Welcome Charlotte Grace!

More pictures for your viewing pleasure!  Follow the link below for a slideshow of Erin’s photographs!

Welcome Charlotte Grace!.

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Charlotte Grace: A Birth Story

Last night, I cried because Charlotte would never be 11 days old again.  Actually, I sobbed and laughed at myself at the same time for being so ridiculously hormonal.  Each day is so precious to me.  Every second a treasure.  I have never wished for time to stand still so badly.  I feel a desperate need to remember everything…every moment, every sound, every image.  A long time ago, before Callie and Charlotte, I can vividly remember sitting down for lunch one day with a coworker and sighing that I could not wait for the weekend or a vacation or some kind of break…and she said something that stuck.  Don’t wish away time.  She said once you have kids, you’ll never wish away time again.  She was right.

There was a time, not that long ago, that time couldn’t go fast enough.  After months of waiting for Callie, and 35 hours with her that went faster than the blink of an eye, we were left at home, alone, to wait again.  To wait to heal.  To wait to try.  To wait to tell people.  Waiting for Charlotte to grow.  Waiting for the cry.  Waiting to see if she could really possibly be able to stay with us.  Waiting for the answer to our prayers.

On Thursday, April 18th, our wait was finally over.  At 2:42 pm, Charlotte Grace arrived.

7 lb. 3 oz and screaming.

That day began with anxious waiting.  No food after midnight, save for a piece of toast at 5 a.m.  We killed time as the clock slowly crept forward, inching toward Charlotte.  It is not possible to be more ready than we were for this baby.  Her room, complete.  Meals in the freezer, done.  Baked goods for Charlotte’s birthday party, check!  We had lots of time on our hands.  When it was finally time to go, I looked into the back at the empty carseat.  I remembered the last time, when we came home without Callie.  How hard I cried when I got in the car.  It’s so hard not to look back and compare.

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At the hospital, it was odd seeing the faces that had cared for me when Callie was born.  I ran into my old doctor, who wished us the best of luck, on my way through the hospital doors.  The nurse that helped me through labor and surgery was there at the nurse’s station and helped me get ready for surgery once again.  As she hooked Charlotte up to the monitor, she looked at ‘the strip’ and told us it looked normal.  Different than Callie’s experience.  We took a picture to document the moment.  So many familiar people, and they all remembered.  How could you not?  And of course, Nurse Cindy was there.  She came down from maternity to give us a hug and wish us luck.  I’m so glad she was there.

And before we knew it, we were whisked away to the OR.  I didn’t remember it this way.  So clean and happy.  It was scary the last time.  It felt dark, even though I know it wasn’t.  It was filled with tension and the hope that everything would be ok, and it wasn’t.  The nurses this time were making cheerful conversation.  The mood was light.  I was put on the table and John was allowed in, a camera for each hand.  We chatted with a nurse about silly things, which helped calm our nerves.  Where were we from?  What do we do?

And then, they told John to stand up.  And we heard the most beautiful sound in the whole world.  Charlotte, crying.  I laughed through my tears because her cry was not what I had imagined.  It was loud.  It was feisty.  It sounded kind of like a pissed-off duck.  And oh my god, was it beautiful.  My doctor proclaimed that she was going to be more of a “Charlie” than a “Charlotte”.  We’ll see what sticks.

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The nurses put her to my breast to nurse, right there in the OR.  And she took to it right away.  My little barricuda baby.  I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was and that she was all ours.  To keep, here on earth, forever.

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After spending some more time nursing and bonding in recovery, John got the honor of wheeling Charlotte’s bassinet to the waiting room, where our family and friends were anxiously awaiting a sneak peek at our rainbow.  As he entered the room, they all jumped up and surrounded her with so much love.  When my doctor came through, they cheered.  And then, Nurse Cindy was there to take Charlotte for her first bath.

Dr. Tudder and Nurse Cindy

Dr. Tudder and Nurse Cindy

When I finally left recovery for my room, Charlotte was placed back in my arms, the weight of her filling up so much emptiness.  I fought back the tears that filled my eyes as I remembered the last time I made that trip.  Without Callie.  The sad eyes of the nurses.  This time, there were smiles.  And cheers!  When John and I got married, my bridesmaids decorated champagne bottles to be opened up on our special ‘firsts’.  First house, first New Year’s, first baby…  We had gone through all of those bottles and had put the baby bottle in the fridge before we had Callie.  And there it stayed, until now.  In that hospital room, we popped the cork and toasted to Charlotte in rainbow cups with rainbow cupcakes on rainbow plates under a rainbow banner.  If you had walked by and not known our story, you might have mistook our room for a gay pride parade.  It was the best party I have ever attended.

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After many happy visitors, we approached the day before we could take Charlotte home, Homecoming Eve.  There was a knock on the door and an unfamiliar doctor came into the room.  “The nurse told me there was something wrong with her heart, ” he said.  And just like that, our world came crashing down around us.  My chest tightened as I clutched Charlotte and tears streamed down my face as the doctor asked questions about Callie’s health.  Did we get an amnio with Charlotte?  Tell me more about neonatal Marfan syndrome.  And he listened to her heart and there was something wrong.  Her heart was skipping beats.  He told us it was likely harmless and transient, but given our background they would rather be safe than sorry.  So, they ordered an EKG immediately and an echocardiogram the next morning.  After he left, John and I broke down into sobs.  How could this be happening AGAIN???  We called our friend, Katie, a pediatrician, who promptly drove down from Baltimore to be with us and reassure us.  We needed someone in our corner.  I couldn’t bear the thought that something could happen to little Charlotte and I desperately wanted to take her home with us the next day.  I’m not sure my heart could have taken going home without another baby.

The EKG was shared with doctors at Childrens National, the same doctors who treated Callie.  They remembered us.  And gave Charlotte the VIP treatment.  As quickly as it came, our fears were eased as the doctors told us that Charlotte’s heart issue was benign and very common.  It would go away with time.  Still, we were jittery and our nerves were fried.  Luckily, we have made some incredible connections through our experience with Callie.  Very shortly after getting the news about Charlotte’s heart, we received a phone call from our social worker, Heather, at Childrens who had been such a comfort to us last January and beyond.  She said she had received a note, saying that Charlotte was having an issue and she arranged for us to have a follow-up echocardiogram within a week with her good friend.  So, on Charlotte’s trip home from the hospital we first stopped by the pediatrician who reassured us that everything would be ok and a few days later, we got the best news at the appointment with Heather’s friend, a great cardiologist at Childrens-  Charlotte’s heart would be JUST FINE.  It is a common issue that clears up with time and Charlotte will have a follow-up appointment in 6 months just to make sure.

And so it was that Charlotte came into this world, with joy and happiness…and just a little bit of drama.

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In the morning of her birth, before we went to the hospital, the skies opened up and it poured rain so hard that it woke me up.  I couldn’t help but hope that I would see a rainbow after the storm.  I thought Callie would make her presence known in some grand gesture, too obvious to ignore.  There was no rainbow in the sky that morning, but there was a rainbow born that day.  Callie was there in that operating room, I know it.

I know it because I have never felt such peace.  Even though I was nervous, I was WAY calmer than I thought I would be considering everything we have been through.  I truly believe that peace came from Callie.  She was there, lighting up our spirits and hearts.  The peace has lingered since that day.  It has filled John and I with such joy and perspective.  God and Callie sent us the baby we needed.  Charlotte is a good baby.  She only cries when she needs something, but when she cries, it is filled with vigor and vitality.  Reassurance of life and, instead of being stressful, each and every one of Charlotte’s cries reminds me that her life is precious.  I thank God for the noise.  When I am tired, I remember the waiting.  When I feel pain from surgery, I remember the pain of my broken heart.  When Charlotte wants to be held, she gets what she wants.

Because she is only 11 days once.  Today is the 12th day.  What will it bring?

I don’t know, but I do know that Callie has taught me to savor it.  Whatever ‘it’ is.

Right now, you can find us enjoying the present moments, so sweet and so precious, with our beautiful Charlotte Grace.

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My dear friend Mabby took these wonderful pictures:

 

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And, we were the blessed recipients of a beautiful photo session with Erin J. Rexroth.  You can see her blog post here with our images.  I was so touched by the gesture and the care and time she put into giving us such treasured keepsakes.  Enjoy a few below! xoxo

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family picture

Charlotte’s Nursery

Thank you so much for all of the sweet messages! We are enjoying every sweet second of our time with Baby Charlotte and we are filled with a happy kind of peace that we know Callie has blessed us with.

I wrote this post before Charlotte was born but I couldn’t post it earlier because the Charlotte’s web theme gave away her name 😉

So, while we are busy filling our camera card with snapshots of our sweet girl, take a look at her nursery! We are in love with it and we hope Charlotte will be too! The ceiling is a beautiful coral color that looks different as the daylight filters through the windows at different times of day. Those stripes were a labor of love by John…and totally worth it. He did an amazing job! We sprinkled in some apple green to go with the coral and mixed up all kinds of patterns…stripes, trefoil, chevron, polka dots, feathers!!…you name it! I busted out my mom’s old sewing machine and made the bunting flag and pillow case for the glider. With the leftover fabric from the room projects, we recovered the vanity bench, created the fabric rosettes for the letter ‘C’, and filled some embroidery hoops for wall decor. We found an awesome used bookstore that had an old copy of Charlotte’s Web, which I used to rip out the illustrations and mount them on scrapbooking paper in spray-painted Dollar Tree frames 😉 And the wall art quote comes from the book, which I typed up and had printed at Costco and framed with an inexpensive frame from Target. Down the road, we’d like to install some shelves in the ‘book nook’ and add some overhead lighting. It is such a happy place to be.

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Can’t wait to bring Charlotte home!

Room details:

Paint (all by Behr)-

Ceiling: Peony Pink

Stripes: Toasted Cashew and Distant Tan

Furniture-

Crib & Dresser- Bentley collection by Target

Glider & Ottoman- Enchanted Coronado collection, Walmart.com

Rug- Target

Vanity & nightstandfamily heirlooms

Feather fabricSpoonflower

Blanket & pillow insert- West Elm

Drapes- Eclipse Thermaback Blackout Curtains from Target

Chevron fitted sheet and changing pad cover- Target

All other materials- JoAnn Fabrics

Rainbow Eve

39 Weeks

 

It’s Rainbow Eve.  Distracting myself with family, friends, and laughs.  Eating LOTS while I still can since surgery is scheduled so late.  Excited for tomorrow.

I appreciate all the sweet messages!  John and I are so lucky to have so many wonderful people rooting for us.  Just wanted to say thanks!

 

And see ya on the flip side!

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In light of yesterday’s events at the Boston Marathon and in remembrance of the Virginia Tech shooting six years ago, I felt like I should repost this piece that I wrote last year on this date. I urge all of you to think of an act of kindness you can do today to remember and honor anyone who has been affected by these terrible events. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Maybe you hold the door for the person behind you. Maybe you make a yummy treat and drop it off at the firehouse or police station. Maybe you make a financial contribution to a deserving charity. I know one of the best acts of kindness I ever received was at the airport…I was standing by myself waiting for John, lost in thought. A woman looked at me and walked past. Then, suddenly, she turned around and told me, “You are SO beautiful.” I’m pretty sure I was wearing sweatpants and hadn’t showered that morning. The woman walked away as quickly as she had come and I was left feeling really, truly, beautiful.

Go give someone a compliment today. Do a kind act. Show the world that it’s not such an ugly place.

Do it for Callie. Do it for Newtown and Boston. Do it for my Hokies.

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our sunshine angel

April 16, 2007.  5 years ago today.  Our world, as Hokies, changed forever.

My life as a Hokie began long before that though.  I was born and raised not too far down the road from Virginia Tech.  Blacksburg is, therefore, a part of my childhood and a part of my soul.  There are no other flags flying, no other colors but orange and maroon in my town.  In my town, people stop and say hello.  The air feels just a little bit cleaner and in a few short months it will be sweet and heavy with the scent of honeysuckle.  A traffic jam only happens in the check-out lanes at WalMart and, in my town, the drawl of a country accent is just as slow as the pace of life.  Oh, man do I miss that.

When it came time to choose a college, I had the world open to…

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Praying in Pictures

Is anyone else ADD when it comes to praying?  Maybe it’s just me, but every time I go to say prayers it starts off great, but very quickly I get derailed.

Dramatization of me praying:  Thanks God for all the many blessings in my life…Thank you for John, thank you for my family and friends, thank you for the dogs,…oh man, Daisy really needs a bath, I think I’ll take her to the groomer,…maybe I’ll swing by the grocery store afterwards since it’s right next door…I could get ingredients to make guacamole….mmmm, guacamole….oh, wait, I was supposed to be praying…where was I??  Sorry God, my bad!

That is pretty much how it goes every night.  I’ve tried saying them out loud, which helps, but it is awkward for me and makes me feel uncomfortable.  I’ve tried praying at different times of the day to see if that helps, but alas, my poor little brain is just not wired to stay focused for very long.  I saw this on Facebook the other night and it reminded me of myself:

womens brains

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

A few months after Callie passed away, I was trying to talk to God and found my mind wandering.  I apologized to him for not being able to focus and asked him to forgive me and help me.  I actually got an answer.  I mean, he didn’t literally speak to me, but an idea popped in my harried little brain and I think it was inspired by him and my sweet angel.  I woke up in the middle of the night with a burning thought:  What if I pray in pictures?  Being a teacher, I use picture cues all the time to help my students focus on the tasks at hand.  Why not use the same strategy on myself?  I wrote it down and there the idea stayed….for a year.  I think about my idea all the time.  It’s been on my “to write about” list forever.  Let’s just say, it’s been marinating.

I woke up today and felt like this was the day I was meant to take this idea out of the marinade and put it onto the grill.  Maybe you will feel like it’s your day to grill it too!

So here we go, here are a few ways I’ve come up with to do Praying in Pictures:

Step One

First, give yourself a ‘prayer outline’.  there is no right or wrong way to pray, right?  But for me, I like to have a structure for myself:

1) Gratitude-  think of all the things you are grateful for, some ideas…your spouse, your family, friends, dogs, home, health, job, answered prayers, sunshine, things that are yellow, Diet Dr. Pepper…  there is always something to be thankful for.

2) Forgiveness-  ‘fess up that you are not perfect and feel the peace wash over you that it’s ok, God’s cool with that… stay humble.

3) Lay down your troubles-  take whatever is bothering you and tell God about it…  I’m scared.  I’m stressed.  I’m tired.  Imagine yourself dragging a heavy load of bricks in a backpack.  Each brick=a trouble.  Every time you list a trouble, take it out of your backpack and give it over to God.  Feel lighter.

4)  Ask for help-  ask God to help you with all the things that are troubling you.  Ask for strength, for courage, for laughter, for healing, for world peace…  Just ask.  You may or may not have your prayer answered, but I think God’s there to help and to listen.  When I was little, I used to ask to win the lottery…that hasn’t worked out….YET!  😉  Be patient!

Step Two

After making an outline, it’s time to add the pictures:

-For #1) gratitude, gather images of all the people or things that you are grateful for.

-For for #2-4) find images that will help remind you of what you want to say… picture cues!  For example, take a picture of a heavy backpack to remind you to lay down your troubles.  Find a Google image of the cross for forgiveness.  Save an image or quote from Pinterest that touches on a theme you want to ask for help with.  Write down a Bible verse or inspirational quote on an index card.  It’s up to you!

Step Three

Put it all together!  Here are some ways you can compile your pictures:

1)  Make a Shutterfly book.

I love Shutterfly!  Make a small book out of your images to keep by your bedside and take it out when you want to pray.  Shutterfly allows you to add text if there are special prayers or thoughts that you would like to include alongside your images.  You could also make one for your kids and include it into their nightly reading routine.  (You are reading to your kids every night, right???  Teacher Kristin says get on it!)

2)  Scrapbook/Journal

If you are a scrapbooker, you may wish to use your creative juices to put together a scrapbook full of the things you want to pray about.  Make it as fancy or as simple as you would like.  Or, glue your images into the first few pages of a journal.  Use the back of your journal to write about your feelings, document your day, keep track of answered prayers, doodle, whatever!  It’s yours!

3)  Create a photo album

example photo album

Use one of these cheapy albums to put your images in.  Same idea as the Shutterfly book, but less expensive.  And maybe more baby-friendly because the pages won’t get ruined if it winds up with a little drool on it.  Bonus-  you can take out the pictures and exchange them for new ones as time goes on!

4)  Use your iPhone

So, this is the one I do…because I am simply too lazy to do the other versions.  Create an album in your phone for pictures and then-voila!- swipe through the album as you pray.  This is the easiest way for me and you can easily delete pictures and add new ones as needed to keep it fresh and current.

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Here is a small sample of the images in my Praying for Pictures album….I get a lot of the quotes from Pinterest:

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It takes just a few minutes to swipe through my pictures and pray without getting sidetracked by my ping-pong mind!

So there you have it…Praying in Pictures!

I’ve created a few images for you to download and save so that you can get started making your own Praying in Pictures project too!  The only thing I ask in return is that if you like this idea, that you share it with a friend.  Pin it.  Facebook it.  It is my Kindness for Callie today and I would love to be able to help others who have the same trouble as me.  Maybe you don’t share the same faith or beliefs, but I know that spending a little quiet time each day in reflection of what we are grateful for, what we can do better with, what we need help with, etc. is good for the soul.  I hope it helps you like I know it will help me 🙂

Freebies:

*To download, click on the picture to open it in a separate page.  Next, right-click on the image and click save.  If you’re going to make a book, print them at your local printing place or upload them to Shutterfly.  I put a link at the end to a pdf of an 8×8 and 12×12 version of the Praying in Pictures cover if you want to upload it to Shutterfly or print at Costco for your scrapbooks…you may have to reconvert to .jpg.

4 x 6"

4 x 6″

Forgiveness Card

Forgiveness Card

Troubles Card

Troubles Card

Help Me Card

Help Me Card

Cover pages in different sizes:

8 x 8

12 x 12

Believe.  Float.  Keep your head up.  Hope.