Friday, February 05, 2021

My Daughter, The Warrior

Last week, I donated some clothing to our local DAV. I didn't really think of which route I would be following to get there, but I ended up having to drive right by the hospital where we lost our sweet Lola. In fact, I had to stop at the (very long) stoplight right in front of it. Sitting there, I could see Wesley Children's Hospital. I located the room(s) we stayed in, and I could even remember the colorful lights shining in our window at night and how pretty the many sunsets were from that higher vantage point. I could see the Ronald McDonald House across the street, remembering what a godsend they were to us all those nights. I was quite literally flooded with memories as I waited there at that dreaded stoplight.

I also could not forget the difficult times... the times I had been parked at that very light on my way back to the hospital after a quick one-hour run home to shower and grab more items, my anxiety through the roof with worry & fear about what the future held for our beautiful girl. I remembered my many prayers for her healing... my pleas to God to take years off my own life and add them to hers so I could once again take my baby home from the hospital. I didn't have that luxury with her big sister, Claire, just 9 months prior, as she passed away suddenly at home. Oh yes, so many prayers were said at that very light, crying out to the Universe to PLEASE SAVE MY BABY! Please give her another chance at life! 

We held out hope for sooooo long. We had to stay positive for her and for us. We had to believe that she was going to beat this a second time (within 5 weeks) and that the second hospitalization of her entire 13.5 years of life was NOT going to end in us losing her also. I reeeeeally thought we would get her back home again, until the last day or two. 

Now, as I look back on those days that I held onto hope with all my might, I am almost disgusted with myself. HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS COMING??? Did everyone else know that Lola was dying? Why couldn’t *I* accept this? Was I delusional? Too hopeful? How the fuck could we not save her another time?!?! We had helped her survive so many other upper respiratory infections before. We watched her tiny, little body waste away and struggle too many times to count in the past, often with no real reason as to why this was occurring. It wasn't at all unusual for us to worry about her survival or mortality daily. She was our ultra-sensitive, fragile child. I don't know what contract she signed with the Heavens before entering this life, but I still stand in awe of just how hard my baby girl fought so many times to STAY. Heck, she was on the brink of death a multitude of times just weeks prior, fighting the same viruses, and she somehow managed to make it back home after ten days of pure hell. Why would she not be able to do so again? After all, she had always been "bulletproof," as my friend Amy put it. 

My baby died in that hospital.

I will never, ever forget this or "get over it." I am never going to sit at the stoplight at Central & Hillside again and not remember how desperately hard our baby girl fought to LIVE. 

I haven't been able to write about this topic hardly at all. I am still not ready to do so at length. I wonder if I ever fully will be. It almost feels too sacred and private to discuss outside of our home. What our beloved daughter endured, what we witnessed, the endless bagging, the many IV's, all the medicines (and their reactions), her heart rate repeatedly plummeting, the catastrophic seizures, the suffocating heaviness of it all... it changes a person. It flat out HAUNTS you. These nightmarish, traumatic memories somehow worm their way into your consciousness, begging to be remembered and felt. I am not ok. I am not sure I will ever be ok again. I miss my babies.

As I parked there for what felt like 5 minutes, I also began thinking of all the people inside those walls who, like our sweet girl did 15 months prior, are fighting against a fatal respiratory virus. Our Lola didn't die from Covid, but she too fought with the strength of a warrior just to breathe. Over 2 million people have fought so hard and lost their battles, too. It completely shatters me to even ponder this harsh reality, not to mention the fact that they suffered and died alone. The weight of the world is feeling absolutely unbearable to me lately.

The light finally turned green, and I continued through the intersection in tears, the music lyrics in the background ripping through me... "Stay alive, stay alive... for me." (Truce, by Twenty One Pilots ~

[You should know that I have never been suicidal at any point after losing our girls, but a part of me understands fully how one could reach that inconceivable point of despair. My heart goes out to those who face these feelings daily. I encourage anyone who is reading this and feeling that hopelessness to reach out to someone at thNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline ~ 1-800-273-TALK (8255).]

As I headed home after the DAV drop, I continued listening to music, tried to refocus, tried to forget. You see, grief is exhausting, all-consuming, and heavy. It can derail me for a few moments or for weeks on end. Sometimes I get mad at myself that I keep burying it all and that I am not finding ways to offload some of this guilt and sorrow. I wish I was better about facing it head-on, but honestly, I am not sure I am strong enough for that. Truly allowing myself to feel the reality and weight of losing both Claire & Lola inside of ten months of one another... it is pure torture. Most days, the best I can do is to not let myself remember what she... what WE... experienced. I know I cannot run away from this forever, but I wish to God I could. I want to remember how Claire & Lola LIVED, not how they died. I want to live inside their magic forever.

I hate to say this, but most days it truly feels like a dream that our girls were even here. I don't know how to accurately explain this to someone who hasn't lived through it, but let me try. I think our brains work so damn hard trying to make sense of something that makes ZERO sense that everything becomes a little cloudy. You begin questioning everything. Their clothes aren't in your laundry anymore, you are no longer listening for them day and night, your every moment spent caring for them... it all vanishes. It almost feels as though you are plucked from the life you know and love and are dropped alone into a foreign country where you do not speak the language and everything is scary & unfamiliar. You feel lost and so desperately wish to return to your safe, comfortable life, but that is impossible because that life no longer exists. You are forced to find your way in this new place, completely starting over, rebuilding your whole life, learning this new language and place, making new friends, restructuring previous relationships, relearning how to function in society, and most of all, rediscovering your entire life's purpose. I wish I could somehow put a happy spin on child loss or find some random silver lining like I always seem to do as I process my feelings through writing. My dear friend, Stephanie, shared this post recently, and I could not agree with it more.

As I turned into my little town, the sky along the horizon was dark and stormy looking. Above that, the sun’s rays shone so beautifully, creating many luminous beacons of hope... almost as if they were little winks from above. I swear I heard my girls' sweet voices echoing in my head saying, "Hey Mom, we are still right here! *WE* are your light within the dark. We are always with you, Mama..."

I think when you lose someone very close to you, you miss their physical presence so profoundly that you automatically tune in to any signs or messages from the other side a little more than most. Many may not even believe this is possible, but we have had too many undeniable events occur to NOT believe that our girls are reaching out to us. (Don't even get me started on the ladybug I saw in my bedroom this week in the dead of winter with freezing temps outside when we hadn't seen any ladybugs since autumn... Hi, Claire-bug!)

As I pulled into my garage, I sat in silence in my car for a moment before going inside. Being a part of the world again, interacting with others, and doing "normal" daily activities drains me so much more than ever before. I am different now. Many days it feels like I just do not fit in anywhere I go. The pandemic seems to have complicated that even more. Just as I was about to head inside the house, I remembered something I used to do early on after losing Claire & Lola that always helped me feel a lot closer to them. This may sound ridiculous to those on the other side of grief, and I fully understand if you think I've lost my damn mind (pleeeeeease, don't think I don't question that myself daily! LOL). As I sat in this deafening silence, I talked to my babies. I told them how much I loved them and how proud of them I will forever be. I cried telling them how much I missed holding them and how sorry I was that I could not save them. I told them to come to me in my dreams and to leave me messages whenever they could so I would know they were still near. Lastly, I asked my angel babies to play me a song that would ease my aching heart. I then hit shuffle on my 62 GB of music on my phone (not a typo!), and the song that played was this one. So fitting. Soooo Claire & Lola.

Mama loves you forever & ever, my baby girls. I miss you.


Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Rest in paradise, my darling Lola...

Lola Grace Hartley 
April 28, 2006 ~ October 12, 2019

[Post from Facebook on October 12, 2019]

Early this morning, with a full moon shining in our PICU window, our sweet Lola ascended into the Heavens to be reunited with her big sister, Claire. Her body was overcome by back-to-back viruses as well as other medical complications that she was not able to overcome. She fought with everything in her to stay. She is quite literally the strongest human being we have ever known. She could have left so many times over the course of her 13.5 years, and every single time, she chose to stay. We are completely devastated. She was an absolute warrior till her last breath and final heartbeat. We are going to miss her so incredibly much.

We are in complete disbelief and shock that we are here again just shy of 10 months after losing Claire. Lola has struggled so much more since Claire passed in December. She has required oxygen, constant monitoring, and extra care, and we fully believe this is a result of missing her big sister. We have no idea how to chart a course through this tremendous grief & PTSD we are feeling. It just seems utterly impossible at this time.

We want to thank our night nurses, babysitters, therapists, teachers, family & friends for always providing such wonderful care and love for Mrs. Pockey. You are and will always be family to us, and we love you so very much. We also would like to thank the Wesley Children’s Hospital PICU team of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists & staff for believing in our girl and for treating her with such love and respect. We love all of you.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Ronald McDonald House, 551 N Hillside St Suite 100, Wichita, KS 67214. We are ever so grateful to them for allowing us to stay there so we could be close to Lola during her hospital stays.

Share condolences at the following link:  Lola's obituary

Link to local  news story about Lola's passing: KWCH News 10.12.19

Link to local news story about Lola's passing: KAKE News 10.12.19

Lola ~ 11.9.10

Lola ~ 10.4.16


Friday, February 01, 2019

Rest in peace, sweet Claire...

Claire Elise Hartley
July 25, 2001 ~ December 17, 2018
[Post from Facebook on December 18, 2018]

We are absolutely devastated to have lost our sweet Claire last night. Her body systems shut down, possibly due to a catastrophic virus. Abby Dawn Maclaskey, our local EMS and police worked lovingly and thoroughly to try to save her life. Despite their attempts, we were not able to restart her heart. Her body had fulfilled its mission on Earth, and Claire earned her angel wings. We are completely shattered, in total disbelief, and heartbroken beyond comprehension. We know how many lives she impacted in her short 17 years, and we are so proud of her for living and loving life to its fullest. We selfishly wanted more time, as life is just not the same without her here. We will be taking a social media break until we feel we are able to sort through the magnitude of this tremendous loss. Thank you for loving our girl all these years and for never forgetting how important her precious life was. We love you all.

In lieu of flowers (as Lola is allergic to many flowers), memorials can be made to: Night To Shine in c/o the Tim Tebow Foundation and Make a Wish Foundation of Kansas.

Share condolences at the following link:  Claire's obituary

Link to local news story about Claire's passing: KWCH News 12.19.18

Claire ~ 12.11.07

Claire Elise ~ 10.28.04


Monday, August 27, 2018


To those of you feeling underappreciated, overlooked & unloved... I SEE YOU.

To anyone feeling lost, hopeless, depressed, anxious and heartbroken... I SEE YOU.

To my friends who have lost children and who forever feel like a whole piece of your heart is missing, who can barely get out of bed many days, who feel immeasurable, soul-shattering grief every single day while life goes on for the rest of the world, who feel guilty laughing and smiling, whose wounds will remain open for a lifetime, whose very lives will never, EVER be the same for as long as you live… I SEE YOU.

To those who have difficult family situations, broken families, divorces, estrangements, abuse, neglect, daily struggles and to those who feel disconnected from your roots & home... I SEE YOU.

To those who are sick, fighting both seen and unseen battles, whose lives feel fragile... I SEE YOU.

To everyone who is a caregiver, those who feel as if all you do is give-give-give, those who are tapped out, drained & mentally broken, those who want nothing more than to HELP PEOPLE & better lives & save your loved one... I SEE YOU.

To the parents of children with special and/or complex medical needs whose love is undying, relentless & eternal... To those parents who would move both Heaven & Earth to help improve the quality of your child's life even the tiniest little bit... And to those who put your own needs on the back burner on the daily to provide the best life possible for your child because you don't know how much time you have left... I SEE YOU.

To the parents who CHOSE the special needs life, some through fostering and some through adoption, to those who travel to other states or countries to rescue your child(ren) out of cribs before they die alone, to those of you whose very lives & missions SLAY ME on a daily basis... I SEE YOU.

To my friends and loved ones who fight daily to become parents... I SEE YOU.

To my friends who have lost spouses, partners, parents, best friends, neighbors, coworkers, other family members & loved ones -- whose hearts break daily feeling this unbelievable loss... I SEE YOU.

To everyone battling addiction... I SEE YOU.

To my friends who work their asses off at multiple jobs to provide for their families... I SEE YOU.

To my friends who don't know what direction in life to go... who worry that nothing feels quite right... who feel as if they wander aimlessly daily, who are unsure of how to proceed... I SEE YOU.  And I believe in you. Your answers are coming.

To those who are suddenly, unexpectedly alone... I SEE YOU.

To my friends who are unemployed, unable to find a job, feeling financially strapped, unsure of whether you can pay your bills, whose marriages are strained because of money issues, who pray nightly you will win the lottery, who cry at night because you worry that you won't be able to give your family enough for Christmas... I SEE YOU.  My heart aches for you.

To those who have found themselves homeless... I SEE YOU.

To those who feel fat, ugly, unimportant, or like a non-productive member of society... I SEE YOU.  And I assure you that THIS WORLD NEEDS YOU IN IT.  Very much.  I see your beauty & worth, and I hope that one day you will too.

To those who live in fear daily, who are dying, who feel like you are dying, who wish you were dying, who worry about the future until you are sick, who feel out of control, who feel helpless, who feel terrified, who battle depression/anxiety, who are in abusive relationships, who want to finally feel hope... I SEE YOU.  And I am here for you always.

To my friends sending their children off to college, who are both bursting with pride and crying with sadness, who spent 19 years preparing them for this day and it is finally here, to those who go home & cry in their child's now-empty room, who look back through old pictures, swearing that was "just yesterday," who desperately want them to grow up but also still remain "their little girl/boy," who miss them in such a primal way it almost cannot be put into words, who feel so lost without them yet thrilled for them all at the same time... I SEE YOU.

All you brand new empty nesters... I SEE YOU.

To those who have died for our country to ensure the freedom of all Americans, to those in the military who put on a uniform and fought/fight for our country, to those who love our country fiercely and are willing to become involved politically, to those who love our leadership, to those who despise our leadership, to those who are fearful of the future of our country, to those who feel empowered, to those who are silent & those who are vocal, to those engaging in debates online & those who can only read them and weep... I SEE YOU.  I bow to you. I respect you. I applaud you for truly caring.

To those with the weight of the world on your shoulders who make huge decisions daily that impact many lives, who shoulder this enormous responsibility, who stay up late wondering if you are doing right by those you love & care about.... I SEE YOU.

To everyone running nonprofits & collecting donations for those who are truly in need, who pray for others nightly, who do good deeds even when they aren't seen, who pay for other peoples' coffee or meals or gas, who loan a friend money, who volunteer, who start charities, who check in on elderly neighbors, who send handwritten letters to people *just because*, who still write thank you notes, who send "Thinking about you" texts, who change flat tires for strangers, who smile or wave at people they don't know, who give out hugs like candy, who strive to make others feel better about themselves, who don't see and/or judge people based on their skin color or race or gender or disability or size or sexual orientation or religion or socioeconomic status or differences of any kind, who give freely without expecting anything in return, who are there for your loved ones no matter what time of day or night you are needed, who live & love so big every damn day... I SEE YOU.

And lastly, to those who are unhappy, who hurt others physically & emotionally, who say things they don't mean, who bully, who send or post hateful messages/comments, who are keyboard warriors, who are trolls, who hate their lives & want everyone else to be miserable too, who hate those who do good things, who aren't receiving the love they deserve, who just got dumped & are angry as hell, who call people names, who threaten people, who hurt themselves so they finally feel something, who attempt suicide, who ruin other peoples' relationships, who cheat, who lie, who stir the shit, who betray people, who discriminate against others, who abandon people, who talk shit behind peoples' backs or to their faces, who abuse others, who do unforgivable things... I SEE YOU. I am sorry that your life has been so difficult. I hope you know that your life has significance, and your journey could help so many others in similar situations. I really wish I could hug you right now.

Those around you (including me) may not tell you this daily, yearly or ever, but please know, I SEE YOU.  And I love you. Your life & soul are important and valued, not just by me. I hope that reading this reminds you of your worth because I never want any of you to forget.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Bottles & Buckets

Lola  ~  April 22, 2018

Last night as I was feeding Lola her bottle, I remembered something important I wanted to share with all of you. Let me back up for a minute...

When Claire was born almost 17 years ago, she struggled with her feedings. I was bound and determined to breastfeed her. I wanted every single additional IQ point I could maybe provide for her & also longed to connect with her any way possible. So, every single feeding every 2-3 hours involved me breastfeeding her first which was a struggle for her and me (Let's not even discuss her tonic bite... suffice it to say our nursing relationship ended when blood was drawn! <gasp!>), then I would use the breast pump for 5-10 minutes to be sure I had extra milk for her and to keep my supply up, and lastly, I would feed her another ounce or two via a bottle to be sure she got enough. I would then sit her up, burp her, and watch her reflux the contents of her stomach into the bowl I kept next to the couch for just this very thing. I would pour what she vomited back into the bottle to see how much she lost, and it was usually 3/4+ of the total amount I fed her. No matter what I tried, this happened every feeding, maybe 8-10 times a day. It was brutal and frustrating and draining for both of us. She could not be laid flat EVER, due to her severe reflux. The medicine her doctor prescribed for us to help with her reflux actually made her vomit even more, if that was even possible. I don't know how she continued to gain weight amidst all this chaos, but she did. 

It wasn’t until Claire started solid foods (organic, raw, fresh bananas and avocados) around 9-12 months of age that the reflux finally stopped. I found myself resorting to solids more than liquids because she was able to tolerate those so much better. She was unable to use food thickeners for her liquids because they contained her food allergens. I knew she needed more liquids, so I would add an ounce or so of her formula to her mashed avocados & bananas. I also was able to add butter and ghee to her feedings to increase her caloric intake. Her bi-weekly weight checks showed unbelievably slow but steady gains. It wasn’t until Claire contracted Rotavirus at age 3 that we realized how important her hydration was. The illness involved nearly constant diarrhea and vomiting over the course of several days. This led to severe dehydration and almost her death. Chronic dehydration is no joke. We had a g-tube placed a month later when her body was stronger, and we’ve never looked back since. Claire is probably the healthiest member of our family. She never enjoyed eating, and the g-tube, while it seems invasive and scary, honestly isn’t that big of a deal. We promised her we would never again let her get dehydrated. She is rarely ill, and her diet is immaculate (full of fresh, organic fruits, vegetables & greens) because she doesn’t have to taste it. HA! Total win-win. Best decision we ever made was getting Claire a g-tube, and 13 years later, I have zero regrets about doing so. It saved her life.

Fast forward to a few months before Lola’s birth when we found out she too had the same condition as her sister — While we knew the g-tube was a lifesaver for Claire, I did sort of feel like we lost one of the last “normal” parts of parenthood the day she got her feeding tube. I remember praying for two things those last few months of Lola’s pregnancy: 
  1. I prayed she would survive the birth process.
  2. I prayed she would be able to nurse and eat “normally” and that it would bring her joy.
Guys, Lola turns TWELVE in 5 days. 12!!!!! I am proud to say our prayers were answered. She is *still* able to drink from a bottle, she eats baby food off of a spoon like a champ, and she flat-out LOVES TO EAT still.

What hit me today is how absolutely miraculous this is. I will never forget all the people who told me right after Claire was born that she would likely lose the ability to eat & that it was pretty unrealistic to think that she would be able to continue to nurse/drink from a bottle/eat off a spoon for very much longer. I remember them telling me how it wasn’t that abnormal for her to be able to eat orally before age 1, maybe even age 2. They told me that somewhere between age 1-2, the suck-swallow reflex turns into a “learned behavior” and that a huge majority of kids who have brain abnormalities simply cannot learn how to coordinate this any longer. Many will begin to aspirate at some point. They will not be able to swallow effectively anymore, and the fluid that is accidentally aspirated into their lungs will make them sick with pneumonia. They all swore we would be in and out of the hospital frequently with aspiration pneumonia, and this would cause lung damage and scar tissue. At some point, their little bodies wouldn’t be able to fight this anymore. They all urged me to schedule a g-tube placement for her ASAP. They told me the warning signs to watch for. They worried about her small size and fragility. No one thought Claire would live to age 1.

After having Lola, these words echoed in my head once again. I remember being terrified once she turned 1 that I would soon see the decline occur. I watched her like a hawk during feedings. She was even tinier than her big sister, and she seemed to get sicker more often than Claire also. She too fought horrific projectile reflux (And it might have been more intense than Claire's ever was -- One incident, she actually projectile vomited a distance of 15 feet, which if you do the math on that, considering she was approximately 18" tall at the time, this would be like a 6' tall person vomiting a distance of 60 FEET! That shit was POWERFUL, yo!), though it was easier to replenish because she ate so well & had such a good appetite. To this day, I feel like much of our days are spent feeding and preparing fresh blended foods for the girls. (SO GRATEFUL for Scott, our babysitters & nurses for stepping up & helping share this responsibility with me now -- Don't know what I'd do without you guys!!!) I have always wanted to give them what they needed. I was determined to optimize their lives and “save them” from their grim prognoses. I wanted them to reach their full potentials no matter what. I still have no idea if anything we do has given them the opportunity to defy odds as they have or if it would have happened regardless. Honestly, it just makes me feel proactive & at this point, I'm scared shitless to stop doing what we're doing, as SOMETHING is clearly working.

I guess my message to all the parents of children with special needs is this:

No one freakin’ knows what the future holds. NO ONE! Not the leading expert in the field, not your pastor, not your Mama, not the parent who has a child JUST LIKE YOURS. Anything — and I mean ANYTHING! — is possible with these kiddos of ours. Be willing to think outside the box. Listen to your Mommy instincts. Question everything. Do your research. Ask other veteran moms for tips. Seek alternative solutions. Have a support network to lean on for additional help. Don’t give up on what you hoped for before the diagnosis. Never lose hope. Stay positive always, even if you have to "fake it till you make it."  I repeat, NEVER. LOSE. HOPE!

None of this was supposed to happen. Claire & Lola were never supposed to be able to eat orally for years on end or survive past age 1 or progress developmentally or even have vision. They were supposed to be in the hospital frequently and ill often. Don’t get me wrong, we have struggles beyond what anyone can fathom, but they are struggles we are coping with and still learning from. Never doubt for a moment that your child isn’t strong AF because look at how hard they fight daily to be here and function. They are fucking warriors and superheroes and badass odds-defiers, every last one of them.

SO appreciate all who came before me carrying buckets... You guys saved ME.


Monday, March 05, 2018

Claire's Night to Shine ~ 2018

On Friday, February 9, 2018, our sweet Claire, whom we never thought would ever get to take part in "normal" high school activities, WENT TO THE PROM.  And not just any prom... she went to the Tim Tebow Foundation's Night to Shine prom! We learned about this prom last year but were unable to attend because it conflicted with one of Cal's basketball games.  This year, the stars aligned, and our girl was able to go!

Now, finding an age appropriate dress for a 16 year old who is only 36" tall and 25 lb. isn't easy!  Most of the dresses her size are toddler mini bride dresses or flower girl dresses which look like they were designed for a 3-4 year old. Ditto fancy shoes. I vowed to make Claire feel special & like any other 16 year old, so I found a jaw-dropping princess dress on Amazon which could be made exclusively to fit each individual person. The seamstress we worked with was fast & very skilled, and the dress arrived a good week before we needed it.  And let me tell you... IT.  WAS.  PERFECT.  Just like our badass, strong girl. It could not have been more "Claire-esque" if I'd designed it myself. 😍

We spent the afternoon putting in rollers, painting fingernails, and letting Claire snooze so she might have a fightin' chance of staying awake later that night. I reeeeeally should've hearkened back to 2012 when we tried Bantu knots, which were such a booming success, but alas, I did not. Let's just say, I pert near (I have always wanted to use that phrase in a sentence!) paid the price. See below for my overzealous roller action...

Sleepy girl getting some beauty rest before her big night!

You & that dad-gum camera again?!  REALLY?!?!?
Oh, and did you SERIOUSLY use the smallest rollers we had?  I'm so screwed.

Letting her nails dry... and actually holding her "lickstip" (as Cal used to call it when he was a toddler!)
and Chapstick without dropping them at the same time!  WOOHOOOOO!

PS -- The brilliant combo of OT + hours of primping = CHECKMATE, yo.

Those eyes... omg.

Claire was workin' the classic pin-up pose like a total girl boss.

"Ain't no mountain hiiiiiiiigh enough..."
Oh sorry, I mistook you for someone else!!!  (Who doesn't love them some Diana though, for real?!)

OMG you guys, my girl is a stunna!  Could not take my eyes off of her all. night. long.

I didn't think I could possibly love this man o' mine anymore than I already did, UNTIL THIS NIGHT.
He was the coolest dad, so interactive, so patient, so loving, SO FREAKIN' FUN! I'm lucky AF, you guys.

Classic positioning having Claire's feeding pump in the background. 😏 Oops!

Total perv status for both whippets.  LOL
If you look close, you can see they are workin' their black/white bow ties! Oh, you fancy huh!

The back of this dress had me all heart eyes allllllll niiiiiiight looooooong!  It has a traaaaaaaaaain!!!!!

After a crap ton of pictures at home, we headed out to Aviator Church for Night to Shine 2018. We weren't sure what to expect, as we'd never been before, and we hadn't even talked to anyone who had. We arrived to check in, Claire got her "under 21" bracelet (no Tequila Sunrises for our little party girl! JK, it was just to ID who she was), and we waited for her to get announced on the red carpet.  We could not believe how many people were there, how incredibly kind everyone was to all of us, and how "all out" they had gone.  We were simply blown away.
Waiting in line to be announced for the red carpet!

Josh Kelly, red carpet announcer, lit it UP!  He made it so very special for everyone involved.

Getting her wrist corsage

We were told they had a party bus as well as a limo in which the attendees could ride around the large parking lot, so we decided to brave the bitterly cold weather & winds to check it out!  The party bus had already left and no one was inside the limo, so we quickly jumped in for a spin.  To our relief, it was about 85 degrees inside the limo with the heater on blast, which our Mimi LOVED! (Scott's pit stains might have disagreed though...  HA!) The music was blaring, the ceiling lights were flashing and changing colors, and SHE.  WAS.  IN.  HEAVEN!!! This might have been her favorite part of the whole night. The last time I saw Claire this into the lights was in Vegas at New York New York where the little bubble lights lined the ceiling of the entrance. Her eyes immediately darted up as soon as she entered the limo, and she stared in awe at the ceiling the entire few minutes we were inside.  It was so visually stimulating, and we enjoyed watching our girl take it all in, feeding off her happiness & delight.   

We decided to venture into the dance hall itself, again unsure of what to expect.  We were in complete awe when we saw this...

It was decorated SO beautifully inside... much more exquisite than we ever expected!

'Bout to get our swerve on... 

I'm not sure who was having more fun that night -- Claire, Scott or me!  The DJ was slaying, the videographer was capturing everyone dancing & projecting it onto a huge screen, and the rest of us were gettin' down with our bad selves!

"Hold me closer tiny dancer..." ~Elton John

We were so stoked to get to meet one of our online friends in person whom we had known on Facebook for almost 4 years. Brianna & Claire were like long-lost besties after 30 seconds! They kept stealing looks at each other, almost like, "Hey girl, nice tiara!" "No, yours is soooo much better, girrrrl!  OMG!" "Is your Mom annoying you as much as mine is?!?!" "Totallyyyyy.  Let's ditch these losers!" We were cracking up at their reaction to one another! Both looked simply stunning. ❤

"Cuttin' a rug" with her Daddy!

Oh my heart.  <gasp!>

Possibly my favorite pic of Claire with her Daddy EVER.

Claire was shocked to see that her brother, Cal (& his girlfriend, Kerby),
had made a surprise appearance on her special night!

Kerby, Cal & Claire

Check out Claire's sparkly Chucks!  Do they make these in my size?!


For more video footage of this breathtaking night, CLICK HERE for Aviator Church's video highlights (peep our girl at the 1:08 mark!) or visit THEIR WEBSITE for more info about this event, ways to donate, or learn how you can be a part of this touching event next year. Please know that even if you don't have a child with superpowers who is 14 years of age or older, you can still be a buddy/volunteer in your area! Scroll to the bottom of THIS PAGE to locate a Night to Shine Prom in your state. Join the mailing list. Check out the #nighttoshine hashtag on Instagram. See the pure joy on the faces of all who take part in this unbelievable night. I SO wish we had known about it sooner!

Lastly, thank you, Tim Tebow, for ALL you do for individuals like our Claire. The world is such a better place because you are in it. We are eternally grateful for your giving heart, your ability to see the beauty in places most cannot, and for "fighting for those who can't fight for themselves." We bow to you & are so proud of you for being a voice for not only Claire but also for others who are unable to speak and be heard. THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts. 💝

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