Challenger Weekend

2011 State Tournament

As most people know, Jesy and I coach a baseball team of kids with special needs in the Butler County Challenger League.  Jesy has been coaching for 4 years, but has been involved with this league for close to 15 years because of Brian playing as well and John and Carol coaching.  I have only been involved for the last couple years.

You see, it was a little bit more of a transition for me. I had not grown up around kids with special needs, except for Brian and that was only when I started dating Jesy when I was 21 years old.  And you  know what they say about teaching an old dog new tricks.  It was very tough for me to get comfortable around the kids.  So when John and Carol asked Jesy and I to coach a team 4 years ago, I couldn’t do it.  Jesy accepted and asked Matt to help.  I stayed away for the first year completely.  The second year I went to a couple games here and there.  And finally in year three I went to just about every game and started to help out.  This year I have even gone to coach meetings and tried to push myself to be even more involved because I was really starting to enjoy watching the kids play.

So what kept me away?  Fear, believe it or not.  I was afraid of interacting with the kids.  What do I say to them?  What do I talk to them about?  If they misbehave what do I do?  What if I can’t understand them when they talk to me?  I let all those obstacles paralyze me around the kids.

But over the course of a couple years the kids have warmed my heart so much that I don’t have the fears that I used to have.  Am I as good with the kids as Jesy and Matt?  No, but I’m much better and much less “scared” of the kids than I used to once be.  I was so excited after the tournament this year that I was already talking about next year this morning with Jesy while we were getting ready for work!

But before we can plan for next year I would love to share some moments from this past weekend at the 2011 Challenger State Tournament in Barberton, Ohio.  This was my second year at tournament and I had a little bit better idea of what to expect and how this was going to go.  It was a blast, not just for the kids, but for the coaches too.  I can’t explain how awesome it is to see the kids have the time of their lives and not just on the field, but running around the hotel with other kids that are in the same boat as they are.  There is no judging, no making fun of, just kids running around having fun…all weekend.

This is what happens when you try to organize 10 kids with special needs for a picture!

Some highlights include:

  • One of our players’ parents, Dale, emptying two of the ice machines in the hotel.  The other two were broken.  Dirty move sir.
  • Conner Fenton taking his job as the pitcher quite seriously.  Also discovering that Conner is a big Star Wars fan.  We actually got yelled at by Bev Fenton, Conner’s mom, for chit-chatting about Star Wars like two little school girls instead of paying attention to the game.
  • Perry Sizemore playing the “roaming fielder” position.  What is that you ask?  Well, in one inning I saw Perry at third, short stop, pitcher, outfield, first base and my personal favorite was when he sat in a chair on the sidelines, but once the ball was hit he ran on to the field and chased after it.
  • I saw Ethan Fullmer run.  I just wish I had a camera to prove that I saw it, because I doubt that anyone would believe me.
  • Jack Wojno getting to see the Purple Firetrucks of Barberton.  Also, I love watching Jack’s twirling swing.  It’s like he coils himself up and then when he goes to swing he unleashes a spinning attack that almost spins himself into the ground!  But when he makes contact, watch out!
  • Sara Reatherford having almost made the catch of the year.  She was playing first base and a line drive was hit right at her.  She held her glove up in more self defense than anything else and the ball landed squarely in the mit.  But Sara didn’t squeeze, except maybe her butt cheeks, and the ball fell out.  Even though she didn’t catch it, it was a spectacular play!
  • Also noteworthy: when pressured, Sara cracked and admitted to having a little crush on me.  The poor girl, I gave her hell about it all weekend!  The crush is either now over or twice as bad.  You would have to ask Sara to be sure, but I guarantee after this past weekend she will tell you she hates me now!
  • Logan doing his best John Kruk impression!

    I got more hugs from Logan Cox than I got hours of sleep over the weekend.  Logan  is new to the team this year, as well as tournament and man are we glad we nabbed him up!  I have never met a more affectionate kid other than perhaps Jessica Fritts.  Landon is always smiling and loves to give hugs, so if you are ever having a bad day, just hang out with him for 5 minutes.

  • Landon making his unprecedented 4th straight tournament.  Landon is the only player on our team to make it every year Jesy has been a coach.   Landon is always the team leader in unintentional bunts, he just kind of holds the bat out there and waits for the ball to hit it.  Not a lot of power, but they have yet to get him out at first!
  • Watching Bailey do her reverse upper-cut swing.  Have you ever watched baseball and noticed that there are some guys that have an upper-cut swing, where it looks like they are trying to golf the baseball out of the park?  Well Bailey is the exact opposite.  She starts her swing high and cuts right down to the ground.  It’s like she is mad at the ball and wants to hit it as hard as she can into the ground.  A bizarre tactic for sure, but Bailey makes it work.

Boyfriend and Girlfriend - Landon and Bailey

Overall, this year was heartwarming, fun and a reminder that despite all our differences we can always come together to celebrate these individuals that have over come so much in their young lives and deserve to have the kind of fun that I know they all had this weekend.

So let me speak for all the coaches and say THANK YOU to all the kids we coached this year.  You do just as much for us and maybe more than we could ever possibly do for you guys!  Keep having fun and reminding us that nothing is impossible and that everything is better when you’re playing baseball!

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Monty: A Tribute.

Monty and a young Carson. Monty was not pleased with this new annoyance!

Monday June 6th, one of my oldest friends passed away.  Monty, as true of a friend as you will ever find.

Monty and I have known each other since college.  The time in my life when I really began to figure out what kind of a man I would be.  He has been with me through heart break, true love, marriage, six different residences and countless number of nights when he was the only one that would listen.

Monty was a dog.  My dog, my first dog.  He was originally purchased, slightly reluctantly, by three housemates in college.  Myself, my co-writer at BattleForOhio.com,  Andy, and a mutual friend Jay.  The dog quickly became mine and Andy’s as Jay just didn’t quite have the patience for the destruction one puppy can cause.  Losing the deposit on the house after our senior year didn’t help matters either.  And after senior year Andy and I decided that it would be best for me to take Monty, so he became solely mine. Although he had been sleeping in my room, and going to the bathroom in my room, and destroying things in my room since we got him.

This would establish two things, I would be the primary care giver and that he would have to sleep in the bedroom.  Even later when he spent all his time at my parents he preferred to sleep next to the bed.  Sometimes even when the pain in his back legs was so great that he would stay on the same floor in the house all day, he would still struggle to climb those stairs at bed time so he could sleep next to the bed.

So as a special tribute to my old friend.  A friend that has known me longer than my wife even, I would like to share some special Monty memories.

  • Any of the times that Monty would crap in the house my senior year on Bell Street.  I almost always had to clean it up, but it was worth it to hear Jay yell and bitch and almost throw up because of it.
  • The time that Monty ran into the kitchen in the house on Bell Street and couldn’t stop on the tile floor and slid right into the oven and banged his butt.  He wouldn’t go back in there for weeks, so I had to move his food to a different room.  This also is what stems his fear of floors that have any slick surface.  If it wasn’t carpeted he hated walking on it.
  • The time Jay tried to ride Monty while he was intoxicated.  Monty, who wasn’t amused, simply sat down and Jay fell off and about halfway down the stairs as well.  Hilarious to everyone except Jay.
  • Seeing my in-laws faces the first time they saw Monty, it was like a mix of frightened, bewildered and amused.  Like, what is this magical slobbering beast?

Monty after a romp in the snow.

  • Watching Huckle, my in-laws previous dog, and Monty interact.  Huckle was generally smaller than one of Monty’s turds, so watching Huckle try to scamper around and get sniffs of Monty was quite amusing.  Watching Monty grunt and growl when Huckle got too close while Monty was laying down and susceptible to sniffing.  I think he even gave Huckle a seizure one time.
  • Seeing how scared a giant dog like Monty could get during a lighting storm.  His favorite place in the world was my parents bathroom on the lower level of the house.  Somehow it made him feel safe during the storms.
  • Anytime it snowed.  Monty loved playing in the snow, jumping around in it, burrowing in the snow and flinging it up in the air.
  • Lying to two different apartment complexes and telling them that Monty was simply a lab mix to make sure we could still get the apartment.  Well, I guess that isn’t a lie, I just omitted the fact that he is mixed with Newfoundland, which made him a HUGE lab.
  • Watching Monty get more action than I was getting on my first date with Jesy.
  • Watching a 5 year old Monty who had never had to share a house with another dog try to adjust to a rambunctious puppy named Carson.

    Turner and Hooch or George Sr. and Monty?

He was a 100 pound gentle giant.  The only thing that was really scary about Monty was his boisterous bark.  He was only really grouchy with my mom, which was both funny and confusing.  Rub his ears or his belly and he was your best friend, except for maybe my dad.  Nobody was above my dad as far as Monty was concerned.  Mainly because my dad did what any grandparent does, he spoiled Monty rotten. And he was pretty open and blatant about it.  They might as well have been Riggs and Murtaugh or I guess more appropriately, Turner and Hooch.

If you had stock in Bounty, I would sell it right now.  Monty and his never ending stream of drool have kept paper towels at a premium in the Herron household for ten years.

I loved Monty like a pet, like a dog, like a friend, like a brother, and like a son.  He will be missed.

Monty, you will get along great with Sam in Heaven’s dog park, but please be patient with Batman.  You remember how annoying Carson was?  Batman is similar, but he is a pretty dog, so he will be good with picking up the ladies, so you will have that going for you up there!  Good luck pal, I can’t wait to see you again.

Monty’s ashes will be spread in my parent’s backyard, a place that Monty loved to run around and chase anything from tennis balls to deer.  A backyard that must have seen 2 tons worth of dog crap and hundreds of gallons of dog pee.  A backyard that he called home.

There will also be two trees and a little stone memorial with Monty’s name on it in the front yard of my parents house.  Because death always gives way to new life and it was important to celebrate the life of a great dog and a loyal friend.

Happy Rainy, Busy & Clumsy Easter!

{The Rainy}

Easter was fashionably late this year which would make one believe that we would have gorgeous weather. Sun, heat, blue skies, green and dry grass and lots of flowers. Not in Cincinnati! It has been a never ending rainy April and Easter Sunday was no exception. Luckily there was a break in the weather that was long enough for the little kids of the Ottopal family to collect Easter eggs. But then the rain picked right back up and it continued to pour from late afternoon all through the night. Oh and guess what, there was rain again this morning….awesome!

{The Busy}

My family is the kind of family that gets together (I mean ALL together) all the time. Its great, its what I grew up with and of course all that I’m pretty much used to. George also comes from a family that gets together a lot so he is used to the busy holidays too. Every holiday George and I are rushing around from one side of the family to the next but at Easter it is a bit more hectic. Why? Because my mom’s side of the family likes to get together two times in one day. We have breakfast at my Grandma’s house at 10:30am where we all stuff our face with bacon (6lbs were made this year), eggs, sausage, biscuits & gravy, Grandma’s famous coffee cakes (I think I counted 4 flavors), fruit, and breakfast pizza. Am I missing anything? There is also orange juice and then mimosas for those who need to a little bit of alcohol to get through the madness (I’m in that category).

Go CHALLENGER Cardinals!

Then George and I left Grandma’s house to head home for literally 30 minutes to let the pups out and take a minor breather, this is a marathon NOT a race. Next we got back in the car and headed to George’s Aunt and Uncle’s house for snacks and a visit before heading off to our final destination for the day. Hanging out with the Kiesewetter family is so nice. There is no yelling across the room for one particular person, no hustle and bustle of everyone scurrying around each other because there were only 7 of us total. The visit was a few hours long which included great conversation and yummy snacks.

We got back in the car around 4:15pm and headed out to my Uncle Scrooge’s house for our dinner, did I mention we had to go to the West side? George and I arrived at Scrooge’s early so we could relax and hang out on the couch talking with Scrooge before the masses started to arrive. God love my family, we are LOUD and crazy! I’d love to be a fly on the wall actually watching all the interactions and conversations unfolding. The little kids normally hang out in one room and every now and then you will hear one of them come out crying but for the most part they are pretty good about hanging out with themselves. Shortage of food is NEVER a problem and Easter dinner was just as filling as Easter breakfast only a short 7 hours earlier.

My mother had of course spoiled all of us kids rotten and Matt, Jami, Mason, Brian, George and I all had these enormous baskets FILLED with spring goodies. Aunt Jesy and Unlce George gave Mason a Cardinals hat and socks to help root on the Butler County Challenger Cardinals – NOT MLB Cardinals – for our upcoming season. He looked ADORABLE in the hat and the guy holding him is super cute too! {Side note: Mason is becoming the cutest little boy with all the smiling he does with EVERYONE. He goes to anybody without fussing and smiles so much that you can’t help but constantly have a smile on your face the entire time you are around him. I love being his Aunt Jes}

Mom through out a little tear jerker yesterday when I opened a little wind chime she bought for both Jami and myself. Jami’s was a tiered wind chime with pretty spring colors and mine had the letters H-O-P-E hanging vertically. I was slightly dense at first but mom recalled when she made the purchase and it was the day that I called her to tell her George and I created our bear with Baby Herron’s heartbeat and that we named the bear Hope. Mom said that the wind chime was at that store and she was looking at it when I called her…yep, that started the tears! I love my momma!

{The Clumsy}

Sorry Jami (these are her pants!)

If you know me pretty well then you know I’m some what of a clutz. I’m quite shocked that I can chew gum and walk at the same time without tripping over myself. I am constantly tripping and yesterday I really scared myself and George when I tripped in my Uncle’s driveway in the pouring down rain as we were leaving his house. It sucked! I started to trip and because my hands were full I could not regain my balance causing me to fall smack down on my right knee and skidding my toes on the concrete. There went the pants and the pedicure! Big hole in the knee and I was a bleeder, so now I’m going to have this wonderful-looking scab to show my battle scars with the driveway. I wasn’t the only casualty of the driveway, apparently my little cousin took a fall and skinned up her knees and also got holes in her Easter tights.

Needless to say I’m absolutely exhausted from yesterday but I’m so glad we had lots of time with family, next year will be different because George and I will be in Florida. Hopefully it will be a sunny Easter!

Pay it Forward

When George and I told our individual stories about first finding out about Baby Herron and the problems we were facing (Jesy’s version, George’s version) we were absolutely overwhelmed with support near and far. Not only did we receive love and support but we were also connecting with other families who suffered a pregnancy loss. There are so many cards, books, letters, emails, comments and phone calls of others pouring their heart out to us and telling us their story. Many of the stories were ones that ended with a positive note on how they were able to conceive again but one story was still in progress……

{Meet Lauren Starling Hope}

In a sense Lauren and I grew up together in the West Chester area of Cincinnati. Her brother and my brother were in Boy Scouts and our families would also camp together in the summers. Lauren and I were never  “best friends” but more like acquaintances as we grew older. We went to different schools and I was a few years older which meant that I didn’t get a chance to interact with Lauren or see her that much.  I think it was decided that we were in either grade school or junior high the last time that we talked or saw each other. Fast forward about 14 years to the reason that Lauren and I became friends again.

{Late September 2010} Greg and Lauren Hope are getting ready to welcome their first child, Johnathan Hope, into the world. Lauren was 9 months pregnant and ready to burst went she went into labor. Getting to the hospital feeling anxious and expecting to meet the new handsome love of her life when she and Greg were given the most unexpected and horrific news. The nurses could not find Johnathan’s heartbeat, Lauren gave birth to a stillborn beautiful baby boy. I remember looking on Facebook to try and see if there were any pictures as some of the status updates indicated that she would be delivering soon but could only find “thinking of you and Greg” or “praying for you and your baby.” I thought about reaching out to Lauren but never knew exactly what to say.

{December 3, 2010} I received a message from Lauren reaching out to me after hearing that we lost our baby girl. This message from Lauren is one that I have kept and continue to read to this day to remind me of how a friendship rekindled over such a crappy loss and terrible time in our lives. Lauren and I began exchanging Facebook messages, phone calls and emails of similar thoughts and emotions. It was such a relief to have someone to lean on and cry to that knew exactly what I had gone through and she was still breathing and living day by day but always having her baby boy on her mind. Lauren gave courageous and hopeful advice that I know helped to get me where I am emotionally today. She would say things to me like, “its okay to be pissed” and sent me books and blogs that were about pregnancy loss that were comforting at the time.

{December 22, 2010} Lauren sent one of the most hopeful messages that left me with goosebumps. She had just told me about her friend Caroline who lost her baby 3 months prior to Lauren losing Johnathan. The message was titled, “Happy thoughts” and in the message Lauren informed me that Caroline was now 12 weeks pregnant. Lauren also wrote, “The way I look at it, it seems like the natural thing to be, as she was pregnant, then me, then you. Seems only fair that she would be pregnant again first out of the three of us, right?” I LOVED this message, it put the biggest smile on my face. Of course that was fair, Caroline suffered a loss then Lauren then me and now Caroline is able to celebrate with pregnancy. It was a matter of time before it was Lauren’s turn and then it could be mine. I have OFTEN thought about what Lauren said to me and I thought about her and her friend Caroline pretty frequently.

Over the Christmas season Lauren traveled back up to Cincinnati from Texas to spend time with her family and friends. We were able to hang out a few times and finally see each other again after sending messages back and forth and talking through emotional issues over the phone. In our conversations hanging out at a local bar (obviously having a great time) we were able to catch up, reminisce about old times with our family and future doctor appointments and how each of us were on a “plan” to conceive again. Its nice to know that I’m not the only nut out there!

A month or so after seeing Lauren she called to chit chat like we have been doing. This time we weren’t celebrating Caroline being pregnant but it was Lauren’s turn! She was 9 weeks prego at the time and you could hear the absolute joy in her voice. I think I was almost excited for Lauren’s pregnancy as my own pregnancy with Baby Herron. It was such a full circle moment and even though I wasn’t with Lauren from the moment of her loss with Johnathan I could at least experience this awesome news of pregnancy #2.

Lauren was so sweet, she was excited for her pregnancy but she was also calling to let me know that it was “my turn.” I will gladly carry that baton which was passed from Caroline to Lauren and when its my time I’ll continue to pass it along to those who need it too.

Have you met our nephew?

{Mason Matthew Wenstrup}

One could say that I’m slightly obsessed with getting this little cutie to smile. But he is so photogenic and fun! Plus, from the pictures he must love playing with his Aunt Jesy. Thought I would share some photos of my handsome little nephew who I lovingly call, Bubby. Who do YOU think he looks like, Matt or Jami?

Things I realize

Ohhhh, that's why he is screaming like that. He managed to get out of the car seat and is now a decoration on my window!

My brother-in-law has been very sick for the past week. And because of this the family has pitched in and to watch Mason, his and Jami’s son, while Jami has been at work.  Jesy and I have helped out when we could and that has meant taking him last Friday night and also last night.  In doing this there are a couple of things that I have come to realize about having a baby around that I think I knew before, but really comes to light when you have a baby around all day.

  • Just because you think you are ready to be a father doesn’t mean you really are.  Ever since turning 30, I have felt ready (“finally” as Jesy would probably say).  I thought that I had gotten all the selfishness out of my system, or at least most of it.  I thought that I had learned how to control my temper enough to give a child a fighting chance, I mean I have to deal with Carson everyday, how much more trying can a kid be?  The temper still needs work.  It will probably be something I struggle with the rest of my life, I just hope I can learn to control it enough to not let it severely affect my child’s development.
  • My patience still needs a lot of work too.  What is that old saying?  There’s nothing in the world that’s better than the sound of a laughing baby?  Well conversely there is nothing in the world more aggravating than a screaming baby and no solution for what ails the baby. Twice now in the last few days I have gone to pick up Mason and steal him from the living zombie that is Matt and twice now Mason has screamed like he was being murdered by his car seat the entire ride to my house.  I thought kids loved riding in cars?   I thought car rides put almost any kid to sleep?  Not Mason, at least not for me.  And what could I do, I was driving, it’s not like I could reach back and shove the bink (pacifier*) in his mouth, although he would have more than likely spit it out anyway.  So I tried music, not too loud, although I wanted to just to drown out the screaming.  I tried The Beatles first, they have a lot of calming songs plus it was music that I would love too.  Of course the first song was Revolution, probably the least calming song The Beatles have other than maybe Helter Skelter.   I quickly changed the song, ahhh Blackbird, that is a good one, but alas the little man was still doing his best impression of a banshee.  After a couple more tries with The Beatles with no success I try a different tactic.  What is something he would be used to listening too?  Matt and Jami have pretty different tastes in music than me, but I do have some Ludacris on my iPod, so let’s try that.  Nope still nothing.  It wasn’t until five seconds before we pulled in the driveway that Mason finally ran out of steam.  It’s a long trip from Liberty Township to Sharonville with an angry baby.  Road-rage would have had nothing on me.  Situations like that are why people start smoking.  I felt helpless and the more helpless I felt it seemed like the louder he got, it was enough to make me want to stop the car and just get out.  By the time I got home and he had just stopped I just sat in the driveway with the car on letting him sleep and letting me regroup.  That is when it dawned on me that I need to keep working hard to get better with patience, it is still a long road, but one I need to travel.
  • Our house is still nowhere near ready for a baby.  We have nothing to entertain a kid, or worse to put a kid while he/she sleeps so that we can get things done while said baby is sleeping.  When Jesy was home we took turns holding and watching Mason while the other did stuff, doing dishes, making dinner, whatever.  We have no pack and play, no bouncer, no real toys, nothing that would entertain the baby that would give both of us the opportunity to get things done.  Likewise we have nothing to hold the baby or tether it to us making multi-tasking nearly impossible.  All we have is a high-chair, and while that has certainly come in handy it is not nearly enough.  You would think with as much as we have watched my best friends baby, Aayla, and now with Mason we would be better prepared, but we aren’t, and it was no more glaringly obvious than last night.
  • Jesy will make a superior mother.  Is there something better than superior?  Seriously, I was amazed, as I often am with the ease at which she takes on a motherly role.  It was like she was born to be a mother.  Despite the crying and screaming she was calm and did anything and everything to calm Mason down and he responded quite well to her on most occasions.  She also brought the best out in him.  He played with “us” for like an hour before he fell asleep and she was brilliant with him that entire time.  She found little things that he loved to do and would always be interacting with him and making him smile and “goo.”  I don’t know that I had ever heard a baby “coo” and “goo” like Mason was last night, it was incredible and Jesy was 99% responsible.  And I guess that is what makes what we went through recently even more baffling and upsetting to me.  There is not more perfect person to be a mom than Jesy and for her to have gone through what she went through is unfair to anyone, but especially someone who will be such a good mother as her.
  • Mason farts like his father and sleeps like his mother.  I was sitting several feet away and I could hear Mason farting like he was cast in a Fatties movie with Jack Black.   Some people have stream of thought, Mason has a stream of fart.  Is that an earthquake?  Did a train just go through our backyard?  Is there a T-Rex loose in our house?  Nope Mason is just farting….again.  The kid is a champion.  But lets face it, he’s just carrying on a family tradition, congrats my boy you are a Wenstrup.  And how a kid can feel rested after the way he sleeps is beyond me.  Half the time I was holding him while he slept he looked like he was trying to go ten rounds in a ring with Mike Tyson.  The kids arms were moving and swinging with a quickness that Ali would have been proud of.  I know Jami is more known for her conversations in her sleep, but it looks like Mason has decided to take it up a level and do some shadow boxing in his sleep.  I feel sorry for any future girlfriend.

I guess this works, but I'm pretty sure only girl babies should be sucking on it.

  • A baby is exhausting.  I know every mother will scoff when they read this and will just laugh it off as me being a typical man, but I had no idea a baby was so tiring.  How something that only eats, poops, and sleeps can wear an adult out was beyond me.  But then it dawned on me, this little human is relying on me for everything, so I’m constantly on and that is after working for 8 hours already today.  So calm down ladies, the light bulb just went on.  A special shout out to all the single mothers/fathers out there.  Wow, I have no idea how you do it.  Jesy and I tag teamed Mason pretty well last night (does that sound as bad as I think?) and he wiped us both out (yeah it does).

It would seem I have learned a lot in a couple of days, and thank God I did.  There are some things I definitely need to work on, I just hope I can be better.  It’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks.  The good news is that where I fail I know Jesy will be there to pick me up.  My only fear is, and it has been a fear for a long time, ever since we started seriously talking about having kids, will I be good enough?  Looking at Jesy I know she is ready and I know she is good enough, she will be fannnnnnnnnntastic.  I just hope I can do half as good, because I’m scared that I might not be able to be better and our kids will have a broken dad.

*This little footnote is about the pacifier.  How many names does that damn thing have?  Bink, binky, pacifier, paci, mouth plug, scream stopper, fake nipple, nuk, baba, nibbler, and Vin Diesel.  I’m sure there are 100 more as well, but these are the most common ones I have heard.  No wonder English is one of the hardest languages to learn, we give something like a pacifier 2,000 different names.  Good luck kids!

Rant over.

Hope

Everyone, Hope. Hope, everyone.

Does anyone know what in the hell was going on at Kenwood mall this Saturday?  Was there some huge sale going on?  Was it the “Please come out and shop because the economy sucks and we need some business and let’s face it, it’s the middle of January and you weren’t doing anything anyway” sale?  Because that place was packed like it was the week before Christmas…and it was the only mall in America.  You would have been hard pressed to tell that there is a recession going on at Kenwood mall.

Normally I would have just turned around and went home after Jesy and I went up and down at least four isles to find a parking spot.  I’m just not that patient when it comes to mall parking.  Nine times out of ten I don’t want to be there anyway, so why would I put that much effort to find a parking spot three zip codes away?

But it was a special day.  Today was the day that both Jesy and I felt like we could handle going to the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Kenwood to make the stuffed bear that we had planned on making for our child.  You see, before we heard the heart beat for the last time (wow, that was tougher to type that I thought it would be) we went to Build-A-Bear and bought a recorder and took it with us to the appointment to record the heartbeat. Our plan was to then put it in a bear for our baby.  I must admit this was not my idea, I stole it from a co-worker who suggested it.  So, before everything blew up, we had recorded the heartbeat and for the last two months that recorder just sat in the original bag that we bought it in collecting dust.  As a matter of fact I hadn’t even listened to it since that day, couldn’t.

Sooooo, yeah it was worth the Everest-like hike from Scooby Doo 17 to the mall entrance.

Picking the right bear:

Harder than I thought.  I’m an unconventional thinker sometimes and I like to mix it up.  I thought the rabbits they had were very cute and didn’t feel like going all main-stream with this.  But, Jesy hates rabbits because she had a real rabbit when she was younger and it was mean apparently.  So the rabbit was out.  I liked the wolf that they had, it was a special WWF (World Wildlife Foundation, not wrestling) that would be replaced by another animal in the coming months.  But the way it had to sit didn’t make it very cuddly.  Dear God, I just used cuddly and cute in the same paragraph, this is getting dangerous.  So two strikes so far.  Jesy and I just kind of wandered around like zombies staring at the bears and other animals you could build not getting “that feeling” from any of them.  And of course I didn’t want to budge either about getting a traditional brown bear, it just seemed to normal for any kid of mine.

But then there it was.  A white bear with pink hearts.  Perfect for that little girl we had lost.  I mean if they had a frog it would have been an easy choice, but this bear was a fine substitute.  I can imagine a very young Jesy picking out this exact bear.

Building the bear:

Once we had the deflated bear in hand it was time to get her all stuffed.  As we were waiting in line to get the bear innards I noticed that we were the only people in there without an ankle biter with us, I’m sure it seemed a bit strange to the employees there, because several times we were asked, “Oh, building a bear for your little one?”  Ummmmmmmmmmmmm.  Blank face. That was our response.  Pretty articulate right?  What do you say, how do you respond to that?  “Well Build-A-Bear employee that I have never met, let me tell you all about how we lost the baby that we had planned on building this bear for, and please excuse my wife’s tears right now as you have struck a nerve.  Thanks.”

I know it wasn’t their fault at all and they were just trying to make small talk as the machine filled the bear, but dammit I was really hoping to get out of here without Jesy having to even think about re-hashing that story verbally again.  I was prepared just to say yes to shut him up, but Jesy bravely told him a VERY Reader’s Digest condensed version.  He did the awkward shut up and looked down at the ground.

Naming the bear:

The hardest part of all.  With bear in hand we had to sit at the “naming station” and fill out a “birth certificate” for the bear.  Weird.  The bear gets a birth certificate and our baby doesn’t.  Surreal really.  So what do you call a bear that you build for someone who has passed away?  What do you name a bear that the intended recipient will never receive?  What do you name a bear that your wife will cuddle with and cry on?

Hope.

It was so easy, but I blanked.  Jesy was the one that came up with the name and it couldn’t have been more perfect.  I think she felt like she needed some hope, and Hope is what she got.

Jesy has slept with the bear both nights since bringing it home.  Even I rolled over this morning while Jesy was in the shower and hugged it.  I’m not sure that I will be brave enough to listen to the heart beat again anytime soon, but baby steps right?

It was a powerful and emotional day/weekend, but I’m glad we finally did it.  It was another necessary step in healing and moving on I think.

“You have to admit it’s getting better.  It’s getting better all the time.”