Friday, September 30, 2011

It is finished.

It only took us 5 months, but we finally completed our gallery wall...

Phase I

Phase II

The finished product!

...just in time to update the photos!

My next project? Another picture frame dry erase board.  Watch out, y'all; I'm getting crazy over here!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Heart Walk 2011

Well, the Heart Walk has come and gone and I can't help but feel like I do after any big event.  There is so much preparation and excitement leading up to it and then it's over, justlikethat.  In the moment, however, there was much to be experienced and celebrated!




This was our family's second year participating in the Heart Walk and it was even bigger and better than the first! There were exactly 50 of us who walked together as "Team Ethan" and, just like last year, I was overcome with emotion to see us weaving our way through the crowd - strollers, dogs, and all.  My sister was also able to walk with us this year and that, in and of itself, made me want to cry!

Love that girl.

Team Ethan - 2011

And we're off!
So much love.

About 30 minutes before the walk started, I was approached by a reporter with one of our local news stations.  I don't know what led her to our group, but I answered with a resounding "YES!" when she asked if she could interview me and Jeramie.  As I expected, she was completely shocked that we were there in honor of our two-year old son, and I even saw tears in her eyes as I told her a bit of Ethan's story.  I was nervous as all-get-out to see the finished product - humidity-infused hair, the ugly cry, and my nervous voice had potential to be disastrous - but I was pleasantly surprised with the story.  I think she did a great job highlighting Congenital Heart Defects in the midst of an adult-centered event, and I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity to share our story and raise awareness for CHDs.  Check it out!

"I'm two!"- three fingers is the new two, in case y'all didn't know

Last year, Team Ethan was able to raise a little over $2,300 for the AHA.  I set a lofty goal for this year and, while we didn't meet it, we did beat last year's total by more than $400! I am so proud of our fundraising efforts and I want to sincerely thank all of you who donated to our team.  Your money will go towards helping hearts all over the Triangle, and we are most appreciative that this guy will also benefit from your generosity.

My heart is so very full.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures from the day, and many, many thanks.  We love y'all!

Me and my survivor.

Trying out the hula hoop.

Our newest heart friend, Michaela and her mom, Ashley.  Their family drove all the way from Wilmington to walk with us!

Getting some help from Mr. Randy - an adult CHD survivor and the hubby of Ethan's developmental therapist!

My sweet boy.

We did it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rainy day fun

Somebody has gotten a lot of practice over the past couple of weeks!

(Also, we're loving the new editing options offered by YouTube ... YEAH for fancied-up videos!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bedtime Sweet Talk

Ethan and I braved the pouring down rain today and took ourselves to the library this morning.  It was a fun little outing, despite all the wet stuff, and we even took a second to splash in the biggest puddle we could find.  Of course, that ended our adventure as Ethan's pants were soaked up to his thighs, and his beloved stuffed worm managed to take a swim in said puddle.

(I rescued it only after Ethan calmed down long enough to tell me, through tears, that Slimey was "over 'dere in the wad-er".)

Puddle splashing fail.

The library itself was a good time, though.  Ethan walked swiftly between shelves of books, picking one up long enough to judge it by its cover, then moved on to the next.  He ended up with two books in his bag - one from the Curious George series, and one about diggers and dump trucks - and Mama walked out with The Happiest Toddler on the Block. I'm only a few pages into it, but I've already found something I've connected with - Bedtime Sweet Talk.  The idea behind it is that, each night, you remind yourself of a few happy moments or successes from the day.

According to Dr. Harvey Karp,
"The amazing thing about bedtime sweet talk is that pretty soon you'll start noticing how much more is going right in your life than you thought." - The Happiest Toddler on the Block, revised edition
I like it so much that I think I'll try to incorporate it here on the bloggy blog.  However, while I hope to make this a personal nightly routine, let's not even pretend that I'll actually post about it here every night.  This is the same blogger who can't even keep up with "Wordless Wednesday", for goodness sake - and, plus, some things are just sacred.

So, without further ado - Bedtime Sweet Talk, Volume 1...


Sweet Moment #1 

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the blog world.  I read a lot (a lot) of blogs and, more often than not, I come away blessed.  What I'm about to share isn't about some wildly successful day of parenting, but my soul is refreshed because of two women, and that is very sweet indeed.

Today I read two particular posts that really spoke to my heart.  Becca wrote about a deeply personal moment of time that happens for many would-give-anything-to-be-breastfeeding-my-baby  mothers.  I had so easily forgotten about the things I learned about myself, and the conversations I had with God, in that teeny tiny breast-pumping room.  Her post today was a reminder that God is still faithful to hold my hand through the rough days, whether that's sitting by a crib in the ICU or keeping my two-year old from destroying everything in his path.

Then, I moved on to Kirsten's blog where she wrote about how Ewan's broken heart has taught her how to love.  This touched my core and if I've read it once, I've read it a thousand times today.  "My prayers had gone from, 'God, please heal my baby,' to 'God, please help me to love him exactly as he needs.'"  Amen, Mama Ewan.  Amen.

Sweet Moment #2

Even though this technically happened yesterday, I need to put it in writing today.  Yesterday evening, I went to check the mail and found an anonymous gift in our mailbox.  "Blessed" doesn't even do my feelings justice.  One day, I'll need to be able to come back here and remind myself of God's goodness and His grace.  Someday, I'll need a reminder of the ways in which we've been blessed, and I'll need it to be a catalyst to bless others.  I'll need a reminder to praise God for all that we have, and I'll need to remember to hold everything we do have with an open hand.  

I have no idea who you are, but I want you to know that your gift to our family has kept my eyes moist since yesterday evening.  It not only helped us in a time of great need, but it reminded me of all the ways God has taken care of us since this journey began.  I want you to know that just hearing that someone is still praying for our family did wonders for my soul.

I praise God for His provision, and for you, and I pray that you will find yourself surrounded by the Lord's favor.  Thank you.

Sweet Moment #3

OK - so, switching gears to a very successful moment from today...

Ethan peed AND pooped in the potty tonight! 

I know y'all must be thinking, "How is she gonna go from talking about the Lord's favor to toddler poop?!" but I just had to.  And the look on my sweet boy's face once he realized what he had just accomplished? Pure joy.  

Even after the fact, as I was getting him dressed for bed, I reiterated how proud I was am of him.  He looked up at me with those big, brown eyes, smiled, and said, "Ethan make Mama happy."

I pray one day he understands just how right he is.


Good night, friends.  May your dreams be sweet tonight, and may tomorrow be filled with many sweet moments of your own.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Oh, boy.

Just when I thought (and said) there was nothing else Ethan could do in his room besides sleep...

Tell me, please, how a two and a half year old manages to pull off his mattress, and get into a doubly locked closet?!

At least the diaper stayed on this time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Friday Night Lights

September 14th - Then and Now

My mind has been filled with dates these days, and today is no exception.  (Birthday shout-out to my college roomie, Chelle - welcome to the "almost 30" club!)  But what tugs at my deepest heartstrings today is the fact that Ethan is now two years out from his most recent open-heart surgery. 

It blows my mind that he's gone from this...

Post-Op: September 14, 2009 this...

September 10, 2011 - his tallest block tower to date! a matter of two years.

I don't really know how to explain my feelings, but when you're talking about the heart (and a sick heart, at that) there is so much that can happen in two years.  I think I'm just in awe that Ethan has made it this far, with only needing one intervention.

Thank you, Versed.  Your presence was much appreciated.

Somewhere in the dark, ugly, pessimistic places of my mind I think I gave the surgeon a great, big (silent) "yeah right" when he told us how long Ethan's conduit should last.  It is such a temperamental thing, and can go from well-behaved to acting-up in a matter of months.  I am thankful that we have been on the (mostly) well-behaved side of that, and that the stent seems to be keeping things nice and open in there.

Now, we wait.

The surgeon's estimate was four-to-eight years, so we are halfway to the low-end of that estimation.  You just may find me dancing in the streets if we seriously make it to that four year mark! Based on what we were told back in May, it's likely - praise God!

On Sunday, I heard a story of a young man with a heart defect similar to Ethan's.  He, too, had problems with his pulmonary artery and had his last open heart surgery when he was three and a half.  Today, he's 21 and is just now approaching "go time" for his next one.  Seventeen years! Heart Mamas - can you imagine?! How wonderful would it be to give our children a seventeen year break from all of this mess?? I pray that for all of us, and especially for him...

Dream big, kiddo.

To El Roi - the God who sees - praise and thanks for watching over his broken heart, which has absolutely captivated mine.

Here's to the next two years, sweet boy.  I will forever be on your side.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Many thanks!

Just a quick note of thanks to everyone who helped me reach my personal goal for this year's Heart Walk! I set my sights high at $500, and y'all were generous enough to allow me to surpass that - THANK YOU!

As a team, we are about halfway to our goal of $3,500 and we still have two weeks to go.  If you haven't yet donated, and would like to, there is still time! Every little bit helps. 

Did you know that just $30 provides one pediatrician, nurse, or emergency health care provider with the specialized training they need to recognize and treat cardiovascular diseases in infants and children? If you have an extra $30 to spare, I would challenge you to donate it to the American Heart Association in honor of the nurse who recognized something "just wasn't right" with Ethan.  You can make your donation under Ethan's name by clicking here.

Also, a major shout-out to the best sister and aunt ever.  Jessi took hours out of her day on Sunday to hold a cut-a-thon at our local Aveda store and raised over $150 for Team Ethan! Jess - I am so proud of you for using your time and talents in such a positive, beneficial way; the Tri Mulli loves you!


I'll be back tomorrow with some thoughts and photos I want to share with y'all.  Does September 14, 2009 ring a bell to anyone?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nine Years

Nine years separates the greatest American tragedy I've known in my lifetime from the greatest personal tragedy I've ever endured.

Ten years ago today, I was in my sophomore year of college at UNC-Greensboro and was walking to my early morning statistics class.  I loathed that class and often thought of every reason possible for why I shouldn't go.  Much to my pleasure, I walked towards the classroom that morning to find a simple note taped to the door, "Class canceled".  I turned around, with some pep in my step, and got halfway through campus before I realized something was terribly wrong.

People in front of the Caf crying.  Yelling.  On cell phones.  Frantically running back to dorms.

From there, my memory gets fuzzy.  Unlike most of you, I don't know exactly where I was when I learned what was happening to our country.  I do remember being in front of a TV when the second plane hit, but I can't tell you who I was with, or where I was watching it.  I remember calling my family and feeling very afraid, yet incredibly thankful that I had no personal connections to lives lost that day.  Many of my friends could not say the same.

I remember watching President Bush address our nation later that evening.  I can tell you exactly where I was at that moment, exactly who was in the room with me, and even specifically where everyone was sitting.  Isn't it funny how memory works? I imagine if I had been blogging back then (or had been better about journaling), I would have the exact details of that day filed away in archived memories.  I would be able to re-read my words and recall the devastation, the anger, the sadness.

Kind of like a year ago.

One year ago today, I was at home in Raleigh with my husband and friends.  Ethan was away for the weekend and us adults were getting ready to tackle our biggest home improvement project to date.  Then, I got the call.  I can't re-read my words without a knot forming in my stomach and tears flowing from my eyes.  I've spent quite a bit of time talking with someone who's paid to help people through stuff like this and, while I've found a lot of healing in the past 6 months, the sadness is still so real.

I miss him.

So on today, the tenth and first anniversaries of such tragic days, I remember.  I grieve.  I pray that we will one day be reunited with those that we love so dearly and miss so deeply.  I hold on to the hope that Michael is in the presence of our Creator as I type this.  I pray for those who Michael, Jenn, Aimee - and the thousands who died on September 11, 2001 - left behind.  The ones who woke up this morning with tear-stained cheeks and lumps in our throats.

May our grief impact the way we relate with those around us.  May we feel comforted by His love and move forward in hope. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two and a Half Years Later

Today, I am the parent of a two and a half year old.  TWO AND A HALF, people!

Nicole Campo Photography

It just so happened that I signed up for a free Chick-Fil-A breakfast this morning, so we started our day off right with some chicken minis.  All I've got to say about that is: Ethan is surely his Mama's child.  I've never in my life seen him eat breakfast with such enthusiasm!

Well, maybe on cinnamon roll day, but that's another story for another time.


I'm not really in the letter writing mood today (I still love you, Ethan) but I did want to jot down some things here for the baby book.  Ethan doesn't necessarily seem older to me but, once we hit these half-way marks, I know it's all downhill from here.  First comes fall, then comes Thanksgiving and Christmas; then we celebrate the new year and, before we know it, Ethan will be three! It just doesn't seem possible.

Nicole Campo Photography

At two and a half, Ethan stands over 3 feet tall and is hovering around 28 pounds.  He has a vocabulary the size of Texas, and we continue to work with him on his language development.  Some of the funniest things he has said lately are:
-When making a choice between two activities, foods, etc. he will purse his lips together, smack them, and say, "Ummm ... let's see".

-A couple of weeks ago, there was a strange sound outside.  Ethan looked at me, surprised, and said, "What's that?!" I told him I wasn't sure and asked what he thought it was.  He looked out the window, began scratching his head with his index finger and said, "Um, prooooooobably .... a cat!"

-He has practically memorized various stories from "One Fish Two Fish" and, while in Ohio, he picked up a toy phone and said, "Hello? Hear me Joe? Oh no! Mouse cut wire.  Goodbye!" and hung up.
He keeps us laughing, that's for sure!

Nicole Campo Photography

I am always amazed at the things he picks up on.  From memorizing parts of books, to remembering past events, he is taking it all in.  I have to remind myself that he is always watching, always listening.  A good friend of mine shared a quote the other day that said, "Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." This was so good for me to read, especially on a day when my bad attitude was rubbing off on him.  My number one prayer as a parent is that I would be so full of love, joy, peace, patience, et. al., that it would spill out onto Ethan.  I want to show him appropriate ways to behave, not just tell him.  Let's just say I have a lot of work to do on my end!

In many ways, I think Ethan is going to be a lot like me.  He has his Daddy's humor, no doubt, but I see so much of myself in him.  He's a bit socially awkward right now and is learning how to interact with his friends.  For those that only know the 21st century Joye, you may be surprised that I would describe myself as socially awkward.  Or, maybe not! If that description doesn't seem right to you, just ask my friends from back home; I'm sure they will put your mind right to ease!

But, Ethan is smart as a whip.  The things he knows, and the words he can say, is truly unbelievable.  Just yesterday he asked to read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".  He got the book out of the basket, looked at the cover and said, "Caterpillar! Caterpillar.  kuh-kuh.  Caterpillar starts {with} k!"

Nicole Campo Photography

He gets so frustrated when his body isn't able to do what his mind is telling him he can.  At two years old, I would sit in the middle of the floor and bang my head against it (or a wall, whichever was closest).  It made my mama a worried mess, of course, but the doctor told her it was a sign of intelligence (ha!) and that I would stop before I hurt myself.  He was right.  Granted, Ethan isn't hitting his head on concrete, but I see that level of frustration rise up in him when he can't figure something out.

Nicole Campo Photography

God bless my mama.  Parenting the two-year old me is no easy task! I can only pray that I show Ethan half the grace and patience she showed me.

Everything else seems to be falling right into place with Ethan.  After a brief period of resistance involving his big boy bed, he is sleeping in it beautifully these days.  Next up will be potty-training, but I don't even plan to touch that one with a ten-foot pole until sometime this winter.

Nicole Campo Photography

I can't say that this is my favorite age; just being honest.  (I still love you, Ethan.)  While I'm thankful for the lessons this stage is teaching me, I very much look forward to incorporating some reasoning and logic into our days! I've kind of labeled this time as "the age of extremes"; there just doesn't seem to be much middle ground, whether we're talking about eating or behavior.

However, on those hard days when I feel as though I'm ruining my child, I think back to the time when I never thought he would be here.  And not just figuratively.  When I think about parenting through the lens of possibly not getting to parent at all, it changes things.

Nicole Campo Photography

He changes things.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Yesterday, I was in Ohio.  As I'm back in Raleigh today, doing laundry and reflecting on our trip, I'm simply amazed at modern day travel.  We didn't even fly and, yet, I still find myself in awe that we can be three states away from home at breakfast time, and be back in North Carolina for dinner.

Obviously, I don't get out much.

In fact, Cleveland is the second-most Northern city I've been to.  It follows behind Portland, Oregon and just beats Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for that #2 spot.  Those three cities form the extent of my Northern-knowing ways, and except for wanting to visit a few other cities up there (and more return trips to Ohio), I think I'm OK with staying below the Mason-Dixon!

Jeramie, Ethan, and myself headed out of North Carolina around 6:00 on Thursday evening.  Our destination was the home of some very good friends of ours who moved back to Ohio almost a year ago.  We hadn't seen Mike and Amanda since April and, since then, they've moved into an awesome home and added a sweet baby boy to their family.  A drive up north to celebrate this new time in their lives has been a long time coming.

The trip up there was much easier than I anticipated.  (Coming back was a different story, though, thanks to four states worth of rain and fog too thick to see through.)  I had no idea what to expect from a two year old in the wee hours of the morning, but I prayed and God was faithful.  Ethan behaved beautifully, slept 5 of the 9 hours, and was easily entertained with DVDs, snacks, and new games.  Jeramie and I remained awake and alert (even well after arriving in Cleveland), and our little-car-that-could chugged up the West Virginia mountains with the best of them.  We encountered toll booths (a first), tunnels (Ethan's favorite), and turnpikes (what's up with those roads being so bad?!).  Jeramie and I passed the time with conversation starters, spotted 24 out of the 50 state license plates, and only had to make one call to AAA.  It was such a fun adventure!

Beautiful sky somewhere in northern North Carolina/southwest Virginia

Rolling clouds as we were leaving Ohio

Play-Doh, a muffin pan, and golf tees = endless possibilities!

Napping in North Carolina

Of course, the best part of the trip was spending time with our precious friends.  Just to be face-to-face with them again, having the opportunity to talk about the highs and the lows, and to live life together - even for a moment, was what I needed.  I'm glad that drive is pretty easy; I see us making it multiple times over the years.

Love her.

And him.

And them.

Family Zoo trip!

Silly boys.

Melts my heart.

Ethan had a blast with Uncle Mike.

Aside from all the baby-snuggling, meal-sharing, game-playing, smore-making, conversation-having fun, we got to do a little sight-seeing, too.  On Friday, we found our way to Lake Erie/Huntington Beach, Saturday carried us to the Cleveland Zoo, and we were blessed by attending Mike and Amanda's local church with them on Sunday.

Family fun at the beach.

He did this a lot.

And this.

Anderson wasn't quite as impressed.

Going to take a dip in Lake Erie.

Ready for the zoo!

Feeding Travis the giraffe.

Checking out the sea lions.

This goat was all about some human interaction.

Y'all, I can't even tell you what a long weekend away from the routine of home, and in the presence of such great friends, did for this Mama's soul.  I'm sure you get the idea.


Ohio, we will be back.  Take care of our friends in the meantime, and work on cooler temperatures for the next go 'round, would ya?

Love you guys!!

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