Christmas 2017

IMG_7590 (1)Christmas Eve ~ 2017 

Randy, Alivia, Anaya, and Sherri. Always one missing – always Ava in our hearts. ❤ 

If I told you this was our 7th Christmas without Ava would you believe me? Seriously, doesn’t that just seem unimaginable? 7! 2011 was the first and by far the worst. 2012 was an escape to Mexico. 2013 I was pregnant. 2014 Anaya was a baby. 2015 Anaya was wild. 2016 we were supposed to escape to Mexico but Anaya broke her arm…that brings us to 2017! Since we went to Mexico in May, we were not going away at Christmas. So, home we stayed.

But back to my point there, Christmas is a big deal and Christmas is all about Ava and Christmas, well, just reminds me most of her and how she isn’t here. As usual, we continue to celebrate and we somehow manage to carry on. Always with stories and thoughts of Ava surrounding our day.

We had everyone over Christmas Eve. I cooked the turkey and all the trimmings. The girls opened some presents and it was a fun night. I forgot to take pictures, but Alivia got a Hatchimals Surprise from Grandma and Papa, a 306 Elite Backpack from Auntie Linda and Scott, and a 306 Elite sweatshirt and fingerling from Auntie Bonnie, Uncle Aldo, Tanner, and Lauren. Anaya got a glitter Hatcnhimal from Grandma and Papa, an adorable outfit from Auntie Linda and Uncle Scott, and a 306 Elite sweatshirt and fingerling from Auntie Bonnie, Uncle Aldo, Tanner, and Lauren.

Grandma and Elmo.

Anaya and Papa. 

After everyone left, we put out cookies for Santa and it was off to bed!

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The girls were excited Christmas morning! Anaya started out rough – screamed that she didn’t want her stocking! LOL! She wanted to open the presents instead. I think she was pretty pleased with her Elsa dress, Moana stuffies, and Peppa Pig Toys. Alivia loved her LOL Surprise, LEGO, Beados, and Hatchimals Nursery. Santa brought them a Karaoke Machine which was a big hit!

After opening presents, having breakfast, and playing with the new stuff, we got dressed and ate lunch and headed out to say Merry Christmas to Ava. That is always an emotional trip. Auntie Bonnie met us at the Mausoleum.

It was a different Christmas for us as we went to Linda and Scott’s for supper. Typically, we enjoy the day at home and have a nacho party for Ava for Christmas supper since that was her favourite. Well, we brought the nacho party to Auntie Linda’s and kept up the tradition Ava started 8 years ago!

Hanging out at Auntie Linda’s and Uncle Scott’s 

Christmas Nacho Party for Ava. 

Tanner, Anaya and Papa.   Linda, Alivia and Gracie. 

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Auntie Bonnie and Elsa 

Cousins! Alivia, Anaya, and Lauren 

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My sisters! 

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The girls! 

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Photobombed again! 

It was a good night. And another Christmas without Ava in the books. 😦

We did enjoy Christmas the best we could and I think you can tell that everyone was in good spirits!

Here are some final pictures of the girls with their Christmas 2017 haul….

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Thank you for reading about our Christmas!

XOXOXO

Sherri

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Hello 2018

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Happy New Year, Ava! 

It seems as though I have been on a somewhat of a hiatus! My last post was in July! Oh my! I will start here – January 1, 2018 and then back track to the summer to fill you in on our busy life!

I do enjoy sharing our Christmas and New Year’s. Mostly, because I want to keep sharing our life at one of the most difficult times of year. We miss Ava so much at this time of year and it always seems like one of the most bittersweet of times – enjoying Christmas with Alivia and Anaya but yet always feeling as though life is just not right as Ava should be here, too.

I also find it hard, as usual, to say goodbye to another year. Again, I want to stay in that year, for it was one year closer to Ava. Every time the calendar moves to another year, it becomes another year further from Ava. Man oh man, the rocky roller coaster ride of the child loss world.

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We continued the tradition of heading to The Keg for supper New Year’s Eve. It was a great meal, as always. We managed to get home for some play time for the kids before they headed to bed. They didn’t stay up until midnight, but Randy and I made it until 12:01! Lol.

Being silly! Anaya loves to trace hands! 

 

Enjoying our night! 

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I wanted a picture of myself but my photo-bomber figured she was just too cute to not be in it! That’s OK with me! 🙂 

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Here’s little ol’ me! 😉 

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LEGO and Paint and PJ day! 

New Year’s Day was filled with cleaning house, movie time (Randy has introduced Alivia to all the Star Wars movies), painting time, and LEGO building time. It was a laid back and fun day. We ended the day with another one of Ava’s favourite meals: roast beef, peas, and potatoes.

Thank you for sharing in our little life as we continue to navigate our life without Ava. We wish you all the best in 2018!

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XOXOXO

Sherri, Randy, Alivia, Anaya, and Angel Ava

 

 

Celebrating Ava and Missing Ava – 6 Years Later

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAva’s Last Halloween – 4 years old – October 2010

Words can never describe how it feels to live without Ava for 6 years. It is hard to wrap around her being gone at all, but 6 years? That seems like an eternity – too long. 😦 In other ways, not long at all. But no matter what, we always take the time to remember her. Each year on the day she passed away, we plan an Ava day. Here are the highlights of our Ava day – Thursday, July 6, 2017.

We took our trip out to the Memorial Gardens to spend some quiet time at Ava’s special resting place. This is always emotional for all of us. We take our time and talk to Ava and mostly tell her how much we miss her and wish she was with us.

We tossed different ideas around of which Ava activity we would do. We settled on swimming since swimming was one of Ava’s favourite things to do. After lunch, we headed to Massey Pool to enjoy the sunshine and the pool. The girls loved it!

 

Ava’s Fairy Garden was next! We love shopping around each Spring for Ava’s fairy garden. We picked some neat things to add this year:

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Then we figured out where everything should go!

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Apparently Elmo needed to get in on the action! 

Here is the finished product!

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For supper, we kept the tradition of Ava’s favourite meal – nacho party! For dessert, we decided to get some of Ava’s favourite donuts – Boston Cream (the whipped cream filled kind!).

 

We ended our day watching Ava’s tribute and other special videos of the last month of her life. This is when our family really felt the immense pain and loss of losing Ava. To watch those last few weeks with her, when she was in the hospital, on her Disney trip, and as a baby just makes the reality of what we live without that much more intense. We miss her so much and wish she was back with us. And you know what? Ava should be with us. She should be here with us and she didn’t deserve to die. There could and should have been more research into childhood cancer so that she didn’t have to die from this horrible disease.

And that’s when we wish there was more done to eliminate childhood cancer….

We will never stop advocating for many issues we encountered with Ava. Currently, we have been quite sad by all the kids still dying from childhood cancer. It is a terrible disease, but there is so much they could do if there was more funding for research for children in particular. Honestly, for a disease that is the number one disease killer in Canada in children, it is unacceptable to have less than 4% funding in research. We will continue to share statistics and advocacy for more childhood cancer awareness and research. There is nothing worse that the death of a child. Nothing. How many kids have to die?

I will continue to share statistics on childhood cancer and offer ways that you can speak up for Ava. I will share more concrete ways that you can help other children be cured from childhood cancer. I know many people don’t know how to help and where to go and I will be sure to share that information with you as there is so many ways to help now more than ever!

Ava continues to be our light and will show us the way. I believe she guided us to find this house for her fairy garden.

The fairy house we bought is solar powered. Here is how it looked all lit up at night:

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IMG_6776Maybe Little Fairy Ava is enjoying some time in there….

I’d like to think that….

Our Ava day was pretty good, considering. Only thing missing, was Ava.

Thanks for reading about our family and our life without Ava.

XOXOXO

Sherri

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Cocoon – What 6 Years of Living Without My Child Have Taught Me

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July 6, 2017 will be exactly six years that I lost Ava.

Six years since I heard her voice.

Six years since I cuddled her in my arms.

Six years since I held her hand.

Six years since I sang and danced with her.

Six years since the world felt right.

In some ways, six years is a long time. But in other ways, it is also not very long at all – just six years. Young. Sometimes the grief is so fresh. Sometimes well scabbed over. Sometimes robotic. Sometimes new and sometimes old. But grief is present all the time. At this point, six years have been a time of learning to weave the grief into every aspect of my life and also learning to keep Ava’s memory alive all the time. It’s juggling happy /sad and love/hate and empathy/apathy and compassion/indifference. It’s a balance that doesn’t exist. It is keeping my head above water. I do OK most days, but that has been with a lot of hard work and a lot of conscious effort and a lot of letting go of what I cannot control ~ pretty much what I really never had control of in the first place.

6 months to two years were the most difficult for me. Here’s why:

Having other children is a big big distraction. Huge. Parenting was required. Firstly for Alivia when Ava passed away and then for Anaya. I didn’t have a choice, they needed to be cared for. I also think the distractions lessoned the blow of Ava’s passing. I didn’t have time to be in full blown grief, even if I wanted to. Who would step in to take care of them?

I was also relieved, as awful as that sounds. I was relieved that I never had to live another day and night in the hospital. I was relieved that I never had to wait on pins and needles for bloodwork results. I was relieved that I never had to worry about bruises and red eyes. I was relieved that I never had to go through any more hospital tests and visits. I was relieved that I never had to be on the receiving end of that dreaded, life changing phone call. I was relieved that I never had to worry anymore about the cancer coming back and taking my Ava. When Ava died, all those things died, too. But, I was mostly relieved for Ava. I was relieved that she could leave a world that couldn’t save her. I was relieved that she never had to endure another surgery, another procedure, another dose of poison (aka chemo), another transplant, another blood transfusion, another pause to her childhood. I was relieved that she would never die a yucky death fighting for her life in a hospital ICU. I kept thinking there must be something better for this beautiful, innocent child. She never asked for this. She didn’t deserve this and she was so much better than this. Ava had a light that shone brightly and everyone that ever met her knew it right away. They knew she was different. They knew she was special. Ava changed people’s lives. Surely there has to be something better in the universe than this for my Ava? Ava was finally free from the cancer. Ava could finally be a kid somewhere else out there without me…but free and joyful and playing and healthy.

From the time she passed until 6 months, I mostly felt that stunned relief.

For the most part, I can honestly say out loud that I am doing OK. I can answer the “How are you?” more truthfully than before. Basically six years out, I don’t have the same notion to punch the cashier at the store in the face for simply asking me: “How are you today? Did you find everything you need?” Whereas once upon a time I would have not only wanted to punch her in the face, but I also would have wanted to scream at the top of my lungs: “How am I doing? Seriously, how am I doing today? I am surviving, lady. That’s the top of my to do list for today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Surviving. My child died in my arms. She is never coming back. She fought so hard and went through hell only to lose her life to cancer. A severely underfunded childhood disease. That’s how I am doing today. And how are you?” Tsk tsk, not an acceptable response. So, I kept the keeping it real to myself. But today, respondng with “Fine. Things are going well.” is the truth. For the most part, our lives have continued and we’re all doing OK, considering dealing with the magnitude of a loss with great impact such as losing a child. (NOTE: This is a hard thing to write because, again, I don’t want people to mistake this for somehow thinking that “time heals all wounds” or that I have “gotten over it”. I am cautious because I don’t want my “we’re doing ok, despite things” to get misinterpreted.)

I am mostly fascinated with what the body does to protect me against the severe grief. I am somewhat protected with a shield or cocoon around my heart. Whether this is practice from being with my grief for this long or another element, I am not sure. But there is a coping mechanism at play here that I have either developed or it just comes naturally with time. Here is how it works (for me): When I allow myself to remember and deeply feel the night, the moment Ava died. The exact circumstances. Who was here. Where we were sitting how I was holding her, what I was saying, her last breath…I spiral down, I remember, and it is almost like was that a dream, no horrific nightmare, or did that really, actually happen? And I am there again – fresh in that moment. hard to be there, but easier to get out. Thinking of this happened all the time in the beginning, over and over and over again. Then, not so much. Did I block it out? Was I healing? Why wasn’t it as severe a memory as before?

Our lives when Ava was sick were very public. Everyone knew our business. I loathed going anywhere for I feared running into someone and actually having to talk to them. All of sudden my stressful life or death kind of life wasn’t something I wanted to talk about. I remember seeing someone and trying to avoid them at Costco. When we eventually were face to face and they started asking me questions, I had to stop her and tell her I couldn’t talk. Fast forward to when Ava passed away and running into people. Can I tell you just how awkward and awful it was to run into someone who didn’t know Ava passed away and she asks me how my little one is doing? Yeah, I am sure you can guess how that conversation went over.

I felt that my life was an open book and I longed for privacy. I didn’t want everyone to know my business and it was very hard for me. I also hate being the centre of attention and hate being put on the spot and having people look at me. However, I do enjoy public speaking! Weird, hey?! That is, if I can be prepared and in control of what I am saying and sharing.  When Ava was sick, it was really difficult to deal with the overexposure of our lives. I had a friend set up a Facebook page called “Prayers for Ava”. I wanted it up in case we ever needed to go for a transplant. I never posted on it. Back in 2008-2010, Facebook wasn’t as popular as it is now. I kept a group of people updated on Ava’s progress through email. The first thing I did after Ava passed away was delete that Facebook page. It was freeing for me to be in control of my privacy again.

I again get that knock me to the knees feeling when I stop, sit quietly with my grief and think about Ava and how she was here and how she is not here and how she is never ever coming back. I think of how I really lost my four year old daughter to cancer and how I really had to wake up the next day and live without her and the day after that and the day after that and the day after that and today and every other tomorrow forever! That again, will take me down down down….as it should. Those deep raw and fresh feelings were, at one point, all consuming, all the time. No control of them taking over and at time, no warning whatsoever. But over time, it is like my heart forms a cocoon, and those really awful, horrific, and terrifying moments and memories are somewhat protected by the cocoon. I can unwrap that cocoon any time I want and at times, still, with no warning, but as time goes on, I can control it better as I have become stronger and I am also becoming the “expert” in my grief. Phew, that was heavy, right?!

Truth be told, I don’t think I recognized this until I was around someone who is new to the bereaved parent world. I read their words or sit beside them and I hear the raw pain that is fresh from loss. I hear the bitterness, anger, and the “why” relentlessly – like they are obsessed. That is when I realize how far I have come,six years out. I still hold onto those same thoughts, they never change. I still want what can never be, for Ava to come home. And I still live with the pain. It is all the same, but it changes. It shifts, and eventually, it cocoons. But it is still there and that is the most difficult part for the non-bereaved parents to truly understand is that the fiery knock you to your knees grief may not present itself as it once did, but it is still there, still as fiery as ever, but hidden, and ready to burst open again at any given moment.

I have learned that there isn’t any answer or justification to when your child dies. I have learned that no plan, no big picture, no “too beautiful for earth”, none of it means that it was OK for a child to die. Losing Ava didn’t have to happen so that “so and so” would happen. Uh-uh, nope. What I have learned is that over time, I can create something with my brokenness. I can create something beautiful through embracing something so painful. I can take it and I can create something.

I also believe that when I gained my privacy back after Ava passed away, it helped to create that cocoon that I so longed for. I did attend a group for bereaved parents, but preferred one on one counselling. I also don’t get together with any other parents who have lost a child. The group scene is not for me. That is the introvert in me. I seek information and read a lot. I also let my feelings out by writing. I enjoy the control I have by sharing what I want on my own terms. Again, protecting myself as much as possible from being hurt.

COCOONS and BUTTERFLIES

My grieving  heart is in the cocoon stage that will most likely last a lifetime. My cocoon has been built to protect my heart from all the “things” that used to hurt so badly the first few years out. Although this cocoon is one that my heart can escape back to when it needs protection. Like my happy/sad life, my cocoon/butterfly coexist and interchange when I need them to.  But perhaps my grieving heart, my cocooned heart is also my creation. It is what I can create and share from my experience. My writing, my book, my creations are just like a cocoon-  in the creation stage and soon will release into a beautiful butterfly for all the world to see.

In six years I have learned many important lessons about child loss. These five most come to mind today:

  1. There isn’t a reason – it is just one of those horrible things that life deals us. Please don’t ever tell someone that it is OK (in one form or another) for their child to die. There is no justification for something so horrible. Just be there. Just listen.
  2. I am still Ava’s mom and I can still parent her from afar. As far out as this idea may sound, it is true and if we believe our children are still with us, then parenting them becomes very important.
  3. Grief is forever. Just like Ava being gone is forever. Yes, I know she is always with me, in my heart, and in spirit. But let’s be real people, she is not physically here and that is very different. You go on and hug your kid right now and tell me Ava is here in sprit and see how insensitive that sounds. Let me be sad and angry and whatever I need to be at the fact that she is really not here the same way your healthy child is here with you.
  4. Grief forms a cocoon over time. This cocoon is controlled by a stronger sense of healing. It takes a lot of hard grief work to get here. It also takes a lot of choosing to be here. It takes a long time of talking and processing. For me, it was a lot of talking, counselling, reading, and writing. It takes time.
  5. Grief for your child and love for your child is the same thing. When you know someone who is hurting for their child and think they should move on or things should be better by now…Remember, the tears and the hurt and the longing are because of that unconditional love between parent and child. That soul connection that can never be severed. It is love. Grief is love. Never ever rush them. If you would never tell someone to stop loving his/her child, as such, you should never tell them to stop grieving for his/her child.

I also watch Ava’s videos way less. Hearing her sweet little voice and seeing her joyfully running around singing, dancing and playing, is too much. I feel like I might just die. Again, it sends me down quite quickly. This is something else that fascinates me – I watched them all the time in the beginning. They brought me so much comfort. Now, they bring me more sadness and more in touch with the fact that yes, Ava is gone and never coming back. Sometimes I just don’t want to go down. But I always have those videos and pictures, thank goodness, and can access them at any time.

It is amazing what perspective one can gain after great loss. I am still learning everyday.

I have been given many wonderful gifts just from being Ava Hope’s Mom!

I miss you so much, Ava.

XOXOXO

Sherri Me and Ava HeartAva Hope

 

 

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Mother’s Day 2017

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Obviously, I couldn’t go without sharing some kind of post for Mother’s Day. Do you really feel like hearing it all again? Do I really feel like sharing it all again? Could it be that I should share once again for the simple fact to ask you to share with me in my pain, albeit ever so brief? Do I dare ask you to remember how lucky you are if you hold all your children in your arms? Do I dare but ask you to remember me and Ava and all those other mommies and children not together this Mother’s Day as death truly keeps them apart until their souls yet meet again? Do I dare?

The answer is yes. I do dare to…I should share. I should write. And I should ask that you be with me again, as I share where I am at with my grief journey.

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I ask you to see me. That may sound simple and that may sound obvious as of course, you think of me and wonder how hard Mother’s Day must be for me. Many of you reading this are my friends so I know you do.

I also know that some of you reading this are like me, grieving the loss of your child and so are disconnected in many ways from the joy and festivities and gratitude that is Mother’s Day. I also know there are some of you reading this who are single moms and so, there is no break to the busyness of this day. Mother’s Day, like it is for me, is just like every other day, just a bit more in your face than most days. Then there are those who have lost their mother and perhaps are reminded of that on Mother’s Day. You may know have all your children in your arms this day, but miss the arms of your own mother. So, let’s just get through this together, shall we, and pause for a moment to be thankful for all we have to be grateful for.

I am grateful for Ava and would not trade one single day – before or after her passing! Ava made me a mother and taught me more about life and love in her short 4 years and 10 months with me. I am constantly reminded of how amazing and special she is as I am still learning and understanding all I learned when she was here with me. Ava will always be my hero and I will honour her life and memory forever. I miss her deeply. Somedays I wonder how I can miss her more than ever before?

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I am grateful for Alivia. She was my little saving Grace 😉 when Ava passed away and the one who kept me going when I didn’t want to. She forced me to actually meet and interact with new moms in order for her to experience new things; which was necessary for her. Alivia challenges me in ways that help me see life in a different way. She also has been right with me since Day 1 when Ava was diagnosed to when Ava passed and each day since then. Oh, Alivia – sweet Livi Divi!

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I am grateful for Anaya. Anaya brought such joy to all of us 3 years ago when she came into our lives. We have enjoyed so much of having a little one around. She is a strong willed free spirit who does things her own way in her own time. She really gave us a scare back in the fall when her fancy jumping on stairs caused her to break her arm. She also showed us how resilient she was and bounced back super quickly! She has a lot of Ava’s characteristics and we sure love watching her giggle with the same things that made Ava giggle. Little Nay-Nay. You are a gem!

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This Mother’s Day weekend, I spent some quiet time visiting Ava at the Memorial Gardens. Obviously, each visit is emotional as I mostly break down at the sheer horror of this visit actually being a part of my life. She just shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t have died. But she did and that is the hand I was dealt and what I have to face. Most days, I do pretty well, but some days are simply harder than others.

On this visit, I wanted to take a few pictures – of me there with her. At first I thought it was silly, but then I also wanted to give some real pictures – keeping it real I suppose.

 

I was treated to supper with my family at the Keg and spoiled with some jewelry. Last weekend we were at a Princess tea with my mom. Alivia made me some adorable gifts at school – I love all that stuff! 10 days ago we were in Mexico and enjoyed a lot of fun times together. I will update and include pictures on that trip soon!

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All in all, my Mother’s Day weekend was pretty good – full of joy with sorrow always present. We have enjoyed some wonderful family time together and as I look at all these pictures, I think Ava would be thrilled to know we keep enjoying life – just as she did!

But I will always wish that I had all three girls at the same time hugging me in a picture.

Thank you for reading.

XOXOXO

Sherri

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Me with my three girls. 

Three Years of Anaya

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Happy 3rd Birthday, Anaya!

Dear Anaya,

We love you so very much! You are a fun loving, energetic, spunky, and rambunctious little girl. Somedays I can’t believe how different you are from your sisters! It definitely goes to show that every child is different even though we have parented all three of you the same. You choose how you will do things. And boy oh boy, you have a very strong will!

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It is a joy to watch you grow and figure out the world. You enjoy figuring out things for yourself and will do things your way when you are ready. You have been a little light to all of us and for that, I am so grateful to have you in my life.

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Although you have this strong will and independent streak, you also have a sensitive side, just like Alivia and Ava did, too. Your feelings get easily hurt and you need pick me ups every once in awhile. I enjoy the sweet, sensitive side of you, too!

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We sure have fun with you! You love to play at the park, go outside, go for car rides, run errands, swim, play puzzles, colour, sing, dance, read books, and ride in your little car. You have mastered the iPad and the remote! You have put on your own shoes and jackets for over a year now and have almost mastered zipping zippers on your own. You insist on getting dressed from head to toe by yourself and your favourite outfit is black pants and a black shirt! You love Doc McStuffins – by far your favourite right now! This makes me so happy because Ava was exactly like Doc McStuffins – mastering all of the hospital equipment and doing check ups on herself, us and her dollies. You remind me of her when you give Elmo a check up! You also enjoy Sofia the First, Stuck in the Middle, Liv and Maddie, and any music awards show that we have on the PVR! You still love watching Camp Rock and High School Musical, but not as much as you used to. You definitely prefer to play with Alivia’s toys and watch her shows over things for little girls your own age. We have fun going to classes at the library and music classes. You love to sing the Choo Choo song and Old MacDonald! And your dancing, Anaya; your dance moves are THE BEST! I love how you get your left arm just a going!

I love how you call Alivia “Aiya”. Ava used to call herself “Aiya” so I think it is very special and sweet how you just came up with that for Alivia. You love Elmo and Maggie and Elmo sleeps with you at the foot of your bed each night. He used to sleep with Ava, too. Again, just so very special. You love to sing “Yo Yo” (Rhianna) and “Work” by Fifth Harmony. You will sing along to Justin Bieber and dance to JLo and Britney Spears. You got moves, girl! You love to say “Ready, Set, Go!” when we cross over railroad tracks. Your favourite snacks when we’re out and about are Cheezies and Lindor chocolates. Everytime we check out at the store, you insist on getting Skittles, an Aero Bar, and a Kinder Egg. At home, you love to eat berries, toast, eggs, Honeycomb, cucumbers, tomatoes, chicken, beef, and yogurt! You love to snack on chips, pretzels, and popcorn, too!

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You are my daredevil! You love to jump on and off the couch and jump up and down the stairs! Back in November, this got you into trouble as you broke your arm and required surgery and 3 pins! Although this affected our Christmas plans in a big way, I am so grateful that you healed according to plan and have regained full use of your arm. You did not love the hospital and doctor life whatsoever. Being in the hospital made you so sad! I am glad it was a short stay.

 

I love watching your relationship with Alivia blossom. The other day you were pretending to be a baby and Alivia came over to take care of you. Made me giggle! I love watching Alivia teach you all the cheerleading moves! You are so ready to have your turn at cheerleading! For the most part, you two get along, but have your typical sister moments of arguments and sibling rivalry. I am happy Alivia has you and you have her.

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Our time together at home will be changing in the Fall once you start preschool. I am excited for you! I know you are ready for the challenge! I am looking forward to you making new little friends and branching off into the school adventures. You will do awesome, Anaya!

I wish you could have met Ava. She would have loved you! I have no doubt that she is your guardian angel.

Happy, happy birthday, Anaya! I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for you!

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Love,
Mommy

XOXOXO

These pictures were taken by Brittany Lindenbach Photography. I love the casual feel of the photos as we were just being our usual selves at home. Anaya was super cooperative! When she was tired, we broke out the bubbles and the cell phone to get some last good pics! Enjoy!

You can find Brittany on Facebook HERE.

You can also find my page on Facebook “Hippos and Bows” HERE.

I had to share all the pictures because I love them so much! Thanks, Brittany!

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The Imperfectly Perfect Christmas 2016 and New Year’s 2017

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Here we all are…

I haven’t written a blog post since the first day of school. I didn’t write about Fall or Halloween as I thought I have already shared all of this. Then I didn’t write about my birthday, for the same reasons. Then Anaya broke her arm in November and I figured I have to write about that fiasco! Then, it never happened. I suppose when I get really down, I don’t feel like sharing. I feel like writing but I don’t feel like sharing. Then, I thought, I should write about our pre-Christmas festivities and then you know, life is busy before Christmas and it didn’t happen. Then I usually write all about Christmas on Christmas day or Boxing Day and well, Christmas wasn’t a great day, so I didn’t have it in me to write about it as I was in such a negative state of mind. Here we are, January 4, and I do feel somewhat inspired to share!

Truth is, Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning were actually pretty great! Then it all went down hill very quickly and you know, just when we thought we had all hit rock bottom, it got worse and then Boxing Day morning, our unlucky streak just continued and we were so ready just to pack up Christmas 2016 away and forget it ever happened and just look forward to a new year and moving forward with more positivity….and so on and so on….

Our first Christmas (2011) without Ava was so brutal that when the Christmas season hit the following year (2012), Randy just booked us a Christmas vacation and away we went. It was just what we needed and we were hooked! We decided to go away every Christmas. We truly enjoyed the relaxing family time together and did not miss the hustle and bustle of Christmas Day. You can read all about that post HERE. Here’s was happened the next few years:

2013 – No Christmas getaway as I was pregnant with Anaya.

2014 – No Christmas getaway as Anaya was too young.

2015 – No Christmas getaway as we had just been to Disney World in May 2015

2016 – Christmas Getaway to Mexico booked in July!!!

We booked our hot holiday for Christmas in July but then had to cancel it once Anaya broke her arm in November. It was a common break for kids (she tripped and fell and put her arms out in front of her) but the most severe break of its kind. She required surgery and 3 pins. She also had severe nerve damage. All healing has gone really well so far with second cast and pins out on December 19 but full use of her hand and arm could take 3-4 months. As such, we were not feeling taking her to a resort  where she would be playing in a water park and pool were the best idea with a weak arm, especially at the break. Canceling the trip was devastating for all of us, especially Alivia. We were looking forward to resting and being in the sunshine and having nothing to do but enjoy each other’s company. It was a real bummer! We will book again as we need a family vacation! Hopefully Anaya heals well and we can go in late Spring.

Anyhoo, plans change as life happens and no one knows that more than us.

Christmas Eve was spent with family and it was a really great night, all things considered. Christmas morning was lovely too. Anaya was more into things this Christmas than in years past. She was cute unwrapping her presents and then putting her paper in the garbage. Not like Alivia throwing it all around! We never have fancy breakfasts but I usually make eggs, bacon, and pancakes Christmas morning. Alivia doesn’t eat any of it, sadly. Anaya though, she hopped right up on my lap and ate my bacon! Awe, it was just sweet! After breakfast we went out to see Ava but it was busier than usual and we didn’t get our private time with her. The kids were also crazy. – it was close to lunch and nap for Anaya and well, her and Alivia were two typical kids on Christmas – grouchy! We had Ava’s nacho party and Anaya was so sweet again! She hopped up on my lap and ate nachos which she had never done before. Just a really sweet moment. Alivia doesn’t like nachos like Ava and so it warmed my heart to have Anaya interested in them. Christmas Day ended with us going to see the movie SING! and once again, I won’t provide details. I think the movie was good, not really sure as I had a crazy sitting with me. Who takes their kids to a movie Christmas Day and expects them to be well behaved?! Let’s say we all went to bed as soon as we came home and were ready to close the chapter on Christmas 2016.

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Ava got a new tree this year. 

The girls with Auntie Bonnie, Lauren, and Auntie Linda

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Uncle Aldo in my apron carving the turkey. Maggie and Elmo’s favourite part of Christmas!

The grandkids with Gramma and Papa.  Cousins! 

Santa came! 

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Does the expression get any better than that?! 

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DC Superhero Girls! 

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“Oh my gosh, she’s eating nachos, you have to take a picture! Much appreciated WHILE I HAD A NACHO IN MY MOUTH!!” 

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I think she’s singing?!

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So what have I learned this Christmas? I learned that yes, I would prefer the actual Christmas Day to be away. I do enjoy and reminisce and like the making memory parts of the Christmas season. I do enjoy seeing Santa, baking cookies, having the tree up, and buying presents. At the same time, I also find the season of Christmas difficult – it seems to start November 1! All those yucky feelings and sadness…It is very much an emotional high and low time. It was wonderful to have the trip – the little escape – to look forward to at this difficult time of year. However, I have also learned that as long as my little family is together on Christmas Day, that’s all that matters. I also learned (and I know this VERY WELL through having Ava in my life for only a short period of time) that being together and having an escape as a family shouldn’t be saved for Christmas. It can work at any other time of year, too. We didn’t go on a family vacation in the Spring or Summer because we were waiting for Christmas. Well, we waited and missed out because life happened. So as soon as our Anaya is good to go, I believe our plan is to escape!

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New Year’s Eve 

As each Christmas season comes and goes, I think of Ava more than usual. I wonder what she would have wanted for Christmas and if she still would have loved baking cookies with me! I long to have that “perfect” Christmas of a healthy Ava at home and all of us being so grateful we weren’t in the hospital for Christmas. I want that all back! Although I know my Ava is with us, I will forever have this image of her on her last Christmas. I know she is always with me and I know she is always in my heart, but it is never the same as having her here in my arms.

Christmas is what it is. Many people have a hard time over the holidays. Many of us have expectations of the ideal day. I have learned, through Ava, that Christmas is what you make of it. It is also just a day and if it isn’t the best day, a pretty good day is probably just around the corner. Ava also taught me to make Christmas everyday! To experience the joy in each day and to dance and sing for no reason. Why wait until Christmas?

(Side note: I also think my Christmas experience isn’t the only gong show out there. If everyone truthfully shared their Christmas, I am sure we would see similarities. Feel free to share your Imperfect Perfect Christmas!)

If I ever knew it was her last Christmas…what would I have done differently?

Thanks for being here and sharing in my journey.

XOXOXO

Sherri

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Ava’s last Christmas. December 2010. 

Surviving Another First Day of School

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I know what you’re thinking, I really know…Alivia is so grown up! How did that happen? I know, I know, I ask myself the same thing!!! My Livi Divi, so grown up and starting Grade Three! Crazy. I am so grateful for this girl and for her health and for her, well, growing up! It is such a beautiful and wonderful gift to watch your kids grow and change and become their own person.

I find the beginning of school always a hard time. This isn’t something new or something that really gets better. Like the waves of grief, I am becoming stronger and recognize the emotions that go with it. Plain and simple, I long for Ava to be here celebrating her first day of school. And she’s not. Forever, that will make me sad and long to have her back here with me, enjoying a normal childhood.

Of course, we celebrate Miss Alivia on her first day of a new school year and the adventures she will have! She was excited to get back to school and see her friends. Although school doesn’t come easy for Alivia, she puts forth great effort and always tries her best. My wish for her this year is for her to have an enjoyable year of growth, develop more self-confidence, and become more of a risk-taker. It is no doubt that Alivia has endured so much in her life and there are certain things that are more challenging for her than others. School would be a challenge. Being social and having good friends is not! We are happy that Alivia has developed many friendships at school.

Taking pictures with Anaya was fun! This little firecracker does whatever she wants to do, as you can see. She never once looked at me for a picture, but did her own thing! That’s my girl! Anaya is just a wild and free spirit! She keeps us on our toes. I am pretty sure you can see that in the pictures.

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Alivia with the other kids on the block waiting for the bus. 

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Anaya tried to get on the bus, too, but we decided to drive to the school instead. We got Alivia all settled and then we were off. I don’t have a picture of Alivia in her desk as Anaya was sitting in the desk. Needless to say, we left pretty quickly so the class could get settled.

A few days ago, it was picture day. Alivia requested curly hair. Again, I tried to get some pictures and well, you know…it is what it is…

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I survived another start to the school year without my Ava. I guess I am a survivor! Ava, if you were here you would be starting Grade Five! I wonder what your first day of school picture would have looked like. I will always wonder so much about you…

Well, my Alivia, I hope you have a wonderful Grade Three year! We love you sooooo much, beautiful girl!

XOXOXO

Mommy

Take A Walk Down Memory Lane With Me…

Here is the first post of going back in time to Ava’s journey. I hope you laugh and cry with me! This one is November 2009. Take note of how much YOUNGER I look! Boo!!!!

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Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH) ~ Ava’s Hospital

 

In November 2009, we took a trip in between rounds of chemo (each round would last about 30 days from chemo-illness-recovery) to visit the team from the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. Here is a picture of “Ava’s Hospital” as we used to call it. We still go and visit the team there and when we go, we still refer to it as Ava’s Hospital.

I won’t get into the details of that visit here, I will save that intense write up for you when you read my book. 😉 Basically we had meetings that explained the road map of the transplant, the people involved, and Ava’s chances. It was overwhelming to say the least. I can still hear the doctor saying “It’s too hell and back.” And boy oh boy, was that an understatement! We all immediately fell in love with the place! Especially, Ava. We felt this place was our answer!

Now, Ava loved pink and purple. She always had to be wearing dresses or skirts. And, she loved to dance. She gave it her all no matter where she was and no matter who was watching.

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Christmas display on the main floor of the hospital.

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Dance, Ava, dance! 

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This girl has moves! 

Dancing like no one was watching! Except everyone was and they loved her!!! ❤ 

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Ava’s middle name is Hope and this sign was outside of the unit she would be on in the hospital. This sign meant everything to me. 

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Ava had to put her Christmas Dora posing on this sign. 

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Mommy, Ava, and Dora posing…

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Daddio and Ava having too much fun! 

Waiting in the clinic for Ava to go for surgery to check her bone marrow. This was done before every round of chemo. When we were done this visit in Calgary, we would be going back to the Pasqua Peds Unit for another round of chemo before the transplant. 

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Dora posing on Ava’s wolf pups. She talked to her wolf pups every time we went by this statue.

When we went for this appointment, we stayed at Ronald McDonald House, which was right across the street. Ava called it “Santa’s House” because it was all decorated for Christmas and really look like Santa’s House! LOL. I will have to search my pictures and see if I have a picture of it…

This was the only time we stayed at RMH. It wasn’t a fit for our family during the 5 months we were there for Ava’s transplant. We rented a condo for her transplant which was from January 2010 – June 2010. Although RMH is a wonderful place, there were things about it that didn’t work for us at the time. We were also there during H1N1 time and there were many restrictions and limitations at Ronald McDonald House and at the hospital. We did spend many days at the playroom in RMH as we were allowed to use the facility when we were there for the transplant. It was a fun place! Ava was allowed to go there when she was well.

When we were there in November, Ava was allowed to go to the Magic Room. We didn’t know what the Magic Room was, but we were excited to find out!

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The Magic Room 

Ava had to find the key to the Magic Room.

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Mommy helped…

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Ava finding the key….

 

 

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What’s in here?!

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Sitting with Mama in the big throne! 

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It’s a TOY STORE! Ava got to pick any toy she wanted! And there were lots of goodies. I think she picked a doll! Look at that happy face! 

I can say that the first trip to Calgary and the ACH in November 2009 was a good one. It was just the three of us – Ava, Randy, and me – and it was a welcomed break from the stress in Regina and living in the Pasqua Hospital. Ava hadn’t done a thing since the first week of September and so she just loved the freedom of no pole and no restrictions for a few days. Ava loved road trips! The team at the hospital was fantastic and we were looking forward to getting the transplant underway.

What do you think of our first trip down memory lane? Tell me your thoughts!

Thanks for reading about our Ava.

XOXOXO

Sherri