Thursday, April 30, 2009

Too much HGTV?

Is that possible? I have had it on all week in the background while I have been working and I tell you what...I am in major redecorating mode around here. I have cleaned out closets, organized drawers, and the list of what I still want to do is growing at a rapid pace. Maybe it's nesting? Now that I know we are having a boy I feel like I can finally move on and get some things done.

We actually just put in a new front door, thanks to my uncle Sully. Do you like the dead planter there or the reflection of Chad practicing his golf swing?

My office has been relocated down into the basement to make room for the new nursery. I will post some pics of that when I feel like it is almost done. I put a whole wall shelf together all by myself last week, I was really proud. Chad was out of town so I took the bull by the horns. I was hauling bins into our storage crawlspace by the dozens. I had the sore back to prove it.
As for the nursery, I have been unable to find anything I liked at Restoration Hardware, PB Kids, The Land of Nod, etc. so I dragged my poor unsuspecting mother-in-law with me to JoAnne's to pick out my own color palette for her to make my curtains, bumber, crib dust ruffle,etc. I think she may have been on to me ;) I am going for a laid-back, vintage Hawaiian feel. This is just the beginning. I can't wait to start painting. I wanted to start today, but I thought I had a mild bout of the Swine Flu. After an embarassing conversation with my doctor today, I realized I am ok.

Just a random note, my sister Court got me my first baby boy gifts. It reads "Virgo: Born Giver. Loves to nurture." I can only hope that will describe my little guy!

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Junior -- Yes, ANOTHER BABY!

Baby season is still in full bloom. Meet sweet little David a/k/a "Junior" who is 4 weeks old.

His parents are loving his George Costanza hair-do. I tried to get him a pair of white boxers and a maroon velvet couch to lay on, but I couldn't find them in his size.

Dad doesn't have the Costanza 'do, but there certainly is a strong resemblance.

"Heidi the Hippo" had to make an appearance in his photo session. I think the story was that his mom and dad got her on their first date.

I am loving my new backdrops :) Junior was loving my fuzzy blanket. He was so snuggly while laying on there, he didn't want to get off.

Kelly & David, thank you so much for letting me meet sweet Junior. He was such a good boy and you two are so lucky. Enjoy your sneak peek :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Michele Update --- It's been a while

I love how my loyal "Vanderbloggers" have been following this devastating story I have been posting about my friend Michele. I have been getting emails lately wanting to know what is going on in her world. I had a chance to see her last weekend at her sister Katie's bridal shower, so I got the scoop. I feel so selfish that I didn't know any of this drama was going on at the time and now we can look back and think, "Man, I'm glad that is over with." Michele, you continue to amaze and inspire.

Good luck getting through this one without some Kleenex...but there is a happy ending, I promise ;)

Here is what she says:

I apologize to so many of you who have been waiting to hear an update on how things are going around here. It's definitely been a bit of a rollercoaster to say the least. I don't know that the overall tone in this email will find everyone as upbeat as some of my prior emails simply because I am a bit emotionally drained at this point. I do promise you that I am doing well today on my little Gracie's 5th birthday! So hard to believe I have a 5 year old now!!!

The last time I wrote was 1/21 (where did the last 3 mths go?) and I had just received my third treatment. The oncologist wasn't sure what to expect regarding my reaction and we were all pleasantly surprised at the fact that I did not experience anything more than mild side effects for the following three weeks. As a result, I was able to return on 2/11 to receive my 4th and final infusion for the treatment phase of the clinical trial. Not knowing what to expect regarding side effects, I was happy to once again only experience minimal side effects. On 2/23 I had a CT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvis and the results were clean! Then, as I approached the 1 month mark following my last treatment, things began to change dramatically. My first symptoms were headaches. An MRI on 3/6 showed that I had a tumor on my pituitary gland. This tumor is benign and very harmless, however was causing blurred vision and headaches. Not at all something I needed to worry about unless it grew larger.

Then, extreme sadness hit Andy's National Guard unit on Sunday 3/15. Three remarkable young men from Andy's unit and one Airman from Arizona lost their lives to a roadside bomb as they returned from a follow-up check-in with a local school in Afghanistan. Andy escorted all four of these fallen soldiers back home to the States. I picked him up at the airport Tu 3/16 and we attended the funerals of the three soldiers from his unit btwn the 26th & 29th. From 3/16 onward I wasn't feeling well at all. I assumed the stress of this horrifying event played an intricate role in my not feeling well, but soon learned that my treatment was the main contributor.

Andy was supposed to leave to go back to Afghanistan on Fri 4/3, but I wound up hospitalized from Tu 3/31 - Fri 4/3 due to side effects from my treatment and luckily we were able to extend his stay until Mon 4/6. At that time I was having severe abdominal pain, complete loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomitting, etc. They did an endoscopy & colonoscopy but didn't find anything other than gastritis which would actually be attributed to the stress, not the treatment. Nothing was found that explained my symptoms so they sent me home on some meds in hopes that things would improve. Unfortunately I got a lot worse over the weekend. On Mon 4/6 I had a routine follow-up appointment with my oncologist. I felt awful the entire day. Aside from the other symptoms, I started feeling weak, light headed, dizzy, blurred vision and at the appointment my BP was only 88/62. They drew some blood at my appointment and I left to take Andy to the airport. At the airport I was very out of it and actually fell asleep at the gate with Andy while I was waiting with him. The next morning, Tu 4/7 I woke up feeling faint to the point that I thought for sure I was going to pass out. Within an hour I was hospitalized and they determined I was in adrenal failure. The next morning they did a CT of my abdomen & MRI of my brain. The MRI showed that my pituitary tumor had shrunk a bit which was good. The CT scan determined that my chemo had "turned off" my adrenal glands, causing them to fail. The diagnosis of adrenal failure explained every side effect I had been experiencing so they started me on steroids to get my endocrine glands (thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands) to start working again. This worked like magic.

During the CT to look at my adrenal glands, they caught the bottom section of my lungs and found a spot. Since the CT did not include my entire chest they had me come back that Fr 4/10 for another CT of my entire chest. That afternoon I found out that there were 7 spots between both lungs. I was told that the radiologists were quite certain this was stage IV, inoperable and potentially wide-spread in my body ... it didn't look good. My doctors sent a Red Cross message to Andy who was still in route back to Afghanistan and rushed him home. I picked Andy up on Sunday night, Easter Sunday. Monday morning 4/13 I had a lung biopsy. During the biopsy my lung collapsed partially and I wound up overnight with a chest tube to reinflate my lung (ouch). I found out Tuesday afternoon by the grace of God that it was NOT cancer, but some sort of severe reaction to my chemo. My body was experiencing a severe auto-immune response to my chemo which was causing a condition called pneumonitis in my lungs. I was the first patient in this clinical trial to show such a response. Everyone was shocked, but so relieved. Multiple radiologists had looked at my CT scans and all of them diagnosed stage IV melanoma. It was a miracle and I am so thankful and so appreciative of the fact that we don't have to continue the conversation that took place between my husband and I on the evening of Easter Sunday when we thought it was stage IV.

Andy has applied for compassionate reassignment to get relocated back to a local Army location where he can work for the duration of the deployment as a sort of rear detachment for the unit so he can be here to help me get through these challenges that I have truly attempted to conquer on my own. At this point, the next steps are for me to continue to work with my endocronologist to get my endocrine glands functioning normally without being steroid dependent. I also have an oncologist up at Mayo clinic who has been consulting on my case since I was first diagnosed. In light of the past few months developments, he had me schedule an appointment for 5/4-5/6 to come up to Mayo for some scans and tests to help determine my next steps. I will not be receiving any further infusions of this clinical drug due to the severity of my issues and the high risk of reoccurrence of these issues, but at this time do not know what I will do in regard to further treatment.

The other blessing to Andy being home right now is that his grandmother is extremely ill. She was moved to hospice care today and is not expected to make it through the week. Andy was able to go hold her hand and spend some time with her. She is 96 years old and has lived an amazing life. She is ready now to peacefully leave us and live eternally with Our Father. Somewhat ironic that I was in the hospital fighting for my life at the same time she was praying for God to take hers, but there is meaning to all of this and it is a true symbol of the fact that there is a higher being and He does have a plan for us. We just have to trust in that plan and someday it all will make sense. It is never easy no matter what the age though to watch a loved one struggle.

I will close by saying this ... I know it's a bit cheesey, but take a minute to find those you love around you and just give them a hug today and tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Not one of us knows what tomorrow brings. We have to trust in God, but don't waste the moments he does give us ... please treasure them!

My love to you all and I will try to send another update soon and keep it short and sweet!!


Saturday, April 25, 2009


It was this time of year during my senior year when I could think about nothing else but getting out of high school and going away to college. Don't get me wrong, I loved high school, but I was ready to spread my wings.

Katelyn is going to knock 'em dead next year at the University of Iowa.

I loved this series. She was workin' it for me ;)

Katelyn was such a good sport...I didn't make her stay in the poison ivy for too long.

I finally got her to "let her hair down" - or "let her hair back" as my brother-in-law, Adam, says ;) He always gets those sayings mixed up.
Doesn't she look like one of the Kardashian sisters, minus the crazy? She is smokin'!

Katelyn - you were such a sweetheart to work with. Thank you for making my job easy. I hope you love your sneak peek. Best of luck to you with the rest of your senior year and good luck next year in Iowa!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Results are in...

I can honestly say I have never kept my bladder so full for such a long period of time. It hurt to stand up I had to go so bad. If you've never experienced an ultrasound, try drinking 24 ounces of water and hold it in for 2 hours while someone presses on your bladder the whole time and then have someone else poke around on your whole entire stomach for about 10 minutes.

Besides that, I was all smiles :)

And it looks like the general consenus was correct...We're having a BOY!!! I haven't seen a smile like that on Chad's face for a long time. We are so excited. I am getting started on the nursery this weekend!

We ended up at lunch at Wildwood in Geneva to sit outside in this awesome weather instead of inside at Chianti's. We enjoyed being with my mom, sisters, brother-in-law and niece, Ella.

Happy Friday everyone!!!

Mothers & Daughters

She is mom after my own heart -- So what if your daughter wants a little candy every now and then for breakfast?? I totally agree!

Valerie contacted me via email back in February and we set up a fun session for her and her daughters as a surprise for her husband for his birthday. Turns out his birthday gift is going to be a little belated due to the amount of times we had to reschedule because of this crazy Chicago spring weather we have been having. We finally got to spend some time together last Friday on a beautiful evening with golden lighting at a park near their home.

This was my first shot I took...

...and this was the second :D No need to draw out the personality in these girls - they were ready to rock & roll.

Are they not the cutest???

Did I mention these girls had personality?

Then we went back to their house and they showed me their cute rooms. I don't think they were supposed to be jumping on the beds, but we sure had fun.

They are huge Mary Poppins fans and recently saw the play downtown.

Valerie, I hope your husband loves the images of you and your daughters laughing and loving each other. Thank you so much for letting me enjoy the laughter with you.

Today is the day!

No more living in more empty, neutral more guessing games...

Today is the day we find out how to fill that nursery...more pink? Or something new and different :)

We have been pulling for a boy (because I would love to never have to be pregnant ever again), but I truly would love for Brynn to have a sister too. I have only had one person say that they think it is a girl and that was little Anthony (Brynn's boyfriend).

We have always thought we wanted three little ones, but I am not getting any younger people!

I am sure you have heard about people having the ultrasound tech write down what the sex of the baby is on a card for the mom and dad to open later. This is what we did when we had Brynn and enjoyed a wonderful dinner together at Francesca's later that night with my sister and brother-in-law. Due to a lack of babysitter tonight, we will be enjoying a nice late lunch at Ristorante Chianti in Geneva after our appointment. Wish us luck!

To be continued....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sweet Addison Grace

Did I mention is was the season of babies??? Not just any babies...the cutest babies ever. Three month old Addison was all smiles for her first photo shoot.

Can you tell where her mom was standing? ;)

Don't you want to nibble those cheeks?

Hello Miss Big Eyes :D

I even got her gorgeous mom in a few shots. Thank you Kristi for letting me photograph your beautiful little girl. She was so good and so happy! Can't wait for her 6 month session :) Enjoy your sneak peek.