Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 A Year of Blessings and Miracles

This year began in the worst way. Audrey and I were in the hospital receiving a chemotherapy treatment. The doom of our separation for radiation in Jacksonville loomed. After Audrey recovered from chemo we went on a weekend trip with our cancer group to Charleston. From there Audrey and I travelled to Jacksonville where she began her proton radiation. We made it through the first week on our own until the issues with my back and leg became so severe that I passed out from the pain. The next five weeks Ryan's mom came to save us and stayed with us for the duration of our time in Jacksonville.

During our separation Nathan grew up a lot. Though he and Ryan were able to come and visit most weekends his daily after school care was done by church and school friends and Aunt Sandy. When I say that Nathan "grew up a lot" this was noticed by his teachers as well. He began doing more and better work at school. He dropped his shyness in class and began speaking up. He learned how to make friends without Mom around. He learned how to listen to other adults. And he may have even tried a new food or two.

My mom came to help out for nearly a month. Time spent with her was wonderful. When we weren't in the hospital we were very productive. There were many sewing projects, Easter, yard work and preparation for Elysse.

Ryan's parents came to stay with us and help again. We thought they were going to be here for Audrey's last chemo treatment but her immune system was taking longer to rebound than we had anticipated.

During an OB visit I was told that the baby had stopped growing. I was then taken to ultrasound where it was determined that the baby had probably stopped growing for several weeks. The ultrasound estimated the baby to weigh around 4 pounds. I tried to separate myself from the baby and figured that I would never hold her alive. An induction was scheduled for Friday, May 28th. As Ryan was at the hospital with Audrey for her last hospitalized chemotherapy I had to drive myself to the induction. I arrived at the hospital with a large suitcase by myself and the nurses could hardly believe it. Soon enough they learned my whole story and supported me throughout the process. Sandy dropped Nathan off to our friends' house and came to stay with Audrey while Ryan joined me. At 4:01 p.m. Elysse Jayne with a head full of thick dark hair joined us.

We experienced a miracle that day – a baby I never expected to hold was born healthy and weighed nearly a pound and a half more than we expected. Audrey finished her last hospitalized chemotherapy and has been cancer free ever since. That night I enjoyed a cheeseburger from Texas Roadhouse and a cookies and cream shake from Chick Fil-A.

Over the next few months we dealt with Audrey's week immune system. It was so much more difficult than I had ever anticipated. Never did I think the period of time after chemo would be more difficult than the time during the chemo. I believe that my expectations are what made it so hard. During chemo we expected fevers and illnesses. It seemed that fevers were more frequent after the treatments had stopped. I wanted so badly for it to be over that any time something happened it felt as if life would never be "normal."

My brother Chad and his wife Sarah came with my parents to go camping in the summer. We had a fun time and the kids still ask about going to "the camp." We looked forward to Christmas when we expected to travel to Michigan to be with them all again and with Justin who was still serving a mission in Idaho.

We celebrated Nathan's birthday. Audrey's birthday celebration was the best ever. I had a good birthday. Then came Thanksgiving – Ryan's entire family came to celebrate Thanksgiving here. We had a wonderful time. It was especially nice having both our house and Sandy's to accommodate everyone.

In mid December my brother, Justin, came to visit so we could drive up to Michigan together. We had a going away party for some of the closest friends we have made while we have been here in North Carolina – luckily they are only moving a few hours away and we anticipate being able to see them still. We travelled to MI for Christmas with three healthy children and experienced the blessings of a safe holiday with family.

This year may sound terrible to some. But all I can see are the blessing and miracles we have been given. I will forever be grateful for the friends and family that loved us, cared for us, prayed for us and sacrificed time and money to come to our aid time and again. For without all of you we could not have made it through this past year.

Snowday

Can you tell which baby is which? Yes, I have captured the "same" picture with all of the kids wearing the same snowsuit in the white powder. Can you tell who is in each picture?


Christmas 2010

For years Ryan and I have played with the idea of not going to Michigan for Christmas. We moved away from Michigan in December of 2004. We moved to sunny, beautiful Venice, Florida, when Ryan began law school. After completing his law degree we moved to Miami, Florida - despite my negativity there were some good things about Miami: Audrey was born there, we made some wonderful friends there, they have the most rocking zoo I have ever been to, Pinecrest Gardens, the best smoothy place on the planet at some roadside stand (on the way to Pinecrest Gardens) and Ryan's favorite restaurant ever Pollo Tropical - where Ryan earned his Master of Laws degree. While there we job HUNTED and were offered a position at a law firm in Asheville, North Carolina.

Anyway, we have lived away from Michigan for a long time and the drive that is required to go to Michigan during the holiday season is long - from all three of our locations, it is long. Last year we were unable to travel to Michigan for the holidays due to Audrey's health. 2009 will probably be referred to as the year without a Christmas forever in our family. Why the year without a Christmas? We couldn't go to Michigan, we couldn't be with our family and it stunk. We will never play with the idea of not going to Michigan for Christmas again!

So, we made it. My younger, but much taller brother, Justin, flew down and stayed for a few days so that he could drive up with me and the kids. (Thanks Justin I couldn't have done it without you!) We had a wonderful time. As mentioned in a previous post, this is the first time my family has been together in three years! We aren't very good about remembering to get out the camera so we don't have too many pictures but I will share a few that I do have.






There were many highlights to our trip I will try to hit them

# I was able to attend the Hiatt (my mom's side) family Christmas
- I only wish I had more time especially to talk to my cousins. Addie, you went above and beyond last year with your warm wishes during our difficult Christmas. Organizing everyone to send letters to us was incredible. You are extremely gifted and talented with your crafting abilities and the angel you made for Audrey is fantastic. Thank you. I wanted to tell you all of this in person and failed. Sara, how I wish we had hours to just sit and talk. We grew up together and I wish that our children would have that same chance. Breanna is so much like you both in appearance and attitude!

# Time spent with my family both individually and collectively
- Justin I seriously could not have driven to MI by myself. I am glad for all of the time we had to talk. Soon I think everything will fall into place for you. You are a hard worker and know what you want. Chad, Nathan said he wants to be just like you, what more can I say? I appreciate the love you and Sarah show to all of my children (even though you keep trying to take them). Mom and Dad even after all of these years I feel guilty that you don't get to see the kids more. But the time they spend with you is never wasted. Everyone soaks up the time and love enthusiastically.

# I was able to visit with my great Aunt Linda
- She looks and sounds just like my Grandma. Aunt Linda is my Grandma's youngest sister. I never realize just how much I miss my Grandma until I am with Aunt Linda. When she walked in the door I nearly cried. And even now thinking about my time with her brings about the same emotions.

# Time Nathan and Audrey had to play with Zachary and Alaina
- We went down and spent a day at their house and I honestly never saw them. The cousins were so excited to be together that they occupied themselves and had the best time. There are always tears when we have to leave the cousins!

# Generosity and gifts
- To Ryan's parents: we are so grateful for your generosity - not just this Christmas season. Without your generosity we would have a mountain of student loans, we wouldn't enjoy the beautiful home we have and we certainly wouldn't be able to help others in the way we have been able to. Thank you for a great example.

I hope everyone had the merriest of all Christmases this year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Posts are on the way. I promise I haven't forgotten. Life has just been crazy busy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sickness

I have been wanting to post for days now. However we are all sick in one form or another. Over the weekend it was the worst. Ryan and I have the same crud - nose throat yuck. Elysse was running a fever and seemed that her ears were bothering her. Audrey began to run a fever as well. We gave them Tylenol and held out for Monday morning walk in clinic at the pediatrician. Elysse did have an ear infection - in fact it was in both ears and the poor little thing had puss draining from both ears.

We have been sick for nearly two weeks so I cannot even remember what day it was - maybe last Friday - I was sleeping with Elysse in the basement when Ryan and Nathan came down and woke us up (accidentally of course). I was talking to Ryan and said that he would need to pack lunches because I wasn't going to be able to. After a few minutes I was not able to go back to sleep and Elysse definitely wasn't going to. I walked up to the kitchen to find that Nathan had begun to pack Ryan a lunch for work. It was so sweet. If I hadn't been so sick I probably would have taken a picture.

The funniest part is that Nathan packed Ryan a half peanutbutter sandwich (folded over) without jelly - just the way Nathan likes it. He then put all of the other items for Ryan's lunch on top of the sandwich:)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Ryan's entire family came down for Thanksgiving. This was a really big deal because we haven't all been together in nearly two years. Ryan's brother, Steve, and his family met Elysse for the first time.

As you can tell, Nathan and Audrey didn't want to cooperate for the photo shoot.

Top: Tonya, Ryan, Sandy, Steve, Rosie
Middle: Audrey, John, Elysse, Maureen
Bottom: Nathan, Alaina, Zachary
The boys got along well playing Legos !
(Zachary is a long time fan of Legos and Nathan is just learning about them.)
The girls enjoyed manicures and pedicures.

Monday Ryan's mom flew in from Florida and Rosie and Alaina flew in from Michigan.

Tuesday while Nathan was in school and Ryan was at work the girls had a "Girls Day" that began with manicures and pedicures and ended with a nice lunch out.

Wednesday Ryan's dad, Steve and Zachary arrived in the late morning. They drove in from Michigan.

Thursday the guys took the kids over to Sandy's to watch the Detroit Lions play football. While we ladies stayed at my house pretending to be super busy in the kitchen. Our dinner was simple but delicious with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and biscuits. For dessert we had pumpkin bars, apple pie and chocolate pudding pie.

Friday the guys were suppose to go golfing but the weather didn't cooperate. Instead we all headed to the bowling alley and played a couple of games. The bowling alley is smoke free and it was wonderful! We had a really good time.

Saturday the guys took Zachary and Elysse over to Sandy's to watch Michigan State football (they ended the season 11-1) while the rest of us went to see the new Disney movie, Tangled. I really enjoyed the movie, nearly cried, basically it was an animated chick flick. If you have little ones just know that this Disney movie follows the pattern of all others that have come before - there is an archvillain character that tends to be scary.

Thus ended our Thanksgiving weekend. Now I am looking forward to Christmas when we will be traveling up to Michigan. My family has also not been together for two years - so we will have another reunion next month.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Writing

I have started writing our story about Audrey's diagnosis and everything that has happened since then. It is going slow because I sometimes choose not to write based on - I don't want to cry and feel like garbage. I do have a few pages (totally rough and not edited) and I will eventually add more. But retelling the story brings up so many emotions and fears about the future.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saving Money

It all started after we moved into our home in North Carolina in May of 2008. For the first time since we were married (2002) we had a mortgage payment. Adjusting to a mortgage payment wasn't too difficult because we were also were getting a real paycheck. After our first year in our home we decided to refinance our mortgage which ended up giving us a much better interest rate and thus reducing the total amount of our monthly mortgage payment. In talking with several people, my mom included, we decided we were going to pay more than our minimum monthly mortgage payment which will cut down on the length of our mortgage and the amount of interest paid over the life of our loan.

I expected that when Ryan began working he would go out to eat everyday (that is what the attorneys that I worked for in MI did EVERYDAY). He had other plans. He brings a lunch to work nearly everyday. Imagine spending $7-$11 for lunch everyday at the end of the month that translates to a $140-$220 bill - not to mention the calories!

When we moved into our home we put a nice flat screen television in our bedroom and one in the basement. After some time we decided to move the television our of our bedroom for a couple of reasons (1) we wanted to put it in an exercise room (2) we would probably accomplish more during the day and go to bed earlier at night if it wasn't in there. I will admit it took some adjusting but I survived and now I actually prefer not having it in there. With the television out of my bedroom I realized how much less television I watch. I mentioned to Ryan that if it wasn't for his love of sports we could just get rid of satellite television all together. It didn't take long before Ryan had a plan. We purchased a Sling Box that he was then able to hook up to his sister's internet and satellite box that will allow Ryan to watch anything on her Direct TV package through his computer (yes, this is totally legal!). Now we no longer have a television bill each month. Any network shows that we want to watch we can also access through the network websites - you just can't watch the shows live but the next day isn't bad especially when considering you watch far fewer commercials. Ryan's entire family thinks we are nuts.

While Audrey is in gymnastics the parents sit outside a wall of glass. I have made a couple of really good friends during this time. One week we were sitting there and this mom that is always on her cell phone (I call her the cell phone mom) pulled out this binder with baseball card protector sheets full of coupons. The other mom I was talking (Tanya) to and I were totally shocked. Cell phone mom became coupon mom. The next week Tanya and I were discussing how we could never be organized enough to coupon in the way that coupon mom does and we wouldn't want to shop all over town to get the best deals because we simply don't have enough time. Well when coupon mom walked in I decided to talk to her. Before the 45 minute class was over I was convinced. I can coupon! I have learned so much and I love it. At some point I will put up a post just about couponing! Though I am saving money - quite a lot, actually - I am not one of those women you see on television that can buy a months worth of groceries for a family of four on a $75 budget.

In order to save money I also cut Ryan and Nathan's hair. I started cutting Ryan's hair shortly after we were married. I didn't like doing it and actually stopped for awhile. When we moved to FL I decided I was going to do it again. Yes, I did make him look ridiculous more than once - a great friend of mine, who does hair professionally, had us over and showed me how to give Ryan a good cut. Now I do not mind it and I am actually good at cutting their hair. Just this week I have decided that I am going to give up my blonde highlights because they are SO expensive and try out my natural color for 6 months to a year and see how I feel about it. Once upon a time my hair really was naturally blonde but age and having children have darkened my hair over the years. Who knows, maybe it will be just the change that I need...

Recently I was reflecting on all of the wonderful things we do to save money. We thought these things through and I enjoy the challenge as well as the results. I am a mom that stays at home and therefore I do not financially contribute to my family. I feel like finding ways to save money and implementing them is one way I can contribute to our families financial health.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

These Days

Finally! A smile for the camera. She often gives us big smiles but this is a first for the camera. These days Elysse is rolling over both ways - still with a lot of effort. We think she is going to have a fantastic sense of humor as she laughs all of the time and it seems as though she even finds herself to be funny.
Check out the bottom row of teeth. Nathan had two teeth pulled at the dentist office last week. He had an adult tooth growing in behind the two middle lower level teeth. The baby teeth were not giving up so we had to have them pulled. I am grateful that the kids have "chicklet style" teeth. I think it reduces the chance that they will have to have braces in the future!
Both Nathan and Audrey were awarded in the past couple of weeks. Nathan's certificate is for being a great safety passenger on the school bus and adhering to all of the rules. Audrey's is for being recognized as having the cutest costume at the Fall Festival.
Okay, everyone knows about my obsession with a clean house - yup, Audrey is in training. She wants to be big and take on all of the responsibilities around the house - including running the vacuum cleaner that is taller and probably only weighs slightly less than she does.
Can I just say I am so thankful for this bed head!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pajamas

So, is it bad that it is nearly 1 p.m. and I am still sitting in the house in my pajamas? I don't plan on getting dressed for the rest of the day either. If you could see what it looks like outside here in Asheville, you would think it a wise decision. We had a junky day yesterday as Audrey had a temperature of 102 and we had to go to the clinic for four hours of fluids and antibiotics via IV. That doesn't have much to do with today though. My house has never been messier! I keep thinking about all of the things I have to do (mostly cleaning around the house) and it makes me want to crawl back into bed and put the covers over my head. Luckily Audrey is doing much better. It looks like she developed an ear infection that caused a fever and a very fragile little girl. She is enjoying the pajama day today as well - not to mention the endless videos at her disposal...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween 2010



Since Halloween falls on Sunday this year we will not be Trick or Treating in the normal door to door way we generally do in our neighborhood. Instead, we had a fun fall festival at church. In the past we have attended the church fall festival and also went trick or treating; however, we explained to the kids that we will not be doing that this year because Halloween falls on the Sabbath. To our surprise, they were completely fine with it. We had a great time. There was a chili contest, games for kids, trick or treating in classrooms and in the hall, a haunted house, prizes and awards for games and costumes, etc. They ate way too much candy and stayed up too late but that is sort of what it is all about, right?

Monday, October 25, 2010

All is Well

Audrey's tests went very well. She is free and clear of any cancer cells as far as the MRI and CT Scans can show. The doctors feel it is time to schedule Audrey's port removal. I am sort of hoping for the 28th of October as that is when her tumor was removed last year - it would be nice wrapping everything up in a year...what a long year this has been...

SCHEDULED FOR 10/29 AT 9:00 A.M.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anniversary



One year ago today I was playing with my sweet daughter and our lives forever changed. While I was playing with her I felt something on her back that didn't seem right. After looking further I discovered the lump on her back. I immediately called Ryan to see what we should do. Within minutes I made an appointment with our pediatrician for the following morning. An hour later I discovered that I was pregnant.

After Ryan arrived home we discussed the possibilities of what we were facing with Audrey I was overcome with emotion. I could hear myself tell him that we were never going to have more children because of this uncertainty; yet, I knew I needed to tell Ryan about the baby we were expecting. It was too much information for one night. Too much to think about. I couldn't be excited about being pregnant though we had been hoping for another baby for over eighteen months. I convinced myself that if I had to loose a child it couldn't be a child that I already had and loved. For the longest time I could not let myself love this new baby as I never expected to hold it.

That night my mind raced. Sleep was not a possibility. I thought of the worst possibilities. I kept thinking of my faith the knowledge that I have that families are eternal. I know that we have a Father in Heaven that loves us and knows us individually and that he has an eternal plan so we can return to Him and live in His presence again - but at that point, I didn't care. I didn't want my sweet little girl to leave me. I kept saying over and over that I want her to grow and experience all of the wonderful things this life has to offer. My heart hurt and not knowing what we were dealing with was suffocating.

The following day we were told by the radiologist that the mass had characteristics that were not typically benign. At that moment I knew we were dealing with cancer. Cancer in a little innocent girl, my little innocent girl.

The next three weeks was a living nightmare. In that time we met with a pediatric surgeon, had the tumor removed, were introduced to Dr. Beaty a pediatric oncologist and had a port placed under Audrey's skin to make her more easily accessible for chemotherapy.

Now, a year later she has survived chemotherapy and proton radiation. She is a stronger, healthier girl because of the experiences she has had over the past year. We, as a family, have learned together, struggled together and grown together. Our family came together and helped in so many ways. Our friends whom we already thought were great were able to truly astound us with their love and willingness to help. We have made many new friends. We have met three of the most incredible doctors and entire staff of nurses that we have grown to love and care about. We have been included in a fantastic group of pediatric cancer patients. And that little baby we found out about the same day Audrey's mass was discovered has entered our family and has our love and affection.

Our lives will forever be changed. Though we will never be glad for our experiences regarding Audrey's health, we have taken what she was dealt and have grown from it. Our baby girl is a fighter. She has gained so much knowledge and compassion from what she has gone through it will shape her for the rest of her life. Many people have said that due to her young age she will probably forget most of it. I hope for her sake she doesn't. I hope she remembers her family holding her tight. I hope she remembers the care that she had in the clinic and hospital. I hope she remembers the friends we have made. I hope she remembers the nurses who love her. I hope she remembers her strength and courage. I know that due to these trials she will make a difference in someone else's' life the way she has mine.

Tomorrow, the anniversary of her first MRI, we go in for her second set of scans (MRI and CT scans) post chemotherapy. If all of the information is favorable and the tumor bed is still clear and there is no more growth of cancer cells we will schedule the removal of her port, another step closer to a healthy life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Fun Coincidence?

There is an opening for a position at The Van Winkle Law Firm where Ryan works. The position is for a litigation attorney as one of the associates will be leaving to work for the government in Nashville, TN. Maybe it is the Tennessee connection but I started thinking about some friends we made while in Miami, Jeremy and Rebecca Killpack. Jeremy was finishing law school the same time Ryan finished his LLM. Before Jeremy graduated he already lined up a job on the west coast of Florida - he is the main reason I started getting crazy about finding a job before Ryan finished his LLM. After awhile Jeremy left the firm where he stared and moved to Tennessee practicing in a different area of law.

Anyway, I started to think of them because of the position opening at the firm. So I sent Rebecca an email with info on the opening. Within a couple of hours the phone rang - it was Rebecca and believe it or not she and her girls were was in Asheville and Jeremy was going to be flying into the airport later that night. After talking for a few minutes we realized they were staying at a hotel right off our exit.

We had Rebecca and the girls over for dinner and the kids had a great time playing. I am still upset with myself for not getting any pictures. Jeremy is enjoying his own position at this point and will not be applying for the position with Ryan's law firm but it was still a fun coincidence I sent the email the same day they were three minutes down the street.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tomorrow ... 29.

Tomorrow I will be 29. Growing older has never been an issue for me and it still isn't. As I begin my final year of my 20s I decided to give myself my first birthday gift - a clean house and freshly shaved legs. I love the feeling of a clean house, the smell, the comfort, the ease...a wonderful feeling. And what the heck after cleaning house for 11 straight hours (and a bunch of mommy stuff in between) I had to take a shower before crawling into bed - so why not have freshly shaved legs to go along with a clean house!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We can't tell if she's conversing or just complaining. (You may want to pause Kenny Chesney at the bottom of this webpage before playing this video in order to get the full effect.)

video

Fall Weather

Fall always reminds me of my childhood. Fall was the most anticipated season - the welcome of the cool weather, the vibrant beautiful colors, and the football games I would attend but never actually watch. On colder fall days I would walk over to my grandma's house (right next door - yes, I was very lucky) sit on her couch and eventually wrap myself in a blanket. We would always have the television on but it didn't usually matter what was on, we were always talking. My grandma was interested in everything I had to say and the things that went on during the day. Sometimes we would enjoy snacks - (among our favorite snacks were popcorn and apples sometimes with fudge, chocolate ice cream and salty Lays potato chips and hot chocolate). Before long I would fall asleep wrapped in the warmth of the house and blanket while the evening fell and the weather became cooler.

Fall represents comfort, warmth from the cool outside, time with family, beautiful scenery and that is why I love this season.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Play-Doh Party

Today Audrey and Nick Hatch shared the coolest birthday party all inspired by Play-Doh. We began the party at 11:00 a.m. (partially because the older kids were at school and this allowed the party to be all about the little ones). We started with homemade pizza that we let the kids load. Next was a Play-Doh hunt where the kids carried ziplock baggies around the living room finding the little cans of Play-Doh. After the hunt the kids began playing on personalized playmats (found the idea online). Then we moved on to presents and cake.

This is the dining room before the kids entered. Each spot had a personalized playmat and balloon.
The Play-Doh hunt was so much fun. The kids were so excited and loved searching the living room for the little cans to call their own.
There were many fun things to do at the party and playing with the Play-Doh was one of the best. The kids were so content that there were times when we didn't even hear them!
Audrey received so many generous and perfectly girly gifts. Thanks!


CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE


















Check out this cake! It was made by our friend from church, Sandy Cox. She is amazing and her creations are so beautiful. The best part is they not only look beautiful they taste great too!



































This is the best kids party I have ever experienced. The children were all so well behaved there weren't any fights or crying spells. They shared well and played together well and we all enjoyed the day. I am so thankful that Audrey's health allowed this to happen today.

Clinic Visit

Yesterday morning Audrey woke up and within a few hours I discovered that she had a fever - not just any fever the lowest temperature was 101.7 the highest being 103.1. Needless to say I had to take Audrey into the clinic. We spent several hours there - she was given fluid and antibiotics by IV as well as having swabs taken of her nose and throat. We discovered that her blood counts are AWESOME and that he was battling some type of viral attack. Luckily she responded well to Tylenol and they sent us home after 5 hours. My main worry was - will we be able to have the Play=Doh party with her friends?

I mentioned Audrey's recent birthday and upcoming birthday party. The nurses all came into Audrey's bedroom singing "Happy Birthday" and loaded Audrey up with gifts. We love all of our nurses there and it was so nice that they were prepared to give Audrey such a sweet welcome when we were there for an unhappy reason.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Today Is the Day!!

Happy 3rd Birthday Audrey dear! What a year we have had. Today was the best birthday I have ever experienced and it wasn't even mine! We were busy, busy, busy - and happy. Audrey went to gymnastics, had a great time. She was able to spend time with family and PARTY! Did I mention phone calls? I never thought I would hear Audrey run out of juice when on the phone but she did...toward the end of her phone calls she would tell the person she was talking to that she only had one thing to tell them. It was hysterical from my end.

























Her wishes for today - (1) Order Domino's pizza (2) have a light blue cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips (I used M&M's instead - blue of course) (3) watch Bolt after dinner. We never did get to #3 because she realized there were presents today!!!



















My three wishes for her through this year (1) continue to stay healthy (2) grow and mature educationally (3) know how much she is loved. Audrey you have brought so many joys to our lives. You will forever be our little girl.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Is Anything Ever Free?

For some time now we have been discussing Nathan beginning piano lessons. When we began talking about it Nathan was probably too young so we decided to wait. This summer seems like a great time to get started. Only problem, we do not have a piano. So when some friend from church announced they had a piano sitting in their garage that they were looking to get rid of, we jumped at the chance.

Ryan and some friend spent an entire Saturday morning getting the piano to our house. We were so grateful to our friends for spending their time and energies getting the piano in. The hardwood floor did get scratched in the process. it isn't too bad, just not great.

I called a piano tuner to come out (who said that he would look at it to see if it would be able to be tuned without charging) and tune the piano. He showed up, took half of the piano apart and then gave us the diagnosis - it is tunable but would need $2,500 worth of work. He said we could place it on Craigslist or call large item pick up (which by the way would have cost $100). As we could get a newer, nicer piano for probably less than the needed repairs on our free piano. He charged me $35 to give us this diagnosis - recanting on his free offer (maybe I am being bad but I bet if we didn't live in the house we do he wouldn't have charged anything).

So, what happened to the piano?
It went up in flames!
Yup, we burnt it to a crisp. It saved the $100 large item collection fee. Thanks Joe!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Attentive Gift Giver

Nathan is a sweet, compassionate boy. He pays attention to things going on around him and he is constantly thinking of others. I asked Nathan what he would like to get his teacher, Miss Cody, for Christmas. He immediately said that he wanted to get her earrings because she wears them. I told him that could possibly get too expensive and instead asked what she likes to do. Again, he answered quickly without having to think too much - "she loves to go on hikes." Okay, Nathan what could we get her to go along with hikes? "We could get her a water bottle." That is a great idea. Do you know what her favorite color is? "Yes, she loves yellow. Lets get her a yellow water bottle."

I was so impressed with how attentive he is to his teacher's interests. I called Ryan (he is in MI for his annual Michigan State football game check out this clip to see how State did: www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfrB57SKPO0) and told him about our compassionate gift giver. He too was impressed as Ryan claims he does not have the skill for buying gifts.

After an hour or so I then asked Nathan what he would like to get for Mrs. Bowman, the teacher's assistant in his class room. "I think we should get her sun glasses." Why, doesn't she have any? "Yes, but she is a grandma and can't see very well."

Priceless, that is all I can say.... I guess we have a little tweaking to do.

Heart Surgery

My dad had heart surgery on September 16th. He had several blockages which resulted in a triple bypass. The 16th was also my older brother's 32nd birthday. All I could think about that day was the fact that two of the most important things in my parent's lives occurred on the 16th of September - they brought their first child into the world and they underwent an extremely difficult procedure to save my dad' life.

Thankfully everything went well with the surgery. He is in the recovery process which will take some time. He is looking forward to being released from the hospital but he is instructed to stay home for a month after he is released. I am sure my parents will both be going stir-crazy by then!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Other Side of the Road

My dad was admitted to the hospital yesterday because of chest pain. After some testing it was determined that he had a heart attack a day or two before he went in. He was transferred from one hospital to another last evening.

Immediately I started texting my mom all of these things she may not have thought about and not to worry about contacting me that I would get my info from my brother, etc. Then it hit me, I just need to sit back, let her make decisions and wait for information in whatever manner I receive it. One of the things I disliked the most was when people told me what to do, think, what to remember, etc. So, for now I sit on the other side of the road. It is amazing how helpless one feels over here, when the road is more than ten hours away....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Boring Life

Sometime ago, probably a year or so ago, I mentioned that I wanted my boring life back. Last weekend I came to the realization that we are close to being back there.

I was all worked up last weekend, after we came home from a Labor Day picnic. I wanted to know what we were going to do that night and what activity we could incorporate. For a couple of hours I thought about going to a movie, or out to dinner, or having some friends over, something...I just wanted to be entertained. After I realized it was getting too late to make any plans I started thinking about the things I needed to be thankful for. (Now don't start thinking that I am so good. You see, I was forced to think about these things.)

After some thinking (and settling down about being home for the rest of the evening) I was grateful that we were all together. Audrey wasn't in the hospital, we weren't being forced to be here or there for a calling or school activity, we could just be together. It was wonderful to make dinner at home as a family and go to bed on time. Nathan and Audrey also think being home is the best thing ever. I know that at some point they will get the same itch I have and want to be entertained, want to be out doing something or having friends over. So, for now I will relish all of the time I have to spend with my children that still like being home and spending time with me.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

School Days - Bus

When we first moved to North Carolina we decided that our children would never have to ride the bus. After all, that is one of the benefits of a mom that stays at home, right? Well, when we discovered that I had to change Audrey's nap schedule and have both girls sitting in the car for around 45 minutes each day to make it home after the bus had been through our neighborhood, we decided to give the bus a try.

School dismisses at 2:30, the buses roll out around 2:40 and Nathan is home by 2:45. He gets off at the second stop (first one is also in our neighborhood). I just love this picture, it captures just how excited he is when he sees me standing at the bus stop each day!

Gymnastics

Audrey has begun her first gymnastics class. Due to chemo and her weak immune system we weren't sure if Audrey would be able to be in gymnastics. After discussing it with her oncologist we signed her up. It is their feeling that Audrey should wait a year on preschool; but, gymnastics was highly recommended. She needs to have exercise and a social life in order to thrive from this point forward.
Mr. Ken is her instructor. He is a former marine and has such patience with these little ones. Funny they have the same hair cut. Notice how quickly it is growing back?

Making progress. She couldn't even do this last week.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Vocabulary

Audrey is developing quite the vocabulary. She uses rather large complex words in sentences and often uses them correctly. On occasion however she tries to use a word or phrase that doesn't make sense in her sentences. Other times she mixes the words up completely but those are the ones I love the most.

Correctly Used:
Appreciate
Appropriate
Opportunity

Used incorrectly:
"That's the whole point"

Mixed-up:
For those of you that aren't too familiar with the movie Bolt. Bolt is a dog that gets separated from his person by being shipped to New York. Bolt then makes it from New York back to Hollywood.

Audrey calls New York - You Nork (I wouldn't let Nathan correct her because it is so cute)!

Stories I probably shouldn't tell:
When Audrey was in the hospital last time I had to call my physical therapist to cancel my appointment. When I got off the phone Audrey asked if my physical therapist pisses people off. I kept a very straight face and informed her that my PT is very nice and she helps people. "But mom, you said theraPISSED."

Audrey was trying to use the word moron in a sentence (this is one that she uses incorrectly). Nathan then asked what a moron is - I responded that a moron is someone that can't drive. (Guess I need to settle down when I am driving, especially with the kids)

The Debate selfISH vs selFISH

Last night Nathan was rambling about animals as he so often does. We talk about animals so much that I often stop paying attention while he states fact after fact (I know bad mommy). I happened to catch him talking about selFISH. I told him that there isn't an animal called a selFISH but that the word he was referring to is actually selfISH - meaning caring about one's self more than another. Nathan then informed me that a selFISH looks like a sword fish, it eats great whites, and that I should just trust him.

Wonder how many of you are going to google the word selfish...

Food for Thought

(Look at Audrey's Head) Audrey has not yet mastered the art of getting all of the food in her mouth... Ryan asked Audrey if the pizza was from New Delhi, India. Audrey responded, "No, Ingles." (our local grocery store).


Most Saturdays Ryan makes pancakes for the kids in the mornings. They come to expect it. I have never been good at making pancakes and since it is something that Ryan enjoys so much, I will never need to be good at making them. I can just see it now when our children are older and they have their own kids, they will be visiting for a weekend and everyone will demand that grandpa make the pancakes. Okay it won't happen for many years but I have a feeling it will be here before we know it...

Then one morning I was joking that we should use some of our dessert (triple chunk brownies) from the night before in the pancakes. I wasn't in the kitchen when he made the pancake. When I poured syrup on my pancake I turned it over and this is what I discovered. By the way, it was really good but I don't think we will make a habit of it!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Elysse's Blessing


Elysse received a name and a blessing on the records of our church August 1st. Unfortunately that is the same day we took Audrey to the hospital and she was admitted for three days due to a fever. So, it has taken until now to put Elysse back into her beautiful blessing dress that Grandma Karen made for her.



Elysse is now three months old. She is beginning to smile more. She definitely recognizes mommy and daddy and often gets very excited when she thinks she is going to get picked up - and sometimes pouty if it doesn't happen. Nathan often talks to her and asks, "can you give big brother a smile?" Audrey and Nathan are still too hands on for my liking but I try to let them be involved - Audrey loves to cuddle her and often wants to lay by Elysse on the bed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

School Days

We were still wavering even a week before school started as to whether we were going to put Nathan into first grade or kindergarten. His reading really exploded during the summer and he is truly a great reader. For this reason we actually called the school and talked to the principal. It was her professional recommendation to give Nathan another year in kindergarten and let him have the opportunity to grow socially and emotionally while refining his other skills. (Those are all my words, she wasn't nearly as eloquent in her statement).
Nathan and Miss Cody
The first day of school went off without a hitch. He had a great time. He was called up to the front of the class to read something off the board - he reported that he knew every word. When we asked him how his day was he began his report of who was good, who was bad, who took a nap, etc. To my surprise he actually came home knowing the names of three other kids - though he refers to one of the little boys as "the whiner." In kindergarten they do a staggered entrance meaning half of the class go in on Tuesday and the other half of the class go in on Wednesday. Today the entire class is together.

We have it worked out that Ryan brings Nathan to school in the morning and then heads off to work. I pick him up in the afternoon. Though next week we are going to try Nathan riding the bus and see how that goes. He is excited to try riding the bus. He also wants to buy lunch on chicken nugget and pizza day.

This morning as he was leaving for school he became very sad. I asked him what was wrong and he said that he wanted me to take him to school. Immediately I knew exactly what was going on and why he was sad. A few nights ago after putting Nathan to bed he came down very sad. When questioned why he came down and was so upset he said, "I felt like you were in Jacksonville again." Jacksonville - I often think of as the darkest time in our family. Yes, it was hard for all of us when Audrey was diagnosed with cancer but we were still together as a family. Jacksonville took that away from us. I try not to even think about that time or I become extremely emotional so I knew exactly what Nathan was referring to. This morning he had another glimpse of that fear and sadness. I know this is something that will follow him through his entire life and if he remembers nothing else about Audrey's cancer situation he will always remember how Jacksonville made him feel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Family Vacation Part I

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Our family vacation began in South Carolina at a resort on Kiawah Island. Ryan had a three day conference for the Estate Planning section of the North Carolina Bar. This is the second year he has attended the conference there. Last year he thought it was wonderful so he wanted to bring us with him this year.

The resort is different than what we are accustomed to. Essentially the resort is made up of several golf courses, a couple of hotels and several privately owned condos. The condos are rented out through the resort. We rented a villa - a two bedroom condo with a full kitchen and laundry. Due to the fact that we were unsure for so long whether we would be able to go with him (due to Audrey's uncertain health) we were quite far from the beach.

The kids enjoyed the family pool at the resort - the water was cooled as it entered the pool. It was refreshing. While we were there Nathan began to get very brave in his efforts to learn to swim without water wings. His favorite activity was jumping from the side of the pool into the 3 1/2 foot water over and over. While in the villa Nathan and Audrey shared a room. When we heard them giggling wildly we were concerned. Ryan went into their room to see that they were playing dress up. They put Audrey in Nathan's clothing on top of her own. We did get a couple of pictures of that - but the most comical part was when we were helping her out of Nathan's clothes we saw that she had even remembered to put on a pair of Nathan's underwear over her own shorts!


Family Vacation Part II

Venice, Florida

My heart belongs to Venice. We moved to Venice, FL December of 2004 so Ryan could begin law school. Though he went to school more than an hour away - Venice was our home. I love Florida (yes, even in the summer) and if we could live there again I would do it in a heartbeat. I guess the reason I love Venice so much is because we grew up there as a family.
Audrey and Elysse enjoying sister time.
Elysse's first dip in the pool.
Audrey and Nathan at the south jetty. We were so lucky we were able to see not only dolphins playing we even saw manatees. It is so incredible to me to be able to see such beautiful, miraculous creatures in their natural habitat.
While on vacation Elysse really started smiling. This is as close as we have come to capturing it in a picture. (I can't figure out how to rotate it for my blog post).
Some friends of ours invited us out to their horse farm. This is Nathan's second time on a horse - first was at a zoo in Michigan.
Audrey's first ride on a horse.

We were only in Venice for four days - much too short for my liking but we had a great time. We also visited Siesta Beach in Sarasota. We had an incredible experience there as well as two manatees came into the swimming area!

We weren't able to see or visit all of our friends there as we were there for such a short time and many of our friends were also on vacation. We did get a chance to attend church while we were there and it was wonderful. There is something about being in the Venice Ward building that is so energizing to me. I immediately felt like I needed to be busy....