Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Mom, why do you scrapbook?"

One night I was working in my new craft room, stamping and scrapping away the stress of a busy weekend when I heard grunting and groaning behind me. Zach was pulling a kitchen chair, a stack of notebook paper, and his box of crayons into my room and proceeded to set up on the other side of my already crowded scrap table. He didn't ask if he could join me, and I hadn't invited him. His thought process was he had a project and I would help him.

He got right down to business, creating a comic book very similar to the Captain Underpants book he had recently been reading. He was proud of his creation and was focused and working hard. He worked in silence, despite my attempts at conversation, so I turned Project Runway back on and got back to my work.

A couple minutes later when he was done with the outline of his Captain Diaper character and had started to color it in he asked me, in a very serious voice, "Mom, why do you scrapbook?"

I had one of those moments. You know the kind where if you were in a cartoon, the clouds would part, the sun would come out and you'd hear a heavenly chorus singing. My son wanted to talk to me about scrapbooking! It was nothing short of a miracle!

"Because I absolutely love it!' I replied. "I want to remember and document all the good things in our family." 

"Do you want to remember me and Caleb as cute little babies?"


"Do you want to remember Daddy?"

"That too, " I said as tears filled my eyes.

"You want to remember marrying Jim?"


"You just want to remember everything!" Zach concluded in amazement.

Then the conversation shifted as he asked me to help him color his picture in.

I thought about our conversation later. Do I want to remember everything? There has been so much pain not only in our immediate family, but extended family as well. We've watched my brother battle cancer, and beat it. We lost my aunt to it. Dave and I struggled with infertility. Caleb's diagnosis with SMA certainly took us off guard, and my pregnancy with Zach was touch and go to the point it's a miracle he was even born. I've watched loved ones get divorced, struggle with depression, have challenges with their children, just to name a few things . . . .  Then, the fateful night when I got the knock on the door which ended with me at a grave side, a widow at 34 years old and comforting two little boys crying for daddy.

The reality is, no matter how hard I try, I'll always remember the bad stuff. I can't erase away the memories. The pain has played a tremendous part of shaping my life to what it looks like now. I will never forget, but it doesn't mean I have to focus on those memories. In fact, the perspective of those memories make me grateful to see smiling faces and little boys living life. The pain life here on Earth has to offer makes me look forward to Heaven. 

I started scrapbooking as a teenager because I loved doing arts and crafts. I was drawn into the spell of pretty patterened paper, brightly colored stickers and really cool tools. It started as a hobby and still is a hobby. I'm addicted! I love everything about it - the smell of the paper, the creative process, the shopping for supplies! Everything about this hobby appeals to me - but that's not why I continue to do it.

I keep scarpbooking for therapy. It gives my mind a break from the bustle of kids, the housework and never ending to-do list. I don't think about doctor's appointments, cub scouts or sports schedules. I do it because I want to remember. I want to remember the smiles, the joy. I want my children to look back on a life well lived. I want them to know that they are loved. I want to continue to document Dave's legacy, which is still unfolding even though it's been almost four years since he died. I want to tell the story of God's grace and goodness in our lives as Jim and I blend our families. I want my kids to know that Mom kept going when the going got rough.

Now I know that you don't have to scrapbook to communicate these truths. But this is how God wired me - He gave me the love of creating photo albums and he uses that gift in my life. Dave's gift was music. He would play the guitar and his music was his means of expression and act of worship. Jim enjoys being out in nature, appreciating God's creation. Spending time hunting,hiking or even just walking though the woods is Jim's way of seeing God's goodness. Everyone has something in them as a way of expression and remembering. I don't think it matters HOW you remember, but that you DO remember. That you remember the good and the bad, and in everything give thanks to God. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Brotherly Love

Ah, brotherly love . . . who can't relate to the bottom photo on this layout? There's nothing quite like the relationship between siblings. One minute you're best friends, and the next you want to strangle your brother or sister!

Caleb and Zach have an extremely close relationship. They are best friends! When Caleb was first diagnosed, and we realized how much help he would need with everything, we worried about the dynamic between brothers. We were concerned that Zach might resent all the attention Caleb would get just simply on the basis he needed it. To add insult to injury, Dave and I were encouraged not to have any more children because SMA is a genetic disorder. 

While we know many families that have gone on to have additional children - some completely healthy, other affected with SMA - we made the decision not to have any more kids. I was heart broken at first, but when we realized that Zachary had some special needs of his own that completely differed from Caleb's needs, I learned to be content with two children!

Once I realized that raising two special needs children was an overwhelming responsibility, I began to worry about the dynamics between our two boys. I read articles and books written by people who had disabled siblings. I talked to other families in similar situations to ours. I applied things I would hear Dr. Phil say to families he had on his show. I was eager for any and all information about family dynamics. 

While I was busy worrying, the boys were busy growing up and becoming friends. They had each other's back. Their relationship developed "normally" in spite of their disabilities. I worried for no reason! I wasted time and energy on research when I could have been enjoying my boys and praying about things. 

Dave and I agreed to not ask Zachary to help Caleb every time he needed it. We didn't want Zach to feel that he was Caleb's servant. However, we began to notice that Zach had no problem helping Caleb completely unprompted. Sometimes Caleb would ask for help and Zach was only too happy to oblige. (Look back at my Popcorny post to see to what lengths Zach would go for his brother!) I will admit though, that as Zach gets older, I do ask him to help Caleb more often, and Zach does not resent it. Caleb's disability is all he knows. Caleb also has learned that he can take advantage of his little brother and Zach has learned it is ok to tell his brother, "No!"

In an attempt to give each child our full attention, Dave and I tried to take each boy out for one-on-one time. Zach loved to play on playgrounds and Caleb couldn't do that. So Dave might take Zach out to McDonald's to play in the play yard or go to a park, while I did something special with Caleb. Sometimes Caleb needed time doing "guy stuff" with Daddy, so Dave and Caleb would go off while I might watch a movie with Zach. It's harder now that they are older, but I still try to have Mommy/Caleb and Mommy/Zach dates that are catered to their individual abilities and tastes.

So in spite of having a major disability, the death of their dad, mom remarrying and becoming part of a blended family, my boys are close. I love to watch their relationship grow and just marvel at how loving and protective they are of each other . . . at least most of the time!

Scrapbooking Tips:

I originally did this layout for a magazine submission which was later published in Scrapbook Generation's Create. I followed a sketch and added my own flair to it! I put the layout together completely using scraps I had laying around in my stash. I looked for bright colors that would match the boys' shirts. I needed the bright yellow letters to stand out against the colorful background.

I used scraps of paper and Banner Triplit Dies from the Stamps of Life to create the banner detail in the upper right corner.

I used white buttons to add some dimension to my layout, but they looked a little plain, so I cut hexagons out of some patterned paper and adhered them for some color. 

To give the journaling spot some character, I created a tag out lined paper. A twine bow added more dimension and texture. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Grief Comes in All Shapes & Sizes

I posted this picture on Facebook back in May of 2014. We were in Washington DC for Police Week and this was Zachary minutes before leaving the hotel for the Police Memorial Ceremony at the Capitol. I was waiting for the elevator with both boys, and then I panicked because I couldn't find Zach - I turned around and he was back by our hotel room door. It was early in the morning, too early, and it was a hot and humid and we had to dress up. Zach was acting how we all were feeling, and let's face it, this picture is adorable!

Police Week was a pretty intense experience for all of us. The NY State Police made it possible for Dave's family, my parents and the boys and I to go to Washington D.C. to attend the annual C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) Conference. There was something comforting about being around other families that experienced the same type of loss we had, but at the same time, it ripped open scabs that had barely begun to heal. 

As hard as it was to lose Dave, I realized that I was very blessed. There were so many people who were grieving without hope. I have hope. Since Dave's death, I've often been comforted by 
1 Thessalonians 4:13, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep  in him." Dave had placed his faith in Jesus Christ. It was not good works that got him into Heaven, but Jesus' grace and forgiveness. I know that the boys and I will see Daddy again!

But in the meantime, this precious picture of Zachary reminds me that grief comes in all shapes and sizes. While all our friends and family miss Dave, it is our boys who have lost the most. They had an awesome dad, and they were too little to remember. Caleb remembers much more than Zach, but he still only had six short years with his dad. Zach barely had five. 

Shortly after Dave died I found Zachary alone in his bedroom, punching a picture of Dave. He was throwing his whole body and effort into punching and he was angry. I pulled him onto my lap and hugged him while the tears silently slid down my cheeks. After a couple of minutes I asked Zach why he was angry, and his reply, "Daddy left without taking me."

Zach remembers his Daddy loving to travel and go on "adventures". The boys and I had talked a lot about heaven when my aunt had passed away, and they knew that it was wonderful place with no pain, tears, darkness or goodbyes. Why would Daddy go away to such a wonderful place and not bring him?

Shortly before this episode, Caleb very seriously told me that he wanted to go to Heaven when he was ten. His reasoning was that he could spend more time with Zach and me, but he didn't want Daddy to be alone for too long. And besides, Daddy explained to him there was no SMA in Heaven and they would be able to run and play football. He wanted to go play football with Daddy.

I had to explain to two broken hearted boys that only Jesus decides when you get to go to Heaven and you don't get to go until your special assignment on earth was done. Daddy's special assignment was done, but if Daddy had had the choice he would not have left us. I assured the boys he was certainly waiting to see us again but he would want us to live life to the fullest until our work here was done. I don't think the boys understand that concept completely, but thankfully they believed me. 

I don't know when the boys will be reunited with their dad, but this painful journey has taught me that grief comes in all shapes and sizes, and never completely goes away. I've also learned that no matter how horrific the circumstance, God is good. He loves me and my boys more then I could possibly fathom, and He has a plan for our good. As I flip through my scrapbooks and memories, I see smiles and joy before and after December 17, 2013, and that alone is a testament to God's goodness and faithfulness, and I'm determined to live life with joy until my special assignment is completed.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Gangnam Style

Dave loved music and could rock a dance floor. He had rhythm flowing through his veins and it seems that Zach has inherited some of his daddy’s musical talent! While Zach struggles academically, his music teacher always gives him “exceeds expectations”. Zach also has Dave’s love of dancing!

One night I had taken Caleb out for an appointment, and when I came home Zach ran up to me, “Mommy, Yook! Yook!” Dave hit play on his iPod, and "Gangnam Style" started blaring and they both broke into dance. Not the choreographed dance most people associate with song, but their own version! It consisted mainly of Dave and Zach starting from opposite sides of the room and hopping/galloping past each other to the opposite side of the room. Dave looked a little winded, and when I asked Dave how long they had been dancing like this he said, “Oh, about an hour. Zach hasn’t gotten tired yet!”

On Caleb’s 5th birthday, Zach and Daddy demonstrated their dance for all the extended family. I so wish I had videotaped them. I was always so focused on taking photos so I could scrapbook life’s events that I sometimes neglected the video camera. But at least I have this picture of Daddy and Zach’s special dance!

Scrapbooking Tips:

I thought this picture was special enough to merit its own layout, and I wanted to keep the focus on Dave and Zach so I kept the embellishments to a minimum.

When adding stickers or embellishments I try to use an odd number. I read somewhere that an odd number is more appealing to the eye, so I added three epoxy dots around the journaling strips.

I also added epoxy dots to the star design on the patterned paper. I originally did not have the dots placed on the stars but with the paper design, dots and title that corner looked a little busy. When taking the dots off of the page, one accidentally fell on a star and I liked the look, so I moved the other two. As they say, "There's no mistake in scrapbooking, only opportunities to embellish!"

Simple journaling and embellishments keep the focus on the photo.

Try to look for creative ways to embellish your pattern papers!

Love You

June 2007 Today would have been Dave's and my 19th wedding anniversary. I look back on wedding pictures and can't believe how...