Saturday, March 30, 2013

Kickin' it with the Carters

We're enjoying a staycation this weekend, but I wanted to share a few pictures from a super fun mini-vacation we recently took with the Carter family.

God knew exactly what He was doing (as He always does) when he crossed our paths with these guys, and I couldn't be more thankful for their friendship!

(Except for when they talk their friends into venturing down potentially life-threatening water slides.  But, that's neither here nor there.  I'm just glad I lived to share these photos with y'all.)


I hope you are having a wonderful Easter weekend - He is risen!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Birthdays and Heart Days

This past Friday, I celebrated my 31st birthday.  I'm no more bothered about being "in my thirties" than I was this time last year, but I'll admit - turning thirty-one didn't feel quite as fabulous as thirty.  Instead of breakfast in bed, there was a banana in the car on the way to the cardiologist's office.  Instead of an Italian dinner, there was a kid's birthday party at a local bounce house.

On Friday afternoon, after leaving Ethan's cardiology appointment, I was talking to my "birthday twin", Amanda, who was celebrating her day by completing her weekly laundry chores.  We laughed about the irony of it all and she concluded, "I guess life doesn't stop just because it's our birthday."

She's so right.  I'm finding that, as an adult (who also happens to be a mom), birthday celebrations seem to come in new and different ways.  Elaborate gifts are replaced with hand-painted necklaces and incredible news about your child's health, and your birthday song is sung with a room-full of preschoolers.  I think there will always be a part of me that will reminisce about birthday celebrations of years past, but I'm learning to appreciate this new-found, sweet time of celebration.

So, about that cardiology appointment.

Earlier last week, I considered e-mailing Dr. I in jest to tell him that Friday was my birthday and only good news was allowed.  Little did I know just how much God had been literally working in Ethan's heart, and that good news was exactly what I would get.

Wonderful, lovely, incredible news, actually.

After checking all of Ethan's vitals, and Dr. I taking a quick listen, we crossed the hall for his echo.  We chatted with the echo tech the entire time, while Ethan contently watched an episode of Doc McStuffins.  The tech was able to get very clear images from all angles, and y'all know I was watching over her shoulder for the pressure gradient measurement!

Once she finished, I smiled as I lifted Ethan off the bed.  I knew what I saw, but I wanted to hear it from Dr. I.  He walked into our room a few moments later, smiling as well, and confirmed what I knew to be true.

God is still very much in the midst of healing and restoring my boy's heart.

At last check, in September of last year, the pressure gradient across the conduit was around 57 mmHG.  Not great, but not awful either.  On Friday, six months later, the pressure gradient had DECREASED to around 45 mmHG.

Decreased.  Gone down.

Continuing to go down? Only time will tell, and only God knows, but boy did we celebrate in that exam room! In the past four years, never ever has the pressure gradient GONE DOWN on its own without catheter or surgical intervention.  And in the past six months, we've done nothing to make that happen, with medicine or activity restriction or otherwise.  This is 100%, without a doubt, God's hand at continual work in Ethan's life. Oh, praise Him!

Along with the echo, everything else looked great too.  The pacemaker interrogation originally showed that the battery had about a year of "juice" left, but Dr. I was able to make some adjustments and push that out to 18 months.

So, with healthy vitals, miraculous echo results, and stellar pacemaker function, what's a doctor left to do?

Smile and say, "See you in six months."

Happy birthday to me.

"It's shaped like a heart because I love you, Mom."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A SUPER Celebration!

There are more than a dozen photos in this post.  Just sayin'.

Sometime back in early February I looked at Jeramie and said, "Just so you know, we are not going all out this year for Ethan's party." 

(At least one of you is laughing right now, I'm sure of it.)

Since becoming a mom, I've learned that I love me a birthday party - and I've always known that Jeramie is a perfectionist.  Those two things combined have caused us to spend many, many hours planning and implementing the "perfect party" over the past three (ok, four) years.  For some reason, though, I just wasn't feeling it this year.  I wasn't any less excited about Ethan's birthday, I just wasn't in the mood for all the hoopla.

But, fast-forward a few weeks and there I sit at the kitchen table sewing (who am I?!) superhero capes while Jeramie sits in the living room floor hand-painting a 6x9 foot canvas of a city skyline.

"What happened to 'not going all out'?", I asked.

The truth is, Ethan lives a life that is worthy of grand celebration - we all do.  Birthdays, especially his, are a big deal around here because it's one more year we've had together.  A couple of weeks ago, I met an adult CHD survivor who was getting ready to turn 40.  I've never seen a 39-year-old more excited about being 40 than she was - I loved that! Heart defect or not, though, each year is a gift and deserves to be celebrated.

So, celebrate we did!

Early morning present-opening before Daddy left for work.

Dinner at Olive Garden - YUM!

The day after Ethan's actual birthday we hosted his much-anticipated superhero party at a local park.  Aside from being a little windy, the weather could not have been better for early March! I'm pretty sure the kids had a blast, and Jeramie and I really enjoyed planning this one - despite my initial resistance!

I'll leave you with some highlights of the day and many, many photos.  Feel free to snag any and all ideas for your own superhero birthday party.  Most of them were borrowed or thought-up last minute, anyway!

THE FAVORS: Superhero Capes (template) and Tootsie Pops (template)

The kids loved the capes, and I actually enjoyed making them! I did decide to sew on the yellow circle instead of using spray adhesive, and I used freezer paper to stencil on each letter.  (Big shout out to my friend and craft mentor, Christy!) I got the felt from JoAnn Fabrics and found that half a yard made two kid-sized capes, or four toddler capes.

Jeramie handed them out to each child during "Superhero Training", just before the obstacle course!

Scrabble, anyone?

My nephew, Johnny, rockin' a smaller cape for the babes.

To display the superhero Tootsie Pops, I used wrapping paper to cover a piece of styrofoam.  Simple!

I picked on Jeramie when he said that each sucker seemed to have a personality of its own.  That is, until that middle brown one started to remind me of this guy.

THE GAME: A Superhero Obstacle Course

Once everyone got their capes, Jeramie led them through an obstacle course in which they had to run through hula hoops, cross a balance beam, crawl through a tunnel, jump on a trampoline, then "Hulk smash" into a building of cardboard blocks.  We got out lots of energy on this one!

So thankful for these behind-the-scenes superheros who were re-building the tower after each smash!

THE FOOD: Superhero Snacks

We held the party in between lunch and dinner times, so we made sure to have a few snack-type foods available for everyone.  Chex Mix became "Mighty Mix", veggies with ranch became "Power Dip", clementines became "Wonder Fruit", and juice pouches became "One, Two Punch".

Of course, there's always cake, too!

THE CAKE: Icing Smiles (Creations by Barbara, Ltd.)

This is the second year we've used Icing Smiles and we've been completely impressed each time! The cake was as delicious as it looked, too.  If you live in the Triangle, consider contacting Barbara for your next event!

I supplemented with Spider-Man cupcakes, although I'm pretty sure the cake would have been plenty!

THE DECORATIONS: A Superhero Skyline

Back in the early days of "not going all out" I came across this idea on another blog and showed it to Jeramie.  We concluded that it would be way too much work for this year's "simple" party and tossed it aside.

For, like, three days.

Before I knew it, Jeramie was in Lowe's buying a six-foot by nine-foot canvas drop cloth.  Then, a few bottles of paint later and ... VOILA!

It made for a great back-drop for opening presents....

..and posing for family photos!

It's a special little thing, that's for sure, but I'm glad we did it!

All in all, it was a wonderful day celebrating our very own Superman.  We are so thankful for all of our family and friends who came out to spend the afternoon with us - Ethan is one heck of a blessed little boy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Interview With a 4-Year-Old

1.  What is your favorite color?  Still white because I like it clear.
2.  What is your favorite toy?  Race cars.
3.  What is your favorite fruit?  Strawberries.
4.  What is your favorite TV show?  Wall-E. Or, uh, like a PBS show? Monster Trucks!
5.  What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? A sandwich, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
6.  What is your favorite game?  Angry Birds.
7.  What is your favorite snack?  Raspberries.
8.  What is your favorite animal?  Monkeys.  They hang upside down because they like to hang on their tails!
9.  What is your favorite song?  The Spiderman Song.
10.  What is your favorite book?  The Very Busy Spider.
11.  Who is your best friend?  Jackson.
12.  What is your favorite cereal?  Cheerios.
13.  What is your favorite thing to do outside?  Catch bugs with my net.
14.  What is your favorite drink?  Apple juice.
15.  What is your favorite holiday? Halloween.
16.  What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  My monkey.
17.  What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?  Cinnamon rolls.
18.  What do you want for dinner on your birthday?  A cupcake.
19.  What do you want to be when you grow up?  A soccer player.
20.  What is one special thing about you?  I can be funny!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Four Years Later

My precious Ethan,

Today is your fourth birthday! Last night, as I tucked you in for the last time as a three-year-old, I prayed over you and poured out my gratitude for your life.  I was literally hovered over top of you, thanking God for giving me the amazing honor of being your mom, and in a moment of deep appreciation for all we've been blessed with through you, you interrupted my prayer and spoke up in true Ethan humor:

"Mom.  Can you get off of me please?"

I obliged, of course, then I laughed.

That's the thing with you.  Half of the time, I don't even think you're trying to be funny - you just are.  I've said for a couple of years now that you get your humor from your Daddy, and we find that to be true on a daily basis.  Your laughter is contagious, as is your smile.  I could kiss those cheeks all day long if you'd let me.

You have blossomed and grown so much this past year.  I love watching as you learn new things, interact with your friends, and reach developmental milestones.  You have done so much of that lately and my heart swells with pride for you.  Watching you enjoy life brings me more happiness than I can describe with words.  I hope you will always seek out fun and joy in your life - there is so much of it to be found!

Unfortunately, life will also bring about pain and sadness.  My heart clenches at the thought of what's to come for you.  It hurts to think about the literal heartache you may endure in the future, but I'm learning to give those fears to God and trust that His sovereign hands are holding you closer than my earthly ones ever could.  I pray that my actions and words are instilling a love of God in your own heart, and that you'll welcome Him in someday.  He is your joy amidst the pain, your bright spot amidst the darkness, and He loves you more than I can comprehend.

When you are reading this letter years from now, I hope you'll know then the exact thing I'm telling you today.  I'm sure there will have been plenty of ups and downs, and I know there will be mistakes along the way, but this is our truth:

You are amazing, and I am so glad you're mine.

Happy birthday, baby.  We love you!

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