Summer Survival – Procedures

Y’all, it’s here, and it’s HOT!  (I wish I could say I’m talking about some amazing sale on some exotic something or other, but you know what I really mean – the summer.  It’s DANG HOT!  And it’s still only June!)  So how are you doing, mama?  I mean, really.  Are you surviving?  Or are your kids killing each other and you?  I’m honestly stuck somewhere in between.  But we really are doing pretty good at not killing each other – yet.  (I do not anywhere on this blog claim to be the perfect mother, nor have I figured out how to keep my kids from killing each other.  If you figure that out, PLEASE let me know!)

Some of the simple procedures I’ve put in place have been helping, and I thought I would share them with you to give you a few ideas and get your wheels turning on things that might work for your family!  I’ll be doing four of these Summer Survival posts – with ideas for activities and things you can do both at home and out and about, too, so be sure to check back over the next few days for more ideas!  But let’s first start with the basics – procedures.

A friend of mine, Jenn, from Lemondrop Learning, shared a fabulous checklist on her Facebook page a little while back, and I immediately printed it out and stuck it in clear plastic sleeves for my bigs.  Each day, in order for them to get to just lay around the house and have screen time, they have to have completed everything on their checklist.  And YALL!!!  OMG!!!  It’s AMAZING!!!!  We’ll be using this checklist for the rest of forever for weekends, holidays, any day that we’re not in school.  Because it’s brilliant.  And I’m in love.  And honestly, the kids enjoy it, too!  They are proud of themselves when they mark the items off, and it helps them feel accomplished and also gives some self awareness for what they are actually doing instead of just roaming around aimlessly.  I’ve also noticed them lose track of time while doing the “required” activities because they’re having so much fun… that it ends up being HOURS before they even ask for a screen!!!  Seriously.  Y’all NEED this checklist!  So – the checklist – from Kimberly at Natural Beach Living, can be found here!  Be sure to go print yours out ASAP, and then start using this with your kids – because it WILL change your summer.  I promise!

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For both kids, I used their favorite color marker to write their name and color the title (it’s the little things…) and then for days that we are going somewhere in the morning and they want to take their kindles, they must do the top 5 AND their workbook pages before we leave… see below for info about the workbooks!

 

Ok – so beyond this, I have also set in place specific chores at a set time for both of the bigs, because I was lacking in this area since we moved.  Before, they had a list of chores, and received stickers for completing them, and they were great about it… and then the house went on the market, the chore sheet had to come down, and well… yeah.  So, I have reinstated some of the chores they had before, but with specific assignments – mainly, Gray takes out the recycling each evening after Elle goes to bed, and while he’s doing that, Becca unloads the dishwasher.  This routine allows me to get the dishes loaded (I prefer to do that myself rather than having her do that) and the dishwasher started before I go to bed – or in the morning… whenever I choose to do it.  And it also helps Gray to not feel like he’s getting “picked on” by having to do “hard work” by himself.  Yes, seriously, y’all he is the biggest whiner since the beginning of time when it comes to feeling like something is “unfair.”  But whatever cuts the whining, then I’m all about it.  Do your chores at the same dang time then!!!  LOL.  Y’all.  Seriously.  These kids MAY be the death of me.  But, if you have multiple kids, you know what I’m talking about – think about what it is that you can set in place to help you work SMARTER, NOT harder!!!  I was getting frustrated about needing to load the dishes, but not wanting to do her job for her… and getting upset by the overflowing recycle bin… so this new routine is working WONDERFULLY!!!  Sometimes it’s just about looking at your daily routines and seeing what you can modify to make life easier for everyone!!  (Also – side tip – I emphasize to the kids all the time that in our family, we work together for the betterment of EVERYONE – and we talk together as they are doing their family chores about how much it helps our family when they do their jobs, and how important they each are!  You’d be surprised how much their chins lift and their lil chests puff out with pride for their work!!)

Another routine I’ve set into our day is of course, reading.  We have always read to our kids before bed, but now that they are older and we’re reading throughout the day, you might think we’d lax up on that.  NO!!!  Bedtime is still the best time to snuggle up and read together with my kiddos, and I’d never trade that time for anything!  BUT, because we read a LOT of books, the little summer reading challenge from the library to read eight books was a joke.  So, I upped the ante.  I said that since the theme was the moon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, their eight books recorded on the library sheet HAD to be about the moon (fiction or nonfiction – their choice)!  And I created this summer reading chart for them to record ALL of the books they read!  (It’s a free download over on my Teachers Pay Teachers page!)  It’s got spots for 100 books, and what I’m doing with my kids is that when they complete a row (read 20 books), they get a Blue Bell Fudgesicle (a huge incentive for my kids!!).  When they complete all 100, they’ll get a special trip to our favorite frozen yogurt place.  They are SUPER excited about it, and it has really gotten Gray excited about bringing me books to read.  I also told him that if, by the end of the summer, he can bring me a book and read it to me COMPLETELY on his own, I’ll let him color in TWO ice cream cones.  Becca also gets to color in two ice cream cones for each Harry Potter book she completes.  They are so excited about reading, and this is keeping them going, for sure.  It also cuts out Becca’s desire to only read chapter books, and I have found her pouring over picture books and reading to Elle and Gray like crazy to count those books!  WHATEVER gets her reading all types of books, makes me happy!! 🙂  I love how it also spurs their competitiveness – they want to get their fudgesicles at the same time, so if one has more books than the other, they’ll go check the chart and count how many books they need to read to catch up.  It’s WONDERFUL competition, and I encourage it.

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We are also excited to try the Summer Reading Bingo challenge that my friend Jenn (mentioned above) has created – you can find it on her Facebook page!  Plus, I just learned about Barnes and Noble AND Lifeway Christian Stores that are having reading challenges this summer… although I’m getting frustrated because I’m struggling to find info on their websites… if you know more about these two events, PLEASE share with me so I can pass along to other readers!!  There are just so many great ways to encourage your kids to read!!!!  Make sure it’s a part of your DAILY routine.  (I also *hope* to be sharing more of our favorite book titles over on my Facebook page this summer… so be sure you’ve “liked” and are “following” my posts!)

Another great way to avoid the “summer slide” is to add a daily workbook into your procedures.  Around here, it’s just something that must be done.  Like homework.  Except that y’all, I found some workbooks that the kids aren’t complaining about doing!!!  SERIOUSLY!!!  Gray actually asks for his workbook.  I also can look at what they do for the day and will let them count it as their writing/art activity for their checklist to get their kindle if it applies, so there is that… lol.  Elle also loves coloring while they are working on their workbook pages, so it’s kinda fun for them to do them all at the same time.  I am NOT an affiliate for EvanMoor publishers, but I sure do love these books since I discovered them, and as a teacher AND a mom, I can highly recommend them.  (And I can honestly say, I’ll be buying these for my kids every summer from now til they age out of them!!!)  They simply have a front and back of a sheet to do each day of the week, a star to color in for each page when it’s completed, and then for the older kids, there is a space to write about the things done each day, a reading log to color, and for the younger kids, there is a space to draw a picture of the favorite thing they did that week.  There’s a good variety of activities in both of the books we have, and I’m pleased with the amount of time it takes them to do the pages, as well – they are quick and not stressful, but have some good content that they do have to stop and think about.  Plus, they use super bright colors and lots of pretty pictures, which keep the kids intrigued.  I really like all of the fine motor practice in the PreK to K book, too!  So I highly recommend you grabbing these books – I found them at my local Lakeshore Learning Store, where I love using my teacher discount card, but here are the Amazon links for your convenience.  (I’m no longer an Amazon affiliate – these are just links to help y’all!)

PreK to K 
K to 1st
1st to 2nd
2nd to 3rd
3rd to 4th
4th to 5th
5th to 6th
6th to 7th

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Above all else, make sure that you are employing CONSISTENCY with your kids this summer.  For moms who aren’t educators, you may think, “this is their break from school, they should just be able to relax and have fun!”  This is true, HOWEVER… school is set up on a daily routine, with clear expectations for behavior AND academic achievement.  And it’s set up this way not only because it’s more successful that way, but because KIDS are more successful that way.  They NEED clearly explained expectations and structure to thrive.  They need scaffolding to help them be successful.  So even if all you’re expecting them to do is not kill their siblings, they need guidance on how that’s going to look in your home.  They need rules and structure that are clearly defined, and then they need you to be CONSISTENT on how you enforce those rules and provide that structure.  They grinch and complain, I know, but try it for a week – see if I’m right.  Provide them structure and consistency and watch your own life get more manageable.  

Check back here very SOON for my next installment of this Summer Survival Series – where I’ll be sharing super fun and EASY science experiments you can do with your kids – some of which don’t even require purchasing ANY materials – you’ve already got the stuff laying around your house!

Thanks!!!

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How Far She Has Come

For those who know Becca, and have known her for many years, you know the trials and tribulations.  But for those who might just see this post and not know, I’m going to give a little background before I get to the excitement.  

Becca was born seven years ago on Saturday, so we’re just two days away from all the birthday festivities.  When she was born, she was immediately a handful and Cody and I found ourselves thrust into parenthood with a baby that was fussy.  A lot.  So we became avid followers of the “5 S’s” from “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  (It WORKS!  Try it!!)  As she got older, she became more and more headstrong, and was an extremely difficult toddler, who had frequent meltdowns.  She was “that kid” in the store.  Randomly.  Without any apparent reason.  And it wasn’t for lack of discipline.  We tried everything.  And then a friend’s son was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and things started to fall into place.  About that same time she started mentioning that her “nose doesn’t work.”  After her talking about this a LOT, and even identifying herself with a child in a wheelchair whose legs didn’t work, we started taking her seriously and the doctor visits began.  We ended up in a neurologist’s office with her taking a smell test.  And then our world quit spinning.  Her nose didn’t work.  Anosmia.  We were told that because she was unable to sense positive OR negative scents, she was missing the nerves that connected her nose to her brain, and would never smell.  She was termed to have “Sensory Processing Disorder due to Anosmia.”  In other words, her other senses were in hyper drive to compensate for the lack of the sense of smell.  And her sudden meltdowns were similar to that of an autistic child who has some sudden input that their brain can’t handle.  This was her norm.  So we began to work (on our own because our insurance wouldn’t cover a therapist) on how to handle inputs.  We got her a mini trampoline so she could jump til her heart was content.  And lots of other modifications.  And she started coping.  She was calmer.  Because we were able to realize her needs and pre-empt a lot of her episodes.  

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This photo was taken the week she turned three – right at the same time she started reading.

And then, the week before she turned three, she picked up a book she had never seen before and read it out loud.  Correctly.  Our world stopped again.  The early childhood educator in me SCREAMED out. This wasn’t possible.  She didn’t even understand rhyming yet – how could she read?  I mean, we read with her every day, but how was she able to pick up long books she’d never seen before and read them – at THREE – with no formal training?  Her Mother’s Day Out teacher was SO helpful that year.  She gave her little challenges to do for “homework” because she saw Becca’s NEED/CRAVING for academia.  And Becca just kept growing mentally.  Her mental leaps and bounds were incredible.  But with those leaps and bounds, we saw and suddenly learned the meaning of “Asynchronous Development.”  One part of her brain was growing, but the rest wasn’t.  As she got older, Grayson, her brother who is 23 1/2 months younger, was also getting older.  And he was reaching physical milestones before she did.  He could put on his shoes and completely dress himself before she could.  He was climbing our play structure and sliding down and she was still needing help to get up.  When it came time for her to do PreK, I taught her at home while he spent the day at MDO.  The first semester, I allowed her to lay on the floor or stand up to work, and let her guide the instruction to things she was interested in.  The second semester, I had her sit in a hard chair at the table to work and made her do so for longer and longer periods – trying to prepare her for the rigors of public school.  But when she started kindergarten, I honestly wasn’t sure how our Sensory Seeking / Tactile and Auditory Defensive girl was going to do.  Kindergarten was full of behavior issues, but we pressed on and she grew by leaps and bounds socially and emotionally.

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This year in first grade, she has blossomed.  Suddenly, she started smelling things and her senses began to level out.  Girl Scouts has given her an outlet for her caring heart and adventurous outdoorsy side to really flourish, and she has worked really hard academically.  She has pressed hard to control her behavior, and has succeeded on many occasions.  Many profoundly gifted students are so asynchronous that their social abilities are lacking, and many are also far behind because they are not high achieving (they lack the drive to care about grades or pleasing teachers).  But Becca somehow has the social AND academic abilities AND is high achieving!  She WANTS to be the best.  And while she fights against homework like any other kid, she’s upset when she misses one on a homework paper or especially on a test.  She’s long been a perfectionist, and she was always proud when she brought home progress reports with 100 in every class.   This year, she learned to accept the fact that a 97 is ok, but would always fight back to try to bring them up.  That’s just the way she is.  She’s very hard on herself.  High school will be a challenge.  But we as parents strive to encourage her to be her.  “Do you” is a great theme for her.  Because who she is is amazing.

We took the advice of her teachers this year, and have had her test to be in third grade at her new school next year.  We won’t know the results until the end of July, and we know that God will place her wherever she needs to be.  If it’s His plan for her to be in third grade, she will be.  If she’s meant to stay with her age group peers, she’ll be in second grade.  And we are working hard to encourage her that either result is perfect because it’s God’s plan.  Her perfectionist side says she didn’t do well on the math test, but she OFTEN came home this year saying that about math tests, and then she’d get them back and would have gotten 100 or just missed one.  So we really don’t know what to expect.  She has to receive at least an 80% on each of the four subject area tests she took.  So we anxiously await those results.  This opportunity was truly made for kids like her.  

And then we got more confirmation of that today.  We had received an email that she’d be receiving a character award at the end of the year awards ceremony this morning, and we were ready with the phone to video when her teacher started talking.  But she didn’t receive a classroom award.  Instead, the principal started talking at the end, and we knew that was it.  She received the “Hugo Award” – which is essentially the Student of the Year award.  For all of first grade.  Based on character and academic achievement.  I’m still in shock at how far she has come.  I can still see myself, sitting in the floor, pregnant with Gray, bear-hugging my toddler who had just had another meltdown and was screaming and kicking, and I was begging God to take away whatever was making her crazy and just calm her down.  And I started singing.  Softly.  Under the screams, into her ear.  I started singing “Amazing Grace.”  Tears were streaming down my face and I gave up.  I gave her to God and said, “I can’t do this anymore.”  And she went limp in my arms.  If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have given up so quickly.  But that’s exactly what I needed to do.  I needed to let go and trust Him with all of her disabilities and all of her abilities.  I needed to realize that He wasn’t expecting Cody and me to do this on our own.  He was expecting us to trust Him with her.  She isn’t ours, she is His.  Once I realized that, she was free to start becoming who He has made her to be today – and beyond.  I am so proud of who she is becoming.  She truly has a heart of gold, and is the most loving and thoughtful person I know.  We are beyond blessed to be her parents and get to watch her grow up.

Becca Hugo Collage
Becca with her teacher, Ms. Hudson, by her school sign, in the school garden, and with her principal, Ms. Palmer.

I recently asked her to finish some famous proverbs with whatever words she thought fit best.  Some of them ended up super silly.  But some of them ended up with my mouth hanging open.  I’ll share those here.  Because it speaks to the depth of her thoughts, the depth of her faith, and to possibly why the entire first grade team of teachers chose HER out of all of the kids they could select from.

It’s always darkest before … sunrise.

Never underestimate the power of … Jesus.

Don’t bite the hand that … does good.

If you lie down with dogs, you’ll … get licked all over your face.

Love all, trust … God.

An idle mind is … irresponsible and lazy.

Happy the bride who … married a good man.

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and … the world helps you.

There are none so blind as … the one who does evil.

Children should be seen and not … be ignored.

When the blind lead the blind … to Jesus, He heals them.

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Happy 7th Birthday, Baby Girl! I love you, my Becca Boo!

Dear Ms Walsh

I am NOT a political person.  And this is NOT about to be a political post.  This is, however, a reply to a statement made by a politician.  Rather than reply with my first thoughts, I have let myself stew for a couple of days.  My mind has run the full gamet of my thoughts and I have come back to the fact that this woman must be incredibly lucky.  Yup.  She’d have to be.  To have never once had a need for a nurse to care for her.  But if in fact, she has only ever encountered the .001% of nurses that don’t care about their patients, then she is perhaps the most UNlucky person in the world.  She’s one or the other.  Because I can’t believe that someone who had encountered the 99.999% of nurses who are absolutely phenominal could ever make the kind of stupid and extremely callous and painful statements she has made.   I have decided to mail her the following letter.  It will go in the mail this week.  (Again, keep in mind- I don’t DO politics, people.)

Dear Ms Walsh,

Hello.  I’d like to introduce myself.  I’m a mom of three from San Antonio, Texas.  I’m a preschool teacher.  I just wanted to send you a letter and say that right now I’m sure you’re receiving a ton of mail from all over the country.  Probably a lot of craziness.  Who knew the words you said could cause so much nationwide commotion, right?  Well, I just wanted to encourage you.  Lift you up a bit through all of the nastiness you may be hearing, by sharing a miracle with you.

I wanted to tell you my story.  Well, it’s not really mine- it’s my daughter’s.  It’s a pretty long one, but I’ll summarize somewhat.  Our little Mirielle (“Elle”) was born last February, right on time and perfectly healthy.  When she was 10 1/2 weeks old, she got RSV.  She ended up in our Children’s Hospital here- CHOSA.  She just kept struggling, and after a couple of weeks ended up with a staph infection from her feeding tube (through no fault of the hospital staff).  Her lungs were super, super weak.  When the highly trained staff went to intubate her, her lungs collapsed, and she “coded.”  They were able to bring her back.  She ended up needing six chest tubes, and the team of highly trained medical personnel determined that she needed to be placed on ECMO life support.  (It’s a machine that basically acted as her lungs for her- her blood was pumped by her heart through tubes into the machine, where it was oxygenated, then pumped back into her tiny little body, circulated back to her heart, and then the process started all over again.  Constantly.  For eight and a half days.)  

During that time, she had not one but TWO nurses by her side- CONSTANTLY.  One was managing the computer for the pump, monitoring every number and never waivering from the screen- for a full twelve hour shift- and the other was managing Elle’s every personal need.  And she had a lot.  She was receiving a LOT of medications through various IVs and ports and there were many numbers to monitor on her screens, not to mention she needed diapers changed, and her eyes didn’t always stay closed because she was so heavily sedated, so she needed eye gels applied and her lips would get very dry so she needed cream on them, and lotion to keep her skin from cracking.  Plus, she had to be rotated every couple of hours to keep her tiny body from getting bed sores.  So they attended her every need.  Constantly.  And they sang to her.  And they played her music and talked to her, and made beautiful artwork by painting her hands and feet- subtly telling us as parents that they realized fully that the bloated tiny little blob on their table wasn’t just some doll, but actually there really was a little girl trapped inside.  Our little girl.  Our precious baby.

They loved her and they cared for her.  At the same time, next door, a little guy passed away.  He never had any visitors that I had seen.  He had his sweet nurses.  When they weren’t doing their nine million tasks, one of them would be just sitting by his side, holding his hand.  Or singing to him.  And then he was gone.  When I saw the gurney come to get him, I wept.  Not for his parents, wherever they were.  No, not for them, but rather, for his nurses.  Because they loved him when he had noone.  Just as they loved Elle, who had us, they loved him.  He didn’t go alone.  Because that’s what nurses do.  

I would venture to say that if a nurse happens to have a spare minute, they might be found playing cards, sure- with a patient whose parents had to step out and that little girl just needed to not be alone when she woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep.  Because even twelve year olds get scared.  Or maybe they might be found playing cards with the elderly veteran down the hall whose wife passed away two years ago, and his kids can’t stay at night because they have kids of their own, and he just can’t sleep.  Or maybe you might even find a nurse in a hospital room playing a quick round of go fish with a little boy whose mommy is sick and he’s scared and daddy just had to take a minute to himself.  Because trust me, if you can find a nurse anywhere in this country playing cards, he or she probably hasn’t eaten lunch, or gone to the bathroom, because that game of cards is more important than his or her own personal needs.

You see, one day I happened to overhear a conversation that one of Elle’s nurses hadn’t had lunch the day before, and I realized that was because she had never left Elle’s side.  So I made a mention to the Sister who was present and helping our family to please make sure that the sweet nurse had someone to cover her break so she could eat lunch that day.  She was so concerned with my baby’s health that she didn’t even think to eat lunch.  And that’s the NORM, Ms Walsh, not the exception.  Nurses all over this country, every single day, they fight hard… and yes, they lose some.  But then some, like Elle, get better!  They go home and they become the reminder to those nurses of why they do what they do.  They help patients on the brink of death.  And they care!!  They get so close emotionally to each and every single one.

Elle is a miracle story- she shouldn’t have made it.  But she did!!!  And she had so many nurses along the way who fought for her health.  I encourage my older kids to pursue their interests, and I will with her as well, but I sure hope she grows up wanting to be a nurse.  Because I don’t think there is any nobler career choice she could ever make, and what better way for her to pay back the life she’s been given than by helping others- by being a nurse.

So please, Ms Walsh, as you face backlash from all over the country, take this letter as the encouragement it is meant to be!!!  Your statement was NOT entirely wrong.  Nurses might play cards.  You just were entirely wrong in your implication that they sit around and play cards with each other and place bets and have tons of free time.  Because free time isn’t in their vocabulary.  There aren’t enough nurses to properly care for everyone in most places.  And they have so much to do they can’t possibly get it all done during their shift and frequently work way over just to get everything done.  But be encouraged – if you or one of your loved ones is ever in the hospital, you don’t have to worry about the level of care you/they will receive!  And if you want to bring a deck of cards, one of your nurses might just skip lunch to play a quick game with you.

Please look at the photos I’m including and smile.  Know that nurses here in Texas did more than just their jobs, and that actually one of her nurses has since moved on and is now serving the citizens of your great state!  That’s right- you’re blessed right now with one of the most fabulous people Texas could send to you!  Treat her kindly, and with respect, I beg you.  Here are some pictures from when Elle was in the hospital, and then here she is now- thanks to nurses.

May God bless you to never have to experience having a loved one being cared for our nation’s finest.  But if you do face the inevitable, I pray you experience a change of heart as you see their dedication and their love.  God Bless.

Christy Hinnant,
Mom of Mirielle

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elle during and after ecmo
These photos show her on ECMO, then a few days after being taken off the machine, when she turned three months old, and then on May 22, 2018, when she came home.

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Easter, 2019 – a year later

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Easter, 2019 – a year later

A Letter to My Youngest

My precious little miracle,

Here we sit. It’s April 16th. I was supposed to work today, but you and I are both sick, and you need regular nebulizer treatments, so I stayed home with you. You definitely don’t feel good, but man, you’re so much healthier than this time a year ago. When I checked on you before coming to bed, your breathing was perfectly even. Your body is fighting this virus the same way you fight everything- stubborn, and head-on. You should be all better in just a couple more days. This has been hard on me, though. Harder than an outsider might fathom. But having you wheezing on April 16 just doesn’t set well with my heart.

Your wonderful Daddy and I have been through our share of rollercoaster life events in our marriage – moving, a career change for me, having a baby, medical issues for me with my gallbladder, losing his Mima, losing two babies early in pregnancy, having a second baby, losing my grandparents within four days of each other… we felt like we’d seen a lot. We weathered each rise and fall of the rollercoaster great because of our faith. We faced some positive and some negative surprises along the way, and of course the biggest (positive!!) surprise we ever had was having you! And what a wonderful, miraculous surprise you are!!! We felt we had faced it all, and then you got sick. Very sick. And you were just so very tiny still. Ten and a half weeks old. Our tiny, precious little miracle bug. Our little mermaid.

I relive those days over and over at random times. The days between April 9 and April 17 are all a blur. A blur that comes to a sudden, halting stop at 10:58 pm on April 17. The hours between then and the night of the 19th are a blur too, but a very different blur- where every minute seemed to last for hours. The hours stretched into seemingly days, and the days to weeks. Every time we almost lost you my heart would stop for long seconds, and I would die inside. Sometimes I wished the tears would come, and they wouldn’t. And other times, the floodgates would open and I couldn’t make them stop. I would hold your tiny fingers and crave the feeling of holding you close. I begged God to give me a chance to hold you again. And then the clock stopped again, and we were told we were at your last option. ECMO. I remember texting your Nurse Practioner, Katie, and begging her to come be with us. I am pretty sure I just said, “ECMO. It’s time. Please can you come.” And she of course came.

For eight and a half agonizingly long days, we had a family member always by your side. We moved into the Ronald McDonald House so we were able to be together as a whole family in the same building. And we settled into the hospital life. A life where everyone suddenly knew we were Elle’s family- from room 25. The days and nights of ECMO were stressful at first, but we settled into an amazing routine with the nursing team, and felt like we weren’t alone in this journey. And baby girl, we were never alone. God sent His very own angels right there into your room day and night to look over you. They never left you. They made it possible for us to sleep. I know they were angels because they never seemed to tire, and they brought such encouragement to us- directly from Heaven- to pull us through.

But through all of your victorious recovery after ECMO and everything, my brain can’t really move past the night of the 17th. And I’m not really sure how I’ll be tomorrow night when the clock is about to strike 11. I’m hoping I can go to bed somewhat early and sleep right through it. But I relive those moments of hearing the alarm go off, the nurse coming in, flipping on the lights, and you being so pale that you were blue. Her screaming down the hall for help. The rush of staff. And then more. And more. Calling your Daddy numerous times and finally calling your Pappy to go downstairs and wake him up to come to the hospital. Calling Granny and PawPaw. Asking for the Chaplain. The resident coming out to talk to us and update us on how you were doing. And I kept seeing his Batman light and knowing Jacob was watching over you, and surely God had sent us this resident as a sign that He was with us…

Your tiny fingers. Your little nose. I tried to memorize them all as we stood with some of our dearest friends around your bed and had you baptised.

It’s true that the whole 43 days at the hospital changed me, sure. But that night. The night of April 17. It’s a night that I will relive probably for the rest of my life. I pray that one year, the memory will be so very faded that I’ll strain my brain trying to remember the sequence of events. But I doubt that will ever happen. And that’s ok. Because it shaped who I am as a person, and who I am as a mother.

I treasure every little thing that any of the three of you does or says. I do my best to live in the moment in a way I had never done before. Because I know that a night like April 17, 2018, can sneak up any time and threaten to steal any one of you away from me, and I refuse to be left without a full catalog of priceless memories. So here’s to cataloguing memories, and if you are a mom when you finally read this, I pray you learn from what I learned the hard way. Don’t miss a moment. Treasure every tiny finger and every tiny toe on every single one of your babies, and notice as they get longer. Memorize every laugh. Trace every smile onto the stone of your mind. And live- really, truly LIVE with your kids.

I love you so very much, my precious girl. More than words could ever express, I am thankful for you and I love you. Always. Sleep good tonight, my ElleBug. Sweet dreams.

Love,

Mommy

Interested in reading Elle’s full story? Visit her CaringBridge site here.

A Letter To Myself – in the past

Dear Younger Me,

There’s so much I could say.  You’re only a year younger than me right now.  But there is so much coming ahead of you.  Treasure every moment.  There is going to be fear you’ve never felt.  There is going to be joy that you can’t imagine.  There will be sorrow beyond belief.  It will be a rollercoaster ride.  But there is nothing I will say to try to prevent any of it from happening.  I won’t tell you what it is, or how it happened.  I won’t tell you.  But I will say that in the end, it will all be worth it.  You will grow closer to your kids than you could ever imagine.  You and Cody will have a relationship that is so much deeper than comprehension.  Your faith will be tested, and will be found to be strong.  You aren’t without fault.  You will YELL at God.  Both in your head, and literally out loud.  You will be scared.  You will be angry.  You will lose a LOT of sleep.  But you will learn lessons I couldn’t begin to outline in a simple note.  It will be worth every moment of agony.  It will be worth every single sleepless night.  It will be worth the PTSD that is left as a shadow.  Because you can’t truly know the joy of life without tasting the fear of death.  I wouldn’t want to do it again.  I pray you never relive this past year in any form.  But if we do, I know from the year I’ve just come through that we will survive because God will carry us.  He will carry you high on His shoulders this next year.  Because there will be times you can’t even begin to walk.  And I promise you, He will never, ever let you down.

-Your self, one year in the future

This note was inspired by the following song:
Dear Younger Me
by MercyMe

Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running thru my head
I wonder how much different things would be
Dear younger me,

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride
Dear younger me, dear younger me

If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
If I knew then what I know now
Would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard

Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Dear younger me

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed

Every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
Every moment brings you closer
To who you were meant to be
Dear younger me, dear younger me

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed