Sunday, November 30, 2014

Celebrating 10 years cancer free! (also, LAST DAY of NaBloPoMo!)


I found out I had cancer on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in October. I wasn't feeling well, so I had gone home early from work. I was sitting on the couch in our little row house in South Boston, with both dogs on my lap, watching Oprah. She was interviewing Rupert Everett and I remember thinking he has so much make-up on.

As soon as the phone rang I knew who it was. It was my doctor. Telling me I had cancer.

I fell to the ground crying.

It was the first of only two times I cried during the entire ordeal.

I had a few avenues of treatment I could pursue: chemotherapy or surgery. 

"Surgery," I told my doctor. "Get it out of me."

The surgery was called a 'radical hysterectomy'. Even the name of it was horrible sounding. I knew going into the surgery that I wouldn't ever be able to carry children. I had the ingredients, but I wouldn't have the oven in which to bake the cake (so to speak). But I didn't care. I just wanted to live.

My surgery was scheduled on November 30, 2004, 10 months shy of my wedding. I half-joked to Mr.KK that he was going to marry someone who was broken. He made me promise not to ever say that again. My surgery was a success, and I've gotten a clean bill of health ever since.

I think the worst part of having cancer was having to tell my mother my diagnosis. It's THE WORST thing in the world because part of you feels like you failed her somehow, even though it's not your fault. So if you can get through that part, the rest is cake. Sort of.


Five years is a magical number for cancer patients. It's when you reach a target survival rate (for me it was 92% after 5 years). It's a HUGE milestone. We celebrated with a family trip to Boston (perhaps this was our first family vacation even before we knew it!).

Hotel Nine Zero in Boston.
Cheers to kicking cancer's ass!

Me and Dr. Feltmate at my 5-year appointment.

That's me: cancer free!
After 5 years of appointments every 3 months 
it was time to say good-bye to Dana Farber.

I was lucky enough to have cancer while I lived in Boston so I could be treated at Dana Farber Cancer Institute where they have the best treatment in the world. There's a sign hanging in the hospital that says "You come for the doctors but you remember the nurses". And it's true. The nurses made a very invasive surgery and week-long hospital stay not so horrible for me. They sat on my bed when I was in pain, made me get up and walk around to get stronger, and made sure I had plenty of pain medication (KEY to recovery).


Here I am 10 years later.

Healthy and Mom to Maxwell.

I'd be lying if I said I don't wonder if the cancer will come back. But having cancer has given me such an optimistic outlook on life. Sure, I'm way more emotional and I cry at the end of TV shows (LAME!), but I also grab life by the balls, push myself and just go for it.

After all, you only get one shot.

I'm proud to be a cancer survivor. They are some of the strongest people you will ever meet because they've looked a pretty scary disease in the eye and pretty much said "F You".

I wouldn't have made it without my Mr. KK, who slept on a VERY uncomfortable chair next to me in the hospital for a week, brought me my favorite treats during my 8 weeks of recovery, who was my biggest cheerleader on those days I never thought I'd be able to get off the couch, and who didn't care that he was marrying someone who was 'broken' :)

So, happy anniversary to me.

And here's to the next 10 years. 

(PS: 30 posts in 30 days DONE!)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Day 29: Household soundbites Part 2 (and the second to last daily post!)

Even though he's almost eight weeks old, I still look at Max in wonder. Like, 'This little kid is ours? To keep alive? And take care of?' It's really hard to believe that one day he wasn't here and the next day he was.

Our lives have changed – of course – and some of the more amusing changes are the conversations that go on in our house each day.

On his bedtime sleeper:

"Can you replace the battery? This poor kid has slept without his vibrator for the last week!"

On putting on Max's straight jacket each night:

"Do you think he can breath?"

"Since he's screaming, I'll go with yes."

On Max's chubby maturing arms and legs:

"This little boy has more rolls than a bakery."

On halitosis:

"Hey, I don't think he has bad breath because he doesn't have any teeth."

On poop:

"Did he poop?"

"What color was his poop?"

"Why hasn't he pooped?"

"Do you think he's pooping now?"

"Is that his poop face?"

"What is that up his back? Ew. Poop."

On trying to take a holiday photo:

"He cried the whole time. I didn't get one good shot for Christmas."

"Maybe he doesn't like Jesus."

Once again, on feeding:

"Is this a new nipple or the old nipple?"

"New nipple."

"How can you tell?"

"By the way he sucks on it. He likes the new one better."

"Typical guy."

On waking up at the wrong time:

"Max, go back to sleep. Wake up in 20 minutes after Mommy finishes her beer."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Day 28: Yeah, we do Black Friday. Sort of.

Every year Mr. KK and I go out on Black Friday.

Let me preface this with a few things:

1. we are NOT the crazy people who camp out in 30 degree weather outside of Walmart, putting our lives on the line to get trampled for $6 off a flat screen TV.

2. I am 100% against this new trend of stores opening up ON Thanksgiving to get a 'jump start' on Black Friday sales. The only thing you're doing is ruining a holiday for 100 of your closest employees.

Side note: there was one year that Mr. KK decided he was going to do the real black Friday: get up early, stand in line in the cold – the whole nine yards – for a deal on a TV. He woke up at 4am, got dressed and headed out on his mission. 
Ten minutes later he came back upstairs, put his pajamas back on and crawled back into bed.

"What happened?"

"Car won't start."

Ah, the luck of the KK's.

I LOVE Christmas.

It's my favorite holiday.

And I like going out on Black Friday because this is the day when it feels super Christmas-y everywhere you go. People are buying presents, there are trees on car roofs and the Salvation Army beggars people are out there ringing their bells with gusto. This is the day I start listening to Christmas music straight through until Christmas Day (this is a warning for anyone who drives in the car with me in the month of December).

And we have curated our own Black Friday tradition.

We do head out early – usually around 8am or 9am, coffee and tea in hand – to the Westfarms Mall. We find the perfect parking space in the garage outside of Nordstrom and we leave our coats in the car. I then proceed to shop completely for myself, because let's be real, there are very few gifts I buy for people at a mall. But 50% at Banana Republic until noon? Yes, please!

After Westfarms we head over to West Hartford to Crate and Barrel and then lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. We sit at the bar, have a drink or two, and enjoy a nice lunch that doesn't consist of turkey, mashed potatoes or stuffing.

Then we usually head home, light a fire, and lie down and watch TV and take naps.

And this year, just because we have Mr. Max, we weren't about to abandon our shopping tradition.

Black Friday 2.0:

First, we skipped the mall entirely (I just can't bring myself to take Max to a germy mall. Hole in the wall bar? Sure. Stinky mall? Pass.)

Max slept through Crate and Barrel (apparently he had no need to purchase housewares he'll only use one and then curse every time he opens a drawer or cabinet).

Next stop was Barnes and Noble where I picked out new books for Max (for someone who can't focus on pictures yet, this kid has SO MANY books), and where Max enjoyed an impromptu lunch.

After he drifted into a post-lunch nap, we headed across the street to the Cheesecake Factory for our lunch. 

We parked our stroller among the sea of strollers near the entrance, traded our bar seats for a booth, limited ourselves to one drink each, and enjoyed a nice lunch that didn't consist of turkey, mashed potatoes or stuffing.

The we headed home, lit a fire, and watched Max nap.

There are some traditions you just can't break. You just have to modify them a little bit.

PS: We went into that kids' store Janie and Jack today. Beautiful clothing. But they have some nerve trying to pass off having 3 onesies and a cardigan for boys as a 'girls and boys store'. I think the store needs a new name that's less misleading. Something like, "Just Janie". Or "Jack Who?"

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day 27: The secret to a successful Thanksgiving.

Super hot gravy.

Oh, and spending it with these turkeys:

Max had a fantastic first Thanksgiving! He got to meet some new family members, he got passed around like a little football and he napped like he ate 5 pounds of turkey.

A snapshot of our day:


Baked brie with cranberry chutney
Roasted figs stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped with prosciutto
White bean and bacon soup
Sausage, fennel, apricot and cranberry stuffing
Bacon brussels sprouts
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Cranberry sauce

And lots and lots of cocktails and wine, of course.

Max was knocked out from just getting dressed!

thirsty just looking at it

figs have got to be the most beautiful fruit

stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in prosciutto, baked and then drizzled with honey

 Mommy and Max's rainy day craft project

there's nothing like a soup with BACON as one of the two main ingredients

four two gorgeous birds

 stealing a little Max time

Max and his great grandfather…they are 94 years apart in age!

I'm not sure which of these two grandparents want to get their hands on Max more.

being entertained by Grammy El

there's nothing like a little nap after a long day

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I am so very grateful for my wonderful family, and that Max is surrounded by so much love.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day 26: thankfully, too old to party.

If there's any day during the year that has changed for me it's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

I remember when I was young(er) that this day was THE night to get dressed up, go out, and share college stories with high school classmates. The lines would be out the door at Eli's or Side Street, but we'd wait in the cold – sans coats (who wears a COAT out even when it's cold? no one cool, that's who).

You never knew who you were going to see. You weren't sure which bar everyone was going to go to. You really didn't keep in touch with people that often, so you couldn't check in with everyone to see what their plans were. It was a guessing game. Or maybe you bumped into someone at the gas station earlier in the day and heard that a crowd was going to such-and-such a place.

It was wonderful and horrible all at the same time.

A few years later, when I was living in Boston, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was my travel day home. I'll never forget the day I had to work until 2pm and then got on the road and it took me 4 hours to make my 2-hour drive. I paid my toll in Natick and just sat; there were so many cars I couldn't pull through the toll, so I just struck up a conversation with the toll booth operator.

Cut to the last few years when we've been hosting Thanksgiving at our house and this day has been a big preparation day.

I always take this day off from work. I start my morning early at 7am at the grocery store and then head home for a day of cooking. I start first thing in the morning and don't finish until dinnertime. Then Mr. KK and I go out for happy hour and something to eat (after all that cooking the last thing I want to do is cook dinner) preferably to a place high schoolers didn't frequent.

This year, it's completely different. Having the holidays off, I've been doing Thanksgiving prep all week long. I did my grocery shopping on Sunday. I started cooking Monday and Tuesday. Today I made my (famous) pumpkin cheesecake and my cranberry sauce. The leaves were in the table and the bar was set up by 4pm.

We didn't go to happy hour this year. As much as we love bringing Max to our favorite bars, I felt child services would come after our asses if we brought him out in a snow and ice storm. (Even I'd come after me in that case).

Instead, we had leftover pizza, music time with Max and – cue the blood-curdling screams – Max's bath time.

The funny part is, as much as our lives have changed, I don't miss the old "me"; the one who would go out on the "biggest party night of year". I love spending my day inside cooking, and my night with our little nugget, who is the cutest little time-sucker around.

Whether you're headed out to see old friends, or hang out with new little family members, be safe and have fun.

We all have so much for which to be thankful.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving.

(PS: I'm thankful I've gone 26 days strong blogging…only 4 more day to reach my goal!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day 25: Renewing my 'Morning Person' card.

I set an alarm today for the first time in 7 weeks (don't be hatin') and I have to say…it was AWFUL.

I had an 8:30am doctor's appointment which required the night-before scheduling of someone who was planning detailed month-long trip across Europe.

With Mr. KK needing to be out of the house by 7:45am, me needing to be out by 8:15am, both of us needing to shower, me needing to blow-dry my hair (obviously I had somewhere to go today), Max needing to eat and then remain upright for 28 minutes exactly, factoring in time for diaper changing and dressing, car seat strapping in and feeding and letting out Vito, we might as well have not even gone to bed.

I set my alarm for 6:45am and I have to say, I was in denial when it went off. 

I was all like, "SHUT OFF YOUR ALARM!" and Mr. KK was like, "It's not my alarm, it's yours." 

And then I was like, "Grrr. Fine. You shower first so I have more time in bed." 

To which he replied, "I already showered."


We let Mr. Max sleep until 7:30am before we start HIS morning routine (did I mention this little nugget only gets up ONCE during the night and we have a 6-hour stretch after going to bed? I LOVE this kid).

Since it was before 10am, Max kept it casual and wore his pajamas to the doctor. And because he knew how tired I was, he didn't take his morning nap in an effort of solidarity in exhaustion.

Upon arriving to the doctor's office, to whom my husband and his whole family also go to (of course), everyone ooh-ed and aah-ed over Max.

Max being patient while on display at the dermatologist.

When I finally got in to see the doctor (about my pesky eczema which has tripled in horribleness since Max's birth…I blame the Purell) she, too, kept her eyes on the baby that she 'couldn't wait to meet!'

DR:  "I'll give you some cream."

KK:  "Do you want to look at my fingers? Is it even eczema?"

DR:  "Yes, it is," she says, taking her eyes off my baby for a millisecond. "How's your mother-in-law? She must be over the moon! 'Aren't you cute, Little Max! Look at you!'"

KK:  "How many times a day do I put the cream on?" Remember ME, your patient??

DR:  "Twice. Is he a good baby? Does he sleep through the night?"

Later that afternoon, Max was so exhausted with getting up and out of the house that he had to take a 3-hour nap. Seriously. When was the last time you took a 3-hour nap? This kid has the life.

Just nappin' in Mommy's lappin'.

Nap time was followed up with giraffe playtime.
How many giraffes does one boy need? 
Three. A squeaky one, a crinkly one and a rattle one.

When did I become so soft that I couldn't get up in the 6 o'clock hour? I used to get up at 5am and be out the door in the car on my way to the gym in Westport by 5:30am every day. Now I can't manage to pull my body out of bed before 7:30 (or whenever Max wakes up…sometimes it's 8am. Don't hate me.)

But I can't complain at all. When I read those articles about women who are walking zombies because they're getting no sleep I feel rather guilty. I get a combined 7-8 hours each day, and I feel great each morning.

I've actually gotten the compliment, "You look GREAT! And well-rested."

Hey, I'll take it! And I'll work on reviving my 'Morning Person' card come January.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day 24: Guest Blogger Vito the Wonder Dog

Hi. Vito here.

So we got a baby. His name is Max. 

I knew something was up, though. Mommy didn't raise a dummy.

Mom and Dad started changing around the room where people who visited us would sleep. They painted the walls (I'm color blind so I'm not sure what color) and bought all new furniture. 

They even bought a bed for me. It's HUGE. And I hate to admit it, but I LOVE that bed. It's so big and soft. 

And the best part is every time I go in the room and hop on my bed, they reward me a treat. I spend a lot of time in that room jumping onto that bed.

I knew it was coming, I just didn't know when. My Daddy even sat me down and had a chat with me to prepare me. But still, I wasn't sure what was going on.

Daddy: "You're going to be a big brother, Vito. We're having a baby."
Vito: "But I'M the baby."

I was extra suspicious when I started getting a Bark Box every month filled with goodies. My humans are good. They know how to get me.

I mean, who could resist a toy of a hedgehog wearing a chef's hat?

The worst part of this whole baby thing was going to kennel. I HATE the kennel. I have to stay with my cousin Dino and I never know how long we're going to be there. But I have my fun. I don't let any of those people who work there near me. I growl at them when they try and put on a leash and make them throw my treats into the crate. They're afraid of me which is really very silly; I would never harm anyone, I just like to bark. And sometimes scare people.

When they sprung me from the kennel I didn't go home. I went to Dino's house for a day and that's when I knew. When Daddy came and picked me up he kept talking about the baby was home and how cute Baby Max was. I was suspicious. I'd have to see this thing for myself.

Is this all he does?

Well, it's been a while and the baby isn't that bad. I guess he's cute in a human sort of way. Mommy and Daddy pay an awful lot of attention to him. And this kid gets to eat like six or seven times a day! How can I get on that meal plan???

Everyone who comes over asks the same question, "How is Vito with the Baby?"

I can tell you: Vito is fine with the baby. Max just kind of lays there. When he's on the floor I run up to him and stick my nose in his face and say hi, but he doesn't do much in return. When everyone is in his room I hang out there, too. I watch what's going on (that kid poops more than I do!) and make sure he's okay.

This is us "playing" together. Bo-ring.

I could do without the getting up in the middle of the night, but Mommy pretty much takes care of that. 

He hasn't taken over the big bed yet, so we're cool. Because that's where I draw the line. The big bed is mine, Max.

Don't even THINK about getting on this bed, Max.

The couch too.

I get my belly rubs on here and lay all over Daddy's legs.
Daddy brought you up here the other day. I'm keeping an eye on you.

And I still have more toys than you do.

But I know we'll be best friends when you get bigger. Then you can tell me how I can get a few more meals out of Mommy and Daddy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Day 23: Remembering Rita

Today my Grandmother would have been 91 years young.

She passed away last year, just a few days after her 90th birthday, and only a few days before Thanksgiving.

Rita was one of a kind. Everyone loved Rita.

She and I had a special relationship, especially as I got older. But it's those memories I have of visiting and staying with her when I was young that stick out in my head. 

She would take me shopping and buy me a toy…every single time she babysat for me. Rita would tell me I was "full of soup" when I would say things that probably weren't true. She would make pancakes on Sunday mornings and feed anyone who dropped by for a visit. She would sneak a $5 bill into my palm and whisper in my ear, "Don't tell your grandfather!" and then shoo me away. Little did she know ten minutes later my grandfather would stuff a $10 bill into my small hand and warn me with a wagging finger, "Now don't go telling your grandmother!"

She and my grandfather were married for 70 years (!). My grandfather would often say, "Rita can't cook, but she can make one hell of a sandwich." She would call my grandfather a "pain in the arse"…and that was often! 

One thing I wish – in those last days when Rita was still listening and chatting – was that we told her that we were trying to start a family. We had met our surrogate just days before she went into hospice. But at that point, it was too late. She would have been over the moon to know that we were having a baby. I'm sad that Max will never meet her. I know she'd spoil him to pieces. 

Happy Birthday, Rita. We're thinking about you today.

We can't wait to tell Baby Max how special his Great Grandma Rita was.

Wedding day, 2005

My parents' 40th anniversary party, 2010

New Year's Day, 2011 (with my other Grandmother Rose who will be 94 in February)

Thanksgiving 2012

Holidays 2012

Mother's Day 2013

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 22: Date night and invalids

Just one day short of Max's seven-week birthday we had our official first date night! (outside of the house, sans bambino)

Also, I feel I must let you know that on this date night, we were both invalids. Me, with my bum knee from my fall the other day (in case you missed it, you can read about that traumatic day here), and Rob, with his brand-new ankle injury from today's leaf blowing in his parents' yard, including x-rays and two prescriptions.

So between the two of us hobbling, we somehow miraculously made it out of the house.

And…here's how our life has changed after having a baby.

When making a dinner reservation, they told us that they had 6:15pm and 8pm.

I hated to admit it, but if we took the 8pm reservation, there was a good chance I'd be asleep at the table before dessert.

"So 6:15 it is! Us and the blue hairs!" I (half) joked.

Now that we had the reservation, we needed babysitters. In an effort to not hurt anyone's feelings, we offered babysitting duties to BOTH grandmothers. All's fair in love and grandchildren.

TEXT TO GRAMMIES: 'Hi. Is anyone free to babysit Saturday night?"

TEXT FROM GRAMMY 1: 'We're free! Hey, maybe all four of us could babysit and we can order food and make a night of it."

TEXT FROM GRAMMY 2: 'We're in! Sounds like fun!'

Immediately I imagine the four of them ordering take-out and having cocktails and wonder…but if you're all eating food and drinking cocktails...who's watching the baby???

So we went on our date night and I'm ashamed to say we were home by 8:45pm. Not because we were worried about the baby (because we weren't), but because we're old and tired, and one of us had a fresh ankle injury and had spent the afternoon in the Urgent Care center.

But what a great night, no matter what time we got home!

Kicking the night off with a few IPAs.
Baxter's Stowaway IPA out of Maine…a favorite from our trip to Portland 
and now on its first week on tap in Connecticut.

 We went to Caseus (delish!) and we were seated next to a cheese lover's dream: the cheese fridge! No joke, probably thousands and thousands of dollars worth of cheese in here. Had I brought a larger pocketbook, we could have smuggled home some Manchego, college-style.

I'm a cheese whore. So, yes, we got the cheese board. 

Steak au poive for me.

The meatloaf special for Rob. This was my second choice, 
so thankfully he ordered it so I could have a few bites.

And back at home…

The parents had finished their dinner and wine, and were relaxing and watching TV. Max was wide awake, keeping an eye on everyone. AND, we missed not one but TWO poopy diapers.

So a successful night in our books to say the least. :)