Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My New Job

Boom. Just like that, I'm back to working full time.

It all started with a text message.  Taylor sent me this out of the blue:

For three years I have been staying home with our kids. The plan all along has been that once we have only one in daycare, then I would go back to teaching.  It just made the most financial sense for us. Well, once I got more information about the Innovation Academy, I knew I would be foolish not to jump at the chance. 

Innovation Academy is a STEM-focused, Project Based Learning-centered charter school through UT Tyler. The dynamic at the school is everything I have ever wanted. The teachers and administrators are fun, flexible, and excited to be there.  And the kids!  The kids make my eyeballs turn into hearts. They are spunky, unique, interesting, and precious. It has been the smoothest transition into the oddest time of starting a school year. 

The second week was full of benchmark testing, a full moon, Red Ribbon Week, and right before Halloween, and I made it out alive!  I'm so excited to be at the Innovation Academy. 

My grandparents came to our house to keep the girls. 

The girls went back to Bertram to stay with my grandparents and parents for the second week. It was so nice getting two weeks to figure everything out at school with help with Emory and Harper. They started daycare/preschool two weeks ago, and THEY LOVE IT. They're excited about going to school every day!  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

He Knew Our Story

I am participating in a blog hopper circle with a few other ladies.  After reading my post, click on Jennifer's link at the bottom, and then follow the circle back here!



God has always known how our stories would be written. Before there was time, when the world was nothing, God spoke and created everything, including your story and mine.

One of the few things that I found comforting when we didn't know what was going on with Sam was that God knew how everything would turn out.  Nothing that was happening was a mistake.  I felt some peace about waiting for God to heal Sam because I knew the Lord was already there.

During the sermon at church a few weeks ago, Ross spoke about this verse...

I guess I have always focused on the first part of the verse, the being God's masterpiece, created in Christ part.  Ross focused on the last part.  We were created to "do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do."  He prepared these things in advance.  Not only does God know what will happen from this point forward, He has known all along.  It's like a lightbulb went off in my head.  I had never thought about God knowing the end of my something since the beginning.

God has always known that September 22, 2014 and February 11, 2015 would be significant dates for me.  Do y'all use Timehop?  It's a cool app that pulls your posts from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. from previous years to show you what you posted on that day.  It's just a fun way to remember what I did in years before and show the girls pictures of themselves as babies.  I got the alert that my Timehop was ready on Sam's birthday, September 22, and my stomach dropped.  I looked at my posts from two and three years ago.

Cute!  We took the girls to see the pigs two years ago and we saw Joe Walsh in Vegas three years ago.  I look at these pictures and think, "DANIELLE FROM TWO AND THREE YEARS AGO, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS DATE WILL MEAN!"  But God did!  I can just imagine the Lord, who used compassionate as the first word to describe himself (Exodus 34:6), preparing me for this journey from the beginning.  Knowing from the beginning what September 22 and February 11 would mean for me.  Knowing since he breathed life into mankind that He would one day create a handsome boy named Sam Bryan.  Knowing the end since the beginning.


Click here to see what Jennifer has been up to this month!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Happy First Birthday, Sam!

One year ago, we welcomed our sweet Sam into our family.


The girls went to Mother's Day Out today and got to celebrate Sam's birthday while there. Emory was so proud to tell everyone that today was "her baby's birtday (no h)."

I went to my bible study, and then I met Stephen to see War Room. Have you seen it?  It's a great movie about the power of prayer, letting God fight for you, and fighting the real enemy, Satan. 

We took cupcakes to the pediatrician's office. Dr. Hardy and her nurse Delightful have been so amazing since we started taking Emory four and a half years ago. Delightful and Dr. Hardy called me several times to check on Sam when he was in the CHSU, and they have continued to be so supportive of our family. 

We went to Stephanie and Chris's this evening for supper, cupcakes, and a balloon release.  

We wrote notes to Sam and attached them to the balloons to send to heaven. 

Eating cupcakes is serious business.

My family had a balloon release in Bertram, too.

We both got lots of calls, texts, Facebook messages, and hugs.  Today was a good day.

This has been, without a doubt, the fastest and most difficult year of my life.  We have felt every emotion possible.  We have experienced the worst possible.  We have survived by the grace of God and the support and love of our family and friends.

My Dearest Sam,

I love you.  I miss you like I have never missed anyone before.  You are, without a doubt, the most handsome baby boy that has ever lived.

Our journey with you has taught me many things--the futility of mascara, a longing for heaven I haven't felt until now, a desperation for everyone to have the hope of heaven, the preciousness of time, the earnestness of prayer, many characteristics of God, the solidarity of the CHD community, perspective, and purpose, to only name a few.

I am so proud of you, Sam.  People faithful in prayer, those who hadn't prayed in a while, and those who maybe never prayed before loved you and our people through prayer.  You have given us the opportunity to share our faith over and over again.

Thank you for the snuggles, the laughs, and the late nights/early mornings just the two of us.  Thank you for a lifetime of love in just 143 days.  I will never stop loving and missing you.  Losing you, Sam, has showed me everything I have.  From the moment we knew you were going to join our family, it has been a privilege to be your Mama.

Happy first birthday!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tiny Superheroes, Sidekicks, and Capes

A month ago, I received an email about Sam's birthday project from a lady named Robyn.  Robyn is the founder of a company called TinySuperheroes, which empowers extraordinary children with illness and/or disability by providing these little superheroes with their very own superhero cape.  She came across my blog post with the birthday project details through Facebook (social media is cool).  Robyn asked if she could participate in the birthday project by contributing superhero capes for the heart patients in the CHSU!  Um...yes, please!  I have been waiting impatiently for a month to get the capes, and I got them today.  THEY ARE ADORABLE!  

Such fun colors and fabrics!
Every cape comes with a bracelet, membership card, stickers, and these adorable superhero trading cards.  Don't you just love these kids??!!
Y'all, these capes are for kids of all ages, including newborns.  Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculously adorable than a superhero cape for a tiny tiny baby??!!  The newborn size capes are about a foot long.  Click here to see many superheroes and their capes.

In Robyn's email, she mentioned she wanted to send capes for Emory and Harper because everyone knows super sidekicks are imperative to the success of every superhero.  One of the many fears I have had since we received Sam's diagnosis is that the girls would feel like they were on the back burner because Sam would have needs that were different from theirs.  As I was showing Emory and Harper their capes this afternoon and telling them what they were and why they were getting them, they just giggled.  I thought about how many extraordinary kids see their capes for the first time, find out that they are superheroes, and get to wear their capes, and I'm sure they just giggle.  What an incredible impact Robyn is having in the lives of these amazing kids and their families.

"Show me your super sidekick face."  Perfect.

What Robyn didn't tell me is that she was also sending a cape for Sam.  I found the girls' capes in the box, looked through the capes I will be taking to the CHSU, and I was so excited about them that I totally missed Sam's cape.  Then in the corner of one of the boxes was a tiny cape with a bold 'S' and this note attached:

What a blessing to receive something to remember Sam by almost seven months after he has been gone.  Every parent knows that their child matters.  Parents of children who have gone to heaven want to know that their child's life mattered and that it still does after their death.  Sam was and is extraordinary.

My heart.
They really focused on the 'kick' part of 'sidekick'.
I wanted to include a post about TinySuperheroes because I want everyone to know about this great company.  If you feel led to, please consider providing a cape to help empower kids as they overcome their illness or disability.  There are a couple ways to get a cape to an extraordinary superhero kid:
  • Nominate a tiny superhero to be added to the wait list.  The company receives sponsorships when people directly purchase capes or choose to sponsor a child on the wait list. 
  • Purchase a cape directly for a tiny superhero you know.  Not only will TinySuperheroes send the cape you ordered, they will also give an additional cape to a child on the waiting list.
  • Sponsor a cape for a child on the wait list.  If you don't have a specific child in mind that you would like to give a cape to, you can provide one for a child already on the list.  You can sponsor as many capes as you want!
Robyn is on a mission for all tiny superheroes to have their capes.  She would love for everyone to purchase a cape for someone they already know who needs one, but it's even more important to her for families of extraordinary kids to nominate their own children for the waiting list.  The ingenious way the company has organized their system of nominating, purchasing directly, or sponsoring a cape guarantees that no matter which option you choose, you are providing a child with their superhero cape.

These exceptional kids have constant reminders (doctor appointments, hospital stays, tests, scans, labs, diagnoses, feeding tubes, physical limitations, oxygen tanks, trachs, colostomy bags, etc.) that they aren't like their peers, but they need to know just how extraordinary they are.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Losing a Child Has Turned Me Into a Liar

I am participating in a blog hopper circle with a few other ladies. After reading my post, click on Tiffany's link at the bottom, and then follow the circle back here.


"How many kids do you have?"  
"Do you have any other children?"  
"Don't you want a boy?"

I have been getting these question since we had Emory four years ago.  They make my stomach sink now.  I had no idea how nosy complete strangers could be until we had kids.  I guess that's the price you have to pay when you have children as beautiful as ours.  :)  I never really minded answering these questions before, but losing a child has turned me into a liar.  

I feel like it's not my responsibility to go around dropping truth bombs unless the person asking is going to eventually find out about Sam anyway.  Most of the time I answer,

"We have two daughters."
"Just these two."
"We feel like God has completed our family." 

That's it, but that's not it. These are half-truths.  I want to say, 

"We have two daughters and a son."
"No, we also have a son." 
"We do have a boy.  His name is Sam.  He's in Heaven."  

But I don't say any of these things to the dude helping us with our luggage who asks, "Don't you want to try for a boy?" or the lady in line behind me at Walmart who says I have my hands full.  "Not as full as they should be," is how I want to answer.  But I don't want the smiles to change to sad eyes, the embarrassment, or the condolences, so I lie.

Living without one of your children is living a lie. Every picture, holiday, and normal day is a half-truth.  Even if it's a complete stranger that I'm talking to, I feel so guilty for not including Sam.  I know he doesn't need me to include him--he doesn't need anything, praise Jesus!  I wish so much that I could just be like Emory and Harper.  They respond truthfully when they get questions about having a brother or if they see a baby and choose to tell someone about ours.

It's important to me to include Sam because it's almost like it gives other people permission to talk about their losses.  I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have shared with us that they, too, have lost children.  Many of these people we have known for years or decades, and I never knew!

Please be mindful that there are people everywhere who have experienced infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths, and the deaths of children.  Seemingly innocent questions can really sting.  But don't stop asking!  Most of the other parents I know who have children in heaven will gladly talk about them.  We hope for opportunities to talk about our children who are no longer with us.  Simply respond to the news that someone has lost a child with, "I'm so sorry," and, "Please tell me about him/her" if you feel it's appropriate.

I love every opportunity I get to talk about this sweet face:


Click here to read about Tiffany's and my virtual BFF Jen, the end of summer, books, podcasts, and earrings.