Sunday, July 20, 2014

Art & Sensory Summer Camp - Reading & Rainbows

"Play energizes and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities."
-Stuart Brown, MD, Contemporary American Psychiatrist
Our first day of camp this summer was themed around reading and rainbows. Because we know that children (and adults) learn best when they engage all the senses, we developed activities where the children had the opportunity to fully use all five of their senses in order to explore and learn about ways we use color in the world. 

Activities included; rainbow spaghetti exploration,
rainbow watercoloring with spray bottles, 
and rainbow manipulatives so we could discuss similarities and differences, problem solving (when building structures), and decision making. 
This particular table was good for cooperation and collaboration which the older kids loved teaching the younger ones about!
We also had a rainbow science station. The kids loved experimenting with mixing various colored dye, glitter and flour. We supplied a lot of different tools for investigation, many of which also exercised fine motor skills. 
The messier the activity, the more fun the kids had! I loved listening to observations the children made while exploring and how they taught each other what they had learned.
We took time to read lots and lots of books and sang some new songs (thank you Chelsea!).
One of the favorite activities of the day was the rainbow obstacle course. The object of the game was to climb through the maze without touching any of the streamers.
We finished off the day with rainbow painting using our feet first...
...and then the kids ventured on to painting with their hands, elbows and knees. 

Watching the kids reiterated what I love most about sensory play--the delight children show when they are learning to love learning! 
Looking forward to sharing more photos soon! 

In the meantime, you can check out other camp days by clicking on the following:
Art & Sensory Summer Camp - Candyland

"I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things...
I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind."
-Leo F. Buscaglia

Thursday, June 12, 2014


"He who has felt the deepest grief is best able 
to experience supreme happiness."
-Alexandre Dumas
(Written on Saturday, April 12, 2014)
I feel stuck. 
As if my feet are stuck in this thick, oozy, gray cement and although I'm pulling my legs with all my might, I'm not going anywhere.

Some days I think the consistency has thinned and I've become strong. I even think my legs are beginning to move a little more and then the thickness takes me over again and I'm stuck.
I want to write so badly yet I'm afraid.  Afraid of the emotions it will conjure up and the love.
I loved my daughter intensely and, because of that, grieving feels so lonely.
No one had her like I had her.
Photo by Brooke Allison 
I'm sure others have thought that the process for me is over because I put on a nice outfit, get my kids to school on time and have a smile on my face. I'm sure they think that if you've only known a baby in your womb how could you possibly really know her?
Photo by Brooke Allison
I'm guilty of judging just as much as the next person but, this whole experience sure has taught me a lot about being judgemental. One can never understand how someone feels unless they have been walking in the exact same shoes.

I cared for my daughter the same as I cared for my other three children before they were born but I know I put as much energy into it as I could knowing that the likelihood of seeing her alive was slim.
Photo by Brooke Allison
I prayed. I prayed so hard that God would let me look into her eyes for just five minutes. Five minutes. The time it takes to brush your teeth or wash a couple of dirty dishes in the sink or call to make a reservation. Five minutes. I didn't ask for much. God didn't deliver what I wanted and its taken me 16 weeks to fully accept that it hurt me deeply to not get what I wanted.

I feel stuck.
            Drinking a cocktail of grief, anger, disappointment and bitterness.
                      I wonder why God didn't give me the five minutes I asked for and ponder this daily.

I'm in pain and I miss my daughter. Why did another woman who gave birth to a Trisomy 18 baby just weeks later get to spend a full 10 days with her son and I didn't? Was it because she was a better Christian than me? Does she have more checks on her merit list?

When I'm honest and remove myself from the emotional part of it, I also kept praying, "But God, your Will be done. Whatever it is you want for Everly and for me, I will accept it."

But, this many weeks later, knowing He fully answered my prayer but with "His Will" and "not mine", I can say accepting it is hard and I'm not there yet.

I guess this is where faith comes in. Its trudging ahead and knowing that there are mysteries in life that may remain just that: a mystery. But I also believe that God loves us too much to leave us drowning in a vast ocean without providing a way to escape.

We all have these idealistic dreams for our life. My life is still special and amazing but, different. 
                    I am different. 
                                 I am learning a new normal and am so thankful for the friends and family that are supporting me throughout the journey to my new normal.

I feel blessed. Being a mother and loving my husband and children has been the greatest gift this life has offered. As I continue to hurt deeply I know that one day some of these empty spaces will fill again. This grief has dared me to love again and I will do it with the same intensity as I loved Everly because I recognize that I'm blessed with this hurt. Why?  Because some people never have this much to lose.
Photos by Brooke Allison
There are happy days ahead and I intend to increase their number.
Photo by Brooke Allison
"Only those that know how to weep can laugh heartily."
-Kathleen R. Fischer
Note: All of the somewhat decent photos in this post were taken by me and the most beautiful photos were taken by my good friend Brooke Allison. My daughter Everly brought us together and we were immediately connected in heart and for life. Although the photos evoke the happiness and love of this experience, Brooke also authentically captured the deep pain. I will eventually share more of this but, for now, its the joy of the gift of Everly that I most want to share. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day Celebration

"There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child--and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own."
-Robert Brault

Being a mom is an incredibly awesome adventure filled with ups, downs and experiences that test you deep to your core. The past 4 1/2 months have been a bittersweet time  for me as a mother and I would not have made it through without all of the love and support that has surrounded me. 

I am fortunate to have so many amazing mothers in my life who are also incredible women. I wanted to celebrate them in a special way and, along with two very good friends, Deeana and Sara, we created a day full of events to make every woman there feel special.

The morning started with a yoga class taught by my beautiful friend Amie (happy, happy birthday sweet friend!). We had intended to do the class outside by the lake but the rainy weather changed our plans to squeezing the love indoors. As the class came to a close the sun broke out and we were able to enjoy the rest of the activities outside and it could not have been more beautiful!

We ate a delicious brunch made up of dishes that our friends brought that reminded them of growing up with their own mothers. Following, we did a charm swamp (read here) to share words of encouragement and wisdom with each other.  We all cried and laughed a lot. After it was over they surprised me with a memorable gift that was being created and will remind me of this Mother's Day, Everly's love and their love that continually surrounds me. 

After the festivities we headed to the spa for some much-needed pampering and then the 3 hostesses hit a local frozen yogurt spot to high five each other for a job well done. (We followed that up by toasting with a glass of wine since we were smart enough to wrangle some husbands and male friends to help us set up prior to the party and clean up while we were at the spa.)

I continue to be reminded how good life is. Thank you all for being part of such a special day and thank you to the dads that set up, cleaned up, entertained kids, and even did a few "its-breastfeeding-time" drop offs and pick ups so we could all enjoy our day---we are blessed to call you husbands. Until next year.....
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Emerson's Little Red Riding Hood Birthday Party

"If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairy tales."

Its hard to believe that Emerson turned four this past week. She has enriched our lives beyond measure and continues to comfort our family in ways that reach far beyond her young age as we continue on this journey of hope.

To celebrate the special girl's big day I felt there was no better way than Little Red Riding Hood because, as a fairy tale is defined, Emerson's attitude about life is a story of imaginative and magical tales in and of itself.
The kids came home after swim and walked into our party prep. You can see how excited the birthday girl is admiring everything that ties into one of her favorite fairy tales...
Some good friends moved to London a few months ago and when we went over to tell them goodbye I saw a Pottery Barn diaper changing table sitting out with their trash. Long story short, one man's trash is another man's treasure.....(Thank you Laura!!!!)
The bottom drawer held a wolf dressed as grandma and was a favorite of the tiny guests while the mantle held apples and twinkling lights that mimicked fireflies.
We covered the tables in craft paper and paw prints drawn with chalk markers. (This was another table I swiped from my friend Amie before it hit the dumpster. Score.)
Emerson has been saying she's "3, 4" for so long that she was thrilled when she could tell everyone that she's now really 4. 
 (It lasted a day. Since then she keeps telling everyone she's "4, 5, 6" because she wants to be 5 like her brother and 6 since he keeps saying he's ready to be a year older too.)
Because I love a good theme we all dressed Red-riding-hood-appropriate. I wore red jeans with a wolf vest, the boys wore red and white "grandpa" attire and Emerson wore a beautiful dress and cape designed and made by my friend Deeana of Deeana's Designs
Kathleen made the gorgeous wolf masks for the boys and used her beautiful penmanship to write out a short fairy tale I wrote about Emerson in a glass frame using a gold metallic paint pen. 
Grandma's homemade muffins, books, red capes for the girls and a drawing by Big Brother of the story of Little Red Riding Hood sat on a nearby table.
Apples and red were a big part of the decor and, of course, there always needs to be a little glitter. (Thank you Chelsea for this beautiful frame!)
Toadstool cupcakes were made using a Southern chocolate cake recipe (sour cream and pudding are key!), vanilla wafers dipped in red candy melts and topped with pearl sprinkles and a huge marshmallow. The grass was vanilla icing with coconut to give it texture. 

We could only find camouflage liners but they turned out to be the perfect touch of green.
I created a banner of photos of Emerson from the past four years and I cried making it realizing just how fast the time goes.
(My obsession with quotes is further attested here--you can see I have no problem littering our kitchen window with them. If I'm frustrated at anyone in our family--which never happens of course--I wash dishes and read the positive verses over and over and over until my mind is in a better place....)
 Emerson had her very own chocolate cake topped with a red glitter apple. 
I loved the vintage look of the invitations I purchased here on etsy. 
And I think my favorite thing of all was the cameo of Emerson. Look closely, its her...
(I told Kathleen what I was envisioning for this and she took it to a whole new level! I thought she did such a great job!)
I love repurposing old items for parties. This chalkboard was used at our wedding nearly 11 years ago.
I purchased baskets from Hobby Lobby and tied gingham ribbon onto them so the girls would each have their own basket to fill with apples and other delicious goodies.
An old topiary had been sitting in our garage waiting to be used. I added some paper butterflies we used at Emerson's 1st Pirates and Fairies party and it made the perfect forest tree. I made a toadstool banner using scrapbook paper and yarn. 
We added polka dot stickers to red balloons to make them look like toadstools.
(My reversible Red Riding Hood puppet from childhood that my kids adore.)
And the best part of any party are the family and friends that surround us.
I created a special wall so our friends could write all of the things we love about the birthday girl. All on his own Hunter wrote "how she listens to me." 
Yes, my daughter has been asking for this wrestling set since Christmas and thankfully my friend Robin believed her. She's played with it non-stop. 
 We played a lot of outdoor games.
Once Daddy took over, the games quickly turned a bit more rough and tumble. He swears the kids would not have cried had a bunch of Mommies not been around.
The kids got smart and turned on their fearless leader....what can I say? He's a great sport. 
Little brother woke up and we transitioned over to something a little more low key...Duck, duck, goose.
After braving the colder-than-normal March temperature, we went inside to eat some food and sing Happy Birthday.
The kids were able to make their own yogurt parfaits with vanilla yogurt, agave nectar and berry-filled granola. 
Right in the middle of eating, a special guest knocked on the window...
Emerson started hysterically crying claiming that Batman had on her costume. Only after digging hers out of the playroom and helping her put it on did she calm down. 
 The Batmans make up
 and all is right with the world.
And just when I thought our little guy couldn't get any sweeter, I kept looking over to see him hugging and kissing the wolf in the drawer. 
We sang while the birthday girl played shy.
until she blew out four candles in one blow and kept exclaiming, "I did it all myself!"
(Emerson's crowns for four years running have been made by the 
very talented GlamHatter on etsy.)
Each girl left with a cape
and the boys with a wolf mask.
We finished the night by listening to our new "Frozen" CD and watching Cash run around yelling, "Let go! Let go!" requesting his new favorite song again and again.

One more year has slipped by and I recognize this year more than any other how precious each moment is with our kids. 
We feel incredibly blessed by you Emerson. 
You are a daily reminder that life is not a dress rehearsal and it should be lived to the fullest. Thank you for always adding sunshine to our home. 
"If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future."
-Danielle Steel