This house, our home

With our house up for sale, and the move to Texas becoming more real, I've started to reflect on our time here in this house more and more.

I've always been a girl of the suburbs - cul-de-sacs to play tag until our moms called us in for dinner, minivans parked in the driveways, sidewalks etched with pastel chalk houses and scribbled names. Our first house, where Ricky and I got our start, was a picture perfect cape-cod with a fenced backyard and great neighbors. But we wanted kids - and although the house itself was a good size, the yard is where we knew we'd inevitably be spending much of our time. Grilling out, riding bikes, shooting hoops. We got the itch to look for something with more outdoor space.

Ricky's boss told us that his neighbor across the street was preparing to sell their house - they were being transferred to Florida. He made a phone call, sent us a picture, and we were able to stop in to the house before it was officially listed. I begrudgingly made the drive across the river to Southern Indiana (I truly had no desire to become a Hoosier) to appease my husband and "just look" at this house. At first sight, I didn't really care for it. It's a salt-box style house and had no character from the outside. I may have even told Ricky to just turn back around so we didn't waste this couple's time. We continued down the long driveway and I agreed to "just check out" the inside. But only briefly. I was, after all, 5 months pregnant and didn't think it was even practical to take on selling our house, buying another one and moving halfway across town.

The owners showed us around, room by room. A large, spacious kitchen. French doors to a beautiful 3-season sunroom. A great size family room that opened up to the 2nd floor. A perfect master bedroom. A master bath with 2 sinks and a deal-sealing walk-in closet. Not to mention 2 more bedrooms just waiting to made into nurseries and a large finished walkout basement. All set on 2.47 acres of green grass with a tree lined back and side yard. It was much bigger than our first house. And MUCH more grass to cut. But before I knew it, we were negotiating the sale of their tractor and signing on the dotted line.

Our house in Louisville sold in 12 days. TWELVE DAYS! That was when the market was much much different. We were settling into our new house just before Christmas in 2006 - 4 months before I was due with our first child.

It needed our own special touches here and there, but for the most part, I really did like the house. We had many "big" plans to really make it our "dream house" - things like adding on a large front porch, changing the exterior from vinyl siding to the Hardi-plank kind, updating the kitchen, etc. In fact I made Ricky promise me those things would happen if we decided to move. However life kind of changes things sometimes. After Ethan was born, we became a little more practical as we saw our money fly away with diapers, wipes, and formula. And while I never want Aiden to feel like we had to sacrifice because of him, the truth is we kinda did. When he came into our lives, we immediately began to panic about money. I was going to have to quit my job in order to organize his medical needs like doctors appointments and twice-weekly therapies. I can remember Ricky telling me shortly after Aiden was born to prepare for the reality that we may need to sell our house. That was a scary thought.

Somehow we made it work. That "somehow" comes down to the fact that my husband works for an amazing company who not only recognizes and values the families that work there, but also provides can't-be-beat health insurance options, which we became quite familiar with very quickly. Most of all, Ricky has single-handedly worked his rear-end off in order to support our family. For both, I am very thankful.

But back to the house...

This house was the setting for my maternity photos (taken by my mom as I was on bedrest). It's the place that welcomed us home as a family for the very first time. It's where I learned to perfectly time my babies feedings so that I could sneak outside on the deck to drink a beer with my husband to the sound of bullfrogs croaking in the creek.

This house is where all of Ethan's milestones were carefully captured on video and jotted into his baby book. His first smile: May 16th, 1:42 pm. The first time he sat up on his own: July 22nd, 11:15 am. The carpet in this house hides spit-up, cookie crumbs and spilled milk, most of which has been removed from the surface with constant vacuuming and professional steam cleaning.

This is the house where I got to introduce Ethan to his brother for the very first time. It's where we laughed and cried a million times as we learned to accept our new roles as parents of a very special boy. It's where I made oodles of phone calls to doctors all while trying to capture Aiden's milestones on video at the same time (but often missing it by a nanosecond). You see, he not only has Apert Syndrome, he also has "2nd child syndrome" - which means half the amount of photos taken, half the number of videos of him cooing and making funny faces, half the spaces filled out in his baby book. :)

These walls have scratches, knicks and dings that can never be washed away. There's a little dent above the couch where a toy was "accidentally" (on purpose) thrown during a tantrum. This house has carefully planned out stars stenciled onto the top of Ethan's bedroom wall and stripes that I painstakingly painted by hand in Aiden's. And it's got a gentle slope in the backyard where Ethan experienced his very first sled ride with his daddy.

So many of our memories can be wrapped up and packed away into boxes when we move. These ones, however, cannot. And even though I had a hard time feeling settled here - always holding out for the day that we would pick up and move back to a neighborhood with sidewalks and block parties - somewhere along the line it became home.

We finally got around to doing some of the things we'd always talked about doing to this house to make it our own, only to stick a "For Sale" sign in the yard in hopes that it will help someone else want to make it theirs.

As we prepare to leave behind our first "home", I can't help but feel a little sentimental. While I'm really looking forward to this next chapter in our lives, moving to Texas so far away from family is going to be a huge adjustment. But, I think we've proven that we can manage change quite well.

Aiden's Surgery Photos

I spent some time organizing old photos and I decided to put together a slideshow of all of Aiden's surgery pictures. If you want to see them at your own pace, rather than in this collage, just click on the "View All Images" link below. To view captions for each picture, you can scroll over the photo during the collage (it will also stop the show until you move your cursor off the picture).

Pennies from Heaven

Recently, my family was presented with a donation check from the 2nd grade class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School.

Each year, in preparation for their First Communion, the class does a service project - and this year they chose to raise money through a program they called "Pennies from Heaven". The money was to be collected over a period of a few months leading up to their First Communion. At the end of that time, the class decided to donate the money to a family with a child that had a medical condition. Aiden's name and information were given to the class by Ethan's preschool teacher, who has a 2nd grader in that class. And the class chose Aiden to receive the money!

I was so touched that Kathleen (Ethan's teacher) would think of us and submit Aiden's name, and also that the 2nd graders chose Aiden as the recipient. I knew I wanted to do something special to say "Thank You", so I thought what better way than to see if I could bring Aiden in to the class to do it in person. I made a few phone calls and arranged it just in time - as today was their last day of school!

When they chose Aiden, they also included handmade cards for him along with the check. They were the most precious things - made of construction paper and crayons - that said things like "We will pray for you every day", "Hope you can get better", and "You are very special and I love you".

When the class saw us as they came in from recess, a roomful of "Awwww"s broke out. Ethan was my helper and handed out the thank you notes we brought one by one. Aiden was surprisingly not shy like he usually is in front of a group of people. I introduced the boys and talked a little about Aiden. I thanked them for thinking of us and told them we were very excited to be able to meet them all. Then, I asked if anyone had any questions about Aiden - hands shot up like crazy.

It felt so good to be able to talk about Aiden to a roomful of impressionable 2nd graders. Their questions were very good ones including "How many surgeries has he had?", "When you go to Texas for his surgeries, where do you stay?", "Will he need more?" and "Did his brother have to have any surgery?" :) It was clear to me that the teachers had spent some time sharing things about what he's been through and showing them pictures prior to our visit. These kids were so composed and not at all afraid to be curious. They also knew compassion - you could hear it in their voices.

I was very impressed with these kids. I have to be honest, I was a little nervous about the experience, just because you never know what kids are going to say, especially when presented with something they know nothing about. But I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and realized then and there that Aiden will be just fine - even around other kids he meets in the future. I loved being able to raise awareness about his condition by talking about it at their level and also encouraging them to ask questions if they wanted to. I feel as if we are one step further in our journey. I'm so thankful that we were presented with this opportunity! The only thing I regret is not getting his picture taken with the class. I had my camera with me and forgot! :(

But once again, THANK YOU OLPH 2nd graders from the bottom of our hearts!