Archives for January 2015

The Top 6 Things We’ve Changed Since My Cancer Diagnosis

When I was diagnosed with the big C, I began to fully realize that what I put in to my body affects my health and well being. We’ve all heard “You are what you eat,” but it wasn’t until my diagnosis that I really bought in to that statement. Our family has made a lot of changes in how we eat and the products we use to try to minimize our future cancer risk. As a mom, I want to do everything I can to keep my sweet babies from having to go through any health issues that may (or may not) be preventable.

During my first appointment with my oncologist I asked what I thought was a logical question: “What causes thyroid cancer?” He basically laughed in my face and said that if he knew that he would win a Nobel Prize and be wildly famous. So, I followed up with “You are the expert here, what do YOU think causes thyroid cancer?” He explained that his research isn’t complete, but based on his expert knowledge he would attribute a few factors to the sharp increase in thyroid cancer. The main factor he believes causes thyroid cancer is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Below I list the Top 6 Things We’ve Changed Since My Cancer Diagnosis, including why you should eliminate PFOA’s from your home.

The Top 6 Things We’ve Changed Since My Cancer Diagnosis

1. Eliminate PFOA’s

PFOA is a chemical originally made by 3M and is linked to thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and a whole host of other health problems. According to the EPA’s website, in 2006 the government agency asked the top eight companies producing or using PFOA’s in their products “to work towards elimination of these sources of new exposure to PFOA by the year 2015”. Well, thanks EPA! You obviously know that this chemical is hazardous to human health and you ask for to be eliminated over the next 9 years. Did PFOA’s cause my thyroid cancer? I will never know. However, I did use products daily that included this chemical. PFOA’s can be found in Teflon coated non-stick cookware, microwave popcorn and stain proof carpets and upholstery. One of the first major changes we made was to toss out our beloved Pampered Chef Non-stick cookware. We now use good old cast iron pans and All-Clad pots. I was hesitant at first to make the switch because I loved the easy clean up and convenience of old cookware. However, a smart gentleman at Williams-Sonoma taught me how to change the way I cook to make nearly every pan be non-stick. He told me this saying that keeps food from sticking to the pan: “warm pan, cold oil”. Simply heat up your pan, then add cold (or room temperature oil) to make your pan less likely to stick.

2. No Soda.

This one is hard. HARD I tell you! I knew the day I was diagnosed that I needed to quit soda. However, I was addicted. I wasn’t the crazy gal who chugged a two liter a day, but I felt like I needed soda several times a week, maybe even daily. I looked forward to drinking it and craved it often. As soon I was diagnosed I scaled my soda habit to once a week and boy was it a long seven days waiting in between. But a funny thing happened, after a few months I would forget to drink a soda a week and the week turned in to 10 or 12 days. Soon I realized that I didn’t crave it any more. I’m happy to say that the last time I drank soda was October 2013. It took 9 months, but I kicked that habit to the curb. Now, I have had a sip here and there just to taste it, and you know what? It’s gross! I don’t think I would be able to drink a can of Coke right now if I tried. I know that is crazy talk to some of you (it was to me at first), but I promise it’s true. If you quit drinking it, you’ll quit craving it and eventually it will not even taste good. Plus, have you seen what soda does to your body? One last note on soda: several types of soda, including Mt. Dew and Dr. Pepper have an ingredient called brominated vegetable oil (BVO). This ingredient blocks iodine absorption in your thyroid and can be toxic. Just don’t drink it!

3. No Parabens.

Parabens are chemicals that are used as a preservative and is mainly used in cosmetics. Since I have thyroid cancer, my risk of other cancers including breast cancer has nearly doubled. My doctor informed me that there is a link between parabens and breast cancer, so for that reason alone, I have stopped buying products with parabens in them. Check the ingredient labels on your bathroom counter and in your make-up bag. If you see these words on the label, I suggest that you throw it out: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Now, if you google parabens you will find studies that say they are completely safe. However, I’m going to go with my doc on this one and play it safe.

4. No Fake Sugar (aka: artificial sweetner).

Honestly, I can’t believe people are still eating fake sugar. I get it, it’s calorie free and seems like a great alternative to regular sugar. My friends, that couldn’t be more far from the truth. There are LOTS of health products out there that tout health and wellness and “safe” weightloss and include these nasty chemicals that go by the names of sucralose, aspertame and sacchrin. These three ingredients are NOT food, they are chemicals. In fact, sucralose alone, which goes by the name Splenda, can cause a whole slew of health problems. The craziest thing about “foods” with a diet label is that they all contain fake sugar, which increases obesity. Have you ever seen a super healthy, fit person who chugs diet soda? Nope, they are all drinking water!

5. Minimize Real Sugar.

This is a tough one also. You know we love to party, and a party without cake is just a meeting. So… we eat cake, but we eat it sparingly. We have minimized our sugar intake by minimizing the times per week that we indulge in dessert. We used to have dessert 4-5 times per week. Now, we try to get that number to one day a week. It takes some planning and a whole lot of will power, but it’s doable. Sugar causes inflammation, which in turn can lead to cancer. Also, fat gets a bad rap for making us fat and clogging our arteries. The real truth is fat is good – our bodies need fat to operate. What our bodies do not need is sugar! Fat doesn’t make us fat; sugar makes us fat.

6. Eat REAL Food and More Local and Organic Foods.

Our motto is simple. If you can grow it or kill it: eat it. We try to shop at local stores that grow local meats and veggies. When we shop at big box stores we try to shop the perimeter and limit the items we buy in the actual aisles. Sure it takes more time and effort to cook whole foods, but your health is worth it! I promise! We recently purchased a farm and will be living on it full time in the next few years. One of my life goals is to grow our own food. I can’t wait to raise chickens and cows and have a big garden. That way I will know exactly where the food we eat is coming from and what it contains. Thankfully, for now there are great organic options at the grocery store that will do for now!

Obviously, I’m not a doctor and have no medical training, so please don’t take anything I say as medical advice. However, I have done LOTS of research on my health and wanted to share what we have changed in the last two years.

The Rest of My Thyroid Cancer Story

You can read the beginning of this story here. This is another super long post and while I would love for you to read my story, I’m writing this mainly for me. I have never written about my cancer and it’s something I want to have in writing that I can keep forever.

I had my first thyroid cancer surgery appointment in Lexington on January 31st. Jacob drove us to UK hospital in a blinding rainstorm and neither of us spoke a word on the 45 minute ride. We had KLOVE playing at a barely audible level and as we pulled into the hospital parking lot something miraculous happened. I heard the words, “this is where the healing begins, ohhh, this is where the healing starts”. I reached for the volume knob and cranked it ALL the way up. Jacob and I looked at each other with big tear filled eyes and huge smiles. God was letting us know that it was all going to be ok. We could not believe what just happened. Literally the moment our truck crossed into the parking lot the song “Healing Begins” by Tenth Avenue North came on the radio. How in the world was that timed so pefectly? God – that’s how. He cares about us so much that he even orchestrates radio waves to play the exact words for little ole me at the perfect time! Wow!

Our attitudes changed, and for the first time in three days we smiled. Not fake smiles, not forced smiles, real, genuine, joyful smiles.

We first met with the resident at the surgeon’s office. I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget him. As I broke down crying in the exam room, he gave me a big hug and told me, “you will be ok.” I SO needed to hear that from a doctor who dealt with this everyday. About 10 minutes later, my surgeon, Dr. Sloan walked in. I hopped off the exam table and stuck out my hand to greet him. “You’re my new best friend!” I said. Jacob just stood there and laughed. Jacob stood and shook his hand as well. The important thing about that hand shake was that Jacob had not shaken hands with anyone in several months. He injured his hand playing football and it hurt terribly to shake hands. He had become a master of the fist bump. However, he said I’m going to shake the hand of the doctor that’s going to heal my wife… and he did.

My appointment lasted two hours and they ran lots of tests. I had a tiny camera shoved up my nose and down my throat (that was pleasant) and an ultrasound to look at my thyroid and the surrounding lympnodes. Dr. Sloan wanted to see with his own eyes what he was working with so he actually did part of the ultrasound himself. I was shaking and nervous as I laid on the table while he glided the ultrasound wand back and forth across my neck. Every time he would stop and stare at the screen I would ask, “What do you see? Is it bad?” I quickly learned through this process… Ask questions. Question everything. Then when you think they’ve told you everything, ask more! After the ultrasound was over, he explained that it looked contained. With teary eyes, I told him that I had complete faith in him to heal me. What he said next, I will NEVER forget.

“Well, Allison, I believe in the ultimate healer and He will heal you. I’m just here to help make it happen.”

Wow! More tears.

We left the appointment with burdens lifted, more joyful hearts, a plan of attack and a surgery date the next week! Again, God was moving this process right along. There would not be weeks of waiting; I only had one week until my surgery to rid my body of cancer. Hallelujah!

A few days before my surgery, we posted on social media about my diagnosis. The local media saw Jacob’s twitter feed and they announced it on the news. I felt exposed and vulnerable with everyone knowing, but I also knew that I would have more people praying for me. At this point, I coveted prayers, so the more the merrier. We were bombarded with phone calls, e-mails, texts and messages that people were praying for me. Some people we had never even met – we felt so blessed.

Surgery
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Pre-surgery selfie and the last picture of me without my scar

I had my total thyroidectomy on February 7, 2013. That morning, I snuggled Luke extra close and I recorded my voice saying, “I love you, Luke.” and ” I love you, Jacob.” There is a risk with thyroidectomies that your voice box could be damaged temporarily or permanently and I wanted to be sure that my boys could hear those words from me forever.

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My sister bought these buttons for everyone in our family to wear!

I had complete peace about the surgery. God had been with me taking care of all the details up until this point and I knew He would continue to do so. I was so at peace that when my family came in to see me  in pre-op my mom thought they had already given me medicine to calm my nerves. And of course, we had a small party right there in pre-op! My parents and sister came bearing gifts. My sister got me a hand knitted scarf in the “thyroid cancer colors” – purple, aqua and pink, and my parents got me a new shirt. They sure know how to make a girl feel special! Jacob was there too, holding my hand until they wheeled me away. Just before they took me to the operating room, my pastor, Brent, and a deacon from my church came and prayed over me, Dr. Sloan and Jacob. Peace, just peace!

I spent just one night in the hospital and then headed home to recover. From that day forward, my body is completely dependent on a drug to replace my thyroid. Every morning like clockwork, I pop a little pill that keeps me alive. No, I won’t drop over dead if I forget it, but if I didn’t take it for a few weeks I would be in a coma and a couple weeks after that, I would be six feet under. I loathe the fact that I’m dependent on medicine, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

I love what Jacob wrote on the white board in my hospital room. You can see it in the picture below:

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Treatment

Four days after my surgery, I went back to see Dr. Sloan to get the pathology reports. It was confirmed that I had papillary thyroid carcinoma and that there were actually multiple tumors on both lobes of my thyroid. However, the muscle margins were all clean and so were the 15 lymphnodes that they removed. Praise the Lord. We were told that I had a very high cure rate, not remission, but CURE. So grateful for those words. Since I did have multiple tumors, I was going to need radiation treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells.

The next week I met with my oncologist, Dr. Ain, for the first time. It still feels really weird to say “my oncologist.” In case you’ve never experienced it, oncology waiting rooms are probably the most depressing place in the world. I was so relieved when they called my name so I could get out of there and head to an exam room. Dr. Ain was the first thyroid oncologist in North America and he is *the* expert on the subject. If you read a book on thyroid cancer, he probably wrote it. How incredible is it that he is in Lexington, Kentucky? The expert on my type of cancer is 45 minutes from my home! Wow! God’s provision once again! Dr. Ain taught us everything we could ever want to know about thyroid cancer and then some. We set up a plan of attack for my radiation and he even worked it around our trip to Disney! I did not want to miss out on that!

After three weeks of a crazy, strict low iodine diet, a full body scan and two rounds of injections, my body was ready for radiation. It’s a special radiation treatment called I-131, radioactive iodine. Basically, I would swallow a single pill, become radioactive for a few days and hopefully my cancer would be eradicated. They took Jacob and I into the basement of the hospital and told us all the risks and precautions we should take with me being radioactive. They made Jacob leave the room and I gave him one last hug. I wouldn’t have human contact for the next 10 days because everything I touched would become radioactive as well. In walked a woman dressed from head to toe in protective gear wheeling a cart with a few items on top. See that jar below? It is made of tungsten and it contained a single pill. Those tongs… that’s what the radiologist would use to pick up the pill and give to me to swallow. Yep, that’s right, a woman covered in protective gear has to use 12″ tongs to pick up a pill that I have to swallow! Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do! So, down the hatch the pill went and within 15 minutes I was radioactive.

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I sat in the third row of our car as Jacob drove me to my parents house. They graciously let me stay in their basement during my quarantine of 10 days. Y’all, it was a LONG 10 days. I now know why solitary confinement is such a terrible punishment. The worst part was not being able to see Luke. He couldn’t even be in the same room as me and I didn’t get to hug or touch him on his 2nd birthday. It was torture, but it was worth it to get rid of my cancer. The radiation made me sick and nauseous, but only for about 48 hours, which is much better than traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I didn’t have a follow-up to see if I was cancer free for six months. My oncologist explained that the radiation was like a war: Some of the soldiers (cancer cells) die instantly from mortal wounds. Others get injured and live for weeks weak and wounded until the eventually succumb to gangrene. So, we waited. And on September 20, 2013, I was given the NED designation: No Evidence of Disease. We now call that day “Good News Day” and you better believe that we celebrate every year!

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This is the hilarious card Jacob gave me to open after my treatment. He knew I would need a good laugh!

Come back tomorrow because I’ll be blogging about what we’ve changed in our lives since my cancer diagnosis including what products we will never use again and the things we’ve banished from our diets.

D-Day

Today, I celebrate my D-Day – my Diagnosis Day! I know most people wouldn’t think that this is a day for celebration, but you know I love a party, so… we celebrate. Two years ago today I was diagnosed with cancer and today I celebrate that I am alive, that I am healthy and that today will not be like that day. I get asked frequently, “How did you know that you had cancer? What were your symptoms?” Well, it all started with my big toe. Seriously, it did. If you want to hear the whole story, settle in and keep reading- it’s a long one.

First symptoms + Initial testing

One morning in September 2012, I woke up to my toes tingling and feeling like they were “asleep”. You know that feeling when it feels as if thousands of tiny pins are pricking your skin? That’s what I was feeling. Over the next two weeks, that feeling spread to my lower legs, then my hands, forearms and shoulder blades. I put a call in to my doctor in Denver and he ordered a CT scan to check for a pinched nerve. When we got the report, all was clear. No pinched nerve. Jacob and I were sitting on the couch looking over the report when we noticed a notation on the last line of the page: “Of note – 9mm ovoid nodule on R thyroid lobe.” Ummm… What? Of course, I freak out and call my doctor because he did not even mention it. He reassured me that a large portion of the population have nodules on their thyroid and that he would like to look at it again in three months, but not to worry. Of course, I worried. I’m no dummy because before I called my doctor, I had become an “expert” on thyroid nodules thanks to WebMD. Hah!

Fast forward to January 14, 2013. The Broncos had just lost to the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs and we were packing up to head home to Kentucky. Thankfully, I had written a reminder in my planner to have a check-up on my thyroid. I called the doctor to let him know that we were leaving town to see if he wanted to see me. He did and I had an ultrasound the next day. The nodule had grown. It wasn’t a drastic growth, just .1mm, but it was enough to warrant a biopsy. He knew that we were anxious to get home for the off season, so he said I could get the biopsy done in Kentucky.

Biopsy + Diagnosis

My biopsy was scheduled for Jan 31. Through a chain of events including the help of some good friends (thanks Kelly!), that date got moved up to Jan 28. Jacob wasn’t allowed in the procedure room with me, which made me anxious, but I tried to stay calm. The radiologist performing the biopsy goes to our church, so at least I had a somewhat familiar face in the room. I was awake for the whole procedure that included a HUGE needle guided by ultrasound going into my neck. All I could feel was the pressure, but I couldn’t move – at all. You see the thyroid sits very close to several arteries and my voice box so if I moved I risked that needle going places that would be very dangerous. After three attempts at the biopsy, I was told that the nodule had the consistency of a bouncy ball and it “wasn’t giving up any cells”. At that point, my heart sank. I knew. I had cancer. I tried to stay positive (and stay still), but my heart and my mind were racing. After seven attempts at the biopsy, the pathologist finally had enough cells to test. I left the hospital and Jacob took me home to rest with a noticeable wound on my neck. I was told that I would hear something in 48 hours. However, four hours later, my phone rang.

The number on my caller ID was familiar, it was my doctor here in Kentucky, Dr. Clark. Again, my heart sank. I knew. I yelled for Jacob to come in the room and we sat at our dining room table as I slid my finger across the phone to answer it. The conversation was like something you would see in a movie.

“Allison, this is Dr. Clark. How are you?”

“I’m fine.” I’m usually not short on words but that is all I could manage to utter.

“Are you at home? Are you by yourself?”

“No, Jacob is here with me. I have him on speaker phone.”

And then, Dr. Clark’s voice began to waiver ever so slightly and he informed me that I had thyroid cancer.

My whole world started spinning out of control. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t think. My entire body was numb. I was 28.

Jacob was intently taking notes and asking questions as Dr. Clark spoke. His voice sounded so positive but all I could think of was that word – cancer. As our conversation drew to an end, I only had one question – “Will I be able to have more children?” He affirmatively said, yes. I was relieved, but still terrified.

As we hung up the phone, Jacob leaned over and wrapped me in his arms and the floodgates of tears opened. Our world had just been rocked like never before and we knew we had a long, hard fight in front of us.
We called and informed our immediate family of the news and within an hour they were all at our house with dinner and ice cream (I told you we love a party, even under bad circumstances.) We hugged, we cried, we laughed. We were all just stunned.

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This picture is blurry, but it’s the only one we have of the night of my diagnosis. You can see on my neck where the biopsy was done. Luke was so sweet and sensed something was wrong, so he snuggled with me all night.

 

I would love to tell you that I was strong after my diagnosis. That I wasn’t worried. That as a child of God, I knew that everything would be ok. However, I can’t tell you that. I was terrified. My worry muscle in my brain was being worked to the point of exhaustion and I was inconsolable. The next two days of waiting for my first surgery/oncology appointment was pure hell. I know my Mama is not going to like me using that word, but that’s just what it was – hell. I was so incredibly blessed because I only had to wait two days; many people wait weeks for their first appointment. However, there was a surgeon in Lexington that specialized in thyroidectomies and he just happened to have a new patient opening on the morning of the 31st (that biopsy getting moved upended up making a big difference for me!) God was already at work orchestrating all of the events in my cancer story to work for my good, even if sometimes it didn’t always feel like it.

I’ll continue the rest of my story tomorrow, but for today I’m off with my little family to celebrate. First stop: Bluebird Cafe.

 

 

Sunday Scriptures

ABC Scripture - C2

 

Happy Sunday, y’all! I meant to get this posted this morning, but that just didn’t happen since I still haven’t mastered the art of getting our family dressed and out the door on time for church. Maybe next week I’ll get it posted early, but don’t count on it! Our “C” verse is a great one to memorize and reciting it as you get dressed each morning is a great way to commit it to memory.

Since this verse was kind of lengthy, Luke learned a different “C” verse – one that Jacob and I think is extremely important to learn.

“Children obey your parents” Ephesians 6:1

Hah! (But seriously…)

National Peanut Butter Day

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Balls
Print Recipe
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Roll mixture into golf ball sized balls. Store in air tight container in the refrigerator.
Servings Prep Time
15 balls 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
15 balls 10 minutes
Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Balls
Print Recipe
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Roll mixture into golf ball sized balls. Store in air tight container in the refrigerator.
Servings Prep Time
15 balls 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
15 balls 10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: balls
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

I didn’t know this holiday existed until yesterday and to be honest, I’m a little upset that I haven’t been celebrating this day each year. In our house, peanut butter is not just a staple; it’s basically our life source! Some of our favorite desserts have peanut butter in them, but one of my all time favorites is the Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Gooey Butter Cake. Oh my word! Y’all are going to be hugging my neck when you make it because it is THAT GOOD!

If you’re wanting a treat without an insane amount of butter and sugar, try our original recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Balls. Jacob and I searched and searched Pinterest for the perfect protein ball recipe and we couldn’t find exactly what we wanted, so we created our own. After a few trials and errors we came up with what we think is the perfect mix. Our Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Balls are a great pre or post workout snack and occasionally we will eat one after dinner instead of dessert. They are super easy to make and the best part is… you just have to wash one bowl!

Directions

Gather all of your ingredients. These are the brands that we used when we made these this week. We usually use raw organic honey, but chose to use a raw local honey this week instead and it didn’t change the texture or taste. We are experimenting with different proteins and our current favorite is Bluebonnet Whey Protein Isolate. Again, no change in the end result, so feel free to use the protein powder of your choice. A warning about protein powders: read the label! There are often times lots of bogus ingredients and fake sugars (a big NO-NO in our house!) hidden in this “health” food.

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Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.

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Roll mixture into golf ball sized balls and store in air tight container in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Balls

Please let me know what you think about these if you try them. We are not chefs, nor food bloggers, so we are always up for suggestions on how to make them better.

Half Marathon Prep

Last June, I went in to labor at 30 weeks and was put on bed rest for 8 weeks. It.was.miserable. Since all I could do was lay on the couch all day, the logical thing for me to do was to sign up for a half marathon. I knew exactly which race I wanted to run in and I signed up in mid-July for the Walt Disney World Princess Half Marathon that will be run February 22, 2015. What was I thinking? I was nearly 9 months pregnant, had been on bed rest for six weeks and I signed up for a half marathon?!? I still laugh at the screen that popped up during the registration that asked what my current mile splits were for a 10k or longer. Ummm… Let’s just say I left that question blank.

A few days after Lyla was born I knew I needed to start training as much as I could with the obvious restrictions from my doctor, so I began walking every day. I had a c-section so I wasn’t cleared to run for six weeks and to be honest, I didn’t want to run until then anyway. I found a great training plan online that runDisney encourages their runners to use. You can find it here if you’re interested. I followed it closely for five weeks and then my leg started hurting. I was stubborn and didn’t let it rest and ended up with pretty severe posterior shin splints. Thankfully, we know a few people who dabble in sports medicine and I was able to get back to running after a few weeks off.

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Andrea and I at the finish of the Pumpkin Pie 10k with our medals and slices of pie!

On November 15th, my sister, Andrea, and I ran in the Pumpkin Pie 10k in Denver so that I could fill in that blank question on my registration. I signed up for this particular 10k because it was touted to be the flatest 10k course in Colorado. Well, it was flat, but it was also 14 degrees and the course was covered in four inches snow and ice that day. To say it was an adventure was an understatement! Andrea and I were chatting away on mile 4 and I turned to look at her and the next thing I knew, my head was slamming into the ice. It was painful! I hopped right up not wanting to slow my pace time and I couldn’t see a thing! At first I thought that I had a concussion, but it turns out my contact was just covered in snow. Andrea tried to get me to stop and walk, but I refused and we finished the race. It was the farthest I had ever run in my life – I was ecstatic! However, my leg was hurting so bad after the race that I had to take 4 weeks off from running again. At this point, I knew running a half marathon was on my 30 in 30 list and I was terrified that my shin splints were going to keep me from my goal.

I stopped running for five weeks and just began running again the day after Christmas with a new, shortened running half marathon training plan. You can find my new plan here. Running is definitely a challenge for me because I am not a typical “runner”. However, it gives me time to myself and allows me to exercise while pushing myself farther than I ever thought possible. Last Saturday I ran seven (7!!) miles with my father-in-law and I’ve never felt better. Yes, my leg still hurts, but by gosh, I’m determined to train and run my race in February! I’ll deal my leg after I cross that finish line.

Princess Half start line

Can’t wait to be at this starting line in 31 days! Photo: www.rundisney.com

I have a lot of “runner” friends and to them a half marathon is a warm-up.  However, to me it is a BIG deal! Each week that I train, I run farther than before and I am so excited to join 27,000 other women in this race. Did I mention, that costumes are encouraged and that I’ll be running as Snow White?!? I’ll keep you posted on my progress as the race gets closer – I can’t wait!

This is How We Do it: Car Travel

The blog has taken a back seat recently as we moved from Denver back to Kentucky. It’s kind of crazy to live in two places because we are *always* needing something that is at our other home. Jacob is a minimalist (except for his golf gear) and I over pack. Always. I must bring all the things everywhere we go! Hah! I’m the anti-hoarder, but I like to have options, so I cart most of my clothes back and forth depending on where we are living. Jacob on the other hand, has half his wardrobe in each place and just makes do with what he’s got. Opposites attract, I guess!  So when it came time to pack up for the off-season, I took the reins. We ended up with a 5’x8′ U-haul trailer packed to the gills and a loaded down SUV for our 22 hour (counting stops) car ride back to Kentucky. Thankfully, after I packed everything we could still fit our children in the car – but barely!

I know what you’re probably thinking – 22 hours in a car with two small children is crazy! And, you’re right, it is! We’ve all heard it said that “It’s not the destination, but the journey that counts.” Well, friends, that is all a LIE! At least it is when it comes to traveling in a car with a preschooler and an infant! Let me be the first to tell you the destination is what counts! Sure, the trip along the way can be enjoyable, but getting home is what really matters!

We’ve done our fair share of car travel and after making the 22 hour trip between Danville and Denver eight times, I have learned a thing or two about what makes for a great long distance drive. Here are my top 5 tips and tricks for making a long car ride enjoyable (or at least tolerable)!

1. Bring snacks! – The only thing worse than a tired three year old is a hungry three year old. This adage can usually be applied to husbands as well! We like to bring most of our snacks with us because they are healthier and much cheaper than the usual gas station cuisine. Some of our favorites are carrot sticks, mixed nuts, raisins, string cheese and apples. Of course, near the end of the trip we all need a pick-me-up so we usually treat Luke (and ourselves) to ice cream.

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Luke’s 1st Blizzard – August 2013! This was near the Kansas/Colorado border, also known as: the middle of no where! Thankfully, there was a Dairy Queen, because we all needed a treat!

2. One word – iPad. Honestly, I’m not sure how people survived long car rides with out them. While we discourage excessive screen time at home, we encourage it on the road. We let Luke watch movies and play games as much as he wants and we just pray that the screen doesn’t burn a hole through his retina. We even let Lyla, our 5 month old, watch a few episodes of Mickey when she got restless. Please don’t call CPS on us… everyone can use a little Disney magic to get them through a long trip.

3. Plan your stops. This one can get tricky. Infants can have unexpected diaper blow outs and newly potty trained toddlers can demand sudden stops for potty breaks. We once had to take an exit in Kansas to make a pit stop for a freshly potty trained Luke. It was not a planned stop and the only thing on this exit was a dirt road, corn fields and an abandoned gas station. Needless to say, it was not our most productive stop. The photo below is of another unplanned stop on our first drive to Colorado. Yes, that is Jacob changing Luke’s diaper at the entrance to someone’s cattle ranch. On a long drive, you just gotta make do with what you have and sometimes that includes a make-shift changing table on the side of the road. Also, notice how blue the sky is – Kentucky has blue grass, but Colorado has *the* bluest skies you’ve ever seen!

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Roadside diaper change – expect the unexpected on car rides with children!

4. Let the kids play. This one seems frustrating at times because it feels like you are wasting time, but allowing the kids to move and stretch is well worth it. When pulling the u-haul we often stop at a truck stop and Jacob and Luke have foot races to burn off some energy (somewhere far away from the 18 wheelers, of course).  We usually try to eat at a Chick-fil-A with an indoor playground. We eat while Luke plays and then we order his food to go. He can then be occupied with his food in the car. On our last trip, I purchased a lap desk at Hobby Lobby for him. It worked great as a meal tray and even had spots for a drink and extra snacks. I would highly recommend getting one, but be sure to check and make sure that it will fit over your child’s car seat. You can see it in action in the photo below.

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This was our first trip with TWO children! Lyla was only three weeks old!

5. Bring nap time items. The ideal situation for car travel is for your kids to sleep as much as possible. To make this happen, we like to make their car seats as much like their crib/bed as possible. We always bring Luke’s stuffed horse named Boss Cat and his blanket and we usually start the trip off with him wearing pajamas. I would also highly recommend getting a sun shade, but a blanket stuffed in the car window will work in a pinch to block the light for ideal napping conditions.

I hope these tips help you as much as they help us. What tips and tricks do you have for your long drives?

Sunday Scriptures

B Scripture Verse

Photo by: http://www.theartsycajun.com

 

 

What a great verse to learn and commit to our hearts. To be honest, we have not been diligent in learning the verse this week. We are slacking and it’s only week 2! Perhaps it had something to do with us moving across the country this week – more on that tomorrow.

I love this verse because it is something I need as a daily reminder. Be kind, be compassionate, be forgiving. It seems easy enough, but the devil wants to get in our way of being all those things. I’m going to be writing this verse on a chalkboard in our house so we will see it often and remember that we should choose forgiveness because Christ forgave us. That’s where it starts – with Christ!

 

 

 

You Can’t Win Them All

Losing is never easy, and Sunday’s game was no different. I was teary before the game started because I knew it might be our last game at Mile High Stadium, win or lose. The anthem was just beautiful, the crowd was electric and the roar of the pre-game fly over gives me chills every time. You see, Jacob will be a free agent this year and we don’t know where this crazy business will have him playing next season.

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Waiting for the game to start with my little buddy

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Player introductions on the jumbotron

 

Dealing with “lasts”is hard. You want to just soak it in and remember everything so you won’t ever forget what it was like. It reminds me of my senior year of high school, which was full of “lasts”. But Sunday’s game was an uncertain “last”. We may be back, we may not. That’s the nature of the business. So, after the game Luke and I were down on the field walking towards the tunnel. We stopped to take one last picture and I knelt down beside him and put my face next to his. I said, “Baby, soak it in. Look at the lights, see what they look like? Look at the scoreboard, see how big it is? Feel the grass, this is where Daddy played! We might not be back here, so just take one last look around.” I was saying this all to him, but really it was for me. So I could intentionally stop, take it all in, and remember.
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This pic was taken right before Luke and I had our talk about taking it all in

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Huddling up during warm-ups

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Jake lining up at fullback before going in motion

 

After the game, I found several wives and girlfriends and gave them hugs and we said our goodbyes. It’s always so awkward because these people who you’ve shared joy and pain with, who’ve prayed for you, who’ve been in this crazy NFL world with you in an instant can just be… gone. Even as a wife, a big loss, especially a season ending loss, makes it seem as if life is just crashing down. It’s just over. Done with. There is no more – until next year. But next year, even if we stay in Denver, it won’t be the same. Different coaches, different players, different friends. We will never have *that* team again. Oh sure, we will keep in touch through social media and texting, but it won’t ever be the same. While it is so sad, and boy did we cry some ugly tears, we have so many blessings! As one wife said as I hugged her goodbye, “You know what? What do we have to complain about? We are going home to healthy babies and healthy husbands!” She was SO right!
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Friends, teammates, Bible study partners, and all around just two great guys… in my opinion!

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Post game prayer circle at midfield

Once Jacob left the locker room, we walked out of the tunnel and stood in the parking lot and just stared at the stadium taking it all in. All he said was, “It was fun.” Gosh, it sure was!
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Last post game pic of the year of our fam (minus Lyla)

We spent most of yesterday packing everything we could into a u-haul trailer to begin the trek back to Kentucky. We are sad to leave Denver (even though we may be back), but could not be more excited to be going back home!
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Leaving the tunnel: Luke with his Granddaddy and Aunt SJ

Tonight we will have a little farewell dinner with some of our teammates and friends and I’m sure we will cry more ugly tears, but in the end it’s all just a blessing! The wins. The losses. The tears and frustrations. The friendships that will grow stale, but hopefully not. It’s all part of this awesome journey God chose us to be on and we are choosing to enjoy the ride!

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Miss Lyla didn’t make it to the game, but I couldn’t leave her out!

Sunday Scriptures

Our family is memorizing a set of ABC scriptures this year. There is one verse for each letter of the alphabet so by the end of the year we are hoping to have learned 26 Bible verses. We are learning one each week and I’ll be sharing them here with you each Sunday. This week’s verse just so happens to be the first Bible verse that Luke memorized. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather when Luke trotted out of Sunday school last Summer citing this verse. It was pretty much the sweetest thing I’d ever heard! I don’t know if it was just pure shock or my heart beaming with pride that made that moment so memorable. So, here we go with week 1 of memorizing the ABC scriptures, starting with A:

A scripture verse

 

I found this cute little printable here.

Happy Sunday!

And, of course, Happy Game Day! Go Broncos!