Friday, December 02, 2011

Where I'm Supposed to Be

So, I've been MIA the past few weeks.

Not because I haven't had anything to be thankful for, because trust me, I have.  But I've been in a darker place following this past surgery.  Thank goodness for phone calls and texting with Allie.  It's always comforting to hear, 'I understand exactly how you feel.'

Surgery always manages to stir up emotions that I try my hardest to keep at bay.  Probably because I have a lot of downtime to just think while I'm laying in bed.

As usual following surgery, I got a pretty nasty chest cold, and wasn't able to get into my doctor, so I went to the urgent clinic in our town.  I was warned that the attending doctor there is 'cold', but I didn't care...I just needed an antibiotic, and I could deal with 'cold' for a 10 minute appointment.  I needed to get some antibiotics in my system before hosting Kinsey's birthday party that night.

Since it was the first time I had ever been there, I had to fill out paperwork which included my medical history.

The doctor came in and starts looking through my paperwork.  He asks me to tell him a little bit about my experience with cancer, and as I'm going through it all, tears start streaming down his face.  He says to me, 'It's so hard to hear of that kind of struggle at your age.'  Then proceeds to feel around on my glands. 

I tried to 'cheer him up' by telling him about how great I'm doing now and how awesome my experience was on the 3-Day, but he didn't smile even a little.

As my appointment ended, we walked out into this common area, he turns to me and says, 'My wife died from breast cancer 15 years ago.  Keep doing what you're doing, brave girl, you can change the world.'

I barely made it to my car before the tears started flowing, but in the moment I knew, I was right where I was supposed to be.  That sweet doctor needed that release, and God put me there for that reason.

Later that day, Allie called me to tell me about a friend of ours who found out her cancer is back, and in her brain. 

And just a few hours later, I learned that my ex father-in-law had an accident and had to be life lined to a hospital in Indianapolis.

So, here I am, hosting six girls and a birthday party, and having to take breather breaks to go in the bathroom and just cry.  To say it was a rough day would be an understatement, but thankfully, because all the girls were here, they kept me occupied just enough that I kept it together for the most part.

I know He knew that'd be my day and He worked it out that way.

With the overload of things going on, Chris let my dad know.  So, I ended up getting a phone call from my step-mom half-way through the evening, letting me know she was coming up to be with me.  I soooo needed that.  After I got the girls down for the night, Roxann and I had a long talk about everything. 

I'm so emotionally invested in these wonderful people who've come into my life because of cancer, and even though I know God has a plan, it's so hard to not question that plan when those you love are suffering and dying from it. 

Why them and not me?

Survivor's guilt rearing it's ugly face!

Sometimes it's hard to comprehend that I'm right where He needs me to be, especially when they are not right where I think they should be.

The questions begin to flood my mind, and He always, ALWAYS meets me there.

Where does he meet us in our suffering?  What does the cross really mean?  What good is an escape route if it does not open until the end of time?

I know the cross does not promise to free us from pain and suffering...not at least any time in the present.  It, in fact, promises just the opposite.  The certainty of pain and suffering.

So where is my joy if my world (the one I'm so deeply in love with) is so immensely filled with suffering?  It's running straight through the heart of the pain and suffering.

My faith, at the very least, asks me to believe that the path to heaven runs through suffering.  Through the sorrow of this world, through that fog of doubt. My God is love.  And He is in control.

I know He brought me to this place in my life for a reason above it just being for a season.  I knew that the moment I stepped off that plane in Atlanta and was surrounded by people who 'get' where I am in my life. 

Standing in Survivor's Circle, embracing Allie, I knew I was where I'm supposed to be.

I came home, had surgery, went to that darker place...and it's been an eye opener in that I know not only am I supposed to be involved with the Susan G Komen foundation and bringing awareness to this disease, but I'm supposed to be doing something more.

When I had Kinsey, I gave up on college to get a job and support us.  Over the past few years, I've toyed with the idea of going back to school for something different, but the past few weeks Chris and I have been in a lot of discussion of me feeling like I'm supposed to further my education with Chemistry.  Now, the nearest major college is over an hour away, so I told him I was going to check into USI, and he suggested IU...since they are close to the same distance away.  I mentioned that I know they don't have an engineering program, but I looked at their program list anyway.  Low and behold, they have a program for Chemical Informatics. 

So....without further ado...guess who's going back to school?

And guess who in a few years will, hopefully, be working in a Lab or for a drug company (and hopefully focusing on cancer medications)?

This girl!

I really feel like everything in my life that has happened has guided me back to this place because this is where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing with it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Fills You With Gratitude?

Gratitude begins where entitlement ends.

WOW!!!....Could there be a more true statement?

A lot of my friends are writing out something that they are thankful for every day of this month.  The thing is, I look around at my life and have so much to be thankful for that I couldn't possibly write it all down in 30 days if I only mentioned one thing a day.

My life is blessed beyond measure, and I know I'm not entitled to any of it.

I'm definitely not entitled to the grace that God covers me in.

I'm not entitled to have my children.  So many people want and try for so long without success.  Heck had God not blessed me with Kinsey when he did, I would have waited to have kids.  Unbeknowst to me at the time, I would have to have a hysterectomy at the age of 27.  Every day I look at them, I'm thankful for His timing.

I'm not entitled to my house, or car, or any of my other world possessions, but God has blessed us with the means to comfortably provide for our family of six.

Good health insurance.  I think about this often and the fact that if the majority of people faced just one of the medical issues we've faced in the past 5 years, they'd have had to file bankruptcy, or relied on the graciousness of others to get them through.  We didn't.  And we don't take that lightly.

Amazing friends and family.  Even during our darkest hours of this past year, we were never alone.  My kids lives maintained normalcy because of everyone who stepped up to help with all the tasks that I could not physically do, so that what energy I did have, was spent focused on my involvement with my children.  My life may have felt like it was falling down around me, but my kids never knew it because so many people who love us, were here to help hold it up.  Not only was I not entitled to that, I look back and think to myself, 'What did I do to deserve to be loved THAT MUCH?'

I know I'm not entitled to my health...and one of the things that has resonated so much with me these past few months is that had it not been for the deterioration of it, my life would not be on the path it is on today.  I would have never met this online community of people that I have now had the opportunity to meet, and fall in love with.  I wouldn't continue to meet people that touch my life daily.  Cancer didn't just change the outward appearance of my changed me.  It changed the compassion I have for other's, it changed my want to 'do something about it', it changed my fight and determination in life.  It has made me vulnerable past the point of comfortableness at times, it has broken my heart, and yet it has stripped away all the baggage.  There are no words to explain the amount of gratitude I feel for this season of my life.

What about all of you?....What makes your heart fill with gratitude???

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


For most people, I think, it takes a lifetime, if at all, to learn what's important. For us to learn empathy, or kindness, or pain, or to know what is merely annoying compared to what is truly difficult. For us to learn how to truly love. If we're lucky, and smart, we take those lessons and the experiences we extract them from and transform them into actions of our own.

This is EXACTLY what the world of a 3-Day is like.... people digging down deep and really, truly loving each other.  Standing up for those who are no longer with us, those who are being drug through the darkest hours of their lives right now, those who survived, and for a hope that tomorrow we will rid this world of such a terrible disease. 

I witnessed more compassion in a weekend than I had seen in my entire lifetime before those 3 days.

I witnessed the way the world should be....

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Road that Lead to Healing

I started out detailing my journey to the 3-Day for you all, but I scratched it and decided to tell you about how the 3-Day changed my life.

I know some of you are thinking, 'Really, how can your life change in 3 days?'


In 3 days, you can go from finding a lump to hearing the words YOU HAVE CANCER! 

As most, if not all of you know, I was chosen to be one of 8 survivors to carry a flag into Survivor's Circle during both opening and closing ceremonies.

I didn't realize how profoundly that task would affect me.

I got to opening ceremonies and went to the wall that everyone signs with either a 'remembrance' or an 'in honor of' or just a 'good luck' tag.

Mine simply said, 'Love & Miss you Aunt Steph'.

It was the beginning of my journey into the 3-Day just like saying 'Goodbye' to her last year was the beginning of my year-long journey into treatment.

As I carried my flag on stage, held hands with fellow survivors and looked out into a crowd of my peers, I was overcome with raw emotions that left me in a state of reflection of the life I knew before cancer was a part of it.

I was in awe of the 2400 other walkers who came to this event with the attitude that 'a cancer patient can't quit treatment just because it hurts and I won't quit walking just because it hurts'.  The general population needs to take a few lessons on life from these selfless people.

Each painful step was a reflection of the physical pain I endured last year during the trunk procedure, the mastectomy, the fills, exchange procedure, physical therapy, and radiation. 

I learned a valuable lesson in that no matter how intense the pain gets, when you pass a cheering section (your support system)...the pain somehow, magically disappears for a little while.  You get a reality check in that you are never alone; there is always someone there who understands and will cheer you on when life gets tough.

We touched each arrow we passed along the route as a symbol to say, 'We're one step closer to a world without breast cancer.'

As I walked into Turner Field with my team...I can honestly say, I had the most magnificent, truly kind-hearted, and loving group of friends by my side that anyone could ever hope for.

Allie and I somehow limped into closing ceremonies holding each other up, and the minute the walkers took off their shoes to salute the survivors....the pain vanished. 

We carried our flags into Survivors Circle one last time, and as the Victory Flag 'A World Without Breast Cancer' was raised, we looked at each other through tears and Allie shook her head to say, 'We Did It!'

And in that moment, I felt a sense of peace like I haven't felt in the entire past year of my life.  I knew I was exactly where God had intended me to be!

You can view the rest of my photo album here:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Letters

Dear Big A,

I've been emotional this week while thinking about writing this post. Almost four years ago you asked me a difficult question. It was just a simple question to you but it was one that made me question where I stood as your step-mom, and the lengths I'd go through for you to make sure you ALWAYS know you are loved the same as your sisters. When I married your daddy I didn't just promise to love him forever.... I promised to love and honor my commitment as a parent figure in your life too. I hope you always know that your opinion of my involvement in your life, and your expectations of me matter more to me than anyone else's. If you ask me to be a part of your school day because that's something I do for your sisters, I will be. I was very lucky to have Grandma Richardson to show me that step-parents can love unconditionally. My hope is that if you ever become a step-parent that you love those kids with everything you've got and always, ALWAYS treat them like the gifts they are. I love you sweet boy and I thank God every day that he brought you into my life five years ago.

Dear Kinsey,

You've had to grow up much faster than you should have because of me being sick last year, and I'm so incredibly proud of you for how beautifully you've handled it all. You're such a big help to me. And your teachers keep telling me how big of a help you are to them. In fact, I got a phone call from your teacher last week and he told me he wishes all of his students were just like you! I couldn't be more proud! I love you so much.

Dear Ava,

I love all the time I've gotten to spend with you at school this year. It brings me such joy to see you excelling and bringing home so many Whiskers awards for your exceptional behavior. Your laugh lights up my world. It's so infectious. I hope you never lose your ability to see this life through such pure lenses. I love you sweet cheeks!

Dear Breanna,

It's been a long week for the two of us. I hate when any of my babies are sick but it's especially hard on me when it's you. You've been through so much in your short life. You're one of the bravest people I've ever known, and yet I know you don't understand that because it just comes naturally to you. It's the only way of life that you have ever known. You give me strength that I didn't know I had until I had you. I'm so glad you're finally feeling better. I love you baby girl! Love, Mommy

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Breakfast Cobbler

Yes...that's right....cobbler for breakfast.

This is a favorite of my big kids.

And it's beyond simple to make.

Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees.  I bake this on low heat because it keeps the edges nice and soft while the middle is getting done.

Start out by mixing 2 cups self-rising flour, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, and 1 stick of melted butter.

Generously butter a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Pour batter in your baking dish.

Top with berries of your choice.

My kids personally like blueberries and strawberries.

Next, sprinkle sugar over the top.

It gives it a nice, little crunch.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is a nice golden brown, and your middle is done.

My kids eat this for breakfast...

and dessert. 

It's perfect with a scoop of ice cream right after it comes out of the oven.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday's fave Five 9-23

1.  Anniversaries.  We all like to celebrate special occasions, don't we?!  I know I certainly do.  And this is one anniversary that will always be special to me.  Today, I've been NED (No evidence of disease) for ONE YEAR!  One year ago today, my life changed forever.  One year ago today, I lost a part of my womanhood, but gained a new perspective on life.  Thank you all for walking along beside me during this journey.

2.  Field Trips, and School Functions.  What better way to spend this day than to be hanging out with my favorite little people.  Big A had a field trip to Spring Mills today.  What started out to looking like a gloomy day, turned out to be beautiful.  The sun is shining bright today in Southern Indiana.  We also have the PTO chili supper at Ava's school tonight, and a hometown football game to follow. 

3.  Birthday parties.  Tomorrow we will be celebrating Breanna's 4th Birthday.  I can't believe my baby is almost FOUR.  Where in the world did the time go?...I have no clue.  I always tell her no matter how old she is, she'll always be the baby.  'I don't care if you're 80, you'll always be my baby.'

4.  The Herald Article.  Holy smokes, I never expected to make the FRONT PAGE of the paper.  Wow.  What an honor.  I posted it on here yesterday for my friends, family, and out of town teammates to be able to read it, and I'm blown away by the outpouring of love, support, and kind comments about it.  Not to mention, several of my family members linked it to their F*acebook profiles, and in 24 hrs I've had an insane number of blog hits.  It's truly humbling that my story resonates with others who have faced the same things, or know someone else who has.  I was in tears last night reading emails from people in my community that found me via FB search and told me their stories.  SIMPLY AMAZING, and heartbreaking at the same time.

5.  Matthew West.  I love everything Matthew West sings...especially 'Save a Place For Me'.  Earlier dad sent me a link to this song....and it truly sums it up.  I always say I don't think it's accurate when people say, 'God promises to not give you more than you can handle.'  He promises not to give us more than He can handle.  When we realize that He is ultimately the reason we are able to face hardships in this life, we come to the understance that now matter the outcome, we will be okay.  He'll give us the strength to handle it.

Take a minute to listen....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cover Story

For those of you out-of-towners who are wanting to read the article, here it is:

Honor fortifies survivor’s healing

Krista Schinagl/The Herald (I want to add that our photographer, Krista, is an acquaintance from church and we had a blast walking, feeding animals, getting to chit chat and take pictures.  Thank you, Krista!)

Casondra Clement of Jasper took a break from walking on the Jasper Riverwalk with her daughter Breanna, 3, and friend Glenda McLean of Lake Helmerich Village on Wednesday to put out feed for squirrels and deer. Clement, who is a cancer survivor, was chosen to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk next month in Atlanta. She will also lead a team in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on the Riverwalk on Oct. 15.


Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — In one month, Jasper resident Casondra Clement will make her way into Survivor Circle at the Atlanta Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk carrying a pink flag inscribed with the word “healing.”

Clement, 29 and a three-time breast cancer survivor, was nominated and selected out of thousands of walkers by the event’s field coordinator to march with the inspirational flags and lead the opening and closing ceremonies of the walk, Oct. 21 to 23. Only eight survivors were selected for the job.

Clement and her seven fellow survivors will hold the flags as they stand on a raised podium in front of a crowd of former breast cancer patients and their families, representing those who have won and lost in their battles against the disease.

When Clement read the email from the event coordinator telling her she had been selected to carry a flag, she broke down and cried.

“It’s one of the biggest honors of walking,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a big step in my healing process.”

Clement will travel to Atlanta a day early to meet with the walk organizers and learn the ceremony routine. Once the walk starts, she will join her own team, Team Twitter Atlanta, named to honor that she and her teammates met and bonded using the popular social networking site.

Clement has been battling breast cancer since January 2003, when she had her first lump removed. The disease reappeared in 2005, and then again in July 2010 when her oncologist recommended she have a double mastectomy. After losing her aunt Stephanie Heichelbech to the disease, Clement said she knew it was the best decision for her future health.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Clement’s mastectomy surgery. Since then, the Winslow native has been free of cancer, but not free of pain.

Clement has undergone reconstruction surgery to insert breast implants and will have a fat graft just a few days after returning from her three-day walk. The mother of four has had to find time to heal while raising her children — stepson Aidan, 9, Kinsey, 8, Ava, 6, and Breanna, 3 — with her husband, Chris.

“It was so stressful, because they were in school and they’re little, so the littlest one didn’t understand that (she) can’t climb on mommy,” Clement said.

However, Clement did not let the post-surgery pain keep her down. She was determined to keep her children’s lives as normal as possible, so she discarded her pain pump early after her mastectomy and subsequent blood transfusions to go home with her family.

Then, Clement set a goal for herself: to complete a 60-mile walk for the cure one year after her mastectomy. To qualify for the walk, each participant is required to raise $2,300, which Clement quickly accumulated using Facebook to ask for donations from friends and family. Within 72 hours of posting her request, Clement had raised $1,800.

“I started training in April. They have a 16- to 24-week course that you follow, and that gets you ready,” she explained. “My goal that if I can walk 60 miles, that is my body being strong enough that I’ve overcome everything from this past year.”

Before heading to Atlanta, Clement will walk in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at the Jasper Riverwalk on Oct. 15. She will serve as a captain to her team of 22 walkers, and she already has raised $500 for the cancer organization by holding a community cornhole competition.

Clement spoke at a meeting of Jasper walkers last month about the importance of performing self-exams. She said she found each of her cancerous lumps herself, not through a mammogram.

When she isn’t walking to cure cancer, Clement keeps herself busy volunteering at her children’s schools. In August, she volunteered at an Evansville radiothon for Riley Hospital for Children, taking donations over the phone in honor of her youngest daughter.

Breanna was born with a congenital heart defect that required an extensive open-heart surgery when she was only 2 weeks old. She will need to have further corrective surgeries.

Clement said she makes it through all of the health obstacles in her life with the help of her family — including parents Eddie and Roxanne Richardson and Jeanette and Chris Walls — and with the power of prayer. She is a faithful member of Christian Church of Jasper.

“Faith is big. With this whole process, that’s been the biggest thing. My dad always told me growing up, ‘If you have a problem that you can’t take to the Lord, then it’s not a problem that you need to worry about,’” she said. “He gives us these challenges in life, but he gives us the grace to walk through them and make something beautiful out of them.

“I’ve always said, ‘He is giving me this for a reason,’ and I truly believe that this (fundraising) is it.”

Contact Claire Moorman at

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's In It For Me?

My friend, Kate, posted a blog last week titled 'Meet This Mama'.  It detailed her life as a mom, and one of the things she wrote I found to be particularly interesting.  The questions pertained to something most people don't know about her and this is what she said:

I want to be a SAHM but secretly know that a) I could never lose my independence and b) I judge Mom's that do SAHM even though I am jealous of them. I know that none of that makes sense but it's an insecurity and a very bad character trait. I'm sorry. It's a love/hate thing.

I find this intriguing and here's why:

As a SAHM I've stuggled at times with feeling like I lost a part of my independence and identity aside from my family.  It's actually this biggest thing I've struggled with since quitting work to stay at home in 2007.  And truthfully, had I not had a 'sick' child and so many small children that the cost of daycare outweighed me working, I'm not sure I would have been willing to quit my job. 

But...the thing I've struggled with and has at times even scared me, has became the thing that has given me my greatest identity in life.

Being a mom!

But that doesn't mean that's all that defines me.  On the contrary, I think we define being a mom.

I love my kids more than life itself, and it wasn't until this time last year, when my life turned upside down, that I really started to appreciate this tremendous blessing in my life. 

There are so many moms out there who wish they had the opportunity to 'really' raise their children.  To get the spend the day teaching their little ones, and taking them on field trips to the zoo, park, etc.  And because I have a husband who busts his rear-end to support our family, I have the opportunity to do those things.

Sure at times, I feel like pulling my hair out, and I take five minute 'Mommy time-outs' to the bathroom, but I thoroughly enjoy my children.  I enjoy the stages they are in.  I love that Breanna is so excited every day when I pick her up from preschool, and that my big kids coming running in after school to get a snack and show me what they did that day.  I love that I get to take my kids to school every morning, and that I have the opportunity to spend time volunteering in their classrooms.

I have the opportunity to go on field trips, be involved with PTO, to take baked goods to them and their fellow classmates, to take them to all their activities.

Sure my job may be 24/7 with little to no sick time, Holidays, or weekends off, but it pays more than any other job I could imagine having.

It pays every night when I get hugs and kisses before bed, with 'I love you's', with a little body wanting 'Mommy' to hold them when they get hurt or just don't feel good. 

I don't have to worry about calling in or dealing with a boss that doesn't understand that my children come first. 

And I do have 'me time' and adult interactions. Maybe not as much as I would if I worked outside the home, but enough to keep me sane. My friends have become the moms of my kids friends.  We have playdates.  We socialize at functions and music lessons.  We cheer our kids on together.  We attend the same church, and go to Women's group together.  

I was talking to my friend, Julie earlier and we were discussing working.  She said, 'If you went back to work, some of the many obligations you currently are involved with would have to take a back seat.'  And she's right.  Because I stay at home, I have the opportunity to take on projects that I am passionate about.  ie... the 3 day and all the training and fundraising that it entails.  Not to mention the countless opportunities that have been presented to me as a result.

I think as SAHM's we don't have less obligations...I know I certainly don't...our priorities for what we make time for are just different.  I don't at all feel like I've lost me in being a mom; I've gained perspective on what's important in MY life, and I'm doing what I love along the way.

So....What's in it for me?

My answer is simple:  EVERYTHING!

S'mores Bars

Last week, grandma asked me to make a dessert for the Beautification committee she is on, to sell.  I thought about the usual, Cake Pops, that everyone seems to love so much.  But in getting ready for the Corn Hole tourney fundraiser, I simply did not have time to make them.

So, I started searching around online for easy-to-make, FALL recipes.  I knew I wanted it to be a dessert people thought about eating when it's a little cooler outside.  After all, the festival was just that...OUTSIDE.

I toyed with some apple pie choices, but thought so many people would probably be baking apple pies, and I wanted something a little different.

That's when I stumbled upon this recipe and thought it would be perfect...

S'mores Bars!

They are super easy to make!

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 (1.55 oz. each) HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate Bars

1 (7 oz) container marshmallow creme

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan or line the pan with foil and spray foil with cooking spray (makes cutting easier).

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Press half of dough into prepared pan.

Arrange chocolate bars over dough, breaking as needed to fit. Spread with marshmallow creme. Scatter bits of remaining dough over marshmallow; carefully press to form a layer.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. 16 bars.

Mom, Chris, and I taste tested these and for two days afterwards, Chris commented several times that he wanted me to make some more. 

Friday, September 16, 2011


A month or so ago I recieved an email from my team captain, Jay, letting me know that he had nominated me to be a flag carrier into Survivor's Circle.  Now while I haven't participated in a 3-Day event yet, I have watched several of them online, and Survivor's Circle brings me to tears every time.

I never actually thought I'd be chosen, but a few days ago, I received an email from the field coordinator asking me to carry the 'Healing' flag.  I was floored. Only EIGHT people were chosen for this honor, and I, I was one of them! I read the email, cried.  Read it again, cried again.  Called my mom, cried some more.  Tweeted with several teammates about it, and cried some more. 

To say this is an honor would be the understatement of my life. 

To be quite honest, ever since I found out my next reconstructive surgery was scheduled just THREE short days after my return from Atlanta, I've been a little nervous.  I've been telling myself that there is no better way to spend the days leading up to surgery than in the presence of many people who go above and beyond to support this terrible disease. And that's totally true. 

And now, being honored by this...and of all things being asked to carry the 'Healing' flag....I'm left speechless.  It comes at a time when, honestly, so much 'healing' from the past year has been occuring. 

This seriously made my day. my week. my month. MY YEAR!

And if that wasn't awesome friend and teammate, Allie, was chosen to carry 'Courage', and let me tell ya, that fits her to a T.

The only thing that could possibly make this any better would be if my family were able to be there when I finish the walk, and the 'Victory' flag is raised.....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pixie Cut

last night was a little bit of an emotional night for mommy.

As Breanna was showing Daddy her papers from school, I realized that something looked 'off' with her hair.  To my horror, I realized that she had cut her hair from the front to behind her ear....up to her ear.  A few tears where shed, while Chris was ranting about it just being hair.  I think I recall someone who was very upset when our oldest two decided to give Ava a new hair cut in exchange for letting her play with them a few years back.  But I won't name any names. lol.

All I kept thinking about was, 'But we have family pictures in THREE weeks!'  Chris retorted with, 'I'm real sure Breanna was thinking about family pictures when she decided to cut her hair off, but who cares.  IT'S JUST HAIR!

As much as I know he's right....I mean, I am the person who has had fifteen different hairstyles over the course of the five years he and I have been together, but it's different when it's your baby's hair.  The same hair that took so long to grow after having a PICC line in her head.  The same hair we've been working on growing out for about two years.  The hair that I could finally french braid.

As the night went on, I either became delirious, or I just realized how stupid my sulking actually was, because I got to the point that every time I looked at her, I couldn't help but giggle because she looked like she had a one-sided mullet.

Give me a second....I must catch my breath from laughing again.

Luckily, this morning, I was able to get her hair up in to pig tails for school.  She cried all morning.  Twirling her pig tails and saying she didn't want to cut her hair off.  She was still crying when I picked her up from preschool.  I seriously debated not cutting it, and having her wear pig tails for the next year of her life, but once we got in the car she decided she was ready to get it cut.

Our lovely hair dresser held onto all her hair as she was cutting it and made a neat pile so that I could keep it.

Breanna did really well at the beginning...naming off all the shapes and fish on the cape, but before long she was asking the hair dresser, 'How long do you have to cut my hair?'  'Are you almost done yet?'  All the ladies in the salon were snickering the entire time. 

Yes, I know.  I might have the most opinionated three year old on the planet.  And she's NOT afraid to voice her opinions, dislikes, and discomforts.  She takes after her daddy, and he doesn't even try to deny that one. lol.

I finally promised to take her to Burger King if she held still and let the nice lady finish her hair, and the lady gave her her timer.  Which Breanna started pushing buttons on and loudly declared, 'You have TWENTY minutes left! I set the timer like you do, Mom.  She has TWENTY minutes left!'  Wow....okay, so some things I say as a parent (ie...declaring how much time is left on the timer I set to monitor tube time during the week) is not so attractive when it's coming out of my three year olds mouth.

She was also not a fan of getting her hair blow-dried until the stylist gave her a mirror to look in and she started making funny faces at herself.  She's such a hot mess!

It's going to take a little bit to actually grow out to match the other side, but the hair stylist did a good job of blending it in the best she could.  Until then, lots of clips, bows, and flowers in our future.  But she does look really stinkin' cute with shorter hair.  We may end up just keeping it like this.  :)

We ran to Babies N Bloom (a local baby store) and picked her up several head bands and flowers.  She's been playing with them ever since we got home.  And she keeps saying, 'My hair is so pretty.  I'm going to show my U-TAFUL hair to Daddy when he gets home.  He's going to say I'm a PRINCESS.'  haha.  She's right about one thing, Daddy does think she's a (rotten) princess.  And I'm sure he'll tell her she's U-TAFUL too!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Freedom from Perfectionism

The first thing I do when I wake up every morning is pray for my family, read verse-a-day (It's the widget on the top left hand side of my blog), and read the corresponding scripture and that days devotional.

Today's verse was Galatians 1:10 -  "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

"A lingering weight I carry from my past is wanting to be perfect in order to be accepted by God and other people.  Whenever I fail, I tend to want to disappear from the planet.  I berate myself and renew my vow never to let it happen again!

It encourages me to hear Paul say that he was not perfect and that he would not allow his past to dictate his present behavior.  God certainly does not expect me to be perfect; in a sense he is pleased when I do something right!  It has been freeing to me to know that God can break destructive patterns.  He can guide us into confronting the deep wounds of our past by giving us wise counselors, faithful friends and his Spirit.  He, and only he can take away our sin and guilt.

God is in the business of freedom and newness, and it is when I acknowledge my past and confess my sin that I can begin to experience his liberty.  He give new lives for old."

I don't know about you all, but I tend to be very critical of myself, and I worry a lot about not living up to other's expectations of me.  I don't know why I let worry over these things affect me but I do.  And it's one of the things I've been working on and talking through with my therapist these past few months.

Are there days that I can be everything that everyone wants/needs me to be?  Absolutely.  But there are days when I can't do it all because I need to focus on taking care of my needs/wants, and I need to learn to live with that without disappointment in myself.  I've learned over the past several months that those whose opinions I worry about, aren't near as critical of me as I am of myself.  They don't have the high expectations of me that I imagine that they do.  He doesn't expect perfectionism from me.

I needed to be reminded of that today!

Easy After School Snacks

I don't know if this happens in y'alls house, but the minute the door opens after my kids step off the bus, my house is filled with the sound of my children voicing the complaint that they are 'STARVING!' 

I assure them that they aren't starving while I'm serving them up a quick snack.

Chris gets home at 6 p.m. and we try to eat dinner as a family as much as possible, so waiting a little over two hours to eat, is quite a while for them, so we generally have some type of after school snack every day while they are working on homework.

We have the typicals like:  carrots, grapes, strawberries, oranges slices, yogurt, cherry tomatoes.

But on Monday's and Wednesday's we have after school activities, so I make them something with a little more substance. 

One of their favorites is veggie pizza.

I learned this yummy recipe from my former sister-in-law Jen.  It's a favorite at family get togethers too.

1-pizza crust (bake according to package)
Sauce: 1 part cream cheese, 1 part mayo (for 1 pizza I use about 6 oz of each), 1 ranch dressing packet, and half of a can of diced tomatoes.
Topping: carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Sprinkle with stredded chesse

Another favorite is meatballs.

I love them because I literally just throw three things in the crockpot, turn it on, and viola a few hrs later, I have a snack the entire family loves.

1 crock pot, 1 bag of frozen meatballs, 1 jar of chili sauce, and 1 jar of grape jam.  Throw it all together and turn the crock pot on low for 6-7 hrs or high for 3-4.

On Mondays, Kinsey has piano for 30 minutes and the piano teacher has a park right behind her duplex, so the other kids and I take our snack and go play at the park. 

Roll-ups are generally the choices for those days.  Their two favorites are:

Turkey and pickle rolls up.  (Thanks grandma for introducing my kids to these).

This is simply as slice of turkey, chive cream cheese, and a pickle. 

Big A requests these every time he has a party or friends over because they are his favorite snack.

They all also love turkey rolls up.

Tortilla's, cream cheese or ranch, turkey, and veggies of choice.  We generally use thin sliced tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, shredded carrots, and shredded cheese.

And their other favorite is mini pigs in a blanket.

I always loved these growing up....even though I don't really care for hot dogs unless they are grilled.

Crescent rolls, american cheese slices and hot dogs (cut into two).  Assemble, roll, and bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes.

What do you all feed your kids for quick snacks?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

My Baby Started School

I thought this day would never come....actually I was hoping it wouldn't.

It's a true indication that my baby is truly no longer a baby, though she'll always be the baby to us.

I think it's fair to say that the big kids were just as excited about her going to school as she was.  They kept saying to her, 'Bre, you're such a BIG girl, you're going to school.'  And on Tuesday morning, after dressing, they all ran downstairs to tell her 'Happy First Day of School.'  And when they got off the bus in the afternoon, all three of them asked her if she had fun at school.

She was most excited about her 'bwutter-fly' backpack.

This picture was taken approximately .000002 seconds before she realized it was chilly outside, and started screaming, 'I'M COLD! I'M COLD!' so loudly that I'm sure all of our neighbors heard her, and further refused to take anymore pictures until I went and got her a 'jackie'.

We leave our house at 7:30 every morning since I have to drop Ava off at 5th Street, Kinsey and Big A at 10th Street, pick Keegan up from his sitter, and take him and Bre to preschool....all by 8 a.m.

Needless to say, it's going to take her some getting used to because like her mommy, Breanna is not a morning person.

Hence, the picture below. haha

This is her 'I'm-cold-and-tired-and-not-amused-by-you-being-in-my-face-with-a-camera' face. lol

But I did manage to get one good one of her and my nephew before walking into the school.

You'd never know that these two are just a mere 7 weeks apart in age.  He towers over her.

We get inside and as I'm talking to her teacher, she takes her shoes off and runs to go play with all the other kids.  No 'Bye Mom' or nothing.  Just as happy as can be.  That is until I came back to pick her up at 11, and ended up carrying her out of the school while she kicked and screamed because she wanted to stay and play. lol.  Good grief, she's such her daddy's daughter.

Today was her second day, and it went much smoother at pick-up.  I'm pretty sure the sucker might have had something to do with it. lol

When we got in the car I asked them what they did today and Keegan said, 'We made da bears.'  Bre chimes in, 'And we gwed, and gwed, and gwed some more.'  (Glued).  Keegan said, "Yeah, we GA-WOO'ED dem bears!  And my bear says, 'What's up fa-woks?'" (What's up folks?).  Bre started giggling and said, 'My bear just says, 'GROWL!'"  Then they both started laughing. 

Silly kids.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Strides for Breast Cancer

Awhile back I was asked to be a speaker at the Strides for Breast Cancer Association of Southwest Indiana meeting. 

I was incredibly honored to be asked to do this, and last night was THE night.

I wasn't nervous going into the meeting which is out of the norm for me because I'm not a fan of public speaking.  After I was introduced, got to the front, and looked at the 'crowd' (all but two seats were full at the front and people were standing in the back)...I realized it was being filmed.  Whoa.  I wasn't expecting that, and the nervousness set in.

I talked about my experience at having my first tumor and subsequent lumpectomy at the age of 20. That I had another one at the age of 24, and then six were found when I was just 27.  That I was only 28 years old when I had my bi-lateral mastectomy, and I stressed the importance of self breast checks because at the age I was, I had never gotten a mammogram.  I talked about all the women in my family that also have had breast cancer and how despite it being so many, all of us tested negative for BRCA. 

The community representative, Autumne Baker, did an excellent job.  She had finger foods and pink ribbon cookies for everyone to munch on. 

And in true spirit of what it was all about, she played Martina McBride's new song at the very end.  I'm not sure there was a dry eye in the house.

Kristin and I are co-captaining a Strides for Breast Cancer team for the walk on October 15.  (Kate I totally know this is your wedding date, and I PROMISE I WILL be there to see you walk down the aisle.  The walk is just 3 miles and it's in the morning.  :))  So, it'll be a FANTASTIC day.  I'll start it off by supporting one of the causes that is so dear to my heart and I'll finish it off by seeing one of my best friends marry the man of her dreams.  I mean, how could a day possibly get any better than that?!!!

Last year, October was a hard month for me.  I had just had my mastectomy, was going through reconstruction, and thing I wanted to escape from was EVERYWHERE I looked.  This year, it's going to be great.  I have two walks on back-to-back week-ends, a wedding I've been looking forward to for what seems like forever - haha, and it'll go down with a bang with me back into surgery for yet another reconstruction.  I'm okay with that because it means I have a month to get back up to par before Thanksgiving.  My FAVORITE Holiday of the year.  I'm pretty sure it started out being my favorite because it meant Aunt Becky was coming for a visit, and I still enjoy that, but I really just love reflecting in November about all the things I have had to be thankful for over the past year.  And let's not even get started on the food.  We'll just end by's when my oven/stove get used the most.  lol

Hope you all are having a blessed day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm Gonna Love You Through It

Do you ever hear a song and it literally takes your breath away for a moment?

I feel that way ever single time I listen to this song.... which has been many times in the past few days since it was released.

It literally just pulls on my heart strings.

Being in a place of uncertainty and difficulty, the most important thing in my life last year was the love and support I felt from family and friends.  And really, I think for anyone facing a scary, life changing situation, that's all they ever really want.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Turtle German Chocolate Cake Pops

I can not put into words how delicious these compact balls of cake are.

EVERY.SINGLE.BITE is an explosion of deliciousness in your mouth!!!

And that is not an exaggeration.

Last year, around Christmastime, Amanda told me she had made these Red Velvet cake balls, and they were soooo good that I needed to make them.  8 months has went by and I didn't give them much thought until I was put in charge of making the cake for my nephews birthday party...which happened to fall on my actual birthday, and since I love, love, LOVE strawberry cake but couldn't make one of the layers of his cake strawberry since both my mom and sister are allergic....I decided to make strawberry cake pops.

Ever since, I've been stewing over all the different things I could creatively do with these little balls.

ie...stick them closely together and decorate the entire top as one cohesive know, like how cupcake cakes are decorated.  My latest idea is to buy a small potting vase, put styrofoam in the bottom, cut sticks in various sizes, fill the bottom with leaves and make a bouquet. 

Today, I got a craving for these while talking to my friend, Starla about ideas for finger foods for her upcoming 31 open house.  So we started tossing around different ideas of cake/icing flavors that we thought would taste good together.

I said, 'I wonder if you could make them and use Coconut Pecan frosting.'  Starla suggested putting caramel and crushed pecans on them so they'd be like a Turtle.  Thus, the idea was put into motion to create Turtle German Chocolate Cake Pops.

Start out by making a German Chocolate cake according to the packet directions.
Let cool completely once you get done baking it.

The additional ingredients you'll need are: Coconut Pecan icing (you can make your own, but I have four time isn't always plentiful), lollipop sticks, pecans, caramel bits, and white chocolate chips (which I forget to stick in the picture).

Slice up the cake so that it's easier to crumble.

Crumble the entire cake in a bowl and add half of one of the containers of coconut pecan icing.
Mix well. 
You'll have to use your hands to do this.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hrs up to overnight.

Melt down about 1/4 bag of white chips.

Roll 1-2 tsp portions of the cake into balls.

Dip stick into melted chocolate.

Stick about 1/2 way into the balls.

Repeat with all the cake and stick in styrofoam to hold into place.
Stick in freezer for 15-20 minutes.  Don't go much over this or your cake will dry out and start to crack.

Dip balls into coating.

Drizzle with the caramel.

And sprinkle with the pecan.

And you end up with four bites of pure perfection!


Monday, August 15, 2011

1st Day of School: 2011 Edition

And just like that.....THEY ARE OFF!

It doesn't seem possible that summer break should be over yet.  I mean, didn't they JUST get out of school?!  It's crazy how fast time seems to fly by, the older you get.

They were both soooo excited.

Last night before bed we packed their lunches, laid out their outfits for today, put their backpacks and shoes by the front door, and braided their hair so it'd be 'wavy' today.

Kinsey came in my room at 5:47 this morning and asked if she could start getting ready...she was THAT excited.  (Read:  We're talking about a kid who likes to sleep in until 9:30 or 10 any chance she can get!)  I told her she needed to lay back down until the alarm went off.  I need to write myself a note and attach it to my bedside lamp that says 'NEVER TURN THE VOLUME ALL THE WAY UP ON YOUR ALARM AGAIN!'  I wanted to make sure I was good and awake this morning, but literally almost jumped out of my skin when the darn thing started buzzing.  Not to mention, it woke Breanna up and that is simply never a good thing.  I normally don't 'wake' her up.  I just carry her to the car, buckle her in, and she sleeps while I drop the kids off and sleeps some more after we get back home. 

We also need to start 'preparing' every night before bed.  To say this morning was one of the most smooth mornings we've had since my kids have started school would be a huge understatement.  We didn't have any whining about not being able to find the socks they wanted, or shoes.  Everything was decided on yesterday night and laid out.  They just had to come downstairs, change into their clothes, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, grab their things, get a million pictures taken (okay, so it was really only about 10 but still), and out the door we were....on our way to their first day as 1st and 3rd graders!  It was smooth sailing!!!

Love these pretty girls!

Super cute backpacks they picked up while on vacation with their dad and stepmom.

Kinsey takes her lunch off and on depending what's on the lunch menu...but Ava has decided that she is taking her lunch every day because she wants to be able to eat what she wants (today it consisted of an Uncrustable, applesauce, celery and a Jif To-Go cup, a honey teddy grahams/golden raisins/peanut trail mix, and V8 Splash)...and so she can take her V8 Splash to drink.  lol.  She makes me laugh!