Back to School… And Back to Work

Today I signed an official employment offer letter. Not only am I going back into the workplace after over a year as a stay-at-home mom, but I’m making a career change. Instead of working with young children as a preschool teacher, I will be working with my state’s youthful offenders. Teens. Pre-teens.

I’m feeling so many different emotions after making this decision:
-Excitement at starting a new career.
-Optimistic about rehabilitating youth in trouble.
-Anxious to learn and train for my new position.
-Sad to see my long days and evenings end with my boys and husband.
-Worrisome about my toddler starting preschool for the first time.
-Happy for my oldest son beginning a new school year in first grade.
-Grateful for the opportunity to help others.
-Ambitious to become a provider for our family again.

My current life goal: to enjoy the remaining days of summer with my family.

My current blogging goal: to expand my topics to include posts about balancing work and family.

I hope you will continue to follow me along this exciting new path.

**Check out my blogging friend, Nate, who is bravely returning to work again after 17 years at home. You can find her story at insanityofmotherhood.com


Guest Post: “The Power of Hope in Treating Cancer” with Heather Von St James

I have a powerful story to share with you today. I have a guest post from an incredibly inspiring woman named Heather Von St James. Heather contacted me earlier this week, asking so genuinely and graciously if I could share her story on Close Families. She needs to tell it. She needs you to hear it. I could not wait to share with you the story of this woman, her supportive husband, and their beautiful daughter. Please visit Heather’s website, www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather, to learn more about her family, her life, her courage, and the cancer that she has beat all odds against today. You won’t regret your time spent over there; it’s a beautiful blog. And here’s her story:

The Power of Hope in Treating Cancer

When someone asks my daughter about my cancer, she always tells people that she saved my life. This is my 7-year-old’s automatic response. It is as natural for her as it is to say that she feels sick or tired. People may not understand what she says, but I will be the first one to explain how true it is.

My husband Cameron and I were married for seven years until we thought about having children. At the time, I was 35 years old and nervous that my age would cause issues. Luckily, we became pregnant within three months and my pregnancy progressed wonderfully. After having an emergency C-section, I was finally able to hold my daughter for the first time and the experience was unmatched by any I have ever felt. In my arms was this perfect, beautiful creature. All I could think of was loving and nurturing the adorable child in my arms.

Within a few months, my life changed for the worse. A few months after my daughter’s birth, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This type of cancer is especially dangerous and kills 95 percent of the people who are diagnosed. According to my doctor, I would die in 15 months if I did not immediately start treatment. I knew I had to decide what to do, but I could not. I was paralyzed with fear as I sat absorbing the news. My husband decided for us and we began to travel to Boston for treatment.

The treatment process began with a risky surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. In it, they removed my left lung, and part of the lining of my heart and my diaphragm. The surgery was so traumatic that I had to spend a month recuperating at the hospital and in an outpatient facility. Afterward, I spent another two months at my parents’ house in South Dakota where my daughter was being taken care of throughout the entire ordeal. Due to all the time spent in treatment, I was forced to spend a month without seeing my newborn daughter. The only thing that helped me get through it was the thought of Lily growing up without a mother.

Once I had recovered enough, I returned to our home in Minnesota. At home I started chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Through all of the pain and suffering, I kept strong because I knew my daughter needed me. She needed a mother to take care of her and guide her as she grew up. I could not allow myself to give into cancer no matter how painful or long my recovery was. Today, my daughter tells people that she saved my life and that couldn’t be more true.

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Coming Out of Vacation Mode…

We have been back from our AWESOME trip to Tampa, FL for an entire week now, and yet I still feel like I’m in vacation mode. It’s hard adjusting back to life of chores, bills, and daily life when you’ve been floating around in vacation mode. It’s even more difficult to come back to reality since we’ve made a 2-year plan to officially move there… More on that decision to come in a later post.

It’s a dreary, cloudy, cold day in the Midwest today, and I’m missing the Florida sunshine and salty air coming off of the Gulf of Mexico. Visit our family vacation one more time with me through some photos we took along the way… And maybe next week I will be back to posting normal stuff. 😉

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Munchkin Meals: 10 Months Old

**Linking up today with Brittany from A Healthy Slice of Life for this month’s edition of Munchkin Meals! Check it out!**

My little guy is now 10 1/2 months old, and looking and acting more like a toddler everyday. He is standing for a few seconds on his own, walking while holding on to furniture, and climbing on everything his short little legs can pull up on. He can crawl across the living room and be halfway up the stairs in less than ten seconds!

His meals are also becoming much more toddler-like, in that we are avoiding purees as much as we can (sometimes those handy pouches like the Sprout or Happy Baby brands are convenient for on-the-go snacks!) and focusing on “real” foods. With this change, I have to repeat to myself almost daily, “I am not a short-order cook. I am not a short-order cook.” Sometimes it can be hard not to let his CF (cystic fibrosis for new readers) get the better of me. With CF, growth and maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult, but it is an important factor for good lung health. Also, once I give him his dose of enzymes (which he has to take before he eats, every time he eats or his body can not process the fat and protein), he only has an hour time frame to eat, and there is a limited amount of enzymes he can take in a day, so if he doesn’t eat well, then I have to wait at least a couple of hours before I can give him more enzymes to eat again. So for that reason, I struggle with the feeding choices. The part of me that is always concerned for his health wants to keep offering him things until I find something that he’s willing to eat. However as his dietician pointed out,  doing that is teaching him to be in control of the food, which can lead to unhealthy habits. I know that this is true from experience: my now six-year-old only ate cereal, chicken, meatballs, corn, grapes, and snacks for the first four years of his life. Why? Because I would give in to his pickiness. If he wouldn’t eat the spaghetti and broccoli that we had for supper, I would make him his own separate meal of one of those things that I knew he would eat. Today, he’s a much healthier eater, but I wish I would have been persistent when he was younger about encouraging a variety of healthier foods for him. And so with my 10 month old, I am being persistent. I will give him a couple of options at snacks and 3-4  different foods for meals, and he eats what he eats. If it’s all or most of it, I feel good. If he barely touches it, I worry a bit about him gaining weight, but I don’t give in go through the fridge or pantry, shelling out food after food until I find something that he will eat. I does help me to know that I still nurse him or give some some formula after each meal, but the amount of that is slowly decreasing, and starting next month, we will begin transitioning him to whole milk! Stay tuned for next Munchkin Meals to see how that goes!

So, what does a day like this look like? I’ve taken a lot of pics to show you! (All from my phone, so I apologize about the poor quality. I’m definitely not a professional photographer!)

Breakfast: Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese and a banana. He ate about 1/4 of a large bagel and several bites of the banana, and then I nursed him.

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Mid-Morning Snack: Chobani greek yogurt. He has one of these almost every day, because it’s so healthy for him and high in protein. He almost always eats the whole thing like he did with this one!

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Lunch: Grilled cheese and avocado (such a yummy combination!) with strawberry slices and a few yogurt drops. He ate about a 1/4 of a full sandwich (and I finished the rest of it!) but barely tried the strawberry or yogurt drops. A pretty light lunch. Then I nursed him again.

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Afternoon Snack: Honeydew melon, string cheese, and Annie’s Organic Bunnies cheddar crackers. This was his first time with the melon, but he usually likes the cheese and crackers. However, this particular time he was completely uninterested. I did give him a bottle, for his vitamins and salt intake, but only 4oz, because I do not want him to fill up on formula alone. After the bottle, he ate a couple of crackers, but most of this snack went untouched. (PS-I also realized after taking these pictures how messy our highchair cover was that day! Just keeping it real.)

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Supper: I made Creamy Cauliflower Soup (a recipe shared by Allyson at Domestic Superhero, except we used “real” foods instead of the low-fat versions. We need the higher calories and fat for my little CFer!) and BLTs. He was hungry and crabby before the bacon was finished baking (Anyone else cook bacon in the oven?? So much easier!), so instead of the BLT, I made a slice of whole grain toast and spread some avocado on it. He ate his whole bowl of soup (probably 1/2 cup) plus several bites of the toast. I nursed him afterward, and then he was ready for bed! Being so active (and down to only two naps a day) wears him out!

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Some days are better. Some days are worse. But I refuse to let the fears of CF run our kitchen. Nutrition with CF-specific supplements will run it instead. And starting while he is young is the key.

Thanks for reading today! Be sure to check out the other Munchkin Meals link-ups for more healthy meal and snack ideas for babies and toddlers!


Seeking Relationship Advice

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Photo Credit: freerangestock.com

When we fight with our spouse or significant other, we want to vent about the problem to someone. We want to get our feelings off our chest, and if we’re mad at the one person we usually turn to, where do we go? Our parents? Siblings? Friends?

Here is one simple, but extremely important, rule for seeking relationship advice: talk to someone who is in the kind of relationship you wantIt’s like that saying, you dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you are wanting to get a promotion in your career, you wouldn’t seek advice from someone who is working at the level you’re at or someone who is working under you. Likely, they don’t have the experience or best knowledge that you need to move up in your career path. That knowledge and experience comes from seeking advice from those who have already been promoted.

That doesn’t mean that just because you’re married that you can’t have single friends anymore. But when we’re in a fight, my husband isn’t going to take advice from his bachelor friends who have never been married and don’t have children, and I’m not going to ask my girlfriends who are divorced what they think I should do. We still respect all of our friends and their relationship decisions and statuses. But if they aren’t on the same relationship path, they aren’t going to have the best knowledge and experience for us. Instead, we look to our parents who have been married for decades or other friends who are married with young children. Those are the ones who understand where we are at and how to overcome whatever our disagreement may be.

What I’ve also noticed throughout the years is this: when I seek relationship advice from my single friends, I’m more likely to get sympathy and comments like, “I can’t believe he would do that! He shouldn’t say things like that! You’re so right to be angry about that!” But when I explain the situation to my married friends, I’m more like to get empathy and comments like, “Yes, I can understand how that might have made you feel. What if you tried approaching the situation like this? What can you do that might make the situation better?” When we are angry and emotional, we want justification. We want someone like our single friends to say, “Yes, you are right to be mad.” But that’s not always what our relationship needs, and it’s usually my friends who are in a generally happy and caring relationship that can give me the constructive advice that I need, rather than the emotional acceptance that I want.

My husband and I do not have a perfect relationship, but I know that by continually striving to understand each other, learn what we can do to defuse a situation rather than set it on fire, and seeking advice from others who have endured the same types of disagreements, we are growing a healthy and lasting marriage.

Whether it’s your relationship, your career, or just life in general, don’t seek advice from where you’ve been or where you are, but where you want to be.

Thanks for reading today!


Cultivating a Green Thumb

Happy Feel Good Friday, y’all!

This gorgeous spring weather is bringing me out of the funk that I was in. I’ve learned since my last post (with the help of your comments, thank you!) that even if I seem to be going no where right now, I’m making small steps in many directions. I’m planting the seeds in many areas of my life, and sometimes I just need some patience to allow them to grow and bloom.

Speaking of seeds and growing, we have started growing our vegetable garden this week! Yes, it’s adding one more thing to my sometimes overflowing plate of commitments, but it’s another step in the direction of healthy living for my family, so it is worth it. Not only is growing a garden as a family fun, but it’s educational and gives us some quality bonding time. There are so many benefits in the process of growing a garden that the end result of being able to eat homegrown fruit and veggies is just a big bonus!

This is our second year of attempting to grow a full garden. Though I’ve grown tomatoes and flowers before, our first attempt at a vegetable garden as a family was last year. Although it started out well, May was hot and dry. When it came time to start transferring the three inch tall sprouts outside, we were supposed to leave the plants out during the day and bring them in at night. We had their spot in the yard tilled up and ready for them to be planted in the yard, once they had completed their transition period. However, one Monday morning we left them outside when went to work, but we didn’t come home until three days later! That was when my little one was unexpectedly born! By the time we came home from the hospital, the little green sprouts were dried up and brown. It was a huge bummer, but in hindsight, having to take care of a newborn and learn about the complex disease of cystic fibrosis that he was born with, it would have been stressful to take care of the plants on top of it all last summer anyway.

This year, we are excited to start fresh, and I want to share our gardening experience with you all. I have a feeling that many of you will give me many more helpful tips than I can give you, but that’s one of the best things about blogging for me is not what I can teach you, but what you can teach me. So if you see something we should or shouldn’t be doing along the way in my garden updates, please don’t skimp out on the advice! And if you’ve never grown a garden before, then we are technically in the same boat, and we can float along together!

Close Families Garden 2013: The Beginning
We began with a plan. We decided what we wanted to grow (what we like to eat), bought the supplies, and researched when and how to plant each type of plant. Some required starting them indoors eight weeks before planting them outdoors, some at six weeks, some at four weeks, and some directly outdoors. So I made a list of what and when to plant.

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Next we planted the first group of plants. My six-year-old helped a lot with this, and although getting the soil moist enough and using a pencil to make a little hole for each seed was time consuming and messy, we had fun! I let him use a spoon to dump the soil in, help pour the water on the soil, use a pencil to mix the soil with the water and make the hole, and then dropped two seeds in each section. Then we covered the seeds lightly with more soil and sprayed it thoroughly. This first group is broccoli, green peppers, onions, banana peppers, and jalapeño peppers. I used blue painter’s tape and permanent marker in front of each row so that I know which row has which type of plant.

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All that’s left to do after the planting (besides cleaning up a big mess!) is to keep the soil moist. We use a spray bottle of room temperature water to spray them lightly once or twice a day as needed. If they get too dry, the seeds won’t start growing so remember to water them!

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Just five days after planting, we have tiny little broccoli sprouts popping through the soil! Beautiful!

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I also sing and talk to the plants, which my husband thinks is strange, but he plays along anyway. God love him. 😉

After we plant the second group in another week, I will give you another garden update and hopefully we will have a lot more green things growing!

Happy Friday!


Feel Good Friday: Cherishing The Last of My Twenties.

I’m 29 today. Every year since I can remember, I look forward to Christmas in December, and after it’s over, I have my birthday to look forward to. The New Year just slips on by, because the start of my “new year” begins just a few days later. As for celebrating my birthday, I keep it casual with a favorite meal for supper and dessert and maybe a movie or a good book and a glass of wine. I keep it simple, because I’ve learned that those are the moments when I am happiest. That being said, I do still get excited, a bit giddy even, over my birthday. It’s turning the page to the next chapter of my life, and that’s something worth celebrating, no matter how old I get. Each year is to be cherished, and while I fail at cherishing every single moment, I cherish the ones that matter most. When I look back at my 28th year of life, my first year of blogging, I notice how my stats dipped when I needed to pull out of the blogging world and spend more time cherishing those very moments.

They dipped back in April, when I developed gestational diabetes. I spent the extra time nourishing my body, taking care to track what I ate and when and how much and to check my blood sugar afterwards. Our after-supper walks as a family were some of my favorite moments that month, because my husband and son knew it was what I needed to stay healthy, and they willingly jumped on board.

My stats stayed low for the following month of May, when my sweet baby boy was born. By far, this was the biggest blessing of my year. He came unexpectedly, just as I had hoped for (I did not want to be induced, like I was with my first pregnancy!), and he was a beautiful, perfect little boy. He looked just like his older brother. He snuggled and nursed and bonded with me immediately. He made us parents all over again, and he made our oldest son a brother.

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All of the images above were taken by the lovely Heather Hoch!

There was a final dip in August, when I cherished the last few days of my son’s summer at home with me before he started Kindergarten. He is so smart and talented in so many ways.

With the exception of those months, my blogging stats have been on a steady upward trend. My blog is growing and changing with every post I write, and although I started Close Families with a general idea of what I wanted it to be, it was the readers, the followers, the comments, the feedback… all of that has helped to shape Close Families (and the writer inside of me) into what it is today, almost a year later. I want to thank you all for your kindness, your support, your friendship. It means so much to share the bits and pieces of our separate lives that are joined by one common thread: family. And not just any family, but a family that wants to be close and connected. To have a lasting, enduring bond that is strong enough to face the harsh realities of the world. I’m still learning what that means and how to achieve it, and I hope you will continue to follow our journey.

One last thing: when I started this blog and gave it a name, I was a little over halfway through my pregnancy with our baby boy. Five months away from him being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. It wasn’t until months after that diagnosis that I made the ironic connection: Close Families… CF… Cystic Fibrosis… CF. Strange, huh? It’s a weird coincidence… or possibly a whisper of a bigger picture at hand.

Cheers to all of you for giving me a wonderful first year of blogging. I couldn’t be more excited about what my 29th year of life has in store.

Thank you, friends!