Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hospital Stir Crazy

So, there is always a light-hearted and humorous side of me that surfaces in practically every situation. Don't get me wrong...I can be a complete brat when I don't have coffee, and the day starts off bad, and I get stuck in one of those moods...but when I snap out of it I like to be jovial.

If we were crying one moment, we could be cracking jokes the next moment. If we were getting a little tired and bored, we would try to entertain ourselves. I basically want to let you know that despite the situation we in, we were still able to take a break from the depressive side of things and smile and laugh. My advice to anyone in this situation would be to take a moment to side-step the crap and enjoy the small things that you can.

Here are some of the small things that added to the positive side of things:

You know you've had too much coffee when you begin to lactate the coffee!

Always have to keep it fresh...even when in a hospital wearing a mask.

O yeah, it was the premium stuff too! Forgot to mention that.

I loved the Wish Tree at the Ryan Seacrest Foundation studio...No more sick kids...No More Cancer...and Chocolate for all the children at CHOP.

Survival Meal: it's how you make it when you live in the hospital.

I mean come on...this needs no caption...Logan's butt crack (this is what how we found him at mom and dad's)

Pretty much my motto life motto at this point!

When you get bored you facebook and do things on facebook that bored people do.

Love the mandatory CPR class...I must have saved Cecile about 5 times in was a good day for me.
You've gotta love tall doors with low handles.

Even more-so when you are a tall person.

And we'll end with Oops! No more "oops" with Oops! disposable panties.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Convenientes - Touched by Those Who Care

What's up with that title? I never have used Latin a day in my life. Well, honestly I did not really know how else to title this entry. Convenientes is Latin for "coming together" and that is what this blog post is all about. It's about how people came together to support us in a hard time. It's about how people gave what they had when we had nothing left to give.

I’m not the kind of guy to really ask for help. I am not saying that I am cocky or completely self-sufficient, I just feel like I’ll be a bother when I ask for something. A pipe bursts on our sink. No problem, I’ll run to Home Depot and learn how to re-plumb the line. My car breaks down. I’d rather wait for the tow truck then inconvenience someone to come and pick me up or tote me around.  Honest, it really is just because I feel like I am going to be bothering someone by asking for help. 

Naturally, when people were sending their prayers and best wishes for Noah they would also include the following question, “Is there anything you need?” or some form of it at least, like maybe a, “is there anything we can do for you guys?” or, “how can we help?”

At first everything was a whirlwind, and quite overwhelming, so we did not know what to say.

Young life guys coming to hang and pray for Noah at CHOP
I remember sitting in the hospital by Noah’s bed looking at Renae on Monday morning. We had just found out that we could be in the hospital anywhere from 7 to 21 days. Knowing that our days were going to be very long and extremely hectic, we began to realize that we were in over or heads and that we were IN NEED of HELP. 

Renae and I typed up a post for Facebook since that was tending to be the best way to communicate Noah’s information to all of our friends and family, but I really struggled to actually POST it. Part of me was afraid that no one would respond (a lie that I wrestled with) and that we would put burdens on others to help us out. 

We figured we needed meals, coffee, quick grab-and-go items, and most importantly prayer for healing and recovery. 
Grandpa, Mom-Mom, Megan and Jim babysitting.

It was like diving into a pool that you knew was filled with cold water. But I pressed enter to post the call for help. Within minutes we started getting a few responses. One huge one was from my cousin Deb who text messaged me asking if it was alright for her to set up a Facebook page to help bring people that were willing to help together in one virtual location. After that was set up we were amazed at how everyone cam e together. 

Our first night that we came home after people started responding we walked in to see a few meals already placed in our fridge. The next morning Renae stayed home with Logan, while I tended to work, and people unexpectedly stopped by to bring meals and gift cards. We left for the hospital only to come back home to flowers, a basket filled with easy to take snacks, a fridge with limited space, a few more gift cards, and a call that some friends were coming over with casseroles.
The wonderful blessings that we came home to.

The world, and all of its craziness, stopped around Renae and for a moment. We were honestly speechless and our hearts were overwhelmed. Reading cards, notes or encouragement and prayers, in conjunction with all the things that people provided for us, sent us instantaneously into tears. In such a short time we went from feeling like we were battling this alone to that we were facing this giant obstacle with an army behind us. 

Going to bed that night I could not help to think about Acts 2 in the New Testament and I began reading it, and some verses stuck out to me (which I read repeatedly). I know that not everyone that has been thinking of us, supporting us, and praying for us share in the same faith as Renae and I. But I think that this scripture fits this situation so perfectly that I have to share.
Logan at the Harper's house.

Acts 2: 42-47    The Believers Form a Community
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[i]), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[j]47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Grandpa teaching Logan to change batteries and fix toys.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April Showers...Hoping for May Flowers

The past two weeks have brought with it all kinds of stresses and unknowns. Here is just a small glimpse of the ugly beast that has been staring at me face to face since this month began.

My  Month old Son Being Hospitalized

The most obvious stress that it going on in my life right now has been the hospitalization of my younger son Noah. Sat March 30, after we had a birthday party for Logan who turned 2, we took Noah to the local ER and next thing we know we are at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. At first we dealt with the stresses of the unknown, the lack of sleep, the innate sense to want to see your child well and trade places with them just to save them from the pain and troubles. And who knew that we would be there 10+ days???

The  routine has been up at 5:30 am, off to work, come back to get the Renae and Logan. Drop off Logan at my parents on the way to CHOP. Arrive at CHOP and meet with doctors and nurses. Continue to work from my laptop at the hospital. Spend time with Noah. Head to my parents to pick up Logan. Try to be home by 8:00 pm to put Logan down. Run whatever errands, we have or prep everything for the next day. Read for Grad School. Take quizzes or write papers. In bed between 11:00 and 12:00. Then do it all again the next day.

My Brother Being Deployed

As if having my son in the hospital is not enough I am having to mentally and emotionally deal with the fact that my brother is bring deployed this week. I've known for some time, but with all things it does not become real until you actually see it beginning to happen. This Friday he will be leaving for Texas, then after a short stay there he will be “wheels up” (as he says) to Afghanistan. I know how hard this has been hitting me, but just have not really been able to show it or get it out.

I cannot imagine the range of feelings and emotions that his wife is going through. I have been thinking and praying about them and their family with every spare moment I get in the day.

My Sister Undergoing Medical Tests

My little sister holds a special spot in my heart. As an older brother of a sister, you feel like you need to watch out for her and to help her when needed. She has had her fair share of ups and downs to say the least over the better part of her life. Most recently she has been having some physical health issues that have been really dragging her down, and no one  seems to know what is going on. She finally has had some success with some top notch doctors in Philadelphia, but at times it seems that they do not even know the direction to take with her. She has been tested, poked and prodded to the point that she is getting tanked out.
To see her hurt and frustrated eats away at me. If I could just snap my fingers and let her know what normal health is like I would do it in an instant. When doctors call and leave a message that sends her into a dark abyss of battling her own thoughts until she can reach the doctor to discuss results makes me uneasy. I wish I had words to offer to her, but I simply find myself speechless…and can only offer a hugs, my unconditional support and prayers.

Work vs. Family

Work has not really helped one bit. I have people that I work with that have been very compassionate and understanding, and even people that have really spurred me on and energized me. However, the actual company has given me such a complicated time (twice now) about getting things situated for Noah. I got a complete run around the first time I needed to schedule for leave during his birth, which resulted in me taking personal time off to run around and gather paperwork for them. Now it has taken them a week to figure out what papers I need to have completed for Noah’s hospitalization and they will not give me back all the personal time off that I have had to use in the mean time.

Then there is just the internal struggle that with everything going on, that I cannot be the best possible me as a teacher right now. I am busting my butt to stay afloat, but I am so used to be doing way more than just getting by.

On top of that, I was told that I had to report to work. Then later was told, no it's OK work from the hospital. Then late last night I was told that I had to report to work as normal. Then this morning I was told, oh no you should not be here you were approved to work from home. How is this happening? And why are they creating this stress when they know that my son is not well, and they are making me chose work over my family?

The Pressures from Grad Schooling

Back in January when I signed back up for grad schooling I knew that there would be two weeks that overlap with my accelerated courses. I was well aware that those two weeks would be very tough, but luckily one of them was over spring break.

What I did not realize was the amount of work that would be due during finals week, in addition to the amount of course work due for my other class in its second week. On top of all that, it was not even a thought in my mind that my 3 week old would be needing to be placed in a hospital an hour away from the home during that time.

The Busy Season
To put the icing on the cake, these last two weeks (although I knew I’d have some grad schooling) were supposed to be reserved for me spending as much time with my family (together) as possible before I start working weekends for the busy season. I did not imagine having to juggle all of this leading right into me working 7 days a week for 2 months straight. I was to recharge before hitting that wall head on. Instead, it feels like I am being completely stripped before going into this craziness.

Being the Strong Husband and Father

Given all of the things mentioned previously, number one I am a husband and number two I am a father. These duties supersede everything else. I feel that I need to be strong for Renae, Logan and Noah. When Renae is crying and being told news that neither of us want to hear, I need to be her rock. When Logan is excited to see us when we get home, I need to return the excitement and play with him. When doctors are telling us about everything that could be wrong, I need to process and analyze the information. When a parent chews me out, I need to leave it at the table and not bring it to my family.
Through all of this, I am amazed and how much I have been able to handle. I chalk it up to three things (because it is not all me).  First, it is a testament to human nature, and how resilient people can be during times of stress.  Second, more importantly it has been doable because of the amazingly wonderful support system that we have of friends, family, and even people that we have no ever met (they are simply friends of friends). Third, most importantly, God has given us the strength to face this challenge. Without Him I think I would not have made it far at all into April. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Let the Countdown Begin!

Someone is Ready to be a Big Brother!
Logan knows that he has some big shoes to fill, but that's not gonna stop him. He is eager to have someone to permanently play with. He even got some practice over the last couple weeks with his new cousin!

But he wants to know what you are thinking about his new brother/sister so....

Share Your Thoughts!
Plus, we'd like to know what you think too!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Jumbo Scrabble Tiles - Family Name

My name is Kevin, and I am a pinner. I remember when I started the hear all this hype about Pinterest back in the day. My wife and a few of her friends raved about it. I figured it was something geared specifically towards woman, and it really wasn't too popular for a guy to be logging on. But after checking it out for myself, and getting ragged on by a bunch of women because I was the only guy they knew that had a Pinterest Account, I have found Pinterest to be very, very useful in not only doing updates around the home, but also making awesome meals, cutting costs of products/cleaners, and coming up with fun ideas for the classroom.

Anyways, this is an idea that was inspired by some pins that I had seen...but I wanted to make it custom for myself. This was easy, but time consuming because I am a perfectionist, but the final product was definitely worth it.

***I looked into ordering these tiles (3"x3") and the cost (without shipping/handling/tax) was $97.50!!! So, with a little elbow grease I made these for somewhere between five and ten bucks!

We love playing games, and Scrabble is a classic word game that my wife and I used to play when we first got married. Almost every night we would make dinner, get caught up, and then play games for another hour or so after dinner just to hang out and stay connected. So for me, this project ties in our love for games, our family, and adds to the decor of our home. Here are the specs:

Time: a few hours over a couple of days (total 6-8 hrs)

Cost: $5-10 (if you have most of these things) closer to $20 (if you need to buy more materials)

Tools Needed:
a decent set of thin tipped paint brushes (got mine at Jo-Anns)
Dremel Tool (borrowed mine from my parents)
Saw to cut the tiles

Materials Needed:
1x4 premium pine (I got 27 tiles out of an 8 ft board)
Stain (I had mine left over from previous projects)
Spray Poly-urethane (another left over from previous projects)

The Steps from Start to Finish

1. I searched for a high-resolution photo of scrabble tiles, and then blew them up to be a 3.5" x 3.5" square. This will be my template for creating the jumbo tiles.

2. I took my 1x4x8 board of premium pine and cut them down to be square. Since a 1x4 is actually 3.5 inches wide, the square are 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches.

3. Then you square up up the template on the wood. You can see I was a little small on the template, but it is unnoticeable to the eye.

4. Then I took the pencil and carefully outlined the letter and the point value. When you remove the template you will see the outline indented on the surface of the wood.

5. Now it's time for the Dremel tool. I first used the sanding tip to round off the corners and the edges of the tile.

6. Then you can use a fine tipped carving attachment to outline the letter, and then simply carve out the center of the letter. You don't have to do this step, but since original Scrabble tiles have indented letters I wanted to indent mine.

7. This one was pretty shallow, but you can see the carved out letter, point value, and rounded edges.

8. I also smoothed the rough carving and the surface of the tile so that it would be nice and smooth as well as prepped for the painting and staining.

9. Now you are ready to start on making the finished product.

10. I used black acrylic paint to with a very fine tipped brush to fill in the letters. My hand was shaking pretty bad by the time I got to the final letter. If you are not on a time crunch split it up. My unsteady hand slipped on the last couple and I got paint where I didn't want paint :-(

11. Now they are ready to be stained and topped with polyurethane.

12. I used a clear stain and polyurethane combo (Ployshades) and thought that only one coat was good enough.

13. Then I sprayed about 3 coats of Spar-urethane (you can use poly) to put a nice semi-gloss / protective coating over the tiles. I also found the blank tile that I had lost, and put that between THE and REIGNERS. Now it is ready to be placed on the wall.
 *** I had mapped out the letter arrangement ahead of time on a piece of square grid paper. And since we are expecting a new addition to the family, I made sure that the new boy or girl name would fit in the word puzzle. Just something to think about so you don't back yourself into a corner later ;-)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Snowy Day Project

After making Logan's Toddler Bed I still had some materials leftover, as well as some things left over from past projects, just sitting in my shed. Since the forecast was snow throughout the entire day I thought, what the heck I should make something with these scraps for Logan. Since he is getting older I thought it would be neat to make him something that he could use to do some learning activities, play with his toys, write/draw, etc....

So, what not make him a small table that he can work on! All I needed was a quick trip to Lowes to buy some 2x2 (an extra $3.00). And lucky for me the snow hadn't started falling yet. We are still debating on whether to paint the table, or stain the table, but either way making the table is the same.

Here is my snowy day project:

Table Top: 20x30 plywood
*Underside: 2- 2x2 at 30 inches and 2- 2x2 at  27 inches
*Facing: 2- 1x3 at roughly 30 inches and 2- 1x3 at roughly 27 inches
Legs: 4- 2x2 at 18 1/2 inches

* I go with the measure twice, cut once approach. Just lay out your material as you are working and make sure that you are taking your time and being patient. Taking my time, this project only took about an hour and a half.

Here are the scraps I had, plus the 2x2s I purchased before the snow arrived. The table was going to measure 20x30 and 19 inches high (20x30 because that was the plywood that was already cut, and 19 inches high because that seemed like the average height of most children's tables). Note the stool...that will be a later project to go with the table.

As you can see, my workshop was pretty cold and the snow as just beginning to fall.

After I got my cuts done, you better believe that I headed inside to the comfort and warmth of the dining room.

This project didn't require too much...just some drills bits and screw tips, wood screws, and I did bring out the Kreg Jig since I now have it...but you don't necessarily need it for this project...oh and I did decided to use glue as well.

I used the 2x2 to frame the underside so I could have something to tack the 1x3 board on to. Pre-drill the holes so that the boards don't move around on you when you and putting in the screws.

I wanted to have a 1/4 inch lip on the top so that things wouldn't roll of the end when Logan was using the table, so I used an old shim I found to give me the mark that I needed, and to keep it consistent around the table.

The line is actually going to the be the top lip of the table.

Again, just pre-drill and then countersink your screws so that you can fill it in with wood filler later.

This gives you an idea of the lip edge that helps keep things on the table.

Logan didn't like the mess I was making, so he grabbed the dust pan and broom and cleaned up my mess.

After all four sides and glued and screwed the top is done, and now it just needs legs.

For the legs I just drilled two pocket holes (one hole, two sides) and then glued and screwed the legs to the table.

Now it's time to let all the glue set up and bond the wood together.

And this is what my outdoor workshop had become in the meantime.

Finished product!

One thing that was suggested to me by my father-in-law, as to tie the legs together with 2x2s to add more strength and support to the legs.