Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little Ones Can Get Cancer

After experiencing cancer myself firsthand, and being there during my mom’s treatments, I think that I have grown tougher than your average 28-year-old when it comes to handling tragedy.  There is one exception to this: childhood cancer.

Maybe it is because I am a mommy, and because I am painfully aware of  exactly what is involved in cancer treatments and the disease itself, but I am unable to accept or to grasp the concept of a child suffering in such a tragic way before they even stand a chance at life.

I am drawn to stories about these little warriors, following several of them on blogs and facebook, praying for them, checking in to see how they are doing, celebrating their achievements, and feeling heartbroken if their diseases progress.

I recently stumbled across a blog called RockstarRonan, where a mom has been writing about her three year old who passed away from stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer last May.

I listened to a song that was written about this little boy, and the first time that I heard it, I couldn’t get past the first two verses before I started crying and had to turn it off.  I eventually forced myself to listen to the whole song, but I still tear up just thinking about it.  No matter what your feelings are about Taylor Swift, I think that it would be virtually impossible for someone to hear this and not be touched by the lyrics.

Ronan by Taylor Swift

I remember your bare feet down the hallway
I remember your little laugh
Race cars on the kitchen floor
Plastic dinosaurs
I love you to the moon and back

I remember your blue eyes looking into mine 
Like we had our own secret club
I remember you dancing before bed time 
Then jumping on me waking me up
I can still feel you hold my hand
Little man
From even that moment I knew
You fought it hard like an army guy
Remember I leaned in and whispered to you

Come on baby with me 
We're gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

I remember the drive home when the blind hope
Turned to crying and screaming, "Why?"
Flowers piled up in the worst way
No one knows what to say about a beautiful boy who died

And it's about to be Halloween 
You could be anything 
You wanted if you were still here

I remember the last day 
When I kissed your face
I whispered in your ear

Come on baby with me 
We're gonna fly away from here
Out of this curtained room in this hospital
We'll just disappear

Come on baby with me
We're gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

What if I'm standing in your closet trying to talk to you?
What if I kept the hand me downs you won't grow into?
And what if I really thought some miracle would see us through?
But maybe the miracle was even getting one moment with you

I can not think of a more worthy cause than to help the sick children and their families who are going through this terrible illness and grief.  September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Please consider donating to The Ronan Thompson Foundation or any of the other pediatric cancer groups.

Also, we need to educate ourselves on the signs and symptoms of cancer in young children in order to help catch it early.  I’m not sure if many of you know this, but my mom actually recognized the symptoms of brain cancer in a toddler that she worked with.  She mentioned to the child’s parents that they should get the little girl checked out by a doctor, and thankfully, they caught the tumor early enough.

Please take a look at this list of symptoms that are broken down into categories for different types of childhood cancers.  It never hurts to be more knowledgeable about important, life-saving things!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Construction Truck Themed Birthday Party

We had so much fun with the construction truck theme that I wanted to write an in-depth post in order to share some of the party details. Here is some of the planning that was involved:

Party Favors

Yellow Construction Hats: from Amazon
Tool Belts: from Home Depot
Mini-chalkboard/Stand: from Michaels

Goody Bags: I made these out of construction paper/brown bags and stuffed them with truck stickers, fruit snacks, and construction worker rubber duckies


Fruit Punch: I made this recipe
Frito Dip: I made this
Pasta and Sandwiches: from the supermarket

Lunch Break, Birthday Sign, and Tissue Paper Luminarias: I made these
Caution Tape: from Home Depot
Miniature Orange Cones: from Amazon

Wrecking Balls: tangerines
Spare Tires: mini chocolate doughnuts
Rocky Road: marshmallows on a stick dipped in melted chocolate and chopped pecans
Fruit Skewers: strawberries, grapes, and blueberries arranged on a stick (these took forever to prepare but everyone really seemed to enjoy them)

Nuts and Bolts: chex mix
Pebbles: recees pieces
Logs: pretzel sticks

Dump Truck Cookies: from Etsy seller thecookiemaven

Dirt and Worms: I made this recipe, added gummy worms, and made the personalized signs and labels

Cakes: Rather than buying those fancy fondant cakes, we decided to just order the two cakes that we needed from Giant.  Our guests at both parties said that the cake actually tasted good!


Banners/Signs: I made all of these except for the "party area" sign, and my hubby made the sign on the bottom right

I'm such a lucky girl to have these two sweet guys!

Picture Collage

Newborn to 24 months poster: I made the first poster last year for Ryan's zoo-themed birthday party, shown on the left.  I decided to continue the idea this year for months 12 to 24, shown on the right.  We displayed both of these posters on an easel at his parties.

Toddler Activities

Toddler Work Area: trucks and blocks

Coloring Pages with Crayons: pictures of trucks printed from Tonka
Dump Truck Shirt: from Etsy seller gigibabies

Movie Theater Room: featuring Bob the Builder


Water Bottle Labels: Okay, so, if you were at our party, you know that our water bottles were regular and boring.  These cute labels never made it to the party because although I bought water-proof label sheets, designed the labels myself on the computer, and printed them out, they were unusable because they never dried.  I'm assuming that the problem is that I printed them with an inkjet printer rather than a laser printer (?).  But either way, they all smeared and had to be thrown away.  So... don't make the same mistake that I did and be sure to print your labels on the printer that they are designed for!

I hope that you have enjoyed these tips and ideas for throwing a construction truck themed birthday party!

Ryan's 2nd Birthday Party

For months, we had been talking about yellow digger trucks, reading Sandra Boynton's Birthday Monsters, working on homemade party decorations, and practicing singing the happy birthday song so that he wouldn't be scared of it.

And finally, Ryan's big birthday weekend was here! He waited with anticipation for his friends to arrive at his party. As he watched the first guests make their way through the front entrance, he softly whispered, "friends are coming".

After that, it is all a blur. We were so busy celebrating with everyone the entire weekend. We enjoyed spending time with Barry's parents on Friday, our friends on Saturday, and then my side of the family on Sunday. A big THANK YOU to everyone who came out to celebrate our newly turned two-year-old boy! We are very blessed to have such wonderful family and friends. They are seriously some of the sweetest people and I don't know where we would be without them in our lives.

From top to bottom: part of our friday playgroup, part of our wednesday playgroup, more from friday playgroup, Barry's parents, E- one of my best friends from high school, my friend M and her daughter and son, my friend C and her sons, my friend J and her daughters, and my side of the family: aunts, cousins, and my dad.

I think that Ryan enjoyed his second birthday parties more than he did his first birthday party. Here are a few things that we purposefully did this time around to make him happier:

-a good nap beforehand
-at least 45 minutes in the room before everyone arrived, so that he would have a chance to become comfortable with the environment
-only had a few people sing the happy birthday song to him, rather than a huge group of people focusing their attention on him at once
-prepared for the party for weeks and months in advance by talking about it, acting out different scenarios, etc.

Ryan is also more familiar with social situations now than he was at this time last year, and he can actually understand what a birthday party is, which was not the case with a one-year-old. I think that he enjoyed everything birthday-related this year, and that all of our celebrations were successful.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday!

Happy 2nd Birthday, to our sweet Ryan!

Now (2012)
Then (2010)
At two years old, Ryan is fun-loving, determined, creative, expressive, thoughtful, and stubborn.  He has so many different sides to him, all rolled together into one miniature person. To me, he is perfection.  

If only I could bottle up every single moment: a secret smile that lasts for one second before he tries to hide it, an adorably awkward dance move that occurs in the split second it takes me to reach for my video camera, those rare occasions when he will take a five second break from running and jumping and climbing to wrap his small arms around my neck and softly touch his lips to mine.  Then, in a blink of an eye, that moment is over.  I know that there will be many more moments to come, but never one exactly like it.  Maybe the next time his eyes won’t sparkle as bright or his wobbly legs will become more sturdy.  Maybe he won’t squeeze me as tight or he will say “mom” instead of “mommy”. 

I just want to tell him, slow down a minute baby, mommy isn’t ready for all of this yet!

Every time that Ryan reaches a new developmental milestone, we are eager to see what he has in store for us next.  But lately, I have also come to treasure all of his quirks and inabilities to do certain things.  So, when he mispronounces his L’s as W’s and mixes up his sentence structures (“Where Wucky is?”) I am not going to constantly try to correct him, but instead, marvel in these details.  In the future, when his speech is perfect and he is too self aware, I will surely long for these days again.

I go through videos on my phone of Ryan from about six months ago, and it is like watching a completely different child.  He didn’t have the words to express himself or the physical control of his body the way that he does now.  At the time, I couldn’t wait for him to be more independent, but now, I miss that wiggly boy who lost his balance whenever he tried to run; that teeny infant who didn’t appear to do much more than eat and sleep, but was so curious soaking in the sights and sounds around him. 

We are very blessed. We have been given the opportunity to relive the innocence and beauty of the earliest years of life through our son's childhood. I just want to be there for this little guy every single step of the way. I want him to know that his mommy loves him, although I know that he could never possibly understand how deeply.

I didn’t cry at my wedding (too nervous) or at my mom’s funeral (too traumatized), but here I am with tears rolling down my face at the thought of Ryan turning two years old tomorrow.  This little guy came and turned our lives upside down, gave me the determination to fight for my life, and now gives our whole family incredible hope for the future. He is the reason that I will be happy, no matter what situation life throws at us. Every single day is an adventure with this little man and we couldn’t be more proud of him for just being him.

At 24 months old, Ryan…

Lays down on the floor and asks for “tee-kles” (tickles).

Cheers for mommy and daddy and tells us “good job” and “good helper”

Directs the temperature in the car.  He is either “coldies” or needs more “ay-er”.

Insists on putting on his own shoes. “Ra Ra do it!”

Uses self control by saying aloud really fast “wait, wait, wait, wait!”

Sings by himself the ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Old MacDonald

Says “daddy fix it with his tools” whenever anything breaks

Races his toys and shouts “ready, set, go!”

Identifies most all of the letters of the alphabet consistently (mixes up: c & s, and v & t)

Laughs when he hears other people laugh (this used to scare him)

Is extremely shy and does not talk much in front of other people until he warms up

Naps once a day (prefers his carseat over a bed)

Associates his friends with an activity that he did with them (“Peyton climbing at the park”, “Miles at the swimming pool").

Counts to ten easily, and sometimes makes it up to twenty

Is constantly in motion and his little body never seems to run out of energy

When given a choice between two things, his favorite answer is: "both!"

Doesn't like to stop playing in order to clean up his toys.  Asks for "more minutes?"

Is 99% potty trained at home, and continues to work on potty communication while we are out

Has the cutest little voice and the sweetest expressions when he talks

We will be celebrating Ryan’s birthday this weekend with parties on both Saturday and Sunday for our friends and family.  We decided to do two separate parties when I realized that the guest list was way too long and we would have broken the fire code in our building’s party room.  Also, we will have more time to visit with everyone this way.

Here is a clue to this year's party theme:

Ryan has been helping me out in the kitchen a lot lately.  I think that he enjoys “working” with me on this stuff even more than playing with his toys.  It might make my job take a little longer, but it is completely worth it to see is face light up with excitement over what he did. The chocolate chip cookies were a big hit!

It is still unbelievable to me that when he wakes up in the morning, we will have a two year old. Where did our baby go??


Monday, September 3, 2012

A Boy is...

Just basking in the beauty of young toddlerhood and treasuring the few days that I have left of being a mommy to a one-year-old.  I love our big boy more than he will ever know.

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