Monday, December 30, 2013

10 years with my love.

Today marks 10 years that I've been married to the love of my life. Never in a million years did I think we would have to deal with the hardships that have been thrown our way. However, I can honestly say that we have conquered all of lifes ups and downs together. It has not been easy, nor been fun but it's something that I am absolutely proud of... together we have done this. We have battled childhood cancer with our son since 2007. He went into remission and was done in 2010. We have handled the loss of my amazing brother who was killed in Afghanistan back in 2009 until the present, because that never goes away. We have also lost 2 grandparents and an aunt. We have moved 3 times, enlisted in the army, and most recently found out our son is dyslexic. Life is not planned. There is no way to know what the next day or even minute will bring. We only have faith in our Lord... That he will protect us, guide us and show us the way. We give all the glory to Him. The love for my husband has increased 10 fold. He is an amazing provider, protector, best friend and father. He makes me laugh, hugs me when I cry and always makes me feel beautiful. I couldn't image my days without him. Here is to 10 years and counting. I'm forever thankful to have honestly found true love.





Monday, December 23, 2013

Wreaths Across America.

My brother was killed on August 19, 2009 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Before that day, we never knew this wonderful organization, Wreaths Across America, even existed. I guess you wouldn't unless you know someone who was in the military and has been buried at a military cemetery. But anyway, that first Christmas without him, my sister and I drove to Arlington to be apart of something special and that is laying wreaths for all of the fallen. What an honor it was to be there in person and lay our own brother's wreath. However, it was NOT easy.... many many tears were shed. Having that first Christmas approaching and knowning that he wouldn't be with us was just too much to bare. But we were thankful for all the volunteers who took their own special time that Saturday morning to help everyone remember and to make it special for the families of the fallen. Each year since, we have made the 2.5 hour journey to Arlington on this special day to honor our fallen and "celebrate" Christmas with Paul. If you ever get the chance to do this... do it!! It's such a great lesson for the kids about the men and women who have sacrificed everything for our freedom and it allows them to actually take part in something hands on.

Beware though, if going to Arlington, that it's an early event and when I say early.. I mean EARLY!!! We actually have to leave our house about 3:45 am to get there on time with the amount of traffic trying to get into the cemetery. Each year it changes because of the amount of people so just keep up with the info.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Images of grief.

What is it exactly that grief looks like? Most people would assume it's what they initially see at a funeral. You know, black clothing attire, tears streaming down the cheeks, tissues in hand, holding hands, embracing one another, and so many "I'm sorrys". But to be quite truthful, grief is an array of different emotions, as well as visual images. Many would also make the assumption that to see a person/family smiling a month after they lost a loved one would mean they are done with the grieving process and have "moved on". However, grieving isn't that simple. Maybe they are doing the best that they can in order to just survive.

Those first few months are nothing but shock as you try to figure out how to pick yourself up, get dressed and make it through the day. It's a time of numbness and there is such a loss of memory. You look back and try to remember what it was you even did. How did you make it through the days, how did you manage to swallow any form of food and how the heck did you get out of bed to make yourself "look" like a "normal" person? As time continues and the days pass, you realize it's not at all about "moving on" but rather making yourself find a way to "go on" and that's not because you want to but because you have to. You do it for so many reasons... for your family, for your children, for work, for life and mostly for the person gone way too soon.

I've personally come to find that grieving has been an emotional rollercoaster ride with just as many ups as there are downs. It's been everything from laughing one minute to bawling my eyes out the next. Certain scents, memories, images, or items bring on episodes of shock, hurt and disbelief. Those episodes snap you right back to where you were in the beginning of this viscious cycle. You eventually begin to feel guilt for living without them, you feel saddness for those who will never get the chance to meet them, you feel happiness because you're just so proud of everything they accomplished in such a short time, honor just for being able to have known them and then it's back to guilt because you at one point were smiling and people thought you were "fine and over" the loss. I'm telling ya, it's not easy missing a loved one but you do it to carry on their legacy because you never want others to forget.

That's the funny thing about grieving. It can look like anything, be anything, and you can be doing just about anything. Bascially, it's any image you can think of because grieving is life. It becomes part of you and for the rest of your life it lives right among you, following you each and every day. You know what? I'm absolutely fine with this. I'd rather live with it beside me than forget about him or my loved ones. It makes me proud to speak his name, to share his stories, to cry over the loss, and to smile at the memories. I'm determined to live this life in such a way as to make him proud. I will take every opportunity to honor him and to not care what others think. I've learned to not judge others in this little thing called life because in the end, we are all the same. We are all human, we all make mistakes and we all have way too many stories that make us who we are.. individually unique. As long as we embrace this fact, then grieving can become any image we think of.... happy or sad.

Here are a few of our images in the past four years that include us living in Paul's honor by remembering, loving, sharing, and never forgetting.

1. We went to Europe 9 months after Paul was killed. It was our last entire family vacation. Paul was born in Germany and many of our memories with him are from over there. It was good to be back.
2. This was the second year he had been gone from us. We go each year to Arlington to be with him.

3. Memorial Day in Richmond, Va where they list the recent casualties added to the city wall.
4. Flying the Honor and Remember flag in the yard.

5. The print givin to us by God Bless the Troops. Hangs proudly in our house. We also have the memorial tree up year round.
6. Honoring our fallen.

8. A new tattoo I received to always remember what is most important. Life is too short.
9. Doing the Tough Mudder in Kentucky in his honor with our family.

10. Missing hims tons.
11. Happy Birthday Paul.

12. Releasing balloons to all the fallen at the Taps seminar.
13. Hanging out with new friends I had met while on this journey who also feel my loss.

14. Skydiving for Paul.

15. They always miss him. His brother and Nephew.
16. Finally making our trip to Colorado. A trip that Paul planned on doing with us.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Elf on the Shelf Craft.

It's been raining... all dayyyy!! It's dark, it's gloomy, it's cold and it's wet out. Because of this we have been stuck inside for the most part but we can't complain. We still have electricity and we are still nice and cozy. What this means however, is that the kids get bored fast and want something to do. So far, we have played hide n' seek, baked cookies, read some books and finally this pretty neat art project. I was trying to come up with something that we haven't done already and something that was a bit different from the many other projects I've already seen. We love art and have done numerous kinds of arts and crafts but usually end up going back to the same ole thing just because of time. Last night, I had an idea, drew it out and then today went to town with the kiddos.

So, what did we make? My kids are in love with Dusty the Elf. The Elf gets blamed for everything in this house. For example, who left the cereal out... Dusty!!, Who turned the lights on?... Dusty!!! Poor, poor Dusty. :) Needless to say, I thought of a project with Dusty. The kids loved it! Well, they loved the glitter too.. a little too much.

How it was made:

1. I went online and downloaded and image of the Elf on the Shelf. I tried to make the head size about two inches, maybe a little smaller. **The elf I used is the bottom image.

2. I cut out a body and a hat in red card stock paper to fit the head that was printed out. In the white paper, I cut out a collar and eventually a skirt. Again all of this, I went according to the size of the head.

3. For the arms and legs, we used red grosgrain ribbon. I made the legs just a tad bit longer than the arms. Again, just going according to size of the body.

4. A cottonball was added to the hat for the Christmas appeal. :)

5. We then glued all this together. I added a strip of tape to the back to make sure it all stayed in place. I didn't know where we were going after this.

6. Turns out, we like ornaments and decided to have some fun with glitter!! woo hoo. The girls also decided to add a skirt at this point to make theirs a girl.

7. Glue the adorable little guy to a different color of paper (we used green) and then cut out around the elf making sure to leave room for the glitter effect.

8. Once the glue is on, add lots of glitter, let it dry, add a hole and string... wala!!! You have a super cute Elf ornament or wall hanging!!!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

A warm December day in Colonial Williamsburg.

Yesterday the weather was absolutely gorgeous!! It was unlike anything that a December day would typically be like, unless you lived in Florida of course. And now here we sit today indoors with temps outside ranging in the 30's. Talk about a huge difference. To go from 73 to 39 really isn't normal either. Either way, we will definitely go ahead and take advantage of the warm days. So, we rounded up the kids and went for a walk in Colonial Williamsburg. Oh the perks to homeschooling the kiddos. They had fun to say the least. I mean, what child wouldn't when they get to eat soft pretzels, stomp in the mini river, climb on trees and run free to a quick game of chase. This is just a glimpse into the daily happenings of the Oatman household... we love it. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Handwriting App for young kids.

So, I'm kind of an app snob. I have downloaded many apps that others recommend, they like, rave over and swear by. While I find some to be great, there are many that just do not work for us. Nothing against their reviews but I guess that's the point of un/homeschooling... we get to choose what works and what doesn't work and then change it.

One of the questions I get from others about unschooling is, "well how are they ever going to write if you don't make them pick up a pencil?" Let me answer by saying this. One of my daughters is 5. She colors, draws and just loves to explore and learn. We have an ipad that they all share which has educational apps on it and when they feel like doing one, they do. I have never actually sat down with her to teach her to write. The other day, I was writing a letter and she wanted to do one as well. So, I began to show her how to write the letters and she looked at me and said, "Mom, I KNOW how to do this already!" I was like, "what!?" So I rattled off the letters and she wrote them all on her own. I was shocked. Not only did she write them but she wrote them well. Amen!! This app had lots to do with that.

ilearn : Letterbox
Talk about the cutest handwriting app! We love it. Kids can choose from cursive and non-cursive styles of writing. Awesome, they are even teaching cursive! I ended up buying a stylus so that they can practice using a "pencil/pen" and when the time comes they will already have holding it correctly down.

So how does this work:
The child will choose a style of writing. Then they will use either their finger or stylus to trace the letters. If they do it correctly, the adorable little cat or dog will eat up the bones/fish of the letters they traced while barking/meowing!! Before you know it, they will be saying the letters and writing them well. LOVE THIS APP!

You can find it on itunes HERE!

**Many people don't know alot about this app because it's advertised with certain toys that deal with the app. I happened to buy a case called i Learn N' Play Learning Tablet from Target for the ipad that came with a pencil attached for the kiddos. Wala.. this entire company has walked into the house and we love it! Oh and you do not need the case in order to use the apps. We have since gotten rid ours.