Sand Between Their Toes

When I think of all the places my family has travelled, all the beaches my children’s tiny toes have touched, I am in awe of all God has done.  What a precious, blessed life we live as a military family.  With this life comes sacrifice but so many other families sacrifice more than we will ever know.  I know my children will not remember much about their charmed first few years so I hope this blog will sometimes help to piece together their story.

Rota, Spain


Tripp’s first forays on a beach were in Chiclana de la Frontera, Spain.  A small coastal beach town, just south of Rota Naval Station.  A group of us had gone for the day and the men were laying around, their American-ness evident by drinking beer from cans and playing frisbee before flopping down on “Budweiser” logo towels.  I was a new Mom, I was loaded up with the latest beach gear for babies.  We had the pop-up tent, the 6 coordinating swim outfits, the sunscreen, the hats, the diapers, nursing cover, sand toys, Baby Bjorn.  We had it all.  I don’t remember much about that day except trying to crouch down in the pop-up tent to nurse Tripp and holding his pudgy 4 month old body as he felt the sand for the first time.  He was unsure and kept pulling his feet up, not comfortable with this new texture.  He seemed to like it but he wasn’t impressed either way.  It was a perfect day for us though, introducing our first born to the mystery of the ocean in the country where he first called home.


Throughout the next almost 2 years we would make numerous trips down the southern Spanish highway, 110 degree heat blazing outside.  I learned we needed much less gear but always kept a pail full of sand toys in the trunk.  Some days we would hop over the dunes in Rota for a quick hour in between errands and appointments.  Other days we would load up with friends for a full day of sand, ocean breezes and pizza at the village pizzeria, Pizzeria Blanca Palomo, in El Puerto de Santa Maria.

Javea, Spain

A precarious beach town on the far eastern edge of the Alicante region was a place we met my parents for a week.  Hudson was comfortably nestled in the womb and Tripp was a bit more adventurous.  The views were majestic, the boardwalk was busy but not crowded and our sweet 15 month old suckered us into nightly extravagances of ice cream, balloons, sand toys and massive blow-up soccer balls.



Tripp still took a solid nap every day so my mom and I were able to lay out at the pool at the rental house while Joe and my Dad went off exploring the local golf courses.  Tripp made friends with a beautiful little girl at a Thai restaurant on the boardwalk and enjoyed the endless playgrounds on the sand.  It was a magical trip.

Hyeres, France

Leaving the boys’ place of birth was hard but exciting at the same time.  We didn’t know what Belgium had in store for us but we knew the weather wouldn’t be the same.  In a country where they measure sunlight in hours and not days we knew our days of pool parties and beach vacations were behind us.  But as is life in the military, a new location affords a new set of travel opportunities.  One of our first long trips as a family while living in Belgium was to the southern coast of France to a tiny little town called Hyeres.  Our apartment overlooked the marina and despite the chilly, end of February, weather we bundled up and made the best of the nice days.


The town was almost entirely boarded up for winter but that also meant we had free reign of the boardwalk, the scarce open restaurants and plenty of time to watch the ships come and go from the apartment balcony.

We took full advantage of our location and took a day trip over to St. Tropez, because who can visit southern France and never see St. Tropez?  The off-season didn’t stop the tourists or yacht owners from enjoying the unseasonal warmth and we wandered the overpriced boutiques, scenic jetty and stopped at every street musician we saw.  Tripp has always been enthralled with street musicians and this one was no exception.  Paul, the older, mysterious guitar player loved the attention so much that he gifted Tripp a purple guitar pick that Tripp still has to this day, 4 years later.

This time Loli was the one in my belly and Huddy was much more excited about the beach.

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We found a quiet piece of beach, off the beaten path, half by accident and half by luck.  Tripp and Huddy wandered around with their pants cuffed and enjoyed the sun on their faces.  They quickly found some bamboo stakes and fashioned them into swords as boys so often do.  Watching the boys explore in the sand and get lost in their imaginary worlds was the highlight of that day.


Belgian beaches are actually a hidden gem.  They have adorable quaint beach towns on the western coast and the weather, when it’s behaving, can be quite glorious.  Another advantage is that because Belgium is such a small country, day trips to the coast are easy and convenient.  We took a few day trips during our 4 years of living in Belgium.  Knokke-Heist, Koksijde, Oostende.  These were days filled with beer store stops along the way, crusty baguette lunches, ice cream before the long car ride home, boardwalk playgrounds, seashell searching and a jumble of Dutch and French being spoken around us.  This was Lorelai’s first foray into beach life and she was hooked.  She wasn’t  discouraged by a chilly breeze and would waddle her way down to the shoreline, proceeding to drench her diaper and onesie.  Her fair skin made us pack it up after a few short hours but the kids had a blast digging and running.



Normandy, France

Knee deep in chemo treatments, bald and puffy, I knew I needed something on my horizon to look forward to.  Two friends and I started planning a week long trip to Normandy, France, about 6 hours southwest from where we lived.  We rented an old farm house, quaint, rustic with perfect space for the kids to play outside and in.  We visited WWII destinations by day and ate like kings at night after the kids went to bed.  No internet for a week was a balm to our souls and we rehashed hysterical, memorable life stories over bottles of red wine in our jammies.  On our last full day we visited the American Cemetery and wandered around the immensity and heaviness of the place where so many of our veterans lost their lives.  On our way out of town we stopped at Omaha Beach.  It was brisk that day, and the water was freezing.  But children don’t feel the cold like adults do and the brisk air didn’t deter our kids from playing with nothing but a discarded ziploc bag in the water for hours.  A few French children, in their winter coats, hats and gloves, sat on the sand as they watched ours intently, wading through the water, barefoot.  None of us had the heart to scold our kids for catching a cold or getting their last pair of pants wet.  The joy they had that day, exploring the French seaside on a beach their forefathers helped to reclaim was the perfect ending to our week of bonding and spending time together.



New Jersey

Now, after 8 years of living overseas our lives look much different.  No longer are our vacations peppered with foreign languages, unknown menu items and exotic excursions.  We were ready to pack it up and head back to the US.  We missed our families, drive through Starbucks, wall-to-wall carpet and closets.  But our desire for adventure still sits, deep-rooted, in our bellies.

When the military calls, you answer and sometimes you have only a few places to choose from.  Texas, California and southern New Jersey were are only options this round and it was a hard pick.  Neither of us had ever lived in Cali or Texas but we knew New Jersey was the right choice.  The proximity to my side of the family was a no-brainer and we were hearing decent things about New Jersey and the base here.  Despite living out of suitcases and military foot lockers for 3 months before finding our current home we fell in love with southern Jersey.  We settled in Medford, a quiet lake town with a beach-town-pricey supermarket, mom-and-pop restaurants, a family-run hardware store and friendly people everywhere.  The lakes drew us in and the summer felt too short.  Early dinners made way for bike rides to the lake.  Fishing poles were purchased, sand toys were lugged, tadpoles were caught.  We lived at the lakes our first summer here and Tripp asks everyday how many “sleeps” until the lake opens again.  We drive by “Beach 1” everyday and have no doubt that this coming summer will be just as magical as our first.  I feel so blessed that my children are making so many memories in this great town and that they are still getting to put their toes in the sand.



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I Had Cancer…

It feels weird to say those words.  I had cancer.  Not I have cancer.  It’s over, my 9 months of hell is over and it feels surreal.  It’s a bit anti-climactic actually.  They amputate your breasts, you struggle through 6 harrowing rounds of chemo, radiate yourself 25 times and commit to never forget to taking your daily dose of Tamoxifen and now it’s over.  No pat on the back, no cap and gown, no paper with the words, “ALL CLEAR,” on them.  But my friend, Francey, did make me a certificate.


I go back in 3 months.  A year to the day that I got my initial diagnosis.  It’s amazing to me what can happen in a year.  You can meet, fall in love with and marry someone.  You can get pregnant and have your baby in a year.  You can move and settle into a new town, country or continent in a year.  Or you can find a tumor, be diagnosed with cancer and healed in year.  And then life just chugs right along.  Like this huge hiccup in the road never even happened.

But it did and I celebrated on Tuesday.  With my sweet sweet friend Francey, who surprised me at lunch with a bottle of pink champagne.  May 6th will go down in infamy.


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Some Truths About Cancer

I’ve learned a few things about cancer over the past 6 months. Some much needed lessons and most hard to accept.

1. God gave me this cancer for a reason. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe that. Am I mad? Yes! Heck yes, but mostly not at God. I know that He has a much bigger picture than my infant eyes can see. He will use this ugly disease for His own good and that may not always benefit me but it is my job to try to see what good He has in store from this ugly thing. Many days I am angry. Down right, kick-a-tree, scream-till-I’m-blue-in-the-face, swearing-like-a-truck-driver angry. But I’m mad at medicine, mad at all the Doctors who have so far to go.  Mad at the food industry, the pesticide industry, the plastic industry, Monsanto, bovine hormones, big pharma. All the obscure people I can’t look in the eye and tell them what I really feel. I’m a coward.

2. There is a B.C. (Before cancer) and A.D. (After Diagnosis). And you can, in great detail, remember the day that separates the two. It was a quiet morning at home and I had just put Loli down for a nap. The boys and I were eating a picnic lunch out back in the shadow of the trampoline and I was thinking, “I may have breast cancer.” We knew after hearing preliminary reports from the mammogram a week earlier that this was a high probability. I felt anxious, as you can imagine and wondered what course of life I was about to embark upon. Up to that point I had become complacent, numb to life. I didn’t value the things that I always admired people for valuing. I didn’t seek God like I needed to. I didn’t pay attention to the life that was clearly in front of me. Cancer puts those things into focus. Sometimes I think God gave me cancer so that I’d have that defining moment. That feeling like, “well God, I kind of always knew you were in charge and I like to know you’ve got this all taken care of but I really just NEED you right now. I NEED you to tell me you got this. That whatever you are doing here has a purpose, a message. Make me your canvas. Paint a picture with this mess that others will see through me somehow. Reignite the desire I once had for you.”

3. People care about you. They come alongside you, they cry with you, they hug you, then cry and then hug you some more. And then you cry and hug them again. They wonder, “What if that were me?” They don’t say it out loud, but you know they’re thinking it. And it’s ok because I’ve been in those shoes with my good friend Sara a few years back. People cook for you, they fill your freezer with breakfast burritos, soups, and casseroles. And when they come to deliver your meals they are left speechless when you stumble downstairs in your dirty PJed baldness, incoherent, nauseous, and in pain.  And maybe they go back to their cars and cry. And it’s ok. Cancer is raw, it takes people by surprise and it causes them to weep and pray. Your friends pray, their friends pray, your parents pray, your parent’s neighbors pray, your cleaning lady prays, your neighbors pray, your pastor’s wives pray and all that praying is GOOD. It can be felt, even when the tough days catch you by surprise and especially when the good ones do.

BC Walk Friends

4. You lose a lot of dignity and pride. I have, for years now, been asking God to make me humble. Some days I mean it and others I just say it because it sounds all righteous and holy. But some days He actually humors me. Like when you have to walk naked from the waist up across an x-ray room as 10 young med students stare at you, bald and without breasts, you tend to lose your dignity a little bit. Your feelings of modesty are replaced with feelings of being more of a science project and quite honestly, there are few times I’ve felt smaller and more uncomfortable.

5. Your husband amazes you. Even though he was always helpful, your husband, who is now left to pick up the slack when you are left dry heaving in bed brings you buttered, toasted Wonder Bread (Wonder Bread, for cryin’ out loud. Didn’t I say I hated Monsanto?). He makes lunches for the boys, even though he comes upstairs and ever so gently whispers in your ear, “Where are the lunchboxes?” He does the laundry, reads the books, wipes the butts, kisses the boo-boos, attempts to try to match the teensy baby girl clothes and don’t get me started on the pigtails. Ohmycuteness. But he does all of this because, upstairs lays his young wife, quietly crying. A little bit from the pain and a little bit from the joy that she feels from having a husband who willingly and sacrificially handles all of these life moments without complaint. Maybe my 9-day girl’s trip to China last May was half my Brigadoon and half his practice for what lay ahead.

Chemo Partners

6. I am not good at being told what to do. How can I teach my children to submit to authority when I buck and resent it myself? I do not like Doctors acting like they know more than me. I get it, they do, but I don’t like it.  “Single mastectomy,” they say.  “Take them both,” I say. “6 rounds of ridiculously difficult chemo,” they say. “I had one round, I’m good now. Take your chemo and shove it,” I say. And after numerous rebellious consultations with my medical oncologists, surgical oncologists and family physician I agreed to finish and now I’m DONE!. Woohoo. “10 years of Tamoxifen therapy and injections of Zoladex every 3 months,” they say.  And I say, “we’ll see.” I’m a rebel.

7. You’re stronger than you think.  A wise cancer-survior friend told me this when I sent her this mesaage, “I cannot handle this. I am an emotional and physical wreck. How long does this nausea and dizziness last? Going on day 4 and no better. What can I do to make this easier on myself? It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel this early on.”

8. People love your kids like you can’t some days.  The pick-ups, the drop-offs, the chemo days, the food, the playdates.  It never ends and having cancer is exhausting, forget coupling it with three young children.  People have been selflessly caring for and supporting my kids which makes such a huge impact on how I can handle healing.  It broke my heart to put my boys in the local Belgian preschool down the road after I had just finished planning our first official year of homeschool (and spent plenty of money on all the curricula I “had to have.”)  They love it, their teachers are lovely and they are learning French, whether they realize it or not.  It’s also incredibly hard to shove your three small kiddos off on other people when they aren’t even old enough to understand what is going on.  I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the blessings that surround me.  My amazingly sweet, neighbor, Gena, has become like an aunt to Loli, taking care of her for most of my appointments and Lorelai has become quite attached to her “G.”  When she’s traveling my wonderful friend, Piper, mother to three young adult boys is happy to get some little girl time.  My other neighbors run over at the drop of a hat to help get kiddos off to school, babysit in a pinch, prepare a meal and just check in on me.  The love is overwhelming.  My closest friend, Lara, up the road, is an angel in every sense of the word.  Like a second mother to my kids, she picks up from school, drops off or just stops by at the ding of a text message.  Always ready with a prayer, a hug and an encouraging word.  She has been such an amazing support to me and my family since she moved here.  Most recently my friend Kelly and her daughter Steph, set up an online sign-up for radiation buddies.  Within 2 days my friends filled almost 25 spots in which they drive with me to Leuven (my hospital, over an hour away) and we grab lunch and then head to the hospital for my radiation appt.  It makes the days so much more meaningful and enjoyable to have some fun included.  There are so many angels among us in this community, I cannot imagine going through an ordeal like this anywhere else.  I am constantly amazed at the hearts here and will miss the community here when we move next year.

9. Your parents become stronger than they’ve ever had to be.  When your 33 year old daughter is diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer and lives 2000 miles away, across an ocean, there is really only one thing to do.  Get on a plane.  And my parents have done that numerous times now.  Luckily for me they retired last year and are willing and able to drop everything to come stay with us to help.  My mother, a band member by day, dishwasher and bandage nurse by night, never tires in helping.

Rock Band Mimi

Mom and Me

Mom and Me 2

My dad somehow never gets tired of playing Little People zoo, reading the same book over and over and over and over and always gets up early to help feed the kids breakfast.  Everyone has a special place in their heart for Papi and despite the circumstances I am so glad we have had this extra time with my parents.  My parents have always been my biggest fans and supporters, despite my many adventures and difficult stages.  I grew up and went to college in my hometown of State College, PA and I loved being able to see my parents on the weekends when I went home to eat dinner and do laundry.  I would stop by my mom’s office on campus to say hello and eat lunch and tell her all about my college life.  She sat for hours with me as a teenager and college student and was legitimately interested in my petty teenage drama (or she is an amazing actress;).  She is the person I call when I need to cry and Joe’s shoulder is temporarily utilized by one of our kids.  She listens to me, comforts me and I know she knows exactly what I’m struggling with.  My mother battled breast cancer 8 years ago with grace and strength and now she has to go through it again, through her daughter’s eyes.  Being a military spouse means we are far away from my folks and have been for a while.  And when Joe’s military career comes to an end and he retires from service we all can’t wait to live closer to each other and see each other more often.

Life throws curveballs and cancer is a doozy.  But there are life lessons to be learned throughout the toughest circumstances.

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Living on the edge…

Breast cancer patients suffer symptoms of post traumatic stress.  We try our best to focus on our blessings, our God, our families, our support networks but we have a constant internal struggle against this life-altering disease.  

I call it living on the edge.  Not in the sense of the word where you may drop everything and jump on a motorcycle and leave it all behind, although some days that sounds completely rational.  It’s a feeling like you live on this constant edge of emotion.  That something insignificant like yogurt spilled on the table will set you into an emotional downward spiral.  That if someone were to tell you their dog died 10 years earlier you would weep like you never have before.  I liken it to Humpty Dumpty.  One small nudge and the cracks appear out of nowhere and down you fall.

I have 2 beautifully strong and brave friends who both lost children this past year.  One lost her 2 day old son and one lost her 21 year old daughter and we oftentimes talk about this edge.  It’s a precipice many of our friends don’t want to cross.  They don’t want to upset us so they pretend they don’t see us in the supermarket.  Or they don’t bring up something that may upset us as tears form at the corners of our eyes at the mention of something deep or heavy.  I have never lost a child and I don’t think cancer compares to the grief and trauma of losing a precious child but I know what it’s like to live on that edge. These friends mean no harm and are themselves grieving for us but it’s a chasm we do not see but feel tremendously.

Some days I wake up crying, stifling the sound so my poor husband doesn’t hear and think he did something to upset me.  Some nights I go to sleep, a wet pillowcase and a pile of smashed tissues on the floor below my bed.  There are so many things to feel grateful for, to feel blessed by and so thankful for but some days there is just so much.  So much.  The weight of cancer is heavy.  And some days you feel like you’re lugging behind you this heavy burden of worry.  You hope, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your doctors know what they’re doing.  That you’ll be in the 50% of the women with Stage 3 cancer that make it.  That the surgery, chemo and radiation, that has racked and ravaged your body, will have annihilated all the diseased cancer cells in your system.  You hope that there will be a normal life on the other side and that cancer will somehow profoundly change you for the good.  But you can’t escape the feeling that you are no different than the 50% of women who don’t make it 5 years.  That your husband and children will know a time without you.  That you will not have made a big enough difference in their lives.  That life will go on without you.  Those are heavy burdens to carry and it makes living on the edge very scary.

I wish I could say there was an easy solution.  That counting your blessings would make it all rosy again.  And some days it does.  But some days the smile is painted on.  Some days the tears are so close to the surface that a simple,”hey how’s it going?” will send us into a tidal wave of tears.  It’s ok.  Don’t avoid us, don’t change the subject, don’t run the other way.  Just rub our arm and say, “I’m sure it’s hard.”  Because it is.  And just know we’re learning to live on the edge.


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Chemo – Week 1

Disclaimer: Stop reading this post if you are looking for rainbows and bunny rabbits.  This post is real and raw and full of unfiltered thoughts that I need to put into words.  So that I remember, so that others can understand how unbelievably hard this trek is and so that maybe, somewhere, someone who is starting this path can have some hope that this too shall pass.  I hope that someone is me, someday.  Come back later for a more positive post.  Today is for feeling real.

Chemo – Week 1 is over.  Thank the high heavens that I survived it.  I do not say this lightly.  Maybe it’s because I have led one heckuva charmed life that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but this past week was pure hell.  

On Monday, I sat in my pleather recliner, between a tough, forty-something woman whose breast cancer has metastasized into her lungs and an older man whose dolled up wife poured him small portions of lemon lime soda into a glass tumbler from the hospital cafeteria all day.  Who are these people and why am I one of them now?  Glenn, the male nurse who insisted I call him Glenn, and not Sir, was sweet and efficient but no amount of hospital visits prepares me for all the pricks and pokes.  It’s as though the needle punctures my emotions.  Every single time.  The tears well up, the embarrassment begins and I sit there, wiping my tears on the edge of my shirt sleeve as my poor husband looks at me helpless, across the room.  The administration of the chemo drugs was not horrible, just a whole lot of sitting and watching the bags empty into my port-a-cath which sits, just below my clavicle on the right side.  A quarter-size foreign object just annoying enough to be a constant reminder that I am now a lab experiment.  Everyone keeps telling me I’ll be so happy I have the port.  That it makes all these drugs so much easier to administer.  That my soon-to-be-shot veins won’t be overextended from all the blood draws to check my blood cell counts and to administer IV fluids if I find myself sick or dehydrated.  I’m not happy about it.  I’m not happy about any of it.  The day went as smooth as could be expected and I only started feeling fatigued as we got home close to seven at night.  I went to bed early and hoped to wake the next day feeling crummy but able to handle this next phase.

Tuesday came and I barely crawled out of bed.  I felt unconscious most of the day.  Joe had to take the day off and take care of the kids because even a trip to the bathroom was painfully exhausting.  I must have slept for 18-20 hours that next day and I felt like I had been hit by a train.  The worst possible motion sickness I had ever felt.  It was like morning sickness on a turbulent cruise times ten.  I don’t even remember much of the day because I was so out of it.  I was probably a sickly shade of green and my mouth tasted of metal.  Just swallowing the plethora of anti-nausea meds made me nauseous.  Water made me nauseous.  Air made me nauseous.  

Wednesday was when I hit rock bottom.  I was dehydrated from all the nauseating water I was trying to drink.  Walking downstairs for a piece of Wonder Bread toast was utterly exhausting and I was so emotionally wrecked from feeling so sick.  Anyone who called me on Wednesday would not have recognized my blubbering, sobbing voice on the other end.  I had no end in sight, I had no hope that this debilitating nausea would end.  Logically I knew it had to, but emotionally it felt like more than I could handle.  So I slept some more.  I couldn’t read, I couldn’t watch TV, even talking on the phone took too much mental stamina.  Texting required an hour long nap afterwards.  

Thursday I managed a shower.  Five minutes of standing upright and then another three hour nap.  No human can possibly sleep this long I thought.  It was all I could do.  I’m not a sleeper.  Anyone who knows me knows I can find things to do that don’t even need done.  All I could do was sleep.  And eat toast.  Then sleep because eating toast was crazy tiring.  Sorry if I’m being redundant.  That’s how ridiculously and illogically tired I was.  Thursday night we had a kids’ Halloween party at the neighbors.  I managed to apply eyeliner, mascara and foobies and go for an hour.  But after we trick or treated at 6 houses I was done for the night and in bed at 8 PM.  

Friday and Saturday I managed to spend more time awake then asleep.  I made pancakes, I played with the kids, I even had enough energy to yell at the kids once or twice.  I called that success.  I was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  I still needed a three hour nap during the afternoons but I was making progress.

Now, Sunday night, I see that I am coming out of this crazy chemo fog.  I didn’t need a nap today.  I ate three square meals and I feel more human.  I am trying not to count down the days until my next round.  November 18th.  Just saying the word chemo makes me feel sick.  I saw the blue sweater I wore to the hospital last week in the laundry pile and I wanted to gag. The mind’s association is a powerful thing and I find that I have triggers that already heighten my gag reflex.  In some ways this week was harder for me emotionally than my double mastectomy.  The brevity of the past few months weighs on me at night, in the quiet moments after the lights are out before sleep comes.  I have cancer.  I have cancer.  I have to repeat it because I just don’t believe it sometimes.  I am 34 years old and I have Stage 3 cancer.  How did I get here?  I loved my blissfully ignorant, blessed life before this awful diagnosis.  Now I have chemo, and needles, bandages, bloodwork, and endless Dr. appts.  I have no breasts.  No breasts.  And soon I’ll have no hair.  And no matter how many times people say, “they’re just breasts, beauty is on the inside.” It doesn’t make it easier.  No matter how many times I think, “it’s just hair, it’ll grow back.”  It doesn’t make it easier.  

I feel like my life has taken a tailspin and I’m in this horrendous cancer hurricane.  Pink ribbons, survivor logos, Facebook groups, chemo forums…  Some days I don’t want to talk about cancer.  I don’t want to cry every day.  I don’t want to feel sorry for myself.  I just want to feel normal.  Without foobies, headscarves and Zofran.  I just want my old life back.  

And maybe someday I will.  At the end of this ridiculously horrible year I’ll be able to look back and say I kicked cancer’s ass.  And all of this will be one bad memory.  A girl can dream right?


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We had a rough morning.

It started out great, I was up a full hour before the kiddos, an event that doesn’t happen very often around here lately. Showered, clothed and coffee in hand I was able to fit in my devotional and catch up on jotting down some of my 1000 Things.

But somewhere between coffee and pre-school drop-off we went awry.  Three breakfasts were made for two very unappreciative young boys.  Three.  Each.  Yogurt?  No.  Oatmeal?  No.  Waffles?  Toast?  OK.  

How do you teach young people that they have so much?  

“My oatmeal is too sweet,” says the 4-year-old who just shook a bazillion colored sprinkles onto an already sweetened bowl of slow-cooked, organic steel cut oats.  Sprinkles on oatmeal is a trend I begrudgingly started when I started forcing my children to eat homemade oatmeal and took away the crap they sell in packets.  You pick your battles I guess.

“I wanted jelly on my toast,” whined the 3-year-old who had 2 bites left of his $4-a-loaf Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel bread, smeared in grass-fed butter and sprinkled with organic sugar and cinnamon.  Now ya tell me?  

All the while, Loli is smacking spoonfuls of homemade apple plum sauce, gifted to us by a neighbor, onto her plastic-covered bib.

It’s like Goldilocks over here.  Gee whiz, can’t we all just appreciate what we have?  

So this morning ended up with us, sitting around the table, watching YouTube videos of starving children in Africa.  They don’t get it.  How can they, these sweet, little, chubby toddlers, with too many clothes, too many shoes, too many blankets, too many choices?  How can I teach them they are so ridiculously blessed?

So after the depressing mini-movie marathon, the 3-year-old proceeds to kick his baby sister because I took the Halloween-size pack of Raisinets out of his lunch box.  A penance for not finishing his 2 minuscule bites of toast.  The yelling, time out and pouting that ensued were epic.  

Now with only five minutes to get shoes, jackets, backpacks, lunch boxes, blankies and head to school, we were all worn a bit thin.  

Tears at drop-off for the little guy.  Tears at home for Mama for feeling defeated and a failure at this thing that should be easy.  Why is it a struggle to feed, clothe and prep three small children for school?  And as I pick myself up off the floor (I was down there picking up the bazillion Tupperware lids Loli had slid under the kitchen cabinets) I heard God whisper, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  

Lord, teach me to teach my kids to be in awe of all that You have given us as you remind me of that fact as well.  Help me show my kids that life is more than which shirt fits perfectly, which TV show they want to watch and who gets candy after supper.  All the while teach me that the children, albeit spoiled, that sit before me are my gifts and I should be appreciative of all that I have.

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Yesterday was my birthday.  Birthdays aren’t all they’re cracked up to be sometimes.  One year I lost my birthday altogether as we traveled back to Korea from Hawaii.  With the flights and the time changes we lost almost an entire day.  I cried.  On the plane from Honolulu back to Seoul.  How spoiled rotten am I?  

But yesterday was a doozy.  Everyone woke up in a foul mood, at the crack of dawn no less.  Because on the weekdays you have to drag their cranky butts out of bed at 7:30 and on the weekends they come pouncing at you, full throttle, at 7:15. WHY-UH!

We had great plans, to travel into Brussels to cheer on my friends running the Brussels Color Run and then eat dinner somewhere yummy.  By the time we got our butts in gear and realized the logistics of traveling with three small kiddos on the train with only one parent able to lift them all it was too late.  Joe told me to find some friends and make it a girls day but that too sounded like more energy then I could have mustered yesterday.

So instead I opted to sulk.  The weight of the past 2 months gets to me when I’m least expecting it.  The appointments, the bandages, the drains, the lack of sleep, even the foobies are all too much to handle some days.  And the devil likes to pick fun, gorgeous, perfectly crisp autumn birthdays to use as his stomping ground.  Lucky for me.

But like any birthday I know another one is around the corner.  And while I haven’t wished a year to fly by like my 15th (that was a hard year for me) I hope I turn 35 in the blink of an eye.  I hope this neverending, noisy with doctors, chemo-ridden, bandaged year is gone in a flash.  And I am making plans for 35 like nobody’s business!  

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