Monday, September 11, 2017

In Loving Memory

On Sunday September 3rd my father in law, Joe Sr. passed away after a 6 month battle with small cell lung cancer.  I never really mentioned that he had been diagnosed because it was just something that was almost too hard to even believe.  Now that he is gone it still just seems surreal that we will never get to see him again.  It's been a very tough few weeks, but things are finally beginning to settle.  

So a little backstory for you guys, Joe had been feeling a lot of back pain since late last fall.  He had initially started seeing the chiropractor who adjusted him for a few weeks, but when he wasn't improving, the chiropractor told him he should go see his regular doctor for some blood work.  That blood work came back showing elevated white blood cells so CAT & PET scans were ordered which revealed a spot on his lung.  This was right around his 61st birthday and right at the end of February.  After the spot was found a biopsy was scheduled but during Joe's birthday weekend he was having a really tough time breathing so his doctor suggested heading to St. Francis in Peoria to the emergency room in hopes that they could get him feeling better & maybe expedite the process of having the biopsy done.  Joe went into the hospital the day before I went into labor with Georgia.

It was roughly a week later they found out the diagnosis, 5 days after Georgia was born they FaceTimed us from St. Francis to tell us that Joe had been diagnosed with small-cell lung & bone cancer.  It was so hard to hear, but we were glad that they were going to be aggressive with treatment and had planned to start radiation and chemo soon.  With an unplanned blood infection caused by hospital staff during an IV placement, his treatment was somewhat delayed but they eventually got him started and the radiation helped.  

I was lucky that in the early days of his diagnosis I was on maternity leave so I got to spend a lot of time with him, as did Joe.  Once we heard what his actual diagnosis was, Joe decided to get laid off for 3 weeks so he got to spend those 3 weeks at home with Georgia and I and he got to spend some good time with his dad.  

Over the course of the next several months Joe endured chemo and I had never seen someone handle it as well as he did.  He did lose his hair and it did give him fatigue, but he never got sick from it and was able to have all the rounds that they had anticipated.  He got to walk his youngest daughter down the aisle in June and he seemed to be doing pretty well, all things considered.  

His next treatment type was immunotherapy which they started towards the end of summer.  You could visibly tell that Joe was in pain, and it was so tough to watch him, but he continued his fight and did whatever he was told by the doctors to do.  The plan was 6 rounds of immunotherapy, but they only got through 2 before they were told that there was nothing more that could be done for him.  On August 22nd Joe's parents sat us all down and told us that this news.  They said we had about 2-4 more months with him and that we might be called to help at any given time.  Little did we know that less than 2 weeks later Joe would pass away quietly at home surrounded by all of his family.  

Seeing how aggressive cancer can be was absolutely heartbreaking to watch.  You never think that it's going to affect your family, even though you hear so much about it and hear of so many that seem to have some form of it these days.  When we got the news I couldn't believe it and I felt so terrible for Joe and his other siblings that they would have to watch their dad go through this.  The Ridley's are probably the closest family I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Although it was hard to see them all hurting, it was amazing to watch them all be supportive of each other and their mom through Joe's entire illness.  

Joe leaves behind an amazing wife, Linda, a women I could only dream to be as strong as.  I seriously do not know if I could handle a situation like this with as much grace and strength as she has.  He also leaves behind 5 children, Melissa, Joe, Jon, Logan, and Delaney.  All of the kids are now married but he will be missing out on the lives of his current grandchildren and the grandchildren to come.  We will be sure to keep his story and spirit alive by telling them stories of what an amazing man their grandpa was.  

I could go on for days about the type of man that Joe was and the memories that I have of him over the last 10 years of being a part of this family.  I know that the memories that I have don't compare to the lifetime of memories that his kids and wife and mother & siblings have, but what I do know that I think everyone can agree on is that Joe will be truly missed every day.  His warm smile, soft voice, and eagerness to always help others are qualities that I think many people admired about Joe.  I know his sons feel like they've got some big shoes to fill, but what they probably don't realize is that they are all already like him in so many ways.  His daughters will miss their daddy and I hope one day that Georgia has the relationship with Joe that Melissa and Delaney had with Joe Sr.  

I have now seen first hand how hard your fight can be, and I watched someone endure the pain and the heartache of knowing their life was ending but still continued to fight to beat the disease.   His strength and determination through the entire process was admirable.  Although he did not win this fight we are relieved that he is no longer suffering.  He will be truly missed.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Georiga June - 6 Months

I remember when I was in the two week wait to find out if our first DE cycle worked, it by far, felt like the longest TWW I had ever been through because this one just HAD to work.  This one was different in so many ways and after 6 previous failed cycles it was very hard to feel hopeful that the outcome would be any different than any others.  When those 11 agonizing days were finally over and I found out I was pregnant, I couldn't believe it.  It was one of the best days of my life.  In the throes of infertility, time went SO SLOW and I always felt like we were waiting on something, waiting for a period, waiting for results, waiting for appointments, waiting for months to pass to start a cycle; and now here I am wishing that time would feel as slow as it did in those days. 

Today, I get to say that I have a 6 month old baby.  Half of a YEAR has passed since her birth, which to me feels like it was just a few weeks ago.  What they say is true, you blink and the time has just passed.  Luke Bryan has it right, sixty seconds now feels more like thirty, tick-tock, won't stop, around it goes, sand through the glass sure falls in hurry, all you keep trying to do is slow it down, soak it in, keep trying to make the good times last as long as you can, but you can't, it just goes too fast.  Maybe those sentiments seem a little dramatic or emotional for a baby who is only 6 months old but for some reason, her half birthday is hitting me like my 25th, hard!  And don't ask why it was my 25th of all birthdays I had such a hard time with, and to make matters worse my mom got me an "Over the Hill" balloon.

Ok so enough about time going too fast and me being overly emotional about my baby.  Let's get on with the fun part—all about Georgia!  This little wildflower is exactly that, she's happy and free, she loves to chat up a storm and is so unbelievably curious about everything these days.  Every day I think of the movie Elf because the quote "smiling is my favorite" is what always pops in my head when I look at her.  She seriously smiles at everyone and everything.  She's the happiest baby on the block most of the time. 

Although she is such a cheerful little darling, she also has FOMO (fear of missing out) bad like so many other girls I know, and this one is no different.  If anything of slight interest is going on around her, she has to be awake and participating and included.  She'll be rubbing her eyes and whining up a storm, but she will be damned if she is going to take a nap while any hoopla is going on while she is there.  She's a social butterfly and I think it has a lot to do with us bringing us her pretty much everywhere with us. 

As far as official stats, I don't have those yet because her doctor's appointment isn't until next Tuesday but I'm guessing she is roughly 16 pounds and probably 25-26" long.   She's a long thing and has a big head!  She doesn’t sleep through the night, I only get that luxury once in a blue moon, but I don't mind.  She wakes up 1 or 2 times to nurse still, this girl loves to eat.  We still have her in her bassinet but are transitioning her to a Pack & Play next.  She is still nursing/eating every 2-2.5 hours and we have just recently started her on some purees.  She is also sitting pretty well unassisted so we will be starting Baby Led Weaning soon which I cannot wait for.  So far she has had peas, sweet potatoes, and squash purees as well as beef broth.  She has also had some chunks of melon, peach, and orange. 

Movement-wise she can roll from tummy to back really well.  She's still working on back to tummy, that arm is still a challenge for her.  She can sit unassisted pretty well & LOVES to stand.  She prefers standing to anything, I swear this girl is going to just skip crawling all together.  Her new favorite thing is to grab at faces and hair, especially beards.  She also is obsessed with the dog and cat.  She watches every move they make and she loves to pet them and our cat, who does not give AF, seems to be tolerating her really well which is good. 

Georgia also loves bath time, her activity gym, and exersaucer, diaper changes, looking in the mirror, rolling around on her floor, playing with books, putting her own pacifier in her mouth, screaming, and blowing raspberries.  She dislikes when she is hungry and being left out.  That's about it!  She is seriously an absolute joy to be around and can light up a room and put a smile on the face of anyone she comes into contact with. 

Being her mama has been so rewarding and I love every second that I get to spend with her.  I miss her all day long at work and I cannot wait to see her at the end of my day.  Being a working mom, the days and times that I do have to be with her are even more precious and I try to soak up every second that I can with her which is why we love to take her with us wherever we go!  For Labor Day weekend Joe and I are taking her to St. Louis with us and staying overnight and going to the zoo.  I've been dying to take her to the zoo and I've heard amazing things about the STL zoo, and bonus, it's FREE.  I cannot wait. 

Happiest of half-birthdays to my little peach.  You prove to us time and time again, every single day that our journey to you was worth it all.  We love you!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Homemade Baby Food & Introducing Solids

Since birth Georgia has been exclusively breast fed, she hadn't had anything but breast milk up until a couple weeks ago when I thought it might be time to start introducing some actual food into her life.  I knew that I was going to skip rice cereal and move right into purees and eventually baby-led weaning (BLW) so that's exactly what we did!  I know there are some different opinions out there about when to start introducing solids, but I felt like since we were almost to the 6 month mark it was a good time to start.

I reached out on Insta stories to see what my followers had the most success with, what they started with, and how they did it, homemade or store bought.  I knew I wanted to try homemade at first, especially since she is still getting the majority of her meals from breast milk.  After lots and lots of responses and suggestions I decided to start with peas. 

I bought Target Market Pantry frozen peas for .97, you steam them directly in the bag so I did that, pureed them in my food processor and added about 3oz of breast milk to get them the consistency I wanted.  Without some liquid, they would've been a little too thick & pasty.  3oz seemed to be perfect and we let her try them.  She was pretty uncertain at first but has really taken to them, opening her mouth now for us and even helping with the spoon!  It's the cutest thing, also very messy.  One thing I can say is do not go out and buy an expensive baby food system, you can use a simple and cheap food processor  and it does the exact same thing and is much cheaper!

We also did sweet potatoes and butternut squash, both of which have been a hit.  I bought 1 medium sweet potato, poked holes in it, set it on a baking sheet and baked it for about 45 minutes at 350°.  You can also steam or boil potatoes but baking them holds the most nutrients.  With both the peas and the sweet potatoes I used the "Milkies" milk tray to freeze the purees.  I did it with this tray because I know each stick is equal to 1oz which equals out to 2tbsp. of food which is what is recommended for them per day in these early days.  So far everything has went well and we are kind of just experimenting to see what works.  I added a few ounces of breast milk to the sweet potatoes as well to make it the consistency that I desired.

For the squash, I bought the smallest one I could find because I wasn't sure how much it would make and if she'd like it.  I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and then placed cut side down in a glass microwave safe dish with about a quarter inch of water in it, I cooked it for about 6 minutes (or until the skin is soft) then scooped out the insides and also froze it in the Milkies tray.  I got about 8oz of food from the small squash and it didn't end up needing any breast milk added, I just added a little bit of the water I had cooked it in to get it a bit thinner.  

Another important food that we incorporated is beef broth.  I found this article from Mama Natural all about the importance of introducing beef product, broth & pureed red meat, in the early days so that is also something we are doing.  My mom had tons of soup bones from our side of beef we bought this spring so she went ahead and made it following Mama Natural's recipe, but she only boiled it for 8 hours instead of 24 – 8 was plenty.  She did soak the meat in water with vinegar which is said to bring out the nutrients.  She then froze it in an icecube tray which measures out to about 1oz servings.  Right now we give her 1oz of this a day in a TomeeTipee sippy cup with a nipple on it.  She's really loving the broth.  We also cooked & pureed some ground beef and froze it but haven't introduced that to her yet.

So far making baby food at home has been relatively quick and easy.  It's been fun to watch her and I can't wait to continue introducing foods to her.  I'd really like to use BLW technique soon, I know purees are really not necessary if going the full BLW route, but I just felt like puree was where I was comfortable starting.  There are a few things that baby needs to be doing before you can start BLW and we just now reaching those milestones!  Stay tuned for more about the next part of introducing solids!
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