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