But even if You don’t…

This post has been a long time coming. I mean, months. Since April I have been mulling this idea over in my head, trying to make the words come, to describe my life and everything that has happened in it, but everything I tried ended up being exhausting and too much. I am not even sure that I will succeed now, but I will do my best. So, in honor of Breast Cancer awareness month, I give you: Summer 2017.

Let’s just start with the facts.

  • April 2017: My mama found a volleyball sized tumor on her right ovary during a CT scan. On the 11th she had surgery to remove that tumor, do a complete hysterectomy, along with her ovaries and Fallopian tubes and repair her umbilical hernia. During this surgery, a second tumor, roughly the size of a baseball, was found on the left ovary, and there was evidence that it had metastasized to her bladder. Overall though, her surgeon was very optimistic that they had gotten everything, and that despite the size of these tumors, this cancer was still early stage. But it was a few weeks later, when my mom returned for a follow up that we found out her cancer wasn’t early stage, but was in fact Stage 3. After a LOT of prayer she decided to go ahead and move forward with treatment.
  • May 2017: Then, while all of the crazy was happening in April with my mom and her illness, I happened to find a lump in the shower. Since I already had an appointment with my doctor about something else entirely, I decided to mention it and have her take a look. Initially she wasn’t worried. You see, I am Caucasian, young, I had breastfed my kids, I got pregnant before the age of 30, AND most importantly, I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer, but to be safe she ordered an ultrasound. (Actually she ordered a mammogram, but because of my low risk factors and age they wouldn’t do one!) The ultrasound showed more of the same: a lump, about 3 cm. But because of, well everything I already mentioned, they weren’t concerned, but ordered a biopsy, just to be safe. So it was the Tuesday morning after Mother’s Day that my doctor called. “Hey Kate, I have the results of your biopsy here, I was wondering if you could come in today.” Well, no, actually, I couldn’t. My husband had taken my car that day, with my car seats, and I was at home with the kids. Plus, I am a firm believer that if my results had been normal: 1. The DOCTOR wouldn’t have called me personally, and 2. She wouldn’t be asking me to come in. And that friends, is how I learned that I had breast cancer. A mere 3 weeks after my mom’s official diagnosis.

The end! Just kidding, that would be the world’s worst story, and I ain’t about that. This story, albeit long (sorry!) is one of faith, hope and victory. The very first thing that I learned during this process was that no matter the outcome, things would work out for my good (because it says so here), and to God’s glory.

In June, I started chemo. My treatment was effectively backwards from most others, because of my official diagnosis: Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. To make that string of words make sense, let me explain it this way. When you look at a breast cancer tumor, you are looking for three things: estrogen or progesterone receptors, and/or the HER-2 protein. If any of these, in any combination are present then that helps determine the course of treatment, when they are all absent, the cancer is called triple negative. This was me. Triple negative is also known for being fast growing, and aggressive, which helps explain why it is treated with chemotherapy before surgery. They want to zap it before it gets a chance to go anywhere and make friends.

When I first learned that my summer would be spent in chemo, I had no idea what we would do with the boys, or if I would be able to care for them. I won’t say that I wasn’t a little panicked over it. After all, my mom was also in chemo, my sister was there helping her, and has three kids of her own to worry about. But, God is good. It was at this time that Jordan got the opportunity to start working four 10’s, and have Fridays off. His co-worker worked the opposite shift with Mondays off, and with my infusions being every other Friday, they alternated shifts. Suddenly, Jordan was able to have a four day weekend every time I had an infusion, and was most sick, and between he, my mother-in-law, and my sister, we never once had to worry about child care. And, I was never alone at chemo. My friends took turns coming to sit with me, and keep me company. Also, food. I do all the cooking, and grocery shopping for our family. I can honestly tell you I didn’t truly grocery shop until September. A meal train was set up for us, with the majority of the meals being brought on the Friday to Tuesday I was most sick. AND my MOPS friends put together a Wild Tree workshop and gave my family 20 freezer meals. We couldn’t have been more blessed.

Now to say that this process was overwhelming wouldn’t even scratch the surface, but probably not in the ways that you might be expecting. Of course, being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27 is overwhelming, add in 3 toddlers (Bug is 3.5 and the twins are now *almost* 2.5) and another family member undergoing cancer and chemo simultaneously, and it honestly starts to sound like a too sad story line. That isn’t what I mean though. When I was diagnosed, I first told a group of women I only know online, who share nothing more in common with me than the fact that we were all pregnant at the same time. These women have become my tribe, my confidants, my friends, and of the 68 in this group, I have only ever met ONE in real life. But, suddenly, my mail box was filled, every single day, with a gift or a card, or a letter. Something to let me know that I wasn’t fighting this alone. My friends here, that I do life with, fed us, cleaned my house, watched my kids, and just showed up. And my kids noticed. How could they not? And I was able to say “look at how kind Miss ______ is, she sent Mama a special gift so that I know she is praying for me.” or “Yes baby, someone is bringing our family dinner tonight, because Mama is sick, and this is a way they can help us”. We found ourselves overwhelmed by generosity. We found ourselves with tangible examples of what loving like Christ looked like. We were able to teach our boys to walk by faith. To trust that no matter what, it would be okay. While, I won’t say that this has been the most fun summer I have ever had, I can’t say that I am sorry for it, because God came through on His promises.

Now, I am officially done with chemo. I had my last infusion last week. I am cancer free, and preparing to meet with my surgeon so that I can have a double mastectomy. (We found out that my mom and I are both BRCA-1 positive, which makes perfect sense!) I am enjoying this calm and the fact that I am starting to feel normal again. My mom is also done with chemo, and while her next steps aren’t as certain, we can all rest assured that whatever happens will be for our good, and to His glory.

faith

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Super room, for a super kid

When we moved last year, it was nothing short of a whirlwind. Moving day met me with a *giant* belly, a rowdy toddler, and a house that desperately needed updating, but was perfect for our family.  Since that day last March, we have done a LOT of work, and our most recent project, may have been the most ambitious. We gave Will a big boy room he could grow with.

Like any mother I asked him what he wanted, and was surprised when his answer wasn’t “Mousey” (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, ughhhh), or “Paw Patrol”. Instead he wanted sports, but what I didn’t count on was my inability to find anything “sports” that I would like, so instead, he got Super Heroes. He now tells me his room is cool, so I will count that as a win. I started my search on Pinterest, and of course found the best of the best to use as inspiration. Pretty wicked right?!

Inspiration

Which leads me to: Question 1. How are we gonna draw those circles?! We figured it wouldn’t be too tough, but we thought wrong. Our initial plan was to put a nail in the wall, with a string tied to it with a pencil on the end. Then we would simply draw the arc on the wall, bad plan. It did work to make “circles” but certainly not clean enough, or perfect enough for what we were trying to do. Eventually we realized, okay Jordan realized, that using a compass was our best bet. Luckily we already had a hole in the wall, so keeping the same point as the center was very easy to do. The compass worked like a charm. Geometry for the win!

 

shield two

 

Having had some success with DRAWING the circles, we came to problem number 2, How do you tape off a circle? Of course the picture I found above didn’t link to a blog with a how to DIY your own Capt America room, so we were really figuring this out as we went. My father-in-law had suggested using pinstriping tape because it is easy to curve, the only drawback is that the tape itself is only 1/4″ wide. I don’t know about you, but I do NOT have the kind of precision needed for that to be an adequate buffer between colors. Luckily, I have a very innovative husband. Using the compass once again, we taped along the outside of the ring, and then traced the circle once again. This left marks on the tape, and we simple cut the excess tape off with an exacto knife. This worked well, but took forever! So, we decided to follow what we had initially drawn with the pinstriping tape, and then go along the outside with painter’s tape to give me more wiggle room while I was painting. This worked beautifully and took a lot less time. **One Note, make sure you buy pinstriping tape that is a different color than the color you’re painting. We had a few spots we forgot to tape because we couldn’t see it against the red.**

 

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Both methods worked great, and as far as the finished product goes, there isn’t any difference looks wise. The next challenge was the star. If you note in the original picture, it’s only HALF a shield, we opted to do the full thing, meaning we had to draw a star, on two different walls and have it be symmetrical. We started by using that same center point and measuring the diameter to the next ring. We knew that the tips of the star needed to touch the next ring, and so we started with the top center point. From there we drew a line with a ruler to get to the bottom left point. To connect the top left and right points we drew a line straight across, but really the toughest points to complete were the bottom left and right. We couldn’t draw a line across the wall, and struggled to find a way to get that spot where the two should intersect on the wall. Ultimately (I am taking credit for this one!) I suggested using a protractor and measuring the angles we knew to determine the angle we needed. It seems my hubby and I totally held on to that “useless” stuff we learned in 8th grade math. You’re welcome everyone, we just found that real world application you didn’t know you needed! To start the inner circle and star, I painted everything white, then taped off the star and added the blue. We were both pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

 

spidey

Decorating was next. I was really pleased to find the Spider-Man picture, the Hulk comic decals and the “W” at Hobby Lobby, and all on clearance! There was often an option between characters, so Bug was always the one to make the final call. We also ordered the world’s coolest night light. It is Thor’s Hammer. And it looks like it is stuck in the wall, cracks and all.night light.jpg

Another personalized touch that we chose was to cover his light switch covers, and his name in comic books. Literally. This was my inspiration. I had seen several examples of people painting wooden letters to look like individual heroes, but, I am not crafty, so mod podge and comic books seemed much more my speed.

plate covers

I was really pleased with how they turned out! This didn’t take too long. I used the Mod Podge like glue, and then wrapped the letters with pages of the comic books. The toughest part was that the letters we have are curved and the comics would tear. After the first “L” I realized that it made more sense to just cut thin strips to do the edging rather than try to get a rectangle to fit on a rounded corner. We bought the comics at Hastings, and kept the ones we chose in the Marvel universe to fit with the rest of the theme. This project took cost less than $10. Four comics were $2.50, and then a bottle of mod podge.big boy room

Overall, we are thrilled with how his room turned out. While there are still a few things we plan to add (he is getting bunks later this summer, and my friend is making pillows!), the decorating and painting is all done. I was able to do all the painting over 3 days of nap time, and learned quite a bit along the way. Ultimately we are hoping he enjoys this room for a long time, and that we can apply the techniques we learned to other projects around the house.

Pro tips:
Use good tape, we had a lot of issues with bleeding, especially around the stripe. We were told next time to use frog tape.

Chalk Lines are worth it, we both hate taping, so it’s ironic that we took on such a tape heavy project, but doing the stripes were a breeze because we marked the lines out with chalk. We made sure to measure the width of the stripe, and once it was marked, taping it was very easy to do.

Don’t be afraid to DIY, we aren’t good painters, and we aren’t very crafty. We were very apprehensive to take on this project, but using the right tools made all the difference.

-Shop Clearance, we are a frugal family. As I said above, everything I found was on clearance. Even the blue paint, which turned out to be my favorite. Hobby Lobby had almost everything we bought in a slightly newer version, for 3 times more than I paid. Going through the clearance sections at your local stores can lead to finding treasures you would have missed otherwise.

Pill Bug

Dear Adorable first born,
I love you. Please don’t forget that as we battle through your 3rd year of life. See, here is the problem, my little love monster, you are so much like me, and like your daddy. We are pretty awesome people, but we didn’t start out that way, so these qualities you have inherited from us, will one day make you a wonderful leader, father, husband and man, but until then, well, you’re not always fun to be with.

You have every bit of daddy’s stubborn, and all of my independence. I am SO THANKFUL for your independence, it warms my heart to see how capable and daring you are. You are a wonderful helper! You are so resourceful. That being said, you aren’t allowed to light matches, wash the dog, carry your brothers, or cook your own pancakes. I know, life is rough. I mean if you had the wherewithal to chat with your toddler buddies, you would realize that we give you a lot of freedom. I mean most two year olds don’t make their own snacks, get themselves water from the faucet, or get to negotiate as much as you do. As for that stubborn streak you have…one day you will be stubborn for the right reasons. You will be stubborn in your love for your wife, your God and you will fight tirelessly for your kids. You will stand for what is right and not be afraid to dig your heels in when it’s necessary. Right now? It means that you aren’t distract-able, and you can be relentless with something you really want, or really want to do.

On top of these two traits, you also have a wicked temper. Now, understand, I will never use that temper as an excuse for you to hurt someone or lash out because you’re angry, but it is a fact. You have a bad temper. You surprise people with it, because you are such a kind and sweet kid, that it catches people off guard when you tantrum and scream and kick for 30 mins. Babe, I have the same temper, when I see you get so emotional, and be so unsure of how to express that excess emotion, that you bite, or shake, and you’re not even mad, I get it. I remember doing that. This too shall pass. You will one day master it, and until that day, I may not always be your favorite person.

Bug, your dad and I are here to teach you how to be a good human. That is our goal. Sometimes it isn’t fun for any of us. I really don’t enjoy taking 20 mins to make you do a 2 min time out, that you did without any fuss just the day before. I know that you are a bright kid who likes to do things himself, and you just don’t get why Mommy insists on helping when you *obviously!* don’t need it. Babe, one day, you are going to be an amazing person, and actually for a tiny terrorist 2 year old, you are pretty great, and we will make it through this year. Let’s just promise to give each other grace and to say sorry when we are sucky humans. Deal? Awesome. Let’s go have ice cream.mama and will

 

Let go and Let God

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Recently I have received some of the greatest compliments of my life. And each time I have been absolutely baffled by them. Friends with a LOT more parenting experience than my 2 short years have called me “inspiring”, “impressive”, and I have been told that I help them seek to be better parents. I asked my husband what these people are seeing that I don’t, he responded with “You go and do things! You’re always on the go with 3 really young kids. You are always smiling and happy about it too.” I don’t buy that, I for one, am NOT always smiling and happy, some days I am very cranky and unhappy, but more than that, I am not the first mom with little kids to go for walks or go grocery shopping, and yet the comments keep coming. But, I think I have finally figured out what they’re seeing.

When we had Bug, it was after two miscarriages. One on Christmas day. In that time of suffering I finally “let go and let God”. I have this amazing habit of being a control freak. I want to figure everything out myself. That doesn’t go well with living a life that is surrendered to God. I still don’t know why my miscarriages happened, I do know that those two children we lost are in Heaven and that one day I will meet them. I also know that when we had Bug, I was in a place where I was ready for God to fully take control of my life. When brought that little squishy dude home, and we looked at each other and had NO IDEA what we were supposed to do with him, so we gave him to God.

The timing of S and A was kind of insane. I knew I was pregnant, and my family was suffering from wanderlust and had just moved, and Jordan suggested that maybe we join them. He put out some feelers to see what would happen. We liked the idea of our kids growing up with family nearby and in the desert like we had. He had had one interview in Mid October, and then on Oct 28 I went to the doctor for my first ultrasound. That was when we learned we were having twins. It was in that moment Jordan looked at me and said “We’re moving.” So we gave it to God. On October 31, we learned that the interview Jordan had, was turning into a job. We had a month to get our house on the market, and move across the state. So we did. We stayed with family, our house sold incredibly fast, and on March 21, we moved into our new home. April 26, S and A joined our crew, a little over 5 weeks early. As I labored that morning, one thought played in my head “it’s too early, they’re going to NICU”. And they did. So I gave them to God. S spent 2 weeks exactly there, A came home on day 12. Thank the Lord, no breathing problems, no heart issues, healthy! just a little on the small side.

See the reason that I don’t see what others are seeing is because I know myself too well. I am selfish, I am not patient, I can be condescending, and rude. I often don’t act in love. But, I have surrendered my kids, my marriage and myself to God, and He has changed those things in me. I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination. I have no idea what I am doing, and I am almost positive I have to apologize daily. Understand, you are not seeing me, you are seeing the work that God has done through me, and to me. If I have any success in this endeavor, it is only by His grace. So thank you, to anyone who has reached out to me recently. I hope that we can all support each other through this journey, and that God can be glorified in my life.