Distance Learning Adventures

Distance Learning Adventures

Cole’s Tee (J Crew Factory – similar) | Shorts

School started here in Boise a few weeks ago, and due to high community Covid spread, classes are currently being held online. Kids may be able to return to the classroom eventually (with rotating days and masks required), but for the foreseeable future we are 100% online. Due to Evan’s brain injury and long road to recovery we will be holding him back a year and doing an extra year of preschool. He may go back to in person preschool later this year should it become safer, but my plan for the time being is to work on a bit of homeschool in addition to his busy rehab schedule. Times are certainly tough these days, with so many hard decisions for parents! If you are like me and will be homeschooling or overseeing distance learning this fall…then this post is for you. I wanted to share a few tips that have helped us find a routine and some supplies to make the best at home learning environment possible.

Create a designated space for learning

I think this is one of the most important keys for successful at home learning. It’s hard enough at it is for kids to try to focus on a computer screen, so having them trying to learn in a high traffic, loud part of the house will be even more difficult for them. We’ve set Cole up with a desk in our office and can keep the door closed while he’s in class. The room is also very well lit with big windows which I think is also important! Wherever you can find a quiet, well lit place in your home – this is a great place to make your child’s learning spot. Their bedroom, a spare room, office, or even a nook in a quiet area of the home can all work great. For Evan’s homeschool preschool, we’ve set up a folding table in the dining room that is perfect for withstanding paint and messy crafts.

ColeHomeschoolDesk2020-1Desk | Similar Chair | Chromebook

Schedule your day like a typical school day

Although we are at home, it is important to me that Cole treats the day like he would any other school day. We get up at our usual time and have breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, comb his hair, and make sure he’s logged in on time. I don’t want him rolling out of bed last minute and showing up in pajamas because I feel that getting into that typical routine will help him be more productive with learning. Evan’s preschool day is significantly shorter, but we still get dressed and ready for school, and start and end our school time at the same time every day.

Make sure you have all of the school supplies on your school’s list

Cole’s school year has begun with all the assignments the kids would have done even if they had been in person. Some of the assignments are paper assignments we have to pick up at the school and complete at home – and these have required colored pencils, notebooks, and pencils. Even if you’re online, be prepared with all of the supplies your school had on your school supply list.

ColeHomeschoolDesk2020-4Cole’s Tee | Shorts

Be prepared to help with technology struggles

Cole is frequently coming out of the office and asking me to help him figure out something the teacher has asked him to do on the computer. And I often hear kids telling the teacher they can’t figure out what to do and she asks them to get a parent to help. Yes – we parents often don’t know how to do it either and it’s frustrating at times…but being prepared and available to help out will make your child’s school day a bit easier.

Get organized

Although a designated desk for your child isn’t required (any table space can work!), it has certainly made things a lot easier for Cole. His desk was super inexpensive (under $50!) and is really small (it could fit almost anywhere!), but it has a few drawers and shelves that help him keep his schoolwork and supplies organized. I hung a few clipboards on the wall above his desk so he can hang up papers he needs to keep track of and be able to quickly access like completed homework and password lists. A whiteboard has also been helpful for writing reminders or for jotting down quick notes. And a small desk clock is a must for helping him keep track of recess breaks.

ColeHomeschoolDesk2020-2Similar Clipboards | Similar Whiteboard | Clock | Similar Pencil Holder

Make the best of it

This hasn’t been easy. It’s far from ideal. But it’s an opportunity to teach your kids to weather the storms of life and make the best of tough times. Cole has had an incredibly tough year with his little brother being so sick and now missing his school, friends, and extra curricular activities. But I just keep reminding him that this too shall pass and things won’t be this way forever. And we are all in this together. Cole wants to go into computer software or engineering as an adult, so I also remind him that this year of online learning will be helpful for him one day and give him a bit of an early start to working with computers. Attitude really is everything and if you can look for something positive to focus on, it will make a big difference in tackling this whole new experience! We’ve also tried to keep the fun traditions intact like the first day of school pictures…and we’ve also added some fun things like having some of the kids’ favorite foods for lunch outside and playing laser tag during recess.

img_6817Cole’s Tee

Celebrate National Ice Cream Day By Making It With Your Kids

Celebrate National Ice Cream Day By Making It With Your Kids

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Did you know that this Sunday is National Ice Cream Day?! What better way to celebrate than by making this simple version of homemade ice cream and having a little ice cream party with your kids.

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 sandwich ziplock bags
  • 1 gallon ziplock bag
  • 3 cups crushed ice
  • 1/3 cup ice cream salt
  • Toppings of your choice
Directions

Put first 3 ingredients in one of the small ziplock bags and tightly seal. Then double bag that inside the 2nd small bag (this is to ensure none of the salt gets in – you don’t want salty ice cream!). I also recommend using high quality ziplock bags.

Put the ice and rock salt in the large gallon size bag, then add the smaller filled bags. Seal the large bag.

Squeeze (or shake!) the large bag for 10-15 minutes until ice cream is thickened. You will want to wear gloves or pot holder mittens for this!

Remove small bag, unseal, and serve!

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Here’s a few other really fun tools and ice cream accessories if you want to get even fancier with making homemade ice cream…

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One | This is just like Coldstone where you can mix things into your ice cream

Two | This mini size ice cream maker is perfect for kids and small portions – and won’t take up much cupboard space

Three | This ice cream making attachment goes right on your stand mixer

Four | If you make large portions, you’ll need a tub like this to store it

Five | A glass ice cream bowl makes you feel a bit more fancy

Six | I love the idea of making homemade ice cream sandwiches

Seven | A sleek looking ice cream maker

Eight | Such a fun topping mix

Nine | A good scoop is a must

Ten | This ice cream cone cake pan would be so fun

Eleven | Perfect for a kids ice cream party

Twelve | This little bowl is so neat – you can roll up your ice cream or cut it into shapes

Ideas For A Fun 4th Of July At Home

Ideas For A Fun 4th Of July At Home

My Romper (old – similar and also love this similar blue option!) | Sandals | Bag | Sunglasses | Boys flag tank

Like many places, Covid cases are rapidly accelerating here in Boise and new restrictions have been reimplemented banning groups larger than 50 people. Which of course means no annual parade or fireworks. While we will miss these fun traditions this year, I’m all in favor of prioritizing keeping our family safe and healthy! That said, I still want to make sure we have fun celebrating the holiday even if we will be quarantining at home. Today I’m putting together a list of some activities you can do at home with your kids to celebrate the 4th of July this year.

🇺🇸 HAVE A BIKE PARADE 🇺🇸

BikeDecorations

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While we may not be able to attend an actual parade, we can still have our own! I thought it would be fun to have the kids decorate their bikes and ride around the neighborhood…and even invite other neighborhood kids to join in (safely socially distanced of course!)

 

🇺🇸 WATER FUN 🇺🇸

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With no local pools open, we will opt for some water fun at home! We were gifted a huge inflatable pool when Evan got home from the hospital, which we are planning to fill up for the holiday. We can also get our water guns and water balloons out for even more fun!

 

🇺🇸 HOT DOG BAR 🇺🇸

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An all-American hot dog bar is the perfect easy and patriotic meal for the 4th of July

 

🇺🇸 MAKE PATRIOTIC SHIRTS 🇺🇸

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There are so many fun ways you could create a patriotic shirt – from painting your own design, to tie dye, to bedazzling…this is sure to be a fun activity

 

🇺🇸 BUCKETS OF FUN 🇺🇸

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Putting together a bucket of activities and treats to keep the kids busy all day is sure to make the day a bit more special. Sidewalk chalk, bubbles, sunglasses, glow sticks, tattoos, cracker jacks, and pop rocks would all be fun options

 

🇺🇸 WATCH A PATRIOTIC MOVIE OUTSIDE 🇺🇸

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Set up a projector and screen, and watch something patriotic. My pick would be Hamilton on Disney+ which is coming out on July 3rd!

 

🇺🇸 FIREWORKS 🇺🇸

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While we may not get to see the big show this year, we will still be able to have a few small fireworks at home. My kids especially love pop its – which are super fun and safe for the little ones. You could also do some non firework festive options like silly string or confetti poppers!

An Exclusive Janie and Jack Promo Code For My Readers

One of my absolute favorite places to shop for kids clothing is Janie and Jack, and today I’m excited to share an exclusive promo code for my readers for an additional 20% off your entire purchase – including sale items!

  • Code: SHOPSTYLE20
  • Valid: Until 6/28 (11pm PT)

Here’s a few adorable sale items that have caught my eye…

Boys…

BoysJ&JSaleOneTwoThreeFourFiveSix | SevenEight

 

Girls…

GirlsJ&JSaleOneTwoThreeFour | Five | SixSevenEight

 

Our (Socially Distanced) Summer Bucket List

This summer is definitely…weird. Not only are we very busy with and heavily focused on Evan’s rehabilitation (and spending most of our weekdays at therapy), we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Our nation has also been witnessing horrible injustice and perhaps (finally?) coming to terms with the systemic racism that plagues us. This year has been a brutal one for our family personally with Evan’s severe brain injury, and so many of my close friends have also been facing horribly difficult times as well. The weight of the world feels heavy and life right now is just…hard. It really has all made our family pull together and focus more on one another, and what truly matters. While our state is loosening social distancing restrictions, due to Evan’s immune system needing more time to recover, we will continue to socially distance for the rest of summer. While this summer isn’t going to be one filled with days at the waterpark, camping trips, or vacations – it can still be meaningful. We can make positive memories too, in the midst of so much difficulty, and perhaps come out of this one day with a lot of personal growth.

As this isn’t a “normal” summer, this bucket list isn’t a conventional one either. I asked Cole to come up with some crazy (within reason) ideas, outdoor activities where we can safely socially distance, and some fun things we would normally do at home in the summer. From picking a night to stay up all night, to camping at home, to a day where I have to say “yes” to everything…we are still finding little things to bring joy and some positive memories we can one day look back on in the midst of these trying times.

The other day we checked off an item on our list by spending an afternoon at the river building a teepee, throwing rocks, and playing in the sand. We had and absolute blast, and it was a good reminder of how even simple time spent together in nature can be a ton of fun.

Here is our completed list and a few items that will help us check everything off…SummerBucketList2020SummerBucketListNecessitiesOneTwo | Three | Four | FiveSix | SevenEight

One | We are going to need a projector if we are going to set up for outdoor movies this summer. This one has great reviews.

Two | I’m thinking a rock painting kit would be a lot of fun for a painting project

Three | A picnic basket is a must

Four | This cooking kit for kids comes with literally everything you need

Five | Cole did a tie dye project at school years ago and still talks about how fun it was so I thought it would be something fun we could do this summer

Six | This will make our summer nature walks a bit more fun

Seven | In trying to come up with a fun and different craft to try this summer I found this…and I think it could be a lot of fun

Eight | Camping in the living room is what the kids are looking most forward to this summer, and a cute indoor tent would make it that much more memorable

Cherry Picking

Cherry Picking

My Top | Jeans | Boots

It has become a summer tradition for us to take a drive out to the orchard for an afternoon of cherry picking. This summer’s weather has been (like the rest of 2020) weird. Idaho is known for wild weather swings – but we’ve had a lot of unusually cool and rainy days this month. Although the day we went picking last week was cool and sprinkling rain off and on, it was a lovely afternoon. Life admittedly has been difficult since Evan’s brain injury in March, but every day he continues to amaze me with his progress. And going to the orchard to continue one of our traditions was especially wonderful because it felt so…normal.

Father’s Day Gift Guide

FDGiftGuide-1FDGiftGuide-2One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve

One | My husband is obsessed with his Fitbit. This is a must have for any fitness minded dad.

Two | This wood card is the coolest Father’s Day card I’ve seen

Three | My husband loves this deodorant, and it’s a great way to give dad a little luxury that won’t break the bank

Four | Instead of a cheesy mug, give him a mug that will keep his coffee hot

Five | This super cool portable camping stove converts to a pizza oven. I wouldn’t even mind keeping this on our patio all summer long!

Six | My husband loves all things Patagonia and these are the perfect summer shorts

Seven | My husband has and loves this drill

Eight | Another favorite item my husband owns! This little speaker can go literally anywhere (it’s waterproof too!).

Nine | AirPods are sure to be a hit

Ten | My husband is super into having a smart home and this little gadget can control everything from your lights, to thermostat, to the TV.

Eleven | Perfect for the dad who travels a lot and this high quality bag is also 40% off

Twelve | Everything from Kiehl’s is pretty great, and this all in one body wash/shampoo has rave reviews

Signature

Sliding Into Summer

After nearly 3 months in the hospital, Evan is finally home!!! While we continue to work on recovery with outpatient rehabilitation 4 days a week, we are making sure to leave some free time for some summer fun. As we are still observing social distancing, (and public pools are closed anyway) we have to bring the fun to us at home. This is definitely going to be a different and much more challenging summer, but I’m determined to still create fun memories for the kids and provide lots of stimulation for Evan to help facilitate his recovery progress. The other day we had record high temperatures, so we set up our slip n slide and had a fun afternoon enjoying the sunshine.

Slip N Slide Essentials

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Salt Lake City

With Evan in the hospital here in Salt Lake City undergoing rehab and as we continue to deal with all of the visitation restrictions due to Covid, my hubby and Cole have been holding down the fort at home and coming for weekend visits. Cole isn’t allowed to come to the hospital and both parents aren’t allowed in at the same time, so it has been incredibly difficult to say the least. All we can really do is try to make the best of the situation and continually remind ourselves that this is temporary.

Our routine is for my husband and I switch off and he goes to spend the weekend in the hospital with Evan, while I spend the weekend in a hotel downtown with Cole. While we are being very careful to practice social distancing guidelines, we still need to get out of the hotel a bit and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. We love taking long walks around the city and especially love the beautiful temple grounds. Salt Lake also has some fantastic restaurants and we’ve been enjoying some great takeout. It has also been fun teaching Cole a little family history – Cole’s grandma Carolyn’s family was LDS and his great, great, great grandparents were very involved with the beginnings of the faith.

Top | Joggers | Shoes (similar) | Bag
Tee (similar) | Joggers | Shoes (similar) | BagTop (similar) | Joggers | Shoes | BagTee | Joggers | Sneakers | Bag | Sunglasses038E69ED-41CB-4C0A-A00A-A97AF0F8BBEBSweatshirt (similar) | Sweats (similar) | Shoes (similar)| Bag

A few of our recommendations from our visits…

Stay…

AC by Marriott Downtown | This hotel is very new and has a really cool modern feel. It is also within walking distance to all of the downtown shopping and restaurants. I especially loved the floor to ceiling windows with city skyline views.

Eat…

Takashi | This restaurant is the number one ranked Salt Lake City restaurant on TripAdvisor…for good reason. You don’t often think landlocked states can have good sushi but this sushi can compete with the best of Seattle. I loved the rolls I ordered (Sunshine Roll and Imagine Roll) and Cole really enjoyed his teriyaki chicken bowl.

Red Iguana | One thing I truly miss about living in Southern California is good, authentic Mexican food. Boise’s Mexican food scene is a bit…lacking. This popular and highly reviewed restaurant is quite possibly one of the best I’ve eaten at. The enchilada sauce was out of this world and the guacamole was freshly made. We also tried another local restaurant located right downtown called Blue Iguana, and apparently this restaurant is owned by a family member of the owners of Red Iguana. It is a bit more of an upscale environment but Red Iguana is better.

The Dodo Restaurant | This restaurant was recommended to me by a friend, and they are currently offering a drive thru service. On Mother’s Day we were on the hunt for a convenient brunch restaurant and decided to try this one. While the food was good…the real stand out was the desserts. Cole loved the coco layer cake and the toll house pie was delicious (albeit very rich!).

Bombay House | Another restaurant highly recommended by locals. I had this one delivered by Door Dash to the hospital when I was craving some good Indian food the other night. And all of the staff kept asking “is that Bombay House?!” If you like good Indian food, you won’t be disappointed.

Eva’s Bakery | This is quite possibly the cutest and most charming little storefront in all of downtown. We really came for the cute factor but stayed for the food. I’m normally not much of a sweets person, but the stuffed French toast was delicious, and the pastries we tried (lemon cake & brownie) were also top notch. My latte was also fantastic too.

Raw Bean Coffee House | So many coffee shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays in Utah and while on the hunt for one that was open I came across this one. Their large latte is an absolute monster and their coffee is quite good.

Shop…

City Creek Center | Only about 50% of the shopping center is currently open, but it was still fun to stroll around and window shop. It is a neat open air shopping center with some fantastic high end shopping, as well as mid range and affordable options as well.

The Lady Bag | They are currently closed due to Covid, but this is one shop I’ll want to come back to on a future trip! This high end consignment store has an incredible selection of designer bags.

Young Warrior

Young Warrior

March 3rd was just a normal day. Evan and I ran errands, picked Cole up from school, had dinner together, and were getting ready to go to Taekwondo. And in an instant our lives were changed forever. Evan started screaming in pain holding his head and became very weak & nauseous. I immediately knew it was a neurological emergency and I threw both kids in the car and raced towards the emergency room. Cole and I were screaming and crying begging Evan to hold on as he lost consciousness. When we arrived at the ER I told them that Evan was having a stroke. The ER doctor told me that it was “highly unlikely” but proceeded to take him for a CT scan which confirmed my hunch. He had a large bleed on his brain & I truly thought we were going to have to say goodbye right there in the ER. But moments later, in walked Dr Jutzy (one of Evans Pediatric Neurosurgeons) who smiled at me and said, “I think we can do something here.” Evan was rushed to emergency surgery to place a drain in his head, and Dr Jutzy’s words gave me the glimmer of hope I needed to endure what was to come.

E4336D0B-20D9-46D0-BE03-45D1E439434BMarch 5th – 2 days after his brain injury

For over 3 weeks after, Evan faced a battle that most people will be lucky enough to never experience. Evan was diagnosed with an AVM, a rare congenital blood vessel abnormality on the brain. People can actually have these their entire lives, and may or may not ever cause a problem. In Evan’s case, he developed an aneurysm which ruptured and bled. It was a constant battle in those weeks to try to stabilize him and treat the aneurysm. Not only did an attempted angiogram to try to treat the aneurysm fail, he suffered respiratory distress from a mucous plug and a code blue was called. He had to have an emergency bronchoscopy to save his life again. He then developed severe vasospasms in the vessels in his brain which caused additional strokes, and had to have a second emergency angiogram to attempt to open the vessels. This was followed by trips to CT every other day, and as he was so unstable he went with a team of 2 RTs, 2 RNs & occasionally a doctor, to continue to evaluate the vasospasms to make sure they weren’t returning. To treat the strokes, he was intentionally fluid overloaded to perfuse the brain as much as possible – which also caused horrible swelling making him completely unrecognizable. The pressure in his head was so high he continued to need to be put in a deeper and deeper coma with the aid of barbiturates and paralytics. There were a lot of long nights with 4-5 nurses and a doctor in his room fighting to stabilize him while all I could do was sit there and shake. There was talk of not being able to extubate him and potentially needing a tracheotomy. I tried so hard to hang onto hope, but it was obvious the situation was incredibly dire and we were going to need a miracle.

And by the grace of God, we began to witness a miracle unfold. On March 28th we crossed our fingers and extubated him. He started breathing and opening his eyes. Over the following week, his breathing remained labored, but he continued to wake up more and more. He eventually started following commands, smiling at us, and moving his extremities. And our biggest miracle was yet to come.

909E815C-C23C-4E72-A758-F1BE73E296CAApril 11th – our last day in PICU just prior to transferring to the Pediatric unit

On April 16th, a 3rd angiogram was performed in another attempt to embolize the aneurysm in Evan’s brain. Once an aneurysm has bled, it has a very high risk of bleeding again and every single day it felt like we were sitting on a ticking time bomb. When Evan went back to surgery, I kissed him goodbye and said a prayer for peace and surrender – trusting that God would see us through. The mood had been somber with Evan’s doctors that morning. After the last failed attempt, we all knew that there was a high probability that it could fail again.

9D409D1D-D2C3-4950-AB88-DB6D841713F8An image of the AVM

After waiting about 4 hours while Evan was back in surgery, our interventional radiologist Dr Bell came to the waiting room and told me he had some news. Not only did they successfully embolize the aneurysm, they got the AVM too. This wasn’t even something we had thought was going to be possible and had just hoped the aneurysm would be stabilized. We had been planning to pursue radiation treatments in the coming months to treat the AVM and there was no discussion of embolization even being an option. Covid be damned because I hugged Dr Bell as hard as I could and sobbed happy tears – and I hear there was a whole lot of high fiving and cheers happening in the angio suite too!!! We are so thankful to Evan’s incredibly skilled doctors (Dr Bell, Dr Perl, Dr Cherny, Dr Zouros, and Dr Jutzy) who didn’t give up on this incredible challenge. And so grateful to God for making a way. We witnessed a true miracle that day.

img_3243After his angiogram on April 16th. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24

I’ve always known how special Evan is…and in this very trying time he has touched the hearts of so many. We had a string of surgical staff coming to the recovery room after Evan’s angiogram, who had heard Evan’s story and had been waiting weeks for this day with their fingers crossed for us. People we had never met were congratulating us & just giddy with excitement. After his procedure we were sent back to PICU for observation, and all of our PICU family was just as excited as we were! They said they had been calling down the whole time trying to get updates. His anesthesiologist began to tear up and told me that she’s been following us very close since she first met us in the ER the night of Evan’s emergency surgery, because her own 3 year old nephew was lost in a horrible tragedy about the same time we were admitted. Seeing Evan hang on and continue to get better had brought her some joy in this time of her own personal grief. I still think of her often, and I pray for comfort and peace for her and her family.

E9F3531A-DE3F-4365-9DD5-C12E3E991468April 21st – Evan’s first day of inpatient rehab

We are currently at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City undergoing inpatient rehab. Evan has a long, challenging road ahead. He is having to relearn everything – from speaking, to eating, to walking. He has to rebuild his strength completely as even just sitting up independently is a challenge for him. Despite the difficult days here, Evan continues to make huge strides every day. He works his body and mind to the point of complete exhaustion, all with a smile on his face. Every day I am more and more in awe of his incredible strength and resilience. Evan’s name in Welsh means “God has been gracious” and in Celtic it means “young warrior.” Our young warrior is fighting hard and God is watching over him every step of the way.

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Working so hard to regain strength! April 30th

During this time of great uncertainty in the world, we have seen that God still performs miracles. We are witnessing one unfold and I’m so incredibly grateful. God also sends his helpers, and boy…were we blessed with the presence of true angels. People who were strangers to us 2 months ago, are now our family. I can’t express the love and gratitude we have for the heroes at St Lukes Children’s Hospital in Boise. Not only did they expertly care for Evan saving his life over and over, they loved him like their own. They cried with us on the bad days and cheered with us on the good days. They surrounded Evan and stood in prayer at his bedside with us. They were just as giddy as we were seeing him make such huge improvements, and as one of his RT’s said, “he’s our miracle boy.” To his neurosurgeons, ICU doctors, rehab doctors, RNs, PTs, OTs, STs, RTs, CNAs, chaplains, child life specialists, social workers…you are all heroes. We’ve had the added aspect of facing a global pandemic during our time in the hospital, and the courage and sacrifice of our healthcare workers continuing to carry on despite their personal risk and fears is truly heroism. Thank you all and we love and appreciate you more than we can ever say.

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Saying goodbye to a few of the incredible PICU doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists that saved Evan’s life before leaving for rehab

We all think that something like this will never happen. But life can be inherently cruel and unfair, and I now fully realize how fragile it is. Tomorrow is never promised and your life can be shattered in an instant. Don’t take any moments for granted. Hug and kiss your kids constantly. Don’t wait until tomorrow to spend time with them. Let them sleep with you, play with them, find joy in every day. All the little things you are annoyed with or bothered by day to day…realize that those moments are actually a blessing. Most problems in life really are trivial. When you are sitting in an ICU praying for your child to live, you truly realize that what you thought were tough days, are in fact a gift. Embrace them. And no matter what trials you may be faced with…don’t lose hope. Your miracle may be just around the corner.

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“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” Job 5:9