Monday, December 8, 2014

Storm shelter installed and some Freddy cuteness

Installing the storm shelter. It will be in the shop area of the garage that we walk through to get from the mudroom to our cars.  There are steps down one end, that can be removed once we're all in to allow for more seating.  It says it can fit 10 people and I think I may even be able to stand up in the middle. Chris on the other hand, we're hoping, will at least be able to sit up straight when he's sitting on the bench. 

I was supposed to be putting Frederick down for a nap the other day but I got distracted by his cuteness. He's growing up so fast! I love the way he crawls so fast to me, and then climbs up me right up to my face. 

He seems to enjoy snuggling and will lean his head in towards us so we can kiss him or just breath in his soft neck. These cheeks are just incredibly perfect to kiss and to feel up against my own cheek. He gets plenty and plenty of love from all of us. 

Freddy loves to put toys into buckets and take them out again. 

He loves to play games with us. His favorite seems to be "make-them-eat-a-toy" where he shoves a toy into my mouth, takes it out for a second and then puts it back in again. I love his face when he plays with us. He already has such a teasing look in his eye. I wish I could capture it better on the camera but he's just too fast for me! 

In other big Freddy news, he's started taking steps by himself this week! He's done up to 3 at a time. Today he even took two steps from the couch into the nothingness of the room before dropping to his knees and crawling the rest of the way to whatever it was he was looking at. He's definitely got 'Stranger Danger' down and screams whenever someone new gets too close to him and he can't immediately find Mommy or Daddy.  He is pretty attached to either of us and is no longer happy being in a different room from us. This new thing is getting kind of annoying, but luckily he's still so cute. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Year-after PET scan ... Back up to Nashville

This doctors appointment and scan sort of snuck up on me. I wasn't sure when it was happening until about 2 days before it. My parents were super awesome again and let us use some Marriott Points so we could stay in a hotel the night before. With a 5 hour drive to get there, and Chris needing to be at the hospital at 6:30AM for his scan, a hotel the night before really is the only way to go. We drove straight from church and got to the hotel around dinner time. We had packed some microwave dinners but found out there was not a microwave in the hotel room, so Chris was forced to get take out at the yummy Mexican restaurant across the street. Darn. :)  

Everyone slept well in the hotel room and by 6:00am we were all up and checked out of the hotel before dropping Chris off at Vanderbilt's hospital. I didn't arrange for childcare this time, so I just had to kill time with the kids while Chris had his scan, blood work and doctors appointment. We ate breakfast at our nearby favorite: the Pancake Pantry. This place seriously has the best pancakes I've ever had.

We still had about 4 hours to kill so I took the kids to explore the two places in Nashville I hadn't been to yet, but always wanted to see - the Parthenon park and the downtown riverbank area.  We swung on the swings for a while, played on the playground, did the monkey bars, walked a few miles around the park looking for port-a-potties with toilet paper. (We left the hotel so quickly, no one got a chance to do some real business in the bathroom!) 

Walking around this older-style building gave me a pre-deja-vu moment of maybe someday walking around ACTUALLY old style buildings with my young kids in Europe somewhere when Chris does a sabbatical there. We've always dreamed of doing that someday.

On our quest for a port-a-potty we found this awesome old train. 

It was huge! Just check out these wheels...

The kids were great sports as I tried to draw out the hours we could spend at the park since Frederick finally fell asleep sometime around 11:00.

I didn't get any pictures of the downtown river boardwalk area because I was driving the whole time. But we enjoyed seeing all the flashy lights of the musical/blues history area with electric guitars lit up and places like Johnny Cash museum and store, Swingin Doors Saloon, Country Music Hall of Fame and HardRock Cafe: Nashville showing up on every corner. 

Meanwhile.....Chris was like this:

Now that I'm at the end of my post, I can write the serious, emotional bit. We were super worried about this scan. The previous scan in September showed some abnormal inflammation/uptake and while the doctors said it was probably just a result of a recent cold/sore throat Chris had had, it didn't really make us feel better. "Probably" didn't really work for us 4 years ago, or 2 years ago. Chris said he felt like his mild sore throat never really went away and he was bracing himself for the worst. Which totally explained his tendency to zone out our everyday world a couple of times during the Thanksgiving break. Like I said, I had (maybe subconsciously?) forgotten about this scan and it wasn't until Chris shared with me his feelings that I too started bracing myself for possible bad news. We fasted the day before together and prayed hard. I so wanted to be in the room with the doctor when he explained the results of the scan, but the kids aren't allowed in that area. So I just sat the kids down in the outside hallway with my phone so they could watch a movie while I sat next to them, feeding Frederick a bottle and waited.  I kept staring off int he distance waiting to see him pop out of the next hallway down. I actually saw the doctor before Chris did. Dr. Kassim was making the rounds and saw me and the kids in the hallway and stopped by for a quick chat, but didn't say anything about the results. 

It ended up being mostly good news! The inflammation in his neck lymph nodes is less than the previous scan...and if the cancer had been back, things would be growing.  Yay for no growth! There still is some inflammation and there was some 'uptake' in Chris' prostate that makes the doctors want to be cautious still and so they've scheduled another scan for 3 months. Two and a half years ago, Chris had shown some uptake in his prostate area after his first round of chemotherapy that ended up being some kind of urinary infection. Chris told me he has felt a little bit of similar symptoms and so it could just be another urinary infection. Anyway. Bottom line is that we didn't have bad news! and we have another 3 months of enjoying normal ahead of us. Chris feels much lighter and is so happy to NOT be dealing with his worst cast scenario.  I'm trying to not focus on the grey-ness of the results and just be content like Chris. I really prefer to deal with black or white results...just finish the thing and let me move on completely! But I guess that's being a bit unrealistic. Life is full of grey-ness and its WAY WAY better than black. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Thom and Brittany and Jackson, Graham and Jane joined us for a whole week surrounding Thanksgiving! We super loved having them here. Brittany is a great running buddy and kitchen cleaner and our kids played really well the whole time they were here (it got a little bit less good towards the end but I would still say they were all good!)

Somehow I didn't get any pictures until Thanksgiving Day. I guess we didn't actually do a whole lot besides play at the house and eat good food. Our only out-of-the-house event besides church on Sunday was Chris' department's tailgate. We met Thom and Brittany straight from their drive out at the tailgate party before the big MSU game the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Besides that, it rained or was cold most of the days they were here. We did get all the kids out for a walk twice! 

Chris had to work the first two days still, so Thom did some kid-watching while Brittany and I did some shopping and we precooked some things. With a noisy house of kids playing, and the smell of favorite holiday dishes baking and some choral Christmas really started to feel like a familiar holiday. Its been more than two years since we've felt that!

For Thanksgiving dinner we had a few other people join us: some good friends from church Dan and Angela and a one of Chris' co-workers who has been amazingly helpful and welcoming to him, Cindy.  The kids made some place cards, and we clipped some fresh ever green sprigs for the centerpiece, but we kept it pretty casual...eating off plastic plates (but they looked really nice!) and serving everything buffet style. 

It was my first time cooking the entire meal for company. Not that I did all the cooking. Between Chris, Thom, Brittany and myself, I could hardly claim even a fourth of it! It was not stressful at all and tasted delicious. 

After our late lunch, we went on the second of our two walks with the kids. We all hopped our back fence and walked along the dirt roads of MSU's South Farm. The scenery was beautiful and the air nice and crisp. My favorite things. We did a lot of looking back across the last year and feel SOO grateful for so many normal/mundane things. In all of these respects it was a perfect Thanksgiving.

The only downside to the entire week was having some nursing problems with Frederick and its repercussions. He had a stuffy nose and was maybe teething a bit which resulted in some biting. OUCH! I got really sore after a few days (I was still nursing him about 4-5 times a day) and that made me miserable and cranky. I worried we had thrush because of the pain, but couldn't find any rash. By the time the cuts were more visible, they were infected and I had to stop nursing. I was uncomfortable with engorgement and worried about getting another clogged duct (I had one just the week before!) and with Chris still focusing on work and dealing with his mounting anxiety about his upcoming PET scan, he wasn't able to give me the care or attention I wanted. But the day Thom and Brittany drove back home, we were finally able to communicate better and my cuts started to heal. I managed to keep nursing Frederick once a day through this so he's not totally weaned but he's close. I normally love nursing and was very sad to give it up but this bottle feeding stuff has its advantages too. Its fun to rock and feed him a bottle without worry of pain, and now Chris gets a chance to get some extra Freddy Cuddles when he puts him down to bed at night.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The renovation begins!! Dirt work

The moment we've waited months and months for has begun: our house renovation! We're converting the current 1-car garage into a playroom which will bring the attached storage room and laundry room into the heated/cooled section of the house! Then we're building a new two-car garage with a shop area in between our house and the guest house! The new garage will connect up with our house via the laundry room which we will expand a bit to create a nice mud room and we'll finish off the 1/2 bath that is inside the laundry/mud room. Then above the new garage we'll build two bedrooms and a bathroom which connect in with our main house upstairs right where Gwen's room is located. We lose Gwen's room as it changes into a lounge/common area connecting the new bedrooms with the rest of the kids bed rooms upstairs.  

We are SO SO SO excited to have this start. I honestly don't know what I'm more excited about: the big playroom right off the kitchen, being able to walk barefoot to the laundry room, having a mudroom, parking our cars inside a garage for the first time since we've been married (I guess we had an unattached garage for 1 year in Canada), having a tub and 2 sinks in the kids' bathroom, having another bedroom and getting the kids settled in their 'permanent' rooms, using the covered patio across the back of the garage looking over the backyard, feeling safe with the installation of a below-ground storm shelter inside our shop area of the garage or being able to organize and use a large indoor storage room!!! Seriously, guys... this is like 1/2 of our dream home becoming a reality!! We feel so grateful to be able to make this happen right now. 

Renovation stage 1: Dirt Work. Pulling back part of the existing driveway to pour new cement connecting it and the new garage. Gwen is in our current garage watching the first big machines go to work.

Digging up the not-so-great-for-foundation-dirt where the new garage/shop area will be.

Putting in the new good-for-foundation-dirt:

Packing down the new dirt:

Playing in the old dirt. Not completely necessary for construction but totally necessary for childhood.

TMI - Wiping Freddy's backside a while after he ate all this dirt totally brought me back to changing my other boys diapers when we lived in Escondido Village (EV) at Stanford and they played/ate in the sandbox most days.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 365 - Chris is 1 year old

1 year ago, Chris was on Day Zero, like this: 

(getting his stem cells injected back into his body after an intense week of chemotherapy)

And now, a year later we're celebrating our return to normal life. I asked Chris how he wanted to celebrate...maybe go out to dinner as a family...or a mid-week pizza and a movie night at home...or bake a special cake, etc.  He said having a normal day would be a perfect way to celebrate being able to live life again. So 3 cheers for packing lunches and taking kids to school, a 7:45-5:45 work day, attending meetings and working on code, coming home for lunch, having leftover soup for dinner (4th day running), having a slice of a left over cake your wife made for a church function the day before,  rushing off to a church youth activity you're in charge of - this week a Cookie Bake Off, coming home to your 4 kids asleep and your wife busy sewing, and playing a few basketball computer games before cuddling your wife to sleep at 10:00pm. Happy Birthday, my Christopher! I am so glad to be mundane with you.

Speaking of normal life, these are scenes I see almost daily. Gwen putting Frederick up on the piano so he can play, and Alec showing the rest of us some cool science experiment he learned at school or saw in a book. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Storm shelter and Winter arrive

Our storm shelter has been delivered which is the first step in starting our first round of renovations for our house. Pretty exciting. This metal box is going to give us peace of mind during the tornado season and potentially save our lives! We got the largest one that seats 10-12 people. I can stand up in the middle and we hope that Chris won't have to hunch over when he's sitting on the bench inside. :) Now we are all set for the soil/concrete/foundation work on the new garage addition to begin! Hopefully it happens this week. 

We really are enjoying the fall weather and colors, but since I took these pictures, we've had much colder/windy/rainy weather and most of the leaves are gone and it really looks and feel like a Mississippi Winter! How exciting. 

The schools are really ultra cautious about the weather here and because the temperature (with windchill) was hovering around or below freezing, the kids don't get to go outside and play for their one and only 15 min recess. So we decided after school to hop our back fence and roam the farm lands of Mississippi State's South Farm. 

Besides Fall and the current state of our house, the other things we have to say goodbye to are Gweny's red cowboy boots. The soles are more often then not completely bent back in 1/2 and they've caused her a couple of crashes on her bikes already. Chris says shoe glue will fix the problem but I'm doubtful. I guess we'll see.