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Summer Lovin’

Every summer for the past few years we have started off the break making a “summer bucket list” of things we want to do during summer vacation. Some things are big, some are small, but the main idea is to be intentional about using our time. I am a homebody through and through, so I would be perfectly happy snuggled in my nesting place with my tribe. I have wanderers and adventurers though, so we try to plan some exciting things to venture out and try while we are free from school routines.

This summer we crammed in more than we usually do, trying to check off some unique things that I either haven’t done or likely won’t able to in the future. It has been a blast. I have dug deep for energy and stamina to hang with my people, and while the nights find me collapsed in an exhausted heap, it has been exhilarating to taste so many joys this summer. We stretch me out, hydrate, medicate, and wake up again to take on the next adventure.

From staying in pajamas all day and doing sidewalk chalk, to concert hopping and driving to new destinations, we are creating a beautiful bucket full of the exciting and the mundane of sweet summertime. What is on your bucket list this summer?

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have already seen some of these, but enjoy the pictures of some of our adventures!

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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July 14th

Today we remember those last moments we got to know our Ellianna. We were thankful this week of her anniversary to get to be in Colorado to celebrate her mighty life.

Our months with Ellie brought us so much love, we aim to always pass that on and continue to let her life make an impact on others. It’s not always we get to be in her hometown, so we took advantage of being able to continue her legacy here. Since we don’t get to shop for our little peanut we went shopping for another little girl who needed love and encouragement:

Looking for things to bless a baby girl, we were overwhelmed with the small reminders of our little one. Purple with rainbow stripes couldn’t have more embodied all that we remember.

When I looked for a card, we immediately saw one not only with the little Piglet that she was known for, but the quote on the front was the same as is written on her headstone. I melted at the tender reminders that God knows exactly what our hearts need.

We packed up our bag of love and headed up to Ellie’s NICU. Tears brimmed as we embraced one of the nurses who has become a lifelong friend. We asked her to choose a family for us, and she knew just who needed the encouragement. Standing in that familiar hallway, we got to meet the mother of another baby girl there fighting for life beyond the hospital doors. It was evident that God had placed her nurse on just the right day that a weary mama needed the love and hope we had to share. There we were, getting to exchange hugs and a gift of love because of the short and mighty life of our little girl. I will never stop being thankful.

After the hospital, we headed to the cemetery to remember. I know many people don’t see the point in visiting the cold hard stones, but for us it’s a tangible place where we can open our hearts and express our sorrow and joy as we remember the moments where we stood between earth and eternity and gave our girl back to the arms of the One who holds her. It’s especially helpful for our other children as they bring tokens of their love and remembrance for her. Little Colby had chosen a special shell on the beach of Florida for his big sister that he brought with him all the way to Colorado. We enjoyed a beautiful stormy sunset as we each wrote notes to our girl and then lit them, sending them floating into the sky.

We are truly blessed to have gotten to be Ellie’s family. She has changed us in ways we all needed, and we will forever be grateful for every day she was with us. We will continue to find ways to share the hope we have, and spread the love she gave us, until we meet again.

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Home, the Place Where I Belong…

My tribe and I are elated to be spending some time in our old stomping grounds, Colorado Springs. Mark had to travel out here for work, so we made him drag us along! There is so much good to be found in the bright sunny skies and horizon full of majestic, towering peaks. This is our place.

We have seen so many friends this visit. So many. There are still more we couldn’t even squeeze into our days, but we have dearly enjoyed each heart we’ve been able to reconnect with during our time out here. Old friends are the bestest friends.

My little people have enjoyed days full of swimming, playing with friends, visiting their favorite spots, and then snuggling in for crafts, movies, and massage trains. It has been a wonderful break for our hearts and minds, and we have found joy in our minutes.

Our visit is too short to fit in all the goodness we left behind here, but our love tanks are full as we wrap up a wonderful week packed with sweet memories. Thankful for the Giver of such gifts.

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An Open Letter to my Grieving Friends

Dear Mark and Stephanie,

You have just joined a club no one ever wanted to be a member of. How I wish no one has to wear the label of grieving parent. It’s one thing I wish we didn’t have in common, but because we are both here together, I’ll be here.

When you walk slowly out of the hospital into the sunshine with empty arms, wondering where to go from here, I’ll be here.

When guilt creeps in and tries to make you question your decisions, I’ll be here.

When you walk by her bedroom door and break down at the sight of all that was hers, I’ll be here.

When you struggle through all the “what-ifs,” I’ll be here.

When you numbly stumble through the surreality of laying her to rest, I’ll be here.

When you have to put your own grieving on hold to help her siblings in their grief, I’ll be here.

When school starts back up and her backpack still hangs on the hook, I’ll be here.

When people ask you how many kids you have and you struggle with what to say, I’ll be here.

When her birthday rolls around and you’re ripped apart by her not growing a year older, I’ll be here.

When the days and months and years tick by and your grief ebbs and flows like the ocean waves, I’ll still be here.

I will walk with you when you find new memories that make you smile, and I will sit with you when the sadness is too crushing to function. I’ll support you as you forge through the future, finding a new kind of normal. I will help you remember the good times, and I will never stop saying her name. I will be here as the landscape of your life takes on a new shape; one that you never hoped for or imagined, but one that is now reality. I will be here as you bravely pick yourself up and keep going, with all these precious pieces tucked away in your hearts. When you wake up each morning still a member of this new club, I will be here.

All my love,

Hannah

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Red Footie Pajamas

I distinctly remember my first time visiting the childrens’ unit at Cedar Springs Hospital. I was new to the city as an EMT, and while I had run my fair share of adult psychiatric calls, this was my first child.  Actually, in my naivety, I didn’t even know there was such thing as a psych unit for kids up to that point.

There I was, walking into the building for a boy under the age of 6 with an arm injury… thinking he must have been the son of someone who happened to be visiting.  I’m certain there was an audible squeak of my boots stopping abruptly against the hard floor as I turned the corner to find the entire wing of the building occupied by children of various ages. A staff member began rattling off the details of how he fallen out of bed, and my mind was searching for the inexplicable reason that he had been sleeping in a tasteless wooden bed in a duplicated room with hard sterile floors instead of tucked into the shelter of his parents’ hugs and kisses in his own familiar bedroom.  I was silently trying to piece together this mystery when another staff member ushered my patient into the hallway; a dark-haired little guy, hardly taller than my hips, padding silently in red footie pajamas.

That night I learned one of those hard life-truths that you don’t learn little by little; one of those truths that smack you in the face like the concrete-sting of a belly flop into icy water.  Though I lost that bit of innocence on that call I still had many questions bouncing around between my mind and the soul that stared out at me from those young brown eyes.

It wasn’t long before running psych calls for youngsters wasn’t unusual for me.  I ran the frantic 9 year old who pleaded with his grandma to give him one more chance after tearing apart the whole house.  I ran the 15 year old cutter who had run away from home, and the 13 year old boy who successfully took his own life.  I saw a new world of confusion and pain and I struggled to understand it.  There were those who were vocal about their opinions; it was easy to assume that a lack of parenting or responsibility had created this brokenness, or that these were just bratty children needing firmer discipline.  While I was never one to say it out loud, I suppose in some ways I thought the same thing.  I wondered if the guardians were just tired of dealing with the hard work of parenting, and wanted to pass the adversity off to someone else.  I wondered if these kids felt so invisible that their gashes and outlandish displays of defiance were the only means left to spark some flames of attention from the people they craved it from.  While I refrained from joining in the open toxic banter of judgement, I still pondered these questions because some things you just can’t understand until you’ve tasted them more personally.

Fast forward several years to my own boy standing at the dawning of teen-hood.  Two parents who loved him unconditionally, a stable home in which all his needs were met, a routine of discipline and appropriate freedom, and yet his soul was changing, darkness clouding his once crystal blue eyes. Despite all the good things in his life my young boy had experienced tragedy that he was never meant to have to bear.  His normal had been ripped and shaken by such affliction over a short amount of time his soul halted in shock from the uprooting of all he knew to be true and safe.  So began this terrible and frightening battle of his entire being trying to reconcile things that his young soul was not created to understand.  He learned to build impenetrable walls to guard his bleeding wounds from further pain.  He forced himself to not feel so that he would never again know the devastation of a hurting heart.

Somewhere between watching his destruction from an utterly helpless distance, and screaming helpless tears into starlight night after night I came to understand the full story of that boy in the red footie pajamas.

It’s not for anyone to judge why these kids are the way they are, because the truth in all of them is that at some point they experienced a hurt that was more than they knew what to do with.  There are insecurities and scars and genetic dispositions, and I guarantee you not one of these kids suddenly woke up one day with a desire to be angry or dangerous or out of control or truthfully, an outcast. There is a world of hurting young people who need not our judgement and our assumptions, but our understanding and our unbiased desire to reach out to them and help fill those gaps and holes that created their unbalance to begin with.  What would the world look like if all the adults stepped up to give the attention and meet the needs that these kids so desperately need met?

It is with greatest sincerity that I say thank you to the adults that have stepped in, or even been forced in, to stand in the gap for my son.  I get it, I do.  I know that your 25th patient contact of the day is exhausting.  I know that you came in not feeling well to begin with, or with your own trouble going on, and yet you still showed up to give of yourself to help my boy, and so many others, with his healing.  I know that in the big scheme of things, the little issues these kids are making monstrous seems so outrageously ridiculous that’s it’s tempting to give a shoulder-shake of reality.  I know that after a long day, 2am was not the time you felt most compassionate when you had to get up and deal with a new admission, or a meltdown,  or a half-hearted suicide attempt for attention, or an all-out brawl.  I know that there are a lot of days you wonder why you chose this, or you think about moving on.  I know that it may seem thankless and pointless some days, and that you may question whether you are even making a difference.  The truth is you are some of the bravest, most selfless, most compassionate people to walk this earth.  This world does need you, and you are making differences, even if they are tiny baby ant steps.  In our universe, those ant steps are huge.

So thank you for what you do day in and day out; for the sacrifices you make and the things you endure so that every story has a chance at a happy ending, and that every hurting young heart that crosses your threshold knows that someone fought for them, even the boy in the red footie pajamas.

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Home Calls

This is a bunch of pictures… and would you believe this isn’t nearly all of them, AND there were some occasions I forgot to even take a snapshot?? Truly though, in this case a picture is a thousand words to see the joy and excitement these babes of mine got to experience.

. . .

We had an incredibly wonderful opportunity to visit our homeland over this past few weeks. When the hubs had to go back out to Colorado for work again and the kids realized they were out of school for this one, they started begging for all of us to come along. I honestly did not have high hopes that my energy levels would keep up, or that my pain and muscle spasms would survive the 18 hour car ride, but as time grew near it was obvious how much their little hearts needed the joy and sunshine this trip would bring, and I stopped seeing obstacles and decided it was absolutely worth digging my deepest to make it happen.

We had a outstanding time. While the man of the house worked and stayed up in Denver, the kids and I shacked up in a hotel (yay frequent travel points?) in Colorado Springs, and we packed as much as we possibly could into every day. We started with a trip to the grocery (hallelujah for actually knowing what aisle to find things on for the first time in a year!) and settled into our home base where we could easily retreat to cook, eat, rest, play games, and cool off in the sparkling outdoor pool.

It was glorious to actually be able to feel the sun on our skin again, and to breathe the thin, dry, mountain air. The brief rain showers were worth dancing in because they were fresh and actually cooled things down. Lightening bugs are cool, but my goodness how we’ve missed the sun and the beautiful mountain peaks.

We packed our days full of visits with friends from sunup to sundown, even having some camp out with us in our crowded hotel room to stretch out the hours spent together. It did my heart such good to see my little people squealing with treasured friends, young and old. We visited as many as we were able, and still felt like we needed another week or two to see everyone we wanted to! We did the best that we could, and resolved it would have to happen again some time.

We visited our favorite parks, restaurants, stores, friends’ houses, and met up with neighbors, teachers, therapists, and dear friends. We were so exhausted each night, but never enough to keep us from rising with the sun to do it again. Our friend tanks were filled, our smile muscles given an excellent workout, and our bodies kissed with new sprinkles of freckles.

We got to see some of my family on both ends of the trip, and meet up with some sweet friends from California. We worked in some epic favorites like Leon Gessi’s pizza, BJ’s ice cream, Lava Land, Casa Bonita, and Denver Biscuit Conpany.

It was a ton of work, and loads of fun, and not without pain and exhaustion and some pinching and poking in the car… but it was epic and amazing and worth every sacrifice. The car ride home was a little bit quieter; contentedly tuckered out little people dreaming of their adventures… in between waking up and breathing too close to each other’s space, but all in all it was good. So good.

Leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Mixed Feelings

My little guy swiped the tears off of his face with the back of his arm and grinned as an excited squeal squeaked out. He had just suffered through painful Botox injections in his legs, but was quickly distracted by the huge bin of toys and games that was plopped in front of him to choose from.

I couldn’t help but crack a smile as well, and thought, there it is, reminding me again; grief and joy coexist.

I have felt bound by a very long season of grieving; one fresh struggle after another for a seemingly endless stretch of time. As I told a good friend the other day; it’s just a constant game of Russian roulette and we keep getting the bullet. I’m sure that’s not the case even though it feels that way sometimes. I have also seen that life does not pause to wait for the hard thing to be over; it scatters the joy right in with it. And thank goodness… am I right? I shudder to think what these dark days would feel like without the fresh breaths of laughter and excitement. Admittedly, I also struggle to fully appreciate the joys sometimes when I am grieving hard.

These past few weeks have been a more prominent example than most of this roller coaster of sorts. I sat across the table to sign for the closing of our beautiful new house crouched over from the fresh surgical scars of a few days prior, celebrated the excitement of boxes and furniture coming in the door while resenting the limitations that kept me from helping to carry and unpack. My flowers bloomed beautifully while my vegetable garden was laid to waste by the weather. Summer break and the delight in bikes and popsicles and lightening bugs and new friends, was coupled with a traumatic fall from a tree that landed my oldest girl unconscious and in an ambulance. On the same hand, the devastation and helplessness I felt over her injuries was bathed in the gratitude that it was not as disastrous as it easily could have been. I received insurance approval for a wonderful new device to help me walk more normally on the tails of hearing hard news from a close friend, and had a weekend of celebrating my newly sixteen year old boy and Father’s Day, coupled with anxiety and new testing for another unknown of my own. There is no time to stop and celebrate the victories or grieve the losses, there is simply a perpetual circulation of the highest highs and the lowest lows, and the best I have found is to drink deeply of the holy graces and allow yourself to feel the depths of the sorrows, and keep moving forward with them.

I know I’m not alone in this. I realize each of you dear readers face your own highs and lows with the revolutions around the sun, and I hope it gives us so much more kindness and understanding for each other. I haven’t mastered this, no; it’s easy to let the sting of the hard bleed into the moments that should be celebrated, but I’m trying ever so hard to fully embrace both, are you?

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Oh! It’s here!

Soooo all the cyber moms are posting these great photos of their kids with cute first day of “x” grade signs beside great photos of their kids with cute last day of school signs, and precious little memories and goals from the beginning of the school year, and now the end of the school year. A few cute mamas dressed their little humans in adorable outfits on the first day of school, and managed to find every piece of the same outfit (still in pristine condition after four semesters of pencil lead, slime, sun-cracked rubber swing sitting, railing sliding and surprise chocolate milk) on the last day, and they adorably represent just how much the little ones have grown, and I’m like, ummmm… I remembered to make mine wear shoes to school on their last day today?? 🙌🏻

This school year crawled by and was over in a snap all at the same time. I watched my brave babies tearfully struggle the agony of being the new kids in a new place, saw them dig deep, face fears, forge friendships, and carve small places of triumph and comfort for themselves in the face of a strange new unknown. They stepped in so timid and unsure, and marched out with confident and maturing faces lifted toward the sky.

It has been a wild school year of ups and downs and all things new, and my heart-blood thrums with pride at watching them own it. They are my inspiration, my motivation, and my reasons to bravely walk into each new mystery with sure and expectant steps. We may have missed buses, overlooked library books, stuffed leftover pizza into crumpled lunch sacks as an afterthought, and played hooky a day or two just because our feet and our hearts needed to snuggle together under the cover of a thick sky and a crackling hearth, but… we made it! Another school year stronger and wiser and refined by all the scorching and applauding of an ever-turning globe, and I will stand tall and smiling for every single proud day as I cheer for these magnificent little world-shapers of mine. Well, ok, I will occasionally take a break from cheering and ask them what in the world they are thinking, but then we’ll get right back to it! I am continually learning from them as they take on the world.

Well done babes, well done!

Celebratory “ice cream!” (Blended frozen bananas & sprinkles😉)

Cannot wait to pull away from our moving boxes sometime this weekend to celebrate big!