Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When I See Red...

When you think of the color red, what do you think of?

An apple?

A firetruck?

A rose?

When I see red, I think of hearts - and not just cutesy cut-out ones.  I'm talking beautifully broken, carefully mended, life-giving kind of hearts.

Friday, February 1st (this Friday!) is Wear Red Day across the United States and many people will be "going red" to support women who are fighting against heart disease.  I think heart disease in adults is a well-known topic and, as adults, we're encouraged to take care of ourselves and make "heart healthy" choices.

Maybe you even think of hearts and heart disease when you see red. 

But what about heart defects?

It has always slightly bothered me that Congenital Heart Defects and Congenital Heart Disease are used interchangeably.  Each term seems to be equally accepted among the medical community and, by definition, Ethan's heart is both diseased and defective.  However, I believe the majority of our country hears "heart disease" and worries about all those fatty foods we've put into our bodies, or thinks about an elderly person in a hospital room.

Of course, those of you reading here know that simply isn't the case for our broken-hearted babies - they did nothing to bring on their lifetime of surgeries, medications, and check-ups. 

So, today, I encourage you.  On Friday, in addition to wearing red for your dad, your grandma, your mom, or your uncle, wear red for the 1.8 million people who are living with a Congenital Heart Defect in the United States.

When you see red on Friday, think about kids (babies, even) like Ethan who have spent days upon days in the hospital recovering from open-heart surgery.  Think about those families who no longer have their children here with them because of heart defects, and wear red if for no other reason than out of love and support for them.

And, if you want to take it a step further - don't just wear red.  Tell somebody why you chose that particular shirt, or pair of shoes, or earrings.  You can share Ethan's story, if you want, or just some general facts about CHDs.

This is a great kick-off to CHD Awareness Week, which runs from February 7th-14th, and I'll be using that week to share specific ways we can not just talk about CHDs, but take action as well.  I hope you'll join me!

But, until then, tell me.  Who will you be wearing red for on Friday?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Minted. {Review and Giveaway}

*This post is sponsored by Minted.  All opinions represented belong to me.

Recently, I've been introduced to Minted - "a global community of independent graphic designers and an online store that prints and sells the best of their designs in the form of paper goods" (via Minted). I think that's a pretty neat concept, don't you? I've browsed through a few of their products, and I've been asked to review some of their new party decor designs for y'all today.  

This was particularly great timing, as we're in the process of planning Ethan's fourth birthday party.  Yes, fourth.  Excuse me for a minute while I wipe away a tear ... or two.

Minted currently has over fifty party decor themes to choose from, and they're easily organized by party type, holiday, theme, style, and color.  It took no time for me to locate "Superhero" in the sidebar and find these goodies...

Super Heroes
Each design has three options to choose from: unique party, perfect party, and dream party.  All options - or, suites, as they're called on the website - include neutral plates and napkins, and packages start around $65.

Once you click on your desired decor, the details of each suite - items and quantities - are clearly broken down.  Given that we have been in party planning mode, and I've been spending a little more time than usual looking at party decor, I think the prices listed are comparable to what you would find on Etsy or similar sites. 

I'll be honest and say that I don't completely love all the elements of the superhero design, and I wish there were other options to choose from.  These party decor packages are a new Minted product, though, so the choices can only increase from here! Plus, the items are also offered a la carte, so you could always pick and choose the elements you like the best.

Of course, I'm in birthday party mode, but there are many other party themes available! I'm a big fan of this one for a baby shower:

Urban Baby

...and I love the simplicity of this one for any celebration:

Colorful Balloons

What about you? What are you celebrating these days? Tell me all about it in the comments section of this post and I'll pick one commenter, at random, to receive $50 in online credit to Minted! Be sure to leave your first name and e-mail address so that I'll know how to contact you.

Good luck, and happy everything!


Official Giveaway Rules:
-No purchase necessary!
-The giveaway is open to legal residents of the United States, 18 years old or older.
-The giveaway runs from January 28, 2013 to January 31, 2013 (11:59 p.m. EST).  The winner will be announced on February 1, 2013.
-One comment per reader will be entered and the winner will be chosen using
-The winner will receive one promo code worth $50 to use on any order at
-Odds of winning are based on the number of eligible entries received.
-This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Funny Faces

Missing that sweet boy while he's getting in some Grandma and PawPaw time ... BUT ... hello date night weekend!

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fresh Perspective

Since returning from Ohio, things have been rough around here. I came home from that trip on cloud nine - physically, spiritually, and mentally relaxed and rejuvenated - and from the moment the plane landed in North Carolina, one thing after another stole that joy and beat-up my spirit.

For a solid week, I was straight-up worn down. It all came to a massive, ugly head on Monday of this week and resulted in the most heart-wrenching day I've had in a long, long time.  I'll spare you the details ... just trust me. It was ugly.


In a moment of exhaustion, through desperate pleas for help, God led me here...

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." -Titus 3:4-5

I don't know about y'all, but as someone who tries to be so many things on any given day - and fails miserably more times than not - those verses spoke peace and truth straight to my core.

I've been in church since I was two, I was baptized when I was nine years old, and I've been steadily growing in my faith since high school. Even still, I forget on a daily basis that my salvation in Christ - His love for me - is not because of those things I do or don't do.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. -Ephesians 2:8-9

Praise God, y'all! Because, seriously. Even on my best day I'm still full of sin and unrighteousness. Then, days like Monday come and I wonder how on Earth anyone could love messed up me, let alone give their life to save mine. Why would someone so pure and blameless take on every bit of my ugliness so that I could be purified and justified through Him? I don't know - I still don't understand it all - but I do know that I am beyond grateful He did.

After all things terrible happened on Monday, I posted this to Facebook:

"I'd be OK if a day like today doesn't happen again for a very long time. Or ever, really.  Looking forward to those new mercies in the morning..."

While it deeply saddens me that my family took the brunt of my ugliness on Monday, and while I was very much looking forward to a fresh start, my perspective has since changed. Over the past few days I've realized that, as crazy as it sounds, I am thankful for those hard moments.  I am thankful for the moments that serve as a reminder that I need Him - the moments that give me pause and force me into a place of gratitude for His grace and mercy.

I strive to live life in constant awe of God's love for me, and to recognize the gifts He gives each and every day. But let's be honest. A lot of days I tend to think that I'm pretty awesome in and of myself. And, if days like Monday are what it takes to bring me back to a place of humility and dependence on Him, so be it.

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." -Titus 2:11-14

Regardless of what kind of week you've had, know you are loved more than you could ever imagine.  Rest in blessed hope, be eager to do good, and let His grace and mercy be the salve for those ugly wounds.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ohio, Take Two.

Last Friday, I left Raleigh and set out for northern Ohio.  (You may remember our first trip when we drove up to visit our friends.)  This time my destination was the same, but there were two major differences.  One - I flew.  All by my lonesome.  And, two - Amanda had no idea I was coming!

Back in November, I worked out the details with her husband and spent the next two months bursting with secret excitement.  It had been nine months since Amanda and I had seen each other, and her family just recently grew by one precious baby girl.  It was past time for a visit! I wasn't sure if we'd be able to pull off the surprise completely, but it went down exactly as I imagined it would.  She was clueless, and lots of tears and hugs ensued!

I've often described my friendship with Amanda as "life-giving".  We challenge each other, ask each other hard questions, and sometimes come away from our conversations with a headache.  Our similarities continually pull us closer together, and our differences always lead to some form of growth and fresh perspective.  It's kind of amazing.

Aside from a "dinner date" Saturday night, and church the next morning, we spent the rest of our time lounging around and solving the world's problems.  I joked about spoiling sweet Paisley, but I just could not put her cuddly self down.

Despite our relaxed time together, it was Monday before I knew it and time to leave these sweet babies... that I could get back to my own.  Who, by the way, seems two feet taller and is acting way more like the four year old he's about to be.  Sigh.

I cherish the time I was able to spend with Amanda and her family, and praise God for orchestrating such a rejuvenating weekend.  Isn't it awesome how He gives us just what we need, right when we need it?

I think so.

Until next time, my friend...

Monday, January 7, 2013

From the Mouth of My Babe {Link-Up}

I've got to admit - these posts are some of my favorite to write, and blog/Facebook updates about the crazy things kids say are some of my favorite to read!

Sooo ... let's combine them - blog link-up style! Link-ups are a fun way to find other bloggers and have actually encouraged me to blog on more than one occasion.

Here's how it works:

Once a month (or so - let's be real), I'll post about some of Ethan's antics when it comes to that mouth of his.  At the end of the post, there will be a place for you to link-up to a post of your own.  (Google Reader and e-mail subscribers will need to visit the actual blog to see the link-up tool.)  If you don't have a blog, no worries! Just leave your story in the comments section of the post.  I'll leave the link-up open for a week (or so), which should give us a handful of fun stories to read!

There are just a few things you need to do to make it work:

1.  Write a post on your blog about something a child in your life has said - funny, silly, cute, or profound! (Feel free to use a post you've recently published.)
2.  Enter the needed information in the link-up tool at the bottom of the post.  Click "Submit Link".
3.  Be sure to put the permalink (post-specific link) in the URL spot, and not your general blog URL.  Using the permalink will ensure that other readers find your post!

I think that's it!

So, without further ado, here's the craziest thing I've heard Ethan say.  Ever.


This morning, I was getting ready in our master bathroom while Ethan was playing with a toy on our bed.  I walked into the bedroom with my hand up my shirt, applying deodorant, and Ethan looked at me and said...

"Are you checking your boob, or something?"

I seriously have NO IDEA where he got that from and, yes, my jaw was practically on the floor! I'll be honest, though - I am still giggling about that one.


OK - your turn! I can't wait to hear what comes from the mouth of your babe!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Day in Chapel Hill

This morning, we went on a family adventure to Chapel Hill - a beautiful college town just half an hour to our west.  While it's a familiar route down I-40, it felt as if we were tourists in another state ... I love that! It was such a fun outing and it left Ethan just tired enough to take an afternoon nap - hence, blogging in the middle of the day.  Say what?!

I'll let the photos (which we took with our new 50mm lens!) tell the rest of the story...

Exploring the sundial

Sundial and shadows

A lovely day in Chapel Hill!

Yeah, so Ethan isn't totally in focus, but I couldn't believe I actually got a mostly sharp, non-grainy photo inside the planetarium!

A boy and his shuttle

A mama and her boy

Morehead Planetarium

To infinity and beyond, kiddo.

Sutton's Drug Store - quite possibly the best cheeseburger I've ever had!

Franklin Street

Happy weekend, friends!

*This post is linked up with The MOB Society.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Family fun!

This past weekend, we had some wonderful friends make a trip to North Carolina and spend a couple of days with us! Many of you will recognize these sweet faces... none other than the adorable Carter children!

This was the third time we've gotten together with the Carters, and I love each time a little more than the last.  We had nowhere to be and no plans to do anything other than just hang out! We stayed up late, slept late, ate much, and laughed even more.

It was awesome.

From the moment they first saw each other, Derrick and Ethan continued in their brother-like love, but it took Ethan and Jenny Kate a day or so to realize they actually do like each other.  Once they worked that out, though, they were a force to be reckoned with!

Shannon and I walked the aisles of Trader Joes, talking about organic popcorn and protein bars, then followed it up with a trip to Krispy Kreme for fourteen twelve delicious circles of glazed goodness.  And Justin and Jeramie? I'd be afraid to see what the two of them could come up with if we left them alone long enough! The seven of us together just makes me smile.

While I wish our boys' broken hearts hadn't been the catalyst for our friendship, I am thankful to be walking this journey with them by our sides.  This friendship is just one of many examples of how so much good can come from so much bad.

We love you, Carter family! Thanks for coming and we'll see y'all again soon!

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