Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pulling on the heartstrings of a momma with an angel baby


John & I are introverts. We prefer a night in opposed to a party, a quiet walk together over a dinner party, and a netflix-and-chill night over a crowd any day. We like people, but we're pretty happy over here in our cave o' the Castros, pajama pants and kids giggling on the rug. So, I guess the fact that we are so open about Eli's passing comes to surprise a lot of people. The truth is, talking about him heals us. And it heals the world of child loss one outburst at a time. My child may be dead, but he's not gone. He's not forgotten. He lives here in our hearts and minds and we celebrate him, and we rejoice for him, and we involve him in our family's' life. 
We will always miss him.
We will always dream of what could have been.
And we will always hurt for the touch of his hand, his heartbeat at night, sleeping peacefully, his smile, his life.
But we will always be grateful for the short time he was here. And we will always celebrate his birthday. And we will always hang his ornaments at the top of our tree. 

It's a little hard sometimes, for the people looking in. 
I know. 
What to say? How to act? It's not natural to bury your child, especially when he's only 6 pounds and 5 ounces. When they're the perfect image of their daddy. When you'd give your own life to trade places. When all you have left is handprints, footprints, a lock of hair, and a death certificate, stained with tears, wrinkled from the grasp of a newly-made angel mommy, she, herself, crumpled on the floor. 

What can you say?

We have a small chest in the closet with a few memories from the hospital, a baby book with blank pages, stuffed with cards, and a shadow box hastily put together one day and it hangs in our bedroom. I wear a necklace with his footprints on it constantly. It never comes off. In fact, when I filmed the Dr. Oz show, they had to tape it up because I wasn't removing it for a necklace that was a better length. I love those little feet. They fascinated me from the second he appeared. Tiny feet, so perfect. 

A lot of parents have their child's foot or hand prints tattoo'd on themselves in memory. I'm not a tattoo kinda gal, but I love the fact that they have a life-size reminder of their child, not in a book or a certificate. They can see them, and touch them, and picture them all the time. 

BUT, last week, I received the most AMAZING gift in the mail. 
I literally lost my breath as I pulled it out of the packaging. 


It was Eli's actual footprints, in sparkling gold.

It took me daaaaaayyyyyys to find the perfect place to hang it, because, well, is there really a perfect spot for something like this? I wanted it to be bright, so the gold would shine. I wanted it to be somewhere that I could see it all the time. I wanted to keep it in my pocket, really, and if I had a pair of jeans with a 12x12 pocket, I mighta tried. :)
But, finally, I decided on this little wall in the dining nook, surrounded by the brightest windows in the house, and in the place we spend most of our time. 
And it looks perfect.
This fall, it will be ten years since those little footprints were taken.
Ten years since we held him for the last time. 
Ten years of life without him.

How big would his feet be now? Would they be chasing his siblings around the yard? Jumping on the trampoline? Peddling his bike to school? Racing in pace with his daddy? 

A decade we've missed you, sweet Eli. 

So THANK YOU, Minted, for making this special gift for us. For taking the time to make sure the measurements were exact, for thinking of us and our son. You have made something more special than you could ever know. 
(They didn't ask me to write this or promote them in ANY way, by the way... just LOVE them!)

So, to my new angel families wondering how they can live life in this storm, know that in ten years, we still hurt, but we've healed.
We still cry, but we rejoice.
We still miss him, but we have faith he is here with us, and we'll see him again.

We will always be broken.
We will never feel whole.

But our hearts can still beat, even covered in band-aids and duct tape. 
And yours can, too.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

DIY Valentine Chair Envelopes (Pottery Barn Inspired)


So it was 6 years ago that I first created some "I'm not paying that for that" Valentine treat bags that I had seen in the PBK catalog. It was my first "PB Hack", or whatever you'd call it. My favorite hack was the Halloween Bags that I did later that year. They turned out cuter than I could have ever thought! But, looking back on this photo, I can't help but smile at the little toys stuffed inside them that told a tale of who those kids were that year. In fact, as I read through the past years, these bags held trinkets every year since Evan's second Valentine's Day that spoke volumes about who they were in that moment. From Hello Kitty and webkinz and Thomas the Train (which would last for yeaaaarrrrrrs) and Chuck & Friends, all the way to jewelry and legos. It's amazing, isn't it, the way little landmarks can bring so much love to your memory?


Well, this year, I decided to make anew. The treat bags are smooshed and bent, and loved hard. And as kids grow bigger, their "things" aren't as big and bulky and full of monster truck wheels and stuffed animals, so I decided that I would once again, be inspired by the brilliant mind of Pottery Barn and make big Valentine Envelopes for their chairs, like this one:

From PotteryBarn.com
Super cute, huh? I didn't want the scalloped edges, and I wanted it to look a little bit more like an envelope, so I had to change up a few things, but it was pretty easy.
For each envelope, I used 1 1/2 pieces of stiff white felt in the longer size, and 1 sheet of red glitter felt. I also bought red cotton yarn that looked like it wasn't going to fray as easily as the cheap yarn I usually buy, some yarn needles, and red ribbon.


Step 1: Fold one piece of white felt in half, and cut it on the fold. You'll use ONE of these halves on your envelope, (unless you mess up like me, and then you'll use both). Fold the other one in half, but do NOT cut it. You can place the half sheet on top of the whole sheet and it should look like this:
(I cut my half sheet a little shorter than the halfway fold, but you don't need to do this.)


Step 2: You need to cut a small dip in the half sheet to make it easier for the kiddos to get their goodies out of the envelope. I used a dinner plate as a guide, and cut it about 1.5 inches down. (This was my second try, so I also cut the sides down a bit less than the first fail). 


Step 3: Because I wanted it to look like an envelope, I lightly traced a line coming from each bottom corner up to the center of the cutout. I used the felt i had cut, but you perfectionists can use a ruler and measure and trace.


When you're done, you should have lines kinda like this:


Step 4: Fold the top down and draw faint marks from the upper corners down to however low you want the envelope flap to fall when closed. Mine was about 3/4 of the way down.  (I started mine a bit below the top corners because the card envelope I was looking at had tapered ends, but it would be a lot easier to just make the one line. Your choice.)


After tracing, it should look like this: 


Step 5: There are different ways to do this part. If you want to sew with a machine, now is the time. If you want a no-sew option, grab a red sharpie and fake it, or if you're an in-betweener, grab your yarn and a needle and lets go! You're just making the lines on the half size felt right now, so leave the large sheet alone. I started at the corner and went up to the top and back down the other side. Since I like my projects to look "Handmade with love", I didn't aim to make exact straight stitches or stitches of equal length, but you can vary it as you like.




Step 6: Cut your ribbons. Think about where and how you'll be hanging these, and measure accordingly. I ended up cutting mine two times the length of the red felt.


Step 7: Keep the ribbon edges from unraveling by burning them with a lighter, like me, or sew them if you're awesome like that.
Step 8: On the large piece, you need to cut slits for the ribbon to go through, unless you decide to sew them or hot glue them on. I cut mine about 1.5 inches in, and used a steak knife to stab them through. Perfectionistas can measure and use a utility knife, and it'll probably look a lot cleaner than mine. 


Step 9: Weave the ribbons in the slots so the ends are hanging out the backside of your envelope.


Step 10: Its time to put them together! Start at a corner and sew/glue/stitch all the way around the outer edge. Make sure your envelope flap is OPEN.
When it's done, it should look like this:
(And yes, if you're stitching, you probably feel like your fingers are going to fall off)


Step 11: The heart. I cut a fourth of the page of red felt for each envelope.


Step 12: Cut your heart out. You can trace one using a stencil or you can buy premade hearts at the store, but I freehanded one by folding it in half and eyeing about the size/shape I wanted, drawing a pencil line, and cutting it out (plus a few trims afterwards).


Step 13: At this point, you can personalize the heart if you wish. Write it with sharpie, use glitter glue, paint, or, if you really like the look of Pottery Barn, you can take the heart to a shop to get embroidered. I hadn't decided at this point what I was going to do, so I went on to the next step.

Step 14: Once your heart is cut out, attach it by sewing, stitching or gluing it on. I put Emma's heart glitter side up and Evan's with the plain side up.


Step 15: Velcro. I used self adhesive velcro dots. Put a set together and stick it on the flap of the envelope. THEN close it, and the bottom part of the velcro should stick exactly where you need it. If you want to add more stability, you can hot glue the dots on, but they've always stayed on for me.



In the end, I found some iron-on monogram patches at Hobby Lobby, but I glued them on, because, I just don't know the rules about felt and irons? (and I'm lazy, so...)

They looked adorable.




SO, for about $6.00 each (if even that), they've got new treat bags for Valentine's Day.
LOVE! 

XOXO, Heidi
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2016 Valentines are here!! (yes, already.)

Valentine's Day isn't the first "official" holiday of the year, especially for those of us that celebrate things like National Spaghetti Day (1/4), Houseplant Appreciation Day (1/10),yesterday's National Spouse Day, and every darn holiday in between. We celebrate life up in this hizouse, and if it means having to go out and pick up the shredded remains of the cute "Squirrel Appreciation Day" lunch sacks Evan packed for Pearl & Earl before he gets home from school , so be it!  
But Valentine's Day if the first real dress-your-house-UP holiday of the new year, and it always acts as kind of a jumping off point for the year. The trees are put away, the stockings no longer hung, and John Denver has stopped his holiday cooing nonstop on the ipod. Home is a little naked. Until Valentine's Day!
We've been all up in hearts and pinks and reds since January 1st, actually. 
Can't help it. 
Holidays are my crack. I remember picking out the *best* card in the box for the cute boy I liked that didn't know I existed, the biggest one for my best friend, and cutting out the big teacher one on the back of the package. remember that, guys?!?
Anyway, so when the stores started pulling out their valentine cards, it gave me the green light to go forth and hunt!
When I found these adorable cards, I knew they were the ones.
Evan is all about sharks this year (remember Shark Week?!?), and they actually had several shark themed cards! We ended up choosing this one, because a fin can be on a shark, or a whale, or a dolphin, or - my personal favorite - a narwhal! 
 I love the scalloped edges (you can opt to have regular straight ones), and the options for the back are REALLLLLY hard to choose from. I liked putting his photo on the back, but I also don't like the thought of his photo being thrown away by 24 classmates. (sad face mom emoji). Luckily, I didn't have to decide, because Evan's favorite game is tic-tac-toe. 


We ordered a couple packs of sharks & whales off amazon, and got right to it!
We put a shark in a treat bag and tied it shut. Then, we punched a hole in the envelope and tied that shark to the Valentine, because, don't you think first graders get enough candy already?!?



Luckily, there is ONE extra toy, and I'm crossing my fingers he decides to lovingly present that narwhal to his momma... (Unicorn of the SEA, PEOPLE!!!)

Now, Emma was a different story. Since she's in middle school, she doesn't get the big ol' sugar-filled class party anymore. :( She wanted something that would be cute and candy-friendly, so when we saw this one, it was pretty obvious. 


Can you guess what candies she grabbed to go with them??


Since she didn't need a massive amount of cards, we grabbed a dozen little drawstring favor bags for the X's and O's. (Hooray for not having to tie all those bows!!) In fact, if I had thought about it, I probably would have just grabbed them in blue for the sharks, too...




Any other ideas for non-sugar Valentine treats?!?

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Friday, January 8, 2016

2015 & 1/2

I could write a lovely post about our Christmas and show you adorable photos of the einsteins unwrapping bright packages and smiles from ear to ear and egg nog in santa mugs and baby jesus breakfast and the aftermath of paper confetti on the floor, but I can't really.
Hubby got me a new phone for Christmas this year. He knows I'd be fine with mine for as long as it lived, but he also knows every spec and feature on every phone and model, and knew I'd love the Haoory Potter-esqe photos and quality of an upgrade. Plus, PINK. I mean, really. 
SO, I took a kazillion pictures of Christmas! But, when I uploaded them to my computer, I realized that those Harry potter pictures are VIDEOS! Which, if I woulda thought about, made sense, but at the time I pictured little Harry looking into the frame at the photo of his mom and dad dancing in the fall leaves as if they were still alive, and it burned into my head that they were PICTURES, dammit! 
So all those adorable little videos will have to just suffice for the Christmas of 2015. The Christmas of magic pictures. 
Or videos.
Whatever.
But i got this photo! A Dobby eye.
Happy Christmas.

On the eve of the new year, we celebrated noon years with some friends at the pool. 
Evan, like his cold-blooded momma, stayed in the hot tub the whole time, because, well. If it's not over 107, it might as well be ice water. 


Emmie, however, has never missed the chance to embrace the fun, and hopped in. 


And somehow convinced a little boy to do some amazing not-so-synchronized swimming.
Only Emma.


That evening FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, we left our house for NYE. Now don't get me wrong, I very much prefer the comfort of pjs and bubbly grape juice in fancy plastic flutes and cute kids in footies and a sleeping Grandad on the couch and uncles grudgingly wearing party hats for their niece and nephew (and sister's) entertainment. BUT, we were running early int he morning, and since both uncles are living in the city now, we decided to move the party on up to them. 


First stop: Dinner with Uncle K at Tokyo Japanese Restaurant.
 Evan got a kids cup with the cutest octopus on it.
We went ahead and called it. That was the New Years ball dropping, and octopus was going for a ride. Because, there always has to be some adorable story to go with every adorable octopus straw.


When his meal came, an umbrella was added. 


I'm half Japanese. Did you know? I bet not. Most Asians think I'm "just plain white" (?!?!), and most people here in Oklahoma think I'm Native American. What was your guess?
I may not have gotten a whole lot of the Japanese traits, but one that I DID get, was that I *LOVE* cute little ... things. Octopuses on straws! food shaped erasers! stickers with googly eyes! squinkies! small colored ziplocks! animal shaped eggs! Hotwheels with faces! Heart rocks! RAINBOWS! Cute zipper pouches! Emojis for dayyyyyzzzzz!

So, bento box dinners with whipped cream and a little cherry... 
(Heart eyed emojis x200)


When we got to Uncle K's place, we lugged our 2000 pounds of crap upstairs, unpacked, inflated airbeds, ticked off the guy downstairs, and settled in.
The einsteins LOVE watching the uncles play final fantasy online. I mean, LOVE it. They look forward to it above all else, which is good because Uncle K doesn't have cable or whatever. One of those homes where netflix is TV, you know, the majority of homes now (and remember how I said I run from the newest craze...we still have cable...).

So anyway, the einsteins are all nestled up to their uncle on the bench and they're watching him run around the world with the other uncles, who are in their cable-free homes, just like my siblings and I used to do back when Uncle K was just big brother K and we would gather round the massively fat TV and watch him get to the castle over and over again with that stupid toad saying the princess was in yet ANOTHER castle (Whyyyyyyyyyy?!?!). 
And the hubby and I laid down to relax until it was time to make the pilgrimage to the ball drop downtown. 

And now, I'll let Evan tell you the rest. 


"I went to my uncle's apartment. The only new years channel was Mexican (a spanish speaking channel on the internet) so we had to watch that. We had to shout very loud when there was 3 seconds left. I had to shout loud because my parents were asleep. We pretty much missed New Years (the downtown ball drop).


Daddy is snorning (haaaaa shhhhhh), the computer is in Spanish, and he didn't have time to draw himself or Emma, but that's about the just of it. 
We're old, people.
We zonked out in semi sleep and ruined New Years Eve, although later they said they were happy because they'd rather watch Uncle K kill trolls anyway. 
SO, yeah.
We groggily sang the New York, New York song with the gremlins, streamed on the internet, and pried the kiddos off the bench and put them to bed for a few hours of  restless sleep, due to sagging air matresses and just not being at home.

Those few hours went by pretty quick and ended with one of the many earthquakes that have been twerking all over the great state of Oklahoma, so we sleepily got up for the first race of the year. 


No makeup, sunglasses, ponytail, no sleep...feltl like a Friday morning in college...


The freezing race went pretty quick, but we were exhausted. 
They served black eyes peas afterwards that were actually really good! Not sure if it was because we were starving and cold, or if it was actually yummy, but either way, we went back for more and celebrated our slower finish times, yet the kids still placed 1st (Evan) and second (Em) in their age divisions. 



That day we went to bed at like 6pm and rejoined the living the following day, grabbing the first geocache of 2016 :)


Happy 2016, everyone!
(Making it rain invisible blessing tickets over you all)


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