Monday, May 30, 2011

Pirate Costume: Take 2

This is the reason we HAD to get E a legitimate pirate ensemble. Since he started showing an interest in pirates a few weeks ago, he has been walking around the apartment wearing a makeshift costume (which really had nothing to do with pirates, but you have to give him credit for his creativity). Thus, the before AND after of Pirate Emmett:



Disneyland Paris

As I mentioned in my previous post, we took Emmett to Disneyland Paris this weekend to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his Double Switch heart surgery. After a six hour drive there, we did little more than grab a bite to eat and crash into our beds for the night, hoping to be fully energized for the days ahead.

Day one didn't start out as planned. For some crazy reason, we didn't think they would be busy yet...I mean, it's only May, right? WRONG. It was nuts. We went downstairs for our breakfast, only to find that the two waiting lines wrapped outside of the restaurant, up the stairs, and into the lobby. I wanted to just say "Forget it" but Baby B had other ideas. I knew that if I didn't get something in my belly soon, Momma would pay the price. We waited for about ten minutes before we saw the hostess, who quite hurriedly pointed at my pregnant belly, called a waitress over, and immediately moved us to the front of the line (ahead of about 40 non-pregnant guests). Score! I finally found one advantage to going to an amusement park 30 weeks pregnant--sympathy seating!

After a nice continental breakfast of breads, cereal, yogurt, and fruit, we headed out for the park...and not a moment too soon, as E had been talking about seeing pirates since the minute he woke up in the morning. Our first stop was Adventureland, because, well, that's where the pirates live. It is there that E took his first real ride--Pirates of the Caribbean. As much as he wanted to enjoy it, he just couldn't crack a smile. It was a little too dark, a little too scary, and a little too creepy for our Big E. We had to laugh though, because Emmett being Emmett, he never cried or complained. He also NEVER changed his expression, not once, even when the boat took a little dip down river. He just stared straight serious. Any of you that really know Emmett can totally picture this, I'm sure. I love that kid.

Since our first ride wasn't a huge success, we decided to follow it up with a classic, "It's a Small World". It is a very small world indeed, and it became a very familiar one as we rode it four times in just two days. Truth be told, E would have probably ridden it four more times had we let him. He loved it. And every time, he just took it all in, noticing something new around every corner. He's such a little observer.

Aside from these two rides, Daddy took him flying with Dumbo as well as Peter Pan. We also spent time at a couple of playgrounds, explored hidden caves, crossed a suspension bridge, and ate numerous popsicles. One of our favorite E moments was when we were walking through a cave. He was leading the way in full pirate attire--hat, flag, and sword at the ready. After turning a particularly dark corner, he immediately stopped, switched on his oh-so-serious face, and headed out of the cave saying "I don't think so...there's pirates in there".

Last but not least, the parade. Joe and I went to Disneyland Paris eleven years ago. Of course, we were in our twenties with no kids, so mostly we just hung out at the restaurants and had some drinks. It was also in October, a particularly slow time at the park, so seeing the parade was not a big deal. In fact, it seemed like we kept accidentally running into it, without planning. Not the case this time. People started claiming their spots along the parade route an hour in advance. Knowing that E probably wouldn't make it an hour, we decided to hit the gift shop, take a potty break, and try to find a spot before it started. This was when Operation Baby Bump came through yet again. As we were wandering the streets, a Disney employee stopped me and asked if I was looking for a place to watch the parade. I said yes, and he pulled back the rope to the handicapped section. He said "You should't be walking around in your condition. Come stand back here." Front row, baby! Apparently, in France, being pregnant is a handicap. I'll take it. I was so tired and sore at this point that I didn't think I could walk a step further anyway. Go Disneyland--way to treat the Mommas!

All in all, our first Disney experience with Emmett was a huge success. In fact, as we were loading up the car, he was crying "I don't want to leave this happy place. I love it here!" Something tells me this won't be our last trip to Disney :)

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today, Joe and I handed over our sweet boy to the surgical team at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital one more time for his third (and hopefully final) heart surgery. Though we had been down this road before, this surgery felt different. On one hand, we were relieved knowing that the "big one" would be behind us soon. On the other hand, we knew this surgery was the most risky one yet. I cannot begin to explain the amount of faith that it takes in God and the surgeons to trust them with your child's life. We felt a tremendous sense of hope and helplessness, all at the same time. We had been discussing this surgery, the "double switch" since I was pregnant though, and we truly believed that it offered the best hope for a long, healthy, and normal life for Emmett. One year later, we still believe we made the right decision.

Joe and I know how lucky we are. We get to wake up to Emmett's big, beautiful smile every day. We get to watch him play, hear him laugh, and feel his hugs. We know that not everyone is this fortunate. Throughout Emmett's journey, we have met other heart families, either in person or online, who still have a long road ahead of them. We also know families who are dealing with the very harsh reality of losing a child to heart disease. We think of them every day and keep them in our prayers, not really having a clue what they're going through...and not knowing why our own beautiful child was spared.

To commemorate the one year anniversary of E's surgery, we are doing two things this week. First of all, we booked a little getaway for EuroDisney this weekend. Remembering the difficult time we were going through this time last year, we just wanted this weekend to be about having fun and celebrating Emmett's life. Believe me when I say that it is ALL Emmett wants to talk about this week...and admittedly, Joe and I are just as excited (maybe even more so)!

The second thing we are going to do is make a donation to The Children's Fund at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. The Lucile Packard Children's Fund supports the Hospital's highest priorities each year in areas that are not covered by insurance: Family and Community Services, Pediatric Research, and Care for All. With Emmett's condition being so rare, we did our homework and felt that LPCH, and specifically, Dr. Frank Hanley, was the right choice for Emmett's care. Their love for children combined with their innovative, ground-breaking work has given hope to families from all around the world who want nothing but the very best for their children. Joe and I have made a commitment to financially support their work every year on this day. We truly feel that they are angels on earth, doing amazing work for children and families. If you feel a tug in your heart to support their mission as well, please read more about ways to give here.

Finally, Joe and I would like to thank each of you, once again, for your support throughout the last four years. Since E's diagnosis in utero, we have felt overwhelming love and compassion from family members, friends, and even strangers who offered everything from prayers to meals to advice. We appreciated each and every gesture, and cannot begin to thank you all enough for keeping our family in your thoughts. It is hard to believe that just one year past his 9 hour open heart surgery, we are living in Germany with a feisty, strong-willed, and healthy Emmett, preparing for the new addition to our family in August. Yes, we are truly blessed.

Much Love,
Missy, Joe, and of course, Big E

Emmett right after his Double Switch - May 26, 2010

Emmett and his hero, Dr. Frank Hanley of LPCH

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Saturday, we ventured out to the beautiful town of Koblenz, about 140 km southwest of Marburg. Joe had seen online that they gave boat tours, and we were pretty sure that would be right up E's alley. Our first little adventure came with trying to use our car's navigation system in German. It got us to Koblenz, but detoured us through every little German town between here and there. Oh well, we just chalked it up to a learning experience and a nice little scenic tour. Needless to say though, we made sure that the drive home was more direct.

Upon arriving in Koblenz, I immediately hopped out of the car to find the nearest tourist center (and bathroom, of course) while Joe and E patiently waited for a parking spot to open up in the garage. Little did we know that there was a children's street fair and a summer-long horticultural event going on, so the place was jam-packed. All along the river were various boat tours that ranged from one to several hours long. Having never taken E on a tour like this, we decided to play it safe and see how he managed for an hour.

The weather was PERFECT--I was more than comfortable in my little sleeveless maternity dress (looking every bit 29 weeks pregnant, and feeling it too, by the way). We sat on the top, out in the sun, and just enjoyed the cool breeze and beautiful scenery. A fortress and a castle were among the beautiful sites, but E only had eyes for the ice cream offerings, so we caved in and let him have a kid's sundae before we even had lunch. It kept him quiet and happy the rest of the cruise...totally worth it. At the end of the hour, we asked E what he thought of the boat ride. In his words, "We floated around and ate ice cream. It was a good time." Deeps Emmett.

After grabbing some lunch at a cute little Italian bistro, we headed up to the castle, thinking that a little tour would nicely round out our day. So we handed over 40 euros for two tickets (a little steep, I thought) and began the not so quick climb up to the castle doors. We walked around a little while before asking the guy at the information desk where we could sign up for a tour. We were then informed that there was nothing to tour in the castle. Most of it was destroyed during the war and what parts have been restored are now government offices. Say what??? No royal bedrooms to ogle at, no thrones, no artwork? What the heck did we pay for then? I was told "the atmosphere". Thanks for that, but I could have gotten "atmosphere" somewhere else for a lot less than 60 bucks. Oh well, live and learn. *

* Footnote: We did discover later that our 20 euro tickets included a few other attractions; unfortunately, there was no time left in our day to take advantage of them. Next time, we will buy the tickets early :)

They did have beautiful gardens though and a few entertainment options--a dance performance, an a cappella group, some birds on interesting mixture of odds and ends. However, we found the best part last...a little wading pond that you could take off your shoes and walk through. Sounds a little strange, I know, but you should have seen the look on E's face when he saw it. "Can I go in that water?" he asked hopefully. "Of course" we said and in he went. Of course, walking isn't really E's style. So it was only a matter of seconds before he was running full force through it, soaking his shorts in the process. His shorts got so wet, and so heavy, that they started to fall down. Eventually, he was running through the water, shorts around his ankles, his adorable little Finding Nemo tighty whities on display for all of Koblenz to see (and, yes, there is photographic evidence in the collage below). I thought the old German men were going to bust something laughing at him, and I have to admit, I almost wet my pants doing the same thing (not a tough feat at 7 months pregnant). I jumped in, fished him out, changed his shorts, and off we went...Emmett protesting the entire time. He had no problem running around half naked and was not ready to go home yet.

So that, in a nutshell, was our day in Koblenz. Quite fun, quite peaceful, and quite possibly a place that we will visit again very soon!

Blog: Take 2

Yes, yes, I realize that the blog is a little outdated now. I can no longer technically call Emmett my Rocky Mountain Baby, and I, alas, am no longer a Rocky Mountain Momma. Therefore, the blog is in need of some updating. This will happen eventually, with the help of my technologically savvy BFF, Dana, I'm sure :)

I also must warn you that I will be taking over as head writer of the site, as Emmett has been quite the slacker lately. I mean, no posts since March...what's up with that, Big E? So, until he can become a little more consistent, he will only be making the occasional guest blogger appearance for the time being. I know that he is a more talented writer than me, not to mention funnier, more creative, and let's be honest, cuter...however, you'll just have to take what you can get for now. For my part, I promise to keep you all updated on our journey over the next two years...the ups, the downs, the highs, the lows, the travels, the adventures, and of course, THE BOYS!

Sending lots of love from Deutschland!
Frau Missy

Your New Head Writer (and my little "in utero intern")

We Made It!

Well, we did it! We made the move. I have to be completely honest here (I mean a blog is where you share your deepest, darkest truths, right?) When Joe came to me several months ago and told me he would like to apply for a job in Germany, I thought "What could be the harm? He might not get it anyway, right?" I honestly didn't think that it would pan out, so when he told me that he'd been offered the job, I suddenly realized the enormity of it all. Moving internationally...with a 3 year old...almost 7 months pregnant. Friends have called me brave, but actually, I think I am just plain nuts. However, we have done this before. And, like before, I know that in the end we'll be glad we have the experience under our belts. Afterall, we are giving our kids an amazing opportunity to be immersed in a new culture, visit fun and exciting places, and hopefully, learn a new language while we're at it (at least a little).

So, now that the shock has worn off, I can tell you that our first week or so in Marburg has been a success. Joe is obviously working, so that leaves E and I the daytime to explore our new surroundings. We are currently living in a hotel, which is wonderful and beautiful. I mean, I haven't made my own bed since I got here and the laundry magically washes itself. Since this is probably the last time in my life that I will get to say that, I am going to enjoy it while I can. However, I must say that I am very excited to move into our apartment in July, so that E has more room to run, and I have a bigger kitchen to get creative in (at least until the baby gets here, when I'm sure we'll be back in carry-out mode for a while).

This week, Emmett and I found all the important things: the best place to feed ducks in the river, the best lunch spots, the neighborhood grocery store, the playgrounds, all of the public restrooms (since Baby B seems to be using my bladder as a trampoline these days), and of course, the toy store. As far as E is concerned, there are no other necessities in life. Ahhh, to be three again!

We have the beautiful old Botanical Gardens, which serves as a wonderful picnic area (plus there is a pond to throw rocks in, so E is in heaven). Joe took us to the zoo in Frankfurt, which is beautiful and much bigger than we anticipated...let's just say that the season pass will be a must. And, last weekend, we took our first day trip to the town of Koblenz. Beautiful. That will be in a separate blog post.

So, as with anything there are pros and cons. Here is how the list is playing out for us right now:
* Beautiful scenery
* New places to explore
* New people to meet
* Tasty news foods to eat
* Wonderful new memories to be made

* Missing all of you :(

So, friends and family, if you are up for a little European adventure, please know that the Balleydier Haus is always open (as of July, that is). Free room and just have to offer up a night of babysitting :)

We love and miss you all!

Missy, Joe, and Big E