Goodbye School, Hello Summer

While Charlotte is still in her 4K school program with the public school, the kids’ Montessori school recently had their last day. Can you believe how much they’ve changed???

It should be noted that both of my children want to be parents when they grow up. Little sweeties. Specifically, Henry would like to be a “dad like my other dad”… aka like Mark. haha And my sweetie Charlotte’s favorite thing is her whole family.

And here are some other cutie pie pics from the morning…

The Baby Hem is THREE

Henry is officially three years and three days old. How has this happened? My baby’s feet are slimming down and starting to smell, his hands have lost their pudge, he is pretty much a grown adult. The gist? Time is flying and my baby is getting old.

Despite my internal tears being shed for the manner in which time is just flying by, this birthday has been so exciting. For about a month before Henry’s birthday, he started really getting excited. Asking at bedtime, “when I wake up from this nap, will it be my birthday?” and waking every morning asking, “is today my birthday??” The anticipation was really building.

In pure Melissa/Mark fashion, the night before Henry’s birthday consisted of a ridiculous amount of toy building and house decorating. We ran around like crazy people making sure everything was perfectly placed to give Henry a great birthday surprise when he woke up.

I set my alarm for 615am in hopes of waking up before Henry so I could see his reaction. However, the bugger beat me. At around 6, I heard his tiny voice, “Charlotte, look!!!!!”

I popped up and ran to catch Henry discovering each Thomas the Train decoration, piece by piece. Then the balloons and his GIANT, tablecloth-covered gift.

He was overwhelmed with excitement!

The kiddos played for the next couple hours while I got everything ready for our birthday breakfast. Our favorite little friends (neighbors) were coming over to enjoy a celebratory breakfast and some playtime.

After breakfast, our friends went home and we hopped in the car to go downtown to ride the new streetcar (which we called the train for excitement purposes). We took the “train” to the public market and ate a yummy lunch and ice cream outside, then took the streetcar back to our car. It was a great little adventure!

Then, nap time and a movie night picnic back at the house. We set up the projector and watched about an hour of cars before the tiny tots got bored and we moved on to playing with Henry’s new toys.

All in all, the celebration was great! We had such a happy day. These are the days I want to bottle up and keep perfectly preserved forever.

And, in terms of a Henry update, here are the facts…

Height: 3′ 1″ (39th percentile)

Weight: 33 lbs (65th percentile)

Random tid bits:

  • Henry can count to 6 in Spanish (10 with assistance – he has a hard time remembering 7 and 10)
  • He can spell his name and knows his birthday
  • Henry is incredibly verbal. He speaks just as fluently as his sister, so I won’t bore you with the bazillion words and phrases he has.
  • Henry is VERY clumsy and falls often.
  • Henry continues to be the snuggliest little dude ever. He is always there for a hug and/or smooch. This morning he randomly told me that “huggies are like snuggles”… true.
  • Henry has very dry warm hands. Holding his hand fills my little heart.
  • When Henry melts down crying, he often times will say – through heavy sobs – “MAAAMMMMY, I NEED A HUGGY.” Shweetie snuggler.
  • Henry is a pretty big manipulator. When he does something naughty and I kneel down to tell him that he cannot do said thing, he cups my face with his warm paws and says, “I’m sorry, mommy. I won’t do it again.” Then, mommy buys Henry a pony.
  • Henry has been in a pinching/pretend biting phase with Charlotte. Never too hard, but enough to piss her off. Thankfully he’s still perfect.
  • Henry says Charlotte with a hard “CH” sound and refers to her as, “My CHarlotte”
  • Henry still naps every day
  • Henry LOVES music and sings a lot.
  • H has serious passion for baseball and sports in general.
  • Henry often times wears his pants, underwear and shirt backwards.
  • When Henry rides his tricycle, he reminds me of the intro to the show Bobby’s World.
  • Henry insists on sleeping with his door open. Typically with his arms above his head. He’s a light sleeper, so I tend to sneak in for smooches before I go to bed.
  • Henry LOVES hard boiled eggs (which he calls hard oiled eggs) and avocado (which he calls “adocado”). He eats like a TANK. It is not uncommon for him to eat multiple bowls of cereal/oatmeal, 1-2 hard boiled eggs, turkey and fruit… ALL of that at one breakfast.
  • Henry sometimes sneaks in Charlotte’s room at night because he doesn’t like to be alone.
  • Henry always falls asleep gripping some toy… a car, a train, a ring, etc.
  • Henry picks out his own clothes and gets dressed by himself every morning. He also puts his shoes on and packs up/unpacks his backpack daily.
  • Henry loves trucks and dinosaurs.
  • Henry’s little mouth reminds me of my Grandpa Henry.
  • Up until about 2 weeks ago, we had Henry on a strict no dairy/no soy/no sunflower oil/no coconut diet to try to help with his chronic loose poops. It stopped helping, so we’ve since lifted the food restrictions. H is now living his best life.
  • Henry has a very captivating quality about him. People tend to fall in love with him instantaneously upon meeting him. He has a loud, squeaky voice and speaks very well for his age, which tends to catch the attention of strangers.
  • Henry is a boy to love. He is very kind-hearted and the sweetest little guy I’ve ever met. He’s also incredibly bright and perceptive. As a completely unbiased source, you know these things are 100% true.
  • Henry is happy.
  • Henry smiles with every inch of his body.
  • I love my baby.
  • Henry looks up to his sister and loves going to the same school as her. Their teachers tell me that they often play together at school… mostly H with C’s friends. They frequently walk around the playground holding hands or with C’s arms around him. Despite his little pinchy/biting phase, they are the best of buds.
  • Henry wakes Charlotte up almost every morning. He goes into her room, wakes her and then they play together until their kiddie alarm clock turns green, signaling that they can come out of their rooms.
  • At dinner time, Henry rates my meals with a thumbs up, down or sideways.

The Dragon

On January 29th, I went to my primary care doctor for a lump on my abdomen. I had been noticing the lump for at least a month – typically during my workouts – but hadn’t really thought much of it. Then, during one of the 4 snow days we had in January, I decided to google lump on abdomen. The results led me to go see my doc the next day.

At that first visit, my doc used the phrase “tumor on your abdominal wall” about 3 times. I quickly scheduled an ultrasound and continued googling. As I waited for the ultrasound appointment, I became a bit of a recluse. It’s interesting because I’m typically a wide open book, but there was something about this fear that was different than anything I had experienced in my life thus far. I didn’t want to talk about it… it was too much.

Mark came to the ultrasound appointment with me. We were both so nervous. The last time I had been there was to see our sweet Henry in the womb. Definitely a different experience this time. The ultrasound tech – who was the same tech we had during my pregnancies – eventually ended up telling me to relax. “It looks like a hematoma from a sports injury. Definitely not something to be overly concerned about.” Okay… deep breath.

I then went to the surgeon my primary care doc recommended. He confirmed that it’s likely a hematoma. I was told to watch and wait for 6 weeks. Despite not having any real sports injury, I do work out at Orangetheory 4-6 times per week and they thought that my fruit-pit of a lump was likely from a torn muscle. A hematoma should go down in size, so we’d wait and reevaluate.

After 2 or so weeks, I started to feel what seemed like another lump. I called and they told me to keep watching. By the next week, there was definitely another. Of course, I couldn’t get back into my doc for another week or two, but when I did, we began a new little journey.

There was in fact another and it was time to retire the hematoma theory and move on to the “zebra”… the rarity. My doc scheduled me for a CT scan. I was back to panicking. I spoke to a friend’s dad who suggested it might be a Schwanoma. My doctor had listed everything from a sarcoma to breast cancer. Nothing was off limits.

There was lots of waiting only to find out that the CT scan was inconclusive. Next step, needle biopsy. I’m going to be honest, I was not overly concerned about pain from this and was VERY unpleasantly surprised during and after. I assumed it was like a shot. I was wrong.

I had driven myself to the doc and met my husband there. I called him on my way back home and all of a sudden, the pain and overwhelming emotion hit. I had to go. All I could do was just drive. I had to get home, crawl into bed and just be in darkness.

My doctor had told me that the needle biopsy had something like a 92% diagnosis rate. No surprise that after waiting the weekend for results, I was told that the results came back inconclusive.

The next step was surgery. For someone who lives in the black and white, I was really stuck in grey. So much unknown. So many people telling me I would be okay, that it was probably nothing, that I shouldn’t worry… but me knowing that nobody knew how it was actually going to end up.

The surgery was hard for me to swallow. My surgeon would go in… he would perform a biopsy and send it to the lab while I was under. Depending on the results, he would either leave the tumor in, remove the tumor only, or do a wide resection, removing the tumor and healthy muscle and tissue. I would get to find out upon waking up.

The whole thing was so surreal. I got to the hospital with Mark on March 21, 2019, first thing in the morning. Mark insisted on taking pictures and of course, got a good laugh out of me…

Then, my parents came. In pure dad-form, he was cracking jokes, making me laugh, distracting me. Maybe throwing in a few of his, “I totally know how this goes” comments because my dad knows everything. Yes, I’m being sassy. Then, my MIL came and I instantly got choked up. I pulled it together until my surgeon came to get me. Then, as I got wheeled away, I couldn’t help but cry my little eyes out (and warn the doc not to say anything scary or weird while I was under).

I got into the surgical room, still crying. They asked me what kind of music I wanted to, which totally threw me. I think I said something like “folk pop music,” which in hindsight makes me laugh. I have no idea if music ever played. Next thing I know, I was waking up in recovery.

When I came to, I was told that they removed the tumor and just the surrounding healthy muscle/tissue… not a wide resection. Okay, good! The tumor was likely a desmoid tumor, which would be confirmed when the final biopsy results came in on March 25th. A desmoid tumor is a rare (2-4 people per million) sarcoma… it is typically not considered cancerous because it does not metastasize to other areas of the body; however, it is locally malignant and seems to have a high recurrence rate. My surgeon made what I believe to be a good judgement call… he preserved my healthy muscle and tissue, but as a result, left 50% positive margins (aka 50% of the sides that were touching the tumor still have microscopic traces of desmoid cells).

I was released from the hospital the same day as my surgery. To be honest, I’m still surprised by that. I’ve had two c-sections and the pain from this surgery topped them both exponentially. Everything now seems like a blur, but the pain was just terrible. Mark would have to lay me down and lift me up to go to the bathroom… in fact, he even had to pull my pants off and put them back on for me. Lovely, huh? I could barely walk and was most definitely not getting out of bed.

The next three weeks are a bit of a blur for me. I was back in my reclusive state. I was hurting and I was scared. I had a very hard time talking about what was ahead and talking about the diagnosis in general. I was emotionally unstable, which was so foreign to me. I’ve always been more of a “stuff the emotions down” kind of person, but here I was bawling my eyes out over the smallest things, calling my parents in sobs… just unrecognizable. That was the hardest part. But the light was my amazing husband, our babies and our families and friends who legit kept us together.

But then, a little light. We found the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation and they happen to be hosting a patient meeting in mid-April. Our families urged us to go, which honestly helped a lot. I was at the 3.5 week mark when we went. I was still sore, but feeling way better. And mentally, I was starting to “get a grip.” I actually had to be in Charlotte for a work convention earlier that week, so I met Mark in sunny California for the conference. We stayed with his family who lives out there. We spent a full day exploring San Francisco and a full day not really thinking about my diagnosis. Just being us. It was perfect.

Then, the next day, we had an amazing conference. We were able to talk with docs who specialize in desmoids and get answers to our specific questions. We left feeling informed and empowered.

When I got back to Wisconsin, my care started to transition from general surgery to oncology. Again, that was a bit of a pill to swallow. It’s just scary. I met with a geneticist who did full genetic testing to make sure I didn’t have FAP, a genetic disorder that can cause desmoids. I met with an oncologist who ordered my post-surgical MRI and talked to us about options should my tumor return.

I’ve since had one scan, which lasted 2.5 hours!! Ugh. The results are decently irrelevant until I have a second scan. After my surgery, I had an apple-sized hematoma. It has gone down now, but I still have what they think is a hematoma or seroma and scar tissue. Whatever it is has gone down to the size of my original tumor. Gotta love that, right? Perfect for my paranoid mind.

My hematoma at about 4 weeks post-surgery.

I will have my next scan in August. At that point, we are hoping to see that the “indefinitive” mass has stayed the same or – hopefully – gone down in size, confirming that it is truly just the after-effects of surgery. If I have a “clean” scan,

Assuming no tumor, I will continue to have 2-4 MRIs per year to monitor and make sure I remain tumor-free. If the tumor returns, we will look at cryoblation, which essentially freezes the tumor cells, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.

BUT, for now, I live. I have taken my head out of the sand and resumed to normal living. Things are good. I feel good. I still get pains at the tumor site, but I am back to working out and just all around normal life. Every so often, I start over thinking things, but 99% of the time, I am good and I am grateful. This will not kill me. And, I hope that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

Coffee with Char

Mark has been super busy at work lately, so instead of him driving Henry to school on Mondays and Fridays while I wait at the house for Nana with Charlotte, C & I have been taking Henry to school and meeting Nan at our favorite coffee shop.

Our little 3-way dates are adorable. Charlotte really shines in these moments. She’s talkative and expressive. Absurdly sweet and charismatic. She is just a total gem.

I love taking pictures of her in these moments. As she picks at her muffin or scone or whatever baked good she’s conned me into buying her… she’s like a squirrel nibbling at the most sugary parts first. As she speaks with full expression, hand motions and all. As she soaks in the undivided attention from Nan & I.

It’s such special time with my big girl.

Hand Holding

Sometimes, Hem just wants to hold my hand while we’re in the house. While he’s eating breakfast, as we’re walking from one room to another, whenever. And when he does, my heart melts into a little puddle…

And one of my girl from the same day:

He’s definitely the biggest smoocher I know. Just a total cuddly lovey pie.

Thanksgiving 2018

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It should be noted that Thanksgiving 2018 was a lovely affair. Obviously I’ve neglected this special little blogging place of mine over the past two years, but wanted to make sure this got in the record books.

We’ve always done Thanksgiving at my mom’s house, which is lovely. I legit love Thanksgiving. This year, everyone had something going on. Bro was going to his wife’s turkey day, sis was headed to Door County. SO… we decided to head to California to see my favorite people on this earth. AKA my other “sister.” AND of course, my aunt & uncle and my cousin’s lovely manfriend.

The trip was magical and Thanksgiving was AHHHMAZING. It’s ridiculous how easy Thanksgiving is when you show up as a total guest. Normally, at mom’s, I am planning menus leading up to Turkey Day, helping cook  and setting up the day prior, and there early that day to cook some more.

This Thanksgiving, all slaving was done by my incredible Aunt and my mom’s cousin, Melissa. And oh my did they go above and beyond. Not to mention the fact that Melissa lives in a little California dream of a house. It was FANTASTIC. We brought some wine and a centerpiece (made by the kiddos) and then boom. Done.

While poor Melissa and Aunt Helaine probably needed a week of sleep to recover, the whole thing felt wildly easy, relaxed and just perfect to me.

It should also be mentioned that little C spiced things up when Mark forced her to taste the sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are her nemesis. She showed him when she instantly barfed right there at the Turkey Day table. Lesson learned.

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The rest of the trip was equally magical. My cousin’s boyfriend’s brother & his gf were there visiting, too! They are absolutely adorable and all four of them crashed at our airbnb one night. It was just so much fun.

Photos from the travel to Cali…

From our trip…

Highlights: Exploring neighborhood parks, venturing to the Grove & taking the Trolley, swimming at our AirBNB pool, picking oranges every morning from our AirBNB’s orange tree, Asian Day Spa-ing with Stef & Mom, Henry’s first time sleeping in a big boy (racecar) bed!!!, dipping our toes in the ocean, & of course, excessive time with my favorites.

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And, what’s a trip to Cali without some Disney magic, right???

All in all, A+ trip.

The Bubble Burst…

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Charlotte & Henry have often shared their future plans of getting married. Now, we all know that this is not possible in the wonderful US of A, but Mark and I have not found it necessary to clarify such restrictions. One can assume that by the time they are facing marriage decisions, they will have moved past their uninformed (and precious) childhood ideas of marrying each other.

Well, apparently, some chick named Abby (who is likely 4 years old or younger) was not so confident that they’d realize this on their own and decided to shut it down.

C: Mommy, Abby told us that Hemery and I could not get married.

H: Yeah. That not weally, weally kind of her.

C: Yeah! And my teacher said we couldn’t either.

Me: Hmmm. I see…

H: I’m gonna put her in jail!! (JK… he didn’t say that. BUT since it’s his response to everything, one could assume he might have been thinking of saying that…)

Me: While I’m sure that was surprising to hear, they weren’t wrong…

C: Huh?

Me: Well, you cannot actually marry your brother or sister. BUT, it doesn’t really matter. You two should focus on being best friends because through everything, you’ll always have each other and will always be the very best of friends.

C: I might want to marry someone else.

H: Yeah, me, too! Like Connor. He’s so cute and nice. He smiles when I smile!

C: Yeah. Because a boy can marry a boy or a girl can marry a boy or a girl can marry a girl or a boy can marry a girl.

Me: Woah. Yes. You’re exactly right, Charlotte! (I was mind-blown impressed with her statement, which Mark later told me stemmed from a conversation they had earlier. Go Marky!)

H: Yeah. I’m gonna marry Connor and Beau.

Me: Well, you can’t actually marry two people in the United States.

H: I’M GOING TO MARRY CONNOR AND BEAU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me: Well alright then! (turns the radio up)

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