Monday, November 14, 2016

Free Printable - Baby Shower Game (boy)

I made this baby shower game printable for a friend's shower that I recently put together. It was a "woodland" theme baby shower with a lot of natural elements. I was inspired by the baby name race games that I saw on Pinterest but wasn't too impressed with the printables to choose from, so I went ahead and made my own. I printed it out on white cardstock. You can download it for free below, enjoy :)

(to download click the "pop-out" button in the top right corner of the document)

Monday, August 8, 2016

What We Use: Around The House

(This post contains an affiliate link)

This is just a little sneak peek into what we are using around our house. As mentioned in previous postings, we like to keep it as chemical free as possible. I used to shop around from place to place and go super crazy reading labels. Now that I have three kids, there is just no time for that. Between the kids, working, and finishing up my Bachelor's degree.. I'm pretty strapped for time. Which is why I love The Honest Company products. I can trust that their brand won't have harmful chemicals. To make my life easier, I subscribe to their bundles. They automatically ship on the date of your choice, and the frequency of your choice.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Recipe: Lactation Oatmeal

[post may contain affiliate link]

I've had MANY struggles during my time with breastfeeding. My  #1 trouble is not making enough milk, which was evidenced by his lack of weight gain. Since he had a nursing strike early on at around 2 weeks, we have been mainly pumping since. Pumping just doesn't get your body making milk like a nursing baby would, and it's a lot of work. One thing i'm doing to help my milk supply is eating foods that are known to help increase milk production (known as galactagogues). After searching through a bunch of recipes, I put together a few different ones and made one that I liked. To me, it tastes very similar to Maple Brown Sugar oatmeal. I've been putting the dry ingredients into zip lock bags and making a couple at time, to last me a few days. Easy on the go snack to grab before work too. Oatmeal should basically be a nursing mom's staple breakfast!

Gather up ingredients, most you probably already have. The Brewer's Yeast I purchased from Amazon and you really can't taste it in there at all, I know the taste can be a common complaint.

Here is the recipe:

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl then add hot water until you get the consistency you like for oatmeal. Once mixed, I then add a drizzle of syrup (or honey) on top. You can also add almond milk, dried fruit, or nuts. Enjoy each morning for breakfast or for a quick snack throughout the day.

Here is the Brewer's Yeast I purchased:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Why I'm Dwelling On The Past

The're supposed to let it go, right? Well, I can't. Maybe this is true for a lot of people who have gone through a traumatic experience. My experience was childhood cancer, which has made me forever a cancer mom. Three years ago, I would have never have seen myself where I am today. For some reason it feels like I went from the summer of 2013 to now in the blink of an eye. Seriously.. what just happened? What happened in these last three years? It went by so fast. Cancer diagnosis, new baby, new house, enrolled in a BSN program, cancer remission, another new baby - all while working. One thing after another. Happy times and sad times. In the two and a half years of Vienna's cancer treatment, SO MUCH has happened. I feel like I was dragged through it, without really experiencing it. So now that she is 6 months off treatment, i'm finally ready to comprehend what has happened.

Maybe some people want to just block out bad times, forget them completely. I'm not ready for that. I am constantly trying to remember the things that have happened to us in those years, and I always seem to remember something new. I find myself scrolling through my old Instagram and Facebook photos and looking at our old posts on her Facebook page. Constantly reminding myself of what she had to go through. It may seem like i'm torturing myself, but really i'm just trying to grasp onto all of those times and start to take them in and process them. I never had the chance to when we were actually experiencing them.

For me, I think dwelling on the past is therapeutic. It's a way for me to go back and accept and come to terms with everything. I'm finally able to talk to others about what has happened and how it affected them. Cancer has changed our lives big time but I haven't really had the chance to talk to others about how her cancer changed them too. I want to hear more of their side of things, where were they when they found out, etc. It's how i'm coping with this traumatic event. Accepting it as a part of my past. I'm still trying to work on how it all fits in with my life today, balancing between remembering the events and forgetting the emotions. What should I take with me and what should I leave behind? We're only 6 months post cancer, so with time I think i'll learn how to integrate all these aspects and move on.

**the above picture was taken 10 days before she was diagnosed, on a a horse at King Richard's Faire

Monday, May 23, 2016

Things NOT To Say To The Parent Of A Child With A Mental Illness

"She would if she could" is something that we often need to remember as parents of Vienna. Vienna doesn't have the ability to connect the dots from point A (being a problem) to point B (being the solution). The in-between is known as the meltdown. She would be good.. if she could.. but she can't. Beneath the childhood cancer, Vienna has something going on within her brain that we can't quite understand. Was she destined to have this? Or was it due to the massive amounts of poison injected into her brain and body to keep her alive? That we'll never know.

The following is a list of things that I just can't stand to hear. Each phrase reminds me over and over again that she is different. Sometimes things were easier when she looked sick (no hair) because then people would "give her a break" when she was having a meltdown in public. Now that she is looking & feeling better, people just think she is having a typical tantrum, but that's just not the case.
  1. "Why don't you just put her in time out?" You probably won't believe me but time out does nothing, actually... it intensifies and lengthens the meltdown. 
  2. "I know how you feel, mine acts up ALL the time" Do you? Do you know how I feel? Maybe sometimes. BUT having a mental illness isn't just acting up or acting out, it's much more than that. A meltdown doesn't just occur when she doesn't get what she wants, it also happens when there is a change of plans or she can't complete a task in a certain order. 
  3. "After all that you're still going to let her play with that?!" Yes, yes I am. Why? Because the meltdown that will ensue if I then try to take away said toy will not be worth it. 
  4. "Bad kids come from bad parenting" Yes maybe, but not in this case. Our parenting style has nothing to do with her brain chemistry. 
  5. "You can't let her rule your life" Unfortunately, with this type of mental illness our life HAS to revolve around her. Avoiding triggers, tip toeing around her, doing anything and everything possible to avoid the next meltdown takes up quite a bit of time. 
  6. "Why aren't you more social, you can't miss these family parties!" This goes along with #5. Being around a lot of people can be a trigger, it's sensory overload. When I take her to a party, she may have 30-60 minutes of fun time (maybe) but there will inevitably be a trigger which will lead to a meltdown that you will then judge us about. Sometimes, it's just easier to avoid being in public all together. Especially if it's just me and the three kids, I have no reinforcements. Sometimes she needs to literally be dragged out of wherever we are. This becomes challenging with a toddler and an infant. 
  7. "She's just doing it for attention" The thing about this is.. she doesn't even realize she's having a meltdown until AFTER it's done. That's how you know there's a difference between an illness and being what they call a "spoiled brat". 
  8. "Why don't you just try ____ (insert vague recommendation that you think I may not have already heard of)" Stop there - trust me, I HAVE. 
  9. "It's so rude that you don't make her say bye to family members" Forcing her to say bye or to give a hug/kiss will surely cause a scene you do NOT want to be a part of, trust me. Just understand that the 5 minutes of pleasant time you had with her is about all you're going to get. 
Next time you see a kid acting up in public, rethink judging them as there may be more to the situation than you think. What we do appreciate is support. This would include the person who has brought my bags back to the car while I have a tight hold on her to keep her from running into the moving cars in the parking lot, THANK YOU!

*To understand more about how to comprehend and handle a child this this, read the following book. It has helped us tremendously to better our parenting style*

Friday, May 13, 2016

What We Made: Activated Charcoal Face Wash

Recently I heard about Activated Charcoal and its benefits. I thought WHY did I not know about this?! I immediately purchased a bar of soap made with activated charcoal and loved it. It made my skin feel super clean and it has a nice scent to it. I wanted to purchase the face wash as well but it was so expensive! I figured I would just make some myself. So.. why activated charcoal? Activated charcoal is better known for it's use in the stomach but it has many other beneficial uses. One being on the skin. So using it in body care products is a new must for me. When used on the face, it pulls the junk out of your pores and leaves your face feeling super clean and refreshed. 

This is a super easy DIY recipe with only three ingredients. Coconut oil, baking soda, and activated charcoal. You can get these anywhere. At first I couldn't find the charcoal at CVS and I even asked if they had it and they said no. But instead of looking under the "A" section for activated, it was under the "C" section for charcoal, activated. The baking soda adds a bit of exfoliation to the face wash, which is great to get rid of the dead skin cells. 

Here's the supplies you need with the recipe:


Purchase Ingredients:

[If you purchase the above ingredients you will have more than enough to make MANY batches, for yourself and family!]


Measure out your ingredients, luckily the weather is a bit warmer so getting the coconut oil out wasn't a pain as it usually it. The activated charcoal comes in capsules that you will twist open to get the powder. 

Next, add about 1/3 of the coconut oil to a bowl and stir around a bit. Then add in the charcoal powder and stir. 

Add in all of the baking soda then stir.

Add in the remainder of the coconut oil and stir until everything is mixed well. 

Ta-da! Done. Super quick and super easy. Now it's ready to use. Prior to use I would use a warm face cloth to really open those pores up then lather on. I let mine sit for about 10-15 minutes, to get a really good deep clean. For now i'm going to use it every other day then once a week. The coconut oil leaves your skin feeling so soft, I didn't even have to use a moisturizer after. Hadley thought I looked hilarious. 

Get your DIY on and give it a shot! 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Story Behind The Kids Names

Why/how we chose our little ones names.

Vienna Ruby
It took a while for us to find a name that we both liked. But one day it seemed to click when we were listening to a song -  "Vienna" by Billy Joel. Both of us really liked the song and hadn't heard the name Vienna before. We weren't looking for something super unique, but definitely something that not a lot of other kids had. So this name fit perfect. Also, I really liked the first line of the song "Slow down you crazy child" - made me think of how fast babies/kids grow up.

We knew what her middle name was going to be the second we found out she was a girl, Ruby. This is because Greg and I met at Ruby Tuesdays when we were both working there. It was a perfect, meaningful middle name.

She has tons of nickname options. We call her V, Vivi, Nen, or Nenna.

Hadley Coe
We chose the name Hadley much earlier than our other two kids, about midway through the pregnancy. It was a name that I had on my list since Vienna was about one. We found out we were having another little girl about 2 weeks before Vienna was diagnosed, Vienna was excited to have a little sister and insisted her name be "Flower". After a little nudge she agreed on Hadley. I heard the name a while back on True Blood and just always liked it. It really fits her now.

Her middle name is probably not one you hear often. We chose it because I was having a home birth and it was the name of the street in which she was going to be born on. After we all agreed on her full name, we ended up moving to a different home 1 week before she was born (it was a CRAZY week). The new street name didn't flow at all so we still went Coe. I love how her name flows together.

For nicknames, we usually call her Had or Haddie.

Sawyer Flynn
I've never had a boy name that I was in love with or even any that I had on a list. Since we found out very early at 11 weeks that we were having a boy, I knew I had a lot of time to figure out a name. But this pregnancy went by super fast and before I knew it I had a no-name baby boy in my arms! On the name list we had Holden, Jack, Levi, and Sawyer. We were looking for a classic name. I thought that when I saw him I would just "know" but we didn't. It wasn't until about 3 hours later that we decided he was a Sawyer and we're both happy we made that decision.

We knew his middle name would be Flynn because it was meaningful to us. Our children's pediatrician is Dr. Flynn and she has been through it all with us. She is the one who first spoke the word "Leukemia" to us and she was always there visiting Vienna in the hospital.

We're still working out a good nickname for this little guy. Right now we call him Soy and little soybean, not too great but i'm sure we'll come up with some more.

As for future little ones? Well, not sure there will be any ;)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Special Treatment"

Due to a recent issue that we have encountered, I have thought quite a bit about the words "special treatment" and if they apply to our situation. I've never thought of myself as a "helicopter mom" or a mom who would ask anyone to go out of their way/break the rules for my child. But - with each experience we encounter in our lives, our outlook on things can change. I am one who follows the rules - always. Ask my husband, he'll say the same. If I see a sign that says don't do something, I don't do it. I am afraid of consequences. When I try to call and clear up a situation and they tell me "No", I hang up and try to let it go. But in this recent situation - their rules were just not right. So I had to bring in my husband to help clear it up.

Situation - For April school vacation we signed her up for an extra special experience, a daily M-F zoo camp. We usually don't like to commit to anything because there is always that possibility she get sick, but she's off treatment and had been doing so well. It wasn't cheap but we made it work. She was SO excited. The Thursday before school vacation I got a call from the school nurse who said she wasn't feeling well and had a low grade 100 degree fever. I picked her up at lunch time and took her home to rest. By the next day (Friday) her temp was up to 103.8 and she had vomiting as well. We took her to her Pediatrician and she had a viral infection, we were sent home to rest and encourage fluids. The high temp stayed through Sunday and a cough came as well. By Sunday night she hadn't used the bathroom at all and her cough was really bad. I decided it was time to go to the ER to get her checked out. I figured we would go in, get some fluids and go home. She could still feel better the next day for zoo camp. When we got to the ER they did a chest x-ray to rule out Pneumonia, but it confirmed Pneumonia. Her oxygen saturations were hovering around 90% (dipping as low as 84) and they did not feel comfortable with us leaving. We stayed for two nights and she received many doses on antibiotics and fluids. On Tuesday zoo camp called to see why she hadn't been there, I told them the situation (tearing up when I told them how excited she had been). I asked if we could possibly switch the week for a week in the summer so she could still experience it. I was told they had strict rules but she would run it by the director. I got a phone call back about 20 minutes later and she said sorry, they weren't able to refund the money or switch the week. I was very upset and rules are rules I guess. I then called my husband and explained what had happened (he was at home with our other two children), he was NOT happy with the answer. He called back and left several messages. He finally reached the director who, at first, was not much help. She insisted they cannot bend the rules, even for these circumstances. Not until he mentioned what the news would think about this did she change her attitude. In the end, we did get the week switched to a week in the summer - but it was only because they didn't want us to reach out to the news or put any attention on them, not because they had a change of heart.

Our situation with our child is unique. We have a child who has faced death, before even knowing what it was. She has made friends at her cancer clinic and then lost them due to the horrible disease.  She has had years of her innocent childhood stolen from her. Those years were so important to her development, socially and emotionally she is not where she should be. She never got to experience the first day of Kindergarten or her first Father/Daughter dance (which she cried for days about). After all that we have gone through as a family, we realized that every day is important because the next day could change everything.

I'll just say it - children who have fought or are fighting cancer should get special treatment. Everything possible should be done to ensure that they are experiencing life and making memories. As much as we wanted her to live a normal life, it's just not possible. She has been through too many traumatizing events. Even though she is no longer sick and her hair is growing back, the pain of all that has happened stays. Tomorrow we could hear the word "relapse" and that is why today is so important. 15-20% of children who have been treated for A.L.L. will relapse, that's a big number! I don't want to live everyday scared of her relapsing, but it is a possibility. That's why it is crucial she get to experience everything possible. There's a thing called "pulling the cancer card". When she was in the midst of treatment she was completely bald - you could tell she had cancer. We never really had to ask for special treatment, people would just do it because they felt bad. Once they start to look more "normal" no one has any idea what they've gone through. So sometimes you try to "pull the cancer card" so that way she can experience something extra special. I'm officially not ashamed to say that on rare occasions, we do it. And if it gets her to give us an extra big smile, then it was TOTALLY worth it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Things I Do To Make My Life Easier

This is a list of things I do daily to help make my life easier. Between work, school, kids, and life - it gets crazy around here. If you're already doing them, great! If not - try it out!

  1. Go to bed with no dishes in the sink. I hate waking up in the morning knowing I have dishes to do. It's just one more reason for me NOT to get out of bed. Even if you have to stay up just 10 minutes later at night, trust me that you'll feel better about it in the morning. Yes I have a dishwasher, but I do hand wash a lot of things and always rinse before loading the dishwasher. 
  2. Have the kids clothes laid out the night before. This one helps save a little bit of time in the morning. Anything to make getting to the bus stop on time is a win. 
  3. Never wait until you have a full load of laundry to run the washer. You're setting yourself up for failure at this point. Folding is the worst part about laundry, folding smaller loads is much more manageable. If I waited for full loads I wouldn't need to do laundry everyday, but then I dread the massive amounts of folding that would have to be done. Instead, I choose to do smaller loads more frequently. 
  4. Prioritize. What actually needs to be done today and what can wait. Visualizing this helps a lot, so write your list down. I leave my list right on the kitchen island where it's easy to see, this helps to keep you on track. If the baby sleeps an extra long nap - do extra on the list. If things get a little crazy - just do what you can. 
  5. Clean at least one thing in each room. It might be vacuuming, dusting, or picking up laundry - do at least one a day. Some days are better than others so if you just keep up with at least one daily, you'll never be too overwhelmed. Sometimes I can get this all done in one day, but when I can't it doesn't look awful because i've kept up with it on other days. 
  6. Make lunches the night before. This goes with #2 - it just helps to make your morning run smooth. If you're a meal prepping type of person (awesome!) then you've got this one set for the week. 
  7. Purge as you go. If I open a drawer and see something I no longer need, I don't wait and say i'll clean it later - instead I take that time to get rid of it. This ultimately equals less to clean! I love getting rid of things, I usually end up throwing out about a trash bag full of things we no longer need a week. 

When I follow this list, it makes cleaning and staying organized manageable. I feel less overwhelmed each day. And if I have a bad day (feeling sick or cranky kids) and i'm not able to do any of these things? Well because I try to do things daily, missing one day isn't a big deal and doesn't create too much excess work for the next day. Are there any specific things you do to stay on top of the day to day tasks? I'm always looking for a way to make my day easier!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Why we still use natural products

We've been using natural and organic products for years, even before cancer struck our family. When you live a more natural lifestyle and actively try to avoid carcinogens (such as those in household or body care products) aren't you supposed to be in the clear? Not so much. I don't regret using natural products for all those years and still getting the cancer diagnosis. I'm happy that I can look back and know that we did what we thought was best at the time. Am I still using natural products? Of course! I still believe that exposing my kids to harmful chemicals could increase their risk of illness. Even though it didn't save us from cancer - it could save us from future problems.

Since our firstborn, Vienna, was about 3 months old we decided to begin using more "natural" products. Prior to her birth we hadn't given much thought to what we used on her skin because, well, if it's sold in the store it's safe - right? Wrong. This was just the beginning of my long journey in finding safe products for my family. I started using items with the words natural on them and the ones with more green on the labels (yes, marketing won me over). After using those types of products for a while I reexamined my products again. I soon found out that the pretty green labels were just a ploy to get me to buy them because they were more "natural" therefore they were "safer". If I can't trust a brand with a green label that says natural on it - what do I look for? I learned to look beyond the label and turn the product around! On the backside I found the ingredient label. But wait, the names of the ingredients are long and I can barely pronounce them. This is how they get people. They don't expect you to know what the ingredients are or whether or not they are safe, after all we aren't all scientists. No one is looking out for us when it comes to the products on the shelves as they are NOT regulated by the FDA. Only YOU are responsible to know about the products you are using.

Environmental exposure is one of the risk factors for developing cancer. You can be exposed to cancer-causing agents through inhalation or through your skin. Once exposed - these agents have the ability to damage the DNA. This damaged and altered DNA then has the ability to become cancer. Environmental factors is something we can (mostly) be in control of, unlike the risk factors age and genetics. For example, Formaldehyde is a well known carcinogen. But did you know it is a common ingredient in household products? Yep! It can be hiding under different names as well. Why are companies allowed to do this? Because it's an unregulated market. What we can do is learn how to dissect the ingredient label - for our families sake! Then you can feel good about doing all you can to maintain healthy children. We'll look further into labels in another post. If you aren't looking at your labels already, it's time to start and get familiar with them.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

This is us.

So, here we are. We are now living in our very own "post cancer" world. This is supposed to be the time we're diving back into what you call normal. For the first time in two and a half years, we started a year out with no chemotherapy treatments and no steroids. A fresh start, you could say. It's not quite what we expected. Not the POOF back to normal I had anticipated. This is going to take time, potentially.. a lot of time. Or, maybe this is our normal. Whatever this is, we're getting used to it and learning to make our current life work for us.

Before cancer, it was just us three. Until late 2013 it was just me, Michelle, a new nurse who had just taken her first job in an OB/GYN office, Greg, who was then almost a year into his new position as an Executive Chef and putting in a lot of hours for this demanding position and of course, Vienna. Vienna was our lively, energetic, then 4 year old. In the summer of 2013, we had decided that since we were all settled in with our new jobs and home, we would finally add to our family. Vienna had been asking us for a baby sister for a while. We found out we were expecting just a few short weeks before she started becoming sick.
Yes, you could say we was pretty excited when we told her the news. Late summer she started getting more and more sick. She was having frequent ear infections and was also diagnosed with Pneumonia in August. I vividly remember when she was diagnosed with Pneumonia. I picked her up from preschool, where I found she had a fever of 103. Took her immediately to the urgent care. The next day I remember crying at work, wondering why my baby was getting sick so often. Up until then, she had been very healthy and rarely got sick. We took her to the pediatrician and got her fixed up like you would any other child. Antibiotics were prescribed, but only seemed to provide relief for a week or two - then the infection would come back. This was strange - but so we went on with life. Until we noticed an increased amount of bruising on her body. This is one area on her that concerned us most.
At her next visit to the pediatrician in September, for yet another ear infection, we mentioned the bruising. We all chalked it up to her being an active 4 year old in preschool. And so we went on. At this point, Greg was using Dr Google and inputing her symptoms. Basically what came up was cancer (leukemia specifically) and viral infections. He was set on it being the worst, I was more optimistic that it was something more like an infection. I was probably more in denial, though. Everyone thinks this could never happen to them, their family, or their child. The point where I became really concerned was Columbus day weekend. She developed petichiae. It showed up behind her ear. I now knew that whatever was going on, was probably progressing. Of course because it was a holiday weekend, her pediatrician was closed that Monday (October 14th). We anxiously awaited for Tuesday to call. But things began to progress more. By Tuesday she developed a fever and fatigue. We called first thing and waited for a call back. We received a call back late afternoon on Tuesday saying her doctor wanted to see her the following day. Until then, we would keep up with the Motrin/Tylenol regimen for the fever. Still sort of in denial, I went to work as usual that Wednesday and Greg took her to the appointment. Here she is on the morning of that day.
I waited for the phone call on how it went. My phone rang around noon, I dropped what I was doing to answer. Greg told me to leave, leave work now. I asked why, but I knew. Something wasn't right. All he could say was that the pediatrician said it was bad, not good. They had already been for stat blood work and were heading home to wait. I left immediately to meet him. We both met at home where we waited for the phone call. I called my mom, who was in Mexico at the time, she didn't answer. Then I called both my sisters. I didn't exactly have news to tell them, just that something was going on with Vienna and it wasn't good. Around 4pm the phone rang. I was so nervous that I hit the end button instead of the answer button! We quickly called back, but it was just the secretary that answered to tell us that her doctor wanted us to come back immediately.. she wanted to check out one more thing. Greg said we should pack some bags, this is obviously not a good thing. I insisted no, nothing is wrong, nothing could possible be wrong. Nothing is wrong with my child. We arrived at the office. The lights were dim, only a few people working as they are closed on Wednesdays and only open for sick visits. We were taken into a room. Thinking back now, everyone in that office probably knew the bad news before we did. She came in almost immediately. She could barely say the words. But managed to get them out. "It's not good" she said, "It looks like Leukemia, it's not confirmed, but Hasbro Children's Hospital is notified and you need to go there now, they are waiting for you in the ER". WHAT. Her Hemoglobin came back at 6 and her Platelets came back at 6,000. This explains the fatigue and petichiae. 

So off we went. Mostly silent on the drive, in shock. What was to come next? I didn't even really believe the ER would know her name when we got there. But they did. And they had a room waiting. And a team of doctors to talk to us. This was real. It was actually happening. To my child. Official diagnosis of Pre B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia came a few days later. 

And that's how, on October 16th 2013, cancer happened to us.