Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Party Fit for a Princess

I know, I know...my daughter is not actually a princess. But she's my princess.
 
When I was planning her 1st birthday party, I justified it by telling my husband "Don't worry, she won't have another party until she's like, five." I wasn't intentionally lying to him, because I actually believed it myself. 

I enjoyed planning her first birthday so much that when I started to think about her only having a few big parties left (age 5, 10, 13...16, 18) it made me really sad! Okay, I'll do a puppy party, but just a small one I thought. Again, I was lying and again, I believed myself.

Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered that there are party planners for children's birthdays. When I saw Lesly Marquez's amazing work with Glam Spot Events, there was no turning back. But how were we going to afford it? After all, we're both on a teacher's salary. 


I saved my allowance every month since November to cover the cost of the planner. Edit: My husband would prefer that I call it my "mad money" so that he seems like less of a male chauvinist and more like a man about the 21st century. My husband parceling out money may seem antiquated to some, especially since we make the same...but trust me, it's for the best. He does all of the finances in our household because if it were up to me, I would spend our money on...well, things like this! Now, this doesn't mean that I wasn't able to sneak in an amazon order here and there, but it did mean no pedicures or new clothing for me. I know, I know quite the sacrifice. If the hash-tag 'first world problems' had not already been invented, this would be a great time to do it.

Because I told my husband I was "taking care of the planner" which included the tent and draping, centerpieces, dessert bar, some dog props, tables, chair and linens, he somehow thought that meant he was off the hook for costs the day of. "Oh, no - I have the planner covered, but you need to get the taco cart, balloons, and the puppies." He raised an eyebrow but mostly remained silent and if I could read his thoughts, they would have been This better be worth it...


But it was worth every penny. And at the end of the evening, when all our guests had left, our conversation went like this: 
Hubby: Everything was perfect. It reminded me of the Christmas parties my Mom used to throw. You know, I was thinking. If you're going with a Beauty and the Beast theme for her 3rd, we should project a movie outside for the kids who want to stay later. And if we're going to have a movie, we're going to need fresh popcorn...
Me: You're speaking my language. There's a vendor for that, and they can also spin cotton candy...or, we could have hot dogs!
Hubby: Book the planner, so we have the date set.

Vendor credits:
Styling by Glam Spot Events
Dessert by Sweets by Gigi
Puppies by http://pupsandreps.com/puppy-parties/
Photography by Ellie Marie
Food by My Taco Guy
Balloons by www.balloonsville.com 



How to Stop Being an Angry Mom?

Recently on Pinterest, this article on stopping anger toward your children by wearing hair ties came up in my 'picked for you' pins I might like.

Who on earth is angry toward their children, and why would Pinterest think I'm interested in that?! I was insulted. I mean, frustrated or tired sometimes sure - but actual anger? Anger that I would feel the need to curb by reading an article about using hair ties as a visual reminder to not berate my little girl...what the heck? You mean people actually feel this way toward their children? I was intrigued. 



With a little digging, I learned that the article came up as suggested because someone I know had pinned it. An overall, generally angry and unhappy person who happens to also be very rigid and controlling. Someone who doesn't smile as much as they used to. So that made sense, but still, it had 33 thousand shares!

I'm not sure if I was drawn to psychology because I am fascinated by the whys behind human behavior, or if studying psychology brought the interest out in me. I guess it's probably a combination of both, but this article got me thinking. How and why am I not an "angry Mom" and why are there people who are? What is the difference between us? Beyond just trying to curb or not express anger toward Baby A, I have never actually felt it - not ever, not once. Not when she took every bottle out of the spice drawer, dug in my plants and put dirt on her baby's face or ...? I cannot even think of another scenario that could even sound like something anyone would become angry with. I actually cannot imagine feeling that way toward her.

This is not to say that I will not at some point. But for me, there has to be intent behind something for it to upset me. And babies and toddlers exploring their world is to be expected, though messy it may be. But if she's in junior high and tells me she's going somewhere and intentionally goes somewhere else, well then you may find me with some hair ties around my wrists. I'll get back to you on that one.

Does the fact that I have not yet been angry toward her make me better than the 33 thousand moms who pinned this article? No, it just makes me different. And it lead me to examine the why behind that difference.

While I would like to think that I'm not ever angry toward my little girl because I regularly exercise (haven't in well over a month), eat well (more fast food than I care to admit lately), meditate (I did that once in my 20's) or love where I live (my dream is to move out of California), none of these things are factors. It isn't anything I'm trying to do or trying not to do, it just is.

But what is it that causes someone to routinely get mad at their child? The article is not about how to curb anger because they dumped nail polish on your new rug...but rather, routinely being angry over many different things. I would only be guessing at what causes that, but do recognize that there can be valid reasons such as postpartum depression or displacement of anger (ie actually mad at someone else that they cannot express it toward, like their husband or boss). All I can speak to, and reflect on, is why I am not. 

I do know that the fix cannot be something as simple as wearing hair ties on one arm and then moving them over to your other arm when you have violated your no-anger policy and lashed out at your child, as the article promises. 

How we treat our children is much more fundamental. It is much more ingrained in who we are, the life we lead, our perspective on children and, most importantly, how we ourselves were mothered. It is a beautiful mixture between nature and nurture that is so intertwined that the two cannot be separated.

Recognizing and shifting our perspective can be the key to doing things differently, if we want to. You cannot change something that you do not identify as needing to be changed. 

The life we lead. If we are generally happy and grateful for what we have, we are less angry. This doesn't mean that we need to have a lot to be grateful or have a fabulous, stress-free career, if such a thing even exists. It just means that we need to be thankful for what we have, and where we are. I have known people who have so much, yet it is not enough. Or, people who are very poor, but rich in spirit and in love. This was my Mom. For me, happiness also comes from being an authentic person. I show my true feelings and thoughts, and wear my heart on my sleeve. You know where you stand with me, and I'm not ever hiding anything. To me, its more work to hide how I feel anyway.

Our perspective on children. I remember my parents saying, on multiple occasions, that it is sad how people talk to their children in a way they wouldn't speak to their neighbors. I still remember their example too. "If you wanted your neighbor to help take out your trash, you wouldn't yell at them and tell them to do it. You would ask nicely." Children are to be valued and respected. Being treated with respect shouldn't start when the arbitrary age of 18 is reached and you can vote. They may be tiny humans, but they're human. Also, enduring all of the infertility treatments that we have had serves as a constant reminder to me what a miracle our Baby A is. And how lucky we are that she chose us, and we are her parents.

How we were mothered. My Mom was the most patient, sweet, selfless and loving person I have ever known. Even during my teen years, my mom and I remained unwaveringly close. She loved unconditionally, and never held a grudge or seemed mad at me. If she didn't agree with something, I knew it, but she moved on and was never cold or distant. She fully entered my world and knew my friends, interests and music. She was my Mom first, but also my best friend. To this day, when something amazing or heartbreaking happens, she is the first one that I want to share it with.

I didn't know what type of Mom I would be until I became one. I am relieved and a bit surprised as I sit here reflecting on these past two years that I am more like her than I ever hoped I could be. It wasn't until I saw this article that I even thought about it. Were this not the case, I would be pinning stuff like this too. Women who are raised one way and actively work to change it are to be applauded. Without realizing it, I am just doing what comes naturally to me. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

GIANT Bubble Recipe

My daughter absolutely loves bubbles! But because she is almost 2, she is no longer satisfied with me blowing bubbles for her to chase. She wants to blow the bubbles herself, which usually results in two things; no bubbles, and then bubble solution spilled or dumped in the back yard. The wands are small and hard for her tiny hands to handle. 

Plus, because we had been using 'cheap' bubbles given to us or purchased at the dollar store, it was hard for me to even produce bubbles, and they certainly weren't anything to write home about.

There had to be a better way.

I found the best recipe, which we tried after school last week. While we were able to produce a few huge bubbles, they certainly didn't remain in the air very long or float into other yards, like the original posting described. I was disappointed and re-read the recipe, trying to figure out what I did wrong.




Stir the remaining ingredients, being very careful not to create a lot of froth. Whoops! That was my mistake, because I actually shook the mixture! I made it again today, stirring instead, and it worked like a charm!

It made the biggest difference. Not only did she have a blast making gigantic bubbles herself, but she loved mixing up the solution and being involved in the whole process. She also likes the feel of it and exclaiming "bubbles!" Be sure to create own wand with two straws and some yarn. I poured the mixture into a metal baking pan that I usually use for enchiladas and it was the perfect size, with at least half of the solution left-over to use the next day or re-fill her bubble containers.

For the original posting and more details, head over to Happy Hooligans.


INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 cups water (distilled is best but tap water is fine)
  • 1/2 cup blue Dawn dish detergent I used “ultra concentrated”. Dawn original is even better.
  • 1/2 cup corn starch (corn flour in the UK)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder (not baking soda)
  • 1 tbsp Glycerine (or if ya got it, personal lubricant)

MAKING YOUR HOMEMADE GIANT BUBBLE RECIPE:

  1. Dissolve cornstarch in the water, stirring really well.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients being very careful not to create a lot of froth. 
  3. Allow your mixture to sit for at least an hour, stirring occasionally when you see the cornstarch settling to the bottom.
Some of the cornstarch won’t dissolve completely, and may even settle to the bottom when you’re using your bubble mixture, but it won’t affect the quality of your bubbles.

THE MORE BUBBLES YOU MAKE, THE BETTER THE MIXTURE GETS! 

FYI: The first several bubbles popped immediately, and I was feeling deflated (no pun intended). We soon discovered however, that more we played with the bubble formula, the silkier it became.
Before we knew it, we were making huge bubbles.  When they broke free of our wand, they jiggled and wobbled through the air, gaining altitude until they floated up over the housetops and out of sight.
It was crazy-cool!

Monday, May 8, 2017

IVF #4

I am gearing up for our 4th and final IVF. All IVF cycles have been fresh transfers. We have never had any embryos left over to freeze, although I really wish we did! The cost of a frozen transfer is less than $1,000, while a new complete round runs about $15,000 (with medication). 

Our last IVF was supposed to be our last, but when we found out her little heart had stopped beating, all I could think about was trying again. If I had been able to transfer an embryo the very next day, I would have. While another round is a huge set-back financially, we do not want to wish that we had five years from now.

We were hoping to do this in May, but the proposed embryo transfer (if we are blessed enough to even have any to transfer) would have been the day before her 2nd birthday party, and I am supposed to be on bed-rest. So, we pushed it back one month, and here it is! Today I started birth control pills, and I will start my first stimulation medication in less than a month! I'm really excited and fortunate to have another opportunity to try.

Here is my timeline and protocol:

CETROTIDE STIMULATION INSTRUCTIONS
Megan Swanek
IVF/ICSI/AH
Please contact me to schedule the financial consult with Vanessa.  
The payment for IVF is due by 5/31/17.


  • Start birth control pills on day 3 of May period. Take one pill daily at the same time. Do not take Placeboes. Start new pack if needed. Email me on day 1.
  • Last day of Birth control: 5/31/17.


  • Office visit for Ultrasound and lab 5/31/17. Please bring in the signed consent.
Please review medication teaching online before your appointment at www.freedommedteach.com
  • Please stay on Vitamins
  • Take 1 baby aspirin daily starting 6/6


  • Start stimulation Medications.  _6/5/17     Inject the following stimulation drug(s) daily


PM Drug Gonal-F          375 IU x 10 days
PM Drug Menopur 75IU x 10 days


  • Office Visit for Ultrasound and lab on 6/9/17.


  • Please start Cetrotide in the morning of  6/11/17 (4 days only).


  • Office Visit for Ultrasound and lab on 6/12/17.


  • Office Visit for Ultrasound and lab on 6/14/17.


    • Take Ovidrel injection and start Doxycycline as directed.


  • Anticipated Egg Retrieval on: __6/16/17.   We need your partner’s sample on this day. You will start Crinone, Estrace and Medrol day after the procedure.


  • Anticipated Embryo transfer on Day 5: 6/21/2017.


  • Bed rest for 3 days after Transfer


  • Pregnancy blood test is on    7/3/17

Sunday, May 7, 2017

#SuperSimone

This is a special kind of heartache, known only to Moms who struggle with infertility. The longing for a child, and the fear that one will never be conceived. The continual disappointment each month when the test only has one line. 

But then, there is an entirely different kind of heartache know only to Moms who lose a child to cancer. A different type of heartache that I cannot even begin to imagine. Meet Simone: 


Image may contain: 1 person, smiling
#SuperSimone
Simone was born in 2013 and left this earth for heaven in 2015, a few months after her second birthday. She was just a few months older than my daughter is now. In her eyes I see the same light that my daughter has; when she smiles, her whole face lights up.

I never met Simone, but I did have the privilege of meeting her Mom this week, and now I know who Simone got her strength from.

Jennifer (name changed) and I met on facebook in March, thorough an IVF abroad group. We were corresponding about the same clinic in Prague that I tried to go to this summer. She recently had an embryo transfer, and received a BFN (big, fat negative). I noticed her profile picture had a little girl with no hair, and was obviously battling cancer. But as I continued to look at her profile photos, I saw this:


Tears immediately began flowing and I messaged her, asking if she lost her daughter. Yes, she was diagnosed with leukemia at 11 months and we lost her at 26 months. I'm shattered without her. This was her first message to me. What do you say? What can you say? I mustered what I could.

Me: I cannot imagine. I just cannot. When did you lose her? What can I do to help you or honor her?
J: Finally got the courage to try IVF because I do want another. Struggled feeling like I'd be replacing her and finally got okay with it after praying and believed she would send me a message that I should go on and have a baby and nothing but a big failure...

She had done IVF at a clinic in Prague very recently and had just received a BFN (big, fat, negative). She questioned doing IVF again, and wondered how much more heartache she could take. Her first two daughters were conceived naturally. Now she was searching for IVF, in case her or her husband's genes contributed to her daughter's leukemia. She seemed to feel better when I explained that for my first IVF we transferred 3 embryos and none of them took. And for my second, two. 

Just because one embryo didn't implant, didn't mean that the next would fail. I urged her to try again. I suggested trying my doctor, but never imagined that she would actually consider making the 2,000 mile trek out here. 

She wanted an over-the-phone consultation, and my doctor was able to get her in that very next week! And much to my surprise, she decided to come out here and transfer one AA grade embryo with PGS testing and assisted hatching. I was so surprised to get this message from her the day after her consult:

I can't believe the randomness of you and I connecting on FB and you reaching out about your clinic and doc and literally like 2 months later I'll be transferring there!!

Neither can I! I want so much for her embryo transfer to take. I feel partially responsible for her coming here and spending $9,000 instead of just a few thousand in Prague (plus travel expenses). If it does not work I will feel horrible but if it does work, I will definitely know in my heart that us meeting was not random.

I offered for her to stay at our place, but she had a family member here in the area. After work earlier this week, I picked her up and we went for dinner and talked for hours. Like a good date, I didn't want the night to end! She told me about how her daughter was first diagnosed, and how she did not spend a night at home for the next 83 days. I didn't realize that when newly diagnosed, children literally live at the hospital.

Over our conversation, I made a commitment to do some volunteering with children who have cancer in the future. Not just to honor Simone and her Mom, but because my Mom never felt sorry for herself when she had cancer. Why? I still remember verbatim what she said: "I've had a good life. But there are children who have cancer. Children."

Childhood cancer is seriously underfunded compared to many other types of cancers, and yet finding a cure and better treatments for innocent children should be a top priority. 

My new and dear friend transferred her embryo this week and is back home now in the dreaded two-week-wait. She will likely test early, and I'll update here with a comment when we know. I feel a bit privileged to be one of the few people who knows that she did IVF. Even her family member that she stayed with while out here in California does not know, and neither do most of her friends. She does not want them knowing in case it doesn't work. I'm praying that it does.

Visit Super Simone's facebook page.

Click here to order Simone's signature Blue "boo" Angel nailpolish and bring awareness to childhood cancer. Item is currently out of stock, but more are on order.
Traci