Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I thought this photo deserved its own post...

It's that cute.

I love this boy so much.  He is a stubborn little guy who sometimes drives me crazy with his screaming (he is such a stinker about sleeping), but I love his spunk and his big blue eyes.  The other day, Ryan and I were sitting on the floor talking while Noah played nearby.  Noah suddenly walked up to us and planted a kiss right on my lips.  That was the first time he has ever given me a kiss without being prodded, and I don't know if I've ever been happier.

I love my roly-poly, giggly-gut, banshee-screamer.  I don't know what I would do without him.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Guest Post--Mesothelioma Cancer

I was recently contacted by a woman named Heather who was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a type of cancer that kills 90-95% of those who have it, when her first and only baby was only 3 1/2 months old.  Heather beat the odds, and she is happy, healthy, and thriving today, her daughter now 7 years old.  She is trying to turn her pain into purpose through her blog which offers hope to those who have been diagnosed with cancer and educates others about this preventable type of cancer which is caused by asbestos.  Heather asked me to share her story as a "guest post," and I am happy to do so.  Cancer has greatly impacted my life due to my mother's battle and death, and nothing gives me more joy than to see healthy mothers with their daughters!  Isn't this a beautiful photo?

My Mesothelioma Story
Heather Von St. James 

November 21, 2005 was one of the most shattering days of my entire life.  My doctor told me that I had a serious form of cancer that was called malignant pleural mesothelioma.  The cancer was a result of asbestos exposure more than 30-years ago.  I was exposed to asbestos when I was a young child, and my doctor told me that I only had 15-months to live unless I immediately began treatment.

On August 4, 2005, just a short time before my mesothelioma diagnosis, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who we named Lily.  Lily’s birth was one of the happiest days of my life.  After Lily’s birth, I was ecstatic, but I felt lethargic and listless.  I attributed the lack of energy to the baby blues and tried to go back to work.  The symptoms seemed to get worse, and I eventually decided to have a physical.  After numerous tests, my doctor told me the devastating news; I had mesothelioma cancer.

Our friends and family became a part of our village during my pregnancy, and their help was even more important as I began struggling with cancer.  I opted to seek treatment in Boston because I was informed that the city had some of the world’s best mesothelioma experts.  Lily went to live with my parents in South Dakota where I grew up.  The separation broke my heart, but I knew that Lily was in great hands.

On February 2, 2006, I had an extrapleural pneumonectomy.  The doctors removed part of my lung and the surrounding tissue.  I spend 18 days in the hospital recovering from the operation.  A mere two months later, I started chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  During my fight with mesothelioma, my village grew.  Our village began to include many of the families who were in Boston fighting cancer too.  We all supported each other because we knew what it meant to fight for our lives.

My parents and Lily had their own support system in South Dakota.  Many of the children whom I had babysat were grown and took turns watching my daughter.  My parents had full time jobs, and many of their friends took turns watching Lily during the day.  I cannot thank my village enough for the assistance that they offered to me, my husband, Lily and my parents.

My village provided me with strength, and I won the tough battle against mesothelioma.  I used to watch Lily’s growth through pictures, but now I spend time with her every day.  I truly value the time that we have together and realize just how fleeting it is. I will never take my life for granted again because I see just how it can change in seconds.

For more information about Heather's story, go to and watch a touching video about her story here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Piney Lake Hike near Vail, Colorado

When we were in Vail with my grandparents, a group of us went for a hike near Piney Lake.  It was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on in my life.  Now, I will admit that I haven't been on very many hikes in my life (until this summer, I wasn't really into it), but look at the photos, and I think you may agree with me (unless you are the Daytons, who have climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro, or my little sister, who has climbed the Inca Trail):

Can you believe that blue sky and those craggy mountains?
Heading into the wilderness...we are scared!
"The hills are alive with the sound of music..."
Father and son,
happy on the mountain
Proof that I was there too.
We made it!
So beautiful.
We hiked three miles up the mountain, through meadows, aspen, and pine.  We ended at a roaring river with some waterfalls, and then we hiked back.  So it was six miles round-trip, and it took us about 1 hour and 15 minutes each way.  (I am only including all of these specifics in case someone out there wants to try this hike sometime.  It's definitely worth doing if you are ever in the Vail area!)

Driving directions:  From I-70, take Exit 176 for Vail.  Take the North Frontage Road west to Red Sandstone Road.  Turn north there and follow the paved road about 0.7 miles to a fork with a dirt road on the left.  Take the dirt road on the left (Red Sandstone Road #700) and follow it for about 11 miles until it ends at Piney River Ranch on Piney Lake.  The drive from Vail to the lake is about 45 minutes, and it is beautiful and bumpy.  From the lake, the hiking trail leading into the mountains is very obvious.

I am going to miss summer and all of this hiking!  Maybe we will have to try snowshoeing in the winter!  (I have never snowshoed before, but there is a first time for everything, right?)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Grandparents' Day

Did you know that today is Grandparents' Day?  Don't worry, neither did I...that is, until I noticed it on our calendar as a national holiday.  (Thank goodness for those pre-printed holiday reminders.)  So I called my grandparents and invited them over for dinner.  They didn't know it was Grandparents' Day either, but they were delighted to join us for a feast in their honor.

Grandma is holding the ginormous stuffed dog that they gave Noah for Christmas.  It is as big as her!
Noah loves burying his face in it, and Grammy often gets down on the ground with him and does it too. :)
We spent last weekend with my grandparents in Vail, Colorado.  They have a time-share there, and my whole family joined them for the holiday weekend.  These pictures capture why I love these two old people so much:

*We went to the Farmers' Market, and it started to rain a little.  Granny didn't want to get her perm wet, so she wore a plastic grocery sack from one of the vendors on her head.  So stinkin' cute.

*Grampy is always up for fun with his great grandkids.  At 83 years old, he's not afraid of the teeter-totter!

Or of holding a sweet baby girl...

They are the best.  We are so lucky to have them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sunsets and Savoring

I was thinking tonight, as I watched Noah and Ryan playing at the edge of Cherry Creek Reservoir with the sun setting behind them, that this is such a special time in our lives.  This is the only time that we will have one baby—just one to admire, adore, and worry over.  He is our whole world.  We have long conversations about his needs: How can we help him sleep better?  How can we get him to eat more vegetables?  How can we teach him to be reverent in church?  He is at such a fun age right now--still a baby but almost a boy--and we marvel at every new word he says, every new milestone he reaches.  We laugh at his gibberish speech, his facial expressions, even his dramatic tantrums.  We talk about how he is the cutest, smartest, funniest baby in the world (and he is, right?).  It’s all just so new and novel to us.  It’s such a special, even sacred time when we are learning to be parents and experiencing all of the “firsts” of parenthood together.

When we got home from the reservoir, we wanted to get him to bed as quickly as possible, so we double-teamed the bedtime routine. We worked together to wash his face, change his diaper, put on his pjs, and brush his teeth, all while cooing over him, talking to him, and kissing him.  He was grinning up at us with a look of total contentment, lapping up all of the attention from both of his parents. And I thought again how much I am loving this time in our lives—a time when Ryan and I are able to put our baby to bed together. 

In a few years, I hope we will have a house full of children—I hope our home is loud and chaotic and bustling at bedtime—but for right now, I am savoring the sweet, still moments that Ryan and I are able to share with our precious little boy—and thanking God that he is ours.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just Peachy

My father has an odd fascination with peaches.  They are his favorite fruit, and during peach season, he becomes a little strangely obsessed with them.  Not just any peach will do--he wants fresh-picked peaches from the orchards in Palisade, Colorado, and he buys them by the boxful.  We are talking 25-pound boxes, and he burns through one in a week (with a little help from his sons-in-law and daughters).  He has been known to get home late from work and eat three or four peaches for dinner.

He talks about peaches all the time ("Girls, have you tried peaches with vanilla Greek yogurt?  I swear it tastes just like dessert!" I have heard him say this about 50 times this summer), and he's even been known to talk to them.  The other night, he was lovingly gazing into his box of fresh Palisade peaches, touching each one to see if they were ripe, and saying, in a mock Gollum voice from Lord of the Rings, "These peaches are very precious to me.  I think I will save you for my breakfast in the morning." Hilarious.

When we were little girls, my dad played a game with us called "Rotten Peach."  He would come to tuck us into bed at night, and he would pretend we were peaches and start gnawing on our arms.  Then he would shout, "This peach is rotten!!" and dramatically pretend to spit us out.  We would be giggling uncontrollably at this point, and he would yell, "Put this peach down the garbage disposal!" and pick us up out of bed, toss us on the floor, and start spinning our bodies around in wild circles.

It was the best game ever.  (And I'm sure Mom really appreciated the way that he "calmed us down" before bed.)

Apparently my dad's love of peaches is hereditary because when Ryan and I recently took a trip to Grand Junction, Colorado, both my dad and my grandpa insisted that we buy them a 25-pound box of peaches from the roadside stands there.

Noah had a great time picking out the peaches for his Bapa and his Grampy:

"These are perfect.  I'll take 50-pounds, please."

Just because our son is adopted doesn't mean he isn't going to inherit this Westover love of peaches from his great grandpa and grandpa.  Nurture is just as powerful as nature, and Bapa has been sure to feed his grandson plenty of peaches this summer.  Noah loves them.  In fact, at the Palisade Peach Festival, Noah walked around the fair with an entire peach jammed in his mouth and plenty of juice running down his chubby cheeks and hands.  It was quite a darling sight to behold:

We are so glad we got to spend a weekend in Grand Junction with Ryan's brothers and their wives, and not just for the delicious peaches.  Those Nielsons are the best company!  We just wish the rest of the family could've joined us.  Grand Junction is almost exactly four hours from Provo (where Ryan's brothers live) and four hours from Denver (where we live), so we decided to meet there for the weekend.  My aunt and uncle were kind enough to let us stay at their house and swim in their pool, so it was just a perfect weekend of relaxing, swimming, hiking, talking, and of course, peach-eating.  I think we should make it an annual tradition.

All in all, it's been a peachy summer, and we are excited for September with its changing leaves and cooler weather.  I don't know if Dad will be able to survive until next year's peach season...but I guess he will have to try.

Monday, September 3, 2012

August Happenings

Noah is as cute as ever.  He has so much personality.  This past month, he started saying "Wow!" and "Whoa!"  We love it.  Sometimes he says it at just the perfect moment, and it is hilarious.  He has started giving kisses, but he is quite stingy about it.  Most of the time, he will straight-up diss me and turn his face when I ask for a kiss, but every once in a while, I get lucky.  

He has been enjoying the stuffed dog that Grandma brought him for his birthday...

He's also been enjoying tearing the apartment apart when I leave him unsupervised for five minutes while I write a blog post (hence my lack of blogging this past month)...

But the thing he's been enjoying most of all is hiking.  We've been on a hike every weekend this past month, and Noah loves being in the backpack with his dad.  (I am grateful that Ryan is buff because I could not lug an extra 25 pounds up the hill--I barely make it as it is.)  The Colorado mountains are insanely beautiful, and we have really loved hiking as a family this summer.  I hope we keep it up in future years!

So happy
Who's that peeking out from behind Daddy's back?
St. Mary's Glacier
He's getting tired, but he never falls asleep in the pack
Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction
Aunt Alli took a turn hauling the Chunker
(more on our trip to see Ryan's brothers and their wives in another post)
Awesome shades, dude
Ryan likes to style his hair in a wild mohawk whenever we hike
Devil's Head Trail and Lookout Tower
And on a sad note, our Aunt Laura is leaving us tomorrow. :(  We have had such a fun summer with her being in Denver, and we are going to miss her!  She is moving to Gulf Port, Mississippi (yes, Mississippi) with her Navy husband, who is returning from Afghanistan sometime in the next week or so.  We are sad she is leaving but happy that Sam is almost home, safe and sound!

Early-morning walk in Roxborough State Park with Aunt Laura
We will miss her!