Category Archives: Events

Radiation: 20 Down and 10 to Go!

I am 2/3rds done with radiation therapy! Overall, I am doing well. If I am tired, I just take a nap when Fierce goes down, but it really is not that bad. My skin is getting pinker, especially by my clavicle. I had forgotten they were radiating that far up and hadn’t been putting any lotion in that area…bummer! The pores of my skin are getting larger and look like small freckles. I am not getting any hair growth in my underarm and the Dr. said it may not come back—hey, less shaving! lol

I am on a pill called Tamoxifen which is an anti-estrogen pill. Despite this, my estrogen levels are normal so my Dr. is not too worried about my bone health. My FSH was low and those with menopause would have a high FSH level so the Dr. said it might be possible for me to have a child in the future. Unfortunately, there are next to no studies on people like me and I have to be on Tamoxifen for 3 years, so no guarantees.  It did sound pretty positive though, thank you Lord!

Today is the Dr. Martin King Jr. Holiday so after radiation, I brought Fierce to the History Museum. He was able to make a paper Freedom Bell and color a T-Shirt that represented a cause. I wrote “I Have A Dream” for his because I hope he grows up to live in a world where MLK’s dream “…that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” is true.

Thank you for your continued prayers! Almost there!!!!!!

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21 Years in the Military. Thank You Wes.

With all that has been going on in my life, I haven’t taken the time to formally thank Wes for his incredible commitment to our country these past 21 years.

Thank You Wes.

Your service to the Army National Guard which included 2 tours to Iraq is appreciated beyond measure.  Not everyone uproots their life and risks it for the nation’s safety. I am so in awe of your pride in this country. USA! America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. You are certainly the brave and have earned your freedom.

This past June, his army buddy, Chris Larsen, and I through him a retirement party and below are a few of the pics from our celebratory day.

Fierce’s 1st Birthday

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Fierce turned 1 on July 19!

We celebrated a few days earlier so we could have the party at Sandy Pines and invite all of our family and close friends. I can’t believe how many people ended up coming and spoiling Fierce. Thank you!

Before the party started, it just so happened to be family day at Sandy Pines so there was food, games and a petting zoo to explore. It was so cute to see Fierce’s love for animals as he rode the pony, petted the goats and bunnies, and held a baby chick.

Later we went to my parents trailer and had our race car themed party. Fierce loves wheels of any kind so I thought it was fitting. Vroom Vrrrooom! I had cookies decorated to look like the invitations as well as a mini cake for Fierce to dive into. He looked more curious than excited, but at least we got a classic messy-faced photo!

It was such a fun day that by the time we made it to the water park, Fierce slept through that adventure 😉 However, I think my friends kids enjoyed the pool and water slide. I really do love to see the kiddos faces light up at Sandy Pines.

Thanks again to everyone who came and celebrated with us. It meant a lot to us to see you before we left to St. Louis. I miss you all so much.

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My 1st Mother’s Day

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I slept in…ahhh. Then Flowers were delivered to my door with a note that said, “Love Wes and Fierce.” We had french toast, I slept some more and then Wes took me out for dinner and dessert. It was a really sweet day and I appreciated every minute. Thank you Wes for being wonderful. I love you both so much!

St. John: Annaberg Ruins

The morning started with eggs -scrambled with spinach…according to everyone else 😉 Fierce and I were up and ready to go long before that.
Our first stop was to the Anniberg Ruins. The beginning of the trail started at the slave quarters and then went up to where the horses would walk in a circle to move the sugar cane crusher. They later built a windmill, but when there was no wind they still used the slaves and horses. Around the back of the ruins a man named Charles was breaking coconuts for everyone to try the meat. He gave my mom some coconut oil and said it was good for red bumps on the skin and sun burn. He also pointed out a plant called Morenga. He cut some down for us and said we should steam it and make a tea. He said it was a miracle worker. If you have ever heard of Zenga, it is the main ingredient in one of their products.

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Stop #2 was the famous Skinny Legs. Literally a shack in the middle of nowhere with great food. My dad bought Fierce his first Skinny Legs onsie and was a proud grandpa 😉 While we waited for our meal, my dad took Fierce to a ‘Backyard’ and played with trucks. I think Fierce could find wheels anywhere. After our food arrived, Fierce was eating part of my hamburger bun on John’s lap and fell asleep mid bite- just completely zonked out.
From Salt Pond there is a path to Drunk Bay. You really have to believe something cool is going to be around the corner because you have to pass a lake that looks dirty. Nonetheless, Drunk Bay is a rocky area where people arrange the rocks, coconut shells, seaweed and shells into little figurines or write messages using the smaller coral. We each made one before we left to add our mark. It felt so good when it began to rain a bit. We were pretty sticky by the time we got back to Salt Pond so we all went for a swim. Everyone saw a tortoise, but I missed it 🙁 I really wish we would have brought our snorkel gear.

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I was pretty exhausted by the time we got back and my dad offered to take Fierce to the downtown area while I took a nap…Thanks dad!

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St. John: Relaxation Begins

Fierce woke up with the sun and I would have been disappointed, but wow, it was gorgeous! My Mom and Dad joined me and we all had coffee on the deck while Fierce played with a few sand toys. Lynnae and Tatum were up next because they were much more motivated than the rest of us and ran up and down the stone steps that go from the house to the beach. This is no easy feat. These stairs have a few landings to rest on the way down and they are rough and jagged. Go girls!

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We all went to Trunk Bay today. It was a bright sunny day so I set up a baby tent for Fierce when he napped. He was so darn cute. He played his little heart out in the sand and LOVED splashing in the water. Blake, Tatum and I all went snorkeling. I forgot my gear, but you can rent it for $5. We saw some teal and purple almost neon fish as well as a few giant sea urchins and little white fish that blend in with the rocky coral. My mom and I went for our traditional walk on the beach. We have to touch each end before we head back 😉

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We headed back to the house to get ready and afterwards I got to drive on the left side of the road for the first time in my life! I even had to do a left round-about…ahhhh! No, it really wasn’t that bad. The scary part is that driving on an island is like driving a roller coaster left, hairpin right, up a hill and then at the top you realize you have to make a crazy left on the way down. This is all happening at 20 mph and it feels like you are going 100 mph. You have to gun it to make it up the hill and ride the brakes the whole way down. I am so glad I brought Fierce’s car seat 🙂

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We went to Mongoose Junction which is a really pretty shopping area where all of the walls are concrete, but covered in large rough stones and sea shells. I found freshwater pearl bracelets and talked the girls into all getting them. Photo -op! 😉 Afterwards we headed to dinner. We ate outside where there was live music. They were allowing guests to come up and sing so we all talked Tatum into going up there. She sang beautifully.

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St. John, We Have Arrived!

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Fierce took his first flight yesterday!
There were several layovers so I made sure he got his wiggles out by having him “walk” the halls. In the NY airport on the way to San Juan there was a little treasure chest play area for kids. He leaned up against the bottom of the slide and had a blast watching the older kids zoom past him. Some of the kids tried to speak to me, but they all spoke Spanish and I am a little (a lot) rusty.
Fierce waves at just about everyone going by and people just melt. I think they forget that they have their own gate to get to entirely. One passenger even handed their phone over so Fierce could make it light up. By the time we sat in our seats each time, Fierce was out cold and slept almost the whole flight. He would wake up about 20 minutes before landing, but he played and ate puffs 😉 On the 2nd flight a stewardess just loved him. She told me I could walk the isles and then later she gave him is first wings.
During the last layover, Fierce discovered the handicap transport golfcart. First he played with the wheels and then I let him turn the steering wheel. He was belly laughing as he turned it left and right. Then he found the lever and the red button to make it go and it was time to stop playing with the cart 😉
Fierce also loved watching the city lights during the plane landings. The lady sitting next to the window was reading a kindle and Fierce would move his head up and down to see past her.
The last flight was just a little puddle jumper from San Juan to St. Thomas. It felt like we just flew 10 ft off the water the whole time. I enjoyed this one the most…20 min and done!
From St. Thomas airport, we took a taxi to Red Hook to catch a ferry. I put Fierce in a life jacket and he didn’t mind at all. I was shocked. We stepped off the ferry in St. John and Lynnae and I felt a renewed energy wash over us. We made it! Our first stop was to grab a bite to eat at a local breakfast spot while we waited for a lady named Kathy to show us the ropes. When she arrived, she took John and the luggage to the house we all rented and then showed us where to pick up our rental car. When John got back he asked us if we wanted the good news or the bad. Lynnae and I both simultaneously said “Bad.” He explained that the rental car was far away. The good news was that the house was “Unbelievable!” He and Lynnae walked to get the car. Fierce and I stayed behind and he played in the sand for the first time. He was soooo adorable. He patted it, let the sand flow through his fingers and then ate some. He looked up at me after about 5 min and a smile grew till it lit up his eyes. He looked like he wanted to say, “Have you seen this stuff?”
When Lynnae and John got back, Lynnae told me that it was only a long way to the car rental because John took them in a big circle. It was actually just around the corner from where we were…lol.
The house truly was unbelievable. Every room as a deck that looks out over the ocean.
That night we all went to Lime Inn for dinner. Pretty sure we all got some variety of fish. My mahi came with a pineapple salsa…mmm mmm.

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Introducing Mr. & Mrs. Tate & Samantha Kalawart

Today was the big day! Amid the ocean breezes, Tate and Samantha said their vows to each other.
The whole day was truly beautiful. My dad & John babysat Fierce so I could take pictures of them getting ready and Lynnae could do Sam’s makeup. Sam looked stunning. She didn’t seem stressed at all, simply giddy with excitement. I loved her dress that flowed with the wind and her flower halo. With the setting sun, she just seemed radiant. My brother, Tate, looked so proud to become her husband. Their destination wedding to St. Thomas couldn’t have been any better. My parents soaked in every moment and kept repeating what a wonderful evening it had been. At the rehearsal dinner my brother, Blake, gave a heartfelt speech with timely humor.

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As kids I remember riding around on golf carts shooting bottle rockets off at each other, we almost started a lady’s garden on fire…Those were good times both of us growing up at sandy pines barefoot and free from noon until curfew. Noon because we’d sleep in forever back then and wake up and play halo when we weren’t herassing the rangers. I believe we could still argue who was better at halo but believe it or not as much as we would argue I would always look up to you and that will continue as you’re 6″4 and I’m just shy at 6″2. Back then I would never admit it but when you got a new haircut I got the same one. When you started skateboarding I started skateboarding. I guess you could say I credit you for my competitive attitude always trying to one up you. Anyways now that we’re older you’ve achieved a lot of great things and I’m proud of you. You found yourself a great girl that will always keep you moving and push you forward. You’ve made it seven years so shit why not 70 more. And to Sam you’ve become a very driven and successful woman and I have no doubt that you’ll be a great mother someday. You’re kids will definitely be eating weird healthy things and always feel loved. I love you both very much. God bless you both on your new adventure through life. May the wind be at your backs and the sparkle in your eyes never fade, cheers!–Blake

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The whole evening was stunning, beautiful and certainly memorable. I pray that they are blessed and remember this day as a beginning to a very enriched life together.

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Fierce’s 1st Easter

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We had such a lovely Easter this year. Christ is Risen! It started out with a Good Friday meal hosted by my brother and sister-in-law, Will and Sara. Each thing we ate symbolized a part of the Passover or Resurrection of Christ. Fierce partook in the unleavened bread and apples 😉

Saturday, the Almeidas came to our house for food, an Easter egg hunt, and decorating Easter eggs. It was Asher’s first time doing the dipping eggs in dye method so it was pretty fun to see his mad scientist ways as he mixed the blue and yellow to make his favorite color, green. We also found out that Gratian is a chocolate lover and therefore, can remain in the family 😉 Aunt Sara got Fierce an Easter basket full of baby crackers, books and other goodies. He especially liked the book that told the Easter story and the lamb stuffed animal. Of course the adults ended the night playing the game, Pandemic…perhaps not exactly religious, but we did enjoy each other’s company and I think God smiles on that as well.

Easter Sunday we went to Grand Rapids First Assembly of God. Pastor Sam talked about how Christ’s death and resurrection could not have been made up. I had never thought about it before, but it is interesting that Jesus reveals himself to women first. Women held no real role in society at the time so it would have been beneficial for the apostles to omit that part of the story. However, they wanted to tell it in its fullness and all of them mention this fact.

After church, we had lunch at my parents house. They “oooohed and aaahhed” over Fierce’s linen suit and his never-ending cuteness. My Dad played with Fierce on the floor and my mom, sister and I all decorated eggs and let Fierce check them out afterwards. My brothers both played with Fierce. Fierce is so interested in what they are doing; they are going to be great role models.

God is so good. Thank you Lord for dying on the cross and resurrecting 3 days later. You have saved us from our sins and I can’t wait to meet you in Heaven someday.

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“The Easter basket is over there, Gratian…on the count of three…” -Fierce

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“I found it! Chooooocoooooolaaaate!!!!” -Gratian

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“Yup, I am cute.”

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Happy Easter from the Almeidas and the Kalawarts!

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Fierce’s 1st Christmas

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Santa and his little helper hats were discovered in Firece’s and Zuko’s stockings. Zuko was not too sure about this accessory, but he was a sport long enough to catch a few photos 🙂

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Fierce tried a gingerbread cookie for the first time and LOVED it. He was so mad when I took it away that his face went immediately to a square frown and then a pout. I let him have it one more time and he sucked on it as if he would get every morsel down before it got taken away again. Which happened quite quickly and I was rewarded with a complete meltdown by my protesting kiddo.

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Upon receiving his bone, Zuko walked around the house for a good 15 minutes whimpering until he could find the perfect spot for his new Christmas bone. He ended up “hiding” it in the couch downstairs…He thinks we don’t know 😉

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Christmas Eve was celebrated at our house this year with the Almeida clan. I decided to start a new tradition doing an “Around the World Christmas.” Each year we will pick out five countries and learn how they celebrate Christ’s birth. I put something to illustrate each country in a picture box and let my nephew, Asher, open each one and then mark off the country on a map as we went.

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We talked about China first and how Chinese Christians are apart of the underground church. When I was a kid, a missionary from China had said that they only kept pieces of scripture on them instead of the whole Bible and then when everyone got together they would read the scriptures as a whole. For the illustration, I printed out Luke chapter 2 and cut out a paragraph for each person. Asher distributed them and we all read about the birth of Christ.

Box #2 revealed Korean candy. They celebrate Christmas a lot like the USA, so I thought we could try some lychee gummy candy. It tasted pretty good!

In Sweeden, they put candles on the Christmas tree to remember how St. Lucia was a martyr for Christ. I bought a set of battery powered candles and Asher thought we should put the candles on the top of the tree since I do not have a star yet.

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Ethiopians dance and play drums while singing Ethiopian Christmas carols all the way up and into the church on Christmas Day. So, I bought a mini Ethiopian drum that has a hand painted Biblical scene on it’s surface. I played some Ethiopian music while William played the drum and Asher danced all over the living room.

For our final country we talked about El Salvador. Asher opened the box to find all kinds of kids fireworks. The people from El Salvador light huge fireworks to celebrate Christ’s birth. While the adults did sparklers and snaps, Asher’s favorites were the confetti poppers and the smoke bombs. The festive atmosphere was so fun, we might just have to adopt fireworks into our yearly tradition 🙂

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Christmas is a huge celebration at the Kalawarts and it starts long before the big day. The day after Thanksgiving, all of the ladies on my mom’s side of the family go shopping. This year we went to Detroit and Fierce got to experience his first “shop until you drop.” He did great and can’t wait to go next year! My dad takes the opportunity of the house all to himself to decorate and this year we came back to a family room that was transformed into “Grandpa and Fierce’s Fort.” My dad already has plans to elaborate on it for next year so that they can both hide out.

On Christmas morning, my dad makes a big waffle breakfast with every topping you can imagine. It is soooo yummy. My parents also give each of us a stocking ~we are never too old for traditions. Fierce was pretty tired so he didn’t wake up until the presents were being given…smart kid 😉 Blake gave Fierce a cute little outfit that reminded me of my himself. Tate and Sam gave him a push corn popper toy. I thought it was cute that they thought of such a traditional toy. Lynnae and John gave him a “My 1st Christmas” Santa hat and booties with an ornament that you can put your child’s hand and footprint inside. I painted up Fierce’s hand and foot the very next day! My parents spoiled him rotten with all kinds of noise makers. He got a little police car he can ride and when his cousin Gratian came over, they both went for a joy ride.

Later in the day, my mom’s whole family came over for dinner and desert. It is so nice to see everyone together. Two of my cousins’s girls start a dance party every year. They always bring a routine to show us and then we all join as my dad plays music from every era. It is a lot of fun to take a step back and watch every face as they enjoy the day.

We truly thank you Lord for sending your son Jesus to this earth to save us so that we can one day live with you.

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