joshua Quentin Kaye was born on August 3, 2005. 10 days after his due date, after only 8 hours of labor. It was the perfect-story labor; a little funny and completely sweet. After several years of infertility, with a big sister begging for a little brother, it’s possible there had never been a baby born who was more wanted and planned for than him. He weighed in at 8 pounds 3 ounces, which was a shock, because he was so skinny- and then they stretched him out. He measured 22 1/2 inches long. He was an adorable string bean. I remember being stunned when he lifted his head off of my husband’s shoulder to look around the room as Andy carried him to me. He was perfect. Much lighter than I had expected- blonde hair and blue eyes?!- but gorgeous. His big sister was so happy, proud, in love. She beamed with joy as she held him. And our family was perfect.

Our boy was engaging and funny from the very beginning. His eyes like gorgeous pools, reflecting love back at everyone who saw him. He loved to meet people, but was happiest at home with his family- especially his doting sister.

Baby Josh, before his eyes turned green.

Baby Josh, before his eyes turned green.

He did everything early. He stacked a set of wooden blocks when he was 5 months old. He pulled himself to standing at 6 months and was climbing stairs a few weeks later. We had to be ready for anything! And he loved to laugh!

When Josh became a big brother at 3 1/2, he was concerned and a little jealous. But, he spent his mornings building giant towers for his “Baby A” and playing songs for her on his harmonica.

We moved to a new house a few months later and when we got new furniture for the living room, our sweet boy mourned the couch he had found comfort on- while nursing, snuggling, napping, and playing- for days and weeks. He was passionate, loyal, sentimental, and connected strongly to things he cared about. Even couches.

When Josh was 5, doctors discovered a Chiari malformation. Basically, his skull was a little to snug for his brain and they needed to perform a major surgery, cutting through all the muscles and bone at the base of his skull, to alleviate pressure on his brain stem and spinal cord. He sat himself up in bed 4 hours after his surgery and was walking around the hospital the next morning. The Chief of Neurosurgery was astonished. This child knew no limits. He didn’t know how to let things hold him back.

Joshua’s friends were happy to have him back at school. He was the planner of games, the peacemaker among arguing friends. And, as his friends have told us over the last 11 months, the boy who stuck up for his friends, stopped others from teasing, listened to what mattered and showed love- always.

He was not perfect at home. He pushed and he argued and he refused to do homework on anyone’s timeline but his own. He got mad when his big sis needed quiet time do focus on school work and wasn’t always kind to his little sister when she wanted his attention. But he made us laugh. He did the cutest little tushy shake you could ever imagine and he would sing along to whatever songs he and his sisters had on repeat with his sweet, sincere voice.

Our silly boy!

Our silly boy!

He was an animal and nature lover. I think a wild lion would have laid down and rolled over for a tummy rub if Josh asked him to. He would spend hours with his friends or little sister, looking for cool bugs or standing still so a dragonfly or butterfly could land on him. He loved to go for long walks and just be out in nature.

When Josh was 6 1/2, he heard about mass dolphin strandings on the Cape and he asked if we could go and help. It was winter and the beach where the dolphins needed help was 2 hours away. He insisted that we find a way to help, so we called IFAW to find out what they needed most and then planned a fundraiser. Joshy spent hours cutting out pictures of dolphins and making a poster to bring to school. He told all of his friends and teachers and raised over $1000 for IFAW. He was so proud when he received a thank you note from, then president of IFAW, Fred O’Regan.

Joshua loved to build. He used to get so frustrated when I said no to buying actual bricks and mortar so he could “build stuff” in the back yard. He settled for Minecraft and hand-drawing plans for furniture, buildings and tree-houses. When I told him about Habitat for Humanity one night, he couldn’t fall asleep. The thought that he might be able to help build a real house for someone who needed one was too exciting!

He never felt like he was too young to do anything, but he was definitely too young to die.

Joshy squishy face JKF stamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day- After Losing My Son

I’m sitting here trying not to fall apart. Friends and family members have been sending sweet messages since last night. It has been a busy week, with dress rehearsal and Little A’s dance recital, so I kept my mind on those things as much as possible. I cried my way through her recital. So happy and filled with love watching her dance. And her friends- and Joshy’s friends. And so incredibly sad that he was not there to see. He loved music and dance and really enjoyed the recitals.

My mother-in-law came to stay with us this weekend to be here for A’s recital. I made her change her plans so she would leave today. I don’t want to be with anyone today.

My mother called this morning. I let her go to voicemail. She just called again, so I answered and regretted it instantly. “Happy Mother’s Day” she said, trying extra hard to sound cheerful. “Thanks. I’m not really doing Mother’s Day.” She paused and replied with “Well, you could at least say Happy Mother’s Day to your own mother” in a voice that I know was trying to cheer me up and shake me out of my misery. I think she thinks I am sitting alone in a dark room, ignoring my other children. “You still have two girls…” she started, but I told her I didn’t feel like talking. I can tell she feels badly. And maybe I even hurt her feelings, but I can’t help it.  Little A immediately said “Why don’t you feel like talking to your mom? Is it because you’re missing Joshy?” Jesus, this kid gets it. She does not miss a thing- ever.

Joshua Laying on Grass JQK

Today is my tenth Mother’s Day as Joshua’s mother and he is not here to make me a beautiful card, do the silly dances he was famous for, or fight with his sisters, forcing me to say “Guys, it’s Mother’s Day- try to get along for me.”

I have lived 10 months and 3 days without my boy. Rarely has a moment passed that I haven’t been actively thinking of him. When I watch the girls together, I think “oh, how sweet” and half a second later “Joshy should be there, pulling pranks or reading stories.”

Life after the death of your child is unbearable at times. I could end this post with a positive It Will Get Better message, but I’m not feeling that way right now and I know there are lots of other moms missing their babies today. I’m thinking of you. I’m crying today and trying to smile a few times for my husband and my girls, but mostly- I’m missing my boy.

Why I Take Ticks Very Seriously

One spring evening, when my youngest daughter was 2, my husband came home from work and asked if Little A had a sunburn on her face. I thought we must have missed a spot during her squirmy sun-blocking session, and I didn’t think much of it until the next day. It looked almost like she had been whipped in the face with something, but I knew that hadn’t happened. We gave it a couple of days, but the blotchy, rashy patches on her face didn’t go away, they seemed to fade and brighten, and they became more pronounced. And she was a little cranky and warm. When I finally brought her to the pediatrician, several days after her “sunburn” appeared, her doctor walked into the room and knew immediately that it was Lyme disease. Wow. Holy shit, right? 2 years old with Lyme disease and we had only been playing in our own back yard! She started antibiotics, and we avoided the outdoors while I hunted for a solution to our tick problem. I was obviously afraid of more tick bites and more Lyme disease for the rest of the family, but I was also concerned about chemicals being sprayed where my kids play (or anywhere for that matter!) Luckily, I found a non-toxic company to help. Pure Solutions sprays an organic, non-toxic solution all around our yard and our property stays tick free! (BONUS- it also kills mosquitoes!)

MB PS Lyme info pic final

Since Little A’s diagnosis of Lyme disease in 2011, I have learned more than I ever cared to know about ticks and tick borne illness. Even the coldest New England winter won’t kill off all the ticks, and deer aren’t the only carriers of “deer ticks.” Mice, chipmunks, squirrels and other small animals carry them around- so even if you have a fenced-in yard, you aren’t in the clear!

We’ve partnered with Pure Solutions this month to bring you important information about ticks and keeping your family safe from tick-borne illness. Watch our FaceBook for more tips and stay tuned for a podcast in the coming weeks! Please like, share and comment with any questions you might have!

Happy (and safe) spring!

M

 

Because I Just Can’t Get Enough of This Video!

I keep finding myself watching this video every time I check a text or get a call. And my friends and family are telling me the same. So, with Little A’s permission, I am sharing it with you. I hope it makes you smile!

 

PS- I regret that I was holding my phone the wrong way… I was operating in stealth mode so I wouldn’t interrupt her groove.

 

5 Genius Ideas for Chore Charts!

My kids don’t mind helping around the house, but there is no routine- I have to ask them to do each thing I’d like help with. “L, please empty the dishwasher.” “A, please put your toys away” Feed the animals, bring your laundry down, dust your room, make your bed, brush your hair!

We’ve tried a few things in the past, but nothing has stuck. A few cute ideas have popped up on my screen lately, so I think it’s time to try something new. Here are my top picks for great Chore Charts!!

1. Clipboard & Velcro from Just Between Friends

Clipboard & Velcro Chore Chart from Just Between Friends

Clipboard & Velcro Chore Chart from Just Between Friends

This one only requires a few supplies and looks like it will come together really quickly. I love that they can be hung easily or carried around the house. I know Little A would like the concrete action of moving the chores from “To Do” to the “Done” side.

2. Post-it Note Printable Chore Chart from Tatertots & Jello

Post-It Note Chore Chart from Tatertots & Jello!

Post-It Note Chore Chart from Tatertots & Jello!

I think this is my favorite. I’m usually not super fond of playing with our printer, but my kids have an odd fascination with Post-Its and I think this will go over really well!

3. Simple Chore Chart from My Name Is Snickerdoodle

Simple Magnet Chore Chart from My Name Is Snickerdoodle!

Simple Magnet Chore Chart from My Name Is Snickerdoodle!

This is definitely easy and effective for younger ones, but at 16, L might be offended if I make a chart like this for her.

4.  Printable Chore Chart From The Gilded Pear

Printable Chore Chart From The Gilded Pear!

Printable Chore Chart from The Gilded Pear!

This one takes the least amount of effort and still looks great! Just choose the color you want and print!

5. Popsicle Stick Chore Chart from Everyday Commotion

Popsicle Stick Chore Chart from Everyday Commotion

Popsicle Stick Chore Chart from Everyday Commotion

This one is also great- I think Little A would love moving the sticks and seeing her progress, but the board is a bit bulky.

Which ones do you like best?

Getting Down to Business With Rosie Pope

In honor of National Poison Prevention week, Tide and Gain asked Rosie Pope to chat with fantastically cool mom bloggers like Jenn and me! (I’m sure it had a little something to do with this.) To be clear- we did not receive any compensation, but we did get the opportunity to FaceTime with ROSIE POPE and she is all kinds of awesome. Like, I want to have her over for tea and let our kids make messy artwork once a week awesome. She is sweet and genuine and really REAL about being a mom and an entrepreneur. If you don’t know who Rosie is, check her out here.

We had a lot of fun chatting and we even set up our screen to record the FaceTime interview, but we didn’t get the audio!!! (QuickTime, it really is not cool that a new screen recording, defaults to no audio!) So, while we have this adorable screenshot for you, we don’t have the fun video we had planned.

I'm pretty sure we were laughing at boobie jokes. We are super classy.

I’m pretty sure we were laughing at boobie jokes. We are super classy.

Instead, I’ll tell you all about it! We asked Rosie for her favorite advice for moms and here’s what she said:

“Remember, it’s all about phases! There will be different things to balance at different stages.”

She went on to explain that as much as we all love (some more than others) the sweet newborn phase, we would never make it out of those first few months if we didn’t all know that that phase doesn’t last forever. I can tell you, the same goes for terrible two’s and threenagers, homework hell, tween angst, etc. This woman is a sage.

Another bit of wisdom that Rosie really seems to take to heart is that (and it’s totally tweetable!):

“You can’t find balance alone” 

We all need a little help to keep things in balance. I know I need some down time on occasion, or a few hours to finish work that otherwise would be interrupted too many times to count, and I cherish the mom and dad friends of mine who host playdates, or drop their kids with me to give Little A some playtime- and me a few moments to focus. Same goes for my amazing husband, my 16 year old sweetheart of a daughter and countless neighbors and friends with whom we trade favors and rescues.

When conversation turned to National Poison Prevention Week, Rosie got down to business with really practical advice. With specific regard to cleaning products, Rosie points to Tide & Gain’s safety campaign slogan “Up, Up, and Away”

Keep all cleaning supplies – including laundry pacs – Up, Up and Away seal pacs up, store pacs up and keep pacs away.

But, it’s the advice that Rosie shares from her experience working with families and her own children that really hit home for me-

You may have heard when you were baby-proofing that you should get down on your child’s level and look at the world through their eyes. Most parents and grandparents apply this technique when child-proofing outlets, sharp corners and breakables, but Rosie reminds us to KEEP DOING THIS at each phase. When your first child starts to crawl and the house is baby-proofed, your worries are few. When baby #2 crawls into older sister’s room and finds legos and marbles, it’s a different story.

Even as a mom who gives out parenting advice as part of her daily life and work, it surprised me how strongly this last bit of advice struck me, it is that important-

Be aware of the risks in other people’s homes. Don’t be afraid to ask other parents and educate your kids.

Of course I feel comfortable asking friends and other parents if they have guns in their homes. I know there are no drugs, cigarettes or alcohol within reach of my children and their friends. I know that the few homes where I leave Little A for playdates are aware and careful of her allergies. But I have NEVER asked another parent where or how they store their cleaning supplies or taken a walk around with eyes peeled for cleaning products or other potentially dangerous chemicals. So many parents- great parents!- wouldn’t think twice about leaving the laundry soap out while they put away the rest of the groceries. Or perhaps they ask an older child to dump the dirty hockey bag into the washer while they get dinner going, and the laundry pods are left out absent mindedly. It is so very easy for accidents to happen- and even if your home is chemical-free, most homes are not. If we are comfortable enough to leave our child in the care of another person, we need to feel comfortable asking about what dangers might be in the home. And giving information or a reminder about keeping kids safe.

Please share this with your friends and family and tell us what you think in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Why Aren’t These Vocal Smoke Alarms For Sale?!

Somehow, this video of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s investigation of smoke alarms from 2004 has made a resurgence today on Facebook. It is alarming (no pun intended!) and extremely moving. It caused me to spend over an hour searching online to find a product.

In case you didn’t click the link above, or can’t watch it right now, the video shows Hank Phillippi Ryan meeting with families of fire fighters and filming nighttime testing of their smoke alarms, with frightening results. None of the children wake to the sound of the beeping alarm. OH MY GOD- they sleep right through!!! In the second half of the video, they test a (then) new kind of alarm- a vocal alarm that allows the parents to record their own voice- calmly but urgently calling their children to wake up and evacuate the home. ALL of the kids wake up and all but the child in his crib leave their rooms! By this time, I feel a bit shaky- quite emotional. seriously- I WANT THIS ALARM!!! Like, now. I’ll pay $100 and I want 2. Immediately.

Poking around online, I see that they are not currently for sale. I read several papers, including this very official study from 2006, that demonstrates the same outcome. In fact, the median time to awaken was 20 seconds in the voice alarm group compared with 3 minutes in the tone alarm group!!

WHERE THE HELL CAN I GET ONE?!

This Dateline video from 2013 features a doctor/researcher from a children’s hospital who also points to the child’s name and parent’s voice as important factors in waking the child quickly. The alarms we have in our home do have voice, but it is not my voice or my husband’s, and they certainly don’t call our the names of my children. Where is the study that shows my kids will wake up to this strange voice quicker than the beeping alarm?

I did find lots of old comments from people saying things like “well, wouldn’t the parents wake up and run to the kids anyway?” so, maybe there wasn’t enough interest in the personalized alarms until now. After seeing the videos, I’m guessing everyone I know will want one if it means their kids will wake up and get out in the event of a fire. Would you want one?

photo credit: Push and hold to test weekly via photopin (license)