Pushing the envelope


I sleep in now. For the first time in decades. I just can’t jump out of bed and do the mom stuff. Cereal and toast your own bagels will have to do for the older kids. Clay has to be with Naomi overnight or Kelly has to be nudged out of his coma for daddy duty. I am awake in the middle of the night due to pain. And to take pain meds I have to eat some kind of food or I get very nauseous. And then I end up “awake”. So my days do not start until 10 or 11am.This seems indulgent to me. As a mom there is something selfish about sleeping in. I know parents who have done it but I always thought them to be “bad” ones. Surely, an awake child needs an awake engaged mom or dad. Kelly is somewhat engaged…I think. It does not relieve my guilt. But it still doesn’t mean I can get out of bed. I want to hang out with the kids.My time is sensitive. And still I sleep.

I spent several hours yesterday filling out birthday cards for the next two years. For all of them. A different card for each child, each age. Filled out with different color ink. Cards that were chosen specifically for that child. Birthday cards from heaven licked and sealed awaiting a future uncertain for my children. I wasn’t sure if this was even a good idea. Would it make them cry? Would it weird them out? Should my time be better spent engaged with them? I did spend time with Bailey playing games. Tuck and I are spending time together today. Jesse and I hung out but he barely spoke. Always a quiet and sensitive boy talking with him can be like pulling teeth. “Jesse I am too tired to figure out the right questions to unlock Pandora’s box”, I said. “Ok let’s play a game”. His only comment was that I was lucky to leave this world since it such an awful place. “Don’t kill yourself please”, I responded to his truly morose statement. “Oh no I won’t”, he assured me. Whew crisis averted. We played Boggle and I won.

We went for a visit to Don and Sheena’s ,with our youngest two kids, while the older boys went to see Devo(A family favorite) While we were there I went in and out of sleepy sick to my stomach mode. Combined with sweating and headache. Leaving the house is getting harder and harder. I feel like I am just overwhelmed by it all. Car sick, too much activity, etc. I don’t like to eat. I don’t like the heat. I am tired. But I don’t know what that means because I am still pretty feisty. I spent a good 20 minutes yelling at the top of my lungs when the boys failed to come when they were told to. Kelly said at this rate I will live forever. As long as my children need me. It is so hard to let go. I am a mom…I want to make the rules and have them followed from beyond the grave. After a lot of finger pointing and he said she said Jesse was in trouble. As was my ex-husband. Whom I tried to have a civil conversation with regarding curfews and such. He argued for 15 minutes that they were having a good time blah blah blah. I said, “I don’t care if you all were partying with Jesus next time call and find out what time they are supposed to be home.”

So some things never change. Everyone has an opinion and some of them stink. Like the drama the came out in the last batch of comments. Nonsense. I am dying. I can not stand such petty displays. Do you know it costs $1,000 to be cremated? And we do not have it. Nor do we know how we are going to get it. Bailey is in need of braces but is 1 point shy of getting through medical assistance. Her teeth are bad. We will find a way to finance them as well. And then there are shoes. Clothing for school. How dare someone say we are not “in need”. Yes we did fine before I got sick. But now that my husband has to/is working less to be with me and I do not work and we spent a lot of money on childcare because of my illness we are in financial difficulty. Thank you to everyone who has helped. But for the woman who thought we did not need any help shame on you. You have no idea.

But I am far from expecting anything. To the contrary I am very happy with the blessings and rarely worry about any of it. And it is my faith that keeps me from worrying. And keeps me smiling. And I am allowed to mention religion and money all I want on my blog. My story my rules. Don’t like? Go home.

50 Responses to “Pushing the envelope”

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    Scarlet O'Kara says:

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    The birthday cards are a wonderful idea and will be cherished gifts.

  2. toni g says:

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    You don’t PUSH envelopes, you mangle them and somehow they get mailed and received in fine order, contents in tact.

    Tell Bailey she and I have a date before September for lunch and shopping……it’s been some time since I had the pleasure of doing this with any of my grown girl grandchildren. I promise to leave some school goodies for you to do. xxoo

  3. Donna Arnold says:

    HI Sweet Andrea:
    It is wonderful to see your post! I come several times a day to see if you have left us any goodies…..I don’t expect you to be blogging all the time…its just a wonderful “pearl” when you do leave us something to read, share a part of your world.
    I think the cards idea is a wonderful one as well….how special is that!!!! They will be most cherished, I am sure….
    Our thoughts are it takes every ounce of energy to fight this crap, and with chemo and radiation thrown in, the fight takes more enerygy..so we don’t want to spend it fighting with negative forces…that is our take on it
    Drama is for another time and place in life…so maybe none will be forthcoming……I know you are a strong person and can move on past this…..all I wanted to do was to get folks motivated to send whatever the spirit moved them to do…as I told you, be looking for an envelope form me in the next few days….wished I could do more for you…I am truly blessed in so many ways…so I want to send you something.
    It can’t be easy to clothe, feed, and maintain 6 kids and a set of parents…..I truly admire you two…..you are such inspirations to so many….
    I am excited to hear how progress is being made on the rental for you, too…did you get to visit it this weekend…I think you had said you had wanted to try to see it…
    Hugs, my darling friend….I love you…way more than my luggage…and Kelly is a doll!!! I saw the wedding photos…awesome…..you are beautiful, Andrea!!!! Talk to you soon….Donna in SC

  4. alyssa says:

    The kids will cherish those cards. Don’t feel bad bad about sleeping in, listen to your body and sleep in without guilt, the older kids can help the younger ones. I hope you have an enjoyable pain-free day.

    Don’t think about that other lady, not worth it…she’s a nut, and most likely forgot to take her medication for that….

    People who are sick, can’t work, lose their insurance, can’t pay for treatments, lose their house..the list goes on, it’s a national crisis..people need to spend their energy on getting well….and there but for the grace of God go any of us.-Alyssa

  5. Maura says:

    Even in these crucial times, you continue to amaze everyone. You are a GIFT to eveyone that knows you personally or through your blog.

    Eveyday you are here is a BLESSING & though we know the time is getting very limited we praise Jesus.

    The idea of the cards is wonderful. Yes, there may be tears but think of them as ~rain drops from heaven~


  6. Joan says:

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    Andrea, you ROCK!

    Even at this time you are YOURSELF and I think it is wonderful how you can express your feelings, including your frustration re curfew violations and the kids, with such passion and eloquence.

    Good for you for doing it your way ALL the way!

    – a BC “sister” who has been following your blog but usually lurks a/k/a

  7. leah says:

    “And I am allowed to mention religion and money all I want on my blog. My story my rules. Don’t like? Go home.”

    nicely put!

    no one is forced to read your blog, or YOUR comments. don’t let their drama bother you!
    i love you,

  8. Jeanine says:

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    The birthday cards…… oh Andrea how awesome!!!!!!! My dad died last year, my birthday is in two weeks, and I would give ANYTHING to get a card from him then. Thank you for sharing, again, you are an amazing person and I only hope I can make the same right choices if i am ever in anything approaching your situation.

    Prayers, love, respect, and admiration –

    Jeanine (just another blog reader)

  9. Stephanie says:

    Hi Andrea,

    If you have the strength, could you post the ages of your kids? Sometimes gifts of things (stuff) you, Kelly, & kids need is easier than $$. I know all of your children have their unique gifts from God and if there is any way I can support those gifts, Im happy to do so.

    I pray that all of you are filled with peace and love.


  10. Melinda says:

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    When my father passed away unexpectedly on Thanksgiving day 1994, we sat in the house and wept since we had just lost our mother not even 8 months earlier. When my brother discovered a small box on the desk with Happy Birthday paper. Mine was only a few weeks away so it had to be for me. When I opened it, there was a note inside that he had my gift adjusted for “my taste” and that it was something he had bought my mother when he was in Japan during the war. Inside was a pair of porcelain earrings that were changed from clip ons to pierced. What a cry I had, but the fact that I had this last gift from my father was the best gift I have ever gotten. I still have the box, note inside and I look at it when I want to be “with” him. So, leave as many cards, notes, trinkets as you can. I can tell you from experience it’s the best gift you can give them.

  11. Gin says:

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    Andrea, if I had anything to spare, I would help you. Unfortunately, I can’t as my family has fallen on hard times, too.

    Shame on anyone for judging Andrea & her family for what they are going through. You haven’t the right. In her desperate hour, they need only encouragement and support. If you can’t offer that, go away.

    May the Good Lord walk with you always, Andrea & family.

  12. Sara says:

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    What a terrible situation you are in. I’m praying peace and mercy for you. What an increditable honor to “know” you. To watch as you bravely encompass what seems to be your future, and share it openly with us all. You have a beautiful family, who will miss you more than words, but because of you and the wisdom you’ve given them, the lessons they’ve learned from you, the love you’ve inspired them with, they will continue to bless this world with who they are for you. They cards are a beautiful idea and I’m sure they will all cherish them as they grow older. You can never say I love you too much, so I’m sure these cards will come much wanted. I will never forget the movie “fine things” and the readings of the letters the dying mother wrote her children, and how meaningful they were. Too bad life isn’t a movie…you’ll remain in my thoughts Andrea.

  13. Kitty says:

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    “My story my rules. Don’t like? Go home.”

    That’s the best mantra for a blog I’ve ever seen. Good for you.

    Writing those cards for your kids is both the loveliest and the saddest thing I’ve read about in a long time.

    Thinking of you. Take care. x

  14. Victoria says:

    I was living in America when my beloved mother died. When we came home to England to live a few months later my 40th birthday was only weeks away. I asked my dad, “Did she leave me a card or a letter?”. No. My cake however was made by her friend to mum’s specifications. It helped – but a card..
    I sent you some money. I was glad to and it was so easy. Easier than ebay!!
    Keep yelling old girl x

  15. lizz says:

    you + me

    Andrea Colllins-Smith Parenting Crash Course.

    this week.

    love you

  16. Rachel says:

    What I find most amazing is the eloquence and grace with which you’ve shared your story. Reading your blog is not only touching and heartwrenching because of your awful situation, but your writing is simply beautiful. Thank you for sharing so much with the world. I hope it has helped you as much as we’ve loved reading it.

  17. maire brandon says:

    I fricken love your attitude and the unapologetic way you display it! You Rock my friend! Even your ending statement!! I tell peeps all the time, I am who I am, I will not apologize for it, I’m not ashamed of it and I refuse to hide it because it makes others uncomfortable……you don’t like it?……well……no one’s making you hang around me!!! 🙂
    Your comment about the short exchange with your son who just doesn’t communicate, how it’s like “pulling teeth”,and about his son’s morose comment made me nod with understanding. I, also have a “Tuck”, out of my 5 children….he’s only 18, yet somehow, life sucks, people suck and there’s nothing to be happy about! ?? And yet my son is really blessed!! ??
    I think your birthday card idea is excellent, really excellent! I don’t think it will make them sad, I believe they will open them with smiles and fond memories of their mommy, a little sadness maybe, but that’s understandable. A woman who was so devoted to meeting their needs and blessing them that she made future cards for their birthdays. A grand idea! 🙂
    Have a blessed time with your husband, children and the close friends who are there to aid your days!
    Much love and God Bless,
    maire brandon

  18. Helen says:

    Andrea-only YOU know what you need, what your family needs, what your body needs. If that is sleep, so be it. If it is expressing your anger, go for it. If it is trying to carry on being a mom, then do it. Don’t let what anyone else thinks get in the way of that. But let go of the guilt. Mom guilt is the worst…no matter what we do we never feel it is the right thing or enough of the right thing. Just look at how your kids are doing to know what you are doing is right and good.

    I have had the unfortunate experience of knowing 2 families who lost young moms to cancer. In both cases the kids were totally unprepared, both moms (one I knew well, one I never met but her kids and mine were friends and classmates in HS) felt they were sparing the kids by not letting them into what was going on. Bad choice. The gal I knew well, worked with for years, had breast ca, mastectomy, reconstruction and never told her middle school age girls what was going on. Did not have chemo, did not want to lose her hair etc. 3 years later she died of brain mets, very very ill, bald, we all took turns caring for her, but her husband has not kept in touch over the last 5 years, and so I don’t know how things turned out with the girls, but they never really had a chance to deal with all of it until her final illness made it obvious. The other family, the son is my son’s friend, he is 18 now, and still 4 years later trying to come to terms with his mother’s illness and death, she had leukemia and was able to “hide” it from the kids until the week before she died. I know each of us has to make our own decisions in life, and for death, but I sure do think you are doing it the “right” way. My dad died young-56-of pretty much self induced cancer (4pack a day smoker and alcohol use) but the day in the hospital when he took my hand and said “you know I am dying” was one of the hardest but most treasured memories I have, we were finally able to talk about it. He has been gone 18 yrs, I was a mom with 2 little kids then, and I know he is here with me and my boys every day since then.

    So you do what you need to do….and hugs and all that from me here in WI.

  19. ByJane says:

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    Oh, Andrea, you made me laugh…feisty to the end. Way to go, babe. What a role model!

  20. lisa baumann says:

    It’s been a lone time. I’m sorry at that, yet thankful for you allowing all to travel alongside of you and your family at this time. I have been saddened and blessed at the same time since reading of your days, for the first time yesterday. What a tremendous gift you give to all–to know your deepest thoughts and feelings, yet know nothing.
    The closest I’ve come to your experience was 11 years ago when we lost my brother to suicide. I only bring that up to say, THANK YOU for answering to the best of your ability, those questions that others would have had. Especially your children. They will need not wonder. You have taken care of it. Those words which have been written will be cherished forever. Your voice, smile, the smell of mommy as you kiss your children each day, and the list goes on—will never be lost. Yet, savored until you meet again. OXOX FROM ALL

  21. michelle says:

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    Simply sending love. And the card idea feels wonderful. Notes from heaven are needed more often than they come. Blessings~

  22. Donna Arnold says:

    Yep…..gotta love Andrea…..I love the posts when she gets fiesty….and still does her mom duty!!!! Isn’t she incredible? I would love to be like her…..and I love her spirit most of all……hugs, my love!!!! your bud in SC

  23. Gift of Green says:

    Thinking of you today…(original, huh? but so true).

  24. Elesha says:

    Andrea you rock

    I love how you put things. I to would feel Iwant my rules, beliefs and morals to be upheld if I were not here. I think thats such a mum thing. I think the cards thing is awsome. I saw anoperah episode and this mum left her child 100 videos and birthday cards till she was an adult {she had one child not 6} and the girl loved it. She said she feels like her mum is so alive in her and she feels like she knows her so well. Anything you leave for your children will be cherrised especially your words in your hand writting.They will keep them forever.

    Huge hugs

  25. Dina says:

    Love, love, love you. What more can I say?

  26. Renee Khan says:


    You are still giving it girl.

    My mantra for a little while has been “Draw a line and live above it.” Don’t give voice to that garbage.

    Save your voice and thoughts only for your inner circle.

    When you said that about Jesse, it is so huge. I worry about my son when I die too.

    Love you Andrea. You are such an amazing person. It has been such a privledge to know you.

    Love Renee

  27. Aja Beech says:


    I’ve been working with welfare and medicaid advocacy groups and would be happy to fill out any forms, file any appeals, and raise any kind of hell necessary to get Alec, Jesse, Asa, Tucker, Bailey and Clayton any assistance they may need. Every Monday I sit in an office in North Philly and that’s what I do, advocate for people dealing with welfare and medicaid issues.
    I love you all.


  28. Michelle Wienke says:

    Andrea, Kelly and Kids-

    Now that I have half of my world “hooked” on checking up on you- it is good to see that you are still kicking!! lol You go, how dare anyone tell you how to live your life, be it the next week, month or 50 years-no one has the right to come into this circle of prayers and well-wishes and trounce on our flowers!

    I wish for you peace and love, and as always, am keeping all of you in my thoughts and prayers-I will check in tomorrow…..

    And Kudos to Aja Beech, who will step up to the plate and see how she can help with yet one more aggravating task you have to deal with!

    With love-


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    Andrea, ignore those who feel it is their right to judge you. I am including a poem that helped me when I lost my mother at 16 and my father when I was 29 and 8 months pregnant. I hope it may bring your children some comfort. You and your family are in my prayers.


    Never look down for me after I leave your sight

    Nothing of me is there-for who can imprison light

    Look for me in the starts- on a scented night in spring

    Nearer to you than your heart-for space is a human thing.

    Look for me in the rose-the gold in a sunset sky

    For love has transfigured me-the mortal that once was I

    Look for me in the dawn-when the day is new and fair

    Now and eternally, call me and I shall be there

    As you cannot conceive my freedom from time and space

    Why do you think it’s strange that you cannot see my face?

    Trust in that inner sense that you and I hold dear

    Of knowing beyond a doubt, that I am truly here…

    Love and God bless,

  30. Gretchen says:

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    This is my second visit here, Andrea. I came via the Mothers with Cancer website and Jenster’s blog. Your story has blessed me in ways I don’t even think I can imagine yet. What an awesome example of allowing God to walk you through this whole process–your whole life, really, not just the cancer. Sounds like His fruit is evident in the woman, wife, and mother that you are.

    I pray God’s peace, comfort, and grace upon you and your family.

    Soli Deo Gloria,

  31. Kim says:

    You have no idea what an impact you have had, continue to have and will always have… even on total strangers, such as I. Is there a way a friend could create a PO Box and/or Fund that would help your family retain anonymity while allowing some of us “lurkers” to give back in honor of the gifts you have given us through your words?

  32. alison says:

    I love that I am still laughing out loud when I read your blog. You are such a riot. Love the sleeping in, love the birthday cards, and love that you still won at Boggle. And I love that people are continuing to support you in whatever way they can. That just seems like the way the world should work, even though I know it often doesn’t. I think that God is so visible through you and this whole nasty ordeal. How great is that.
    See you all soon.

  33. Lori Barthe says:

    I think the birthday cards will be cherished treasures for your children. Wow! You are such an amazing mom. Every time I read your blog I am so inspired. Thank you for leaving the world and your children with such incredible gifts. I love your honesty and ability to express yourself in words. You continue to be in my prayers.

  34. Vikki says:

    Andrea, when we give birth a handbook is no where to be found in the bag of goodies we go home with . The lord blessed us with instant maternal love and instinct thats our only guide. Knowing you and your children I think you are doing a damn good job , you need no ones approval but the lords and I think you have that ! If writing cards feels right then it is right , if games of boggle get Jesse to talk then do it . Listen my husband is a manager at Health Partners if you wanna send me some info maybe he can look into braces for Bailey through them no promises but we will try . Also I have a visa gift card for you and the kids, tell me Bailey`s size and what she needs and I`ll get her school clothes throughout the summer . ok go rest hope to talk to you soon Vikki

  35. Julie says:

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    Andrea – you are simply amazing!

  36. Peggy says:

    Andrea, the birthday cards are a wonderful idea, I did that for my mom. I purchased the cards for my stepfather and had him sign them before he passed away. I also purchased a locket and gave it to her saying it was from him. She has no idea I did this.
    I am also so sorry that people just don’t get it. Death is expensive, doesn’t matter what is covered.
    Prayers to you an your family. You are all so blessed!
    Peg (Portland, Or)

  37. NYGrrrl says:

    Andrea – after my mom passed away, we found a bag in her closet with clothes for my daughter: single outfits, in 6 month increments. Gifts she had set aside for the grandchild she loved so much. It was the best present I could ever have imagined. The birthday cards are a fantastic, wonderful, amazing idea. I remember the last month or so, with my mom – when, like Jesse, I had nothing left to say. I would just lie on the bed next to her. Sometimes, she’d ask me to read old kids’ books out loud – things we’d read together, when I was little. Weirdly, those quiet times are what I think about most, now: they were some of the most precious moments I ever had, with my mom. I’m sure Jesse (and all of the kids) are getting so much more from this time with you than they realize. I just can’t say it, often enough: the way you are doing all of this is an inspiration. Thank you so much for writing this blog – you have touched so many of us in ways we will never forget.

  38. Greg says:

    I lost my own mother to cancer in April of this year. I came across this blog only weeks ago. There’s a whole long story there about moving on and taking big leaps in life now, where I was afraid to before. It’s not the point of this comment, though. Write those letters, sign those cards. I do believe I would give up prized possessions to have one letter my mother wrote me before she passed. I can only imagine that I am not alone in wanting this.

  39. whymommy says:

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    Sending you love and peace and time with your children today, Andrea. We’re all with you.

  40. Mare Freeborn says:

    Hi. My name is Mary Freeborn and I came across your blog a few days ago. I feel so much for you and wish all of you guys the best. Just wanted to let you know that I work at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, PA which is not too far from Philly by the airport. I don’t really have any money to donate (though I really wish I did) but thought I might be able to offer to help you answer any kind of questions you might have about cemetery stuff. I don’t know if you are Catholic (which this is a Catholic Cemetery) but I can find out any kind of info you might need – even genealogy if you have family/friends buried here. I can do this all for free (as far as the info goes, anyway). If you need anything at all please do not hesitate to contact me via e-mail or you can call me at work any weekday from 9am to 4pm. The phone # at the cemetery is (610)626-2206. So, anyway, I don’t know if this is the kind of help or info that you’re looking for, but just wanted to let you know that I am here if you should need it. Sending mad love & hugs from me. Take care.

  41. Bridget says:

    Chin up. Ignore the crazies and enjoy your time with your family.
    Sending hugs and prayers to you and your loved ones.

  42. Tammy says:

    Wow, I don’t know what else to say. My girlfriend has been following your blog since you became ill and she would always keep me informed on how things were going for you. I can truely say that until I read it for myself I didn’t realize what an amazing person you are.
    No matter how hard times have been you have always had such a wonderful attitude about everything. I will continue to pray for you and your family – but just remeber God has already taken care of everything. May God Bless you, your husband and children. I pray that God gives you peaceknowing the many lives you have touched. Rest my wonderful lady and don’t you feel the least bit guilty.

    Love, Prayers & God Bless You ALL

  43. Linda Conley Soffer says:

    You are all amazing. Wishing you peace, comfort, and love.

  44. cheryl says:

    peace to you tonight.

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    Hi Andrea. I don’t know what to say at all but I just felt I wanted to reach out to you in the only way I can which is through blogging. I don’t know whether you know me and my story or not I am a mother from the new web site motherswithcancer. I wanted to reach out and say to you that you are doing so great I can’t believe it. You are one strong woman and my thoughts are with you as you go through this. I have been told I won’t make it past 3 years if I’m lucky, if Avastin works and that was 6 months ago. I have been in and out of hospice the past 6 months with agonizing pain and have needed Ketamine, not even morphine would do it. Anyway my point in telling you this is so you know I kind of understand, a little, a small bit – you are living my fear and you are doing it so bravely. I have really stuffed this up I think but I just had to reach out. Take care sweet one and I will pray for you as that’s all I can do. Hugs Jen B. xx

  46. Lindsay says:

    Andrea, I am praying for you and your family and will continue to do so in the days and months to come. Stay brave, chica. You’re an inspiration to us all.

  47. Melissa says:

    Hi, Andrea & Kelly,

    I’ve just come across your blog today (From WhyMommy’s site), but I’ve not been able to tear myself away from reading it. You both seem like amazing people and I wish I’d found your site earlier. My heart and prayers are with your family.

    I’m going to donate in a second and while it’s a small amount, I hope it can help a bit. I feel bad that I don’t have more to give…but I do have something I’d like to mail you if you have a PO box or something. I received a gift card to Nordstroms for my birthday a few months back. Now it’s not a store I normally go to, so I’ve just been hanging onto it for someday. A weird offer, probably….but I saw that you said the kids needed shoes and school clothes. I know it won’t buy much, as the store is pricey, but it might be enough to get two of the kids a new pair of shoes. Let me know where to send it too and I’ll put in the mail.

    The birthday cards is an amazing idea. It may be hard on them in the moment, but one day I’m sure they’ll cherish it.

    Peace to you both.

  48. dave klayman says:

    Hello Fam, I know we have not spoke in a very long time. I am here if a hand is needed to help

    I really have not had the chance to know the kids.
    I can be reached thru my email address in which i will give you my contact # later. My prayers are with you

    Dave Klayman

  49. Danielle says:

    I have been reading your blog, silently. You have explained so many things to me that I never knew. My mother, well, lets just say she likes to go through things alone. So thank you for that.
    The reason I write today is just one thing.
    Because of your blog, and this may sound silly……
    I didn’t groan when their dad said they couldn’t pick them up, again. I didn’t get upset when I didn’t have help getting the boys from one place to another. And I didn’t tell them ‘in a minute’. Because of you and your blog, I spent the time, I took the initiative, I didn’t complain. I was thankful…
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are loved.