Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tick tock.

Countless times through out the day, I hear my sweet little boy sing off-key...  "Gwick, gwock, goes da cwock, time to put our work away..."  Dylan's little musical tune from school got me today.  Tick, tock goes the clock, time to put our work away...

I am sitting at the computer mentally logging how we are going to motivate, rally and cheer on friends and family to raise money yet another year to find a cure for our boys.  I tap-tap-tap on the keyboard working to find the right words to express my heartfelt emotion.  Awe.  Inspiration.  Heartache.  Moments of my boys' reality swirl together with words like "hope", "life expectancy" and "better days ahead".  As the writing and thoughts take hold, my mind clutches all the images in a day...

Every day feels like a grind.

Because it's just life, I sometimes forget what an actual grind it is.  The medical equipment.

The repeated, daily sterilizing of said medical equipment.

The loads of medications.  Oh, the medications.

The mountain of insurance paperwork.

The doctor's calls.  The stress every time I see Dylan lick something that could potentially make him very ill...  he has no idea.

And the listening.  Listening very intently for illness.  Listening for coughs and how they sound.  And in this house...  which kid was the one coughing?

I think about how Michael's congestion has worsened over recent days.  I walk up to Michael's door in the early hours of the night to check on my sleeping angel.  Before I can even begin to crack the door, I hear his gurgled breathing.  It is loud and sounds downright uncomfortable.  A sea of smothering snot is audible and there is very little I can do to help him.

My shoulders shrink up as I cringe.  I close my eyes and gently touch his sweaty forehead.  He is not feverish, thankfully.  Just too many covers on this unseasonably warm spring night.  His brightly colored plaid quilt is shoved at his feet, but his blanket and sheet are cinched up to his chin.  I gently loosen them and pull them to his hips, so Michael can cool off.  His favorite Bumblebee Transformer pajamas shirt is revealed.  Yellow and black.  A good superhero fighting evil against the clock.  To save the world.

I remember what it was like to be a kid and have a cold at bedtime.  I have always hated going to sleep with a cold as a kid and as an adult.  The pounding sinus pressure and the shifting of the congestion from one compartment of the sinus cavity to another.  As a miserable allergy sufferer in the spring, I distinctly recall even on cool summer nights having an awful stuffy nose and not being able to comfortably breathe.  But honestly, I can't imagine what it's like to have my sinuses and lungs filled with extreme congestion.

Friends who are adults with CF have equated it to breathing through a straw.  Or never truly feeling satisfied when they breathe in.  Searching for a deep breath, they no longer know what the sensation is any more.

Michael's eyes are closed.  He is peaceful in the sounds of snorting, sniffing, and bubbling.  I can only hope that he is peaceful all night and gets much needed rest.

The morning greets me with Dylan announcing "Mornin' time.  Mornin' time."  I crack my heavy eyes and look at the clock.  Humph.  5:51.  He climbs into bed with me and demands juice and wants to watch shows.  Poor kid needs a diaper change beyond words.  Groan.  My husband is out of town on this morning and so Dylan plants himself comfortably on my husband's side of the bed with no complaints.  I make him lay quietly with me for another few minutes.  Even if for principle's sake to get the clock to pass 6:00 am.  I cannot justify getting up with my kids before 6 am.

After some time, he trumps.  It's now 6:31.  After I have changed him and offered him a sippy cup of diluted juice filled to the "tippy top", he is satisfied.  I crawl back into bed and try to slip back into my groggy light sleep.

Minutes later I hear it...  Deep.  Chesty.  And breaking.

Michael is awake and coughing in his bed.  I pause and stay very still listening.  I zero in with my ultra-high-tech mom radar listening device by fading down the Backyardigans music coming from the TV and the grumbling, stammering dog.  Little footsteps, metal clicking, footsteps coming closer.  More coughing that is getting louder.

Michael arrives in bed with me and Dylan and he works to curb his coughing.  I can hear the crud lodged in the tiniest recesses of his sweet little lungs.  At least with the coughs I know he is moving it around, which is part of the battle.  Then there is the "getting it out" and the controlling impending infection.  Translation:  Calling the doc for meds.  He is pleasant and cuddly.  I feel him shift downward firmly and settle into laying at the foot of the bed.

Once the next show has wrapped up, the vibrant green numbers on the clock report, 7:08.

We all hop out of bed and head downstairs and begin our day with respiratory vests and nebulized medications.  Same morning drill.  Same grind.  On this morning, the gears in my head calculate the timing of the day to get in extra treatments.  It is imperative that we break up that cough.

In my reflection of the morning at the computer, I glance at my watch.  Oh no!  It's time to go get Michael from school.  I bolt up from my daydream.  It's now a race to get Dylan in the car and strapped into his carseat to make it on time for Michael's pick up.  The next day he would start antibiotics for the continued sinus trouble and cough that is now plaguing him.

Days later, we find ourselves on a lazy Sunday evening embarking on a family walk.  Our bellies full of dinner, (honestly, the boys' bellies full of high fat custard-style yogurt, but never-the-less full), we decide a walk together would do us good.  We start off awkward and fragmented.  Pausing for the boys to look at goregous spring flowers like dandelions and then again for the dog to do her business, we can't seem to find a fluid stride.

It isn't until the boys are super wild and distracted that I decide to walk ahead with the dog and Michael.  I leave my husband back to wrangle Dylan, and propose to Mike that we have a good run the rest of the way home.  He is argumentative and finding excuses, no matter, I begin hastening my stride.  He starts to run too.  The dog is loving the jog and soon enough we are a pack fully running together.

Michael slows and complains that he is tired.  But I know better.  I challenge him we run a bit farther and then I suggest we make it to the bend where we turn onto our street.  We race all the way to the street sign.  I am listening again.  He sounds clear.  He seems good.  His words say he is tired, but all indications are that this boy is doing good with the exercise.

We finally arrive at the narrative street signs and we pause to look a back and search for Daddy and Dylan.  I suggest to Mikey that we can turn onto our street to walk home since I know he is tired.  "No, Mommy.  Why don't we run?!" he exclaims.  I smile and say, "Well, I know you are a GREAT runner, but it seems to me that you were saying you were tired, so maybe we should walk."  His blue eyes dance against the gray overcast sky.  There is a sparkle and his lips curl up with a sweet smile.  "No, let's run again."  And so we do.

We begin down the long street in a good even pace.  We discuss how he trick-or-treated at these same houses months ago in October.  "I think I got ten hundred candy that night," he recollects.  I myself remember the family of deer we saw as we slowed and crouched to watch them pass, just maybe a 100 feet from us.

Then suddenly Michael says, "Mommy, look!  We have only a minute and twenty seconds!  I am watching my timer on my phone.  They are catching up we better hurry if we are going to win the race."  I start laughing in my faster, airy breath as we jog.  This kid is challenging himself.  He is keeping his own timer.  He continues to give me status reports all the way down the street on his imaginary stopwatch - sometimes the time even ticking backwards.  At four, he loves math and time, but is still learning the concepts fully.  Whatever the case, I am loving the energy, excitement and enthusiasm of his appreciation of the jog together.  It is pure joy.

My running mate, trusty pup, and I all arrive at our driveway.  Michael exclaims, "We won the gold medal!  And we beat Daddy and Dylan."  I remind him about being a good friend and about sportsmanship.  We are not spent, but feel great at getting our blood pumping.  We ran the last stretch, probably a good 5 minutes - a long way uninterrupted for a 4 year old.  Back all the way to our driveway.  My radar detected no coughing.  No complaining.  I can't believe it.

As the days pass, the grind is exhausting.  On all of us.  In many ways, the grind keeps us going.  And yes, the clock is indeed ticking.  In my private moments, I can see through the lenses that remind me that each day is precious.  Each breath is so irreplaceable.  There are the moments where I feel like the sands are slipping through the hourglass as scientists in the lab try to work and rework that cure for my boys we so desperately need.

But in this run, I find something new.  Alive.  And beautiful.  My son's stopwatch is ticking.  Is it ever.  It becomes clear to me that he is running his own race.  On his on time.  He is setting his own pace.

And winning.

Every day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Merriam Webster Dictionary defines "luck" as...

1 a : a force that brings good fortune or adversity
    b : the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual
2:  favoring chance; also : success <had great luck growing orchids>

*  *  *
We are standing before a room filled with some of the most amazing people in our lives.  Yet we  only know a fraction of them.  The souls that stare back at us are fighters and friends, scientists and survivors, doctors and dads, miracle-workers and moms.  They are the volunteers, staff, and executives of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation all gathered in one room.  We are attending the meetings that bring these brilliant minds together to share the ideas, the change, the hope and the mission ahead...

We are all here to cure Cystic Fibrosis.

For Michael.  For Dylan.  For Wells.  For Colin.  For Rosie.  And Kevin and Brady and Brock and Addy and Nathaniel and Francis and Luke.  For Eli and Savannah and Megan and so so so many more...

The individuals in this room are the extraordinary people who give me hope every night I put my head on my pillow and pray that the boys will have a better life with each passing day.  On this momentous occasion, my husband and I have the distinct honor of speaking before these individuals, who all connected together by one insidious disease.

All focused.  All with the same unwavering vision.  All staring at me.  500 people staring back at me.  The ballroom is vast and the lights are blaring their intensity as we stand on stage.  My hands are shaking.  Quickly, I hide them with my notes.  Flutters are bounding through my stomach.  I lick my lips, and I am praying that when I speak something comes out.  Not tears.  Not silence.  Words would be good.

My charismatic husband, always good with words and people, makes me even more nervous.  Five years ago, I had no problems speaking in front of crowds.  I was in sales for God's sakes!  But time passting of chasing kids, pouring juice in sippy cups and changing diapers has altered my confidence a tad.  My husband introduces me and I am humbled by his kind words and I see the interested faces in the audience.   Listening.  Thoughtfully.

As he turns the mic over to me, I step to the podium.  My hands are shaking uncontrollably and my self-consciousness takes over.  Oh please, words...  words... words.  Where are you now?  I rest my hands firmly in front of me to override the shaking. and I begin to talk.  Much to my satisfaction, the words do in fact come out.  I choke down hard as I talk about our boys and how we are very much in this fight with everyone in the room.  I share how inspired I am after hearing about the promise of the science, the strategy of the Foundation, and about the heart of each person in the room.  I explain, "As I was hooking up our boys to the machines for their daily grind of CF treatments, sweet and sensitive Dylan proceeded to ask me in his adorable three-year-old  lisp, 'Is it time to do vet and max?'  It was his way of asking of an ordinary thing...  was it time to do "vest and mask?"  For him, nothing had changed.  Today was the same as yesterday.  Same drill.  Nothing was different.  But for me in that moment, I swallowed hard and smiled at him knowing that today was, in fact, different.  There is hope that things will be different.  But our work is nowhere near finished.  There is still much to be done..."

I continue on with the actionable steps everyone can take as they move on in their own fights and fundraising.  I wrap up and  I feel my shoulders relax a bit as I step back away from the podium.  Phew!  I didn't melt in a puddle of tears.  And I don't think I fumbled.  I am fairly certain that the words all came out.  Oh good!  The words all came out!  Deep breath and smile.

Next my husband wraps the meeting with his insightful thoughts.

"Every year I look forward to this meeting because I always walk away inspired and motivated to go back to my home market and try to make a difference.  It's no secret that the success of this organization can be attributed to the passion of its people.  That clearly starts with the leadership team at the Foundation, but it runs deep through our volunteer network. I've spent a lot of time over the past few years thinking about some of our volunteers who inspire me.  Certain ones who have been asked to lead and I marvel at what they were able to achieve (and how the organization has achieved thanks to their leadership.)  After having the honor of hearing many of them speak at this conference in the past, I instantly knew why they (and WE) have been fortunate enough to celebrate some great successes.  I've often asked myself, how did we get so lucky to have such amazing leaders like this at our organization? I would like to conclude today by sharing an epiphany I had over the past year, which I think offers one possible answer to this question.  

As volunteers, we share a commonality that I believe drives our collective passion.  That commonality is, quite simply, that we have come to understand the struggle of those who are affected by this disease. No matter what your connection is, whether you are a father or mother, a grandparent or other relative, a friend or neighbor, or just an acquaintance. You have been touched by the story of someone who has Cystic Fibrosis.  And you've come to understand their daily battle with this maddening disease. I believe it is our unique understanding of this struggle that fuels our passion.  And there's no doubt that our passion is infectious.  It has the power to inspire, it is responsible for our past successes  and continues to be our beacon of hope, lighting an optimistic path into the future. In the end, my realization was that luck has got nothing to do with it." 
*  *  *

His words linger in my head two weeks later.  He gives me reflection on luck.  That little leprechaun  sneaking about life leaving a trail of luck and green glitter.

On this gorgeous pre-spring afternoon at home, I have a few moments to think, "What should I do with myself?"  Not a regular thought, certainly, and on this breezy, sunny afternoon I am appreciating all my luck and good fortune.  Michael is at school a few hours longer this day and my house is surprisingly tidy, given we had friends visiting yesterday afternoon.  I really don't want to fuss with laundry and all the loads that will inevitably come with it.  They can wait.

I decide to head outside to our expansive patio where Dylan is toddling around and exploring without his big brother smothering him.  I recognize the time for Dylan to do things in his space without a big brother interfering is a treasured moment sometimes.  I pause and inhale the buds starting to bloom and the warmth of the sun on my cheeks.  Bright and illuminating.  Early spring.

I decide to get our rambunctious dog in the yard to play fetch.  What could be a better way to soak in the time.  I glance at my watch as I release the insanity that we call our dog into the yard.  Quarter after two.  Huh, I have about thirty minutes before I need to get Michael.  Haley paces and swirls around me, shaking anxiously for me to throw her rubber orange ball, her favorite ball for fetch.  She cries and she tries jumping on me.  I grab the blue launcher for her ball and head into the yard.

After a good ten throws she is wiped out.  I send her inside for a drink of water and a treat to sit and get a breather.  Hmm, I think.  Quick minute to call my husband and check in.  Once, I hang up from the call, Haley is back on her feet crying at the sliding glass door to go back out for another round.  She stares at me intently and whines her angst to me that she wants one more session before she knows we'll be leaving the house to get Michael.

Begrudgingly, I let her outside again.  She bursts through the cracked sliding glass door like it's her last chance at freedom.  She races to her orange ball and snatches it in her jaw.  She paws at the ground and drops the ball.  And looks up eagerly at me.

I guide her to another part of the yard to launch the ball in a different direction.  She agrees and follows.  On the third throw, I release the ball.  The bright sun is painful in my eyes and I squint with horror on the direction where the ball is tracking.  My throw is off because of the intensity of the sun. Usually, Haley figures out when a balll is overthrown, underthrown or off.  In this case, the ball is off.  IN A VERY UNLUCKY WAY.

I begin cringing as I see my beautiful pup running full speed trying to catch a ball toward a tree.  I can't watch so I close my eyes.  She HAS to realize that she is so close to the tree.  Dogs JUST SENSE these things.  I open my eyes to see her collide with the tree.  The yelp is startling.  My stomach turns and I start screaming and running toward her.  No no no no no!!  She had hit the tree snout first and was thrust backwards.  I am running toward her and begin frantically assessing what happened.  Haley lay still on the ground for a few moments, then she picks herself up and slowly circles the tree.  I approach her bloodied face and gently take her chin in my hands.  She slowly sits and plops her head in my hands.  She closes her eyes from the immense pain.   I try to see where the gushing of blood is coming from, to no avail.

Dylan is on the porch watching everything.  I close my own eyes tightly and take a deep breath.  I open my eyes.  Yep, same scene.  I quickly usher Haley up to the house and press a towel to her wounds.  I frantically dial the vet's office, a friend to pick up Michael from school and my husband.  He is flabbergasted and concerned.  It had only been minutes since he just talked to cheery me.  And now I have a full blown doggie 911 on my hands.  It's go time.

Only one problem.  The dog is not going.  Anywhere.  She firmly plants her butt down on the patio and fiercely pulls back on her leash as if to tell me, "No way.  Not goin'!  Never."  She is hurting and needs help and NOW she wants to argue with me.  I gently and sweetly pet her and talk to her.  Stand up and pretending nothing has occurred, I begin walking forward.  She stays planted and yanks back against me.  I begin loudly pleading with the dog (like it's going to help).

It's then that I hear Dylan muttering, "Haywee hurrt.  She has a boo boo."  I feel the urgency of getting her to the vet's office.  I begin pulling with all my strength against the dog.  Thank GOD!  The motion and the movement of my pulling lifts her butt up and she begins her momentum in the same direction.  My poor dog.  She realizes she is in pain and she knows that I am unrelenting.  She has given in.  She needs help.  And frankly, probably wants to be done with me.

Minutes later we are in the car and it is eerily quiet.  No yelling kids.  No radio.  No cell phone ringing.  Q U I E T.  The silence makes me more edgy.  I wonder if this is strangely how I got my quiet afternoon back?

We race into the office where the tech greets us immediately and takes Haley to the waiting doctor.  We would spend nearly an hour in that waiting room to find out that with some bumps and some cuts, our beloved dog is okay.  The vet advises how lucky Haley is and how much worse it could have been.  She is a kind woman and hands me a bunch of medications with directions.   The front office as we pay and head out hand Dylan a green balloon.  (Read all about Dylan's adventure with the Red Balloon here.)

Green.  How appropriate today.

*  *  *

It is a few days later that we find ourselves with friends at our kitchen table partaking in corned beef and cabbage.  It is St. Patrick's Day, the most celebrated day of shamrocks, pots of gold and luck.  As we are eating, the children giggle at how a leprechaun left a trail of green evidence around our friends' house.  Michael shares how a leprechaun's tiny green footprints and "green magic glitter" were scattered about their classroom at school this week.

I smirk and think about luck.  Though I have personally never seen the trail of glitter, it does make me wonder.

Later the kids are playing outside in the yard.  They are running and laughing.  The dog is feeling better and is ecstatic to be playing fetch with Dylan again.  And of course, with her favorite orange rubber ball.  She takes a pause in the yard and relaxes.

Dylan calls loudly for me and runs over to me.  I lean over to kiss him and he says, "I want dat!  I need dat!"  And he points to my necklace.  It is a bauble where one side is a picture of a four-leaf clover and the other in archaic calligraphy reads, "Lucky girl".  I laugh as he tugs at the pendant around my neck, and I hug him... one of my little leprechauns.   Lucky girl, eh?

Cystic Fibrosis.     Progress.
Family.     Friends.     Man's best friend.
Tragedy.     Triumph.     Hurt.     Healing.

It's not about never is.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

One Red Balloon

In the mania of life, I find myself sitting in a vet's office with Dylan and our chocolate labrador retriever, Haley.  Dylan scales the bench in the lobby while Haley trembles violently.  She sits tucked neatly under my legs and her head tightly adjacent behind my knee.  I know she is convinced if she can avoid eye contact with any of the office staff, she can prevent any further harm.

As we wait for the dog to get her immunizations, Dylan picks up the two ceramic treat jars that they staff have placed out for the pets corraling through the office every day.  Brilliant.  Wonder how they haven't figured out to keep these treats at a level for "grown-ups only".  But a shattered ceramic treat jar is the least of my worries these days.  So, I let him happily open and close the jar and feed treats to Haley.

As passers-by compliment Haley, she shakes harder and more violently.  She normally loves attention.  Apparently, not here.  Dylan tosses her the umpteenth treat.

The tech comes and gets Haley for her dreaded shots and I am left with Dylan and nothing to occupy him.  Dylan starts to play with all the items they have for purchase...  dog bones, dog toys, and the like.  I am just waiting for the argument to begin about taking home a new dog toy that Dylan will surely take under his care.  In this moment, a kind woman with the staff greets us and suggests they can give him a balloon if would like.  She asks Dylan directly, what color would he like?  No hesitation, he blurts out, "Wed!"

The two receptionists behind the counter laugh and one of them starts filling a red balloon with helium.  He excitedly takes the red balloon and grasps it tightly since last time his green balloon floated up to the ceiling and popped on a hot light.

Haley barrels out from her shots and the tech can hardly handle her strength and desperate pulling to get to me and Dylan.  Her loud crying can almost be translated as, "Thank GOD you are still here!  Get me home, get me home!"  She couldn't be happier to see us.

We all pile in the car to go get Michael from school.  Dylan's little fist clutching his red balloon.  We forge ahead with our day remiss in bringing Dylan's prized red balloon in the house after school and errands.

Dylan discovers the forgotten red balloon the next day as we depart for school.  It is still in our car, and surprisingly still floating.  Today is a day both kids are in school at the same time.  It's the only day of the week that I get two hours, YES TWO HOURS, without either one of my little guys.  Not really a break since I have to fold probably a mountain of laundry.  Let's just say it's a mental break.

Both Michael and Dylan are revved this day with energy and the sillies as they climb into our SUV.  The sillies are when the boys can't wind down.

No.  Matter.  What.

They are obnoxious.  They are silly.  They are savages.  I now read the book, "Where the Wild Things Are" with an entirely new appreciation.  And as we get into the car, Dylan is surprised to see his treat from our trip to the vet's office the day before.  He giggles and continues speaking their silly, gibberish with Michael.  What is it with little boys and the potty language?!  Four letter words alright, at least the tame ones...  "poop, poop, poop"  And I think if I hear the word, "balls" one more time, I will lose it.

Neither will get in the seat and we are running late because I was tempted to throw a chicken together in the crockpot as we were walking out the door.  Dylan starts taking the red balloon and hitting me and Michael in the face.  On the eighth time, I snap.  "That's it!"  I have ignored the nonsense long enough.  I grab the balloon out of Dylan's hand.  As I go to strap Michael in, in my haste, I let go of the balloon.  Not on purpose.  But not not on purpose.

OH NO.  Holy Hell is about to break lose...!  I lower my head.  Dylan starts screaming as he watches his red balloon float up into the gray New Jersey skies.

The balloon slowly drifts up.  Since the helium is tired presumably because it's a day-old balloon, it moves painfully slow.  But it's full enough of helium that it tracks upward with no end.  Michael yells at me about what a bad mother I am.  Mean Mommy.  Dylan is inconsolable watching the balloon waft up to the clouds.  I just have no words.  Dylan is sweating as scalding tears stream down his sweet, soft cheeks.

It is part frustration, part sadness swirling as the damn balloon lifts higher and higher.  While it was a mistake, I tell myself with brutal honesty, I was just trying to remove it for a minute and didn't realize that it was a 'gone forever' moment.  I just needed to get the uncooperative kids in the car.  I am not entirely sure if I didn't also sort of mean to let go.  I just needed to let go of it...  for a moment.  One less factor to already muddle my complicated day.  In this mental consoling, I realize that I need to just let go more often.  Just maybe not of my toddler's balloon outside.

I certainly wasn't trying to crush my three-year-old's heart.

After Dylan's tantrum of full throttle kicking and thrashing to hit home he is mad (as if the screaming and crying wasn't enough?!), the raw emotion in the car radiates from each of the three of us as I drive the familiar route to school.  Michael tries to give me his dissertation on the event...  how would I like it if he threw out all of my jewelry?  And maybe he will make me a new necklace now because he knows that I am sad and sorry the balloon is now gone.

Dylan pouts and is angry, scrunching is little mouth in a tight pout and angling his eyes out the car window.  I continue to mutter to words of apology to Dylan.  He scoffs at me.  I try to touch his leg and he kicks me -- hard.  There is no use in trying.

But I am a mother.  I gotta come up with something.  In this moment of awful dread, I weirdly need him to forgive me.  I love these boys so much, and we are all so overstressed with all the demands of early childhood and rigors of a chronic disease.  The stress in our lives is maxed out.  I fear it is all taking its toll and we are all unpleasant to each other these days.  I want us all to find the love.  The laughter.  And the joy.  This is not how it should be.

I gotta figure out something.  I tell them I will try to find the lost red balloon if they can both just go into school nicely.  "You're going to find it?!  How are you going to find it?"  Michael is reluctant.  I will, I promise.  Mommies can some times fix things...  some times not.  I will try to fix this.  I explain that might even call the "balloon people".  Michael says, "What balloon people?" in a serious and not-buying-it tone.  He is too smart for his own good.  I explain not to ask questions, but sometimes there are people who can help in these kinds of situations (yeah, like stores that sell latex balloons...)  He is satisfied with my answer and responds, "I'll bet they have tall tall tall ladders."  Yep, buddy, I am sure they do.

This is enough to motivate both boys out of the car and into their classrooms.  Dylan tells every grown-up he sees about the red balloon, but once in his classroom he is shy and withdrawn as I get him settled.  After a few minutes of playing with blocks, I hug him and whisper that I will do my best to find his balloon.  He gives me two pecks on the mouth and nods when I ask if he'll be okay.

Once in my car, I realize with all the commotion, I am left with about one hour to do anything.  So, I head to the store to buy the one red balloon with a red ribbon.  At the floral counter of the grocery store, the employee smiles warmly at me as I approach.  She is working on a massive floral arrangement of deep scarlet roses and green leaves.  The yellow daffodils also smile brightly at me.  I explain that I need one red balloon with a red ribbon.  She quickly fills it from the helium tank, I notice the balloon is HUGE, much bigger than the other day-old red balloon.  I politely ask her to let some of the helium out.  She gives me a funny look and I explain the situation.  "I am trying to replace it to match the one I lost for my three-year-old."  Maria smiles brightly and releases some of the air.  As she ties the knot of the ribbon on the balloon, she affixes a weight (no charge) to the end of it.  She winks as I turn to head to register to pay.

An hour later I enter the classroom to pick up Dylan.  The children enter as they were playing in a different room.  Dylan is the third tot to enter through the doorway and the millisecond he sees me, he darts for me.  I am crouched and waiting to hug him with open arms.  He nearly plows me over.  We hug long and hard and then he stops and pulls back.  Dylan stares deeply into my eyes and whispers softly, "Did you find my wed bawoon?"  I nod and his face slowly reveals a grin.  He takes my hand and guides me over to the hooks where his coat is hanging.  He is ready to get his red balloon.

As the rest of the day would go, there would be more outwitting, more silliness, and more reprimanding.  The chicken for dinner would be ruined, CF treatments would be a course in tactical negotiating, and hubby would not be coming home until late.  But even with all of this, for one moment in my day, there was love, laughter, and joy.  All from one red balloon.

Well, two red balloons.