Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End Highlights!

Check out some fun stats!

Most Popular Posts:
This year's most popular posts happened around blogging events, with one exception.

First, we had the flip flop to adopt fundraiser. Three posts around that were in the top ten. It wasn't one of the top posts, but if you missed it, here is the conclusion!

Next, we celebrated what would have been Garrett's first birthday with a series of guest posts. You can see all of them here but these were the three most viewed:

The last of the 2012 top posts is our adoption journey announcement!

A few randomly trending posts from 2011:
Session 2 with the trainer
I am the Face of Stillbirth
Merry Christmas!

Most amusing search term:
goiter or fat neck

Top Referring Sites:
Hospital Mom (from an Ask Prudence article)
SheLoves Magazine
Small Bird Studios

It's been a great blogging year! More to come next year, starting with Christmas projects and a new sponsor!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Unlikely Things

It snowed here Christmas night. Not much. Just enough to coat everything with white and enough to tickle us all. For the most part, the snow was too wet to really have fun in but we had a nice romp through the backyard, making the snow fall through the holes in the table in the back, whacking tree branches, and leaving foot trails everywhere.

Autumn decided to explore over where we (not very successfully) planted strawberries over the summer and suddenly yelled, "MAMA, THERE IS A GIANT PINK FLOWER!" I had no idea what it could be but sure enough, a bush that had never flowered before and seemed randomly planted had pink buds all over it and five or six large flowers. I cut some of them and we have this lovely bouquet. In the dead of winter! I think these are winter camellias and what an amazing surprise to discover after two and a half years of living in this home.

I posted this on facebook and a friend of mine commented with the word grace. And it is! I feel like it's a picture of our holiday season. Or our story of Garrett. Definitely the story of Garrett. At first it's just darkness, sadness, cold...but in the midst of it all, a beautiful bloom. Something beautiful and uplifting, against all odds. Doesn't it just make you smile?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas, friends

This week Autumn has asked a lot of questions about Garrett and why he didn't get to stay here. I'm not entirely certain why it's on her mind...although, really, it may just be because it's the holidays. I guess there isn't any reason that kids shouldn't feel loss more strongly at this time of year. Although it's tough sometimes, I feel like we've been able to have some great conversations. I tell her that because Jesus came (which is what Christmas celebrates), died, and came back to life (what Easter celebrates), we get to come back to life in Heaven when we die. And that's where Garrett is waiting on us.

I know many of you are missing loved ones this holiday season. I pray that you and your families experience the comfort and hope that comes from Jesus. I'll leave you for now with a bit Autumn and I read tonight from the Storybook Bible:

This baby would be like that bright star shining in the sky that night. A Light to light up the whole world. Chasing away darkness. Helping people to see. And the darker the night got, the brighter the star would shine.

May the Light shine bright, even and especially in the darkness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Warrior Snowflakes

Today I taught my last kids' aikido class until January 8. I am so going to miss the kids but I need the break. I went to the doctor yesterday annnnnnd I really was sick! I have a double ear infection, pharyngitis, and a sinus infection. I am armed with an arsenal that will horrify my most granola friends but I DON'T CARE because I already feel better. Still tired. So the rest will be nice.

I happened to come across a great project today. The Sandy Hook Elementary PTSA is collecting home made snowflakes to decorate the school when the kids get back. Here's some more information if you're interested in participating:

The Connecticut PTSA has created a special way that PTA leaders, school employees and families can show their support for Sandy Hook Elementary School. Please encourage local schools and communities to send paper snowflakes for the school via the Connecticut PTSA by Jan. 12:
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

And a link to a paper snowflake tutorial in case you're like me and need a refresher!

I decided to do this project with the kids at aikido. I spoke to each parent individually before class to see how much they had told their kids. Most told them what I told Autumn when she asked why the flags were half staff. I told her that something sad happened Friday and when she pressed, I said that someone did something bad and a lot of people got hurt and even died. I was concerned about telling her but it went really well and led to good conversation.

By the way, here's another link. This one is to a blog post at I use their curriculum in my aikido classes and even in my self defense talks. At the end of the post, there are a number of other useful links for talking to your kids about emotional safety after tragedy and answering questions about school shootings. It's good information and not too unlike what we talked to Autumn about after Garrett died.

I had already planned to share a book called Tree of Cranes about a boy's first Christmas in Japan. I read it to my Thursday class and they loved it. It's a beautiful book and mentions the tradition of folding paper cranes for a wish to be granted. The book is not a Christian one and the mother descibes Christmas day as a day when enemies do not fight and there is peace. And that we need more of those days. Appropriate, right?

Afterward, I talked to my students about being compassionate warriors, especially since we practice aikido. The founder of aikido has these kinds of quotes:
To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is Aikido.

Aikido is not a way to fight with or defeat enemies; it is a way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family.

And so we made snowflakes!

Some of them are a little interesting but I'm going to send them all!

Then we had Japanese Christmas Cake! The one I made today was prettier but I didn't take a picture of it.

An unusual aikido class but still very aiki!

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I'm eating crackers and drinking honey water because I have no voice. I do have a fever, though, which is not a good trade. I'm not sure what the fever is all about. I've had this sinus thing for a week zapping all my energy. I think I pushed my voice over the edge when I cried from about noon until I had to pick Autumn up from school Friday. Saturday, I taught class silently. It was actually kind of fun. And maybe I should talk less when I teach anyway because everyone was amazing. The did a great job! And it was fun tapping out rhythms with my jo because I couldn't count. I felt like an anime character.

We had a really fantastic Saturday night. I talk about this all the time but the best thing we have done since Autumn was born was cultivating friendships. We had our community group party and like it was nice being with friends in aikido in the wake of Friday's tragedy (a local police officer and mother of 4 was also killed Friday), being with our community group was wonderful. I made korean barbecue. The others brought sweets. We played dirty santa and about 2 hours of apples to apples. I gave away our terrifying lamb with a demonic voice reciting Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Mike gave a freebie bag he got at a convention. He also added a book, a regifted movie, aaaand a can of tuna. He return.

I didn't take any photos because we were having so much fun--I hate that! I did get a few snaps of the house before everyone came. I'm guessing the fever is partly because of the huge burst of energy I used up yesterday after teaching to finish cleaning. This is the finished Merry Bright Twinkle canvas. I did a Martha Stewart tuxedo bow and nailed the length of ribbon to the canvas frame. This made the piece easier to hang, too. I mentioned before that the wire spilled over the back too much and made it tough to lay flat. Hanging it from the ribbon and bow made it easier!

You don't even want to know how long this took. I feel like the table needs something else. Candle sticks?

I think the mantel looks better this year than last. Less empty, possibly. And, if anyone has any rug ideas, I am totally open.

Here's yet another thing that took far, far, far too long! Two things. I hate the phrase first world problem but putting up two trees is certainly a first world problem. We got the skinny tree that's in Mike's office when we were in our tiny house before this one. It's pre-lit and only has 3 parts. We still had the bigger tree we used that formerly belonged to Mike's grandmother who passed away before Autumn was born. The tree is in a box with about 100 pieces! Worth it, though. It definitely helps the living room feel less cavernous.

The writing on the board...I am not an artist. I can do layout. I can sew. I cannot draw. I am extremely proud of that sign! I found a chalkboard with writing and decoration I liked online and copied it. Here's the china cabinet. I was really worried about doing this but it wasn't too bad!

Here's the china cabinet with the table. Very festive. Possibly a little overboard. >.>

So I went light on the bar/desk thing.

And that's it. For now, at least. In the meantime, I am thankful for the people we love and who love us. And I pray for those who will desperately need the comfort of their friends for the rest of their lives.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I wish I could unhear the news.

I wish I couldn't vividly picture the kids being asked to cover their eyes.

I wish that the first responders, survivors, funeral home people, parents, siblings...everyone...didn't have to go through this.

I wish I didn't know what it's like to explain to a child about death.

I wish I could stop seeing Garrett's casket and thinking of all the caskets that will be coming.

I wish Jesus would come back.

I wish He would tell me why.

I wish He would tell everyone why.

I wish I didn't know all the "right" answers.

Or maybe I wish the right answers actually helped.

My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
Psalm 119:28

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Cards

There's still time to order Christmas Cards! Pop over to my etsy shop to see our selection of cards and banners as well as other invitations and gift cards. If you get a Christmas card, I usually have a turnaround of less than a day so you have plenty of time to send it off to the one hour photo!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

ahhh, memories

(click to embiggen)

I thought you might like this piece from Carly Marie of Project Heal. One of the best things I got from the GriefShare curriculum from last year is that it's my job to make people feel comfortable about mentioning our lost loved one. I've never forgotten that and I make an effort to talk about Garrett casually or reference the time I was pregnant, things like that. Not in a maudlin or depressing way, just, "hey, this was part of my life the same way my pregnancy with Autumn was. And he's with me all the time in my heart, actions, and reasons for actions so I'm not going to pretend he isn't there." Not that anyone really expects me to forget him (I totally don't spend time with those people anymore!) but I like to think that makes it easier for people to say his name to me.

Here another interesting article about the former Kate Middleton's pregnancy. I guess I hadn't really thought about it but I have been hiding all the news on my home page about her severe morning sickness because I remember my own so strongly. I had morning sickness with Autumn until about 20/22 weeks and with Garrett for about 18/20. It was so terrible. I even have plug in scent things in the hallway because the damp, winter smell of the hallway brings the morning sickness back so vividly that I feel ill. One morning sickness recollection that makes me smile is of a day when I was teaching. We were sitting and doing toe touches when, as one parent said, I turned green. Their feet. It was so. bad. By sheer force of will I didn't puke and made it through the class! The mom said she was impressed, haha. After that, I sent notes home telling parents that their kids needed to wear socks with their shoes. A rule that still stands!

Anyway, sorry. Memory lane dragged me in a little! And gross memories at that!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


You guys, today was one of my BEST DAYS EVER. Look what I got to present to Autumn...her very first colored belt in aikido!!

She did such a great job. All the kids did! I tested almost everyone at the Collierville location for the first time since I started teaching them in June. We had a good parental turnout and everyone did a great job with very few corrections needed. I am so proud of them! I need to ask the parents' permission to post their kids on the blog but after every test, we do a serious photo and a silly photo. So, of course, Autumn wanted a silly photo.

The only real hiccup was the belt presentation. Autumn went first because her certificate was on top after I finished signing them. She was supposed to be last. Poor thing got all confused about which hand to shake with and which hand to take her new yellow belt!

I'm also super happy because stephan came out and sat on the testing panel with me. I'm still in that early stage where I need to uke for the kids (let them throw me) because I don't really have a student who can do the advanced stuff. With Stephan there, I could uke but still have someone official looking watching the test. I've been at Mullins for a couple of years now and I have a few students who are definitely developing into test ukes. It's so great to see the kids grow.

By the way, if you want to check it out, here's our new website. I'm still building it, and site development is NOT one of my strengths so it will take a bit but at least it's getting there! And, have I posted our new logo here? My friend and former kali instructor Will Dixon (he still teaches, I just can't train with him with all the aikido I'm doing) drew this for us!

He based it off this photo of me throwing one of our old students during my first kyu (one rank before black belt) test. I believe I am doing a koshinage.

I wasn't expecting him to use that photo of me so I was very surprised. It's cool but a little weird! I made a couple of practice tshirts with the logo on that back and I feel a little strange about wearing myself, hahaha. I'll post some photos of that soon!