Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A very Merry Christmas!

We had one. Hope you did too. We got to go to Naples to visit the Casales for a few days and Sue was there too. It was the first time all of us were together for Christmas and we had a great time. Julia loves being with her cousins, and her aunties, and of course, Uncle Frank. And Bailey the dog.

Santa brought Julia the Minnie Mouse pajamas she asked for and a dollhouse too. I think I may have more fun playing with that than she will.

But now it's scan week, so of course we're on edge. We probably won't hear anything until Monday at the earliest because of the holiday. We're sort of preparing ourselves for the fact that Mike might have to go back on chemo. But of course, we're hoping and praying for the best.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Please don't let me forget

I want to etch these little things in my memory forever. The little moments of our lives I cherish so much.

Like how every Monday is grocery day in the Cherry house and Julia and I head to Walmart where we always make a stop at the fish tank. I pick out a random goldfish and tell her it's Dorothy (she of Elmo's World fame) and we say hello to her before going on our merry way.

Not too long ago, I happened to be home when Mike was on bath duty, and I saw him brushing Julia's hair while she sat on his lap. I just stood there watching through the door, their backs to me, thinking it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Every night when I tuck Julia into bed, I tell all her animals goodnight -- Olivia (the famed pig), Minnie (the famed mouse) and Ella (the most famous of all) -- and then I tell Julia "I love you right up to the moon." And she finishes -- "and back" -- from one of our favorite books, "Guess How Much I Love You." Also every night, she says this little prayer: Dear God, thank you for mama, dada, nana, Aunt Lisa, Uncle Frank, Madison and Nick, Aunt Soup, Uncle John and Johnny. Please watch over us through the night and keep us safe. Amen.

Julia's version of helping me in the kitchen is her standing on a dining room chair and rifling through the utensil drawer. She's pretty good at naming all of them -- even the hard ones like the potato masher and the turkey baster. Sometimes she waves a wooden spoon at me and makes a wizard-like swooshing sound and puts me to sleep. Then she squeals with delight, saying "wake up, mama" and I pretend to wake up. It's not much help with dinner, but the company is nice.

She's got a funny way of asking for things. I think it's because she hears us ask her. Whatever it is, it's funny. For example, the other day she said "Mama, do I want some Ritz crackers?" I don't know, baby. Do you? And she says Yes. My favorite is, "Mama, do I want you to tickle me?"

I just taught Julia a whole bunch of Christmas songs, but she really only wanted to sing them in the bath tub. She's an odd little bird. So every night, we would sing Rudolph, Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Winter Wonderland. In that order.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Scary Santa

Remember this classic Christmas picture? Well, it didn't get much better two years later. Hahaha. In fact, Santa's not even in the picture this time around. He's waaaay off to the left. In Julia's defense, she did march right up to him and tell him she wanted some Minnie Mouse pajamas and wished him a Merry Christmas, but the tears came at the mere mention of sitting on his lap. And really, he was just some employee at Florida Today, so who could blame her.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I probably shouldn't have included the pictures of all us wearing our Marshall shirts, considering how the Herd came to Central Florida and made fools of themselves and cost me a bottle of wine in a bet. And of course, the only picture of Thanksgiving is the one of me cooking. Didn't take a single shot of my pretty table or our friends and family. Grrr....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Even more to be thankful for

We saw Dr. Neel yesterday, for the first time in two months, and he used words like "excellent" and "miracles" and "I think you look great." The lump in Mike's neck appears to be stable and it's a good marker for what's going on in the rest of the body. "There's no sign of worsening," were his exact words.

We'll find out for sure after the holidays when Mike goes in for some more scans. He hasn't had one since August. In the meantime, he'll continue with Avastin every other week.

I think Dr. Neel is impressed by the fact that Mike maintains a normal energy level, goes to work every day and chases a 3-year-old. Mike asked him if it was unexpected, that at this point, things are going well. And I guess considering the statistics with this kind of cancer, it is. He told us that we can call it "the grace of God, luck or whatever we want" but he sees miracles in his practice all the time.

I choose to call it the grace of God because so many of you have been praying for Mike and we honestly feel that and are so grateful. I pray all the time too. I pray that Mike stays strong and gets to see his girl grow up.

Obviously, this doesn't mean we are out of the woods. Our miracle isn't that Mike will be cured. Our miracle is that he is here and he is well. There's always the thought hanging over our heads that we won't be able to keep this cancer at bay forever, but right now we are trying to enjoy the blessing that we have been given.

(Like the pics? I LOVE them. Thanks to our friend Andrew and his fancy camera... )

Monday, November 23, 2009

So thankful

I have so much to be thankful for this year -- family, friends, the opportunity to go back to school, having a job in this tough economy, a roof over our heads, food on our table and of course my sweet, beautiful, smart, healthy baby girl.

But most of all this year, I'm thankful for Mike. He is so strong, and there are days when his strength amazes and humbles me. He has an incurable cancer and he is living with it better than I live with a cold. He goes to work every day, even when he doesn't feel like it. He's determined to live his life normally and provide for his family. He's determined to be here for me and for Julia. He's determined for us to have a normal life.

One of the first things that went through my mind when I heard his diagnosis last April and learned that the survival rate for this cancer was in months, was that he wouldn't be here for the holidays. I don't know why my mind went to that, but it did. And here it is a year and a half later, and we're celebrating holidays No. 2. I can't begin to describe how blessed and grateful I feel for that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Only two more!

I can't believe I've kept up with my little collages. I rarely stick to anything. But I thought it would be fun at the end of the year to put them all together to see what we did and how much Julia has changed.

October is a great month around here. We've got Julia's birthday, pumpkin patches and Halloween. I think it might be my favorite.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My mini Minnie

My sweet Minnie. This is the first year she was actually into Halloween. Last year, she got pulled around in a wagon and refused to go to any houses. This year, she said "Trick or Treat" and "thank you" and collected her candy (which she refuses to eat... )

We went to Boo at the Zoo with her sweetie, Landon, a mailman.

And she went Trick or Treating with her sweetie Jake, also known as Mickey. We had to use Tony to try to get these two mice to stand next to each other for one picture.

And Hannah Montana was there too.

It was a fun fun time. So cute to see Julia all dressed up and into the holiday. I think the fact we watched the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown 40 times beforehand helped.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Dang! September was a busy and exciting month! We got serious about potty training, Aunt Soup came to visit, Julia started eating chocolate chip cookies and she got a pink big girl room! A lot going on!

Coming soon: Halloween pics! I promise to get them up before Thanksgiving. My girl was THE cutest Minnie Mouse ever...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy birthday ... to me!

Our sweet girl turned three, so of course, a Minnie Mouse party was in order...
And our friend Andrew, who is an awesome photographer in his spare time, brought his camera and gave me a CD full of fabulous pictures capturing our day. I LOVE THEM! They make my heart so happy.

So here some are, for you to enjoy too!

Despite many practices in the days leading up to the party, Julia was not thrilled with us singing Happy Birthday to her. Here, you can see the look of apprehension on her face.

And here, you can see the tears. Maybe she didn't like our singing...

Opening presents. This girl was spoiled rotten!


Love this pic of Julia and Mad. She's giving her a kiss on the cheek, but it looks like she's telling her a secret.

Julia and Kristen. Note the big girl bed. Yep, we finally got rid of the crib. Sigh...

Cara and Anja

I love this funny silly little person.

Jake, and the Minnie balloon.

Thanks Andrew!

Friday, October 16, 2009


*makes us laugh until our cheeks hurt.

*loves Olivia books, Charlie Brown and duckies.

*is partial to the purple crayon.

*just recently started eating chocolate chip cookies.

*says please, thank you, bless you and excuse me -- most of the time.

*fills our home with sheer joy.

*can make a ton of animal noises, including roosters, turkeys, snakes and bees.

*loves to jump on the bed.

*is incredibly smart.

*still takes a nap every day.

*couldn't live without her Ella.

*knows her noodles (and will only eat Barilla-plus rotini).

*makes me want to be a better person.

*is THREE years old today!

I still pinch myself every day that she is really mine, that God blessed us with this most perfect little human and has given us so much love and joy. I really don't know what we did to deserve it, but I pray every night that God will help me to do right by her, to be a good mother and raise her to be a good person. My heart bursts every time I look at this sweet little girl.

Some pics of her very first week on earth:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mike update

In all the excitement of Julia's new room, I forgot to mention that we saw Dr. Neel this week. It was the first time in two months. The good news is, we don't have to see him again until December.
He seemed really pleased with the way things are going.

The lump in Mike's neck appears stable. I think his exact words were "it looks really good." So the plan is just to continue with what we're doing, which is Avastin every other week. Mike's blood counts are back up too, so he won't have to get a shot for that every other week anymore.

So, all of this is good, we think.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009



So this is what Julia's room looked like for the first three years of her life: Yellow, green and blue moons and stars. Why? Because someone in this family -- I won't mention names -- didn't want to find out if we were having a boy or girl. So the room is cute, but certainly not girly.

Until NOW:

It's a pink explosion for sure, but Julia has a room to match her fun silly little personality. Pink and green with birds and cupcakes and tissue paper pompoms and a space for a tea party! Very girly, indeed.

Maybe too much so... I'm beginning to worry it's too Pepto-Bismolish. What do you think? We'll be moving her to a toddler bed next week, and the quilt has lots of green in it, so maybe that will tone things down a bit...

Anyway, while it was fun to create a girly space for her, it also broke my heart. No more baby. I put away the mobile and the crib bumpers and all the "nursery" stuff and just wanted to cry because I won't ever have that again. And because I still remember like yesterday putting all that stuff up, getting ready to meet the new little person who would join our family, wondering what he/she would be like. Of course, I got more with Julia than I could ever imagine. But I wish she could just stay little forever.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Check it out!

I've fallen behind on my blogging. But for good reason. In addition to work and now school, we've been busy with this:

YES! Potty training! And as you can see, it's going well ... for the most part. It cracks me up because we've had this chart since February. And you might notice a lone sticker on the bottom row. It's been there since March 6. The others were just added this week.

Really, Julia's doing well. I think the problem has been us. We haven't really been consistent. We'd try her in underwear for one day, then she'd pee on the floor, and we'd throw up our hands and say she wasn't ready. We weren't ready. But I really didn't want to change the diaper of a 3-year-old. So hopefully, in the next month, we'll really get the hang of things.

And don't worry, we'll be getting the carpets cleaned here in just a few weeks!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Photo frenzy

I'm playing catch up with my photos before things really start getting hectic around here. Why, you ask. Because I'm going to grad school, people. (See the cute pens and notebooks? I LOVE school supplies!) I decided I didn't have enough on my plate with a full-time job, a toddler and a husband, who happens to have cancer...

Seriously though, I'm taking a full graduate course load in elementary education at the University of Central Florida. Two of them are online, so I only have to go to campus once a week. And man, on the first day of class, being surrounded by all those young co-eds sure made me feel like a granny.

I had to rearrange my work schedule a bit, and give up my Sundays off -- my only day off with my family -- to make it work. That is going to kill me, I know. But hopefully at the end of the semester, I can switch back. I was hoping to cut my hours at work, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen.

But this is something I really have to do. I've been miserable in my job for the past four years. It's starting to get to the point where I don't even recognize myself anymore. I kick myself for letting it go on so long, but sometimes, life is just happening all around you and there's no time to stop and think about it. It's not that I don't still love journalism, it's that I don't like the environment I'm in right now, and I especially don't like working nights, weekends and holidays. It's really hard to do that and be a mom.

So I decided to stop complaining and start doing. And here we are. Hopefully, I can wrap up my degree in two or two-and-a-half years, so that when I can be on the same schedule as Julia when she goes off to school. Wish us luck!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More good news

Mike had scans last week and after an excruciating wait, we finally got the phone call from the doctor. Things look good!! The lump in his neck shrunk from 3.2 cm to 2 cm and the largest spot in his chest shrunk from 3.2 cm to 2.7 cm. I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds significant to me.

There's a spot on Mike's liver that his doctor has been monitoring. He says it's tiny. But it grew 3 mm. Dr. Neel says it's not a major concern in the grand scheme of things. In fact, the liver was not scanned back in June when Mike started back to treatment. He only has April scans for comparison and in that time, things got worse, then got better. So it may have actually been bigger. If that makes any sense.

We're not too crazy to hear about any spots getting bigger, but overall, the picture looks good. Mike is continuing with a half-hour treatment of Avastin every other week, and is handling it pretty well. We see Dr. Neel at the end of September and plan to talk to him more about the situation in the liver. But the way it was explained before is that the primary cancer (as close as they can tell) is that in the neck and chest and that would have to grow before it grows in other places.

Anyway, I've been saying thank you to God for whatever bit of good news we can get. And thank you for all of your prayers.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baby bumps

My friend KrisWiseMaramba (all one word, just like that) has gone and gotten herself knocked up. Finally. I couldn't be happier for her and Philip. Or for me, because it meant getting rid of those old maternity clothes once and for all!

So Philip posted a super cute picture of Kris' tiny baby bump, while she was wearing one of the dresses I sent.

That was my favorite maternity outfit, and toward the end, the only one that would fit me. I wore it every other day. But as my due date approached, I could no longer wear cute strappy heels with it because my feet and ankles had tripled in size. I wore ballet slippers. To work.

Anyway, Kris and I have been friends for years. We are so much alike it is scary. We are both only children, which we think make us superior beings. And we are also serious smart asses. Neither of us really like people. Which is why we like each other. So it cracked me up when I found this photo Mike took of me, wearing the same dress, standing in the same pose. Only I was much much much further along than she.

So rest assured KrisWiseMaramba, that dress has plenty of stretch!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Giving props to preps

(Photo by Craig Rubadoux, FLORIDA TODAY)

Check out my super cute sportswriter husband! And his co-worker Brian (who isn't too bad himself). Mike may kill me for posting this but the editor of our newspaper wrote a column about this super preps duo on the eve of the super-busy football season. Check it out here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happy, happy

These pictures make my heart happy. How cute is my girl?
I just want to eat her up.

These pictures were taken by my co-worker and friend Andrew, who happens to be a really good photographer. Check him out. He mostly shoots cool storm photos and shuttle launches and Florida wildlife and the like. I tried to convince him that if he really wants street cred, he needed to shoot a toddler. And he took me up on it! The plan was to get photos outside, but of course, it was gray and stormy. I think Julia charmed him though, because he's going to come back on a sunny day and take some more pics...

(I'm choosing not to publish the photo of Julia with her finger up her nose, but it does exist, and I will keep it for blackmail purposes in the teen years.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh yeah, cancer

It seems like a long time since I've written about Mike. I guess that's because things have just gotten kind of normal for us. A new normal where we spend hours every week in a chemo room...

Yesterday, we saw Dr. Neel, and Mike started his fourth round of chemo. This is one more round than he had the first time he did this chemo (before the big break, that lasted a couple weeks...) He's able to go this fourth round because his blood pressure is now under control. So he's been feeling pretty good, a few stomach issues here and there and some fatigue, but OK for the most part. He still takes walks with Julia, still comes to work every day, even chemo days.

So, he'll have new scans in three weeks to see where things stand. It's pretty obvious the lump in his neck is smaller. Then the plan is to continue with just one of the drugs, Avastin. I think I've written about this one before. It's the one that's not really a chemo, but it can halt tumor growth by blocking the growth of new blood vessels. I think of it sort of as a maintenance drug. He will have this every two weeks, and the good thing is that it only takes about half an hour. Which is a plus for me, since I want to spend as little time in the chemo room as possible after one of the nurses yesterday saw a picture of Julia and asked if she was my grandbaby!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2-year blogiversary!

I think I made that word up, but whatever. It was two years ago Thursday that I started this little blog so Julia's aunts and our friends back home could see pictures of our sweet girl. Now, it's mostly a way to keep everyone up-to-date on Mike (with lots of pictures of our sweet girl thrown in...).

But check this out. Here is the first picture I posted of Julia back on July 16, 2007. It was taken the month before, when she was 7 months old. Look at those chubby little cheeks and chubby little arms! Her eyes were still blue, for goodness sakes! She had just started crawling and I think the only word she was saying was dada.

And here she is this week, a walking, tallking little person, whose likes to say the word "boobies" and can spell her name and read a host of Dr. Suess books.

Where did my baby go? How did this happen? And can someone tell me how to make it stop?
(A side note about this photo. We took Julia to the fountains in Cocoa Village this week to play with two of her little friends. From the photo, you would never know that she screamed and cried and wouldn't get anywhere near the water...)

And one last picture, this one for the aunties. Julia and her cousins Nick and Madison this weekend at UCF. And no, Julia didn't give Nick the black eye! It was a basketball injury. By the way, Lisa, how can it be that your baby is turning 17 next week? You must be feeling just like I am!