Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Guest Post- Motherhood Versus Cancer

Back in December I got an email from the lovely Heather Von St. James (check out her blog HERE) asking if she could write a guest post for me.  I was all for it, but we had just moved, the computer was broken and I was gearing up for Elliott's party.  It just wasn't a good time.  So here we are in almost February and Heather is finally sharing her amazing story.
Heather is a surviver of mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is a type of cancer with a notably poor prognosis.  The one year survival rate is about 40% and the five year survival rate is about 10%.  Similar to when Elliott survived sepsis (50% fatality rate for premature newborns), when you beat mesothelioma you have beaten the odds.
Heather and I do not know each other, but I do have a somewhat personal connection to her story.  My cousin Zach is married to Stacey.  They met in high school and got married about 7 months after me and Michael, so Stacey has been part of my family for a long time.  Stacey's father died of mesothelioma in the fall of 2011.  It was less than 2 years after his diagnosis.
Heather's Story

There is a certain time in your life when everything changes. Life as you know it becomes different. This happened to me when I was 36 years old. I experienced the best and worst events of my life. My beautiful daughter Lily was born on August 4, 2005. It seemed like my husband and I's entire group of family and friends came to see her. Neither I nor my loved ones were prepared for what came next.
When I went back to work full time, I knew something was wrong. I was losing nearly 7 pounds a week. I had no energy whatsoever, and I was tired all of the time. All of these issues can be explained by being a new mother.. and that is what I chalked it up to in the beginning. Eventually, things kept getting worse I knew it was something more than just symptoms of being a new mother.
I went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with me. After multiple tests, it was determined that I had malignant pleural mesothelioma. It's a type of cancer in the lining of the lung, brought on by asbestos; which I was unknowingly exposed to as a kid-from my father’s work clothes. I was told that without treatment, I would only live for about 15 more months. Obviously that was not enough for me. I needed to be there to watch my sweet Lily grow up.

All I could think of was Lily and my husband. I couldn't imagine them without me. As any mother would be, I was determined to do whatever it took to get healthy. I flew to Boston with my husband and underwent extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery on February 2nd, 2006. During the treatment, my entire left lung was removed along with all of the surrounding tissue. I then underwent just about 3 months of recovery until it was time to begin the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I was still trying to be the best mother I could be during this period of time.
Lily flew back to South Dakota with my mother when I went to Boston for my treatment. She was being raised by her grandparents while I dealt with the illness. They had a whole group of family members and friends to help them take care of her. I can never thank those who were there for my parents and Lily during those times. There were so many selfless people who stepped up to help out, and none of us could have gotten through the whole ordeal without them. Being away from Lily was incredibly hard, but I knew that the reason I was away from her was so that I could still be with her today. I did however, miss many important moments in her childhood. Thankfully, she was in great hands while I was away.
Cancer is somewhat of a funny thing. It brings many horrible things with it, however, there's good to be found as well. She gave me a reason to press on and continue fighting for my life. My family and I try to embrace life now. We understand how fragile it can be. My advice to you, is to make the best of the tough stuff that life throws at you. There is always some good to be found.
Thanks for sharing your story Heather!
(P.S. How awesome is her hair?  I wish I could rock that look!)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

This is our.....pantry

I was really bad at taking pictures this week.  We had lots of stuff going on, including my parents spending the night, lunch with my uncle who was visiting from Florida and a girl's night out for me.  I just didn't document any of it with the camera. 
Well.  That's not true.
I did get these pictures of my dad nearly killing himself getting into a position that would allow him to look up into the chimney.
I had simply asked if I was ever going to need to hire a chimney sweep since it is a gas fireplace.  The answer, if you are curious, is probably not.  The chimney is incredibly clean and free of any build up.  I was a little disappointed.  I really wanted Dick Van Dyke to dance around on my roof while singing "chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee!" 
So, anyway, in lieu of a bunch of dirty cockney chimney sweeps on my roof, here's an incredibly in-depth look at my pantry. 
I love the pantry.  It is one of my absolute favorite things about the house.  The hardest part about meal preparation is just coming up with an idea of what to make, but once I have an idea, this pantry makes cooking a breeze.
This is the pantry door.
I had hung a Christmas wreath on here for the holidays and I liked how it looked.  After I took it down I wanted something that wasn't specific to a certain holiday, so I made this wreath for less than $11 in materials.  I like it, but I won't be offended if you say it looks like a kindergartener made it with scraps left over from other projects.
These are my free printables that I found on pinterest.
And here is the pantry in all its glory.
See those three bags of chips?  We are not chipaholics.  Those are left over from a small party we had a few weeks ago in which several people brought chips and we ended up with 6 bags of chips for 12 people.
I have my aprons hanging on the back of the door. 
I threw away all of our expired medicine when we moved and bought all new stuff.  It was ridiculously expensive.  If you need some non-expired medicine though, come on over.   Oh, and apparently my dad thinks I have bad breath because there were 6 tins of altoids in my stocking for Christmas.
These are my herbs and spices.
This is our boozy corner.  Michael really likes port wine.
All of my baking stuff.
I love having extra space for all of my holiday platters and large serving pieces.
It's also nice to not have to store small appliances in the linen closet at the end of the hallway like I have been doing for the past 6 years. 
This is HUGE.  I know it just looks like wax paper and foil and storage bags, but the fact that they are readily available is amazing to me.  We kept this stuff in a drawer that kept on breaking in our old house.  The drawer, because it kept on breaking, basically sat on the floor in the dining room for over a year.  It was a journey and a pain every time I needed to get anything from one of these boxes.
I have about 2,000 cupcake/muffin liners, which is about 1,980 more than any one family needs.
I also have waaaaaaaaaaay too much tea.  We like tea.  We drink a lot of tea.  But nobody needs this much tea.
And finally, every blog post should end with paper towels and beer on the floor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This is our....backyard

We were eating breakfast this morning when we saw a little hummingbird zipping around one of the trees in the backyard.  He would leave, come back and leave again. We watched him all morning.
Can you see him (or her?) there to the left of the palm tree?
He reminded me that I wanted to share pictures of our backyard.  So here we go.
This is what it looks like when you stand on the patio and look left (southeast). 
And this is what it looks like when you look to the right  (southwest).
We had the plants covered when it was 23 degrees last week.  That green sheet flew into the pool one night.  It's been drying for a week now.  We should probably move it one of these days. 
This is looking straight ahead (south). 
And this is what it looks like with kids. 
This is standing on the grass looking back at the house.  The family room is on the right and the kitchen is on the left. 
This is standing on the east side of the patio and looking to the west.  The door goes into the master bedroom.  The window next to the door is the guest room.  That's the new table and chairs we bought.  You can see the crab sandbox in the corner.
We got tired of our house smelling like poopy diapers so we put the diaper dekor pail outside.  It'll be fine until we get into the 80's I think.  That means we've got like 6 weeks.
A close-up of the new bench and table. 
Well, this is embarassing. 
This is the east side of the house.  These are left over moving boxes and boxes from Christmas.  We pretty much fill our big recycle bin with just regular household stuff every week, so there is never extra room for these things.  I scheduled a bulk pick up for Tuesday so we'll be able to clear a lot of this out.
This is when you first walk into the pool area. 
And this is from the south side of the pool looking north.  Spencer is in between two windows in our bedroom.  The window on the far left is in the master bathroom. 
This is looking out onto the street that is west of our house. 
This is the west side of our house.  We kind of just threw a bunch of stuff over here right before Elliott's party in December and we haven't been back to move things.  Out of sight, out of mind. 
This is our RV gate for when we buy a 35 foot RV after we retire in 30 years. 
And here is Spencer showing how strong he is. 
This is the raised garden that we'd like to plan stuff in as soon as it warms up a bit.  Ideas for what to grow? 
This is a huge mesquite tree in our neighbor's yard.  It's a good thing my allergy shots worked because this thing would have killed me about 7 years ago.
This is Michael wearing black shorts and black socks together. 
And this is a close-up of our ridiculously spacious pool.  Fancy a dip this summer?
  I'm not looking forward to it being 110+ degrees, but it will be a bit more tolerable with this in the backyard. 
 And that's it.  That's the yard.  It's not fancy but I really couldn't love it more.  It was a huge selling point when we looked at the house for the first time.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Just some classic pictures of a baby eating spaghetti for the first time

I didn't intend for Saturday night's dinner to be Elliott's first spaghetti experience.  If you look closely at his tray you will see that he actually has rotini that I made specifically for him.  He wanted nothing to do with it though.  He wanted to eat what the rest of the family was eating.  After he enthusiastically scarfed down his meatballs Michael gave him a scoop of spaghetti.
He was fascinated. 



Spencer heard we were having spaghetti and he promptly took his shirt off.  Smart move, kid.

He didn't get quite as messy as Elliott, but he wasn't exactly clean when dinner was over. 
Elliott started saying "done" this weekend.  And he means it.  When he says done he is DONE.  It's adorable and a foreshadowing of the independence brewing inside of him.