Xander Rocks!

Well, boys and girls, this past week was most definitely something folks in the media refer to as a “busy news week.” Between the Steve Spurrier’s “resignation” announcement, Steve Sarkisian and Randy Edsall’s termination and Will Grier’s failed drug test, the stories have practically written themselves. It’s been an all-you-can eat buffet for sports commentators, plenty of talking points and topics to debate, enough to fill everyone’s time slots and columns.

Like most, I, too, have formed my own opinions on all of the above, and like most, I have probably invested too much time and energy discussing the stories with friends and family. But, the topics warranted the extra attention and will no doubt continue to be talking points well into the off -season. Right now, though, I have something more important to share with you. Something that means more to me than a failed drug test or a disappointing season.

It’s the story about a boy named Xander.

My husband has known Xander’s father, Brian, since the 5th grade, and over the years, we have become very close with both he and his wife, Denise. We have shared weddings, birthdays, holidays and the annual pig roast at their house ─ which is really just an excuse to get everyone together to drink Brian’s homemade beer!

Like us, Brian and Denise have two children: The youngest is a little girl, and the oldest a 8-year-old named Xander. Our children have known each other since birth, and while we could always have made a little more time to get the families together, we consider them some of our closest friends.

Xander and his family.
Xander and his family.

For Brian and Denise, the last eight months have been the most difficult of their lives. It’s been a living hell because on February 12th, a doctor told them their son had a brain tumor. While doctors were able to remove 98% of the tumor, 2% remained embedded in Xander’s brain stem and spinal fluid ─ he was ultimately diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of Medulloblastoma.

Xander is only 8-years-old, and words like chemotherapy, radiation and gene-targeted therapy are a part of his daily vocabulary. He should be in school, running around on the playground bragging to his friends about what he’s going to be for Halloween. Instead, he’s in a hospital fighting for his life.

As a parent of young children, my mind is unable to fully grasp the emotions my friends undoubtedly experienced when they heard the word cancer. And, I have no way to remotely understand the fear and helplessness they feel trying to protect their baby from a disease they can’t control. But, what Brian and Denise have been able to control is their strength.

Xander with my kids at his fundraiser.
Xander with my kids at his fundraiser.

While most marriages might fall apart in such a devastating time, their love for each has seemingly strengthened. Despite the adversity, they continue to use words like power, confidence and miracle…even during some of the most difficult hours. Brian and Denise have also unselfishly remained committed to updating their family and friends on Xander’s condition and continue to express their gratitude for the prayers that, according to Brian, have “kept us going and have the power to help make miracles happen.”

This past Sunday morning, Xander was admitted to the hospital after having a severe seizure. He was heavily sedated and intubated so doctors could remove fluid from his brain. As difficult as it was to type the words, Brian wrote this on his Facebook page:

“Despite all of the adversity and negativity, we can do this, and we will! My son is alive!…Xander is going to wake up, we will get the breathing tube out, we will monitor him, we will get a home health nurse to help us, we will continue his treatment, we will manage his symptoms, we will keep him out of the hospital, and we will get him well. Thank you all for your love and support throughout this journey. We will never give up.”

Xander
Xander

On Monday, the tube was removed. Xander opened his eyes and smiled! A small miracle for a little boy and his amazing family.

I know we all have extremely busy lives, and at times, fight to just make it through the day. But if you have a moment today or tomorrow or even next week, please send a prayer or positive thought Xander’s way, and if you leave a comment below on this blog…I will make sure Xander’s parents see it!

Brady’s Magic

I have identical twin boys who will turn 6-years old in January. While my kids look very much alike (to everyone else except me, that is), their personalities are drastically different. For example, my son Brady loves magic. I’m not talking about pull a rabbit out of a hat, penny behind the ear kind of magic, I’m talking about Peter Pan, Jackie Paper, Pixie dust kind of magic.

While his brother Liam has the occasional “Wow moment,” Brady spends about 99% of the day in imagination overdrive. Here’s how his mind works: On my birthday Brady gave me a stick. Yup, a regular stick, but to Brady the stick was anything but ordinary. It was magic. I remember him picking it up, examining his discovery and then marching over to me with it in his little hand and in his proudest voice he said, “Mommy, this is for you, it’s a soft stick. Rub it on your arm, and it will make everything better!”

My birthday was in July, and I still have that stick in my purse…I bring it everywhere.

My birthday Stick
My birthday Stick

Sadly, I know Brady’s going to outgrow this stage. It’s inevitable. I know one day he’ll find that stick in my purse and think I’m a crazy lady for carrying it around so long — but in the meantime, I’m going to try to find every opportunity to create magical moments in his little world. I had that opportunity this summer when I created a Treasure Island.

We live on a lake in the Charlotte area, and at least once a week we load up our pontoon boat and head out to one of the lake’s small islands. Before the summer began, I bought a large bag of costume jewelry, mostly rings. Red, blue and purple pieces of large gaudy plastic, but to my sons these rings were treasures. As soon as we dropped anchor, my boys and I would jump off the boat and run onto the sand. They would turn their back, and I would throw the rings on the ground and yell, “Honey, what is that right there?” The look on Brady’s face when he discovered the rings was priceless. Pure joy!

Found on Treasure Island!
Found on Treasure Island!

The boys never caught me in the act. They have no idea the treasures came from me, and I hope they never do.

Now before you go thinking I’m a complete overachieving parent, I assure you I’m not! Raising kids is damn hard, and I have mad respect for all the stay-at-home mommies and daddies who make it look easy. You are my heroes because there are many days I feel as if the walls are closing in on me. I have contemplated grabbing the garbage can and tossing every single Power Ranger toy and Pokeman card scattered around my house, and yes way too many times I’ve rushed through a bedtime story because “Mommy is spent, and she needs to go to bed.”

Sometimes. I need a reminder to stop and see the magic.

This summer as I was preparing for the NBA draft, I read a blog entry by Frank Kaminsky in which he referred to a passage from his favorite book Boy’s Life. The passage spoke about the magic of childhood and how that magic influences the adult you will become. Reading it opened my eyes. It made me think a lot about small moments with my kids. Moments that will one day vanish forever.

The other night, Brady came up to our bedroom around 3 a.m. crying about a bad dream. After I calmed him down, I brought him back to his bed and tucked him in. Normally I would head right back to bed, but this night I decided to sit there for a few minutes longer. I stroked Brady’s hair and watched his little eyes flutter as he started to drift off. Then it happened. Brady’s eyes popped open, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, I love you so much,” then he puckered his little lip and gave me the sweetest kiss. As he fell back to sleep, I thought about how close I came to missing that moment.

With Brady on a "Mommy date day"
With Brady on a “Mommy date day”

I’m not a perfect parent. I’m not as present as I should be. But who is? I try to remind myself that the laundry will get folded, my football prep will get done and so what if we have leftovers for dinner three nights in a row. I try to remind myself to stop, for just a second, because I never know what kind of magic is waiting just beyond that moment.

If you’d like to read Kaminsky’s post, along with the Boy’s Life passage you can find it here! The Moose Basketball: On Wisconsin Forever

With Kaminsky and Okafor the day before the NBA draft
With Kaminsky and Okafor the day before the NBA draft