Saturday, February 3, 2018

Different vs. Unique : It's all how you see it

As I worked on revising some old powerpoints from a communication and language development class I taught seven years ago at my previous institution, I inserted videos I had taken of Charlotte when she was 11 weeks old and 7 months old to illustrate some of the early language acquisition concepts. I miss when Charlotte Annie was so itty bitty small and the days of wearing her on me a newborn in the carrier. Then I stumbled upon this video when looking up Collin Raye's "Not That Different" song that I wanted to include on a slide about how children with hearing loss have more in common with their hearing peers than not.

Seeing this mom sign this song as she wore her baby made me even more nostalgic for those first few months after Charlotte's birth and I could feel myself sliding down that slippery path to the darkness and shock of everything before snapping back to reality and turning toward the schoolwork at hand. There are days I hate what infertility has made me become - at times I feel like I'm hollowed out and walking around in the shell of who I used to be.

However, I am thankful for the chance to be changed and made into a different person in spite of unexpected challenges and each day that comes brings that. It's hard to not be defined by infertility but I'm working on changing that (self) perception of me to embrace other aspects of who I am.

The other day when speaking with a student, I mentioned we should view children by their strengths and their uniqueness rather than focusing on the deficits or disabilities. Why then, am I not doing that when I view myself?? I want to be transformed and focus on other parts of me. God willing I will get past the always present void and try to fill it with good that can come out of it. All things work for the good of the Lord and this moving song in such a beautiful format in the above video is helping me to reframe my perspective. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sweet Charlotte's First Birthday Party (March 2017)

Seeing as it is now 2018, this post is a bit lot delayed!  It is late January and I'm now beginning to think about this year's birthday party for our sweet little but first I am reliving the memories of last year's celebration!

We went with a Sweetheart theme since everyone calls Charlotte, "Sweet Charlotte" or "Baby Charlotte" in our families.  It is so cute!  So we had a candy theme for her first birthday celebration that took place the Saturday before Spring Break.  Being that we're a family on an academic schedule, we're so fortunate her birthday is close to or during Spring Break.  She was born on the first day of spring break in 2016 and this year, her birthday will fall on a Wednesday during the week before the brief time away from work so it will be fun to celebrate as a way to kick off the break.

Officially one on her birthday morning!

On her actual birthday she received her mass bag that contains pictures from her baptism on the front of it!

We celebrated her birthday that fell on a work night by going to dinner at Eat n Park where she had her first taste of a milkshake and a cookie!

Back to prepping for the birthday party, it was fun having a mini photo shoot in this adorable cupcake onesie for Charlotte's birthday invitation we mailed to family.  She also wore a frilly pink tutu gifted to us by my sister-in-law's mom.  Nowadays, as Charlotte has grown, the tutu is part of her bunny rabbit's dance outfit!  Looking back at these photos I'm reminded of her spiky hair she sported from October until March last year!  She looks sooo different now!



I had forgotten what she looked like with just two itty bitty teeth!

This was when she barely tolerated tummy time...these days she LOVES being on her belly and that is her preferred sleeping mode!

Once invitations were sent out in early February, it was time to start creating the decorations and pulling together the small details for our candy or sweet themed party for Charlotte Annie!  She had her one year old photos done at the end of February and I knew I wanted to incorporate some of the hand made decorations into her photo shoot thanks to her photographer's suggestion.  So, all of February was spent working on the little details.

I was excited to use this high chair banner in the photo shoot and also during the party that I had picked up at a consignment sale with Aunt Marie the previous fall for a mere $3!

These were meant to look like candy and lollipops.  The one on the left looked more like a balloon but that was okay as it added to the celebratory feel!

I also made the felt heart garland after being inspired by a friend during a game night at her home.  She had had heart garlands hanging in her windows and was a fun way to add some color to the background.

In addition to decor, I wanted to be sure to have hands-on activities for the kiddos since we expected eight children in anticipation of helping us to celebrate Charlotte's first year.  So I created colorful matching candy and shape puzzles that went along with the candy theme, a scooping activity of putting together a packet of "Rainbow Seeds", and an interactive Candyland game on one of our living room walls.  This last activity was similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey but instead we delighted in putting the gingerbread cookie cutouts on the Candyland path.

See the gingerbread cutouts tucked in the mirror?  

Another activity that kept me busy last January and February was putting together the first annual photo book of special moments from Charlotte's first year.  She really enjoyed going through the mini photo album that has Noah's Ark on the cover.  The album was the perfect gift from my mother-in-law the previous Christmas since it matches the St. Francis Room and inspired me to start the annual tradition of gifting Charlotte with this birthday photo book!

Hey, I know these people!

We left the Candyland game up on the wall for a few days after the party to extend the fun during play time!
I also created this frame that we had on display during the party and actually left on the hutch all the way through December.  The shirt was worn by Charlotte when she was three days old and was surrounded by the small bracelet from the hospital, a sonogram photo, and a picture of her wearing the shirt.  The frame is now in her bedroom but there was something special about seeing this frame marking the first few days of meeting her outside the womb being prominently displayed in our main room of our home.  What a blessing she has been to so many of us.

I also stayed up way too late the night before the party working on putting together this collage of monthly photos that proudly hung on the wall of the living room.  We left this frame up all year as well.  I suppose I need to start thinking about updating the photos for this March now! 

We also have pictures from the one year old photo shoot hanging up throughout our home that we revealed at the birthday party and left up for the rest of the year.

   This is the door to our bathroom.                                                                               Isn't it cute?!

 I will probably leave this frame's not like we're going to update tub pictures every year....because that would be strange!  I may embarrass Charlotte (and Adam) with some of my antics but I won't go that far...!  ; )

 This picture is from Charlotte's newborn photo shoot in our home at ten days old.  The outfit from my mom that she is wearing in the photo is displayed above the picture.  I don't see myself taking this small display down from my little corner in the office any time soon either.  

So, the details came together and before we knew it, Adam's Mom was here from California, and it was time to prepare for the afternoon shindig!


It wouldn't be a sweet themed party without an ice cream bar right??

Ah, I loved this purple frame I received at our wedding shower.  Unfortunately, Charlotte broke the frame about a month or so ago.  It had a good run while it lasted!

I borrowed the birthday book idea from a family friend.  The idea is a children's book that is related to the theme of the birthday party is put out for guests to sign and write well wishes in so that each year the birthday child acquires a new book to add to his or her birthday book collection!  To the left is the one year photo album we gifted Charlotte.

These were the instructions for the various "stations" we had set up for the children.  

We were fortunate to have been able to borrow the pink floral and cupcake decorations from a family friend who had also done a similar theme for their oldest daughter a couple years ago.  This same family also let us borrow their punch bowl and shared a delicious punch recipe with us!

The favors were heart shaped lollipops that were half off due to being purchased a few days after Valentine's Day and adorable mini notepads that had pictures of candy on the covers.  I had also created a three inch thick binder of all the pregnancy and monthly milestone update blog posts I had written about our daughter.  I hope Charlotte will cherish reading about the journey of carrying her and birthing her and know how much she is loved inside and out some day through this larger than life "journal" of sorts!  The sign on the cover of the binder is one that was hung up on my door at work announcing our news to students and colleagues!

We collected the "Sweet 16" Letters in the basket to the right and look forward to Charlotte reading them some day!  I also had the blue "Love You" teddy bear Aunt Marie and I made out of the onesie Charlotte wore home from the hospital on display.  What a special gift of time and talent on Aunt Marie's end to help make this precious keepsake.

This was the high chair banner that I ended up hanging here instead.  It says, "I am 1!" and I plan to continue using it each year by changing the number.  See below for one of the professional photos that has the banner in it as well.

This beautiful lace outfit was a hand me down from cousin Riley out in California  It was so delicate and the perfect outfit to wear for this special photo shoot.  In Charlotte's right hand, you can see the sparkly glass heart that has the word, "Hope", written on it with a passage from Scripture in the background.  This was a meaningful ornament given to me by a friend who is also facing some of the same battles I am and I was glad to incorporate this sentimental gift in the photo shoot.  Sadly, Charlotte ended up throwing it to the floor during the photo shoot where it shattered but I'm glad we have it preserved in this photo!  Anyhow, you can see the banner in the background here ~ isn't it darling?!
We tried to stick with the sweet theme throughout every aspect of the party including the food!

We are fortunate Valentine's Day was before the party so we could get discounted heart shaped chocolates as snacks!

Another view of the Ice Cream Sundae Bar!

These small dainty roses reminded me of our wedding reception!

Even my nails got in on the colorful pink action of the sweet celebration.  I wore this fun sparkly little number that my friend scored for me! 

Ok, food time....I went a bit overboard but we had many guests scheduled to come and I didn't want anyone to leave hungry!  We are so lucky to have an awesome cousin who bakes as a hobby and offered to help with the desserts/cake.  Therefore, I was able to focus on the main entrees and side dishes in the days and hours leading up to the party.

Yummy punch and rainbow cupcakes!

Sweet rolls and colorful veggies

Charlotte's cake!!!

Smorgasbord of sweets!  A family friend lent us the black cupcake stand that did a great job of holding the small colorful planters of candy on the bottom rack.  I also placed the small plastic flower toppers from Charlotte's coming home from the hospital cake between each of the planters.  It was special being able to use a decoration from that first March she was with us during the second March!

Now that you've seen the prep pictures, let's take a look at the photos from the party!  The children seemed to enjoy the activities and all enjoyed the food!  What a blessing to be able to share Sweet Charlotte with so many! 

Putting the candy puzzles together before creating Rainbow Seed packets (Skittles in clear plastic bags)

This bright pink dress with the cupcake on the front of it was a borrowed outfit from a family friend.  We have generous friends and are so blessed!


She wasn't sure what to do with her huge cupcake!

All this is for me?!

Time for the Ice Cream Sundae Bar!!

Adam had made homemade strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla whipped cream that we all thoroughly enjoyed as a topping to the sundaes!!


Our home is small but bursting at the seams with love!

Aftermath of Charlotte's work on her rainbow birthday cupcake!

Cousin and baker extraordinaire Susie!  Check out her cute cupcake leggings!  What a cute match to the birthday party theme!!

Sitting in Aunt Liz's rocking chair that was custom designed for Charlotte by her awesome artistic talent!

Love our sweetie pie more than words can say!
That evening, before Charlotte's bedtime, we attempted a cousin picture!


The party...and sweets...kept going the next day as we continued to celebrate with my mother-in-law, parents, and Dan and Sue!
Since we were on Spring Break we were able to enjoy the next several days with family as we explored and went on adventures in Pittsburgh, Ohio, and even Wheeling, West Virginia!  I'll write about those some other that this post is written I have a 2 year old birthday party to consider!