Write a Letter to Santa and Help Wish Kids!

Between November 7 – December 24, visit your local Macy’s store or Macy’s Believe online to submit your child’s letter to Santa and help make dreams come true for Make-A-Wish kids around the country. For every letter received through December 24, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish (up to $1,000,000).

Jack LOVES the idea of Santa. In prior years he has written Santa several letters, made him cards, even even built a shrine in his room. At eight years old, it seems that he might be starting to waiver in his devotion and questioning a bit more, but still – he wrote a letter to Santa this year, asking for a haunted house and asking that Santa respond if he got the message. He included his very own “return receipt,” which was a drawing of some toys and dashed lines to indicate where to cut.

LettertoSanta

Santa dutifully responded and Jack was beyond excited. He just knows Santa will come through for him.

David and I set to work looking for a toy haunted house. We didn’t find much, but we didn’t want Jack to feel let down by Santa, especially on the last year he’s likely to believe in him. So we bought a dollhouse and developed a plan to paint it, sand it, and turn it into something haunted. I was also able to find a “monster bucket” on (post-Halloween) sale so that should help us haunt the place up.

This may seem like a lot of effort, but Santa is just one small thing that adds magic to Jack’s life amid all the hardship he endures due to Leukemia. Make-a-Wish helped in this effort this summer, as well, when Jack was granted his wish for a TARDIS bedroom makeover. Jack is still delighted by his room and with the granting of his wish, we saw a happiness in him that we haven’t seen in a long time.

He's in love.

He’s in love.

This holiday season Macy’s is helping to bring magic to more kids with their Believe Campaign by working with the Make-a-Wish Foundation! This year marks the seventh year of Macy’s Believe campaign, which invites believers of all ages to drop off letters to Santa at any Macy’s store by depositing them in special, designated Santa Mail letterboxes. You may also submit your letter online at Macys.com/believe.

For each letter received by December 24th, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million, to grant the wishes of children (like Jack!) with life-threatening medical conditions. Last year, Make-A-Wish granted the wishes of more than 14,000 children across the United States. A wish is granted every 38 minutes!

Here in the Bay Area, Make-A-Wish is working on granting the wish of 4-year-old Joysse, a girl from San Mateo who was diagnosed with Leukemia. For her one true wish, Joysse asked for a princess party complete with purple and pink decorations, a princess dress with a cape and crown, cake and ice cream and more! She is so excited that she asks her mom, Gabriela, about it every day. Her party is scheduled for January, but as a surprise, Macy’s will be helping her prepare for her wish with a very special celebration at the San Francisco Union Square location.

To help kids like Jack and Joysse this year, make a trip to Macy’s or visit them online to submit your child’s letter to Santa. It’s totally free for you and yet you will get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped bring some magic back to the life of a child with a life-threatening illness!

stockings

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

A Wish Come True in Time and Space

After waiting nearly two years, Jack’s wish finally came true.

Initially he’d told Make-a-Wish he wanted to meet Lady Gaga. He made a dance video to the tune of Monster (which was the first time I’d ever seen him dance!) to send to her and he waited patiently for his turn. But he kept slipping further down the list due to kids in more urgent health situations and then Lady Gaga got injured on the road and canceled all her shows in order to get surgery.

In the mean time, Jack’s interests evolved and he became obsessed with Dr. Who. He will debate with you about the scariest aliens in the series and has strong opinions about which doctor is the best (the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith, is #1! Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is #2 and David Tennant comes in at #3). Jack has watched Dr. Who almost every day for the past two years or so. He rarely watches anything else.

JackAge8

Doesn’t he look like a mini Matt Smith??

Last year we decided to give his room a little makeover since we wanted to build him a loft bed anyway. We did our best to turn his room into our (weak) interpretation of the TARDIS. We had limited money, but Jack was happy with the results. He’s got a good imagination, after all, and was able to fill in the blanks.

Not soon after, we talked about his wish and he decided he wanted to change it. He wasn’t very interested in Lady Gaga anymore. Instead, he wanted to meet the aliens from Dr. Who. Unfortunately, Make-a-Wish has a rule that the kids can’t switch from one celebrity wish to another (due to the long wait lists), so Jack settled on a more extensive room makeover that would add a console to his room and really make it into a TARDIS.

He submitted his new wish back in November and then we waited. During the wait, Jack made a lot of comments about how he wished he really had a TARDIS so that he could bypass the waiting altogether. Since the project was so unique, it took some time to find the right designer to work on it. Eventually they found Julie Giampaoli from Showcase Your Place, an interior designer in the area who was up for the challenge despite not knowing about Dr. Who!

She knows now!

Julie and Make-a-Wish pooled together some awesome resources and on July 22nd, the team arrived to get to work. I’ll admit it – I was more than a little nervous when they started drilling into my ceiling. But this was Jack’s wish and I just had to trust the process.

We were not disappointed. This video of the room reveal shows Jack’s stunned reaction pretty well:

 

And here are more extensive pictures of the process:

Jack LOVES his bedroom. He says it’s “too awesome!”

We are all so very thankful to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, their volunteers, and supporters for helping bring Jack’s wish to fruition and put some magic back into his life. We will treasure this experience for the rest of our lives!

Walking For Wishes

One of the hardest parts about this portion of the cancer journey is the lack of attainable milestones. There are three phases to Jack’s treatment regimen, and we’re in the third and longest portion – Maintenance. While Maintenance is supposed to be the least intense phase because the treatments are more spread out, they stretch out across two and a half years. Jack started Maintenance in October 2012, so our next milestone is…

March 15, 2015.

That’s a long way off. Right now it feels like the end of treatment will never come. It seems like we have an endless number of doctor appointments, medications, procedures, blood draws, and dressing changes ahead of us. And through March 2015 we’ll surely worry about fevers and infections and side effects and fatigue and keeping our jobs and paying bills.

Rather than focusing on the depressing difficulties ahead, we distract ourselves. One way to do that is to create other things to look forward to, which Jack has done through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Last year he met with the Bay Area chapter of Make-A-Wish and submitted his wish to meet Lady Gaga (go check out his video!). We’ve been patiently waiting for his turn since.

Recently Lady Gaga had to cancel her tour due to her own health challenges. Not only are we sad to hear that she is having health problems, but we are bummed that the granting of Jack’s wish – a milestone we were looking forward to – will be delayed, as well. That wish means a lot to our whole family. It means hope and inspiration and excitement and happiness and light in the dark. It means some manner of relief, which is difficult to be found during a cancer battle no matter how many people offer support. I’m sure you can understand why we are a bit fixated on it.

With Jack’s wish being delayed and new waves of exhaustion settling upon us, we decided to distract and rally ourselves with a new goal: the East Bay Walk For Wishes. The Walk For Wishes is a 5k walk that raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The East Bay Area chapter hopes to raise enough funds to grant wishes to sixteen children – a total of $120,000.

Our team is called Jack’s Juggernauts and we are (at the moment) eleven people strong! Our team aims to raise $7,500, which is the average cost of ONE child’s wish. My personal goal is to get to $1500 and right now I’m only a little over $400 away from that. I know some very generous people!

Many of you have just finished your taxes and are either getting back refunds or bemoaning your tax bill. Either way – you can do yourself a favor for next year and get a tax deduction by donating to our walk. You don’t have to itemize for donations to count and, in many cases, your employer will match your donation.

If you would like to help us out in our efforts to rally our family and help out kids who are facing life-threatening medical conditions, please donate. Any amount helps.

Support Jack's Juggernauts!

Make A Wish, Little Monster

Last week I submitted the referral for Jack’s wish to the Make A Wish program. If you are living in a hole (one with internet access?) and are unaware of this program, it’s a charitable organization that grants wishes to seriously ill children. From what I understand, most of these kids want to go to Disneyland. Jack, being Jack and ever-unique, wants something very different.

At first, Jack said he wanted to act in a movie as Charlie (of Willy Wonka fame). I thought that was pretty interesting. His dad suggested meeting a football player, which Jack had absolutely no interest in. It was a few weeks later when he settled on wanting to meet Lady Gaga and become one of her “Little Monsters.”

I’m not sure what exactly first drew Jack to Lady Gaga. There were a few songs on the radio and he immediately loved them and protested if I tried to change the station. Then he began requesting that I play Lady Gaga songs every time we got in the car. That led to asking to see her pictures (he declares that people are beautiful based upon their voices on the radio) and then a whole new level of fascination developed. Once he learned that she dresses up in crazy outfits (he thought the meat dress was hilarious), his artistic little heart was completely smitten. After all, Jack has dressed up as one thing or another – or just pretended to be some magical monster or alien – just about every day of his life. In fact his daycare provider quickly learned not to call him “Jack” upon drop off, and instead asked who or what he was that day.

So, one evening he and I were sitting at home hanging out. Jack was dressed as a bat and we were discussing his wish in between his eating everything in sight (he was on the steroid at the time). I figured I’d show him one of Lady Gaga’s music videos. Well, once he saw one, he wanted to watch them all! I sifted through the videos and picked the most kid-friendly ones (this does NOT include Paparazzi!). After watching a half dozen of her videos, Jack decided he needed to make a video, as well, to go along with his wish!

Now, Jack is not very athletic. He was never the kid that swayed his diapered booty to music and he does not sing – nor does he allow most people to sing in his presence. Partially because he is noise-sensitive and partially because he gets incredibly embarrassed by grandiose displays. Up until this evening, I’d only heard him humming (but I wasn’t allowed to acknowledge it) and the only dancing he’d done was in my arms as a baby. Not to mention, he had already begun chemo and was generally low energy, sore, and pretty blah.

I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I turned on some Lady Gaga music and found myself recording this low-quality video (the darkness is one of many reasons we left our apartment in the city) of a dance routine Jack came up with on the spot to go with his Make a Wish application:

We should hear back this week from the Make a Wish Foundation about when they’ll be out to interview Jack regarding his “one true wish.” I can’t wait!

Playing Musical Wheels

Within about a week, we acquired a brand new car and I got a loaner electric car to test drive thanks to Klout. Five cars were sitting in front of our house for a couple days there, including that of David’s sister who has just relocated to the area and stayed with us for a couple of weeks.

Firstly, because apparently I’m interesting or something, I was offered a pretty awesome Klout perk – a two-day loan from Chevy for their electric Volt. I’d never driven an electric car before, so I was happy to sign up. A local Chevy dealership dropped the car off at my house one morning and I got to commute back and forth to work for a couple days on their electric/gas tank. I was getting about 50mpg – HOT!!

If you haven’t seen the Chevy Volt, it’s faaaancy. Back-up camera, beeping when you get too close to another car, push button to start it up, Bluetooth and OnStar technology. Two days was not enough to fully utilize all of these fun things! And even though it was a smaller car, we were able to fit four people in it with the dog in the hatchback (he was quite comfy and got to poke his head between the back seats).ChevyVolt

DashInVolt

Around this same time, the transmission in our 9-year-old Subaru Outback went and started dying (don’t we have the best luck?!). There was also some sort of crazy leak in a bad, bad place (I was told a couple times but my head went LALALALA). The cost to fix it? $4-6k (so you know it’d actually be $6-8k). The car had 120k miles on it and just…wasn’t worth it. Not to mention, we didn’t HAVE that kind of money ’cause we just spent all our money on our house just a few weeks prior. Hot damn!

So off we went (to Costco! did you know they have a car program?) and got something we really love – a 2013 Mazda CX-5 Touring. It’s comfortable, fits all our stuff, can take us to Tahoe in the snow, gets excellent gas mileage for an SUV (we’re at nearly 29mpg right now) and is freaking FUN to drive. Not to mention I don’t get lost anymore because it came with in-dash navigation that talks to me. Woot! Oh and my favorite thing about it – if someone gets into the blind spot, a little light pops up on the side view mirror, then the car starts beeping if you try to veer that way. Safety feature FTW!

What did we do with the Subaru? Well, donated it, of course. I found out that Make-a-Wish takes car donations, so I contacted my local chapter of Wheels For Wishes and they picked up the car a couple days later. It was easy-peasy and we’ll get to write off whatever amount they are able to sell it for at auction – PLUS help make wishes come true for kids like Jack (which reminds me, I need to put in the request for him to meet Lady Gaga – true story).

We are now down to just two cars – I gave back the Volt, David’s sister moved out, and the Subaru is being auctioned off somewhere in SoCal. But all the bells and whistles I’ve gotten to test out have made it clear that my little ‘ol Civic is behind the times…maybe in a few years I’ll get to trade that puppy in.

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Disclosure: I am not being provided with any compensation for this post; however, I did receive a free loan of the Chevy Volt to test out. I was not asked nor required to write a review for the program, and all words here are my own. Please see my Disclosure policy page for more details.