ode to my belly

 

ode to my belly

 

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After two pregnancies, two c-sections and a bout with cancer, it’s safe to say my belly isn’t what it used to be.

“Are you having twins!” they’d ask, as I’d give them the stink eye and reply with something sarcastic about growing a super-sized baby.

Carrying two big babies, weighing in at 10 and nine pounds, respectively, wasn’t exactly the formula for washboard abs.

But, with bootcamp and more willpower than I’ve been able to muster since, I lost the baby weight and life moved on.

Then came the cancer diagnosis. That wasn’t in my belly (thank you Jesus), but the chemo, steroids and radiation killed my thyroid… and the belly was back. With a vengeance.

Cancer weight gain is a complicated mix of hormones and drugs and fatigue and chemicals that I’m having a hard time tackling.

This wasn’t lost on my six year old, who made a comment about it the other day. He was very clear that didn’t want to hurt my feelings (he’s a softy like that), but he wanted to know what happened to make my belly squishy. (Yes, you can totally feel sorry for me here).

Wanting him to know I was aware and on top of it, I explained that that’s why I’d been working out and seeing my trainer, “So I can get rid of my belly.”

My four-year-old son listened in as we spoke, and the two boys turned to playing after I answered . . . presumably because that was sufficient enough.

A week later my little one was playing at my feet while I worked at my desk. He looked up at me and said, “Momma?”

“Yeah, papa,” I said.

“How will you eat?,” he answered.

“What do you mean?”, I said.

“I’m worried,” he said. “If you get rid of your belly… where will you put the food?”

It reminded me — It may not be what it used to be, but this belly has nourished me and kept me alive, it’s carried and protected two beautiful babies, and it wears the marks of a mom who’s blessed to be here… squishy and all!

facing the C word

One year ago today I was diagnosed with cancer.

While everyone was convinced that I was in shock that day, the scenes play vividly in my mind now.

My phone rang and the doctor’s assistant, who’d just confirmed my appointment to go over my biopsy results, said, “I forgot to tell you – the doctor said to make sure you bring somebody with you.”

I dropped to my knees, clung to my bed and tried to pray through the sobbing. My sister found me on the floor and tried to convince me that it didn’t mean something was wrong. I’m sure we both knew better.

The waiting room seemed to grow smaller every minute that we nervously waited.

The doctor came to get me and told me to bring one person back with me.

As he made up a series of excuses why only one person was good and my sister pleaded to come in (apparently he didn’t know my family—everyone was making their way in the room regardless of how he fumbled through his one-person request), I heard him say, almost under his breath, behind me:

“This is going to be hard.”

I could almost feel the hope get sucked out of us as we quietly took our places in the room, pretending like we didn’t even hear that.

I remember how the white paper crinkled underneath me when I sat on the examining bed and how I tried to steady myself with a deep breath.

I remember him handing me a printout of my results along with a background on Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cat was out of the bag.

As his carefully-chosen words crept out of his mouth, I remember my sister sliding down the wall in slow motion.

I remember my mom sobbing silently and wanting to tell her I was so sorry this was happening to her.

I remember thinking to myself over and over “Better me than my kids,” to try and find some kind of silver lining… then realizing my mom would now have to go through my worst fear.

I remember trying to be strong for everyone else… trying to ask the right questions and pull a game plan together in my head so I could hit the ground running.

I remember my husband flipping through results pages with me and trying to take it all in.

I remember how pissed off he was that this could happen to me. I didn’t deserve it. No one deserves it. He didn’t deserve to lose his dad to cancer and then hear his wife has it. “I fucking hate cancer!” he said as we made our way back out to the car.

A year later as I’ve just now started to deal with everything I’ve been through, I’m finally as mad as he was on that day.

I remember calling my dad when we got in the car and trying to choke back my tears enough to blurt out an update.

I remember that within an hour of having my life shattered into pieces that I’d already registered myself with City of Hope.

Game on, cancer.

I remember friends and family coming over to my house and in the midst of laughing and crying there’d be occasional WTF pauses of awkward silence as we wrestled between reality and hoping it was all a bad dream.

“You’re in shock,” they said, as I put on my big girl pants and made doctor’s appointments and collected all of my scans and tests in a binder and walked through in my head how many times as I’d been misdiagnosed for six years until a tumor nearly as big as a softball wedged itself between my heart and lungs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back on the past year, I realize now that because I hit the ground running and plowed through surgeries and chemo and tests and scans and losing my hair and losing my mind and experiencing what hell must be like and radiation and working the whole time and………… I’ve never really “dealt“ with it.

As I celebrate living one year since the day I learned something was trying to take my life, I ring it in with battle wounds that have shaken my usual glass-half-full, optimistic outlook on life. PTSD, flashbacks, breakdowns and a host of scars and side effects from treatment now invade my every day. It turns out, my psyche wasn’t the only thing cancer left its mark on. My lungs, thyroid, nerves and heart all took a hit, too.

I may still be trying to recover from the battle, but I’ve learned so much along the way.

I’ve learned that faith can get you through anything.

I’ve learned that life truly is too short.

I’ve learned to take risks.

I’ve learned that work and my cell phone are far less important than I once thought they were.

I’ve learned that my babies can fix everything with a smile, a laugh or a hug.

I’ve learned that my 5 year-old is one of the sweetest, most thoughtful people I’ve ever known in my lifetime.

I’ve learned that it’s ok to be weak.

I’ve learned that when you’re diagnosed with a life-threatening illness people show their true colors — good and bad.

I’ve learned that no one can truly understand what it’s like to fight cancer, then deal with the lifetime of fear it brings, unless they’ve been there.

I’ve learned that there are amazing people out there who’ve walked this journey and I’ve been fortunate enough to make incredible connections with them.

 

 

 

I’ve learned that too many people die from cancer. Too. Many. People. People I knew, people I prayed for… a child my boys prayed for every night lost his battle while I was being treated.

I’ve learned that sharing a life-threatening experience can make your marriage stronger.

I’ve learned that my mom is somehow capable of being more amazing every day.

I’ve learned that I’m lucky to have a best friend that stuck by my side through good, bad and ugly… because there’s really nothing cute about chemo.

I’ve learned that this too shall pass.

I’ve learned to face my demons.

I’ve learned that everything happens for a reason, and if you’re open to learn from it you can gain so much from even the crappiest situations.

I’ve learned that cancer may have left some battle wounds, but I will win the war.

Time flies when you’re living with cancer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week marks eight weeks that my cancer was confirmed. It will be my fourth chemo treatment— my official halfway mark. I’ve had more eight-week spans in my lifetime than I’ll ever remember, but the events of the past two months are moments that I’ll never forget.

“This is going to be hard,” my doctor told my family as he led us into the room, wishing he could shield us all from the inevitable. We came to the appointment just hoping that the giant mass that had grown between my heart and lungs was benign… but those six words stripped the hope right from our souls as we slowly took our places in the room.

As he handed me some info on Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he carefully began to explain.

“The first biopsy showed the presence of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cells, but not enough to be 100% certain…” But my doctor knew better. So did I. With every word after that my reality began to unfold.

“You should know this doesn’t have to be a death sentence.” Of this, we were also both certain.

I nervously tried to break the tension by saying something funny but he darted a look my way that I’ll never forget. As he lowered his eyes back to the paperwork it all became so real. My sister went from standing scared against the wall to slowly sliding all the way down to the floor in shock. My mom— my hero— sobbed as quietly as she could while she took it all in. My husband sat next to me as we flipped through pages of biopsy results and more information than I could possibly absorb.

I fought back tears as I tried to ask all the right questions while the room sometimes spun around me. Inevitably I found that “go time” place inside of me that my family insists was shock. I’ll consider it faith. Within an hour of leaving the doctor’s office, as my house began to fill with family and close friends, I quickly enrolled at City of Hope and my journey to beat cancer with God by my side had officially begun.

 

 

 

simple, modern yarn easter eggs

So here’s my deal: I love Easter. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be with family, to celebrate Jesus, to overload on chocolate… all very good things!

But since I have two boys and I prefer modern and understated decor, it’s one of the few holidays that’s hard to decorate my house for. Fluffy yellow bunnies and pink Easter basket grass just isn’t our thing.

In the spirit of celebrating Easter and still keeping it modern and fresh, I created this wooden egg & yarn Easter Egg craft tutorial for SheKnows.

Hope you swing by and check it out! It’s super easy and the supplies are inexpensive, but the end result is Easter chic!

 

reprise! toy story birthday

My three year old is obsessed with Toy Story. Obsessed. Everything from his room, to his clothes, down to his little preschool backpack is Toy Story. After a blow-out second birthday party, I promised my husband I’d tone this one down a bit  (a bit). . . but I still wanted to create a special Toy Story moment for my little man.

Cake Table

Almost every party I do starts with the cake (we always use Layer Cake). This year, I wanted a themed cake, but I wanted to use action figures that could double as toys. We flanked the cake table with Buzz Lightyear lunch boxes and spaceship party favors that you can buy here (warning: they’re super cute, but they don’t hold much).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac-N-Cheese Bar

I love doing fun food bars, especially for kids’ parties. If this wasn’t being held at a park (and had I not sworn to keep this one more low key), I’d be posting a fabulous over-the-top mac-n-cheese bar. However, this one totally worked, and it was easy to execute. In fact, we bought the mac from El Pollo Loco since it’s my son’s favorite, so it was super easy. We offered an assortment of toppings from bacon bits to parmesan to turkey dogs, to crispy french onions and more. We made little place cards with Toy Story characters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos

I always love to showcase photos of my little man from the past year to add a personal touch, and to show friends and family how much he’s grown. We found a very budget-friendly way to display photos on-theme. These great little picture frames were only a dollart at Target in the dollar section (now known as the “some of it is a dollar, some is $3, so pay attention while you pile everything into your cart” section). They were on theme with the color, and we just stuck on some Toy Story character stickers we got in bulk. He now has these frames in his room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More . . . 

The birthday boy got to dress in his Buzz shirt, his little brother was his sidekick Sheriff Woody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Potato Head glasses photo op with the some of the kids . . .

valentine’s day: ditch artificial & go natural this year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your little one loves all of the pink & red food fun that comes with Valentine’s Day, but you’re not a fan of artificial food coloring and processed snacks — you have options!

Here are a few quick tips to get you through Valentine’s Day with an organic & natural foods twist!

GO NATURAL: If you’re decorating your own from-scratch cookies, opt for natural food coloring and organic sugar sprinkles. There are so many great colors & options available (online, at WholeFoods & more), that there’s no need to reach for the artificial brands (see my article on allParenting for why we opt out of artificial food coloring)

Here are just a few options if you’re considering ordering natural food coloring online:

CHOOSE FRESHSubstitute fresh fruit for snacks… and for color. We recently used mashed strawberries to tint organic frosting pink and the kids never knew the difference! Dried cranberries, pomegranate & strawberries are all great ways to get bold pops of red colors into Valentine’s Day meals sans artificial colors & flavors!

SELECT SMART PACKAGED FOODS: Opt for ready-made snacks that use natural & organic ingredients (like beets, etc.) for coloring. Try packaged and convenient (but healthy) options like:

  • Earth’s Best smoothie squeeze pouches– Perfect for pint-sized lunch boxes.
  • Jammy Sammy organic pre-made sandwiches (you an cut them into hearts, too!)
  • Organic strawberry milk boxes from Horizon
  • Organic strawberry cereal or granolar bars
  • Organic dried cranberries (My kids love to snack on these. We use the Simply Organic brand from Ralph’s & skip the high fructose corn syrup!)
  • Raspberry or strawberry organic toaster pastries (the perfect substitute for Pop Tarts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

navigating cold season

Ever since my biggest little started preschool, it seems like cold and flu season never ends. PS- parents who send their sick kids to school should be fired.

I digress.

We pretty much go organic/homeopathic/as natural as possible around here, and I’ve spent many (many) nights rolling through Whole Foods and Sprout looking for the next best thing.

If you’re looking for solid homeopathic remedies, but want to skip the legwork…here you go:

 

Oscillococcinum. Hubs and I take this right when we feel something coming on. Our pediatrician recommended it a few years ago and it’s always in our medicine cabinet. I may or may not be known for calling it osicoxicillum. Either way, it works. I’m a big fan of the tiny pellet doses versus swallowing a mouthful of syrup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chestal. My three year old loves this stuff. Seriously. He’ll ask if he can have medicine even when he’s not sick. I’d keep buying it for that reason alone. I’ve tried other cough syrups with some variation of atomic cherry flavor, and this honey-based (note: it’s for 2 years+) option is the clear winner. They did recently come out with a berry version, but we haven’t tried that yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coldcalm. No. This is not sponsored. I realize these are all Boiron products so far…but they work, people. This one is also dispensed as tiny little pellets. My sons thinks they’re candy … everyone wins!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humidifier. One of the best ways to fend off cold/flu symptoms sans drugs. I can’t sleep without one when I’m congested, and neither can my littlest one. We have your standard-issue kid-friendly green frog variety . . . but momma needs this one:

ANTON Ultrasonic Humidifier: http://www.stadlerformusa.com/collections/humidifiers/products/anton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God bless the people who take things in life we can’t live without and make them ultra modern and super cool!

Nanogreens. I throw this into OJ and load up on organic fruits and veggies, antioxidants and super greens. We buy it at the pediatrician’s office, but you can also get it online. It’s like spinach to Popeye . . . without the filthy pipe, and it actually tastes good. It’s a little gritty, but that’s a small price to pay for a heaping serving of fruits & veggies sans the corn syrup, food coloring and sugar you find in most alternatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOOD LUCK OUT THERE!

diy mason jar centerpieces

These mason jar centerpieces are a super easy DIY project and they make a big impact on your table. My SILs helped us make these for our son’s baptism and they were the perfect fit for these gorgeous blue hydrangeas that I wanted to use for bold pops of color.

You can use mason jars to tie your theme together throughout your event, beyond centerpieces, too. In addition to placing them on the tables and stuffing them with these beautiful florals, we also used them on the appetizer and desert tables. For the desert tables, we loaded them with white chocolate pretzels that I’d made the night before.

step 1: shop

Always my favorite step! You can buy mason jars online, or at Michael’s where they’ll often have a sale. I grabbed large quart jars for the centerpieces and pint-sized mason jars for the accent tables. If you don’t have it already, you’ll want to buy ribbon that matches your theme and twine.

step 2: set up

Lay out your supplies, fire up your hot glue gun and prep the jars (make sure they’re clean and dry). The lid on each jar has a cap. Pop that out. If you have a place to stash them, keep those little caps for future projects.

step 3: decorate

This one’s all up to you, but for the project here— were lined the inside of the rim of the lid with ribbon using the hot glue gun. We also tied the jars with twine to get them more of a vintage feel. Lastly, we hole-punched and tied on these adorable tags that I found on Etsy (perfect for our baby christening theme!).

step 4: stuff

We loaded these with gorgeous blue hydrangeas. The following day was Mother’s Day and since we were hosting brunch, we actually kept the jars, pulled off the tags, and stuffed them full of gorgeous hot pink and red spring flowers (since I have two boys, I revel in every opportunity to tap my girly side!).

 

all that glitters

It’s that time again: Another event for one of my boys and my party-planning obsessing is in full gear. I live for the pouring over of every detail, getting inspired and the giddiness that takes over when I find brilliant little moments of perfection online that ultimately come together for something I hope they’ll love.

This time it’s my baby’s Blessing. We opted to do a dedication vs. a traditional baptism with my littlest man. We’re hosting it in our home, in our backyard, and we’re keeping it intimate and very personal. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t plan every last detail like it’s a $50,000 wedding (on a $1,500 budget).

These are just a few of the drool-worthy details I’ve found online and will be incorporating (in two very, very short weeks):

Glittery, gorgeous circle garland. I can't love this enough. Perfect to hand paper pom-poms and other decor.Via robayre on Etsy.

Via HeartandCrafts on Etsy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love a good Pom Pom. This idea is perfect to decorate the back where we’re hosting the dedication. I typically do them myself, but this time around I’m trying to be smarter about overcommitting to DIY projects with two weeks left. I love the color selections and options in this Etsy store. Via PomsAndCircumstance on Etsy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ceramic individual cupcake stands via Farmhouse Wares. Brilliant!

 

I adore these precious candles with personalized tags via Kgrainger on Hostess.com. Great for decor and as gifts for Godparents, grandparents.

little white dress – renewing our vows part 1

This year we celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary and we’ve decided to renew our vows. Just me, him, our boys and an island.

And so it begins. I live to plan these things. I’m also obsessed with all things bridal. My DVR is flooded with every bridal show on television, I flip through bridal blogs for fun and if I had all the time in the world, I’d be a wedding consultant on the side (put that up there with win the lottery, etc.).

I’m starting with the dress. I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for, except that I’d like something short, maybe some lace, and something we can stroll into a nice restaurant in later without feeling too incredibly over the top.

This one’s kind of speaking to me (you can find it here).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filing this under almost there…but not it. (Here’s where I wish I could take bits and pieces of dresses and make the perfect one…starting with cutting off all the stragglers trying to jump ship off the skirt!). This one’s Romona Keveza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I thought, what’s wrong with a little “over the top?”

And I quickly remembered the answer: my arse. If I wore this I’d look like I was smuggling Charmin.

The good news is, half the fun is searching!

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