Book Review: Dear Grandchild, This Is Me

On my mom’s side of the family we’ve been so blessed by what we know as “Grandparent Books” – labors of love created about my great-grandparents, grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, telling their stories. These binders are filled with photos, stories (from interviews if possible), copies of awards and achievements, etc. They are amazing and true keepsakes.

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However, not every family has someone willing to go to all that “trouble.” Maybe that describes your family. If that’s the case, Dear Grandchild, This Is Me may be the PERFECT solution. This compact book is FILLED with prompts, questions, places for photos, a family tree, and SO much more that I honestly wouldn’t have thought to ask my parents. And, it will be in the grandparent’s handwriting!

Every page is colorful, thoughtfully laid out, and filled with great content. It’s so much easier to start with a prompt than with a blank page, and they have great questions to answer!

Family history is SO important to document, especially the personal side of it. Stories and wisdom need to be shared from generation to generation, and Dear Grandchild, This Is Me is truly a perfect way to do it. Our children’s grandparents just may be receiving a copy of this in the near future 😉 And, honestly, I want to start filling mine out for my future grandchildren (even though that’s at least 18-20 years from now).

You can buy a copy at most online retailers – here’s the Amazon link.

I took pictures of a few of my favorite pages so you can get a glimpse.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

More Than Just a Stove

On December 25, 1989 I was given a handmade stove from my great-grandparents. I would be turning seven the following week and loved to pretend to cook, so my wonderful great-grandparents (Irvin and Vera) used their talents and skills to lovingly craft this perfect little stove.

They even had the foresight to make the knobs teal – one of my favorite colors now.

Last week we moved the boys’ room around and created space to add things like the stove to their play area. Tonight we introduced them to it and they played with the food in it (we need dishes still but at least we have wooden food!) for about an hour.

When I see this stove (which came across the country, thanks to my parents, so that my children could enjoy it, too), I am reminded of the rich heritage from which I come.

I am so blessed to have known my great-grandparents (in particular, I knew Great-Grandma Vera very well; she lived down the street until she went to Heaven when I was 18).

I’m so grateful that they took the time to create something that I could pass down to my own children. How many can say they have something their great-great-grandparents made?

I pray that our children will cherish their family history like Brennan and I do. I pray that when they have families of their own they will remember to tell their children of the love that has been passed down for generations.

And I hope they take care of this stove so that their children can enjoy it, too.

Isaiah and Caleb’s Adventure List

When we started to create a “bucket list” for Tori, we knew time was short. We knew we had to cram as much into her limited days on earth as we could, and we did. We completed fifty adventures and it brought so much joy to us. We won’t know what she got out of those adventures until we get to Heaven, but for us, they were a huge deal and we loved every second.

After the boys were born I was thinking about Tori’s list and I told Brennan that we should do the same adventures with the boys (though not in just a nine month time frame – spread out over their childhood) since these are things we would have waited to do as a family if our circumstances had been ideal. He readily agreed.

Though we are doing them separately, it feels like she is a part of these memories, and we can show the boys the pictures of Tori doing each adventure as we do them. ❤️

So, tonight we did the first thing on the list: Build-a-Bear. Thanks to their “Pay your age” promotion, we spent a total of $2.12 for these memories 😊

Here’s the link to Tori’s experience there.

We tried to let the boys pick out their own animal (which we knew would be challenging because they just like to look at everything!) and we ended up choosing the ones at which they smiled the most.

Truthfully, they were more interested in the stickers they were given than the animals 😂

Seeing the wonder and joy in their eyes and hearing their laughter fills us with joy like none other.

Even though they don’t care about their new animals just yet, someday they will and we can tell them this story. ❤️

Discipline, Freedom, and Walmart Pickup

It’s been almost a year since I blogged about the freedom that comes from discipline and I’m not surprised that it has, yet again, been a theme in my life lately.

In short: I’m in desperate need of structure.

As the twins have been increasingly content to play and occupy themselves, it has given me more time and more opportunities to do things unrelated to them. While it has been great, it has also revealed just how out of control life has become AND how desperately I have been craving structure.

Beginning in childhood, we tend to think that freedom means no rules, no boundaries, no structure.

It’s actually the opposite.

Since the boys were born we have been less strict with following our budget, which leads to overspending and stress.

We’ve eaten out (also not in the budget) WAY more than we should simply because it was easier than meal planning.

When we have free time the LAST thing we want to do is something responsible, but that has led to us feeling burdened by the lack of discipline. In reality, we could have found the time to create more order in our lives if we had really made it a priority.

We’ve allowed our lack of discipline to create mild chaos in our home.


Two weeks ago, at one of the mom groups I attend, the speaker discussed setting priorities. She started by mentioning one of the laws of physics – that an object in motion will stay in motion unless something interferes. The same goes with our priorities – if we want change, it isn’t going to miraculously happen. We have to step in and fight to make it happen.

This week, Brennan and I sat down after brainstorming separately and discussed what our priorities were for our family, our marriage, and ourselves. Not surprisingly, they were almost identical!

I will blog more about them later, but the top three are:

1. Spiritual growth

2. Financial freedom

3. Family time/closeness

Each one has many bullet points and ideas for how to implement them, but we wanted to keep each overall priority simple.


We’re using these priorities to help us make decisions and allocate our time, and it is already making a huge difference.

Example: meal planning

I decided that every other Wednesday (budget day) will be meal planning day. I will also be simplifying the meal rotation to 10-15 meal options so that I have less thinking to do, and we will be using the slow cooker daily if possible to ensure that dinner happens.

I will “shop” that day using the Walmart Pickup (click for $10 off your first order!) app (the BEST THING EVER) so that I am able to see how much we actually need in the budget AND we won’t be able to easily buy impulsively. Immediate savings! Plus, we will save time by pulling up and having them load the groceries into my van!

I will also put each meal on the calendar so that I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner. Instead of wondering what sounds good, we will simply have what is scheduled. This alone will alleviate stress!

Oh, and I also found out that Costco will DELIVER to our house so that’s also a game changer! Now I can stay on budget and only get what we need (we all know how difficult that is at Costco!).

Just taking action in this ONE area helps our budget (financial freedom), helps us eat better, and gives us back time spent grocery shopping multiple times a month (family time).

These things may sound simple – and that’s the point. Right now, my exhausted brain can only handle so much without feeling overwhelmed, so these simple steps to make meal planning (and sticking to the budget) happen are well worth it.

I’ve felt so tired and didn’t think that structure was necessary, but it turns out that the lack of structure was making me even more tired!

I feel SO free and relieved knowing that my groceries are ordered, we stayed within our budget, meals for the next two weeks are scheduled, and my family will eat well.

We’re excited about our new family priorities and cannot wait to see how they shape our lives from here on out.

Do you have priorities that guide your family? I’d love to hear about them!

Expectations and Grace

I had one of those “I feel like I’m failing” moments yesterday when both babies were fussy (most of the day) and I couldn’t figure out what they needed.

All parents have these moments where we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. It’s a normal part of this journey.

While I try to not fall into the comparison trap, it happens, especially in those areas in which I am the least confident. It’s SO easy to see another mom with her children (whether online or in person) and compare your performance to hers, making yourself feel disappointed and like a failure. When it comes to social media, it’s likely more “performance” than reality, anyway!

When I finally got them to nap, I had a chance to think. How many of these self-imposed expectations are actually relevant to the care of my babies and how many of them are merely an effort to measure up to my perception of what the perfect mother looks like?

And I realized something important: my babies don’t think that I’m a failure, that I don’t know what I am doing most days.

To them, my presence is enough. I walk into a room and (most of the time) they smile wide. They are thrilled just to be in my arms. So why do I compare myself to unfair, self-imposed ideals and expectations?

They don’t compare like we do because they have NO idea what other moms do. I am the only mother they know! If I were actually failing, they would have absolutely no idea. Therefore, there is no way for them to be disappointed (until much later 😉) in me.

Isn’t that freeing?

My babies delight in me. They love me. And their opinion (meaning what brings them joy, security, and comfort) should be the only one that matters (God and my husband aside) when it comes to parenting them as infants.

THANKFULLY they don’t have social media to show them what other moms are doing with their infants, and I need to remember that. And maybe I need to reduce my social media consumption on days when I’m feeling like that.

This realization is the first of many reminders throughout my life to show grace to myself during these (sometimes difficult) days of infancy with twins. And toddlerhood. And childhood.

After all, their joy is what matters right now, not my comparison to what I think others are doing. ❤️

Why We Don’t Visit Tori’s Grave

We’ve never written about this before, but I think it’s important.

Let me preface with this: we know many people do things differently than we do so there’s no judgment at all. Everyone needs to do what their hearts need for healing.

This may surprise some of you, but we don’t visit Tori’s burial site (resurrection site, as we like to call it).

We don’t decorate it, we don’t spend time there. In fact, the only times we’ve been there were to show out of town visitors where it is, as it’s difficult to give directions.

It’s been nearly two years since we’ve gone there, and the reason is likely not what you think.

We feel no need to go there because SHE ISN’T THERE. Her soul is in Heaven, and we don’t need to sit at her grave to be reminded of that.

We don’t decorate it for holidays or leave anything there because she isn’t there, she won’t know we did that, and it doesn’t feel necessary to us.

If you’ve read Even So, Joy you know that we believe that death isn’t something to be feared or held onto – it’s a temporary separation and we will be reunited again!

So, for us, it never even crosses our mind to go to where her broken, earthly body was buried. We’d rather focus on changing the world around us and choosing joy as her legacy.


Brennan and I don’t always feel free to express our perspective on how to deal with child loss because we seem to be the minority. We feel like we have to stay quiet because we are doing so well.

But, here’s our perspective:

If I consider this situation from a different angle, the way to live is obvious.

If I were the one in Heaven, how would I want my parents to live? Would I want them to stay in bed, crying every day, wasting their life away, or would I want them to LIVE an abundant life because that’s what I would be doing in Heaven?

I’d want them to LIVE. To have JOY because of the impact I had on their lives. I’d want them to celebrate my life, not dwell on my absence.

This is how we view our life now that Tori is in Heaven. Our joy doesn’t come from her absence – we have joy because she existed. Her death didn’t change me – her existence did.

Tori comes up in conversation daily, especially now that we see so much of her in her little brothers. We think about her all the time but those memories bring joy, not tears.

I don’t believe that our loved ones can see us from Heaven, but if they can I certainly wouldn’t want Tori to see us wasting this short life we’re given. I’d want her to see us making the most of it, joyfully, just like we would if she were with us.


Tori may not physically be here, but we don’t have to go to her grave to see evidence of her impact. We see it every day in her brothers, in our memories, and in the legacy she has.

As tragic and horrible as it is, I don’t believe that child loss has to derail our entire lives. Shape it, yes. Ruin it, no. It’s a choice that has to be made daily, and we choose to be joyful. ❤️


If you’d like to get a copy of “Even So, Joy: Our Journey through Heartbreak, Hope, and Triumph” you can do so here.

Going Viral

We were so blessed to have the amazing Erin Fortney Photography capture the birth of our twins because it has made me feel like I was more involved and actually present in the room after delivery.

One of the photos she posted garnered a great deal of attention, to all of our surprise:

We love the photo and what it represents, but we didn’t expect what happened next. We were amazed to be contacted by so many reporters regarding our story and it went viral.

They were enamored with Brennan’s persistence in doing skin-to-skin in the O.R. (which to us is interesting because it wasn’t a question in our minds that he should have that experience with the boys, as well) and we definitely talked about that, but we also recognized the potential for Krabbe awareness and made sure they focused on Tori and her story, as well as Newborn Screening. THIS is our true passion in life!

Here’s the current list of publications that have written about us:

Babble: https://www.babble.com/parenting/skin-to-skin-dad-twins-photo/

Motherly: https://www.mother.ly/news/viral-pictures-show-dad-doing-skin-to-skin-with-his-twin-babies-for-a-very-good-reason

Love What Matters: http://www.lovewhatmatters.com/six-weeks-later-she-was-handed-a-death-sentence-how-dads-amazing-skin-to-skin-contact-with-twins-helps-heal-family-after-devastating-loss/

Birth Becomes Her: https://www.facebook.com/56901132/posts/10100975465821040/

CafeMom: https://thestir.cafemom.com/parenting_news/212461/dad-skin-to-skin-rainbow-twins

People: https://people.com/human-interest/brennan-brackbill-skin-twin-sons-death-toddler/

The Epoch Times: https://m.theepochtimes.com/uplift/father-gives-his-newborn-twins-a-shirtless-hug-right-after-theyre-born_2544565.html

The Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5849873/Pictures-father-cuddling-newborn-twins-skin-skin-delivery-room.html

Huge thanks to Erin Fortney for this image and for the write-up on Birth Becomes Her that started it all ❤ :

Dad had requested skin-to-skin in the OR from the moment that he stepped foot in the hospital… he must have mentioned it a dozen times.

He + his wife were preparing to welcome twins in to the world after losing their first-born to Krabbe Leukodystrophy at the young age of 20 months.

Staff told him that it would be tough since he would have two babies and needed to be in a scrub suit over his clothes … So he promptly and without question explained that he had a large arm-span that was ready and waiting to hold his two boys and then took his shirt off and zipped up his scrubs announcing, ‘well then.. problem solved!’

This nurse made sure to advocate for him to all 24 other people in the OR that day — and personally made sure that his request was fulfilled.  – Erin Fortney