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Back to School 2014

5th Grade and 1st Grade, here we come!

Mary Clare is seven!

Miss Manners Camp 2014

While big sister was away at Camp Tonawandah for three weeks, baby sister had fun at our local YMCA Miss Manners Camp for a week.  Each day she looked forward to dressing up, dancing and learning how to be a proper lady.

On the last day of camp, Mary Clare asked to put her new skills to the test at Yogi Bear.  Our lunch date was a smashing success.  (Notice her pinky?)

Camp Tonawandah

McCanless headed to Hendersonville, NC for summer camp this year.  Camp Tonawandah is where Aunt Liz attended camp and Mimi and Bapa spent several summers as counselors.  Mel loves the area and has looked forward to the day we would send McCanless.  (Three weeks is a long time for mommy, so I had to build myself up to it!!)  McCanless didn’t know anyone at camp and was counting down the days.  I am so very proud of her and thrilled that she loves overnight camp!

Pick Up Day!!

Happy 5K Graduation, Mary Clare!





This morning as I chatted with a few mommy friends in the halls of THA,  I whipped out a video I just so happened to record yesterday afternoon.  It was only fitting as we had been chatting about sassy mouths and ugly words.

Just before I recorded the video, I had taken the girls to the local book store to purchase a book.  I made it clear before going into the store that we would each buy one book.    We walked into Burry’s and immediately saw my sister, Kacy, also shopping.  (Don’t you just love small towns.)  MC ran to the back of the store to the children’s section, McCanless wandered to the youth area and I chatted with Kacy for a bit.  What happened in the next 20 minutes could definitely go down as one of those “mommy moments” that you would love to erase from history (or least from memory.)

Screaming at the top of her lungs, “I HATE YOU!”  “I WISH YOU WERE IN PRISON!”  (Yeah, not sure where that came from…) “I WISH YOU WOULD DIE!” echoing throughout the store, all aimed at me.  Mary Clare was letting me know exactly how she felt,  simply for my refusal to buy her a doll hair brush.

I smiled, ignoring the mini tornado in front of me,  and placed our books on the counter to make our purchases.  What made it all worse was the fact that the two sweet ladies behind the counter were friends of ours.  One, a neighbor and one, a family friend since I was a child.  They both had that wide-eyed “deer in headlights” look about them as they watched Mary Clare.

We finally  made it  to the car, at which point I realized she had completely lost it-with no going back.  So, I did what every 2014 mother does, I used my cell to video the whole debacle.

I’ll spare you the video, but I’m keeping that little jewel for when she’s older and her own daughter is driving her nuts.

Over the years, I’ve tried to blog about their awards, funny comments, sweet surprises and also those “not-so-great” moments. (I’m no perfect mother by any stretch of the imagination and I should probably blog about those moments more often to spare my girls future disasters in their own mothering days.)  More importantly, however, I wish to provide them with a history of losses before accomplishments, of bad days leading up to good days.  Those, I feel, are all moments that mold us.

As I watched my baby, my heart,  scream, struggle to breathe  and hate me in that moment, I wanted so badly to cave, to give her exactly what she wanted, to please her.  I knew that her anger was temporary and that the lesson that she was learning was so much more important than making her happy in that very moment.

It dawned on me.  Saying “no” now is easy in comparison.  I know that as my girls get older, these times will only increase.  I’ll watch them hurt, disappointed and make many mistakes.

Last night as she lay curled up around me in her little bed,  I read the pink princess book that I actually purchased for her at Burry’s yesterday.   She leaned in, kissed me and told me it was her favorite book ever.

I think I finally allowed myself to know that her disappointment was okay and not in vain.   I hate allowing my babies to cry.  I hate disappointing them.

I’m sure she’ll cry over much more than a doll hair brush and I know I’ll say, “no” again, and again and again.  I’ll question my actions, she’ll hate me again, and I’ll accept her hugs at the end of the day.  Always.

I hope she knows this now and forever.


Academic and Athletic Awards Ceremony 2014

4th grade Student Government Representative, Duke TIP, Class Leadership Award, All A’s, Perfect Attendance, Art Show Award,  Published Author, Literary Meet Participant…Not too shabby, McCanless!  We are so proud of you!!

Elementary Basketball Team and Cheerleading Participant

A pink and purple sail boat “crafted by” Mary Clare.

Sisters.  Ipads.  Texting.

This girl keeps me on my toes.


Child’s explanation of how he/she solved the problem:

“i am smrt”

Mary Clare

So, to explain:  Mary Clare likes sparkling grape juice.

The Four Squares

So, I’ll admit, a class assignment has brought me to the blog tonight.  (Thankfully, we are crazy busy living “normal” life these days.)

Mary Clare has a clothesline timeline to complete.  With only four small squares to document and illustrate her life, I turned to the best (only) journal I have,

You know me.  I could write an entire book on all that she is and has achieved complete with dramatic-mom vision-details and lengthy anecdotes.

We have four little squares.

The assignment asks for four major milestones.  A sentence to be written about each with her age at the top.  Simple enough, I thought.

Until I actually thought.

Milestones.  Wow, does she ever have them.

Everyday I struggle with wanting to scream at the top of my lungs, “She’s different, you know!  She has accomplished more than most can or ever will in a lifetime!”

Sure, she’s having difficulty with reading, potty training and focus.  She has fine motor “issues” and gross motor “issues” and still has her paci.  Trust me, I’ve learned so much about patience with others who just don’t get it.  I bite my tongue.   I hold my opinions.  I smile and know that I’m probably the only person who will ever get it.  She’s my Mary Clare and like every other mother out there, I’ll go down defending and fighting for her til the bitter end.

She’s at an age where she’d rather not mention her surgeries.  Maybe she’ll grow out of it, maybe not.  Either way will be her way and I’ll respect that.

As we brainstormed her first square, I suggested she draw a picture of herself as a baby with her little half heart.  She could write, “I was born on June 27, 2007 and had heart surgery at 5 days old.”

I promise, I try REALLY hard to keep out of projects and school work.  I do.

What she did next is no surprise to me.  She did as only Mary Clare will and told me to back off.  It’s her project.

She would prefer to write about going to school with her cousin Reese.  Receiving her Barbie Dream house, playing with neighborhood friends at the pool last summer and taking her crown to school for show and tell last week.  Those are her 4 timeline ideas and that’s what we’ll go with.

My crafty mom heart just broke a tiny bit.

As she colorfully illustrated her lifeline, her way, I scrolled through the blog, my heart ached.  She has been intubated, paralyzed, sedated, on heart lung bypass and that was at only one week old.   She has endured surgeries, seizures, enough medication to make a grown man sleep and yet, she is held at the same standards at all other “normal” six-year-olds.  And you know what?  She does it.

I’d love to complete the 4 squares for her and plaster them on billboards.

1-I saw her beating, stitched, pieced-together heart in the flesh at 6 days old when her chest was kept open 24 hours for swelling.

2-I held her arms down while she screamed as three 1 inch tubes were pulled from her chest after each of her three open heart surgeries.

3-I held her blue body in my arms while she seized for the longest 10 minutes of my life.

4-I have watched her run and gasp for air as she struggled to keep up with her friends at 80% oxygen levels.  (Try running around your house three times holding your breath.  That’s what that feels like.)

But those are my squares.  Those are milestones for me.  Thankfully, she doesn’t remember any of those.  So, as profound as those memories are for me,  they do not define her.  Ironically, they are more about me.

So, crowns, and friends, Barbies and Reese it is.  I love my little Rock Star and all of her own little sassy, glittery milestones.


Go Hornets!

My heart secretly swells when I see my girls don a cheerleading uniform.  I know, I know.  I just can’t help it.  Some of my fondest memories are cheerleading practices in summers with my best friends.   No make-up, girls being girls, learning to be a team, learning to love each other and our sport.  I’m hoping that whatever they decide to pursue, they learn as much about life and friendship as I did on my own team.

So proud of this chick!  (I’ll admit, she wanted to quit her basketball team when she realized she was one of only two girls, but she stuck it out!)  This was a step up.  Away games versus other schools.  Not like the usual basketball clinic days of her first, second and third grade year.  Fourth grade plays with the big dogs.  Fourth, fifth and sixth graders are combined to form the “Elementary Team” that plays other schools in our area.   She started in most of the games.  (Not really because she’s that good.  Just because her coach is that good.)  She gained so much confidence and experience and I feel sure next year, she’ll actually attempt a basket!

Happy CHD Awareness Week!

SNOW 2014



Lot’s of snuggle time when the power was out!  (Everyone, including Bally, was cold and wanted to jump in Mommy and Daddy’s bed!)


Rosy cheeks!

“Snow Days” mean “Friend Days!”

How “lake kids” play in the snow!  (Tubing behind golf carts!)

To pass the time…make-overs!

…and movies!

…and a little karaoke in swimsuits.



Ho! Ho! Ho!

2013 Mayor’s Tree Lighting Ceremony

This little dancer laughed her way through, “We Need a Little Christmas” with her petite dance team.  They were the youngest bunch but were, by far, the cutest!

Reese and MC after daddy counted down to light the Hartsville Christmas tree.



O Christmas Tree 2013


Winter 2013

McCanless made this on the back of a math sheet while doodling in class one day.   I just adore her creativity.

…and speaking of creativity, I was one proud mama when I walked down the hall one afternoon and realized that two out of the ten THA State Art Show entries were created by my babies.

Mary Clare is  proving to be quite the little artist, just like her big sister.

Thanksgiving 2013

At 11:00 am on Tuesday, I received a call from Mel.  It was smack-dab in the in the middle of the THA Annual Grandparent’s Day program.  “Delta called and said they were worried about the weather for our flight out tomorrow morning.  We need to fly out today at 3:00.”

Don’t you love the south in the winter?  I think the forecast for the following day was 40 degrees.

Of course, I hadn’t packed.  I spent the night before making 8 dozen cookies for the grandparent’s day program, and the day before that, cooking for the Woodham Thanksgiving dinner, and the day before that….

I’m a procrastinator anyway.  I work best under pressure.

I left the girls with grandparents and headed home, not bothering to tell the office I was leaving a bit early.  I threw clothes in bags, all the while singing “Run, Run Rudolph” (just like in the movie, Home Alone).  I grabbed the girls,  picked up Mel and we hit the road.

We were headed to catch a plane to Florida so we could catch a boat to the Bahamas for Thanksgiving!

First sighting of the massive Disney Dream!

While the boat was still docked in Florida, MC stripped down to her bikini and dove into the pool!  (There was a chilly breeze, but she had to swim!)


Our  state room, with a fabulous balcony!

…and dressing table, to get ready for those fancy dinners.  😉

On the top deck (on Goofy’s put-put course) overlooking Atlantis in the Bahamas.  (It was warm, but the skies were dark.)

Nothing that an endless supply of Mickey Ice Cream can’t fix!

Castaway Cay

Daddy and the girls writing post cards from Castaway Cay.


Woodturkey Throwdown 2013

We made it official.  Challenge accepted.

The Woodham Thanksgiving Cooking Match


Mary Clare decided to enter a massive pot of Pioneer Woman Mac & Cheese.  McCanless made a Buttermilk Pie, which tied for second place.  I made the best-ever asparagus appetizer, which was gobbled up before anyone knew what was even going on.   (That’s the sole reason I’m accepting defeat.  They were so scrumptious, they were gone before anyone remembers eating them.)   Mel planned to enter a Ruth’s cheeseburger, but was on-call and worked all day.  We missed him, but had a great time!  Congratulations, Kacy, your sweet potato praline casserole won the trophy THIS year!  You better watch your back next year!  Girl’s Team will own that trophy.

Always a party in Ashland, sequins and everything!


My heart

After a 24 hour Holter monitor test, we discovered that…

this girl, who has my heart,

has a perfectly imperfect heart

that is rockin’!


Spiders and Pumpkins and Fairs, Oh My!

Mary Clare’s take on spiders…

State Fair Fun

After the Haunted House ride with Aunt Kate

The faster, the higher, the better for my tiny thrill seeker!

Neighborhood Pumpkin Painting Party

Prestwood Annual Weenie Roast

Happy Birthday PaPa!

Annual K spider web in the cafeteria.  Apparently, little MC has quite an arm.

McBee Fall Festival

Twin BFFs

THA Halloween Carnival

My Sea Fairy was a Cake Walk Queen!

MC and Kate at school

MC was a princess-beauty-queen at school on Halloween.

We finally carved our pumpkin on Halloween day.

…then she was a sea fairy-princess-beauty queen for Trick-or-Treating.  (McCanless decided to be Sabrina, the teenage witch.)


Hello Fall!

First Day of 5K and 4th Grade at THA!

5K friends

New glasses for the new year!

Cooler evenings out in the country at Nonnie’s house, roasting marchmallows and hot dogs.

My smart Duke Tipper!  We were so proud to receive a letter that McCanless qualified for Duke Tip Program.

Hello Dance Season!

Happy Birthday, Leah!

School Days

Great check-ups at MUSC!

Red Fox games

Canned food drive at school (5K won!)

Hippopotamus Sandwich

Breakfast at Carolina Lunch

Laughs with Friends

So long summer…



Dead Girls Team,

Mom has been away from the blog because dad didn’t update it and fix it — Dad is fixing it.

Dad will be updating it very soon.  Mom is going to get back to writing her blog that she has kept diligently for nine years.

Thanks to everyone for your patience and for being great readers!


Camp Gwynn Valley 2013

McCanless went to Gwynn Valley in Brevard, NC this year for two weeks.  All summer long, she counted down the days until camp.


Little sister begged to stay.

She came home singing camp songs (over and over and over and over) and talking non-stop of all of her new friends and rock climbing, candle making, and camp outs.   I’m so proud of her! Two weeks was a breeze for her, but this mama was sad without her for so long.

We’ve pool’ed it, beach’ed it, theater camp’ed it.  Mel and I went to Utah.  McCanless went to camp.  MC took swimming lessons and we had a fantastic, and busy summer.

The girls have one last summer trip with Mimi to Hilton Head Island this week, then it’s back to the grind with school, dance and tumbling and homework.

5K and 4th grade and Library, here we come!   (Did I mention I’m heading back into the classroom this year?)  Actually, I’ll be in the library, so we’re all heading back to school!  Ready or not, here we come!

Summer 2013 so far…



















Life in the fast lane…

Well, I did it.  I let a month go by with no blog post.  For nine years that hasn’t happened. January 2004-June 2013  Oh well, there’s a first for everything, right? I’d like to blame my lack of blogging to the simple fact that our little family of four is simply busy living life.  No big heart surgeries, no cancer fighting, no big mayoral election.  Life by the pool, by the beach, with friends, art, church, neighbors, family, travel and a few doctor appointments thrown in there for good measure.  (It is our family I’m talking about.)

Life is busy.

Life is good.



Mother’s Day Weekend


2013 Mother’s Day Program at school with my little elephant!


2012 THA Mother’s Day Program-It was one year ago on the day of the Mother’s Day program that I finished all cancer treatments.  Immediately after the program, Mel, the girls and I drove to Columbia for my final radiation treatment.  He dropped me off at the door of SCOA and 15 minutes later, I walked out alone, completely finished with my journey.  It was wonderful.   It was an uneventful and most amazing feeling.  The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize it was my “One Year Cancer Free” date until several days later.  I’m way too busy in this year!

Portrait of Mommy by Mary Clare

After school we hit the road and headed to the beach with Nonnie, Kacy and Sullivan for the weekend.

Happy Mother’s Day!

We continue to daydream of Disney days…

I’ve been downloading the hundreds of photos I took, the hundreds that Disney took and the hundreds of cell photos Mel took.  What an amazing experience!

Easter 2013

Nonnie and the girls created a Easter garden this year.  It turned out beautifully and I’m certain it will be an annual event.

Especially since this big guy will surely love to dig in the dirt next year!

The girls team did lots of baking…

And the Easter bunny brought us all of our Summer essentials!

McCanless and three other boys sang a beautiful little song in church on Easter Sunday.  It was such a sweet little song, and I was so very proud of her. 

A fun Easter lunch at BB and Papa’s house

And a super loud, crazy, egg-hunt and dinner at Nonnie and Bubba’s house.

And lots of outside time, despite the chilly and wet weather.

The golf cart is out and ready for summer!  (and has a brand new driver!)  We’ve only had one call from an elderly (and quite concerned) neighborhood lady so far.  Not bad.

A few days at the beach…

This girl is a mermaid in disguise, I do believe.  She was thrilled to be at the beach.  Pure bliss.

Just a taste of wonderful, lazy summer days ahead.  We are so excited!  Happy Easter!


So, there seems to be a trend here.

Mel started this blog over nine years ago, when this whole “mom blogging” thing was new.  I quickly took over the reins and haven’t looked back.  Well, except for the times I do just that, look back.  There are many months with numerous posts of mommy tales, girls team stories and loads of photos.  There are months of strictly heart-felt, pouring-my-soul-out, sappy posts.

My blog visitor rates are quite interesting.  They vary from 3,000+ individual visitors a day to one (hi, mom).  It’s typically in those “tough for me” months that the blog sees more visitors.  Those times that extra encouragement was such a blessing to me.

I certainly love looking back over the years and remembering moments.  I hope my girls do, too.  I’ve not let a single month go by without at least one post.  Some months, like March 2013 are (ahem) skinny, I’ll admit, but its usually those months that things are rolling along rather smoothly.

The trend is simple.  Less posts mean “normal” chaos, as opposed to “dramatic” chaos.

So, without further adieu, may I give a brief update of our little family, in the event that someone still reads my blog, other than my mother.

As I sit and type, McCanless is draped across the chair to my left with her Dr. Dre Beats (fancy headphones) and her Ipad.  (She hates to be alone and will do whatever it takes to be amidst others.)  She’s in her skinny jeans, one sock, one bare foot and  a turquoise and neon t-shirt.  She’s certainly grown into a little (pre-middle school) lady, especially after countless of mornings arguing over what shirt wasn’t too tight or too loose, what pants were perfect and seamless.  All of those mornings I begged her to just wear whatever would make her happy.  (I still say the same to her every morning-and some mornings are more pleasant than others-but typically, she gets it together rather well and doesn’t look like a ragamuffin (too often).  Whew.  Only took nine years.)

She’s quite sincere, extremely thoughtful and sensitive.  She’s a touchy-feely-needs-lots-of-hugs kind of person, much like her daddy and can play basketball like nobody’s business.  (From her mother’s perspective, of course.)

She’s an extremely talented writer.

Mom always told me that I was born 30.  I think McCanless was too.  Most days, she has wisdom well beyond her years.  She would rather die than upset a teacher (not the case in her attitude toward me) and continues to make all A’s.  She’s easy when it comes to knowing that she’ll get things done for school, but leaves a trail behind her at home.  I’m constantly asking her to close the fridge door, flush the toilet, pick up the four pairs of her shoes in the den, find her book bag, find her book.  I imagine that will only get worse.

She adores her little sister, but forgets sometimes that she’s much bigger than Mary Clare.  They don’t argue often, but when McCanless has had enough tormenting and taunting from baby sister, I typically have to step in and separate them.  McCanless has no idea how strong she is and Mary Clare wouldn’t back down if her life depended on it.

These days McCanless, or “Cannie” as most everyone at school calls her, is spending more time in the bathroom every morning, spraying her glittery-smelly spray all over herself and brushing her hair.  I asked her last night who her first kiss would be and without hesitation, she said Grayson Moyd, when she’s 16, and she promises to tell me when it happens.  (wink)

Mary Clare keeps me laughing every day with her quick wit and amazing sense of humor.  She definitely gets that from her daddy.  She’s fiercely independent and quite a handful at school.  She’s pretty “easy” for me and maybe that’s because she’s my second child; maybe I’m more patient with her; maybe its’ because she’s my baby; maybe I just “get” her.  Who knows?

She’s the child I have to remind to walk.  “Open the car door, Mary Clare, get out, Mary Clare, come on, walk with us, Mary Clare, hold my hand, Mary Clare.”  Her head is usually in the clouds and I’m certain it’s not that she’s intentionally ignoring the world around her, it’s just that she’s so engrossed in her own world of thoughts, she has little time for the real world.  She sees what most don’t allow themselves to see. Her imagination and creativity are simply amazing.

She loves to play alone in her room with her dolls and Barbies and would do so for hours.  She is still obsessed with all things pink and princess and girly and glittery and laughs so often.  She gets in silly moods and will laugh until she drops from exhaustion.

She has mad puzzle skills.

She adores our neighbor friends, the Nutts, especially their two daughters, Kaiti and Ann Frances.  We often check the Nutts house first if we can’t find her.  No matter how often we threaten, if she’s determined to go for a visit she does it.   That’s the thing about my little MC.  She’s a determined little person.  No one can stop her and I love that little spunk.  (As much as that same little spark infuriates me sometimes, I’m so glad it’s a part of who she is.)

I still can’t believe Mel and I have a nine-year-old and a five-year-old.  On May 19th, we will have been married for 12 years and life couldn’t be sweeter.  Our house still isn’t quite back to normal after our fall renovations and we have much to work on in the yard.  It seems lately; however, it doesn’t bother me as much as it once did-these unfinished, and insignificant projects.

He is planning his re-election kick-off soon and I’m counting down the days until Summer Break!  (Our golf cart is in the shop getting spruced up for a busy summer.)  We are looking forward to sunshine, beach days, lazy summer mornings

and quite possibly time for more frequent mommy-blogging.

Heart Day so far…

We’ve already had an eventful Valentine’s Day and it’s not even lunch!

This morning the girls dressed up for the THA Annual School-Wide Valentine’s Day dance.  It’s so cute!  All students, grades 3K-8th grade,  look forward to this day for weeks.  The girls and boys doll-up and have a ball dancing with each other and their teachers.  Mary Clare insisted on wearing “high-heels,” so we searched until we found them!  Who knew baby-heels could be found?

Last night, Mel surprised me us with a Sonos wireless music system for our house!  I woke up this morning to 50 Cent serenading me with “P.I.M.P.”  (Don’t ask me why Mel has that in his iTunes.)   So, as I frantically got two girls ready for a somewhat formal event (curling hair, teaching how to walk in heels, figuring out how to keep them WARM), Mel blasted everything from Taylor Swift’s,  “Love Story” to the Go Go’s, “Vacation” to Phish’s, “Bouncing Around the Room.”


Spring Fever

Oh, Summer, where are you?  This Spring-like weather lately is giving us spring/summer fever, big time!

Make-A-Wish South Carolina

Yesterday, Mary Clare was a Princess-for-a-Day, and while that may be the case most days, this was a extra special day for us, too.

Each year, the Student Council of West Florence High School raises money for Make-A-Wish Foundation of SC.  They set a goal and ask Make-A-Wish to provide a “poster child” to help students connect to the organization on a more personal level.  Mary Clare was just the Princess they needed this year.

As we entered the tall foyer of the school, we immediately saw a display fit for a Pinkalicious Princess and knew it was for our own MC.  Her picture was displayed on walls and pink balloons were everywhere.  We were immediately greeted by bubbly high school girls “oohing” and “ahhing” over Mary Clare, who didn’t skip a beat.  Mel and I could have left the building at that point.

After a student-led ceremony, she accepted a check on behalf of Make-A-Wish Foundation for $5,500 from the students at West Florence and a matching check from Trusted Choice of South Carolina.   $11,000 for Make-A-Wish South Carolina will bring so much happiness to many deserving children.  We were honored to be asked to be a part of it all.

Of course, Mary Clare loved the attention from all of the pretty girls and silly high school boys.  I honestly believe she’s never had so many cell phone photos taken of her.  (And we all know how photographed she is!)

We were certainly honored and humbled to have been asked to accept the generous donations on behalf of such an amazing organization.  We know first hand what an impact Make-A-Wish makes in the lives of children and their families.




Tomorrow is National Wear Red Day honoring those with CHD

And we are wearing red for these two sweethearts!


McCanless knows my obsession with parties and planning, and apparently I’ve rubbed off on her.  My girls have quite strong personalities and I take what they want to do and run with it…as long as they like it.  This skating party, however, was completely McCanless’s idea. We got busy over break tie-dying and tying tulle for tutus.  This week, she marched herself right into our local bakery and drew a diagram of the two-tiered box cake with a hot pink bow on top and pink and purple and lime green polka dots.  She created a menu of hot dogs with chili, chips and grape skewers.  I’m so proud of my 9-year-old little party-planner.

Everyone had so much fun!  Adults and kids…and no broken bones!  (Although, I’m sure a few of the, ahem, older guests feel like they have broken bones today!)  It was a magical night for my sweet McCanless.  She kept saying her party was the best party ever!

Happy 2013

“Look Mom, I’m gonna work at the Japanese restaurant.”

After Mary Clare tried her hand at a little Japanese utensil toss, she and I made cake balls.  Pink cake and pink icing, of course.  We did coat them in white chocolate with silver sprinkles to give them a New Year’s feel.  (You can’t always have pink everything.)

You’ll find no Germ-X in this house.  And yes, we lick spoons and bowls.

After a good bowl-licking, MC decided to get all dressed up for a New Year’s celebration.

We ventured to Bow Thai Kitchen downtown and the four of us had a nice not-so-quiet dinner out.   Nothing like ringing in the new year with three of my favorite people in the world.   We were all in the bed by 11:00; however, I was awakened by a loudly shouted countdown-to-midnight by McCanless.  She was in the den alone but I could hear the NYC Times Square crowd shouting with her.  She came running into my bedroom, glared down at me and shouted, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  Mom, the ball dropped and I’ve been dancing and I counted down and I just watched Taylor Swift and it’s 2013 and …….” she goes on and on until I drifted back to sleep.

My how times have changed.

Cheers to an exciting 2013!

My prayer for the new year

After such a reflective season’s passing, and many days spent with family, I know I’ve thanked God numerous times for our many blessings of family, health and prosperity.  I’ll admit, however, most of those prayers have been spoken hundreds, if not thousands of times.  Repeated. Rehearsed.  Routine.

Those moments that throw me back into times of complete despair are when I utter my most heart-felt words to my precious Christ.  I’m not proud of that-the fact that it takes such magnitude for my prayers to be real, raw and honest.   I think my new year’s resolution will be to pray with the fervent heart of my most trying times.

Tonight, Mary Clare and I were watching a movie on her iPad.  It was plugged into the kitchen wall, charging and I suggested we move to her bedroom.  She grabbed the iPad.  I grabbed the cord.  As we slowly walked into her room, she said, “Mom, this is just like when I was in the hospital and you carried my boxes. Remember?”

A suffocating memory crept into my chest.

I have no idea how much she remembers from her surgeries.  When I ask her, she always mentions her “cast,” which was a wrap of tape on her arm covering her IV.  I’m almost happy that of the months in the hospital and many procedures she has endured, a small IV is what she remembers most.  Sometimes she’ll remember the Atrium and specific toys with which she played.  Tonight she remembered being connected to her chest drainage “boxes.”

After her third open heart surgery, she had three tubes sutured into her chest which left their marks.  Other than the tell-tale zipper down her chest, these are the most prominent scars on her tiny body, two quarter sized scars where the tubes once captured fluid that drained from her chest.  The tubes were connected to collection chambers.  These two “boxes” were beside her bed, followed us to the Atrium, were with her day and night for weeks.  She has never spoken of them until tonight.

There are two memories, specifically, that bring about insurmountable pain, probably two of my darkest hours.  During these moments, I cried out with every ounce of my being.  I prayed with all that I am.

One of those memories was when Mary Clare’s drain tubes were being removed.  Hearing her screams brought a feeling of complete and utter helplessness, fear and anger.  I couldn’t take away the immense physical pain she endured.  It was necessary.  I begged God to give me the pain.  I prayed that she would remember nothing of it.  I prayed that she not hate me for allowing it to happen.  And honestly, I prayed for God to forgive me for hating him at that moment.

I was earnestly praying.

Another one of those memories was on the night of Mary Clare’s birth, June 27, 2007.

Mel was on a work conference call away from the hospital.  I walked from the maternity ward to PCIUC, where my sweet newborn was sleeping.  A few hours passed.  I relished in my time with her, breathing in her sweet breath, noticing every little wrinkle and admiring her tiny pink bow that Joy, her kind nurse,  placed in her hair.  Just before I kissed her goodnight and headed back to my room, I heard an alarm sound.  Immediately, I was alone, crouched in the hallway outside of the PCICU doors.  She coded and I had no idea if I would see my baby girl alive again.

I was so angry, sad, and confused, but I prayed.  I don’t even remember how long I was in the hallway.  I know I wept and  kept repeating, “Your Will be done. Your Will be done.”  It was a time that I  prayed for nothing and everything at once.  I didn’t see her awake until after her surgery 5 days later. I was helpless, scared and angry.

I earnestly prayed.

As life goes on and time heals, I find myself recalling those memories less and less.  Memories that have changed me, that define me, that shake me up.  I’m not sure how much Mary Clare will remember of her young life and honestly, I hope that as she grows she’ll not remember, only read about them here.  But those are two moments of many that I can pinpoint relying entirely on God to breathe, to move, to make it one step further; moments that I poured my soul into his.

Moments that I am thankful for.

Thank you, God, for bringing me to my knees tonight and for reminding me to pray fervently without hesitation.  Always.

Mary Clare blowing bubbles

Yep, we’re alive…

We’ve survived returning from an 8-day trip to Disney, moving back into our house, Nutcracker rehearsals and a four performance weekend-all within a week.   Needless to say, I’m a bit busy and the blog is taking a back seat to everything, as is the Christmas tree, laundry and spelling.  We’re slowly getting things back in order with the house.  (You realize Mel and I have never moved, so this is all new. Having boxes and frames all piled in our dining room is driving me nuts.)


we are in our newly renovated 1930’s creek cottage.  I knew it would be a difficult process when we began telling others that we were renovating.  They would all look at me wide-eyed and with a look of complete despair, as if they wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  The process wasn’t difficult for us.  It’s the ‘moving back in and getting everything put away and FINISHED’ part that’s killing me.  We still have a long way to go.


we are in.  And as soon as I don’t have to leap over boxes to get through the dining room, I’ll get around to posting our amazing Disney pictures!

Make-A-Wish Disney Trip


Color Run 5K 2012-Team Pinkalicious

Happy Halloween 2012





The Hair:  My hair is still growing.  It’s still wavy and still dark.  (I’m growing used to the fact that I’m officially,  the “odd girl out” in my family.  I’m okay with that.  I match “Bubba,” my dad.)

The House:  We are wearing out our welcome still at Mimi and Bapa’s house.  If Mel tells me one more time that we’ll be in our house in a week, I think I’ll scream.

The limestone for the girls bathroom floor will be in a herringbone pattern.

We decided on walnut hardwood floors. (This photo is before staining/finishing.) This is our bedroom looking into our bathroom.

These two are just a little excited about their new PINK room!

It’s Fall Y’all!

McLeod Farms Fall Festival

2012 THA Halloween Carnival

McCanless’s winning poster design!

Madame Fortune Teller explained to Mary Clare that she would either live in Boston or Columbia, SC.


On Monday, October 24, 2011, I traveled to Columbia with three girl friends to my third chemotherapy treatment.

On Sunday, October 21st, 2012 I ran my first half-marathon with one of those girls.  A girl I’ve known since third grade.

I did it because Lee dared me to do it and was crazy enough to think that we could.

I did it to prove to my girls that cancer does not define someone.  It isn’t a sign of weakness.

I did it because I knew I could.


I was #1,608 of 2,251 runners.  No too shabby for 10 months post chemo!


Mary Clare, Soccer Super Star




Yesterday, as I unbuckled Mary Clare from her car seat, I brushed her blonde hair aside to straighten the shoulder straps.   As she leaned to help me, I noticed them.  She was positioned just right and the sun hit her face and neck so that I could see the tiny marks on her neck, invisible to most.  Only I would notice.  Only I would know what they are.

Her tiny body has been through so much and thankfully she doesn’t remember most of it.  What is left behind are the scars of her fight.

The tiny scars on her neck are from central IV lines.  She has various marks and scars all over her body from years of hospital admittances and three open-heart surgeries.  Her claim to fame and tell-tale “zipper” are quite obvious and she has no qualms about her little half-heart.  She will tell just about anyone who will listen that she does, in fact, have a broken heart.  She’s quite proud.

Everyday life gets in the way, and I often forget about my little girl’s fragile heart.  I watch her play soccer and take gymnastics.  I fuss with her about leaving her Barbie clothes all over the place.  She rolls her eyes at me, trying to be like her big sister, and she has tantrums.  She sneaks into our bed at night after McCanless has fallen asleep.  She never leaves her braids or ponytails in her hair and would eat candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I allowed it.

Five and half years ago, I dreamed of this.

I could only pray for one milestone for her.  Birth. I asked God to please allow me to see her face once.

It seemed too much to ask for her survival, for her to even thrive.  I prayed over and over, “Your Will be done.  Your Will be done.”

It is what got me through every moment.  Every day.

Tonight, I sent an email to a new “heart mom.”  A friend of a friend, and Hartsville family, too.  I was thrown back into all of those emotions and memories of what seems like forever ago.  She will have her first child in January, a baby boy with HLHS.

It is a journey that will take every ounce of courage and strength you have, but it will also teach you more about God and life than you can ever imagine.   Thank you, Jennifer, for allowing me to share Mary Clare with you and for another little reminder to thank God for everything that she has given us.


McCanless asked once again, like she does every other week or so, expecting the same answer.

“So, Clare Bear, want to get your ears pierced?”

We were on our way home from a beach weekend with just Daddy and the Girls Team.  I guess with time in the car, McCanless ponders those important things in life that 8-year-olds think about.   When exactly would Mary Clare say yes?  Typically, MC presses her lips in a fine line, crosses her arms and refuses to even talk about it, answering, “NEVER!”

That’s why I’m still in shock about this.

“Mom allowed me to get my ears pierced when I was five.”  “You should so get your ears pierced.”  “We can share earrings and get lots of big sparkly earrings!”  (I think McCanless was six, but either way, I didn’t want to do it then either.)  Obviously, I have two girls who adore all things sparkly.  I can handle glitter hair, costumes, sequin jewelry even.    I do, however, draw the line at “long” earrings, or “hang down” earrings, as my girls say.  This natural obsession is rather ironic because I can honestly count on one hand how many pairs of earrings I own, and honestly, six out of seven days, I have on my standard pearls.

Big daddy pulled into the closest Belk he could find and when I asked him what in the world he was doing, he replied, “Don’t you go to the make-up counter to get this done?”

“Get what done?”

“Didn’t you hear her?  She said, yes.  MC wants earrings.  I’m taking her now.”

An hour and a half later, much closer to home and after plenty of time to back-down, we drove up to the Florence Mall.  Claire’s Boutique was the only place I knew of that would do this on a Sunday, and after I  asked no less than 300 times if she was sure and explained the process at length (needles, pain, maybe blood, the whole nine yards), she was more determined than ever to actually go through with it.  I even told Mel we should probably wait and ask her doctors.  He looked at me as if I had completely lost my mind.

My Mary Clare wanted real earrings and it would happen whether I was ready for it or not.

She climbed up into the tall stool and chose the sparkliest diamond earrings she could find on the “Beginning Stud” display.  McCanless was beside herself, excited.  (I silently told the young girl to down size them.  I tried to convince her to get the teeny, tiny gold balls, to no avail.  Bling it was.)

She smiled and watched wide-eyed, as two young girls pierced her ears.  I held my breath waiting for the tears.  Honestly, I just knew she was going to be furious with us once she felt it.

Just like that.  It was over.

She never hesitated.  Never frowned.  Nothing.  She jumped up and ran to the mirror to see, then happily chose two dozen cheesy multi-colored cupcake studs for her jewelry box.

I was in disbelief.  She was such a big girl and didn’t shed one single tear.  I, on the other hand, was an emotion wreck and a blubbering mess.  Not sure if it was the realization that my sweet baby is getting to be such a big girl, or something else.

This girl, who has been through so much,

this baby, who continues to defy odds,  and who teaches me so much, simply takes my breath away.

The big milestones, the everyday milestones, even sparkly diamond studded ones, remind me to thank God for each and every single moment.

Here goes nothin’

So, they say when you put it out there, you’re held accountable.

I realize I typically don’t post all that Mama and Daddy are up to (i.e. social events, moms-only weekends, nights-out sans girls team-we do have a life outside of you two girls, I just don’t share it on your blog-I’m sure you’ll be scouring my Facebook page in the near future anyway and will see for yourself.)  I do, however, post those big ticket items like Dad becoming mayor, Mommy’s cancer, etc. in hopes that you will learn and grow from our experiences.  There are also those few little events I like to post for posterity, just because.  One day, I’d like to think that my girls just might be interested in what their parents did, outside of child rearing, of course.

This isn’t really a big ticket item for some, but for me, it’s huge.

I plan will run a half-marathon in October.

There, I said it.  Now, I have to do it.

Remember back in June, I ran a 5K with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Lee?  Prior to that, on January 13th, 2012 I decided to use a Couch-to-5K program to get chemo drugs out of my body and get myself back into shape.  I finished my last treatment on December 28, I had a lumpectomy in January, radiation in February and March and started the Couch to 5K in April.  I was able to run the entire June 2012 Hartsville Lickety Split 5K, without stopping.  I finished in 31 minutes, but I did it.  I had a huge smile crossing the finish line and tears running down my face.

Lee had never run a 5K, and only did it after I guilted her into it I think!  (I pulled the cancer card on that one.)  I’m so glad I did, because now, she’s a running feen.  She’s now convincing me that I can actually run a half-marathon with her.  (Rather, she’s crazy enough to think that we can pull this off.)

We are both on week 8  of a 13 week half-marathon training program.  The cool thing about that is that it’s a “13.1 for PINK” app, with a portion of the cost donated to breast cancer research. (Don’t you love iPhones?)  It’s a run/walk interval running program.  We are both at the stage where we are consistently running 4:1s (that’s interval talk for run four minutes and walk one).  Yesterday, I ran 6 miles.

Yeah, that’s crazy to say too.  I could have never imagined myself being able to do that a few years ago.

Tomorrow is a long run for me and I hope to run 10 miles.

And that’s even more insane to think about.  I think once I run the 10 miler, I’ll finally register for the half marathon.  Or pass out, which ever comes first.  I’m still a bit skeptical, and Lee has to constantly remind me of how far we’ve come, but deep inside, I know I can do it.

Know how?

As I run, I listen to the constant in and out of my deep breaths.  I think about how my baby girl has struggled for 5 years, simply to breathe.  She’s laughed, danced, and played hard for as long as she has been alive, and never once complained.  Her cardiologist once told me to hold my breath and run around my house.  That’s what it has been like for her for five years.   So, as I run, I think of how easy it is for me and how hard it has been for her.  I should never complain.

If she can do it, I can do it.

So there. It’s out there.  I will run that half-marathon if it kills me.

It’s the least I can do.

Besides, what’s a little half-marathon when you’ve already taken down cancer?  (wink)




Labor Day Weekend

While drywall was going up in our house,

the girls’ team was busy at the beach!

It’s how we roll

A conversation between my hubby and me last Friday night went something like this:

Mel: So, did I tell you the builder starts on Monday?

Me: The builder you met with today?  As in today is Friday and we pack the entire house up and move out somewhere by Sunday?

Mel:   Yeah, I can ask Mom if we can move in.  I’m working all weekend.


So, last week we started school, dance, gymnastics, moved out, packed up the entire house, moved in with Mimi and Bapa and gutted the house.

This week, while the house renovations move at record speed, MC has her heart cath.


I’m just holding my breath waiting for Mel to tell me he’s decided to open a sandwich shop or something.



Last Step

We are in our favorite city (outside of Hartsville, of course) and we’ve settled into our typical MUSC routine quite nicely already.  It’s amazing how it all comes back to you.  We knew we’d only be admitted for a short while, but I guess as creatures of habit, we’ve hardly missed a beat.  We wake, order MC’s breakfast, shower, check out morning plan (echo, chest x-ray, etc.), visit Atruium, take meds, get on computer and update website, order lunch, etc.

We’ve had visits from some of our long-time nurse friends, Laura, Joy, and Brenna.  Joy was Mary Clare’s very first nurse in PCICU after birth. We laughed together last night remembering how she had to use gel to stick a tiny pink bow to Mary Clare’s head.  Mel has also had fun joking around with (tormenting) a few of the docs that have followed MC.  Dr. Hlavacek, who did my fetal ultrasound diagnosing her HLHS, Dr. Hamilton Baker, who has been her cardiologist and yesterday performed her cath, Dr. Andy Atz, who has followed and researched MC’s case since birth and of course, Dr. Geoff Forbus, MC primary cardiologist.  They’ve all become our friends.

MC had a scheduled heart cath yesterday.  She also had her fenestration closure.  And once again, in my non-medical terminology, I’ll try to explain it.  (I actually listened as Mel explained it yesterday to a friend and he did quite well.  I should have him do this.)  So, a fenestration is a hole intentionally left in the heart after the Fontan procedure.  The new circulation after her Fontan created added pressure, in which her little heart and body weren’t quite ready for.  Dr. Bradley left the fenestration (hole) to release some of that pressure with plans to close it when her body was ready.  Generally, this procedure is done about a year after surgery. We have been a tad busy this year, so it’s been 18 months for MC.

MC placed her EEG stickers on Daddy’s face.

MC laughing at her “Fuzzy Little Caterpillar” after taking her “Happy Juice” (Versed) before they wheeled her back.

This is where it hits me.  Every time.

The amazing thing is how they actually “plug the hole.”  We were shown a sample device exactly like the one that was used in MC’s heart. (Mel is stretching it apart in the photo above.  It can actually stretch out into a tiny tube.)  It’s made of mesh and metal material.  It’s threaded through the cath tube and popped into place. Once it’s where it needs to be, they release it and it flattens.  Tissue will eventually grow over the mesh material, making a tight seal.  That’s just crazy to me.  Right now some blood flows through the mesh material, creating a tad of mixture of O2 rich and O2 poor blood.  Still, her Oxygen saturation levels were in the mid 90’s.  She’s never had levels so high!  Once tissue grows over the patch and completely seals off the fenestration, she’ll have even higher levels!!  I hope Ms. Chure is ready for a higher energy Mary Clare.

How many nurses does it take to help Daddy?  Daddy nearly fainted as the nurses tried (using an infant needle, I think) to draw a tiny vile of blood for genetic research.  Mel and I have been participating in research studies since Mary Clare’s birth.  We realize that the information gathered may not help Mary Clare now, but we feel sure that one day CHDs will be a thing of the past and findings may help her future.  My grandfather had a blue baby over 50 years ago.  He selflessly gave his son’s body to be used for research. The knowledge and information gained from Mary Clare’s great uncle helped discover ways for her to live and thrive.  I know it makes a difference.

(A note to MC from McCanless)

This morning, we were invited to Camp Rise Above in the Atrium.  MC walked into the familiar playroom a bit timid.  Once she met the smiling faces of the staff and saw the activities waiting for her, she took off with her telemetry monitor dragging behind her detaching a few leads as she ran.

As we sat and played with the doll house, I noticed several other children.  One little girl clearly going through chemo, another tethered to an IV pole.  And while Mary Clare had a long day yesterday, she was feeling fine today with only leads and IV to show for her time here.  Memories and emotions came flooding.  Images of my three year old  barely able to hold her head up, sitting in her wagon trying to paint in this very room filled my mind.  I thought of the very night we were air lifted after seizures, we came to the Atrium to wait on Daddy.  As an infant, I walked her into this room to see the bright sunshine and listen to the older children’s laughs.  Amazingly, today Mary Clare was the healthier one. The Atrium has watched her grow and heal.  It has made this life of hers normal.  We had to drag her away kicking and screaming to get her echo, promising to return later.  Not too long ago, I dreamed of her having the energy to be able to do that.

So, this one last step of her Fontan is complete.  It’s a rather odd, but amazing feeling.  What a miracle my sweet girl is.

First Day of School 2012






The Chosen One

I have read five bed-time books, tucked and tucked and tucked the girls into bed.  We have flowers in vases waiting for teachers, new outfits chosen and lunches packed and waiting in the fridge.  Tomorrow is the first day of school, and it looks like it may be a long day, as it’s 10 pm and I still hear the girls whispering and giggling in their room.

McCanless is just beside herself with excitement.  She can barely contain herself.  She has been squealing since we completed her Summer reading papers today at exactly 4:30.  (Nothing like waiting until last minute.)  She read, “The Lemonade War” and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and completed two very detailed drawings and “reports” on her favorite scenes and characters.  Not surprisingly, her favorite part of the assignment was illustrating the papers.

Mary Clare is pleased as punch that she has been chosen as Ms. Chure’s special helper this year.  This summer after having a long conversation with Daddy, she excitedly explained to me, “Mom!  Dad says that Ms. Chure has chosen me and ONLY me to stay with her in 4K!!  I’m the only one that gets to stay!”

I’m so glad she has her Daddy’s confidence.

We decided last year that we would have her repeat 4K simply because we want to give her every opportunity to succeed.  She’s had a rough go the last 5 years.  With a late birthday and a bit of catching up to do, both emotionally and physically, we thought it would only be good for her.  We adore her 4K teacher, Ms. Chure, and are thrilled to watch her learn and grow even more this year with her.

So tomorrow, I’ll pack my girls up for yet another year of school.  I’ll have a third grader and a 4Ker!  Where does the time go?


Today was our first teacher workday at school.

The girls had a playdate with Mimi.

When I got home,

we played outside,

we cooked,

we had a fashion show in the den,

we visited with neighborhood BFFs.

I bathed the girls and tucked them into bed and hopped on the treadmill.

Daddy came home after his meeting and crashed with MC in her little twin bed.

He wanted a few snuggles.

Today was a busy, soon-to-be back to school late summer day.

Today, last year, I was told I had cancer.

Today, I’m cancer free.

Sweet Sweet Summer…

with lots of lazy mornings and afternoons with time to play

too much sun

trouble times two

too many birthday parties with too many sprinkles

sometimes too much downtime for Daddy

These photos were taken on a spontaneous trip to Carowinds.  I pulled into the driveway on a Sunday afternoon (after a Mommies-only weekend)  to find Daddy and the girls team sitting in his car, ready to roll.  We headed to Carowinds for an afternoon of water slides and park rides.   (Good thing he didn’t tell me where we were going until half way there.  I may not have agreed.)

Cheers to a few more weeks of quiet, early morning coffee on my porch with no interruptions.  We do love summer around here.

Sullivan Thomas

The girls team has a new cousin in town.  (Literally)  My girls are thrilled to announce the birth of their new baby cousin, Sullivan Thomas, on July 9th, 2012.  Sullivan’s mom and dad, my sister and brother-in-law, also moved a few hundred yards from us this summer, too;  so to say the girls are excited is a huge understatement!  We’ve loved having them right around the corner and can’t wait to be able to teach Sully all about Barbies and costumes!

Remember this face?  It’s Sully’s older “sister,” Coker, who has a special heart.  She’s back home!  (Coker is the stray puppy with a heart defect that the girls and I found in our neighborhood in March 2011, just before Mary Clare’s third open-heart surgery.  Coker went to stay with my sister and brother-in-law out of town while we were in Charleston, and they immediately fell in love with her.  Once we were home, recovering and learning to cope with Mary Clare’s new diagnosis of Epilepsy, we knew we couldn’t give Coker the care and attention she deserved and needed.  (One heart baby per household for us.)  She’s found the perfect family, and will now grow up with Sully.  She has not needed heart surgery yet, but is doing well on Enalapril, twice daily.  (Which is a medication used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.  It’s the same medication Mary Clare was on for so many years!)

Welcome Kacy, William and baby Sully and welcome back, Coker!  We love you all very much!

Who needs a diving lesson?

Apparently, not little sister.  After listening to McCanless explain the art of diving, she was ready to take off on her own.  She simply didn’t have the patience to wait for her own lesson and literally dove right in.

Happy 4th of July!

The Beginning

July 5th, 2007  Mel wrote, “Today we are beginning what they refer to as ‘Pap trials’ where she tries to breath on her own for short periods of time. She has tremors which they assure us is completely normal although it is rather uncomfortable for a parent to sit and watch. She is slowly coming off of her meds over the next day or so and we hope to be off the vent tomorrow night if she continues on the track were on right now.

We haven’t been able to spend as much time as we would like today because they keep bringing in new patients from the O.R. and we have to be out for the hour that they stabilize them.

Mary Clare is opening her eyes from time to time and yawned once today. She is sleeping most of the time and she has been holding daddy’s finger today.”


The 4th of July will always mark a huge milestone.  It was the the night Mary Clare’s chest was closed and healing began.

When we learned of Mary Clare’s special heart, I knew we had a very long road ahead of us.  It was the fall of 2006 and it wasn’t until the 5th of July 2007, that I allowed myself to breath and accept that my baby girl could actually make it.  Sure, prior to that date, I told myself that she would be fine and HLHS babies survive and thrive every day.  Certainly my baby would be one of those few who do so well throughout infancy and toddler years and grow to be a beautiful little girl.

In all honesty, however, I never allowed myself to really believe it.  I guess it was a defense mechanism for to me face the odds and accept that I may be a mother to an angel baby.  I wasn’t okay with that, but I believed that.

On the night of July 4th, 2007, two days after the most difficult surgery our baby would ever face,  Mel and I strolled through the streets of Charleston, only pulling ourselves away from MUSC after we were asked to step out of PCICU as the surgical team closed Mary Clare’s chest.  Hand in hand, we listened as fireworks exploded around us.  We fantasized about having our family of four together next July 4th. We ducked into a little shop off of King street and stoically shared a pizza.

We never left Mary Clare’s side after that night.  We vowed that one of us would be with her for her every waking moment.  When she awoke the following morning, it was the first time she would have been awake since the night of her birth.

Seeing her open her eyes confirmed what every mother feels the moment they hold their newborn, fierce devotion.  She was mine, even if only for a moment.  This baby of mine, whom I had never held in my arms, was here with me now. I was chosen to be her mother and I loved her with every ounce of my being, how ever long that may be.

I would hold her in my arms for the very first time on July 10, 2007, thirteen excruciating days after her birth.  Images of her intubated and sedated, wrapped in lines, wires and tubes haunt me still.  Tears fill my eyes even now as I remember the familiar sounds and faces of the PCICU.  My beloved PCICU, where our baby spent her first several weeks, where she was baptized, where we sat countless hours praying and hoping for miracles.

July 5th began a time of renewed excitement and uplifting hope.  I began to tell myself that she would survive.  She would thrive and walk and dance and laugh.   She would attend kindergarten and she would grow to learn of her special heart and show others that odds can be beat.  Miracles do happen.

It was the beginning for my spunky little firecracker, my special half-heart little girl.


My Girls

Bring on Year 5

Happy Birthday, Little Firecracker!

A little rain, and lightening and thunder didn’t ruin this little firecracker’s 5th birthday pool party.

We simply packed up the fireworks and hot dogs and headed indoors.




Happy 5th Birthday, sweet Mary Clare!


It amazes me that I have actually kept up with this blog for 8 1/2 years.  Mel created it and actually wrote the very first entries, promising me that he would be a frequent writer. (I can probably count on one hand how many entries he’s actually written.)  I would have never guessed in a million years all of the topics I’d cover.   Sure, I knew this blog would see McCanless grow and maybe add a sibling along the way, including photos of all of their firsts, family vacations, and memories.

What began as a brag book of sorts morphed into a very real outlet for me.  A place to sort out life and vent to world.   I’m a very private person.

Ironic, I know.

This blog has been my solace, my release.  I can only hope that one day, as McCanless and Mary Clare read my words, they know that it isn’t only what I’m saying, but what so many people have read, others who have loved and prayed for them over the years.

This blog parallels life.  Ebb and flow.  Some months, my entries are filled with certain struggle. Words come often and easily, sorting out complications, conflicts.  Other months, life is busy.  Days slipping away so quickly, leaving little time for thought.  These are the months I treasure most.  I should probably write more during these months to savor the fun and chaos of our young family.

Tonight, as I sit and try to consume all that this blog represents and all that it has seen, I hear giggles from the girls’ room.  Daddy caved and tucked them into bed yet again.  This is after he got them juice, read a book, laid down for 15 minutes, and tucked them in 4 times previously.

Our life isn’t unlike anyone else’s.

We fall apart sometimes, we laugh hard, my girls melt down in the grocery store, get in trouble, we love.  I melt down, Mel freaks out and we all wake up and start all over again.  Every single day.  Some chapters are easier than others, but each one has taught us.

Our life is exceptional.  There is nothing that this blog has seen or that I’ve written about that I would change.  Ever.

It is who we are.

Cheers to more months filled with only two or three blog entries!  Life goes on!  Life is grand!



June Countdown

Five…Number of years that we’ve been graced with “The Bear,”  her papi, and all of her antics.  I can’t believe my baby will be five on June 27.

Four… Number of times that Mel has A) Flown out of the state without telling me again or B) had overnight conferences in swanky hotels in far away places that he mentions to me merely hours before departure and adds, “Oh, did you want to go?”

Remind me that I do love this man.

Three… Number of miles I can actually run (without stopping) now (and without someone chasing me).  I can’t believe that either.  I completed my first “official” 5K in 31:37 on June 9, 2012.  8th in my age group-not so bad-at least it’s not last!    (Okay, so I’ve “participated” in (to put it nicely) the Hartsville Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trott 5K for many years, but that’s more of a social event, and doesn’t really count, especially with my, um, “time.”   Several weeks ago, on a whim, I asked one of my oldest and dearest friends (and college roommate) to run in a 5K with me to celebrate the end of my cancer ordeal.  She didn’t hesitate and we crossed the finish line of our very first 5K together!  We’ve reluctantly decided to continue our “training” and go for more!

Two…Number of  summer tumbling classes it took Mary Clare to realize she wants to be a “GymTastics Girl” when she grows up.

One…Days until I travel to New Bern, NC to pick up my little camper!  McCanless has been at Camp Seafarer this week and I’ve missed her so!  This is her second year attending, and she was counting down the days on her wall calendar last month until we arrived.   She was so excited!  I’ve been counting down the days and minutes until I pick up my big girl!  I’m so excited!!

AgesThirteen and Ten

Today, I started Tamoxifen.

Honestly I only started today because tomorrow I’ll see Dr. Butler, my Oncologist, and I’m afraid of what he’ll say when I tell him I’ve only taken it for two days.  He wrote my prescription a couple of weeks before my radiation treatments ended (back in April) and told me to begin the day after my last treatment.  I really don’t have a great reason for postponing it.

I just did.

I guess, for the first time since last August, I didn’t have a treatment, medicine, or anything having to do with cancer on the docket and it felt nice not to worry about it.  I’ve never been much of a medicine taker, but I guess that will have to change. MC takes two different seizure meds three times a day, and an asprin everyday, and this week:  an antibiotic for sinus infection, nasal spray and eye ointment  4 times a day.  So why not throw in a little anti-hormone pill for me.

I have to take it everyday for the next 5 years.

When I complete my Tamoxifen, McCanless will be thirteen and Mary Clare will be ten, which seems like an eternity away.

Five years ago, I was nine months pregnant with Mary Clare and would soon begin  one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I had no idea how much joy and pain her presence would bring.  Tonight, as I was in the kitchen, she clamored in on a pair of McCanless’s hand-me-down pink and purple skates two sizes too big, a green leotard, and hot pink Halloween gel in her hair as she ate a banana.

How different life would be without my tiny miracle.

How amazing the last five years have been.

So, cheers to the next five. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us!  Bring on the Tamoxifen, hot flashes and all!


Memorial Day at PCC!

Come on Summer…


We are ready!!


If only school would hurry and end!!  Four days to go!!

2012 Dance Recital

Dance Recital 2012-4

Dance Recital 2012

Dance Recital 2012-3

Mommy is always too busy watching and laughing or crying while my baby girls dance on stage to get good photos.  (Or too busy running back stage to help my big girl change costumes.  McCanless was in 6 different dances this year!)  I could not be prouder of both of my dancers.

THA Mother’s Day Program 2012

Guess who stole the show?

and my heart.

Portrait of Mommy by MC

Click here to see McCanless’s 5K Mother’s Day Program and here to see her 4K Mother’s Day Program!  Such wonderful memories!

Easter 2012

McCanless’s eggs

What was left of the Bear’s eggs.

(She would paint one, eat one, paint one, eat one.)


So, remember when I said I was in that 5%…

of chemo patients that have straight hair?  Remember that?  Dr. Butler specifically told me that 95% of chemo patients that lose their hair, regrow curly hair.  As I’ve slowly watched my shiny bald head grow white fuzz, then grey spikes, then thick dark hair, I’m slowly realizing that it isn’t quite as “straight” as I once thought.  In fact, McCanless took a photo of it with my cell phone to convince me.

Do you see that?

Okay, so I know it’s not curls, but that is hair that is definitely not the bone straight hair that used to grow from this head.  (I also realized that the back of my hair is much darker than my, ahem, salt-and-pepperish front. Slight sigh of relief.)

Then tonight, after my run…(Don’t be impressed.  I’m trying to get back into shape and rid my body of radiation toxins.  It’s a slow start, but I’m determined to get healthy again.  I’m finally down to my pre-chemo, non-prednisone weight, but I just feel sluggish and mushy, so I’m working toward a healthier body.) …and this is what I discovered:

I took this myself with my cell phone and it’s a bit difficult to see, but my hair was completely flipped up in the back.  Crazy.  So, we’ll see how this pans out.  It’s already very poofy on top.  I even use hair products, which is a first for me.

It’s Beach time again!

This weekend, while Daddy spoke at a funeral convention in Florida, the girls team packed up and headed to the beach.  I love dropping everything and just hitting the coast with my favorite side kicks.  We had a wonderful weekend, just the three of us!

Slumber Party!

Dear McCanless,

Tonight, as you explained a playground story to me, my heart broke.  You reminded me how hard it is to be a child sometimes.  You are so mature and so insightful, especially this past year when Mommy needed you to be so brave.  You are patient and giving.  You have humor and wit beyond your years, a beautiful smile and adorable freckles.

As you grabbed me and cried  like the 8-year-old that you are and that I sometimes forget you are, you explained how you “laughed with them” at school.  You did that because that’s what you do, my sweet girl, you love to make people laugh, even at your own expense.  You have so much of your mommy and daddy in you, it’s wonderfully amazing, and yet sometimes hard for me to consume.  I know the trials you will face.  I can almost see them coming.   I know how hard life will be for you sometimes and I know I can’t protect you from it all and my heart breaks for you.

Everyone has been teased.  I know that words hurt and I know that you don’t understand why some friends say things that cause tears.  I always tell you that what is in your head and what is in your heart is far more important than what others see on the outside.  You are confident and beautiful.  Please don’t let others tell you that you are not.

Differences make the world a better place.  How boring the world would be without all of the McCanlesses and Mary Clares in it.  You, McCanless, bring smiles to faces simply for being you.

Trials that you face even now make you a stronger person, a more tolerant, patient and graceful person.  You, my sweetheart, are a beautiful swan that will emerge gracefully inside and outside.  I love you more and more everyday and I can’t wait until I see the amazing, talented and understanding woman that I know you will be.

Although we have talked and I have said these words to you so many times before, what happened to you today will be what you remember.  It’s funny how one thousand kinds words can be spoken and lost; yet, those two or three words that were hurtful will be with you forever, remembered in vivid detail.

I’m so sorry you were hurt.  I’m so sorry to see you cry, but I do hope you remember what happened and how it made you feel.  I don’t want to erase what happened.  You will be a stronger person because of this, McCanless.

Life isn’t always easy.  It’s a constant journey that molds you into the person you were meant to be.

I love you dearly, my sweet McCanless.

Love, Mom

Yes, I still plan on keeping up with this blog.

Wow, today I completed #28 of 33 treatments!  It’s so hard for me to believe.  It’s actually flown by.  Probably because I’ve been super busy at school, with the girls, and life.  (As every other mom is.)  This week, “we” put together a Double Bubble Gum costume, a flower costume and are working toward a Katherine Hepburn costume.  Field trips, programs, projects, dessert theater, etc. etc.  Next week, dance photos, finalizing house plans, a few doctor’s appointments, and end of year “stuff.”  Its always gets crazy this time of year (especially this year) and I love it.

Today, I also started my concentrated radiation (which is my translation, of course). My last six treatments will consist of radiation specifically directed at my tumor area (where it once was) and lymph node area (where they once were), basically, zapping my scars.  I shouldn’t have much more redness and burning on my large tan square from this point on.  It’s pretty funny and very, very tan.  It’s a bit tender, but has yet to be painful.  The stickers covering my paint marks (for alignment) have proven to be more of a nuisance than anything.  Apparently, I’m allergic to the adhesive on the stickers which also burns my skin.  So, at this moment, I have a large tan square and about 8 or so little tan/burn circles from the stickers.  It’s a great look.

I realize I have not posted a single photo all month.  Sigh.  My girls were adorable for Easter and I did manage to take a photo with my iphone.  (My poor Nikon is dusty.)  Alas, I’ve (temporarily) lost those photos.  I ran over my phone last week. (Don’t ask)  Thank goodness for insurance…Brand new iphone in a few days-have yet to transfer and sync everything.

I  had another fantastic photo op of McCanless in all her pink glory as  a big piece of Double Bubble gum this week, and…

I smashed my brand new iphone as I ran to the car with said large gum costume, pocket book, pair of shoes, screaming 4-year-old and jet pack* in my over-stuffed hands.  I made it to the car (and the program in time) but I dropped the phone on concrete only to smash it to pieces.  No photo of my precious pink gumball.

What’s that saying?  A day late and a dollar short.

Mel is speaking at a Funeral Director’s convention in Florida this weekend, so it’s a girls team only weekend.  We are planning on soaking up the sun and having a great time with no homework, no projects, no costumes and no place to be at any specific time.

*The jet pack is MC’s emergency pink back pack that goes everywhere she goes.  It contains her emergency seizure meds and a portable oxygen tank.  It’s pretty heavy.  Lesson One:  I can’t carry everything (and the kitchen sink) at once, no matter how late I’m running.  Lesson Two:   as much as I hate it, I need to dig out my huge, yet protecting, OtterBox again, and use it.  Lesson three:  Phone insurance will only cover one smashed phone in a one week time period.  Lessons learned.

Still going…and going…and going…

I think I’m less like the Energizer Bunny and more like the batteries themselves at this point.  (wink) Actually, I’m having very little side effects from radiation.  I think the drive to Columbia wears on me each day, but honestly that doesn’t even hit me until I stop.  It’s when I actually sit down and have a moment to think about how long it takes me and how often I make the drive that makes me tired.  I do have a nice sunburn square on my chest and breast.  I’ll have a nice tan square when it’s all said and done, I’m afraid.  The clear, circular stickers that cover my paint pen marks (for alignment), also leave a nice little odd tan mark.  It will take a while to get these lines to fade and “even me out.”  More beach time will take care of that I’m sure.  My oncologist won’t mind at all.

I think it’s funny that my last post was #13 with 20 left.  Today, I received a call that my specific machine was down, so I was able to skip today. Monday was my #20 with 13 remaining to go.  Soon I’ll be down to two hands!

Life continues on.  The girls are busy with spring musicals, dance recital practice and end of the year cramming.  Honestly, I couldn’t have planned a better time to have ended chemotherapy and started radiation.  December 27th was my last chemo treatment.  It marked the end; a fresh start with a new year ahead.  Right now, I’m in the thick of radiation and Spring and I’m probably as busy as it gets.  A perfect time, as far as I’m concerned.  It keeps my mind and body busy, which makes each treatment speed by.

Today, after MC’s dance class we visited Ms. Janie’s shop.  Ms. Janie has probably altered every one of my Easter dresses, dance costumes, and prom dresses (back in the day) and even a few maternity dresses.  Now she also hems and stitches for my girls.  As Mary Clare proudly twirled in her new purple flowered, velvet recital costume that was no less than 4 sizes too big, I noticed myself in the wall sized mirror in the overfilled shop.

And I liked what I saw.

I actually liked my hair.

Sure, it’s not my usual long and light brown hair.  I can’t braid it or twirl it, as I long to do.  But for the first time, I saw it in a new light.  I’ve tolerated it, at best, up until this point.  I even got a hair cut last week.

I realized at that moment, that same mirror has seen me in so many stages of my life.  Like Mary Clare, usually at my proudest in my “Sunday Best” showing off  and spinning as Ms. Janie works her magic.

I haven’t felt my Sunday best lately, but today reminded me that everything is so very temporary.  I should enjoy it and like what I see in the mirror everyday.  Life keeps going and going whether you enjoy it or not.

So, when another customer walked into Ms. Janie’s shop and complimented my short haircut, I didn’t go straight into my “well… it’s actually not short by choice” story.  I simply said, “Thanks, I like it too.”  No explanation.  No need, because I do like it.  Finally.


1- Today, I completed my 13th treatment.  Only 20 to go!  I’ve actually enjoyed my daily drives to Columbia.  I grab my coffee every morning and crank up the iTunes.  (My 2001 Tahoe isn’t equipped with a fancy outlet to hear my iTunes through the speakers….like some Mayor I know, so I rock the ear buds.)

2-Mel finally got a “new-to-him” Tahoe last week.  I’m super happy for him.  He felt so guilty, but I finally convinced him that as long as we can still plan on the two new bathrooms and kitchen upgrade this summer, he should go ahead and get it.  He’s worked so hard.  It’s certainly well-deserved.  It’s a couple of years old, but still has every bell and whistle you can imagine.  The girls love to ride with Daddy now.

3-I’ve officially not worn a wig since our trip to Chicago.   I wore my newest blondish wig the entire trip-enough to convince me to never wear a wig again.

4-I just mailed McCanless’s summer camp forms off for this summer!  She’ll go for just a week again this year.  I’m not quite ready for her to go any longer just yet.

5-Mel and I went to the see a movie together last night.  I think it was the second movie we’ve ever been to, just the two of us.  Not kidding.  I’m not a movie girl and IF I go, it’s usually to see Rapunzel or Dolphin Tale or something of the sort with the girls-not typically a Mel kind of movie.  Since the girls were away, we took full advantage.  We even ate Mexican beforehand and snuck in M&Ms and Junior Mints.  Did you know a Hartsville Cinema Twin movie ticket is $2?  (I swear it’s a legit Regal Cinema, too.)  Funny, because our small popcorn and drinks were $15.  We saw The Hunger Games since I can’t seem to get middle school literature out of my system.  I read the trilogy last week just so I could see the movie while the girls were away.  As always, the books were far better than the movie.  Which is why I don’t like movies.

other stuff…

I have so much to think about on my morning drives to Columbia.  I need to take a tape-recorder to capture my thoughts.  They’d make great blogging material.  And speaking of, it seems my blog has taken a backseat lately with all that is going on.  Spring is filled with upcoming programs, dance, end-of-school excitement and cramming.  This week is Spring Break and the girls are at the beach with Nonnie, Kacy and Kate, soaking up the beach sun and sand until we can officially go uninterrupted by school. We are all so ready for summer.

Mel and I were asked to be the torch bearers at the opening ceremony of the Relay for Life Luminiara Ceremony next weekend.  Wow.  I’m so very humbled and honored and saddened and happy to have the privilege to do so.  We don’t have a team this year, as we got a really late start.  I think we’ll just invite friends and family to walk the opening lap with us.  (Maybe even get working on that “Half-a-Brain, Half-a Heart and Half-a-Boob” shirt Mel thought of so long ago.)

I’ve also been asked to write something to be read as we take our first lap.  I guess throughout all of this, it’s been hard to believe it was/is even happening to me.  Even now as I walk out of SCOA everyday strong and healthy, I feel sad for the not-so-healthy people I see.  I know I shouldn’t.  I’m on their team.  Technically, I’m not even considered “caner-free” yet.  But it’s one thing that I hated.  I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me.  Cancer is a part of life.  Sad, but true.  Why shouldn’t I get cancer anyway?  Why should I be spared when so many others aren’t?  I knew I would fight the battle and move on.  Get on with life.

I’m learning everyday that it isn’t such an easy journey for others.

I think of one woman in particular. She’s probably not much older than me.  I don’t know her name, although I should.  I see her every morning.  Waiting.  She’s in a different waiting area and always has someone with her.  To drive, I imagine. Although she’s always on the radiation side of the building, I noticed the tell-tale signs of a chemo patient:  thin, whispy hair, yellow skin, deep circles around wide barren eyes, a frail walk.

After several mornings of casual waves and hellos, grasping onto her husband, she asked me what size guard I used on my clippers.  I laughed and explained that months ago after a trip to my hair stylist and getting 7 inches chopped, Mel used a #2, then #1, then nothing.  I told her that I, too, was going bald due to chemotherapy before I made the decision to shave it.  My current style was not by choice, it is what has resulted from what chemo took from me months ago.

“My chemo didn’t work, which is why I still have some hair left.  I’ve stopped chemo now.  I’m taking radiation as a last ditch effort.” she said with a smile.  Then continued on with how amazing my hair looked.

What I thought was self-confidence is merely arrogance.  How dumb of me to waltz through SCOA as if chemo, radiation and cancer is easy.

Which is why I’m having such a hard time finding words to write for the Luminiara Ceremony.  Cancer isn’t easy, but for some reason, I have been blessed with health.  Despite cancer, despite chemo, despite radiation.  I shouldn’t have the honor of carrying the torch.  So many others have fought this battle and have had to sacrifice so much more than I have.  Even Mary Clare has battled much longer and harder than I have.  She has overcome the odds and has learned to live life to the fullest every single day despite how difficult it can be for her.

I’m not deserving to carry the torch.  At this moment I can think of so many others who have been sick for years, or my friend Betsy who lost her mother, or my new friend who is desperately hanging onto hope that radiation will work.   These people have suffered because of cancer.  Their lives have forever changed because of cancer.

I can only hope that God gives me the courage to represent those of us who have fought the battle and won and the words to touch those who have not been so fortunate.

This morning, I noticed my new radiation friend has a short new hair cut.  Gone are her thin, brown, wispy locks.  She winked at me as I walked by her  in her waiting area.  She pointed to me and explained to her friend that I was her inspiration.

If only I had the nerve to stop and tell her that she is a true inspiration.  She has taught me so much more than she will ever realize.


6 Down!

Today, I completed my 6th radiation treatment, and so far so good. I do have a red upper chest, and face, and arms…and legs, for that matter. I can’t say it’s from the radiation.  Although if one more person proclaims, “Wow, look at that sun burn,” I think I’m going to tell them it is from the radiation. (wink, wink)

My radiation girls frowned upon my sun burn from the weekend. Apparently, it’s not so great for my skin to have both sun and radiation beams burning it simultaneously. (The long days spent on the beach this weekend were completely worth it, however, just so they know.)

I’m continuing to drive to Columbia every morning, and I make it there by 9:00 am, only to walk out by about 9:15. I return to work by 11 and work until 3, my usual hours, just opposite of my typical 8-12. It’s working out nicely for me. I actually enjoy my hour drive alone, with my music and my coffee. No Pinkalicious Musical, no Taylor Swift.  No one fighting over which channel or who has the iPad, or iPod or which set of headphones. No spilled drinks. It’s quite a nice drive.

Mel, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of the early mornings. I’m sure he’ll be happy when we get to #33.  I leave around 7:15, just as the girls are awake and starting to dress.  He’s in charge from there.   It is getting better, however. He let me know that he did offer the girls breakfast this morning (without takers), he had them brush their teeth and had their hair brushed.

Dare I wonder what was accomplished on days 1-5 of my treatment? Oh well, at east they were only 10 minutes late today.

We’ve been busy with trips to the zoo, the parks in town and the beach with Nonnie, and the usual dance, school and friends.  McCanless has even been involved in a mini-basketball team at THA.  She had her first game last Wednesday.  She’s a key player on her team.  I’m afraid it’s more about her height than skill at the moment, however.  (She’s the tallest kid in her 2nd grade class and most of the 3rd graders as well.)  If only she could leap and twirl across the court with the ball, she’d take ’em down.  Her team, “The Green Machine” won their first game and  I was so proud of her.  She does very well at acquiring the ball.  We need to work on what she does with it once she has it, though.  (Rather than pass it to the closest person on her team.)

Life is busy.  Life is good.  Radiation will be complete before I know it and we’ll be soaking up more sun on the beach and by the pool.


It’s been a crazy busy month so far and it’s only March 21st!  Where does the time go?  Thankfully, it’s passed along quickly and hopefully it will continue to do so.  I’ve begun my radiation treatments!  Yahoo!  Two down and 31 to go!  I’ve only had two, but so far so good.  I’ve felt great both days!  I’ve been tired, but I think that has more to do with having a bit of jet lag and exhaustion from a fabulous trip to Chicago this past weekend.  Plus two girls that insist we play outside in this warm Spring and keep busy until dark everyday, which is just fine with me.

Here’s how the past two treatments have gone…

7:30 AM Drive to SCOA-1 hour and 15 minutes (depending on traffic)

9:00  AM Walk in/Check-in-Receptionist waves me back to Women’s Waiting Area and says, “Good Morning”

9:01 AM  Undress and put on lovely mauve hospital wrap and take a seat in waiting area.

9:05 AM  “Pennington” is called on the over head speaker just as I get settled and pull out my Kindle.

9:06 AM  I sign my initials after seeing my mug shot on the computer verifying that it is indeed me getting ready to be zapped-although I’d love to deny that awful photo.

9:07 AM  The ladies in my RAD room ask me to lie on the table, line me up and chat with me briefly before they exit the room.  I am exposed waist up.

9:09  AM The ladies take two X-Rays to verify placement.  They exit the room again.

9:10 AM  I lie on the sheet-covered metal table in the cold room as the machine circles me and makes zapping noises.  Every few seconds I see red beams on the ceiling or on my chest.  (These are the beams that help alignment.)  I see a computer overhead.  Every second and for every movement of the machines, numbers constantly change.  I feel nothing but the cold room.

9:20 AM  The girls come back in and tell me, “all’s well, see you tomorrow.”

9:21 AM  I head back to my dressing stall, dress and head out being sure to speak to everyone on the way out.

9:25 AM  Head back to Hartsville

Repeat 31 times.

Today, as I walked out of the Radiation Area of SCOA, and as I passed by patients and caregivers waiting on treatments, I held my head high, walking quickly and confidently.  I was so proud. Proud that I am where I am.  Proud of my super short hair, and proud to say that I am near the end of my treatment.  For the first time I wanted to tell everyone that I passed by, “I had cancer.  Look at me now, I’m healthy and strong.”

It’s an amazing feeling.


I hope she always writes her “Y” this way.


I met a blog reader yesterday (and new friend) in NC at a dance competition.  After a brief introduction and explanation and figuring out who was whom (as we also have a mutual friend), she mentioned that she recognized McCanless.


I just knew my short do was a dead giveaway.  Surely, she recognized me and my crazy “chemo hair.”

For a moment, I was dumbfounded.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

The past 7 months have been about me.  My bald head.  My cancer.   My chemotherapy.  My trials.  Me.

And if I’m honest with myself, the four years leading up to this point have been about Mary Clare.  Her surgeries.   Her recovery.  Her seizures. Her medications.

And life is always about Mel.  Our world always revolved around his recent passions, ideas and creative spirit.

McCanless once said to me, “You, Dad and MC each have ‘something,’ what’s mine?”

As I watched my insightful girl dance on stage yesterday, I remembered that she was only three when she learned the harsh reality of life.  She learned that sometimes it isn’t fair.  She learned to live without Mommy during the same month that she learned to swim without floaties.

She learned that baby sisters and life can be fragile.

And she was reminded of that again this year.

Unfortunately, she knows what a port is, the ugliness of a seizure, and how to ignore scars.

She’s mature and patient beyond her years.  She’s amazing.  She’s recognizable.  Not only for her sweet spirit and smile, but for her contribution to our family.  I hope one day I can truly explain that her ‘something’ is her.

Radiation Update…

I met Dr. W last week at SCOA and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  He’s my Radiation Oncologist and I’m in love.  (You know, in that “he could be my dad” sort of way.)  My appointment was at 11.  I walked into SCOA at 10:50 and was immediately shown to my room (which is opposite of my SCOA norm).  Radiation to the left, Chemotherapy to the right.

I’m heading left, baby!

I was shown a video which explained everything about radiation, what to expect during my visits, and gave me a virtual tour of the types of machines and procedures I’d be exposed to. Then Dr. W came in and chatted with me for a while.  He was amazing.  Love that man.  And the best part is that he will be working with my other favorite Oncology doctor, Dr. B!  It’s all teamwork here, people.

And the best part?  No tattoos.  No breath hold technique!!   Yes!  Bring on the beams!

I return Monday for my simulation appointment and I’ll get started with my 33 treatments 4-5 day after that.  Can you tell I’m happy?   Yay.  Countdown is ON.

It’s a… Moon Pie!

Last night, we headed to Columbia for dinner with Kacy and William for a “small” dinner party.  If you know our family, you know we don’t do anything small-last minute, completely unpredictable and usually unplanned; but never small.  Last night was no exception.  We laughed about, cried over, predicted, chatted and celebrated the newest little one in our family.

Kacy and William had their 20 week ultrasound last Monday, and among finding out that Baby Keels is a healthy baby, William discovered the gender.  Kacy decided to wait for her “Keels Reveal” dinner party last night.  We ordered a cake and William called the bakery to let them know if we needed a pink cake or a blue cake.  We had it decorated as a Moon Pie, simply because that’s what we’ve been calling Baby Keels since we learned of Kacy’s pregnancy.  (…and it would require chocolate icing, making it more difficult to see pink or blue cake-my family totally doesn’t trust me.  They thought I’d peek.)

I took my camera, but I was too excited and completely forgot to take photos.  Thankfully, Kate was snapping photos all night with her cell phone.

MC and Uncle Alston

It’s a….


This baby has LOTS of happy Aunts and Uncles and two extra excited cousins… (and we’re even missing an uncle in this photo!)

..and plenty of fun friends to fill-in!

Mommy, Nonnie and Yet-to-Be-Named, Keels Grandmother

Baby boy, we are so excited!  We can’t wait to meet you and welcome you into your amazing family.

First pair of heels…

So, let me explain.  McCanless’s BFF, Eliza, recently turned 8.  Eliza’s mother promised her a big girl party in the ballroom at Prestwood Country Club. (And although it sounds like quite a swanky place, it’s really just a dated recreational room holding a lifetime of memories.  Mel and I even danced our first dance as husband and wife in the ballroom by Prestwood Lake in May 2001.  And I’m certain most Hartsvillians can recall many, many years of dance classes, wedding receptions, cotillion affairs, baby showers, afternoon teas and lazy afternoons of ping pong sessions at Prestwood snack bar at the far end of our beloved ballroom.

Our own girls have already made plenty of memories within the gates of Prestwood Country Club.  McCanless and Mary Clare have spend hours on the playground with neighborhood girls, at birthday parties by the picnic area and feeding the geese by Prestwood lake.  Each summer we log miles on our golf cart traveling with picnic bags and towels in hand ready for summer days by Prestwood pool.

A few weeks ago, McCanless eagerly explained to me how excited she was to attend Eliza’s birthday party in the ballroom.

“Mom, everyone is wearing heels.  We need to go shopping.”  This was about 2 hours before the party and made me stop dead in my tracks.

“Heels?  McCanless, you are way too young to wear heels.”

“Please mom.  Pretty please?  Can we go look?” she pleaded.

McCanless did happen to need new dress shoes for church…  I’ve held off as long as I could, and realized that we wouldn’t be making it to Easter (as I had hoped) when we’ll trade in her black patent leather “Sunday shoes” and tall boots for cute Spring shoes and sandals.

I’d have to suck it up and buy one more pair of sweet little black patent leather mary janes for her party.

We only had time to zoom to the local department store, where we quickly learned that they no longer have a children’s section?!  (When did that happen?)  I saw McCanless eyeing the women’s section and I begrudgingly walked behind her telling myself that I would not buy her a pair of women’s shoes, especially not heels.

There is no way she fits into women’s shoes.

She wears a woman’s size 5 1/2.

We compromised on a little pair of neutral wedges.  Not too big girl, not “babyish,” according to McCanless.

An hour later, in her Christmas dress, brand new “heels” and donning just hint of blush, McCanless eagerly skipped into Prestwood Country Club for her first big girl party.  The ballroom was  filled to the brim with pink and white balloons and pom poms and was already thumping with music from the DJ.   She found Eliza and left me by the door.

The photo above was taken when I picked her up at 9:00 pm, just after I stuck my head in the front door and saw her completely sweaty, running around playing chase, barefoot.  I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see my big girl being the little girl that she is.  After giving me a huge “this was the best night of my life” squeeze (in front of all of her friends), I asked her to put on those fancy “heels” for one quick photo.  I’m almost certain she’ll never wear them again.

She was so giddy and excited from her night.  She chatted non-stop on the short ride home and as I sat with her in the bathroom while she bathed.  She continued chatting away about her magical party until I tucked her into her bed.

I hope she will always be as eager to share her stories with me.  (I’m also hoping she’ll be as eager to throw off her “heels” and have fun with her girl friends for a long time, too.)


Ella, MC, and Ashby

The girls and I recently went to see “Pinkalicous, the Musical” in Camden with a few school pals.  To say Mary Clare loved it is a huge understatement.  She sat mesmerized throughout the entire musical, which is HUGE.  It’s no surprise, her obsession with all things Pinkalicious has resurfaced.  We’ve pulled out all of her old favorite books, Pinkalicous, Purplicious, Goldalicious, Silverlicious, and once again, her Pinkalicious, the Musical CD plays in the car non-stop.

The big sisters in our group had a great time too, although they would probably never admit it.

Square One

After a couple of initial visits to a closer hospital for the start of my radiation treatments, I’ve decided to return to my beloved SCOA for my radiation, despite the hour and 20 minute long drive to Columbia it will take to get there.  (Times 2- for round trip, for 45 days of treatment…yikes.   But completely worth it, in my opinion.)

This is after a panicked call to Dusty, my SCOA oncology nurse, after I just wasn’t “feeling” my new oncology center. (My only reason for trying out the new center was simply for the fact that it was closer.)   She assured me it was her that I was having separation anxiety from and calmed me down.  Still, after a few conversations with Dr. B, my SCOA oncologist-the mac daddy himself- it seems that SCOA will be able to better meet my needs and deliver what he feels is necessary treatment for me.

Apparently, I have some sort of weird narrow chest (and not much in the boob department anyway-no big surprise there) so my treatment will consist of the breath hold treatment, which isn’t as far fetched as it sounds, so they say.  Because of my abnormally (ahem) small upper chest area, my lungs and heart are all squished together making bypassing them a more difficult task than it should be. (Radiation beams are shot across your chest, not into.  I tell you, I should be a medical linguist.)  With the breath-hold technique, the radiologist will be able to minimize as much radiation exposure to my heart as possible by having me breath in and hold, which will push my heart back into the chest cavity.

Yeah, no matter how I explain that, it still sounds a little crazy.

SCOA will use IRMT along with the breath-hold technique.  “Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an advanced mode of high-precision radiotherapy.”  In other words, all radiation is precise but IRMT is extremely precise.  Another fun little tidbit:  I’m getting a TAT or two!  The radiation oncologists even tattoo patients to ensure precise location of each treatment.  Crazy.  There’s all sorts of molds made and measurements taken.  I was even warned not to fluctuate in weight. It’s all precisely measured and checked and re-checked and checked and monitored again and again.

Because I’ve decided to make the switch to SCOA, I’ll be back at square one, meeting with my radiation oncologist and starting the whole radiation process once again.  March 1st is my (second) initial “Meet your Radiation Oncologist” visit.  This time at SCOA. I’m sure I’ll hear all about it again. (Which is a great thing-I never actually hear them the first time anyway.)

My hair is growing like crazy and it’s totally gray.  I knew I was going gray, but I had NO idea how gray it was until now.  I rarely wear the wig-she’s looking a bit sad anyway, tousled and stringy.  I debated buying another, maybe totally different, but wearing it drives me crazy.  It just feels tight and itchy.  I guess because I actually have real hair underneath now.  (Yay!)  My eyelashes are growing back too, but are a bit odd.  They are wiry and short, like little spider legs.

Life is busy and slowly getting back to normal.  Actually, it’s completely normal.  The only difference is the occasional double-take or lingering look in the grocery store or gas station from my Sinead O’Connor do.  It’s liberating to be out in public and completely fine with my “not so typical”  look.  A year ago, I would have never thought I’d be brave enough to be out in public with a near shaved head.

Funny how much can change in a year, or even a blink of an eye for that matter.

Dance Dance Dance

McCanless and I, along with her dance team, headed to North Carolina this Saturday for the first competition of the 2012 year, Star Systems. (MC was with Nonnie and Kate at the beach celebrating Nonnie’s birthday. I owe them-MC would never last all day at one of McCanless’s dance competitions. She’d be swinging from the rafters half way through.)

McCanless never ceases to amaze me. I love watching her perform and her dance team did an amazing job on all of their dances. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to take photos during the competition performances, but I was able to snap these with my cell phone as the girls practiced in the lobby.

“Paruchi Party,” the Production Dance, which combines all three teams-Petites, Juniors and Seniors- was amazing and won Top Overall. I love watching all of the various ages dance together and interact. (The big girls are simply breathtaking to watch, especially McCanless’s Dizzy “big sister,” Julia. Julia was a student of mine at THA for three years and is now a senior in high school. I couldn’t ask for a better role model for McCanless. We were all so proud of all of the girls. They’ve worked so hard and deserved the win. Go McCanless! Go Julia!

The Petites

It was a long day filled with 5 costume changes, 200 bobby pins, 100 safety pins, hair spray, hair gel, hair bands and lots of dancing and kisses and chaos, and cheers!

After a much deserved sleep-in this morning, we all went to Florence. McCanless and I dropped Mel off at Best Buy so we could get pedicures and shop. We had a fun Mommy/McCanless weekend! I missed The Bear, but loved the time with my big girl.

(While McCanless and I were busy shaking it up on Saturday, Kate sent me these photos of the bear at the beach…)

Happy CHD Awareness Day 2012!

Happy CHD Awareness Day, my one-in-a-million miracle.  It’s ironic how your half-heart is filled with more passion and spirit than most of us with full hearts and how someone as tiny as you has made so many people realize what life is truly about.

Did I mention that Mel’s nightly engagements also took him out of town all week?  Yeah, neither did he.

Mel called today from out of town and happened to mention, “I’ll see you girls on Thursday night.”


At least he’s not in another state.  The last time Mel forgot to mention a business trip to me, he called from Tennessee.

Yes, I’m still planning on keeping up with my blog…

Wow, when I thought I was ready to get “back in the swing of things” I never realized how busy we actually are. I love being back at work and hearing stories of Mary Clare on a daily basis, and seeing McCanless be the “cool” second grader that she is.  (Especially after those grumpy, not-so-happy morning rush days).

This past weekend, we celebrated the long and happy life of Mel’s grandmother, “Nana,” who passed away on Friday morning.  We also celebrated four birthday parties, missed a Valentine party, watched McCanless hip hop during half-time at a Coker College game, and had a fantastic time visiting with family who traveled to honor Nana’s life.  To say our weekend was busy is an understatement.

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, and if you have ever worked in a school (especially middle school area) you know it’s like the day before Christmas break.

McCanless has a dance competition this weekend.

My mom will turn 61 this weekend. (Which made me realize my actual age last night while soaking in the tub-with both girls.  I could have sworn I’m only 34.)

Mel has at least one speaking/meeting/social event every single night this week.

Oh, and while I officially stopped wearing my wig in public, I threw it on this morning again.  During our unseasonably, nearly 80 degree days, it was fine.  This morning, after a weekend of wearing hats,  my poor ears were so sore.  So, I’m a brunette again.  At least until this cold weather subsides.

I have my first appointment with my new radiologist on Thursday to get that started!  Yay!

While life is definitely “in full swing” it does make the countdown to Spring go so quickly!  Sunshine and hair, here I come!

Hair Update:

MC and I decided to take a photo of my hair today during nap time.  She loves to rub it while she’s falling asleep. (It’s still very fuzzy and soft.) It’s getting thicker everyday.  Not bad for 5 weeks after chemo.  Mel is ready for me to ditch the wig.  Me, not so much.  A few more weeks maybe.  We’ll see…  (Maybe when I ditch the wig, MC will ditch the paci.)

And another interesting chemo fact:  My eyebrows have completely fallen out.  They waited until after I completed chemo to let go.  Apparently, this is pretty typical and I already have tiny hairs growing back where my big, black eyebrows used to be.   I think I’ll feel much more comfortable with my super short do once they fill in.  (What you see in the photo above is my (no so great) attempt at drawing them in with an eyebrow pencil.)

So can you tell that I started work this week?

While my blogging has definitely taken a back seat this week, I’m happy to say that life is in full swing.  I picked up right where I left off at THA with my fabulous schedule of everyday from 8-12.  And while I’m certainly much busier, it’s so, so nice to be getting back to “normal.”  It helps that I’m able to see my two munchkins during the day whenever I feel like a quick hug or kiss.

Lots to report today…

I’m happy to report that my appointment yesterday with Dr. Sweatman was a great one.  He “officially” told me that I had clear margins (from the tumor removal) and the sentinel nodes that were removed were negative for cancer!  “Clear margins” (in my unofficial, non-medical explanation) is just another way of saying that enough tissue was removed.  Dr. Sweatman not only removed my tumor, but also surrounding tissue, until he felt it was clear of all cancer cells.  (The tissue is biopsied for an official report.)  Many times, the margins may not be clear, in which case, the surgeon will go back into the body around the tumor site and remove more tissue until clear (i.e. non-cancer) margins (tissue) are found.  Thankfully, all was clear with me!  Yay!  I return to Dr. Sweatman in three weeks, and Dr. Butler, my oncologist, that same week to get the go-ahead for my radiation treatments to begin.  (I’ll be able to have radiation treatments closer to my home since they will be every day for  6 weeks, so I’ll have to have an appointment with another oncologist at my radiation hospital, too.  Hopefully, it will all take place and get going by the end of February.)

I’m feeling better and better every day, and I think my hair is really growing fast.  (Although that makes me even more impatient!) The color is yet to be determined.  It still looks much lighter than it was, but I’m thinking it’s just because it’s still very fuzzy.  Mel thinks it will be blonde.  Maybe he hopes.  I’m just bummed I didn’t get a blonde wig.  That would’ve been fun.  I got the darker wig because I just knew my hair would come back in very dark.  Oh well.  Maybe I’ll still get one for fun while it grows.  We still can’t tell if it will be curly or not.  The color of my skin is losing that yellowy, pale cancer look about it and the dark circles under my eyes are slowing going away.  (Now, it’s just the usual sleep-deprived, tired mommy, wife-of-Mel circles.)  I’m looking forward to a great Spring filled with sunshine, energy and lots of fun…and NO wig or hat or scarves or bald head!

MC finally received her progress report this week.  Her report lists many skills in different areas of development.  Beside each skill, her teacher marks a check (satisfactory) or a minus (improvement needed).  Let’s just say that genetically, both of our girls, are par for the course.  Mary Clare excels in oral Language Development, especially vocabulary.  As far as the Number Development Section, I’ll just add that she had fewer checks than minuses.   And a “skill”  under Social Development most definitely inherited from her father, “Shows Self-Confidence” received a whopping three checks.  She did great on most of her skills and we are so very proud of her.  It’s amazing to see just how far our tiny half-heart, strong spirited little girl has come.  She is creative beyond belief and is so full of life and determination.  We never have a dull moment with her around!  She has an amazing teacher who is filled with spunk, creativity and movement at all times, so I know MC is having a ball in 4K.  If there is anything about our youngest born that we all know, is that she does things her very own way, when and where she chooses.  So who knows?  She may very well know her multiplication facts and is just holding out on us.  (wink)

We have a busy weekend of birthday parties, cheerleading games (maybe) and 100-days-of-school-celebrating!  That leaves only 80 more early mornings!  We are starting the countdown now!  Come on Summer, Prestwood Pool is calling our names!

A Day at the Museum

On the very last day of winter break,  we decided to take off and head to Columbia to spend the day at the Children’s museum.  I ran across these pictures on my iphone yesterday.

And in the news…

(See me in my brunette wig?)

Just like Daddy!

Goodbye Brace Face!

Last week, this girl got her braces off!  Forever!  She gets fitted for a retainer this week.  I’m hoping she’ll be better about wearing the retainer than she is about wearing her glasses!

Lazy Saturday

We slept in  this morning and woke up to a rainy day, so after a few episodes of old Hannah Montana re-runs and a bit of karaoke, we broke out the paint brushes.  McCanless’s idea, so I let her set it up and help out baby sister.  Meanwhile, I tried to get dressed to no avail-PJ’s again for me today.  (Shirt sleeves will be the death of me.)

A little secret:  We prime over old canvas paintings and paint right over them again and again and again and again.  I can’t hang everything they paint-I’d have no wall space!

McCanless decided to make money for summer camp today. She wants to paint and sell her paintings for 5 dollars.  At that rate, she’ll be 24 by the time she can afford to go to summer camp. (Wink)  I told her that Dad and I would swing the camp tuition again this year if she promised to send a letter home this time!  Deal.  So, now she’s making money for camp clothes.

She helped baby sister learn how to mix paint to make 20 different shades of pink,

then got busy on her own painting.  I only poked my head in a couple of times as she painted.  MC didn’t paint long, so her painting isn’t finished.  She grew tired after a few pink polka dots and splotches and decided to play with her Barbie house.

McCanless’s final painting is of a Magnolia tree, just like the one in our yard that can be seen through the dining room windows.  It amazed me how she remembers what a Magnolia bloom actually looks like.  Obviously, our tree has no blooms right now, but she remembered the shape and cones.  I love how she made two huge blooms on the tree.  She knows proportions and how to paint them correctly, but chose to paint them this way.  She paints quickly and doesn’t really put much thought into anything she’s doing.  I love watching her.  When she runs out of a color, she switches. If she “messes up,” she keeps going, and enhances her “mistake.” She stops and plays with her hair.  She doesn’t take it seriously at all.  It’s amazing to watch her.

“It’s a magnolia tree mom.  I love flowers.  So, I made them big.”

If you are wondering…

I should not have looked at the HUGE incision under my arm. It made it hurt worse. (I swear it did.) The “tumor” incision (about 3 inches) isn’t too bad and isn’t very sore, but man, the one under my arm from the lymph node removal is killing me. I have yet to take any meds for the pain, so I guess it’s not THAT bad. And it’s a mile long, I swear. I can’t even see it all. I had no idea that incision would be so long. Sorry, TMI?

Still, I have so much energy and “feel” great. I was telling someone yesterday, I’m so used to feeling down and out after chemo, I was expecting to feel “super-yuck.” It’s just been the norm. But today, although I’m sore, I feel fantastic. So very different, and so wonderful. I think I’ll forever look at illness and “body aches” completely different from now on. I didn’t realize how much chemo really gets you down, mentally and physically.

I’ve got a cute little round pillow permanently tucked beneath my arm. It has helped tremendously. A ladies group creates them for breast cancer patients in Columbia. So nice.

It’s going to be a rainy weekend, and I’m ready to snuggle and have down time with the girls team. I’ve missed their little antics around here for the past two days!

Lumpectomy 101

So, it’s out.  My cancer is “unofficially” gone!  I should get a call from Dr. Sweatman’s office before my next appointment to give us a full surgical report with details.  But as far as I’m concerned, it’s outta here!  Surgery wasn’t bad at all, I’ll admit.  Mel is required to be with me for the 24 hours following surgery “just in case,” so I’m trying to milk that a bit.  (He doesn’t read my blog, so I’m good.)  I’ll get up and, “ooh” and “ahh” a bit here and there to get a bit of sympathy from him.  I tell you, it’s like pulling teeth.   He’s been complaining more than I have.  You would have thought he has had surgery.  Sympathy pains, he says.  He keeps complaining about a “stress ball” in his shoulder.

I don’t think we have ever spent an entire consecutive 24 hours together, so this should be interesting.

Warning:  Details below.  If you don’t care to read all about the “wonderful details” just skip…

After arriving at the hospital yesterday around lunch time (no food or fluids after midnight) and changing into my precious purple gown and socks (Sorry mom, they made me take off the cupcakes socks you bought me for surgery), I waited for each and everyone of my teams to meet me, greet me and explain to me exactly what was going on.

Mel will never be allowed to accompany me for any other procedure in the future.  Ever.  As I was getting my first IV, that blew, he was making the most obnoxious faces and joked with the nurse causing me and my nurse to laugh.  Laughing.  AS a monster needle was being woven into (and apparently out of) my vein.  And on a side note, I’ve never had trouble giving blood or getting IVs.  Interestingly, the nurse explained that this was yet another side effect of my chemo-“hard to catch” veins. After my second IV was placed successfully, I was given a shot of Heparin in my abdomen.  Why couldn’t that have gone into A) the IV that was just placed or B) my port.  Take your pick.

What I’ve been dreading most was up next.  (I’m giving the nitty gritty here because I had the sweetest email from someone who is just beginning her cancer battle.  She mentioned that she loves reading about my experiences.  So, for most of you this may be TMI.  I just want to put it out there for anyone who may be interested-and for Mel and the off chance that he’ll actually read my blog for once. A few sympathy points.  No?)

Mel was asked to step out of the room and two men walked in.  Yes, two young men. Exactly who I wanted my “nipple injections” from.  In all fairness, they were very professional, respectful and quite funny.  Probably not until I made a complete fool of myself joking and giggling and talking a bit too much, too quickly.  I’m totally blaming it on my nerves.  My first joke was about the Emla cream that I had stacked on my breast.  It’s a numbing cream I used about an hour prior to arrival.  Mel and I were driving through Columbia and he pulled over into a parking spot for me to lather it on. (Not even a remote, hidden spot.  It was across from the Bank of America corporate building on one of the busiest streets in our State Capitol.)  He’s so gentlemanly like that.  I used the entire tube, so I’m sure the “injection guys” got a kick out of that, a mile high dollop of Emla.  After they wiped it off and five injections later, the “site” had to be massaged.

Word of advice:  if you are one that is a bit modest, do not get breast cancer.

The injections weren’t bad at all.  My injection guys were nice enough to inject two at once.  One guy on each side.  So, really I had only three sticks. I did have a bit of burning from the “dye” or whatever was in them as it was going in, but nothing too terribly uncomfortable.  The thought of it was far worse than the actual process.   The dye helped Dr. Sweatman see the lymph nodes and tissue he was removing.

After a stroll down to the OR and a bit of happy juice and gas, I only remember waking up to Mel staring at me again and cracking jokes.

Nitty Gritty over.  Begin reading here…

After a couple of hours in recovery, we were all set.  I have a bandage on and will keep it on for 48 hours.  Steri-strips will wear off after a while and I see Dr. Sweatman in 8 days.  I have an appointment with Dr. Butler, my oncologist, in mid-February and will begin the radiation process.

After we left the hospital, I was craving French onion soup, specifically from the Gourmet Shop, my favorite.  But it was after lunchtime and the Gourmet Shop was closed.  Bummer.  So, we headed to Panera.  French onion soup isn’t something that is generally “car friendly” so we decided to go in for a “quick” dinner.  “Surely, I’ll not see anyone” in my post surgery haze.  I even went in bald, my first public outing with my blonde fuzz going on.  Not 10 minutes later, two young cutie college girls bebopped over to our table.  Whose parents and older siblings I’ve known forever from my hometown.  I’m sure I scared them.  They were so sweet and polite enough to pretend not to notice.

Mel and I even stopped by the Dairy Queen for a blizzard before returning home.  Like chemo, surgery does nothing to my appetite!  When we got home, I took my happy pill and dozed off.  Today, I’m a bit sore, but haven’t even taken anything for pain, so it’s truly not bad all.  Shhh, don’t tell Mel, but I even did laundry this morning.

So, there you have it.  Lump is G.O.N.E.  Just like that!  Cheers!  Bring on the radiation.  I’m ready!

Photo of my fuzz-hawk on the way to Columbia!

Celebrating my last week three!

Warning:  This post is completely about me.  I’m “writing it down” so I’ll remember and hopefully be motivated.  (or embarrassed)

So, they say when you put it out there, you are held accountable.  So, here goes nothing.  In honor of my very last week 3  (post chemo), I’m setting a goal.   I’m going to try to lose 10 lbs.  I know, I know I’m not trying to move mountains or anything, but it’s a start.  Contrary to popular belief, chemotherapy doesn’t necessarily cause weight loss; especially the chemo drugs used to combat breast cancer.  In fact, my oncology nurse told me that the “going rate” for most of her patients was to gain between 10-15 lbs.  I gained one pound for each of my six treatments, and I was a bit over my “ideal weight” even before beginning chemotherapy.  So I can’t blame it all on chemo!  And with a new year, new start and next week being my first week 4 since September, I’m going for it. Losing weight and eating “better.”  I’m a complete sweet junkie and lover of all savory and fatty foods, so this is huge.

I’ve never really tried to lose weight-just kept fit through YMCA classes and keeping busy all the while eating whatever my heart desires-so this is new.  A lifetime ago, it seems, I was religious about exercise, but MC threw a little wrench into that lifestyle.  Now that her third surgery is over, and my last chemo is over, my body is due a good workout regimen. I have no excuses.  (And I can totally tell that I’m inching closer to a lower metabolism as the years pass on-so this is a good thing.)  I’ll probably fail royaly, but I’ve already been on my dusty treadmill for the past three days.  Yay!  I’ve been setting it on a pre-set alternating run/incline walk for thirty minutes.  I’ll have to admit, in the past it was never a difficult run for me, but the past three runs have been tough.  No pain, no gain.  Right?  I’ve done them, they just weren’t pretty. At all.  On a side note, it’s rather strange to sweat with no hair.  I never thought I was a big “sweater” but I can see tiny beads of sweat on my scalp after I run.  Weird.

So, I’m joining everybody else in America with my new year’s plan (not resolution, because I never follow through with those) to lose weight and get healthy for 2012.   (And probably annoy my mother who complains about all of “those people” who flood the YMCA in January and never show up past February.)

Now if only I can stay away from this site!

Wish me luck!

A herd of goofs…

Go Kittens!

So, when I say I was a little disappointed when McCanless never showed an interest in cheerleading, I’ll have to admit, that was a slight understatement. I “get” how excited all of those “football dads” are when their little tykes show an early interest in a sport they loved as children. I swore I would never try to persuade my children to do anything other than what their own heart desires.

Secretly, however, I would have loved a cute little cheerleader with a big bow! (Little did I realize that both of my children could never, in a million years, be coerced into anything!  Certainly not something they had no interest in.) Sure, I asked McCanless if she might like to try cheerleading “like her mommy once did,” but it never worked. And in all fairness, we tried to introduce many other extracurricular activities. Mel was a super athlete, believe it or not, and even took piano. We tried soccer, cheerleading (for a brief, failed stint) and piano. Dance is her thing. Which makes me happy. She loves it.  I loved it as a child, and she’s really good at it. (And we have still plenty of time for her to find other interests, maybe even cheerleading one day! Wink.)

Mary Clare is in a little pre-ballet class, but I’m not so certain that dance will be her thing. She loves the costumes and loves to dance. But in her 45 minute class, she spends more time staring at herself in the mirror doing Lady Gaga moves and kissy faces than she spends in first position. I laugh as her classmates just tip toe around her, as she shakes her head and spins a little too quickly, doing her own thing. Certainly not like a little ballerina should. Sure, she’s graceful, but on her own terms. She twirls when she should be still. She kicks when everyone else is plieing; very much how my little spit fire lives life right now.

Recently, when a neighbor asked her if she would like to join a cheerleading team, she squeeled with excitement. (I was secretly thrilled.) So, we bought the pom poms, the uniform, and went to scheduled practices, which were all behind closed doors.  The morning of her first game, we were all so excited to see the new “Kitten” cheerleader for the first time. Go Kittens!

She nearly ran over Kaiti, who was in front of her, as she ran down the tunnel of spectators. Do you see how excited this girl is? She was laughing the whole way!

(She insisted on not wearing a shirt under her uniform that morning, along with her pink shoes and leggings. She actually didn’t like the orange uniform and wanted to wear her green Thomas Hart Academy cheerleading uniform, so I didn’t argue with her about the shirt and pink shoes.)

Once the cheerleaders were introduced, they disappeared for the first half of the game and were to come back out at half-time for their performance. At this age, they are only required to cheer for the second half of the game, which turned out to be a good thing, in MC’s case.

When she came running back out on the court, she had changed into her gray leggings and Uggs.  Typical MC.

After this photo was taken, the girls assumed position on the sidelines, ready to cheer on the team! Mary Clare loved the gym, the people, the noise.  She adored the uniform and pom poms. Cheering for her team?  Not so much. She cheered for a few minutes, then wanted a water break, a bathroom break, was mad at me for forgetting her megaphone and eventually sat down until it was her turn to call a cheer. She did stand and cheer for that one. I sat down behind the mini-squad and she sat in my lap and cheered from there for the rest of the game. So, we’ll see if this is her thing or not. Maybe we’ll just keep the uniform for the dress-up trunk.  That way she can be a cheerleader whenever she wants, or not. I think I may have an actress on my hands.

Seasons of Change

I’m often amazed my my family. You know, I don’t see myself. Through my eyes, everything is as it should be. I sound the same. I feel the same. My voice is the same.

Over the last five months, however, my girls and Mel have watched my appearance morph into something different. I slowly became someone entirely new. They see me with my bald head, no eyelashes, no eyebrows, and mousy complexion every day. They live with this new person. They’ve become accustomed to seeing me this way. Lately, I’ve grown annoyed with my wig, so it may be soon that I’ll don my bald head outside of our home. Until then, it’s our family’s little secret.

Occasionally, I’ll walk by a mirror and of course, every morning as I jump out of the shower, I notice this new person staring back at me. I’m still not used to it and I quickly move on. As I’ve said before, it’s easy to be bald when you look healthy. It’s so much more difficult when you look sick. I still look sick. I imagine it will be this way for a while. As obvious as my yellow and bruised nails are to the outside world, I can only imagine how the hidden inside of my body looks. Slowly, however, my nails are growing out and health is peeking through. I use this as an indicator of my body. When my nails look fresh and new and healthy, I’m hoping my body will also be that way.

I’m fortunate now that chemo is behind me, I have a new season ahead of me. I dream of warm Spring and a healthy me with new hair and a fresh complexion.

Life is never easy. I’ve had to “suck it up and deal” before, when life seemed so unfair for my baby girl. When it seemed we could finally breathe again, life threw us another curve ball. More sucking it up and more dealing. More growing. More learning.

I have a huge appreciation for my husband. I’m sure 12 years ago, when he spontaneously decided to buy an engagement ring before our graduation trip to Europe(because we all know Mel never plans anything), he never knew all of the trials we would face together. Never once, has he faltered on his extreme dedication to me and our journey. Let’s face it, I’m no pretty sight and I know I’ve not been the easiest person to deal with at times. Mel has treated me just as he has for the past 12 years. Nothing seemed to change in his eyes. (Even when I wanted a little coddling-no such luck.) Every day he has encouraged me and has told me I’m beautiful, even when I know that’s far from reality.

So, even though this season of my life has been challenging, I’m thankful for the growth, compassion, and closeness my family has experienced. Hopefully, the girls have learned that although the outside of me has changed, it didn’t change who I am; and that what is on the inside of a person is far more important that what they see on the outside.

Life is so precious. Seasons come and go and pass quickly. I’m so very fortunate to have had life experiences that make me acutely aware of how amazing our life truly is, right here and right now.

Great Wolf Lodge

After much deliberation over a birthday party…ice skating party, roller skating party, art party, sleep-over party-when, where, how, who-McCanless just couldn’t make up her mind. So we decided for her. It was last week and I wouldn’t have time to plan much of a party anyway. Much to my dismay. (Hate January birthdays.) So, Mel booked a family getaway at the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, NC.

McCanless went last year with friends for New Year’s Eve and had a blast so we knew she would love it. (Plus, we were curious and wanted in on the action.) Mel threatened my life if I woke them up before 9 AM, and there’s no laundry to do here, so I’m online.

This place is massive and amazing. Amazingly huge. McCanless has had fun showing us “the ropes.” She tells us exactly what to expect and when and where. She already knows everything, you know? Pretty amazing for the ripe old age of 8. (I tell her this about 10 times a day. I can’t wait until she’s a teenager and she really knows everything.)

This girl has not stopped squealing. I think she just might explode from excitement. Not sure if it’s because she can wear her bikini “for real” this weekend or from being almost tall enough to go on big girl slides. (Poor thing. Even though she can swim almost as well as I can, she has to wear the “baby swimmer” bracelet because she is about as tall as a 2 year old. She’s limited to only a few areas of the park, but Daddy has been able to sneak her down a few big girl slides.)

Their favorite, just may be the “kids cave” with bunk beds in our room. I tried to convince Mel that the girls need cute little white bunk beds (specifically from Pottery Barn Kids) because the girls went to bed so effortlessly. (It may have been out of pure exhaustion, but surely the bunk beds helped.)

I was a bit worried about MC being on the top bunk, but I remembered “way back when” my baby brother fell out of his top bunk onto the hardwood floor and rolled under the bottom bunk and continued to sleep. It gave my mom a bit of a nervous breakdown when he couldn’t be found the next day, but he was completely uninjured.

Just as I turned out my lamp, I heard MC sneaking her way to our bed. So much for bunk beds.

Story time in the lobby of the Lodge.

I can’t wait for them to wake up and see what today brings!

Boobs and such

I could jump out of my skin I’m so excited

and cold, but I’ll not dwell on the fact that our house has no heat,

and has been sporadically working, at best, for a couple of weeks now.   There have been crews under our house for days upon days. (I’m getting good at redirecting my attention.)

Yes, our “good” luck continues into 2012, but I’m still holding out that this year is going to be fabulous.

At least last week the weather was a gorgeous 70ish degrees.

This week, not so much.  BUT Uggs were on sale this week too.  Guess who wears Uggs both inside and outside now?  We all do!

So, I’ll ignore the cold and announce that we have a surgery date!

I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see Dr. Sweatman and hear that my surgery could be scheduled at any time!  Too bad the hospital couldn’t fit me in until January 18th, but I’ll take it!  I was literally jumping for joy about the surgery.  Who knew?

Also, Dr. S is very pro-lumpectomy and encouraged that route, but gave me the ultimate call of a lumpectomy or mastectomy.  (Only after spitting out lots of facts and statistics of more than I ever wanted to know about boobs, cancer and surgery.)  Of course, I wanted to do whatever he thought was best, so lumpectomy it is, which is outpatient surgery.  The tumor is still there and is “notably smaller.”  I wish it would have dissolved all together, but sometimes that’s not the case after chemotherapy.  Its what you hope for, but doesn’t always do the trick.  It may even be in several pieces, he said.  He will remove all tumor and surrounding tissue and do a sentinel node removal.  After that I will begin radiation therapy 5 days a week for 6 weeks.

By St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll be a new woman, with two new bathrooms and heat just in time for Spring.

No sweat.

Happy 8th Birthday Lillie McCanless!

Well, it’s official.

I’m old. McCanless is eight.  As of 8:51 AM today, to be exact.

I’ll spare you with my sappy “how can she be 8 years old” story.  I know every mom feels the exact same when their baby turns yet another year older.  But really, how can she be eight already!?

And what’s even harder for me to fathom is the simple fact that she is closer to fifteen than zero.  She clearly explained this to me early this morning as I tried to snuggle with her and sing Happy Birthday to her.

“See mom, eight is closer to fifteen than seven is to zero.”  Mel math at its finest.

She may be closer to fifteen, but she still loves her silky.  After a few snuggles, she jumped up, ready to begin her birthday!

The girls were actually ready when Zara, our friend, neighbor and carpool partner, arrived.  We got a Happy Birthday call from Aunt Liz and took a few photos with the yearly birthday blow up.

with song and dance of course.

We’ve been celebrating all week so far.  (Doesn’t everyone have birth weeks?)  And last night we did what our family does best on birthdays.

Vamos a comer Mexicano!  (Senora Denny would be so proud.)

Cheese dip and margaritas for all!

We are quite a bunch, and growing louder each year.  If that’s even possible.

And by loud, I mean these two.  Yes, Mary Clare that’s exactly what everyone around you felt like, too.

At one point we noticed Bonnie and Clyde arguing over something.  When I listened closer, I realized they were trying to “decide” who knew more Spanish.  Mary Clare insisted that she did, naturally.

“See, listen to me….Bippity, Bobbity, Boo!”

I missed photos with Nonnie, Bubba and Bapa, and Dopey and Sneezy and Doc.  Oops.

Today, she took blue snowflake cupcakes to school.  I always let her design her cake and cupcakes for her yearly celebration, and I think that’s more of a bigger deal than presents OR party.  She draws up designs all year long.  I may have a future cake baker and decorator on my hands.  Quite the creative one, she is.

This weekend, we aren’t having a party.  We have even bigger plans.  Tonight, she decided to celebrate at the Japanese Steakhouse but asked me NOT to tell them it’s her birthday.

“You know, Mom, where they fire up your food and sling it on your plate.  We’ll hide Mary Clare’s face, because I know she hates the fire.”

Oh, McCanless, I just love you, my little 8-year-old.



On December 28, Mel and I headed to SCOA for my 6th and final chemotherapy treatment.  Little did I know, just around my last hour of treatment several familiar faces planned to show up to watch me ring the victory bell at SCOA.  My treatment lasted a bit longer than usual, as I had yet another reaction to my Taxotere.  We closed the place down and although I didn’t have a room full of nurses and patients clapping for me as I rang the bell, I had a few of the most important people in my life there to fill in!  It was perfect.

What seemed impossible

Happened to me

What felt impossible to achieve

I have accomplished

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Christmas in Ashland 2011

We always spend Christmas evening in Ashland with Mom and Dad and the whole Woodham crew….  Always a crazy, fun time!

For some reason, when we are all together, we always end up outside with a bonfire.  We all grab a coat from Mom’s hall closet which must have every coat she and Dad have ever owned from 1970 until today.  We love to dress up!

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Surprise…

Kacy had a special surprise gift for Nonnie this year…

A new baby is on the way!

Sweet baby, I can’t wait to welcome you into this family.  You are already one loved little person.  You have an amazing family who will love you, laugh with you and teach you all about what family means.  (Even if it does get a little crazy sometimes, we do know how to have fun!)  Welcome to the Woodham family!


The new Dad and favorite aunt.

I think McCanless liked the sparkling grape juice.

Christmas Day 2011

This girl, who typically sleeps well after 9, was up every hour beginning at 5 am.  Finally, she and I crept into the den around 8 and I allowed her to see her big surprise and open her gifts.  It was nice to be able to focus on her and have that alone time with her.  She took her time and relished in our together time.

And her big Santa surprise…

A Sweet Pea Razor electric scooter!

When this girl finally got up around 9, she was so mesmerized by her 3-foot-tall Barbie Dream Mansion, she barely had time to even go through her stocking!  Santa definitely nailed this one! MC is a Barbie girl for sure!

After grits, bacon and cinnamon rolls and a few hours playing Barbie, we headed outside.

Looks like we need another Sweet Pea scooter.

I can’t believe how big McCanless is getting.  Such a sweet little lady who adores her baby sister.

I even had a turn on the Sweet Pea, which MC thought was hilarious.

We live in such a great neighborhood (with lots of little girls) so it was fun to visit with many of our neighbors and play with new Christmas gifts!

Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Eve 2011

After a fun morning and yummy lunch at Mimi and Bapa’s house, we headed home for a much needed long winter nap.  When the girls awoke, they were filled with such excitement!

We got all dressed up for the Christmas Eve service at our church, but not before one last song!

McCanless had such an ornate, and heavy costume, we waited to get dressed at church!

Both of the girls took part in the Nativity this year during the early Christmas Eve service, typically the children’s service.  (One day I’ll make it back to midnight Mass-when Santa makes it easier on me.)

MC was a sweet angel (the star angel, she claimed) and McCanless was Mary.  I only got one shot in church because McCanless was actually holding a real live baby.  (Thank goodness he was a dear friend’s baby-you know, just in case.  I was a little nervous and totally forgot to take photos.)  As always it was a very sweet service and so touching to see all of our babies involved.  (Except when Mary Clare and Emma nearly brawled over a golden horn as they were hanging over the altar rail.)

After church, we headed over to BB and Papa’s house for dinner.  Immediately, “Bonnie and Clyde” got together and hung tight all night long!  These two are a mess and love each other dearly.

McCanless and Leah Brenn, our newest cousin!  The oldest and youngest Pennington cousin.

Elizabeth, Robert, Kathryn, Michael, Michael, and Nana were there too, but I was a bit slack on photos this year.  I soaked up every minute of Christmas and family savoring every moment.  What an amazing time of year.  So much to be thankful for.

BB and Leah.  Fancy Pants for Christmas Eve!

After an amazing day filled with so much love and  family, we headed home, said our final goodnight to Elfie, made sure Santa had a few cookies and snuggled into bed with one last Christmas story.

Christmas Eve Morning 2011

Now that Bapa and Mimi are in Hartsville, we were able to spend Christmas Eve with them at their house!!  Aunt Liz, Uncle Robert and even Daddy were able to spend the entire morning eating, opening way too many gifts and rocking out!

And of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Bapa reading, The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher.

My Gingerbread Girls

Doesn’t everyone?

It’s how we roll…

MC said today…

After McCanless apologized for something or another, Mary Clare shouted out…

Sorry is not going to cut it!”

and mumbled to herself…


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Cats on the Porch

Bally, Brock and Cole

The Nutcracker

A few weeks ago, Uncle Robert and Aunt Liz treated the girls to a night on the town!  They ate dinner at fancy schmancy (and oh so yummy) restaurant, Terra, (which also just so happens to be owned by Uncle Robert’s family-so the girls got extra special VIP treatment) and even had “sparkling wine!”

After dinner, they went to see The Columbia City Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker.  The girls loved the performance and are still leaping and twirling around pretending to be Clara.

…and look who showed up in Columbia the next morning!  Thank you Aunt Liz and Uncle Robert for a truly magical night!


Can you believe it’s Christmas already?  I’m behind.  Way behind.  I always have grandiose plans of building glorious gingerbread houses, making glittery crafts with the girls, magical photos with Santa…the whole she-bang.   Some years, I get it together.  This year, not so much.  I love the hustle and bustle of the season so I’ll try to fit it all in in the next few days.

We did finish our pink and silver spiral glitter sugar cookies.  (You didn’t think the girls’ team would have traditional red and green cookies for Santa did you?  Do we ever?)

Few days. Yikes.

Three days into Christmas break, and the girls are already in full-on summer sleeping regimen.  Up until 10, when I force them to bed, and sleeping in until 9ish or later.  Geez.  It will take me weeks to get them back into school schedule.

Also, in a few days, I’ll have my very last chemotherapy treatment.  That’s also hard to believe.

I know I’ll look back at this time and it will seem to have been just a blurb in my life.  I feel the same way about my pregnancy with MC and the three years following.  So many days spent in the hospital with her and so many nights worrying.  Three open heart surgeries-done.  It’s still hard to believe.

I have dreamed twice now that I’ve had hair.  It seemed so very real.  The first dream, a few weeks ago, I had long flowing locks very similar to what I had pre-chemo.  Last night I dreamed it was a darker brown and very short.  Sassy.  I plan on taking a photo a day (with a new 365 photo app) beginning on January 1.  That’s my only new year’s resolution so far-remembering to take the photo.  I’m keeping it simple.

So speaking of simple.  I was just interrupted by yet another unannounced visit from our plumber. (After his banging on the back door and ringing the bell continuously, I nearly tripped on Emmie running to grab my wig.  So annoying-will not miss that.) He simply suggested we not shower or bathe at all in our tub.

Our one and only tub, remember?

He said, “You just may find yourself in the bathroom soaking in the tub one minute and under the house the next.”

Does he realize that Christmas is this weekend and I have crafts to make and houses to ice?

Oh well, I just hope it’s Mel when the tub falls into the floor.  Ha.

MC said today…

“Mom, let’s hurry up and go to sleep so sugar plums will dance in our heads!”

My Christmas Star

This girl completely surprised me when, out of the blue, she announced that she was Cinderella in her 2nd-5th grade school musical, A Christmas Cinderella, a few weeks ago.  She had to audition for this lead roll and even sang a solo!  (She was actually Cinderella #1, out of four, but I’m still proud as punch! She was the youngest little Cinderella.)  During my last treatment-week  one, she and Mary Clare stayed with Mimi and Bapa.  Mimi and Bapa worked with McCanless to help her memorize all of her lines.  I didn’t go over them with her even once!

This was during her solo on stage.  She has the sweetest little voice.

We couldn’t have been prouder!

Santa Mail 2011

In a funk…

Today, I’m in a funk.

Being bald is easy when you look healthy.  Being bald is tough when you look sick.  I’m tired.

Tired of chemo.

Tired of having bags under my eyes when I’m not tired.

Tired of looking sick.

Tired of being sick.

My skin is yellow.

My eyelashes have gaps.

My eyebrows are almost gone.

When I catch a glimpse of myself passing the hallway mirror, or when I see the round shadow of my head in the light on the wall, I’m still surprised.  Shocked.  A few weeks ago, I met Mel for lunch.  I saw him walk in and thought he saw me immediately.  When he walked right past me and asked a server where I was, I realized he didn’t recognize me with my “brunette” bob.

I hate that Mary Clare and McCanless know why I’m bald, understand why I’m bald and are okay with me being bald.

I’m not okay with being bald.

I’m so ready for normal.

I’m so ready to have hair.  Eyelashes.  Eyebrows.

Some are not as fortunate as I.  I know this.

It’s just that today,

I’m in a funk.

New Glasses!

I took McCanless to the eye doctor this week for a yearly exam.  We came home with these cutie glasses!  She failed a vision screening in 5K, which was when I started taking her to the eye doctor yearly.   On that visit, I was told her vision would either correct itself or get far worse.  Last year, she passed her vision screening with flying colors and got an “okay” visit at the eye doctor.  I assumed we were in the clear and her visioin was fine;  just like her parents!  No such luck, the poor girl couldn’t see.   I feel horrible that I waited so long this year to get her to the eye doctor.  It’s funny, I can’t see a thing when I put them on.  (Far too strong for me.)  She does look rather cute in them, though, don’t you think!?

True Story…

Mel and I were actually in the car together alone yesterday for a few minutes.  Which happens to be a very rare occurrence.  (Before we jumped into the car, he was speaking to a couple who invited him to a non-profit event in January.)  As we sat back into the car, he immediately grabbed his phone to tell “her” to schedule the event.  (His iphone has a speaking, command-action voice, who will do as she says-funny.  He LOVES it.  She even calls him, Mayor.)

So he asked “her” to schedule the mid-January event.

Iphone:  Sir, the event you have asked me to schedule is occurring on a day with multiple events.  Shall I continue?

Mel:  Yes.

Iphone:  Event scheduled for January 15.  Event overlaps with 51 previously scheduled events.

Mel immediately looked up at me.  He looked like a kid who just stole a candy.   Busted.

He then said, “So that just completely confirms what you already think of me.”

Just have to share…

Go here…

I’m super excited.  I recently Googled “hair growth after chemo” and found a plethora of information online; however, one blog stood out.  It’s a blog of a cancer survivor who lost her hair, yet documented each week of her hair growth after her chemo treatments ended, aptly named, “Hair Growth After Chemo.”   Ironically, her timing is almost one year ahead of me.  On November 27, she posted a picture of her new beautiful dark curly locks and I sat and cried at I read her post thinking that could be me in one year or so.

Recently, I’ve become a little self-conscious of my diminishing eye lashes and eye brows.  My skin now has a dull yellow hue, as I remember noticing on other chemo patients early on in my treatment at SCOA.  I wrote to my new blog friend today and explained that for me bald was easy when I was early in my treatment.  I had thick, black eye lashes and eye brows.  My skin still glowed of health.   (Three of my features I will never complain about again as long as I live.)  However, these five chemo rounds have played a toll on my body.

I look sick.

Even when I smile and have great energy, I look sick.  It’s disheartening.  I so want to look on the outside how I feel on the inside.

This new blog gave me hope that life does go on after chemo.  Even now, when I’m still in the thick of it all, with surgery and radiation still ahead of me, I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And my new friend, author of my new favorite blog, whom I will likely never meet or even talk to for that matter has sparked a new found confidence in me.

I’m so close and I know that by this time next year, God willing, I may have a head full of dark waves.  I hope so!

So according to MC, it’s Christmas…

So much for the chocolate Advent Calendar.

Sorry, Uncle Robert.  Maybe next year she’ll “get it.”

These two make my heart melt.

Can you tell I’m missing my babies?  They’ve been at Mimi and Bapa’s house this week as I “come out” of my chemo shell.  I can’t wait to be bombarded by, “up to here” with and loved beyond measure by these two.  My  house is way too quiet.  I miss my girls team.

I’m amazed at how different this treatment round has been.  I’m not jinxing myself by saying anything more.  I may wake up a zombie tomorrow, but for today, I’m good.  I even did a bit of Christmas shopping.   I was in tears this morning as I told Mel how “good” I felt. (Relative, of course.)  It’s always strange to wake up after several chemo days and finally be somewhat normal.  I cried this morning because I know that I only have ONE more time to do this. ONE.  MORE. TO. GO.

I know that’s getting old.  Sorry.  I just can’t get over it.

It’s a great day.  Tomorrow will be even better.  Friday with my girls.  Hooray!

Day two after Treatment #5

-So I know the culprit.  It’s 7:00 pm, and my friend just stopped by to administer my Nulasta shot.  She typically comes in the early morning after my treatment, but tonight just couldn’t make it.  I think it may be best this way.  (Too bad we only now figured it out.)  I’ve been very groggy/sleepy today, but not that painful, excruciating feeling I usually feel.  So,  I’m assuming that it’s the Nulasta that makes me feel that way.  Hopefully, I’ll sleep through a good bit of that and only have a rough two or three days versus my typical four.  We shall see.  I’m watching Holiday Cupcake Wars on the Food Network and thinking about making cupcakes tonight.  By far, very different from my last 4 (day after treatments).

-Yesterday, my chemo nurse submerged my fingertips in ice during my Taxotere.  Apparently the ice prevents the drug from getting into the cells and causing further nail damage.  She also recommended I go to a skin care clinic.  I really feel that my toenails are starting to lift.  They are getting pretty bad, but only one more treatment to go, so maybe they will hold on!   Another nurse friend of mine suggested that I take Biotin and a B-complex vitamin, so I’m doing all I can at this point.

-Did you know that each chemo treatment is roughly $17,000.  That’s $17,000 x 6, plus all of the doctor visits, and extras that are added for chemo only. (Lab work, scans, etc.)  And that not so kind little Nulasta shot?  Those are $8,000 a pop.  Wow, between Mary Clare and me, our household has some pretty expensive cargo!  Just an interesting little fact, I thought.

-My Oncologist, Dr. Butler, told me that after my last treatment (December 28), I’ll need wait about 3-4 weeks to get my body back in “order” and we’ll schedule surgery.  I’ll meet with Dr. Sweatman, surgeon, soon to discuss options for surgery.  He’s very pro-lumpectomy, so I’m hoping for a smooth, less-invasive, easy-recovery surgery.

-And speaking of less invasive.  The advantage of having chemotherapy prior to surgery was the possibility of shrinking the cancer tumor.  Guess what?  It worked!  My tumor was originally around 2.5 cm and is now about 1.5!  Yay!

-I’ll have to leave my portacath in about a year after my last treatment, “just in case,” so that will be one awesome Christmas present next year!  A port-free me with a short new do!  (I was also told that my hair will be long enough to have a short and sassy do by then!)

Cheers!  One more to go!

The 2011 Hartsville Christmas Tree

Hot chocolate before the Hartsville Christmas tree lighting ceremony


Lantern wishes

Sweet friends released this lantern and wished for my health in the new year.

I couldn’t help but shed tears as I watched my lantern fly away.

So many wishes.  So many prayers spoken on behalf of others.

Hartsville Kicks off the Season!

2011 Hartsville Christmas Parade

Mel and I pulled MC in the wagon again this year in the parade.  She was quite a ham, as usual!  And…I made it!  I was determined to walk the entire parade again this year, and I did it!  It was so much fun.  I wasn’t even tired at the end!  (Ha! Take that chemo!)

After we walked the parade route, we walked back to find our family so we could watch the parade and see McCanless on her Dizzy Dancin’ float.

These two…

When Reese got this hat, MC asked him if he was graduating.


Daddy jumped into one of the fire trucks….because he could.

Here comes Santa Claus, Here comes Santa Claus

Santa posed for me!

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Thanks for always playing on the girls team!  We love you!

Never gets old…

In a panic!

So I’ve received TWO Christmas cards already.

Yes, you read that correctly, two.

I’m in a panic.  I have no idea when, how, where, what to do about our Christmas card.  Last year was a total fail.  We even had a great family photo to use and I just didn’t do one.  At all.  I didn’t send a Christmas card.

I haven’t NOT sent a card since Mel and I were married ten years ago!  I did not send a Christmas card last year at all.  It still makes me GASP!

One of my most favorite things about this season is running to the mail box and finding cards and photos and hellos from friends from all chapters of my life, past and present.  I see their families growing and changing and it leaves me feeling connected to them even if I haven’t spoken to them since college.  I adore my Christmas cards.  I even leave my mantle undecorated, and use my cards as garland.  I string them onto twine and add to my garland as Christmas approaches and cards fill my mailbox daily.  It’s wonderful!

Last year, this would have been the photo on my card.  You know, if I had gotten it together.  It’s a photo from Liz and Robert’s wedding.

And we all remember what happens when I put Mel in charge of a Christmas card.

That was never printed or mailed.

We actually had family photos taken back in September specifically for our Christmas card.  They are amazing, only now we look entirely different.  (Mel and I do anyway.) He’s lost about 30 lbs and I’ve lost hair.  We just feel so differently and want to reflect our new selves in our Christmas card.  Looking at those photos, we realize we were all in a very different place and time.  I don’t know.  We’re still thinking.

One thing is for sure, I’ll never leave Mel in charge of a Christmas card.

Chemo bits…

I’m on week 3 before my 5th treatment.  I can’t believe it.  I’m almost at the finish line.  This week is always tough because it’s a countdown to week 1, which has begun to get pretty bad.  Doable, but not something I ever want to go through again.  Here are a few things going on right now.

-My fingernails are always sore.  They are bruised.  They have pink/purple splotches on the center of each nail.  It looks and feels as if I’ve smashed each of them.  I started using tea tree oil every day in hopes that it will salvage them.

-My toenails are yellow.  My pinky toenails are deep purple.

-My eyelashes are really beginning to get thin, especially on the bottom.  I have large gaps in between lashes and my eyebrows are very thin.  I think this is probably harder than losing the hair on my head.  I guess I never really thought about losing my eyelashes and eyebrows.   It really makes me look sick.  I hate that.  Even when I feel great, I get asked if I’m, “feeling badly today?”

-I assumed that when my Oncologist told me treatments would snowball, getting worse with each, that he meant it would take longer to recover from each one.  They have, in fact, gotten much worse, but I’m always feeling better by the end of week one.  It doesn’t take longer to get over, they are just much more intense during that first week.  I always tell myself, “I can do anything for one week…I can do anything for one week.”  MC is also my inspiration.  I can’t imagine how open heart surgery must feel.  She’s done it three times.  If she can do that, I can certainly make it through this.

-I’m gaining weight.  It’s only a couple of pounds, but at least I’m not losing, right?

-My port area has almost become a part of me.  I thought the soreness would never end.  I thought I’d never get used to the perfect metal circle protruding from my right chest, a constant reminder of my chemo, but it’s something I almost never think of anymore.

-I often wonder if Mel or the girls ever look at me walking around our house with my bald head and secretly wish I had hair.  I do so often.

-I know this could be so much worse, and I’m thankful that I am able to get chemo.  Some aren’t quite so lucky.  So, while I secretly wish for hair, shed tears as I countdown until my last week 1, and just breathe and smile to make it through the day, I also think of how amazing this chapter in my life is, filled with overwhelming love.  I am a lucky girl.

One for the swear jar…

It’s ironic how the tiniest things can drive you right over the edge.  And looking back, you think of how crazy you were over what?!  This has been quite a year for us, and for the most part, I think I’ve held it together pretty well.  I try to laugh in the face of turmoil most times, but this weekend, I’m not going to lie, my Christmas tree just about sent me jumping into Black Creek head first.

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving.  I, of course, forgot my camera but we had so much fun at my mom and dad’s house this year.  It’s been a couple of years since we Woodhams had everyone together for Thanksgiving and as always, we revert back to the days when we all lived under one roof.  It’s pure chaos.  Loud, obnoxious, wonderful chaos.  We laugh, sing and dance and make fun of each other.  My cheeks hurt on Thursday night as I lie in bed thinking of all the fun we had and laughs we shared.  And of course, they made fun of MC’s Rudolph nose.

Let me back up…On Wednesday as I was busy in my kitchen baking, I realized MC had dirt on her legs and feet from playing in the yard that morning and her face was quite dirty.  She was using her stool to wash her hands at the sink.  (MC is the human tornado destroying everything in her path most days, if you didn’t already know that and I was desperate to try to finish my Thanksgiving baking.)  I had a brilliant idea.  I scrubbed down my kitchen sink and filled it to the brim with bubbles and tea cups and plopped her right in.  Just like old times.  She still fit!!  I could still do my baking, keep my eyes on her and she would be contained occupied.

Today, three days later she still has a huge deep red scab on her entire nose.  Rudolph.  We ended up at the pediatrician’s office about 30 minutes after that sink bath.  Apparently, she used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser pad (which I thought was way out of her reach) to “wash” her nose and ended up nearly scrubbing her skin off.

So today, my Christmas tree has been decorated, undecorated (realizing a bit too late that we have 100 sets of faulty lights) and my house looks like the day AFTER Christmas from a certain little tornado and I’m feeling like Mother of the Year.

I’m sure if you are reading my blog, you have seen other mom blogs.  I have.  Some have homeschooling moms with five kids all of which, are living and working on farms.  Other blogs are written by moms,  again with a slew of kids, who volunteer all over the country speaking to teens about Christianity, all the while having craft hour daily with their beautifully dressed, all-A children and photography businesses on the side. You know the ones.  Perfection at it’s peak.

I get it.  They would rather showcase the happy times.  Me too.  But sometimes life just sucks.  (That’s one for the swear jar, mom. Sorry.)

And as I sit here this morning with scattered ornaments, beads and lights all over the den floor contemplating throwing my Christmas tree out onto the street and into the leaf pile pick up and staring all over, I just realized that this is what life is about.  It’s truly what makes us appreciate those times that do go smoothly.  Those big ceramic lights of mine have worked for years and years and although they are now considered a “fire hazard” and can no longer be found anywhere, we enjoyed them tremendously while they lasted.

Funny how madly passionate you can be about something once you realize it’s gone.

Today, I’m thankful for non-working Christmas tree lights, crazy mishaps that only seem to happen to my girls, trips and falls and bumps in the road.  I’m thankful for those times that don’t go according to my plan because those are the moments when I stop and think of all of those wonderful moments that do.

A little shout out…

Can you tell I’m feeling better?  As soon as I start to “come back” as I explained to Mel last night, I try to pack in as much as I can, including blog posts.  Yay!  I’m back.  Whew, last week was rough, but I’ll not focus on that.  I wanted to give a little shout out to my hubby’s apparel company.  He’s so super busy with being mayor, funeral director, firefighter, daddy, husband extraordinaire, that I oftentimes forget that he still has Pennington & Bailes Co.?!  Last week, Kimberly Whitman, of Southern Living featured P&B during a tailgate segment on the Today Show with Hoda and Kathie Lee!   I completely missed it!

P.S.  Mimi, Nonnie and BB,  click on the red words (links) to see the websites and video segment from the Today Show!

Blizzard Branch Syrup Co.

Beefalo and sunshine

I love age four and Mary Clare is in it’s prime.  She’s at a point where she is completely confident in herself and her vocabulary and I love asking her to tell me stories.  Today, for example, she was explaining to me that she wants to be a cooker (chef).   When I asked what her favorite food is, she, much to my surprise, replied, “bacon.”  (Totally out of the blue.  Never saw that one coming-she’s practically a vegetarian.)  After a conversation about how she cooks bacon, I inquired what she would cook McCanless if given an opportunity.

“Well, duh.  Beefalo,” with a slight roll of her eyes.

I nearly choked.  I had no idea if she meant Chef Boyardee Beefaroni, which I swear they’ve only had once in their lives, or Buffalo, as in wings maybe?  which we rarely have.  I know I have certainly never cooked Buffalo for them.  She may have very well meant beef, as in hamburger, but she was certainly confident in her word choice of beefalo and only stared at me completely aggravated, as I tried desperately to stifle my laughter.

Today, Nonnie, the girls and I spent a wonderful fall day at Blizzard Branch Cane Syrup farm? barn?  Not really sure what to call it.  (I guess I shouldn’t be so critical of Mary Clare’s word choice.)  We watched how cane syrup is made “the old fashioned way.”  It was quite remarkable.  As we enjoyed a wonderful lunch full of all things southern, including vegetable soup, and fried pig skins, (yes, my mom munched on them and was even able to get McCanless to try them) Mary Clare exclaimed, “LOOK mom, there’s a sunshine in your pickle!”

My heart nearly melted as I realized she was referring to the sliced okra in my vegetable soup.

If only we could all find sunshines in pickles so easily.

Hello Coffee!

This morning I enjoyed my coffee.

One of my most favorite times of the day is in the early hours of the morning.  Not only because it just may be the only moment of silence or alone time I’ll get all day, but because for a few moments everything is perfect.  While the girls and Mel are sleeping, safe, healthy, the world goes on. Everything is starting fresh.  New.

I’m always the first to rise, taking Emmie out for a little walk around the yard.  Summer mornings, I  spend waving to neighbors as they jog by or hustle to work.  In cooler months, I bundle up and sit on the porch and watch the Canadian geese dance, while I enjoy my coffee.

During week one of treatment, nothing is as it should be.  Even my taste buds turn on me.  My mornings with Emmie on the porch aren’t quite as enjoyable.  In fact, I skip the coffee all together.

Today, I enjoyed my coffee on the porch with Emmie.

Today, I know that this time is evanescent.

Grandparent’s Day at THA 2011

McCanless and Mary Clare, once again, weren’t lacking in the grandparent department on Grandparent’s Day this year.  They are two lucky girls!  BB, Papa, Nonnie, BaPa and Mimi were all there to celebrate!

First up was a musical selection by all K-classes.  Can you see my little Turkey?  (Second from left)  They all sang their little hearts out, yet McCanless found it far more entertaining to wave and sing to her big sister and all of the big kids sitting on the front row instead.

This was just before they all sweetly joined hands and proceeded to circle the stage hand-in-hand, except one tripped and they all avalanched, falling down and knocking one poor boy down the stage steps.  I was laughing too hard to get a photo.  Wish I would have had my video on!

Some of Mary Clare’s work in her classroom…

“Mary’s” turkey.  My little one has a completely different personality from my McCanless and this painting just may sum it all up.  Completely on her own terms, never in the lines, never intentional, never patient, fearless, passionate, colorful is my youngest.

This just made me laugh. It’s a self-portrait collage.  Notice the passy.

Grandmothers extraordinaire, my mom, “Nonnie” and one of her BFF’s, “Khaki,” also a THA grandparent.

McCanless made this for Mel’s grandmother,  her great-grandmother, “NaNa.”  We don’t see her that often as she is now in an assisted living community, but I was so very happy that McCanless thought of her and made this for her.  I’m so glad she will have the memories of a great-grandmother.

Happy Grandparent’s Day!

Chemo Treatment 4-Movin’ On UP

Day 2-I have not updated my chemo journey in a while because of my naivety.  I assumed at the start of all of this, once I documented daily during Treatment One that all subsequent treatments would follow the same path.    Little did I realize, although I was told specifically by my nurse, that each treatment would snowball, each becoming increasingly more difficult.

After treatment 2, where I had a severe reaction to Taxotere, a chemo drug, I thought that round was rough simply because of the reaction.  Once they put me on steroids, they woudn’t be quite so bad.  Wrong assumption again.  Treatment 3 was, by far the most difficult.  Maybe because I was alone, as I had to ship the girls out for the week with willing grands and chauffeurs, and Mel was on a business trip in Chicago.  I really had nothing to focus my mind on other than feeling terrible.  So, I’m going to play naive again this week and hope that because I’ll be keeping my babies at home and Mel is at least a phone call away, it will be smoother.  (I know I’m kidding myself, but it’s what I’m banking on for now.)

My treatment yesterday went smoothly. No reaction, (although today I look like a sunburned chipmunk thanks to the steroids.) Kacy stopped by SCOA and after my treatment, we all went out to eat for an early dinner.  Mel wanted to do a bit of shopping for the funeral home and I even lasted through that.  (Mel only gets out to “real stores” once in a while, so when we hit up Target, World Market and Bed Bath and Beyond, he was way too consumed.  He thought we needed anything and everything he saw.  I’ve got get him out more.)

Today, I’m tired.  I’m taking it easy.  My friend (and nurse), April stopped by to give me that blasted Nulasta shot, which makes my body get better, but makes me feel like the Wicked witch of the West with a house dumped right on top of me.  My saving grace is that by Friday, I’ll be back to normal (hoping) and I’ll have two weeks of great days!  Then, drumroll please……..only two more treatments to go!

Durell, my favorite check-in guy at SCOA, with his deep Barry White voice, scheduled my dates for December.

Treatment 5 on December 5 then my final treatment on December 28!  So, I have a date.  I’ll be ringing that bell before the new year begins!  Yay!

Columbia Marrionette Theatre-Field Trip for McCanless

Last Friday, I was able to go with McCanless to the Columbia Marionette Theatre!  It was amazing!

Of course, McCanless probably liked hanging out with her pals outside of school more than anything.

But not surprisingly, she did get a kick out of playing with the puppets!  She loves the theater and was enthralled with the marionette puppets.

While the dancer was away, Mommy and Clare went to play!

We went to Disney on Ice!

After finally finding our seats, and after purchasing much NEEDED items like a tub of Micky popcorn, Cinderella flash light, Beauty and the Beast tea cup with rainow icy, we were set.  And after all of that, she sat mesmerized throughout the entire show, not touching the popcorn or icy.  Who knew?

We had a ball!  (But shhh, don’t tell McCanless!)

Everybody JUMP!

McCanless is in Greenville with Kacy and Nonnie this weekend at JUMP!, a dance convention.  While there, her petite dance team also competed.  Kacy just sent me this photo of my little angel in her costume all dolled up. That’s a mask, by the way. I was able to watch her dance tonight live via webcast and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her!  She danced her little heart out and did so well.  Way to go, my beautiful little dancer!  Not bad, Kacy.  (My fill-in stage mom!)

JUMP! Day one with Eliza, McCanless and Jennie.

You know you’ve made it big when…

you become a Halloween costume.  Way to go, Mel!

(Great costume, Casey!)

Whales and Krill and projects, Oh My!

McCanless has a Science paper and project due next week, and she couldn’t be more thrilled.  She was able to choose any animal in the entire world and after much deliberation, Google searches and mind changes, she has chosen to not only focus on one of the largest animals in the world, but also one of the smallest, the Blue Whale and Krill.  They go hand in hand, so I thought it was a great idea.  She only searched marine animals, which I found interesting.  She has always loved the water and the ocean, but I didn’t realize it would filter down to the wildlife as well.  I just knew she would choose a dainty poodle or fluffy Persian cat.

She loves art, so after listening to her talk of cutting out photos and plastering them on a poster, which is the norm for a school project, I’m afraid,  I suggested she paint her animals on a canvas.  She jumped at the idea!  (I’m trying to stay out of this project as much as possible, but also “guide” her just a wee bit.)

I couldn’t help but get super excited as I saw her rules and guidelines for the second portion of the project!  I could easily take over!  BUT, I’ll NOT!  She is in the early paper writing stage, having to submit a “Sloppy Copy” first, and an edited one last.  I completely jumped into teacher mode and began to explain everything about submitting drafts, and MLA format, etc., etc….until I realized she was looking at me wide-eyed and like I was crazy.

So we focused on the canvas for now.

After we talked about deeper water means deeper colors, and blending colors, I left her with her blue paints and her canvas.

Once she finished the ocean, I decided to send her to Mel for the details. McCanless is showing me Daddy’s whale here.  I think she was pretty impressed with his drawing.

I can watercolor and blend and “fake” paint, and I’m also an ace at painting “cheerleader” letters, thanks to high school, but a little known fact about Mel is he is quite the artist.  He’s very detailed and very talented, I must say.  I wish he had time to devote to creating art.  He taught McCanless how to draw a whale using shapes.

Mel’s drawing is on top and hers is the larger whale under his.  I asked Mel if he “helped” her because I thought it was a pretty nice drawing, especially for her first attempt.  He said he didn’t need to help her at all, she did it all on her own, quite easily.   Tomorrow, she’ll paint her whale and krill on the canvas.  I’m so proud of this sweet little 2nd grader and all that she is learning!

I am the left brain.

I am a scientist.  A mathematician.

I love the familiar.  I categorize. I am accurate.  Linear.

Analytical. Strategic. I am practical.

Always in control.  A master of words and language.

Realistic.  I calculate equations play with numbers.

I am order.  I am logic.

I know exactly who I am.

I am the right brain.

I am creativity.  A free spirit.  I am passion.

Yearning.  Sensuality.  I am the sound of roaring laughter.

I am taste.  The feeling of sand beneath bare feet.

I am movement.  Vivid colors.

I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas.

I am boundless imagination.  Art. Poetry. I sense.  I feel.

I am everything I wanted to be.


Today,  I took the girls to school at 8.

I got a call to go get MC at 9.

Plumber came at 10.

Mel nearly fainted at 1.

My straw busted through the bottom of my Sonic cup around 3.  In the car.

I noticed my tire was flat at 6.

MC is fine.  Right now as I sit to take in exactly what our plumber explained, and hoping I’m being punk’d, she’s “crazy dancing” in front of the television watching Yo Gabba Gabba.  She took a two hour nap and after a good bit of one-on-one mommy time, she’s fine.  The house, not so much.  My tire, not so much.

After finding 6 inches of water sitting under the back half of the house, the plumber further explained that our entire plumbing system needs to be replaced.   In fact, he mentioned seeing “rice” under the house.

That’s odd.

“Well, I did just use the disposal to rid of a bit of spaghetti noodles.”

Yes, I know. Pretty gross.

Oh, and the tub is about fall through the house.

And the 6 inches of water sitting under the house?  Yup, it’s dishwasher junk, garbage disposal junk, tub water, washing machine water all rolled into one.  The only pipe that actually works is the one coming from the toilet.  Can that be a silver lining?

The bathroom needs to be ripped out and replaced.  The bathroom.  The one and only bathroom in my sweet little 80-year-old Creek House.

This is about the time where Mel nearly fainted.

That was yesterday.

And this morning.  After yesterday’s chaos,  guess what?  McCanless rolled down the car window just before walking into school.  It stuck.  All the way down.  It won’t budge.  At all.  So, it’s November and I have a window down.


I’m definitely buying a lottery ticket this time.

REVISED November 4:  You know that window I mentioned?  The one that’s stuck down?

It rained last night.

Snuggle Time

Happy Halloween 2011

Our first (and only) trick-or-treater of the night, Stella, was Olivia, the Pig!!

My sweet Rapunzel

Around 6 pm, much to my dismay (but no huge surprise) McCanless opted not to wear the Cha Cha dancer costume that she HAD to have a month ago.  Sigh.  It’s what my girls do.  Every year.  I had already spent the better part of the day convincing Mary Clare to wear her new Rapunzel costume instead of an old pirate costume of McCanless’s, so I didn’t have the energy to do it all over again.  I think she was a dancer, model, teenager-wannabe.

I found this pink wig in the girls’ dress up trunk. I think it was from when McCanless was obsessed with the Doodle Bops forever ago.   It needed a bit of taming and brushing, but I made it work!   I’m not a big fan of bangs, but I do like the pink.  I may have to wear it again!

First stop… BB and Papa’s house just around the corner.  Cousins, Leah Brenn and Reese were there, too!

McCanless insisted on stopping by her friend Zara’s house next. Zara is a classmate of hers and just recently moved to the end of our street!  Filled to the brim with candy and uber excitement, they immediately insisted on trick-or-treating together.  Zara’s mom braved the infamous College Avenue trick-or-treating hot spot with the pair, while Daddy and I stayed on our own street with Rapunzel.

Happy Halloween!

THA Halloween Carnival 2011

Here’s my Cha Cha Dancer at school with her spooky and (not-so-spooky) pals on Friday!

Today marks a very special occasion…

Apparently, I’ve passed down not only my sweet tooth to my girls, but my “cupcake gene” as well.  I can honestly say we have cupcakes at the very least, once a month.  We’ve made all kinds for all occasions, but prefer the usual white cake, with white vanilla icing on a “just because” day.  I’ve made completely scratch-made cupcakes and icing, but when you can doctor up a box mix and tub frosting with yummy results, why not?  We stick to simple, which ironically ends up anything but.  Our main focus and delight in baking cupcakes, comes with the decorating and eating. McCanless, in particular has a knack for ideas and has definitely inherited her sweet eating skills from Mommy.

Halloween Cupcakes in 2005

4th of July star cupcakes at the beach in 2006

Always yummy!

4K Back to School cupcakes

Always in charge of stirring and cracking eggs!