Three Years. #ThisIsForJosh

Three years ago tonight, I snuggled with my boy and fell asleep sooner than I meant to for the last time. I woke up a few hours later and had to watch his sisters’ world crash down around them, knowing they’d be going home without their brother and best friend. We left Children’s Hospital without our boy on the oppressively hot afternoon of July 7, 2014. I don’t know how we made it the few blocks to the hotel without collapsing, but once we did, we couldn’t leave. We couldn’t bring ourselves to go home yet without him. It hasn’t gotten easier to be without him. Three years is a long time, but a sound, smell, or glimpse can bring me right back to the hospital. And I still wake up some mornings shocked by my reality. Three years… I look at his best friends and imagine him standing there. He was just hitting a growth spurt- how tall would he be now? His friends horse around and tell jokes, and I can hear him cracking up. We’re lucky to have his friends and their families around us so much. They are our lifeline, really. The boys have become surrogate brothers to our girls. They and their parents are like family to us now. And they’re a big part of the foundation we started in Joshua’s memory. When a child dies, the love you have for them doesn’t… so we put our love for Josh into Joshua Kaye Foundation and every year since we lost him, from 7/7 through his birthday on 8/3, we ask friends, family, and our community to join us in acts of kindness.

The acts can be big or small, serious or silly. We’ll be sharing ideas and specific group opportunities on our Facebook page and on Instagram. If you decide to join us, please share your acts of kindness on social media with #ThisIsForJosh.

Thank you for all of the love and support,

M ❤️

Mother’s Day (A Day After, Anyway..) -M

Mother’s Day is different than it used to be. I guess it always is. When we’re little, it’s exciting to make special things for mom, our own creations- cards, art, jewelry, breakfast, and, as a teen, apologies. Then it becomes our turn to be spoiled by the beautiful, simple pleasures of extra snuggles, breakfast made by tiny, messy hands, and maybe one less turn wiping bums that day. (Thanks, Dads!) I used to look forward to Mother’s Day for the special handmade cards and gifts that were coming my way, and of course I still do, but there’s something missing.

 

Handprint Art by Joshua

This was my third Mother’s Day without my sweet boy. The first, I tried not to cry all day, but did anyway. And I refused to take calls except from my mom (but not on her first attempt.) Last year, my husband and little one made breakfast, but I don’t remember much else. This year, I avoided social media, and forgot to call my mom until after her bedtime. I received lots of loving messages from friends and family and put off reading a beautifully honest piece about mothering that a dear friend dedicated to me until this morning. But my day was mostly good. Yummy brunch made by my husband and little one, followed by hours of bracelet making with my girls. Maybe it helped that we were working on bracelets to honor Joshy, or maybe it’s that my hands were busy, my girls were chatty, and I couldn’t focus on the hole in the beads with tears in my eyes, but I definitely cried less.

Sending love to all the awesome moms out there, with a little extra for the moms who will never be whole.

M❤️

Why We’re Suing Whole Foods and Rain Crow Ranch

My husband, Andrew Kaye, wrote the following this afternoon, after reading that Rain Crow Ranch had been forced to suspend operations. I couldn’t have put my thoughts together better than this.

This is the ranch whose product infected our son, Joshua, with the E. coli that killed him after he ate it and also sickened multiple children.

This is the ranch who had a different recall a week before we bought the ground beef that made Joshua sick.

This is the ranch run by an owner who openly preaches that you can not get E. coli from grass-fed beef.

This is the ranch which Whole Foods lent money to in order to buy/convert the processing plant that was just shut down, the processing plant which has had a long “contentious relationship” with Federal Safety Inspection Services.

This is the ranch whose products Whole Foods relies upon to supply their Northeast region with grass-fed beef.

This is the ranch whose products Whole Foods has never removed from their stores.

This is the ranch whose products Whole Foods continues to tout as meeting the highest standards for quality and safety.

Sadly, this is is the ranch who will be back up and running again before you know it and sadly, Whole Foods will, in all likelihood, keep on selling their beef while touting their bogus feel-good family farm story.

Because it is about money. If it were about safety or quality or, to quote Whole Foods oft-repeated and incredibly insulting term, “an abundance of caution”, they’d cut ties.

So, for anyone that may question for a moment why my wife and I are suing Whole Foods and Rain Crow, it is to hit them in the only place that matters to them, the wallet. To make the cost of doing business the wrong way costlier than doing it the right way.

Until then, when they sicken or, God forbid, kill the next kid, may the lot of them face criminal charges.

♥️One of my photos of Andy with Joshua ♥️

♥️One of my favorite photos of Andy with Joshua ♥️

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

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to Joshua Kaye #ThisIsForJosh

I have four children.  It isn’t very often that I get to spend one on one time with any of them.  I had the opportunity today to spend the whole day with my youngest son who is 7.

I had to work a little bit in the AM.  I had no choice but to work, so I let him have some bonus tv time.

He kept asking me, “you almost done?” “Can we play now?”  I was engrossed in work and REALLY wanted to keep working until I was finished, but because I knew I was wasting precious one on one time with my baby, I did the bare minimum (per usual it seems).

When I was finished, I asked him what he would like to do and he chose playing out in the back yard.  So we played catch, tennis, soccer and he wanted me to watch him do some soccer ball tricks.

We then went to the mall to buy a few last minute gifts for his older brother who is turning 14 tomorrow.  When we finished doing what we had to do I, once again, turned the power to my little 7 year old.  I told him he was in charge and I would follow his lead.

He opted for ice cream first.  Well, it is actually frozen yogurt, but because of my families food allergies to peanuts and tree-nuts (to name a few), we are pretty limited with what is safe for us. We sat together and ate our ice cream.  I refrained from pulling out my phone. I sat, in silence, with him while we ate and he chatted about what he wanted to chat about.

Next we went to Build-A-Bear.  For the record- I NEVER say yes to building a bear.  We have too many stuffed animals in the house, it is too expensive (for me with four kids) and I just never say yes.  Because he was in charge today, I was willing to splurge.  He chose a $16.00 bear.  No noises, no smells, no clothes, not even a certificate.  His wants are so sweet and simple, he just wanted the softest, cuddliest bear they had.  My heart was so filled with love.  Again, I refrained from pulling out my phone while waiting.

Next he just wanted to walk around and hold my hand.

 

Holding-Childs-Hand

After we left the mall, we had to pick up his sister at a very crowded beach, met up with his 2 older brothers and had a fun filled evening with friends at Coco Keys water park.  It was busy and chaotic, just like our normal life.

I dedicate this day to my dear friends’ child, Joshua Kaye, who is no longer with us.   Losing him taught me that the time we have right now is all we have.

I put off a lot of things for later that I just don’t get to.  One thing that sticks in my mind was a giant princess puzzle that my daughter got for her birthday when she was 4.  She LOVED that puzzle.  It was life-sized and the pieces were big.  Water spilled on it and the pieces got all warped.  I took the pieces and put them flat under a large pile of heavy books.  I told her they would probably flatten out over time.  She asked me daily for those pieces, asking if they were ready yet.  Day after day after day.  I got frustrated she asked me so frequently.

Then, one day- a few years later-  I was cleaning up and (woah!) there were those puzzle pieces. Three years had past.  She no longer wanted them.  It was such a simple thing I could have done to make a 4 year old happy.  I could have just checked on the stupid pieces to see if they are ready yet for her, but no- I was too busy.  You only have now.

Yes, I was on my phone today. I texted, looked things up, and got some work done.  But, I was also very aware of the here and now.  I made my 7 year old really happy.  He feels so very special that he got to see what his big brother is getting for his birthday before everybody else and we got some amazing one-on-one time.

I dedicate this and most of my days since Josh’s passing on July 7th 2014 to him.  There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t think of him and his family and how they wake up every single day without him.  I think about how courageous Josh’s parents are.  They made a decision that they must continue to really live their lives without their precious 8 year old son, for their two daughters.

Everything about Joshua’s death sickens me.  He should be here.  But he isn’t. (Read his story here and here.) Instead of walking around angry and sad all of the time, I try to be understanding, kind, and loving for my own kids.  I have learned to be more patient and, most of all, present.

Life with 4 kids, plus a small business, being an author, radio show co-host and blogger is busy and sometimes a blur, but I am taking one moment at a time and trying to do it with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

#ThisIsForJosh

For more information about Joshua Kaye Foundation, visit the foundation’s Facebook page.

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 ❤️

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.

Taking Down the Tree

Josh's ornament
We’re taking down the tree.

The tree that I delayed putting up. That A practically had to beg for this year. That we cried, decorating.

That Josh would have loved and sat near and gazed at with such joy.

The first tree without him.

We have lived through our first holiday season without our boy. Should I be relieved?

I’m not.

I feel like it would be better, easier, if we had melted down. Exploded. Imploded. If the world had just stopped.

It hurts more, somehow, knowing that we can go on without him.

Trigger Warnings & Facebook’s Year in Review

About a year ago, I read an article about high school and college students wanting trigger warnings for material on the syllabus. I was irritated and thought it was unreasonable. I understood that if someone had PTSD or had been raped, that certain material may trigger some awful memories and emotions. At the same time, I assumed that these students participate in the real world to some degree, if they are able to sit in a classroom and do homework. If that’s the case, these students are probably watching TV and skimming Facebook timelines, where they will see movie trailers, commercials, headlines and video clips that may cause similar distress. My conclusion was that if schools agreed to label the reading list with trigger warnings, it would become a never ending list. The best literature is often packed with the hardest things in life. Reading some of the things might be hard, but working through the book may be good therapy. Or not. Student’s choice at that point.

This past week, as each Facebook friend’s Year in Review popped up, I felt a little kick to my gut every time I read the words “It’s been a great year. Thanks for being a part of it!” In fact, the first time it popped up, I felt a little hurt- how could someone close to me say that it had been a great year? My son died on July 7 after a nightmarish 13 day battle with E. coli. It was sudden and shocking. We watched our child suffer in ways no person ever should and we witnessed things that replay in our minds every day, like nightmares on a movie screen as we try to live without him.

Trigger Warning
So, when I read a Huffington Post article yesterday, saying that Facebook had apologized to a dad who lost his daughter this year, I was torn. I feel for the guy. I know how jarring it was to see the automated prompt, with my boy’s smiling face in the middle and confetti all around. I knew what the last 6 months of my year have looked like and I didn’t want a replay. But, I did not have to look! I think the app was a great idea- it’s fun for most people. It wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t fun to see everyone’s happy year end while mine sucks. But, that is my life right now. I don’t expect a trigger warning on Facebook, or on the radio before an ad for Whole Foods, where we bought the ground beef that made Joshy sick. I don’t expect companies like Folger’s to change their emotional commercials so that they don’t highlight, for me, the fact that I will never wake up at my adult son’s home and tell his children stories of his childhood. I can’t expect to avoid seeing adorable, blonde boys playing with sisters and friends, searching for bugs, walking their dogs. I shouldn’t expect to avoid the feelings that follow the most traumatic events and the biggest loss of my life.

Sometimes, life is hard. Sometimes it sucks and is unfair. Sometimes awful, unthinkable things happen. We can not expect the world to think of every terrible possibility and walk on eggshells to avoid triggering our nightmares. We must do the best we can to work through and live on, hopefully remembering the happy times more often than the worst.

Life is full of firsts….

Josh's RainbowFirsts are so much fun when you have a baby. First smile, first time rolling over, first belly laugh, first steps, first day of pre-school.

We keep records of these. They go down in our pediatricians files to make sure kids are on the right track. Now with social media, we share them with friends and family, far and wide. Sometimes, we even prepare, searching Pinterest for creative signs for kids to hold- think first lost tooth, first day of 3rd grade- so cute!

Sometimes, firsts are not so great. On July 7, 2014 my very dear friend, Melissa Kaye, lost her 8 year old son, Josh, after a 13 day fight against E-Coli. Since then, she has experienced a whole new series of firsts. Heart-wrenching, can’t breathe firsts. He died in July, his birthday was in August, his first day of fourth grade would have been in September, first Halloween without Josh in October, first Thanksgiving in November, and the upcoming holiday season. Every day without him is an unimaginable first.

Our children were friends and went to the same school, where they arranged for a grief counselor come and speak. She was wonderful. She spoke about the different ways our children may grieve, and what we should look for and how to react. It helped.

Something the grief counselor said that night stuck with me. She mentioned that a lot of parents lose friends after losing a child. Their friends are usually parents who have children the same age as the child who died. The parents of the living child often have survivor’s guilt and that is beyond uncomfortable. But to lose your friends in addition to your child is just not right.

I can see why this happens. It is definitely easier to avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable than to face them. This is a first for me. To witness my close friend’s loss, the loss of a child I knew well, but I have faced those feelings head on with my friend, her husband and her daughters. I am there for them regardless of how heart-wrenching life can be for them with all of these new firsts.

The first few months after Josh passed, I felt as though I didn’t deserve to be happy. Why should I get to enjoy my children when this wonderful, loving family cannot enjoy their son? Everything I did, I felt guilty about. It is such a desperately low, dark, and painful place to be. The loss of a child is just unthinkable- unacceptable. But time goes on and the days keep on coming even if you aren’t ready for them. I wanted to rewind time. These raw, emotional days happened over the summer, when I was surrounded by my own four children all of the time. I have never been as grateful for them as I was this past summer. I felt as if I was living in slow motion and really started to see life as it should be. I spent the extra time reading bed time stories. I paid attention to sunsets and rainbows, and really listened. I allowed myself to cry in front of my children and accepted hugs.

I don’t ever want to experience anything like this again. However, I have been shown just how beautiful life can be, even in the midst of the ugliest thing I have ever experienced. I cherish each and every moment I get with my children, even if I am yelling at them (which still happens more frequently than I care to admit). I take stock of all the good in my life a few times per day now. I count my blessings and the Kaye family is one of them. I am a changed woman, for the better. Josh’s death is still unthinkable for me; I don’t understand it. I do understand that the small bullshit things that used to bother me just don’t matter anymore. It may sound cliche to tell you to try and be more present with your life and give hugs when you can, but I have to say it anyway.