We will always remember Ellie for her love for others, her creativity, sensitivity, and delight in life! Ellie's light has spread far and wide... may it continue to shine in our hearts.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ethan's big day!

My baby boy turns six today! And since he can't read yet, I figure I can still get away with calling him my baby boy. I guess this will be the last birthday I can do that. :-) He was so excited that he could hardly fall asleep last night. I assured him that when he woke up, he would be six. I think that my assurances were counterproductive. The only thing that really worked in the end was a "don't you dare get out of this bed again" from Daddy.

John's work is requiring more forced time off to keep from laying additional people off, so he's able to stay home on Ethan's birthday. That was a nice surprise! There will be a Christmas parade in the evening, and when we get home from that, we will have a little party for Ethan.

Because Ethan's birthday fell on a Saturday, he was able to celebrate it at school yesterday. His teacher does a wonderful job of making the kids feel special on their birthdays, and she has some really fun ways to incorporate learning into the festivities.

Since it was Ethan's special day, we got to bring a fun, non-healthy snack. I don't have a real oven, and I didn't relish the thought of making teeny batches of cupcakes in the toaster oven, so I came up with an alternate plan. (Who am I kidding? I could have gone down to the other house to bake, but I find baking labor intensive and messy. The alternate plan was actually plan A.) I had seen this really cute idea on TV, I think, of making little bitty birds nests out of chocolate. All you do is mix melted chocolate (I used almond bark - thanks Tricia! It was much easier than the melted chocolate chips I had been planning on using) with chow mein noodles. Plop out spoon fulls onto cookie sheets and place a couple of jelly bean "eggs" in the center. Viola - birds nests! So easy and so cute. When Ethan went to pass out snacks in class, this is what each kid got:


You should have heard the kids oooooh and ahhhhh. Ethan was tickled pink!

While the kids ate their snack, Mrs. Stevens placed a little candle on a chair and had Ethan stand next to the chair, holding a globe. She then held up a picture of Ethan as a baby. Did you know that even a bunch of five and six year olds will go "awwwwww" when they see baby pictures? She had Ethan walk all the way around the chair with the globe, signifying the earth rotating once around the sun (candle). Ethan's first year. Then she showed a picture of Ethan at one, and told the class that Ethan learned to walk and talk when he was one. Another trip around the candle, and the class learned that Ethan loved to jump off of furniture when he was two. Another rotation of the earth divulged that not only was Ethan as cute as a button at three, but he loved to dance and play with his sister. By the "earth's" fourth trip around the "sun", the class found out that Ethan spent lots of time that year with his grandparents. The final picture was shown and we told the kids that Ethan moved to Montana and loved to hike and rock climb with his daddy. Then the class sang a series of three or four birthday songs (the traditional "Happy Birthday" plus some educational birthday-related songs). And the birthday boy got to blow out the "sun".

Once snack time was finished, the kids gathered into a bunch on the floor and Ethan and I told them all about Ellie. When Ethan found out that he was supposed to bring pictures for his birthday, he really wanted to bring one of he and Ellie together. Because Ellie was bald, I knew that it would bring up some questions, plus I knew that Ethan was liable to blurt out "that's my sister and she's dead." Weeks ago, Mrs. Stevens and I had talked about me coming to the class and telling them about Ellie, but we hadn't set anything up. This was the perfect opportunity to share the story. Ethan was so proud to be able to tell his friends all about his sister. I started it out by showing them the picture, and asking if they noticed something "different" about Ethan's sister. One little boy said "yeah, she's bald just like Ethan." I thought that was so sweet - Ethan's baldness was normal to this class, and his sister was just like him, not the other way around. I was able to tell the class how Ethan wanted to shave his head so that Ellie would not feel badly about losing her hair. Then we talked about cancer and why she lost her hair. Together, Mrs. Stevens and I answered questions about cancer and death, and Ethan interjected his own comments from time to time. The kids were great. They had all kinds of wonderful questions, from how she died to how we found out she was sick. At one point there was quite a lively rabbit trail about pirates and eye patches once they learned that Ellie was blind in one eye. (Of course they needed to find out if that eye still looked and moved like the one that could see.) A couple of the kids got distracted with the location of one's heart, after Mrs. Stevens talked about how we carry love and memories in our hearts after a person has died. The whole experience was delightful in every way. We sent home a handout from Ellie's memorial service and a letter for their parents explaining what we talked about. (I could just imagine the parent's reactions when their children came home saying "Ethan's sister died!")

Loretta came with me to the school and was able to sit in class and watch the fun. We had such a great time getting to observe Ethan in his classroom and get a glimpse of how his days are spent at school. We came away with two very strong feelings: Mrs. Stevens is a saint; and teachers, particularly kindergarten teachers, are WAY underpaid. May I just say, "God bless them, every one!"

I will have many more birthday stories to share after tomorrow. Thank you so much for taking Ethan into your hearts! The surest way to a mother's heart is when you love her little ones.


At 6:37 AM, Blogger "Bug" said...

Happy Birthday Ethan!!! 6!!! wow!!!
Have a wonderful celebration!!!

Roger, Debbie & Kaeli Walker

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Elijah's Mommy said...

Happy Birthday Ethan! We hope you have a very special day!

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Melanie said...

I'm so glad you got to share a little more of Ethan with his class -- and speaking about Ellie is one way of letting everyone know who Ethan is. No pretending Ellie didn't die. Ethan made that clear the first day of school with his bald head! What he has gone through in his short 6 years of life, other 6 yr olds may not be able to understand. It sounds like you did a great job of sharing with his calss and helping him along his way. I'm so glad you have such a supportive teacher and such a welcoming place for Ethan to grow and learn! Happy Birthday to him!

And I also wanted to comment on your previous blog entry. Once again, you have a way of being able to view your world and share with us so that we not only know your grief but get a better understanding of how we might deal with grief in our lives as well. Thank you so much.

I've often said to you that what Rich & I have gone through with our own girls and their health issues was nothing compared to what you & John have had to endure. But there are similarities in the pain you go through when you have to watch your children suffer. And I just wanted to share something. I remember after Kristen was born, we were so overwhelmed with the medical problems. It seemed like with everything we went through with Lauren we were able to hold each other up. When I was weak, Rich was there and so strong for us. And we were able to support each other, turn to each other. It just worked that way naturally. We made it through those first two years closer because of the intense work we needed to do to help Lauren in the best way we could. But with the added issues we faced with Kristen, we were thrown off kilter. It was all too much and we couldn't help each other. It was like we were both drowning and neither could help the other without going under ourselves. To me it seemed like we were treading water and just trying to survive as best we could. We fumbled through and I'm sure by the grace of God, (from all my families’ prayers) we were able to once again get back in sinc and to work together helping each other as we helped our girls.
In some ways, I wonder if what you & John are going through is similiar. You pulled together so beautifully to care for Ellie, working together for a very intense 15 months. It was non-stop for you, never a break to catch your breath that whole time. Going from one crisis to another. Each of you doing what needed to be done to fight Ellie's cancer. Even to the point of leaving family and friends to bring her to NY. When you were there, you had just each other to do what needed to be done. And I could see it brought you closer instead of tearing you apart. You held each other up.
I wonder if now with Ellie's death, maybe you are treading water just to stay afloat. It probably feels like you are drowning at times with your grief, whether it is out there on your sleeve for us to see or quietly on the inside (waiting to be shared on a blog!). I can't help wondering if it is hard to turn to each other because you feel you will only pull the other down with you.
What touches me is your faith and your ability to turn to God, even when others might have turned away. And it touches me how much you share with this blog and how many people you have helped -- me included! I am praying for you that God continues to hold you each up. That he carries you when you need it and that he gives you both the strength for what you are going through now. And that he holds you until you are able to hold each other!
Always thinking of you all and sending my love, Mel

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Happy Birthday Ethan! Being a six year old boy is lots of fun, my Toby is just about to turn seven. It must be great for Ethan to feel like his classmates can understand him.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger sumi said...

Awww! I am so glad that Ethan had such a lovely birthday, and thet he could share Ellie with the class. How precious.

Happy birthday, sweet Ethan!

At 7:23 PM, Blogger oneofhisfriends said...

Happy Birthday E-man.

May your wish come true.


At 12:20 AM, Blogger Oregon Criss's said...

Good for you Sarah for not hiding from the truth in your and Ethan's everyday life. I admire that immensily! Too often we decide to retreat and stay there- by following your blog I'm watching your stages of grief and acceptance with a prayerful heart for you and those you get to share with! Kinders is a hard age (I know..I taught them for a couple years) and it was a wonderful idea to share about Ellie- It will allow the kids to have more understanding and compassion when Ethan has his hard days.
Anyway- I'm still immersing you all in prayer and wishing Ethan a fantastic year to come!

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Ethan says thanks for birthday wishes:


At 4:21 PM, Blogger Allison said...

Tell Ethan Happy 6th Birthday. His teacher really sounds like an amazing teacher and so creative with the earth visual for the kids. That is great. Allison

At 7:46 PM, Blogger LindaSueBuhl said...

I missed out on posting at the right time - happy belated b'day young master Ethan! Sounds like a splendid day and so glad Loretta and your mom shared it with you. You must really like your teacher since she is so very nice. Now a count down to Christmas - - lots of excitement.


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