30 December 2011

Tidings of discomfort and misery

Okay, so perhaps the title is a little bleak, but it pretty much sums up the outcome of our Christmas holidays. We had the best intentions of fully enjoying the break but it seems that our immune systems took the "holly" and "jolly" right out of us.

I won’t get into the graphic details but let’s just say that, over the past three weeks, we have evolved from coughing and fevers, to intimate relationships between our posteriors and the toilet, and back to colds and coughing again. It all started with our little carrier monkey picking up a bug at daycare. He seemed cheery enough on Christmas Eve, but we could easily see that he wasn’t himself on Christmas Day and worse still on Boxing Day. He spent most of Christmas dinner sulking in some capacity. Boxing Day dinner was peppered by several bouts of coughing so hard that he vomited. Nothing says Bon appetit more than catching a handful of your child's vomit at the dinner table while others are trying to enjoy the lovely spread of food - poor kiddo :(

Sleep has been somewhat elusive for all of us, with frequent wakeups due to coughing fits. We brought Drew to the paediatrician on Tuesday and he had some bronchial irritation and a bad cold; he was prescribed some medication to help break up the phlegm in his chest and it seems to be helping a bit now – thankfully! Now that he seems on the mend, in true form, he has passed to torch onto Mommy. I have been sick for the past three days now with the worst cold I have experienced in some time. My throat was getting so sore that it kept waking up at night. Knowing that something was “off” I went to the doctor this morning and was diagnosed with a bad case of Strep A. Now I’m just hoping that Drew won’t get the Strep from me – hubby is already showing signs of being the next lucky contestant.

So there you have it – a pretty horrid holiday. The only times we have crossed our front door is to venture out to see the doctor or pick-up medicine. No lovely walks in the snow, no tobogganing, no visiting with friends or family. We had to cancel several dinners, including a New Year’s party that we were planning to host. Needless to say, this wasn’t the happy ending that we were hoping for, to an already difficult year.

On the plus side, I am looking forward to healthier 2012.

01 November 2011

Hallo hangover

It’s November 1st and I can barely keep my eyes open, my head throbs and I feel like I’ve been hit by an eighteen-wheeler. It may sound like the result of too many drinks, but this particular hangover cannot be attributed to alcohol. Instead, these are the residual effects of (a) hosting one hell of a Halloween house last night, and (b) trick-or-treating with a toddler.

Without exaggeration, we have close to 250 kids stop by the crypt last evening. We knew we would be busy this year but had no idea we would be quite that popular! Last year we were in friendly competition with one of the other houses on the street and I guess our enthusiasm stemmed to others this year. Almost every single house had some form of decoration and we the street was littered with kids! We also had a new housing development reach completion this year so I think the amount of kids in our vicinity doubled.

Last night was probably the highlight of 2011 for our family. It reminded me of Halloween’s of my youth where people actually made an effort for the kids. Oh course, we always go above and beyond the norm in our own house, but I was happy to see even simple single pumpkins lining the street. You could tell the kids were having a good time, as were the adults.

Taking Drew out this year was so much fun. He dressed as a police officer and was exceedingly happy about it. He had both a flashlight and whistle in his vest which pretty much sealed the deal as far as he was concerned. He wasn’t overly afraid of the houses because he is already accustomed to living amongst corpses and all manner of creepy decorations but he did get frightened by one of those creepy “Scream” masks that a child was wearing. All was going well until about the 6th house in then BLAMO, he saw the mask and shrieked like I’ve never heard him shriek before. Poor kid.

We ended up going back home to continue answering the door, which Drew thoroughly enjoyed. My whole family dropped by, including my best friend and goddaughter. We are always a full house on Halloween and it’s a fun atmosphere. Of course, Andrew managed to butter everyone up and enjoyed his fair share of chocolate. He spent most of the evening yelling “Hi people!” anytime kids would come to the door, running around at warp speed or spinning in circles. It was full-on sugar rush and a good reminder of why we are typically fairly strict with his sugar consumption. He had a great time though and I figured no hard in one day….the chocolate drool stains on his mouth made for some lovely photos too.

All in all, the best Halloween I’ve ever had. It was chaotic and busy but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We plan this for months and it is always great to see the joy that our setup brings to kids and parents alike. The icing on the cake, is that Drew seems to enjoy it all too….minus those damn “Scream” masks.

27 October 2011

Halloweenie

You may not find this word in the dictionary, but it is one that has a clear definition, use and implication in my life. It is both a noun and adjective and can be described as follows:

Noun – A person who is addicted to Halloween
Adjective – A description of something spooky and Halloween-esque.

Halloweenies (of the noun variety) are a rare and precious breed. We are the people that put more stock in frightening the bejesus out of children than we do in honouring all the other holidays. We are the folks that turn our lawns in cemeteries, build tombstones in the summer, and are always on the lookout for the next great prop or discounted black curtains. Yes folks, I am a Halloweenie and I am guilty of all the aforementioned activities.

My obsession with Halloween stems back as far as I can remember. Perhaps I was an odd child with a penchant for the macabre. I’m not sure how many 10-year olds would wait patiently by their dot matrix printer, slowly churning out highly pixilated gruesome graphics to colour and put in the windows. I would also gather old castoff clothing from my family members and use it to construct dead bodies for the porch. I remember walking to the dollar store, allowance in hand, to purchase red poster board to cut into little blood puddles that I would lovingly scatter around my corpses. I’m sure it all looked a little budget, but to my child’s imagination, it was awesome! I always vowed that I would have THE Halloween house on the street when I would one day own my own place. Thankfully I married a man that shares my vision…or at least tolerates it because he loves me and is an exceedingly patient person.

This year’s haunt is going to be bigger and better than ever. No cheap and tacky ornamentation for us – the vast majority is homemade but done tastefully and with a great deal of love and care. We are not ones for cluttering the lawn with plastic animatronics or inflatables, we are more focused of setting a realistically eerie scene. Our porch is swathed in black curtains with hanging metal lanterns, smoke, webs and eerie lighting. Our ghost is not friendly, it looks like a black-eyed Madonna, floating freely in the wind. Our cemetery contains tombstones that have been painstaking carved by hand and an entrance gate with real glowing lanterns and posts. We want to give people the illusion that they are really stepping up to a haunted place.

People often ask me, “Why on earth do you do it?” My answer is simple – the children. When you see kids regularly driving by on their bicycles and slowing down to look at your lawn, when you hear their exclamations of excitement – that’s the ticket for us! People don’t do enough anymore for children. I want to give them a fun memory and something to look forward to every year. Don’t think that they don’t appreciate it – they do!

Each year we have countless children thanking us for the effort , not to mention their parents. It is also something fun that we can enjoy doing with our whole family. At the tender age on two, Drew is already showing a good deal of interest in all our Halloween stuff. I look forward to incorporating some of his ideas in the future and letting him build a few props of his own. I can't wait for the day when he asks to go to the dollar store to buy his own red posster board.

19 October 2011

Drew turns two!

Where on earth did the time go? I am having a hard time believing that (a) my little boy isn’t a baby anymore, and (b) that I am actually the mother of a two-year old. Baby bottles have been replaced by cups and straws, the crib is gone and snuggling with his parents seems more like a chore than a favourite pastime now...sigh.

Despite the onset of the “terrible twos” and the attitude that comes along with it, I really do enjoy motherhood. We have moved from simply taking care of his basic needs (surviving) to now actually having to parent. While discipline isn’t enjoyable, I really enjoy being able to communicate with Drew and seeing the wheels turning in his head. He is a curious, busy and clever little boy – only silent or still when he’s sleeping. He’s a handful but he’s fun.

To mark Drew’s special day, we went out shopping at the mall to pick out a few goodies for his party this weekend. We took a little snack break at the coffee shop, rode the carousel and had fun testing out almost every bench in the mall (he did...I watched). While I didn’t intend to take the day off from work, my daycare provider ended up having to close for the day to go to a medical appointment. Looks like the starts aligned in the end; I’m glad I got to some quality time with Drew on his birthday.

Tonight we are heading out to Boston Pizza for Drew’s favourite treat. Mom and Dad and meeting up with us and then it’s back to our place for some cupcakes and a few presents. The larger family celebration is happening this weekend. We were debating on throwing a kids party but it just didn’t feel right. Drew doesn’t really have any solid friendships at his age, aside from his few little buddies at daycare. He’s a social animal by nature but I didn’t want our own friends to feel obligated to bring their kids or have to buy gifts – they have enough expenses of their own I’m sure. We’ll probably do a big show-stopper of a birthday once he’s in school....the ideas are already brewing ! For now, he’ll be content with family and a few select folks.

Happy Birthday to the most wonderful, funny, crazy and loving little guy I know. You can be the very devil himself at times but, you bring your father and I immense joy, laughter and pride. But please little man...don’t grow up too fast okay?

03 October 2011

I get my little girl!

Okay…well perhaps the title is a bit misleading.
NO – I am not pregnant in any way, shape or form!

I am referring to the birth of my new little goddaughter.

Today my best friend, since the second grade, gave birth to her first child. After a looooong labour, little miss Evie graced us all with her beautiful presence. Of course, I was anxious to get to the hospital to get some snuggle time in! Neither hubby nor I ever suspected that we were going to be godparents, we were asked once we got to hold her in our arms. Of course, I broke out into happy tears and said yes – what an honour!

So now I am doubly blessed. I have my own little boy at home and a goddaughter that I get to spoil with all manner of ridiculously girly and frilly things. Bring on the pink and glitter ; )

08 September 2011

Handsome devil

I just had to share this photo of my little charmer. He can be the very devil at times but when he shoots me this particular look, my insides turn to mush…damn smart and manipulative toddlers – LOL



This evening I quietly watched Andrew playing on the floor, driving his assortment of trucks and emergency vehicles up and down all over his play mat. I was suddenly overcome with a sense of sadness – where the hell did my baby go? When did he grow so fast?

I love this age to bits and, if I’m totally honest with myself, I don’t really miss the infant days. That being said, I wish I could press pause for a while. He has decided to start calling me “Mom” more than “Mommy” now and it makes me feel like we’re both too old for our own good. Darn …”Mom” is what I call my own mother.

07 September 2011

NO CANCER

Those are probably the two most wonderful words when used in unison; thankfully they were also the result of my pathology report this morning.

I can’t tell you how nervous I felt this morning as I waited in the exam room to see the surgeon. I could hear my heart hammering in my ears and the minutes felt like hours. I knew that the odds were on my side but I couldn’t breath a sigh of relief until I was officially given the all clear. While thyroid cancer is quite treatable in most cases, I didn’t relish the thought of more surgery or possibly radiation. The big “C” word is scary and still hits a little too close to home in our family.

It is good to be putting this three-year chapter to rest. My shoulders feel lighter. Sure I’m missing half a thyroid out of the whole ordeal BUT it is a very small price to pay to finally have an answer. I got away lucky and I’ll always have a scar to remind me of just how thankful I am to be alive and healthy. That scar is also a reminder to always keep tabs on my health and to continue to go for annual physical exams.

I’m going to go home tonight and I’m going to hug my little boy just a little bit tighter and longer. My biggest fear out of all of this was the potential of becoming too ill to enjoy watching him grow.

Thank you to everyone out there for your warm wishes, words of encouragement and the multitude of appendages that you crossed in my honour.

To those out there that are undergoing surgery, waiting on results or battling disease, I wish you courage, strength and optimism. I often lack these own traits within myself, but I know that they can carry you further, farther, above and beyond anything else.

30 August 2011

Back to the grind

While the doctor granted me three weeks off to heal, I am back at work today. I couldn’t honestly take another week as I’m almost back to full strength now. It’s hard to imagine that I was under the knife this time two weeks ago. Despite a bit of tightness around the incision, and the fact that I still look like Franken-neck, I could almost forget that the whole ordeal even happened. I had managed to work myself into such a frenzy before the surgery and it really wasn’t all that terrible. Do I want to do it again? No! But I can honestly say to other would-be thyroid surgery patients that the procedure isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

It’s waiting for the results now that I truly find difficult. My follow-up with the surgeon is on September 7. I keep praying for a clean bill of health, then I can refocus and move on. I’ll always have regular blood work and ultrasounds of the remaining half of my thyroid, but it’s a small price to pay in order to make sure I’m healthy. Cross your fingers folks; I really want to rule out the big “C”.

This week is going to be difficult. It’s hard to get right back into the working rhythm after two weeks off. For the first time ever, I think I actually managed to relax and do exactly as I pleased. For the first week, I lounged around on the sofa. During the second week I spent most of my time in the garage cutting, painting and creating Halloween decorations. It was a lot of work but it was “fun” work. I am always at my happiest and most relaxed when I am pouring myself into some sort of craft or art project. Keeping busy at something I enjoy – that is healing!

That’s all for now. I still haven’t posted pictures of the neck but hope to do so soon. It will be neat to see how it fades over time. Right now the ends of the incision are going red, so I am monitoring for infection. I think this is just my skin reacting to the suture knots just under the surface of the skin. I’m so pale that it isn’t hard for anything to stand out on my skin. Either way, I’m not hiding the neck. I’ll proudly show my battle scar : )

22 August 2011

Day seven of captivity

Going on a full week post-op now and part of my incision still has a hard ridge of swelling. My mobility is almost good enough to start driving again, so I think I’m going to trying cruising around the block a few times tomorrow to see how it goes. I’m getting pretty bored sticking around home and am itching to do something productive. Despite the boredom, however, I ma heeding my doctor’s advice and not returning to work until next week.

Yesterday was the first day that I actually started to feel like my old self...stiff Franken-neck aside. My energy was great the whole day so I decided to head out with hubby to do the groceries and pick up some supplies at the hardware store for a Halloween project that I dreamed up. Yes folks, that time of year have arrived – haunting construction!

Desperately looking for something “fun” to do, I decided that I would get a head start on constructing some foam tombstones for our new and improved cemetery this year. You would think that cutting through foam with a hacksaw is relatively easy, it didn’t feel overly difficult, but after an hour of work my neck started swelling up. Darn it! Looks like I’m going to have to nurse it and work in small segments of time. It felt so good to get moving and lose myself in a project but my body obviously has other ideas.

I was hoping to return to the gym today but it seems that walking will be the order of the week. I feel the weight creeping on and my clothing is getting tighter. I’m probably at my heaviest weight ever and really want to get back into some sort of shape – circular doesn’t count.

Patience is a virtue, one that I was never blessed with. I always ask myself what I would do if I had to endure recovery from a “major” surgery. I’m afraid that I would make the crabbiest patient ever.

20 August 2011

Facing my fear

My mother always told me that life has a funny way of eventually making you confront your fears or phobias. As a child she always hated anything to do with feet. She could handle all manner of gruesome cases in the emergency room, but give her anything to do with a foot and all the colour would drain out of her face. I still remember her trying to pull a Plantar wart out of my heel when I was little – I think it was for her than it was for me.

While I pride myself on having a fairly cast iron stomach I can easily tell you that the one thing that always makes me cringe is anything to do with throats and knives, especially when the two are combined. Just thinking about someone cutting their throat makes me want to faint. As a result, I have always avoided gory and slasher-style movies my whole life.

Knowing what you do now, is it surprising that I had such fear and anxiety over thyroid surgery? To prepare myself for the surgery, I tried to look at things rationally. This is a common enough surgery, minimal risk and, in the grand scheme of things, not too horrible to recover from. I knew I would have a small 2-3 inch scar that would fade over time. The thought of having my throat cut open still freaked me out but I had to get on with it anyways.

I thought I was doing pretty well and handling everything like a champ until it came time to take the dressing off this morning. My mother was going to come over and do it for me but I was impatient and ripped the thing off myself this morning; if any hand was going to hurt me, it might as well be my own. My first glance was fairly impartial. It’s a 3-inch scar, fairly flat despite some swelling, and healing well. All of a sudden though, my brain registered that the slash was on my own neck and back came the old phobia. I started seeing black spots and all the telltale signs that I was about to faint. I rushed over to the couch and had to sit down to collect myself.

I really did not think I would have this reaction to seeing my incision. Weird how little fears or phobias can push all rational thought out of your mind. This is something I’m going to have to get over quickly, otherwise I’ll be passing out every morning when I look in the mirror. I have already forced myself to get up and confront the image in the mirror twice again. It really does not look that bad and I just have to keep everything in perspective. I get off pretty lucky having such a small incision but it’s the location that got me. I never once felt this way with my much larger C-section incision.

On a positive note, I could make one hell of a realistic zombie for Halloween. There’s a always a sinver lining ; )

19 August 2011

Looking up

Things are looking up – literally.

I am happy to report that I’m able to tilt my head back more, something that was virtually impossible two days ago without feeling like my head would fall off. I’m still stiff as hell, and find it near impossible to sleep the night through, but I feel like things are starting to heal a little on the inside. I have a bit more mobility and have started doing neck exercises which is thankfully relieving some of the tensions in my shoulders, back and head.

I managed to do a few laps around the block yesterday which felt great. My breathing was still a bit shallow due to swelling so I had to call it quits early and plunk myself down on the porch. I gave in to a small pity party yesterday (more tears, damn it!). I just want to get up and get my life back in order. I miss feeling healthy and I can’t wait to get myself back on track. Tacking proper care of my body has been long overdue and, when all is said and done, I’m going to meet with a nutritionist to help get me on the right path. Now that I only have half a thyroid, I’m going to have to monitor my diet more closely and make sure that I am eating the right foods to fuel my body and keep the blues at bay.

Tomorrow the dressing comes off – I can’t wait! While I know that the stitches themselves are making things tight, the added medical plastic and tape don’t help. It will feel good to air out the inscision. I am also very curious to see how I am healing. I’m sure it will be a bit unsightly but I honestly don’t care. Folks can stare and ask all they like – no sweat off my back. Thankfully I’m not one of those people that is disturbed by scars. I see no point in covering them up. I guess I always grew up looking at scars. My mother’s body is quite the roadmap; I’ve always found her scars fascinating. Scars are kind of like testaments to human strength and the body’s ability to endure far more than we ever give it credit for. It’s like having a piece of your history tattooed on your body and I didn’t even have to pay good $ for mine – ha!

Glad to be feeling in a more positive state of mind today. I’m going to try to go for a longer walk and do more stretches. It’s slow going but at least it’s going somewhere.

As for hubby, I think he’s quietly enjoying this whole experience. My voice is still quite weak which means that I am no longer able to nag…or at least he doesn’t hear me trying. In all honesty though, he has been an absolute rock through all of this. He has had to step up to the plate and take care of the house, cooking and taking care of Andrew. I’m coming out all this with a stronger appreciation for how lucky I really am to have two great guys in my life.

18 August 2011

Hard night, better morning

You’d think I would have remembered something from my C-Section two years ago. That first 24 hours after surgery is always the worst. The pain and swelling got progressively worse throughout the day and I had a rough time sleeping last night. The incision site isn’t that sore itself, the issue has more to do with swelling inside which makes swallowing difficult. Every time I tried to take a sip of water after getting some food down, it felt like things were getting backed up in my esophagus. Every little sip would result in strange air bubbles and gurgling noises – a bit disconcerting. My breathing was also a bit shallower due to swelling. Nothing worth calling the hospital for but I did have to take things slower.

It feels like some of the swelling has gone down today and I managed to get breakfast down with a few less gurgles than yesterday. My voice is also a little bit stronger. I think I’m likely over the worst but I’ll still have to pace myself and try to keep still. I hope to get out and walk around the block a few times. It’s important that I start to move my neck more because things are getting very stiff. My whole back aches from holding my head differently.

For anyone else facing thyroid surgery, please know that the procedure itself is not all that bad. While I am experiencing pain, it could be far worse than it has been. It’s like having a very stiff and sore neck with a sore throat. I think the worry leading up to the surgery was far worse and, knowing what I do now, was not worth all the stress or tears. This will eventually be just a small blip in time- an inconvenience and the last resort to finally getting a diagnosis. Now lets cross those fingers, toes and all available appendages in hopes that this pesky nodule is benign.

17 August 2011

Day one post-op

Sleeping last night proved to be about as difficult as I imagined. I managed to pass out around 9:30 p.m. and slept straight through until 2:00 a.m. but had a hard time getting back down again afterwards. My neck was getting sore from being propped up on several pillows and the swelling started to get worse. I took another Percocet and managed to drift in and out of sleep.

Now that I’m up and about the swelling is going down again. I’m spending lots of time with ice on my neck and it feels quite nice. It hurts a good deal more to swallow today so I’ve had to get a bit mushier with my diet. I did manage to treat myself to a decaf Starbucks latte this morning so that’s a good sign that I’m already well on the mend. It was nice to get out for a little bit to enjoy the fresh air.

Not much on my plate right now other than trying to take it easy , which has never been my forte. I must say that the Percocet really chills me out; I don’t think I’ve been this relaxed in my life. That being said, I’m still looking forward to being pill free. As fun as it is to be “chill,” I don’t want to be spaced out for too long. I find myself having to concentrate a good deal more on making sense...hopefully this blog won’t be full or typos.

That’s all for now folks. Eyelids are getting heavy and the neck is needing more ice. I best get some sleep again before Drew comes home and wants to play. I think the poor little fella is wondering why I’m not rolling around on the ground and playing with him. That is going to be the hardest part of all this – not being able to pick him up and hold him. He is far too strong and curious; he has already taken a not-so-gentle interest in my bandages.

TTFN.

16 August 2011

I'm alive!

Feeling very relieved as the dreaded surgery is out of the way. All in all, it wasn't that bad. I was only in the OR for about 2 hours max. The bigger pain (literally) was my reaction to the anesthesia. I was expecting dizziness and faintness due my low blood pressure, but I did not anticipate throwing up after having my throat cut open; it was about as fun as it sounds.

I can't see the scar right now as it is covered in gauze and plastic. I have been applying loads of ice so the swelling isn't too bad. I imagine that tomorrow will likely be the worst day. Thankfully I have Percocet to get my through any pain and I really works wonders. I am trying to type this message after taking a dose, so typing is going very slowly.

Off now to rest and re-ice. I can move my head from left to right a little bit but looking up and down can be painful. All in all I am coping better than I thought. I had myself worked into such a frenzy last evening that I could barely eat, think straight or keep my eyes dry. Thankfully I smartened up this morning, took things into perspective and just went with the flow. Seeing Andrew after I got home from the hospital was the best feeling. Being here for him is all that matters

I am now trying to remain positive as my body heals. I have a followup with the surgeon in three weeks; I will get my results of the pathology report then. There is no sense worrying any more right now. For once in my life, I'm going to just relax and focus on myself.

I really have to give a big shout out to my wonderful hubby, family and daycare provider. They have been spoiling me, lending a hand with Drew and preparing lots of mushy casseroles. I go to bed tonight feeling very thankful and blessed.

No scar pictures yet...I won't get to see this little beauty for another four day. I'll admit, I'm very curious and can't wait to tear this tape off.


15 August 2011

Butterflies in my tummy...

And not the good kind of butterflies…

Tomorrow is surgery day. This time tomorrow I’ll be lying on a guerney with my throat cut open. It’s not the nicest image so I’ll try not to dwell on it too much.

They will be removing half of my thyroid to find out, once and for all, if a pesky nodule is cancerous or not. If all goes well, the results from the pathology report will come back with benign written on it. Unfortunately, while I’m recovering from the surgery, I’ll have the weight of the impending results on my mind. No frozen section biopsies offered here. They want a full examination of the nodule and surrounding tissue. The results will likely take two weeks to come back.

I have no idea what to expect. I hate surgery and faint very easily coming out of anesthesia. I’ll likely be completely useless coming home from the hospital. In a way, I hope I am released late so that Drew will already be in bed for the night. I don’t want him seeing me in that condition. Poor hubby is in for a rough ride.

Nothing much else to post right now. Just feeling nervous and tired…VERY tired of having this weigh me down. It has been almost three years now and I feel emotionally spent. I have put a brave face on for a while now but I would be lying if I didn’t say it bothers me. I just want to move on with life, have a clean bill of health and get back to enjoying things again.

Please cross fingers and toes for me and say your prayers. I’ll be sure to post some gruesome recovery shots later ; )

08 August 2011

Harvest rejects

August is here and with it comes the explosion of the mighty garden warrior – the zucchini. While my own plants were an epic flop (due to hungry bunnies and overcrowding), many of my co-workers were desperate to offload their own yields. And so our social committee cleverly organized an event in celebration of “National Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbour’s Front Porch Day”.

To be perfectly honest, I thought my coworkers were growing a little more than zucchini (if you catch my drift), but I did a Google search and discovered that August 8th is indeed recognized as a holiday where people ‘donate’ their unwanted zucchini plants to friends and neighbours.

At work, people were challenged to use zucchini in a cooking/baking contest. Folks got quite creative and I was more than happy to help judge. We also had a contest to “guess the weight” of four mammoth zucchinis that were grown in my boss’ garden. The combined weight came in at 25 lbs.

Never one to pass up a good photo op, I offered to take one of the unwanted burdens back home. While the devil would probably be too seedy to eat, it makes a great conversation piece. In the end, I decided to keep up the spirit of giving and lovingly donated it to our unsuspecting friends across the street. They were out for the evening which offered the perfect opportunity to decorate the zucchini with a big green bow and plop it in a basket on their doorstep. They only got in around 11 PM last evening, so I’ll be curious to see if they figured out where the mystery donation came from. I’m even more curious, however, to see what form of revenge will likely be sitting on my own porch when I get home today.

07 August 2011

Fun on the farm

Perhaps this post would be more aptly named, “Sweat on the farm.”

This past weekend hubby and I rented a farmhouse in Douglas, Ontario. We are always in search of little mini vacations close to home – something that Drew can appreciate at his age. Seeing as he seemed obsessed with all things “farm”, we thought it would be a logical choice to spend some time enjoying the real deal.

The house was an absolute gem – a farmhouse built in the early 1930s. While the kitchen was outfitted with a newer stove/ fridge and the bathroom was redone, the rest was decidedly rustic. I am a bit romantic when it comes to older homes; I adore all their little nooks, crannies and oddities. I like to imagine the lives that were lived among the walls throughout the house’s history. One thing is for certain, we were likely sweating just as much as the original owners did.

Unfortunately, our two days were unbearably humid. Usually I tolerate the heat well, but even I will concede that it was almost debilitating. Hubby and Drew felt the effects even more and, as a result, our little “city boy” spent most of his time on the farm feeling sticky and miserable. We earned a much-greater appreciation for how lucky we are to have air conditioning at home. We were hoping for a good steady country breeze off the fields, but were out of luck.

Horrible heat aside, which really has no bearing on the property itself, we enjoyed the vast spread of land on our doorstep. We had our own henhouse to tend, as well as some barn kittens that followed us everywhere. We also had a stable with two of the hugest horses I have ever seen, as well as 38 cattle in the adjacent field. Our task was to feed the cats and hens. It is a messy job but I honestly enjoyed herding the 16 feathered beasts and collecting fresh eggs for breakfast every morning. Drew got a real kick out of the hens – no fear in this child!

Sadly, due to the heat and dry weather, we were unable to make use of the fire pit on the property. Instead hubby and I opted to sit under a big tree and watch the sunset each evening after Drew went to sleep – a cool glass of wine in our hands. All in all, not a bad end to the day.

Would I go back? Probably not as I’ve done it once and there are many other things to visit and do elsewhere in the Ottawa Valley. However, I do think it’s a nice family escape, especially for those with toddlers. My one recommendation, go in the Fall when the weather turns cooler.

27 July 2011

Life and the bits in between

By now, I’d be surprised if I still have any faithful readers left.
Hello out there?
I think I hear crickets…

So what exactly has been keeping me away from the blogosphere?
Life…specifically life with a very active toddler and a full-time job.

My daily routine, not counting weekends, has fallen into a fairly static pattern:

5:30 = wake up, shower, dress
6:00 = wake Drew, feed, dress
7:00 = drop Drew at daycare
7:30 = work until my brain hurts
16:00 = leave work to get Drew
16:30 = cook supper
17:30 = feed supper and clean up
18:15 = play with Drew (best part of day)
19:30 = get Drew ready for bed
20:00 = exercise or t.v.
22:00 = bath and book
23:00 = bed

We like to spice things up on Thursday evenings, by cleaning the house.
Exciting right?

Don’t be fooled by the routine, however, because life is actually anything but dull. For all the tedium of work and chores, we make up for it with laughter and precious moments spent with Andrew. We make the most of weekends by heading out together and exposing Drew to all sorts of new sights, smells, sounds and experiences. Hubby and I are also quite lucky to fit in a few date nights each month, thanks to very helpful parents that also love spending time with Drew. It’s a good life.

Even if we opted to sit around the house all the time, I don’t think life could ever be boring with Andrew in our midst. Even with a red-hot temper and epic tantrums, I am really enjoying Drew at this age. He is learning at an incredible rate and seems to soak up everything. He is quite talkative now and has started forming words into cohesive sentences. He has gone from being a baby, into his own little person and an active member of the family. We never quite know what to expect from him next, everyday is a surprise and something funny to look forward to. I relish this time so much and wish I could start my maternity leave now. I’ll readily admit that I’m not an infant person and spent a good deal of my maternity leave battling post-partum depression. Now those days seem like a haze.

I really ought to post more so that I can capture some memories from Drew’s childhood. As you can see, time is a bit of a premium.

13 June 2011

Missing blogger found!

Horrid blogger! I hang my head in shame!

The writer’s block continues to plague me, a lingering side-effect of motherhood I’m afraid. I sit down a dozen times to try to write something meaningful and…poof…my mind wanders off into a dozen other directions.

Medical quandaries aside, things have been busy on the home front. Last weekend we built a wood deck in the backyard. We slaved away for two whole days while my parents ran interference with Andrew. Thank goodness for good neighbours and family, it would have taken us a month to complete entirely on our own. Tired, sore and barely able to put one foot in front of the other, we now have a lovely place to enjoy meals together en plein air.

A glutton for punishment, I decided to dig a flower bed around the perimeter of the deck this weekend. I was able to bang out something decent in only two hours while Andrew napped. Overall, I’m quite happy with how things turned out. We are schedule to have a PVC fence installed in a week and that should complete the whole look quite nicely.

Once again, we have been using Dan’s upcoming birthday as the impetus to get things accomplished around the house. We are hosting another party this year and, shock of all horrors, there’s no theme involved! Given the fact that we are both pretty tired, we have opted for a minimal-fuss BBQ with drinks on the deck – perfection!

Andrew continues to be the bright star in our lives. Whenever I have a crappy day or feel a little down, all I need is a snuggle and a smile from him to put me to rights again. You should hear the little guy jabbering away. He knows quite a few words now and has started stringing them together to form responses, commands and basic statements. I love this age, we never know what it going to come out of his mouth.
We do have some issues with temper tantrums, but we are getting better at dealing with them. He is an intense child, always has been, and I think he gets very frustrated when his body can’t keep up with his mind or, worse still, when we don’t seem to understand what he wants. We have had to do the dreaded “walk of shame” out of grocery stores with a bucking and wailing kiddo, but I think my comfort level has grown over time. I used to be very concerned about what others would think of us when Andrew fusses, now I don’t really care. Every kid is different and we do our very best to get the very best out of him. If there is one thing that parenthood has taught me, it’s to NEVER judge. This isn’t an easy gig, we’re in a constant state of learning.

In closing, I’m leaving you with a picture of my little red-headed devil. Where of where did my baby go? Who replaced him with this funny little toddler?



02 June 2011

Hemithyroidectomy

Decision is made

Just a quick health update for those that have been wondering.

My biopsy came back as I had expected – no major signs of cancer cells but also somewhat inconclusive.
I had my follow-up with the surgeon yesterday and was asked to make the difficult decision. My options are as follows:

(a) continue to monitor the nodule every 3 months with more ultrasounds and biopsies or
(b) remove the left lobe of the thyroid entirely and send to pathologist for final verdict.

Given that I have been living with this eight on my shoulders for over two years, I have decided to go with option #2. While there is still only a 7-10% chance that the nodule is cancerous, I simply can’t live with “inconclusive” as a result. Given that the nodule has also grown slightly, albeit slowly, I don’t want to take any chances. I hate to lose a vital glad for potentially nothing, but I would regret apathy even more if this turns out to be something serious. Much of it comes down to having watched loved ones suffer from advanced stages of cancer. One can’t help but think, “If only they caught it sooner.” I have been given the opportunity to be as proactive as possible. After going through all the battery of tests, the decision was actually an easy one for me – get it out!

As with any surgery, there are some minor risks, namely damage to the nerves affecting the vocal chord. That being said, the risks do seem low and this is a fairly common operation. If all goes well, I will be released from the hospital the same day and on medical leave for two week to rest and re-cooperate. I have no doubt that my throat will be sore as hell and quite swollen but, like anything, it will pass.

I am hoping that I can get in for the operation by this August. Come hell or high water, I’m going on my 5-year anniversary trip to Boston already booked for September. I don’t care whether I look like I’ve been sliced in the throat, I have more than earned myself a vacation.

03 May 2011

New hope?

Turns out I may actually be qualified to run in the next federal election. If a young bartender can become an elected MP, without ever having stepped foot in her riding or participating in her campaign, then surely I’ve got a shot at something right?

Last night’s federal election results left me scratching my head more than a few times. To be perfectly honest, this was the first time that I have ever voted with a bad feeling in my gut. I didn’t have a favourite candidate. Rather than asking myself, “who will do a good job running this country?” I found myself asking the question, “Who is less likely to $%&* up the country?” I wasn’t feeling overly inspired – that is a horrible way to feel when exercising your civic duty, a right that we are fortunate and privileged to have.

I am happy that we have a majority government again. It is difficult working in GOC Communications when you never know when the next election might be called. Trying to align priorities and business models to an unstable minority government is a challenge at the best of times. I feel like the country will at least have some sort of direction now – more of sense of “getting on with business” rather than just “existing.”

While I am not an NDP supporter, I will admit that I was very happy to see a federalist party wipe out the separatist Bloc in Quebec. I guess even Quebecers are growing tired of the sovereignty issue and the same empty platform – they are waking up are realizing that there are far more pressing issues facing their province and the nation as a whole. However, I am not surprised that they would opt for a left-leaning party. One look at France and you will see a long-standing socialist tradition and sentiment. It will be interesting to see how the NDP will respond to the province, especially as a good chunk of elected Mps within the province don’t even speak French.

It will be an interested four years. I’m not entirely convinced that the NDP will be the “dream team” Official Opposition that folks are making them out to be. While I don’t doubt the leadership skills of Mr. Layton, I’ll be curious to see whether his relatively young and un-experienced colleagues will bring any value to the table. Either way, it seems the Canadian public was in need of some form of shake-up. The city of Ottawa just got a little more interesting.

20 April 2011

Bugs and a biopsy

I know…shame on me for not posting sooner!

I can never seem to bring myself to finish a post these days. I have tried to sit down to bang something out, but I can’t seem to form a cohesive thought in my head…sign of a busy mind I guess.

So what has been keeping me busy these days? I regret to say that most of our household has been suffering from one germ or another over the past several months. First we all caught a bad cold and Andrew came down with croup. The poor little guy sounded like he was gasping for air and we had one very scary night where we contemplated heading to CHEO. Thankfully the scary cough eventually cleared and, after having a snotty miserable child clinging to us for two days, we also came down with a cold. Fast forward a few weeks later and we all came down with a tummy bug. Same trend as always – Drew went first first, followed by Mom and Dad. I am both proud and ashamed to admit that I won the vomit record for our household – eight times over a five hour period. As I am quickly discovering, babies have an amazing knack to recover from illness much faster than adults. It’s very hard to take care of a happy toddler that just wants to run, while we’re both hugging the toilet. And for “dessert” tack on another dreary chest cold for Mom – voila!

I have no idea what it is about 2011. I’m usually the picture of perfect health but I can’t seem to shake any little germ that comes into the house this year. I think some of this can be attributed to being overtired and the additional stress from multiple events going on at work. Oh course, I have also had that niggling worry in the back of my mind about my thyroid. Sometimes stress can be the biggest detriment to your immune system. At any rate, I very much hope that May will bring about some relief, physically, mentally and emotionally. When I feel well enough, I want to get out on the roads and start training for my race in earnest. The will is there but the body is not right now.

Today I went for my thyroid biopsy. I was nervous as hell this morning and couldn’t shake the image of a giant needle being plunged into my neck. Thankfully, the procedure was not nearly as horrific as I thought it would be. The freezing did sting and made me feel a bit faint (my typical vasovagal reaction to needles), but the actual extraction wasn’t all that bad. If anything, I was very thankful for the freezing. Much to my surprise, they actually put three needles into my neck and the doctor had to make vigorous up-and-down/ wrist flicking motions to obtain each sample. Without the freezing, I’m sure I would have definitely passed out. It was like being stabbed in the neck repeatedly… without the pain. Given the hellish labour that I had to endure with Drew, I was fairly confident that I could get through this test with most, if not all, of my dignity.

Now the waiting game continues, but in earnest this time. I’ll have to wait 14 working days before results are sent to the surgeon. I think the wait is probably the most agonizing part. I want to rule out the big “C” but the test results are still not 100% accurate. I like things black and white but sadly life does not always happen that way. I’ll just have to roll with it and see what comes to pass. Got to keep my chin up – even though my throat I a bit sore ; )

21 March 2011

If you book it, they will run

As my age expands and I rapidly approach my 30th birthday, so too does my flabby post-partum waistline. Eighteen months after Drew’s birth, I still find myself hopelessly clinging to my elasticized pants and baggy shirts. I fear I have fallen into the trap that many mothers do, one that I swore I would avoid…I don’t take care of myself.

In general, I have become lethargic. The working mom gig leaves me with precious few hours to myself in the evening. By Andrew’s bedtime, I’m already eyeing my own comforter and the TV remote. Before Drew, it wasn’t uncommon for me to start exercising until 8:30 p.m., so I’m not sure what my excuse is now. As much as I’d like to blame motherhood, I think I’ve simply fallen into a funk.

Enough is enough. Given my current health scare, I have decided that I need to start training again and getting my body back into peak form. If this thyroid issue turns out to be serious, I’m going to need all the strength that I can muster to deal with it – both emotional and physical. There are many aspects of my health that are out of my control, so I might as well take charge of the things that I know I can influence.

One goal I have yet to achieve in life is to become a runner. Anytime I see someone pounding the pavement, a small part of me is envious. I have never enjoyed running, but I haven’t ever stuck it out long enough to get myself to a place where I am comfortable doing it. I feel awkward, like my body is built for heavy lifting rather than light-footed sprinting. To make matters worse, being well-endowed by the chest fairy does nothing to contribute to comfort or confidence levels.

In a desperate attempt to motivate myself, I have signed myself up for the 5K Army Run in September. I tend to do better when I have tangible goals set, not to mention a bit of money committed to the cause. Hubby has also signed up and we plan to train throughout spring and summer by following the “Couch Potato to 5K” program. I have heard good things about this approach as it builds up running endurance gradually throughout a six-week period. I did try week-1 last summer, however stopped due to a non-related injury. It’s as simple as strapping on an I-Pod and following the instructions – run now, walk now, etc.

I can’t remember the last time I have felt this excited about exercising. I’m very eager to start running as soon as the snow clears. When I strap that number on my chest in September and cross the finish line, I have a feeling it will be the start to many more races. For now, I’m starting small and we’ll see where it leads me.

16 March 2011

God is great, but money talks

Everyday my heart sinks lower as I read about the horrible situation in Japan. I know a girl working over there on a contract as an English teacher and I can’t even begin to imagine how frightening the atmosphere must be. It’s one thing to survive one of the country’s largest earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis, but add on the fear of exposure to radiation from nuclear power facilities, and it’s a whole new ball game. Thankfully, she weathered the storm and plans to head home on the next available flight out of town – back to Canada and her hubby’s waiting embrace.

The situation in Japan looks grim, there’s no two ways about it. While I have no doubt of the resourcefulness, grace and intelligence of the Japanese people, they still have one heck of a mess on their hands. With crippling debt already facing their economy, I’m not sure they can simply bounce back and land on their feet. It’s going to take help and a whole lot of humanity.

Have you ever sat down to read some of the reader comments posted on CBC or otherwise? So often people are quick to pray and or say “God bless Japan in their time of need.” While I’m no stranger to prayer, I think the most helpful response at this time is to open up your pocketbooks, forego your latt├ęs for a few weeks, and give what you can towards a reputable humanitarian relief organization. Thoughts are nice, but financial aid will go further towards rebuilding the country.

Situations like this really drive home the fact that we really ARE intrinsically all the same. It doesn’t matter whether you’re born in a palace, a hospital, field tent, or alley; we come into this world the same – Human. We are powerless to a certain degree, a product of whatever environment we are born into. Some have the misfortune of being born in war-torn countries, others along precarious coastlines, etc. No matter the race, class, colour or creed, nobody deserves this kind of human suffering. It drives home the fact that, as humans, we are all vulnerable and subject to whatever Mother Nature or life wants to throw at us.

I don’t think there is ever a way to eradicate human suffering, these kinds of disasters are beyond our control, but we can facilitate the healing process and the continuation of life by donating a little of our own good fortune. If the shoe were on the other foot, which I am not fool enough to ever discount, I would hope for the same sort of compassion.

15 March 2011

Scary Soccer Mom

I love soccer. Since going on an exchange to Italy and getting to live in a soccer-mad nation during the World Cup finals, I have dreamed of having my own kid someday that could pursue the sport. No I do not have illusions of raising a pro athlete; I just think soccer is a wonderful and inexpensive introduction to team sports.

One of my key goals as a parent is to instil self confidence in my child, and I have always believed that team sports go hand in hand with this. I never want my child to be apprehensive in gym class or to know what it feels like to be the dreaded last pick on a team. Sadly, I was among that awkward pack when I was young and I regret it. What I later discovered, as an adult, is that I’m actually quite athletic. Because I never had the confidence to try out for any teams (aside from volleyball in grade six...where everybody made the cut), people likely perceived my reluctance as a lack of ability. I'm hoping that by introducing Drew to sports at a very early age, he’ll simply come to see it as a familiar and enjoyable part of his life.

Aside from the fitness and confidence aspect, I must also selfishly admit that I am looking forward to being a crazy soccer mom. Is it sad that I already have plans to kit him out in full-on soccer gear – Ireland jersey and all? My only stipulation about being a soccer mom – no van! I already drive a small SUV and I think that fits the bill nicely.

Poor Drew, he has no idea what he’s in for – years of embarrassment and yelling from the sidelines. Go on my son, make you Mother proud! Above all else though, just have fun!

14 March 2011

Add another notch to the belt of life

I suppose life would be dull if we never faced challenge. Difficult situations toughen the soul, they build character and, more importantly, they bring us perspective. If there is anything I have learned so far in life, it is that family and health are everything; the rest is just gravy.

Just shy of my thirtieth birthday, I found myself sitting in the waiting room of a thoracic surgeon’s office this morning. I was the youngest one in the room, a picture of perfect health on the outside and yet no different than any of the other patients, we were all there because something isn’t quite right on the inside. One, twenty, fifty, eighty –age is no match for the eccentricities of the body. The fact is, we’re all powerless to a certain degree.

My own journey to this “wait” actually started two years ago. After a routine physical examination, my doctor detected a small lump in the region of my thyroid. To be on the safe side, I was sent for an ultrasound. Fast forward a few months to the day that I found out I was pregnant with my son, only to get my ultrasound results on the same day – multiple nodules around the thyroid, with one measuring 1.0 cm, just within range for nuclear diagnosis. Because I was pregnant, no further testing could be done and I was scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound several months later. It was a bit of blow on what should have been a happy day, but I put it out of my mind and focused on my pregnancy.

Towards the end of my third trimester, I went for my second ultrasound and was happy to find out that the nodules seemed to have shrunk in size, some almost completely undetectable. I was thrilled and considered the nodules “case closed.” I knew that my doctor planned to continue routine annual ultrasounds but I honestly thought nothing would come of it. This past January, following my third ultrasound, I was shocked to find out that the nodules had grown again in size. The largest nodule was back within range for testing and I was sent to the hospital’s department of nuclear medicine. I went through a fairly painless two-day test with a radioactive isotope injection and thyroid scan. To be honest, those two days scared the hell out me, watching sick patients being wheeled in and out of the unit on gurneys. Suddenly, I found myself having to contemplate the fact that I too could end up on one of those gurneys or, worse still, another in the long list of people battling the big “C” that shall remain nameless. I didn’t want my mind to go there, but as a mother it did…I have a lot to live for.

Unfortunately the nuclear diagnosis did not give me the results I was hoping for. The largest of the nodules turned out to be “cold” – a foreign lump that is a non-active part of functioning thyroid. There is still a very small chance of malignancy, but the “cold” nodules are the ones that have to be analyzed further to rule out every possibility. And so I found myself at the surgeon’s office today, awaiting the next step.

My meeting was a little more grim than anticipated. While I knew that he would recommend a biopsy, I did not know that I would likely still need surgery to remove at least half of my thyroid. The problem with fine-needle aspiration biopsy is that it often yields false positives. In the presence of any positive marker for cancer cells, the nodule must be removed along with surrounding tissue. That half of my thyroid would then be sent for further testing to determine whether the original biopsy was in fact positive or negative. It is invasive, but it would also be a final answer. So, I could very well end up with half a thyroid even if nothing turns out to be wrong and thus begins a life of daily medication, hormones, etc. In short, this is not a problem that can simply disappear – I have to deal with whatever comes my way, bad, good or otherwise.

On a more positive note, this is treatable. Even in the worst case scenario, my odds of living a long, productive and normal life are good...and there is no point putting the cart before the horse right now. I thank my lucky stars that I care enough about myself to have yearly medical examination and I hug my family a little bit tighter these days.

19 February 2011

Cool Science

Back in high school I had the typical teenage attitude towards sciences and math - apathetic to say the least. More inclined towards arts and social sciences, I opted out of the so-called "geeky" courses and headed directly down the path towards a career in communications. What I never realized at the time, was that my future would actually combine my passion for writing and public speaking with science. How ironic that I should end up communicating about something that I was all too eager to ditch in my youth.

I think my initial attitude towards science is not dissimilar to many students. Just take one look at recent Canadian statistics and you will see that there is a steady decline in admissions for post-secondary studies in science. Sadly, what I have only come to realize as an adult and through working in R&D communications, is that science opens doors to a world of exciting career opportunities. The moment a student opts of of senior science classes, they are effectively eliminating a plethora of really cool jobs.

It is difficult to pinpoint where the disconnect happens. Perhaps students have too much control over their course of studies; maybe they should be forced to learn the "classics" to gain a broader appreciation of all disciplines. In my opinion, a good deal of the "problem" can be attributed to how we parent. Schools provide a basis for learning but parents need to nurture and round out that education by providing children with opportunities to learn and experience the world around them....not always easy when we're constantly linked in to the office on our handheld devices.

As a parent I pose this challenge to others - get out there! See what is going on in your city. Bring your child to your local science museum, try out some fun experiments in your kitchen, take a walk on a local trail and examine the world around you - the experience need not cost anything. It you instill this sense of exploration in your children at a young age, you are teaching them above and beyond anything they will learn in a classroom.

Looking for something fun and FREE this weekend in Ottawa, why not check out Cool Science Saturday as part of the 2011 Ottawa Winterlude Festival. Families can enjoy a variety of interactive exhibits featuring some of Canada's "coolest" science related to our chilly northern climate.

Give you child the gift of discovery and they will give the world the gift of ingenuity.