Friday, September 26, 2014

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

Cancer is one of the scariest words out there. It can be so mysterious, and so deadly. But you know what is so crazy? That there are still preventable cancers out there! Some people take risks that they know can lead to cancer, like smoking or too much sun exposure. I'm a bit guilty of that one... with my olive skin I love being out in the sun. But now that I've given birth to a lovely baby who's as pale as her daddy, I bet that will change!

Another preventable cancer is Mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. I didn't know anything about mesothelioma until recently, when survivor Heather Von St James asked me to share some information about it on this here blog. Now I know approximately four people read this (hi mom!), but after reading a little about this disease and its cause, I felt like it couldn't hurt to throw my own two cents out into the interwebs.

Heather's experience hit close to home, because she was a brand new mom when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2005. Being a new mom is the most overwhelming and challenging thing I've ever done, and I can't imagine adding a serious cancer diagnosis to the mix. It is an incredibly aggressive cancer, and most patients are given about ten months to live. Heather braved the risks of major surgery, and is cancer free nine years later. She's become an ambassador for Mesothelioma research and fundraising, spreading awareness in order to find advancement in treatment and someday a cure.

What blew me away when I read about this form of cancer is that is is caused by asbestos. I through this mineral, a naturally occurring carcinogen, was a thing of the past! I've watched enough HGTV to know it can be present in older houses, but I really didn't think it was something to worry about in our present day. Yet asbestos is still found in schools, homes, and commercial buildings, both in our country and around the world. As one point the EPA had successfully banned most asbestos-containing products, but that regulations was overturned in the early 90's. You can find more facts about asbestos and mesothelioma in these fact sheets.

The goal of this post is to raise awareness. Not fundraising or a cure (though those are obviously the big picture). For real progress to be made, people need to hear about Mesothelioma, and the harmful effects of asbestos that are still a risk today. So please feel free to pass this along; share the information with someone who might want or need to know about this. And for more information or ways to get involved, you can head on over to

You can also read more about Heather's story here:

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

California Dreaming~~ Family Vacation 2014

Oh, hey, vacation recap! I'm going to keep this to less words & more pictures, since we've already been back a month. If I don't do this quickly, it'll never happen. California in August was wonderful... and the hardest vacation we've ever experienced. We didn't realize quite how much the changes would affect Elise. She didn't sleep well, which threw us for a loop. Luckily, she's still a very easygoing baby, and we tried our best to just chill out and roll with it. The ocean was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and we loved catching up with friends and family. 

Baby's first airplane ride!

She was so good. She slept a lot,
and just hung out the rest of the time.

Hotel family selfie
(Jamaica Bay Inn in Marina Del Rey. It was fabulous!)
We didn't risk "real" restaurants with Elise...
but Gjelina Take Away in Venice was perfect to bring to the hotel!

Baby sleeps, parents feast.

Venice Beach

Not a bad view for nap time, huh?
Feeling faaaaar from Chicago!

We had dinner at my Godmother Maria's house.
She's a great host, and it was a really fun dinner!

Hanging out with (great) Aunt Anne

Meeting Great Grandpa for the first time! 

Another day, another beach trip.
Elise isn't a huge fan of the sun at this point, and the California ocean is
way too cold for her. But we'll teach her someday!

Elise was popular with relatives of all ages!
And what is the relationship between cousins' kids?
Second cousins?

I'm not sure when we'll next take her on such a big vacation, but Joe and I do still really look forward to traveling more with Elise as she gets older. We love getting out and seeing the world, and hope to pass that love of travel and adventure down to her!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A few of our Favorite Things~~ for Newborns

Exciting times around here... my friends are having about a million babies between now and December! A couple brave souls are on to their second littles. Most are on their way to begin first time parents, just a few months after us. I'm beyond excited about this! When Joe and I announced our pregnancy, we only knew a couple friends in the city who already had kids. Yet by the end of my nine months of pregnancy, there were at least six little babes on the way. Elise is going to have a ton of little friends to play with before we know it!

Try as I might to avoid, I'm sure I'm giving far too much unsolicited advice. Which is funny, because I still feel like I know NOTHING about how to parent a child! Ha! But some of my friends have asked questions on things we've already experienced, and I really love talking anything baby-related. So I figured instead of yammering on and on to them, I'd use this as an excuse to blog. And not just blog... I made a freaking collage! It only took me about two hours when I should have been doing dishes/laundry/my nails. But I was far too entertained once I started, so you should just tell me your impressed, ok?

So here ya go... a few of our favorite things. Every baby is SO different, and your baby might hate all of these. But as long as you appreciate the picture below, and take my insight with a (huge) grain of salt, then we should be good...

1. The Soothie pacifier- I was pretty skeptical of pacifiers before Elise was born. I just assumed if I used one, she'd automatically be cursed to be the three year old sucking on the stupid thing at the playground. We did hold off at first, because of breast feeding. And then we tried to introduce a number of different pacifiers, because babies can cry a lot, and you'll do anything to sooth them. It still took a couple months before she's do anything other than chew on it, but at this point the soothie is our favorite. There are times that it is truly a lifesaver!

2. Harry the Dirty Dog- I've mentioned before, but Elise loves being read to. This is her absolute favorite. As long as she's in the right mood, she'll just stare at the pictures while we read. And I appreciate that it's an actual story, instead of just a word-per-page type of book.

3. Angelcare Motion and Sound Monitor- We didn't get a monitor before Elise was born, because we live in a small condo, and people said we wouldn't need it. But people didn't predict that Elise would hate her bassinet, and that we'd all sleep like crap with her in our room. We tried out the crib, and she slept better. But we couldn't handle leaving our brand new baby (seriously, about a week old) in her giant crib all alone. Is there a parent out there who isn't obsessed with the terrifying concept of SIDS? This monitor doesn't just let you listen to baby, but it checks that they're moving, and is sensitive enough to alert you if they're not breathing. It was a godsend to us, and allowed us to enjoy our precious little bits of sleep in our own bed.

4. Boppy- Everyone has heard of the Boppy. This is nothing new. But we have loved it, and used it a ton. Whenever we go on a trip without it, I totally miss it! At 5.5 months, Elise is still exclusively breastfeeding, so we use it all the time. We use it for tummy time, too. Things I've learned along the way-- get two covers, so you can wash one at a time. And you can actually wash the entire Boppy pillow, too. I should probably do that at some point. Ewww.

5. miYim Musical Owl- This has some extra sentimental value for me, because it was a gift from my grandmother (with some help from my aunts, since grandma was stuck in the hospital). My grandmother has since passed away, but she at least got to do some FaceTime with Elise before she went to join my grandpa. I think Elise knows it is special. We love to pull it for the music (Twinkle, Twinkle), which really soothes Elise when she's fussy. It's almost always a part of her bedtime routine, after her baths. We've even packed it for our trips to St Louis and Los Angeles!

6. Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Activity Gym- Every baby loves some kind of activity mat. Elise's Skip Hop mat has gotten a TON of use, since she's still not able to sit on her own. I do try to not just lay her on her back all day, but when we are letting her "play" on her own, it's usually on this mat. This is far and away one of our most used baby gifts!

7. Carter's Sheets- I bought some cute sheets at Target, but they were really small. It was a serious workout trying to get them on to the mattress! These Carter's sheets from Babies R Us fit the crib mattress perfectly, and have held up well. We love them, and I'd recommend them to anyone.

If I was a clever girl, I'd figure out how to do affiliate links, and maybe make a buck off this silly blog. But after spending too long on the silly collage, I'm just calling this charity. Even if it doesn't help anyone, it entertained me for a night, so that's worth something, right?

Now hurry up babies! Elise and I can't wait to hang out with you tiny snuggly little creatures!

Hungry Baby

We're waiting until Elise is at least six months to introduce 'real' foods, for a variety of reasons. I'm so excited for that time to come! Joe and I love food, and I am excited to introduce her to so many different flavors. We're going to start with purees, and I plan to make them myself. It'll be a lot more work than just breastfeeding, but she's going to love it! She's starting to show interest in our food, watching as we eat. It's adorable! I've given her 'tastes' of a few things, which really means letting her lick or suck on the food, without actually eating it. She gets really excited when we do it. Over the weekend, I let her taste my red pepper, and it was caught on camera by my brother in law, Dan. He made a gif, and I had to share. Enjoy!

 photo image.gif

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Letters to my Baby: Month Five

Hey little one,

We keep reflecting on a popular quote this month. It's one that sums up parenting perfectly, that we relate to so well now that we have you in our lives.

The days are long, but the years (or months) are short.

Some of the days are almost never ending. You occasionally skip your naps, or the weather is too wet for us to leave the house. Mama loves getting to spend so much time with you, and feels so very lucky to be a stay at home mom. But it is sometimes a lonely job, when the only adult contact during the day is a quick interaction with the cashier at the grocery store. But each day is still so good, and filled with so many sweet moments. The months are flying by, and your mama and daddy are trying to savor every sweet cuddle and toothless smile. We know all too soon you'll be running off to play, starting school, and not needing us nearly as much.

This month has been such a fun one! We've had multiple visitors come to town, and took you on your first real vacation. We're trying hard to balance naps and bedtime with getting out of the house. We took you to a few restaurants, walked around the neighborhood almost daily, and savored the warm days at the end of summer. You got to see three of your grandparents this month, and you even got to meet your great grandpa when we were in California! 

In terms of milestones, you're really working hard on holding up your sweet head. It's bigger than most, and a bit of a challenge, but we're so proud of how hard you're working. After your doctor mentioned your muscles were a little tight (it's 'high tone' in medical terms), we have requested an evaluation from an Early Intervention team. We hope you qualify for some physical therapy, so that we can help you to move easier. I have a feeling by the end of your sixth month you're going to have made some major progress! Mama is trying so hard to be patient, but is also already showing that she's not afraid to push and make some noise to help you get the best care possible. We would do anything for you, baby girl!

You're still eating only breastmilk, but we've played around with letting you taste a couple simple foods. You've sucked on some watermelon and cucumber, and seem quite intrigued. We're so excited to start feeding you some purees, but want to wait until after your six month appointment, since you're doing so well with eating only breastmilk right now. You are really interested in watching us eat, and I have a feeling you're going to love "real" food when the time comes! We're taking a little break from cloth diapers for now, because you seem to move a lot easier in the disposable ones. But hopefully once we get some PT going, we'll get back into the cloth. You're still spending lots of time on the floor with your play mat and toys, but we're also experimenting with sitting you in the Bumbo and your frog chair. And tummy time is a lot more exciting when we put a Boppy under you. We love watching you develop, and can't wait to get the PT going so that you can continue to grow stronger. 

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the last month. An excessive number of them, of course!

You don't always love tummy time, but you're getting better!

Baby exercises... laying on your side while smiling for Daddy.

Look at you! You're getting really good at holding your head up!

We are so happy that you love reading books.
We promise to read to you every single day,
and to fill your bedroom with more books than you can handle!

Baby's first airplane ride!

Silly selfies at our hotel in California :)

You're not entirely sold on the beach at this point...

You loved spending time with Great Aunt Anne.

Meeting Great Grandpa

You loved meeting mom's friends from college-- Chris and Elena came up from Texas, and Danielle and Daniel came down from Toronto. You did not suffer for lack of attention when they were visiting! We also went out to dinner without you for the first time while they visited. We knew you were in good hands, since you had FOUR capable adults babysitting! And you ended up sleeping the whole time :) We're lucky to have so many good friends, both in Chicago and around the country!

It's been another great month, little angel. We love you so much, and are so thankful to have you in our lives. Keep those sweet smiles coming, ok?

Mom and Dad

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Road Tripping... STL or Bust!

When I was a junior in high school, I visited the state of Missouri for the first time. I was on a college visiting road trip with my parents, and we decided to visit the University of Missouri on our way back to Colorado. It was completely spur of the moment. I knew nothing about the school or the state of Missouri, but thought why not! That trip ended with me only applying to one school, and knowing by October of my senior year that I was headed to Columbia in August. Mizzou was the perfect fit for me, and over the next four years, Missouri became my second home. Especially when my parents left Colorado, choosing their next adventure in Europe!

After college, I wasn't quite ready to quit on Missouri. I moved to Kansas City, where the cute guy I was dating was also going to be living. Obviously, things went well for us, and we spent the first two years after college in KC. At that point, the bright lights of Chicago were calling our name, so we said goodbye to Missouri and headed up north!

In the last few years, things have come full circle. My parents ended up moving to St Louis (twice!), and as of March of this year they're living there hopefully for good. It turns out it's a pretty fun city to live in, and I love that it's an easy drive down from Chicago! Joe has brothers in Kansas City and St Louis as well, making Missouri a part of both of our families. I have a fond spot in my heart for the place where I discovered myself, made some of the best friends of my life, and married my soulmate. And now that my parents are back there, I see a lot of Missouri visits in our future!

Pit stop at Panera

This was my first time visiting St Louis since my parents moved back, and also my first solo road trip with the baby. We did great overall! There was one crying breakdown from her on each part of the drive, but for the most part she slept or hung out happily in her car seat. I've got a good one here! After this trip, I officially declared Elise my sidekick. I see lots more adventures in our future!

We made it in time to wish my sister Colleen a happy birthday!

Sometimes traveling means baby gets to nap on her mommy.
It also means mommy gets a white wine spritzer brought to her in bed!

First grandchild syndrome ;)

Elise adores her grandpa!

In addition to quality time with my family, I also got to catch up with Michelle, my good friend from college. We made last minute plans for her to come see us, which was such a treat! Her daughter Penelope is beyond cute. We had so much fun hanging out and playing with the girls, and I can't wait to catch up more on future trips!

Thanks for hosting us, Mom and Dad! We had such a good trip, and can't wait to get back down there in September. Love you guys loads!