Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday!

I absolutely adore this photo of my hubby and son - we went to the beach on vacation in San Diego. The weather wasn't great while we were in town, and this day we had spent most of our time at the zoo. I had promised my son we'd go to the beach while we were in SD, and it didn't look like we'd have a chance. On the way home from the zoo, we were driving along the coast, and I just said, we have to stop. We had about an hour of light left, and it was a bit cool - but he loved every moment of it. He played with the sand under his feet, and then gave me this look that said, "Mom, I know I'm in white and khaki, but can I play on the ground?" I just knew it from his eyes - and I said we could always buy new clothes, and to go ahead and get dirty. He had a blast. We all played in the sand building castles, and dipped our toes in the water. He ran up and down ankle deep into the water then ran back up squealing. Possibly one of the best hours I've ever had in my life. They are so beautiful, our kids (all the kids in the world!). Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and absorb their happiness and joy at the simplest things. And to think I almost missed the chance - I am so glad something told me to stop at the beach that day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One Degree of Separation

"Layla went to play with the angels early this morning. Rest in peace precious Layla. 11/26/2007 - 3/9/2010"

My Twitter feed was blowing up with messages - Layla has gone home to God.

It hit me like a punch in the stomach -- I kid you not. I don't know this little girl, I only know her story through websites and emails and Twitter and Facebook. Yet I feel like I know her. I know the story of cancer all too well, and the fact that this time it was a sweet little girl; WHAM. What a sucker punch.

I've grown up hearing stories about loved ones losing their battles, but I feel the world of social media has brought this to an entirely new level. We now experience this WITH people; thousands of people around the world come together through the computer and live this nightmare with Layla's family. You see people and businesses coming together and hosting fundraisers; prayer circles being formed; the emotions of all those hoping and praying shouted out for the world to see. It's amazing, in my opinion.

I think the biggest part of following Layla and her family on their journey was that this time, it let me grieve in a way I never did for my mother. It let me cry and hope and pray in a way that I just couldn't let myself before, because I knew what the end result of our journey was going to be. I focused only on finding a cure; on not crying because it would upset others; on spinning what was really going on in the day-to-day to spare people the pain. With Layla, I could grieve for her, and with all of the people following her. I could cry because I didn't have to be strong for those around me. I could feel the heartbreak because I didn't have to hold it all in.

And while I am devastated at her loss, I am grateful to this brave little girl for bringing me some semblance of peace and a renewed hope in the people of the world. This little girl made me stop in the moments I'm home with my children and just be with them. And I found that my two sweet babies are more beautiful than I'd ever imagined. Watching their faces light up at the simplest things, experiencing new learning curves every day - Layla Grace has allowed me to become the mother I want to be. That's no small feat.

Now multiply that by over 35,000 - because that's the number of followers Layla has on Twitter. Just Twitter. She has touched 35,000 lives. And if each of those lives has become a better person to just two people (in my case, my two cuties) - that's 70,000 people. And on it goes...this sweet two-year-old has touched more lives in the last month of her life than most of us will throughout our entire journey.
My heart was broken the moment I read that tweet. It was like being there with my mother all over again. You pray for weeks that God will just take them, because you don't want them to suffer. Those last few days as their body shuts down are a total nightmare, and all you want is for them to be at peace. And while it might seem selfish, I wanted peace for myself - I just didn't want to watch her dying anymore.

Then they are gone. One last breath, then stillness and quiet. You hold them, you pray, you cry. Then you realize that this is it - there will be no more praying, no more caregiving. The last weeks you've spent praying for their peace all of a sudden seem so stupid, and you would give anything to be taking care of them again. And my heart breaks yet even more because Layla's parents are there now.
The first week was hard. Probably the hardest part of the entire journey, surprisingly. They are gone, and all you have is time. Whereas your life was filled with a purpose before - caring for your loved one - now there is emptiness and quiet. There is no more schedules or tasks to complete, no more love to dote on them. There's just time. And your head fills with thoughts of could have/should have/would have's, and days and nights mix together. My heart breaks knowing that's where they'll be next.

I'm so tired of cancer. I'm tired of good people being lost to it. I'm so tired of bad stories on the news, talking about the bad of this world, and newscasts ended with one cutesy story. Why aren't they filled with stories about people like Layla's supporters, who banded together to raise money for the family? A family we are close with is about to lose their dad to cancer, after a very short battle - where is the justice in this? It's like one degree of separation - because that's really all you need to pinpoint someone you know that is dying of cancer. Just one connection in between. It's awful. Where is the cure?

I cried today in Target. Partly because of Layla, and partly because I saw a grandmother shopping with a little girl who was about 3 - she looked so much like my daughter. It made me lose my breath, because all I could think was that this was a sight I would never see - my mom shopping with my daughter. It's gut-wrenching and unfair, and I lost it and started crying in the store. Insanity!
I don't have answers, all I have are questions. All I can do is hope that one day, someone comes up with the Twitter isn't needed to share the stories of people who are dying of cancer - because there won't be any.

Thank you, sweet Layla, for sharing your story with me. May you rest in peace.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Our nation's children are the first generation NOT expected to live as long as their parents - WOW

Oh healthy eating, why have I not yet fallen in love with you?

I’m really working on it, but it is a change to have to alter your lifestyle. This isn’t a temporary diet to lose some weight – this is a permanent life change to help me avoid diseases in the future.

And so I wake up, get out my fresh food and snacks, and begin my day.

Yesterday though, I was watching the awards show (in my couch-potato-ish-ness) and saw a preview for this show: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.
One of the lines in the preview is: Our nation's children are the first generation NOT expected to live as long as their parents.

Now, if you see pictures of my children or know my kids, then you know they are in no way even close to having an obesity problem. They are beanpoles. They eat healthy (although my four-year-old would eat only cookies and fruit snacks if I’d let him).

BUT – I am considered obese (man, that hurts to say) – and their father and I are their main role models – so what am I teaching them?

My parents were always good about healthy eating. My mom cooked good meals that were balanced; we weren’t allowed a lot of snacks. But I also grew up in the time where we didn’t have so many video game options and computers, so we were outside running around a lot. Our parents also didn’t worry as much about predators and kidnappings as we do now – times were just different.

When I got to college and determined my own meals, I dropped the ball. Along with eating unhealthy meals, I was no longer playing sports or dancing – and that took a toll on my body as well. When I turned 21, well, let’s just say I had yet another venue for putting on weight.

Seeing the preview for that show though only strengthened my determination to teach my kids the best foods to eat, and get them interested early in fruits and vegetables so that they will maybe choose those over other items when given the option.

It may slowly be working. The other night, I started making dinner and my son said, “Mom, can you make me broccoli please?” He’s four.
And I was floored.

My husband looked at me, I looked at him, and then he quickly whispered, “Don’t question it! Just make it!” So I did – and my son gobbled it up. Just plain, steamed broccoli, nothing added. I was amazed. Then he came over to me and asked me to feel his muscles, asking if they grew, to which I replied in my most amazed tone, “Oh wow, they DID!” and he smiled, and asked for more broccoli.

Then last night, he ate mashed potatoes and corn, which in the past has been a struggle to get him to eat. I was so proud of him, and a little proud of my husband and I for getting him to a place where he’ll try and eat all these foods (he has been notoriously picky as an eater in the past).

This healthy journey of two months thus far has not been easy – it really hasn’t. After two months, I’m still not loving this. I think part of the reason is that I’m struggling with implementing new food. It’s a tough balance – making sure you’re eating the right combination of carbs/fats/protein while still staying in the correct calorie range and getting enough fiber and nutrients as well. It seems like I get a good measurement on all the above down, and then I just stick with it awhile because it’s hard to switch out matching foods with matching values, then I get sick of the food and start all over again. It will get easier as time goes on, but I’m going to have to start doing a lot more research!

This weekend, I did a lot of reading on the appropriate calories, and what percentage of those should be carbs/fats/protein. From what I’ve been reading on and other sites, it should be 20% fats (healthy fats, mind you!), 30% protein, and 40% carbs (again, healthy carbs). Here’s a good caloric breakdown calculator.

Of course, I get confused by the “healthy carbs,” “healthy fats,” thing. You hear all the time about avoiding fat, go on the no-carb diet, etc. Those are not necessarily the best idea, because you need the healthy version of those things to keep your body running.

Here’s a simple breakdown:
  • Health Fats

  • Monounsaturated fats: Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds

  • Polyunsaturated fats: Vegetable oils (such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils), nuts and seeds

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty, cold-water fish (such as salmon, mackerel and herring), flaxseeds, flax oil and walnuts  

  • Unhealthy Fats

  • Saturated fats: Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter), and coconut, palm and other tropical oils

  • Trans fats: Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods (such as crackers, cookies and cakes), fried foods (such as doughnuts and french fries), shortening and margarine

  • Dietary cholesterol: Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter) 

  • Two good sites for this information:

  • Healthy Carbs:

  • Whole Vegetables

  • Whole Fruits

  • Beans

  • Legumes

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Whole cereal grains 

Two good sites for this info:
So now go forth, and make your children eat vegetables ;) And if all else fails, be like me – photoshop their favorite superguys eating things like broccoli, and pray they want to be just like them!!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Daughter's Easter Dress - Whew!

I am so glad this is done and ready, and it fits! Woo hoo! I found a beautiful pink and brown print fabric, which had bunnies printed on it, and knew instantly it had to be an Easter dress.

I intended to make the whole dress from the fabric but, I ended up wanting some contrast (and didn't feel like making sleeves). I pulled out of my closet a brown t-shirt I had that was the same shade brown as the brown in the bunny fabric - I had intended to toss the t-shirt because it had a small hole in it, but I was glad to find a reuse for it!

I measured one of my daughter's current dresses, and used those measurements to create the pattern for her new dress. If you want the pattern, I can email it to you. I wanted the skirt to look like petals, to represent the spring that's coming. Plus I love how fairy-like and princess-y it looks ;)

I cut out the petals first, and utilized 14 of them to make the skirt. Then I cut out the brown shirt and made a tank-like top. I will post pictures below, along with steps to create the dress.

You need:
Elastic (measure around your child's high waist, and add an inch to that. Cut off a piece of elastic that big.
Fabric (depending on child's size. My daughter is 24months/2T clothing, so I needed about 1 yard).
Thread color of your choice

1) Use pattern to measure top and cut out two pieces.
2) Cut out 10-20 petals for the skirt, depending on how full you want it. You can even make the petals different sizes if you would like a more whimsical look.

3) First, sew the edges of the petals. I found it easiest to use fabric glue to hold the edges of the petal down so that I could sew around the edges. It worked wonderfully.
4) Stretch the elastic out (I used the leg of the couch to hold one end, my workout weights to hold the other - lol, I know, I've got such a great setup ;)!!)
5) Once the elastic is stretched out, place some fabric glue down the length of the elastic, and lay one layer of the petals down on the elastic. Once done, put another layer of glue on the top edges of those petals, and stagger another row. Keep going until you've utilized all of your petals.
6) Let those dry while moving on to sewing the top.

7) Place the two top pieces back to back. Using a thread color you'd like (I chose white because I like the stitching to stand out), sew up both sides from bottom to armpit.
8) Sew the tops of the straps together so that they are connected.
9) Using the fabric glue, turn down the edges of the arms/armpit/neck.
10) Sew the edges down for a clean look.

11) Go back and get the elastic and petals. The glue does not need to be 100% dry, but should be mostly dry.
12) Keeping it stretched out with your hands (it is a difficult task I know, but can be done!) feed the elastic through the machine while stitching the petals to the elastic.
13) Sew up the sides so the skirt is connected together. You will need to overlap the side so that there is no gap in petals.
14) Put the skirt inside out, and put the shirt right side out into the skirt so that the bottom of the shirt and the top of the skirt meet.
15) Again, pulling the elastic to match up with the fabric, pin around the length so that you can sew around it.
16) Sew around the length of the pieces, pulling the elastic so that it matches the fabric. This will leave you with a slightly puckered/gathered look later on - very cute.

17) Flip all the pieces so the dress is rightside out. Now, here's the fun part - adding a rose to the center!

18) Cut a length of material - I usually make mine 15-20 inches long, and 4-8 inches wide.
19) Fold the material in half so the outside is showing. Sew up along the open edge. Sew one end closed.
20) Thread the top back out the open end so the fabric is right side out. Fold in the open edges and sew the open end closed.
21) Now, begin wrapping it up in a circular motion (keep it messy so it looks real) like the pictures here:
22) Once done, thread with a needle all the way through near the bottom, crisscrossing until the rose is closed and stable.

23) Using thread and needle, attach the rose to the dress.

24) If you want, you can tie some material up near the shoulders for a little tied top look.

I am unsure whether I'm going to have her wear this hand-knit cap with a bow that I purchased, or with a headband with a matching flower (that I made from the brown fabric and then the center is a bunched up piece of the pink fabric).

It was a very fun project, and I love how it looks! It did fit her perfectly (but of course she was not happy to have to put on another outfit that day!) so I'll get pictures of her on Easter and post it.

Yay! I feel so proud for having accomplished this!

Writer's Workshop - My oldest, bestest friend in the world

Mama's Losin' ItWell, I thought I'd give this a try - it's a writer's workshop inspired by "Mama's Losin It". She gives a few topic ideas, you pick one, and you write. So today, I chose: "You’re so vain. You probably think this post is about you…don’t you?"

Ironically, the person I'm going to chat about is NOT vain at all - probably the least vain person in the world. She is the one, the only, the wonderful Patty ;) We met somewhere over the sandbox or playhouse in kindergarten, and the bond was formed.
(Left: Patty and I and our kiddos, July 2009) Sleepovers, New Kids On the Block love, sports - we had a lot in common. Especially sports -- basketball in particular. To say we had our heart and soul in it...would be an understatement. We lived and breathed for basketball in gradeschool, and our team was good. Despite the scrunchies fad and the inevitable bad/high/fully hairsprayed bangs phase, we had a pretty good team who liked to win tournaments. And win we did.
I remember one time in particular, during our first year of basketball, our coach told Patty to foul. Now, she didn't specify how to do this. We were all still in the learning phases. So Patty goes out there, grabs the girl's jersey, and tosses her. (Keep in mind we were 11, so tossing was probably not the best word. More like, slightly moved.) That was Patty - follows directions. (Right - Patty and I at camp - I'm waving at the camera, she's got big bangs). Now that I've shared that, she probably has a few stories about Doug Bruno basketball camp and the girls de-pantsing me in a photo. I mean, what 13 year old doesn't love a picture of her in her undies with a suprised look on her face making it into their 8th grade video? Payback will occur a little further down in this post!!
I admire that dedication about her. She has always been one of the smartest people I know. Class officer, good grades, graduate with honors. She received two honor cords when graduating college while I only received one (she's sharing her cord with me, left), because she was studying and taking notes, while I was the one calling her at 11 p.m. asking what we had to read only to find out we had a test at 8 a.m. ;) (Here's the payback picture, below)

She isn't just book smart though.

She's smart in life. She knows what she wants, and she goes out and gets it. She's been with her now-husband for 16 years, since she was 14 (there's us at her wedding, right). She knew what major she wanted in college. A few years ago, she knew she wanted more in her career and took a job halfway across the country to a place where she didn't know people. How amazing! Of course, my heart was broken that she was moving, but it was also very excited for her - I can remember thinking (and still think) how incredibly brave that was, and how I only wish I could do something like that. I always knew she'd succeed out there, because she's the type of person you can put in any situation anywhere, and she'll exceed with flying colors.
I know because she's been there for me through thick and thin. Breakups with boys, bad grades, celebrations, graduations. We've had some great times together. I think the real test of a friend comes though, when the chips are down. When you get a call from a friend who is at the hospital and has just been told her mom has a few days left to live, she tells you that she doesn't want any company and just wants to be alone, and you know better - which Patty did. I remember coming home from the hospital that day, my nerves shot and my heart in ten thousand unrepairable pieces. There were Patty and Jose, at my house waiting. No words, just hugs. They didn't say I'm sorry, they didn't stare awkwardly. They were just there. Patty always knows the right thing in the right situation whether she thinks she does or not. That was a true friend - just being there to sit with me and let me vent out my frustrations without a cliche response.
Halfway across the country, she's still there for me. Relationship problems, stories of my kids - she is there to listen. She recently had her own cutie pie, and I know it's hard for her to be away from the family and friends she has had all her life, but she's doing it. She's a great mother, a wonderful wife, and an amazing friend - and no matter how far away we are, it just takes a couple rings of the phone to connect. (There's us at left in college, hosting our radio program).

I'm not always a great friend. I tend to get pretty self-absorbed (I know, shocking right?). Sometimes I talk to her on the phone and think, "I don't even think I asked her about how she is doing!" And she's still talking to me. I hope she knows that it never means I don't care about her, because I think about them all the time. I'm always wondering how she is doing.
What I never wonder is if she is okay. She will succeed at everything she sets her aim towards in life, because that's who she is. We started as buddies, grew into best friends, and now she's like a sister to me. And while I've always admired her kindness and humor for the last 25 years, what I love most about Patty is the fact that she's my friend - no strings attached, no judgements. She knows me and accepts me, and she is truly one of the most fantastic people I have ever had the opportunity to know. And to be able to call her my friend, and know that in 40 years we'll still be chatting the same way we do now, well ... I don't think you can ask for more of a person.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Another Day...

As I snuggled a sick baby girl last night, her cough keeping her up, her little forehead warm and her cheeks pouty and red, I didn't mind being awake. One hour, two hours...time ticked by and I wasn't able to fall back asleep, but it was one of those nights that  you just don't care. When your child is sick or hurting, all you can focus on is them, and hoping and praying that soon they will feel better.

I watched her breath in and out, and smile once in awhile in her sleep. The absolute cutest sight in the world! I also thought about how, across the country, Layla Grace's mom was watching her sleep as well - although, unlike my little girl, her's wasn't going to get better.

I knew how badly my heart hurt this morning knowing that even just for a few days, my baby was going to be sick. I couldn't fathom how it would feel - nor do I want to - to have a baby who won't be here much longer.

I think it's Layla's mom and dad's faith that amazes me so much. They have faith that this is all part of the plan, even though they don't understand it. I think that takes tremendous courage. When mom was sick, I went in the opposite direction - I got angry with God, walked away. Figured if He "let" this happen, then I didn't have time for Him. I don't think He lets this happen though; I do think it's part of a greater plan, to help people around the world remember the importance of love and what it means to really care about other people. Unfortunately, situations like this bring out the best in people, as loved ones to virtual strangers gather around a family to offer support.

I received a message from my friend Amy this weekend. She also has a blog about her mom's journey through brain cancer (I'll post a link when she has it up). She wants to move it from one spot to another, but wonders if anyone would even read it. I thought the same thing when I posted mine. My friends all now the journey we took. Most are probably uncomfortable talking about it -  and rightfully so; it's not a pleasant thing to talk about.  But the blog, it isn't for everyone else -- it is for me. I put it out there in the hopes that maybe, one person might stumble across it and maybe their journey will be made easier by it. And, it might sound stupid or silly or unproductive, but I do read what I had written sometimes. And here's the reason why:

Mom lost her ability to really speak about three months into her journey. After that, her voice just wasn't her voice - it was fragile, searching, raspy. She lost her hair a few months in, too; and the steriods made her swell up so much that she looked completely different.

So it has been almost six years since I've seen my mom before she was sick; since I've heard her real voice. I can't even remember what it sounds like. I find myself watching old videos once in awhile, when no one else is home, just so for a moment, I can remember what it sounded like.

Yes, I said when no one else is around. While I miss my mom so incredibly much, I also understand that others (although they miss her) are not still feeling it to the extent that I may be. Sometimes I feel guilty bringing her up, because it might make people uncomfortable. Or maybe I talk about her too much. Or maybe I'll say something that will make someone feel guilty or something. I'm not even sure. But I find myself not talking about her, because it might make the conversation uncomfortable. I feel like I can't bring her up in my conversations, because people don't know what to say, and that's okay - sometimes there isn't anything to say.

I keep it to myself, and think, I've dealt with this for six years, I can keep it up. Let me explain this better; I am going to live my life, and live it the best I can, because that's how I can thank her - in my opinion. I can do my best and take care of my children my best and that is what I can do to thank her for all she has done for me. But, at the same time, my heart will always have a broken spot because she isn't here, and while I can deal with that - I can work on mending it, I can try and cover it as I have done for years - but the truth is that at the very least, the scar will be there, and I'm not sure at this point if time heals all wounds.

All I can do is cope. And I talk to Amy and say whatever I want because I know she understands, and she's not going to think it's silly to feel how I do. I'll read my stories and remember our last year together. I'll think about all the good times before that. And then I'll wake up, smile, and be grateful for all that I have and for my two beautiful kiddos, and I'll keep moving with the day. Maybe someday it will get easier ... that's the faith I hang onto.


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