Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Recap

A wonderful exhaustion comes from a week of family, friends and celebrating the birth of our Lord.  I am forever thankful for the people in my life who value time together just as much as I do.  I hope your Christmas was full of all things good and feelings of love and happiness fill your heart as you take a deep breath and remember each moment.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

When I found this it gave me the exact words I had been searching for.  It's never easy to leave a place you have settled in, but it is worth it for the new people and places you will experience.  When I look back on the past five or six years, I am reminded of the many people and places who have pieces of my heart all over this country and that is a good feeling to have.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Adventures

It's been three and a half years since I said good-bye to the life I knew.  Good-bye to friends, family, home and familiarity.  That good-bye meant getting married, moving to a new state, finding a new home and starting a new job.

We didn't know what we were doing, but we figured it out.  We had our first Christmas away from family and even played in a Virginia blizzard.

We made new friends who became more like family

We found an amazing church where we were able to grow in our faith

We lived for beach days....well I did.

And survived our first hurricane

We went to the zoo

We worked a little

And traveled a lot

We learned about life, love and how to be a family.

Now we are back in a familiar, but surprisingly strange place.  It's time to say good-bye so we can welcome the new adventures coming our way.  It's weird to think about leaving Virginia because this is where we grew up.  We became a team here and learned to balance work and home life.  We have so many happy memories and met people who have changed our lives.  We are different then when we started...we are better.

On to Pennsylvania...
We will continue to grow as individuals and as a family.  We will welcome our first baby and reconnect with family.  We will start new jobs, meet new people and have new adventures.  Life will be different, but we will treasure our time in Virginia and the people who have changed our lives forever.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A little less therapizing

Warning:  this post is wordy, but worth it and no, the word therapizing is not a real word...

I worked with a patient who was involved in an extremely traumatic event that required her to be hospitalized in the PICU.  She was a toddler who refused to talk at first.  She was, appropriately, anxious with strangers as her family was not bedside.  She indicated by shaking her head that she would color if provided the materials.  I strategically chose crayons, plain white paper and a coloring book, hoping she would utilized the plain paper to tell her story, but wanting her to have choices as well.  I was pleasantly surprised and actually excited when she chose the white paper and began intently creating her masterpiece.  She worked for about 15 minutes, which was quite an effort given her age.  She was specific and seemed to choose her colors with care.  

My years of training and education taught me that this patient was using the tools to share her trauma and work through the stress she must be experiencing.  I knew she probably wouldn't have the vocabulary to discuss her art, but as long as she had the opportunity to work through her stress, I had done my job as a child life specialist.  

When she finally finished, she simply moved the paper to the side and picked up her coloring book.  Being the good child life specialist that I am, I let the patient continue in her play while I looked over her drawing.

I attempted to create meaning behind this creation and searched for hidden messages relating to the trauma, but of course, I am not an art therapist and came up short.  The social worker then came in to do a needs assessment, but saw the drawing first and asked the patient about her creation.  The patient calmly looked up and said "it's her" pointing to me.  What?  How could this possibly be a picture of me?  Where was the therapeutic value?  Confused the social worker asked for a little clarification.  This little one explained the two circles were of course my eyes with my eye lashes, the black line was my nose and the red was my hair...duh. 

This child wasn't traumatized at all and after taking some time to color she quickly warmed up to me and the other staff.  Her play remained normal and she showed no signs of distress during the rest of her hospitalization.  I was reminded that kids just need the opportunity to be kids and, if we over analyze their play, we may miss that special moment where the drawing is just an expression of friendship.

I can't help but wonder if those eyes are beautiful art or a sign I need to get more sleep.  Either way I will treasure the picture and remember that the work of children must be respected, but never over analyzed or judged. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

There is just something about Christmas time that makes me feel warm and happy inside.  It, of course, helps when I am in Pennsylvania with my family.  We always get ready for Christmas the beginning of December and would probably start earlier if the men in our family would allow it.  Since I was little, it has been tradition for us to get the tree together.  As we have moved out and started our own families, my parents still wait till most of us are home to pick out the prized tree of the year.



This year many of us were home for Thanksgiving, which provided the perfect opportunity to begin our Christmas festivities.  As if getting the tree and decorating isn't enough, we also took a day to make tons of yummy cookies.

This is a wonderful way to spend time with family and bake yummy goodness to share with others.  I don't know a better way to bring together generations and share memories that will last a lifetime.

What is your favorite tradition when preparing for the holidays?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from PA

It is wonderful spending the holidays with family and this year I was reminded of the blessing it is to be close to loved ones, especially when life is changing and new adventures are beginning.

Today, and everyday, I am thankful for my husband who is my rock and biggest support. He evens me out and keeps me on track.  He leads me in the right direction and is constantly making me laugh.  I would be lost without him.

This year we are extremely thankful for the new adventure we have started.

Those two little lines told us we will be welcoming Baby Shep in June 2014!

We certainly don't feel prepared for this experience, but we have been overjoyed by the love and excitement we have felt from our friends and family.

What are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving in the PICU

This year we have a lot of little ones in the PICU.  I have found myself stuck in that place of seeing everyone, finding no child life needs and having hours left in my day.  These babies are sick so there aren't many toys needed and many are over stimulated by touch.  I have been providing a lot of family support and searching for a way to include these little ones in the festivities of the upcoming holidays.  I had seen turkey handprints online and thought they were absolutely adorable but worried about the feasibility with my kiddos. Since many of these patients cannot be touch for long periods of time, I improvised... 

I used model magic to get a handprint and then painted the print instead of attempting to paint each hand and get a quality print.  It was much easier for the patients and the families seemed to love them. Painting the hand of an intubated child may be easier at times; however, it can be extremely over stimulating and it is essential to watch the monitors and the child's cues to assess how each patient is tolerating the stimuli.

As far as legacy building goes, I am torn.  If this was the only thing I could get with a sensitive, intubated patient it would work, but the paint takes away the lines and finger prints that make each mold unique.  Many of the turkeys I painted myself, but, when appropriate, I gave the supplies to the parents or siblings to participate which seemed to be well received.  Overall, I would say this activity was successful and will be utilized again.

What activities do you do with your patients or children for the holidays?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What would your sign say?

The other day I came across an article entitled Let's be gentle with each other.  Let's read each other's signs from this website.  IT. IS. POWERFUL.

Hopefully the idea of empathy is not completely foreign, however, it has certainly become a stranger in society today.  This article was written by a woman who found herself in a time of extreme stress and great need, but help was not easily found.  She suggests how different life would be if we could move past all the small talk and just say what we feel.  What if we didn't have to walk on egg shells in public or we were surrounded by people who wanted to care for us in times of need?  What if we could each wear a sign that let everyone know times are tough and it's hard to talk about it?

While we may never truly know what someone is really experiencing, we could instead assume each person is wearing a sign that says "please be gentle with me, I'm doing my best" and extend grace and empathy regardless of the situation.  Instead of judgement, people could feel love.  Instead of lonely, people could feel support.  Instead of selfishness, the world could see empathy and kindness.  With all that love, support, empathy and kindness; my problems seem a little more manageable and my feelings matter.

What would your sign say?  What do you wish people knew when you put on your pretend happy face before you start your day?  How would life be different if you felt like you could let your guard down, even just a little?

This week my sign might say:  "I think I can, I just need someone to agree"  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Sometimes the best technique I can utilize whether for pain, coping, or anxiety is distraction.  We can all be distracted by something and, as a child life specialist, I take my job very seriously as I work to uncover the specific distraction that works for each patient.  For toddlers it can include bubbles, singing, or light up toys.  For school aged children, I often gravitate toward the iPad, a game, or craft.  For teens, a good distraction might be talking about their favorite movie, listening to music, or an activity.  Whatever that topic is, I must work to find how I can utilize it as I attempt to distract from an unpleasant experience.

Today, I found myself working very hard for my pay check as I printed out pictures of these two for a teenage girl to use as distraction...

It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.  To all my child life friends - keep up the hard work and if the opportunity ever arises to use pictures like this has hospital room wallpaper...don't let it slip away.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Group Play

What a wonderful afternoon in the playroom!  I was able to get a PICU patient up to the playroom which is a rare occasion as few of my patients are able to do this.  It was a perfect afternoon, creating with energetic school age girls.  

One of the very creative child life specialists I work with came up with the idea to do a group project--the button tree.  This has been a very popular activity lately and these girls were up for the challenge.  We all chose our favorite buttons and took turns adding them to the tree.  While there may not be an obvious therapeutic goal for the button tree, I would say our goals today

1. Engaging patients with differing physical abilities
2. Promoting group work
3. Encouraging normalization of the hospital

were a success!  This was a reminder of the great work that is child life and the happiness that comes from seeing a sick child feel empowered through play.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Importance of Play

This week I have been reminded of the importance of child-centered play.  I have been working with a patient who has needed me only to provide a safe space to play.  She has an incredible imagination and tells powerful stories to understand her world.  She doesn't need my prompts, my ideas, or even my replies in conversation.  She only needs me to be the container of her story and her play.  This experience has been healing for her and intriguing for me.  She has learned to better understand her world, recognized her strength and learned coping techniques that will last a lifetime.  I continue to be impressed by the work of children and the value of play, especially in times of stress.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

31 Days of Gratitude :: Day 31

Here we are!!!!  {Almost} 31 days of showing gratitude toward some of the wonderful things in my life.  I have a heart overflowing with love and thankfulness. And I have to say this experience has opened my eyes to the gifts of each day and the people I am blessed to know.  I could easily continue to blog on this topic for months to come.  Instead I think I will consider other reasons why I started this blog, but continue to include posts about gratitude and the many blessings in my life. 

Today I want to say thank you to each person who stuck with me and followed each day.  Even though these are my bits of gratitude, I hope I inspired you to consider the treasures in your own life!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Days of Gratitude :: Day 29 & 30

Yesterday was a long day and I fell to make up for that here is a big shout out to the people who make it easy to go to work everyday.  While the kids and families keep me motivated and push me to be better, the staff keep me coming back.  This crew makes me smile, they understand my sarcasm and they have taught me how to be successful in an intensive care unit.

This week is PICU Spirit Week!  I am so proud of the spirit this crew has brought already and I can't wait to see what the rest of this week brings.  I am forever grateful for the PICU staff, the lessons they teach me everyday and the joy they bring to my life!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

31 Days of Gratitude :: Day 28

What a wonderful Sunday!!!  From church in the most beautiful building...

To lunch with my love and getting weeks of laundry spending the afternoon with the most wonderful women {Kristine and Steph} and pups {Piper and Mady}

One of those woman is Piper's mama, Kristine.  I am so thankful she has become one of my dearest friends, she is the most wonderful person and makes life a celebration every time we are together.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

31 Days of Gratitude :: Day 26

I am forever grateful that 27 years ago this man came into the world!!!

I am even more grateful that we have celebrated this day together for the past 7 years!

And I look forward to celebrating it together for at least 70 more!