Today I celebrate two years out from my last chemo treatment, cancer free.  

Seven months before that last chemo day my life changed so dramatically it still seems like that person I once was, has died, and I’ve had to remake myself from scratch.  My brain broken from emotional trauma , and then chemo that made it all worse, my heart shattered by the husband I loved,  my body fed poison to overpower the poison that was growing inside.  My life blew up.  

An atomic bomb.  

I remember the feeling like no other-pure shattering despair.  Panic never left my side.  I was trapped in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from.  My life as I knew it and loved was gone.  I had no choice but to fight.  Fight for my marriage and fight for my health while I was the weakest I ever had been.  

I did fight and I didn’t do it alone.  I did it with the incredible support of my friends (the most awesome friends in the world) and my children and my family.  And my faith.  I rebuilt myself.  I’m still not  finished with that rebuilding.  I lost the fight for my marriage.  I won the fight for my life.  And I’m still here.  I have a body that is healthy, children that surround me with life, and a mind that is steady -and I get up when grief hits me hard and I know, like really know, who I want to be and how I want to show up in my life.  

I’ve had friends tell me I’m the strongest person they know but that’s not true.  At all.  Sometimes you don’t have a choice to be strong.  Sometimes life throws excruciating circumstances your way and many times I pleaded out to the heavens PLEASE STOP!  I felt like God was trying to destroy me.  I hate that saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  I hate it because sometimes it does kill you.  And I hate it because it’s true - IF you grasp onto hope and just walk the path before you even when you didn’t choose that path and scary awful things keep jumping out at you just when you think you can’t take one more thing, you will survive. There is no way out but through. One tiny step at a time.  Just walk.  Crawl.  Drag yourself.  Keep going. 

I know I am not alone.  I know many many women have walked this path-I see their footprints and they show me the load gets lighter, the body stronger, the soul more peaceful, and I have to believe them.  I see them and believe I will rebuild.  I thank them with every ounce of me.

I’ve said it a million times to myself and to others.  Many times you don’t get to choose your crosses.  The question is “How will you carry them?”  

Tips For Schooling Children At Home And A Request

I am NOT a homeschool mom.  I have dreamed about it and read about it, but have never dove in for a plethora of reasons, some of them that ended up being heaven sent (like homeschooling during a year of cancer? NO!).

BUT that means if you are home trying to make this new thing work, I get it.  I'm there too.  And with six kids, I've also been a manager of a busy household, helped with homework all the time, and had multiple ages all needing my attention.

I learned by messing up and making mistakes and being totally overwhelmed sometimes.  I have the perspective of looking back and realizing that some of the things I stressed about were ridiculous and there were many routines and systems along the way that I found made my life easier and thought "why didn't I do this sooner?"

Since it looks like we all might in this for the long haul (I am praying my kids don't go back because I am loving teaching them) I have made a list of tips that might help:

1.  First up ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING.  It is!!!

Expectations are everything also!  If you are trying to keep up with the one million ideas on Pinterest to keep your children entertained, or all the ideas coming home from school, and all the great methods to learn everything under the sun, you will never ever feel like you are doing a good job or enough. Concentrate on what you have at hand and don't complicate things. If messy art projects stress you out than don't do them!  Find the system and activities that work for you and your kids, and don't get off track.

2. Take the Ipads, the video games and every other device and throw them in the farthest corner hidden of the attic so even YOU won't be tempted.  Turn off the TV except for a SET time.  I know, you will go through hearty and annoying withdrawal symptoms.  But these things entertain children.  So when they get off, they can't entertain themselves.  They can't concentrate.  They fight with each other more.  They don't want to get to work or to even play with their toys.  It makes their minds lazy, their moods bad, the whining worse and in the end TRUST ME, you pay the price.  You won't believe the difference.  You just have to get through the hard part and then it gets easier.

3. I know you will say "but the kids need them for school".  Well at a certain age they do, but they can sit at the home computer, do the work, and then get off.  Under a certain age, it's 100% unnecessary.  Print out the work if you can.  Instead of doing math online, print out a page on your own and explain to the teacher, if it is required, why they will get a paper copy of the work.  Remember when back in the 'olden' days we were taught with pen and paper and books?  They will learn without technology when they are young, and even better some would argue.  We are co-teaching right now so we DO get to have some say in how we want to accomplish that, as long as we don't make it more difficult for the teachers and let them know the work is getting finished.

In high school they are on their own. Don't save them. I've done that before, and it's hard I know, when you can see them procrastinate and not do the work.  Let the teachers know you are doing a "learn the hard way trial".  Brainstorm with your teen to figure out a system of getting the work finished on time.  Let them lead.  But don't pick them up when they fail.*

4. Some things my mother did and mothers everywhere USED TO DO and not feel guilty about: Everyone go to their room and read or play quietly.  Everyone go outside and don't come back in unless there is an emergency.  Take your little brothers on a wagon ride.  Draw pictures. Color.  Make a book. There was a list of jobs on the fridge.  NOT a star chart, and cute stickers and rewards.  Here's a list of jobs, do them before you do anything else.  Cereal for breakfast, the same lunch every day.  SIMPLE SIMPLE SIMPLE.

5. Learn about your child.  I have one child that needs breaks often.  He needs to get up and move.  He wants me to sit next to him when he does his work.  Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't.  I can tell when he is getting frustrated so I say go run around the block.  Or shoot baskets.  Or just get this done now.  Encourage, and then remind them how good they feel when the task was completed.

6. If you are having a bad day-baby crying, you are behind, getting frustrated, you all feel like crying and yelling, get in the car and go for a drive or turn on the music and dance.  Feed them.

7. Simplify everything else.  Easy meals!  Teach them to be independent in every way and you will make your job easier.

8. Watch where you are wasting time.  I can tell you from someone who remembers when we didn't have cell phones that it is the biggest time suck as a parent and I can get so much more done in a day when I put that thing away without checking it for hours or a day.

9. If all you can do is read or have them listen to books (I am thinking colickly baby in your arms, or bad morning sickness etc), then they are learning.  When my oldest kids were little I would have stressed so much about them getting behind or missing a day of school or creating some huge gap in their education.  I know mom minds go there-if they miss this or that, they will one day be living on the streets after flunking out of high school, and it will all my fault.  Don't catastrophize little things.  The big picture is what makes the difference.

10. Establish loose routines.  Get as much as you can get done before the kids wake up.  Or before you go to bed.  When Andrew had colic so badly as a baby, I would make my kid's lunches even when we didn't have school, and put them in the fridge so they could get them out themselves the next day.

*My oldest wasn't crazy about school and was very young in his class, because being the oldest we didn't know better.  (Poor oldest children you are just our experiments.)  He struggled but he got through it. Sometimes I felt like tearing my hair out.  Sometimes he did too.  I worried a lot.  I slowly let go through highschool and it was a big experiment in so many different ways.  In college they have to do it on their own!  And he did.  And he is so smart because he loves to learn new things.  A's aren't everything.  He knows how to teach himself and he does, as an adult, constantly.  He is successful.  Independent.  A self-starter.  An awesome adult.  Remember there are all different kinds of kids and different ways to learn.  Some kids are "school kids" and some kids aren't.  That does NOT predict their success in life.  But kids have to learn to do hard things, and do things they don't want to do.  And to help out.  And what it means to have a good heart. That's more important than anything else.

I am asking all homeschool moms for tips!  What did you struggle with when starting out and what is one or two awesome tips you have for us new moms at this for managing our days?  THANK YOU! 

Ordinary Days

An apron with her sister high heeled boots that we have forbidden her to wear because they are so loud.

My work the other day-the brush pile!  It felt so good to get outside and work even if I am paying for it in wrist pain today.

He is such a good speller.

Bursting with excitement. 

Yes I know nothing is ordinary now but I am trying to keep it as ordinary as possible.  We are having fun homeschooling-I LOVE IT.  That doesn't mean it goes smoothly at all.  I keep thinking of the moms with colicky babies or any babies and then kids who need help learning and I've been there and know that this is hard!  It is so much easier now with only two kids that need supervision.  We are working out the glitches together-like kids bickering.

Here is the rough schedule that has worked for these three days.  (Matt is on spring break, Andrew (16) is on his own with school and is always willing to help me.)

We get up when we get up.  Usually 8 (heck not the older kids).  Showers and bed making and slow breakfast.  Patrick usually creeps down earlier and watches a little TV and then I send him up to do his bedroom chores.

We have tackled a family job each morning.  I want to incorporate real life practical learning.  Today we washed the inside and outside of the car.  Yesterday we picked up some sticks in the yard and I gave the kids a few quick inside jobs.  I am going to make a list and see if it could be something the youngest two and I do together.  Cooking, cleaning, organizing, how to fix things.  Pumping gas is up next! 

I have in mind doing school work from 10-2ish, with lunch while we work.  Today I sent Patrick on a race around the block when he was hitting maximum overload.  He timed himself.

On rainy days we are going to watch a documentary together in the afternoon. 

We decided for the week to have a movie night every night.  We've watched The Greatest Showman and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  (If you have any suggestions of really good movies-no cartoons, let me know!)

Janey was jumping up and down when I told her we are going to do a project for her habitat study in Social Studies.  I LOVE PROJECTS.  (The project will consist of a poster board and construction paper and lists about the ocean and dolphins.)  I have to think of one for Patrick that interests him. 

I love being home.  I love the kids being home.  Attitude is everything-remember.  Simple expectations so there is little to no stress and lots of play.  Simple meals, simple jobs.

I am still working on 40 Bags in 40 Days.  I had a bag full from the boys closet that is going to Goodwill.  I am not doing the hard spring cleaning with the kids home as much. 

Abbey and I are tackling her room and closet today.  More photos soon on Instagram and I will post here this weekend.  The garage is a big one and I am excited to get to that this weekend if the weather is decent.

40 Bags in 40 Days-Post Six

I had a busy weekend with surprise visitors so I took a break from my rampage through the house.

Matt's room (well when he's home from college) was up next.  It's a little room so pretty easy.  EXCEPT that I got carried away when I started cleaning and realized how bad the trim and doors needed to be painted.  I had the house painted a few years ago but we skipped this room because it will full of Legos and lizards and lots of things.

I whipped out the paint and drop cloths and painted the trim in one day-the same day I repainted the desk. (Remember I have NO kids home during the day-they are all at school)!  Doing this slowed me down a little bit also.  But the room looks SO fresh and clean.

Keep in mind that with photos show a room I just cleaned and that no one for this minute lives in.  Matt is coming home from spring break, so Andrew moved into the "boy's room".  Which is up next for me to tackle.  Maybe I should post a pic of what this room looks like after a college kid comes home.  Eeeek!

All furniture in here was free from various sources.

"Junk drawer" on top, books in bottom.

I cleaned these drawers out with Matt when he moved back to college last year.  

We don't have a dresser in the room just these plastic drawers which work great for socks, underwear, shorts and workout pants.  Everything else gets hung up.  (Shoes are for a business Matt has.)

The little chest on the very top shelf is a scrapbook box of little things-like mementos, letters, little stuffed animals, etc. that have been collected over the years. 

Paint Color- SW Rarified Air

TIPS on teen rooms:

-Make them sit and go through everything with you, even if it is torture.  Bribe them with ice cream.

-Hold up each item of clothing and say yes or no.  Does it fit, do you wear it, is it comfortable?  Make them try on if necessary.

-Scrapbook boxes. I have storage containers in the attic for each child, and this is where I keep those special things, whether clothing items, a trophy that really meant something, a toy that was loved etc.  

40 Bags in 40 Days-Post Five

The "kid's" bathroom.  We are lucky to now have three full baths in our house, but when we just had two this was called "the kid's bathroom".  It is small and simple.  Easy to clean with great original-to-the-house built in storage. 

Abbey's things on the right, boy's on the left. :)

All Abbey's things.

Since older kids are coming and going these drawers get junky fast.  Abbey and I cleaned these out together but we kept a lot of "we don't know whose this is" things just in case.

I don't keep extra sets of sheets but I do keep a couple extra pillowcases.

I HATE running out of toilet paper.  This along with laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent and dish soap are well stocked in my house.

I keep cleaning supplies in each bathroom so I don't have to lug anything around.

I use different towels for each bathroom.  This way I am not running to each bathroom to decide where the towels came from.

Hooks for hanging towels are much easier than the towel bars in kids bathrooms.

Wall Color:

 Valspar Ambrosia 1160

40 Bags in 40 Days-Post Four

Janey's room!  For those new here Janey is seven.  Her room is the perfect size and she has a great closet.

Bed was a Craigslist find that I painted and wicker end table to given to me by a friend that was moving.  Her pictures are from a book I had when I was younger-I bought a used copy and chose a morning prayer to frame.
The curtains are made out of two cotto tablecloths I found at TJ Maxx at Easter time-they have pink stitching.

The dollhouse is her older sister's that she is "borrowing".  These are not all her toys, we have an area in our family room of toys also.  The bags are American Girl clothes sorted into outfits (mostly her sister's again).  
Bookshelf and table were finds that I painted.  More framed picture book pages that I loved as a child.

Bottom left, clothes she can access now.  I put together outfits on hangers.  The center top are hand-me-downs from friends, the other shelves are her bags.  The bottom are her shoes (not all of them-she has two pairs of boots and two pairs of tennies downstairs), and the little blue vintage suitcase holds her Legos.  Uniforms on the other side and summer (opposite season) clothes on the top.

Top drawer-bathing suit, athletic outfits, and stockings.

Socks, undies, summer and winter pj's, and a t-shirt she likes to wear to bed that she made in preschool.

Bedside table.  Every girl NEEDS a junk drawer.  The bottom drawer she collects all her papers from the year.

If the junk drawer fills up (because oh my gosh the things girls save) I clean it out.

I regularly clean out my younger kid's rooms and closets.  On my insta story this weekend, it showed us doing a try-on.  This girl has grown like a weed!  I realized she needed a few shorts for the summer, so I bought two pairs.  We bought a new pair of tennies since the shoes she was wearing were tight.  A small basket of clothes that didn't fit were donated.

1. The fewer choices kids have the less overwhelmed they are with choosing outfits and getting dressed by themselves.  I do laundry often so it's not an issue here.

2. I always try to think in terms of "outfits".  Not that we don't end up with some crazy ones sometimes (that I almost always let go) but it simplifies things for both of us and things don't go unused because there is nothing to match.

3. When there are clean organized spaces kids can easily put their laundry away themselves and clean their own rooms.

4. She has one set of sheets, one fuzzy blanket, and the quilt.  Easy to make.

5. Kids these days have too many toys!  Mine are no exception.  (I guess it's all relative.) The less they have and the more, once again, simplified they are I find, the more they play with toys.  When sorting kid's toys, sometimes I save a box in the attic and see if they even notice they are gone.  Or those "special things"-the really high quality I can imagine grandkids playing with also-go in the attic.

Benjamin Moore Shell Pink 883

Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day

Today is Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day~March 3rd~I bet you didn't know that!

I am almost two years out (celebrating March 30) from my last chemo treatments. It seems like ages ago. My hair grew back, my body is strong, but I’m still not sure I even processed the whole experience. For awhile I couldn’t even talk about it. But I knew with time I would be able to help others - I know we are called to do that with the crosses we bear.

Here’s what I want you to know-
Never was breast cancer on my radar.
I had no risk factors. I had as far opposite as one can get when it comes to risk factors.
I had a “clean” mammogram in January. I found the lump by accident in September. It was already the size of a ping pong ball. But I only found it because I had lost weight due to some other circumstance.

Triple Negative is rare and grows fast and hasn’t been researched as much as the other kind of BC. It requires lots of hard chemo. I had four rounds of “red devil” and 12 rounds of other chemo. I lost my hair after the second chemo session. I ended up needing lots of hydration and one transfusion. By the time I was ready for surgery in April (mastectomy) I looked like I survived a concentration camp.

Get your mammograms! On time! And ask to go to the place with the newest technology even if you have to pay extra (don’t get me started on how ridiculous that is!)

Do breast exams! At least once a month. Ask you OB to show you how.

I consider myself not strong or brave or a survivor, just lucky.

40 Bags in 40 Days-Post Three

What a dreary Monday we are having here, but the sun and temps look great for the week. 

Up next for today's 40 Bags is my closet.  

I don't like a lot of clothes and shoes and find myself wearing the same things again and again.  As a stay at home mom, I seem to always have had a "uniform" depending on what the fashion is.  It went from leggings, to khakis, to yoga pants, back to leggings again!  With jeans mixed in and a few dress up things.  Cotton sweaters and tops.  Shorts and easy dresses in the summer. 

I am the same with jewelry.  Less is more for me.

I always say the more I simplify the more I use what I have.  SO true with clothes.  And I LOVE cleaning out closets. Call me if you need my help! :)

Tips at the end of the post...

I am a size 10.5 and so I have to order my shoes online almost always.  Therefore-less shoes, because that is a pain!  I also have another area for shoes at the front of the closet.

Suits and coverups.

Journals and yoga/sore muscle things.

Sweaters and winter tops here, workout and casual long sleeves also.  More shoes to the left.

Pants, skirts and coats.

Sewing box and two boxes for receipts and special notes and cards etc I want to keep.

Another drawer with special keepsakes.

In the very back left and corner I hang my summer clothes-shorts and tops.

Drawers I didn't take pics of-
Workout shorts and leggings (I hang my shirts and sweatshirts.)
Extra hangers.
Gift wrap and extra gifts.  (I use my closet to store birthday and Christmas gifts!)
Scarfs, slips, socks.


Remember to have one bag for charity and one bag for trash.  Other options are a box for the resale shop or a friend.

When deciding to keep or give away ask yourself:

Do I wear this?  
Have I worn it this year?
Is this a "it will fit me one day" choice?  Don't keep things that torture you with weight loss unless you are pregnant or just had a baby and know it's a temporary situation.
Is it comfortable and flattering?
Do I feel good wearing it?

I promise you the more you can see all your choices because the closet isn't shoved full, the more you will be able to put together outfits that make you feel good.

Make sure you have something for:
A funeral.
A wedding.

Because I am not a big clothes shopper, I can't tell you how many times I panicked during my childbearing years because I could never find something to wear when events out of my stay-at-home routine popped up. Fluctuating weight doesn't help with pregnancy and nursing babies.  I find an A-line and/or shift dress work great.  Dressy pants with elastic (JJill has nice ones that don't look frumpy, in smaller sizes too.) 

When I find one of something I love, I buy a couple if they are classic pieces.  

Once cleaned out, decide what is holding you back from wearing some of the things you love.  

I realized I didn't wear many of my longer cardigans with my leggings because I didn't have a shirt to wear underneath them.  I did some research and chose this one and this one and now I have many more options.  

I love TJ Maxx, the Loft, DSW, Amazon and find some things at my thrift stores too that I discover when I'm out looking for furniture.  (I just bought a beautiful Zara pink coat that looks like it's never been worn for $4!)

Happy Purging!