The first balloon ever released...

The first balloon ever released...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

3rd Birthday

Well I know I haven't written in a while but as I mentioned in the previous blog, November was a tough month.

McKenna's birthday was November 17th, as a family we were unable to celebrate it that day due to school, work, and the every day craziness of our lives. We decided to celebrate it today during the Thanksgiving break when we all knew we would have a little more down time. The day of McKenna's birthday was difficult. Many friends and family members released balloons in her honor while Zach and I did our best just to function and try to pretend it was a normal day. I had several break downs but thankfully we are blessed with many people who love and support us unconditionally which carried our family through the day. Even though I could not "celebrate" on her birthday I was trying very hard to figure out how exactly I wanted to "celebrate" McKenna's birthday when the time came.

I knew I didn't just want to release balloons. It's honestly become a depressing activity in my life and is a strong reminder of the day of her funeral. I also didn't want to have any type of birthday style party because that sounded even more depressing. After discussing with Zach we decided we wanted to do something along the lines of a "random acts of kindness" service. We bounced around between 100's of ideas anything from performing service at a children's hospital to leaving money at vending machines with a little note. I knew whatever we did I wanted Dominic to be the heart and soul behind this project. We were starting a new tradition. I wanted us to do a service every year on her birthday that not only brought all of us joy but a true reminder of who our little Kenna Bear was and still is.

This morning I flipped through pinterest, after pinterest, and even google to get ideas of what we could do that was a service, reminded us of McKenna, and would be at Dominic's understanding level. I found nothing. It was only 10:30am and I was already beginning to feel defeated. The blame started setting in, "Why didn't I plan this better. I know I'm busy but I should have made more time. This is going to look like I half-a**'d it and I don't want it to look that way." Once again Zach and I went back and forth with ideas, I just wanted something simple, is that even possible? Finally I had a light bulb moment. "What if we just bought some little stuffed animals (preferably bears) tide a balloon around them with a note attached about McKenna and passed them around at a park?" YES! I HAD FOUND A WINNER! It was simple, it was sweet, and Dominic could hand it to any little kid he wanted. It was perfect.

Zach, Dominic, and I hopped in the car to go get the supplies. It took us a few stores to find the stuffed animals we were looking for at an affordable price. We ended up finding some very cute and fluffy ones. They were not all bears but most of them were and they were in many different colors so it could easily be for a boy or a girl. We picked up 20 stuffed animals, printed 20 notes about McKenna, and 25 pink balloons (5 for our family to release at the end.) Running the errands was time consuming and I could feel something over taking me. It was an old habit that I thought I had long overcome. It was creeping it's way up into my brain and it was whispering to me "Everything must be perfect!".

When I first married Zach 5 years ago I had a very bad control problem when it came to parties, events, crafts, outings, cleaning, and pretty much EVERYTHING! I would obsess over perfection. I knew how to make things look exactly the way they "should" down to folding an invitation perfectly or deep cleaning every nook and cranny of my house. I would spend hours on simple projects and stay up all night until it was perfect. No one would notice the detail or the effort, most never thought twice about such perfectionism but I didn't care. I loved it and everything was in order just the way it would be in a magazine. I would spend all my time at parties cleaning up after people and constantly reorganizing anything that might have gotten slightly moved around so that the decorations would look perfect at all times. I would be so surprised and even disappointed when the party was already over because I had barely spoken to anyone or really got to enjoy the party.

I know many of you don't really know my husband but if you take the paragraph above and say the opposite of every single sentence that's who he is. He is Mr. Laid-back-No-worries-Everything-will-work-out-exactly-how-it's-suppose-too. At first it drove me crazy but with time I realized that he was right. All of that obsessing was worthless! Wasting hours upon hours on perfection just for no one to even notice the detail except me was insane. I was ruining what should have been an easy going fun event with my perfectionism and realized that I was kind of a party pooper! So, with much effort and even more time I learned to stop a habit that I had my whole life and began to enjoy the beauty of simplicity. I still enjoy making things look nice and putting full effort into projects but when I feel that tinge of crazy come out I just stop and walk away from the situation. I then realize it was perfect just the way it was minus all the stress. Ultimately it led to a lot less disappointed and ended with a lot more satisfaction. I was so proud the day I realized I kicked this problem in the butt.

But here I was today riding in the car and I could feel it. I could feel that urge to make sure everything was exactly how it should be. I kept rehearsing the details of what we were going to do over and over again in my head to make sure that I did not miss a thing and that all was going according to plan. I guess my husband could sense this and nailed it on the head as we were driving around by saying "I don't want you to base this day on how perfect everything goes or how long it takes. That's not what its about ok?" "I know, I just want everything to be nice." I responded and tried to act like my statement wasn't a complete lie but before we even made it to the parking lot of our next destination I was in tears. Feelings of frustration that all of my efforts might be in vain were already dominating me and on top of that I could tell I was making him miserable because I was acting like a brat. The guilt along with my lovely emotions dragged out our errands and instead of stopping to get control of myself I pushed through and just let myself become uglier.

We got to the park and began to tie the balloons to the animals. We did this because we thought it would be easiest to pick up the balloons last and finish up everything at the park. This was a big mistake. It was surprisingly windy and all the balloons kept getting twisted and knotted together AFTER we had tied the dolls to them. Zach was trying to spread them further apart by putting them on the ground which was UNACCEPTABLE to me and I yelled at him for getting the dolls dirty. Then a big gush came and 5 balloons flew out of the car. "WELL GREAT, THERE GOES THE BALLOONS WE WERE SUPPOSE TO RELEASE" I yelled at him as if he didn't already feel bad he had let them escape. I continued to cut my husband down and scream out loud what a complete failure this was as I attempted to finish the job. Trying to untangle the balloons was literally impossible. There was no where for me to hide from the wind and every time I undid one knot it was quadrupled by another push of wind. As I watched a few of McKenna's notes slip away and 3 more balloons fly out of the car the monster had finally taken complete control.

"THIS IS A DISASTER! I JUST WANT TO GO HOME! ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS SOMETHING NICE AND SIMPLE AND IT HAS ALL FALLEN APART! I HATE THIS! NONE OF THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH! DONT TOUCH ME!!!" Tears burned out of my eyes as I continued to resist comfort from Zach and yanked my arm away from him when he tried to pull me in for a hug to calm me down. He maintained composure even though I was glaring at him as if this was somehow all his fault. He replied with only positive comments promising that it was great and not all was lost. We still had 17 balloons and it was going to be wonderful. I didn't believe him. I really wanted to sulk in the car while they handed out our gifts to the kids at the park. This day sucked.

We finally figured out if we just wrapped the entire string around the animals they would no longer get tangled up. We had to cut all the strings off the dolls we had previously done and pull the balloons out one by one because they were so intertwined. Some of the holes we had punched out for McKenna's paper had ripped so we had to punch new stabbed out looking holes into different parts of the paper instead which looked terrible. I tried to take deep breaths and calm down but I eventually succumbed to the "I don't give a crap anymore" attitude that I tend to get when I have reached my limit. What should have only taken us 20 minutes to set up with no casualties of missing balloons or crumpled pieces of paper had now taken us over an hour. We had finally finished. We took some pictures. I forced a smile. Then we went to work.

I loved watching Dominic hand out the balloons to the kids. Most of them were afraid and unsure of him. They would run to their parents and stare. Dominic showed no fear. He would continue to follow them and offer the little dolls till finally they accepted his gift with a smile. Many parents kept asking "How much?" or "What is this for?". Dominic would answer every single one of their questions without me even telling him what to say "there free" or "because McKenna died". I watched them take the balloons with confusion on why someone would give them a free doll and balloon. I tried not to gawk as I waited for them to read the note and see their reactions.

This is what the note said: On April 21, 2014 we lost our beautiful baby girl McKenna Eve Bundy. November 17th of this year would have been her 3rd birthday. As a family we decided to celebrate this day by doing "random acts of kindness". So please accept this gift and release this balloon in honor of our daughter so everyone can get a glimpse of her sweet love. We were blessed to have her for the short 2 1/2 years that we did. Our life goal is to be the ray of sunshine in other people's lives just like she was in ours every single day. Enjoy today knowing that you are loved and this did not happen by coincidence, our daughter wanted us to do this just for you! If you would like to learn more about our "Kenna Bear" and the story behind the pink balloon you can visit our family blog at ""

It lifted a burden off of me to see that first balloon released by a couple and their young son. They smiled as they let it go and my heart was happy that they understood the note and were happy to be apart of our little world for just this tiny moment. As we continued to watch Dominic pass out balloons I could feel my anxiety and craziness calming down but for some reason could not keep the beast from being rude to Zach. It was like an out of body experience. I didn't want to treat him that way, I knew I was being a jerk and I hated it. If anyone knows Zach and I they know that we don't really fight. In the 5 years that we have been married we have rarely fought, occasional heated discussions of course but nothing really beyond that. To be 100% honest we have never had a full blown "level 10 alert" fight either. I don't know why the Lord chose to bless me with such a great husband but I know it was a very tender mercy indeed.

We finished up the balloons and walked back to the car. I tried to snap a few shots of the children walking around with the dolls. Some were still holding their balloons, others reading the note and releasing them. It was a very humbling moment to look out and literally see all those we had touched today. The evidence right in their hand. I stared out in the park and realized the last time I had been here was for McKenna's balloon release. Funny how I had noted every detail of today yet failed to realize the symbolism of celebrating her birthday with others and releasing balloons in her honor at the very same place we had held her ceremony. Just goes to show who really runs the show down here.

I sat in the car and still felt a sting of disappointment. I didn't want it to be there. I just wanted to feel satisfied with all that we had accomplished. It had been a tough day, tough week, hell a tough month but we made the very best of it. So why was I still in this mood? Why couldn't I just be grateful? Well the answer is obvious isn't it? Where is my daughter? How far away is Heaven? Does she see me down here in this abyss? Does she know how hard I'm trying despite my crappy attitude? Can her innocent 3 year old mind see past all of that and know I'm not ungrateful but in pain? That I don't know how to deal with these torturous feelings so I unintentionally lash out on the people I love? Even her own daddy? Can she still love me after that? I took a deep breath and thought to myself "I wish I could just feel you here with me. Please McKenna, I need you." I closed my eyes and waited to feel her embrace but nothing came. My face flushed and anger stung my heart. What have I done to deserve any of this?

I had been tuning everyone out in the car up until this point but my ears perked up when I heard Dominic singing a song I had not sung in a very long time. In fact, I had completely forgotten that I had ever taught him this song. It's called "Little Bunny Foo Foo". Its a silly song about a rabbit who wont behave and a fairy turns him into something (I always make that part up). I actually originally taught this song to McKenna. Before Dominic started kindergarten I took them both to a little friendly daycare down the street. I was still at the same college and as usual was the morning drop off for the kids. McKenna was not a morning person (just like her daddy) and would scream every morning in the car. The only way to avoid this was to sing her songs but usually she was unhappy with every song I sang, until I discovered "Little Bunny Foo Foo". She loved this song because it came with hand motions and was goofy. She would do the little bunny ears with her tiny fingers and then "bop" the bunny on the head for misbehaving. We sang it everyday for months. Dominic loved it at first too but quickly despised the song after being forced to hear it so many times.

He was now singing the song to his little sister Zoe, because she too was crying and grumpy from a long day at the park. He was doing the hand motions and she giggled wildly at his funny song. My heart stopped as it was flooded with memories I had completely forgotten about. Memories can feel like you found a million dollars when that's all you have left of a person. I felt my lips begin to tremble and the anger melt off. She was here with me. The hard part about loosing a loved one is not everyone is the same when it comes to feeling them around you. I struggle "feeling" McKenna around me. Others say they feel her, dream about her, and even see her. I rarely have any of these. I have had 3 dreams all together and have felt her presence a handful of times. Outside of that, nothing but when I heard that song I knew without a doubt that was my angel singing to me. Letting me know that Heaven is not as far away as it seems.

We finally went home and I asked if I could be alone for a little while to calm the last of my quivering nerves. Everyone went to the grocery store and I let all the tears out. All the anger, fear, disappointment, pain, and even the unexplainable attitude out. I punched my pillow, I held her doll that I sleep with, I cried out to God "WHY DID TODAY HAVE TO BE THAT DIFFICULT?" Then I crawled into my bed and looked at the photos we took of today. There were not many. Most of them are far away and slightly blurry but I knew McKenna had been there with us. I know it brought her joy to see us do good on her behalf. I mean what more could an angel in heaven want from us mortals? Faith, devotion, sacrifice, compassion, endurance, and unconditional love. These are all the traits our Heavenly Father wants us to have and that was shown by so many people in so many different ways today.

Yes, it was a tough day, a tough week, and a tough month but we got through it. Right now I lay next to my loving and compassionate husband knowing that despite all my behavior today he still loves me. I asked his forgiveness and without even a flinch or a put down that I easily deserved he embraced me with watery eyes and the comment "If anyone understands why you acted the way you did today, it's me". McKenna is a lucky girl to have a daddy who loves her so much that he will push through whatever trial stands in his way with a positive attitude to show her his love and devotion. Mommy has a lot more to learn from him.

Happy 3rd Birthday Kenna Bear. I meant every word I wrote in that note we passed out today. I will be lucky if I can hold a flame to the light you have left in our lives. I love you with all of my heart, body, and soul. I hope that you were able to celebrate your birthday without us in Heaven. I hope you know if we could be, we would be there with you too. Thank you for letting me know that you are always with me, no matter how much faith I lack. Never forget how much we all greatly love you.

P.S. When our 5 family balloons slipped out of the car this afternoon Dominic yelled out "well at least she got our balloons first.". He loved seeing you get the balloons from all the kids today. He asked us to buy you a birthday cake and even sing you happy birthday. Then we shared stories of all the funny memories you have left in his life. He loves and misses you very much. I know today was a special day for him too.


  1. That was a neat way to remember McKenna's birthday. And Dominic is really something special. Shannon, I think most ppl would have been frustrated and upset like you were when things were not going as planned.

  2. It sounds like you all did amazingly well with handling Mckenna's birthday and the balloons and gifts were beautiful and fun! I have no doubt she absolutely loved them and loved that you used her day to serve others!! It is completely understandable that you had a bit of a rough day with everything you've been going through this year. Be gentle and forgiving to yourself, just like your sweet husband is. :) Your children are beautiful and smart and you are amazing parents! You are being great examples of love and hope. May you all feel the Savior's love especially now, during the holidays!!

  3. I had written a huge post to you but some how it got erased. So now I will make it short and sweet. I am the one in the bench with my two girls. We went to the park once before and receive a balloon from a stranger. My 3 year old was so happy then so sad when it flew away. That day she kept asking to go back to the park where she got the balloon. I said okay let's go. I was hoping she just forgot about receiving a balloon once we got to the park. And she did. Then your son came and gave us a balloon. I thought she was going to be so upset that we had to let it go. But both my girls were very happy as we let the balloon go and said by happy birthday McKenna. I told them she was with God celebrating her birthday and she needed Her balloons to celebrate. Now my daughter thinks every time we go to that park she is going to get a balloon since both times we have gone she has not been disappointed ;) they also have slept with the bear since ! I hope you know you have touched our lives. And I have no doubt she is where she is safe and happy and in no pain at all.