Monday, April 13, 2015

Weekend Wrap-Up: See How We Run

This weekend we were running. Running around, running ragged, and running as in literally running.

After a long week for both Dr. Fabulous and myself, we ended up getting a very last minute opportunity to go to a charity gala. It was for a foundation supporting individuals with traumatic spinal cord injuries and was held in the gorgeous Rittenhouse over in Philly. Since I didn't have a dress that covered my newly acquired radiation burn, lymph node scar and blue tattooed dot on my chest (no time to shop for anything new and hadn't really thought about this stuff until 20 minutes before putting on something in my closet), I went into the evening feeling a little insecure. And, of course, tired both emotionally and physically from week 3 of radiation. But, once we were actually there? It was a very inspirational event and you recognize really quickly that some stupid scars and burns and a tiny dot in the center of your neckline really don't matter when you can use your arms and legs; walk, dance, run. I mean, it's humbling. There are incredible twists of fates that happen in this world, but when a spirit soars above it... it's just magic.


Saturday morning we were exhausted from a late night but had to spring into action for the first of two soccer games at 9:00 am. Soccer and Swimming are a constant this time of year. Starting this week, all three girls also began a new running program called the Healthy Kids Running Series. 

These are real, awarded, timed races held weekly where kids are divided into developmentally appropriate distances and then get to have that race experience while also keeping it really fun. 

CB hung with us and cheered. 

Rella ran the quarter mile with the Kindergarteners and First Graders. She had the eye of the tiger, with first place on her mind.

She came in second out of the girls (they do separate places by gender) and was super happy that her friend came in first. Though next time, she said she wanted to try to "beat her."

Tink ran the half-mile with the second and third graders. She was more laid back about the whole competition thing, but gave it her all because this kid can't do anything without applying herself to it wholeheartedly. We think she came in fourth, but not sure. I'm not sure she really cared, either.

CB won the pom pom shaking competition. She did a really awesome job sitting quietly on the sidelines and entertaining herself while her parents cheered and snapped photos and acted like fools.

Pink ran a mile with the 5th graders and Middle Schoolers.

She is so small, even for her grade. She looked so little out there. I was worried she'd start feeling upset during the run because she's my one who is prone to feel insecure and self-concious. She can be her own worst enemy sometimes.

But she looked great and she did an awesome job! She told me later that when the race first started, she was at the very back of the pack. She said she felt really embarrassed at first, but then told herself "You know what? Who cares! I'm just competing against myself." This made me very, very proud.

And, by the way, because she has such an awesome sense of pacing, she ended up passing a bunch of kids who came out of the gate way too fast. Just like I warned her NOT to do. She finished strong - mid-pack, with everything to be proud of. Especially that positive attitude and a good race plan.

They all did great out there and the day was absolutely gorgeous and sunny for the first time in forever. You know, running was always my "sport" as a kid, so I was tickled that the three of them were out there giving it 100%. I was especially proud of Pink who is really coming out of her shell this year and challenging herself to try new things. Even though CB didn't participate by running, it was so nice to have her at a community event to watch her sisters without it turning into a huge ordeal and stressor. That made the day so much better.

I too went out running this weekend and it felt freakin' awesome. I also got on my bike and did a 10 mile loop with a friend. She broke the ice by getting on her new road bike and biking for the very first time ever and I broke the ice just getting back on the bike again - haven't been on since October. Since we are both signed up for a triathlon in June, it was good we finally got out there. Now, I just have to get in the pool and build up my swim again. Why I do this to myself, I have no clue. But, whatever.

And THAT'S the weekend wrap-up folks. Running straight into another crazy week. I'm at the half-way point with radiation - three weeks down, three weeks to go.  It's a sprint to the finish and at this pace of life? I will be crossing that finish line before I know it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Weekend Wrap-Up: And Egg-ceptional One

The early Easter always takes me a little off guard, but it was a nice reprieve from the past couple weeks. We crammed in the traditional egg dying and Pastone-making literally the day before Easter. 

Dr. Fabulous talked me out of boiling the full set of 36 eggs, citing a 'wasted food' violation. So, I settled on 24, giving them 8 each. He came up with the idea of the kids donating half of their eggs to help make the traditional Italian Pastone dish, a layered breakfast pie consisting of ham, sausage, basket cheese (only available this time of year), and hard boiled eggs all baked in a pie crust. Then he quickly remembered how attached the girls get to their Easter eggs each year.

Every year there are tears over the fact that we can't keep Mr. Nasty or the "Bunny" egg as pets for the rest of our lives. They fail to understand that no, said eggs cannot live in the fridge indefinitely because they are food and food will eventually rot. This small fact matters not to them. 

This year was no exception when Rella announced that the blue bunny egg was now her pet forever and placed him in a tiny tupperware dish and Tink made a tiny egg family consisting of Grace and Roger (married) and Rob, their son, and a bunch of other egg dudes.

Pink, obviously, has matured beyond this....

Still, no eggs were sacrificed for the Pastone later that evening. Grandma had all the plain white eggs needed for the layering to begin.

Easter morning was cute as ever. Even though they are getting older, there is still magic. CB always spends Easter in Maryland, which is a bummer. It never really feels complete to have family celebrations without her, but her Maryland family loves and misses her too and Spring Break is a great time for them to get their CB-fix. I assured the little girls that the Easter bunny knew where to find CB and filled her basket with beads and pom poms!

Rella was so excited about Easter because she is a huge fan of bunnies.  Any kind of bunny — real, stuffed, big, small... if it's a bunny, she loves it. Easter is her time of year. The thing she wanted most was the Easter Bunny's autograph... or as she calls it "ordergraph." She got it, along with a few other fun things.

For the past four years, we have been going to our neighbor's huge Easter Morning Egg Hunt and Brunch. They invite their large family plus friends, which includes our whole street. This ends up topping out at about 60 people. It's huge, it's awesome, it's now our family tradition. I told the hostess, Angela, that even if she stops inviting us, my kids would just show up on her doorstep because they now think this is THEIR family tradition.

This amazing yard is one of the best ever for an egg hunt. Plus, Angela always has mimosas flowing. I think I drank half the punch bowl this year. It's been that kind of week.

Easter weekend was a nice break from my first two weeks of daily radiation. Daily meaning Monday through Friday with every weekend off. The first two weeks were actually tougher than I thought and I'll write more about that some other time. Let's just say for now, this weekend was a great time to regroup and regain emotional balance.

When this party ended, we hopped over into PA for some more egg hunting in another fabulous yard — my mom and step-dad's.

Easter day finished with a family dinner, more egg hunting and special baskets, and good food. It was a good day, and helped me get my head together for week 3 of radiation on Monday. Nothing like a little family time to heal the soul.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

tHERsDay: Shades of Blue

It's been a human rainbow around here the past few weeks. I was wearing purple for epilepsy, then I was wearing crazy socks to support my buddies for Down Syndrome Day. For months I've been wearing a pink Bravelet for breast cancer awareness. Now, today we gotta rock the blue for World Autism Day.

I'm not necessarily 100% behind the Autism Speaks mission (creators of World Autism Day from what I gather), but I appreciate any type of rallying. If that means lighting sh*t up blue, I'm not gonna be a downer. I deeply appreciate all the companies and organizations that have been on board. If we can continue to raise awareness, increase funding and help support families, children and adults living with ASD, that is cool by me. A little show of solidarity never hurt anyone.

So, CB lit it up pale blue today with a sweater matching her eyes. Here's to World Autism Day... which is every day 'round here.  So, we just continue on - business as usual. Showing the world every shade of our blue.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

tHERsDay: Purple Day

Today is Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness.

So here are some things I'd like to share:

* There are TWICE as many people living with epilepsy than people living with Multiple Sclerosis,  Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy combined.

* Epilepsy has no cure.

* The medications used to control epilepsy have nasty side effects.

* Often, epilepsy cannot be controlled, even with meds.

* At least 1 million people in the U.S. have uncontrolled epilepsy.

* 1 in 25 children under the age of 5 will have a febrile seizure (fever related).

* You can die from epliepsy. Risk of SUDEP (Sudden Unexpectant Death In Epilepsy) kills about 1,000 people each year. Another 42,000 die secondary to prolonged seizures, or Status Epilepticus.

* People don't swallow their tongues during a seizure. Please PLEASE never stick anything in a person's mouth during a seizure. Learn More About Seizure First Aid HERE.

* Seizures suck. There is no silver lining on this. Sorry.

This has been a Purple Day Public Service Announcement on behalf of CB and the 62 million individuals world wide living with epilepsy. 
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: Raising Kids To Thrive

By Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS ED, FAAP
Co-written by Ilana Ginsburg and Talia Ginsburg
published by the American Academy of Pediatrics

As the mother of four girls, along with my professional background as a therapist, I am far from in the dark about the issues I will be facing when my kids become TEENS. The "dreaded" teen years. They have a reputation, for sure. How many of us go into it thinking: If we just hold our breath, cross our fingers and react to whatever comes, maybe we'll get lucky? That philosophy (or lack thereof) puts us in the position of being reactive instead of proactive. Like we are just waiting to see if something explodes and then we'll scramble to pick up the pieces and make reparations. Instead, can we try to lay the groundwork for future success while our kids are still young, impressionable and *ahem* care about what we think? Can we give ourselves, as parents, and our children the resources and communication tools necessary to navigate the dicey waters of adolescence? In doing so, will it help our children not only survive but thrive?

Dr. Ken Ginsburg thinks so, and I am inclined to agree whole heartedly. While I am busy agreeing, he is busy practicing what he preaches and writing it all down for us parents. His newest book, Raising Kids To Thrive: Balancing Love With Expectations and Protection With Trust has just been released and I was honored to receive one of the first copies to review.

"Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience. 
You are raising a human being." 
~ Kitty Franz

Parenting isn't just about getting through the morning or navigating the day. Parenthood is about investing our time, treasures and talents into the greatest gift we will leave this world. That gift is another human being. A human being who will spend more time as an adult than they will as a child. In the time that you have them under your wing, under your roof, and looking to you for guidance— use it. Use it well. Use it responsibly. Make your parenting purposeful. Because they will be an adolescent out there in the world, and you want them to thrive. Because they will be adults, working and playing in the community and raising the next generation of grown-ups. You want them to be resilient. You want them to thrive.

Raising Kids To Thrive is co-written by award-winning author and pediatrician Kenneth R. Ginsburg along with his two teen daughters, Ilana and Talia. This ground-breaking book delves deep into the important issues faced by all parents of teenagers and provides parents with a road map, a tool belt, a new lens through which to examine our role as parents. Whether you are the parent of toddlers "looking ahead," the parent of pre-teens standing on the precipice or the parent of full blown teenagers looking to connect more deeply during adolescence, this book is for you.

Dr. Ginsburg is an expert, most known for teaching kids about resiliency and helping parents teach the same. Yet, parents continue to struggle with two seemingly contradictory ideas - giving their children and adolescents the unconditional love they need in order to thrive while also holding them to high expectations. Dr. Ginsburg helps us navigate through these questions, concerns, and the dissonance created. He offers easy to understand, practical advice, strategies and related insights.

Some of the topics in this book include unconditional love, setting moral standards, setting expectations that promote success, interdependence, and preparing your child for a stressful world. Some of my favorite chapters were Protection Versus Preparation and The Upside of Failure. His book addresses the hot parenting topics today, like the problems with helicopter or "tiger" parenting. His positive message is focused on relationship building with our children, giving them roots to grow and wings to fly.

What makes this book truly unique is that Dr. Ginsburg takes his vast experience and combines it with input from his two teenage daughters along with 500 other teen voices. This adds such authenticity to the book. Some of the quotes from these teens resonated so deeply with me. It was that emotional connection that helped me digest this book and remember its powerful messages.

Raising Kids To Thrive is packed with easy to understand language and concepts, step by step guides, and sound advice based on sound theory. It's a refreshing, unique and positive approach to parenting a teen in today's challenging landscape.

About The Author

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD is a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and practices Adolescent Medicine at the world-reknowned Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). He also serves Philadelphia's homeless and marginalized youth as the Director of Health Services at Covenant House Pennsylvania.

Raising Kids To Thrive: Balancing Love With Expectations and Protection With Trust is available now at Amazon and on

*Disclosure: Compensation was received for the honest (not positive, just honest) review of this book. In no way were my opinions swayed by this agreement. As always, I only review books, products and merchandise I believe would be beneficial to my readers. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Hodgepodge Following Radio Silence

I've come to realize that a long period of 'radio silence' after a big announcement of cancer does not go over well. For those who see me around the community, they know I am okay. But the others who rely on my blog updates? I have received more than one inquiry asking if I'm alright.

So first, I'm sorry for neglecting the ole blog. Second, no worries ... I am alive and alright. I'm actually doing awesome. Like anything else, when you get out of the habit and overwhelmed with too many irons in the fire, you fall off the wagon. I've mixing far too many metaphors, I know. Just bear with me.

What have you missed? Not a whole heck of a lot. Valentines Day, bitter cold, snow days. My slow progression on the book. The typical winter blues. I read my favorite bloggers in California and Florida and I ask myself "WHY am I in Jersey?!?!" It's a rhetorical question, of course. I'm here, and that's that. Snow, cold and all.

Soccer just started despite snow on the first day of spring. The three little ones have been braving the fierce cold on the windy fields, when they aren't snow covered or soaking wet. The seasons want to turn so badly, but they just aren't ready yet. We're waiting, peeking at the garden to see the first hints of crocuses and dandilions. Waiting, eyeing up the shorts stuffed away in the bottom drawer.

 Spring means flowers and pedicures. It means CB turning 20 and a mama in disbelief. It means summer is right around the corner which is my favorite time of year... kids off of school and up in my face and all.

Most of Spring, for me, will be spent in Radiation Therapy. I started today, actually. Day one.
I had two planning session, 9 tattoos (seriously, they tattoo little dots the size of freckles on you), and today was the first day of 6-week, Monday through Friday therapy. Fun times.

Today, I began which makes me one step closer to finishing. Twenty-nine days left. Not that anyone is counting, but me.

I'm thankful for my friend, Jenn, who invited herself along with me on my first official day and sat in the waiting room for an hour and fifteen minutes (it took extra long due to some last minute adjustments prior to starting). I'm thankful for my father-in-law who sat on the soccer field with Pink until 8:00 pm tonight so I didn't have to freeze with the three other girls. I'm thankful that I'm 29 days closer to closing this chapter. I'm thankful that even though the snow just melted in Jersey and the temperatures are still in the 40s, my boob will be sunburned which might make me fooled into thinking summer is almost here.

This weekend, before embarking on the final leg of my treatment I got to do something really amazing with my family. We spent Saturday night volunteering with Hearts United Against Cancer at their big Care and Comfort Bundle Event.

Hearts United Against Cancer is a non-proft organization that delivers Care & Comfort Bundles to men, women and children going through treatment for any and all types of cancer. They deliver these care packages to hospitals in our tri-state area and to individual homes, bringing cheer and well wishes to each Cancer Hero.  They will also ship the personalized baskets anywhere in the U.S. 

I was a recipient of one of their amazing personalized baskets right after my surgery. A friend, who is also a Board Member, nominated me. Can I tell you, I didn't cry when I got my diagnosis. I didn't cry during the invasive tests or when I told my husband or told my kids. But, I cried when I received this touching gift. The card, made by a child volunteer, with a handwritten note inside and all the personalized items including a gorgeous crocheted blanket just made me feel so loved and encouraged. I cannot explain the positive effect it had on me. The first thing I thought was that I wanted to pay it forward.

So, we joined over a hundred volunteers of all ages last Saturday night and it was the best Saturday night I've had in a long time. We made no sew blankets and stuffed homemade pillows, made rainbow loom bracelets and crafted bookmarks. We assembled care and comfort bundles for delivery to local hospitals and we decorated cards. All in all that night, we made 272 care and comfort bags, 351 craft items, 208 note cards, 130 homemade pillows and 25 large homemade blankets. I can't wait to become more involved with this organization!

If you know a Cancer Hero anywhere in the U.S. (defined as anyone actively in treatment for any type of cancer), you can visit the Hearts United Against Cancer website and fill out a simple form for a personalized care and comfort bundle delivery! Want to help? You can make no sew or crocheted blankets if you are crafty by joining the blanket brigade HERE. This is a great girl scout project, by the way. Please visit their website if you want to learn more about donating your time, treasures or talents.

You can follow Hearts United Against Cancer on Facebook or visit their website for more info!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

tHERsDay: My First Little Valentine

Nearly 20 years ago, when I fell in love for the first time.

I've fallen more times since then, but she will always be 
my first, precious little Valentine.
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