Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bye 2014!

This past year has been a crazy one, full of ups and downs.

UP: Continuing to run until I was 35 weeks pregnant.
DOWN: Not running a single full marathon this year. (That's minor, though, because of the reasons.)
Admittedly, this photo is from 2013, but you get the idea.

UP: Giving birth to our beautiful daughter, Anna.
DOWN: Finding out Mom had cancer.

UP: Getting the best birthday present ever when Mom's scans came back so good.
DOWN: Dealing with Mom's chemo.
Mom, on the very last day of chemo!
UP: Watching our business grow and thrive.
DOWN: Working a lot and barely having a moment to myself.

UP: Celebrating 7 great years with Hans.
DOWN: Not having enough time to spend together.
Bonus: Another running photo!
UP: Cody and Lollie
UP: Wonderful family
UP: A general feeling of happiness
All three of my babies.

Things haven't necessarily been easy, but there has been a good balance, and a general trend towards good.  I can only hope that 2015 ends up being even better.  That said, I'm not going to discuss my New Year's resolutions today.  I'm not going to give an update of the past few weeks (although, there is some catching up to do).  As the sun sets on this past year, I'm just going to wish you all a wonderful New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014


I hate chemo.  I hate chemo and I don't even have to go through it.

I hate how sick it makes Mom.

I hate how it invades our lives, forcing us to overly plan something as simple as lunch with a friend.

I hate how we're filling Mom with poison and yet it's supposedly helping her.

I hate how it smells.  It doesn't just smell in the treatment center.  It also leaves Mom with a very distinct, very pungent odor that lasts for a week or more.

I hate how it's apparently so bad that children under 18 can't even be in the treatment area, meaning I can't spend quiet time visiting with my mom.

I hate how it screws with the brain and has all sorts of mental side effects.  Mom's biggest side effects are impatience and combativeness.

Mom is doing well, but chemo is so hard on the whole family.  Today she starts her final round of chemo, and I can't wait for that final day.  She'll get to ring a bell and come home, and she'll (hopefully) never have to return for further chemo treatment.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Half Marathon

You've already heard about Hans' first half marathon, and I had a little of myself in there, but I did want to take a moment to tell you how my first race postpartum went.  It went really well!

I had some personal goals going in to the race, and I was definitely using this race a way to determine how much I'd bounced back.  So, my goals were:

1) No walking.  I never count the water stops or stops to refuel as walking, so other than that I wanted to run the whole way.

2) Have a decent time:  I told people my goal was 2:30:00, but in reality I was shooting for under 2:24:00.  That was the approximate time of my very first half marathon, and I was really hoping to be slightly faster than or at least equal to that.  My super-lofty goal was 2:17:00 (my fastest half to date).

3) Feel good at the finish: I really didn't want to feel like I was pushing myself too hard.  I wanted to finish feeling good and happy, not like things had been some huge struggle.

The end result was pretty good.   As for the walking rule, I kept it.  There were times when I really wanted to walk (like up a big hill), but I just kept going.  On the time front, I finished in approximately 2:18:00!  I didn't reach my super-lofty goal, but I definitely reached my primary goal.  On feeling good, well, I did and I didn't.

At the end of the race, I actually felt really good.  I mean, I had to take a moment to catch my breath, but I was moving fine and only felt a little sore.  There were a few body parts that surprised me by aching, but I'm attributing that to a slightly different body shape post-baby and a desperate need for new running shoes.

 During the race, however, while I didn't feel bad (for the most part), I also didn't feel good like I usually do.  There were plenty of times where continuing on was a definite struggle.  I know in previous races, I've normally felt pretty good after 4 miles or so, but that wasn't the case this time.  So, I need to figure that one out.  Did I not feel as wonderful because I'd only trained for 13.1 miles as opposed to my usual 26.2?  How much did the cold affect me?  Is that why things seemed difficult at points? Was I just overly tired, both physically and mentally, from a long week?  Is my body just not ready for that kind of intensity yet?

Honestly, it may be a little bit of everything.  Still, I'm quite pleased overall.  I went for a lovely 4 mile run this morning (the early-morning moon was awesome), I don't feel particularly drained from this race, and I'm pleased with where I am.  I also know that I'll be training for the full marathon again next year.  I love the Richmond Marathon, and the Half just can't take its place.  Until then, I'll just keep looking for other fun races.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hans' First Half Marathon

Can I just say I'm super proud of my husband?  I'm SUPER PROUD of my husband!!!

Yesterday was the day of the Richmond Marathon, Half Marathon, and 8k, and Hans ran his very first half marathon.

Hans first mentioned the thought of training for a half marathon after my very first marathon.  It was a joke.  He really didn't have any interest in training for a half marathon.  Then, by the following summer, I was started training for my second marathon and Mom started training for her first 5k.  Hans decided to go for it too.  He signed up for his first 5k, a small race in his hometown the day before I was to run my second marathon.  He challenged himself, and he did quite well.  I don't want to necessarily speak for him, but I think he started to seriously consider a half at that point. 

Then,  he decided to train for the Monument Avenue 10k.  He signed up for a training team, and stuck to the program quite well.  I trained for that one on my own since I was pregnant at the time, but I ran every step of the race with him.  After that race, he was almost ready to sign up for a half marathon.

Then life got crazy.  I gave birth to Anna, and then Mom got her diagnosis.  I was just getting back in to running, and Hans was just trying to make it through the day.  The day before the half training team started neither one of us had signed up.  That was also the day Mom had to go to the ER.  When we came home, we had a decision to make.  Do we do the half marathon?  I knew my answer was yes.  I needed to do this for me.  Hans, however, was considering just doing the 8k.  Somehow, though, he decided the half would be alright.  I mean, he'd already done a 10k.  Why would he take a step back?  So, he signed up for the half marathon training team.  He'd train on Saturday mornings, and I'd train on Sunday mornings.  This way one of us would always be available to watch Anna.

His first 8 mile run was scary because it was a new distance for him.  The 11 mile run was problematic because Hans was supposed to work on Saturday.  So, we both got up early on Friday morning and I pushed Anna in the stroller while Hans ran next to me.  Eleven miles later, we finished just as the sun came up.  Then we both showered, got dressed, and headed into work.  The twelve mile run seemed like such a long distance, and it was the closest Hans would get to the half marathon distance until race day.  I expected him to come home beat and tired, but he did quite well.  He rested just a bit, but then he met me at work and we went out for pizza together.

This entire time, I continued training, working on my speed and rebuilding my distance.  I was pleased to find that I was starting to improve.  The long runs were a little easier than they'd once been, and my shorter runs were definitely getting faster.  In just a couple of months, I'd gone from 11 minute miles to 10 minute miles, to the occasional 9:45 minute miles.  I wasn't super fast, but I was improving.

Then came race day.  We'd had beautiful weather in the weeks leading up to race day, but the actual day of the race was COLD.  Well, at least for Virginia it was cold.  When we woke up, I checked the temperature: 27 degrees Fahrenheit...brrrrrrr!  We went about our usual morning routine, and then my dad and his girlfriend arrived at our house.  We gathered everything together, piled into the van, and went to the race start.  I think we timed things perfectly, because we arrived just as the race was waiting around in the cold for us! 

We started things out at a nice slow pace.  I told Hans I'd stick with him for the first half mile or so, but since we'd agreed ahead of time to each run our own race, I'd take my own pace after that first half mile.  At the half mile mark, I sped up just a bit, and Hans made sure he was on his target pace for that point.

One thing I noticed was how long it was taking my legs to warm up.  The cold weather was definitely affecting me, but I had no other choice but to just keep running.  I focused on lifting my legs and how my feet were striking the ground.  Around mile 4 the course made a big loop, and I realized I might get to see Hans.  I kept searching the sea of runners heading the opposite direction, and then I spotted him.  He looked great and had a big smile on his face.  We exchanged some happy words, and then we kept on running.

There were some happy moments for me along the run, and I hope to tell you about them in another post, but the important thing I'll note is that I finished under my goal time.  Yay!!  Then, I found my family, snuggled Anna, and waited for Hans to finish.  The race ends at the bottom of a tall hill, so I kept looking at the top of the hill, hoping I'd see Hans as he ran down.  Then, after a little bit of time, I saw a blonde head and a green shirt.  Yes!  There was Hans!  He was coming down the final stretch!

I held Anna over my head, pointed Hans out to my family, and screamed his name over and over.  GO HANS!!!  GOOOO!!!!!  He still didn't see me.  I watched as he came in strong and finally crossed that beautiful finish.  HANS!  HANS!  OVER HERE!  He was finally at a decent angle where we weren't back lit by the sun.  He looked over, grinned, and waived.  I brought Anna in close to me and told my family that I was going to go meet up with him.  I ran down to the end of the chute, and there he was.  "How do you feel?" I asked.  "Hurt."  "You poor thing!  I'm so proud of you!"

The 13.1 miles he'd just run did not go as well as his 12 miler.  He was technically within his goal, but it was hard.  The cold had gotten to him, the week leading up was hard, and the end result was simply that he was tired.  He walked...slowly through the photographers.  I'd ask him if he wanted to have his picture taken and he'd say, "OK." We'd stop, take a few pictures, and then he'd practically beg to keep walking.  I sent my family over to the training team tent, and I led him to the food.  Ah, beautiful post-race pizza! 

A tired, but happy post-race family.
After a long race, we all walked back to the car and then to local diner where we had sausage gravy and biscuits.  Oh, and bacon.  Glorious bacon.  When we got home, Dad used his phys ed training to really stretch Hans out.  Hans gave this amusing grimace which I remember so well from my first marathon.  That grimace that says, "Oh, this hurts so good."  Then he went up to shower.  Once he got out, I left him with Anna so I could shower as well.  After that I was all for letting Hans rest.  He laid out on the couch, while I held Anna, and we all watched TV.  Hans wasn't the only one who was tired from the day:
Post race exhaustion.
So, it was a good day for all of us.  This may not have been his best race, but I know it won't be his last.  In case I haven't said it enough, I am so proud of Hans.  He rocked this race out!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nannies, Races, and Mom, OH MY!

It's time I give you all a little update on life in general.  To start off, I love my kitchen every time I look in it.  Other projects are slow just due to lack of time, but I'm definitely being far more productive.  Yay!  I'm also eating at home A LOT more.  In fact, Hans and I haven't eaten a dinner out once this week.  Mom and I ate out for two lunches, but that was simply because we love the place and not because there wasn't anything else in the house or cooking seemed too overwhelming.  Things are perfect on that front, but they're better.

Mom continues to do well.  Health-wise she's doing great.  However she's still struggling a little on the emotional front.  I think we both are.  It's hard staying happy over a scan result that took place a month ago when you have no idea what's happening currently.  And then there are some doctors who will tell her that the cancer is guaranteed to come back, and while these results are great they're not the end game.  That's extremely frustrating.  And then there's chemo brain. 

Chemo brain is what makes things the worst for me.  On a good day it simply leaves Mom a little scatter-brained but charming.  On a bad day it leaves her extremely argumentative and combative.  Something as simple as me saying, "I'll drop the dogs off at the vet for their procedures on my way in to the kennel" will have her arguing about why she has to come along.  I remind myself on a daily basis that she's not intentionally insulting me and telling me I'm not competent enough to do a simple task, but rather she's probably just trying to exert some control over her life...the same control I'm trying to exert over my own. 

Oh, and on the control front, she's still not driving.  After discussing things with the neurosurgeon we all decided that it might be best if she continues to wait until the end of the year to get behind the wheel again.  There are plenty of days when I think she would probably be OK, but when I see her at the end of the day- tired, worn out, a little incoherent, I know we've made the right decision.  We'll just let her heal a little more.  In the mean time, life requires a little more planning to make sure she gets to every place she needs to go.

And now for a race update.  Hans and I are running the Richmond Half Marathon this Saturday.  And yes, I did say Hans.  I'm so proud of him.  He's been training since August and will be running his first 13.1!  And let me say, I'm fairly certain he's more prepared mentally than I am.  My heart just isn't in this long run like it has been in other long runs.  I know I can do.  I just don't really want to.  I think this is mainly because I'm already so tired from other things in life, and I'd rather sleep an additional 2.5 hours.  That said, I'm always extremely happy when I do finish, and I can always use the endorphin rush.

So, who's watch Anna while we both run?  My dad and his girlfriend.  I bet, based on the title of this post, you were expecting me to say the nanny.  Nope!  No nanny.  If you'll remember, I posted a little while ago that I had decided to hire some extra help.  Well, Hans and I put out a listing, screened applicants, interviewed a few people, did a background check, and hired a nanny / PA.  The first day was SO great.  She helped with Anna, took my car to have its oil changed, and picked a few things up from the store for me.  In the mean time, I was able to devote my full attention to the kennel for a few hours.  And then, at the end of her first day, she told me she had been offered a full-time position elsewhere and so she was giving her 2 weeks notice.  Ummm, what!?  Did I do something wrong?  Is Anna difficult?  No.  She just needed more income.

So, I took two weeks of her working with us and really thought about whether I wanted a nanny at all.  Some tasks, like going to a store or shopping in general are far easier with a second person (someone to push a stroller while I push a cart), but now that Mom's doing better she could do that.  And did I really want someone on a set schedule?  What if I needed someone in the afternoon?  Or what if I really needed someone on the weekend?  So, after much discussion, I decided to not have a nanny at all.  I'd rather save that money.

 I did, however, want someone I could contact with very little notice (less than a week) and whom I could trust.  So, after looking around some more, I decided that using a sitting service would be the best option.   I have to pay a small yearly fee, and  the hourly rate is obviously more than what I'd pay a teenager, but the care is better and I feel a little more comfortable having someone who's had more experience when it comes to Anna at her current age.  Plus, when you factor the fee into the hourly rate, it's still about the same as what I'd pay a nanny per hour, but I don't have to use them all the time.  It's a win-win!  Hans and I have already used the service once, and I was quite pleased.  I'm sure we'll use them again.  Of course, I'm always looking out for people who want to take care of Anna or who just want a baby-sitting gig.  If you know of anyone, send them my way!

Well, that's life for now.  Things are buys and exciting, but we're all doing well!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happiness: Regaining Order

Have you ever felt like your life is just spiraling out of control?  Have you looked at your to do list and thought, "Oh screw it!  I'll never get this done!"?  Have you ever just wanted to crawl under the covers and sleep for days?  If you have, then you know exactly how I've felt these past few weeks / months.

Anna has been easy in the way that infants go, yes, but Anna is not the only thing going on in my life.  When you factor in running a business and just life in general, things get kind of crazy.  Still, I felt like I was staying on top of things fairly well, and then came July.  July was when my mom was diagnosed and things just took a nose dive from there.  Things became horribly disorganized and chaotic.  I'd have these brief moments of clarity and order, and I'd start to feel like I was gaining some control, and then something new would happen.  Mom would have a bad week, or the kennel would have a busier week, or Hans would have to work late (thereby losing my evening support).  It all culminated in me feeling utterly exhausted. 

Mom happened to notice all that was going on, and shortly before my birthday she heard me talking to Hans about how I just wish I could have someone come in and organize the house.  So, she gave me a fabulous birthday gift.  She called a professional organizer.  She told me she'd pay a certain amount, and anything above and beyond was up to me, but I knew instantly she'd made a wonderful decision in placing the call.  I needed some serious help.

So, enter Kathy from Come to Order.  We did an evaluation, and last Monday she and a small team came in to get my kitchen organized.  Organizing my kitchen was no small task!  In order to properly organize it, we also had to work on the basement (for additional space), and part of the dining room.  So, when Kathy and her team arrived, we got straight to work; two people on the basement, and me and Kathy on the actual kitchen and dining room.

Before I show photos of the AMAZING job that was done on this small space, let me tell you a bit about the experience.  First, Kathy is super friendly.  It's really hard showing all my disorganization to a stranger, but she's non-judgmental and very accepting.  Second, Kathy and her team seem to be able to see things and picture things that I never could.  She came up with organization ideas in seconds, that made me say, "Why couldn't I ever think of that?!"  Third, and this really was the most important, she kept me motivated. 

We ended up working for about 6 hours.  That's a long time for me to stay focused on cleaning, but Kathy was good about giving me simple, small projects to work on.  She give me things like sorting through recipe books to see if I wanted to keep all of them (I didn't).  She had me go through and separate utensils into different categories (cooking, measuring, grilling, etc).  She also was able to keep working when I had to stop to tend to Anna.  That was invaluable.

In the end, I couldn't be happier.  I've already booked her to help with my laundry room, front foyer, and office.  Oh, and I've also been motivated in a few other ways.  I've organized my papers and bills (and found out I don't owe as many bills as I thought I did (huge relief)), and I've focused a little more energy on cooking (money and calorie saver!).  I can't wait to see how the rest of our projects turn out!

And now for the pictures (side note: I didn't take the pictures, but I'm also computer stupid and can't seem to figure out why some of them are sideways.  You get the idea, though.):

Before: Part of the kitchen.  The fridge is pushed over to the left to allow room for a small pantry.  This, unfortunately, blocks off the corner and limits access to two cabinets.
Before: With cabinets overflowing, many items are left on the counter.

Before: A VERY overflowing pantry.
Before: Filled to the brim with glasses, mugs, and some bakeware (that's what the coffee cans are for)
Before: It may be fuzzy, but you get the general idea of disorder
Before: This was all I could open this cabinet.  The fridge was in the way.  Obviously, this makes accessing the tools in here kind of difficult.
Before: Our pots and big mess.
Before: coffee filters, hot pot, milk freezer bags and meds.  Obviously these things go together!
After: The basement extension of the kitchen.  Notice that the formerly-overflowing pantry is clean and organized.
After: Look, at how much we removed from the kitchen!!  And it's all labeled with easy access.
After: Not nearly as much on the counter top.
After: All the spices are in one spot along with a few canned goods.
After: The plates and glasses can all go in one spot...and it isn't nearly as cluttered.
After: Doesn't this just scream organized!?
So, what do you think?  The photos don't even show everything that was done, but you get the general idea.  I'm beyond pleased.  Life is already feeling a little better, and I can't wait for the next project to start! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Being Honest

Sometimes coming up with a blog post is extremely difficult.  Sometimes that's because I'm too busy and too tired (or simply too distracted) to write.  Other times, though, it's because I'm not quite sure how to say what I want to say.  The truth is, sometimes what I really want to talk about is just too deep.  There's too much emotion behind it.

For instance, in this post, I could write pages about many different things.  I could talk about the fear I still feel when I think about Mom's diagnosis.  Or I could tell you how difficult it is having my mom live with me.  How viewing it as difficult makes me feel guilty and how that guilt is driven by my fear.  I could tell you about the things Mom and I have learned about each other and how that has affected our relationship.  Or I could tell you about my relationship with Anna.  I could tell you how weird it is to be simultaneously confident in my mothering skills and yet terrified that everything I'm doing is not enough.  I could tell you how I'm scared that all the happenings around our house will leave Anna stressed and she will become an overly-serious, nervous child.

I could tell you all these things.  I could delve into them and explain each thing in detail.  However, I won't.  These things are just too much.  They're too hard to explain.  They're too difficult to express properly.  And so, I stick to updates and odd tidbits.  They're easier to talk about and far easier to explain.  Do I sometimes wish that I could use this blog as my own personal diary?  Yes.  But that would mean hurting some of the people who are closest to me when I decide to vent.  It would mean isolating some people who don't necessarily deserve to be isolated simply because I'm angry.  And it would mean exposing parts of myself that I'm not always comfortable exposing.

So, excuse me when I go long bouts without blogging.  Sometimes I simply need to be able to process my thoughts, and the blog doesn't always help.  I love this little corner of the internet that's all mine, but sometimes it's hard to figure out what to do with it.  For now, I'll sleep, go to work, take care of Anna, take care of Mom, and hopefully come up with good ideas for the blog.  Thank you for thinking of me even when I'm not talking!

Friday, October 17, 2014


The day my mom's results came back it was pouring rain.  I had even looked out the window that morning and become nervous because I was worried it was a bad omen.  It was going to be a sad day.  Of course, that's silly, because I've always loved a good rainy day.  So, after the good new, I had to think of a different way to look at the rain.  Rain makes the flowers grow.  It smells nice.  And then I found the thought I liked the best.  Rain cleans away the dust and the dirt.  I was going to look at this rainy day, not as a grey and dreary day, but rather a day that will wash away the past.  It's a rain that will allow everything to reset and restart.

It's amazing how much happier I've been in the past couple of days.  I'm not nearly as tired, and I'm far more motivated than I was.  To that extent, and in an effort to restart, I think it's time to organize the house.

As a wonderful birthday present, Mom decided to hire a professional organizer to come to our house.  We had our first meeting today, and I could not be happier with the service.  Kathy, the organizer, spent three hours with me going from room to room.  I told her things I loved and things I hated and things I just didn't know what to do with.  She told me different ideas for better storage and organization.  She came up with ideas to expand our kitchen space and ideas for better use of our laundry room.  Just figuring out those two rooms suddenly seemed to give me tons of ideas for other things I wasn't sure what to do with. 

I'm hoping that by having a more organized house, I can start to organize other aspects of my life.  I'm hoping that by having a great work station, I'll want to work more from home.  If I can have a nice, quiet space I may actually get work done.  And if work is getting done, then maybe I won't feel so overwhelmed.  And if I'm not so overwhelmed, maybe smaller projects will feel less intimidating.  And if I'm getting through smaller projects, maybe I'll have time for more fun things.  And If I'm doing more fun things, maybe I'll be a bit happier.  You can see where this is going.

So, after such a wonderful week, I'm ready for things to keep being wonderful.  I'm continuing to say that the rain was washing the bad away.  It's my fresh start, and I'm excited for it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The News

Mom had her CT scan yesterday.  This scan was going to tell us how chemo was affecting her cancer.  We wanted to be realistic about things, but we also wanted to stay positive.  So, our hope was simply that chemo had done its job and tumors were shrinking.  In my positive frame of mind, I expected to hear that everything was shrinking and chemo was going well.  In my more negative moments, I'd fear that chemo had had no affect and that tumors were still growing and the cancer had continued to metastasize.  This morning, we went to the doctor to hear the results. 

Meagan, the nurse practitioner entered the room.  She greeted us with a warm smile and said, "So the results from the scan are pretty fantastic."
"Fantastic on the scale of fantasticness," I said, "or just fantastic as in what we were hoping for?"
"No, they're pretty fantastic," She replied.

"If you remember, in July, you had three masses on your skull.  One large one on your left frontal lobe and two smaller ones in the back.  According to the scans, those are...gone."

My jaw dropped.  I looked at Mom and she looked back and smiled a huge smile.  Then we turned back to Meagan to hear more.

"You had a very large mass in your left lung and it was spreading to your lymph nodes.  In addition, you had many swollen lymph nodes.  According to the scans, that mass is gone and your lymph nodes are a normal size."

Mom and I sat slightly stunned.

"Your back had various spots and some compression fractures.  We did notice two new compression fractures, but that's probably because your spine was weakened by the tumors."

"So, what about the tumors?  Have they grown?"

"They're gone."

"Wait!  So, no tumors in her spine?  No dark masses?"


Another stunned moment.

"And then there was your liver.  In July, you had five masses in your liver."

Mom and I sat breathless, waiting to hear the bad news.  I was hoping Meagan would say there were only 2-3 left, but I was prepared to hear that they'd all grown.

"Of those five masses..."

My heart is racing and my hands are shaking.


None what?!  None have changed?!  None responded?!  What????

"...remain.  The liver is clear and appears to be of normal size and function."

I sat, completely silent and in awe.  I finally said, "I'm sorry.  I don't know what to say.  I'm in utter shock."

Then Mom asked the million dollar question, "So, is this considered remission?"

No, that can't possibly be.  It's only been three months.  That's more than I'd ever hoped for.  I waited for Meagan to respond.

"Yes. At this point, we would consider your cancer to be in complete remission.  Now, we just have to make sure it stays that way."

For the first time all morning, I could finally breathe.  Mom's doctor came in and we discussed plans for the future.  She'll continue with chemo so she has a full 6 rounds, and then we'll discuss prophylactic radiation.  She'll have scans every 3 months for I don't know how long, and we'll want to keep a close eye on things to make sure it doesn't come back.  Still, though, I can't believe how wonderful this news was.  Even the doctor was grinning from ear to ear.

So, this week so far has been amazing.  First, Monday was my birthday.  Woohoo!  Second, and also today, I was officially selected as one of the 40 people under 40 who continue to make a difference in the community (it's a pretty awesome honor, and the publication is very popular).  And lastly, this news.  I can't believe it.  I'm still in shock and disbelief.  This week, LIFE IS GOOD!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Motherhood: The Emotional Rollercoaster

I know a lot of mothers who will get angry at me for saying this.  I also know I'm very new to this game, and I'm probably being a bit cocky.  However, the first 4 months of motherhood really has not been hard.  Yes, Anna and I have had horrible days.  Yes, there was at least one week where I would have traded my arms if it meant I didn't have to carry her around any more.  However, for the most part I have a very easy child.

Anna sleeps through the night.  On average, she'll get 10 hours of sleep each night.  Even on the few nights where she's woken up, she's gone back to sleep easily.  Anna is a fairly stable, steady baby.  She's adorable when she smiles and laughs, and her cries break my heart, but for the most part she's pretty easy going.  She's often happy just sitting with me at my desk or riding around in a carrier on my chest.  Anna is growing stronger each day.  We had a huge moment yesterday where she rolled for the very first time, and she rolled 3 more times today.

In fact, if it weren't for Mom being sick, I'd say caring for Anna is almost easy.  Mom was supposed to care for Anna when I returned to work, so things have taken a bit more planning than anticipated, and I've stayed busy, but I can't really blame that on Anna.

But then there's the other side of things.  There's the side where I feel like my life has been taken away.  There's that side of me that just wants a break, that side that wants to go out for a hike by myself with the dogs.  There's the side of me that hates having to worry about a crying baby or pumping or planning around naps.

After much discussion, Hans and I decided to hire a mother's helper (like a nanny).  I am excited for the help.  I am excited to have a moment to myself.  I am...terrified.  What if Anna hates her?  Can I really trust her?  She has great references, but is she really good?  What if she hates us?  What if she's bored?  What if the whole thing ends up being more stressful?

So, as you can see, it's a bit of an up and down.  I love seeing all these moments of Anna's growth, but I'm exhausted.  Anna's not the most exhausting thing in my life, but I can't help but want a break from her.  I'm so grateful that Hans is so helpful when he's home, but I also can't help to occasionally get frustrated when he's not home or when he wants a break too.

Does anyone else feel this way?  So far, I feel like I only hear the extremes.  In fact, I tend to only hear from the mothers who aren't sleeping, whose babies are colicky or just fussy in general.  So, what about all the other mothers?  How are you feeling?

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Lately, I've spent a lot of time thinking about things in my life.  Things I have done.  Things I haven't done.  And I've been thinking a lot about how confidence has affected those things. 

All my life, I have thought of myself as having very little confidence.  I've never known what to do or say in a party situation.  I've hated doing things on my own.  I always thought that I was lacking in some way, shape, or form.  I'd tell myself things like, "I'm not pretty enough to talk to them. They're not into the same things I am.  I'm not good enough to do that."  There's been a lot of "I can't" happening.  One of the things I keep reflecting on is how I didn't do a study abroad.  I can tell myself a lot of excuses, but really I was just too scared.  I was too scared to go without Hans.  I was too frightened that I wouldn't have any friends.  I simply couldn't imagine doing something on my own.

Over the past few years, though, that has changed. 

The first change came when I decided to go to dog training school.  I knew I could do it, because I wasn't actually alone.  I had Cody.  If I felt lonely or scared or out of place, I had Cody.  I was still extremely anti-social (I treasure my alone time), and I often felt like I didn't belong in the group, but I had Cody.  I could snuggle with Cody.  I could play with Cody.  I could take Cody for a walk.  I could practice training with Cody.  Somehow, Cody let me know I was on the right path.  That made starting a business in dog training seem somehow easy.

The next change came when I started running. I couldn't run with a group or at a time or place where others would see me.  I mean, I might look stupid and others might laugh.  However, I could take Cody out for some exercise 3 times a week, and I could join an online training plan (where my participation was completely optional), and I could set a low goal.

Somehow, those two things really helped to set things in motion.  Going to dog training school turned into running a successful business, which turned into opening a successful kennel.  Yes, there are times when I get nervous or I'm uncertain, but I know I'm doing OK.

Training for a 5k turned into training for a marathon, which turned into meeting some great running buddies.

And now I'm a mom.  You know, maybe it's because of my experience with the dogs, and maybe it's because I simply have such great support, but I've never been uncertain of my abilities as a mom.  I know my methods and my style and my choices might not be the same as other moms, but that doesn't seem to matter.  Somehow I know I'm OK.
 I'll be honest, I'm not quite sure if this post has a point.  I think I had one when I started, but not so much anymore.  I think I really just want everyone to know that not everything has come easily for me.  When I seem completely relaxed and confident, there's a good chance that my heart is racing and I'm in a mild panic.  Sometimes, many times, I'm just faking.

There is one other thing I noticed, though.  Cody has helped a lot.  Cody has been a bit of a life raft for me.  He has given me the strength and the courage to do things I never would have done on my own.  It's true that I've had tons of support from Hans and my family, but they couldn't always be right there with me.  Cody often was.  For that, I'm forever grateful.

There's probably a lot more I could say about all this.  I could probably type for hours, but it's hard to truly organize my thoughts on this.  It's hard to explain the anxiety I sometimes feel, and it's even harder to explain those few shining moments when I've overcome my anxiety and just done something.  Maybe someday I'll be able to eloquently express those emotions, but for now I can only say I'm grateful that things are a little different than they were a few years ago.  That's all I can ask for.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Visit To The Naturopath

When Mom was first diagnosed we decided that we would do and try almost anything to help her.  I started reading as much as possible, and I got Mom a lot of books that I thought might help as well.  I spoke with my chiropractor and my acupuncturist (two things we still need to start), and I started researching nutritionists.  I found a nutritionist, but then I also found someone else in the practice.  I found a naturopath.

There are apparently two types of people who call themselves naturopaths.  The first type studies natural medicine for about 6 weeks and calls themselves professionals.  The second type, the type we saw, is actually an M.D.  The doctor we saw had gone through 4 years of med school and residency and then went on to study natural medicine.  There are very few of those who exist, but I'm glad we found the one we did.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  I figured we'd chat a bit about nutrition and maybe go into some vitamins and odd concoctions.  I certainly did not expect all that we got.  I did not expect to discuss Mom's medical history since she was 11 months.  I did not expect to discuss my medical history or that of my maternal grandparents. I did not expect to discuss genetic tests and lab work, and I definitely did not expect to talk about traditional western medicine.

That, however, is exactly what we discussed.  We spent 2 1/2 hours discussing various illnesses in Mom's life, and how her immune system works.  We discussed how the way her body breaks down different compounds (a process called methylation) could affect her personality and the way she responds to different medicines.  We discussed different cancer markers and how that might tell us how she's responding to chemo.

One of my favorite moments came when, after talking a bit about how mom responds to different medications and alcohol, the naturopath said, "It sounds like you fit perfectly into this group of people.  I bet you're a very impatient person as well."  Mom said, "Not really," but I said, "Oh yes!"  It was perfect.

It was a great visit, and we have a follow up schedule in two weeks.  I can't wait!  I was so impressed with everything, and I truly believe that this, combined with chemo and other treatments, will truly help mom.  Here's to hoping!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Letter To My Daughter

My Dear Anna,

I can't believe you will be 15 weeks old tomorrow.  You have already grown so much.  It seems like just yesterday you were a tiny 6 lb 2 oz, yet you are now roughly 14 lb.  We have a doctor's appointment in a couple of weeks, and I'm terrified by what the scale will say.  How could you have grown so big so fast?

Life has not been fair to you so far.  What should be a fun, joyous time of us learning each other, has turned into a fairly hectic, somewhat stressed time overshadowed with illness.  You, my darling daughter, have been a trooper through it all.  While other babies only sleep for 40 minutes at a time, you sleep for a minimum of 7 hours each and every night.  You've had nights where your dad and I have had to keep you up late so we can accomplish tasks, yet you haven't complained.  You've had long days spent at the kennel with barking dogs all around you, yet you're generally quite happy about it.  Sure you've had your bad days, but what baby doesn't?  You're starting to teethe, and you sometimes have tummy troubles, but all in all you're wonderful.

My favorite times are those where you just want me, your Mommy.  Today was one of those days.  You just wanted to see me and be around me.  Daddy held you this morning, yet you cried until I was in your sight, talking to you.  Mary Beth, our groomer, held you this afternoon, and while she can usually make you smile and laugh, you cried until you were back in my arms.  I was greeted with giggles and snuggles, and they warmed my heart.

I want to apologize if I seem stressed.  I want to apologize for not being able to dedicate all my time to you.  I worry constantly that these stresses may affect you negatively in the long run.  I hate the days where I am so exhausted that all I can do is hand you off to your dad and say, "Take her.  I'm off duty."  It generally has little to do with you.  More often it's simply life that's leaving me so tired. 

Know that I have loved every moment with you.  Even the moments where you're screaming and I can't figure out why I tend to find humor in.  Even though for the first few weeks I was pretty sure you only knew me as Moo Cow.  Even though I've had exhausting days where it's all I can do to nurse and change you, I've loved every moment.  Thank you so much for being so wonderful.



Mom Update: Chemo Round 2

If you asked Mom about her experiences this round compared to last round, she'd tell you this round was much worse.  She'd say she's sicker and in more pain.  She'd tell you it's harder for her to catch her breath, and she seems more confused.  However, if you were to ask me or Hans, we'd have a far different story to tell.

Going into the first round of chemo was difficult.  She had that the week after her stint in the ER, and she had her port put in the day before chemo started.  She was easily confused, and her mental status was like that of a 4 year old (something which is usually a joke regarding my mom, but in this case was quite serious).  She cried due to the pain she was in, and I actually called her doctor, concerned that there was a leak in her port (there wasn't).  She begged to go back to the ER in the hopes they'd remove her port.  She felt a great deal of nausea, and while she never actually vomited she came awfully close.  And then, about a week after chemo, she started to feel better.

Suddenly, she was more of my mom.  What she said made sense.  The way she moved seemed easy (or at least easier).  She went out for lunch with guests and really seemed to do well.  We hit our first chemo speed bump (hair loss), but she seemed to take it in stride.  She got excited over some of the head wraps I got for her, and she just seemed to be happier.  Oh, and she was taking fewer pain meds.  Instead of the maximum dosage of Percoset, she started asking for very small doses of Tramadol.  These were all great signs.

And then we had to start chemo round 2.  Some things were the same as before.  She was beyond tired at the end of each day.  The excess fluids they gave her caused her to swell, and that caused some significant pain.  She definitely experienced nausea (this time with vomiting), but everything seemed to a lesser degree.  She never did need the highest dose of pain meds.  While she needed the nausea meds, she didn't have nearly as hard a time taking them, and she never stopped eating completely like she had before.  She could always stomach a smoothie or popsicle or something.

Now, she's almost back to her normal self.  She's eating regularly (and voraciously).  She's asking me to take short walks with her (great for recovery), and most importantly she's completely coherent.  In fact, she's even planning a girls night with a couple of her friends.  I'm excited for her.

In the mean time, Hans and I finally got her moved out of her apartment, and now we just have to find a spot for her stuff.  Life is busy, but better, so that's good.

Thank you to everyone for all your continued support.  It means so much! 

Monday, September 1, 2014


Well, it has been a whirlwind of a week!  I'm well fed, exhausted, and well-loved.  Essentially, we had a lot of visitors in a short amount of time.

First, there was Hans' old roommate, Dan.  Dan was only here for 2 nights and 1 full day, but he was a much-needed escape.  Whenever he or my old roommate come to visit, I'm instantly transported to those college days.  I'm able to relax a little and forget about bills or appointments or obligations.  It's lovely.  I always try to clear my schedule when I know they're visiting, because I know my only focus will be on them.  The three of us ended up spending some time in Williamsburg, and I had a lovely nap in the car.  Just perfect.

Next, my aunt and uncle flew in from Arizona.  I hadn't seen them in 6 years, so this was a great occasion.  They really helped me out by watching Anna when I had a work emergency, but they were also a much needed break for Mom.  I know she really enjoyed seeing her sister and brother-in-law, and that got her up and moving some more (but more on that later).

Last, Hans' parents came to visit.  They've come down a few times since Anna was born, and it's always fun to see their reactions when they see how much she's grown.  Of course, Anna is their third grandchild, so sometimes it's just comparisons, but I think they like seeing the progress.  My MIL and I went shopping at a thrift store for baby clothes and had a little too much fun, and all in all it was a pleasure seeing them.

And then there's Mom.  Mom has been wonderful this past week.  She's gone out for lunch, she's been up and moving around, she's barely needed pain meds, and most importantly she's been eating.  Her appetite is still small, but she's eating regular meals.  We've pretty much switched to a vegetarian diet, although she's still has some seafood-based dishes from time to time.  Now I just have to figure out how to start cooking all these fantastic dishes we've tried recently!

So, like I said, it's been a long week, but it's been a good one.  Mom starts her second round of chemo on Wednesday, so we'll see how she progresses.  Here's to hoping for the best!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mom Update

There are probably about 10,000 things I'd love to chat about right now, but the thing that's at the forefront of my mind is Mom.  So, it's time for a Mom Update.

Mom started chemo about a week and a half ago.  She had a port implanted on Tuesday the 12th.   She was really having an off week due to pain meds and pain in general, so she was a little confused when they did the procedure.  Then, the next day she started chemo, so that was kind of a miserable week.  She hurt, she felt sick, she was still healing from the port.  She kept telling us something was wrong with the port, it shouldn't feel that bad, and we had to try to explain to her that the pain was most likely because of chemo and her healing body.

To her credit, she tried to eat a little, but she was hard pressed to find something that wouldn't make her sick.  She could sometimes handle a little watermelon or a bit of soup, but nothing much, and she was weak because of it.  Hans and I kept trying to find things that might sound appetizing to her, but there wasn't much.  I think one day all she had were two lime popsicles. 

Then, at some point last week, there was a shift.  The pain started to subside, she was taking fewer pain pills, and her appetite started to return.  On the way to the doctor's office last Wednesday, she asked if we could stop at Starbuck's for a smoothie.  She downed it in about 2 seconds, and as we returned home she asked for another.  Yesterday she had two smoothies and a bowl of orzo soup with garlic bread.  Today, she didn't even wait or ask for me to make her something.  I came downstairs and she'd put some stuffed spaghetti squash in the oven.  And that was after having a pancake and some fruit!

So, needless to say, things are going much better this week.  She's still in a significant amount of pain, and she's still on meds, but something seems to have shifted.  I'm thrilled she's eating, and I love that she's up and about again.  It makes life a little easier.  Well, in reality, I actually have to tell myself not to worry too much about her, because I'm constantly worried she's doing something she shouldn't.  Let's just say I'm learning to pick my battles.

So, all in all, it's been a good week.  The meals that friends and family have prepared have been a God-send, and Mom really seems to be enjoying them.  I know I'm going to have to start making more meals, and I'm terrified, but at least I know of a few things she might like!  Here's to good weeks!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cloth Diapering

Before Anna was born, Hans and I made the decision to try cloth diapering.  We said we'd do disposables when she was first born and switch to cloth once she'd grown a bit.  By the time she was large enough to start cloth, though, I was feeling two things.  The first was guilt for how many disposables were ending up in our trash each day.  The second was complete and utter fear for the extra work cloth would mean.  In the end, though, the guilt won out and Hans and I started the cloth diapering routine.

We stuck to it for about a day and a half and then we found out about Mom.  While she was in the hospital I just couldn't fathom the added pressure of figuring out cloth diapering, so we quickly switched back to disposables, but as we started to get into a routine with Mom I started to feel guilty about using disposable again.  So, it was time to go back to cloth.  In an effort to talk about something other than Mom, I figured I'd share with y'all my experience so far.

First off, it's super simple.  Yes, it requires us to do a little more laundry, but we don't really worry about folding anything.  Once they're done washing and drying, we just throw them in a drawer.  The only other problematic thing is that poopy diapers have to be rinsed off before washing, and this can cause issues if we encounter a poopy diaper while in public.  At home we have a diaper sprayer, so that makes it easy, and in public I'll either wrap up the diaper until I can rinse it at home, or I'll rinse it out in a toilet somewhere.  It's no big deal.

I've heard some people complain that cloth diapers leak a lot more than disposables.  I think this really depends on the diaper.  My one recommendation: double gussets.  We've used three different brands and two types of cloth diapers.  Only one of them has been fairly reliable about not leaking, and it has double gussets.  Part of that is because Anna has skinny, little legs.  The other side of that is you do have to make sure you're using the diaper 100% correctly.  Whenever I put it on Anna, I have to double check that everything is covered.  This takes about an extra 5 seconds, so no big deal.

It is easy to get lost in the different types of cloth.  There are flats, pockets, prefolds, all in ones, and all in twos.  Then there's hemp, cotton, microfiber, bamboo, wool.  Further still, there are Best Bottoms, Grovia, Bum Genius, Lil' Helpers, and many more.  Choosing what's best for you can be difficult.  I actually went to a two hour class offered by a local shop to learn more about them.  Best. Decision. Ever!  I still don't know much about the different fabrics, but I know what I like to use the best.  I love Best Bottoms, All in Twos.  They're double gusseted and easy to transport when I'm out and about.  Plus the inserts are interchangeable with Lil' Helpers, so I have a few more options. 

Yes, it's true.  Cloth diapers seem more expensive at first.  One could easily spend $500 on a full set of cloth diapers, and that's way more than a $20 box of disposables.  But, look at it this way.  That box of disposables may last you 2-3 weeks (if you're lucky).  Those $500 cloths will last you until your child is potty trained.  And yes, you will spend a little more on water, but it's minimal.  Most people say it's about as much as having an extra person showering in your house each day.  So, not too bad!  I'd say the trade off is worth it.

OK, I know some of this info may be over some of your heads.  If you haven't looked into cloth diapering, it can all seem a bit overwhelming.  I promise to some day do a post explaining everything I've learned (although I'm still learning).  Just know, though, it's really not that hard.  I mean, if I can do it, anyone can!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Update

First, an update on me.

I'm exhausted.  This has been a crazy week of running errands, packing, and caring for Mom and Anna.  I am also, however, completely and totally amazed at how wonderful people can be.

Last Friday, I put out a little plea.  It wasn't anything huge for me, and I really didn't expect to get much feedback.  The idea was that, if people wanted to help, I'd tell them how they could help the most.  The response was amazing, and I felt so loved.  To each of you who responded, THANK YOU!  Even if I don't end up accepting your offer, the simple fact that you reached out to me was a huge help.  Knowing that I'm not in this alone is a huge help.  Tonight, a classmate I haven't really seen in 10 years brought dinner for me and my family.  She made sure that it met dietary restrictions, and tried to make it something that would be easy on the stomach while going through chemo.  It was so wonderful, I just wanted to cry.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Mom has good days and she has bad days.  The only thing we can really do at this point is take it one day at a time.  This was not a great day.  She was in a lot of pain.  Monday was a great day.  Maybe tomorrow will be a good day again.

She had a port implanted yesterday, and she started chemo today.  This means that, more often than not, she's just exhausted.  We're really hoping that the chemo will take effect, and, even with chemo symptoms, Mom might experience some relief from some of her ailments.


Anna is my little ball of sunshine.  She's my source of joy in a sad time.  She's coming along nicely too.  This week, at least, she seems to be in a fairly good mood.  She's sleeping well and eating well, and growing well.  The only thing I've really noticed is that, come evening, she's tired and cranky and ready for bed.  That's OK, though, because I feel the same way.

Anna loves bath time best of all.  She kicks and smiles, and the other night she laughed for the first time.  She's enjoying more and longer awake times, and she loves being able to look around and see as much as possible.  She makes me laugh, and that's quite a good thing.

The dogs

Mom's dogs, Kyla and Alex, are adjusting to their new life quite well.  They're getting used to not chasing the cats (that's a hard one for them), and they're being quite sweet.  Cody and Lollie (my sweet, sweet kids) are being extra snuggly and loveable.  Whether that's because they know I'm stressed and need the love, or because they're jealous, or because they're stressed and need some love, I'm not sure.  Whatever the reason, I'm loving their attention.  I feel bad, because I feel like they're often the ones who end up neglected, but those snuggles each night and morning are just perfect.

Hans is so supportive.  I know he's tired and frustrated.  I know he wishes we didn't have to worry about all this.  Through all of this, though, he's right on board.  He's been helping me cook and clean and transport dogs to the kennel.  He'll wake up early with me when there's an early-morning doctor's appointment, and he's always happy to take Anna when I just need a break (even if she's screaming).  He's just perfect.

Actually, just so you don't get too jealous of my awesome husband, I have to share this story:  This morning, he was helping me get out the door so Mom could get to chemo.  He poured me a smoothie and sent me on my way.  When I got home 8.5 hours later I noticed one thing.  He'd left the door to the fridge wide open.  Irritated does not even begin go describe my anger.  I had to throw out so much food!  Oh well!  I guess I can forgive him.

So, we're all doing OK, but we're also all preparing for what's to come.  Wish us luck.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Back To The E.R.

Well, surprise.  We're back in the E.R.

When Mom first came back home, she was doing amazingly well.  She had been discharged early, because she seemed so strong.  As the days past, she continued to do well.  Apart from a medication issue with Percoset (she reacts oddly to it), she seemed OK.  On a scale of 1-10, her pain was holding at about 2-4 (normal for post-surgery), she was cheerful, and while there were a few little kinks and hiccups, everything was fine.  If she had a bad day, that could generally be attributed to something (a long day the day before, hard PT, etc).  That was different today.

Yesteray, she seemed to be in a bit of pain, but Wednesday was a big day, so I didn't think much of it.  Today, though, was different.  Today, she was claiming to be at a level 8-10 on the pain scale.  In addition, she was disoriented, had trouble remembering recent things, couldn't repeat simple things back to me, and was a bit combative when I tried to get her out of bed.  When here physical therapist arrived, I asked her to evaluate and give me an opinion, and she said we should head to the E.R., so here we are.

It's been 5.5 hours, and I'm exhausted, but we finally have a few answers.  I was worrying about a whole slew of things: more tumors, brain metastases, stroke (although not all the symptoms for that one added up).  Here's the result:

-The back and spine look good.
-Not much has changed from an oncology standpoint.
-The biggest change is a bit of growth in the mass on her skull, which has caused a bit of swelling.  That's causing the confusion.  Hopefully some steroids will help.
-There are signs of a UTI, so she's on some antibiotics

They're sending us home, and we're to follow up with her oncologist on Monday.  From there, she'll have a port implanted, and she'll start chemo next week.  We should know after the first few treatments whether or not the cancer is responding.

On Another Note
So many of you have offered love and support, and I am so grateful.  We are eternally grateful for the outpouring of love.  Many of you have also asked how you can help.  Here's the problem: I hate asking for help.  I doubt I will ever feel comfortable just calling you up and saying, "Hey, could you lend a hand?"  It's just not how I function.  However, I will take this moment to list a few things that we could really use.  If you can help out in any way, please let me know.  Don't hesitate to call, text, or email, or even just stop by.

We could use:
- Meals.  I'm actually somewhat prepared for food, but not the food she needs that's really supposed to help with cancer.  Not only that, her tastes have changed dramatically, and she's not eating much.  I'm trying to switch us over to a plant-based (mainly vegetarian), all organic diet.  The hardest part of this is researching what to make (I've always been more of a meat and potatoes gal) and then actually finding time to make it.  If someone, anyone, wanted to make even just one meal and then hand over the recipe, I'd be so appreciative.

-Help with Anna.  I love caring for her.  I love the time I have with her.  I particularly loved today's bonding time (dancing to classical music followed by snuggles on the couch).  However, I also love having some time to clean or prepare meals or go to work or go to the gym.  If anyone would be willing to pitch in for an hour or two (or more) each week I'd probably be brought to tears.

-Help packing and moving.  Mom moving in with us means more than just packing up some of her belongings.  It means we have to clean out my old office so we can clean out her bedroom.  Then we have to pack up everything in her apartment, decide what to keep and what to trash, and bring some of it back to our place.  Some stuff may end up in storage, and some may just be sold.  However, it's a lot of work, and with Anna it's not getting done as fast as I'd like.  I'd love some help.

-Care for Mom for some time in September.  Hans and I are trying to make it to a conference for the kennel the third weekend in September.  It's in Chicago, which means we'd probably be gone for about 5 days or so.  The problem is, we can't leave Mom alone that long.  Not only that, she won't want to be without her dogs, and we need someone to take care of her AND her dogs.  Having someone to check in on her throughout the day and stay with her overnight would be the most amazing gift.  Heck, even if it was a different person each night it would be amazing.  Please!  Can anyone help?

-Positive thoughts.  The reality is Mom might die.  Actually, the odds are that she doesn't have much time left.  I know this.  She knows this.  Her doctors know this.  However, we don't actually need to hear it.  I don't need to be told to prepare myself.  I don't need to be reminded.  The only way I'll actually make it through this is if I remain in some sort of state of denial.  Please let this continue.  Please, no more "I'm so sorry" or "Oh how awful."  It is awful.  It freakin' sucks!  I really don't need you to tell me this.  I just ask, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

So there you have it.  That about sums it up.  Thank you!  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Preparing For Battle

Let me start by saying that Mom is doing well.  She'll start chemo next week, and she's in good spirits.  Admittedly, we're kind of driving each other nuts, but that's a whole other story.  Right now, though, we are both preparing ourselves for battle.

Mom is resting, recuperating, and trying to eat healthy.  I am arming myself with as much knowledge as possible about her disease.  I'm reading books, searching websites, scheduling doctors appointments.  I'm creating anti-cancer meal plans, and I'm just trying to prepare for what's to come.

Hans has been amazing through all of this.  He's been helping with meals and cleaning.  He'll come home from a day of work and carry Anna around all evening simply because he knows I'm exhausted.  He's just been wonderful. 

Honestly, the only one I really worry about is Anna.  She's too young to understand what's going on, but she can certainly sense the stress.  I worry about what sorts of effects it will have on her as she grows.  I worry that I'm not spending enough relaxing, Mommy-daughter time with her.  I worry that, when she's fussy, it's not because she's an infant and they cry, but rather because she's too stressed out.  Of course, all those thoughts leave me more stressed, and the vicious cycle repeats.  To alleviate the situation, I'm trying to make sure I spend at least an hour of good, quality time with her each day.  Yesterday, that time was spent swinging on the porch swing during a gentle summer rain (it was beautiful).  Today, that time was spent nursing in bed and watching Netflix.  I love that hour each day, because I can feel both of us relax.  It's important.

And my one relief is that the kennel is continuing to do well.  I'm not back in full swing like I'd anticipated, so I'm relieved that it can continue functioning with only a little guidance.  My staff is great, and I'm constantly getting compliments on them.  While I'm making an effort to be there a little more, it's helpful to know I can focus on family as needed.

So, that's life for now.  It's exhausting, and it's not ideal, but it's my life.  At least I'm able to wake up each morning and greet the day  For now, though...

Good night!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Stage 4


Small cell

Lung Cancer.

Today I sat with my mom in the doctor's office as he explained that the type of cancer she has is not considered curable.  I felt a mixture of emotions all at once.

I was angry.

I was angry with her for not having quit smoking sooner.

I was scared.

What does this mean for the future?  How much time do we have?  What will she have to go through, and what will that mean for me caring for her?

I was overwhelmingly sad.

As I held my daughter, not yet 2 months old, all I could think was that she'd never get to know her grandmother.  Her grandmother, my mom, the woman who held me, and cradled me, and sang to me as I was doing to her would not be around to see her grow up.

My mother, Mom, Mommy, would just be a person in a picture.  A person she maybe will wish she once knew.

It's this thought that brings me to tears every time.

I can't imagine life without my mom.

A little over a week ago we thought the pain in her back was just a bulging disc.  We never imagined this.

To her credit, she has a positive attitude.  She's taking things one day at a time.  I'm trying to follow her lead, and most of the time I'm OK.  But then I look at my daughter.  I think how this is supposed to be a joyous time in our lives, and instead it's marred by this horrible news.

Life kind of sucks right now, and I'm clinging to any small bit of hope I can find.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Puppy Love

They say everything changes when you have a baby.  One of the biggest changes I've heard is your relationship with your pets.  I've seen numerous reactions towards pets when a baby enters the mix.  Some dogs are relegated outside.  Some cats are limited to one or two rooms.  Some people even give up their beloved pets because "it's just too much."  Heck, I got Cody simply because the lady who had originally wanted him found out she was pregnant and didn't want a puppy and a baby (crazy!).  Generally, though, the most common thing I've heard is that the relationship simply changes.  I've been told that the moment your child is born you realize that nothing else is as important.  You realize that your dogs or cats are pets and not the same as your children.  Well, I'm here to tell you that may be true for some people, but it sure as heck isn't true for me.  If anything, my love for my dogs and cats has grown exponentially.

When Anna was born, the first thing I thought of was how I couldn't wait for the dogs and cats to meet her.  I knew they'd be fine with her, since they've been around plenty of other small children, but I wanted to see how they'd do with her.  Would they be excited?  Would they be annoyed?  Would they care at all?  I have to say, even I couldn't predict their reaction.

When I first came home, I was so excited to see my dogs.  I went in first, without Anna, so the dogs would have a chance to jump on me and love on me, without me worrying about a tiny baby.  They were thrilled at first, but once Cody had a chance to sniff me he immediately seemed scared.  He retreated to a corner and started to shake.  This was very unusual behavior, so I went out to Hans and asked him to go inside.  Hans said something seemed off, but otherwise Cody was normal.  He put both Cody and Lollie outside while I brought Anna in.  I set Anna on the floor in her car seat and told Hans he could let the dogs in.  While I waited for them to come in, I pondered what was wrong with Cody.  I was really scared he could smell the baby on me and that he wouldn't take to her like I thought he would.  Boy was I wrong!

Cody and Lollie came through the door.  Lollie went to her normal spot on the couch, tail wagging ferociously.  Cody, however, went straight for the car seat.  He gave Anna a once over while I held my breath, and then he immediately started giving her kisses.  Any sign of fear or hesitation was completely gone, and when Cody looked at me he was happier than I have ever seen him.  Lollie did some celebratory (attention-seeking) barking, and I loved on both of them.

I then took a moment to figure out what had happened with Cody earlier.  This may be reading to much into it, but I think his fear was based on the fact that Anna was no longer in my belly.  I think he thought something was terribly wrong, and I truly believe that he immediately recognized Anna when he met her.  Cody and Lollie had spent the past nine months smelling Anna, listening to her heartbeat, and getting to know her in a way that I could only imagine.  Their attitude around me was one of the first reasons I decided to take a pregnancy test (Cody was very protective and Lollie just seemed confused).  Their sixth sense allowed them to bond with her in a way that no other person could.  It was as I realized this that I also came to the conclusion that these dogs are my world.  Their love for me allows me to grow and to love others.  Their love for Anna only makes me love them even more. 

Since that first day, things have calmed down a bit, but their attachment to my only child hasn't changed.  They come to her when she cries, they greet her with kisses, and they guard and protect her constantly.  Anna has slept against them.  She has learned to accept (and I think love) their kisses.

Now, I will admit one thing.  Time for them is limited.  There is a difference between a baby and the dogs.  Anna is completely 100% helpless.  I can't leave her alone for a moment.  Unfortunately, this means less time to go on hikes and less time to simply hang out with the dogs.  That doesn't mean I care for them any less.  It only means I have to make more time for them, and I am more than willing to do that.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Facing Death and That First Mile

I had a realization a few days after I gave birth to Anna.  I was thinking about Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and I realized that, if I lived a mere 50 years ago, there's a good chance neither Anna nor I would have survived this pregnancy.  That's really startling.  It's hard to think that, even though I did everything right, even though everything prior to her delivery was well within normal, even though I was kind of awesome at the whole pregnancy thing, mere luck or fate meant Anna was an emergency C-section, and without modern medicine, there's a good chance we would not have survived.  I even wonder how things would have turned out if I hadn't happened to have a doctor's appointment scheduled that morning.  Hans would have gone to work.  I would have stayed home.  I would have told him I wasn't feeling well, but I'd call if I thought there was anything to be worried about.  I don't know when I would have headed to the hospital.  I can imagine I would have called the nurse around 10:00 a.m.  Chances are I wouldn't have gotten to the hospital before 11:00.  How  might our story have ended if we'd had these delays?  Would Anna have made it safely into this world?

This is really hard to face.  I'm lucky that I have nothing to feel guilty about when it comes to her birth.  I didn't eat poorly, I didn't gain a lot of weight, I stayed active, my blood pressure and blood sugar were beyond perfect, both her and my heart rate were normal the entire pregnancy (until that last day), and I followed the doctor's orders.  But to think that things could have ended so differently is scary.  When I first thought about this, I was in such new-mom bliss that it was just a passing thought.  As the weeks passed, however, it really started to sink in.

I'd look into my newborn's eyes or I'd watch her sleeping, or I'd feel a twinge where my C-section scar is, and I couldn't help but think about how lucky we were.  Then I'd start to think about all the years ahead and all the dangers we face.  How sometimes you can't control anything.  And then I'd start to panic.  In the past, when I've panicked, I've gone for a run.  That rush of endorphins and the feeling of sweat dripping down my face is one of the best feelings in the world for me.  Not being able to run post-op, or do any sort of real physical activity, has been awful.  The first few days I was still in enough pain I didn't care.  Getting out of bed was a work out, and I had no desire to run.  By the middle of the second week, though, that itch to lace up my running shoes had set in. 

Yesterday, I had a very relaxing day.  It was perfect in almost every way.  I stayed in bed, I nursed, I ate well, Anna wasn't fussy.  And yet, I still ended up crying by the end of the night.  I felt overwhelmed by life.  I felt flabby.  I felt misunderstood.  Call it postpartum blues or call it anxiety.  Whatever you call it, it sucked.  And then this morning, Anna woke at 5:00 a.m. for a feeding.

I nursed her, changed her diaper, and looked outside.  It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was just rising, and the morning had that grey, not-quite-awake feel.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I did a quick assessment of how I felt: Great.  I told Hans to keep and ear out for Anna, I put on my running clothes, laced up my shoes, and headed out. 

I told myself I'd keep it slow.  I told myself I'd keep it short.  I told myself I wouldn't be too upset if I wet myself after half a mile due to stress incontinence (although I made sure to empty my bladder before I went out).  After a brief warm-up, I started my run.

A mile and a half.  Actually, less than that.  1.34 miles to be exact.  It wasn't even half the distance of my last run almost 5 weeks ago (two weeks before Anna was born).  However, it was the most wonderful experience.  It wasn't fast (an 11:15 min/mi pace if you must know), but it wasn't terrible.  I was tired when I was done, but I was able to finish.  And I didn't wet myself!

This morning, I feel refreshed.  This may sound overly dramatic, but I kind of feel like I'm coming back from death.  That panic I felt yesterday evening has dissipated, and I'm left with a euphoric, victorious feeling.  I'm not even 3 weeks post-op (2 weeks, 6 days to be exact), and I know I'll need to take it a little easier the rest of the day, but I feel great.  I may not be able to run a marathon or even a half marathon tomorrow, and it may take a lot of time to work back up to where I was, but I feel great.  That first mile was wonderful