6 months old

Today is kind of a big day. January 7. Exactly 6 months from when the stem cells from an unknown little boy’s umbilical cord were dripped into the veins of my 17 year old cancer-fighting boy. Half a year since he was re-born with another’s DNA taking over his own blood in hopes of giving him life-long freedom from anaplastic large cell lymphoma. Twenty six weeks plus 2 days since we knew that they had completely destroyed his bone marrow factory using intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments with his only chance of survival being the cells from this umbilical cord doing their job, setting up shop, engrafting, giving him life.

Six months ago, we had no idea what these 184 days would look like. They don’t really tell you just how awful it is going to be. Partly because they don’t know exactly the level of awfulness that awaits you. And partly because there is absolutely no way to fully grasp just how horrible it will be. You sort-of think you understand, because everyone keeps telling you it’s hard, but there is no way to know until you’re standing in the middle of it. To purposefully bring your child to the edge of death in order to attempt to save him with someone else’s cells and pray that nothing else breaks along the way…it is impossible to think that it would be an easy process, yet to imagine just how terrible is equally impossible.

There were plenty of extremely dark days. When kidney failure set in. When vomiting would not let up after 90 straight days. When he was in so much pain he asked to die rather than endure. When he sat awake all night long crying, hurting, hungry, scared. When he couldn’t walk or stand or sit up. When his insides bled. When his eyes turned red from blood vessels breaking. When he gained 25 pounds in a couple of days from water retention. When his face swelled, nearly closing his eyes and he stood crying as he looked at the reflection of himself, unrecognizable, in the mirror. When he tested positive for a virus and a fungal infection. When his heart filled up with fluid. When his blood counts would drop without warning. When we didn’t know what day +184 would look like.

I remember saying a million times in those hardest of days, if I just could know how this is going to turn out. I don’t know what would have changed inside of me. Less anxiety, I suppose. There is something so unleveling in the unknown. To stand with one foot on the ground of the present while holding the other up hoping to just drop it onto the ground of tomorrow. Balancing in the awfulness of now, longing to know that the next step {or one down the way a bit} will be solid & secure. Or even knowing that is will be horrible, that the world would be falling apart. As ridiculous as it sounds, to know that it will end badly seems more comforting that not knowing how it will end at all. It’s the not knowing. It is uneasy. Painful. Turbulent.

Those days taught me a lot. Maybe to be alright with the uneasy of the unknown. Maybe to wait. Maybe to trust. God sat close to me on those days. He never told me what this day {Day +184} would look like. He didn’t share that my boy’s kidneys would heal up and he’d walk again and he’d finally stop vomiting and there’d be no signs of cancer or the millions of other things I wanted to know. He didn’t crystal ball me to where I wanted to see. He simply sat beside me and listened to my cries & complaints & anger & pleas. He allowed me to feel the squeezing uncalm of those moments. Perhaps in order that I would also feel the tender calm & security of him holding me.

Today. Six months. My sweet ginger boy is doing really well. There are still a ton of unknowns. Will the cancer return? Will a new cancer caused by the treatment to get rid of this cancer appear? Will his kidneys stay healthy? Will his heart? What if he catches influenza or chickenpox or the measles? A mama could go crazy. But I try not to live in that space…rather, I try to live with both feet firmly planted in today being held securely and calmly. Remembering how well and how gently he’s carried me so far & knowing he’s not likely to drop me now.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fails. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

…a few of my favorite things…

My friends.  We sit with just 9 days until Christmas.  Nine!  Why does is seem like we have all the time in the world & then “BAM!” out of no where, we’re almost out of time?  If you’re feeling behind, I’m here to help.  In the spirit of Christmas with a little inspiration from The Sound of Music together with a little Opren {that’s Oprah & Ellen}…I give you…

My Most Favorite Finds – 2016

  1. This has been at the absolute top of my chart for years now.  It is my absolute favorite!!  My dry, winter skin needs SO much help.  You have no idea.  Cracking, itching, awful.  This year is particularly bad with all the extra hand washing I’m doing.  And this little treasure is the best I’ve ever found.  L’Occitane Hand Cream.  Hand down the very best!  $28 very well spent.  And if you signed up for eBates {which I know you did} you’ll get 3% back on each one.  
  2. I received this as a gift from seven of the most amazing women in my life.  Scattered all over the planet, they coordinated this gift as a comfort when Sweet Ginger began his chemo treatments.  It is most wonderful throw blanket in the entire world.  Softness does not even begin to adequately describe it.  It is cozy, weighty, 100% lovely.  If you have someone on your list who might need a luxurious throw, this! is! it!!  Pottery Barn’s Ruched Faux Fur Throw.  Regularly priced at $149, it is on SALE today {Dec. 16} only.  What a steal at $104.  Don’t miss this deal!
  3. This year I did my first Whole 30.  It was a good experience and I am sure that after the holiday eating is over, I’ll be looking at another go around.  I really did feel better, sleep better and have way more energy while on it & I think I could go again here in the new year.  Anyway, while doing that I discovered my next favorite find – Bubbies Sauerkraut.  It may be a bit more expensive than other sauerkrauts out there, but for good reason.  This is true sauerkraut.  Made with cabbage, water, salt.  That’s it.  Naturally fermented like our great grandparents would have eaten it.  Delicious!!!  You can pick it up at lots of you favorite food stores in the refrigerated section.  
  4. These past few months I have become somewhat of an expert on winter head ware.  Living in the frozen tundra with a completely bald bald has required us to find the most fabulous hats known to man.  While the absolute best have come from an amazingly talented friend, the next best have to be the ones from Love Your Melon!  Hands down.  Warm, soft, comfortable.  And 50% of profits go to cancer research. Winner, winner.  They come in a multitude of colors and styles, but are so popular that they are often low or short on their most populars.  Luckily they restock often and add to their styles regularly.  They range in price from $30-$45.  A great deal on such a wonderful hat…with a fabulous cause.
  5. My final favorite find for this year is Isaiah 41:10.  “Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Especially over the past few months, I have needed this reminder almost daily.  Do not fear.  Do not be dismayed {agitated, discouraged, disheartened, frightened, horrified, rattled, scared, unnerved, upset}  God is with me, he is my God, he will provide the strength & help necessary and he will hold me up when I ca no longer stand on my own.  This doesn’t mean that every moment is rosey.  It doesn’t mean that in the end this will turn out the way that I think it should go.  It means that however it goes, I’m not alone.  This verse.  So for my final favorite find, I have a FREEBIE for you.  Simply click the “like” at the bottom of this post {or better yet leave me a comment!} and download your free printable.  Simply download & print on your home computer & printer.


I hope you have a wonderful eight days of shopping or relaxing by the fire sipping hot cocoa, whichever.  I hope you enjoy this list of my most favorite finds.  Buy one for a friend or for yourself, no matter, you’l be glad you did!

And if you still need to sign up for eBates & start getting some cash back in your wallet, click here.  Get shopping straight away because they’re giving you an extra $10 just for signing up & shopping.  Don’t delay.  There’s money waiting!!

An Online Christmas

Well, well, well.  Twenty three sleeps left until Christmas morning.  Twenty three!  My friends, that’s right around the corner!!  And if you consider at least five days until the 25th will be spent inpatient with a chemo kiddo, I had better get myself in the Christmas giving spirit very, very quickly.

I must say I have zero energy to drive all over town & sort through aisles & aisles of stuff.  While usually a bargain hunter at heart, I have zero desire to search & scour for the very best deal on the things my loved ones are hoping for under the tree this year.  Honestly, I want to get whatever I need & get the heck home to take a nap.  So instead, this year I plan to get it all knocked out…


I’m not sure who the brain child was that thought up internet shopping, but they should definitely win a “major award” {ode to my second favorite Christmas movie of all times!}  A Major Award!  Internet shopping.  Sit down, wearing cozy pjs, sipping delicious hot coffee that didn’t cost $5, get what I need, sit back & wait for the packages to arrive by Santa’s true little elves – the men in the big brown van!  Perfection.

And do you know what makes internet shopping ever better?  Getting money back for just clicking “purchase”.  I know you’ve seen the commercials.  You’re skeptical, like I was.  “How do you really get cash back from shopping online?  What’s the catch?” Well, I’m here to tell you…NO CATCH.  It really, really, really works just like they say.  See here

Ebates Really Works!

Since July 2015 {a year and a half} I’ve received $270.65 for purchases I made online.  For things I would have purchased anyway.  Just a little jingle•jingle back in my wallet for doing nothing.  No coupon to clip.  No driving around town.  Easy.  I buy, they send me a check.  A real old fashion check made out to me that I deposit in the bank & use to buy whatever I want.  This is no tricky scheme to give you money that can only be used at their store {ahem, Costco/Kohls} This is CASH.  The cold, hard variety.  Win!

Here’s all you need to do.

  1. Click here to get to Ebates.  {***deal alert!!  Ebates is giving you $10 if you sign up through this link.  $10 free!!!  WIN!***}
  2. Get signed up.
  3. Go shopping at the 100s of stores available at Ebates {I like Nordstrom’s best, but choose whatever suits your fancy}
  4. Make a purchase.
  5. Watch the $$$$ add up.

It is So easy.  You’ll thank me later.  Promise.  It really is that good.  You’ll love it.  Get yourself signed up and earning money right away.

Count Your Many Blessings

In these early hours while the house is still quiet and before the bird gets ready for his big debut, I thought it might be a good idea to reflect for just a moment on this year & the abundance that I have to be thankful for.  Especially looking back over the last two months since sweet ginger was diagnosed, it’s easy to look to all the struggle, pain, unknown and inconvenience and pitch a tent in the land of the whining complainer.  I don’t want to spend time there {I don’t usually like the people that live in that place}.  I want to march on through & spend time in a land where blessing are counted.

I am thankful for the obvious things – friends and family.  But this year I am specifically thankful for those who have come alongside us, who have cared for, prayed for, thought of & loved us.  I am extra blessed by those people who have been able to let me remain “normal”…let me just be me.  I am thankful for people near and far.  I am blessed by so many, many people and their love.

I am thankful for oncology researchers, doctors and nurses.  I had no idea how much love poured from within the walls of the sterile hospital.  These men and women have literally held us up these last two months.  To those who pour their hearts and lives into childhood cancer, there are few words that express my gratitude.  You are a blessing to me!

I am thankful for sweet ginger hair’s friends.  In rough and tumble days, the kids that love my kid are truly a blessing beyond words.  They come hang out, they bring food, they organize t-shirt & bracelet sales, they send cards, they shave their heads & bring a bald boy hats…they are the most amazing group of kids ever.  And I am thankful for the friends of my other two kiddos too.  They provide relief, normalcy, a place to hang out and be a kid.  I am thankful for the friends of my kids {and their parents} more than I ever thought I could be.

People top my list of this year of blessings.  I could live my entire life without a new car, without a bigger chicken coop, without a Fixer Upper-worthy home. But I cannot live without the love and kindness of the people I share this life with. The things that fill my heart are things that just cannot be bought.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
 Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.  -Psalm 100



We knew it was coming.  It was one of the first side effect discussions.  Sweet ginger hair boy’s ginger hair would be going.  And yesterday was the day.

He had an appointment for labs at Children’s and as we drove into the city, he was yanking out chunks of his ginger locks.  He thought it was amusing.  Grabbing tufts of hair, giving a quick pull & having it all come out in his hand.  “It doesn’t hurt.  It just falls out!”  I asked him if he was ok, ok with his ginger hair falling out.  He said “yeah, it’s no big deal.  It’s just hair, mom.”

Later that evening, after we all gathered for dinner around the table together {a moment I now long for} we headed upstairs to do away with the straggly ginger locks.  Clippers in my hubby’s hand, hair fell to the bathroom floor.  Sweet ginger locks in piles on the tile around sweet ginger hair boy’s feet.  He smirked at the mohawk of long hair that remained.  Then he laughed as he glanced in the mirror at the long, wispy strands that remained in chunks and he chuckled as the final pieces were removed.  He ran his fingers over his newly buzzed head, smiled in the mirror & returned to his room to get some more gaming in.  “You ok?”  I asked again as I sat on the edge of his bed.  “Yes, mom.  It’s just hair.  I’m fine.”

“It’s just hair.”  True words.  And yet, it seems like more than just hair.  True I likely make way too much of his ginger locks – but seriously his hair color…to die for!  But it’s even more than just that.  And as I sat and looked at my boy, with his obnoxiously long ginger locks gone, my emotions all fell out from inside and rolled silently down my cheeks. Stupid Cancer!!  It steals so very, very much.  It slithers its way in & it begins its destructive ways as soon as it can.  It starts taking, taking, taking.

Oh, I know, it’s not really the cancer that’s taking…it’s the chemo.  Do not get me started on alternatives to chemo right now.  Feel free to fight your cancer battle {or your child’s} with whatever essential oil & beet juice concoction you think might do the trick, but we will be using the specific chemo treatment that our oncologists believe will be the best choice to actually defeat the cancer raging inside our boy.  So, yes, chemo is at fault, but if it weren’t for the Cancer, we wouldn’t need the chemo.  {stepping off my soapbox}

One day life is just chugging along.  The biggest thoughts, in reality, are not very big at all.  Worry centers around remodel projects and wardrobe decisions with a side of what’s for dinner.  And then bam!  Out of nowhere a battle.  All the sudden all that stuff is really little, stupid in fact.  Who cares what my kitchen remodel project looks like?  Who cares what my new shoes looks like?  Who cares what’s for dinner?  A real opponent is in the room.  And the opponent fights dirty.  It steals things that are important, things that make you “you”, things that you take for granted.  It requires drugs and blood and time and energy and emotions.  And it steals.  Steals so much…including hair.

Hair is really not the issue.  {although I do already long for when sweet ginger can grow his hair out as long as he wants and do that weird head flip that moves his way-too-long-bangs out of his eyes}  It’s everything that Cancer comes in and destroys.  In one big swoop, it reaches in and takes what it should not.  It causes upheaval and unrest.  And it’s everything that Cancer deposits too.  All the baggage it dumps.  It brings with it real worry and real fear. It removes, rearranges and wreaks havoc.

And yet…even with all it does, all it destroys…there is something bigger.  Something with more power and more beauty.  Someone who fights for me, for us.  Someone who takes great joy in us.  Somewhere I can rest.  A place to throw my anger, disappointment, anxiety & fear.

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”  -Zephaniah 3:17


8 Ways to Walk Beside a Child Living with Loss

Our community lost a wonderful woman this week.  Far too young.  Far too early.  A wife.  A mother to two middle school age boys.  A friend to many.  She was a kind & loving woman who fought cancer with as much tenacity & ferociousness as any woman can.  She will be missed.

My mind & my heart have been on those two boys since I heard.  Her two sons.  I have stood in a similar place to where they stand & I know the road ahead well.   To lose a parent while you’re still a child.  It will be a steeper climb at times than they had hoped.  It will be a place not traveled by too many.  It will hold with it grief in unexpected places & times for the remainder of their days.

Grief.  That overwhelming heaviness of loss.  Even with the hope of Heaven and our Redeemer, grief is a place we all will sit after a loss.  And for kids, grieving can be a place of not only sadness but of confusion and unsettledness.  Kids need adults to walk alongside them to help them navigate the waters of grief.

Eight Ways to Walk Beside a Child Living with Loss

8 ways to walk beside a child

  • Love them ::  this seems 100% obvious & likely the most pointless piece of advice you’ve ever read.  But it is the most important piece of advice & everything else flows from this one thing.  Love them not because they’ve lost a parent, not because it is so sad what they have to go through, not because you can’t imagine their hardship.  Love them because they are worthy of love simply because they are God’s.  And love them while they are hardest to love.
  • Provide patience ::  Working out our faith and understanding of God’s character is tough enough as an adult.  Imagine trying to reconcile the goodness of God with how your life is playing out as an eleven year old.  You’ve been taught that God is good.  But why does a good God take away a parent?  Children need parents.  Why would a good God do this?  These are incredibly difficult questions to wrestle through – at any age.  To a child, this can be nearly impossible.  Patience is vital when talking to a child who’s wrestling through all of this because the Word of God can seem so contradictory to how life has turned out so far.  It may take time to listen {really listen} and time to guide.  It’s the most important time you will ever spend.  Valuable time invested in a child with a broken heart & a need to know who God really is in all of it.  And please know it’s always ok to say you don’t know.  Because may times you don’t.
  • Give them an extra helping of grace :: Kids who’ve lost a parent will be waging an internal struggle the likes of which most children never have to fight.  They may be emotional, they may talk a lot, they might never talk, they might be angry or tearful or clingy or rebellious.  They may not be the easiest of kids to get along with…their battle is real & their skills to fight it are young & inexperienced.  Direct them in the way they should go and give them some extra grace…and hugs!
  • Remember they are blaming themselves :: Dr. Phil has gotten this correct, “kids have an amazing ability to make everything their fault.”  True!   Kids can rationalize that everything is their fault.  And they will.  The weight of that on their little shoulders is spirit breaking.  It makes no logical sense to an adult because no adult would imagine that the child is taking the blame, but believe me, they are.  Inside they are struggling to understand what they did to cause it & then figuring out how to repair the damages or make sure they’re “better” going forward so it never happens again.  A heavy weight to drag through life.  Take time to assure kids that it is not their fault.  This didn’t happen because of something they did or didn’t do.  Tell them they did nothing wrong.  Use that language.  Listen if they share how they feel.  Do not minimize their feelings – they are very, very real.
  • Filter your words ::  When you talk, keep in mind the previous tip.  Children will use your words as fuel to fan the fire of blaming themselves.  “You just have to have the faith of a mustard seed” equals “I didn’t have enough faith”.  “God always answers prayers” equals “God didn’t listen to my prayer”.  The result of blaming themselves often is a lower-than-it-should-be self worth.  The words you say, even the most innocent ones, can reinforce these feelings of worthlessness.  They have decided that God doesn’t really like them, that they aren’t worthy of His love.  It is a close second to decide that people don’t really like them either.  It’s a spiral that words can fuel to disaster.  Unspoken body language can be just as devastating.  You don’t have to be perfect, that’s impossible, but try really hard to season your words with kindness, mercy, grace & love.
  • They want to protect others :: A child who is grieving has adults in their life who are grieving too.  Many times a child just wants everyone else to be ok.  We learn early not to be too disruptive.  Children know that getting all upset will likely upset the adults around them.  Many will want to avoid this at all cost.  They tuck things deep inside knowing that to get upset will lead to upset adults & all they are really longing for is some normalcy in the midst of disaster.  Let them know it’s ok to let it out, to cry, to be sad, to say you’re not ok.  It’s ok to feel.  Really ok.  And tell them it’s ok to make others cry too.
  • Talk about the one they lost ::  Children will forget.  How much do you remember about 6th grade?  Those early, carefree years are easily forgotten.  They want nothing more than to know the one they lost, especially a parent.  It may cause them tears.  It might cause you tears.  That’s ok.  They want to hear it, they want to know.  Tell the silly stories, the serious times, the things that drove you crazy.  Tell things you think are insignificant.  They are not.  They may be the most valuable pieces of information they’ve ever heard.  And keep on telling them as the years pass on.  They will need to know.  They want to hear.  Talk.
  • Understand it goes on and on and on :: Grief for kids, especially after the loss of a parents, is forever.  For a child who has experienced loss early in life, death is always a possibility.  They know nothing different than people dying.  This changes something deep inside the core of how the world is seen.  Death is different.  It is real.  It is plausible.  It is known and has been felt and seen and inhaled.  You can never unlearn the feeling.  And the grief goes on.  Less in intensity, less felt but always around.  It bubbles to the surface on the strangest of days, on the oddest of occasions and at the most obvious moments.  Understand that there will be events that will trigger grief – even years and years and years later.  Love the child through it.  Understand that there will be days that will make no sense why grief will drape itself over like a wet towel.  Love the child even though you don’t know why they threw that wet towel back on.  Understand they’ll never get over it, they’ll never fully understand it, they’ll be sad sometimes for the rest of their life.  And love them through it.

As I think of the boys, I think of the people around them.  They’re walking a difficult and confusing road.  They need the adults in their lives to understand where they stand and the way they’re heading.  Love them.  Listen to them.  Tell them the stories and share your memories.  Hand out that extra helping of grace & show them the worth that God has said they possess.  It will change their journey for the better.  And when all else fails – love!

Overhauling Laundry: Dryer Sheet to Dryer Balls

I have learned over the past month, that one cannot spend too much time on Whole30 recipe sites without being overwhelmed with information about chemicals.  Chemicals in foods.  Chemicals in skincare.  Chemicals in cleaning supplies.  And, yes, chemicals in laundry products.  So Many Chemicals.

I’m sure not all these chemicals are the harmful, silent killers that draw their victims into a slow & painful death that the websites might have you to believe.  But I bet some of them are.  I’m sure there are some that are linked to all kinds of awfulness.  It’s just so hard to know the absolute truth on such things.  This is the point where you have to decided if the risk is worth it.  And, honestly, depending on how inconvenienced I am by a substitute, will often determine whether that risk is worth taking or not.  Sad.  But true. And you know you fall into the same category so turn your judgment-alert light off.

Back to laundry.

My overhaul began with the beloved dryer sheet.  Dryer sheets do 2 things in my opinion.  First, they get rid of that pesky static electricity and second, they make clothes smell clean & freshly laundered.  But according to the internet, {which we know tells the truth always & is to be believed at all times ;)} dryer sheets are fairly close to Satan and are to be deeply feared.  {another article to keep you up at night here}.  How can something that smells so wonderful be so evil? I decided to research alternatives.

Welcome Dryer Balls.

dryer balls

To make:

I made up a batch of these balls one afternoon.  The process is quite simple.  Using 100% wool yarn, roll it into a ball until it is about the size of a tennis ball.  Tuck the loose end way inside the ball using a crochet hook.  Soak each ball in a bowl of hot water for 15-ish minutes.  Place the balls in a nylon to hold them together.  Then dry on high heat in your dryer.  Viola!  Dryer Balls.  You can also purchase felted wool dryer balls on sites like Etsy.

dryer balls 2

To use:

Throw them all into the dryer with your clothes & dry as normal.  The dryer balls bounce around in between the clothes to fluffen {is that a word?} and separate.  I’ll warn you, they are loud bouncing and banging around in that drum for the whole cycle.


I very much like that there are no chemicals in these.  I do think that they do a good job of fluffing the clothes.  I said that I felt like dryer sheets have two purposes; remove static & make clothes smell fresh.  First the freshness.  Dryer balls do not make clothes smell fresh.  I have tried suggestions of adding essential oils to the balls at the beginning of the cycle, at the middle of the cycle & towards the end of the cycle.  Mattered none.  No scent was left on the clothes.  However, I have come to think that I like that.  I don’t want to smell like the laundry aisle at Target.  I’m coming to the liking of no scent is a good scent.

Next let’s talk about static.  I don’t think that they eliminate static the way that I would like them too.  {read, at all}  Luckily I ran across another dryer ball user with the same concern.  She told me about her remedy – safety pins!  Simply take a hand towel and pin a safety pin in each corner.  Throw it in with your dryer balls and wet clothes.  I’m not kidding.  This works!  I am sure there is a brilliant scientific explanation to it, but I’m a little short on science knowledge, so I’ll just leave it at “It works!”.

I don’t know if dryer sheets are “bad” or not.  But I think the alternative I’ve found is as effective & doesn’t cause me a whole lot of extra work.  So I’ll stick with it.  And if I benefit from not having chemicals rubbing against my skin all day everyday that might cause me harm later on – winner, winner!