Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I'm Streaming December

*As a reminder, I am part of the Netflix Streamteam. I am being compensated for sharing with you, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Happy New Year's Eve!

If you are going out tonight because you have fantastic plans, enjoy.

As for me and my family, we'll be home, lounging in pajamas and relaxing! Not that I'd mind a night out, but I also am very okay with just hanging out at home!

I'm sure some of our night will be spent watching some Netflix. I totally
want to see the King Julien countdown - because my son already watched every episode of King Julien! Yes, it just came out, but he LOVED it! He told me he's going to let me make a video of him telling the world why he likes it and I can share it here. We haven't done it yet, but I do plan to!

As for me, I had some pretty sleepless nights a few weeks ago thanks to the steroids I was on. I was warned that they would make me not want to sleep and oh boy did they ever! So I spent my nights streaming Marco Polo.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it and do hope a season 2 comes out.

The story had me hooked. Though, there is probably hardly any historical accuracy in the show, that's not what I was watching it for so I was okay with it. I liked many of the characters in the show too - not limited to Polo's character.

I will, however, never say Genghis Khan the same again (I'll pronounce the first G as a J, like they did on the show because that's how I roll). But I fell in love with the scenery for sure. I'd like to go ride horses around in those hills - it was lovely.

In honor of watching the show, when the husband and I sat down recently to play some Civilization V, I selected the Mongols as my team, and so far it's working out for me. The husband and I are kicking butt in the game! LOL! 

Of course, now that I've watched it all, I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of every episode of Friends in January and then the big one in February: House of Cards. Is there a way I can just get a copy of House of Cards now? I promise I won't tell anyone a single spoiler!

In addition to what I've been watching, I've also done a fair bit of reading. I have officially started the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. Someone sat down and wrote down all the books referenced in the show - which I love the show and saw so many people watching it since it came to Netflix and it inspired me to start reading. I had read 38 books prior to even learning about the challenge, but in December managed to read 2 more. I'm hoping to get another 30 done by the end of 2015, which I know means 10 years to complete the list, but I'm okay with that!

I'm also bringing others into my madness and I started a group for other people who wanted to maybe do the challenge, or some of it, or just want to talk books! We'll see how it goes this year.

With that said, I want to say Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that your 2014 ends very well and that your 2015 is a good year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Life Is Not Fair

Life is not fair.

I know. I know. I can hear it in my head "well no one ever said life would be fair." Which is code for suck it up, buttercup, you're no more precious than anyone else in this world so just accept it and move on.

Which maybe helps some people? I don't know. It doesn't help me much.

I'm not sure if it's because the holidays, but as I look around me and hear people talk or see what they are saying on-line, I see so much pain and sadness and so much unfairness of it all.

It makes me want to punch someone.

Except there's really no one I want to punch. Some invisible person who can be a stand-in for all the wrongs of the world.

I don't mean to sound like an awful person. Or someone who is over here wallowing in badness. And I don't want you to get the impression that I must have had a miserable Christmas or else I'd be sitting over here basking in the happiness the holidays brought.

Because I'm not an awful person. I don't think I'm wallowing. And I, in fact, had a lovely Christmas. One of the best ones in recent years!

But there is so much pain and loss and sadness. Not just in the world in general (which is true) but in my own back yard. Too many people missing their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, best friends. Too many people who never knew their mother and/or father. Too many friends wishing for just one more Christmas with their now angel child. People who spent Christmas in the hospital. People who just received bad news.

My goodness. The weight of it all. Which isn't even weight on my shoulders. But I feel it for those I love and care about. I wish I could fix it or right it or make the hurt go away.

But I can't.

And I think it comes out more at the holidays. Who do you want to spend your Christmas morning with?

My social media feeds were flooded with pictures of presents - big piles of them, small special gifts, toys flung all over the room, neat piles, messy piles, tons and tons of presents.

But that's not what we are all missing this time of year. We are missing people. Friends, relatives, lovers. That's what we are missing. We'd trade the biggest pile of presents ever for just one more holiday together, one more moment to make cookies together, or see a face light up when you've just given the best present ever, one more hug, one more kiss. Just one more "I love you. Always and forever."

That is the bitter part of bittersweet holidays, isn't it? The part where your heart aches so much you just aren't sure you can carry the weight of it in your chest anymore. Or the drop of your stomach as pain and sadness come flooding back.

It's there, between the laughter and new memories being made this year. It's there between the traditions you started with your own kids or are carrying down from your parents. It's there as you unwrap that special something you were given, or as your child runs over and bear hugs you because YOU ARE THE BEST EVER THANK YOU FOR ANOTHER AWESOME HOLIDAY!

I know some say you can't have light without darkness, happiness without sadness, etc, etc.

I'm not sure I completely believe that. I see where it comes from though. I get the sentiment behind it.

It still stings when there is darkness and sadness and pain.

It still hurts.

All of this to say, if you are hurting right now. Or are sad. Or are missing someone. You are not alone. And I'm sending love your way.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Dec. Medical Update

While December is the month of holidays, it's also been a busy month, again, for me and doctors.

Not all the appointments have been for me - not only do I juggle my appointments, but I juggle the kids' and granny's appointments as well.

And 2014 has been the year of lots and lots and lots of appointments. So I thought I'd give an update. I know, it's boring to read, but documenting things here helps me keep track of things, which I need!

For a while now I've been having some issues. Without going into details, I can sum it up as phantom limb pain in my chest area. Basically my boobs have been hurting. Except I don't have boobs. And it was kind of freaking me out because it has just been getting worse and worse. So I went in to see the doctor. It turns out my muscles are spasming and tight. Which is inflaming the nerves, and so when the brain interprets the signals from the nerves, it goes back to what it knows. Next week (nope, I don't even get to take Christmas week off!) I am going to my favorite occupational therapist for an evaluation and a what to do next plan.

This is both awesome and not awesome. My therapist is great. She has helped me in the past. But, the thought of doing therapy several times a week just makes me want to cry. I'd like to not have to go see a doctor. Ever. Again.

Anyway, if she thinks therapy will help, that's the route we'll take. If not, back to the doctor? I'm not sure. I didn't ask. Because I'm assuming she can help. However, the "joke" now is how can you tell I'm in pain? I'm breathing! (But it's not usually a lot of pain, but it's pretty much always there.)

In addition, most days I've felt like I've been run over by a bus. I've been tired for so long I can't remember not being tired, but since summer it has felt worse, which isn't saying much because it was an issue before then. I constantly feel like I'm right on the verge of getting some virus - do you know what I'm talking about. The day before a virus hits, and you kind of think am I getting sick? Or not? Because it feels like it might be starting, but it's not quite full blown. That has been my normal for a while now. And the brain fog has at an all time high as well (though my migraines are back with a vengeance which isn't helping). And then I've been randomly popping low grade fevers which just kick my butt even more.

I kind of started to wonder if it was all in my head - like psychosomatic. Or maybe I was depressed - because I know that can cause one to feel tired, run down. Except I don't feel depressed - I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, run down, beat up, and moody - but not depressed. I've struggled with depression before and even if I don't want to admit it, I usually know something is going on. But I don't feel that way.

I know my iron levels at last testing weren't stellar. But they haven't been stellar for a long time and things have just slowly and progressively felt worse and worse.

Today was my regularly scheduled check-up with the oncologist. I saw the PA (who by way, is a wonderful person) and so I just laid it all out on the line. It all just came spilling out - I told her everything, how I was feeling, I also said something along the lines of "I mean, sometimes I wonder if I'm not losing my mind. Or maybe it's all in my head. Or I could be depressed. I don't feel depressed. But you can be depressed and not feel it. It's tricky that way. But if I was depressed or if it was all in my head would I be wondering if it was those things? And, oh my goodness, what is wrong with me?"

And my PA listened, nodded along, and asked some questions. We talked about iron, she asked if I had other tests run (which I had and could give her results for) and then she said, I think I know what's going on here. And basically we are talking about chronic fatigue and some adrenal issues. Which I've learned since sharing with others, that a lot of doctors won't talk about or believe it's "real" or whatever, so more points for my PA.

Anyway, we have a plan. Which will start with me doing 6 days of steroids. I took some steroids during chemo. I can already tell these are going to be some intense, crazy 6 days. I think I'm starting them Friday (though maybe delaying until after Christmas, but I kind of don't want to because I'm so freaking tired). Then after that I'm starting a sleep aid that will help me sleep, help with the insomnia, and help reset my circadian rhythm to something more normal.

Needless to say, I've got pretty much all my hope in these two baskets. I want this to work and I need this to work. So I can function. So I can drive myself and 4 other people to all our doctors appointments ;-) But no, seriously, I need energy and I need to feel good. I don't need the energy of a preschoolers. And I don't need to feel great. I'm just asking for more than I have now and feeling good. Because I just feel like if we can't get a handle on it, some thing's going to give.

(I wrote the rest of this a few days ago, and am now adding this part before I publish)

We also ran iron levels and I'm almost in tears to tell you that I just found out,f* not only did they not hold steady, they dropped. So. My almost non-existent iron levels are now about half of almost non-existent. When the doc called with this news I seriously wanted to burst into tears. Then I wanted to say f*&k a lot. Because more than sad, I am so incredibly, incredibly, beyond how I ever thought I could feel, angry. I'm just angry. Which means even if the treatment the doc and I planned - the steroids and some sleeping meds - even if they work to perfection, I will essentially still be tired. Not as tired, but tired. And I'm so absolutely pissed about this.

So, I guess it's time to pursue possibly almost killing me - which I'm half joking, but half not - because I think (though this is what the allergist I met with earlier said and I would need to consult with someone else to get an actual plan) they will pre-admit me to ICU, pre-dose me with lots of meds and then give me iron and keep treating reactions as they come and keep giving me iron and assume that I don't stop breathing. But he can't do it and I will need a new doctor, who specializes in this and maybe they'll say no, no, we won't be that crazy!

So. Boy. That sounds like fun.

Anyway, I'm going to temporarily try to say screw it all. Tonight we start baking cookies. And we will probably continue to bake until Christmas Eve.  But my girls are going to help me. And this is our tradition. And I'm going to be happy doing it. So that is how it shall be.

Have a good Friday friends!

And happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, and if I don't come say hi for a while, Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Some Advice for Hard Times

There is a crazy reason this post has come to be - but basically I wrote it in a dream last night and when I woke up I remembered the dream and I remembered moat of what I wrote, so I thought, I should really blog this.

But I also hesitate, because, well, often times I feel like when I do give advice it can fall short or not be a good fit, but this time, I'll let my insecurities go and try to say what is in my heart (and my dreams!) Also, I think the holidays can be an even harder time

And naturally, all my thoughts are coming primarily from my experience with going through cancer.

Dear Friend,

I know you are going through some hard times right now. I haven't been in your exact shoes myself, but I've been through some of my own hard times, and here is some advice I have for you.

Know that even during hard times, there can be moments of beauty. These moments won't make up for the hard times. The won't erase the pain, or the hurt, or the sadness, or the hardness of it all. But these moments will be good and happy. Embrace them. Smile when they happen and hold them close to your heart. Embrace them and let them be what they are. You will still feel sad, tired, sick, pain, etc, but for those moments you will also feel happy, thankful, and it will be nice.

Which leads me to my next thoughts for you: allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. Sometimes we want to stuff the bad, sad, unpleasant down and ignore it. We want to put on our happy, smiling faces, and pretend like every thing's wonderful. But you don't have to. It's okay to feel sad or beat up or angry or however you are feeling during this hard time. Your friends won't be mad, in fact, they want to help you. When they ask how you are doing, they really want to know. It's okay to show the world that everything isn't wonderful all the time.

At the same time, sometimes when we are in difficult times, it's hard for us to be happy or to celebrate. But it's okay to celebrate, even in the midst of pain or loss or whatever is going on for you. We as humans are amazing in that we can often feel many emotions at once, and usually half of them are complete opposites of the other ones we are feeling. So you can be happy. You can be sad. However you are feeling, honor that. Be true to yourself and your feelings.

Get good people around you. Sometimes during hard times, we tend to pull away from our friends and family. And while it can be healthy and good for us to be alone for awhile, but don't be alone always. Find some people who will just come be with you. Not necessarily to take you out, or keep you up hours with conversations, etc - sometimes we just need our friends to be with us, no words needed. Gather those friends around. Tell them, hey, I need you to just come and watch tv with me. I don't feel like talking, but I don't want to be alone. People will do that for you. Well, you might have to remind them you don't feel like talking a few times, but they'll get there.

Speaking of having people in your life, get a few people - close, close friends or family (for me, it's my husband) and give them permission to tell you to snap out of it, but only if you really (and I mean really, really) need to hear it. Choose this person(s) wisely though because they'll be walking a fine line should they ever have to say something. A friend* once told me she allowed herself to have a few laps in the pity pool as she needed them, but treading water in the pity pool was not allowed. This is the deal I have with my husband ... I get my laps in the pity pool as I need them, but if I start to get stuck in there, he can give me a (gentle) nudge.

And through all of this, just take it a day at a time. An hour at a time if you need it. A minute at a time if that is where you are at. And when you do that self-talk, pretend you are talking to your best friend. Don't be down on yourself. Don't tell yourself that you shouldn't be feeling/doing one thing and that you should be doing/feeling another thing. There are no should's or shouldn't's. Let go of the woulda, coulda, shoulda's. You have enough on your plate. Let the guilt go. You can't go back and change the past. And today, all you can do is what you can do. Some days that will mean you do the bare minimum to get through the day. And that is okay.

Now a special note to the parents. As parents, we often want to be strong for our kids, or we don't want to cry in front of them. My advice? Cry in front of them. Be honest, say you are sad or scared or sick or however you are saying. That's not to say you will sit down with your 3 year old and talk to him like he's your best friend, or that you will do the same with your 16 year old, but still. Be honest. Your children probably know something is going on. They can probably sense how you are feeling already. And children, when left to fill in the blanks, often do so in ways that are worse than the truth. Not only that, but you'll be teaching them that it's okay to have emotions. If they see you process your emotions in a healthy way (notice I didn't say in a perfect way), they will learn to do the same.

Here's the sucky truth, life is not fair. It just isn't. I wish it could be, I wish I could take away all the hurt and pain and sadness and sickness. I can't. It's not easy to get through. And not every story has a happy ending. But above all else, during these times, you have to just stay true to you, to how you are feeling, to what you are thinking. I can't promise sunshine and rainbows. I can't promise no rainy days. But surround yourself with good people and allow yourself to feel all the emotions - even when they are all over the place or they are conflicting with each other - it's okay. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign you're human. And that is just one of the many reasons I love and care for you!


*Wendy is the friend who told me. She was passing along advice from her friend Cee.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

On holidays, gifts, and cancer

our mantle

So. It's December.

The month of Christmas.

Christmas is a big deal in this house.

It is my goal each year to give my family the perfect Christmas.

Several years ago, a perfect Christmas looked a lot different than it does this year.

For a few years I made the pajamas the kids would wear for Christmas morning. I tried to also make everyone at least one handmade gift. I baked dozens and dozens of cookies. Every inch of my house was decorated. We strung popcorn on thread and put it around the tree. Gingerbread houses were made. Crafts were done. Ornaments were made.

All of this equated to me not sleeping much during December. It left me stressed and frazzled and overwhelmed. There were probably enough tears to water our Christmas tree.

It was fun. But it was a lot of work. And at the end of the day, the perfect Christmas, probably wasn't so perfect for those in my family who were dealing with the fall-out of me being tired, stressed, and fretting when things didn't turn out completely perfect.


I'm tired just thinking about it frankly.

It took cancer to realize that maybe it was time to streamline things and focus on the parts I wanted and let go of the ones that were stressing me too much.

White Christmas and knitting
The Christmas of 2011 left me pretty much unable to do, oh, everything. That year my husband, bless him, was in charge of Christmas. I was sick, dealing with an infection for most of the month that wasn't actually diagnosed until December 23 in which I underwent emergency surgery. I had already been in the hospital earlier in the month. I was tired, in pain, and spent a lot of time in bed. I don't think I participated in Christmas hardly at all to be honest.

And I hated it. Except I was too tired to hate it as much as I should have.

2012 was better. Except I still feeling tired, run down, exhausted. I was dealing with the iron issues and bleeding and anemia. I didn't spend most of the month in bed, but I spent my fair share of time napping.

Last year was a lot better. Still exhausted, but able to shop and bake and do things.

It was good.

This year will be good too.  I'm still exhausted, still dealing with some chronic pain, but I'm here and I can be present.

That is a present in itself.

And I've learned to cut back. Because you know what? The couple years where I wasn't able to really do much (not by choice), an amazing thing happened .... the sun still rose, and the kids still had a good Christmas, and so did I (well, provided I divorce the holiday from the medical things going on).

We buy pajamas now. I make almost no gifts - just a couple as I can. I will still bake an obscene amount of cookies - because that is important to me to keep it on the list.

But I'm also spending a fair amount of time hanging out on the couch watching Christmas movies. We've watched White Christmas, Muppets Christmas Carol, Santa Paws 1 and 2, and some other movies. It's been lovely.

We are hosting Christmas Eve and bless my husband, he set-up for a cleaning service to come get the house cleaned. We pretty much never have anyone else come clean, so this is awesome.

I'm doing Christmas cards this year ... which I haven't done in a while. They are pricey and a lot of money. But I got them on-sale, they are postcard cards, and they will double as "we've moved" cards (which I never sent out).

Our gorgeous tree!
This might be the most relaxed about Christmas that I've felt since being a child.

It is lovely.

Because in 20 years I don't want to look back and think about how stressed I was this time of the year, I want to remember being happy, despite anything else going on in our life, whatever that may be.

But don't mistake me. Getting sick may have allowed me to step back and see that there is more to the perfect Christmas than I what I previously thought, but there is not one ounce of me that will ever. And I mean EVER. I will never call cancer a gift.

I know, I can my hear my husband in my head "Never say never. Or always." but no, I can say never here. Cancer was not a gift. That is, as I've said before, not to say some good things came out of that time period - new appreciations, new friends, new relationships, and changing how things were done to make it better. There were good moments, good things, but none of that will ever make me think of cancer as a gift.

I've got a lot of gifts in my life. Mostly a fabulous family and some awesome friends, who are there whether everything I give is handmade, or lovingly picked out from a store. I have good memories with my kids, some beautiful holiday moments. Those are my gifts. And I plan to appreciate them as much as possible this holiday season.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy (not) Ugly Sweater Day!

It's here! It's here!

Today is December 12 - it's Make the World Better with a Sweater day and I'm ready.

I finished knitting my sweater at the start of this week (which sounds like I was cutting it close, but I thought for sure I'd be working on until I put it on today, so I'm happy!). And I'm rocking it out today.

Without further ado, I present to you my sweater:

I had so much fun making this sweater and I feel really good about helping out Save the Children. They really are doing some wonderful things right now and I feel good about supporting them!

Sadly, my 12 year old did not finish her scarf. She did start it and is working on it (and has discovered that she LOVES to crochet) but her heart was in the right place, so I told her not to worry!

And I know it might be a bit early, but I may or may not already be thinking about what sweater to make next year!

But now it's your turn! If you would like to help, you can donate $5 to Save the Children simply by texting SWEATER to 20222. Also, feel free to take a selfie in your sweater (ugly or not, holiday or not, made by you or not) and tag yourself with #sweater and #elfie

Don't have a sweater, that's okay! You can download a paper sweater here and still participate!

Have some fun, help a good cause, spread a little holiday cheer - sounds like a good plan to me! Hope you are all having a great Friday!

Sweater details:

Pattern: Soltice Dias de Betty
Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton Ease
Needle: US 5
Slight modifications in regards to increases/decreases because my gauge was larger than the pattern called for. I also knit it down one side to help offset the gauge difference as well
Would I knit it again? Yes, but the should area is a bit small, so I would probably make the back smaller by a few stitches at the top! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

And he's 9

Today my son, my youngest, the babiest of my babies, turns 9. 

My goodness. 

9 years.

9 years ago he came into this world in what was practically a picture-perfect birth. Including the fact that he was born in the caul (the amniotic sac did not break during labor or birth!). 

It's been an amazing 9 years with him.

Though, we really thought our family might be complete with two girls, the universe knew we needed this little boy in our lives. 

He makes us laugh. He says the cutest things. He still likes to cuddle with me. He holds my hand in public. He loves learning, even though he doesn't like schoolwork. He spends too much time playing video games, but he's good at them. He longs to be independent but still needs us for so much. He has more energy than I could have ever dreamed. He loves to throw things (thankfully now he mostly only throws balls. when it's appropriate. mostly). He can turn anything into a sword. He is curious. He is creative. He makes me smile. He makes me cry. When he is happy, he is the happiest. When he's mad though, he is MAD. He feels so many emotions and they switch in an instant (though, he's mostly happy and mostly content, thankfully!). He wants to learn to cook. He is helpful around the house - though you may have to ask him once or twice or twenty times. He loves Minecraft and Legends of Zelda and Mario. He still wants to play with his sisters. He has a giving spirit and a good heart.

That's not to say things are all perfect over here and we never have our moments, because we do. He's human. I'm human. Sometimes our humanness does not want to get along! But I always know that we'll make up, we'll apologize and that the love never fades. Not for a single second.

I'm so glad we've got this boy in our lives. He, like the girls, enriches my life and makes it better. 

Happy Birthday Mister Man! Welcome to 9! 

Monday, December 01, 2014

Sweater Update!

Well, I've been working hard at knitting a lot recently - I've finished one shawl, got another shawl on the needles, planning any holiday knitting, but of course, I've been working away on my sweater!

Yep, it's my sweater for Save the Children's Wear a Sweater and Make the World Better Campaign that I told you about in November!

sneak peek of the front
#Sweater day is December 12 (which also happens to be the National Ugly Sweater Day) is
coming up soon! In less than two weeks and I'm bound and determined to get this sweater done so I can wear it! 

It's a fun sweater to knit - I'm using different yarn and having to make some alterations to the pattern to accommodate it, but nothing too big!

The color is lovely! And I can't wait to wear it! I can't lie, I'm a little nervous I'll finish it and then it won't fit ... I don't often knit sweaters for myself for this reason. I tend to make more that don't fit than do fit, but so far, this one looks like it will be okay! Phew! 

What about you? Are working on making any sweaters or thinking of hosting an Ugly Sweater contest to celebrate the 12?

casting on the back
Let me know!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

We LOVE Mario Brothers

*As a reminder, I am part of the Netflix Streamteam. I am being compensated for sharing with you, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

No, seriously, my family and I LOVE all things Mario and Luigi.

We have quite a few of their Wii games, and their DS games, I've bought the Original Mario (and the second one and the third) on the Wii store so we could play those too.

I have my own DS with my own Mario games. Because I think out of everyone in this house, I love Mario the most of all.

my game boy!
I still have the original Nintendo Game Boy with the Mario game. It still works and every once in a while, I pull it out to play!

When I was growing up, I played it at my cousin's house. Him and I would play as long as we were allowed to! When we got stuck, we would call my uncle over to help. Because of course, this was back in the day when you couldn't restart at the check-point, or get 5 more lives when you ran out. When you got to the end and ran out of lives, game over!

I even used to watch the Super Mario Bros Super Show on TV.

Yep, all things Mario for me.

Mario gets two thumbs up!
A few years ago, we saw that the Super Mario Bros Show was on Netflix and we watched it. Over and over. The kids loved it, but especially my son! He was younger then and doesn't remember! So, I flipped it on again and guess what? He still loves it!

It's fun watching Mario and Luigi help Princess Toadstool and Toad! Okay, the show can be a bit cheesy at times, but you know what, it beats watching shows with themes that are above my son's head. And it's never a bad thing to watch friends work together to solve problems - even in cartoon form!

Of course this fits in nicely, because lately (thanks to early winter!) a few times a week, I have 3-5 kids in my basement, playing Mario Brothers on the Wii together. I hear them playing and having a good time. "Bubble over to me!" "I need a block" "Who can get that star?"

They too, are a group of friends who are working together to beat King Koopa! It's awesome and they have fun. 

While I don't mind them playing Mario or watching Mario on Netflix, I also don't want that to be all they do. So we sat down and did some Mario art work.

our first Lego picture!
Over the summer, a friend posted on-line about using cross-stitch patterns to make pictures with Legos - each brick could be one square of the pattern, and I thought that was something my kids might like, but of course, it had to be the right "picture."

So I found some Mario cross-stitch patterns and we built this mushroom. It was so much fun. We dug through all the Legos and found the colors we needed and went to town. It turned out so nice, and it wasn't too hard to pull off. The kids think that it was great - despite being unsure at first if this was going to be a good thing.

We have some more patterns and I know they want to try to make some other pictures!

It's nice when you can have a favorite game, fun tv show, and a great craft project come together. Especially when it comes to Mario. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Today was ...

sleep in late

drink lots of water

work on laundry

put on make-up for second day in a row

have my sisters come over

take some pictures with them

talk about Christmas

go see The Hunger Games with sisters and oldest

knit during the movie

make Shepherd Pie for dinner (with Thanksgiving leftovers)

play games with the family

watch netflix

knit some more

play two dots

Friday, November 28, 2014


Happy Friday everyone!

Today I'm going to finish making my broth.

Then the husband and I are going out. The two of us. With no children.

This is exciting stuff I tell you because we don't nearly go out together enough.

So tonight we'll head out to a birthday party. We'll see lots of people we like. And hopefully have a good time.

I'm going to get myself all pretty. I'm going to do my hair, make-up, paint my nails, the whole works.

I almost never do these things, but I figured why not.

I hope everyone else has a great Friday too!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Today was

waking up to watch the parade while knitting

watching the football game where our team lost

running to the grocery store to get the sweet potatoes I forgot

preparing all the sides in the kitchen with Miss M

filling the house with smoke as the baked mac 'n cheese overflowed in the oven

having more food than we could possibly eat at the table

eating good food

snowflakes falling outside the window

remembering the cranberries were still in the fridge when the meal ended

being forced to leave the kitchen so others could clean

sitting for a few moments before getting up and helping a little bit anyway

getting the turkey carcass from my husband to make broth

having my aunt bring me hers (and some onions) to make even more broth

two instances of crying

happiness for what we had

sadness because we usually spend the day with my mom and dad and we weren't able to this year

talking to my mom and dad on the phone

pie with whipped cream for dessert

more knitting

watching Men In Black II and Muppets take Manhattan with Mr 8yo

an incredible amount of gratitude for my husband (who is by my side no matter what), my 3 awesome kids, that we are all healthy enough to sit at a table in a house we live in with food we didn't have to sacrifice anything else to buy in a place where we feel safe and are warm despite the cold outside

happy thanksgiving everyone


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On My Mind

Cancer has been on my mind a lot lately.

Okay, it's kind of pretty much always on my mind ever since I was diagnosed. And even though the cancer is now gone, the side effects of treatment linger and so it's hard for me to "get over it" or to "just stop thinking about it!"

As luck would have it, the current book I'm reading includes the wife dying of cancer - it is in the background, a subplot I guess, it has already happened and all we have is the narrators comments about how it was sprinkled through the main story.

The TV show, which I am binge watching via streaming, also just had one of the big female characters diagnosed with cancer.

And just like that, in the blink of an eye, cancer is in my face.

And the book and show are causing a recall effect for me.

In cancer treatment, there is this thing called radiation recall. If you have radiation first, and then chemotherapy within (I think) 6 months, the chemo can cause your body to recall the radiation side effects and you will experience them again. Now, I did chemo first, but when I did radiation, they warned me the reverse could happen (to a much lesser degree) but I might feel like I did after chemo.

It is strange and weird. I have no idea how it happens, but it does. And it's annoying.

These books and movies are causing me to have what I will now call cancer recall.

When she has to tell her husband she has cancer, I am instantly in tears thinking I have to tell my husband all over.

When she tells her mom, the same thing.

Her hair falling out, suddenly I remember when my hair started to go - how I used to walk around the neighborhood several times a day, combing my fingers through my hair to get out as much as possible so it wouldn't be all over my house because I wasn't ready yet to just shave it all off.

When she shaved her hair, I am back in my bathroom, sitting in my tub, as my husband shaves my head and I have to tell him to stop for a minute because I am just not ready, even though I don't really have a choice and we have to finish, but damn-it, I just need a moment.

When she is bed, sick from chemo, I remember being in bed, sick with chemo.

When she is getting her infusion, shivering, wanting people to talk to her to distract her and yet wanting everyone to just be quiet because being in this chair, getting these medicines, was never part of the plan, I am there too.

And yet, when I get a chance to step out of my own head, what hits me the hardest is not what she is going through, but how the show is portraying her husband going through it and her mother and her siblings. I wonder is that how my family felt. Did they have breakdowns like that when I wasn't around to see them. Did they carry this enormous weight of fear and anxiety but somehow manage to tuck most of it away in an effort to care for me?

It is almost too much to bear honestly.

Yes, I know it's television. Yes, I know things work differently in the real world. Trust me, I am aware at many of the inaccuracies of how cancer is played out on tv, and yet, it gets me right in the gut and right in my heart.

Because I haven't moved on from cancer. Even though I have. I am not stuck back where I was three years ago, but a tiny part of my brain still is. Most of it isn't, thankfully, but sometimes, sometimes everything just comes flooding back and it takes over.

I think it's natural. Or I hope it's natural. I think time makes it better, though I'm only 3 years out here, so that's not much time. I'd really like to get a lot of time from this ... 30 years maybe? That would be nice. I imagine that there will always be a piece of my mind that is in Cancerland. I imagine stories and shows and movies with cancer will always touch a special place, but hopefully someday I can get through them without completely bawling.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


 **Note: I was provided the tickets to ChiTAG. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own!

On Saturday, the family and I woke up early and headed into Chicago to go to ChiTAG (Chicago Toy and Game Fair).

This is our 3rd or 4th year going ... I can't keep track!

Once again we loved it!

While we were there, the boy and I hung out together and my husband was off with the girls (as you'll see from the pictures!) This works better because the girls are more into sitting and playing and the boy is still about walking around and seeing everything! 

The Girls playing Donkey
We came home with two games: One called Donkey - which is a fun twist on Spoons. The other is called Pompeii.

We played and tested out a lot of toys - Legos, hex bugs, go karts.

The boy and I got sniffed by Zoomer Dino.

I took part in a puzzle competition (that I apparently did not win, insert sad face here).

I got to see a lot of friends from the area.

And the kids had a great time.

I seriously love ChiTag and I love to see all the great games that are out there.

We came home and decided that we haven't actually been playing our games enough lately, so we're going to try to sit down every Friday, after dinner but before Shark Tank, and try to play a game or two. I will report back how this goes and try to share some of our more favorite games to play!

It's nice that the kids are growing up now - it opens up a lot more games that we can all play together.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Random Things

Yesterday I promised I'd share about ChiTag today, except then I got hit with a massive headache, so instead, I'll give a series of random things from November so far.

1. I tried to make homemade yogurt this month. I ended up making room temperature milk. I will try again though. I swear.

2. I did make the best batch of chicken broth I've ever made last week. I guess it balances out the yogurt!

3. I'm so far behind on knitting projects that I am not sure I'll ever catch up, but I'm knitting my fingers off as often as I can.

4. I'm bummed I'm behind because I'd like to actually catch up and get to the point where I can sell my knitting. Maybe not a lot, but a couple things a month wouldn't be so bad.

5. I'm motivated to sell knitting because I'm currently saving for a new camera. I've been saving since the start of this year. I was hoping to be able to buy in time for Christmas, but at the rate I've been able to save, it might be more like Easter before I get it.

6. Last week I learned my cholesterol was high. So I had to get a fasting lipid test to see a breakdown of numbers. Still no results back yet. Boo.

7. I still haven't made the dress I talked about making here. Maybe this weekend?

8. I started playing this game called 2 Dots. Have you played it? Do you like it? I mostly like it, until I get stuck on a level for too long!

9. I've been dreaming lately of going to New York. A lot. It's completely and totally out of the cards, but if my dream could come true: I would go to New York with two suitcases - one full, one empty. I would see the sites: Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Empire State, World Trade Center Memorial, etc. I would see one Broadway show, maybe a second. And I would visit Mood and buy enough fabric to fill most of the empty suitcase but actually fill the rest with yarn from some shop or another. Again, it won't happen. But I can dream, can't I?

10. I've been unable to really get into books lately. I started a few but just can't get into them (including Gone Girl and The Goldfinch). I hope that soon I can find a book to really sink my teeth into.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Today was a long day for me.

I just wasn't feeling one hundred percent.

We had a fabulous day yesterday at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (I'll share more tomorrow) and once again, we loved going.

But today was my recovery day for that outing.

Which made me wonder if this is how the holiday season is going to go for me.

One day of fun.

Followed by one day of feeling not so great and needing to recover.

Which made me think about how the iron test went.

Which made me sad.

Which made me sad it's the holidays, even though I do actually love the holidays.

And that made me kind of wish I could maybe go to bed today and wake up in mid-January.

I know, I know ... I'd miss all the fun.

But I'd miss the price I pay for that fun.

I still haven't found a lot of good balance between getting everything I need done with the rest I need to be getting.

It is Thanksgiving on Thursday.

I also spent today planning the menu and making my shopping list (minus the turkey, which we bought already).

I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

I've got good people in my life.

Really good people in my life.

In addition to that, I've got a lot of good things in life. I do not want for anything that is required to live. Not to mention all the wonderful extras I've got.

And I am truly thankful.

I'm trying very hard to balance both halves of my life right now: the half that is so grateful for so much. And the half that is so upset about so much.

I feel like this balance should come easier to me, but it just isn't.

I will keep trying though. I'm not giving up. And I'm not really going to climb into bed for 2 months. Every day I will press on and try to hold the great moments to the front and center.

Because each day isn't going to be smooth, or perfect, or bump-free, but each day will be enough. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A nightly mantra

Every night, as I am trying to fall asleep, I repeat in my head "I am healthy. I am strong. It's time to rest, relax, and heal."

Every night I say this.

Every night I don't believe this.

Every night I say this hoping, just hoping that somehow the mere act of saying it will make it true. And I will wake up believing it.

But I don't.

And I'm so frustrated and sad and angry and disappointed with so much of my body and it's seemingly inability to act the way I want it to.

I'm also grateful and happy and thankful for it too. My body has let me do lots of things, and after all it's been through, I can still wake up every morning and walk downstairs and get myself and my family breakfast.

I'm very aware that that makes me quite lucky.

And yet, once again, I find myself quite upset with the parts of my body that are not working.

I really wanted the iron challenge this week to go well. I really want to have more energy. I really want things to stop aching.

So I say my mantra every night.

I don't believe it can change anything except for what I believe. And I really hope that there is a moment where I say it so much, I just really believe it and start to feel it.

I am strong. I am healthy. It's time to rest, relax, and heal.

Friday, November 21, 2014

And one more hat!

Yep, one more hat to share.

I made this for a friend, to order. She will be gifting this to a special baby in her life so I wanted to make just perfect!

It took a few tries to get the sizing just right - the pattern was written for 3-6 or 6-9 months and I needed a newborn hat. But I figured it out thanks to some awesome websites with measurements for different sizes and some tinkering with different needle sizes!

And oh, did it turn out.

I'm not going to lie. I wish I could have a baby right now just to put this hat and booty set on. Alas, I won't be kidnapping an newborns. I have them wrapped up and ready to ship out.

But oh, aren't they adorable?

The details ....
Pattern used:  Baby Beanie and Booties Pattern
Needle size: Size 6 (hat) and 4 (booties)
Yarn: Lion Brand Heartland Olympic

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Iron Update

For those who are curious about the iron issues:

I have shown an allergic reaction to both pill and IV form in the past. I spoke to one specialist who thought that I was probably only allergic to the IV because to be allergic to both is essentially unheard of. She advised me to get an allergist to work with, so I did. I met with him once, where in consultation with another doctor, a plan was drawn up.

Today we tried a liquid multivitamin with iron. My allergist has never worked with iron before, and not many have. There was no research on people allergic to both pills and IV, but lots on the IV and some recall reactions to the pills. But I did an iron challenge. Basically every 30-60 minutes I was to take a higher dose of the vitamin until we worked up to the full dose. I figured if we put it in my body slowly, that would be good and might eliminate my body from freaking out about it.

Anyway for my first dose, I had 1/8 of a teaspoon of liquid iron. 1 freaking 8th. And about 20 minutes in, I turned red, started itching and shaking (which at first everyone thought was me being nervous, but was part of my reaction). So I had to get benadryl. Then my oxygen levels dropped very minorly, but they couldn't take a chance and gave me a child's does of epinephrine. Things calmed down after some time. About 30 minutes later it looked as if the reaction might come back as the epi wore off - so then I was given predisone.

Where does this leave me now?
Well, if I want to try iron again, my allergist today recommends that I go to a university hospital with more specialized programs. And no matter where I went, I would need to receive in-patient treatment where basically they give me iron, I get the reaction, they try their best to keep it at bay and as long as I can keep breathing, we push through the reaction - starting with tiny doses and building up to a normal dose. 

The doctor did mention that this was so rare, no other doctors would believe him and he wished he had pictures to prove it. Ugh. Of course.

I'm not sure if I will pursue further treatment or not. It seems like a lot of work. The biggest risk to long term iron-deficiency will be to my heart, which so far ::knock on wood:: is doing okay. It also makes me cold, tired, and cranky, but I might be that way so anyway, so who knows.

This might sound a tiny (or a lot) bit crazy, but right now I can't help but think this is one of the non-money-prices I paid to be treated for cancer - as other than some mild anemia at the end of pregnancy and after birth (where I bled out with each baby) I've never had these issues. I guess if being cold, tired, and sometimes crabby is where my body is at after cancer treatment, well, I will accept it. That doesn't mean I like it and wish it weren't different, just that I'm going to try to accept it and, as a doctor told me last year, this is my new normal.

I'm also feeling very frustrated. I took iron pills for maybe 6 months before the first reaction to the IV and then the reaction to the pills started. And I don't understand why, it suddenly seems, my body can't handle iron in any form (well, aside from food where iron naturally occurs). I had really high hopes going in today and just thought it was going to work. I won't tell you how many times I dropped the f-bomb after the allergic reactions started, but it was more than a couple. Thankfully, my husband was with me as a driver, just in case. So his presence there did help.

And now I'm going to go nap again, because the reaction uses quite a bit of energy and with the meds, well, I already napped for over 3 hours today. And I just have to tell my myself that it is what it is. I can't control how my body reacts to these things, just keep doing the things I can to help myself stay as healthy as I can within the confines of my own body.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hats: The Sequel

I also made a batch of hats for another friend.

She too needed the hats because of the side effects of cancer.

[Side note: cancer sucks]

She requested autumn colors, and maybe an orange that doesn't look like a pumpkin.

She also asked for one hat. So I knit her one. Then another. And another. Because I didn't want one hat to get lonely while being shipped!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Special Knitting

A few weeks ago I read a terribly sad story on facebook. About a new baby, Olivia, who was coming into this world, but because of genetic issues -  trisomy 18 - discovered in testing, this baby will not be with us long.

And my heart crumbled into a lot of pieces. I thought of her family - nuclear and extended. And I thought of her mom, someone I went to high school with. And have remained connected through facebook.

I have never been in this position and I won't even try to pretend I understand or imagine what those closest are thinking or feeling.

So, I did what I know how to do. I started knitting. I knit and knit. Because I knew that time wasn't on my side, so I knit and knit.

I took that blanket everywhere with me. And put my heart and soul and as many good thoughts as I could into that blanket. Because whether this blanket is used for a few hours, or longer, Olivia, I felt deserved nothing less than any other baby.

And so a blanket was knit.

As an afterthought I whipped up a medium sized preemie hat. Because again, I felt strongly in my heart that this precious baby needed a hat.

I sent the blanket and hat off. And just felt so much that I wish I could do so much more.

When I knit things for people, I do it with a lot of care. Unless, a specific pattern is requested, I will easily spend 3, 4, 5 hours finding just the right pattern. And I walk around the yarn store looking for just the right yarn. It is important to me that I try to make things just right.

Yet, in the case of rough times, or bad news - knitting feels so lacking. It doesn't feel like enough.

But it's what I can do. So I do it the best I can.

The blanket arrived to my friend Heather yesterday. And the thank you note I received left me in tears. I think if I ever doubt that knitting is not enough, I'm going to go back and reread that.

Because when I knit, it doesn't magically fix things, or heal people, or repair broken hearts. But it does mean something, and that counts.

That is what I will hold onto. My gift in life may be the ability to knit. And while it's not curing cancer, or getting people on Mars, or making sure no child goes hungry anywhere, maybe just bringing comfort to people, or putting a smile on their face, well that is enough. On this day. In this moment. It is enough.

This is a lesson for all of us. We all have different gifts and talents. Use yours, whatever they may be, even if it doesn't feel like enough. You just never know who you will touch. 

If you have some prayers or good thoughts to spare for Heather, Nathan, and Olivia, I'm sure they would appreciate them. You can also watch Heather and Nathan (two very talented musicians) discuss this a little bit in this video. Thank you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What's that? A hat?

I've been knitting a lot of hats lately!

The first batch went to a friend who recently moved from Chicago to Michigan. Due to treatment for her metastatic breast cancer, she has lost her hair.

So I whipped up some hats for her! She requested dark colors/black. So I made a black/light blue, two grays, one navy, and two black hats.

Anyway, without fanfare ... here are the hats!