Grandma Bindel’s Jesus Pillows

Grandma Bindel went to be with Jesus Monday, and we honored her all week with lots of food, visiting, and Nickel Knock. Ten years ago, when I was in the Capital City Writes teacher program, I wrote about Grandma’s ministry. I sent the article to Aunt Patty, and she remember it when planning the services. I revised the numbers and they printed the history to hand out at the wake. Here it is:

Sleeping bags cover the living room floor. Half-eaten bags of Doritos and toppled soda cans litter the room. It’s a typical teen slumber party complete with Jesus pillows.
Jesus pillows?
Jesus pillows may not be all the rage in your neck of the woods — you’ve probably never even heard of such a thing — unless you were touched by the blessed hands of Grandma Bindel.
Grandmother of 33, great-grandmother of 59, and mother of eleven, Irene Bindel called the Jesus pillows her ministry. What started 30 years ago as a loving gift to cheer the hearts of four of her grandchildren in a time of sorrow turned into a ministry that touched thousands.
After the death of their mother, her oldest daughter, four of Irene’s grandchildren were leaving their Oklahoma home to move to Wichita Falls, their mother’s hometown, to live with different family members.
The four children, then ages 4 to 13, were coming to their new homes to be adopted by different aunts, uncles, and close family friends. Grandma Bindel knew these kids would need extra love, first losing their mother, then being separated from their siblings, and she wanted them to have something waiting just for them in their new homes – something that would remind them that above all else, Jesus loves them.
She pulled out the sewing machine and made each of them a small pillow. Then, carefully, she stitched on the front, in large letters, Jesus loves John. One for each of them – Jesus loves David; Jesus loves Michael; Jesus loves Elizabeth. They cherished the pillows and were proud of them. Of course, the other children in the houses – the cousins turned siblings through adoption, wanted Jesus pillows of their own. Grandma made a Jesus pillow for each of her grandchildren. Soon, the kids’ friends who saw the pillows at sleepovers, campouts, and slumber parties began asking for their own Jesus pillows. Grandma couldn’t say no. And there began her pillow ministry.
She called the pillow-making her ministry because she wanted to bring the love of Jesus to everyone.
“I can’t go knock on doors and talk to people about Jesus,” she said, “but I can make them a pillow. God gave me a sitting down job.”
Over the years, the pillows grew bigger, the designs more intricate, and eventually they were inscribed on both.
Grandma’s pillows would go out when she heard of a birth. The Bindel family alone kept her busy, but she made sure to share Jesus’ love with friends, too.
Everyone loves seeing his or her own name, granddaughter Elizabeth Boatner said, and that makes the pillows extra special.
“When I got my first pillow, I felt so special having it because it had MY name on it, and it said that Jesus loved ME. You see things all the time with ‘Jesus loves you…;’ but this pillow said ‘Jesus loves Elizabeth.’”
Grandma’s process was meticulous. She tracked her to do list in a little black address book, listing the name, age, and gender of the recipient-to-be, along with the person requesting the pillow so she knew how to deliver it.
Grandma held to tradition and didn’t rely on ultrasound technology. Since she customized her pillow colors based on gender, she wouldn’t start a pillow until after a baby was born.
Her pillows bring joy to their owners today, but they served their purpose of being a comfort to the four grandchildren living through the loss of their mother 30 years ago. “My pillow caught a lot of tears,” said John Bindel, my husband.
We can all agree today that Irene Bindel succeeded in making sure we all knew that Jesus loves us.
“You can actually feel Grandma’s whole-hearted love she put into each pillow. Grandma always sealed the tissue paper enclosing the pillow with a sticker that said to ‘Keep Jesus #1,’ to ‘Praise the Lord,’ or to ‘Keep the Angels Around You,’ Stephanie Bindel said. “Her pillows are not only a daily reminder for me to thank God for all of my blessings, but for me to also thank God for the person who made it for me.”
Grandma’s pillow-making ended almost nine years ago, but she made at least 3,000 pillows to share the love of Jesus, reminding the receiver to “Let this pillow always remind you to keep Jesus number one for He will always be loving you.”

Museum reviews (Perot and MSH in FW) plus why you should get a premium level science museum membership

We played our reciprocal museum membership card and took the fam to the Perot Museum and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History for spring break. Regular admission would have been $102 for the four of us ($15 per adult at each museum and $10 per kid at the Perot and $11 per kid at MSH), so that Thinkery Premium membership proves its value once again. (We visited the NASA Air and Space Museum in Huntsville, AL over Thanksgiving Break, saving $70.) That membership has more than paid for itself, even if we never use it locally (which we do and will!). I actually think we’ll make it to each of these museums again over the summer (my sister lives in Huntsville) and also to the Witte in San Antonio.

First, you should know that visiting a museum during spring break is not the best time. The crowds were CRAZY! That hindered the fun and how long we explored, but we still had a great visit at both museums.

At the Perot, you have to check in (at the box office for reciprocal members. Others can do this online.) to get a ticket for a certain entry time, every half hour. We arrived a bit before 10 and were assigned the 10:30 entry. By noon, all entry times through 5 pm were sold out, though. If you have a half hour or even hour to kill before your entry time, you can visit the outdoor play areas — a life-sized Leap Frog park and a musical park — or stop by the museum gift shop. They also had some volunteers showcasing some hands-on science activities in the lobby the day we were there, and I assume that’s something there on busy days.

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Once inside, visitors are encouraged to start at the top, taking the escalator to the top floor and then working the way down. The escalator lets you off and the second to top floor. Don’t miss taking the stairs or elevator up to the Hall of Birds. At first, I thought, Hall of Birds — how exciting. It was really cool and interactive, though. Kids can design their own bird, choosing body type and wing design and beak. They can also soar as a virtual eagle, moving their bodies and seeing the birds’ eye view of their flight. From there, we visited the Life Then and Now exhibit of dinosaurs and fossils, some found in North Texas. Scattered throughout the exhibits were hands-on demonstrations from volunteers. The girls go to hold meteorites and dinosaur jawbones. We also waited in a bit of a line in the Energy Hall to be (virtually) shrunk and sent down into the earth to see how horizontal drilling works. Our favorite of all halls, though, was the TI Engineering and Innovation Hall. The girls each got to drive a remote control robot, and Caroline got to program one. It was crowded with lines for every center, but with all the hands-on activities there, we’ll definitely go back and spend more time. Elizabeth spent a little time in the five-and-under children’s museum while Caroline programmed her robot. Typical children’s museum stuff — water play area, grocery store, lots of hands-on stuff, but the highlight was a cool indoor playscape model of downtown Dallas. Even if you don’t visit the children’s museum, take the stairs down to it — they’re magically musical! We spent about four hours there and didn’t come close to seeing everything.

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The Fort Worth Museum was an unplanned visit, but we’re so glad we stopped! The girls both enjoyed the outdoor children’s museum play area with life-sized tinker toys and a water play area. They also enjoyed the outdoor dinosaur pit where they dug for fossils. It’s much smaller than the Perot, but there’s still lots of hands-on activities for the kids. We got to see a Planetarium show with our reciprocal tickets, too. The temporary Wizard of Oz exhibit was cute with some activities for younger kids but most just right for my five and eight year olds. Some cool hands-on wind-related activities just outside of the Wizard of Oz exhibit may have been temporary, but they were fun. The girls enjoyed building different paper flyers and testing them in the wind tunnels. Of course, since it’s Texas, there’s an Energy exhibit where I learned a few things myself in the 4D movie. We were there less than four hours, including the Planetarium movie and saw pretty much everything.

My love for museums is similar to my love for libraries, but visiting museums can get pricey. We probably would have visited one museum on our spring break trip regardless, but the ASTC Passport Program made it possible to see both. Now, if only the Mayborn in Waco would join the program, we’d visit there more than once a year, too!

One of our summer traditions

The past three summers, the girls and I have loaded up and taken a few days to visit the cousins on John’s side of the family. It’s fun for all of us, as I love my sisters-in law as if I’ve known them my whole life and I consider them friends as well as sisters. It goes without saying that the kids love the play non-stop for a few days. Since Waco is an hour and a half from our house and halfway or a bit less than that to the metroplex area cousins, it’s a great driving break for us to stop at the Mayborn, which is our favorite nearby children’s museum. This year, we added lunch at the American Girl Store to the plans. I admit that I’m more into the whole American Girl doll thing than either of the girls. Caroline has a historical doll, and Elizabeth has a Bitty Twin and will get a historical doll for her fifth birthday. They each got to pick an outfit — a roller skating ensemble for Caroline’s doll and a swimming outfit for Elizabeth’s — at the store, and we had lunch (party of eight plus two babes in high chairs. It was crazy.) The whole week was crazy, and it always is. We spent the first night with the Boatners, swimming and playing. Day two, we met the Foleys at the AG store and then headed to their new house in Bonham and the Bindels met us there. Then we had a huge sleepover with not much sleep and lots of play and lots of love (and some fighting and crying, if I’m honest.) On the third day, the girls and I said goodbye to cousins and headed to Hillsboro for a night at the Hamptom, swimming, and cable TV. Then we spent a few hours at the Mayborn on the way home. We went to the special exhibit, Goosebumps, and I’m so glad I added that to our tickets. It was pretty cool! The girls and I all faced the fear of falling and had our facial reactions recorded. The clip here is of the video playback of our slow-mo falls. (I will do my best to stop licking my lips after seeing that in slow motion. <shudder>)

Bindels falling backwards, arms strapped by our sides

 

 

Dreaming

I have not slept well since I was pregnant with Elizabeth. I remember looking forward to giving birth so that I could sleep again. I wasn’t naive, as a second-time mom, but I figured sleeping with a nursling beside me was better than what I was getting then. And it was…but in those short two-or-three hour snatches. Even now, more than four years later, I don’t sleep well. I hear the cats scratch in their litter box. I hear little feet patter to the bathroom and then to over to my bed. Then I feel the same little feet that pounded my bladder from within five years ago pound my bladder from the outside and I have to get up and go to the bathroom, too. But lately, her bathroom trips come late enough that I seem to be able to enter a sleep stage of dreams that I remember. Two night ago, I dreamed that spooky women kept appearing in my room and taunting Elizabeth, trying to take her from me. I fought them off with a wire coat hanger. Last night, I dreamt that, as we were leaving to go out to dinner, we saw our neighbor’s house on fire. We though, “what a pity. hope it doesn’t spread to ours.” and left for our outing. When we returned, surprise, surprise, our house was engulfed, too. That didn’t concern us, though, in my dream. I wasn’t distressed until Caroline took off running down the street and a bunch of cattle, released from their fence due to the fire, stampeded her!

Now, I did take some psych courses in college. And I read a lot of fiction. And the Bible. So I can try to interpret my dreams. I’m open to help, of course. Really, the wire coat hanger is obvious. I’ve been tuned in to the Texas Legislature’s live stream via Texas Tribune all week. In the back of my mind, I know that with too many restrictions on fertility and abortion services, my Elizabeth would not be here. The current bill would not have altered my personal experience, I know, but if I were poor…or if the slippery slope continued…who knows. I found out at my 20-week-ultrasound that the baby I was expecting was dead. I was under a doctor’s care, was admitted to the hospital, was induced, and delivered. Lucky for me. Then, within a few months , I was pregnant with Elizabeth. I remember very vividly, once I knew the baby inside of me was dead I could not wait to get it out of me and get pregnant again. And I am not a woman who loves being pregnant. Believe me, I was not meant to be a Duggar. Without access to the medical care I had, I would not have been able to rid my body of the doomed pregnancy and get pregnant again with Elizabeth. She might not be here with the regulations the legislature is proposing. I was 20 weeks 5 days pregnant when I was induced. If I lived in an area without a doctor with hospital admitting privileges, who knows what would have happened?

I have been debating how much of this to write about in my blog. My blog is a place that my daughters can read about my thoughts about life and motherhood if and when I am no longer here to discuss it with them. I started this blog with my pregnancy journals because I wanted such a thing from my mom when I was pregnant. Thankfully, I know where my mom stood on what matters. So I’m writing it here for my girls just in case they don’t *get* it from me. BIRTH CONTROL is the answer. My goal is that nobody ever need an abortion because she has access to birth control. It works. Really, girls, if you use it properly, it should work. If you really, really don’t want a baby, double up. (Heck, there was a period that we tripled up!)

So, what saddens me about this legislation before Texas today is that so many women will not have access to birth control. And then they may want an abortion. And who can blame them?

I pray for my daughters that they understand how their bodies work, how reproduction works and how scientific technology allows them to control that. And whether or not they choose that technology, they know it exists (which, though I do not choose for myself, I hope I could be supportive of them if they chose a life without birth control) and find no shame in using it!

ITSE Parking Lot

I am hearing about so many thoughts, books, ideas, web sites, apps, tools here at the conference that I want to check out, I am going to share them here in brief list format so I can keep track and others can check them out, too.

Why School? By Will Richardson
Knowmad Society by?? Free PDF
Invent to Learn

Dual Lingo site
Slide share site (look for Will R’s slides)

This is 40

A few weeks ago, the thirteen year olds at church had their rite of passage liturgy, lots of special words and prayers as they enter adulthood. We celebrated with cupcakes after, and when I walked into the reception room, I saw the teens gathered, joking with each other, really uncomfortably, about being grown-ups. What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was that they’d probably still be giggling when they’re 39 wondering who left them in charge! That’s totally how I feel sometimes. The line I used as a (late 20-something) middle school teacher when I’d find kids looking at me to see if they should be doing whatever it is they are feeling unsure or guilty about doing (and to be honest 90 percent of the time, I had no idea what they were doing but could smell the nervousness) was to put it back on them. “Is that something you think you should be doing?” Works on my own kids now. Come to think of it, everyone should ask that of themselves. I had no idea if I should be the grown-up and stop what they were doing. If they weren’t hurting anyone (physically or emotionally), it was pretty much a toss up on interfering or not.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about growing up. Today, I am 40. Both my mom and my husband’s mom turned 40. Neither of them turned 41. But I am healthy — clear biopsy a year and a half ago; clear mammogram six months ago; no chronic illness. Now, I have noticed that my first few steps in the morning hurt my feet. Not sure if that is age or daily flip flop wearing or (most likely) an extra 50 pounds. Still I am healthy. And I am a grown up, even if I don’t usually feel like one. I realize I have a whole lot of great years ahead of me. And I’m pretty excited about them.

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Z

My sweet eight year old picked Z Tejas for her birthday dinner, and as happy as I am to get to eat at my favorite restaurant, I feel a big burden knowing the influence I have on her. I always joke about my relationship with Z Tejas. It’s my stalker boyfriend. Before I even officially moved to Austin (I visited John here often when he co-oped), that little house downtown was a favorite spot. Then we settled up north, and before long, Z Tejas opened on Great Hills. We spent many a Friday night waiting hours for a table, drinking way too many margaritas. Then, we really settled WAY north in Avery Ranch and it wasn’t long before the Z started construction on the corner. Caroline knows it is my favorite, and she knows it as my celebration spot –Mother’s Day, my birthday. Is that why she picked it?

I know some moms want to be the main influencer in their kids’ lives (and that’s a big lure to homeschooling for them) but it kind of scares the bejeezus out of me. As happy as I am with my life, I don’t know if I am up for her being like me. Some of me, absolutely. Plenty, though, not so much.

So, this little thing, a birthday dinner, reminds me not to just be “myself” but to be the woman I want my daughter to be. Heavy burden. Lord, help me!

Best apps for roadtrips

 

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My criteria for a good road trip app: keep ‘em busy for a long time. Our family takes road trip vacations — Florida panhandle this year — so summer vacation means hours in the car (like 24!) so I need a tool kit filled with books, music, movies, apps, conversation, and food to keep the girls occupied.The apps on this road trip list fit the bill. They’re “sticky,” meaning kids will want to keep playing them. Not all are explicitly educational, but all are fun.

Grimm’s Interactive Pop-up Books by Story Toys — Though these are pricey, they are my preschooler’s favorite go-to app. She loves the stories and the interaction. They’re quite well-done. Available stories include Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and The Jungle Book. They are almost $5 each (I caught several of them for free via the free app of the day) so you’ll want to choose selectively. (used mostly by preschooler)

Toca Tailor — Dress-up, paper dolls, fashion design in preschool-friendly app. (enjoyed by both girls)

My Story World — This subscription-based storybook app is mostly geared to preschoolers, but my second grader enjoys the stories, too. For $5.99, you get a subscription to all of the available stories — fairy tales, Elmer stories, princess stories, more. New stories are added every week. Definitely read The Glass Castle — a favorite here! (enjoyed by both girls)

Let’s Create — We all love this app! You create your own pottery or complete “customer” orders, then fire it and decorate it. You can sell it at fake auctions and earn money to buy more designs and paints. Seriously fun. (fun for ALL!)

Mystery Math Town — Kids explore a quirky, sort of spooky house, and have to answer math problems to open doors and windows to further explore. (elementary)

Wild Kratts Creature Math — My review isn’t published on this one yet, but it is a great well-rounded app teaching math and ecology. Kids complete math problems while managing a whole ecosystem — keeping the animal’s and environment’s needs in balance. I enjoyed playing this one, too. (elementary)

Dinorama — I’ve written about this one before. Great road trip project. (elementary)