One More Moment

2018, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

It’s the 24th again. Another milestone. But, not one where we can tell the world your new favorite book or food. It’s another month of you being away from us.

It is also the month which starts the season that coincides with our time with you on Earth. Two years ago you were still safe in my belly. I was finishing my last days of work and my heart was full of excitement as I couldn’t wait to meet you.

Now, I cry looking at pictures, listening to the birds outside, watching the sun set, watching Luke play in the yard – there’s just emptiness, right where you should be.

I was traveling last weekend and drove by myself. On my way home I stopped to get lunch at McDonalds. It was busy so I ordered and sat down waiting for my food. I didn’t see it when I walked in, but as I sat at the table by myself, I was surrounded by children. Sitting with their families, playing in the play area, running with their siblings. I didn’t even have a moment to think about it, but tears were pouring down my cheeks. It was a moment where the pain of my son dying, of being robbed of every joyful moment as a parent was all right in front of me. I sat there crying as I tried to finish my meal. There was a little girl sitting a few tables a way. Her parents were getting her brother situated with his meal and when I noticed her she was just staring at me. She waved at me.

She couldn’t have been more than two as she was in a high chair. I tried to smile to wave back to her, but I couldn’t. I cried even harder. I waved and she smiled at me and then her attention was back with her family at the table.

I got home to an empty house. Dan was at his parents with Luke and took Murray & Theo with him. There are moms that beg for empty houses – alone time, me time. Empty houses only bring me pain and sadness. I love our home. I said that a week ago when we celebrated our two year anniversary of buying our house. But, Toby’s always missing. The pattern of his feet running after Luke upstairs. His giggle. The sound of his voice.

I know that being a mom is hard. That being a parent is challenging on a relationship. That it’s easy to complain about the little things in life. But try and remember – that’s what they are, little things.

  • Reading yet another book before bed.
  • Listening to your children argue about what show they want on.
  • Letting them have 5 more minutes playing before dinner starts.
  • Taking a shower while they talk to you outside the curtain about their day or what snack they want.
  • Doing 10 loads of laundry a week. (I hate laundry, but I hate it even more because none of Toby’s things are there to fold.)

These are little things. And you have them. We never will with Toby.

So today, when you have a moment as a parent where you want to lose your temper or tell them to be quiet, take that extra moment and think of every parent who has lost a child or children. Pray for them. It doesn’t matter how long it has been. Their hearts need strength.

Pray for them and then give thanks for the moments you do have with your children.

I’d give anything for another moment with my son.

21 months & Lots of Prayers

2018, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

Guys! It’s official – The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation is incorporated & approved! 🦊

In just two weeks time all of our paperwork was reviewed and approved. We were told to not expect anything for 6-8 weeks. As soon as I started to read the letter last night I thought “This is all Toby’s doing. He’s opening doors again!”

He knows his momma and she can’t wait for anything, especially when there’s work to be done, families to help, and lives to save.

I laid down with Luke at bedtime last night and as we said prayers, thanking God for another step in this journey, and saying goodnight to Toby, this came through my thoughts…

“Get some rest momma. We have lots of work to do.”

By God’s hand and Toby’s guidance, we’re going to make a difference with The Little Fox. There are many hopes & dreams for this nonprofit and our plan is to take it one day at a time. There will be opportunities that are a perfect fit and others that will not work for us. We will do our best to make the right decisions and help as many families and children as possible.

Thank you to every single person that has helped us over the last 21 months. Without the support, comfort and encouragement of our family, friends, neighbors, community, local businesses, other grief families, other memorial foundations, doctors, Owlet, and every anonymous, kind hearted person that has found a way to touch our hearts and to help our family – THANK YOU!! We would not be here, if it weren’t for all of you.

Stayed tuned to see what we’ll be working on next. We’re currently matching donations for the Owlet Smart Socks in the Pittsburgh area to be donated over the next few weeks. Then, our focus will turn to August. With our Foundation Board established, we’ll be working together on an event for August where we hope to see many of you. We will also be doing our “Random Acts of Kindness” campaign, which will kick off August 1. We hope to see as many participants as last year and see the ways that Toby’s joy can travel around the world.

Please keep our family in your prayers as we approach Toby’s 2nd Birthday on May 27. This does not get any easier as the months go by. Our hearts remain broken, missing Toby beyond belief. We know the best way to honor our son is to help others and share the joy that he gave our family with those children and families. That is what we are doing and will continue to do.

God Bless,

The Sterns ❤️

#thelittlefox #joyfortobystern #SIDS #journeythroughgrief #august24 #ourangeltoby

20 Months of Emotion

2018, Family, grief, loss, Toby

When I first started my professional career I told my mom, “I’m going to have my own company in my 30’s.” I wanted it to be a combination of marketing and community involvement. I never could have predicted that my company would be founded in memory of our son. We never could have predicted how August 24, 2016 would alter our lives. We could have never imagined the impact that Toby’s life would have on so many people and families.

We spent most of today going through legal steps for The Little Fox. We made phone calls, wrote emails, looked at other fundraisers, researched contacts to connect with to help with the mission of Toby’s Foundation. There is joy in seeing milestones completed and seeing an official starting line for this project that we’ve been working on a mere weeks after Toby’s death. There is also an overwhelming sadness that can creep in. We wonder “why us?” “Why Toby?” “Why can’t we trade it all to have him back?” There are no answers, but that is grief. Especially over the loss of a baby.

We went to visit Toby today. We stood at the foot of his grave. It was windy, raining, and so gray. I stood there staring at his stone, but I couldn’t feel anything else. I felt like I was watching us from afar. There was no sound. Over and over in my mind…20 months. 20 months since this cemetery became part of our weekly routine. “I really cannot believe this is our life,” I said out loud. Dan just looked at me and squeezed my hand.

Instead of taking a day off work to take our two boys to the Zoo, the Science Center, the park, our time now is spent visiting our youngest son, at the cemetery. Bringing flowers or crosses, cleaning his headstone, talking to him while we cry.

It is unbelievable. The way our lives and our family has changed since August 24, 2016. 20 months of heartache. 20 months of wondering what Toby would look like now, what words he would know, what his favorite book would be. 20 months spent trying to live each day to the fullest, because we have experienced exactly what it means to not know “when your time on earth is done.” 20 months of trying to make a difference through Toby’s memory in the lives of others. 20 months of missing my son more than any number of words could ever express.

Third Star To The Right

2018, Family, grief, loss, Toby

Today marks another month without our son. It marks more milestones and brings with it more triggers – second spring break trip; first trip with the kids to DC; laughing with cousins and pictures where Toby’s always missing.

Luke reminded us multiple times today that you are here with us and there have been little signs while we’ve been away that tell us you’re never far away.

I sat on the train on our ride back today, listening to Luke tell us his favorite parts of the day and I just kept thinking “Would you have liked that? Would Toby be sitting on my lap looking out the window? Or sitting next to Luke watching him battle super hero’s on his table?”

I don’t have many words today. Other than, the pain is horrible and I’m convinced the constant loneliness I feel cannot be filled or replaced. No matter how much time has passed or how many stars we wish upon.

We were at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space museum today and in the planet exhibit a photo of the solar system caught my eye, but it wasn’t the planets, it was the stars and how vivid they were on the wall that made me stop and look at it closer for a moment.

It made me think of Peter Pan and I walked away thinking “I wonder what star you are?”💫

Learning to Live

2018, faith, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

Life is hard. Grief is harder. It gets worse before it gets better. This makes everyday challenges & situations sharper and hard to not take directly to heart. I look around the world some days and then I look at Luke and think “Am I doing this right?” Honestly, some days I’m not sure.

My heart has been very heavy lately. Some days I feel like I’ve been pulled back into the first few weeks without Toby. It’s scary. It’s sad. It’s heartbreaking. There have been a few days that I’ve felt so consumed with grief that I questioned how I have made it for 18 months. I don’t know. I don’t know that I ever will.

I sat on the floor the other evening after folding a load of laundry, with Toby’s picture book in my lap, crying. Crying because I didn’t have laundry for him. Crying because in 18 months I haven’t opened the drawers in his room, except for once. And the one time that I did, the sight of clothes he never got to wear and the smell,his smell, made me so ill I shut it and haven’t dared open it since.

I cried for at least a half hour. I could physically feel pain inside my chest and the tears on my face. It hurt, but felt like my body was unloading emotion that I couldn’t hold anymore. I’ve had so many of those moments since this year started.

When this year started I promised myself I was going to try a few [different] things to try to manage my grief. I started to read the Bible. No specific book or part, just random, open up and start reading. Yes, of course, I am searching for something in what I’m reading; some sign of Toby; some direction for our family’s path; some sign that God has a plan for us. Something.

To be honest, I don’t always find that. But, on the mornings that have followed, there have been devotions in my prayers for things that are not among my daily thoughts or things weighing on my heart. I don’t have a sure sign of where they come from, but I am starting to think that maybe it’s God’s way of using my pain.

There is a spot in the events of the day that Toby died that causes me so much pain. This spot is a place, outside our home, that I have to see and face daily. And everyday I sit there, with the heartache, the pain, the death of my son, staring back at me. I’ve succumb to its presence in my daily routine. Some days I cry. Some days I stare. Some days I have to close my eyes and remind myself to breathe because PTSD kicks in and the sounds all come rushing back my head. Some days I stare, as I sit in my car by myself and say “Why?”

About a week ago I was near this spot and the one thing, the one physical thing that always brings the emotion back, had been blocked, by a pile of dirt. I looked at it and was genuinely surprised that the pain that I expected to feel, that I felt daily, wasn’t there. “Huh.” I heard myself say. “A break?” I was asking God.

We all have those moments. Those moments when we plead with God for a break. Or a sign. Or an answer. When we’re in the midst of frustration or disparity. When we haven’t had a day go right.

These moments are more devastating for a grieving parent. These moments are faced with unending questioning of how strong we are; how much we can handle; how misunderstood can we be; how rude and uncompassionate people can be; how quick to judge society is; how much more can our heart break; before enough is enough. It is a continual test, to which the answer and the Judge is not in this world.

I have a lot to learn in life. Some things, through the years. Some things, through experience. Some things, through prayer.

A lot of the weight I am physically carrying is because of fear.

Fear of no control.

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of my heart not having any more ways to break.

Fear of not being able to save those most important to me.

Fear that I may forget. Forget anything.

Fear of disappointing my parents, or worse, my children, because I’ve been so handicapped by grief that I can’t give it my all.

These are all worth fearing, but do you know the ultimate fear of a grieving parent?

Fear of what will never be.

Fear of having to carry that pain – every.single.day. – for the rest of my life.

There is no “getting over” the loss of our son. It pains me that anyone would even think that would be possible for a parent or family dealing with any kind of infant or child loss. There is no timetable for grief.

What I’m struggling with is learning to live with grief and without Toby.

God’s Timing

2018, faith, Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

I lay in bed last night listening to the rain on the windows of the house. The wind blew so fiercely it felt as though it was something swiping through the air, grabbing, lifting whatever it could – then it was gone. I listened to it for a few moments. It happened two, three, times. It felt like I was having a déjà vu moment. I closed my eyes tightly trying to recenter my thoughts, away from the weather outside, then the rain hit again. When I opened my eyes, it hit me. I hit the home button on my phone and Toby’s smiling face appeared; I scanned to the date – the 23rd.

17 months ago Toby was asleep in his crib. 17 months ago this morning I could have looked at him on the monitor and he would have been right there. 17 months ago I could have walked down the hall ten steps and been standing over him. Today, if I walk 10 steps, everything’s still there – except Toby.

For the past 17 months I have honed my “selective hearing” powers. Although well intended, more often than not, a cliche phrase hurts me, more than someone saying nothing at all.

He’s in a better place.

God needed another angel.

Everything happens for a reason.

God never gives you more than you can handle.

…Yes. Yes, actually he can. He did. I was given more than I could ever possibly handle. Our son was given to us – healthy, beautiful, thriving, sweet, handsome, funny, loving – absolutely perfect. Exactly what we prayed for. Then, after 12 weeks and 5 days on this Earth, in one strong swoop, like the rain/wind last night, he was taken from our arms and given his wings.

IMG_2855

It rained the night of August 24. I remember sitting on our living room couch, staring at the wall, listing to the rain. It was pouring. I literally could not wrap my head around what was even happening. I thought “Why would Heaven be crying? They gained the most beautiful angel this evening. They have Toby – why would they cry?”

I’ve had many different discussions with people over the last 17 months having to do with our control in life. My realization thought 17 months of grieving the death of my son – we have no control.

We can do everything possible. Reroute our days; change our schedules; plan for everything; stress over the ‘What if’s?’ It is not in our control.

Matthew 24:36 says:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in Heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

We think that we have time. Time to get healthy. Time to take a trip. Time to move across country. Time to take a job you’d never considered.

We think that we have more time. I’ll call my parents tomorrow. I’ll apologize in a few days. I won’t say something like that next time. I will stick up for them (or myself) next time.

What if there isn’t a next time?

We are on God’s watch. Here on Earth.

During the first few weeks after Toby died I walked around in a fog. I’d replay moments in my mind and guilt would set in – What if I didn’t do enough for him? I’d literally drive myself into a paranoia. Until one day, I was so deep in grief and angry with everything and everyone. I stood in our empty house, at Toby’s crib, with my hands gripped on his bed rail – yelling anything and everything to the Heavens.  “Are you listening? We are good parents and we love our boys with every breath we have.

I sank to the floor, crying, repeating “Why did you take him! I don’t know how to do this without him! I can’t do this without my son!

This dark day forever changed my relationship with God. No, I did not receive an answer from Him. I will not have an answer until the day I stand before his thrown, Toby in my arms. I have accepted that. I have not yet accepted His timing. I have not fully placed my trust in His Plan.

This is what I am working on.

There have been numerous times over the past few months where I’ve veered off course. My light has gone out and I’ve had to stop and re-center my thoughts. Sometimes this takes days. I deal with anger, despair, loneliness, emptiness. It is very heavy and dark. But I fight for the light.

We were having a really hard time a few weeks ago. I cried every day. I withdrew from anything that wasn’t necessary. I felt like I was sucker punched with another round of grief. I was fighting for light. I stood at our kitchen sink looking out the window. The ground was blanketed with snow. The sky was grey and I thought “This looks like my life. I never thought this would be my life – no color.” I blinked and to my amazement, right down on our fence post sat a cardinal. There it was – my light. I’ve held onto that moment for the past few weeks – it’s been my center. I am waiting patiently for the Lord. I am working to be brave and courageous.

IMG_2986 (1)

To our sweet Toby – I hope your days in Heaven have been beautiful. For every day that passes, I am one day closer to seeing you again. You are our light and Luke is our rock. I will never have a prouder moment than being your and Luke’s mom. I love you to the moon and back, baby boy.

Xoxo,

Mommy

 

Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.

—Ruth 3:18

Finding Our Footing in 2018

2017, 2018, Creating Change, Family, grief, Joy, loss, Marriage, Parenting, Toby

As I sit in our home on the last day of 2017, my heart is fragile. This holiday season has been hard. The reality of Toby being gone, forever, was ever present over the past few weeks. Where many experienced cheer and love, we felt abandonment and sadness.

It is hard to believe 2017 is nearly over. A full year without our son. No hugs or kisses. No first steps. No presents for Toby under the tree. As we stood in the cold on Christmas Day at the foot of Toby’s grave, I kept thinking to myself – I never could have imagined this is how we’d spend our holidays. Why is this our life? I fought like hell to find all the excitement and happiness I could for the holidays, it exhausted me.

We spent the last few days holed up in our house, doing a whole lot of nothing. Surprisingly, it was refreshing. We watched a lot of movies. We played in the snow with Luke, Murray & Theo. I read a lot – posts, articles, and books. I came across a passage yesterday in my reading that has been on my heart since.

Through this past year, while trying to spread Toby’s joy with as many as possible, I have continued to carry a heavy piece of grief with me. It has darkened my days and tested my relationship with God. I have sat at Toby’s grave; on my knees at the foot of the cross; and continually on my drive to work when I’m alone in the car asking “Why? Why would You take Toby? Why did this happen to our family?” This question has become a staple in my devotionals for our family and our healing. I hear this question in the midst of everyday routines. Well knowing that I will never have an answer, until the day I am standing in Heaven with Toby back in my arms.

Yesterday, I came upon this passage while reading:

“We have no right to ask

When sorrow comes,

Why did this happen to me?

Unless we ask the same question

For every joy that comes our way.”

-Philip S. Bernstein

This passage led me back to something that was given to me, by my mom, a few months ago. It is a song title ‘Glorious Unfolding.’ She had given me the CD to listen to. Instead, we Google’d the song and found the video to go with it. This song is emotional, and I can imagine, it can take on many meanings for those struggling – with anything – with death; with illness; with job loss; with financial insecurity; with family turmoil; with marriage struggles; with stumbles you may have had in the past year.

There’s a message for you in this. Open your heart, quiet your mind, and listen.

Glorious Unfolding – Steven Curtis Chapman

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I have no idea what 2018 holds. This past year held moments of JOY that I do not want to let go of. They were moments from Toby, that I know he delivered to us. I felt it. There were moments of pure excitement and happiness with Luke that I thanked God, repeatedly for.

My one hope for 2018 is that I can loosen the grip on this question to which there is no answer – “Why?” And in trying to do that, help us see more of the Joy that God is placing in our path. I have to believe it is there. There is no other choice.

I know that this will not be easy. Grief is hard. It is ruthless. For grieving parents, the reality of a child dying, never goes away.  But life continues to move forward. Things change.

Our path has changed, our journey has been altered. We must now find our footing on this path and keep climbing. I am not sure where we are going – figuratively or literally. And I know this will not be easy. It will not be without hurt and tears. But I pray that on our climb we find places to rest, recharge, grieve, and enjoy our family – all four of us.

Here we come, 2018, with joy in hand. Be gentle on us.

2017 Stuff-a-Truck – Success!

2017, Creating Change, faith, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

It has taken us a few days to come down from the incredible high that we were on from each and every person that helped make our 2017 Stuff-a-Truck event a HUGH success!

The temperatures weren’t exactly on our side when we woke up on Sunday, but we piled on the layers and when Dave & Rachel pulled up in front of our house the adrenaline kicked in and that was all we needed. I remember walking around the side of the garage and seeing the truck – I got a lump in my throat and as I walked up the driveway I had tears in my eyes. There was a gigantic truck sitting there and the reality of what we were about to do was sinking in. This is BIG.

We started loading up everything that was in our garage – donations from our professional connections, North American Martyrs/St. Michael’s Parish, neighbors and friends. Standing there watching boxes and items go into the truck, my mom stood beside me. We looked at each other and she said “You may need another truck.” Again, another overwhelming moment and feeling of determination. You may have heard it in my voice in the video below – we were going to fill that truck. I had no doubt in my mind.

Truck

Don Farr Moving Truck Arrival

Volunteers arrived at Dad’s Pub & Grub at 11 and we got everything set up. We had nearly a dozen people that stayed the entire time to help. There were 8-10 people volunteering each hour and you’d never even know there was a “changing of the guard” because these amazing people had things moving like a well oiled machine.

Donation drop-off started at noon and by 12:40 – the truck looked like this:

1230

By 1 o’clock there was a line of cars out on Northern Pike waiting to pull in to donate. It was amazing to see!

traffic line

Around 2PM two things happened that brought the tears – (#1) Channel 11 showed up to video what was happening. They asked us about Toby’s story and Play it Forward and where all these donations were going. Talk about a proud parent moment. At one point, I looked over my shoulder and a van had pulled up and they were opening the back doors. (This is thing #2) Triangle Bar & Grill from Swissvale was delivering 10 (TEN) NEW BIKES! Volunteers helped them upload each bike and set them up to the side of the truck. I stood there looking at them – with no words. This was incredible and gracious.

triangle bar

Channel 11

Not only were there lines of people outside – Dad’s was packed inside, too with families that came to drop off and then when in for lunch. And everyone rocked their Steelers gear for the game that evening!

Our event was scheduled to run until 3PM and by 2:45 – our 26ft truck – was STUFFED!

It was incredible. By the time the volunteers place all the big items – train tables; large doll houses; picnic and water tables; a few pieces of furniture; and then put in all the bikes that were dropped off – there was just enough room to close the door.

Can you believe that? I stood there looking at the back of that truck as they were finishing and heard this little voice “We did it, Mommy. Just enough.”

How did that happen? It happened through the hope of a grieving family. It happened because Toby’s JOY is meant to be a part of many lives.

Full Truck

We even got to have a little bit of fun during the day and enjoy our time with everyone that came out. Although, Luke was a little chilly.

Lucas

 

A few shout-outs to some key players that helped us bring this event together –

  1. Dad’s Pub & Grub – Northern Pike in Monroeville. If you haven’t been there, get in to see Dan and his team over the holidays. The food is amazing and they have great beer, too. We couldn’t have done this without the prime location and there amazing support and encouragement from the very beginning.
  2. Don Farr Moving – Dan, Rachel, Frank and the rest of the team from Don Farr that provided the truck; the packing supplies; and the labor to fill the truck to the brim. Then, on Monday, they delivered the truckload of donations to the Convention Center downtown Pittsburgh to kick-off Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Toy Donations.
  3. Simmons Farm – a part of our extended family, Simmons Farm served as a “pop-up” location for donations the week leading up to our Stuff-a-Truck event. Their efforts from donors in the South Hills area loaded another truck to deliver to Play it Forward.
  4. Every Volunteer – there are WAY too many to name, but please know we are thankful for every minute and every way you were able to support us during the past month. We could not have done this without your support.
  5. Grandma, Pup, Nana & PapPap – First, thank you for watching Luke so he didn’t have to brave the cold temperature. Second, thank you, and our immediate family members, for continually supporting whatever crazy idea we dream up, especially the ones that support keeping Toby’s memory alive and helping our dream of The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation come to reality.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, Play it Forward Pittsburgh – Heather & Amy – Thank you for allowing our family to contribute to this beautiful and amazing cause that you have created here in Pittsburgh.  It has been an honor to support Play it Forward, in memory of Toby, and see the amount of people who want to get behind it in the future. You both have created something amazing – we are glad to be able to be a part of it.

Dan & I were able to volunteer on Play it Foward’s Shop Day – Saturday, December 16 at the Convention Center downtown Pittsburgh. Leading up to that day, Shady Side Academy’s 3rd Grade class took a field trip and helped sort toys. Then, the following day, my company, A. Martini & Co., volunteered in the afternoon. We are lucky to have the support of our colleagues on this journey.

third grade

AMC Volunteering

Here are some photos of the set-up on Friday, prior to the doors opening on Saturday morning. There were people lined up outside on Friday night at 8PM to shop Saturday morning – it was incredible.

PIF Convention Center 2PIF Convention CenterPIF Volunteersshop day

Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Shop Day started at 8AM and by 3PM the tables were completely empty. (See below)

before after 2017

Also, Play it Forward was able to offer some statistics on the 2017 drive – please take a look, these are incredible:

infographic_2017 PIF

 

Thank you – Thank you – Thank you! To every single person that contributed to this cause. Whether it was through our Stuff-a-Truck event or another donation location. Your time & toys helped give toys to 4,500 children! What an incredible way to GIVE this Christmas.

We are grateful for the opportunities that have come our way in 2017 that have allowed us to continue telling Toby’s story and spreading his JOY, not just across Pittsburgh, but across the nation. They have given us strength to continue. We truly believe that his story is far from over. It is up to us, as his parents, to carry his legacy.

We stand at the door of another year – without Toby in our arms. But their are pieces of my son everywhere I look. I hear them; I see them; I feel them. Thank you for helping us make it through 2017 with joy in our hearts.

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and JOY for 2018!

Love,

Dan, Katie, Lucas & Toby

toby 2

Simmons Farm Hosts Toy Donation Pop-Up Locations

2017, Creating Change, Family, Joy, The Little Fox | Toby's Foundation, Toby

To our South Hills Family & Friends:

Simmons Farm will be hosting a “pop up” donation drop to benefit Play it Forwards 2017 Toy Drive at both their Market & Rt. 19 locations.

Toy donations will be accepted December 4-10, from 9am-5pm.

See the full post below and a huge “Thank You” to our Simmons Farm Family for helping to support Play it Forward Pittsburgh, in Toby’s memory. ❤️

 

 

Simmons Farm Toy Drop Location

In Memory of our nephew Toby Stern, who passed away last August at 12 weeks old:

Are you looking to donate your gently used toys that your children may have outgrown or are looking to purge before Santa arrives in a few weeks? From Monday, December 4-Sunday, December 10 Simmons Farm will be a “pop-up” location to benefit Play it Forward Pittsburgh. Our Rt. 19 and Farm locations will take donations from 9-5pm.

For more information on items that can be donated or materials requested to help with Play it Forward’s Toy Drive, visit: http://www.playitforwardpittsburgh.com/donate–help.html

Our collection will support the efforts of The Little Fox|Toby’s Foundation, who is spear-heading a ‘Stuff-a-Truck’ event in Monroeville on December 10, in memory of Toby.

We are happy to offer a South Hills drop location to families who can’t travel to Monroeville for the donation event, but would like to support local Pittsburgh children in need this holiday season.

18 Month Milestone

2017, Family, grief, loss, Lucas, Parenting, Toby

To our sweet boy, who would be 18 months old today: my mind lately is continually trying to visualize what you would look like today?

I look at Lucas from that age and wonder, ‘would your hair be as straight? Or as blonde?’ I doubt it. I think you’d look very much like Daddy with darker hair and eyes. Sleeping is becoming hard again. I feel like it’s my body trying to adjust to a routine that we should be in, but we’re not, because you’re not here. I keep waking up in the middle of the night and then I’m awake for an hour or so. Staring through the crack between the window and the blind, wondering what you’re doing.

The past few evenings I wake up from a dream I’m having, although I don’t know what I’m dreaming about. My eyes seem to be slightly open and there’s flickering light but when I open them, I’m wide awake and it’s pitch black. I’ve convinced myself that it’s you and your angels visiting us in the night. I wish I could open my eyes quick enough to see you.

We’re working on getting the house ready for Christmas. I wish you could see it. Luke loved the lights when he was one. He’d sit and laugh looking at them. Everywhere I go I see fox ornaments. Aunt Megan said the other day “I’m not sure if they’re everywhere or if we just find them because we’re looking.” I feel the same way, but again, I’d like to think they’re little signs from you.

Daddy, Luke and I miss you, Toby. This really isn’t getting any easier. But we are trying. I look at pictures of you smiling and close my eyes, hoping I can still hear you laugh. Your laugh made my heart flutter and it made Daddy laugh, too.

On the way to work this morning, Luke said “We’re going to play baseball and Toby and I are going to win the trophy. No one else.” I’m sure you’ve heard us tell him that he can’t always win and that he’ll always have teammates. But, this morning, I said “Good. I like that plan.” My heart hurts knowing how much he misses you and knowing how much fun you two would have together. If you can, maybe visit Luke in his dreams. I know he’d love to run the bases with you, Toby.

Daddy and I will stand at home plate to high-five our boys as you score the winning runs.

Happy 18 months, baby boy.

I love you.

Mommy