Category Archives: Uncategorized

He Made a Way Where There Was No Way

Faithfulness.

God has been so faithful to me. He instantaneously healed my back of scoliosis when I was a kid. He brought me through breast cancer 4 years ago. And now he is currently directing me through metastatic breast cancer. I found a random cancerous lump on my back last July which shocked the doctors and brought my case to the board so a treatment plan could be assessed. I had a PET scan done that showed it is in several places throughout my body. This is something that isn’t really supposed to happen when you are on Tamoxifen. I saw a neurologist because the cancer has “eaten” away bits of my spine and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t at risk of a fracture in my atlas. The doctor told me not to fall or get in a car accident. I found that a bit humorous. I am getting an Xgeva shot to build up bone strength and taking supplements to help as well. Then I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed because both progesterone and estrogen are feeding the cancer. I just started two different drugs to block any remaining hormones left in my body. I had another gene study done, but that has been pretty much ruled out now. So this is the best treatment plan going forward. I have no side effects so far so I am pretty happy about that!

I feel great! It’s always a bit up and down when you are waiting for results or anxious to get treatment started, etc. However, through it all I have been at peace with everything. Of course there is loss like not being able to have another child, but then I look at the child I have and wow! I am blessed! Wes is so great through all of this. He is an amazing level headed person who I can rely on for strength.

Last time I had cancer I had to cancel my travel plans. This time, I was able to take Fierce to Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain, Andorra and meet up with my brother in Milan, Italy. All this just 8 days after surgery. I didn’t have any problems at all and I walked EVERYWHERE…lol. Thank you Lord! I appreciated it like breath to breath.

Arriving in Koh Phi Phi

Day 6:

The journey to Koh Phi Phi sounds worse than it actually was. From start to finish it might be one of Fierce’s favorite days because of all the transportation types involved 😉 We took a taxi to a local airport then an hour flight to Krabi where got another taxi to take us to the pier. We waited for the ferry and then took it to Koh Phi Phi, which is a beautiful island from the minute you see land. We stayed at the Charlie Hotel which ended up being within walking distance from the pier. Our rooms were right behind the infinity pool which gave you a beautiful view of the beach and the Andaman Sea. We arrived in the afternoon so it was low tide and you could walk for forever before you got to knee deep water. It is a gorgeous little cove and our piece of paradise for a few days.

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Our hotel also has the best “incluido” breakfast I have ever had. Anything from American omelets, European cucumber and tomato to Thai food is served. After we were nice and full, we took a small boat tour around Koh Phi Phi. We saw three beaches. Monkey beach was great and we did a bit of snorkeling. Fierce wanted to put the mask on and even put his head in the water just a little bit. Then we went to a beach with mini caves in the rocks and smooth white sand. The third beach and final stop was a long thin beach. Fierce had fallen asleep so I took the opportunity to chill in the shade with him while my Mom, Lynnae and Blake swam.

Later I got a Thai massage which was amazing. Then, when Fierce woke up I took him to the pool for a couple of hours while the rest of the crew got massages. Afterwards, we all went shopping in the little markets behind our hotel. We all got foot massages and then I took Fierce back to the hotel to chill and write for a bit while everyone continued their exploring of the cute shops. When they got back they were all laughing because they decided to put their feet in a fish tank and have fish bite them until their feet were smooth…Can’t say I could do it, but proud of them all for doing something unique! I think the island life suits us all so far 😉 lol

Let's Go Check it Out!

Arrival in Copenhagen

We are here!

Fierce and I walked the city a bit and stopped in a few toy stores. The Lego store was Fierce’s favorite. He even asked/motioned for me to take his picture in front of the Lego wall! This is a first!

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To back up a bit, Fierce did great on the first two flights. I let him run around/play during the layovers and since it was a night flight for us he slept most of the time. During the first layover, he met three sisters that just thought he was the best. The oldest gave him a ride in their stroller and the middle sister was giving him hugs. They all had a lot of fun. The 3rd flight he did cry a bit, but thankfully, it was only a 2 hour flight.

Flight tips for traveling with a toddler:

  • Bring small toys that don’t make noise like cars, stickers, paper books.
  • Pack his favorite snacks. Fierce loves fruit snacks and granola bars. I can’t tell you how many times the excitement over a fruit snack saved fellow travelers from a crying baby.
  • Pack light. I brought 7 days of clothes for 3 weeks and picked hotels that had a laundry service available. You don’t want to have to lug around a huge suitcase. I literally brought my purse, a small diaper bag and a small suitcase.
  • Dress your kiddo up cute. The more positive attention you can drum up, the better. People love to play or help entertain a cute baby.
  • Bring an umbrella stroller. I almost decided to go without and just use a baby back pack carrier and it turned out that Fierce refused to go in it during the trip! Plus, you don’t want to have to carry that much weight and your bags for very long. Make sure the stroller is SMALL. The European sidewalks are great, but very narrow. You can just hang your bags on the handles and your baby can sleep on the go whenever he wants.

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The End of a Chapter: Last Days of Chemotherapy

Thank you to the doctors, nurses and volunteers who helped me through these last few weeks of chemotherapy here in St. Louis. The best treatment day I had, Jeanne from the Botanical Gardens brought in all different types of flowers and plants for us to make our own bouquets. Each plant was picked for its texture, smell or color as a part of a horticultural therapy. While arranging this bouquet, I met Hope. She was receiving treatment for colon and liver cancer. On my last day of chemo she received news that her tumors had shrunk and it was going to be her last day too!

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Before I entered the building my last day, I had a fear that I wouldn’t get treatment and this wouldn’t be my last day. I shook it off and went through the routine of checking in, getting my blood drawn and meeting with my doctor. While in the waiting room before I get treatment a lady walked up with a GORGEOUS bouquet of roses and lilies with a note that said:

Congratulations on completing your chemo treatment. Fierce and I are proud of your courage and strength. I hope he gets to hear about it when he grows up! -Wes

I started to cry tears of joy and appreciation. Then a lady from the billing department cut in to tell me that there was some mix up with my insurance. I spent the next 4 hours trying to sort things out so that I could receive the treatment. After finally getting the go-ahead, I got hooked up and slept a bit. My parents were already waiting at our house, so I couldn’t wait to get home. However, there was one more thing to do before leaving. All of the nurses come out and watch you ring a bell. As they clapped and cheered, I got emotional again and teared up. Thank you so much everyone!

It is amazing how many people are involved in saving your life. I feel like there was not one health professional, family member or friend that did not come to my rescue or help me in some way these past few months. Thanks for bringing food, babysitting Fierce, spoiling me with gifts, health food and the wig. This has been one of the hardest years to get through and also one of the most blessed. I genuinely appreciate all of the love you all poured out on me and my family.

Next up is surgery on October 10 and radiation every day for 6 weeks. There is a playroom for kids during the radiation treatments so Mr. Fierce will be taken care of, which is a huge relief for me not knowing many people here in St. Louis. Honestly, God is so good and has truly provided for us every step of this journey.

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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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Introducing Lynnae and John Oostema!

Amidst the excited chatter of women and girls, the bride was getting ready for her big day. At my parents house, we all had our makeup and hair done up to look our best. My mom made breakfast for us all and we smiled and clinked our mimosa glasses. Lynnae gave each of us girls a pair of drop dead gorgeous earrings. Everyone looked stunning in their individual emerald green dresses. Nothing could steal the show from Lynnae though, she looked like she stepped into a magazine for every picture.

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I surprised my mom with flowers because June 17 is her birthday!

My sister Lynnae is one of the most beautiful girls and her love for John was apparent in everything she did that day. My favorite part of her ceremony was that she asked everyone to join her in worshiping Christ as they sang and lit the unity candle. It is so good to know that their relationship is built on a strong foundation of faith.

Of course, the after party was a blast as well. A party bus took the wedding party to Lake Michigan for a few photos. During the ride, my brothers put on a dance off which was just hilarious to watch.

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My one big job was to deliver the maid of honor speech. I talked about how Lynnae and I have had many adventures. We are so different in personality, but have a lot of fun together. She is my best friend for life.

The ceremony had been at Dimnent Memorial Chapel and the reception was held under a big, white tent at John’s family cottage overlooking Lake Michigan. The dark night was twinkling with lights. The DJ had to ask guests to leave the dance floor so they could do the father-daughter dance. I love this because it just shows that everyone was already in a festive party mode. Later in the evening, Lynnae had us girls be her back up dancers as she performed a dance for John to a mix of their favorite music. John was so surprised. In the end, we all lit large sparklers as they closed the dance floor and left for their hotel. The whole night was perfectly gorgeous.

God bless you two!

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Making Baby Food Fun

Baby food adds up quick so I decided to make my own. I very simply pureed a bag of green beans and a bit of water. Why not make it fun? I decided to put my green bean puree into moose ice cube molds. It works great! Fierce likes to eat them warm, so I just heat a few up before I give it to him.

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…and yes, I have a clean up crew 😉

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Thoughtful Ornaments

Every year I decorate my gifts with ornaments. This year I decided to make one of the ornaments a name tag by writing the person’s name in puffy paint on a clear bulb. Then, I put a little memento in each bulb. For example, my sister is a makeup artist so her bulb has a bit of eye shadow inside. My brother Tate likes to draw, so I put a pencil inside his bulb and I put buttons in my mom’s because she taught me how to sew. My favorite is Fierce’s, because after much effort, I put his hospital cap in his bulb. I really like how they turned out and I can’t wait to celebrate the birth of Christ with my family this year!

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Soup with Friends

This month my cousin, JoDe, a few friends and I are all going to make one soup a week. We want to make an effort to cook fresh, but warm, feel-good foods as the weather becomes cooler, so soups sounded like a good idea. Join us and comment below on any thoughts or changes you make to the recipe, especially if you have a substitution that worked really well.

This week’s recipe is from The Brazilian Kitchen by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz.

Portuguese Soup: Caldo Verde:

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/4 lbs small yellow potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 ” chunks

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock

3/4 lb pork sausage (linguica or chorizo)

kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper

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Fierce Ryu Almeida’s First Road Trip

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Three weeks old and on the road with his momma, Grandma, Ret and Linda. My mom and her friends have a goal to see the entire coastline of western Michigan. This year I joined them as they started just south of Muskegon. There is one rule, you can’t stop at a place the group has been before. This year they added one caveat “…unless the baby needs something.” Are they not the best?

One of our first shoreline stops was at Norman F. Kruse Park. It is so incredibly quaint. I instantly wanted to plan a return trip to picnic here. There is wheelchair access so you can bring a stroller right down to the beach. The beach is on the smaller side, but that just means the water is within a reasonable walking distance. It seemed like a little gem because almost no one was there and we had the whole beach to ourselves.

 

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We drove along past Beachwood Park next and this would have been a simply scenic experience if it hadn’t been for the surf board rental shop. The surf boards made for a cute pic so we stopped, but then out came the owner zany as ever…and I quote “I am 60, but I am not done.” I am quite certain we all laughed for a good half hour after meeting him.

 

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Just past Pere Marquette Park is the USS Silversides Submarine Museum. We only walked around the outside by the water, but there were two submarines you can look at and one you can go inside and look around. It was pretty neat. There were even a few torpedoes on display…Fierce really liked this stop 😉

 

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Muskegon State Park was up next on the map. We took a break at a picnic table on the beach. Fierce and I took the opportunity for a photo op, enjoyed the lake breeze and joined the ladies for our next stop at Duck Lake. Here, I jumped out of the car, took a picture and we were off again.

 

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Next up was Whitehall, MI. We decided to check out part of Michigan’s Lighthouse tour and stopped at the White River Light Station. I was surprised that it actually looked like a real house complete with a beautiful garden. After we walked around a bit, we went to Picadill’s for a waffle cone full of mint chocolate chip and Coffee Lover’s Dream ice cream. If you ever go here, make sure to take your order outside to the back gardens. The tables are surrounded by lush flower beds and it is worth seeing its beauty.

 

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My mom had to use the caveat to the rule when we got to Pentwater because she wanted to show me the cutest bookstore in the whole world. Storybook Village is ran by an adorable retired couple who love kids. They know everything there is to know about each children’s book in their store and tell you all about what makes each book you picked out special.  For a small fee, each day at a certain time, you can  drop off your kids for a couple of hours. When you come back your kids have read a book and put on a costume play based on what they read for all of the parents.

 

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The best of the sun hours were waning so we decided to go to Ludington as the next beach spot on the map before dinner.  The ladies all went in the water while I tended to Fierce. Then we went for a walk on the beach. Pretty soon we were all ready for dinner so we went to Lucciano’s Ristoranti. I had a delicious pizza and they all got an eggplant dish they are still raving about. It was certainly a delicious end to a great day!

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