Jax Remembrance 2016 – Save the Date

Thanks to whoever it is that schedules Major League Baseball games, the Angels are home again on June 24, so we’re going to have the Jax Remembrance at Angel Stadium again this year. It is a Friday night, they’re playing the Oakland A’s and it’s “ugly sweater” baseball cap night.

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Like the last couple of years, we’ll meet before the game in the parking lot to visit, eat and play some catch or wiffle ball. Then we’ll meet again in front of the stadium and walk to our seats together. Unfortunately, because it’s a Friday night game, our same seats from the last two years increased to $21 per seat this year.

As we get closer to the date, I’ll provide more details for the night.

Please let me or Kristina know if you are coming. We should buy tickets within the next two weeks. 

Today Was A Good Day

At 1:36 p.m. last Friday, a board member of the Corona American Little League texted me. He was planning festivities for the league’s Opening Ceremonies, to be held the next morning.

“Would you do us all the honor and perform a ‘first pitch’ in memory of Jax?” he asked. He went on to write that our Rookie (t-ball) Brewers were being highlighted, and they’d also release 12 white balloons in Jax’s honor.

How do you say no to that?

If you don’t recall, prior to the 2014 season, we approached the league about permanently sponsoring the Brewers t-ball team. It was a way for us to give back and honor our boy. But the league did much more than that. This year, I was managing the Brewers team.

The next day we were throwing a fifth birthday party for Gray and Ellie, so my wife was going to skip Opening Ceremonies. Instead, she decided to come, along with her mom who was out helping with the party. My mom and dad and sister and her two kids joined as well.

As all of the teams gathered in the outfield before the ceremony, a mom of the youngest player on my team pointed out that they wrote a big number three in white chalk behind home plate, Jax’s jersey number. From afar, I could see three pearly white baseballs resting on a folding table covered in a royal blue table cloth. As we gathered to lead the parade of teams on to the field, my family got in to place overlooking the field to grab some photos and video.

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I zoned out for about 10 minutes as the other teams were introduced and joined us at the lip of the outfield grass. I chatted with our team mom and coaches and tried to keep our players seated; anything distract myself from the emotions of the day.

After some words from one of the league’s board members, he introduced me. I walked, head down, towards the table with the balls. I grabbed one of those beauties, and kept flipping it in my hands while the board member spoke about Jax, our relationship with the t-ball Brewers and commitment to sponsor the team. I just wanted to get it done with. I couldn’t look at the crowd – it felt too overwhelming. I felt the eyes on me, and it made my skin crawl. I kept waiting for the board member to give the okay to toss that clutched pearl.

I was in gray shorts, a black tee shirt and beat up, gnarly Converse. Just what you think a little league coach should look like, right? The board member finally gave the cue. I stood a couple of feet in front of the rubber on the pitcher’s mound, raised my front arm to start a quick side-step motion and painted the black on the outside corner.

“Strike,” the board’s president said to me as I walked back to my team on the outfield grass. I pumped my fist as if to say “damn right.” My players released the 12 white balloons in to the sky. By the time I reached them on the grass, they were still watching them escape in to the heavens.

I saw my wife along the other side of the fence down the left field line. As I got closer to her, I noticed her eyes red and swollen with tears. I told her I had to walk away so I didn’t lose it. I felt it coming, the emotions I’d tried to bury all morning.

When I got back to my players, our team mom was fixing Ellie’s pony tail. The mom told me Ellie had started crying. I asked why, and she said she was sad. I asked Ellie what was going on, and she told me she just missed Jax. This, from the girl that never shows emotions or wants to talk about her feelings when it comes to Jax. I just always figured she had ice in her veins. Gray talks and shares and asks questions constantly about his big brother. Ellie usually sits in silence, asking my wife or I if we’re going to cry. She just doesn’t want us to cry. So to hear that she cried, and was moved by the day to lead to some sort of feeling, was special to me.

An active military servicemen and a player in the league battling an illness (this is all I can give you, as I could barely hear because all of the speakers faced the crowd, away from us) threw out the other two first pitches.

And with that, opening ceremonies ended. The league scheduled us to play immediately following the ceremonies, as they continued to highlight our Brewers team. The hope was to get a lingering crowd to stick around and watch us play the Giants. It worked.

It was a relief to finally get to the game. We were the home team, so we were in the field to start. Ellie fielded all four balls they hit in the first inning. She was a vacuum. About an hour later our game ended. The team played really well and I couldn’t have been more proud. Our shortstop made a sweet forehand play up the middle, tagged second base and threw to first. It’s as close to a double play as you can get in t-ball. Gray, inspired by pretending to be a Jedi with a light saber striking down a Sith lord, ripped line drives in all three of his at-bats. It was the hardest I’ve ever seen him hit balls. None of our players ran to third base after hitting from the tee, and while I may be biased, our team played considerably better than the Giants. BUT I MAY BE BIASED.

It was the kind of start to a day that Ice Cube would’ve rapped about (except I didn’t get a triple double, despite messing around). Our family is touched by the league’s willingness to continue to honor our special boy. To help us share his memory to those that knew him and perhaps played with him four years ago, and many that didn’t know of Jax or our story.

Damn right it was a good day.

Happy 8th Birthday, Jax

Jax turns 8 today. I dropped dinosaur cupcakes off with the kids at preschool so Jax’s teacher can celebrate in her class. She just so happens to teach Gray’s class this year, too. In an hour we’ll pick them up and head out to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles., as we do, and then meet our family at Ruby’s in Orange to celebrate our little man.

This year, I want to share about the day he was born. On January 28 of 2008, I left my job at Aurora Loan Services/Lehman Brothers early after receiving a phone call from my wife saying she being admitted at Long Beach Memorial. At 5 p.m. doctors induced her. Twenty-five hours later, at 6:17 p.m. the next day, I stood behind my wife’s right shoulder, holding a video camera, and watched the doctor hold up our first child.

“HOLY CRAP IT’S A BOY!” I shouted. We didn’t know the sex. Well, my wife did, because it happened upon her at an obstetrician appointment a week before, but I didn’t know that until later. I thought for sure it was a girl. I was pleasantly surprised that it was, indeed, a boy.

Jax was eight pounds, six ounces and 22 inches long. He had no hair. And he was gorgeous.

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But let’s back up a bit. My wife was in labor for 25 hours. Twenty-five! Little man did not want to come out. I slept in a chair at her bed side that only a 4×4 would find comfortable. Nurses kept us awake every couple of hours. We watched so many episodes of Law & Order that, to this day, that trade mark “Dun Dun” sound gives me the willies.

Jax’s big ‘ol head caused some issues at delivery, enough that the doctor had to cut my wife open to make the hole bigger (episiotomy). Then the doctor had to use a vacuum to help suck him out, which left an abrasion on the side Jax’s head. Clearly, this wasn’t an easy delivery.

Once the nurses took Jax to the nursery I joined my friends and some family in the cafeteria to mingle, enjoy the moment, and relax that it was over. But it wasn’t. While I was down in the basement, the doctor had sewn my wife back together and loaded her up on pain medication. She’s very sensitive when it comes to the meds, or the amount of pain makes her sick. Either way, she started to vomit. And it wouldn’t stop. The doctor was gone and our nurse froze. She didn’t know what to do. The vomiting tore my wife’s stitches and she started hemorrhaging.

I ended up at home that night. I took my friend Munky home, as he stayed at the hospital with us and wanted to make sure I got home safely. I have this thing where I tend to doze off if I’m driving for more than 30 minutes and exhausted. It never hit me how serious my wife’s condition was. Or else I would’ve stayed.

She lost enough blood that she had two blood transfusions. She stayed two more nights in the hospital to recover, and then the hospital discharged her and Jax.

Remember that scene at the end of Knocked Up, when Seth Rogen’s character, a new dad, is driving his newborn and baby mama home from the hospital at about 15 miles an hour and backing up a stretch of road, what appears to be Malibu? That was me driving Jax and my wife home from the hospital. I hesitated pressing the gas. My palms sweat. My stomach was sick. I thought that driving over 20 mph was surely going result in my Chrysler 300C smashed in to a concrete overhang on the 710 freeway.

It was the happiest time of our lives. That’s not to say we don’t absolutely love the twins – they’re the reason I’m still alive. But it’s different having the first-born. All of our energy and love and attention was able to go to just him. And he was so wanted.

As I type this I’m watching a video that my wife’s brother made for Jax’s first remembrance (you can watch below). My heart hurts so much. Andddddd shit, now the Ronan song is on. I’m a mess! I just want my little man.

You were our best four years.

CHOC Walk 2015 – Team Iron Jax – Let’s Do This

The CHOC Walk is coming. I feel like a slacker not posting anything earlier. But then I see compared to last year’s post, I’m 19 days early! Which just means we REALLY slacked last year.

As always, the CHOC Walk at Disneyland/California Adventure is on the second Sunday in October, which this year is 10/11/15. And, as always, it starts butt-early in the morning. But you should still totally come!

Why do we do the CHOC Walk? Jax passed away at CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit. The entire staff was so compassionate to us and treated us with so much respect that this is our little way to give back to the hospital and the community in memory of our little hero. I wrote this pretty detailed, gut-wrenching post that explains it more, but we decided not to post it. It’s very personal. But maybe if you beg and plead and raise enough money for us, we (Kristina) can be convinced to post it. Just sayin’.

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What is the CHOC Walk?

The Children’s Hospital of Orange County annually raises funds to support the care, services, research and education that CHOC provides children.  Since its start in 1990, the CHOC Walk in the Park has raised over $24 million, with funds supporting education, research, and adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to advance the health and well-being of children. It’s a 5k walk (crawl) through Disneyland and California Adventure. You do not receive entrance into the parks after the Walk, however, in the past, walkers have the chance to buy discounted tickets on the day of the event.

How to Register

Go here and click on Team Name and  enter Iron Jax as the team name. This pulls up Iron Jax in the search results. Click on the name. At the right of the team page you’ll see the active roster and a “Join Team” button. Click it.

You can sign up as an individual walker (no fee required but you’ll need to raise $65 minimum) or as a sleeping bear, which allows you to raise funds in your name, for Iron Jax, and take part in prizes. But you aren’t able to walk.

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Sponsor a Walker 

If you’d like to simply make a donation as a non-team member, click here. Full disclosure, that takes you to my personal page. Click the “Donate Now” button to proceed. If you want to donate to a specific person on Iron Jax, go to the Iron Jax main page, click on the Walker you want to donate in the name of and go from there. Please keep in mind to walk, a Walker needs to have raised a minimum of $65. Children ages 3 and up are required to be Walkers. Two and under are free.

Iron Jax T-Shirts

We will order t-shirts again depending on the demand. So if you want one, let us know.

Must Read

CHOC created two pages worth reading before the event. Please refer to these pages for any questions that you may have:

Event Information

Frequently Asked Questions

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Prizes

As an incentive, CHOC has laid out a prize structure which is found here.

Thank you for helping us keep Jax’s memory alive. It means so much to our family to give back to the community, and we couldn’t do it without your help.

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UPDATE – Jax Remembrance 2015

The Jax Remembrance is one week away. Here are the details for those attending:

We will meet in the parking lot at 10:30 am. (see image below – same place as last year, ignore those times as this image was from last year). Come hang out, bring some dinner or drinks and whatever else you’d like. The key is, bring your own stuff. I picked this spot as it’s far enough away from most everyone else and easy to spot. It worked out very well last year.  We used cars to block off a safe area for kids to run around, play, hit some balls and others to stroll around and talk without the fear of other cars getting in our way.

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So yeah…that arrow in bottom right, that’s where we’re meeting at 10:30.

We will meet between the two large Angel helmets at the front gate at noon with the goal to walk in together at 12:15 pm. GAME TIME IS 12:35. 

Tickets! Let’s talk about getting your tickets. We will bring them to the stadium with us. If you want to pick them up before hand, let Kristina or I know so that can be arranged. Tickets are $16 each.

Payments! Let’s talk about the Benjamins. If you haven’t paid, you can bring money to the game (check is preferred, otherwise I’ll blow it on beers and Rally Monkeys). If you have PayPal, you can send it to me at austin5377@aol.com. If you want to mail a check and need our address, let me know.

Questions? Let me know.

Thank you so much for this fantastic showing of support. It means more than you’ll ever know.

Jax Remembrance 2015 Details

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I posted this on Facebook but failed to do so here. I just want to make sure everyone is included.

Who: Anyone and everyone
What: 3rd Jax Remembrance
Where: Angel Stadium
When: 6/24/15, 12:35 pm
Why: We’re doing the Angel game thing again, since it worked out so well last year.
How: Let Kristina or I know that you want to go, let us know how many tickets to get.
Cost: $16 per ticket. Click here for payment methods. 

We realize that most people are working. Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose the times of Angel games, or else it’d be a 7:05 pm game. We are aiming to reserve seats in the shade, so we’ll need to get the Angels a head count within the next 7 days.

Thank you for continuing to keep Jax’s memory and spirit alive.

Christmas Shopping for Jax

Last night we took the twins to Toys “R” Us to pick out Christmas presents for Jax. The first Christmas after Jax died, my wife and I dropped the kids off at my parents and shopped at Target by ourselves. It’s hard buying gifts for your 4-year-old son who isn’t there anymore.

My wife gathered up some treats for the fire station that responded the day Jax died, and she somehow persuaded me to drop them off, alone, along with the toys we picked for Jax to give to Toys for Tots, just before Christmas day. It turned in to me sobbing in front of these two men that probably really didn’t understand why I was there, then walking away feeling lame. I walked in the door and told her I’d never do it again.

Last year we took the kids shopping with us. Which was a pain in the butt, because trying to get 2-year-olds to not think about themselves for a minute is tough. And then I became emotional, tearing up in Target, pissed that I don’t know what 5-year-old Jax would want for Christmas. It tore at me. After shopping, we went to Panera Bread, picked up goodies, and my wife and the kids dropped them off at the fire station, along with the gifts, while I sat in the minivan and avoided that cry fest. She returned with her eyes red, looking drained.

“I told you,” I said, trying to defend my choice to stay in the van.

Now, before I go on, remember this:

On the day of Jax’s viewing, five days after he died, my wife got a voice mail on her cell. Now, before Friday, she’d received many texts and voice messages. Everything worked fine. The voice mail she got was from my phone. Sirens screamed. It was chaotic. I pocket dialed her or didn’t hang up when she didn’t answer. It’s eery that the voice message, recorded Sunday, didn’t land on her phone until Friday, the day of his viewing.

She told me she remembers thinking that it had to be Jax sending her a sign. Since that day my wife’s had a strange relationship with fire trucks. She sees them when she needs them most – to remember that Jax is close by. She saw one drive by our church the day of his funeral service. After a hard commute home, she saw one pull out of our tucked-away residential street. On holidays she finds them driving around town without sirens or an emergency to respond to. The engine that responded when Jax died was number 6. She’s also had a handful of run-ins with engines with number 3 (Jax’s number in tee-ball).

Some people have butterflies follow them, which are supposed to be the spirits of their dead loved ones. Kristina gets fire trucks.

At 12:17 p.m. yesterday, she text me that she’d seen two fire trucks that day. She had taken the kids to the dentist and was bringing home lunch. Then she went to counseling while I watched kids. Exactly one hour later she text me that she saw two more fire trucks on the way to her appointment. One of them was coming out of the back street where we took Jax and the twins to swim lessons. She parks there for counseling. I guess Jax knew we were shopping for him, and wanted us to know he was with us.

It went better this year. For the most part, the kids did a good job shopping for Jax. They picked out good gifts, but did get distracted with their own wants. Gray picked out an Avengers longshot bow. He loves bow-and-arrows, Jax loved the Avengers, and I can totally see Jax blasting Gray in the head while Gray laughed, just happy to be played with by his big brother.

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Ellie picked out a Baymax helmet and rocket hand set, from the movie Big Hero 6. I’m positive Jax would’ve loved the movie, as super heroes enthralled him. And again, he could shoot Gray in the head with it, which I’m positive would make Jax’s day every single time.

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My wife picked out a Flo’s V8 Cafe play set. Cars was Jax’s thing. He knew all the characters, their traits, personalities and constantly played with a race track that my aunt and uncle gave him one year. He’d love it. I love it. I can see him recreating his own Radiator Springs in his room with this.

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I selected a remote control Triceratops that roared and slugged along with glowing eyes. Another obsession of his was dinosaurs. Like the Cars characters, he knew all of their names, and was destined to be a paleontologist. That is, if baseball didn’t work out.

After shopping some more for the kids, somehow unbeknown to them (I love how we bought seven gifts and they had no clue), we drove over to Panera, got the goodies, and dropped them off at the fire station with the toys. The kids got stickers and we were set to leave when my wife looked at me. I just stared back. Then she explained why we did this. The tears rolled. I couldn’t look at the fire men watching us with their pity. Just nodded, watched the door to leave, and waited to scoot out at the right time.

But I’m glad she has the strength to do it. To talk to them, tell them why we’re there. Keep our boy’s memory going.

Merry Christmas, Jax. I hope you love your gifts.