Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our Week in iphone Pictures

For all of these pictures, I used the Instagram app on my iphone.  It is so easy to use.  There are different filters, so that you can take regular pictures and turn them into something cool with just a couple clicks.   I like the idea of taking everyday pictures and turning them into a collage at the end of the week.  It's a great way to document all of the "little moments" with my baby that I would otherwise forget!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Barry's Birthday

Barry is 32 years old today.  (I know, he doesn't look it... I guess he's got good genes!)  I tease him because he was born in the seventies.  It's hard to believe that we met over five years ago.  He was the same age then that I am now.  We've come such a long way since our days of going out every night of the week in DC.  Barry has become an amazing husband and father!  Since today is all about him, what better way to celebrate than to look back at some adorable pictures from his childhood?

He was definitely a cutie!  As you can see, Barry had blonde hair when he was little and it seemed to get darker each year.  I was actually born with black hair, then it turned brown, then light blonde, then got darker again when I was a teenager (and then I started highlighting it).  Ryan's hair seems to be getting lighter and I wonder what color it will end up being.  Sometimes it even seems to have a reddish tint.

We usually go on vacation for Barry's birthday, but this year we decided to skip the stress of packing, flying, etc. and just stay home and relax.  We took Ryan over to my parent's house so that they could baby-sit while we went out for dinner.  I love how excited Ryan and my parents get when they spend time together.  I think that there is a special bond between babies and their grandparents.

After dinner, we did a little shopping.  I actually had a chance to try things on (since I usually can't with Ryan) so I picked out a few things from Forever 21...

Also, Barry got a new ipad.  He will be able to use it for real estate stuff at work, and also for personal use.  I'm excited to see what it can do.  I have an iphone... is the ipad essentially the same thing?  I know that you can also watch movies on it and do video chat.  I'm wondering if there's anything else different about it?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Baby vs. Yorkie

Sometimes Ryan is mischievous.
(Yes, that's drool all over his shirt.)
Like tonight, when he chased after Lucky with a diaper. 

(Okay, so maybe I helped a little.)

Lucky won't have accidents inside anymore!

But then he protested under the pack n play

and was so happy when that diaper was gone!
What a good sport... love our doggy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pear and Goat Cheese Pizza

Last night, I made a personal-sized pear and goat cheese pizza and it was sooo yummy.  (I also made a personal-sized pepperoni pizza for my hubby).  I had never heard of putting goat cheese and sliced pears together on a pizza before, but I am so glad that I gave it a try!  I got this amazing idea and recipe from E at Untilyoutri.  I always think that pizza and salad taste delicious together, so we had salad last night too.

Pear and Goat Cheese Pizza Recipe
(makes two small pizzas)

Ingredients for crust:
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white sugar

Mix the yeast in the cup of warm water, and let sit until creamy (about 8 to 10 minutes). Then, combine all dry ingredients, and add in the remaining wet ingredients. Mix until a stiff dough forms, then cover the mixing bowl with a dish towel moistened in warm water and let the dough sit until it doubles in size (approximately 30 minutes).

When the dough has risen, take half of the dough and roll it into a crust shape on a well-floured surface. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the crusts (with no toppings) on a cookie sheet or pizza stone (I sprinkle a little corn meal to keep pizza from sticking to the sheet) in the oven for about 5 minutes, then remove and add toppings.

Ingredients for white pizza sauce:
Makes enough for two small to medium pizzas
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced, or 1 tablespoon dry basil
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

On medium heat, melt the butter in the bottom of a sauce pot. Add in flour and stir until blended, then slowly whisk in milk. Then add the remaining ingredients, stir, and turn off heat. The sauce will thicken as it stands.

Ingredients for pizza toppings (covers two small pizzas):
1 cup mozzarella (1/2 cup per pizza)
1 pear, thinly sliced
Goat cheese to taste (about 1/8-1/4 cup per pizza)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

After spreading a thin layer of white pizza sauce on the crust, sprinkle with half of the mozzarella, half of the pear slices, and a sprinkle of goat cheese. Bake the pizza in at 350 degrees for another 15 minutes.

While the pizza is baking, put the 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan over low to medium-low heat, and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Liquid should reduce to about 2 tablespoons (although mine was slightly more, but it still tasted good:). Be careful to keep the heat low and keep stirring the liquid, so it does not burn. When the pizza is finished, remove from the oven and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.


Our Simple Yet Wonderful Weekend

We started the weekend out with a playdate with Ryan's friend, P.  The babies did a project with homemade edible fingerpaint while us mommies stood by and "encouraged" them.  The great thing is that even the littlest babies can use this paint, since it is non-toxic, made with only corn starch, water, and food coloring.  Ryan kept putting it in his mouth, and was uncertain about what else to do, but P had a good time!  She is 15 months old and always seems to be in a happy/fun mood.  They are so cute together and I think that Ryan really looks up to her.

I noticed that when this fingerpaint dries, it breaks apart into small pieces that start to come off the paper.  I'm not really sure why, or what that is actually called. (See picture below).  I originally planned on peeling off the felt letters (with the babies' names/ages) afterwards to reveal the white space underneath.  But it turns out that the paint has caked over the letters, making them impossible to unstick without ripping the paper.  It is interesting how craft projects don't always turn out how you first envision them, especially when babies are involved!

Ryan recently got a front-facing "big boy" stroller.  I love the bright, happy color of this new Peg Perego.  Up until last week, we were still using Ryan's carseat attached to the Graco stroller frame.

I have to admit that when we first brought the new stroller home, I was a little uncertain about it.  The Peg Perego strollers have something called a "freedom of movement" five point harness that allows the child to sit more comfortably in whatever position he/she wants.  When I saw how the shoulder straps come unattached to the back of the stroller, I was concerned that my active 10-month-old would be able to get himself out of it.

But after taking Ryan out for a long walk around the mall, I realize how much he really enjoys being in this stroller. The straps do keep him safely inside, and he can choose whether he wants to sit forward and drink his sippy cup, turn around to watch things, or lay back and rest.

Some positives about this stroller: it's lightweight enough for me to lift into the trunk by myself, easy to fold up with one hand, has a parent cup holder, baby tray, and a large space in the bottom to fit a diaper bag.  A few negatives: it is hard to push/turn when the baby is sitting all the way forward, there is no convenient place to put my keys, baby can reach out of the stroller to grab things easier than he could in a more restricting stroller.

Later this weekend, I got a chance to see my best girlfriends.  Since J is visiting from Ohio, we decided to get together for some girl time (which included eating cheesecake and celebrating J's birthday). Also, congrats to E for finishing grad school and best of luck to J and K, who will soon be applying for their residency and internship for next year. They are all such beautiful, intelligent ladies!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Our 2 Year Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to my Wonderful Husband!

Today, Barry and I celebrated two years of marriage.  In these past two years we have overcome unexpected obstacles, rejoiced in life's miracles, and grown in greater understanding and love for each another.  I am so proud of him for being unconditionally supportive as a husband and a truly dedicated father to our baby boy.

We had dinner tonight at the same restaurant that we went to on the night that we got engaged.
It was so nice to spend time with just the two of us, since we haven't done that in a very long time.
Things are finally starting to feel like a "new normal" or fresh start for us.

I decided to bake a heart-shaped, blue velvet cake with blueberries and cream cheese frosting for my hubby (since his favorite color is blue).  I got the recipe from Adventures in Cooking.  My cake was fairly small, so I used the leftover ingredients to make blueberry cupcakes:

Since I absolutely love looking at pictures of our wedding day (the best day of my life, tied with the day that Ryan was born), I have some that I would like to share.  It's hard to believe that this was only two years ago!  I feel like these pictures tell an entire story...

These are memories that will always make me smile.  I am so blessed to have had my DREAM WEDDING to the man of my dreams!  It doesn't get any better!  Thank you to all of our family and friends who were there supporting us and making it possible.  We are looking forward to enjoying a long life together and many more anniversaries to come!

Monday, July 18, 2011

4 Tips for Practicing Mindfulness

I have been learning about the benefits of mindfulness in reducing sleep disturbances, emotional irritability, stress response, and fatigue levels.  As I said in my last post, good quality sleep is necessary for the development of the hormone melatonin, boosting your immune system, and just being healthy in general.  I have started using mindfulness to help my mind relax during the time leading up to sleep, and also throughout the day.  Here are some tips for anyone interested in practicing mindfulness:

#1 Concentrate on the PRESENT Moment

Mindfulness is bringing your complete attention, focus, and awareness on what you are experiencing at the present moment.  You are not worrying about the future, regretting the past, or thinking about your goals or “to-do” lists.  You are simply in touch with all that is wonderful about this exact moment in time.  You are training your mind to think intentional, conscious thoughts about the details of the present moment.     

For example, there is beauty and peace in just breathing, smiling, walking, eating, and many other things.  But we often rush through the day, thinking about what we will do next, and never really stopping to take everything in and enjoy ourselves.  Every day, we are given the miraculous gift of life.  We should appreciate that we are alive and how wonderful it is when we are not suffering or in pain.  Life is full of wonders in nature and in other people around us.  In order to be consciously happy, we need to practice the awareness of this.

#2 Practice as Much as You Want

Breathing mindfully can be done anytime, anywhere, and as many times throughout the day that we want.  We can even do it while we are sitting at a traffic light, standing in line, or during physical exercise (walking, yoga, tai chi, etc).  The most important thing is that we are relaxing our minds and just being.

#3 Have a Calm and Accepting Attitude

When you are practicing mindfulness, your attitude should be calm, accepting, and caring towards everything.  You need to open yourself up in order to be in touch with elements of peace and healing.  You might think of it as a silent prayer.  Instead of talking, we are listening to what God is saying to us.  We can do this only by keeping our minds quiet and free from useless chatter.

It takes discipline to push the “stop” button in our minds.  Most likely, within a few minutes, we will be thinking about laundry, chores, work, or a million other things.  When this happens, we should not criticize ourselves, but instead gently tell our mind to focus back on the meditation.  Focus on breathing.  Repeat simple words in your mind, such as “in, out” or “calming breath, peaceful breath”.  We are training our brains to allow our minds to rest.  After practicing mindfulness for a while, our abilities will strengthen and we will be able to meditate for longer periods of time.      

#4 Be Mindful when Dealing with Conflict

Everyone faces difficulties in life, and we sometimes feel anger/negative emotions towards others.  Remember that the main cause of anger is the lack of understanding (within ourselves) about something that has happened.  If we can use mindfulness to refocus and calm our inner selves, we can then regain control over our emotions.  We should then be able to use peaceful speech to bring full attention to our negative emotions with whoever caused them.  An open attitude will allow us to see the situation from the other person’s perspective, and although we may not agree with what they said/did, we can understand where they are coming from and move on towards forgiveness.   

Learning mindfulness is a process, and it may take a long time to reach the full potential of it.  The more we practice, the better disciplined our minds become, and the more relaxed/happy we will feel with the present moment.  I have only been trying this for a week, and I already enjoy it and find it very peaceful!

(All three of these pictures were taken in Maui on our honeymoon... I love the natural beauty there!)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sleep Problems Linked to Breast Cancer

Thank goodness that Ryan always sleeps
a lot better than his mommy does!
I’ve had trouble falling asleep at night for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I usually had dark circles under my eyes as a result of not sleeping well.  As a teenager and in college, I stayed up later than anybody I knew because my body had the most energy at night.  Even into my twenties, with a full-time teaching job, I would come home exhausted but still lay awake in bed for hours before I could actually fall asleep.  (This made it really hard to get up early, since I was usually going on less than four or five hours of sleep.)  I never understood how other people could just fall asleep whenever they chose to, when every single night was an inner struggle for me.

According to this article in the Washington Post, “sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and chronic insomnia, can lead to serious health problems, and difficulty sleeping may be a red flag for a serious illness.”  Sleep deprivation can bring on inflammation of the body and also a greater risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.

This study in the Journal of National Cancer Institute shows that “breast cancer risk was increased among subjects who frequently did not sleep during the period of the night when melatonin levels are typically at their highest”.  If we are exposed to light during the hours of “nonpeak sleep,” (usually around 1am and 2am) our bodies do not produce very much melatonin.  Melatonin is a hormone produced at night that prevents tumor cells from growing, is linked to DNA repair, and helps with protection against cancer.  If we are not sleeping throughout night, we are not getting enough of it.  People are often awake during “nonpeak sleep” for a variety of reasons, including night work, anxiety, insomnia, etc. 

I’ve had chronic insomnia since about high school, and I have rarely ever gone to sleep before 2am since then.  Even when I get into bed really early, my body won’t fall asleep until much later, around 4am.  The study shows that “experiencing at least 4.6 years of frequent nonpeak sleep is associated with a twofold increase in the risk of breast cancer”.  Well, I have been experiencing it for about 12 years!  It is scary for me to learn that sleeping at normal times is extremely important to my health.  I knew that there were certain risk factors for cancer, but I never fell into any of the other categories.  I now realize that the only one that I have had is sleep deprivation.

“Being fatigued before chemotherapy even begins might make fatigue during chemotherapy worse,” according to this article from NIH Public Access.  This is true for me, as my sleep has become even worse, and I am definitely still experiencing fatigue: sleepiness during the day and poor sleep at night.  I have tried sleeping pills (which don’t work in the long term), trying to set my own circadian rhythms, avoiding caffeine, etc.  Nothing has worked. 

This past week, I have been learning about a concept called mindfulness.  So far, I have noticed some very good results, which I will share in my next post.

I really have to somehow get my body to sleep when it needs to!  Has anyone else had any similar experiences/recommendations for sleep?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

10 Months Old

Today I have a 10 month old.  He is looking/acting less like a baby and more like a little boy every day.  A LOT has changed over this past month:

Ryan is now crawling at top speed, getting into everything around the house, constantly pulling himself up to stand, cruising along furniture, babbling and squealing, and clearly making his preferences known!  I think that he is actually starting to understand us when we talk to him, and can respond to us (if he is in a good mood).  He likes most all of the foods that we have given him to try, and he eats four meals a day plus snacks in between.  

Ryan is also extremely active… to the point that it is rare for me to see him sit still for longer than two seconds.  (Unless we have visitors, then he will just sit there and stare at them for some reason!)  He does get stranger anxiety at unpredictable times, but he is usually happy and smiling when he feels comfortable.

Ryan’s little gummy mouth doesn’t show any teeth yet, but (to me) that is what makes it so kissable! My husband says that he sees the start of a tooth coming in, but I am in denial because I just want to hold on to as many “baby features” for as long as possible.  People tell me that “soon, he won’t be a baby anymore” and it just breaks my heart!  Does that mean that when he starts walking, he becomes a toddler and I can no longer call him my baby?  I know that I will love every stage of childhood and beyond, but there is something so special about babies that I am not ready to let go of just yet!

Here is (a little more grown-up version of) our baby boy:

Mommy and Daddy love you so much, Ryan!  xoxo!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Little Artist

Today Ryan enjoyed doing his very first art project: 
Finger Painting with Baby Food!

The Aftermath:

Baby's Masterpiece:

I think that he made a sunset.  =)

"R" made with Buttons

I finally got a chance to make one of the craft ideas that has been on my Pinterest pinboard for a while now: a personalized decoration for Ryan’s nursery.  This project was extremely easy and fun to make!  I gathered a bunch of old buttons (you know, the extra ones that come attached to the tags of new shirts) and I also found a few oversized ones at Michael’s.  I used krazy glue to attach the buttons to a small canvas, in the shape of an R.  The final product:

I love it!  I think that the canvas will look good hanging on the wall just above a small shelf that holds his picture frames.

I also wanted to share with you that my doctor’s appointment today resulted in some VERY good news!  I got my final drain removed and now I am in a lot less pain.  The surgeon said that the excess fluid is minimal and that it will most likely just be absorbed within my body.  There was no need to try to extract it, because there is such a small amount.  He also gave me another fill, and said that everything seems to be healing perfectly.  It feels amazing to have my body back to feeling (almost) like my normal self again!  I still have some pain here and there, but no where near the amount that I had been experiencing these past few weeks.  I am so happy with how everything turned out!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ouch! My Boobs!

It has been exactly two weeks since my double mastectomy with reconstruction surgery.  Originally, I was recovering more quickly and easier than expected.  I never had to sleep sitting up in a recliner chair.  I was just fine laying flat on my back in my bed since the day I came home from the hospital.  I stopped taking pain medicine within four days.  After a week, I was comfortably walking around the store with my husband and going out for a bite to eat.  I did my arm exercises three times day, and gained a reasonable range of motion back.  When one of my drains got taken out, I was happily looking forward to each day being less painful than the day before.  I thought that the worst was over, and I was proud of myself for making it through everything.  After all, it’s easy to be optimistic when things are going in your favor.

But over the next few days, I noticed a considerable amount of swelling around the area where the drain had been.  When I went in for my doctor’s appointment this week, they said that excess fluid that had built up around my tissue expander.  The PA tried to aspirate the fluid with a needle, but she was not successful.  After sticking me five times, she said that we will just have to wait until next week to try again.  If that doesn’t work, the surgeon will have to make a decision about what to do next.  She also said that the drain on my right side will be staying in for an additional week, since there is still too much fluid coming out.  I was pretty disappointed, because having a drain attached to me is very limiting.

I did, however, get my first set of fills this week.  As the syringe pushed saline (which will later be replaced with silicone) into the tissue expanders,  I could actually see my boobs getting bigger right before my eyes.  So cool.  The bad thing is that it was also very painful, and even more so afterwards.  So now I am dealing with the pain from the fills, along with the drain, swelling and excess fluid.  I could barely get through today without crying.  It looks like I’ll be back on pain medicine tonight. 

I feel like I just took about twenty steps backwards in my recovery.

Everything hurts so much more than it did before.  I’m worried that they won’t be able to aspirate the fluid, and that will prolong the whole reconstruction process.  Or even worse, the tissue expander may need to come out completely.  As if this all wasn’t bad enough, I’m not allowed to lift more than ten pounds for the next month.  I miss picking up my baby, swinging him in the air, squeezing him, hugging him, and letting him climb all over me.  I want to take him out, but I can’t even lift him to put him in the car seat.  I’m having a really hard time not being with Ryan as much as I want to right now. 

My husband has been so incredibly supportive, especially this past week.  His mom is staying with us a few nights to help take care of Ryan.  This allows my husband and I some more time to spend with each other.  I have had some friends come over to visit earlier this week, bringing flowers, cards, sending me chocolates, etc.  I am so spoiled!  My mom has been there for me between her own chemo treatments and she is absolutely my inspiration and source of strength.  Thank you all for helping us out so much while I’m recovering!

Friends & Family Visiting

Me, E, Ryan, and K!  <3
Chocolate covered strawberries from my friend, A.

Barry's mom visiting us from Florida
and helping out with Ryan.
Our little family of 3.

I am trying to pray for acceptance and to leave everything in God’s hands.  I know that the hard times are when we need to do this the most.  But sometimes it is really difficult to let go of the reigns and give God permission to handle EVERY area of my life.  Of course, His plan for my life is so much greater than anything that I could have in my own mind.  I am trying to focus on the bigger picture, and acknowledge that the struggles that I am going through now will shape me into the person that I am meant to be in the future.  I am so thankful for this life that I have already fought so hard to keep!  I have come such a long way, but I know that there is still a long road ahead of me before things will actually return to normal.

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