Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Jujyfruits

I hate Jujyfruits.

Seven years ago I loved them.  You know 'em... The impossible-to-chew candies that refuse to come out of your teeth.  Heck, I even ate the black ones.  One box could easily last an entire two hour date night at the movies.

Seven years ago today, I ate my very last Jujyfruit.  I remember exactly where I was and who I was with... Sitting in my last week of masters classes, finishing up listening to my peers' final presentations.  I'd already completed my project, and I remember feeling so satisfied and content as I sat chatting with friends and celebrating our upcoming graduation. 

Less than 24 hours after that class, my life was turned upside down, as I rushed to get to my baby as his undiagnosed heart defect suddenly began taking its toll on his little body.

Seven years seems like a really long time to go without eating one of your favorite candies.  And yet, for some reason I just can't do it.  I feel like if I ate one, I'd foolishly hope to turn back into the person I was on June 30, 2008... The old me.  The na├»ve mom.  The one that was thankful she had her happy little family and felt so sad for others that didn't.  The one that couldn't imagine how anyone could go on after burying a child.

This is the first year since Nash died that my family won't be in Iowa on July 1st.  We have to be there for a wedding in early August and just couldn't figure out a way to make it work with the two dates so close together.   I've been pushing away the guilty feelings that come with this, but I'm afraid they're starting to creep up on me now that the day is only hours away. 

As most of you know, my boys were visiting Brad's parents in Iowa when Nash became sick.  Despite every effort, I didn't make it to him before he died.  From that day on, I promised him that I'd be at his grave in Iowa every year on July 1st at exactly 5:37pm.  And I've made good on that promise for six straight years.  But this year, I'm breaking it.  And honestly, I'm sick over it.  Logically, I know that we just couldn't make it work this year.  But as a mother, I know I'm letting him down.  And I'm so, so sorry for that.

Seven years doesn't heal any of the grief deep within my heart.  I've learned to cope; to find new ways to bring joy to my life.  I'm proud of what I've accomplished and even helped others in the process... But the reality is that my grief is still raw and still painful and so, so incredibly real. 

Friends... I need something from you tonight.  Prayers.  Please, lots of prayers.  Please pray that Nash forgives me for not being in Iowa "with" him tomorrow.  Please pray for the day to go by quickly.  And please pray that despite the distance between us, our hearts will feel as close as they did back when I still loved Jujyfruits.

Love to y'all,
Tracy

 
 


Friday, June 5, 2015

Dear Class of 2022

To the Class of 2022...

You thought you'd gotten rid of me, didn't you?  Well, not so fast, my friends.

So here's the thing... As happy as I am to begin my summer of no alarm clocks, plenty of pool days, and flip flop tanlines, I'm also so, so sad.

As you know, this was my 13th school year at Brinker, but my very first as a fifth grade teacher.  And as excited as I was for this next chapter and new challenge, I was pretty nervous too.  Nervous that I'd know enough to teach ten and eleven year olds.  Nervous that y'all would like me.  Nervous that I was getting in way over my head.

And then I met you.

Since our very first day together last August, you each have woven your way into my heart.  You've shown me love despite all my shortcomings - and y'all know I have a lot!  You've respected my wishes even when you may not have agreed with them.  You've laughed at my jokes even when they were corny.  You listened (most of the time!) as we trudged through curriculum - from figurative language to inferencing; from ecosystems to energy (who could forget the "baking powder incident" all over my black clothes?!); and from the Civil War to the Great Depression.  You put up with my love of country music when you would've much rather be listening to Maroon 5 or Ed Sheeran.  For all of this and so much more, I'm grateful to each of you.

I promise you... I will NEVER forget my first year as a fifth grade teacher.  And that's mostly because of each of you.  You are a unique group of kids that surpassed every expectation I had.  Whatever it is you brought to our class, I want you to know I noticed and I loved you for it.  Y'all are empathetic - your compassion for our special friends gives me goosebumps; you're intelligent - have you seen those STAAR results?!; you're mischievious - gum chewers, cell phone users, notepassers; you're passionate - about baseball, basketball, lacrosse, reading, dance, and even dogs; you're silly - handholding, the "shimmy," and the list goes on. You've come from all walks of life - literally from across this state, country, and WORLD - and we all ended up here.  Together. 

After 179 days, I know you're probably tired of it, but I'm going to give you just one more bit of advice.  You've heard them all before, but I assure you that if you follow my words, life will take you exactly where you want to go.

Go the extra mile.  Keep your eye on the prize.  If you fall, dust yourself off, and try again.  Treat each other with respect.  Make good choices. Ask for help.  And always, always be true to who YOU are. 

So, my fifth graders, as you move on to bigger and better things, please remember how much of an impact you've had on me.  Thank you all for letting me be just a small part of your journey.  I cannot wait to find out what each of your future holds.  No matter what endeavor you choose, I will be in your corner, cheering you on.

Good luck, my friends, as you begin this next exciting chapter of your lives.  And if you ever need some Brinker love, you know right where to find me.

Love you all,
Mrs. Sievers

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Life Lessons From the Diamond

Texas baseball is for real, y'all. 

I knew back when Tate was in kindergarten and began playing on a "select" team, that kids down here can play some ball and play it well.  For the last three years, like our fellow baseball families, we spend at least three to four weekdays at private hitting/pitching coaches, outdoor field practice, indoor batting practice, and league games.  With the exception of some of December and January, this is our life year round.  (Remember, we live in Texas!) And once February rolls around, the boys play tournaments all over the Dallas area about every other weekend till July. 

But he loves it this way, so we love it this way.

Now to some, this may seem overkill.  Some may even worry about burning their kids out at this rate.  And while, of course,  from time to time this thought crosses my mind as my eight year flops into bed at 9:30 on a school night, his genuine love for the game puts my mind at ease immediately. 

Tate's plays on an 8U AAA team full of little boys that love baseball as much as he does.  They currently are playing "up" in a 9UAA league during the week.  9U is the level where the rules of the game change significantly... It goes from coach pitch to kid pitch - with walks, stealing, balks, three outfielders (compared to having four in 8U), and no run rules per inning.  We've been sticking to 8U tourneys, however, decided to play in a huge (46 teams!) 9U tourney this weekend. 

Our team played their hearts out over the past two days, and while they ended up 2-2, they beat some impressive teams through pure determination, grit, and teamwork.  Not bad for their first time playing up in a 9U tourney.  And although none of our boys like to lose, I'm realizing that our kids are learning so much about life from this game they love so much...
  • Keep focused - don't let other people's actions or reactions distract you from your goal.
  • Cheaters never win.
  • Life isn't always fair and sometimes you just have to accept that. 
  • Respect everyone - even when you disagree with them.
  • Encouragement and support does more than criticism and negativity.
  • Surround yourself with others that pick you up when you're down.
  • Trying your best doesn't always give you the outcome you're hoping for.
This last one really got me tonight when we got home.  You see, in the last game today, Tate pitched.  Like I said earlier, our boys are just beginning to play kid pitch and they have a lot to learn.  Well today just wasn't Tate's day.  For whatever reason, he was just off and had a really hard time on the mound.  As a mom, I could see him falling apart, as his confidence started to wane.  Eventually, he got pulled and was sent back to short stop, where his body language showed his frustration for the remainder of the game.  And there I was helpless, watching my baby try his best to hold it together when I know he really just wanted to breakdown.

When we got home, Tate and I talked about the game and he voiced how frustrated he was that he "did terrible!" So I asked him if he tried his absolute best while he was pitching.  He said yes.  I told him that no matter the outcome, I'm proud of him as long as he's trying as hard as he can.  I also told him how it's unacceptable to pout about your performance while there's still a game going on.  I told him that once he gets to the car or home, he is more than welcome to vent and express his sadness or anger about his contribution to his team.  But during a game, you try your hardest till the last out.  NO excuses.

After our talk, I continued cooking dinner and I noticed him lingering in the kitchen.  A few minutes later, he hugged me around my waist and said, "Thanks, Mom."  I hugged him back and told him again how proud I was to watch him pitch even though it didn't turn out the way he wanted it to. It was at this point that he couldn't hold it in any longer.  He let loose and just cried and cried and cried.  I just stood there and hugged him tightly, as he said the words that put a lump in my throat, "I was so excited to get my chance to pitch, Mom.  I was waiting the whole tournament for that."  And then he cried some more, as my heart broke for him.  My poor buddy.  It's hard to explain to an eight year old that sometimes our best just isn't good enough.  And when that happens, we have to just be okay with that.  Accept it, move on, and keep trying. 

Tate is only eight years old and doesn't even realize the wisdom that he's acquiring every time he puts on his #18 jersey and those dirty old cleats.  I am so blessed that my son gets to learn these lessons alongside a bunch of other ballplayers just like him.  Boys that are kind-hearted and supportive and funny and eager and hardworking.  I am continually impressed by this team, both on and off the field.  Little do they know that baseball is helping to shape their little minds and hearts into the men they'll eventually become.  And I think that's pretty great...

Love to y'all,
Tracy







Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dear Nash

Hi Buddy...

As I'm sure you know, last weekend we did our SEVENTH March For Babies in honor and memory of YOU.  While most of the time I get much satisfaction working with March of Dimes to help other people's babies, this time of year is always very bittersweet for me.  I'm super proud of the legacy you have left behind - tiny, little YOU making such a difference to so many babies. And I know that I'm blessed that we have an abundance of love, support, and encouragement as we ask people to celebrate and remember you every spring.

But, then again, it's this walk that always seems to tightly pull at my heart as it gets closer.  As happy as I am to participate, I'm also devastated that I have a reason to.  It's on these days that the "why me's" and the "it's not fairs" repeat in my brain over and over again.  The questions are endless... Why can't I be the one supporting a friend along this journey instead of the other way around?  Why is this the path I have to be on?  Why can't my family be the "normal" one - where true family pictures DON'T revolve around yellow balloons and gravestones?  Why is this the story I must tell?  Why is MY son the reason OTHER babies can now be born healthy?  Why do we have to save other people's babies?  Why didn't anyone save mine?

So, Nash, as I walked on Satuday, I was grateful to be surrounded by loving, prayerful, strong people that have been there to lift me up in times like these  But, to be honest, my heart just ached with every step that day.  It was a day that I just wished I had you back.

I miss you.  I miss you.  I miss you.  
Loving you forever,
Mommy

Thursday, April 9, 2015

On My Mind

As many of y'all know, we're about to walk in the March For Babies for the seventh time.  I've been thinking a lot about how different things are since our first time attending this event back in 2009.  So much has happened, so much has changed.  Lately, I've been thinking about how my mind used to think about losing Nash every second of every day.  And now, almost seven years after he's been gone, it doesn't do that anymore.  Part of me is sad to think that I'm not grieving in the same way that I did at the beginning and then the other part of me is proud for making great strides in this process.  So the other day, I started wondering how often I actually do think of Nash in a day, and I was surprised by what I found...

While blow drying my hair that morning, I automatically glanced at the picture of a two month old Nash in the frame on our bathroom counter - his sweet face, surrounded by bubbles in the baby tub he used to bathe in.  Then, in the car on the way to school, I listened to a country station that is constantly advertising it's night broadcast, called "Nash Nights Live."  Every time I hear those words, they make me smile.  At lunch that afternoon, my friends and I were talking about having new babies and were comparing each of our kids.  I told them about my four kids' temperaments as little ones; Nash's name rolling off my tongue easily.  And the best part?  No one flinched or showed any ounce of uncomfortableness at the sound of his name. After school, I headed to a doctor appointment after school, and had Tate, Knox, and Brady with me.  As the nurse led us to the exam room, she glanced at the kids, and said, "Wow... you got the whole crew with you!"  I just smiled, but what I was thinking was, "No, actually it's not really the 'WHOLE crew.'"  If she only knew...  On the way home, I found myself looking for cars with NSH at the beginning of their license plates, just because when I find them, it makes me feel closer to him.  I didn't see any that day though.  At night, I noticed my mind drifted to Nash quite often, especially while checking on my sleeping kids; seeing their perfect little faces and wondering where a fourth one would fit into the chaos that is our life.  And finally, I ended that night like I do every night... Before closing my eyes, I glanced towards the window, to where I know he's looking down on me, and whispered him an "I love you," just in case he was listening.

So after being conscious about it for one full day, I found that although I may not be in tears every waking moment like I was seven years ago, my mind is always on my baby.  But the difference is that now I can think of him with a smile more often than not.  I know now that the missing him part will never stop and the loving him part will continue to grow whether he's here or not.  And for this, I'm grateful.

Love to y'all,
Tracy

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Saving Babies

Every spring, I am honored and humbled as my family and friends gather to remember Nash at March of Dimes' annual March For Babies event in Dallas.  It is a bittersweet time of both remembrance and hope as we think of the children that have left us too soon and those that have - and will- be saved because of the hard work of this incredible organization.

And every February I begin my personal campaign to raise money to help the March of Dimes in it's endeavors.  After all, just two years ago, it was with the MOD that I lobbied in Austin to get
House Bill 740 passed.  This lifesaving bill requires all Texas newborns be screened for Critical Congenital Heart Defects before being released to go home from the hospital.  This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the ways that MOD is helping OUR children.  Yours and mine. 

So what's the best way to be a part of March of  Dimes?  What can you do to literally save babies?  It's simple - DONATE!  Click on the link HERE or on the sidebar and donate today!    

To get things off on the right foot, check this out:  As you probably know, Home Runs in Heaven is officially published and out there for anyone who needs it.  I cannot tell you how thankful I am for your generosity in getting it to this point.  If y'all remember, last year at this time, after my crowdfunding campaign ended, y'all had donated over $13,000 through the website Pubslush in order to help me publish my book! 

And as promised, now that the book is d.o.n.e. I have donated the remaining amount to the March of Dimes.  Sooooo.... I officially made a $5,518.04 donation last week! 

My goal this year is reach the $10,000 mark!  If your family is looking for a charity that makes a difference, then let it be March of Dimes.  Feel free to share, post, tweet, retweet, and anything else you can think of to help save babies.  Let's do this!

Love to y'all,
Tracy

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Good Bye, Old Girl...

When I woke up this morning, I wasn't thinking that today's events would be burned into my memory.  But they are.  It's one of those days that you know is coming, but you wish upon wish that it's far, far away despite what logic is telling you.  

You see, our 11 1/2 year old chocolate lab, McCarney has been declining A LOT in the past six months.  When we got home from Iowa this summer, she really began to show her age, and Brad and I knew that she didn't have many years left with us.  Then in August she started losing weight fast and became more and more lethargic every day.  Her sweet and loving demeanor didn't change for an instant and so we remained hopeful that her time with us would continue for many more months.  But a couple weeks ago, we took her to get boarded when we went to Iowa for Christmas, and she only weighed 50 pounds (when we were used to being scolded for her being above 65). 
Since we got home from Iowa one week ago, our poor baby girl has been sleeping away everyday.  She doesn't join the family upstairs to cuddle before the kids go to bed.  Brad has been having to lift her onto our bed every night because she can't jump that high anymore.  She's having accidents everyday; sometimes multiple times a day.  And a couple days ago, she stopped eating.  Anyone with a lab knows this is NOT a good sign...

So yesterday I made an appointment for this morning to see what we needed to do to help her stay comfortable as long as possible.  But as soon as the vet came into the room, I burst into tears, telling her that I knew what she was going to say to me...

And I was right.

They believed McCarney to have cancer (which we suspected for the last year or so) that has spread throughout her entire body.  The doctor said that her decline was happening fast and that we didn't have much more time with her.  After talking it through, we decided today was the day we had to put her down.  Reluctantly, McCarney and I left the vet to go home to say good bye to the kids.  

What took place in our family room minutes later was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.  Tate was devastated and immediately became overwhelmed with sadness and tears.  Knox asked some questions (which he has continued asking throughout the day) about the logistics of getting to heaven.  And Ms. Brady was excited that McCarney would be with her big brother, Nash.  

After my parents came over to give our sweet dog hugs and to watch the kids, Brad and I got her back in the car and drove the mile back to the vet.  I have to say that everyone in that office was more than compassionate about what we were having to do and were so gentle with our precious girl.  

As the vet injected McCarney with the meds that would send her to heaven, Brad and I sat on the floor with her, whispering to her how we have enjoyed having her as our first baby.  We reminded her how much she is loved.  And I told her to make sure to find her little brother, Nash, as soon as she could, and that he would be so, so happy to play with her again. 

After a quick thirty seconds, she slumped over and went limp.  And that was it.  She was gone.

She's gone.

It's funny how much a dog can have a hold on your heart.  McCarney has been a part of our family through our biggest ups and our deepest downs.  Not having her here definitely leaves a hole that only her sweet paw print can fill.

Our Dearest McCarney Girl,
Although I know that today was your day to go, my heart aches at the thought of going to bed tonight without you nestled at my feet.  You were our first baby and we've loved you ever since that summer day that we brought you home to live with us when you were only six weeks old.  The runt of the litter.  Do you remember?  

We've had lots of good times, huh?  Remember how you used to go to all of Daddy's softball games and steal everyone hearts (and eat all the gum and sunflower seeds you could find)?  Or remember jumping into Grandma's pool and fetching toys over and over and over again for all those summers?  Or the time when you saw a squirrel and jumped so hard against the screen that you ended up outside and the neighbor had to bring you home?  Remember Tate, Nash, Knox, and Brady when they first came home from the hospital and you spent lots of time sniffing them before you gave them your approval?  

McCarney, you wove your way into every member of this family, and we are all so sad to see you go.  Please know how hard it was to make this decision today.  If there was something that we could've done, we would've done it, okay?  We just wanted you to be whole again.  

So, Baby Girl, go play fetch with Nash.  Run and run and run to your heart's content.  Bark as loud as you want.  Eat peanut butter and ice cream for every meal.  And please, don't forget how much happiness you brought to our family.

We love you and miss you.  
Always, 
Mommy

 
 
McCarney Sievers
May 1, 2003 - January 3, 2015