Sunday, November 28, 2010


Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. And at risk for sounding "un"thankful or ungrateful...I would be lying if I said the holiday was not hard on me. I definitely try to hide any negativity to anyone out there, except maybe Jerad. And I know lots of people would say the exact same thing...that the holidays are hard... and understand exactly how difficult they can be when you have gone through tough times. Those people that generally say "look at the positive" have also generally not experienced much in the way of loss or hard times. So when I hear that I just smile and try to swallow the even bigger lump in my throat.

For me, the Thanksgiving holiday is hard without my Mom. Obviously. She was always the core of the celebration (the cook!) and also gave me much to be thankful for. We always watched the Macy's Day parade together. Every year without fail. So no surprise when I burst into tears when the parade commenced this year. Above all, I have to get past my own issues with sadness and teach my kids the traditions. I did quickly gather myself and forced a happy smile for my kids sake. I really do try very hard....I do not want to wallow in it in front of them and I think I do a decent job at hiding what is in my heart. This year was especially hard on me because my Grandma (my Mom's mom) is dying. Every day for seven days I have been told that it is her last day. She has had no food, no water, no medications (except for comfort) since last Saturday. Every day when the phone rings my heart stops...wondering if her time has come. She is amazing the entire staff at the hospital and all of us too. Her strength is just a miracle. And, since tradition is such a integral part of my family, Grandma laid in her hospital bed, unconcious, but the Macy's Day parade was certainly playing in the background for her to hear. The traditions started with her, went to my Mom, and will continue with me.

So, as Thanksgiving progressed, I kept making myself a list in my head of all the things that I am thankful for. And the list was getting huge. The sadness section of my heart did not overshadow the gratefulness section that also occupies it. They can live side by side! I had wanted to do a local race called the "Turkey Trot" but was unable to do it because we were out of town at Jerad's parents house. BUT... I slapped my Garmin running watch on my wrist, grabbed Jerad, and headed out in the rainy cold to accomplish my goal: 5 Miles. This was not an easy task for me, but I was not stopping until it was done. And that....THAT went right onto my list of things to be thankful for. That my 38 year old body can still travel 5 miles *running* up and down the hills of Junction City in the rain. Because I have learned over the last couple of years, that without health...there is nothing.

I keep reading all of the facebook posts this week regarding things people are thankful for. All good. I am obviously so thankful for my husband and my kids...and mainly that my kids are healthy. Ally is looking and acting amazing. Her strength is inspiring to me. More than anything I am thankful to God...for all that he has given me and nothing short of my faith is what has truly brought me through the past year. We try to honor him in all things that we do.

Here is my short list of things that I am thankful for, at this time, this year:

1) Emmett Broxson, MD My daughter's oncologist who has saved her life and done so in the most caring and respectful way possible. I can honestly say that I have NEVER second-guessed that man, which if you know me....I second guess everything. Not him.
2) My parents. One who has spent a significant part of the past year trying to raise money so that no other poor souls should suffer from this disease. And one who lives in my heart every day and gives me strength to get by. And both who have made me the person I am. I hope I do them right.
3) Childrens Medical Center and all of our caregivers....again, no complaints on anything short of maybe a cafeteria order. Haha. Seriously, my second home and home to many fine people who care about children.
4) Don't laugh at this one, but my personal trainer Kevin. He has been a bit of my "therapist" over the last few years. Exercise has been my stress relief. He inspires me to work hard and keep my health. Any questions on health, see above. If it weren't for him, I would be one fat lazy girl sitting on my couch.
5) Allys Army. So many friends giving so much of their time and resources to help my family. I am so grateful for my very best friends who will take my phone call or take my kids or take me out!! all on a moment's notice. And I am deeply grateful for my long lost friends, who all came out of the woodwork to support me when my daughter got sick. Wow I love that.
6) My blog! Although I started this to keep everyone informed, I now have a very real memoir of our life in 2009 and 2010. A treasure. And maybe, it has also served as therapy for me. I don't know. And 100's of people know my innermost thoughts on life too. I never have to explain things in person!
7) My home. My home is my castle and nothing brings me greater joy than my cozy house on a cold night. More than that, the fact that my family is sleeping under the same roof for most of the year after spending so so many days on a hospital couch. Little things like that, that I used to take for granted, but now I am so grateful for.
8) Special Wish. This year I am very grateful that my family got to travel to California for Ally's Special Wish. A wish that she so deserved. I loved being able to tell her that wishes do come true.

I know that I am forgetting something. I am also thankful for little things like Tim Hortons coffee, my camera, my nice foam pillow, my bird feeders, the NFL, and music!

A few more things that I got to do over the weekend that I am thankful for:

Putting my mom's hand painted ornaments on our "pencil" tree.

My college roommates (all six!) but two of them stopped by while travelling through this weekend. I made brunch!

And spending time with my new niece Maddie and family. I love laid back cute babies like her! And watching my kids love on her is priceless.

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and also made a mental list of all the things we have to be thankful for this year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

First Swim Meet

We spent our ENTIRE weekend at Ally's first swim meet. Since it was at our home pool in Beavercreek, I had to work the event and then I also spent much of the day with Ally waiting, getting her ready, and eventually watching her swim her VERY FIRST RACE!

So here is my girl...who had chemo on Thursday..and gets in the pool and races on Saturday and Sunday. Jerad and I were so very proud of her. The first race she did was the 50 meter freestyle. She was in the second heat out of nine or ten. Of course, I get her all in position as she goes through the lines to get to the starting blocks. I had so many butterflies in my stomach. I was worried about her dive off the block....we had been working on this a lot because she is quite scared to do it. I finally had to let her go and just watch from the side of the pool. Jerad and the kids were up in the bleachers. My good friends Karen and Bonnie were there (with their Emma) and they provided me with much needed moral support. I also had my cousins Kevin and Julie to lean on.

But...SHE DID IT. SHE DID IT! She came right off the block, not perfect by any stretch, but progress from where we started a month and a half ago. She swam like crazy to the other end, did a flip turn (again, not perfect, but so proud she flipped) and then headed back to the start. Two lengths of the pool. She was in third place for a while (neck and neck with a couple girls) but then fell back towards the end. She finished in a 1:02. 2 months of work and hours of waiting all culminating in this one race. Of course, I was crying tears of joy and the proudness ran all over me. To consider where we have been....last year at this time she could spend days in her hospital bed. At times so weak she couldn't even walk and we would use a wheelchair.....and now she just sprung off the block. And the crazy thing is: She wasn't even last place. In fact, she had a good time and earned a spot on the free relay for the next day. And her time was second best of the four girls on her relay.

We went over and talked to her coaches. I think they were surprised because she hadn't gone this fast in practice. They didn't know she had it in her. I think his words to her were "you were flying!" No matter what, she is just starting and is not going to be winning any races but her coaches are so encouraging and so positive with her. Yet still always giving her new things to work on. They saw the tears in my eyes....I have to be like no other parent. Just wanting my girl to finish and do her best and get some rehab in the form of exercise in the process.

The whole rest of the day, I swear she walked around with a little smile on her face. Not only were we proud of her, but she was proud of herself. You could just tell that she LOVED it. The whole atmosphere of the meet and she especially liked when Emma "decorated" her for her race. Even that night, as we ate dinner, she was just so happy.

On Sunday she had another race. She did the 50 meter backstroke. I was scared she might possibly get disqualified....I had seen some really good swimmers getting DQd earlier in the day. But she did it again. Not quickly, but she didn't get DQd and again I was so proud she went the whole way without faltering. She finished the race...last in her heat, but not quite last overall. So proud that she did it correctly. Backstroke is a little harder. Someday we will try to race the other two, but not yet!

So now today, Ally isn't feeling so great. I don't think it has anything to do with the swimming, but I do think the chemo has caught up with her. They are trying to lower her counts. Today she had a nasty headache all day. I even tried giving her Tylenol with Codeine, but nothing was making it budge. She has one dose of steroids left too, and that generally makes her feel cruddy. She can't sleep when taking them. So I ended up picking her up from school this morning. I am hoping that it goes away and that we aren't moving towards being sick for our Thanksgiving holiday. Only time will tell.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today started off not so good, got better, then got worse. It started out with me being sick and feeling yuck with a very nasty cold (that keeps me up half the night). When my alarm went off at 6:27 my kind husband told me just to sleep....he would take care of it. Quickly I had visions in my head of what the kids would wear to school if he were in charge?!?, but then a wave of sickness came over me and I agreed to the extra sleep as my head fell back on the pillow. Thanks Jerad. He did okay with the clothes too.

I finally woke at 8:30 with little princess Carly tapping my arm and telling me she couldn't find her baby Bobo that was lost somewhere in her bed. Sure honey, let me just blow my nose and throw up some phlegm and I will be right there.

And today was chemo day for Ally, which meant I had to leave at 10 to go get her at school, and my babysitter was a little off on the time (but we still love you!) so I panicked for a few minutes and then dumped Carly at my sisters. (Thanks Mel) The thing about can't call in have to go...and we did. I hid in the little infusion room all day, knowing full well I had to stay away from the immune compromised kids including my own! I wouldn't touch her or even hold her hand while she got poked. She held onto my elbow to be safe.

And this is where the day got better. Ally got a great report, again, from Dr B. Her ANC is still a bit high (2500) so they are adjusting her meds and she will be getting a little more chemo. They adjusted them last week too, and I do think they are on the way down. It is such a sigh of relief every month when we get those blood results and know that our girl is safe. Dr B was impressed with how well she is walking again, after months and months of foot pain and stiff joints caused by her Vincristin. I attribute most of the progress that she has made to her swim team and he thinks it is the best thing for her. She is building muscle with the buoyancy of the water helping her. We talked about all kids going into maintenance should join a swim team to help with their joints and walking!

And sweet Ally. I watched her getting the needle poked into her chest and she hardly even flinches. The nurse brings her six pills and a syringe full of medicine to "premedicate" her before her real medicine. She says thanks and quietly takes care of all of it on her own. She spent six hours hooked up to the IV pole, getting a BP every 15 minutes, but finds quiet things to do all while her Mom sits in the corner not feeling so hot. And then I see her counting on her fingers and I ask her what she is doing. And she tells me that she only has to do this 10 more times. We pray that is true. Next month, 12/17, she has another spinal tap.

But then the day turned bad again, as I was sitting next to Ally I got a message that one of our family friends is nearing the end of this life. I sat in that little room and prayed. I prayed and prayed for almost an hour and then I heard that he had passed away. And I know his entire family and I know the pain they must be feeling and I am very sad. Frank will be missed by so many.

As if that is not enough, within an hour, I hear that my Grandma is nearing the end of her life. My sweet Grandma Mom's mom. She has been battling and battling, but is now in "comfort care" and they are anticipating she won't make it. I am so torn...debating hopping into the car and going to PA to see her, but also wanting to remember her as she was when I last visited in August. She is not awake and I opted to stay here. She has lived a long and good life, but it doesn't make the pain or loss any less. I am sure she would tell me that she wants to go....she wants to go see her daughter and my Mom. There are lots of times I would like to go too. Wish I could just "visit" Heaven once in a while. I can picture it now....Mom must be busy up there getting everything ready for Frank and Grandma.

Tonight I pray for them all.

"Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy." ~Author Unknown

Sunday, November 14, 2010


There is one part of our Special Wish trip that I failed to mention yet. Legoland. I would be remiss if I didn't put our pictures out here since Evan considers it the second best day of his life (first being the day he was born, his words not mine). Evan LOVES legos. I don't even know if I can adequately describe how much he loves them....I guess you would just have to see him at work. If he has a lego project, it is hard to pull him away from it. He pretty much doesn't hear a word I say until it is done. I can totally see why he loves them (I do too!) and I think they are wonderful for his mind and his creativity. I know people will think I am crazy for writing this, but he absolutely got the "Mills" builder mind. He can look at houses in our neighborhood and pick out weird architectural details that noone else would even notice. He can also look at a house from the front and pretty much tell you which rooms are we always joke that Evan will be a builder or an architect. Now he is just getting his practice in.

Here we are going into the park. It is down by San Diego (Carlsbad), so we had to drive about an hour from our hotel to get there.
EVERYTHING in the park is made of Legos. It was truly amazing. They had parts that mimicked lots of US cities...NY, LA, Las Vegas, San Fran, DC
Evan and Ally got to drive real Lego cars around a made up track. They had to abide by rules on their own (stoplights, stop signs, staying on the right, etc) Ally is ready for her license. She has practiced a lot up at her Pa's house on his golf cart.

Scaredy cat Carly (she was scared the whole trip) really loved driving the "little" Lego cars.
The Capitol Building was amazing.
Lots of Star Wars stuff
The rides were fun for Evan and Ally. They had three rollar coasters that were a bit smaller, but they both enjoyed them.
On this ride, you had to pull yourself all the way to the top of the pole and then if you let go your car would drop quickly.
Bob the Builder.
This was a huge elephant made out of legos, but my picture is not so great.
It was "Brick or Treat" there!
Evan (like Clark) also loves maps.
And Carly had to do something "princessy" so she got a unicorn painted on her cheek!

And now......we can add one more place that "Allys Army" has been. We will probably never get back there, but I did hear they are building one about an hour from my Dad's condo in Florida. So we WILL be back.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Allys Army Fundraiser

My sister in law's friend (also named Janelle) has made these Ally's Army candles for a fundraiser for LLS. She is selling them for $20 each and donating $10 for each one. They are Pumpkin Souffle and 8 oz. If you are interested (Chrismas presents???) you can contact my sister Amanda Stamey [].

I also thought I would share a family picture that we took a few weeks back. It turned out really nice. Thanks to my friend Nicki for coming up to Fox Hill and taking the shots! I love my beautiful family...we have come a long way together. And how cute is Ally with that short hair and A SCARF?!? Man she is growing up on me.

Which leads me to my Dad....lots of you have been asking, and no he is still not doing any better. It seems that his heart is still out of rhythm and does not seem to be trending the right way at this moment. He still feels lousy and (I Believe) he is still trying to take it easy and limit his activity. I would ask for everyone to keep praying that this heart situation turns around and turns around quickly! I am sure he is sick of feeling sick.

On the contrary, Ally seems to be doing great. I sort of keep waiting for the usual Fall illnesses to hit our family, but we have been fortunate. They increased her at home chemo (again) and we are due back into the hospital on Tuesday. I was especially proud of her after she achieved a wonderful report card and we had a great conference with her teacher too. She works really really hard and quite honestly...she missed A LOT last year. Third grade is not easy. Things the other kids just know, she really didn't know, but has worked hard to catch up. I see her improving and I see her excelling. She continues to make me a proud Momma.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Clemson Weekend

I have been a slacker blogger lately. So busy. Good busy though. And now this post is primarily going to be about Jerad and I....why? Because I want to remember everything and someday I will make a book of all of this! (and I am sure my loyal blog reader Ms Jenny Garrity would also like to look at my pics!) We just got back hours ago from a weekend in Clemson SC. Our friends moved down there over the summer and we missed them so much that we drove 8 hours to go see them. We had a rare weekend without kids as Grandma and Grandpa had a fun time staying with the kids. (THANK YOU) Ally even got to go see Selena Gomez (the subject of her special wish) in concert up in Columbus.

We had a fun drive through the beautiful Smoky Mountains and even encountered some snowflakes when we were high enough in the mountains. We got to see Brad coach his first game as Clemson Head Coach, which made me very happy. They did great and had a big win. The next day we got to go to a Clemson football game, along with about 80,000 other people. Football is big time down there and we got to do a little tailgating and enjoyed spending time in the quaint small town that is Clemson. More than anything, we just laughed all weekend long and enjoyed catching up...our friends the Boohers also drove down with us. A very nice weekend that will long be remembered in my memory banks.
The drive was amazing...I have vowed to myself to take the kids to the mountains in TN sometime soon.

You might see the snow swirling around us in this picture....

Catching up before the game....
The girls going in to Littlejohn for the first game..

He will kill me for this, but loved seeing his picture on the big screen. So proud! He'll get over it.....I have to post.
And doing the Alma Mater after the big win.
The football game was an amazing sight. 80000 people in one big football stadium. The players run down the hill into the game. And they release all the balloons into the sky. Right after 4 jets sped overhead.
We had so much fun cheering for the Tigers!
Overall...we love our orange.
And getting our Ally's Army shirt pictures everywhere we can!

And now we can say that we love Clemson too....

Thanks Brownells for your awesome southern hospitality and friendship. It was a weekend I will never forget!