Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vowing to Remember

Every now and then, I get the urge to re-read the e-mails that were sent to me in the days, weeks, and months following Ethan's birth. I'm not really sure what spurred it today but, before I knew it, I found myself sitting behind the laptop, with tears in my eyes, and gratitude in my heart.

Not that I could ever forget the horrendous moment we found out Ethan was a very sick baby, or even the feeling of sitting in the waiting room on surgery day, but those wounds aren't as fresh. This is something to be thankful for, no doubt, but I don't ever want to lose the perspective those first grueling months gave me.

I also do not want to forget the people who prayed us through that time, and sent daily reminders that they were doing so. In my e-mail account sits hundreds of e-mails sent between March 8, 2009 and now. Hun-dreds. Reading them today was as if I was reading them for the first time. Two years later I can still feel the love, anguish, despair, and thoughtfulness that radiates from each one.

Thank you for loving our family, even still. Thank you for carrying us through the terrible times, and rejoicing with us through the good. I pray that Ethan will comprehend all of this one day; that he'll really feel the depths of the love that has been poured over him; that he'll truly understand just how incredible his story is.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Makin' my Mama proud...

Jeramie and I have lived in our house for almost four years. We bought it knowing that we wouldn't live here forever and, other than painting, we didn't do much to it when we first moved in. In my mind, this house was just a step-up from the apartment we had moved out of, and a step-down from our ideal home.

Basically, we've never really thought of it as "home".

It was about this time last year when we decided to put the it on the market and find a more "family friendly" house. You know, a yard for Ethan to play in, somewhere with a playground close by, and our very own driveway (maybe even a garage!). It sat on the market for six months, with tons of traffic, but no serious buyers. Finally, we got to the point where we had to make a decision due to financial reasons. We decided to take it off the market and refinance; this allowed us to save a bunch of money each month, but we still didn't have that cozy home kind of feeling.

Since refinancing, I've taken the if-we're-going-to-stay-here-then-we're-going-to-love-it stance. We've replaced flooring, painted some more, hung curtains (finally!), and rearranged furniture. I'm determined to make these walls feel like home to us, and I've enlisted the help of a few projects to do so.

Now, I am not a decorating guru, nor would I even know how to operate a sewing machine if I owned one. I needed easy, quick, beginner-level projects, and I got the ideas for the first two off of some online tutorials. I tried to find the websites again today so that I could link to them, but they're nowhere to be found! I'll give you the basic instructions but, if you Google the general idea, I'm sure you could find some other tutorials, as well. I'm also sure that, if I could do this, so can you!

Project #1
- Fabric Wall Hangings

This is about as easy as it gets! All you need is an art canvas* (size and quantity depend on where you want to hang it), some fabric (amount dependent on the size of your canvas), and a staple gun.

*The tutorial I read said to use a wooden frame, instead of the art canvas. Surprisingly, I found single, wooden picture frames at Wal-Mart and bought three to use for this project. Tip: Don't use wooden frames. Go with the canvas. (After royally messing up the first frame, I took the other two back and bought four canvases instead.)

Lay the fabric, printed side down, on a hard surface. Position the canvas (also face down) in the center of the fabric. Pull one side of the fabric over the side of the canvas and use the staple gun to fasten the fabric to the backside of the canvas, staying away from the corners. Repeat on the opposite side, top, and bottom, being sure to pull the fabric taut.

To staple the corners, do it much like you would when wrapping a present. The goal is not for it to look perfect on the backside, but to create a nice, tight corner on the front. You'll find a method that works best for you. This is how I chose to fold mine:

Trim any excess fabric from the back of the canvas, and there you have it! Instant wall art.

Project #2 - Dry Erase Board

Remember that wooden frame I had left over from my first attempt at Project #1? Thanks to the multiple staples that lined one side of it, I was unable to take it back, but I really wanted to use it for something. Enter Project #2. I found some super simple instructions for making your own dry erase board, and I ran with it.

For this project you will need: fabric, one complete picture frame* (frame, glass, cardboard backing), and tape/fabric glue. Again, the amount of fabric you need will depend on the size of your picture frame.

*If you're in a similar situation as I was, with only the frame, Michael's sells a frame kit that comes with a piece of glass and cardboard for $10 (only $6 if you use one of their 40% off coupons)!

Just like the wall hangings, lay the fabric print-side down and place the cardboard backing in the center. Wrap it in the same way, pulling the fabric taut, and securing it to the cardboard with tape/glue. (I used clear packing tape, combined with masking tape when that ran out, and it worked great!)

Place the fabric-covered piece of cardboard in the frame, just like you would with a printed picture and ... DONE!

The only change I would make is to add a magnetic strip somewhere under the fabric.

Project #3 - Picture Wall

As if I hadn't blown away my fabric-lovin' Mama already, I decided to finally hang some pictures! At one point we had about six pictures on our massively huge wall, but we took them down once we put the house on the market. That wall has been bare ever since, and my poor Mama cringes every time she comes to visit. Well, not anymore!

I've seen these all over the bloggy world and decided it was time we made one for ourselves. You've probably seen it, too. Walls covered in different sized picture frames, varying in color and shape; as if you've thrown your family album on the wall with very little thought as to what went where.

Too bad I'm extremely anal, though. I want the eclectic look, but I need planned eclecticism. So, what does any Mama do during Friday afternoon nap-time? Create a mock-up, of course.

A girl's gotta know how many landscape vs. portrait prints she needs, right?!

So, with that, we have a basic idea of what our picture wall will look like. It will be a little different, given that my scaled-down version includes only the print size, not allowing for the additional size of the frames (oops), but anything is better than what we started with!

We're about halfway through the hanging process, as you can see, but I'll be sure to post a picture of the finished product. And, by the way, Target is having a major clearance on frames right now; $1.98 for more than half of the frames that are on our wall!

So, overall, the house is getting there. We're focusing most of our efforts on the downstairs right now but, don't you worry ... upstairs guest bathroom, you're next!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Here we go...

The parenting moment I have dreaded, ever since finding out we would be raising a boy, has finally arrived.

Potty training.

We've been talking to Ethan about the potty for a couple of weeks now and we finally went out tonight to buy a seat. Homeboy couldn't wait to get upstairs and sit on it and, wouldn't you know, he actually peed!

It was a family affair, no doubt. Ethan doing his thang on the potty chair, Mama & Daddy losing our minds with excitement, and Aunt Bubbie taking pictures with her Crackberry.

He was so proud of himself and kept saying, "Potty again!" He sat on it a few more times, then I tucked him into his crib with promises of trying again in the morning.

Ready or not, here we go.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ethan's 2nd Birthday Party

We had such a great time celebrating Ethan's second birthday! It was a beautiful day for a party, and I was very thankful for that; I wasn't quite sure how 15 kids, four and under, would fit in our house otherwise.

Ethan has been so into Dr. Seuss over the past few months, so we knew we wanted to "Seuss-up" his party a bit. I'm not a huge theme person, but who doesn't love The Cat in the Hat?! We talked about Ethan's party so much that he walked around for days saying "Cat hat party! Cat hat party!" I'm pretty sure he was more than a little excited!

There are so many great ideas floating around out there, so we found a few that we really liked and ran with it. Let's start with the food, shall we?

We served hamburgers and hot dogs as the main dish; not very Seuss-y, but a hit nonetheless. (Jeramie thought of "Green Eggs and HAMburgers", so we'll go with that.)

For snacks we had colored goldfish ("One Fish, Two Fish"), sliced apples on silly straws ("Ten Apples Up On Top"), and the infamous "green eggs" (cookies).

After talking myself out of making a tall, layered Cat in the Hat cake, we decided on Sneetch cupcakes!

I'm pretty sure those were a hit, too, based off the simple fact that the birthday boy ate two of them!


So, after devouring the food, what exactly do 15 children at a Dr. Seuss birthday party do, you ask? Make hats, of course! Jeramie pre-cut the hat template before the party, as well as the red strips.

The kids (ahem, parents) glued on the strips, trimmed the edges, and...


We also played outside quite a bit. Beautiful day, remember? Although the corn hole boards were intended for adult use, they were very successful at keeping the little ones occupied!

The rocking horse in Ethan's playroom provided endless entertainment, as well!

We did not set aside a gift-opening time this year, as we asked that Ethan not receive any. Instead, we wanted the kids to bring their favorite Dr. Seuss book, which would be donated to the Pediatric Cardiac ICU at Duke. However, Ethan has some super generous friends; not only did the PCICU get some new, much-needed reading material, but he ended up with some fun stuff as well!

We continue to be overwhelmed with the love and generosity that is constantly poured out on our family! It felt so good to walk into the PCICU, with all of those books, and say "here you go." I thought it was very fitting that 24 books were donated (along with a few activity books, crayons, and a checkers game). That just so happens to be one book for every month of Ethan's life, and more than enough for every patient in the PCICU to keep at least one!

Isn't that awesome?!

I was pleased with the time we chose for the party, too. It started at 11:00 and, by the time food was eaten, hats were made, and "Happy Birthday" was sung, it was 1:00. Just in time for Ethan to switch into over-stimulated mode, throw the biggest two-year old hissy fit to date, go down for a nap, and leave Mama and Daddy to hang out with these guys...


I have always loved birthdays. Celebrating them. Planning surprises for them. Showing love through them. Having the opportunity to do all of that, as a parent, adds a depth to the celebration that can't always be put into words.

I am grateful for knowing that feeling now, and I pray I have the chance to do so for many more years to come.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Checking In

Hey, friends! Happy Monday to y'all. Just checking in after a crazy good weekend at the beach with some pretty incredible ladies.

I had all intentions of writing a couple of posts while I was there, but birthday cake and porch conversations and walks on the beach and naps and watching dolphins and getting sun-burnt and golf cart rides and margaritas and digging deeper into the lives of my friends seemed to have trumped the blog.

I know, I know. That all just sounds so horrible, doesn't it?!

I still plan to write about Ethan's birthday, and there's a special story I want to share with y'all at some point, too.

Until then, here's a few pictures from the weekend. Hope y'all had a blessed one, too!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Quilt

When Ethan was born, we found ourselves in quite the predicament. Heart issues aside, we were suddenly parents of a baby boy, who were expecting a baby girl. We had five showers worth of pink, with a little green and yellow thrown in there at the end, but no sign of blue.

Once Ethan was rushed to Duke, we knew that the need for gender appropriate clothing was a non-issue. However, we had no idea he would spend the first two and a half months of his life swaddled in striped hospital blankets.

Duke fan for life - April 4, 2009

Call it optimism, or just a huge help, but my Mama and sister spent a few days exchanging pink for blue, and buying some super cute boy clothes while they were at it. Many of you helped to expand Ethan's wardrobe, too!

Unfortunately, there were some outfits that he never got the chance to wear due to his extended hospital stay. The first that comes to mind is a precious "Baby's 1st Easter" outfit that his Auntie Tara bought for him. It came with a onesie, a cute hat (complete with bunny ears), and a pair of footed pants with a cotton-tail on the backside. Precious, I tell you.

Ethan had an Easter outfit of his own picked out, though. After a week of "quiet", with very little lines coming from his body, his blood sugar dropped and they had to insert an emergency IV. So, where does the IV team go when all other access points are no good? Yup. The scalp.

Ethan's Easter hat - April 11, 2009

Needless to say, there was no getting a onesie over that thing.

That's just one of the many stories that make up The Quilt. For over a year now, I've had this idea. I wanted my Mama to make a quilt out of outfits like the Easter one, as well as clothes that were significant during Ethan's first year. It took me a while to go through twelve months worth of itty bitty baby clothes, but I finally picked out all the pieces a couple of months ago.

The finished product?

Better than I ever imagined it to be. In fact, I cried like a baby when I opened it. Not only is it beautifully made, but seeing those familiar patterns brought back every memory associated with them.

The newborn-sized onesies that swallowed him whole while he was in the hospital.

The pajamas we had to cut to fit over his cast.

The blue and white plaid shirt he wore during his first birthday party.

They're all there, sewn together among others, to create the most valuable piece of cotton I'll ever own.

Mama, thank you for using your talents to so richly bless others! You know I'll cherish this quilt for as long as I live, and I can't wait to tell Ethan all about it as he gets older. I love you!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

News from the Pediatrician's Office

Thanks for all of the sweet birthday wishes for my sweet boy! We had a great day celebrating him yesterday; I plan to devote quite a few posts to his party and his actual birthday, but we'll get to those later.

Today, I took him to see the pediatrician for his two year check-up. Despite our rocky beginning, and the fact that I'm still not crazy about the way the actual office is ran, I have really come to love Ethan's doctor. She is so thorough and patient (with both Ethan AND me), and she really hears me out when I have concerns.

I'll take it!

She asked a lot of questions about his development, future surgeries, and the therapies he currently receives. We both came to the conclusion that he is a typically developing 2-year-old in every sense. Talk about music to your ears!

We also talked about his growth and weight gain. Y'all know how much I have struggled with worrying about his weight over the past few months, right? I have really been trying to push those worries to the side, offer food when he's hungry, and let his body do the rest.

Well, it seems as though something worked.

He weighed in today at an even 26 pounds!! This puts him in the 25th percentile for weight, which is exactly where his team of doctors would like for him to be.

For you mamas out there who have struggled to get your child to gain weight, for whatever reason, I know you know how I'm feeling right now.

Relieved. Overjoyed. Proud.

I'll take that, too.

Checkin' out his growth chart ... "I've got this."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two Years Later

Dear Ethan:

Today is your second birthday! As I write this, I am snuggled up in a quilt that your Granny made for you; it is a beautiful representation of your first year of life and now I sit here, reflecting on year two.

6:46 this morning. The moment you came into our world.

As much as I wanted to address this letter to you as my little baby, I know that just isn't so. In a figurative sense, you will always be my baby, my firstborn. However, I can't continue to see you as that helpless infant. At two years old, you are quite the opposite; you are the picture of independence and strength. You face each day with a fierce determination that I sometimes find myself envious of. I have never seen you give up on anything. Ever. From building a tower of blocks, to feeding yourself with your special hand, you keep on trying until you've succeeded. Ethan, that already speaks volumes to your character and I pray that you will hold on to that trait as this world does its best to beat you up and hold you down.

I am thankful that your second year of life was much more kind than your first. You did face two surgeries, one of which was an emergency, but you soared through both of them! You continually amazed your surgeons, therapists, and doctors with your healing and progress. To say that your Daddy and I were also proud of you is an understatement, for sure!

And, Ethan, we continue to wear our pride on our sleeve. Not a day goes by without one of us commenting on a new skill of yours. You have exploded, developmentally speaking, in the past six months. The things you know, are able to do, and remember are absolutely remarkable. I would love for that ICU doctor, who cared for you in the days following your cardiac arrest, to see you now. I am certain that, he too, would stand amazed.

As you turn two, and we embark on your third year, my prayer is that your Daddy and I will continue to nurture your strong spirit. I pray that we will allow ourselves to challenge you, and that we will not be gripped by fear. The world is yours to explore, sweet boy.

For you, I ask that God will continue to hold you close. You were His first, you know? You are His even now. I have no way to know what the next 365 days will hold for you, but He does. And, with every day we're given, I will thank Him for allowing me to know the joy of being your Mama.

I love you, Ethan. Happy birthday.

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