Sam would be 2 years old today

My sweet Sam, two years already since you left us. We’re at this point now where our sense of time is getting distorted. In a way, it feels like an eternity ago since I was taking my weekly pregnancy pictures and putting together the nursery, full of excitement. Yet those two years escaped through our fingers in the blink of an eye. And as that moment when I held my perfect little boy is distancing itself further and further from the present that I’m in, my heart still aches like it was yesterday. Forever broken. I picked up the pieces little by little, and I’m getting there slowly. But it will never be intact again. Fractured, at best. Most likely forever incomplete.

Today, Sam would be celebrating his second birthday. We’d be having cake this afternoon, decorating the house with balloons, handing presents and taking happy pictures. Our birthday boy would be going to kindergarten with his brand new little backpack and his lunchbox, in which I would have secretly added a few surprise treats for his special day. He would be so big already. I would proudly make him sit on the couch and prep Emery next to him so I could take a beautiful picture of my two boys. But alas, this reality will never be.

Today, instead, we took Emery with us to decorate Sam’s headstone. It’s a terrible thing when your child’s birthday is a sad date. I remember last year – his first birthday – being particularly hard, yet healing in away. Once I passed the one year milestone, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I had gone through the grief and trauma like a warrior, and proudly concluded: “I survived”. I felt like the rest of the road would be going up from that point on, instead of going down. And it did. Things only got better afterwards. But only to a certain point. I feel like I will never get all the way up that giant mountain where I once happily stood. There’s only so far up I can go after having lost my little boy. I’m not at my maximum yet; there is still a bit of a way to go. But life will never be like before. Even our wedding memories are tainted with the loss of Sam. We were so excited to start a family when we got married. We couldn’t wait for our first little one. It’s all we talked about during our honeymoon. I was looking at our pictures from Aruba the other day, and I felt something sad about them. It’s almost like Sam was already there in a way. We were so ready for him.

Last year, I was so emotional that I completely failed to come up with something nice to put on his grave. I spent weeks trying to come up with the perfect flowers, the perfect stuffed animal. My mind felt so chaotic that I didn’t even manage to make any decision about it in the end. And I remember feeling so frustrated with myself as we stood there in front of him with nothing nearly as special as I had hoped to bring him on his very first birthday in Heaven. Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that this is nothing like me. I’m the decision maker in most situations, and everyone around me usually leans on my strength and sense of practicality. So to be this indecisive and then failing to produce any result is completely out of my character. That’s when you know something is really wrong with me.

This year, I feel like I’ve got my head back on my shoulders somewhat. The ideas occurred to me naturally. I put a few pretty things together and improved the little angel Gert’s aunt placed on Sam’s grave when he was buried. The angel’s blonde hair, which matched Sam’s, had completely faded under the sun. I gave it a fresh coat of paint. I added a beautiful “2” on his brown teddy bear, which I take back home regularly to wash.


(I removed the last name digitally, for obvious reasons.)

Today, Sam’s stone looked pretty and that made me happy. Happy second birthday in Heaven, sweet Sam. We miss you so much and think about you every day. 💕

New improved coat

Last month, I spent several weeks looking for bargains to update my Fall-Winter wardrobe. I found some exceptionally good deals. One of them is this coat from Forever21:

forever21 tweed collared coat in oatmeal color with 3 three brown buttons product ID 2000056466

forever21 tweed collared coat in oatmeal color with 3 three brown buttons product ID 2000056466

It was originally priced at 50€. I got it for 15€! The only thing I didn’t like about it were the buttons. And as per my mom’s wise words: “You can always judge clothing by the quality of the buttons.” And, you know, if my mom says it, then surely it must be true! So the brown plastic buttons had to go. After a quick search on etsy.com, I found two different types of metal buttons, which I thought might work.

copper metallic buttons pattina patina fleur de lis lys etsy

I wasn’t quite sure which of the two would look the best. At first I thought maybe the more elaborate one with the fleur-de-lis on it. But it turns out it blends too much with the tweed fabric, making it hardly visible from a distance.

coat new buttons test collage

So I ended up choosing the plain copper buttons. And since they came in a pack of six (for only 3.68€ total – wow), I went ahead and added two extra ones at the collar.

Forever 21 tweed collared coat in oatmeal color buttons change before and after result diy

forever21 tweed collared coat in oatmeal color with new changed buttons product ID 2000056466 metallic copper embellished

forever21 tweed collared coat in oatmeal color with new changed buttons product ID 2000056466 metallic copper embellished

And now of course I’m still not sure about it! Hah! With or without the collar buttons? Or perhaps darker buttons would make for a nicer contrast after all? Aaargh! I’m such a woman sometimes when I can’t make up my mind about silly details. 😱

15 years since 9/11

I can’t believe it’s been 15 years already. I’m sure everyone who’s old enough to remember that day, still knows exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news broke. I don’t remember much about my own activities during other catastrophic events throughout the world. But this one I do. That’s how you know how significant something truly is. When even 15 years later, you can still remember it all like it was yesterday.

Coincidentally, I ended up living in Manhattan for a short while in 2007. You could tell that even six years later, it was still very present in everyone’s mind. I subrented an apartment in the upper East side, right near Lexington Avenue. The apartment was being leased by an eccentric Jewish woman, who somehow decided to trust me with her entire furnished pad, including her little dog, which I agreed to take care of during her short-term move to Israel for half a year. It was a good deal for us both. I got a great discount on the rent of a fully furnished place, and in exchange, she had someone to house- and dog-sit; which was no trouble at all for me, since I had my own dog to walk anyway. One day, I came back from walking Jack and Zuki, and started talking to the doorman at the entry of the apartment building. We somehow got to the topic of 9/11. He told me that the apartment right above mine belonged to a man at the time, who worked in the North tower. He didn’t come home that day. They lost several residents in that apartment building. You could tell he still had a hard time processing it all. As I laid in bed that night, I remember staring at the ceiling, thinking about the apartment right above me. That man I didn’t know and never will. How empty and eerie his apartment must have been the night after the attack. I imagined the phone ringing in the dark, from friends and family trying to reach him, still hoping for an answer at that point.

I decided to plan a break in my scheduled tasks the next day, and visit ground zero.

I had never been to the lower part of Manhattan before. So I tried to guess my way around a bit, not knowing exactly which corners to turn. But all of a sudden, you could feel it. I hadn’t even turned the last corner yet, I couldn’t see how close I was. But I could feel it. There was a very particular vibe lingering. And as I turned the last street corner, there it was … like a painful open wound.

Ground Zero world trade center wtc twin towers 9/11 september 11th 2001 - site under construction - spring april 2007

Ground Zero world trade center wtc twin towers 9/11 september 11th 2001 - site under construction - spring april 2007

Ground Zero world trade center wtc twin towers 9/11 september 11th 2001 - site under construction - spring april 2007

Strangely, I remember a friend of mine mentioning that same heavy vibe he felt when he visited it 5 years later or so. It was still a massive construction site when I saw it, all still down to ground level. You couldn’t make out any old structural outline, nor see any new foundation of what was to come. As I walked around the whole place, I noticed this little church across the street and decided to check it out. It turns out it was a key place during that day, as well as the following months. Something they never talk about here on European TV.

Saint Paul's Chapel Manhattan New York City church 9/11 september 11th 2001 ground zero april 2007 six 6 years after spring memorial

Saint Paul’s Chapel, also known as “the little chapel that stood” is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan. This is actually the back of it. The chapel served as a place of rest and refuge for recovery workers at the WTC site. For eight months, hundreds of volunteers worked 12-hour shifts around the clock, serving meals, making beds, counseling and praying with fire fighters, construction workers, police and others.

The church survived without even a broken window.

Saint Paul's Chapel sycamore tree stump roots 9/11 september 11th 2001 metal debris memorial church ground zero world trade center wtc towers

Saint Paul's Chapel sycamore tree stump roots explanation plate artist steve tobin 9/11 september 11th 2001 memorial world trade center manhattan new york city wtc ground zero

Church history declares it was spared by a miracle sycamore on the northwest corner of the property that was hit by debris. The tree’s root has been preserved in a bronze memorial by sculptor Steve Tobin.

Saint Paul's chapel churchyard church graveyard cemetery old lower manhattan new york city spring april 2007

Saint Paul's Chapel bell of hope church lower manhattan new york city 9/11 september 11th 2001 memorial spring april 2007

Saint Paul's Chapel church bell of hope explanation text plate plaque monument memorial 9/11 september 11th 2001 spring april 2007 world trade center wtc ground zero

Saint Paul's Chapel church lower manhattan new york city back entry facade graveyard cemetery churchyard graves headstones old spring april 2007

Saint Paul's Chapel church inside interior pink blue spring april 2007

Saint Paul's chapel church lower manhattan new york city inside organ inside interior pink blue tourists spring april 2007

Saint Paul's Chapel church lower manhattan new york city inside interior exhibition 9/11 september 11th 2001 memorial photograph picture ground zero world trace center wtc

More about Saint Paul’s Chapel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Paul%27s_Chapel

Two months old!

Look who’s wide awake! It’s two month old Emery! 😜 I used to call him my little firecracker when I was pregnant, and that’s definitely what he is. To be honest, I was a little puzzled about how calm he was in the beginning, because it didn’t match the impression I had of him before he was born lol Now that he’s becoming more alert and more active throughout the day, his overall energy matches exactly how I had pictured him all along. 😊

I’ve been trying so hard to take a picture of him smiling for the past two weeks, but still no luck. He smiles and laughs so often! I just cannot seem to snap it. As soon as I pull out the camera, he stops and stares all intrigued at the lens. Haha!

And here are finally some pictures of the “sugar beans” treats I crafted right after he was born. I mentioned them last month in my “birth announcement card” post.

dragées suikerbonen suikerboontjes sugar beans baby birth geboorte doopsuikers honey honing miel bee bij abeille yellow gift keepsake shower welcome cute crystal charms made with love geel jaune tradition traditie cadeau diy handmade zelfgemaakt sticker etiquette tag label personalized personalisé name date of birth boy girl gender neutral summer theme thema belgium belgique nederland france europe belgie

I basically stuck to the same Summery / honey bee theme I had going on with his birth announcement. And here it is, next to Sam’s white and blue one; which we never got to give to people:

I don’t know why, I love seeing them right next to each other like that. I think it’s because those are the only two items I can look at together, and forget for a second that the little boy to whom the blue jar belongs isn’t here. For a split second, I feel like both my babies made it alive and well, and got to be celebrated equally, as all babies deserve to be.

This brings me to this very special gift I received last month:

This mobile is packed with symbols and special meanings to me. It is a perfect replica of all the symbols that were featured on Emery’s birth announcement card. The sun, the cloud, the bee and the firefly. And most importantly, in the center, a beautiful blue star with Sam’s initial on it. 💕 I absolutely wanted this to become part of Emery’s daily life, so I took a few days to figure out where I wanted to hang it, and I ended up putting it right above his changing table. I had noticed a while ago that he enjoyed looking up at the hair brush and random things that were hanging above him on the wall, so it seemed like the perfect thing to keep him entertained during those countless diaper changes every day and night. I’m glad to report that it works like a charm! He LOVES it! He stares at it every single time, smiles at it, tries to reach out to touch it … It’s so fun for me to see. Obviously, I put it high enough so he can’t reach it. I would be devastated if it ever got damaged. This is definitely something I will keep for the rest of my life.

There are so many other beautiful gifts we have received. And I’m planning to include them in Emery’s updates, little by little. But I will end today’s update here, as I don’t want to flood the blog with baby items. More later! 😊

Enjoying the last few days of Summer

We’re finally taking a small break here and enjoying the sun after all our hard work around the house. We always have several home improvement projects on our to-do list each Summer, because -1- the weather generally allows us to do the dirtiest part outside, and -2- it’s always nice to enjoy our home all up to date during those long dark Winter days. This year’s list included a bunch of paint work. The main one ended up being the garden shed. It was originally in its natural pine wood color; which is all nice and pretty when its new, but tends to age poorly (in my oppinion anyway). So I chose pale beige paint, as well as plain white for the trimming.

I LOVE the result! I used to never include the garden shed in our yard pictures, but now I think it actually makes for a nice background. I’m sure there’s a “before” picture posted somewhere on the blog about a year or two ago. I just can’t be bothered to include any in this post, because I never liked the way it looked lol

We’re pretty dead tired now. I honestly don’t understand why we had planned so much work for this Summer when we knew there was going to be a newborn baby in the mix. And then we actually stuck to our plans and finished it all … Hah! Crazy. But at least it’s all done now and we’re pleased with how everything looks, so I guess it was worth it! 😊