Friday, December 23, 2011


We've been having some fun around here. In spite of my rant yesterday, we really have been enjoying the season.

Last weekend, Olivia and I went to the Nutcracker. We sat in the front row and it was magical. Something that we plan to do every other year (mostly because of the expense, but some to keep it special.)

Today Steve took the van to the shop for the day. Which means we are spending the day at home. If you know me, you know I pretty much avoid that at all cost. But today we have some fun stuff to look forward to.
One fun thing we've done the last several years is decorate a gingerbread house. This year went great.
The kids did a great job taking turns. And concentrating. And being creative.
In fact, it was the first year I didn't immediately regret the choice to start this tradition.
Naturally, they ate more candy than they actually put on the house. But that's what it's all about, right? Sugar buzz by 9:30am?! That's my goal for the next 3 days straight.
Later this afternoon some friends are coming over to play. I think I'm going to rent Mr. Popper's Penguins for them to watch. This evening we are going to take a friend out for dinner, hop in the car, drive around and look at Christmas lights. Finally, we will end the day with one of my favorite traditions. The kids will bring their sleeping bags downstairs and Steve and I will make a nest on the couches. We will do a sleepover by the tree. In keeping with the tradition, Steve will make his way to our comfy bed around 11 and I'll toss and turn on the couch until they all wake up around 6:30 and start whining about cartoons. Then, I'll sugar them up and start the torturous wait for Santa tomorrow night. So fun. So good!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

one down

First day of Christmas vacation, check. We started out with a glamorous bang... I had my every three week doctor appointment so Steve kept the kids. We then met at UD and passed out boxes of chocolates to the coaches. The kids were a big help, for about 8 minutes. Then they were a whiny mess. Spreading Christmas cheer, that's our middle name.

Steve headed to work and I took the kids to Chick-fil-a for lunch. With the rest of greater Dayton. Looks like *several* other moms had the same idea. After a bit of play, we headed to Target for a few last minute gifts. I'm pretty sure everyone who wasn't eating at Chick-fil-a was shopping at Target.

A word of advice, don't take your kids down the toy aisle 3 days before Christmas. All the requests that have already *been delivered* went out the window. "Hey mom, I don't actually want the Samurai Castle. I want THIS!" Lucky for me, I've got some upcoming birthdays to use to my advantage. Not to mention the, "You already sat on Santa's lap" card.

Now we're all snuggled on the couch for a long afternoon of PBS kids. Don't judge. The weather is a beast outside, it's the shortest day of the year and we've got some fun stuff planned for the next few days. Including looking at lights and a sleep over under the tree tomorrow night.

And just think, only 13 more days until they go back to school!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One more day

Oops! Nearly two weeks have passed since my last post. That's a lot of life around here. I'm not even going to try and catch up on the things I've missed. Some days I feel like I'm just trying to make it through. But I have to say, between the grief counseling (I've now been three times) and starting back up in the anti-depressant (nearly 2 weeks), I'm feeling like I can deal with life a bit better. I promise, I will unpack some of what I'm learning, but I might just wait until after the holiday. I'm trying to muster all the joy of the season that I can. It seems to be getting easier each day. My anxiety is lessening as are the imaginary symptoms that have been plaguing me. Thank you, Lord!
We are highly anticipating the arrival of Christmas morning around here! There is still a gingerbread house to be made, treats to be taken to neighbors, neighborhood lights to be seen and a slumber party under the Christmas tree lights to be had. Although this is a terribly sad Christmas for me, the kids are at a magical age. I am enjoying every last second of that, for sure!
Tomorrow is the last day of school for the kids. I have mixed emotions on that. I love having them home and am looking forward to doing some special things over the next two weeks. However, I have grown accustom to my mornings free (especially with doctors appointments and chemo to manage.) Lots to juggle, but we will make it happen. I promise more interesting posts to follow. I mostly wanted to check in and let you know things here are chugging along. Happy shortest day of the year, tomorrow, by the way. It's all up hill from there. Yay.

Friday, December 9, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things

Things have been a bit of a downer around here the past few posts. So hopefully these holiday pics will provide some smiles for you as we enter into the weekend.
Nothing makes you smile like a good twirly dress!
Our co-workers, Nicole and Erin, met us at the Greene last weekend and the 65 degree day provided us with some nice outdoor photo ops.

It has FINALLY stopped raining around here and there are a few straggling snow flakes falling out my window.

I just pulled a batch of Christmas cookies out of the oven.
And in just a few minutes I'm getting in the car with some girlfriends and we are headed to spend the weekend in Ann Arbor with our friend, Sarah.
Dare I say, I'm starting to get in the Christmas spirit?
I hope you are too! Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's already full

I have just a few minutes before I have to run with the boys to pick Olivia up from school. It's been a full week already and it's only Wednesday. A few highlights include, Eggnog tea. I found it at Dorothy Lane Market. The brand is Bigelow tea and with a splash of milk, it actually tastes a bit like eggnog. Which is a positive for me. If you don't like eggnog, it would not be a positive for you!
I bought and read the book, Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo. It was an interesting read. If you haven't heard about it, its the true story of a boy who nearly died when he was almost 4 years old. The book is the account of his illness and his reports on heaven, Jesus and others he met while in heaven. I'm a skeptic at heart, but the book has allowed me to venture down the what could be road. I gained some encouragement from it. Including a thought I believe came from the Lord yesterday. "Death is NOT a punishment." Its the first time since my mom died, my cancer and my dad's death that I have not viewed death as a punishment. (Not so much for me, personally, but more so those left behind.) It was a freeing thought.
I met with a grief counselor for the first time today. She works with Hospice of Dayton. It was only an hour, but it was very helpful. There were several helpful things, one of which, really hit home. She mentioned that much of my earthly *safety* had been taken away. Two loving parents and my health. She made it seem very normal that without those safety nets, I would be experiencing the emotions I have been experiencing.
She also asked what I thought about going on an anti-depressant. What she didn't know was that I had been on them and went off 3 weeks before my dad died. I have been praying about going back on them since my doctor's appointment last Thursday and asked the Lord to help me know through this appointment if that was something I should do.
As she mentioned how she thought going back on them could be helpful to me at this time, she commented on the wave of relief she saw go over me. Weird. (I know some of you may have personal opinions on anti-depressants. This is a bit of a hard and emotionally charged subject for me and would respectfully ask all negative comments to be kept from here. Thank you.)
I am sincerely sensing God intimately involved in my mind and in my spirit this week. I am thankful for prayers and words of encouragement from you. I am thankful for help available. Since it's only mid -week it will be interesting to see what else the week has in store. Gotta run now, Olivia awaits.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


On Thursday I had a doctor's appointment. That's not big news. I have a doctor's appointment every three weeks. But for some reason, I was really REALLY worked up about this one. So much so, I had Steve join me. Ever since Thanksgiving, I just have not been able to get a grip on life. In fact, our sweet friend from Church/dermatologist made a *house call* the other week because I was convinced I had skin cancer. Turns out I needed ointment.
Over Thanksgiving I could *feel something* in my ribs and also was sure I was bloated. (Side note, it was a year ago that I actually did notice the bloating and soon after went to my doctor who was convinced I had irritable bowel syndrome until he sent me for a CT scan in January.) So with the days getting shorter, and grayer and a nice little bout of grief to boot, I've turned into a full fledged hypochondriac. I needed my husband to join me at my appointment.
Have I mentioned recently how much I LOVE my doctor? And every.single.person. who works in his office? Well, I do! My routine appointment turned into 2 hours because of the loving care I received. I left convinced I'm normal. Not just my physical health, but my emotions. My crazy. My fear. All of it.
Here is something interesting. My doctor likened what I've been through this past year to someone who has been in a really bad car accident and is going through a type of post traumatic stress. It totally made sense to me. He said my body is on heightened alert. I feel stuff and am more cautious than a *normal* person. Like the person who was in an accident may be afraid to get back behind the wheel and will drive slowly, same for me going to the doctor's office. And I get to do it every three weeks.
All that to say, it helped. I've still imagined a few things this weekend, but I feel like I had a better perspective on things. Tomorrow is chemo. Another trip back to the office. I'm praying I can keep a clear head and be thankful. God's grace. I've felt it this weekend.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the aftermath

Once again, I find myself on the tail end of an unexpected bloggy break. The Thanksgiving holiday seems to have gotten the better of me. Every other year we switch families for holidays and when we do Koproski Thanksgiving, it turns into more of a Thanksmas since it is the only time over the holidays that we see everyone so we go ahead and do presents then too.
I was in a tailspin last Monday when I realized I had to have a large portion of Christmas done and wrapped by Wednesday, with three kids home from school (their school was off for a full week at Thanksgiving. Weeeee)
We also did Thanksgiving up in Toledo. Which sounded fine 8 weeks ago when Steve's mom kindly offered for us to do it somewhere else. But 8 weeks ago it seemed like a fine idea. I'm tough. I can handle it.
Or not.
My mom and I had a Thanksgiving day tradition. After the Macy's parade we would turn on the AKC dog show and watch it while we would put the finishing touches on the meal. In fact, I remember the first Thanksgiving we were married and Steve being dumbfounded that first of all there is a dog show on tv on Thanksgiving day and second of all... that people actually watch it.
So on Thanksgiving after gifts were opened and kids were buzzing, I went upstairs to catch my breath and there on the lone tv was the dog show. That was it. Sent me over the edge. Not so tough. No so able to handle it.
I tried to enter in. I tried to enjoy. And for the most part I did. And then we got back home to Dayton. It's been tough. My stomach has been in knots. The tears have flowed. I miss my parents. I fear the return of cancer. I'm not sure how this is going to be the *most wonderful time of the year.*
I've been in touch with a grief counselor. I've talked to friends. I've come to grips with the fact that I'm not so tough. That maybe, after all, I can't handle all of this. I know God is in it. His grace is here. I'm trusting in it; counting on it. If I can get past the *trappings* there is still a shot at this next month being *most wonderful.* I'll let you know along the way how it goes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I see London, I see France

Last night at Awana (a church club my kids are a part of) the boys did a Thanksgiving craft. They made paper turkeys. On the feathers, the adults wrote what the kids said they were thankful for. Quinn's came home with mom, dad, dog and home on his feathers. Thanks, Quinn. Turner's came home with bread, chicken and underwear on his. Ahhh, yes. Typical Turner. We had a good laugh over that one, you can be sure.

I mentioned a few blogs ago that I've been reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and that it is pretty much changing my life. Thank you to those of you who offered to send me a new copy. I was able to go ahead and secure a new one:) Good thing too, because I really needed to keep chugging along.

For example, I was in line at a store this morning and I was waiting behind an older gentleman. When I zeroed in on him, I realized he could have been my dad from behind. He even had my dad's big 'ole ears. It was all I could do to choke down the lump in my throat and squeeze back the burning hot tears so that I could pay the cashier with a bit of dignity.

I got in the van and the tears came. As they will. I could see myself sliding down the slippery slope. The not just being sad kind of day, but the I'm losing my grip kind of day. Then I remembered, be thankful. Even there, in the midst of my grief, there had to be SOMETHING to be thankful for. So I let 'em rip.

I'm thankful that the man looked like my dad and I thought of him today.
I'm thankful that he passed in September and not now in the flurry of the holiday season.
I'm thankful that he didn't linger in pain and suffering for a long time.
I'm thankful that we had a very nice Thanksgiving with him last year.
I'm thankful that he gave me a winning lottery ticket last Christmas and what a fond memory that will always be.
I'm thankful for a blue sky day in November in Ohio.

I'm thankful for underwear.

Because when all else fails, my son has taught me, you can always... ALWAYS be thankful for underwear!

Guess what? I still miss my dad and my mom. I still have a lump at the top of my throat. But grief didn't sabotage my day. And that is a reason to be thankful!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Our morning in pictures

Happy Monday!

Steve had to catch a super early flight this morning for a work trip, so it's just me and the kids getting ready for school. Things have been going exceptionally smooth and I thought I'd get some fun pics.

I've had a few requests for some hair photos. It's hard to tell from these, but it's an actual style now. I really like it and am thinking I'm going to keep it short for awhile.
My sweet girl, on the other hand, is rocking the *dog ears* (that's what my mom used to call them.) I could freeze frame kindergarten.

She also got bangs with her last haircut and I'm LOVING them.

Olivia took this picture of Turner and I. He is really coming into his own these days. Doing well in school, working on homework and telling jokes and stories. He is a blast to be around and I really, really like him.

Quinn wasn't super thrilled about me disturbing his dragon war that was going on in order to get a picture with him. He is a fun kid and imagination runs rampant between these three. I really am loving this stage of my kids' lives (except of course, when I'm not! Ha.) I'd say 75% of the time it's really fun around here.

So, here is a peek into our Monday morning. It's gonna be a busy one. Have a great day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Waiting Room

Now the wait begins. The scan is over and Thursday morning is my every-three-week doctor appointment where I'll (most likely) find out that my scan was un-eventful.

Except for the fact that God was there. While I was up in the chemo room, I ran into my *friend* Renee. Renee is probably around 60. She was one chemo round behind me during the rough stuff. Her body didn't respond quite as well as mine did and so she had to do two extra rounds of the rough stuff. I've thought of and have prayed for her often and have not run into her for a few months. It was good to see her. She is now doing pretty well and looks much better.

We drank our Kool Aide together and spent nearly an on hour catching up. Its funny the bond that is created in the chemo room. Especially since we were on the same schedule. She once brought me a pineapple. I brought her balloons when she finally finished.

I've been reading this book, One Thousand Gifts, over the last few weeks. It has revolutionized my life and the way I relate to God. It is a challenging and beautiful book. But its weighty and I've really taken it slow because I want to digest it. In a nutshell, the author tells of how she has found joy (in the good, the hard and the everyday) through being thankful. She kept a journal of 1,000 things she was thankful for. I've discovered there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for, even if it seems like dumb stuff.

As I was talking to Renee, I felt like I was suppose to give her my book. I didn't really want to. It had underlines, notes and tear stains in it. Plus, I was only on chapter 8. But I knew I was suppose to. So I pulled it out and briefly told her about it.

Tears filled her eyes and her mouth dropped open. She told me she had just been thinking about this the other day and that this was just what she needed. We exchanged phone numbers so that we could stay in touch. Off we went to get our scans.

I'm still not sure I'd say that I am *glad* I had to get a scan yesterday. But I was really glad that I didn't have to sit there alone and drink my Kool Aide. It was nice to have Renee there. And God too!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Here we go again.

It's the night before a scan. Every 9 weeks I have a CT scan. The scan is no big deal. I'll go a half hour before my appointment to the chemo room. My sweet nurses will access my port. I'm thankful to have a port (which is next to my left shoulder just below the skin. You can't see it if you're not looking. But if you are, you would notice a little triangle thing that kind of pokes my skin up. In case you were wondering.) I never knew what a port looked like before I had one. The port access doesn't hurt because I have a numbing cream that I put on an hour before they are going to poke me.

Once they access my port, they draw some blood and send it to the lab STAT so they can make sure my kidneys are in good shape to handle the dye they'll shoot through my body during my scan. Whew.

I leave the chemo room with a tube dangling from my chest. I head across the parking lot to radiology at the main hospital. They check me in and hand me an ENORMOUS Styrofoam cup of red Kool Aide with a touch of contrast that will run through my veins so they can see what's going on inside of my body. I sit in a room with others drinking *the Kool Aide*. I have one hour to finish it. Others usually gag it down. I quite like it. (Weird, I know.) But it makes me SUPER cold. I usually bring a jacket and in the dead of summer have been known to ask for a warm blanket.

After an hour they call me back. I hop on a table that has a pillow for my head and my feet. Depending on the day, this is the most relaxed I'll be! They settle me in and get me situated on the bed just right. They take a few initial pictures and then they shoot the dye into my port. Its the weirdest sensation because you can feel the dye move through your body. It finally makes me warm.

They take a few more pictures, usually waiting a few minutes as I lay there waiting for my bladder to fill up. Lucky me. They need pictures of my bladder. I'm usually on the bed not longer than 20 minutes. They always offer me a drink and a snack when its over (I've had to fast at least 4 hours but because I like to go first thing in the morning, I've usually fasted all night, and I'm hungry. But not thirsty... remember, the red Kool Aide!)

Tomorrow will be my 8th CT scan. I'm getting to be a pro. And yet I'm a nervous wreck. There are no signs that anything will show up on my scan. I feel great. (Better than ever?) I had an exam 3 weeks ago that was great. I'm still doing chemo. My doctor has nothing but good things to say about my prognosis. Yet, I've shed tears tonight. I've worried. I've wondered. I've felt the what ifs creep up. I've imagine tumors. I'm a head case. I'm trying to Trust. Believe Jesus. Conquer fear. Lean on Him. Pray. Adjust to the new normal.

I'd appreciate your prayers. All of the above is easier said than done!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Night, night, sleep tight

Some of my sweetest moments in life happen when I'm tucking my daughter into bed at night. One might think that is because the day is finally over and it's time for some *me time* (and on many occasion, that is true) but most of the time it is because of the sweet and honest talks we have. If you have kids, you may find the same is true at your house.

On Friday, O got her hair cut and for a special treat, I let her get a piece of tinsel tied in her hair. We were going to a wedding reception of our dear friend, and former nanny, Linnea that night. Fast forward to tonight as we laid side by side on her bed and I saw tears welling up in her eyes.

Her bottom lip started to quiver and I asked what was wrong. "I'm just afraid I'm going to get in trouble at school tomorrow for my hair."

The kids are not allowed to wear costumes to school for Halloween, nor are they allowed to wear jewelry any day. She was afraid that her teacher would see her tinsel and she would get in trouble. I dried her eyes and assured her that she would be fine with the one piece of tinsel. I also asked her what would be the worst thing that could happen if she DID get in trouble? (Her fear seemed so irrational.) She squeaked out that Ms. Shirley would take it (the tinsel) out. We then talked about how that would not be so bad. I then reassured her that she would be fine. And if she did get in trouble, I would take the blame.

Once again fast forward a few hours later. I spent some time talking to God about some things I've been mulling over regarding my life, my circumstances, life, death, a sermon at Church this weekend etc. All of a sudden it was like I heard my words come back to me. Only this time, I was the fearful, tearful daughter with irrational fears. I felt like this time HE reassured ME that I would be fine and that I have zero fear of punishment, because Jesus already took my blame.

Friday night, after Linnea's reception I snuggled up to O for a *quick prayer* (it was late, after all, since we stayed out late.) As I prayed for her and her night, I gave thanks for Linnea and Brandon and their new marriage. When I did, I started to cry (I know, I know, enough with the tears around here! It's enough to think someone might be a touch hormonally challenged or something!)

The tears were a result of my realization that this wedding was being planned pretty much through the duration of my chemo.

Honestly, some days the joy and giddiness of wedding planning were a tough pill to swallow. But on Friday night, as my kids and I danced and celebrated Linnea's new life, in some ways it felt like I got a chance to celebrate my new life. With hair. With energy. With health. And as I prayed, gratitude flooded over me like an enormous wave.

Although, some nights bedtime feels like a chore to *get done*, I'm so thankful that recently I've slowed down enough to learn a thing or two.

P.S. How cute is that couple? Couldn't you just hate 'em?!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Some things you can't plan for

Friday evening, Steve and I went to a wedding. It was a lovely, outdoor, at 6:30 pm in October wedding. It was a chilly wedding. It was one of the most unique weddings I've ever been to. I had to sit alone during the ceremony because Steve was the one doing the marrying. He did a great job. I was secretly hurrying him along in my mind though because I was freezing my stuff off. Once the sun went down, it was COLD!

During the evening something caught me off guard. In all the beauty, in all the sweetness of fresh vows; I seemed to slip somewhere that seemed a little *off.* Unfortunately, I couldn't really articulate it until the next morning. But as I sat on it, as I tried to figure it out, I realized... grief had reared it's ugly head. Duh.

A daddy giving his daughter away. A mommy dabbing her tears as her baby joined another. A grief for my own parents. A grief for cancer (now gone... but always haunting, if I let it.) A deep desire to allow thankfulness beat down the self pity that lurks below the surface. A frustration at grief itself. An understanding that I'm in process, but wanting it to be over. A happy occasion for my friends, a reminder of sadness for me.

Identification of emotions for me is always helpful. I've been a bit sensitive the past few days. It catches me off guard. I think what I'm finding out is that there will be events, situations, words, songs, movies, quite frankly, anything, that might catch me off guard... and that's okay. I just wish I could schedule for it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mother Nature must have *issues*

Didn't I just do a post about how two weeks ago I experienced one of the loveliest, 80 degree October Saturdays EVER?

Yesterday, we could have used that day! It was field day to the apple orchard with the kids' classes and because of the forecast, we needed to make an emergency run to Target the night before for hats, gloves, boots and snow pants.

In a moment of pure crazy, I took all three kids with me. (In the cold, dreary, driving rain.) We pulled in the Target parking lot where I discovered I had left my wallet at home. You don't have to use too much imagination to guess what kind of mood that put me in.

We went in anyhow, just to make sure they were carrying what we needed, hopped back in the van, went home, grabbed the wallet and went back to Target.

I let the kids pick out their own hats and gloves. They did a stellar job for sure.

It rained and was cold for the field trip and today it is even colder and windier. I may be a bit biased, but these kids sure are cute and these pictures have brightened my day. Although, if you had been with me the other night during our SECOND trip, you may not have called any of us cute. There *might* have been some yelling in the check out aisle as I had had enough "togetherness" at that point.

And for the record, NO, I did NOT make my Chinese kid pick out the panda hat. He totally wanted it!

And boy am I glad he did. Isn't that the cutest, most stereotypical thing you've ever seen???

It's a good thing we hit the store that night though, because man was it rainy and cold and windy. Although it wasn't snowy, the snow pants came in handy because, sweet mercy, the mud! (Although I did make one colossal parenting mistake when I opened the closet on filed trip morning to find that we had already given away her winter coat from last winter and have yet to replace it. We made do with an extra warm fleece). Oops.

This is Olivia and her sweet friend Lillian. I had to escort the brothers, but the kindergartners got to fly solo. I ran into O and her friend every now and then and they were holding hands each time. Don't you just want to eat them up?

Kindergarten sweetness is my favorite!!! Can I please press pause on this season? It may be the first season of kid-ness that I've said that for.

3 year old boy kid-ness?


Although, faces like these help.
It's been fun to spend a bit more time with my kids' classes over the last few weeks. My kids are in class with kids who have recently moved here from Nepal, Ecuador, Iraq and Mexico.

What a great experience to grow up alongside people who are different from you in so many ways. Especially for Quinn, who was also born in another country.

At the apple orchard there was a little time for goofing around. Turner found that if he swung from this rope and then let go, he would land flat on his back and it didn't even hurt. At first I was about to tell him no, and then I caught myself and thought, "Shoot, why not?" He giggled his little heart out every single time.

And so did I.

Part of the field trip was a hay ride to a pumpkin patch (aka mud bath).

It was cold, windy and no one seemed to notice except the grown ups.

Something about this picture really makes me smile.

Maybe it's the big hats on the little heads.

Maybe it's how close these two are sitting and yet so unaware of each other.

Maybe it's the bags we had to put the pumpkins in because they were so muddy.

Who knows why, but it sure is fun to have a reason to smile on a dreary day like today!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deck the Halls

You may remember back in late Feb/early March, my friends over at Mommin' It Up did a really special and generous thing for me. They did a campaign to help us raise money to pay for our nanny, Linnea. Many of YOU and plenty of strangers contributed, for which we are super grateful. Last month, they had me do a guest post for Ovarian Cancer awareness month. These two ladies (Jenny and Emily) are *just moms* but have used their *super famous* blog for several good causes. They are doing it again.

A mutual friend of ours, Jeni, is a foster mom. She and I have been Facebook friends for awhile now. We ran into each other at the grocery store a little while back and we got to talking and were kinda like, "We ought to be real friends" so we had coffee a week and a half ago. We spent about two hours together but I could have spent all day with her. We had lots to talk about.

Jeni sent me a Facebook message the other day with an idea she had and asked me to help. After the love people showed me during my blog fundraiser, how could I say no?

Jenni, being a foster mom herself, knows the needs of kids in foster care. She has had an amazing idea to do a fundraiser to provide these kids (foster kids in Greene Co., OH) with brand new Christmas presents. Not hand-me-downs. Not crappy Dollar Store gifts (like MY kids get;) ) but a special gift.

My friend, Jenny (yeah, the other Jenny... what was WITH the 80's parents and their need to name their kid Jenny??) over at Mommin' It Up has a way for you to give. Please click over here to get the details on how to give. We are asking for a small donation of $5 or more if you can. I know our family will be doing this. And I will be involving my kids as well. What a great way to bless some kids who don't have much. I know the Internet can be a dangerous place, but isn't it so cool to see how it can be used for good? And to make friends. And to provide smiles.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

4 and one week

A week ago (ish) Quinn Jian turned 4. I say *ish* because we don't actually know when his true birthday is. So, I have a few days on this, right?

The orphanage called October 10th his birthday and so do we. We figure it's pretty accurate because he still had his umbilical cord attached when he arrived at the orphanage. We have pics to prove it!

We gathered nearly 20 of his friends on the most gorgeous 80 degree and sunny October Saturday I've ever seen. We played a few games outside before several of the kids nearly had heat stroke. I guess you can hack the heat in July, but come October, little bodies have already made the leap to fall. Complaints abounded. (Isn't that just the cutest little line up of friends you've ever seen?)

He wanted a Spider man party this year. It's all I heard about for months. So, by golly, we had a Spider man party!

The cake was the main attraction and I had to threaten bodily harm to keep little fingers out of the cake. The good news was that it didn't come to that. Although, I did catch Quinn in the corner before guests arrived shoving cheese balls in his mouth AFTER he was clearly told no more snacks before friends arrived. We had a small lesson on grace and he escaped without punishment.

I had to include a pic of the cake for posterity sake. And for the sake of my wallet. We spent waaaay too much for a few plastic rings and an action figure plunked on a cake.

It's been a while since I've been emotionally overcome by the fact that my sweet son is adopted. *Rescued* if you will, from a life of who knows what. But when I looked at his little face (covered in cheese ball powder) looking at his cake as his 20-some friends sang him happy birthday, my eyes filled with tears. He has dear friends whom he loves and who love him back. Not that he wouldn't have had that in China, but I get to know him and those friends here.

I get to experience that love, that sweetness in my life. I am blessed and amazed at how God arranged for Quinn to be in my life.

He is smart, and funny, and sneaky and a people person. He sweats a lot. He is bossy and generous and a brother.

He is mine.

And all he wanted for his 4th birthday was a Spider man party.

With a Spider man Pinata.

Candy from heaven. What could be better for my sweet son?

Only perhaps cheese balls from heaven.

Happy fourth, Quinn. I love you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

one of these days.

on the road again. one of these days you'll get to see pics of Quinn's birthday party. But now, we're loading up the van and heading to Cleveland for a little work and a little Grandma/Papa time. I'm being summoned... so I'm off. Have a great weekend.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sorry, mamaw's been at the park

Shoot. I was suppose to get back on the bloggy horse. But out of nowhere, we were blindsided by the most gorgeous weather week I may have EVER experienced in Ohio. Every day was clear blue (almost hurt your eyes, cloudless kind of blue) skies, mid to upper seventy degrees and spot on perfection. The kind of perfection that should be a crime to stay in your house and blog perfection. Affected by weather much?

Have I mentioned that I might have turned into a 80 year old lady last winter without telling you? Because, seriously, I would be more than happy to hunker down in some retirement village in a warm climate state, buy a golf cart and just roam around in the lovely weather all day long.

But I digress. With all that UH-mAZING weather (another reason I'm 80 and you didn't know it... apparently all I can talk about it my health and the weather. No offense to the 80 year olds out there...) we were at our favorite park 4 out of the 5 school days for evening play last week. Saturday was Quinn's big Spider-man birthday party (with pics to come just as soon as the Ohio weather turns on me again) and yesterday was major clean the house day. So obviously, blogging once again has taken a back seat to life. But I swear, if you hang in there with me, there will be plenty more life changing talk of ailments and weather related excitement. I swear on my last tube of Ben Gay.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I have a new motto

I've been reading a new book lately. Today, while I was at chemo, I came across a quote that I really, really liked. I'm not a huge quoter, but this one I may adapt as my new life motto. Are you ready for it?

"Life is not an emergency."

For some reason, that really resonates with me. My life seems to have been one crisis after another during this past year. But life itself is not an emergency.

My crazy short hair? NOT an emergency! In fact, over the weekend, four different people asked me where I get my hair cut. You better believe they are not exactly lining up outside the Kettering Women's Cancer Center to get theirs done too.

Getting dinner on the table? NOT an emergency! Especially since I've found Pinterest. If you have not gone to Pinterest, do so. Right now. You, and your family can thank me later.

This weekend was super fun. I took the kids to do lots of fun stuff, including a fall festival at our Y on Friday night and a kid thing at the Mall on Saturday. Olivia got called up on stage by the magician.

Needing to vacate the house while Steve did home projects? NOT an emergency! Although my attitude by Sunday was nearing emergency lows. Too much activity with not enough downtime for a grieving mommy may not have been the smartest choice for me, but life is life and it's not an emergency.

Life lately
has tested me, that's for sure. I wish I was a bit more like Quinn, because sometimes you just need to lay down and take a little nap. Emergencies can wait. Life just isn't one of them!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Some good, some bad

I've been meaning to blog for days. It's kind of been haunting me. Like one of those things you kind of want to do, but more know you *should* do. Should because so many of you have been so kind with comments on my dad's passing. In all honesty, this week has been down right busy. Lots of life going on. Last week we totally closed out my dad's apartment. Goodwill. Craig's List. Garbage. Laughs. Tears. Arguments.

I came across something on grief this week that said, "Don't be in a rush to get rid of your loved one's belongings." Too late. "Don't be in a rush to close your loved one's house." Too late. "Don't hop back into your normal life too soon. Take some time off if possible." Not possible.

I've caught myself several times this week getting ready to call my dad. For the past 5 years I've called home daily to make sure everyone was alright. That responsibility is now over. Some of that is actually a relief.

That is my brief update. I've really enjoyed this past week in the midst of grief. I laughed. A lot. Found much to be thankful for. Had another great report from my doctor. Exercised. Cooked. Baked. Enjoyed time with some girlfriends. Celebrated my husband (he turned 41 this week.) Watched The X Factor. Totally loved it!!! Bought my kids warm clothes (it suddenly turned fall here in Dayton; leaving us a bit unprepared.) I did lots of stuff. Blogging just wasn't one of them.

Here's to getting back into the blog swing of things. Have a great weekend and GO BUCKEYES.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Dad?" "Yes, it is!"

Just a quick update to let you know that yesterday, Tuesday September 20th, I held my dad's hand as he took his last breath. It was just how he would have wanted it to be, the two of us to the end. I arrived at the hospital at 11 am. Three different times he opened his eyes. He knew I was there. I read Scripture with him a few times through out the day. Each time it looked like he was nestling into his bed to hear a bit better. He didn't say a word yesterday. We held hands most of the day. I told him stories about the kids. Things coming up in our lives. I reminisced about old times. Affirmed him for the man he was and made some inside jokes. I tried to think of all the things I wanted him to hear me say. At 4pm they moved him to the hospice wing of the hospital. At 5:35 he took his last breath with me saying good bye and holding his hand. 5 minutes later one of my best friends, Sarah, walked in the door. God's perfect timing so I didn't have to be alone. I drove back to Dayton last night so I could be with Steve and tell the kids this morning.

I have so many thoughts and emotions that I hope you don't mind me unpacking here in the days and weeks to come. Right now I'm numb. I go between feeling the need to clean and organize my house (? no idea where that is coming from) and then the need to curl up in a heap and cry my eyes out. I found myself saying "I don't think I can do this." I'm not sure what I mean by "this." Its just what my gut is saying. I'm 39 and an orphan. It's a tough pill to swallow. I'm waiting for the comfort of the Lord to swoop in, I know He is here... lots of evidence. More on that to come.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The time has come

Who knew the day would every arrive when I would be asked to be a *guest blogger* on another blog? My friends Jenny and Emily over at Mommin' It Up asked me to write a post about my Cancer journey in honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. It's a bit of a bummer when you're asked to be a guest because of your battle with Cancer and not because of your laugh out loud humor or your incredible style tips ;) but it's niced to be asked regardless. You can click here to check out what I wrote.

Seriously, though, I do want to thank Jenny and Emily, their readers and several other bloggy friends who hosted GimmEfive, a fundraiser back in February. Through their efforts we were able to raise 100% of the funds needed to cover the cost of our nanny during the time of my *rough chemo* treatments. The blogging world is interesting. It is so strange to feel connected to people that perhaps you've never met. You can stalk their lives and feel like *friends* when you're not. You can know more about people who wouldn't know you if you saw them in an aisle at Target than you do about some of your family. I'm thankful to know Jenny and Emily in my *real* life. I'm thankful that they use their blog for good. I hope that through my Cancer journey, God will use this blog for good. I hope if you ever see me in a Target aisle you will say hi. I hope someday, we might be actual friends.

Until then, get your buns over to Mommin' It Up and make some new friends!

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's 5 a.m. and I can't sleep

It was 6:15 and I needed to get back on the road. I knew it was time to say goodbye. But the click and rush of the ventilator was making it hard. I leaned over and told him I loved him. I told him he was a great dad. I told him to rest and let his body heal. I told him to talk to Jesus. I squeezed his chilly hand and kissed his cool forehead. I smoothed out his bed head one last time. I gulped back the tears and left the ICU. Once I got in the car, I slumped my shoulders and cried like a baby, sure that I had said goodbye to my dad one last time.

On the two and a half hour ride home, I replayed some memories. I saw him in the stands at one of my swim meets. I came into the pharmacy in one of my Halloween costumes to trick or treat for an enormous candy bar since he had to work. I was in Toronto seeing Phantom with both he and my mom. It was bittersweet. One thing is for sure, when you're working through saying goodbye to a loved one, don't listen to Country music OR Christian music alone in the car on a relatively long drive. It's enough to send you over the edge.

So you can imagine my delight and surprise when I spoke with him on the phone last night at 9:15. Call in hours to the ICU are 9 am and 9 pm. If anything happens in between those hours, they call you. Promptly at 9:01, I called in. Erin, the nurse, was happy to tell me they took him off the ventilator earlier in the day and that he was sitting up and eating some mashed potatoes. He is off the insulin drip and they have nearly weaned him off the blood pressure medication that was stabilizing him. Granted, he's weak and still has many issues, but they have decided to treat him medically and with diet rather than surgery.

Miracle? Miracle!

I asked the nurse if there was a phone in his room. I pretty much knew the answer. You aren't in the ICU to chat on the phone. But she was somehow able to rig a phone call to him. I wanted him to know that Steve and I are on our way this weekend. The first thing I said was, "DAD!!!!" The first thing he said was, "YES!!!! It is!" This is the way we start EVERY conversation on the phone. I can't tell you how giddy I was. Steve said it sounded like Christmas morning around here.

We have a crazy uphill battle to climb with his health. The next step is getting him into a rehab facility where this won't happen again. I'd really like him to come to Dayton. That is a fight you can pray for. We will head up there this weekend to fight that fight. The goal will be to get him strong enough to move back to his apartment; I feel he should be near us in order to reach that goal.

No one needs to argue with me about the fact that God is a healer. I know that sometimes He chooses to and sometimes He doesn't. Today, I am thankful that He has chosen to bring my dad back a little while longer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The hits keep coming

I briefly mentioned in a blog last week that my dad was in the hospital and I was worried about him. He was moved last Thursday to a nursing home/rehab facility. Clearly, he needed some physical therapy in order to go back home, where he lives alone. Each day I talked with him, his words became more garbled and he was hard to understand.

I got a friend to keep the kids on Sunday so that Steve and I could head to Toledo to visit with him, get his mail and make sure all was well. Steve stayed back at my dad's apartment while I drove my dad's car over to the rehab center. When I arrived, my dad was sitting in a wheelchair and it quickly became apparent that he was not well. He was rather slumped in the chair and could only open one eye at a time. Within the first five minutes, he dozed off several times. Lunch came and he wasn't hungry. He could not hold the fork by himself nor could he get his drink to his mouth. My heart sunk. Just one week before he had driven himself to the grocery store and done some shopping.

I got the nurse and started asking questions. Without going into too many details, my dad is suffering from severe colitis probably brought on by Chrones Disease. This is a new diagnosis (as of July) but we were also told it wasn't Chrones. It's been a confusing journey to say the least. Suffice it to say, he is SEVERELY dehydrated. So not being able to get a drink to his mouth on his own is NOT good. The nurse told me she thought this was his normal state. I think when she saw how upset I was (I just couldn't get myself under control) she got the picture. In between semi-lucid conversations that were hard to understand, he was having crazy hallucinations. It was scary.

When we left on Sunday (which was incredibly hard for me to do, but had to be done since I had to be back home for a 9:30 chemo treatment on Monday morning), the nurses said they were going to call the house Dr. to see what they should do. Duh! You would think they would have done something a day or two sooner considering a man with severe diarrhea who can't get anything to drink on his own.

I got a phone call 20 minutes later saying they were taking him by ambulance to the ER. He has been in the ICU since Sunday night. He is now on a ventilator, sedated and the docs are waiting to see how to proceed next. His blood pressure was dangerously low. The medication they have been giving him has helped that stabilize a bit. His kidneys are not working properly and they don't know exactly why. They did a scope on his intestines yesterday to determine once and for all if he does have Chrones. We are in a holding pattern. We are praying that as he sleeps he will get the rest he needs for his body to heal.

Honestly, the last 15 months have been some of the hardest of my life. Losing my mom, a cancer diagnosis, chemo, losing Steve's grandma, and now facing the reality that I may lose my dad soon. I am seriously at the end of myself. I hate to be all pity party-ish. I fear being *that friend* who is all gloom and doom. But honestly, it feels like just as soon as I pick myself up from the most recent blow, something else comes in right behind it. I also know there are people in the world who have it (a.k.a. life circumstances) way worse than I do. I have so much to be thankful for... perhaps I need to focus there a bit... but OH MY GOSH... I don't know if I can take one more life drama anytime soon.

I feel as if in some ways I'm turning off emotion. I'm one crappy thing away from hardening my heart. Pray I don't. Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring. Most of all, thanks for praying. Here's hoping I have some good news to share with you some time soon!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Ten years ago I was living in Shanghai, China. I had just settled in for my third year of studies at a University there. I was living in an off campus apartment, by myself. My friend, Shannon, a Chinese friend was staying with me for a few weeks while she was looking for a place of her own.

It was late in the evening and I was watching a DVD. My phone rang. It was my friend Phyllis. She is my friend because she keeps me in stitches. So when she told me to prepare myself, the World Trade Center had been hit with an airplane, I might have told her to shut up. She got real serious and said the news was true. She and her family lived in more of a luxury apartment building and had CNN in English and was able to get fast and accurate news.

Because I had lived in New York City right before moving to China, the City still felt like home. I had gone to a very large church in Manhattan, Redeemer Presbyterian. Many attenders worked in the financial district. One of my first thoughts was, "Oh dear Lord, most of Redeemer is gone."

I hung up the phone and immediately tried calling some of my best friends living in the City. As you know, that was impossible. I tried calling my parents in Ohio and even that took a while. Phone lines were just plain tied up. I was also on line trying to get any info I could, but 10 years ago, Internet connections weren't what they are now... especially in China. That night on the Chinese news there was a 30 second clip about the day. It was eye opening. We do the same thing here. A tragedy half way around the world often only makes a short clip on the nightly news.

Phyllis called back a few minutes later to tell me that another plane hit. I remember the pit in my stomach, now thinking of all my friends in the City. Thinking about what I might have been doing that morning if I was there. I had worked at NYU and could clearly see the towers from campus. I wanted to throw up.

Again, another phone call saying the Towers had fallen. I'm not sure I said anything, I just hung up. I called another American friend who lived in the dorms on campus and she came over. We cried. Our campus told us not to come to class the next day and to stay inside, they didn't know if we would be unsafe. We didn't stay on campus, but we went over to another friends' apartment who also had CNN. A bunch of us Americans sat glued to the TV, probably just like you did.

Later that day we learned that all air travel in and out of the U.S. had been suspended, for several days as I remember. It was the weirdest feeling, not being able to get back home if I needed to. I was literally stuck in China.

As news came from home and I realized all my friends were fine, there was a bit of relief. I had heard news that miraculously, most of the people at my church had been spared. But life in China went on as normal. One of the biggest history changing events in America, and I was not able to grieve as the rest of the country was. My parents told stories of the heroes. They shared about the renewed patriotism. I was eating noodles.

I came home for a short visit in February, 2002. I made a trip to the City. I had to. My plane flew over the southern tip of Manhattan. My stomach lept into my mouth as there was a horrifying gap in the landscape. I cried. I went down to Ground Zero. I saw the self made memorials that still stood, five months later. I cried. I mourned. I tried to *catch* up with my fellow Americans. I was angry at all of the people from other countries taking pictures at Ground Zero, as if it was another tourist attraction.

I didn't know on that trip that I would not be moving back to the City after leaving China. God had a different plan. New York is magical. Perhaps my favorite place on the planet. Even though I only lived there for three years, in some ways they were the best three years of my life... NY greatly shaped who I am today. In my heart, I'll always be a New Yorker. So on this 10th anniversary, I mourn. In some ways I'm still trying to *catch up*. My thoughts and prayers are with all the family, friends and loved ones of those who lost their lives 10 years ago.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

just a touch of crazy

I'm supposed to be vacuuming my house right now. But *unfortunately* I flipped the switch gave it one shove and the thing went poof. I'm pretty sure poof is not a good sound. Even more sure because right after the poof, it stopped working. So I'm pretty sure that is a sign that I'm suppose to blog instead.

I had my regular every-three-week-appointment with my oncologist today. They are pretty uneventful. Except for once every 6 (or is it 8? I can't remember) weeks when I have my Cat scan and I get the results. I was pretty level headed this time. I feel GREAT and have no reason to suspect they would have found anything on the scan. I was pretty calm.

Except for the fact that I wasn't! For one, my dad is back in the hospital. He's been in and out for the past few months. He lives alone and I'm worried about him. I have a general angst about Turner, hoping today will be the day he gets over his distaste for the lunch room. Then there's the scan, which is nothing to worry about. Until I was getting my blood drawn. My nurse innocently asked if I was there alone today? Yep. Then it dawned on my, "Maybe she knows something. Maybe I shouldn't be here alone. I wonder if she's worried that I won't be able to drive home after I hear the bad news?" So I sat in the waiting room waiting to be called back, ready to receive the *news.*

They took my blood pressure. It made the machine ding. Apparently, much like poofs, dings are not good. The nurse's eyes bugged out of her head. I guess it was a little high. I explained about how I tend to get a little edgy on scan day. The other nurse told me I wear her out (in a kind/light hearted way?!?) My reply, "Girl... try being me!"

Of course, all was well. Nothing on the scan. In fact my doctor told me, "They must have found you boring. There's not much here." They really have a way with words around there don't they :).

I'll re-check my blood pressure tonight and if it is still high they may need to put me on blood pressure meds. Which is common with the chemo drug I'm still getting. But shoot, I was looking forward to being med free. I just went off my anti-depressant. It's going well. I only wanted to kill my dog several times yesterday. And I'm not sure the anti-depressant would have helped me there. However, it may have helped my breakdown in the bathroom after my Cat scan was over yesterday. I ran into my doctor in the hallway right after my scan. He commented that I looked good for someone who just got out of a scan. I ducked into the ladies room and took a 30 second cry. Mostly along the lines of, "How did I get here? What the heck?" Coo Koo.

So, now if I can just get my vacuum cleaner to work, all will be well. Why is it when you don't want it to, stuff sucks... and when you need it to, it won't?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

where a kid can be a kid

It's official... I have three school aged kids. Tuesday was the first day of school for the boys. And while I was bemoaning the fact that the summer is over, a cold front moved in and it certainly feels like school all of a sudden. I guess that helped me *get in the mood.*

To my surprise, Turner was the one that had a problem with the first day.

When I dropped him off, he just kind of got lost in the sea of children headed into the school building.

He and Quinn looked like old pros as they disappeared down the hall. They didn't even look back.

And THIS is the face I feared the teachers would meet. If you have ever met my kids (or read this blog) you know that Turner is my do before you think child. I love him. He's crazy.

So when I went to pick him up at 1:00 I wasn't entirely surprised when the teacher stepped out of the door and said that he had a bit of a rough morning. I took a deep breath and was prepared to explain how he is a bit of an impulsive kid.

But when she told me he *boo hooed* for much of the morning and wanted his mommy, I'll admit, I was a bit taken aback. Not to mention touched. This is the kid who can't slow down long enough to get a good snuggle in. And *sniff* he wanted me! Am I sounding needy? 'Cuz I'm not! Really!

In order to appeal to his bravery, in a moment of panic, this morning as I got him ready for morning number two, I told him if he could be brave the rest of the week, we would go to Chucky Cheese. (Yes, your honor, I'd like to take an insanity plea. Clearly, I lack the ability to make good and moral choices!) We'll see if it works.

Quinn, on the other hand, is driving me bonkers for a whole host of other reasons.

This kid was born for school. OBVIOUSLY inheriting genes from another mother was really helpful for him in this realm.

When I picked him up at 1:00, I didn't get a break from his stories until he went to bed. It was sweet and adorable and a bit annoying.

He loved every second of school. In fact, I'm pretty sure by the end of this week he'll be running for mayor. 'Cuz he seems to really be working it!

And when pressed for a decision, he will gladly tell you that his favorite part of school is that he got chocolate milk TWICE yesterday. (The kids get there early enough to be part of the *free breakfast* program hosted by the Dayton Public Schools. They use the term breakfast loosely!)

I feed them first, lest their morning be entirely fueled by chocolate milk and pop tarts. But ooooo, was this kid very happy to tell me about his breakfast of chocolate cereal.

I'm glad these three are in school together and can look out for each other. It was cute when they all came home and reported in on the different times they saw each other through out the day.

On a different note, having a morning to myself is NOT going to be good on the budget. Time to myself to go to any store I want and browse the clearance aisle may not be so helpful.

And if you don't hear from me after Friday, check at Chucky Cheese where I may be curled up in a corner in the fetal position boo hooing a bit myself!