Bad News and Good News

Happy birthday Soosan!

On a more somber note, I’m sitting in the lobby, waiting for monster to come out from his oncology appointment. As Monster was getting older, and we weren’t short on people who loves to remind me how old he looks, I tried to block out the feeling of impending doom. I never thought I would be sitting here having to face it head on as we battle cancer. We lost Sugar in April, and here we are again with Monster.

We found a huge lump at the base of his neck in August. It turned out to be cancerous. Our vet was hopeful that she could surgically remove it and then we can discuss our options with an oncologist. I was optimistic.

My vet called me after the procedure and told me that the tumor is wrapped around the jugular artery.  She didn’t want to risk nicking it so she opted to remove a sample for biopsy. To be honest, I was frustrated. I felt like our vet didn’t try hard enough. I just wanted someone to blame. It was easier to be angry.

Our vet referred us to an oncologist with the result of the biopsy – soft tissue sarcoma, grade three (that’s bad). I consulted with two oncologists, two surgical specialists, and a cardiologist. We did an echocardiogram and a CT scan.  Then they gave me the devastating news that the tumor had already spread to his lungs.

Since we got the initial diagnosis, I had kept myself almost stoic because we were going to fight this.  We were going to exhaust all our options.  And maybe there was a little denial too.  But after I hung up the phone with the oncologist that day, grief washed over me, with an onslaught of waves after waves of sorrow. I broke the news to KT over the phone and I went to pick up the kids early from school so I can prepare L for the inevitable.

We decided the best approach was to bypass the surgery and go straight to chemo.  I wanted honest answers and the reality is that there are no protocols to effectively combat a high-grade sarcoma that had spread to the lungs.  Regardless, it was worth a try so here we are a week after the first treatment for a follow-up exam.

Guys, we got great news! The oncologist pulled me into a room to tell me that the tumor at the base of his neck shrunk by approximately 70%.  We can’t tell if the tumors in his lungs are responding the same way without another CT scan but we are cautiously optimistic.  I didn’t quite grasp how wonderful the news is until my oncologist stressed that this is rare — practically unheard of.  Typically, they would need to keep switching the protocol for treatment regarding a cancer this far along, just in hope of managing the cancer.

However to complicate matters, Monster has a heart murmur that makes it inadvisable to stay on this protocol.  Although our oncologist is hard press to switch up the protocol now since it appears to be working, we need to consult with the cardiologist to find out if he thinks Monster’s heart can handle the next round of chemo.  Either way, I’m thrilled with the results right now.  We’ll figure out the rest when we get there.

 

Free Little Library Book Drop Project

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I have a pretty robust personal library.  At one point, when I was still keeping a list of books I own, I had close to 200 books.  About a year ago, I decided I’m ready to pare down my book collection.  As much as I love all my books, I no longer have the time or the space for them.  Before kids, I used to read and reread my books.  For a while after having kids, I was in a serious reading drought.  I have my nose in a book almost everyday again but the way I consume my reading material is so different now.  As much as I love reading an actual book in my hands, I usually read on my kindle app because it’s more convenient.  Also, being limited on time, I don’t see myself reading the same books again, unless it’s Pride and Prejudice or the Fountainhead or Anna Karenina.

I didn’t want to just donate my books to goodwill (because it feels like I’m putting my books in a blackhole) or the public library (because they tend to keep newer stuff and sell their older stuff).  A solution came to me earlier this year when I came across a Free Little Library.  So this is what I’m doing — I’m going to put a few of my books into all the FLLs around my neighborhood. Then I’ll keep some books in my car so that when I come across any FLL outside of my neighborhood, I can drop them off.  I stamped the inside of the book with this website so maybe people who come across my books can leave me a comment here or tag me on Instagram.  I’m excited to see where my books are and how far they traveled.

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I made my first book drop today with my little helper.  I dropped off five Patricia Cornwell novels – two paperback and three hardcovers.  I’ll keep posting on Instagram whenever I visit a FLL.  Happy reading!

#the100dayproject // the trouble is, you think you have time

the trouble is, you think you have time.

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i am so guilty of this mentality.  even after sugar was diagnosed with advance cancer.  when sugar started improving, i was optimistic that instead of only have a few hours left, we might actually have a couple of months left with her.  things didn’t feel so urgent anymore.  i took L back to school, we tried to bring back some of our routines, i went back to the gym, and we let sugar spend some time in our backyard.

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i even got frustrated with her and the boys one morning when no one was cooperating while i tried to get the kids out the door for school.  i regret it now because the next day, she took a turn for the worse.  i called the doctor to come see her again but there wasn’t any more they can do. her decline was swift and she passed away at 3am the next morning.

even during the last few minutes, i still thought we have more time.  maybe it was denial.

 

#the100dayproject // one step at a time

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One step at a time.

When I noticed Sugar was getting worse again, I rushed her to the neighborhood vet.  I had the receptionist page the doctor and have him come back from his lunch break.  I knew in my gut that something was really wrong with Sugar.  From his cursory exam, he told me she was bleeding in her abdomen.  He called me a few hours later and gave me her cancer diagnosis — There’s a tumor on her spleen.  It’s very common for larger breed dogs, he said.  It ruptured and she’s bleeding out into her stomach.  The obscured mass in her chest from her last x-ray has metastasize, meaning the tumor from her spleen has spread to her lungs.  There is nothing they can do.

Nothing they can do.  What are our options, I asked anyway.  Say goodbye.  No.  Stabilize her.  Yes.  See a specialist.  I’ll look into it.  One step at a time.

One day at a time.

That evening, Sugar was seen by a specialist at another facility.  Bottom line is, a dog with this aggressive cancer, even if it’s not as advanced as Sugar’s, would only get another two months even if they were able to successfully remove the tumor from the spleen. That’s because by the time the tumor on the spleen becomes apparent, it would have already spread even if we can not see it yet.

Since Sugar was alert and was not in any pain at the moment, this vet did not object to us taking Sugar home.  She warned us that we have maybe hours with her, days at most.  The best case scenario she gave us was that Sugar might pass peacefully in her sleep.

When Sugar made it through the night and she was still very alert, I remembered recently reading about some vets practicing eastern medicine.  KT and I started researching holistic and hospice care to make her more comfortable.  KT found a mobile vet who came to our house a couple days later to provide hospice care and it made a world of difference.  This mobile vet also suggested an herbal medicine, yunnan baiyao, to help stop the bleeding. And it did.  Her gums were rosy pink again and I cried when she ate her first meal in days.

One hour at a time.

Over the next two weeks, Sugar improved so much that I was starting to be in denial that we’ll actually lose her.  She was eating regularly and eagerly.  She was moving around.  I even came home one morning after drop off to find her barking in the backyard.

But the specialist did warn that even if the bleeding stop, it will start again.  And it did.  I can’t help but think that maybe if I kept her housebound, or bed-bound, then maybe the tumor wouldn’t start bleeding again.  This time around, we couldn’t get the bleeding to stop.  Within hours, her gum was pale and her stomach was bloated again.  She stopped eating and drinking.

KT and I slept with her in the living room that evening.  She couldn’t settle down and sleep.  She was grunting and panting.  I told KT it was probably time to consider putting her to sleep.  I didn’t want her to be in a pain.  At three in the morning, she passed away with KT and I by her side.

It’s been exactly a week since she passed away.  I worry about how L is dealing with our loss.  I keep saying that we have to get back to our routine.  L needs routine.  I need routine.  But things aren’t the same.

Yesterday night, L asked for Sugar and we spent an hour looking at her pictures on my phone.  He did not want to look at old pictures of Sugar.  He wanted to see current pictures of her.  “Same” sugar.  He picked out a picture of her to be printed and framed for his room.  He was happy that it was a picture of the “same” healthy, happy, goofy Sugar he remembers and loves.

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I feel so loss for words.  It feels so difficult to find words to express how I feel.  It seems like I can only recite facts.  Words and feelings are just all jumbo up inside.  Some days are hard and some days almost feel normal.  Just trying to remember this mantra and take it one step at a time, one day at a time, one hour at a time.

#the100dayproject

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I started seeing the 100 day project ramping up on my Instagram feed on April 1st.  That was also the day I received the diagnosis for my twelve year old Shepherd mix.  There’s a tumor on her spleen.  It ruptured and is bleeding out into her abdomen.  The tumor already spread to her lungs.  There’s nothing we can do.

When I saw that this project was starting again, I wanted to participate.  But I couldn’t imagine having the energy or the heart to do anything creative.  At the same time, I was scrolling endlessly through pinterest, reading quotes and poems about grief and pet loss.  Misery loves company right?  But really, don’t we all feel comforted when we listen to sad love songs when we’re going through a heart break?  I believe the same logic applies here.

As I was trying to shove down some sustenance at the dinner table, it occurred to me that I can practice hand lettering while writing out quotes that resonate and soothe me.  So this is my 100 day project. #100daysofhandletteringgrief

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I don’t know how to tell this story.  I’m a scrapbooker and I like to blog about our home improvement projects.  I don’t spend a lot of time on documenting the hard stuff.  But I know that’s part of our story.  I guess that’s why reading about grief and pet loss can be soothing – it helps express what I can’t seem to put into words.  But I will try because I truly believe it will help.

Sugarbear has been with me since she was four months old.  She’s been here with Logan his entire our life.  She’s our baby girl.  She has the sweetest temperament and put up with toddlers’ ears and tail tugging.  She puts Logan to bed every night.  Not only are we heartbroken, we can’t imagine how our three year old will cope with losing his best friend, his family.

KT and I decided to be honest with him.  We told him that she is really sick and that she will die.  We told him that we are so sad and that it is okay for him to be sad too.  We think he, sort of, understands but he’s scared.  Like his mama, forever the can-do optimist, he believes that she will get better if he keeps telling her so. But we also see that sometimes when the reality or doubt seeps in, he can’t seem to face her and keeps a wide berth of her.  My heart breaks for him.  For us.

I’ve been through this grief one too many times already.  We’re doing the best we can.  For her.  For him.  For us.  We’re trying to survive.  Denial had always felt worse to me because every morning, the reality always hits hard and the rest of the day is exhausted on denying what cannot be changed.  I’ve found some comfort in facing this and doing everything we can to spend just a little bit more time with her and making sure she’s comfortable.  We are going to get through this because, whether we face it or fight it, the only way is through.

FOMO

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.  

I first heard FOMO used when I was watching Mistresses a few weeks ago. (I haven’t been connected to the latest slang/internet speak in many years).

I always thought I was just a morning person but now I realized I had a serious case of FOMO up until I had kids. I would wake up as soon as the morning light seeps between my curtains.  I would immediately spring up from bed, wide awake, and eager to start my day.  There’s so much to do, things to see, life to experience!

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My mom recently told me, after observing my kids, that they’re just like me when I was a toddler.  Apparently I had FOMO for most of my life and passed it on to my kids. And boy do my kids have FOMO. They would fight to stay awake until they nod off standing up.

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Since having kids, I don’t really care about missing out on what’s going on in the rest of the world as much as missing out on a few extra minutes of sleep. But as I’m slowly catching up on sleep, I’m starting to feel a little FOMO again…

FOMO: it’s a real problem.

Welcoming Ander

I realized I never popped in to post Ander’s birth announcement (or pregnancy announcement, or update) so here it is. Better late than never, right?

20160324_140158I, to be completely honest, was not happy with Logan’s newborn pictures. I just didn’t click with the photographer.  I shopped around for a new photographer but even those with good reviews have at least a few bad reviews that turned me off. Since I knew I was going to be in the throes of the newborn stage, I didn’t want to risk hiring a photographer who happened to have an off day with us and having to deal with that tension. It seems that as I get older, I expect nothing less then stellar service.  And good service is so hard to come by these days.

10 7I came across this post and I was empowered to take Ander’s newborn photos myself. (Hey, if Kate Middleton can do it, then I can too, right?! =P) I couldn’t be happier with my own pictures even though I was limited in props and accessories.  Seriously, it was so fun and stress free. There are a lot of posts out there that gives great tips.  Hope you’ll give it a try.

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An Easy Baby, Raising Ander: 7 Months 2 Days

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Ander at Target

As I was trying to put Ander back to sleep this evening, I likened trying to soothe a baby to navigating a minefield. Not that I know what it’s like to navigate a minefield, but it’s what I imagine from what I see on TV (you know, that thing where we apparently learn everything we need to know, plus some).

Anyways, I was rubbing ander’s back as he was drifting back to sleep. I was glad I didn’t have to pick him up this time, then I realized the moment it happened – I messed up the rhythm of my circular rubbing. It was too late because a split second later, he kicked his legs and cried out in angry frustration. Ahh sh*t!!

Right? It’s like navigating a minefield. As you step forward, you knew almost immediately that you made a wrong step. Maybe you can feel something hard underfoot but it’s too late to stop your foot as it comes down and activate the mine… Yea it’s weird how one’s mind works.

Going back to Ander, he was back asleep in just a couple minutes. He’s known as an easy baby by everyone who meets him.  The cashier at Target. The server at the restaurant. Other parents at Logan’s school. And he is, in comparison to Logan at the same age. KT and I are so grateful how much easier this infant stage was this time around. It is so true that it is so much better to have a colicky baby-bad sleeper-need to be held 24/7 baby first, and an easier (doesn’t matter to what degree) baby next. It gives us perspective. We’re just constantly grateful that we don’t have to take shift sleeping and holding a baby, or endure hours of crying before, during, and after the witching hours. So grateful that we kinda just grazed over whenever Ander does fuss or spit food in our face or cry in the middle of the night for a solid hour or two before going back to sleep. 

But you know, that’s just it – raising an “easy” baby is still hard. It no joke when people say being a mom is the hardest job you can ever do.  But it is also oh-so fulfilling. And if there’s any truth to it, it just might be the most fulfilling job I’ll ever do.  We are so blessed to have these two little boys. No matter how difficult it might be during any given moment, just remembering how much more difficult it could be really put things into perspective for me. And if that doesn’t work, then you know, have a little melt down/temper tantrum, feel a little silly or guilty cuz they’re just kids, and then take a page out of Logan’s book – forgive and forget.

3×4 Black & White Pattern Paper Pack

3x4 BW Pattern Paper             3x4 BW Paper Packs

(click image to enlarge)

NEW in the shop!

This listing is for a 3×4 black and white paper pack. You will receive 25 count of 3×4 Pattern Paper. Each pack of 25 will come with various pattern papers that I had hand picked. They are perfect for Project Life pockets or use in any scrapbook pages.  These beautiful pattern papers are from the Recollection blackjack collection.

>>click here to shop now. 

 

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Raising Logan:: The Big ONE


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Logan’s first year is one of the best and hardest year of our lives.  And I miss it so much.  I can’t believe how quickly he’s growing.  To celebrate this milestone, we decided to throw Logan a big bash… which really was for the benefit of our family and friends.

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This party turned out to be a huge DIY project.  I went with a Dr. Seuss red/white/teal theme.  I designed the above image for postcard invitations and had them printed from an online shop.

I also decided that it just wouldn’t feel right for the environmentally conscious me to use disposable party goods.  I made cloth cocktail napkins with red/white stripes ticking cloth.  It turned out to be a huge undertaking because we ended up with 50+ guests.  We also used all of our dinner dishware and outdoor dish ware.  To minimize the need for utensils, we went with finger food.  We made all the food and my family ended up coming over the morning of the party to help prep and cook. And blow up balloons and hang decorations.

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To continue with the DIY-focused party, we set up a pizza station so guests can custom make their own personal sized pizza.  I pre-made the dough and KT manned the pizza “oven”.  Our friend, Brad, jumped in to help and he ended up firing up pizzas with KT during the entire party.  Thanks Brad!

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My sister  made Logan two birthday cakes.  We decided to purchase Logan’s smash cake since I didn’t want my sister’s hard work getting obliterated in a matter of minutes.  Logan really enjoyed smashing the cake once he got started.  I was definitely impressed with how he dug in at the end.

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We hired Caricatures By Dominic.  We definitely recommend him if anyone is looking for a caricaturist.  He’s really personable and everyone liked him.  His caricatures were also pretty spot on.

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Photo credit: Thank you Robert for all of the wonderful party pictures!  We were so busy with our guests that we didn’t take a single picture.  I am so grateful my sister had the foresight to suggest that Robert be the designated photographer.  We ended up with some really special pictures.    

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We had a great time celebrating Logan’s big ONE.  We are so glad for all of our family and friends who made his day so special.

ornamenttreesP.S. We also did a lot of work in the backyard to prep for the party.  I’ll write an update for the backyard soon.