January 24, 2015

Oliver's Very Hungry Caterpillar 1st Birthday Party

I wasn't planning on throwing a big, themed party for Oliver's first birthday.  However, given what happened, it was a really good distraction to put all my time and energy into planning a joyful celebration for a special occasion!  It really helped me to have something positive to focus on for a few weeks.

Thomas and I make a pretty good team because I'm able to give him some ideas of what I want, and he makes my designs come to life! He made all kinds of beautiful things for the party...the invitations, party hat decorations, water bottle labels, banners, food labels, and more! He is so talented and creative! My favorite party item we put together was Oliver's birthday hat.We put together the other party hats from a pack of colorful hats from Walmart, some card stock, and pom poms. 



I found Christmas lollipops at the craft store, so we of course had to turn them into Olliepops for our little Oliver! :) 

My favorite decoration, thanks to Pinterest, was a caterpillar banner with his monthly pictures on it! I love seeing how he changed so much over the past year! 
I found a cake with colorful sprinkles at Walmart and thought it would be perfect for a smash cake for him! I just added a fondue caterpillar to the top to go with the theme, although I kind of wish I had left it plain. 
I made cupcakes for the guests so they wouldn't have to eat Oliver's slobbery cake.
Oliver was napping when all the guests arrived, so we let him sleep for a bit while everyone ate! I eventually had to wake him up so he could enjoy his party. When I got him out of his room, I wasn't sure how he would respond to a house full of people, but after looking around and taking it all in, he was thrilled to have the spotlight on him! He's such a little ham and I love it! :) 
I had heard so much about how babies are more into the wrapping paper and boxes than their presents, but it was an absolute blast watching him open his gifts! He was so into everything (paper included), but he really enjoyed exploring all of the gifts. I felt bad taking them away while he was playing to give him another gift to open. 
I about melted when he opened up a puppy dog from my sister! He got the biggest smile when he opened it up, and he gave it lots of sweet hugs and kisses throughout the party! 
His absolute favorite present was a car from my parents. He loves getting in it, saying "vroom vroom," and having us push him around the house in it. We spend a lot of time in the evenings pushing him back and forth! 
After opening his presents, it was time for the best part - cake! I had debated making a fake cake from fruit for him, but ended up going with a real one. 

He took a bite and realized how just how good sugar it was. 

And then he plopped head first into his cake and wouldn't stop eating it! It was absolutely hilarious. 
He was a very, very happy boy getting his first taste of sugar! 

The cake was destroyed. 

It was such a fun party, and I am so happy he had such a good time! I am really thankful for all of those who made an effort to come for it...my family, aunt and uncle, grandma, Oliver's nanny, and some of my girlfriends. It was special because of all of them. We are truly blessed to have so many people in our lives who adore Oliver like we do. 








It was a wonderful party, but it did take a lot of work! I told my family and Thomas multiple times that next year's party will be cake at the park! ;) And they laughed because they know it's probably not true... 

January 3, 2015

Oliver: Our One Year Old

I'm still finding it hard to believe that our adorable little man turned one. After facing our loss, I feel even more appreciative of how great a gift his life is to us. I've always known that I shouldn't take him for granted, but now I more fully understand that on a different level. The first year of his life, and our first year being parents, has been a bigger gift than what we could have ever imagined. It's been a year filled with laughter, tears, frustrations, and joy. Oh, so much joy. 
If I had to pick two words to describe him, I would say joyful and curious.  He is such a genuinely happy baby, except for when he's tired or hungry, and I certainly don't blame him for that! He knows no stranger, smiles and waves at everyone he sees, reaches his arms out to be held, and is especially drawn to other kids.  He gave out dozens of hugs and kisses to little ones at the airport and on our flight for Christmas vacation, making everyone around us smile and laugh. His joy is contagious, and it makes me smile to see him light up any room he enters!
He is filled with wonder for the world around him, and his observant nature makes me stop and slow down to take in what's around me. I love watching him explore and seeing the wheels in his mind turn as he examines every aspect of all the things he sees or touches. I would love to know what he is thinking! 
His favorite parts of the day remain the same: eating, reading, and bathing. The only food he won't eat is acorn squash, and he's got the 98th percentile written on his charts to show for it. He still adores books, only now he also points at objects in the books and pretends to read by making all kinds of babbling sounds as he turns the pages, which in turn makes my heart melt.  He gets so excited for bath time, that he starts wiggling, giggling, and flailing his arms about when we start stripping him down after dinner. 
It has been so exciting watching him grow and develop over the past year.  He is on the brink of walking, and he gets so excited trying to take steps that he just belly flops towards us, knowing we'll catch him, resulting in all of us cracking up! I'm so thankful to be able to witness his milestones and his growth throughout his first year of life. 
I know a lot of people think we're crazy for choosing to start a family so young, but my goodness, it is so worth it.  He is such an incredible blessing to us, and we can't imagine our lives without him. Don't get me wrong, it's also hard and challenging being parents at times, as we constantly have to put his needs above our own; yet, that's somehow, in a crazy way, part of what makes it so wonderful.  Whenever I talk to expecting moms when I have Oliver with me, I make sure to tell them how much FUN parenthood is because it truly is an awesome gift from God! 

November 20, 2014

He Gives and Takes Away

Our second baby left this world to be with Jesus this week, and my heart is aching with a grief I never knew possible. For weeks, we were growing with excitement and anticipation over sharing the news with our families at Thanksgiving.  We naively assumed this pregnancy would progress fairly smoothly, as it did with Oliver. However, at the beginning of this week I started experiencing symptoms of a miscarriage, and the OB told me to come in right away. I went in with some hope in my heart, but the overall gut feeling that something just wasn't right. My worries and fears were confirmed with an ultrasound that showed no heartbeat. 

Our minds were filled with hopes and dreams for Oliver's new brother or sister. Our dreams have been crushed, and all I can think about is the newborn I'll never hold, the smile I'll never see, the voice I'll never hear, the arms that will never be wrapped around my neck, and the sibling relationship I'll never see develop. I am aching over the loss of the person that baby would become. 

We are clinging to each other and clinging to the cross and our faith. We are so blessed by Oliver, but so deeply saddened by the loss of his brother or sister. I have been grappling with so many questions. Why God? Why would you bless us with this baby and then take him/her away so quickly? We are so open and willing to be parents - why do you give babies to drug addicts or people who don't care for their kids, but take ours away? Why us?  

I found these beautiful words that have offered me such hope and peace:

"My Lord, the baby is dead!

Why, my Lord—dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face—it will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. Why, my Lord?

“Why, My child—do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why. You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.” 

I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. I speak as a fool—forgive me. I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity." 

-- Mother M. Angelica



Our baby is now a Saint in heaven, and one thing that has brought us peace is that he or she will never know the pain and suffering that we experience in this world.  No fear, no worries, no anxiety, no stress, no pain, and no loneliness. He or she is experiencing nothing but God's love and goodness in heaven, what we hope for all of our children someday. 

God has been really challenging my heart to show thanksgiving in all circumstances recently, and this is putting me to the test.  He is still showering us with his graces throughout this painful week, and if I seek him, I feel his presence with us throughout this. I am thankful we were met with love and compassion by healthcare workers. I am thankful for the woman who drew my blood, held my hand, looked me in the eyes with sorrow, and so genuinely said "God bless you, sweetie." I'm thankful for the doctor who told me to cling to my faith. I'm thankful for those that have openly shared their own experiences and pain. I am thankful for my husband who has been my rock throughout all of this, crying with me and pushing me to pray when I least feel like it. I am thankful for our sweet Oliver who doesn't know of this loss and who continues to bring us so much joy and laughter throughout all of this.  I am thankful for our faith that reassures us that our baby sees God's face and the most splendid treasures that heaven holds. 

It's hard and it hurts, but in the midst of the lies the Devil is trying to make me believe, I still believe in a God who is mighty, loving, giving, and faithful.  He is the author and Creator with the power to give and take away as he pleases. I don't know or understand his plans for us right now, but I know he always has and always will make all things work together for our good. We have hope as an anchor for our souls, and I am thankful for that gift.

Please pray for healing for us and pray for the soul of our baby. 

November 17, 2014

A Red, White, and Blue Weekend with my Family

This weekend was the absolute best. The reality of living away from my family really sank in after we bought our house, my brother moved back home, and my sister accepted a job where she'll be moving back home in about month. I know God brought us here for this season in our lives for a reason, so I'm not lamenting the fact that we're apart, but it doesn't make it any easier. I'm just so thankful for the times when we are together because dang, I love my family. My parent's house was lit up with so much love and joy over the weekend, and for that I am thankful. 
We arrived home Friday evening to find out my mom decked the house out in red, white, and blue to celebrate Thomas becoming a citizen! My family even gave him a gift of a red, white, and blue shirt and a Captain American flannel underwear shirt haha! What can I say, they are very patriotic! 




We had a big American feast on Saturday night, complete with hot dogs, burgers, potato chips, pickles, and macaroni and cheese.  Like I said, my mom went all out with the American festivities! We had cookie cake during the day and my mom's homemade apple pie a la mode with caramel sauce for dessert at night. We spent the evening bundled up around the fire pit in the backyard, drinking homemade hot chocolate as we laughed, chatted, and reminisced. Pure bliss. 
Oliver, naturally, was the star of the weekend. It is such a joy to see the blessing that he is to our family! He was absolutely delighted by my brother pulling him around the house in his little chariot all weekend!


He was also enthralled by my parent's Golden Retriever, Charlie. He had the most smug grin on his face every time he saw him, and he'd reach out his hand to touch him, but then pull it back so quickly like he was nervous! He crawled up to Charlie one time while he was laying down and very gently pet him, and it was just about the cutest thing I've ever seen! 











My brother and his girlfriend even humored me by letting me use them as models to practice my picture taking at the park over the weekend. They make a good pair, those two. 




It went by way too quickly, but it was enough to power me through the next week and a half until I see everyone again for Thanksgiving! I am so thankful for the gift of family.