Life After the PICU

Haven’t read about our hospital journey this spring?  You can still visit our CaringBridge page any time here.

 

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time.  Not because “nothing” is going on, but because I just don’t have anything to say.  Not because there is nothing to say… but because there’s too much, and not really all the right words to express it.  I’m not political.  I didn’t used to get into “current events,” and now I really don’t.  Perhaps because my world goes so much deeper than whichever politician someone chooses to bash at the moment.  Because I have been changed.  Because I still think about the kids and the parents and the nurses and the doctors every single day.  I wonder who is there now, and what they are going through.  I wonder if there is some small way I could help.  And I feel.  Deeply.  Madly.  I love my kids more than I could have ever possibly before.  I treasure every. single. moment.  I find myself wishing there weren’t so many fights, of course.  I find myself wishing I didn’t have to discipline, sure.  Not every moment is perfect and treasurable.  But yet, it IS treasurable – simply because I have them.  All three of them.  Here with me on Earth.   Every moment is a blessing – a gift that I’ve somehow been granted.

They are growing and healthy and ALIVE.  And I now know what that means.  What is REALLY means.  Because I feel the pain of those who have lost.  And I know how easily I could be one of them.  So I stand beside them and I pray for the right words to bring comfort.  I pray for the knowledge of when to be silent, and when to speak.  And I treasure the little moments on their behalf.  Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what life would be like if April and May had never happened.  Would I really soak it all in?  Would I resent dirty diapers and having to teach her the difference between right and wrong?  I think of all the friends I have now and the amazing people whom I have met that I wouldn’t even know existed.  And I think of all the work God has done in my heart and how He has strengthened my faith, and I can begin to see a glimpse of the purpose in all of it.  And I am finally to the point where I’m grateful.  Grateful for the pain.  Grateful for the terror.  Grateful for the countless nights of lost sleep.  Grateful for life.  

So when I see someone ahead of me in traffic cut someone off because they almost missed their exit, I wonder what is happening in their life.  I wonder if they even realized they cut someone off, or if in the fog that is their world, they just went where they needed to go because they are robotically going through the motions and just barely surviving moment to moment.  I’ve been there.  And I wonder how many people I may have cut off in traffic without even seeing them.  How many accidents my angels prevented  – how many cracks in the sidewalk I never tripped on, how many playground mishaps the bigs never had… because God was working on a much bigger plan in my life.  

No, it isn’t that I’ve had nothing to write.  It’s just that right now I’m seeing a bigger picture than I’ve ever fathomed, and it’s hard to see the world like other people.  You could say God gave me a teensy tiny nibble of a morsel from an apple from the tree of knowledge, and I’m still processing it.  He’s still teaching me from it.  He decides when we’re ready for that knowledge, and sometimes I still don’t think it’s fair that I had to take that nibble.  I don’t think it’s fair that mamas and daddies have to go through such immeasurable sorrow that we have witnessed in friends.  This life is certainly not fair.  But I’m starting to maybe get a glimpse of the truth – that the purpose behind each and every moment for each and every person is so much bigger than we’ll ever comprehend.  

I guess it’s just that my life right now is so much bigger than who is or isn’t president, or what some policy is on something, or what happened in someone’s past that does or doesn’t make them eligible for a job.  Not that those things aren’t important, but right now my brain is processing at so much deeper of a level that I just can’t focus on that stuff.  I have three kids and a job and medical bills that roll in every month like clockwork.  I have a house to keep decent for realtor showings and the stress of trying to find a new place for our family.  I need to help get homework done and communication journals signed and books read and letters learned and pen pal letters written and bottles made and diapers changed, oh and chase a very mobile baby.  Those things?  They are everything.  And yes, I’m thankful for those mundane, exhausting tasks.  Because they remind me I’m alive and that He has placed me here with a purpose.  They wear me out.  They wear me thin.  They threaten to shift my attitude on a daily basis.  But something stops me every day and causes me to pause and realize my focus.

I’ve lived on the mountain.  I’ve been in the valley.  And right now I’m relishing the climb.  It’s hard work.  Every day is a different struggle with new rocks to step over and boulders to crawl across.  I know that this climb back up the mountain is not my last climb.  We’ll fall down again.  But just like every time before, He will pick us up and set us right, and begin the climb again.  We don’t make this climb alone.  And we won’t make the next one alone, either.  

 

 

I’m Baaaack!!

So guess what, y’all? I’m back! Not long before I quit writing last year, we found out we were… SURPRISE!!!!… pregnant!  And then last fall, I got back into the classroom at a fabulous private preschool in San Antonio – teaching three days a week as an assistant to a simply amazing teacher who has become a great friend as well as coworker.  I absolutely LOVE teaching Pre-K, and look forward to getting back to teaching this summer for a few days of summer camp, and then to diving back in in the fall.  So anyway, on February 2nd, Mirielle (a French name that means miraculous, because, she really is, ya know?) was born… and the rest of her story is yet to be written!  I’m sure God has an amazing plan for her life!

Now, I’m starting a new adventure in my life – not only being a mom of THREE, but also I have now set a new path for my career! My master’s degree is in curriculum development, and I have long loved creating products for my own classroom, so I figured my maternity leave would be a great time to join the wonderful set of teachers on the fabulous website – Teachers Pay Teachers.

The very first free product I’m offering is a cute little book I’ve titled, “My Colors.”  It’s rainbow inspired for the spring, and was created specifically with Gray in mind, because he really wants to learn how to read, and since he knows his rainbow colors, I thought a simple little reader might help him pick up the color words as sight words.  Instead of merely creating a book on plain paper, we did a super fun art project to tie it all together, and then because Sis wanted to get involved, she colored her own copy of the book for me to use to show y’all as a sample!

Here’s the link to get your free download of the book.  Directions on how to put it together can be found below.

And here’s how we did the art!  Y’all, it’s so simple, it’s like falling off of a log!  I put some rainbow paint colors in an old egg carton, and made stampers from folded paper towels and clothes pins.  First, I had Gray do the craft part – the specific stamping of the colors in order – one purple spot in the middle, surrounded by blue, green, yellow, orange, and red.  I showed him on my plate how to do it, first.  Then, I let him loose and let him just create art!  He used the sponges, his hands, and even asked for a paint brush!  I love that he was exploring with the textures, and we talked about how each material he used made different marks on the plates.  We had such great discussions, and he was happily occupied for a good 45 minutes!  (Total mom score!!  Right??)  (Sidenote – did you notice how I called this activity both a craft AND art?  Check out my post here about the difference between process art and crafts...)

rainbow plates

We’ll be using the other plates he painted as book covers, too… be sure to check my Teachers Pay Teachers page soon for more free downloads, and for other fun book ideas using the covers we made!

How to Assemble Your Books:
To put any of these books together, you’ll want to first make sure your plate is thoroughly  dry, then fold it in half, and cut.  If you’ve done the rainbow circle, it magically becomes a rainbow!  You can simply add a cloud and it becomes much like this craft from Fantastic Fun and Learning.  Or, keep going and turn it into a book cover!  Take your colored “My Colors” book, and cut it in half.  Then, placing the bottom left corner of the book pages in line with the bottom left corner of your rainbow plate, cut around the top to make the arch.  Make sure the pages are all in rainbow color order, and then staple in the bottom left corner.  Use a sharpie to write your title and name, and then enjoy reading your book over and over!

book assembly

Thank you for checking out this post!  If it’s your first time to visit, welcome!  I share lots more on Facebook, so be sure to click on over and “like” my page.  I’d also love for you to follow my Teachers Pay Teachers page – as I’ll be adding lots of files in the coming weeks and months!  I love teaching preschool, and I love that now I get to share with y’all the fun things I’m creating!  I’ll also be throwing a few older kid downloads out there as well, when I make little things for Sis!  So you won’t want to miss anything – I won’t always do a blog post for every file.  If you have something you’d love to see me create, or a topic you’d love to see covered here on the blog, please be sure and let me know!  Just shoot me an email any time – I’d love to hear from you! 

The Waiting Game

One of my least favorite things to do in life is wait.  It begins when we’re children, just dying for Christmas to finally arrive.  And it never really stops, does it?  We’re always anxiously awaiting something.  Positive things – like weddings, anniversaries, graduations, the birth of a new baby, surprise parties we’ve been planning for months.  But also negative things – like waiting for blood test results, waiting for a friend to be healed or to pass, waiting to hear if you failed an exam.

Waiting is hard.  It stretches us beyond our normal lengths.  It grows us in ways we might not prefer to grow.  It builds anticipation, and then often lets us down.  Waiting.  Frankly, it sucks.

We live in a society that wants everything instantly.  We have fast food drive thru, and now we even have the ability at multiple establishments to order our food on our phones so it will be ready when we arrive.  Because waiting for even five minutes is just. too. difficult.

And I’m guilty of the same thing.  I don’t like to wait.  I appreciate a good, fast moving drive thru line.  I have been known to do those mobile orders ahead so I can just run in and take two seconds and not really connect with any one person more than that.

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But yet, that is not the life we are called to live.  I’m feeling a lot of conviction over that lately – my lack of ability to wait.  The Justin Graves Band song “Wait for the Lord” is playing itself like a broken record in my mind, and ironically, I haven’t even listened to it in a couple months.  Conviction.  God knows how to get thru to us… He really does!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 are some very famous verses.  Even secular artists refer frequently to these prophetic words.  And yet, we rarely really take them to heart.  Have you ever REALLY sat down and read those words?  It’s a run down of what science calls “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Thank you, Mr. Newton… for reframing what the Bible had told us generations before.  Both Solomon and Newton were extremely wise men, who were absolutely right.  Our problem today is that we want everything quick – without taking the time to do the opposite.  Sometimes there is a time to wait.

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Right now I have a horrendous amount of fire ant bites on my feet.  That wait – between getting the bites, and the pain and itching and burning two days later – that wait was bliss.  I knew the pain was coming.  But I had these few moments of fleeting hope that maybe this time… maybe THIS time they wouldn’t hurt.  Well, then, this morning, here is that pain.  The old familiar burn and itch.  And now the other waiting begins – the waiting for the burn and itch to go away.  Because it will.  I know that this pain is only temporary.  It won’t last forever.

Waiting between our two children for that positive pregnancy test… and the ultrasound to confirm a healthy life.  That was a hard wait.  Twice we got part of the equation.  And twice our hearts were broken when there was no healthy life.  But we waited.  And in that waiting, I admit I did a lot of fighting with God.  I told Him all about my time table.  And then, suddenly, in what now seems like just a short little time, we were pregnant.  And this time it was our Grayson.  He was healthy.  He was kicking early, and I suddenly had this great reminder that God is in control, and He has a very special plan – and timing! – for our lives.

Flash forward.  Suddenly, that little baby we waited SO LONG (not really!) for is THREE years old!  And he doesn’t like to wait.  For anything.  He whines.  He cries.  He pulls out his Mr. Sass and uses that attitude toward anyone who makes him wait – for anything.  Heck, he’ll even get in front of me and stop when I’m walking and don’t pick him up fast enough.  Because he is a child.  Selfish, and unable to wait on my timing.  He doesn’t understand when my answer is “no.”  He certainly doesn’t understand when my answer is “not right now.”  And yet, how much the same I am with God!

Watching Gray in his frustration, and then going back and reading the words of King David in many of his Psalms, I know that waiting is hard.  It always has been, and it always will be.  It’s not easy.  And yet, we are called to wait on the Lord.  We are called to wait, to trust, and also to hope.  And honestly, I think we are called to do those three things not because they are easy, but rather because they are difficult.  They build character.  Leaning on faith in the unknown is difficult.  It’s hard.  It’s AGONIZING!!!  But in the end, we will have learned, and grown just a little bit stronger.  Our faith in God will be enhanced.

These two verses from Psalm speak so much to my heart right now.  I see the humanness of David, and yet, look at all God was able to do in and through his life, and through his descendants!  How much He can do through me, when I put my hope in His words!

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And then, the song comes to me, “Soar” by Meredith Andrews.  He has made these promises to us, and He is a promise keeper.  We just have to wait.  And in that waiting, we find Him there, lifting us up on wings like eagles to soar.  You may find yourself feeling like a pigeon – just waiting for a speck of food on the sidewalk.  But friend, remember – He has promised to lift us up to be eagles.  The wait isn’t that long.  It isn’t that hard.  You can do this.  You can soar.  It’s hard – the waiting.  We wait for the morning like watchmen who are nervously jumping at every shadow.  But when that morning comes, it’s gonna be the most amazing sunrise you can imagine!  Take heart, my friend!  He has overcome the darkest nights, and His mercies are new every single morning.  And that morning WILL come.  It will.  The wait may seem long.  But take heart – while we wait, we can soar!

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Speak Life

 

Time goes by so quickly.  It seems I start most of my posts by saying something similar, though.  I have goals and dreams of writing all these fabulous things, and then life happens.  Because so many other things take priority… and because so many other things weigh me down.  This weekend I had a conversation with a friend who got me thinking – we as moms of young kids really crave connection.  Even if you aren’t a super extroverted person, it’s just so vital to know that you aren’t alone.  To see someone else’s kids act up in public, to hear someone else’s daughter talk back… it somehow doesn’t make my children’s behavior ok, but it makes me at least feel like I’m not alone.  I’m not the only one fighting the battle day in and day out.   Time is flying… and yet, the hours seem to go by so very slowly on this often very lonely island called Motherhood.

And then we also talked about the elephant in the room.  Ya know, self image issues.  We both feel fat.  We’ve gained weight.  And we weren’t making excuses, just commiserating, and expressing frustration that all these people on social media seem to have some “magic drink/pill/patch” that will “fix it” for us – something that makes their life perfect.  Because her patch and my drink aren’t making it perfect for us.  It helps occasionally, but it’s not perfect.  And we’re frustrated with the image that everyone puts out there.  It seems we both want to know that we’re not the only moms who are using products that aren’t perfect, but they help.  I don’t want to hear why your product is so much better than mine.  I want to know that you have something that works most of the time for you, but that you respect my right to try something different.  She wants to hear that working out every single day doesn’t always make you lose weight.  She wants to hear that energy isn’t always found in her little patch – because it’s not magic, and some days it’s just not gonna work.  Other days, we’ll both conquer the world, thankyouverymuch, thanks to help from the products we choose to use.  But interestingly enough, as we had this random conversation, I looked her over, and thought, “dang, really I think she looks good, what’s she talking about!?”  And she looked me over and thought the very same thing!  The best part was, though, I opened my mouth… and said it.  And then she repeated my words back to me.  And when she did, she spoke life into my heart.

Because friends, the mirror is our WORST enemy.  It’s satan’s little tool to help us see all the flaws – all the curves, wrinkles, splotches, and bouncy parts.  What we need to remember is something my pastor talked about this morning… and made me think of one of my favorite TobyMac songs – we NEED desperately to be Speaking LIFE into our fellow moms.  We need to remember the power that our tongue wields over our body, and use it for the GOOD!  We need to see a random woman on the sidewalk and tell her “that dress looks gorgeous on you!”  We need to see that mom in the pediatricians office who has obviously been up all night getting thrown up on, and tell her, “I LOVE the color of your hair!  It makes your eyes look so lovely.”  And not made-up fake crap-words.  But genuinely LOOK at the moms around you.  LOOK at them.  See them for the daughters of the King that they are, and tell them the beauty that you see.  Because when we speak life into each other, we are better equipped to be moms.  Satan knows how to use that mirror first thing in the morning to lie to us and set our day off on the wrong foot.  And he will.  He’ll use it against us day after day.  He’ll use that button on the top of our jeans, and the zipper against us, too.  And don’t even get me started on that little black square that sits on the bathroom floor and taunts us with bright red numbers.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m NOT suggesting that we shouldn’t each strive to be our best.  I’m not saying that weight loss and health products aren’t good – they each serve a purpose.  But I am fully realizing that every single one of our bodies is different.  What helps one person really may do NOTHING for someone else.  And we can strive for health all day long, day in and day out, and still feel horrible about the way we look.  Because self image is probably the number one thing that women struggle with.  We change the color and style of our hair, use tons of makeup, have a billion outfits, different purses, shoes, and mountains of jewelry.  Why?  All to attempt to sort of make ourselves feel better about the way we look.  And nothing can change it.  It’s built in.  It’s going to happen.  But when we start owning this, and realizing that we CAN affect how someone else lives their day just by speaking a word of life-changing encouragement to them in a brief moment, then that’s when we start to affect change in our own lives.  Because when you speak life to others, God speaks it right back into your own heart.

We may look at a women who visually we think has it all together, but she needs encouragement just as much as we do!  You truly can’t judge a book (or a woman) by its/her cover!!

And y’all, I’m writing this to myself, too – because so many times I go introverted and just walk right on by.  But the times when I do speak up and say something to someone, the smile that they return to me is so amazing that it takes my breath away.  I will never forget the woman’s face and her smile – she was totally rocking a bright yellow dress, and as I headed in to the doctors office one day, I just had to tell her, “that dress is stunning on you!”  Her smile lit up her entire face.  Y’all, I don’t know what her number on the scale was.  I know that the size of her dress would have swallowed me whole.  But y’all, she was ROCKING that dress.  And she needed to know it.  This is what I’m talking about.  We need to look around.  And look out.  Because when all we do is look down, all we’re going to see is the bulge at our waistline and the chip on our toenail polish and the strips of cellulite peeking out from below the end of our shorts (if we dare to wear shorts – I know I don’t!).  And y’all, we aren’t the only ones with those issues and those insecurities.  We are not alone.

So let’s look out, ladies.  And let’s speak up.  And speak life.  And change lives with our words.

Process Art vs Crafts

This post has been a LONG time in coming.  Life has a way of picking us up and carrying us past goals and deadlines quicker than we expect.  And this post has been one of those experiences.  Real life around here has been busy.  To say the least.  Not only does the laundry keep piling itself higher and higher, but there’s working from home… keeping the house clean… and those two little ones that have to be cleaned and fed, too.  Homeschool is going well, though I’m glad that at the moment the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t appear to be a freight train.  Becca will start to a charter school in the fall.  Maybe then I’ll finally have time to go back and blog all of the units we have done this year… maybe.

Lately I’ve been discussing with some friends the difference between this new buzz-term “process art” vs the age-old “crafts” – and why I believe that both have a very important place in the lives of our children.  So, let’s talk about it.  And then later this week, I’m going to share with you a really fun (and messy!) process art idea, that will result in some amazing paper… that you can use for crafts!

If you aren’t familiar with the terms, let me step back for a moment and share.  Process Art is a term given to art work that is done merely for the experience of the process – the end result is inconsequential.  Process Art is all about FEELING the art, taking it all in with every one of the five senses.  And it’s about expression.  Letting your emotions and your thoughts go wild into this amazing art experience.  Process Art is beautiful.  Painting, coloring, pottery, glass blowing, and tile mosaics are all examples of process art.

Glassblowing image from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Website

So what, then, is a craft?  Crafts have a set end result.  They have a final goal in mind.  Crafts typically follow a pattern.   Color by number, paper crafts, card making/scrapbooking with a template, sticker mosaics, origami, and making those adorable little activities cut from paper with kids are all a type of craft.  When doing a craft, you typically view the end product, and expect that the product you create will look very similar to that product.  I have many friends who go to card making classes where everyone creates the same cards, and wreath making classes where they all end up with the same wreath.  When I taught, I frequently used crafts for my students for holidays and we would all create similar looking products to hang in the hallway.  They are beautiful and even though they are the “same”, they do have a touch of the creator in each of them, causing them to have little unique features.

Photos from the Stampin Up website

But, it’s because of the “sameness” that many people say children should ONLY be taught using Process Art.  They believe they should experience art to its fullest and put all of their emotions and feelings into their art, and learn that any end product is beautiful when it’s a reflection of their inner expression.

I agree with part of this.

My kids LOVE to create art.  They love to get messy with their art.  And they, like all children, don’t like to be told what to do.  They love to change things up as much as possible.  They enjoy an open invitation to art – where, for example,  there’s paper, paint, and cars on the table and they can just do whatever comes naturally to them.  And those times are VITAL to their creative expression!!

Check out this blast from the past – Painting with Cars!

But it’s also very important that they learn to follow directions, and that they come to realize how to get from point A to point B to reach an end goal.  This is where I believe crafts falling by the wayside is a travesty and a disservice to the next generation.

One of my favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.  It is truly its own art form – and is becoming more and more of a lost art as the world goes digital.  I don’t choose to follow very many templates, but every now and then, I see one that fits perfectly with what I want to do, and because I grew up doing paper crafts, I can easily analyze someone else’s template and make it happen on my own paper.  Because sometimes it’s a GOOD THING to not re-create the wheel.  (I mean, the wheel turns pretty good on its own without me changing the curves, right?)

I love to paint.  But on my own, without instruction, I’m rarely happy with my end product.  I crave instruction, and learn more technique and gain more experience with every trip I take to Painting With a Twist (read more about them in my previous blog post here).  But here’s the REAL twist – y’all, PWAT is the perfect example of combining process art with a craft.  Because you see the end product, and you follow directions to get to the end result… and yet, you’re able to make changes.  You can “go rogue” any time you want.  You can switch up the colors, and in the process of following directions to mix colors, you come up with your own shades.  And in the process of following directions to place items certain locations on the canvas, your own flair and the shake of your own hand makes the canvas’ end product uniquely yours.

At Painting With A Twist, we each follow directions to create a similar product, though each is unique to the painter.

So is there a place for those step-by-step/follow directions/ adorable little groundhog faces made from an upside down heart, and leprechauns made from shamrocks, and First Thanksgiving books made from millions of pieces of paper cut to certain specific sizes?  YES!!!  Our kids NEED to know how to follow directions, how to work to reach an end goal, and need to learn when it’s ok to tweak those instructions to make the end product uniquely theirs.

In other words, there is a place for both art AND crafts in this world.  Look at the amazing crochet hats and blankets folks make.  The incredible needlepoint works.  And look at Van Gogh and Picasso.  There has always been room in the past for both.  I’m not real sure why folks now, in 2017, are trying to do away with crafts – an art form that has easily existed alongside “Process Art” for thousands of years.  Why not encourage our children to do a healthy helping of each?

And seriously – is there a mom of a 2 year old anywhere in this world that wouldn’t love hanging this adorable craft on her fridge? I doubt it!

So later this week, I hope you will check back here for a super fun Process Art activity… and some ways to use the product in some really cute crafts!