Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sweet Joey

It is with both heartache, sadness and also hope in Christ that Joey Aquaro left this earth last Thursday at 2:45am.  The only close people I have lost in my life has been grandparents, and to watch dear sweet friends lose their six year old son breaks my heart in a way that knows beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is not what God intended.

Four years ago I received a call from my Aunt Tina that one of her preschool families were moving to Charlotte.  She wanted me to send the mother of the family, Maggie an email to answer any questions she had about the area.  Maggie and I exchanged a few emails with hopes of grabbing coffee when they arrived.  Not too long after that I received a call from my aunt explaining that their youngest child, Joey, then age 2 was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma and taken to Levine Children's Hospital.   My aunt asked if I would go and offer her support there.

I remember being so nervous.  At the time I did not have any children and had no idea what I would say to this family who had just learned such awful news about the fate of their small child.  Within minutes of meeting Maggie I had no doubt that God had prepared this friendship for me and had set up this divine appointment.

Over the next four years Matt and Maggie have become second family to LD and I as we both lived previously in Michigan and also have no family in the area.  We have spent so many holidays, celebrations, dinners and just quick bites to eat over the last four years that I could not begin to count.  During those four years, Joey became not just a sweet two year old who was fighting a disease, but a little boy that we personally knew.  A little boy who took up residence in our hearts and left memories in our minds.

When Clare was born, her and Joey created a very quick sibling type relationship.  When Clare was little she always wanted to be at the computer with Joey and he did not always want this little toddler bothering him.  Just a month ago when they were over for dinner Joey and Clare were working on a puzzle together on the floor.  Joey gave Clare a section to do and when she got sidetracked he was so frustrated with her for quitting on the job.  They shared a very sweet relationship.  The last time Clare spent with Joey a little over 2 weeks ago, Clare climbed up on the couch next to Joey to share pretzels with him and I just tried to etch the two of them watching tv together into my mind.

Joey was so tender hearted.  We left Elle with Matt and Maggie on new years eve while we went to the movies with Clare and when we got back Joey told me he helped with Elle and earned some coins from his parents in the process.  Joey loved to play make-believe with little boy toys like guns, masks and lots of running around.  I remember being at their house and Matt, LD and Joey having a nerf gun fight throughout the house while Maggie and I attempted to talk.  From early on Joey loved LD and when I would walk in the door the first words I heard from Joey was, "Where is Mr. LD?" while he looked at me with annoyance that I would show up without his playmate.

I am so blessed that Matt and Maggie allowed us to walk this journey with them so we could grow in our own relationship with Christ while watching the way they modeled theirs.  I am so incredibly grateful that I was a part of Joey's Journey and when I get to heaven I have no doubt Joey will be smiling ear to ear, waiting to greet me!  At his funeral yesterday someone said that Joey is up in heaven playing more legos than he knows what to do with...and I have no doubt he is in all his 6 year old glory, loving every minute of it.

Joey will be missed so very much.  It's so easy for me to get caught up in questions of how this could happen to a family like the Aquaros who display such rock solid faith or how this could happen at all to any sweet little child.  But I know the heart of my Heavenly Father and I know that He is good.  So in these days of desiring to ease the pain of our dear friends while easing our own sadness I trust that in the days to come God will show His Glory on this earth!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Good bye to thumb sucking!!!!

I truly did not think I would already be writing this post.  Even thinking about breaking Clare from her thumb sucking habit scared me to death.  I would not even consider it until we went to the dentist and he told me it had to stop as she was developing an overbite. 
This is the first picture I have of Clare sucking her thumb and she was only 4 months old.  Knowing what I know now...I probably would have tried harder to break the habit then instead of thinking how cute it was.  At the same time, I don't know how you break a 4 month old of habits ;)

For some crazy reason that I could never begin to explain, Clare began to only suck her thumb when she had "Lammie" which was a huge blessing to us.  As long as we limited Lammie to her bed, she only sucked her thumb at bedtime.  It was a blessing in that she did not walk around with her thumb in her mouth.  It was a curse because she would be crying, overly tired in the backseat of the car and would never put her thumb in her mouth if we did not bring Lammie.  

So, when we talked about breaking the habit the first thought was that we would need to get rid of Lammie, which REALLY terrified and saddened me.  The dentist recommended Mavala Stop,which is a nail polish you purchase on amazon. 

I purposely waited until we got back from our trip to Michigan and had 5 weeks until our trip to Las Vegas, praying we would be done dealing with the issue.  We talked about it a lot and every time we did, Clare had the same response "No, I do not want to paint my nails, I like to suck my thumb."  Which terrified me even more!

On night one, I was fully prepared to have a newborn all over again.  She was not happy by any means and we had to go into her room at least 10 times to give her a drink of water because she had tasted her fingers again...and it was NASTY!!!!!  So that led to waking up 3 times that night to go potty...from all the water!  But each time she went right back down!

My next fear was that she would totally give up her nap, which a lot of friends said their children did.  Clare has taken a nap 85% of the time since breaking the habit, which is pretty normal for her age.  But she is happy to read books in bed til the end of rest time, even without sucking her thumb (Yes, I am proud!)

Night 2 was CRAZY!!  She went to sleep, no crying and no talking about it...just like a big girl.  LD and I were totally amazed.  I even snuck in a few times to make sure becaue I was sure she had just gotten used to the taste of the yucky stuff...but nope, no thumb sucking!!

Since that wonderful day 2, we have had our good days and bad days.  She doesn't ask to suck her thumb at all anymore and even without the stuff she won't do it, but it does take her a little longer to fall asleep and we have to be a little more firm about bedtime rules. 

I am so very proud of this sweet little girl.  During her very first nap with no thumb sucking I went in to get her to find Lammie in a drawer.  I was crushed when she said she no longer needed Lammie (and my mom was almost tearful!).  I think it was difficult because she wanted to suck her thumb when she saw Lammie, but she has gotten over the hump and Lammie is back snuggling with Clare nightly.  And now Lammie even gets to play outside of her room since she is such a big girl!!

Yay for Clare!!
I am so proud, but a part of me wants to cry because that was the last "baby" thing left about this big 3 year old!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thank you, Grandpa!

A few days before our already planned trip to Michigan for my sisters bridal showers, my sweet grandpa "JB" Vann passed away.  As incredibly hard and sad as it is to lose someone you love, we all know that death is inevitable and when it is my turn to go I pray I go the way he went and leave behind a similar legacy.  I was also incredibly thankful that in God's perfect timing, I was already planning to be home with my family and could both attend my grandfather's funeral and spend time with my dad as he was grieving. 

One of the hardest things about losing my granpa was that he left behind my grandma.  Married for 66 years, it was a very rare occassion to see them apart.  My grandpa has always taken such great care of my grandma and it is painful to know that she no longer has him in this world.

This is them on their wedding day and I am so thankful I got a copy of this precious picture to bring home.

It was such a beautiful service and reminded everyone so clearly that my sweet grandpa is now standing in heaven with Jesus Christ.  I can know that for certainty because of the life he lived and the testimony of those he loved.  A very dear friend of my fathers, Roy Southerland did the service and one thing he said is that Jesus quiety whispered my grandfathers name and that it was time to go....and my grandpa was ready.  When he passed, he just closed his eyes....no sickness, no waiting around, no calling of the family together...he was ready to meet His Creator.  My prayer is that whenever Jesus calls me home, my heart will be ready to respond to his call.

These are my ADORABLE grandparents this past Christmas.  Aren't they beautiful???

I am SO thankful and incredibly grateful that my grandfather chose to live a life that honored Christ and raised his 3 boys to do the same.  His choice to live a life for Christ is what has provided me a solid foundation to know my Heavenly Father and now to teach his great grand daughters about the God I personally know and love.

My sweet grandma after the service.  This was so precious and special that I got to spend that day with her.

Thank you grandpa for living a life of truth, integrity and most importantly one that mirrored that of Jesus Christ!

Friday, February 10, 2012

What a week!! (picture heavy post!)

Last Wednesday evening the girls and I  embarked on a big adventure.  I flew with both girls by myself...with a layover...at 9pm in Chicago...landing in Detroit at 10pm!  It was seriously set up for epic failure, but my girls were troopers!! I wish I had pictures of our traveling adventure, but me by myself with both of them did not provide much opportunity for picture taking.  I felt like by the end we had a really good system, which is good because I have to do it again by myself next month to Las Vegas!
Needless to say when we got to my moms at midnight we were exhausted.  And most of the next day was spent like this:

 But by Thursday evening we had great visitors!!  My neice Kristyl, her husband Jaap and baby Tyce came to play and have dinner!!  We were so excited to spend some time with them!

After a quiet Thursday we had a CRAZY Friday and Saturday in store.  I don't want to go into too many details, but I attended a beautiful military funeral in honor of my grandfather (I will blog about his passing soon), two bridal showers for Vanessa and a fun evening with high school girlfriends.  The reason we headed to Michigan was to celebrate Vanessa.  So here are some pictures of the shower one of the bridesmaids, Megan and I hosted.
 It was an evening shower and everyone got a white mug with a ring on it with their initials.  We drank coffee and had some yummy treats.
 We used my moms chocolate fountain and had all sorts of yummy things to dip!

 Megan has THE cutest little place and it was a perfect spot for the party!

Here are all the cute little mugs lined up and ready to go!

 Vanessa opened tons of really great stuff!

 One of the coolest things she opened was a hand painted picture for her and Evan's new place, which was painted by her friend (and bridesmaid) Megan.

 Here are Megan and I before the party began.

 A super big treat for me was that two of my high school friends, Hayley and Jessie were both at the shower.  Jessie drove in from Maryland just to celebrate with us!!

And the next day was shower number 2.  This one was MUCH bigger and my beautiful girls got to attend! 

 The ladies from the church I grew up in did such a beautiful job decorating and making it such a great event!

 And of course since Clare was present, she had to help open presents and be a part of the day!!

 One of my most favorite ideas ever is that Vanessa is making her bridal bouquet out of brooches.  She had all of her guests bring a brooch that she will have someone in Vegas put together for her.  I cannot wait to see the end result.

 Then after the shower (I know, are you tired yet??) we went to my friend Hayley's house to play with all the babies.  Clare was also there, but by this point was having a slight meltdown and opted out of the picture.  But here is Elle, Roman and Ava!!
 Finally by Sunday and continuing until Wednesday when we headed home we got to play at Grammie and Papa's house, with no interruptions!!

 As usual, the girls love just being outside on the "farm"

 We took lots of walks and made plans for Vanessa's Michigan reception in June!!

 I think my parents home in Blissfield has turned into one of all of our very favorite places!

 And we were so thankful that after an incredibly busy weekend, Vanessa got to stay and play with us too!!

 Both Grammie and Grandma Jackson drove us back to Charlotte....

But not without leaving Papa with lots of goodbye kisses!!!