Monday, April 26, 2010

Busy couple of weekends!















Phew! We've had a pretty busy couple of weeks. Last weekend, we met up with some family friends at LP Zoo! I failed to take pictures. We had a lot of fun walking and talking with the Lonardo family.....I love that granpa (yes, granpa, without the d) is such good friends with Joe L still! I am glad that we finally got to meet up with Scott and his family in Chicago.

Ella and I braved the kinda chilly temps and went for a job in the BOB. I cannot believe it was our inaugural run in the BOB. We went for a brisk jog to Anthropologie and then meandered through Lakeview. So nice to jog and chat with Ella. She took in all the sights and kicked and laughed and blabbered with me. We made it 5 miles! The time flew with shopping and looking around the neighborhood. Chicago may not have the best weather in the world and the city politics are a little questionable (okay, like, a lot questionable), but there really is not a better city. It is so beautiful and even more cool when the weather doesn't blow. Pun intended.

This weekend, I threw a surprise baby shower for Tiffany! We had to spill the beans with an hour to go time b/c preggers was going to go to the gym. We decided to break it to her that she had other plans for the afternoon. I hope she wasn't too heartbroken!

I really despise our camera; it was expensive and has a big screen but it ALWAYS over flashes and never gets the lighting right. I really don't like it. So, I apologize that my pics weren't the greatest but I think you get the general scheme of the shower-- birds, blue, green, food. I made the island "skirt" from Heather Bailey fabric. I LOVE HB FABRIC. It has really inspired me to start sewing. I might have to do that. Sometime in July =)
I found super cute nests, painted some wood bird a fabulous person on etsy.com cuts and hot glued those suckers in. I filled little blue bottles with robin egg blue m&ms. I stole some branches from dead trees around our building and arranged them in sour apple giant gumballs and hung hand painted birds on the branches. I made some mini poms and wired them to the "tree" centerpiece. I made poms and more poms and hung them with adorable polka dot ribbon...I made a custom banner (hand. cut. every. elephant!- might be time for a cricut. This is an official plug for a christmas gift!).

I think Tiffany was surprised, shocked, and pleased. They got some super cute clothes for Lucas! We cannot wait to meet him. I cannot believe its almost time for him to come. Wouldyou believe, his birthdate is scheduled for Ella's original due date?! I love it. Our girl waited 5 very long days. So glad that Luke will come not a day too late!

Speaking of May, our girl is almost 1. I am still amazed. I am amazed that we have come this far, just the 3 of us, forging together as a little family far away from any family. We made it. Sometimes, I really cannot believe it. Its so empowering/humbling/exhilarating to see Ella almost 1 year later. She is an amazing little girl. Inquisitive, sweet and a tad feisty, she inspires me to be a better person every single day. I love you so much, Ella. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for you!

We have a busy busy late April/May. The Bolgers are coming into Chicago. THIS WEEK! We cannot wait to hang and have them enjoy the city! We have a Cubs game on the agenda with the babies on Sat. I think the world of them and cannot wait to spend time with Jen, Jeff and Ben! Ella has to meet her intended. We are totally doing an arranged marriage.

That's it for now.

hugs and kisses,
Nicole

So many fun things, too little time to post...

Pictures and updates, coming soon. Double cross my heart pinky swear.

Until then, I really wanted to post this article from a blogger who underwent an elective double mastectomy. This is near/dear to my heart and it is a fabulous perspective from one of the many women who have tested BRCA1/2 positive. Such a brave and courageous decision. I hope you found it as insightful and inspiring as I did.

xoxo muffins,
Nicole

Goodbye to My Breasts
by Lizzie Stark

I’m only 28, and the horror of learning I had up to an 85-percent chance of getting breast cancer was enough to make me get a double mastectomy. But I have no regrets.
Four days before I amputated my breasts, I had a theme party for them. My husband and I served martinis—boobtinis, actually, with two olives, of course. We wrapped melons with prosciutto, and since we couldn’t find a breast of veal to braise, we settled for butterflied chickens.
The party had two purposes. First, I wanted to celebrate 28 years of living with my born body. And second, I wanted to distract myself from the reality that in four short days I would be missing body parts I deeply valued.
Two weeks before the surgery, I required constant distraction. I watched two seasons of 30 Rock in three days. I let missionaries at the mall talk to me for almost an hour.
Last August I learned that I have one of the two known genetic mutations—BRCA1 or BRCA2—that drastically increase a person’s chance of developing breast cancer.
Having a BRCA mutation is like winning an especially crappy lottery. One in one thousand women win a heightened risk of breast and ovarian cancer! Choose from a fabulous double mastectomy, estrogen blockers, or the thrill of waiting for your twice-yearly mammograms to come back with cancer while you get felt up by every clinician in the state!
Some people would call me crazy for having a voluntary mastectomy at 28. But they haven’t grasped the full horror of the odds I’m looking at. A typical woman has about a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer within her lifetime, and the median age at which women are diagnosed with breast cancer is 61. But because of BRCA, before I had my breasts amputated my personal risk of breast cancer during my life hovered somewhere between 40 and 85 percent. I wouldn’t play Russian roulette with a gun that was 85 percent filled with bullets.
Furthermore, breast cancer in people with my mutation, the BRCA1 mutation, tends to develop much younger, often before menopause and with devastating results. I know—I’ve seen it. My mother received her breast cancer diagnosis a week before her 31st birthday, when I was 18 months old. Her mother had bouts of breast cancer in her 30s and 40s, and enjoyed a bonus round of ovarian cancer, a little fuck you from the universe, in her 50s. One of my grandmother’s sisters died of breast cancer at age 32, and the other one survived a couple rounds of breast cancer—only to die of ovarian.
The morning before my “Ta Ta to Tatas” party, my husband and I went shopping. At the store, we got stuck at the fruit bin, poring over honeydew melons; we’d decided to give a pair as a prize in our boob-pun contest.
“How about these?” I said, proffering a few to him.
“They’re not white enough,” he said. “We should find white ones, round, unblemished, and the same size.”
We stood over the bin and found me a new set of breasts.
The decision to have a mastectomy was wrenching. The first thing I had to give up was the idea of breastfeeding. For a few weeks I thought that if I could just get pregnant now, if I could just breastfeed my baby once before having my breasts off, than I wouldn’t have to miss out on anything.
But wanting to breastfeed isn’t a good reason to have a baby before you’re ready. And I could feel the ticking clock of my mother’s diagnosis date sneaking up on me. She was diagnosed at 30. I was 27, nearly 28 then. Could I beat her record? Did I really want to play chicken with my life?
My mother’s bouts with cancer were difficult for our whole family. It wasn’t just the multiple surgeries, the mastectomy, the reconstruction, the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the hospitalizations for infection; it was the waiting for five years to see if the cancer would come back. It was the silence in the house, the cord of worry that infiltrated our spines, the feeling that every moment with my mother was precious, that any moment she could be taken away to the hospital, which was just a prelude to the moment when God—and if he exists at all he must be a sadistic jerk—would take her away forever and we would be left alone.
Thanks to science, wonderful science, I could spare my husband and my future children this kind of emotional trauma. I had the choice my mother never had.
I could have opted for chemoprevention, taken estrogen blockers for a few years. But frankly, the side effects of hot flashes and reduced sex drive sounded pretty crappy. I could have opted for surveillance, which would have included twice-yearly physical breast exams, pelvic exams, vaginal ultrasounds, blood tests, and mammograms alternated with MRIs—and still wouldn’t have eliminated the risk.
Eventually, after receiving results from a mammogram that reassured me that the lump they found was “probably benign”—thanks for the reassurance!—I decided that I wasn’t going to live in fear anymore.
I did not come to this decision lightly. I’m not the kind of woman who dreams about plastic surgery. I’m the kind of woman who doesn’t shave her legs in the winter. Faced with losing my breasts, I began to value them more. I was losing my unique feminine curves, the way I look in my favorite outfits, a part of my body that is sexual as well as aesthetic.
In the months before the operation, I felt like I’d eaten a carton of crazy. I drank like a fish, gorged on Haagen-Dazs bars, alternately wept or felt nothing at all, dirtied the house, gained 20 pounds, and told near strangers all the grisly details about the specific procedure I’d chosen, a direct-to-implant operation that would spare my nipples and send me home with reconstruction already complete.
Mentally, I felt stuck in August, when I’d received my initial diagnosis. I couldn’t adjust to the fact that it was now winter, and that I was going to amputate my breasts in three months, no, two months, no, 18 days. Those last three weeks were some of the hardest of my life. The last precious days with my d├ęcolletage. I wanted to make the most of them because this operation would damage many of the nerves in my breasts, including my nipples, leaving me numb. But the touching of my breasts brought mental flash-forwards to the moment when my surgical oncologist would take a scalpel to the underside of my breasts and scoop out the tissue—an image that is profoundly unsexy.
In those weeks, my rock of a husband shook up gin fizzes for me, let me manage the Netflix queue, and made a cast of my breast using plaster bandages, so I’d be able to remember what my lopsided, but otherwise perfect-for-me breasts looked like.
Two weeks before the surgery, I required constant distraction. I ate sushi. I watched two seasons of 30 Rock in three days. I put blue streaks in my hair. I bought a new dress. I came home drunk on the train and lost my phone. I let missionaries at the mall talk to me for almost an hour.
Two of my female friends attended the Ta Ta to Tatas party with appropriately low-cut shirts. One of my buddies flew in from Seattle to attend. We devoured the food. Since the procedure I chose used a tissue matrix donated by a corpse and stripped of DNA, we joked about the fact that I was about to have perfect, perky zombie boobs.
Now that I’m on the other side of the operation, I’m glad I did it. Six weeks after the surgery, I’m still healing, and am working on regaining arm flexibility and the ability to lift things that weigh more than Paris Hilton’s dog. My fake new boobs, which some in the BRCA community have dubbed “foobs,” look more natural every day, and they are beginning to feel like a part of me. The idea that I don’t have to live my life in fear of breast cancer has been slower to recede, but it is receding.
Unfortunately, my ordeal isn’t completely over. Ovarian cancer is still dangling over my head like the sword of Damocles. While only 1.4 percent of ordinary women develop ovarian cancer according to The National Cancer Institute, Sloan-Kettering reports that 40 to 60 percent of women with my genetic mutation will develop it. Ovarian cancer tends to be more deadly than breast cancer because it’s harder to detect. Most doctors recommend that women in my situation remove their ovaries before age 40, which means I can look forward to surgically induced menopause. Joy.
I can only hope that by the time my unborn children are ready to confront their genetic heritage, science has advanced enough to offer women like me something other than complete surgical castration before age 40. In the meantime, I have another party to plan. Deviled eggs, anyone?
Lizzie Stark has written for the Today Show site, the Philadelphia Inquirer and, of course, The Daily Beast. Currently, she is working on a book about the hobby of live action role play, or LARP. In her "copious" spare time she edits the literary magazine Fringe, and blogs over at LizzieStark.com.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Exciting News




Being the crafty girls that we are, Abby-kins and I are going to be doing something fun in our spare time (snicker).....Details coming soon! What do you think of our logo? Our friend and graphic designer, John helped us out big time! Shout out to Mr. Beck!





xoxo muffins,


Nicole

Monday, April 12, 2010

Slacker Posting with Easter being over a week ago...


I am so freaking cute.

I want to squeeze her just looking at this picture.

Ham didn't go over so well.


Southern Easter Dinner.

Us in our Easter attire.

I am growing impatient and more hungry. Hurry it up.

This is the last cute post you are getting out of me!

Waiting patiently for the bunny.

Hello hello!
It was another busy weekend. Nothing too crazy but just enough running around to make me yearn for another weekend....on Monday.
I got out for a girl's night on Friday with Beth and Kristen. No pics were taken but plenty of fun girl talk and wine was had by all!
I am busy working on projects and we are doing our best to keep up with our Ella. She is talking and waving and testing the word "no" at every turn. She took a step! We were floored. We don't think serious walking will come anytime in the super near future but it is progress. She is standing on her own for about 1 second and then claws the ground.
We got GREAT news that we had been a little freaked about (read ME- Scott takes a lot of stuff in stride). While having an MRI done for some neck pain which showed that my sweet hubby has some bulging discs (I feel like a total butt hole for thinking he was just being a baby), the dr. noticed that he had a lump on his thyroid. We went in for ultrasound and after waiting for DAYS (okay, maybe 2 days), we found that is a cystic thingy and is NOT malignant which is a fancy word for cancer. So, no malignant cancer thyroid thing. Very excited about not having to worry about this. Praise the lord. He is so good to us.

Hope you guys enjoyed Easter and are having a wonderful Spring! The weather has been tremendous in Chicago; hope its been great where y'all are...
xoxo,
Francis Clan