DIY Photo Blocks

For the my daughter’s first birthday, my sister made photo blocks made of pictures of the baby, our family, and other friends and family that she saw all the time. SHE LOVED the blocks because she loved looking at the pictures, but they could also be stacked and tossed.

This was such a great idea, that I had to do the same for our best friend’s baby. Here is how it was done…


First, drink cartons of milk, juice or whatever you can in the 1/2 gallon cartons. We went with milk mainly, but the OJ came in handy for a few festive screwdrivers (it was in the name of a gift for friends).

After you cut off the top part of the carton, measure the width of the carton and attempt to cut off the top evenly, leaving enough height to fold down to be the “top” of the block. Once the top is off, cut the corners half way down, so they


will fold evenly. Finally, use packing tape to secure it down. If it is done well, you will be left with a perfect cube of equal sides. If you had one too many screwdrivers, or decided to “wing it” on the measuring part, it won’t be perfectly equal – but it is a baby who doesn’t know the difference, don’t beat yourself up over it. (This is the theory I went with – although my sister, who is more into “following directions”, disagrees with my theory.)

blocksFinally, print photographs on your printer to the size of each square. For those (like myself) who forget – there are 6 sides. Not 4. You will need 6 photos (not 4) to do one cube. I used photo safe rolling tape to secure the pictures. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just enough to hold it down. The next step is to wrap each cube (carefully) with sheets of contact paper. The kiddo can put the contact paper in the mouth without the toxins of shellac (my first idea – glad I went back to the drawing board on that one), and it looks neater than clear packing tape. The challenge is getting the contact paper even and wrapping it so there are as few seems as possible. The second block looked better than the first and the third was even better, etc. I don’t recommend the addition of vodka to this part of the plan.

But – when it is finished, they are really cute and babies love seeing pictures of themselves – bonus, they get to play with blocks that won’t hurt when they fall!

Cancer Sucks

I know I have been handling chemo really well. In fact my blood tests are so good that the doc says it the results are almost as though they are from a patient not on chemo. For me chemo has not been as advertised and I have been feeling good. I really am eternally grateful for that and have been taking everything that happens with the most positive attitude I can muster. With that said, I have to say that this latest side effect totally sucks.

If you, or someone you love has had a horrible reaction to chemo, you might want to stop reading. This is a complaint that to me is big, but to most cancer patients will be petty. Fair warning. Continue reading

You Teach, Even If You Don’t Realize It



As I get older, I also get wiser (go with me on this one). I learn lessons through my own experiences and perceptions of other experiences. Now I find that I am a teacher.

My dearest sister likes to point out that I like to learn my lessons the hard way. I am the one who is most likely to try out the bad idea – just to see if I can do it. I like to point out to my dearest sister that sometimes I can! Other times just make good stories.

Now that I have breast cancer, I realize that I can take my craptastic adventure and teach others the importance of two things: 1) live your life now! Don’t wait until it is more convenient. Don’t wait until your dreams come knocking on your door. Live it while the livin’ is good. And 2) take your life (and health) seriously, but not at the expense of leading a life that you think sucks.

With the start of my chemotherapy, I was told that I WILL lose my hair. Even though the internet said there was a chance it wouldn’t happen. The trained and smart doctors said it WILL happen (they keep calling me young, so clearly they are right). Knowing I was to lose my hair, I came up with a plan. This takes the proverbial lemons and makes a mighty tasty margarita. I was depressed at the thought of losing my hair. The only thing that would make it worse is the prospect that the Bean would be afraid or freaked out in some way by this. The internet said to talk to her about it. Done. But I was still worried. Mainly because I was sure it was going to be a great big sob fest of me alone in the bathroom with a pair of clippers. THAT sounded HORRIBLE – so I changed the ending to that story.

I decided that one things that most 6-year-old kids never get to do is cut REAL HAIR. They never get to design a hairstyle for their mom. And they never get to feel good about mom’s diagnosis of cancer. So I decided to turn something truly scary to me (and her) into a “fun family haircut night”. She was so excited that right after I did my first chemo treatment, she asked when she gets to cut my hair. She had ideas of how she wanted to do it and questioned if I “really meant it”. I assured her that I did mean it, but we had to wait until the hair was falling out.

Finally, the day came. My hair was really falling out. In clumps. In handfuls. I freaked out! My hair was in a pony tail at the time and I was terrified to take the rubber band out. I knew a huge clump of hair was going to come out. I also knew that night was the wrong time. I needed time to have a little pity party before I could face the music. Thanks to my dear friend for letting me cry on her shoulder that night, out of sight from the kiddo.

The next night, we ate dinner and set up the hair-cutting supplies on the kitchen floor and off we went. My mom and kiddo took turns chopping and styling and spiking and Mohawking and hair horns and anything that seemed fun at the time. Once we were done with the styles, the kiddo used the clippers to buzz cut my hair. The kiddo seemed to really have fun, as did mom. Upon reflection of the evening, it was very ceremonial. It was cathartic for me to watch my beautiful daughter in the mirror taking such care in cutting my hair off. When done, she couldn’t keep her hands off my head – just touching and stroking the hair that was left.

Finally – I had one more plan that was inappropriate for the kiddo. So she went to bed and I asked my mom to use the clippers to write a special little phrase that I have to cancer in my hair. My mom – who does not curse – ever – wrote “FUCK CANCER” in my hair. Then – to make sure the kiddo didn’t see it, she shaved my head (and the message with it). Hubby was there to take pictures of the whole event and I felt so empowered (and a little cold from the lack of hair). I shared pictures of my new doo with my sister and a couple of friends. And now, I am working on really owning this whole no hair thing… I’ll have to report back on how that goes.

I know that I am teaching my daughter many things. Some are intentional, some not intentional through my actions. I do hope that this experience can teach her that sometimes really bad things happen. Sometimes you get scared. But you can only be brave if you face your fears and look for the silver lining in everything you do. Sometimes the silver lining is really hard to find, but it is there.

I Am So Lucky


Sometimes you realize long after the fact the time when your life changed. Sometimes you know the very instant. My most recent life changer was instant realization.

I went in for my regular mammogram and didn’t think anything of it. My nerves were slightly freighted when I was asked to check some “dense” tissue in a follow up mammogram. But it was the kind nurse asking if I brought anyone with me to talk to the radiologist that shook me into reality and my life just changed dramatically.  30 minutes after the talk with a radiologist saying there was something suspicious I had an appointment with a breast surgeon and a biopsy being done. It was a whirl wind, terrifying and comforting – all at the same time. I didn’t think there was any reason to bring the hubby, nothing to worry about, just a normal follow up. I didn’t know I’d want to speak to a breast surgeon that day to biopsy the “something suspicious”. But she was exactly the personality type I needed to hear the information I received. No sugar coating, no pity, just straight facts and nothing more. I am eternally great full to her for that.

24 hours later, I had an official diagnosis. Breast cancer.
With my diagnosis, I met with my surgeon and was given a lot of information about my team of doctors, waiting their turn to poke and prod. Before I knew I had a need, I have this team of doctors. In my mind they are wearing capes with boobs on the back of them. As it turns out, there are no capes, but they are all amazing people who make me feel like they know what is happening and they have my back, for all that is to come.

The worst place to turn for what to do next is the internet. The Internet can make you freak out when there is no cancer, but I had to be able to research on my own. The doc knew that and had several sites to recommend. As hubby and I were wrapping our head around this, we were sharing our news (which I have to say is equally as hard for me each time I spit it out. There isn’t an easy way and everyone has a different reaction.)

What I knew before, but was relived over and over is I am surrounded by great people. Each of my family and friends serves a very different part to my personality and no matter what my worry is, I have so many people I can call who will drop their worlds to listen to my worries. I am so very lucky to have this family (both given and chosen). I know that this diagnosis is not just on me, but on kiddo and hubby and our family is here for all of us, no matter what. I always knew this to be true, but never planned on calling in quite like this. We are so lucky.

I am grateful for doing whatever it was to give me the friends and family I need now. I am grateful for getting a team of doctors that I can believe in (and who will laugh with me when I propose the cape idea).

I am lucky.

Lame Excuses


When I dream about the most awesome life I can ever have, it includes my husband, my daughter, a 2nd house at a beach (it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it must be safe, have the basic comforts of modern life, and the ability to hear and see the waves crash from a porch where I will spend A LOT of time) and my writing profession will lead me to be sought after, but not famous.

Hubby and daughter are a forever work in progress and all in all, going well in terms of fulfilling my dream. The beach house dream is one that is possible and something I continue to work on through being fiscally responsible and knowing it will happen. For some reason the writing profession always leads to a stumbling block. I write in various forms for a living, and have kept a blog for a very long time (though don’t pay enough attention to it), but it isn’t going far because I have various reasons that boil down to nothing more than lame excuses. Here are the top excuses:

1) Write every day?? Are you crazy? I don’t have time for that. I do have time for TV, social media and snacks that are also unneeded.

2) I can’t focus on a topic. I have 1,000 ideas, none are complete and only a small handful even have beginnings.

3) Even if I don’t focus on the same topic all the time, I can’t seem to focus on one topic at a time. Same excuse, but this time you add the “shiny bobble distraction syndrome”. My blog was even named partly so I don’t have to focus on a single topic.

4) But I need money! Um… writing doesn’t cost anything. If I write – which is a passion – it will hone the skill and then people will want to pay me for it – right??

5) I am too embarrassed to share my writing. What if “they” don’t like it. This one has a build in blocker – “They” won’t like your work, so don’t write for “them” – write for you and your people. I write (partly) for a living, and share it. It’s received well – why is “outside work” writing different?

It’s funny how the things you practice at the most are the things you are best at doing. Sadly, I am an expert excuse maker.

Literacy is Overrated

As an adult in America, I cannot dispute that being literate is critical to success in any productive member of society. It isn’t overrated for the average adult. But as a parent, I have spent my child’s entire life spelling things to avoid having to tell her something. I leave her Christmas / Birthday list on the fridge, so we can discuss it over time. I want her to be a smart, productive member of society. Really. But maybe it can be put on hold when it is convenient for me.

Going into Kindergarten, the kiddo knew all the letters and their sounds and had a pretty good list of “sight words” that she could read. Now, she is reading. Actually reading. And it is becoming inconvenient for me when I want to talk to hubby about going for i-c-e c-r-e-a-m after dinner. Now, she knows what that is and the jig is up.

My sister warned me of this. She would explain various signs in restaurants and stores to her kids, saying that they warned of children’s bad behavior and the unwanted consequences. Her kids were sure that the sign in the cart at the store said that bad children would be asked to leave – pointing out the circle with the cross through it, proving her claim. Other signs in restaurants, even in the kids menu would explain that kids had to eat their veggies.

My dear kiddo – the Bean – is a genius. It isn’t just me though. Grandparents, aunt and uncles, and many others agree. I wonder if there is a way for her to develop a lack of literacy skills, but only at our convenience. Otherwise, read on my darling girl.

Sapodilla- fun fruit adventure

Finding new fun fruit to try is getting harder, as I am making my way through several. There are fewer new ones to try, other than different varieties of the old standbys. Apparently much of the fun fruit is currently in season in Mexico. A trip to the store the other day gave me several choices of which fun fruit to try. I ended up choosing a sapodilla.



The description of juicy is accurate, the description of pear is not. I would describe the flavor of the fruit as an extremely juicy, sweet, flavor of feet. The texture is like a mix of apricot and pear.

Overall, I am not a fan. But I am glad I tried it.

Eating Like Company Is Coming

The latest, greatest food fads are usually a turnoff to me. The basics of “eat nutritious foods, not too many of them, and satisfy cravings in moderation” is what I strive for. However, I am far from following this in my life. The one I have heard a lot about lately is one that intrigues me though – “Clean Eating”.

As with most “diet fads”, it proposed a detox of sorts, to get you into the program. The detox suggests cutting out all the “bad things 100%” for a period (2 weeks seems to be the norm). The benefit of this fad is that it follows the mantra of “eat nutritious foods” – which I can get behind. However, I am not good at this for a few reasons. The biggest reason is my will-power. I will cave for the super-processed food in lieu of not eating or eating very late because I didn’t plan well, and frankly, some of them are just super tasty. I don’t do the cooking in our house (hubby is on board with making good food from scratch, but loves “food in a box” flavor on many things – as does the kiddo… two against one, and, I hate cooking.) I go through phases of good planning – but it is not consistent. At all.

So, while chatting with friends about this, I was thinking that I could do a “clean eating light” plan, aka, like when company is coming. It is kind of like your house might not be as clean as it could be, but it will do for company coming over. So, here’s my dining plan… of sorts.

I may not do the cooking, but I do the grocery shopping. I will buy the “whole foods” in all forms except bread (kid will not eat it and hubby doesn’t like it and I won’t eat a loaf of the “good” stuff before it goes bad), I can’t afford organic everything, so I don’t. My bacon is most certainly processed, but it is so tasty, I am letting that “get swept under the rug”. Breakfast can be different for all – I need something the kid will eat on a weekday in under 10 minutes when needed – let’s not try to save the world at breakfast, let’s just get out the door without the need for child services to be called, shall we? Salad dressing is another one I can make, and like better, but simply not willing to commit to all the time. I will get dressing that I know all the ingredients. I gave up on soda and don’t really want it anymore, but my tea gets a tsp of sugar. Not “natural sweetener that is not processed”, sugar. OK, honey if I am home… but on the go it is sugar.

Eating like company is coming is something I can commit to. and I am sure there are other changes to “clean” I will make along the way.

I am curious which eating fads you love or hate and why?

Tooth Fairy Beware

Dear Tooth fairy,

I thought it would be fair to let you in on some intel I got from Bean while tucking her in tonight. As you know, she is 5 years, 10 months and 4 days old. She dreams of unicorns and beams with pride when she shows us her drawings of hearts, rainbows and happy families. She loves princesses, Star Wars and her new bike. All normal little girl stuff.

This morning, when she complained of a sore tooth, I discovered that it was loose. Her smile was bright and wide while she exclaimed that you were sure to come visit. But this evening, she is plotting ways to be sure and see your body and wings. I thought this was odd phrasing, so asked about it.

She remembers seeing you on The Rise of the Guardians and knows there are many fairies that go out to collect teeth. She said that she hopes the “really old one” comes… This is the fairy warning…. She said she hopes you die under her pillow, so she can see your whole body and wings. When I suggested that this wasn’t very nice, maybe we can wish for something nicer, she said that maybe one of the babies could get stuck under her pillow, so she can keep it in a box.

Fair warning, dear tooth fairy, my kid REALLY wants to see you with her own eyes. Tread lightly. I’ll cover for you.

Love, mom

P.S. A wise person once said the hardest part about parenting is not laughing at the wrong time. Touché.


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