Where’s My Sister?

If you’ve ever watched the Disney Junior channel, and really paid attention, you’ve probably noticed that the majority of relationships between girls are that of sisters. Not friends, sisters. A few animated shows depict this, but you especially see it in the commercials and Disney advertisements.

Kyleigh’s younger sister is almost 3 1/2 years old. She loves all things princess, dolls and pink. This means we watch a lot of Disney Junior. A few months ago, when Sister would see two girls at the park, store or school, she would ask me if they were sisters. Then one day, she asked me if she had a sister. Now, if you know anything about our family, you know that we talk about Kyleigh. A lot. Sister has heard Kyleigh’s name since birth, at every holiday, as we’re planning the Run/Walk, as we’re doing the Diaper Drive. A lot. Kyleigh is not absent from our home, so when Sister asked if she had a sister, I was a little surprised. I answered with, “Of course you do, your sister is Kyleigh.”

Her reply was, “Where is she?”

I proceeded to give her the short, three year old version, and after that, the conversation ended. In my mind, she had been told about Kyleigh a lot and had a clear understanding that they were sisters.

A few weeks later, Sister started referring to a friend of hers as her sister. I gently corrected her and reminded her again of who her sister is. This has continued off and on, but it doesn’t upset me like I thought maybe it would.

With Kyleigh’s birthday being next week, and the Diaper Drive getting underway, there has understandably been more talk about Kyleigh in our house. Yesterday, Sister painted a picture. She showed it to her brothers when they got home from school. One brother asked her who the painting was for. Sister said, “I’m going to give it to Kyleigh!” Brother told her she couldn’t give it to Kyleigh, thus beginning the back and forth “yes, I can”, “no, you can’t” that siblings often do.

Then Sister asked once again, “Where is my sister?”

We explained again that Kyleigh is in heaven with Jesus. Sister replied, “But I don’t want to die.” Insert my heart breaking into a million pieces. Then Brother stepped up and took over. He explained to Sister, in only a way that children can, about why Kyleigh isn’t with us, but that she’s still their sister. Then he had a great idea. He walked Sister over to the cabinet where we keep memories of Kyleigh and proceeded to take the unused picture stand off the bottom shelf and put Sister’s painting for Kyleigh on it. Sister got excited to see her artwork displayed and was content with “giving it to Kyleigh” that way.

Every time Sister talks about sisters, my heart aches. I have a sister. I know what she’s missing. I know that some day she will understand. For now, I have to remind myself that she’s only three and none of this makes any sense to her. And it shouldn’t.

Today is Maundy Thursday. The day that six years ago, Kyleigh left us. The date changes from year to year, but Holy Week will always have an additional meaning to our family. It’s hard to believe that six years has passed. We have come a long way, but are ever so often reminded by questions of, “Where’s my sister?,” that grief will always be present. We do so much in Kyleigh’s name that sometimes I think people assume that takes the pain away. Having Kyleigh’s Gift gives us a focus, but the tears still flow.

If you feel led to remember Kyleigh on her birthday this year, please consider donating to the Kyleigh’s Gift Diaper Drive. We thank you in advance for remembering our baby girl.

Happy Easter!

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A Year in Review ~ 2017

Kyleigh’s Gift highlights from 2017 …

January ~

It’s not very often that we see a rainbow in January, but on January 10, 2017, the weather was just right to make one appear in the sky.  One very faint rainbow was seen from our front yard, which is unusual because we have always seen them looking behind our house, and a double rainbow from a school playground. I haven’t updated Rainbows  in quite some time, but take a look at more rainbows that remind us of Kyleigh.

 

February ~

We love to see babies showing off their Kyleigh’s Gift SleepSacks! Kyleigh’s Gift continues to give every newborn at Liberty Hospital Birthing Center a fleece Halo SleepSack to take home. The lightweight cotton SleepSacks are also available in the Liberty Hospital Gift Shop in a variety of sizes.

 

March ~

More rainbows! On March 29, friends from Kansas City North and Liberty sent us pictures of a beautiful rainbow that could be seen about 30 miles away from our house. We continue to be touched when other people see a rainbow and think of Kyleigh.

March rainbow_Kathleen Johnston

“She was my first thought! I pulled over to take this!” -Kathleen J.

 

April ~

Kyleigh consumes the month of April for our family, and that’s a good thing! Many wonderful things happened in April to remember and honor Kyleigh by.

Donate Life Legacy Walk ~ April 1, 2017 – Midwest Transplant Network kicked off National Donate Life Month with the Donate Life Legacy Walk to honor donor heroes and celebrate life. It was a cold April morning, but we had a good time celebrating Kyleigh’s gift of life through heart valve donation!

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2017 Donate Life Legacy Walk

Kyleigh’s 5th Birthday ~ April 5, 2017 – We celebrated Kyleigh’s 5th Birthday with a family day at a local children’s museum, followed by lunch out. Kyleigh’s siblings enjoyed playing at the children’s museum and were happy to get a day off school. Her grandparents joined us and then other family members arrived later for dinner and cake. Releasing balloons at the cemetery is a special time that we share with our children as we celebrate their sister.

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Diaper Drive ~ April 5-19, 2017 – This was the third year that we celebrated Kyleigh by hosting a diaper drive to benefit HappyBottoms. Since it was Kyleigh’s 5th birthday, we decided to focus on collecting size 5 diapers. As always, our family, friends, community and strangers pulled through and sent diaper after diaper to our front door! Click here to read more about it, and to see the grand total!

Kyleigh’s Gift 5 Year Celebration ~ April 20, 2017 – This was a big night for Kyleigh’s Gift! We celebrated five years of the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund~Liberty Hospital Foundation with family, friends and supporters.

Kari Jo Thomann Bear, from Thomann Financial Services, Inc. and Liberty Hospital Foundation Trustee, presented the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund with $10,000 she received as an Asset Mark Community Inspiration award winner. With this gift, the fund has raised over $100,000 in five years! THANK YOU to Kari Jo and the Thomann family for your support!

Kari Jo Gift

Another part of the celebration was the premiere of Kyleigh’s Gift video, created by Northland CAPS students, Madi and Brenden. Watch it here: Kyleigh’s Gift Video

May ~

One piece that has been missing from Kyleigh’s Gift is support for bereaved families. We started providing support through Miscarriage Care Packages in November of 2016, but we knew that more needed to be done. We began hand-painting angels in May of 2017 for families that experience a loss at Liberty Hospital Birthing Center. The angels will be included in Memory Boxes along with photographs, hand and footprints, hand-knit hats and blankets, plus other keepsakes, provided by the Birthing Center.

June ~

Our family spent Saturday in June celebrating Kyleigh’s gift of life through her donation of two heart valves. Thank you to Midwest Transplant Network for providing lunch and family friendly activities for Donor Family Day. It is always a beautiful way to remember all who have given the gift of life!

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Donor Family Day ~ June 2017

July ~

July was a quiet month at Kyleigh’s Gift. We continued to support families in need, while beginning the initial steps in planning the upcoming 4th Annual Kyleigh’s Gift Run/Walk. July is usually the calm before the storm!

August ~

Kyleigh’s Gift Page Facebook post from August 16, 2017…

“Little sister picked out purple flowers for Kyleigh today. It would have been her first day of kindergarten. A day when she’s missed a little more than usual. After helping with the flowers, little sister asked to go “see Jesus” and was quite excited when she got there, shouting, “Jesus!” over and over again. You can’t argue with that!”

September ~

September 16, 2017 … Six years ago today, our family moved from our home of 10 years to a new home located back in the town where we met and were married. I was almost 12 weeks pregnant with Kyleigh. She was with us six years ago and she showed herself today in the rainbow we saw while eating dinner to celebrate our home.

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October ~

The big news for the month of October is always the Kyleigh’s Gift Run/Walk! This marked the 4th year of having a 5K Run/3K Walk, along with a candlelight service for  National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

The evening turned stormy and cut our activities short, but it turned out to be one of our most successful years yet with just over 300 registrants and raising $21,500! Thank you to everyone who supported the Run/Walk this year!!

Run_Walk Logo 2017

View Run/Walk photos here:

Felicity Portrait Studio, LLC

Zaftig Unicorn Photography

November ~

In the days leading up to Giving Tuesday, we launched a 12 Days of Giving campaign on Facebook to highlight all of the things that Kyleigh’s Gift is doing within Liberty Hospital and the community. Take a look here, Kyleigh’s Gift Fund, or follow the Kyleigh’s Gift Facebook Page to learn more.

December ~

2017 Kyleigh’s Gift donations at work…

An Infant Memorial adorns the walking trail at Liberty Hospital. People visit it year round, leaving flowers, decorative rocks, stuffed animals, toys, wind chimes…anything to remember their baby by. We recently discovered that the area is unknown to some and hard to locate along the trail. One of the things that we love about Kyleigh’s Gift is being able to help when there is a need. An arbor was purchased and installed at the entrance to the Infant Memorial. A big thank you to the Liberty Hospital grounds crew for their guidance and help with this project! Check it out the next time you’re at the hospital. It’s beautiful! What a way to end the year…

More Diapers!

We concluded the Kyleigh’s 5th Birthday Diaper Drive on April 19th and it was another smashing success! This is the third year that we have done a diaper drive to remember Kyleigh on her birthday and this year we focused on size 5’s since Kyleigh would have turned 5.

1 in 3 American families struggle to provide enough diapers to keep their babies happy, healthy and dry. The need for diapers in all sizes is real for many people and size 5 is a big need for HappyBottoms, the local diaper bank that receives all of the donations that are given to us. Once HappyBottoms receives a donation of diapers, the packages are opened up and repackaged into sets of 50 diapers and 30 training pants. This is the amount that each family can receive per month from one of the 35 local social service agencies that partner with HappyBottoms to get the diapers into the hands, and onto the bottoms, of those who need them. The idea behind HappyBottoms is to fill the diaper gap, not the entire need. For more information on HappyBottoms, click here. *Information obtained for this blog post courtesy of happybottoms.org

 

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Map of local agencies that work with HappyBottoms to fill the diaper gap.

 

We often get asked how we are able to get so many diapers and where we put all of them. Most of the diapers are donated by family and friends who want to remember Kyleigh on her birthday. Other donations come from people who hear about the diaper drive and want to support HappyBottoms. Some donations come from people we do not know and we never know where all of the donations come from because many show up without a gift receipt or card attached. We are very thankful for those who help to spread the word, and that includes HappyBottoms and the Liberty Hospital Foundation. As for where we keep the diapers…we clear a corner of our living room and start stacking! It’s fun to watch the pile grow and a challenge to keep the children from climbing and building forts! Every time we would get a delivery, our two year old would say, “More diapers!”

Of course, we could not do this without the support of delivery drivers. Once the diaper drive gets going, we often find our front porch full of diaper boxes. And some days we get more than one large delivery. We came home on the afternoon of Kyleigh’s birthday to find the front porch full of large boxes. It’s always a fun sight to come home to! We even had a few delivery drivers stop to talk to us about Kyleigh and the diaper drive this year.

And then there’s our ever faithful helpers! Our kids love to help carry the diapers inside, open the cardboard boxes, count the diapers and add them to the ever growing diaper tower!

We delivered all of the diapers just this past weekend in the pouring rain. With help from family, we managed to get all of the diapers into three vehicles and make our way over to HappyBottoms where we had help getting all of the diapers inside. They are always so gracious and give us the grand tour, including the warehouse which is our favorite spot to see! It’s amazing to see so many diapers in one place! I should have taken a picture.

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By this point, I’m sure you’re wondering how many diapers we collected this year!

The grand total …

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THANK YOU to everyone who played a role in this year’s diaper drive!!! In three years, Kyleigh’s Gift has collected over 30,000 diapers!! That is amazing and we could not do it without your support!

 

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Thank you!!!

 

This entry was posted on May 2, 2017. 1 Comment

Kyleigh’s 5th Birthday Diaper Drive

Help us remember Kyleigh on her 5th birthday by donating SIZE 5 DIAPERS to the Kyleigh’s 5th Birthday Diaper Drive! All diapers will benefit HappyBottoms, Kansas City’s Diaper Bank.

How can you donate?

1) Leave diapers on our front porch.

2) Diapers may be dropped off in the main lobby of Liberty Hospital by the information desk.

3) Order diapers from Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/n2trdgy

4) Order diapers from Target.com: http://tinyurl.com/mtzbx5q

*Choose ‘Ship to Kyleigh’s Gift’ on either site and the diapers will be sent directly to us!

Thank you for joining us in remembering Kyleigh on her 5th birthday and supporting HappyBottoms!

~The Weller Family

 

Learn more:

HappyBottoms: www.happybottoms.org

Kyleigh’s Gift: www.kyleighsgift.com or www.facebook.com/kyleighsgift

Liberty Hospital Foundation~Kyleigh’s Gift: www.libertyhospitalfoundation.org

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on March 27, 2017. 1 Comment

A Year in Review ~ 2016

Kyleigh’s Gift Highlights from 2016 …

January ~

We start every year off by watching the Rose Bowl Parade. The theme of “Treasure Life’s Journey” was more than appropriate for the Donate Life float, which holds our rose dedication to Kyleigh, who gave the gift of life through two heart valves.

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February ~

A quiet month ended on a high note when 5 babies were born at Liberty Hospital Birthing Center on Leap Day, all receiving Kyleigh’s Gift SleepSacks!

March ~

Easter 2016

 

April ~

Happy 4th Birthday in heaven, Kyleigh!

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To celebrate Kyleigh during her birthday month, we held a diaper drive to benefit HappyBottoms. This was the second year that we honored Kyleigh’s memory with diapers and our biggest collection yet…over 13,000 diapers!!

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May ~

Rainbows continue to be a source of comfort for us. Many family members and friends continue to take pictures of rainbows for us, or tell us that they saw a rainbow and thought of Kyleigh. This rainbow was seen behind our house in mid-May…always a reminder to us of God’s promise and that Kyleigh is safe in His arms.

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The cemetery always looks so beautiful on Memorial Day. memorial-day_2016

Thank you to those who continue to remember Kyleigh on this day, whether it’s with pretty flowers or in your thoughts and prayers.

June ~twilight2016

We spent a beautiful Friday night in June supporting the Liberty Hospital Foundation at Twilight at the Treehouse. Over $82,000 was raised, including $11,000 to fully fund the Student Assistance Program at Liberty Public Schools. The Foundation supports many programs and services and we are honored that Kyleigh’s Gift is one of them!

July ~

The month of July kicked off the beginning of planning for the 3rd Annual Kyleigh’s Gift Run/Walk! Save the Date postcards and sponsor letters were sent out. Monthly planning meetings were put on the calendar. The excitement started to build for what was our biggest year yet!

August ~

Work continued to prepare for the 3rd Annual Kyleigh’s Gift Run/Walk, as well as the beginning stages of putting new ideas in place for how we can further the reach that Kyleigh’s Gift has in our local community. Read on to find out more!

September ~

Unspeakable Loss : We were interviewed for a two-part series on pregnancy and infant loss. This is Part 1 that was featured in the Liberty Tribune newspaper, focusing on miscarriage. The impact that Kyleigh’s Gift has on Liberty Hospital Birthing Center families is featured in both parts.

By the end of September, Kyleigh’s Gift began providing meal vouchers for breastfeeding mothers in the NICU at Liberty Missouri Hospital Birthing Center. Moms in need can use these for up to three meals per day in the hospital cafeteria. Vouchers are also being offered to families in Pediatrics who need extra help during a difficult time.

October ~

October was a big month for Kyleigh’s Gift!

Four different rainbows were seen by family and friends on Kyleigh’s half birthday, October 5th, of all days …

Love & Loss : Part two of the pregnancy and infant loss series was published. We are always honored to share Kyleigh’s story and see it in print. To view more publications, click here: Publications

The 3rd Annual Kyleigh’s Gift Run/Walk took place on October 15, 2016. The day was overcast with a few sprinkles here and there. We weren’t concerned about a rainout, but wanted the weather to hold off for the Run/Walk. Just as the 5K runners took off, the clouds parted and the sun shone bright for the remainder of the Run/Walk. It was a beautiful evening full of laughter and tears, family and friends, love and support! Event photos can be found on the Kyleigh’s Gift Facebook page.

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November ~

By the end of November, the first of the Kyleigh’s Gift miscarriage care packages were distributed throughout Liberty Hospital. Social workers in the Emergency Department, OB and Surgery Center will have the care packages available for any woman facing pregnancy loss at the hospital. Thanks to many generous donations, we’ve completed 30 care packages. We hope to make this a continuing project through Kyleigh’s Gift.

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December ~

Repost: Kyleigh’s 5th Christmas

Kyleigh’s Gift closed out 2016 with a very special gift for a new family. At the end of December, twins were born at the Liberty Hospital Birthing Center and were to be discharged to foster care. The foster family only had one car seat available to them. Kyleigh’s Gift purchased a second car seat, ensuring that the twins were able to be discharged to their new family.

Because of the support that Kyleigh’s Gift received in 2016, we were able to provide car seats and pack & plays in urgent situations. SleepSacks continue to go home with every baby born at the Liberty Hospital Birthing Center. SleepSacks also continue to be sold in the Liberty Hospital Gift Shop. Thousands of diapers were donated to HappyBottoms in memory of Kyleigh for her birthday. Meal vouchers are made available to families in the NICU and Pediatrics. Care Packages are given to all women facing pregnancy loss at Liberty Hospital. We are in the beginning stages of offering bereavement materials, such as books, memory boxes and memorial items for families facing a loss in the birthing center. Thank you for helping to make all of this possible! Kyleigh is making a difference.

 

Christmas 2016

This year marks our 5th Christmas without Kyleigh. It’s hard to believe that we have celebrated five Christmas’ without her. Each year has brought both joy and sadness, but through it all, we continue to include Kyleigh in our celebrations and hold to the traditions that we started in 2012.

On Christmas Day, we took some fresh flowers to the cemetery. It was unseasonably warm that day and with that comes strong winds. There was also a chance of rain, with possible thunderstorms, which made for the occasional dark cloud on what was a bright, sunny day. Sometimes the clouds against the sun make for some pretty significant shapes, especially at the cemetery.

One thing about the cemetery that brings a smile to my face is the reaction that Kyleigh’s little sister has when we go. At two years old, she doesn’t understand what the cemetery is or why we are there. She goes with the wonder of a young child looking at pretty flowers and running around in wide open spaces. To her, it is a happy place, for she knows no different. As we were walking back to the car, she started dancing around in the wind. It was the perfect way to bring a smile to our faces.

One of our Christmas traditions for Kyleigh is decorating a separate Christmas tree with ornaments that are specific to her. You might think that’s hard to do for a baby that passed away at birth, but we continue to be amazed year after year by how much the ornaments fit Kyleigh’s story. This year, we placed her tree just below her stocking and in between the fireplace and the beautiful cabinet that now holds several of our mementos of Kyleigh. The two ornaments added this year include one with butterfly and angel buttons, handmade by Kyleigh’s grammy and an angel ornament with the word ‘Love.’ After 5 years, her tree is really starting to fill up! Looking at all of the ornaments and how they fit into Kyleigh’s story brings a smile to our faces.

We continue to fill Kyleigh’s stocking with socks for Blair’s Foster Socks. The socks are getting bigger and bigger each year, as we try to match the size of the socks to Kyleigh’s age. Blair’s Foster Socks continues to bless many children year after year. We hope that these socks will bring a smile to the face of many little girls in 2017!

The last part of Kyleigh’s 5th Christmas brought a lot of smiles and a few tears. Kyleigh’s aunt gave us the gift of a beautiful painting of Kyleigh’s heartbeat by Moxie Muse Design. We had heard of these heartbeat paintings, but thought they could only be done if the artist had a recording of the heartbeat from a sonogram. Since we did not have this, we never pursued having a painting done. A few months ago, we learned that the artist can use a sonogram image to get the heartbeat. My sister gathered the necessary information and took it from there. We were surprised to receive the finished painting as a Christmas gift to our family. It is absolutely beautiful and one of the most special gifts we have ever received!

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As a side note, Moxie Muse Design offers custom sound wave and heartbeat paintings and donated a sound wave painting to the raffle at the 3rd Annual Kyleigh’s Gift Run/Walk. These paintings make wonderful gifts!

The holidays are such a difficult time for so many people. While we continue to have our low moments, we can say after 5 years that the smiles outnumber the tears at Christmas. This is a good feeling to have. It’s not a big deal when we’re late for Christmas dinner because we stopped at the cemetery beforehand. We get notifications from family and friends that donations were made to the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund for Christmas. Loved ones add ornaments to her Christmas tree. Gifts are given that hold a piece of Kyleigh. A lot of these smiles come about from the traditions we have set in place and how those around us support those traditions.

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

 

This entry was posted on December 30, 2016. 2 Comments

A Full-time Job

It’s been over six months since we’ve updated this blog and website. But that doesn’t mean it’s been quiet around here. Quite the opposite is true! The Kyleigh’s Gift Fund is exploding with new ideas, more programs and lots of support! I will touch on those later, but for now, here’s a quick bit about the blog…

This blog is instrumental in our healing process, but just like everything else, it’s work. In the early days after Kyleigh passed away, sitting down at the computer and furiously typing was therapeutic. Our minds were racing with so many thoughts and emotions, and while blogging seemed the opposite of what two very private people would do, we quickly realized it was what we needed to get our minds to slow down and process what was happening.

After a year or so, the writing slowed down. The thoughts were still there, but let’s face it…life does continue to happen and we wanted to be a part of it. Our older children were growing up, starting school, becoming interested in activities and we had to be present in all of that. Kyleigh continued to always be a presence in our thoughts, but the healing that took place from our early writings led to more pauses. We also began to work through many of the thoughts and emotions in our minds while doing daily activities…cleaning the kitchen and doing laundry are great times to have internal conversations! Many of these thoughts never made it to paper because we often worked through them before we had a chance to sit down and write.

Two years later, Kyleigh’s baby sister came along and well…a new baby in the house doesn’t lend itself to sitting down at the computer for more than five minutes at a time. This was a time of transition for our family in many ways. A lot of emotions surrounded all of us with a new pregnancy. Many of those emotions carried with us through the pregnancy and birth. I have read several pregnancy loss blogs that take a huge turn away from grief and loss when a new baby is on the way. It then becomes all about that new child in the family, and while that may be the intent of some writers, that is not what we wanted to happen here. The blog essentially went dark during this time as we didn’t think it was fair to those who were grieving a loss to hear all about a new baby. And again, let’s face it, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we want to.

Somewhere between that first and second year, we turned to Facebook and started the Kyleigh’s Gift FB Page. It was, and continues to be, the easiest way for us to get information out there about the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund, share our feelings and emotions throughout the year, and continue to honor Kyleigh through holidays, life events, etc.  We would log in to the blog every six months or so and post important updates, mainly about Kyleigh’s Birthday Diaper Drive and the Kyleigh’s Gift 5K/3K. Both have produced tremendous results that I hope to share with you soon.

I personally started to struggle with the blog after a period of time. I became almost obsessed (and I’m not kidding) about watching the stats. How many people viewed the website this week? How many people read the latest blog? Did anyone comment? How many times was the post shared? It became upsetting to me if we took the time to write or update the website and only a handful of people viewed it. I knew the purpose of sharing Kyleigh’s story was not this, but with the technology made available to us today, it was so easy to get sucked in to the “numbers.” This certainly attributed to backing off of the blog and having the distractions of daily life made it easier to set it down for awhile.

So why the sudden return? Well, I can’t say for sure that this is a true return to blogging, but I do hope to keep the site updated. Like I mentioned above, so many wonderful things are happening with the Kyleigh’s Gift Fund and this is a great way to document all that is taking place. One of my favorite blog posts that I’ve done is the 2013 Year in Review. I wish that I had kept doing this. I tried the next year, but because we had posted so few things to the website, it was hard. Scrolling through a years worth of Facebook posts is not easy! Maybe I will make that my goal this year, as it’s a great way to catch everyone up on what is going on.

At the end of the day, I’m exhausted. My children are my full-time job and that includes Kyleigh. There are times throughout the year where the mental exhaustion is just as strong as the physical. We spend 5-6 months getting ready for the Kyleigh’s Gift 5K/3K and when it’s all done, we are just as mentally exhausted as we are physically. So many emotions go into an event like that and when it’s all done, we honestly just need a break.

My hope is to continue with the Kyleigh’s Gift Page while slowly starting to reintroduce this website/blog. You certainly won’t see me on here everyday like some bloggers, but I’ll do my best to add this back in to my full-time job.