Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas that zoooomed on by

Family shot

Christmas 2009 is officially over. December was such a busy and hectic month for me that I don't know if I fully enjoyed Christmas like I wanted to. By the time the last few orders were rolling out of the studio, we were headed to New York City for a few days and then when we returned it was Christmas Eve with lots of wrapping and more wrapping and then on Christmas we drove to my moms for the day and then we had a day off and my in-laws drove in. See... crazy schedule. Next year I think a slower pace would be better, more relaxation and more simplicity. We did have a wonderful Christmas and New York was truly fabulous. We even had a little snowstorm in the mix before we left for the city, that helped put us in the Christmas spirit too but now that it is all said and done, I am beat. I hope to take it easy and do nothing that I don't want to do over the next few days.

I did have a week off from work and typically January is my slowest month but orders are coming in so I will be back to work in some capacity starting tomorrow. I also am not a fan of having the holiday decorations around for too long and I find that I get a 'spring cleaning' type of urgency to reorganize and clean at this time of year. Thursday is D-day for tree and outdoor & indoor decorations to come down. I cannot wait. In the meantime, I already cleaned out our master bath closet. I have literally wanted to do this for at least a year. It looks so much better now and every time I open that closet door, I smile. I also cleaned and reorganized my work office. I have a lot of friends that don't care for cleaning, they see it as a tedious chore, but I have always enjoyed it and once it is done and everything is looking the way I want it, there is no better drug for me. I have probably just labeled myself as a major nerd but I so enjoy it...I do tend to inhale those Mr. Clean chemicals a bit longer than I should...that must be the attraction.

NYC was a quick little getaway but it was wonderful. There is an energy about Manhattan that you cannot get anywhere else. Life, living, moving, breathing, experiencing. It all happens there. Ellie kept telling us how much she loved it all. The buildings were huge and her eyes were even bigger as she hurried down the crowded city streets holding onto my hand or Steve's. She was pointing out little nuances or landmarks that she would spot with a big grin on her face like we were trapped in one of those 'I Spy' books. The freezing temperatures helped us keep a quick pace as we walked to all of the points of interest that we had on our list. We spent some time in Rockefeller plaza looking at the tree and the skaters. We spent a fun morning at the American Girl Doll store. Ellie brought one of her dolls (Marisol) that needed some professional hair work and off to the salon we went. Emma who has experienced all of this years ago, had a good time too as she enjoyed reliving it through Ellie's eyes. We went to FAO Schwartz, Toys R Us, the M&M store, the NHL store, Macy's and many fine dining establishments. We took several cab rides and enjoyed our hotel room on the 49th floor. The elevator was so fast, your hair would blow up if you were standing too close to the doors. Believe it or not the city sounds of police sirens and beeping taxis could be heard all the way up in our room. We even had some excitement at our hotel as Rudy Giuliani gave a press conference there. It definitely was a whirlwind with lots of people and rushing around but I am glad we went. Steve and I would love to go in the spring, just the two of us, so we could see a show, hang out in a club or dine at some non-kid friendly restaurant and loiter around just talking. We will have to plan on that one.

Planning on working a little, relaxing a lot and drinking it all in over the next few days. Life continues to treat us well and Ellie and Emma are healthy and happy. Those are truly the best gifts for us this holiday season.

New York City ~ December 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

I ♥ Faces 'Pets Only'

Here is my contribution to the Pets only themed week at I ♥ Faces. It was a tough decision because we have so many pets and they are all so adorable but I chose a photo of Phoebe and Ellie. Phoebe is Ellie's best friend. She sleeps with her (on her) each night and is always aware of where ever Ellie is. She came to Memphis with us to cheer Ellie up during treatment and she has provided much TLC and healing. Phoebe was found with her sister Edie in our woods back in 2004. She and Edie are tons of fun literally as they both tip the scales at 15+ pounds. That's a lot of cat to have sleeping on you but Ellie doesn't mind

This photo was taken this past Spring on one of Phoebe's rare outside outings. This photo demonstrates their bond of friendship.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cold and Rainy

Ahhh.... can you feel that? It's some breathing room. Finally seeing the light at the end of the never ending tunnel of orders. Woo Hoo! Now I need to finish up the stragglers as well as my Christmas shopping. We head to NYC to enjoy the city during Christmas for a few days on Friday. To me there is nothing like being in New York City in late December. The lights, the santas, the holiday cheer, the big tree...a magical time for sure. Ellie is excited to bring her hair style challenged American Girl doll to the AG doll store for a new hairdo. Emma and I had done this years earlier when she was 8 and she loved the whole experience. We are all excited to eat at all the amazing NYC diners/restaurants and to go to Macys and shop shop shop.

Today it is pouring rain and cold. A few degrees colder and we would be having a snowstorm. Definitely a good day to finish up orders. The girls are playing nicely together on Club Penguin (for now) and later this afternoon I am taking Ellie to see the 'Princess and the Frog'. I still have a list of movies I wanted to see but I don't know if I will have the time before they are long gone... There's always DVD I guess.

More holiday photos from around the house.
I love Williraye folkart. This group of kids places the finishing touches on their snowman. It sits on my dining room table as the centerpiece.

Favorite spot
Kanye has found that he loves sleeping under the tree. He is such a sweet boy.

One of my favorite Christmas ornaments.

OK.... I said they were upstairs playing on Club Penguin... guess not... Emma just came in to inform me that Ellie had taken a nasty spill down the stairs. As I quickly whipped around thinking the worst... this is what I see... Ellie's head is bandaged, a large bandaid(hope I don't need that someday soon) graces her face, oxygen mask to help her breath and 2 broken arms. Don't you just love a cold rainy day. I think I am the one that needs the oxygen.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Life and Stuff

What has been going on? Where have you been? Are you guys alive in there? Those are the questions and here are the answers... work and a sick child has been what's going on... I have been in my studio working and yes, thank God, we are all alive. It's that time of year for me when I am super busy with work. It's been a family event lately with Steve and Emma helping out a good deal. The economy and not really knowing what work would look like prevented me from hiring on additional people. I do have my Julie on call but she has a new opportunity that is turning out great so I am trying not to rely on her so much and give her time to do her thing... so that is where Emma and Steve come in. So appreciate their help and Emma rocks. She is really helpful...don't think I haven't thought of pulling her out of school to work full time. hee- just kidding... So as with most small businesses, we didn't hire on and had to beef up our own productivity and that means working a whole lot more. It's been very busy and I am grateful for that. So that covers work... next... sick child.

My sweet Ellie has had a lot going on the last 6 weeks. She received the H1N1 vaccine and then came down with whatever was going around. Was it the flu? Maybe, never had a professional diagnosis but it really wasn't that bad for her. The bad part was the hives she had for about 5 days after being sick. A combination of the vaccine, being sick and taking the over the counter meds all in a week's timeframe was the cause. She was placed on steroids to stop the hives. She was fine for about 3 weeks. Tuesday night her stomach started to hurt. I thought it may be gas pain. Steve was out of town so I got her all set up in my room to keep her close. That night the pain came. She had such abdominal pain. I could see her stomach was distended and hot to the touch. The pain was there but not constant. Her pediatrician thought she may be constipated. It had been a full day since she had gone to the bathroom so that made sense. By midnight it wasn't improving and I called her pediatrician back. Ellie was able to jump up and down without too much pain so she ruled out her appendix. (professional test I know). The pain was there and I know Ellie has a high tolerance so I was really concerned. We actually headed to the ER around 3am but Ellie said sitting up made her feel a lot better so we turned around and got some gas x and were able to get some sleep for a few hours. The pain was there on Wednesday but the milk of magnesia and laxative they advised us to use did it's job and she had two bowel movements, unfortunately the pain was still present. That night a friend of ours who is a surgeon dealing with gastro stuff came over and performed an examine. He saw she was swollen and didn't think it was constipation. He also didn't think it was her appendix. He said it's so hard to tell with kids as they present differently and sometimes it can be something serious. He said to take her to get scans in the morning if she was still uncomfortable. Her pain was much improved but still there so her pediatrician sent us off for CT, Xray and ultrasound. She examined her that morning and was concerned about her liver. That was the sensitive spot on Ellie's body. Can I tell you that Steve and I were so scared. When your child has had cancer before and there is something wrong, all of those emotions and fear come storming back in. I kept thinking about 'secondary cancer'. All of the treatment Ellie endured to kill her cancer can cause new cancer some where in her body. It's rare but it can happen. Steve and I had our weak moment and then tried to focus on being positive and awaiting the test results and giving our worries over to God. The Xray looks fine and this morning we received word that the CT and Ultrasound were normal... Thank God. We are off to do some lab work this afternoon to make sure her levels are all normal. Ellie feels better this morning and is eating again. I have peace that she is fine. I didn't have it yesterday but it has flooded me today. Ellie is playing and not complaining this morning. Steve came home a day early so he was here all day yesterday. He hates being away especially when something like this is going on. Ellie hardly ever get sick but the last month or so my sweet girl has had her share. I know she will be fine and this may be just a combo result of everything she had. She does have a cold currently and that vaccine being so new may be the cause...perhaps we will never know. But she is feeling better and I am so grateful the test have been fine so far. Woo Hoo!

Here are some random photos from the week...

Logan the Elf
Logan the Elf is a new tradition we started this year. Ellie still believes in all the Christmas magic and she loves finding this little Elf each morning as he finds a new place to rest after his flight to the N. Pole to tell Santa how well behaved Ellie... and... um... Emma have been.

A newly neutered and declawed Kanye. He is healing well and has already managed to knock some ornaments off the Christmas tree.

Breakfast time!
Northern Cardinal coming in for a bite.

Mr. Squirrel teetering on the plant stand chowing down on the seed I put out for the birds.

Looking Back
River Road in Richmond, Virginia

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I am a little more rested since I last wrote - still crazy busy but I have been trying to head to bed around midnight instead of 2 am. I use to be able to work really late without a problem... this turning 40 sure has put the kibosh on a few things. However I am not complaining. I am so grateful for the work because even though Wall Street seems to be back to fat bonuses and people are out stimulating the economy by shopping, I know too many people that are looking for work or have had to take pay cuts and forgo raises. So, I remind myself of that when I want to be doing other things instead of working...like sleeping. The crazy hours will be over in a few short weeks and then I can sleep.

This weekend we decorated the house for Christmas. I still have more to do but we are off to a very good start. The tree is decorated and Steve has done a fantastic job lighting the outside of our yard. You cannot see our display from space but it is pretty bright. I am so proud of my neighbors. All of my immediate neighbors have their lights up and it looks so festive. It's magical to look out and see every one's lights twinkling. Makes my heart happy and Ellie just loves to look at them. It's been raining the past two days so I haven't gone out to take photos. Hopefully this weekend I can snap off a few shots to share. I can show off some of the inside though. We set the tree up in living room (you know that room near the stairs) in front of the window. White lights are featured inside but on the outside we have lots of twinkling colors, a polar bear we have lovingly named Shane after our beloved Shepherd and a snowman that well at night looks like a blob of lights but he does look like a cool blob of lights. Inside we have two trees. Our living room tree and then a smaller tree up in the big window in our entry way.

View from the couch
living room tree

I so love putting the ornaments on the tree with the girls. We have the homemade, sentimental ornaments that the girls have made in school or at Brownies, then there are the ornaments that Steve and I acquired before kids, then there are the milestone ornaments like Babies First Christmas, Babies Baptism and photo displays that sort of thing. Then there are the kids ornaments; Dora, Arielle, Pooh Bear etc. and a new one that I have yet to give Ellie - Tom and Jerry. She watched this cartoon during treatments last year and loves it. Lastly there are the ornaments that I just love. The Williraye, the Krinkles, The Hallmark ones... as you can tell we have an eclectically decorated tree. Each ornament holds a happy memory and it's a true joy putting them up.

Mr. Frog
this is one of my favorite ornaments - a Krinkles tuxedo frog with a little Christmas tree.

Tree Trimming
the girls trim the tree

I am off to print some more notepads, laminate luggage tags and print out holiday labels. I have Law and Order on the TV and a nice cold cup of cranberry juice. The rain is pouring down and I have another 2 hours of energy left. I leave you with a photo of crazy Kanye. He is off to the vet bright and early tomorrow for a little lasering. He is getting neutered and being declawed. His days of scaling my window treatments and hanging on the porch screens are coming to and end. Oh, and that 2 am howling, we hope his cries looking for love will be much quieter after tomorrow too.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Did I mention I was tired?

It has been awhile since I blogged. I am brain dead. Yes, that is my excuse. I have been so busy with work, kids, holidays and company that I seriously could not make two sentences that made sense if I tried. Even now I just spelled 'tired' instead of tried. I am subconsciously telling myself that I am too tired to be doing this and I should be under the covers with a cat on me. In a minute I will do just that but I do have spell check so I can catch all my sleepy errors until then.

So... life is busy, but good. We are all back on the healthy side of living. All colds, coughs and worries of flu have gone and we are all feeling fine. Thanksgiving was great. Steve cooked almost everything and then my mother-in-law cleaned up almost everything. That's a win win for me! Dinner was delicious and seated around our dining room table were Steve, me and the girls as well as my mom and Steve's parents. It was small but nice and like I said, I have been brain dead so I didn't have to worry too much about my conversation skills. It was another opportunity to reflect on our lives and to give thanks for it all. Ellie was seated across from me. She is here, she is thriving and we are all blessed. Of course every seat at that table is important and I am so happy that we were able to share this holiday with our parents. I missed my dad and because the dinner was so delicious, we all mentioned that he would have definitely gone back for thirds. Oh how my dad loved to eat. Thanksgiving dinner was one of his favorite activities.

Friday I did a wee bit of shopping at the normal hour of 10am. I was no way about to get up and join the craziness that is holiday shopping in the early hours after Thanksgiving. It was a short but productive little shopping trip. I look forward to getting out when the masses are at work during the next week or so.

In between all of the holiday and family time, I worked. Business has been great and I am thankful but boy I will be happy to get through the next 3 weeks. My new best friend has become the 5 hour energy drink. It really works and I am sure in 3 weeks I will be in a hospital for mental exhaustion...just kidding... no not really.

So I have lots of photos to share but I am too tired to link them. I told you there is a fat cat on a bed waiting for me and it is 1:37 am right now so if I can make it up the stairs and to the end of the hall, that is where I will pass out for 5 hours.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Work, Oprah and New Moon

I have been up to my eyeballs with stationery orders. I am so grateful for all the hundreds of orders because with this economy it is still hard to gauge what to expect. Stationery is definitely a luxury item and people that used to buy without a second thought, seem to really think out their purchases now. I am so proud of our company for having stamina during the last year and for people continuing to tell us about our fabulous customer service, quality product and realistic price points. I am back to working 14 hour days which is fine because as I said I am grateful to have the work and I know it is just this particular time of the year when the holiday orders really spike. Come January I will be back to a normal work day. So working (and working and working) is what I have been doing.

Tonight I will take a break and accompany Emma and 2 of her friends to see New Moon. They are all so excited about this movie. The Twilight series of books is partially responsible for getting Emma through our time in Memphis last year. She wasn't in school and on many days she came with us for early hospital appointments that sometimes lasted 12 hours if blood transfusions were necessary. I recall her taking the books with her and immersing herself in the world of Bella and Edward. She read all 4 books while we were there. I think she read them twice.

I am sad that Oprah is wrapping up her talk show. I know I have 2 years to lament over this but I cannot remember a time without Oprah being on TV. I admit that recently I have only been watching Oprah on occasion but I will always DVR a show that has an interesting topic. I admire her genuine goodness and her spirit to do good things and how she always encourages people to live the best life they can. I saw a news clip last night and someone had said 'the world really is ending in 2012 now that Oprah is leaving TV... it's the Apocalypse' I chuckled at that because it is such a huge pop culture change coming our way. I am sure she will reappear with the next chapter though and bring something positive and exciting back to us.

I still have not taken the camera out for that promised walk. So I took a quick walk in the yard this morning and took some photos of the cats. The ground outside is still saturated with all the rain from last week so I squished my way around and didn't even bother going into the backyard. I have been so busy that I do not even have a photo of Emma without her braces. She got them off this week after 3 years. She looks great, different, but great. I am sure tonight I will get some photos of the girls with their New Moon glow. But for now this is all I have. pathetic I know.

The weather has been on the warm side and this Cosmos and friend (always forget the name of this annual) have started to rebloom.

Pear tree in our front yard that is dropping its leaves quickly. Won't be long til she is bare.

fall flag that graces the front of our house. Santa will be there before I know it.

Phoebe and Kanye entertain me for a few minutes while I dangle a cat toy and try to get a decent photo. Phoebe looks beyond thrilled.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

totally random thoughts

I am following Jayne's lead today and just blogging some random one liners.

-cold sores and spicy doritos are not good friend material

-ellie will bend over backwards if she thought it would make me smile

-the jonas brothers show on disney is not keeping it real otherwise the older brother, kevin, would not still be in high school. isn't he like 21 or something?

-the northern cardinals in our yard are so red against the dreary backdrop of clouds and rain

-my neighbor's dog barks at all sorts of inappropriate hours...like midnight

-watched glee the other night. love, love, love it

-you can tell we don't use our living room all that much when i overhear ellie ask emma 'where is dad?' emma says 'he is in that room by the stairs.'

-diet coke with lime does not taste like it should when you are sick and that makes me really really sad

-there's a mouse living in our garage that we named mr. jangles.

-i want to take the girls to see taylor swift in concert

-emma has inherited the slob gene from someone

-ellie wrote me the sweetest note all by herself when i didn't feel good last week

-november is my busiest work month and i have a love / hate relationship with it

-i wish i could decorate cakes like a professional

-i enjoyed watching the alaska experiement on tv last week. don't think i could do it

-kanye needs to get fixed soon because my inlaws will not appreciate his 2 am howling when they come for thanksgiving

-there is nothing better than snuggling in a warm bed right before the sun comes up

-i went through 2.5 boxes of tissues with my cold last week

-i don't like wearing my mouth guard at night

-ellie has enough hair to twirl on her finger now

-somedays living in idaho in the woods sounds like a plan

-the new 'v' tv show fails hard compared to the 80s mini series

-the sun is suppose to come out tomorrow for the first time in days

-i miss living in new england

-all the commercial christmas stuff bothers me more and more each year

-the gayle king show on xm makes me smile

-emma uses more hair conditioner than anyone. ever.

-dinnertime and making meals each night aggrivates me

-i would love to own a really good telephoto, image stability, light weight lens. anyone have an extra $3500.00?

-i have really bad memory recall and i can never remember names

-i get people that i have never heard of that 'friend' me on facebook several times a month. i do not accept their friendship, maybe i just cannot remember them.

-one of my best friends is pregnant for the first time.

-being tired sucks, oh, and laundry does too

-looking forward to going to nyc in december

Friday, November 13, 2009

almost there...

Why does one week of being sick really feel like it could be two or three? I feel like I lost time this week and I am out of sorts. The inactivity that sickness brings to me is the worst part. I hate not being on a schedule.

Thank God we are all getting better. The general feeling of not being 100% has lingered refusing to release its grip this week. Wednesday night I was restless so I turned on the TV and watched Nightline. Ellie was sleeping soundly next to me, tissues and gingerale on the other side of me and on the television were two seemingly heathly men lying in Boston hospital beds, ventilators in place breathing for them as they fight for life. They were taken ill with the H1N1 virus when it quickly went straight to their lungs, causing havoc in their bodies. The numbers for flu are rising and it's so random at times with how it affects people. I am glad the girls are vaccinated and now I am thinking that Steve and I should consider it. It's not good to watch TV shows like this when you yourself feel horrible. The next thoughts that went through my mind were that in a day or two I could be lying in that hospital bed. I decided to go pay my general doctor a visit the next day. She said it appears to be common and widespread. I got it from Emma but it didn't turn into flu like she had but she believes what was viral turned to bacteria and is settling in my chest. So I have some antibiotics and I am feeling better. Ellie still has her hives a bit but that too is improving and I will probably send her back to school Monday.

I haven't taken photos in about a week. My camera is lonely and misses me so hopefully when the sun reappears this weekend I will go on a little walk, camera in hand. Until then... I saw these adorable little turkey cake lollipops on bakerella.com Thought I would share them. The directions can be found in detail on the Bakerella website.

gobble gobble gobble...aren't they adorable with their candy corn feathers?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

the takeover

We have all survived the flu or whatever the heck it was that hit our house over the last few days. It started with Emma on Monday afternoon. She was the most affected and endured her illness the longest. She had typical flu symptoms with high fever, dry cough, sore throat and body aches. By Thursday she was feeling better but Ellie and Steve were starting to feel sick. On Friday the two of them lay up in my bed with low fevers and achy bodies. Ellie had a cough and sore throat, Steve just felt spent and had the chills. Thankfully, today they feel much better. Unfortunately, I took their place in the bed today. I don't have a really high fever, it is hovering around 100 and it feels more like a sinus infection but who knows. I still feel horrible. I never ever spend the day in bed and this makes me the worst patient of us all. I have so many other things I'd rather be doing and I get frustrated that I have to take time to get better. Today Emma is fine, Ellie has a lingering cough and mouth sore and Steve still feels a bit run over but we are on the mend. I just had a cup of hot soup and Steve is out getting us stocked up on ginger ale, Theraflu and some sore throat/mouth sore rinse for Ellie. We have a fire going and a new movie to watch tonight and hopefully the doctor fairies will have us all back to normal tomorrow and we won't experience any sickness for another year.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

the november invasion

On my last post I expressed our concern regarding the H1N1 vaccine...should we or shouldn't we. I was hoping I would get a sign or something would make me feel peace about the decision. The girls had this Monday and Tuesday off for teacher workshops so on Monday afternoon when Ellie's school nurse called I was curious. I always panic when I see her number on the caller ID when Ellie is at school. The words 'your daughter has had a seizure' always fill my mind. I received that exact phone call last February only a few weeks after Ellie returned to school full time. I so don't want to have anymore of those types of calls. Anyway, Ellie was seizure free and by my side on Monday so I knew she wasn't calling about that...she was calling to let us in on a little secret. She got word that the health department was offering H1N1 vaccines until 4pm that day. The media hadn't gotten the news out yet and when she checked there was hardly any wait time. The vaccines were just available for kids and pregnant women. I figured this was my 'sign' to get the vaccines. The nurse called out of the blue and just thought of Ellie when she heard about the clinic. So Steve and I decided to do it.

Unfortunately, Emma was already sick. She had a fever and just wasn't feeling great. Ellie felt fine. So off they went and they were back within the hour all vaccinated. The clinic was held the next day too but this time the word was out and people lined up at 7:30 waiting for the noon start time and over 1000 people showed up. So, so, so glad we didn't have any line to wait in and now it is finished. Emma does have the flu but it hasn't been horrible. She has had a fever ranging from 99.9-102 and is tired. She also is coughing a lot and has a sore throat. She will be out of school all week but she has turned the corner today and feels better. The rest of us are doing fine but this morning Ellie started coughing a bit. No fever but I am keeping her home. The vaccine takes 8-10 days to build antibodies so I hope we weren't too late. The flu has hit so early this year and the vaccine was a bit on the late side. Here's to hoping Ellie just has a cough.

So in the mix of processing orders today I will be heading to Blockbuster and Burger King and answering Emma's texts (the new sick bell) and taking care of all of Ellie's many 'Hey Mom' questions and concerns. Steve snuck out of here quickly this morning...smart man.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's November already!!

Trick or Treat
ellie and friends trick or treat!
She was a beautiful butterfly

Halloween 2009 has come and gone. Ellie had a blast and loved running from house to house with her friends. So much better than being stuck within the St. Jude Hospital walls this year. We had a fun time last year but this was so much better. No Hickman lines, masks, low counts or chemo to have to contend with. Just carefree fun with the biggest worry being about that dark house with the creepy man dressed in black. I'll take that any day over the other!

Today has been raining all day and is on the cold side. The perfect day after Halloween day. Steve brought me in some hot cider when I started writing this and it has hit the spot. I love days like this. I have a very busy work week ahead of me and the girls have two days off of school at the beginning of this week. Fingers crossed they (Ellie really) will find lots of things to do so I can work without too much interruption. I think a video store trip will be in order tomorrow morning.

The other issue Steve and I are wrestling with is the H1N1 vaccine. Ellie is considered to be in the high risk category even though her immune system is really back in full effect now. Dr. Gajjar gave us the standard hospital reply regarding being immunized but he gave me the feeling that he wouldn't do it. Ellie has had so many chemicals in her body from chemo and the newness of this vaccine and everything scares me. Our household is one of only a handful that I know of that has not been hit by flu. It's all around us, in school, in workplaces and in the hospital. Luckily Steve and I don't have to deal too much with public spaces but the girls are in school. They certainly are wise about sanitizing and washing their hands often but am I kidding myself to think this won't affect us. I am praying on the right answer but just not sure what to do. The vaccine should be available at our pediatricians this week. Hoping for some insight soon so I can feel comfortable with our decision whatever it may be.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is here and unfortunately so is the rain. It has stopped for now and we are hoping it totally clears so we can trick or treat tonight. Ellie is dressing up as a butterfly and teenager Emma has decided (for now) that she is going to stay in. I have a feeling she will end up going out. Maybe not dressing the part but her friends will end up doing some last minute activity I am sure. Before we go around to the neighborhood houses we will head to the neighborhood Halloween party. It's just for the little kids but should be a fun time. Last night we carved our pumpkins (you can see my creation above). Hard to believe it is the last day of October.

It's been super busy at Tickle Bellies and tomorrow I will spend the day working and processing orders. The holiday season is always crazy but I am so grateful that I love what I do. That makes all the difference. The melamine plates and placemats that I did for Script and Scribble are selling very well. I may had to add them to Tickle Bellies in 2010.

Enjoy all the fun of Halloween and don't eat too much candy! Well, really, is there ever too much candy? ;p

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

RIP Dorothy

I read today about Dorothy the Chimpanzee. She was orphaned years ago when hunters killed her mother and was taken in by a wildlife refuge and in turn she helped raise other orphaned chimps over her amazing life. Dorothy was 40 when she died and this photo below shows the deep mourning and grief that her chimpanzee family has for her. She is about to be buried in this photo. The intense look on the chimpanzees is heart breaking. Animals are incredible and deserve our respect and we in turn need to ensure they are not hunted and they are protected. We owe them that much.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So Funny

Ellie and I came across this series today and it provided a great deal of knee slapping laughter from both us of. Thought I would share some of them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Just Enjoying

We are back from St. Jude and Ellie's scans, thank God, went well! It is such a nail biting, stressful time where I totally feel like Ellie's life hangs in the balance on what the MRI results are. I have said before how horrible this cancer is and should it ever come back, there is little that can be done to cure her. Relapses, for lack of a better word, suck ass. OK that was two words. Seriously, I know God is there and I do have a positive feeling that Ellie will be one of the kids that is healed but I do not enjoy waiting for scan results. Lots of mind tricks take place and when you let the doubt in just a teeny bit, it can spiral out of control. So enough of that negative talk. Ellie is fine! Her scans were beautiful and her brain is starting to look healthy again. The swelling is all but gone and the scar tissue has been removed and other than the gaping black hole on her right hemisphere, her brain looks marvelous! We also had a little cognitive test and she did well. Better results than 3 months ago when she took the same test. I know academically we have a challenging road ahead of us but I am here to help her with any roadblocks she may encounter. I know she can do it. Better yet, she knows she can do it.

This weekend was beautiful in Virginia. On Sunday Ellie and I took a nature walk to the lake and took some photos of the reds, yellows, browns and orange colors that are fall. Off to play a game of Bejewled Blitz... it is so addictive and one little game turns into 20. Definitely my guilty pleasure as of late.

Pretty View

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's scan time

Tomorrow Ellie and I fly to Memphis for her MRI at St. Jude. We are closing in on our one year anniversary that marks the end of treatment. November 18th 2008 was that day. The day of her last stem cell transplant and high dose chemo. That was a monumental day, one we fought so hard to arrive at. The next day as we prepared to leave the 2nd floor of the Chilis Care Center at St. Jude, the nurses and doctors gathered round and sang the 'No Mo Chemo' song to Ellie. We were all so happy to hear those words sung to our baby. I had watched several other kids celebrate on this joyous day weeks and months before and I was beyond thrilled that our turn finally arrived. Here are the words and video.

'Our patients have the nicest S M I L E
Our patients have the sweetest H E A R T
Oh, we love to see you everyday
But now it's time we get to say...
Pack your bags, Get out the door
It's time for you to leave the floor!'
*alternate last line that some sing is "you don't get chemo any more"
As I watched this video, which I hadn't seen in a bit, I was so amazed at how very skinny, pale and bald Ellie is. Boy her body took a beating. I rejoice now seeing her back to a healthy weight with color in her cheeks, eyebrows and eyelashes in place and hair continuing to grow on her head. She never did loose her spirit though. Some things cancer just cannot have.

Every three months for the next two years we return to St. Jude to have scans and check-ups to ensure the cancer has not come back. It's definitely a stressful time but I know that it is out of my control and in the hands of God. Worrying will not accomplish anything but make me crazy and cause me to doubt our journey. God has provided us with so many positive signs that He is with us and really, what more could I want? Because my heart now knows Jesus, I can really get through anything and I know there is nothing to fear and I trust and have faith. Everyday I pray Ellie stays cancer free and for the rest of her life and my life, this will be what I ask for. This journey has been over 16 months long now but it is only by living one day at a time that we have gotten here. If you could send up a prayer or a positive thought Friday morning and ask for God to keep Ellie cancer free, that would be wonderful.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The best kind of Sunday

This morning I slept in until 9:30. aaahhhh... It was wonderful. When I awoke, I cleaned all three bathrooms upstairs and had instructed Emma to give her room a really good cleaning as well. I then went in and tackled Ellie's room... tackle may be too strong of a word. Ellie is like me. She keeps things in their respective places and doesn't let clutter build up. So her room is relatively neat all the time but she does have a lot of 'stuff' so some organizing was in order. Emma's room is now super clean which is great because unfortunately she is not like Ellie and me. She has inherited the slob gene from someone and most times I don't even like to go into her room because it makes me crazy! I have, in the past, found food in her drawer and dirty socks under her bed.

It's such a wonderful and empowering feeling to have a clean house. I always feel like I have accomplished so much after it's done. So after all the cleaning and lunch I sat down in my office and surfed new blogs for about 2 hours. With little to no interruptions. It was heavenly. Ellie was watching Beethoven, (the movie with the big st. Bernard dog) and Emma was in her room, probably sticking her dirty socks back under the bed and Steve was taking the dog for a walk. I think today was so nice because it was so cold outside and it felt like a winter day. It was wonderful to be inside all warm and toasty curled up at the computer peeking into people's lives. I found a new artist blog that was very inspirational. Today topped off a great weekend and tomorrow it is back to work and school. The weather is suppose to go back to normal too which means days in the 60s and 70s. Goodbye early winter I enjoyed your little visit but it's time to go away for a few more weeks.

I am leaving you with my favorite photo of the week. Emma and Ellie blowing out the candles on Emma's birthday cake.

One two three....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I am the mother of a teenager today!

My sweet Emma is 13 today. Wow... thirteen is a milestone birthday and I am wondering how it came to be that I have a child that old. The years certainly seem to fly by when you experience reflective days like today.

We went out to dinner last night to one of our favorite restaurants, FireBirds, and we told Emma about the day she was born. We do this every year and the girls love to hear about their birth story. Of course, we can never get through the story without talking about all of the amazing hair Emma had when she was born. It was dark, thick and everywhere. Here are two photos that show off her dark locks. I am sure she would kill me knowing these are out here in cyberspace now. The photos are a bit muted in color since I took photos of the photos from her scrapbook. The digital age was just beginning 13 years ago and I wasn't quite on board yet.


The facial expression and triple chins is more than enough to make me laugh out loud in that bottom photo. What a sweet fat baby she was. She continues to have beautiful hair today. Definitely one her best features.

So as I mentioned, to celebrate Emma's birthday we went out to dinner. It was fabulous and the manager, not even knowing it was Emmy's birthday, came over to buy us two appetizers. He was so gracious and then he sent out dessert after he learned that we were celebrating. I love when you get such great service like that.

One of the birthday gifts we gave Emma last night was a custom painting from our friend Jelene. Jelene is a wonderful artist from S. Carolina that has a really colorful and whimsical style of 'pop' art. She is featured in art galleries across the country and is a respected painter. We have two of her paintings up in the attic, where the girls have their playroom. They brighten up the space and are so fun. While in Memphis, Jelene sent so many goodies to the girls and Emma really loves her style. I thought a custom Jelene painting would be a big hit and it was.

Custom Painting
yup, that's Kanye in the middle of the ugly dolls. too cute!

Happy Birthday Emma Mikayla. We are so proud of you and love you very much. I am praying you will be easy on us now that you are officially a teenager. I am sure Grandma Marilyn and Grandma Shirley are both laughing at that statement knowing what is likely in store for us over the next few years. What is that called... karma. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I ♥ Faces - 'EXCITED!'

This week's challenge at I ♥ Faces is 'Excited'. I have the perfect photo to share. Last year Emma loved watching American Idol and had a major crush on Adam Lambert. He fit in perfectly with her current Twilight persona. He was dark edgy and screamed when he sang. What's not to love...
We went up to DC this summer to take in the American Idol concert and we were fortunate to score some backstage passes. Emma was beside herself with excitement to meet her star crush. See for yourself.


Check out I ♥ Faces for more 'exciting' photos.

Monday, October 5, 2009

to carve or not to carve...

I was looking for pumpkin design inspiration today online and I found a slew of amazing pumpkins at Martha Stewart. From drawing silly faces with sharpies all the way to intricate carvings. I love the owl pumpkins the best. hoo hoo hoo! I may just have to do the sharpie designs to get me by though. It's been so warm that I dare not carve a pumpkin until a few days before Halloween. Aren't these so cool?!

I adore the little guy to the right. I am going to make him for sure.

these are my favorites. Little pumpkins and gourds for eyes and ears.

we saw these on the Martha show the other day. She had quite the city/neighborhood going. Way more than I am going to do but the girls and I liked it. I love the detail with the windows popping out and the chimmenys.

simplicity at it's best. Little triangle eyes and a carrot nose. I love the white pumpkins too.

if carving is not your thing that a candy face pumpkin would be easy enough to do. love the licorice eyes.

we just may have to honor our secondary memphis roots and do an elvis pumpkin.
thank you, thank you very much

after all that hard work carving pumpkins you just have to kick back and down a few of these ghostly vanilla shakes.

Chesterfield Berry Farm

Sooo scary.

Wahoo! It's that time of year. Fall, Halloween and Pumpkins! This weekend was absolutely beautiful. Warm sun, crisp air and a perfect time for a visit to the local pumpkin farm. Ellie, Emma, Emma's friend Allie and myself enjoyed several hours at the Chesterfield Berry Farm. A fun tradition we have enjoyed every year. Last year we were in Memphis and Ellie's counts were low. I recall talking to the girls in the medicine room, behind our curtain, while Ellie received a transfusion that I was thinking of taking them to a big pumpkin place in Mississippi that I had read up on. It was a huge place and the buzz was so good about it. One of the nurses overheard our plans and quickly snapped back the curtain to advise us that going to the pumpkin farm with all the other people was not the best idea even if Ellie did have a mask on for protection. She said it was my call but she didn't think it was the wisest thing to do. Of course, being in the 'everything happens for a reason mode' I thought...hmmm.. she overheard us for a reason, I better not take the chance of bringing Ellie out around so many people. So, instead we stopped at the local supermarket and took photos with their pumpkin display. It wasn't the same but in the defense of the supermarket, they did have a huge blowup pumpkin that Ellie enjoyed. So, this year, we were free and clear to head back to our favorite fall spot for a hayride, corn maze, paintball shooting, pumpkin playing, haunted house and farm animals. It was just like we remembered only better!

We all enjoyed the afternoon and after watching the Martha Stewart Halloween episode yesterday we are armed with good ideas and inspiration. Ellie has decided that she is going to dress up as a butterfly and Emma is going to be a glam rocker girl...or something like that. Here are the photos from our day...

All smiles as we await the bumpy hay ride down to the pumpkin patch

my favorite... mini pumpkins!

Sweet Ellie
sweet ellie enjoying the bounce house

go piggies go
this was so adorable. pig races! they were on fire those little piglets

the girls had such a good time playing in the giganto bucket of corn

I've got my eye on you
something has happened to ellie's eye... oh no!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Whatcha reading?

My girlfriend Carol and I have been walking every morning this week at 6am and logging in at least 3-4 miles each day. Over the last few weeks I have noticed I was more tired than I should be. I don't have to be a rocket scientist to know this is a direct result from my lack of exercise. Definitely time to get an exercise schedule in place. I have a very flexible schedule during the day but the idea of going off to the gym on my own does not seem too appealing and I know I wouldn't do it regularly. The only way I am going to exercise is if it is the first thing I do each day. So this walking regime is now in place Monday - Friday from 6 to 7am. It hasn't been too chilly yet for me not to want to get out of bed but I am so not a morning person and making the transition from cozy in bed to standing up is probably the hardest 5 minutes of my day, Of course once I am out the door I am happy to be up and moving. I hope to see a steady rise in energy over the next few weeks.

I am currently reading two books that I am going to endorse with my coveted seal of approval. I am not a huge reader because I never have too much free time just for me. After working all day on a computer I am usually brain dead by evening and all I really want to do is watch a mindless TV show plus I am a slow reader. I started 'Belong To Me' in August and I am almost finished. It's a great book about women and their relationships and what makes us tick. It's definitely a good read and when I get into it, I hate to put it down. The other book makes me laugh out loud and I bought it on a whim last week while getting a birthday gift for a friend at the bookstore. It's the Kathy Griffin memoir.

I have been a Kathy Griffin fan for some time now and overall I find her to be hilarious. Sometimes she pushes the boundaries and goes too far for my tastes but on the whole she makes me laugh. So I saw the book sitting next to the new Dan Brown book (that is next on my list of must haves) and I picked it up to read through a little bit. It was really good and flowed well and I was giggling as I stood there reading so I just had to buy it. I am only a few chapters in but it's so interesting all the 'dues' Kathy had to pay before getting her big break. She was definitely dedicated to her craft and learning the ropes. The writing is just like her talking so it jumps around sometimes but it is definitely funny. Just my two cents on what I am reading and what I like should you be looking for a new book. What else is going on with the other household readers, Emma is reading some new vampire novel that she likes (the Twilight series has changed her forever) and little Ellie has been reading all of the phonic based books. She is making some good headway and I am hoping that the reading light bulb gets turned on soon. Steve, well, hockey season started yesterday so I am sure we will be seeing very little of him as he is glued to every game and I am sure all he will be reading is game highlights on ESPN.com

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ellie's View


Ellie painted her self portrait in school this week. It just melted my heart when I saw it. I love how she sees herself, she is just so happy. My favorite part is the little headwrap she put atop her head. She is just so precious and I love her so much.