Good-bye South Florida…

Before Brett and I got married we were living right outside Washington, D.C. Although we had some great friends in the area, we were looking for a change and Brett suggested moving to South Florida. I was originally pretty iffy about the idea (I think, as Brett laughingly put it last night, I said it was full of “bugs, humidity and old people” which really is all true…) but after getting a job offer at a great Children’s Hospital in South Florida, I warmed up to the idea and we made the move down in March 2011, 4 years ago this month. We LOVED living in Florida; being close to the beach, the perfect “winters,” an excuse to eat ice cream year around, what wasn’t to love?! But then a few years passed and we started a family with our two gorgeous daughters. And suddenly, even though all those perks of South Florida living were still there, some of the cons (such as being so far from family) started to outweigh the good.

About 2 months before Claire was born, Brett received a great job opportunity in North Carolina. But we would have had to sell the house, pack and move, and start a new job all within a week or so of Claire’s birth and it was just way too overwhelming. So we passed on the offer and decided to keep praying and asking God to lead us to where our family should be. However, the potential offer gave us the moving itch so we decided to go ahead and put our house on the market anyways, just to see what happened. We figured we would take our time and wait for the best offer and, should we sell before we had another potential job and/or move lined up, we would just rent for a bit until we figured out what our next step should be. And that’s when things got crazy.

Within a few weeks we received our first offer on the house. It was an okay offer, and although we tried to negotiate the price up a bit, we couldn’t get the buyers to meet us in the middle so we decided to walk away from the offer. Again, we weren’t in any hurry and we thought “Why accept a just okay offer when we could hold out for a potentially better one?!”

The day before my birthday, I resigned from my job, after deciding that being a stay at home mom was what was best for our family at this time. That night Brett and I went out to dinner with the girls and he joked about all the things I had accomplished by the age of 29: grad school, marriage, buying a house, giving birth to 2 kids, a great career, retirement from said great career (haha) and he joked, “Too bad you can’t say you sold your first house by 29 as well!” And then, on the morning of my 29th birthday, we received our second offer on the house. A solid offer that we would have accepted, but hey, why not try to negotiate them up a few thousand dollars to our “dream selling price”?! And low and behold, they accepted.

And then the next day we casually found out that the job opportunity from all those months ago was back on the table. And that the president of the company just so happened to be in Orlando for a convention the same weekend we were going to be there and would love to meet with Brett. And suddenly we were all, “Okay God, we hear you” because we knew there was NO way that this was all just coincidence.

Fast forward another week and Brett officially received an offer for an amazing position based out of Asheville, North Carolina, the same town that my parents live in. The same town I fell in love with the first time I visited over a year ago. We had been praying and praying for God to lead us to where our family was meant to be and we felt like God was basically shouting; “Here it is! I LITERALLY could not make this any clearer!”

So, we decided to listen. The sale on our house is almost complete (it’s been a smooth process through inspection and appraisal and we close in the beginning of April) and we are packing up the house and making the 11 hour trek north to our new home in Asheville, NC (well, we still need to find an actual home, but luckily we can always crash with my parents for a bit while we search!) We are going to really miss South Florida; our first home, our friends, the awesome weather…(although I’ll be honest, I am thrilled to pieces to experience SEASONS again, although I might change my tune after that first winter back in the cold…) but we really feel like this is the BEST decision for our family and I am so excited to raise my girls near family and in such an awesome family friendly area.

You’ve been good to us, South Florida, but now it’s time to move on to our next great adventure…

Why I do what I do….

So I know I’ve talked many, many (MANY) times about how much I love my job, but it’s true; I have the best job in the world. As a child life specialist (especially one that works in an outpatient setting) I encounter a high volume of patients on a weekly basis (probably upwards of 100) and, although I have some amazing interactions and some not-so-amazing ones, very rarely do I see these kids more than one time. Because of that, I usually have no way of knowing if (or how) my interaction with a specific child made a difference in their life outside of their brief hospitalization. And, really, that’s fine. I didn’t get into the field of child life for the praise and admiration (because if so, it would be laughable at how LITTLE praise we actually get….) but instead I do it because I want to make a difference in a child’s experience HERE and NOW, at the very moment of high anxiety and stress. And if they then skip out the door, with the memory of me left behind, I’m honestly happy, because hopefully that means that child is leaving without a care in the world. But every once and awhile, usually in the midst of a stressful day (or week), when I’m having those kinds of thoughts like “this place (and everyone in it) drives me crazy..” something happens, like a little beacon from God, that reminds me why it is I do what I do. (And why it’s so darn special).

Yesterday was one of those days. After having some (not so fun) encounters with co-workers and dealing with some stressful phone calls, I was taking a break to walk our hospital therapy dog across the street so she could “get busy.” (I know, I know, my job sounds increasingly glamorous). As I neared the middle of the road, a car screeched to a halt and a woman rolled down the window yelling, “Christina!” I, admittedly, didn’t recognize her (like I said, I meet a LOT of people on a daily basis….) but then the back window rolled down and a freckled face, no front tooth, smile beamed out and I immediately recognized her. Patient P was an adorable, but HIGHLY anxious patient I’ve had the honor of working with twice. My first interaction with P was about 2 months ago. She was admitted and a co-worker called me as she was on her way down to the outpatient surgical unit for a (pretty common and not very invasive) procedure. “She’s an anxious one..” my co-worker warned me. And, not long after I hung up, I heard P coming around the corner, being wheeled in her bed as she cried her eyes out, with mom trailing after her. P was the type of 9 year old who was not easy to please. She looked at me suspiciously when I entered the room and continued crying. I concentrated on mom, introducing myself and explaining what child life could do to help. Then, I turned my attention to P. “Hey! What’s your name?” Tears. “My name is Christina! It’s nice to meet you!” More tears. Needing a different strategy I told P I would be right back, that I needed to go get something super fun. I came back with beads and string and sat right down on her bed. And what do you know, the tears stopped. P and I spent a good 20 minutes making bracelets for her, myself, mom, the nurse….you get the point. Not once did I mention the procedure, we just chatted casually. Once she got going, P was quite the chatter box. The therapy dog came. We had her jump up on the bed and snuggle P for another 20 minutes. We made the dog a name bracelet too. Only then did I bring up the procedure. The tears welled. We talked, I joked….tears dried up, smiles came out. I ended our encounter with giving her a stuffed toy to take back to the OR with her to “keep her brave.” (Of course then a name necklace was made for the bear as well…)

About 3 weeks later P came back for a follow-up. Our encounter was brief, as she happily told me “I’m not nervous this time!!” and, since I had plenty of other kids who WERE in tears about this or that, I quickly said hello, gave a re-fresher course of the anesthesia mask, hooked her up with some arts and crafts, and then was on my way. It was a 10 minute tops encounter.

Fast forward to yesterday. There was P beaming from the back of mom’s car, and mom asked if they could pull into the hospital drive real quick. I said sure and hurried to let the dog do her thing. When I came back to the hospital I was greeted with a big hug from P and 3 bags full of Webkinz. P proudly told me that the stuffed animal I had gifted her had helped so much, that, when she left the hospital, she told her mom that she wanted to collect new stuffed animals to give to the other kids who were just as worried as she was. My eyes welled. I noticed that she was still wearing her (backwards) name bracelet we had made 2 months previously. She then turned to her mom and said “tell her! mom tell her!” Her mom smiled and said, “You tell her, P!” P looked me right in the eyes and said, “When I grow up, I’m going to become a child life specialist. I’m going to be just like you.” Cue tears overflowing (stupid pregnancy hormones…) I gave her a hug and told her that she would be an EXCELLENT child life specialist, and that any hospital would be lucky to have her. Mom went on and gushed about how wonderful child life was, how impressed she was, and how P has been talking about being a child life specialist ever since, even telling the kids in her class all about it.

And that is why I do what I do. Not for the praise, not for the admiration, not for the “oh we were so impressed with you” (although, admittedly it feels good and is nice to hear), but for the little 9 year old who looks me right in the eyes, standing straight and tall, and proclaiming that she too would one day be a child life specialist. Because we are always in need of more passionate girls (and guys!) who are committed to making the hospital a less scary place for our kids. And P? Your bright smile made my week, girl, and you are going to ROCK the world of child life one day.

Party Animals

Saturday was the birthday party of one of me and my fellow child life specialist, Katie’s, favorite little from the hospital. And this particular little girl LOVES the hospital pooch so we thought, what better birthday present than to surprise her with a bday party doggie visit?? And her reaction and excitement at having the dog there was just another testament to how much this sweet dog touches the lives of children in that hospital. And although I only had my crappy purse camera with me, I had to get some pics of the super cute carnival themed bash. Add to it the pooch’s cute “I’m ready to party face” and the pictures just had to be posted.

Besides the party excitement the rest of the weekend was pretty low key for me and hubs. Beautiful weather, pool swimming, evening walks, house cleaning, and lots of reading basically made up the rest of our weekend. I’ll tell you what, after picking up 5 new books at the library yesterday the swing on our pool patio, a bowl of ice cream, and my current read is calling my name.

Happy Sunday!

Kids, Could they get any cuter?

One of my much-missed cuties from my nannying days

Every once in awhile I meet a child at the hospital who says or does something so cute or charming I want to tell them, “that, right there, is the reason I do this job.” Today I was lucky enough to get the motherload of all cuteness and charm in the form of 2 brothers.

Both boys came to the hospital ready for back-to-back scans. They charmed me from the moment I walked in, seeing both of them snuggled up together in one hospital bed. We quickly got off on the right foot, becoming BFF’s after they rallied through their IV’s and were rewarded with basically the coolest prize ever for a 3 and 7 year old- getting to become pirates. You would think me bringing them pirate rings, eye patches, bandanas and “real” pirate gold was the most amazing thing in the world. And it was, obviously. Our friendship blossomed over the course of the day with some cowboy and indian play, coloring, and Wii action. Then came the conversation that brought it all home.

Coming back from lunch I heard the three year old was done with his scan, awake and asking for me. The conversation that followed:

Me: Walking into room
3 year old: “There’s my pretty girl!!!!”
7 year old (blushing): “Why would he say that?!”
3 year old: “Because….(to me): I love you.”
Me: (heart melting): “Thank you, I love you too!”
7 year old (really blushing now): “Mom!! Why did he say that?!”
Mom: “Because he thinks she’s pretty! Don’t you think she is pretty?”
7 year old: (giving me the up and down look): “No.”
Me: Dying laughing
Mom: “What! Why are you blushing then? You don’t think she’s pretty?”
7 year old: (sighs) “Mom, I already have a girlfriend.”
Mom: “You can have a girlfriend and still think another girl is pretty!”
7 year old (big sigh): “Mom, that’s called cheating.

My heart could not take these two sweet nuggets. Seriously, could my job be any better?

Reason # 1245672 I love my job.

Like I even need another reason to love my job. Seriously, just look at that face. Lucky me got to spend all week with this adorable dog. As I mentioned before, one of the services our children’s hospital offers is a therapy dog program. The kids LOVE her and she, in turn, does so much for them. In order to bring her around the hospital to visit with our patients you need to be trained to be a therapy dog “handler.” So that’s what I did. All week. And let me tell you, as fun as it is to hang out with 6 golden retrievers for 8 hours a day, 5 days in a row, this training was like dog boot camp. Ever been yelled at for not getting a dog to heel correctly? Yup, I have.

But then I just look at this sweet face and it’s totally worth it. And now, my best job ever just got bester (yes, bester) because now I get to do patient rounds with this here puppy every day. And after this week me and the dog are now the best of friends. The very best.

Happy weekend.

Sometimes things just aren’t happy…

I feel like I’m always upbeat on this blog because for the most part, I am a very upbeat person. And I love sharing my fun, upbeat (and a lot of times awkward) stories here, but sadly, life isn’t always happy.

I love my job as a child life specialist. Love it. But every once in awhile I come across a patient that breaks my heart, one that sticks with me even after I go home for the day. I know that having a deep love for children is one characteristic that helps make a good child life specialist, but that deep love can also be tough when you meet a child that pulls at your heart strings, one that is not easy to love on while they’re at the hospital and then happily wave goodbye to as they leave to go home.

There’s a little noodle at the hospital right now that has been on my mind non-stop. Obviously I cannot go into details about her case, but I can say that someone has harmed this baby in one of the worst ways possible and now her life will never be the same. Her room calls to me every time I walk down the hall. Lately, whenever I’ve had the chance I have slipped into that room to hold her and love on her. I hold that little girl in my arms and I tell her that she is loved, that she is beautiful and smart and is such a good girl. Because to be honest I’m not sure if she’s ever been told that. And I pray quietly. A lot. Because I have to know, that through this pain, God has a plan for this amazing little girl’s life.

As much as I know that I can’t dwell on this baby forever, I also hope that I never lose my compassion and love for every patient I come across. But I know that one day soon she will leave this hospital and, although I may think of her occasionally, life will move on.

But for now I will continue to take every opportunity I have to show her love while I can. And I ask anyone who reads this to say a prayer for this little girl. As well as her family. Pray that she and her family are shown love and healing as they get through this tough time. Because I know that through all this pain, they are still loved. All of them.

And that’s it for now. Back to happiness tomorrow, I promise!

Kids say the Darndest Things-Hospital Edition

So I really love my job as a Child Life Specialist, even though 99% of the time that I tell someone what I do I get this response..”Umm…what does that mean?” It means that I basically have the greatest job in the world, mkay? And for anyone who isn’t happy with that explantation I suggest you go here: To sum it up as simple as possible: I work in a children’s hospital with some amazing patients, helping them effectively cope with their hospitalizations and all that it may entail. And I love it. Although difficult at times, I could not ask for a more rewarding job, both for myself and the patients/family members I come encounter with. But all seriousness aside, one of the all time perks is 1. Getting to hold adorable noodles and 2. Getting to hear the ridiculousness that is kids all day long. For example; here is a (short) list of things I have been told by my patients JUST this week:

1. I was told by a five year-old that I looked like his grandma. (Awesome…..thanks.)

2. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I was told by a thirteen year-old girl that there was no way I worked at the hospital because I looked just like her sister “and she’s, like, 16..” (Okay, so this isn’t that abnormal since I get asked if I’m a volunteer by other hospital employees on a normal basis…)

3. After bending over to retrieve a toy, a three year-old joyfully told me that my butt looked big. (Kids are nothing but honest, right??)

4. After trying to get a seventeen year-old boy to drink barium solution for a procedure he told me that I worked in a torture chamber and obviously enjoyed torturing children. (I promise it’s not true…)

On a completely unrelated note here are things I am loving right now:

Drinking wine in the evening with Brett (and my husband’s amazing photography skills!)

My super secret homemade baked ziti

For anyone who may have been wondering why my blog is called “Tales of Life, Love and Ice Cream” just take a look into the Becker family freezer. Yes, that is correct, there are 6 cartons of ice cream in there. There have been some good sales, okay??

My gorgeous sisters and this loving, but awkward photo. Because that’s what the Buckel sisters do best…take awkward, but loving photos together. So nice.

Happy Thursday, now go watch some Harry Potter.