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Happy Birthday, Caleb!

Caleb's 2nd birthday

Happy birthday, Caleb Baby. Daddy (Ken Toey) and I haven't even read through these messages and pictures yet but wow, do you see how much you are loved, Baby Boy?

Daddy and I stuck to ourselves and hid away from the world. It is really hard to be around people on days like today, a day when our hearts are missing someone as much as we miss you. We hope you got our messages and the Cars balloons, or noticed the flicker in the candle that we lit just for you. We hope you light up the faces when the kids your size find the vroom vrooms we left for them, too.

We still wish we were lighting birthday candles and buying you vroom vrooms. That is a reality that makes Mommy and Daddy very sad. However, many people far beyond our house and community are getting to know you because of the kind of little boy you keep showing the world that you will always be. (I DID buy you two new domains and am going to make it a goal to be switched over to those sites and officially up as a non-profit organization by Easter.)

The Caleb Effect army of yours was out in full force so please show up in your unique way and tell them THANK YOU!!!!!

Baby Bear, you've added over 200 friends in one week! Who can say they have ever made that many friends so fast? We will probably never fully realize all the ripples of kindness you have thrown into this big pond we call life, but I hope you are getting to see every last way people are going to "be nice" because of you.

I ate veggie straws, "cah-doe," (avocado), turkey, and mango but I probably didn't eat the same quantity that you devoured when you were here. Mommy also drew the line at frozen peas. Tell Papa Roy, he is going to have to pick up the slack in that department.

I want you to know that your love transcends everything. Every political party, race, lifestyle, age, gender, religion, loneliness, wealth, hurts, and everything in-between. Today, your love was celebrated and people were united because of you. It will not stop there. Your love will be spread over and over not just on special days like today, but for many lifetimes still to come.

I started writing a list of some of the things I love about you and there ended up being 64 before I could squeak this under the wire and still make it to be posted on your special day. Coincidence? I think not. So, Caleb Baby, here are some of the literally millions of things I love about you and always will:

-That life was an adventure no matter how ordinary. I never could've known how much fun just riding in the car with you could be.

-Your sandy hair that was starting to thicken but that was still interlaced with the finest baby strands.

-Putting your cheeks with the perfect layer of "baby blubber" against mine. I could kiss you over and over for hours. Sometimes I was told that I held you too much, but I didn't care. I knew even then that there was nothing else I would rather be doing.

-Your beautiful blue eyes, so full of curiosity, inquisitive deliberations, wonder, determination, independence, your own way of doing things, joy, pure love, inclusive welcome, empathy, and a plan all your own.

-The way you would dance. Whether it was during the Greek Festival, at home listening to P!nk, pretending to be on Ellen, or just dancing to the music that was ingrained in our souls. I loved to watch you bob from one foot to the other as you threw in random "headbangs."

-Your slightly petite frame (shoulders, little feet ((although when you were a baby, they were too wide to find sandals)). You were never going to be a linebacker and being a touch small meant you already got to enjoy "hand-me-downs (or "hand-me-ups" as was the case for some of the things you wore from your slightly younger friends).

-The way you would run to me when it was time to pick you up from "1s" (you didn't do it as often when you went to "2s." You preferred to show me something or have me chase you (which also turned into chasing your friends and then getting jealous “my mommy”).

-Watching you eat. Stopping mid-bite to tell me something or point out whatever captured your attention.

-Your friendly and social nature, with the highest emotional intelligence of anyone I've ever met.

-The way you put both arms around my neck and squeezed me as tight as you could. I miss holding you and being so close.

-How your laughter was a full-body experience, contagious in every magical way.

-I love the way you love me.

-How you loved to stack things. You would get so mad when you would stack your vroom vrooms and the top car would fall down. Why did you insist on doing this? One day I will get to ask you this in person.

-When you ate so much your belly would stick out. Every now and then you would even misjudge how much clearance you had after a big meal. I had never seen a child eat so much in my life and I was slightly concerned for what our grocery bill would've become during your teenage years.

-The way you tried to take your own temperature when you were sick.

-The way you pronounced "Superman." It was something like "soup-uh-man," with a slight pause after the first syllable.

-Your high fives. "Aww wiiiiiiiiight."

-That no one could steal your joy. Your blaze of happiness engulfed everyone in your path and there was nothing they could do to stop you.

-The way you hooked your arm around mine when I carried you.

-Your love of the water. You put your face straight into the water even before you could walk. The next year, you jumped off the ledge after watching one of the big kids, and refused to wear your floaties from that point on. I would give anything to take you "wimming" just one more time. I hope you are teaching surfing lessons and playing with Nemo. Save a spot in your class for Mommy.

-The best laugh I've ever heard. A delightful sound that made us all double over like you and smile through squinted eyes. Oh how you must be keeping so many people entertained right now. I'm jealous of the angels and all your newest friends.

-How you really did smile with your whole face and love unconditionally with your whole heart.

-Your love of sirens and all emergency vehicles.

-The wonder in your eyes whenever you got to climb into all those vehicles at "touch-a-truck." I don't know who had more fun, you or Mommy.

-The way you loved your vroom vrooms and anything that moved. Your book "things that go" was pretty appropriate for you. You were just like that. Always on the go. Constantly in motion.

-Hearing you say "I love you!" I'm thankful I have a video of you shouting this to me. I love you, too, Baby Boy. I always will.

-Your smell. When you were brand new to this world it really was true. Your head still smelled of heaven. I would sit with the crown of your head right under mine and go back and forth, kissing your head.

-The way you always pointed out Jesus on the wall at school even though we had never been to church together.

-Your soft, porcelain skin. They say boys aren't supposed to be pretty, but you were.

-Fixing your hair. I loved spiking your hair with your gel or just smoothing it straight upwards and every which way in the bath (oh how you loved bath time).

-The way you walked around pinching your cheeks or belly for some reason. You were cute no matter what you were doing.

-Your sweet voice. The sweetest I've ever heard. A tiny, excited voice, said with a slight high-pitch and lips pressed together trying to contain the incoming smile.

-Your perfect little eyelashes. They were darker than the hair on your head, but not overly dramatic. They were barely long enough to start a small curl upward, as if a light rake was flipped upside-down, and just waiting to capture new friends and draw everyone closer.

-The way you raised your eyebrows JUST. LIKE. DADDY.

-Your stubbornness (I don't know where you got that…).

-The way you read to yourself. There is a picture of you sitting in your cubby by yourself (where most kids had to go for their "me time" to calm down) but you didn’t mind doing your own thing.

-Your baby lips that loved to give kisses. You had even had your first kiss, already. (I don't think Abigail's mommy was as entertained as I was, but I had already prepared myself to let you spread your love to whoever captured your affections).

-Your "boy ears" that were masculine and slightly floppy, and also very selectively tuned-in to whatever you were determined to be focused on on your own terms. I especially loved seeing your little ears as various hats rested on them. You were really starting to look more like a toddler and not a baby anymore when you wore them.

-How you just knew what people needed and how you acted immediately upon those needs. Daddy and I have told dozens of people about the lady on the airplane. (The one who you reached out to and went to sit with because somehow you knew she was sad because she just left her own grandkids).

-The way you loved "The Letter Show" AKA Wheel of Fortune.

-Watching you play with your toys. There was not a vroom vroom, boat, airplane, dump truck, or plastic singing recycling truck you didn’t love.

-Coming to "find" you when you didn't think I knew where you went to hide.

-How peculiar it was that you didn't mind hiding from Mommy in the pitch dark inside the laundry room. (I've wondered now if the reason you were okay with this was because you always had enough light within yourself to never be scared or fully in the dark).

-Your excitement and enthusiasm for each new day.

-How you never seemed to be afraid of anything (annoyed and not big enough to get away, but never terrified). One such time was trying to get away from YaYa and PaPa's dog. You were truly fearless, Little Boy.

-How you never let strep, random daycare illnesses, or asthma stop you from doing everything that you loved.

-The way you put your hands on my face (I didn't notice that until Ellis' mommy, Mira pointed it out).

-How you loved to cuddle, just like Mommy.

-How incredibly smart you were. You could count to 20, knew your colors and letters, and could nearly spell your name (I will never forget the look on Heather’s face when you started spelling your name on your 2nd birthday or when Sarah Toy told me that you knew more than some of the kids in her kindergarten class).

-You had my nose and I loved when you rested it on mine. We made each other laugh because our faces were so close and distorted. I miss being silly with you, Baby.

-I loved your impression of a fish. Opening and closing your mouth really quickly like you were gobbling the water.

-Your little chin that hadn't quite lost ALL your extra baby cheeks, and stuck out (especially when you made your eyes wide as you did when you were extra passionate about something).

-I love the way we both loved to give each other kisses and how Daddy had to intervene when our affections were delaying your bedtime.

-How you love me despite all my shortcomings. I wish I could take some things back or make other moments more grand, but I'm grateful that I truly never have to worry if you knew you were loved in this life and will always be loved by us for the rest of eternity. I just can't wait to love you for eternity, in-person.

-I loved how you clapped for yourself. We should all have Caleb-sized self-esteem.

-The way you ran and looked back at the same time. One such time resulted in a crash with the corner in the hallway, and a goose egg with a perfect line straight down the middle. You were not happy with the ice I put on it to get the swelling to go down so we didn't leave it on for near as long as I would've preferred. I felt so bad because I was the one chasing you.

-How we could make each other laugh without ever saying a word. Pictures and videos are still so hard, Baby Boy, but I will forever cherish the video of us laughing together on the couch. Neither of us says one word and Daddy even cut the video off before we were finished with our own made up game, but we said plenty and had the best time “chatting.”

-How you would blindly plop straight into my lap when you wanted me to read you a story.

-How you greeted Mr. Jeff and Nemo every time you came to school. I loved how Mr. Jeff would wait for us to get there and give him "fives" before going about his day as well.

-Your "hurricane hair" with a perfect swirl on the crown of your head.

-The sympathy pains you had for Grandma Faye after she hurt her knee. You rolled up your pant leg and told me how much it "hewwwt," and more than a week later, you were crawling on the floor and had convinced your teachers enough to call me. I was about to come pick you up when Mandi somehow figured out that you were okay and the doctors could hold off on their x-ray.

-Horse playing. I loved nothing more than being in the floor pretending with you and making you laugh. I usually get in trouble for "winding the kids up" but there was no one I loved to be animated and playful with as I did with you.

-How happy you made me.

-How you understood me perfectly and I completely understood you, too.

-Listening to you sing. I imagine that when I get to heaven and finally get to hold you, I will fall asleep to the sound of you singing to Mommy. Then, I will relax and truly rest. I think this is what people mean when they say "rest in peace." I will be so beyond ready for this day when it finally comes to greet me.

Happy birthday, Baby Boy.

I love you, Caleb Lennon. I always will.

One day.

Love, Mommy

XOXOXOXOX

#calebeffect
#benice
#NiceOnThe9th
#iloveyou
#happybirthdaybabyboy
#oneday
#sudcawareness
#HopefullySomedayThereWillBeAnswers

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BINGO - CALEB Style

One week from today is a day our whole universe changed. A week overdue and with snow still on the ground, we welcomed Caleb into this world. As I said on his Facebook page, it was a day that was frigid outside but brought the kind of overwhelming love, joy, and warmth we never even knew could exist.  On that day, we were forever changed for the best. 

February 9th is a day we will never forget and it would mean the world if you don't either. Usually we mark the 9th of every month by going out into the community and sharing Caleb's love publicly. However, we've learned our limits. Days like this are just too gut-wrenchingly painful to try to put on a happy face, so we need your help. We will still be celebrating Caleb's beautiful life in our own way, but we would LOVE it if you would, too. If you want a fun way to remember Caleb and to spread the love that Caleb gave so freely to everyone, join us to play BINGO, Caleb style!!! 

I'm posting the BINGO/CALEB game now so you have time to think of what you want to do, but THE GAME DOESN'T START UNTIL CALEB'S BIRTHDAY ON FEBRUARY 9TH! 
Mark off one square, a row, or play for blackout!! Since this would've been Caleb's 4th birthday, PRIZES will be awarded to the first 4 people who earn a BINGO/CALEB and comment back to this post which squares you completed on The Caleb Effect Facebook page (bonus points for including pictures)!! 

We can't wait to see all the love Caleb's fan club shares with your part of the world!
#calebeffect
#benice
#NiceOnThe9th
#HappyBirthdayCalebLennon
#OneDay
#SUDC Foundation

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Another Jam-Packed Day-Just the Way Caleb Liked It

Hi Baby Boy. I love you.

To say yesterday was jam-packed is the understatement of the year. I know we are only 9 (now 10) days in, but I can't help thinking about how even the most insane days remind me so much of you. Once you graduated from the wretched infant carrier, you LOVED going from place-to-place and all of the excitement even the most ordinary days would bring!

I miss hearing your little voice in the back seat pointing out the color and make of every semi, "vroom vroom," taxi, truck, bus, "shoe shoe." I miss passing a police car and slowing down not to comply with the speed limit, but to make sure you could see it too. I miss the way you pointed your little finger and gasped right before you recreated your enthusiastic siren sound effect you had for every emergency vehicle.

I remember my sweet auntie being fearful that you didn't want to be dragged all over one of the national parks where we took you hiking. She even offered to let us drop you off at her house and watch you while we trekked the hundreds of miles we covered together. Your daddy, the planner of the family, might have had to scale back the laminated itinerary a bit so we could coordinate our hikes and longer voyages in the car with your nap time, but we had such an incredible family trip with you.

You laughed as you played in the ocean still fully dressed, and were amused when a wave chased you back toward the shore. You rode on our backs in your friend, Jack's hiking backpack (though you mostly preferred Mommy get the extra workout), and picked leaves bigger than your head. You peeked down through huge, mystical clouds and saw cities that looked like toys. You fed the ducks for the first time, and found your own walking sticks and mud. You threw rocks into the lakes and clapped and giggled at yourself in delight. You made your own bird calls that echoed through the trees and amused the other park visitors wondering what kind of animal made that strange noise.

Whether is was a typical car ride to "2s" (AKA the 2-year-old daycare class), dancing to a band on Mommy's race day, or going to see your friends for a play date on the weekends, you always managed to fill your life and ours so full of love. My mind still can't comprehend both the magnitude of not having you here or how it was that you were able to completely win over literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON YOU MET during your 2 years, 2 months, and a small portion of your 23rd day. How is that even possible? They say you can't please everyone, but Caleb Lennon, you did! Even people who didn't like children had to admit that they thought you were pretty cute. Secretly, I think they also felt the love you coated them with the instant they looked into your beautiful, blue eyes. You were special and you always will be.

So, Baby Boy. We are still trying to be like you and share a layer of your magical, perfect love. We celebrate the day of the month you were born and even when it is a sprint, it is always worth it.

I hope Daddy and I made you proud yesterday.

Mommy knows sometimes she has more words than you probably have patience, so I will include more specifics about our first "Nice on the 9th" day of 2018 in each picture grouping.

I love you. I always will.

You will always be my greatest adventure, Caleb Baby. Even if I live to be 100, you will have crammed every second of every day I have left here with more love than I ever knew could overflow my heart.

One day.

Love,

Mommy
XOXOXOXOX

#calebeffect
#benice
#NiceOnThe9th
#grief
#ChildLoss
#RAK
#ThisLittleLightOfMineImGonnaLetHimShine


Hi Baby Boy. Mommy met the day early enough to see this beautiful sunrise. I watched a fun-loving little cutie so her mommy, a small-business owner, could rock a bridal event. Look how pretty her flowers are! You would have had so much fun playing outside with this little athlete and making impromptu artwork from things we found in the yard. I'm sure now you are seeing nature's paintbrush in ways we could never imagine.  I love you, Baby Boy. — with Sarah A. Toy.

Hi Baby Boy. Mommy met the day early enough to see this beautiful sunrise. I watched a fun-loving little cutie so her mommy, a small-business owner, could rock a bridal event. Look how pretty her flowers are! You would have had so much fun playing outside with this little athlete and making impromptu artwork from things we found in the yard. I'm sure now you are seeing nature's paintbrush in ways we could never imagine. 

I love you, Baby Boy. — with Sarah A. Toy.


Hi, Baby. After playing with our sweet friend for the first half of the day, Daddy and I went to a place called Infant Crisis Services. Our friend, Scott Magnetti, at Dollar General helped us collect toys for this months' "Nice on the 9th," so we gave the ones for kids 4 and under to this really wonderful place, and saved the other toys for Calm Waters. Daddy and I also threw in a few things we thought they could use as well. This month, there was also a secret contributor who likes this organization, so the diapers we delivered are from them. We will be able to do more with their donation than just this, though, so stay tuned for more. Scroll down and I will tell you more about this place. — with Scott Magnetti, Ken Toey, Infant Crisis Services and Dollar General.

Hi, Baby. After playing with our sweet friend for the first half of the day, Daddy and I went to a place called Infant Crisis Services. Our friend, Scott Magnetti, at Dollar General helped us collect toys for this months' "Nice on the 9th," so we gave the ones for kids 4 and under to this really wonderful place, and saved the other toys for Calm Waters. Daddy and I also threw in a few things we thought they could use as well. This month, there was also a secret contributor who likes this organization, so the diapers we delivered are from them. We will be able to do more with their donation than just this, though, so stay tuned for more. Scroll down and I will tell you more about this place. — with Scott MagnettiKen ToeyInfant Crisis Services and Dollar General.

So, Baby. As I was saying, Infant Crisis Services gives families things like diapers, food and formula. These items are their main mission, but nice people also help them give kids and their families other items like clothes, sippy cups, toys, bottles, and baby soap. Can you imagine having to sit in a dirty diaper because you didn't have enough money to buy more? :( Want to know more about this charity? Keep scrolling to the next image. — with Infant Crisis Services.

So, Baby. As I was saying, Infant Crisis Services gives families things like diapers, food and formula. These items are their main mission, but nice people also help them give kids and their families other items like clothes, sippy cups, toys, bottles, and baby soap. Can you imagine having to sit in a dirty diaper because you didn't have enough money to buy more? :( Want to know more about this charity? Keep scrolling to the next image. — with Infant Crisis Services.

Little Man, you were fond of the word "more" when eating, but many in our community won't be able to give their kids enough to eat. Many also don't have a washing machine so it is too expensive for them to use cloth the way we were able to save money. The Infant Crisis Center has been able to expand their mission and they even have a section with gallons of milk, dozens of eggs, and even carrots and potatoes! We agree. "No baby should go hungry." — with Scott Magnetti and Dollar General.

Little Man, you were fond of the word "more" when eating, but many in our community won't be able to give their kids enough to eat. Many also don't have a washing machine so it is too expensive for them to use cloth the way we were able to save money. The Infant Crisis Center has been able to expand their mission and they even have a section with gallons of milk, dozens of eggs, and even carrots and potatoes! We agree. "No baby should go hungry." — with Scott Magnetti and Dollar General.


Mommy and Daddy's next stop was to Calm Waters. This is a place where people like us could go because we are very sad that you aren't here with us anymore. You didn't have any siblings, but Mommy and Daddy feel especially heartbroken for some of your new friends' families who leave behind brothers and sisters, or sons and daughters. — with Scott Magnetti, Ken Toey, Calm Waters Center for Children and Families and Dollar General.

Mommy and Daddy's next stop was to Calm Waters. This is a place where people like us could go because we are very sad that you aren't here with us anymore. You didn't have any siblings, but Mommy and Daddy feel especially heartbroken for some of your new friends' families who leave behind brothers and sisters, or sons and daughters. — with Scott MagnettiKen ToeyCalm Waters Center for Children and Families and Dollar General.

One of the things they do here is to have families write messages about how they feel after they lose someone. Calm Waters also takes good care of people whose relationship has changed because of divorce. The one that really made Mommy sad was the person who wrote about wanting to go fishing. That's something Mommy wanted to do with you, too. — with Calm Waters Center for Children and Families.

One of the things they do here is to have families write messages about how they feel after they lose someone. Calm Waters also takes good care of people whose relationship has changed because of divorce. The one that really made Mommy sad was the person who wrote about wanting to go fishing. That's something Mommy wanted to do with you, too. — with Calm Waters Center for Children and Families.

Baby Bear, going through adult-sized issues like losing a brother or sister or having to move out of your house because your parents don't get along anymore are not fun. Those things are really hard even for big people, but can be very confusing for someone small. Mommy lost her daddy when she was 14 so she understands how it feels when something like this happens. One of the things they do here is to decorate a shoe box like you see in the picture on the bottom right and fill it full of memories of the life they used to have. I think you would agree that this group needed some toys to play with, so once again, with the help of our buddy, Scott, we brought some fun things to share!— with Scott Magnetti, Ken Toey and Dollar General.

Baby Bear, going through adult-sized issues like losing a brother or sister or having to move out of your house because your parents don't get along anymore are not fun. Those things are really hard even for big people, but can be very confusing for someone small. Mommy lost her daddy when she was 14 so she understands how it feels when something like this happens. One of the things they do here is to decorate a shoe box like you see in the picture on the bottom right and fill it full of memories of the life they used to have. I think you would agree that this group needed some toys to play with, so once again, with the help of our buddy, Scott, we brought some fun things to share!— with Scott MagnettiKen Toey and Dollar General.


Last, but certainly not least is that you have a cousin, Annalysa Longworth, who lives in Puerto Rico. She and her boyfriend survived a really scary hurricane! They were left in the dark until a charity called "Watts of Love" showed up. Read about it here. https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/lives-changed-by-charitable-gifts/ We thought it would be appropriate to share the most radiant light and life we have ever seen with this part of our country. I have never met this cousin, but I hope just like you have shown us, that she feels your love even when she can't see you.  I love you, Baby Boy. Keep shining your rays of love on us.  One day. Love, Mommy XOXOXOXOX  — with Lili Oller, Annalysa Longworthand Watts of Love.

Last, but certainly not least is that you have a cousin, Annalysa Longworth, who lives in Puerto Rico. She and her boyfriend survived a really scary hurricane! They were left in the dark until a charity called "Watts of Love" showed up. Read about it here. https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/lives-changed-by-charitable-gifts/

We thought it would be appropriate to share the most radiant light and life we have ever seen with this part of our country. I have never met this cousin, but I hope just like you have shown us, that she feels your love even when she can't see you. 

I love you, Baby Boy. Keep shining your rays of love on us. 

One day.

Love, Mommy
XOXOXOXOX

 — with Lili OllerAnnalysa Longworthand Watts of Love.

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Our Superhero

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PART 1 of 2

Hi Baby. I love you. Do you know what today is? Yes, it is the 9th! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!! I wish we could see the animated way you would clap your hands and jump up and down, or how you would pinch your cheeks and clinch your teeth trying to contain all your excitement. I hope you had that same kind of overwhelming glee hearing your name being spoken by new friends and knowing all the love and joy you wrapped perfectly inside The Caleb Effect is being opened and shared, again and again. It is the one present that is always okay to be re-gifted, reused, and returned.

Mommy and Daddy spent the day trying to return some of the happiness you shared with us in your much too brief life. We know we will never be able to give you as much pure love as you poured into us, but we will spend the rest of our lives trying. We miss you, Baby Boy. Every second of every day you are missed and loved.

A snippet of that love was shared with Project Linus  (), after a thoughtful invitation from Gabrielle Luebk. You never saw the Peanuts show, but there is a little boy named “Linus” who carries around his blanket and sucks his thumb. Linus said, “Listen Charlie Brown, that old blanket soaks up all my fears and frustrations.” It is pretty amazing that something as simple as a blanket can do that. Kids who are in the hospital, living in shelters, or going through some very scary situations are tucked into their warmth. 

Even though we don’t really know how to sew, the ladies in the group were very patient in showing us how to cut and loop the pieces of fleece and clip the edges of the quilting squares just right. They even let Mommy use one of the vintage machines and didn’t complain when they had to get the string unstuck. 

Mommy and Daddy brought some “soup” (AKA Superman) fleece and a donation, and remembered the adorable way you pronounced this character. Sometimes you would say his whole name, but the “r” was non-existent, and there was always a pause at each syllable. 

You never slept with a blanket, but your “vroom vrooms” were your equivalent. You carried them around everywhere. They kept you company when you were bored or stuck in the car, and probably helped you work out some of your frustrations from teething, not being able to do something by yourself, or not getting your way. We hope with your help, these kids will feel the same comfort. Please wrap your arms around them and remind them that someone cares about every worry and struggle. The good guys are still winning, Baby Boy.

You may not have owned a red cape, but you will always be our little “Soup-uh-man,” Cal. L.

I love you. I always will.

Love, Mommy
XXXOOOXXX

#calebeffect
#projectlinus
Project Linus - Greater OKC Are

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Fostering Love

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PART 2 of 2

Hi Baby. I love you. We were going to “be nice” to a foster care agency last month, but we pushed it to this 9th when another sweet friend, Robin Feuerborn told us of an event that McCaleb Homes was hosting. It was a Christmas party for Aunt RoRo and “Unka Thomas’s” neighborhood, and it just so “happened” to be benefitting kids in foster care. It also just so “happened” to be scheduled for Dec. 9th, so she wanted to include you. 

It was an extremely thoughtful invitation, but I will be truthful and tell you that at first I didn’t want to do it. A shiny, red fire truck, Santa, Christmas infused games, and perfectly-placed decorations would be there, but you, our happiest little boy would not. No, that was too much for my heart to have to power through. We would sell everything we own if it meant we could take you to see Santa and watch the wonder and innocence in your face. We would treasure even a few more minutes to watch you climb up in a fire truck like you did at “Touch-a-Truck,” or in Vancouver, when a tanker parked along the Seawall waited for you to explore. We would’ve asked to hold you and peek out the window a little longer so Daddy could get more pictures. We would’ve tried to freeze the image of you staring at the uniformed fire fighter who squatted down and gave you “fives” and the gold “junior fire fighter” sticker badge you wore so proudly on your shirt. If we would’ve known your second birthday would be your last, we would’ve driven to more than one station on your special day, and made sure to find one that was open. No, this was not fair. 

Selfishly, we wish we were still taking you to all kinds of fun events all around town. We miss you, Booger Bear. It is still too hard for Mommy and Daddy’s heart to celebrate holidays without you. We normally avoid themes that make us wish even more that we were still watching a magical world through your eyes. Still, festivities are everywhere and we can’t hide from the fact that Christmas without you hurts. 

“No. Thank you for thinking of us, but no.” That’s what I wanted to say to Robin, but that is not how the story was written. We knew this was not just another series of “coincidences,” but rather your way of showing up to guide us and to do something big for you. 

Aunt Annie had already surprised us by sending 10 backpacks for our project, and our dentist, Dr. Willingham had already agreed to provide toothbrushes. This event was happening and we were going to do our part in trying to give kids more than a trash bag to carry their belongings from house-to-house. 

We never talked about kids in foster care, so maybe you are wondering what that means. Google’s definition of “foster” is “to encourage or promote the development of (something, typically something regarded as good)” or “bring up (a child that is not one's own by birth).” This is another concept I didn’t think we needed to explain until you were older, but one we thought you would want to share your love and kindness. When I read it, it also reminded me of Joseph in the Christmas story.

Baby Boy, you lived with your mommy and daddy your whole life, but some kids (in fact 11,000 just in our state) don’t get that option. There are lots of reasons why kids don’t always live with their parents, but each of them has their unique challenges. Sometimes mommies and daddies get so sick that they have to have other people help take care of their kids. Other times the parents know their kids would have a better life living with someone else. However, one of the hardest for Mommy to understand is when parents’ destructive behavior and temptations cloud everything else. Some kids have had to live with a parent they thought they could trust, but who end up hurting them. They are left confused and many even feel like it is their fault.

Sometimes kids go live with another family just for a little while, and other times, they are there for years. I know you were an exceptionally friendly little boy, but I imagine if something happened to Mommy and Daddy, you would've still been really scared to have to go live with someone you just met. 

Many times, when a child has to move in with a new family, they grab whatever they can quickly stuff into a trash bag. It is the most practical way to hurriedly leave a bad situation, but waiting for a safe place to live while sitting next to a garbage bag can make a kid feel like they are left out with the trash, too.

So, on to the happy part of the story! 

It took a whole community, but together we were able to buy 50 backpacks, which means 50 kids who will immediately have something other than a flimsy piece of plastic to call their own! 

Every backpack had a pair of socks, a book, some kind of activity pad or coloring book with crayons, a pencil, shampoo, conditioner, a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, Kleenex, a stuffed animal, and a handwritten note of encouragement. The younger kids also got a vroom vroom and the big kids got a stick of deodorant. We know it won’t fix a broken family, but we hope each bag brings a few of the basics and a little bit of comfort to a less than ideal situation. 

Mommy is also very happy to report that the Christmas party was a tremendous success! The Edmond Fire Department and Edmond Kiwanis brought Santa to the neighborhood in the fire truck and lots of little girls and boys got to have their picture taken while they told him how nice they have been all year. Those boys and girls also brought a mountain of presents that went with the backpacks to Angels Foster Care. There was a huge turnout! You could barely even see the floor or the bed because there were so many gifts! 

Your cousin, Hailee got to participate this month, so we put her to work manning the “pin the nose on Rudolph” station. Mommy was next to her as kids your age tried to toss their rings onto the blown-up antler contraption I was wearing on my head. There was a little boy that reminded me of you who was so excited when he got one of his rings caught onto my antler that he jumped up and gave me a hug. I knew if you were here, you guys would have played together and made a chocolate chip mess all over your faces.

It was still difficult to see the other toddlers climbing into the fire truck and to tell Santa why we were there, but we held it together for the most part. I wanted to go outside and tell the fire fighters “thank you,” but I knew that would make Mommy too emotional. Maybe they will read it here and realize even more what events like yesterday can mean to a family. 

Please let everyone who made this event possible and who helped us spread The Caleb Effect know how grateful we are to have been included. Numerous new friends got to learn about you and many more will be hugging their kids and grandkids tighter. As we have said many times, tomorrow is not guaranteed and we never know when an evening surrounded by the ones we love will be the last.

What we DO know is that we will continue to make the decision to let your light and beautiful life shine above our own desolation. We will smile through the tears and embrace the extra hug when doubts creep in. We will keep facing every day trying to be more like you, and we will share your doses of kindness even if it feels like it’s not enough. You were always enough for us, Little Man. 

How lucky were we that we got to encourage and promote the development of someone everyone regards as good.

Your first Christmas outfit was right. “Best gift ever.” Caleb, you will always be the best gift we’ve ever received. We hope all the angels are being the best foster parents for us until we have you, our perfect gift, back in our arms.

I love you. I always will.

One day.

Love, Mommy
OOOXXXOOO

A very special thanks to the following for making this event possible:

McCaleb Homes-volunteers and funding for backpacks
Robin Feuerborn-funding for backpacks
Annie Lindo-donation of backpacks
Bittersweet Design Boutique-event flyer
Stephanie Timmermeyer-50 “Savannah Finds a Lovey” books and super soft “loveys”
Fairfield Inn & Suites Oklahoma City Yukon-Shampoo, conditioner, combs
Compass Coffeehouse-coffee and hot cocoa
Jason's Deli-cookies
Angels Foster Family Network OKC-hope to brave kids
Edmond Kiwanis-Santa on a Fire Truck
Edmond Fire Department, Government-Santa on a Fire Truck
Willingham and Reiter, D.D.S.-toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss

#calebeffect
#benice
#fostercare
#Christmas
#HotWheels
#ItTakesAVillage
https://www.thecalebeffect.com

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"You will never have a completely bad day if you show kindness at least once." -Greg Henry Quinn

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I had to go to the vet this morning to drop off a “specimen.” As I was waiting for the lab results, I noticed the electronic candles at the check-in desk became lit. I looked closer and read that when the lights are on, it means someone is saying goodbye to their beloved pet. It was a reminder to be respectful and to keep voices low in a very tough moment. We had been in this predicament at this same vet just 2.5 years ago when we had to put my German Shepherd/Lab, Sofie down after a sudden and catastrophic illness. I immediately felt helpless knowing someone was going through the agonizing pain of watching their furry companion take their last breath. 

The lab results were taking longer than they realized so I was sent home, but not before I realized I still had some kindness rocks in my car with little notes of encouragement attached. I left one with a ladybug for whoever was having a very difficult day in the room just beyond the wall from where I stood. 

As I drove home, it made me think about how once again I don’t believe it was a “coincidence” that I “happened” to be there at that very moment and how I hoped the small gesture made a tiny shred of warmth appear amidst their heavy sorrow.

The 9th is coming up and I thought I would share this experience in hopes that you will be thinking of ways to bring someone a bit of compassion as well. We have something really exciting planned, but if you have little ones who love to draw endless pictures, maybe they could create sympathy cards for people who will bring their four-legged family members in to the vet but walk out with an empty leash or collar. Print out the “Rainbow Bridge” poem and one of the kindness message templates to include with each card. As your kids are busy writing their wish lists and circling everything they want for Christmas from toy catalogs, have them spend an extra few minutes spreading the true Christmas spirit to people in need of cheer. Crayons and paper are cheap, and kindness is free.

#calebeffect
#benice

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Save the Arts, Thank a Teacher

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Dropped off a trumpet that was graciously donated by someone from the Piedmont Facebook marketplace. Mr. Annesley also got a few goodies to help him weather the band's outdoor performances and a gift card to help purchase sheet music.  Webster also gets bonus points as I got to hug Sarah Odusi, their sweet school counselor! — with Jon Annesley and Sarah Odusi at Webster Middle School.

Dropped off a trumpet that was graciously donated by someone from the Piedmont Facebook marketplace. Mr. Annesley also got a few goodies to help him weather the band's outdoor performances and a gift card to help purchase sheet music. 

Webster also gets bonus points as I got to hug Sarah Odusi, their sweet school counselor! — with Jon Annesley and Sarah Odusi at Webster Middle School.

Some of the schools The Caleb Effect visited this month serve a large percentage of children with challenges that extend far beyond their math tests. We thought it would be nice to give the elementary art teachers simple supplies to create fun activities in addition to their gift cards. We hope kids enjoy popsicle sticks, glue and paint as much as we did when we were younger. We also gave the teachers a couple of "high five" kits to catch kids being nice or to encourage a child who needs an extra boost. These had all the materials needed to create a plaster copy of the children's hands and enough paint to decorate them. They also had a handwritten note attached. #BeNice #BeeYourself #calebeffect — at Martin Luther King Elementary School.

Some of the schools The Caleb Effect visited this month serve a large percentage of children with challenges that extend far beyond their math tests. We thought it would be nice to give the elementary art teachers simple supplies to create fun activities in addition to their gift cards. We hope kids enjoy popsicle sticks, glue and paint as much as we did when we were younger.

We also gave the teachers a couple of "high five" kits to catch kids being nice or to encourage a child who needs an extra boost. These had all the materials needed to create a plaster copy of the children's hands and enough paint to decorate them. They also had a handwritten note attached.
#BeNice
#BeeYourself
#calebeffect — at Martin Luther King Elementary School.

The Caleb Effect left a surprise for the theatre/dance teacher and one for Anderson Music Studios. Thank you, teachers! — with David Anderson at John Marshall Mid/High School-OKC PTSA.

The Caleb Effect left a surprise for the theatre/dance teacher and one for Anderson Music Studios. Thank you, teachers! — with David Anderson at John Marshall Mid/High School-OKC PTSA.

I had just come back from delivering 4 out of the 6 surprises but was still really down. Eight years ago on Nov. 9th, my friend, Jake Meier lost his life to a seizure. I was still having trouble making the joy rise above the tears, and apparently, so was Mama Meier Sandy Meier). Jake was the little brother I never had. Now he is the one looking out for me. I don't know what I did to earn such spec...See More  — with Debbie Harmon Yeargin Rueda.

I had just come back from delivering 4 out of the 6 surprises but was still really down. Eight years ago on Nov. 9th, my friend, Jake Meier lost his life to a seizure. I was still having trouble making the joy rise above the tears, and apparently, so was Mama Meier Sandy Meier). Jake was the little brother I never had. Now he is the one looking out for me. I don't know what I did to earn such spec...See More

 — with Debbie Harmon Yeargin Rueda.

We didn't forget about vroom vrooms. Dollar General is having a BOGO sale so we stocked up.  What do you get when you buy 276 Hot Wheels (We've hit a few more stores since this original post, Final tally to be counted soon)? You get THE DISPLAY TO TAKE WITH YOU!!! The rainbow as you are leaving is just Caleb's way of showing approval :) W/ Bernie Lindo Wile & #TheCalebEffect

We didn't forget about vroom vrooms. Dollar General is having a BOGO sale so we stocked up. 

What do you get when you buy 276 Hot Wheels (We've hit a few more stores since this original post, Final tally to be counted soon)?

You get THE DISPLAY TO TAKE WITH YOU!!!

The rainbow as you are leaving is just Caleb's way of showing approval :)

W/ Bernie Lindo Wile & #TheCalebEffect

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(I'm a little late in posting, but the sentiment is just as heartfelt.) 

Hi Baby Boy. I love you. Happy 9th! Today is also a day that is mixed with sadness, as it has been 8 years since Mommy's buddy, Jake Meier left us unexpectedly. I didn't know if we would be able to still make it a happy day, but thank you both for the special rainbow in the sky despite not having any rain.

We remembered you today by celebrating teachers who share their love of the arts with kids. We wish we could’ve visited every school and left surprises for all the teachers in the world, but maybe you can talk to Santa and help us make that happen soon. 

My little bear cub, we treasure all the sweet footprint art, finger paintings, and coloring pages you made while you were still here. We loved seeing you overcome by music’s power as you stomped your Velcro shoes and clapped along to the cadence felt straight into your heart. We were ecstatic about all the future preschool productions to come, and we could almost guarantee you would be that little boy making faces at us and waving in the middle of a song. Mommy and Daddy were very private about posting too many pictures of you online, but I have a feeling you would’ve become a viral sensation just to prove to us that you always had your own plans. 

Baby Boy, Mommy didn’t grow up in a school that offered things like musical theatre, drama, or dance, but she DID get to participate in choir and band (She might have also signed up for band despite Grandma’s explicit instructions forbidding it, but that is a story for another day.). I had the same music teacher from 6th-12th grade and I will never forget her as long as I live. 

Mrs. Yeargin came into my life as I made the transition from elementary school to the illustrious middle school. I remember being excited that I would get to change classes throughout the day and finally have a locker to decorate and secure my private thoughts. Sixth grade was also an incredibly awkward time when teachers talked about things that we had yet to explain to you and that made me want to go hide under my desk until they were finished. The boys in my class also never missed an opportunity to point out how these discussions of puberty and hormones were obviously not yet part of my reality as a late bloomer. Still, I had started shaving my legs the year before to keep up with what little trends made me fit in.

If fitting in was something to try to attain, normally people don’t think of joining band. However, in our small town, every kind of social group was represented there. It didn’t matter if you played basketball or quiz bowl or whether you were gay or straight. At half-time of every game where we marched, you were sure to see the quarterback of the team with black chalk under his eyes and a trombone in his hands. Standing next to him was the class clown with his trumpet and then the shy kid and his saxophone. Still, a few rows beyond them you would find the captain of the cheer squad and her snare drum ricocheting “Go Big Blue,” and every other group in between. For one hour of every day, the lines in the cliques were drawn with pencil that Mrs. Yeargin kept pushing to help us erase. 

Yes, I learned much more in her class than how to play the flute and piccolo, or simply the words to “Beautiful Dreamer.” From the minute I met my new band and choir teacher, I knew she would make at least two periods of my day fun. Mrs. Yeargin was a lady with a quick-witted sense of humor who laughed easily. She also knew when to let us talk and when it was time to silence the chatter. She was someone who had to ask for help putting away instruments in the top, wooden cubby, but when she wanted her class to listen, you can bet 100 wide eyes stopped whatever they were doing and paid attention to the conductor behind the music stand. 

She called us her “kids” and treated us like her own, constantly picking up piles of stiff, high-waisted pants and wayward shoes, and always managing to find the owners of each before the uniforms were needed again. She had us laughing so hard we were crying as she presented us with “awards” we had earned for various antics throughout the year and welcomed us into her house even after her eyelids couldn’t stay as open as her door.

I met Mrs. Y at a time when our regular family chaos was mixed with confusion and false hope after two-years of my daddy’s fight with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He had already lost his voice and the use of his legs, and his arms were quickly catching up. She did not ignore the things she knew were already weighing on my mind and her office became a safe place for questions, tears, and prayers. She pushed us outside our comfort zones and taught us to dream bigger than the city limits of our small, farming town. She went above and beyond to provide opportunities that we never would have had on our own. 

She took us to Stillwater every year, where I ate at Eskimo Joe’s for the first time and where we learned to play colorful, plastic cups on the sidewalk outside. We got to participate in OSU Band Day, where despite being a Sooner fan, I couldn’t deny the thrill I felt while being on the field in front of the crowd at my first college football game. She accompanied us and sent in hundreds of audition tapes so we could go to Tri-State Music Festival, a three-day event where we got to stay in a hotel and eat pizza multiple times a day. She showed us the wonder of walking out on the ice and being announced under the lights to sing the Star-Spangled Banner for a Blazers hockey match. She taught us to be grateful for what is most important in life after losing our friend and 4 out of 5 of his family members to a drunk driver. A few months later, she encouraged those same humble voices and spirits to sing “Angel’s Among Us” for a ceremony for first responders of the Oklahoma City bombing. 

She got up before the sun and drove a bus and her patience all over the state. She listened to us when we needed her most, and sacrificed time with her family to talk to us long after the last bell rang. She gave us courage to stand up for what is right and to dig your heels in when you know any other way would compromise your principles. Despite all the unique ways her students marched to the beat of their own drums, she knew that together we make more beautiful harmonies. 

She was there for me when I was called home from school when my dad had finished his mission here on Earth, and she continues to be here for me as we do our best to cope with the massive hole in our hearts from losing you. Yes, there will always be a special place in my soul for cummerbunds; pastel, floral wrap-skirts; and Mrs. Yeargin. Thank you for staying with us until the last conversation, parent, or daylight disappeared. I love you.

Caleb Baby, I wish you could’ve had a chance to meet her. Please inspire others to thank all of their teachers, but especially those in the arts. Classes like the ones I described are disappearing and not all of us find our way so flawlessly and instinctively the way you did. People like Mommy still need this instruction and creative outlets. We would give anything in the world to sing the “bus song,” “star,” or any other song you wanted us to sing to you. In fact, because of music teachers in my life, Mommy wrote you your own version of “star.” I pray you heard me, Sweet Boy.

Keep letting all of our voices be heard in all the artistic ways we have been given on this Earth.

I love you.

Love, Mommy
OXOXOXOXO

#calebeffect
#savethearts
#benice
#kindness

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18 Months Without You

(I originally wrote this on the 2nd and into the wee hours of the 3rd, but felt it was too sad to post after I read it. I went back today and tried to add some brighter moments, but there is still not enough sugar or optimism to coat on this kind of pain. How could this beautiful boy that is staring right at me not still be here? His coat is hanging on the hook and his monster water bottle is ready for another walk through our neighborhood.)

Never noticed the butterfly-shaped grass on the sidewalk next to Caleb until now.

Never noticed the butterfly-shaped grass on the sidewalk next to Caleb until now.

Hi Baby Boy. I love you. Mommy’s heart is so sad. This morning brought back all of the feelings of May 2nd, waking up to the horror of not having you here anymore. You were already heavy on my mind as I sat staring into nothingness from the couch. However, as soon as Daddy came out of our room to start the day, I felt the familiar panic. It’s like the same thick air, shock, pressure, and tight knots in my stomach all launched their coordinated assault in precise unison and snatched all the oxygen from my chest.

It is also All Souls Day which I suppose is fitting, although we remember you far more than just today. This day brought the kind of stillness and quiet that has been eerily present since your joyful voice and laughter were silenced. I still shake my head and fight off this reality. This can’t really be true. No, this is not how we imagined our family unit. You always had at least one of us with you every day of your life. Mommy and Daddy WANTED to spend time with you. We LOVED being together! It is such a massive shock to go from laughing and having the grandest time living in the moment with you, to never getting to see you for the rest of our lives. I don’t know how to wrap the logical side of my brain around this enormous hole or be okay offering my obliterated heart, zero resolution.

My little boy, I know we are the type of people who were born with more energy than most, but Mommy is exhausted in so many ways. I still desperately need your help even if you don’t need me for anything. The tears fall and I hear myself audibly tell you, “I would do anything to play with you right now.”

I remember something I told one of the police officers as I was being escorted into the living room to begin my interrogation. In a cracking voice that sounded as though I was hearing it from outside my own devastated body while being forced to abandon yours, the words became louder. “I’m glad our house is a mess, because we played with that little boy!” I blink and look around again, but the large pictures from your memorial service are still there and so is this awful truth.

It still takes more force and effort to breathe, Baby Bear. All our hopes and curious anticipation for your future didn’t just vanish into the night the way your soul did. We will always wonder who you would’ve grown up and become. How tall would you be? What new friends would you have? What kinds of things would you know now? What toys would be your favorites? So many swirling questions. Why aren’t you still here? How did this happen? How does a healthy toddler go from a simple ear infection and fever you had experienced literally dozens of times to this? How could a