2nd Grade

I let you know about Wesley starting Kindergarten but I failed to mention my first born starting 2nd grade!

DSC_0066This year, we landed one of the very best teachers in his school. I knew her personally before she was our teacher, and all I had heard was fantastic things about her as a professional. When Daniel was in K, she was teaching that same grade level, and even though we did not have Ms. Smotherman, I was privileged to often see her in action at K events.

She writes kind words on his assignments and gives awesome stickers, she encourages him, and the first day of school, Daniel jumped off the bus and yelled, “Do you want the good news or the great news about my day first?!?!?” Her commitment to my son shows, and he is eager to learn from her. I can say something 15 times, but Ms. Smo can say it once, and suddenly it is law. Recognizing his strengths, she sends home book bags well above his grade level so he can be challenged in his reading. Acknowledging his weaknesses, she praises his handwriting when it is most legible. Her spelling games and math songs foster learning and excitement in Daniel. She gave extra love to him in the days surrounding mom’s passing, and when she first saw me after hearing the news, she came over to me, hugged me, and noted that she was praying for me.

Each year, Daniel excels and surprises me with his social strengths and learning capabilities. In these two senses, he got the best of mom and the best of Dad. He truly loves his classmates, and that is something I am happy to see. He cares for people I am not forcing him to care for due to my proximity to the moment or my linking of him into that person’s life. At his own decision, Daniel opted to not have anything peanut butter to eat for snack or lunch because one of his friends, Parker, is allergic. It’s not a school or classroom rule, but a personal one Daniel vowed to follow so he could sit next to his friend with no fear, in order to show he cares.

It’s hard to believe how quickly this sweet boy has grown, and I am amazed by him, as well as very proud!

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 7.46.22 AMAnd yes, he definitely wants to be a scientist, even if he couldn’t tell you a single thing that a scientist does, besides science.

Grandma Holds Our Hearts……

Before mom passed away, I virtually watched a friend from another city tell her mom goodbye as well. As Liz spent the final days with her mom, I prayed fervent prayers for her family. I also silently took note, for I knew in my heart that my mom would pass soon too. In her mother’s final weeks, Liz managed to make some very special crafts with her boys and their Grandma. When I saw the pictures on Facebook, I told myself that I would do the same with my mom and my children.

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DSC_0054When hospice was called in and mom was sent home, we were operating under the impression of her having weeks left to live. That was the best estimate from the doctors and other experienced medical staff. When mom came home, Liz commented to me about her activities and how special the handprint crafts were for her family, and she advised that I make some too. Although I had already planned to do so, I hadn’t purchased anything to create them. In my time of need, I simply texted two of my friends a picture from Liz and said, “I want to make these, and I need the materials ASAP.” I shared the kiddo’s sizes and I was quickly promised by my friend Helen to have the items the next day.

I had thought that I would have those weeks to make the craft, but mom came home on a Tuesday afternoon and passed very early on a Thursday morning. Weeks were really mere days. Bless Helen, for when she arrived, I had just received the news from the DSC_0057hospice nurse that her opinion was mom had hours to live, “I believe your mom only has hours left and anyone that needs to see her needs to do so fast.” I was shaken. I was not under any impression that mom had years or months to live, but the new of hours took me by surprise and sent me into a bit of a frenzy.  Hands unsteady and voice quivering, I beckoned to my cousin, Ann, to go and get my boys from school immediately.

Once the boys arrived, I swiftly began the craft, one that I had thought we would calmly do in a few days, with patience and joy, not urgency and tears. I smeared blue paint all over Momma’s hand as best I could, trying not to get it on her bed sheets or her clothing. She was aware and cooperative but not fully in control of herself, so getting her hand to be just right for pressing on the shirt was a bit difficult.

DSC_0063Daniel and Wesley were pretty excited to be painting with her, and they were ready to complete the full product then and there, yet, for obvious reasons, that couldn’t be precedent at the time.

Mom likely would have died that very night, but with all the hub-bub around her, people coming and going from her home in droves, she sustained a bit longer. In the wee hours of the next morning, mom passed, and dealing with a little craft became the least of my worries. Helen later texted me and asked if we got the craft done like I had hoped, to which I replied, “Yes…and it’s not perfect….yet it is perfect.”

Over the weekend, we managed to finally make the time to finish. I wrote “Grandma holdsDSC_0059 my heart forever” on each in pencil and the boys each went over the letters with fabric paint markers. They decorated the back however they wished.

Although a tiny thing, it is also simultaneously huge to have these shirts. It is the last thing she ever got to do with my children. I realized while we were finishing them that mom’s hand was small, smaller than mine even, and I can’t remember ever truly noticing that before.

I got overly stressed about trying to make them perfect, cause I realized that having her handprint on these shirts is something I can never get back should we mess them up. I gradually let that go, under the same concepts of it not being perfect but still perfect.

“Grandma hold OUR hearts forever……”

And we are glad to have that be the case, until we see her again.

Kindergarten Kiddo!

Well folks, I am incredibly behind on this post, but, believe it or not, our sweet Wesley is now a kindergartener! Boy did that happen fast!

DSC_0001He has looked forward to school for a very long time. He continually missed his Bubba when he would leave for a few hours to learn away from home, and every time we went to lunch with Daniel, Wesley was prepared to stay, should someone allow him to do so! For two years, Wesley eagerly awaited his turn.

DSC_0011With a summer birthday, Wesley would be a bit younger than his brother upon starting K. This made me cautious. However, Wesley attended speech for one hour, one day a week last school year, and his speech teacher assured me Wesley was more than ready. It was true, after all, cause the boy could already read, although he is not as swift as his brother to show you that fact. He knows all the little odds and ends that he needs to know, and his little heart was ready for the new world of friends that school has to offer.

When his Kindergarten teacher called me to inform me that she would be his teacher, I cried when I hung up the phone. Silly, but true. I cried because even on the 1st of August, I knew that we would have a difficult year ahead of us with mom’s illness, and knowing that Wesley was going to be in the hands of Mrs. McGregor, the same teacher that Daniel had for K, I knew my heart could take refuge in his atmosphere of a God fearing woman that would make the time to love on my child and help him grow in little boy wisdom as our partner in Wesley’s education. At the time, I did not at all image that mom would pass a mere 5 days into Wesley’s school year though. Amid all the sadness, what a blessing to know I could text his teacher and tell her the news and ask her to hug him a few extra times in the days to come. This same wonderful K teacher brought a yummy meal to the funeral home for my family as a sign of support. Already busy enough, she carved out moments and made extra effort to be even more amazing. DSC_0007

So far, Wesley is rocking this school thing! He has come home tired a few days, but we knew that might be the case. Wesley is a creature that truly needs his sleep, much like his momma, and even though he *always* gets up early on his own time, he often still takes a nap if I force him to be still long enough. When the first 4 days of his school year were crazy wild days with him heading off to other peoples homes so I could be with mom, me not even staying the night at the house since I was at hers, and him eating whatever it was other people chose to feed him, and then a whirlwind weekend of extended family and funeral services, it was truly great that he even managed to hold it all together! In true fashion though, the boy not only held it all together, but he managed to make friends and “be the best rhymer” in his entire class. Beyond just having friends, he somehow convinced a sweet boy in his class, Tucker, to buy him treats from the lunch line for about a week, even though Wesley had more than enough food in his packed lunch (Sorry Tucker’s mom! At least you are a kind neighbor who hasn’t sent us a bill yet!).

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His grins that first day after his 3-5 minute bus ride home were amazing. He cherishes his brother and is super happy that they have an overlapping lunch time where they can see one another daily (and momma appreciates this fact too, cause eating lunch with them is super easy this way!). DSC_0019

Wesley, we have full confidence in you. We believe you are smart, and we know you are loving. Our hope is that you will shine in God’s light, wherever you are each day, listen to the knowledge put before you, and continue to share your smiles to all you encounter. What a brilliant and strong boy you are!

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Punctuation, Anniversaries, and End of Life

I am a bit of a grammar nerd. It hasn’t manifested itself yet into a love of sentence diagramming, and I doubt that it ever will, but I do place great value on proper punctuation and magnificent word choice that can make plain and simple text come alive. These little bits of dots, commas, apostrophes, and lines should not be taken lightly, for their application can totally change the premise of a sentence.

Take for instance this classic example of comma usage: “Let’s eat Momma” or “Let’s eat, Momma” have two entirely different meanings. The first is asking for mom to be ON the dinner plate AS the feast, while the latter is requesting her to join you IN dinner by taking a plate and eating the feast as well. One small little swish of a pen or press of a keyboard button makes an adaptation to the sentence that can alter everything.

A little over a week ago, there was an event at church, and I couldn’t remember if lunch was provided for the kiddos in childcare or not. I texted a friend that was in charge and asked “Do I need to pack a lunch for my boys?” Brooke kindly replied “No, food is provided.” In the midst of busy morning, I gave the text a hasty read and quickly began packing lunches, cause after all, “No food is provided.” Turns out I, the English nerd, didn’t take proper notice of the comma she typed. No, accompanied by a comma, means I didn’t need to pack a lunch, cause one would be provided. When my kiddos showed up with their thermals, it all sorta clicked with me on my critical misread.

Punctuation matters, you see.

Commas aren’t the only critical elements. There are colons, semi-colons, even just a simple period. None seem overly important, but when you try to read a piece of writing where none exist, you realize that them being there is essential. If you don’t have any personal experience with such, just trust me on this one, for I have graded enough essays that have missed the mark in these concepts. It’s simply maddening.

I often teach the rules of punctuation in my classroom, yes even the collegiate one, especially the elements that are most easily confused and misused. The period, called a full-stop by the British, is where you stop reading and complete a sentence. Most can handle this one. Frequently avoided or misused due to lack of knowing how to have the right application is the semi-colon. This little gem works to combine two sentences together. When a sentence could have ended, it doesn’t; details continue on thanks to the punctuation combining with more details. Typically this element is applied in order to create a stronger, more effective sentence.


A year ago today, my life could have very well ended
. I blacked out. I wrecked. I was life flighted to the ER. A year ago today, the baby that was in my womb could have very well ceased to exist any more. Instead, today, I look at a beautiful 6 month old child, healthy and happy, even if a bit drooly from some teething. One year ago, on August 19th, my life could have been a period, ending with no continuation. Grammatically speaking, I could have been a “full stop.” Fortunately, God did not see it fit to call me home, and I was allowed a semi-colon; a possibility for things to end existed but ultimately I was given a continuation. I even have a scar on the middle of my chest, formed by shards of glass and the seatbelt, that oddly enough resemble a semi-colon when I look down at it: a small dot on top with a swoosh underneath.

I have more life to live.

This day has been on the horizon for me, a day I emotionally welcomed yet dreaded, a year anniversary of one of the most life-changing, miraculous, and yet scariest days of my life. At one point I had plans to try and fly in a helicopter, since my first experience in one was a vague memory of floating between consciousness and unconsciousness, restrained by a neck brace and an IV. With life’s craziness though, that idea seemed less of a potential. Sometimes I envisioned being alone on this day, reflective and worshipful; I had big plans to cry.

Yet, a bit unexpectedly, Mom’s sickness and cancer battle suddenly was expedited towards its close. That day definitely trumps the impact of this one. She didn’t get a semi-colon, she got a period, a full-stop. My mom died, sooner than a year after her diagnosis. Just like that, her sentence was over. Period.

Or, maybe not.

There is this one element of punctuation called an ellipsis. Often the ellipsis is used in informal writing to show that the thought has been left a little unfinished, not fully ended or complete. The sentence doesn’t continue on like it would if graced with a semi-colon. The sentence doesn’t end like it would if bestowed a period. It instead trails off, in a series of dots to represent the ongoing nature of the idea.

Mom, being a believer in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, had hope of an afterlife, a better place to call home. Her passing isn’t as simple as a full-stop period, nor is it a physical continuation here on earth like a semi-colon might provide. Now, rather, she operates with an elliptic life, one that has trailed off from here on earth only to continue more in heaven, free from suffering and pain. My momma knew of the Everlasting Life that can only be found in God and a life lived in Him.

Although I mourn that there is not time with her here, I rejoice that I will have time with her there….

Graduation/Pinning Ceremony!

As most all of you know, Thomas has been in an intense graduate degree program with a first year emphasis outside of his general scope of knowledge from his bachelor and master’s degree. The second year of school focused on his primary interest but was rigorous and time consuming. Most of these type of programs recommend and highly suggest that you do not work but rather just attend school, study, write papers, perform clinical rotations, and matters of the like, all school oriented. Thomas, however, not just worked but was crazy enough to begin his very own business at the same time of enrollment. He maintained a thriving, successful practice, while at the same time succeeding in his coursework. This, my friends, would make him exemplary enough by most all standards. Many people I have heard of and know have ceased such programs of study based off much less criteria. It’s just that hard, folks.

Our little family at Thomas's BIG day!

Our little family at Thomas’s BIG day!

 

 

And, of course, our family did not stop there. We managed to have a series of trials during his first year, and absolutely unprecedented difficulties and circumstances during his second year of school. Between my hospitalization, which occurred the first week of his second year, causing him to miss the first “block” of graduate classes for his Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program. My first week home with a wired jaw was his week to take the NCLEX nursing exam. That was also the same week we found out my mom had cancer, thus beginning her series of hospitalizations, chemo and radiation appointments, as well as doctor visits, many of which Thomas attend as way of support and knowledge base. Oh…..and we added a daughter to our family as well! Again, many have given up and quit programs of this intensity over much, much less, so his endurance and success proves him to be a caliber above most others. He also managed to complete the course criteria at one of the most prestigious colleges in our state, and the country for that matter, Vanderbilt University.

So, when last Friday marked the end of his academic pursuit of this degree, I cried when he got home, as I hugged his neck. When Sunday came, the time for his pinning ceremony, an event to honor and acknowledge nursing students with a special pin that is reflective of their school and study, I was a bit emotional for the capstone moment it represented.

 

 

Thomas got fancied up and looked quite handsome and really stood out from the rest of the 250 students (especially as one of the 13 males in the program).

The GRADUATE!

The GRADUATE (pre-pinning)

 

The GRADUATE (post-pinning)

The GRADUATE (post-pinning)

Family joined us at the event for the big day and then even more joined us after for a spaghetti celebration at a local restaurant. It was a good time together, enjoying Thomas.

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Family— our support network the past 2 years!

Thomas's proud parents, who were very supportive to us during this journey!

Thomas’s proud parents, who were very supportive to us during this journey!

Thomas and my mom, who likely should have stayed at home but knew that she didn't want to miss his moment for anything so she came anyway (and forced him to take a selfie with her to prove she survived the event)

Thomas and my mom, who likely should have stayed at home but knew that she didn’t want to miss his moment for anything so she came anyway (and forced him to take a selfie with her to prove she survived the event)

Now, with just one more test to go (a licensure exam), Thomas is ready to take his private practice as a Mental Health Therapist to the next level. He will also be teaching some clinical courses for a local university at a psychiatric hospital/unit. Additionally, he is entertaining offers from various other companies for some part time work, looking to find the best fit for him and our family in the process.

It is such a huge sigh of relief to have him through this program. The intensity for him and our family has been much, but we’re glad to see him walk this path to fulfillment. I know, full well, that his dedication, wisdom, and knowledge will not go without favor and promise for him and our family in the years to come. Babe, I am so proud of you, I shall now call you by all your initials, my sweet RN, MA, MSN, LPC-MHSP, PMHNP, BC  (how’s that for a signature??!!)

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Being pinned by the Dean of Nursing as VU.