Monday, October 12, 2015

Documenting Life || Baking Cookies with Grandma

When kids came into my life it seemed so much more important to document the every day stuff. I mean this is the good stuff. This is where memories are made. And I don't want to forget these moments, but I also want to preserve them for the little minds that might have a hard time remembering at such a young age.

Life passes us by so quickly. I hope I will remember the details, but the truth is that many of those details will slip away as my life gets busier and the days pass by-new details will take their place.

Many of my favorite childhood memories come from spending time at my grandparents. We would go swimming, visit around the dining room table and eat lots of yummy food. My grandma always had something freshly baked for us to consume. She also was the first one to say yes to any request......baking cookies, setting up a lemonade stand or planning a picnic. I love to look back on pictures of these times and it makes me even happier to be able to capture these moments with the next generation! Document your life. Tell your story. Save your memories!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Finding the Catchlight

You know the term "baby blues"? Something about that description makes me think about those big ol eyes looking up at mama and for the first time recognizing her face as a familiar safe place. And there is just something about those eyes that I want to always remember....that excitement for learning and that naïve love for life doesn't last forever.

I recently learned a great trick to make sure those big, beautiful eyes can stay with me forever - FIND THE LIGHT. Find a space that is naturally bright and get at an angle where you can see the light reflecting from those eyes - this is called catchlight and will make eyes pop in your picture.  It's so important to create a tangible reminder of these fleeting moments.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Documenting Life || Summer Art Class

This year my Aunt had her first Summer Art Class with 4 girls.  I stopped by during the last class to document some of their work.  The class was 8 weeks and covered an array of mixed media.  Art is such a great way for some kids to work out confusion, stress or aggression.  It can be an excellent calming tool and a great conversation starter as well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Documenting Life || Water Table Fun

After an unintentional three month hiatus, I am back...maybe.  Life is busy.  The spring and summer months have proven to be especially busy and we have really enjoyed our adventures outside.  This summer is a complete 180 from last summer (hallelujah!) and I am so thankful for the difference a year makes - more on that another time.

In efforts to get better pictures of my baby turned toddler and our loved ones, I have been learning the ins and outs of my camera (finally!) and, as you can see, I never lack in models to practice on.  I love documenting life and the smiles that come with looking back on these days.

Outdoor play is so important!  The fresh air, vitamin D and a little bit of dirt have a way of igniting the imagination and practically guarantee a good nights sleep.  PLUS what is better than playing outside in the water?!  So we got the water table out earlier this summer and played for hours. 

Some enjoyed the water more than others and one little girl couldn't get close enough - she wanted it so bad she crawled right in!

Friday, April 10, 2015

10 Months!

I missed 9 months because....well I don't know why.  But here is a perfect picture of a 9 month old little girl who has no fear and a love for adventure

And just like that she is 10 months old!  I cannot believe our sweet little girl is getting so big!  She has quite the personality, she is independent and she loves to climb, bounce and swing.  She is fearless and loves when her Daddy puts her on his shoulders or when her Uncle Ben does the 'roller coaster'.  She eats all food as long as it's not puréed baby food and is so proud when she can feed herself (and the dog).  She crawls when there is nothing available to assist in walking and would rather play with tupperware than any of her toys. 

Sweet girl you are such a joy!  We love you and we are so blessed to have you call us mama and dada.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Chinese Checkers

When we are at my parents house we play Chinese Checkers.  It doesn't matter who is there or what time of day - we play and it is serious.  But it doesn't get much better than early morning games with this light and these competitors.

Someone makes up his own rules which currently includes spinning the board around half way through the game.

And his little sister - well she knows she is loved and so safe in her mama's arms, so she will sit and watch (a breakfast break is an added bonus).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Child Life Month :: The Keeper of The Stories

I wanted to share my experiences in Child Life this month.  My goal was to share stories of my profession to bring awareness to the field and those impacted by the work being done.  I have so many stories.  I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly and, if given the opportunity, I would teach the world the importance of play.  I believe in the power of play and I believe in the importance of child life.

I sat down to write on many occasions and reminisced about my work and the work of my colleagues that I so admire.  The words came and the stories were written, but I couldn't publish them.  So many of those stories are so personal.  They might include me as a main character, but they are about so much more.  And to post them in this way may cheapen them or normalize them, but there is nothing normal about what goes on within a hospital and the lives impacted are worth so much more than the words I could type on this blog.

Just know is that hard work is being done inside the hospital.  Lives are being saved, but even beyond the physical healing, there are opportunities for emotional and mental healing that are provided through play.  The Play Ladies (and gentlemen) are there to allow kids to continue their stories and we feel honored to take even a small part in those stories.  We are happy to hold the space and, even though the work is often heavy and exhausting, we will usually be the ones with a smile on our face and bubbles in our hand.

Even though I have been out of the hospital raising my baby, this is still an important part of my life and I am so thankful to all of you who have celebrated this month with me!  If you know a child life professional, there is still time to celebrate their work and let them know they are making a difference!  Happy Child Life Month!

Monday, March 16, 2015

If you resent it...

Dr. Sears is a well-known man who people love and love to hate.  He brings a lot of controversy into conversations and, while I do not agree with all of his ideas and theories, I had a bit of an ah-ha moment after reading an article he had written about high-needs babies.  In the article he encourages parents to do what feels right to them in order to ease into parenthood and the relationship with baby naturally.  In the article he made the following statement:

"If you resent it, change it"

Those words have been resonating with me for weeks.  It really can be that simple.  Do what works for you and change what doesn't.  I don't believe change is easy or quick, but I do believe this outlook can empower us in life and lead to less complaining which often leads to happiness, peace and a content spirit.

So keep up the good work, do what works and change what doesn't.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Child Life Month :: The Power In Being With

Recently I was reminded of work I did with a 10 year old boy, we'll call him Alex.  Alex was admitted to the PICU after a terrible accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and he sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  After Alex's body was stabilized through many surgeries and medical intervention, the staff began to wean his sedation to assess his mental status and injury from the TBI.  It was unlikely Alex would ever communicate again and he seemed to be neurologically devastated.

Alex was admitted during a particularly slow time in the PICU (otherwise, I am ashamed to say, he may not have received as much attention from me).  I was told he had no child life needs.  But things were slow so I would go in at least once a day to read to him.  He would stare blankly at the wall and gave me no indication that he even knew I was there.

While spending time with him I would always ask him to blink once for yes and to blink twice for no, but never had a response.  One day I came in to some cartoons geared toward toddlers on the TV.  I appreciated the effort of whoever turned the TV on, but laughed out loud and said, "I bet you love these baby cartoons huh Alex? We should find something cooler to watch".  And I thought I saw him blink.  

I asked him to blink again.....nothing.  He stared right through me and I started to second guess myself.  But I realized how scared he must have been and I wondered if anyone had explained what happened to him.  I introduced myself to him again and explained that he was in the hospital after a very bad accident.  I told him the doctors and nurses were taking good care of him because his body was very sick and needed help.  He didn't respond.  I didn't want to overwhelm him so I stopped there and started reading again.  

Every day I reminded him of my name, that I was there to read and that his body was hurt, but there were lots of people to help.  One day I asked him if I could start a new book and I showed him a Spider Man book and he responded by blinking one very long, purposeful blink!  He was scared and since he couldn't get up and run away, he did what he needed to do to protect himself.  But when he felt safe enough he started to communicate through blinking.  In building rapport, we were able to learn that he loved superheroes, Pokemon and the window blinds open.  

Soon Alex no longer needed intensive care and he was transferred to an area where he eventually was able to get in a wheel chair and use a communication device to interact with others.

In the ICU, there are many faces and it can be difficult to have consistency.  I am so thankful that child life specialists can often be a consistent, familiar face in a time of crisis!  Happy Child Life Month!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Internet Inspiration

Being a mom has been a bumpy ride for me.  I experience the highest highs and the lowest lows in a day (sometimes in an hour) and having a baby who enjoys A LOT of togetherness has pushed me in ways I never imagined.  I have to say though that it feels good to not be alone.  I have good moms all around me and I have learned these feelings are shared by many.

Lately, I have come across some amazingly, talented moms who use technology to encourage, inspire and share their lives and I wanted to make sure you know about them too!  Their openness about parenting and living in the day-to-day has been such a blessing to me!

Ashley blogs here and you can follow her on Instagram @underthesycamore

Tiffany from @thegraygang on Instagram 

Emily blogs here and you can follow her on Instagram @todaysletters

Lesley from here and you can follow her on Instagram @lesleyzellers

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Look At The Bigger Picture

As an intern, I was mostly interested in seeing procedures, surgeries, traumas, etc.  I learn by observing first-hand so these things appealed to me.  Even as an experienced child life specialist, I feel most helpful in the 'action', which is what drew me to the PICU.

One day, as an intern, there was a procedure I had hoped to observe.  I knew about it the day before and had spent that evening planning my approach, what I would need for teaching and distraction and how I would advocate.  The time came for the procedure and my supervisor sent me to another patient to asses her needs and build rapport.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  Not only was I missing out on something exciting, but I spent the next two hours beading string for necklaces with a 7 year old.

In that moment I was annoyed and wondered if my supervisor thought I wasn't able to handle the procedure.  After I expressed my concerns and she told me she thought the 7 year old was a higher priority and asked me why that might be.  I had no idea.  I couldn't even make something up.  She didn't answer the question for me, but by the end of the week I knew.

The 7 year old had little family support, English was not her primary language and her new diagnosis would require multiple procedures over the next couple days.  By taking time to make a necklace when the stress level was moderately low, this child and her mom trusted me when things got hard.  They invited me to be a part of their team and allowed me to advocate for their needs when they didn't know how.  My supervisor had the experience to know what the patient's symptoms may require and she could see the bigger picture.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Happy Child a Life Month!

March is Child Life Month!  We used to always laugh and say that the less you make = the longer you celebrate.  For example, doctors get a day, nurses have a week and child life gets a month!  But regardless of the dollars on my pay check or the fact that life looks a little different since deciding to be a stay-at-home mom, this profession has made me into a person I never knew I could be.

In honor of this month I want to share some stories from my work.  Some of them are professional mountains I had to climb, some are about patients and colleagues who have influenced me and some are just fond memories.  In order to maintain confidentiality, I will change names and will not give any identifying information.  It is not my place to tell someone's story - I can only share how they have changed my heart.

I hope you enjoy these stories and get a better understanding of the profession.
It all started in California, during H1N1.  I interned at U.C. Davis Medical Center where I learned from some child life power houses, had some great adventures and gained the confidence I needed to become successful.

Happy Child Life Month!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dirty Little Secrets Of Parenthood

I love the idea of breastfeeding so much and I support women everyday who want to breastfeed or are struggling to breastfeed - I am a lactation consultant so naturally, my plan was to breastfeed at least a year.  When my baby came I hated every moment of it!  I would feel so much anxiety as it got close to time to feed and tense up when I was feeding. It was a terrible experience and I lasted 6 months only because I felt so much pressure to do so.  I am still a lactation consultant and I still believe in breastfeeding, but now I understand another side of it.
-mom an 11 year old

I hate pinterest because it makes me feel like there is always something better I could do and it's exhausting trying to keep up with that.
-mom of two, ages 5 and 3

All my ideas come from pinterest.  I don't know what I did before everything became pinteresting!
-mom of three, ages 8, 6 and 3

I am a graphic designer and my kids tell people I am lucky because I get to use fancy crayons and markers all day, but I won't bring them home to share.  I used to correct them (mostly out of pride), but now I just agree and every once in awhile I will stop at the store on my way home and buy some new art supplies for them to try.
-mom of three, ages 10, 9 and 5

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How To Find Your Own Success

Yesterday I missed a call from a dear friend.  I wasn't able to call her back right away, but I am almost glad I missed it because I could literally feel her excitement through her voicemail and it was contagious (plus it gave me time to think).  At the end of the voicemail she asked me this -   

If you could do anything in the world, what would it be? What would you need? And what would that look like?

I used to have 100 things I could spout off and give 100 reasons why each was a good idea.  I knew what it would look like and exactly what I needed to achieve each great idea.  Before I had a baby, I was doing it all.  I was working toward many of my professional goals {and everyone else's goals} and the sky was my limit.  I would have argued that I could do anything I wanted to do and I truly believed that nothing and no one could get in my way.

Lately I have had a shift in the way I view success and happiness.  In some ways becoming a mom has left me feeling like a super hero.  I mean this is the hardest work I could do and I am in awe of what I am capable of.  But in other ways I am much more aware of my strengths and weaknesses - I no longer believe that I could or should do anything I want to.

One of my favorite blogger/photographers recently wrote about finding that 'sweet spot' where your skills, passions and opportunities all meet.  It is in that place that a person will truly be successful.  She posted the picture below and it has stuck with me all week. 

I am still thinking about what that one thing would be for myself, but suddenly I feel a sense of relief {truly} knowing that I was not made to do it all, instead I can focus on that 'sweet spot' and do it well.  But it's not just about me.  You see we are all in a position where we can encourage others {spouse, children, siblings, friends, etc.} to live in that success as well!

It is often difficult to see our own skills and talents, but those things are easily spotted by a parent, spouse or best friend.  Ask around and find out what you are known for and see if those things are being used everyday.  If the answer is yes then you are probably happy in your work and feel successful, but if the answer is no, you may feel like something is missing.

What would you do if you could do anything?  What's stopping you?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Types of Parents Handing Out Advice

Recently my husband and I have had the "privilege" of hearing a lot of opinions and advice about the way we parent.  Perhaps these little pieces of information have been thrown at us all along, but now that we have gotten a little sleep we are more inclined to hear them.  Regardless we have felt everything from gratitude to complete shock as we are blessed with these little gifts of advice.

It has been rather interesting to find that advice typically comes from three types of parents...

1.  The Seasoned Parent

This is the parent who has been there, done that.  They are likely the parents of teenagers or maybe adult children with kids of their own.  They remember the beauty in parenting, the joy in holding a new baby and how fast the years go by.  This group has two subgroups, the precious moments group and the judgemental group.  The precious moments group has valuable advice that comes from a kind heart.  It is, at times, hard to hear when in the trenches of parenting young children, but it should be stored away and considered when you have a moment to think.  The judgemental group doesn't remember the good or the bad of their own parenting experience - instead they remember the ideal and they believe they know the right way and can't wait to tell you how you are doing it wrong.  They are the ones who believe you should be doing the exact opposite of what you are actually doing.

2.  The New Parent

This group is often full of valuable advice because they are in the trenches with you.  They remember the good, the bad and the ugly because it happened yesterday and is on repeat today.  The problem is that it is extremely difficult to get advice from this group because they are tired, busy and {when given the opportunity to get out} would rather talk about something else.  When they are ready to share, this advice often comes out in word vomit because time is precious and they want to share as much as possible in a short period of time.

3.  The Perfect Parent

This group has a lot to say.  They are easily found and know more about the right and wrong way to parent than any other group.  They know the latest research.  They are the first to answer any question you have.  And they are easy to spot because they are well-rested, have flexible schedules, excessive free time and NO CHILDREN.

Here is my advice on parenting.....Keep on keepin' on!  And my hope for you is that this weekend brings something wonderful - maybe a little more sleep, a night out, or just lunch before 2:30!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Oh Valentines Day

This year I had wonderful plans of creating a special day full of cheesy Valentines themed junk.  We had festive clothes, little gifts, and the hope of yummy food throughout the day.  My husband worked nights this week so the girls woke up Saturday morning and let him sleep in.  As I started thinking about brunch, our little one decided she was ready for a nap, but she just wouldn't settle.  I tried everything (for two hours), but she continued to scream.  Finally, I was at the end of my rope so I threw my plans out the window and we got in the car to go for a drive.

Within minutes she was fast asleep and I could take a deep breath and enjoy the drive.  I stopped for some heart shaped donuts and got home just seconds after my brother and his friend pulled in and just as the babe was waking up.  Instead of breakfast in bed, my husband got an extra 30 minutes of sleep and a yummy donut AND our visitors made our day!  Plans didn't work out as hoped, but guess what.....everyone was ok.

The next day I tried again and had much more success!  We had a great day relaxing, made our guy breakfast in bed, ate lots of chocolate and took too many pictures.

Valentine's Day is about showing love to the ones who matter most and, when I take a step back and look with fresh eyes, I can see that goal was achieved without any extra fluff.  So I guess spreading it out all weekend was just an added bonus.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Creating Holiday Memories In The Hospital

Creating a festive backdrop for pictures is an easy way to provide some normalcy within the hospital and a unique opportunity for parents to have a picture without the typical hospital equipment taking away from their beautiful little one.

What you will need:

2 white sheets (one to cover the wall and another for the floor)
       I used streamers, a banner and paper fans, which I found for less than $5

Use a wall where the most natural light is behind the photographer and (in a well lit room) don't use the flash because this will often create shadows or make pictures too bright.  Consider the size of the children who will primarily be using the space when hanging decorations - if the decorations are too high they may be cut out of the picture or if they are to low they may seem misplaced.   

If a quality camera and printer are available, pictures could be taken for holiday activities or just to ensure each family has a copy.  It is also the perfect opportunity to let mom and dad take pictures with their phones, tablets, etc.  Just remember, not every parent is as comfortable with taking pictures so don't be afraid to assist especially when it comes to filling up the space and getting down so you are level with the child.
Plan ahead so you can leave the backdrop up for a few days - this way patients and families can come at a time that works best for them and bring festive clothes if they want/are able, but have some props or save items from donations for families who do not have the option of returning home for clothes.  And, since this activity is so easy and low cost, it can be taken bedside when isolation precautions are a factor.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

8 Months

8 months is an exciting time!  This little's personality is coming out more and more which means building lots of towers to knock down, constantly saying "gentle hands" and sharing tastes of any food possible.

Friday, February 6, 2015

One Year Ago...

One year ago we found out we were having a girl!

This picture was taken just a few days before my 20 week ultrasound.  My mom and I went to visit my brother in Daytona Beach.  I couldn't wait to get back to the snow and freezing temperatures to go to my appointment {now a year later, I would do anything to go back to the beach!}. It seems like a lifetime has gone by since this moment and in many ways it has.

This new life is more exciting than I could have imagined.  Those of you who have been following my journey know it hasn't been easy, but it has been wonderfully worth it!  This sweet girl has brought so much joy into our lives and we can't wait to see what else is in store.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Dirty Little Secrets of Parenthood

My son came up with this idea (all on his own) that the tooth fairy only came to get teeth that were perfectly brushed and healthy.  He would brush his teeth three times a day, floss and rinse without ever being asked. I never told him any different and he shared his knowledge with his younger siblings who all jumped on the same bandwagon.....except my youngest who I still hve to remind to brush his teeth.
-mom of four, ages 22, 20, 17 and 15

I order my groceries online so they are ready at exactly 4:30, but I leave my house at 3:30 and sit at Starbucks for an hour with a good drink and my book before picking them up.
-mom of two, ages 10 and 7

I was scared to death to have another baby because it took so long for me to bond with my oldest.  Well I thought I was scared, but if I really was I guess I would have remembered to take my birth control.....I instantly bonded with my second and had a renewed sense that I could be a great mom if I just cut myself some slack.
-mom of three, ages 11, 9, and 8

Friday, January 30, 2015

Words Of Wisdom From My Grandma

I found this sweet picture while I was looking through my photos and I thought these words of wisdom were the perfect way to start the weekend...

Swaddling blankets aren't square
Don't stress about folding them perfectly because it's a waste of time and energy

Always write names one the back of pictures
You think you will remember, but you won't 

Be willing to give away anything in your home - except your tooth brush
Things are irreplaceable, people and memories are not; however, as a nurse and mom of five she must encourage strong oral hygiene 

Happy Friday!  (Not that a Friday with little ones is different than any other day of the week, but have a happy one none the less)  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Oh The Places My Laundry Will Go

I recently saw the most beautiful picture on Instagram of two little ones playing in a clean, perfectly decorated living room.  I looked around and what I saw was nothing like that picture.  If you came to my house at anytime during the week, you are likely to find huge piles of laundry waiting......

.....waiting to be washed
.....waiting to be folded
.....waiting to be put away

I have found that having a baby leaves my laundry in limbo for days.  When I was once able to do four or five loads of laundry in a day, I now struggle to finish one.

I realize that picture on Instagram could certainly be an exception because we all want to show off the good stuff and I want to high-five that mom for having her $&/% together even for a moment.  But my reality is messy and, lately, I am ok with that.  I have found more important things to fill my time so forgive my mess and be warned if you come to visit, it won't be a clean house, but it will be a playful house!

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Letter To My Pre-Parent Self

Dear Little,
You will never believe this life in a million years. You are working so hard to make a name for yourself, to prove yourself in the professional world and in the blink of an eye will leave it all for late night feedings, dirty diapers and sweatpants.  You are a good friend and you go above and beyond to check in with the ones you love, but wait to see who returns that same effort when you have nothing extra to will be pleasantly surprised.  You thought it was great "easing into marriage" when you only saw your husband on weekends, but without notice you will be thrown into a full-time marriage as full-time parents and realize you have a lot to learn.  Your passion for planning the next big trip or opportunity will be replaced with a desire to plan each day to ensure your baby has exactly what she needs to be happy.  Your house will not be clean, you will not always be clean and your excitement might be waiting for your husband to get home from work or learning your mom is coming for the day, but you will figure it out.  You won't remember a month and a half of your life because of the hormones in your own body that turned against you and you will wonder why you made the choices that brought you to this point.

But after the chaos, upset and confusion you will come out on top.  You will realize a piece of you was missing and you never even knew it.  You will realize you are the most selfish person, but you will learn selflessness and you will do more inside the four walls of your home than you could ever imagine.  This life isn't anything like you imagined.  It's hard, ugly, heavy and exhausting but, it's also amazing, beautiful and more than you deserve.  Most days you will think you have nothing left, but just in that moment God will give you a burst of energy to make it through.  Thank goodness this life isn't what you would have missed out on the good stuff.  Remember little, the best is yet to come!