Thursday, May 31, 2012

One Thousand Gifts - Collage 1

For the story behind the collages, start here.


1.  prayer
2.  coffee
3.  flowers
4.  holding hands
5.  alone time
6.  handy hubby
7.  rest
8.  pink lips
9.  power outage
10.  healed hearts
11.  rain
12.  pillow fights
13.  bravery
14.  first friends
15.  curiosity
16.  homemade cookies 

I am really enjoying this project so far! I have found it challenging to always have my camera at the ready, and to want to take a picture when I find myself in a situation that I may not want to be thankful for. But, even just 16 photos in, I can already sense a change in my way of thinking - and that is the point, right?

Currently, I have a few friends going through some really rough patches in life.  It can be difficult to see any kind of good when words like cancer and divorce are hanging around.  Who really wants to give thanks for things like that? But, if I've learned anything in our journey with Ethan it's that beauty can come from brokenness, and today I am thankful for God's grace, which is sufficient for all of us in all of our weaknesses.


So, about that "c" word.  A good friend of ours was diagnosed last week with Classic Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  He and his wife recently started a blog to keep everyone updated on how he's doing.  They are just beginning their journey and I know they would appreciate your prayers.  Feel free to leave them some love!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I've got a question...

So, if you've been reading along in the past few weeks, you know that we are in the throes of potty learning with Ethan.  He has been in underwear during awake hours since the beginning of May, and has worn underwear to bed for the past three nights (after waking up dry every morning for a little more than a week).

As far as "big picture" goes, that screams success.  For Ethan to go from wanting nothing to do with the whole process, to wearing underwear 24 hours a day in three weeks time is huge, and I don't want to diminish that at all.


I can't help but feel like things are a little off balance.  As far as effort goes, I'd say we're about 90-10, with me and Jeramie putting in 90% of the work (asking him, reminding him, physically taking him, etc.) and Ethan adding the additional 10% simply with the act of going.

Again, I know that's no small feat considering he was holding his, um, deposits for 12 hours at a time just three months ago.  He has come a long, long way!

But, here's my question.  Given that we're three weeks into this, am I expecting too much by assuming that he should be doing this more independently by now? I am keeping in mind that he needs assistance with the dressing/undressing part due to the anatomy of his left arm, but should he at least be taking the initiative more?

I really think if I didn't ask him if he needs to go (to which he always says "no"), and take him every 3 hours or so, he would hold it indefinitely.  (OK, maybe not indefinitely, but I can count the number of accidents he's had in three weeks on one hand thanks to his bladder of steel!)

So, what would you do? Continue taking him at regular times, but encourage independent thinking - and how? Or, wait for him to initiate going on his own? And, if you're a child development expert (coughRachelcough), what should we be doing?

We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Anatomy of an Excellent Weekend

1.  The Tri Mulli at a Durham Bulls Baseball game, courtesy of Great Clips and Duke Children's
2.  America's favorite pastime
3.  Post-game fireworks
4.  Saturday morning car maintenance (read: saving lots of money!)
5.  Checking out the local splash pad
6.  Ice cream with rainbow sprinkles
7.  Chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool
8.  Post-pool nap
9.  Getting our discovery on at the science museum
10.  Sharing a meal with friends

I'm not typically a "rainbows and butterflies" kind of gal, but this weekend ranks up there with one of the best I can remember in a reeeeeally long time.  My skin tingles in the summer-is-here-and-our-sunscreen-is-expired kind of way, and Ethan fell asleep in record time tonight.

If the dictionary had an entry for "typical summer weekend", I have no doubt we could provide the definition and photos! It was the perfect balance of activity and rest, family and company, and sunshine and rain.  Blessed doesn't fully describe how I feel tonight, but it's a start.

One of my biggest, personal accomplishments over the weekend is that I deactivated my Facebook account.  The intentionality of our weekend, paired with some things I've been thinking over the past few months, led me to that decision and I'm pretty pleased with it so far.  I can't say that I'll never return but, for now, it needed to go.  The Signs of Life Facebook page is still active, though, and we'll be updating that on the regular.

I hope y'all had a wonderful weekend, as well! Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Thousand Gifts - A Photo Project

"When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows."
-One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

Recently, some friends and I have started reading through One Thousand Gifts together.  We meet every other week to discuss what we've read, and have shared with one another ways to better see God's gifts in our seemingly mundane lives.

The premise of the book (or, what I understand so far from the first three chapters) is that the author names 1,000 things to be thankful for in her day-to-day life, explaining her journey to eucharisteo.  It truly is a different way of thinking - to give thanks in all situations.  In the good, the bad, and the ugly.  To experience deep, life-giving joy.

I don't know about y'all, but that just sounds hard to me.  Hence, why I'm really excited about reading this book! I am really looking forward to digging deeper with these girls and experiencing joy and thanksgiving like never before.

As I finished up my reading for tomorrow's meeting, an idea came to me.  Ann described taking a photo of grated cheese on a plate and how she was able to capture a moment of thanks by doing so.  The idea of writing out one thousand gifts didn't necessarily resonate with me, but - taking 1,000 photos? That I'd love to do! I've been wanting to do a photo-a-day project for some time now, but never really had the inspiration - until now.  I'm not going to limit myself to one picture a day, though, and I don't plan to stop until I reach 1,000.  But, don't worry.  I won't post a thousand single photos here, but I do want to share my moments of eucharisteo with y'all.  For those of you who follow Kelle Hampton's blog, I'm thinking about inserting them into a collage much like what she uses for "Friday Phone Dump".  And, if I did the math correctly, that will equal sixty-two and a half collages of straight-up thanksgiving.

And, since you've got to start somewhere, I give you moment of thanks number 1...

Here's to the 999 to come!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From the Mouth of my Babe - Volume 5

A few days ago, Ethan and I were in the car, sitting at a red light at the bottom of a highway exit ramp.  The cars still traveling on the interstate were zooming up above us, to our left.  Ethan was unusually quiet, staring out the window, and I was enjoying the pause in chattiness.  Suddenly, he cried out "NO!" from the backseat and I whipped my head around to see what was going on.

Ethan was nervously watching the cars above us - not able to see the road itself, just the fast-moving vehicles.  With a highly worried voice, on the verge of tears, he said, "No! Those cars are flying!"

Wanting to preserve his childish perception, and calm his fears at the same time, I chuckled, "How cool is that?!"


The potty thing is going exceptionally well.  Like, somebody pinch me well.  We were at an appointment today and Ethan needed to use the bathroom.  He's done the public restroom thing multiple times over the past week, so I had no hesitation taking him into the stall.

We were the only people in the bathroom at the time, and I stood in the stall with Ethan while he did his thing.  A few seconds into it, a lady opened the main door and we could hear her walking into her own stall.  Ethan looked at me, panicked, and said, "Somebody's in here!" ... "It's OK", I assured him, "she's just coming to use the bathroom, too." ... "No!", Ethan protested.  "I need some privacy!".

Monday, May 7, 2012

Don't tell Ethan...

...but we've casually slid back into the world of potty training learning!

There is a standing "joke" among families of chronically ill children that you don't mention your plans around said kids.  "Home" becomes "the h-word" and it never failed that when we talked of going there, something would happen and keep us in the hospital another 10 days.  Want to brag about how well they're doing and plan a weekend getaway to celebrate? A bone-eating infection will set in and cancel those plans.

It sounds silly, I know, but I haven't even called the grandparents with the "he's wearing underwear!" news for fear that it will totally jinx the past couple of days.  Not that I worry he'll get sick, but just that my mentioning of the subject will stop him in his tracks.

But, I'm here to tell y'all - my boy has grown up a thousand percent on me since Saturday afternoon! It all started when I heard a funny noise coming over the monitor.  I quickly recognized it as the sound of the velcro tabs on his diaper being removed, and I ran up the stairs before things could get messy.  What happened after I walked in his room blew me away - it went a little something like this:

Me: "Hey buddy.  You're naked! Why did you take off your diaper?"
Ethan (handing me his diaper): "Here, Mama.  I don't like my diaper."
Me: "You don't? Why not?"
Ethan: "Because I want to say, 'bye-bye diaper'.  I want underwear."
Me: "Well.  OK, then."

And that was it.

He's been in underwear since about 2:00 Saturday afternoon and, while he's had major amounts of accidents, I'm just glad he's actually going.  Compared to our experience two and a half months ago, this is totally encouraging and reassuring!

It's kind of ironic that all of this is coming just days after I bought and began reading The No-Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.  This book has completely changed the way I think about this experience and I know, without a doubt, that I'm much more relaxed and patient this time around.  I know there are some of you out there who are also in this phase of life with your little one, so I want to share an excerpt from the book that really struck me.
"Consider your expectations when teaching your child something new.  When teaching him to draw a picture, what do you expect will be the first thing he'll put down on paper? A family portrait? No, it's a scribble! And you'll delight in his effort and post his artwork on the refrigerator door.  Over time, and with practice, that scribble will take shape until eventually your child will draw circles and squares and soon houses, people, and animals.

Now think about this next new event in your child's life: toilet training.  You can, and should, approach toilet training the same way that you do any other new skill - step-by-step, over time, with joy, kindness, and patience." 
-p. 14, The No-Cry Potty Training Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
Wow.  It seems so elementary, but it took me reading those exact words for it to click.  With everything else our children do - walking, talking, reading - we give them ample time and space to learn it, and applaud each small milestone along the way.  Why should learning to use the bathroom be some rushed occasion, dumping all kinds of pressure on parents and kids in the process?

Not to mention the fact that I pray the fruits of the spirit over Ethan and myself on a daily basis, but was majorly forgetting about them in this process.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control.

That's good stuff, my friends! Just showing grace to myself and being OK with the fact that this won't happen in a day is huge.  Taking a step back, forgetting about how "everyone else does it", and giving Ethan what he needs - with joy, kindness, and patience - is freeing and, dare I say it, fun!

If y'all had been around for the potty dance party we had last night, you'd know exactly what I mean.

Today has gotten off to a great start, too.  We are currently 3 and 1, with the successes standing tall over the accident.  He's proud, I'm proud, and I think we'll call the grandparents now!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

NYC - Day 2

After our fun cab ride back from the club and stopping by a literal hole-in-the-wall pizza place, we managed to make it back to our hotel room in time to get about 5 hours of sleep.

Our plans for Saturday included visiting the 9/11 memorial and cashing in our Top of the Rock tour, since we were so kindly left behind in Little Italy the night before.  Saturday was a much more relaxed day, which we all agreed was much needed!

Our memorial tour was scheduled for 10:30 that morning, so we gave ourselves plenty of time to get some breakfast and catch the subway down to the Financial District.  Our memorial tickets included very explicit directions on which train to take and which streets to walk down - if you had asked me, it would be our easiest adventure to navigate all weekend.

But, alas ... oh, E-train.  If only you had been in operation that beautiful, blustery day, my friends and I wouldn't have found our way onto the C-train and across the river in Brooklyn.

It was about the time we spent an uncomfortable amount of time in a very dark tunnel that we began to give each other questioning glances.  We may or may not have been on top of our game, thanks to the previous night's adventure, but we eventually figured out that the subway system had let us down.  No one told us that Charlie Brown's teacher would be taking the place of the conductor that day, and surely no one understood her when she announced that our stop was closed for construction.  So, to Brooklyn we went.

Rockaway, to be exact.

By the time we actually made it off the subway and learned where we were, it was 11:00.  My Type A-ness went into overdrive and I just knew we would miss our chance to visit the memorial.  It was noon once we finally made it back to Manhattan and walked our pretty little toes to the memorial entrance.

I was relieved to find out that we would, in fact, still be able to visit such an iconic place, and saddened that it was even a place to visit in the first place.

I cried as we were flying into Laguardia the day before, imagining the terror those folks must have been feeling.  The tears didn't come again while we were at the site, but there was most definitely a cloud of somberness hovering over me.  It was wild to go from the bustling, noisy streets of the city and into such a relatively still and quiet place.

The new tower with the Survivor Tree.

We hung around the memorial for a while, then decided to head over to Chelsea Market for lunch and some gelato.  Pretty much everything that went into my belly during our time in NYC was excellent - the food did not disappoint!

My friend, Brian, picked out another great place to meet us for appetizers and NY-brewed beer, but I'd have to say that the company far outweighed the cuisine.

By late afternoon, we found our way back to the hotel and got ready for our night out.  Brian had encouraged us to stop by Magnolia Bakery for some out-of-this-world cupcakes, so we took his advice.  Too bad I left mine and Brandi's cupcakes at the hotel on Sunday.  And it's really too bad that the bakery charges $45 to ship 6 cupcakes.

While we waited for our Top of the Rock tour to start, we walked over to Times Square to see the lights.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not figure out the best camera setting to capture just how bright it was out there! I imagine it may have been the inspiration to this song - or, I could just be making that up.

Then, it was time to truly see the lights.  From 872 feet in the air, we got an incredible view of the city! I wasn't too excited about the elevator ride to the top, but my fears were quickly eased.  Many of you know that I'm terrified of heights (just ask Jeramie about our ride on the Ferris wheel...) but I was completely distracted by how beautiful everything was.

And, cheesy photo of us falling off a skyscraper beam?


We flew back home the following day, lamenting the fact that our trip was over, but ready to see our families.  I knew we would have a great time - we always do when we're together - but I'm a little surprised by how much I miss the city.  Never ever could I imagine myself living there, but visiting is an entirely different story.

So long for now, NYC.  I will be back.

Friday, May 4, 2012

NYC - Day 1

One week ago, I was walking around New York City with my girls - halfway through a 24-hour period of no sleep.

None.  Zero.  Zilch.

From 3:30 Friday morning until the same time Saturday morning, we sucked every drop out of that city, and it was amazing.

Am I still paying for it today, one week later?

You better believe it.

Would I do it again?



Our first day in the city took some getting used to - as did the flight! Y'all, I've never seen a smaller airplane.

But, at least flying at sunrise made up for it.

But, back to NYC.  Everything is so fast-paced there - from walking down the sidewalk, to ordering lunch, to those dang taxi drivers! We arrived at Laguardia around 8:30 Friday morning and made our way to our hotel, quickly learning that the subway would be our preferred mode of transportation.

Our first view of the city.

We dropped our bags off at the hotel, grabbed some food (hello, free continental breakfast!), and quickly found our way to Times Square.  We were just a quick walk away and before I knew it, we rounded the corner to see this...

I know I'm from the country and all, but I seriously stood there with my mouth wide open for a second.

(Then quickly closed it because the wind literally took my breath away.)

It was awesome! Times Square, that is - not the wind.  The wind was definitely not awesome.

After we shopped around a bit, we hopped on the subway and headed north towards the 5th Avenue/Central Park area.  Figuring out the subway system proved to be our biggest challenge of the weekend (more on that later...) but by Sunday we were pros! 

Our first subway ride of the weekend.

We managed to find our way here...

 ...and I loved the idea of a beautiful green park in the middle of all that glass and concrete.

Our next stop was FAO Schwarz, where we met a very friendly Toy Soldier who was all about some Carolina girls!

Ethan's only request for me when I told him I would be gone for the weekend is that I would come back with a dinosaur.  What better place to find one than FAO?!

Our 5th Avenue stroll also took us into Tiffany & Co., of course.  I texted Jeramie to tell him I had found a new wedding band and he responded with, "Maybe you'll find Bon Jovi while you're there and he can help us out with that."

Hey, a girl can wish - on both accounts!

After a full day of walking and shopping, we headed back to our hotel in time to unpack and rest a bit before our nighttime city tour.  Our room wasn't much bigger than mine & Jeramie's bedroom, but it did the trick.  The beds were comfy and, after all we put our bodies through, that was all that mattered at the end of the night!

The bus tour we signed up for took us on a loop through the city, dropped us off at the Seaport for a water cruise, then took us to Little Italy for dinner.  Not included on the itinerary was the part where it left us, miles away from our hotel, at 10:00 at night.  Fantastic.

Seeing the city lit up at night, from the water, was amazing though, so I'll take it.

And, as if all that wasn't enough, three of us headed out to a NYC club for some drinks and booty shakin', 90s style! (Think: Gettin' Jiggy Wit It) Shouldn't at least one late-night cab ride photo come standard with every trip to a big city?

I thought so, too.

Who wants to guess how quickly we crashed once we made it back to our hotel?!

Stay tuned for Day 2...

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