Sunday, September 17, 2017

We have history...

DCIS and I have history.

We all have someone or something in our history we would like to forget. Sometimes it is a person we spent too much time with; an action we didn’t really intend; or just a straight up bad life choice - either way, on first glance every one of us can think of that thing within seconds. Nevertheless, I think there is a lot of power in living life without regrets and we should find ways to empower ourselves to look on these events as learning opportunities. Hoping and wishing can lead to a life unfulfilled.

On the flip side, history can be doomed to repeat itself no matter how hard you try to avoid or circumvent an issue.

This week, only a short 28 months from my original diagnosis, I have confirmed that my Ductal Carcinoma (in Situ) has come back. At this particular moment, I have no other information about what this really means. I can base some decisions on my previous experience, except this time it is different. This time I am fraught with anxiety and it is physically affecting me. There is a line that it feels like I am crossing between my logical brain and my reptilian brain. Through my research, my logical mind and I reviewed a lot of statistics. At face value  - we just manage this very early stage cancer with the standard practices of removing the lumps and perhaps radiating the area. Easy breezy right?

My reptilian brain has taken the upper hand though and is filling me with dread, anxiety and low levels of panic. My heart pounds, my chest gets tight, and my mind is completely consumed with the thought of “what if”. It is wildly unnerving for a person who has never officially experienced any kind of mental health issues. No matter how I try to redirect myself, the feelings sets back in without knocking or giving any warning - and I hate it. Now, not only am I dealing with that thing I did not want to revisit from my history, but it has brought a jackass of a friend named Anxiety.

I do not mean to imply I have had some perfect track record of sanity or anything- everyone has a story. However, I do mean to imply that I like having my shit together, and with the onset of this discovery, I am even more thankful I have managed almost 40 years of fairly stable mental status. My husband I have laughed about the “bloody corpse” moments of my past; however, those events were always very acute and in the moment unlike this current looming feeling of dread.

In the meantime, I am 9 days away from seeing the doctor who should reveal the decisions that need to be made. At this point in time, I feel like I would like all other life decisions to be removed from my plate. I do not care what my kids wear to school, as long as they make a decision. I do not care what I make for supper, as long as someone told me what to make. I do not care when we have that meeting at work, as long as someone tells me to just book it.

Just as I had a “clinical” presentation of DCIS, so too do I have a “clinical” presentation of Anxiety. Both of them suck for entirely different reasons (but also the same reasons). They are screwing with my regularly scheduled life program. Spontaneity has never been high on my life skills. I am a planner and I like routine. When things disrupt your life plans and screw with your everyday - it is jarring. For those who know me well, my natural way of being includes a lot of optimism and now I just feel out of my element.

In fact, this entire article (besides being an exercise in journaling my feelings) was intended to be rife with my usual good humour. I pride myself on my easy going nature and my ability to take shitty things in stride - but that side of me feels a little distant right now. There must be more than just a Karmic joke involved in all this.

On that note, my Franken-boob and I would like to share a few intimate details about the past few weeks - funny, sad, weird… let’s see what we get.

  1. The radiologist who took my biopsy used to live in Dartmouth! 4 blocks from my house. I identified him by his “accent” which was Dartmouthian. Seriously, I didn’t think that was a real accent, but he spoke exactly like a couple other men i remember from my youth (neighbours and friends). So funny. Nothing like reminiscing about your hometown over your own bare breast being shot full of various sized needles by a total (male) stranger.

  1. The last time I went through DCIS and my mastectomy and reconstruction - I remember saying I should get an autograph book for all the people who saw my breast. I mean, I had a few wild nights in my university years - but the number of “strangers” who have now seen my breasts basically increased ten-fold in a matter of days.

  1. My five year old has a song about my breast that she sings as she rubs the lump like a magic genie might pop out at any time (that would actually be pretty awesome - regardless of my earlier statement that one should not live their lives filled with only wishes and hopes).

  1. The day I got the results I also bought some lotto tickets (I assumed I was on a statistical streak based since recurrences are pretty rare). Sadly - the lotto tickets did not deliver. I actually had them stapled to my printed lab results.

  1. My eight year old asked if she could “catch” cancer - which as an adult had a lot more depth than what I think she was really asking. The answer was no, you can’t catch it like a cold… but someday I guess we need to get into the bare bones of genetics. We did also slip in a few PSAs about things that can give cancer like smoking, obesity and alcohol - however, I am staunch believer that since these don’t generally apply to me - these are not the things that gave me breast cancer. I have my own wildly unjustified reasons that are based completely outside of science, but I will tell anyone who might ask.

  1. My plastic surgeon (last time) made me an absolutely beautiful breast (although in the medical field, they don’t call that appendage a breast anymore - it is a “Flap”). Nevertheless, I am super bummed that the gorgeous job she did will be fairly ruined. I mean, when searching for the silver lining - the tummy tuck was an absolute bonus in the process. I love my flat stomach and my “milky globe” as they are right now - however, with the introduction of another 2cm lump - not sure it will ever be as globy again. Maybe more like a ski jump if I am lucky.

  1. Speaking of reptilian brain, I did not consider asymmetry as an option with my breast last time. What if something happened to my husband and I was required to attract another mate? There is a lot of science behind the importance of symmetry and the laws of attraction so I couldn’t just leave myself lopsided! Also, as avid travelers, I had visions of jumping in the ocean or pool and having my “insert” float away. I lost my glasses once to a big wave, imagine if I lost my boob!

  1. On my first go through with DCIS and the events around it, I think I formally burst into tears exactly two times:
    1. Once was when I was lying naked on the operating table in the moments before they put me out when there was a brief debate over whether I had taken a certain pill (Oxy-Co to be specific) prior to getting there. They had just introduced a new process and no one knew if I took it. All I knew was that I took a mitt full of pills before walking down there. I had a moment where it felt like 15 people were walking around my naked self wondering how the new “process” was going. I eventually just lost it. I know this is not a funny story, but the important thing was that my surgeon picked up my hand and told me everything was fine. She looked into my eyes, and I had a total rush of relief.

    1. In the days following the surgery (still in the hospital) I had no desire to eat. For those who have no actual experience with surgery, you body is pretty screwed up after 8 hours of anaesthetic. Anyway, one afternoon my husband asked if I wanted to have food ordered for the next day. He started reading the menu (starting with breakfast). I decided I would very much like to have some Crispix cereal… but as he went on reading the rest of the menu I started getting super nauseated and asked him to stop. Fast forward to the next morning… I woke up to the breakfast tray and I was so excited to finally have this bowl of cereal. Upon lifting the lid, I discovered a beautiful box of Crispix… and NOTHING else. I absolutely lost my shit and just sat in the bed crying my eyes out because there was no milk. It was quite early in the morning and I just cried for about 25 minutes before the nurses came in on their rounds to find me a blubbering mess over a missing carton of milk. Nurses are amazing people. I still joke with my husband about the missing box of milk - I totally blamed him that morning.

  1. OMG - the coffee fiasco! I was just getting wheeled into the ward and got a glimpse of my darling husband for the first time. He was talking sweetly and I was high as a kite. High. Anyway, in that hazy moment when the OR nurses were trading me over to the ward nurses Jason was talking to me about… whatever (I am reiterating the “high” part here). I do remember Jason saying he was so excited about bringing me a coffee in the morning (I am a coffee addict)! The nurse standing there said… “Oh… No, she can never have coffee AGAIN!”. Even in my very high and doped out state, I think my eyes shot open and I made frantic eye contact with him. Needless to say, Jason attempted a short debate with this nurse about never having heard this edict before from any of the surgeons or doctors before and indeed, the FIRST question we asked the plastic surgeon the next morning was to clarify the coffee status. Suffice to say the plastic surgeon herself brought me my first cup of coffee later that morning. Thank goodness - I would give up alcohol before coffee almost any day of the week.

I am positive there are other humourous events to be discussed, although they are escaping my mind. There was the hardened criminal cuffed to his bed story, and there were friends who brought home made bread to the hospital, there was visits from my kids, and most importantly - a doting husband who did his “in sickness” duties with calm, charm and good humour. Thinking through this list though that actually made me smile and allowed me access my natural optimist again.

Whatever happens over the next few months, I am sure I will meet some amazing people again. My doctors were all cool as shit - women I wished I had met at a party instead of these circumstances. I gained a greater appreciation for nurses once I actually needed them for real support. I will have a whole new list of funny stories to tell about my life and I will remind myself how I can put a positive twist on just about anything.

Thinking of you thinking of me gives me a lot of joy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Japanese Kamikaze... Ramen Noodles?

Considering this blog had always referenced Japan, it is likely about time I actually do a post from this country! So here I am... Typing to you direct from Tokyo!

I can't say Tokyo was ever a specific destination on my bucket list until I started really becoming adventurous with food. While we have only been here a couple days in total, we have already experienced some delicious food. I attribute all amazing food finds to my husband... But also the very cool blogging duo on - - just saying you should check out their videos on YouTube... They are hilarious and fabulous!

Today we tried to chill out in the morning - the girls got up and started breakfast at 3:58am! I quickly quashed that venture and gave them both a small dose of melatonin to get them back to sleep. We are still dealing with minor amounts of jet lag to say the least.

We eventually headed off to Shinjuku with the specific intent of going to a top rated ramen restaurant we had selected called - Fuunji Ramen. We had primed the kids in the etiquette of the restaurant process and laid out the expectations very clearly. The food was spectacular and the experience felt very "local". With only 10 seats at the bar, we slurped our noodles and drank the amazing broth with haste and intent. The girls had their "we are total whities and don't know how to eat with chopsticks" chopsticks on hand and powered through a massive bowl of soup. I was very proud of their effort.

We followed this experience with a wander through a beautiful shopping district and then went to the Shinjuku Goyen park. The girls really appreciated the chance to run loose and we caught the tail end of the Cherry blossoms. The park was lovely. A side bonus was that we walked past a pet store... With the sweetest little BEAGLE! He was tiny, and while I think he was being touted as a puppy, he was a tiny older beagle with the sweetest face. We still have 6 days in Tokyo, and I think I can sway Jason towards a Japanese beagle rescue dog. The kids are already sold. Stay tuned to hear about a new addition to the family. 🤣

We followed up the park by attempting to find an American donut joint - Camden Blue Star donuts. There were some trepidatious moments with Google maps and fatigue and certain family members losing their filters, but we all know it is the journey and not the destination. The donuts were so posh and fairly pricey so we shared two with the kids - classic glaze and cinnamon. Sorry Tim Hortons, I may never eat a donut from you again. These were so light and delicious, unbelievable. This is not a family of sweet tooths - so having the kids say the donuts were one of the highlights of the day definitely says something.

We rounded it the day by hitting the Totoro store by the Skytree (right next to our Airbnb). Never have I wanted to but almost every object in a store before. What an unbelievable shop to any fans of studio Ghibli. So much cuteness.

Other observations from the day...
1. This city is the cleanest city I have ever seen.
2. Regardless of the number of people, it is the quietest place I have ever heard. Our condo is dead silent between 7pm and 9am.
3. All the men wear black suits and white shirts.
4. Japanese babies might be the cutest babies I have ever seen.
5. All the things in Japan are ridiculously cute. Like mind blowing cute.
6. Even the "crappy" food at 7-11 is exponentially more delicious then most top end fast food joints in Canada.

Ok. I better wrap this up, I have been accused of wordiness. I did fail too mention our day one in Tokyo which was in fact a day at Disney Sea. I endeavour to get back to that before the week is out, but in the meantime I can hopefully figure out how to attach my photos via mobile.

Until next time - arigato gosai mashita!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Just a Footnote

So almost 5 years to the day that I was informed my dad had Stage 5 terminal cancer (and his death within 9 days of the diagnosis), I was gently informed that I have a condition called Ductal Carcinoma (in Situ). April showers bring May cancer diagnoses in my house.

Now before anyone starts to panic, this “cancer” is 100% curable. In fact, there is a better chance I will get hit by a bus on my way to the hospital than that this condition will lead to my ultimate demise. This is a stage 0 form of breast cancer. In some medical circles, it is not even considered cancer at all. Nevertheless, what they don’t know is which women will actually have this condition turn into a full blown invasive form of cancer. This means that once you have found this form of “cancer”, it is treated as though it is an invasive form. So at the ripe age of 37, I have been given the life altering choice of either removing my breast completely, or removing a lump and dealing with radiation. The first choice eliminates the possibility of future cancer in that breast, the latter usually clears out the cancer too, but there is an increased chance of recurrence (15% or so) of either DCIS, or a more aggressive form of cancer.

So, the choices seem like a no brainer, right? Well, as the owner of the breast and lump in question, I have found both choices to be slightly unpalatable. My brain says: “Hell yeah, let’s chop down that tree”, but my heart says “Ummm, let’s just take it easy and remove the rotten apple, we can take the tree down later… it sure is a pretty tree… I am not done with that yet.” My heart is definitely more verbose on the issue. Anyway, the debate goes on, but in general, my brain is usually the winner in these kinds of debate.

The truth is that within 24 hours of learning about a condition called DCIS, I have read multiple medical dissertations, the Master’s thesis of one of my recommended surgeons, and pretty much every breast cancer society webpage within the English speaking Commonwealth. As a known procrastinator, I have mastered the fine art of learning a lot of shit in a very tight period of time so I actually feel quite versed in the details around the condition, the treatment and the outcomes. I learned multiple pathology terms, a hell of a lot of stats, and a bunch of other less medical opinions about what this really means to me. The truth is, I would really appreciate if one of the choices could just be taken out of the equation so I didn’t have to make the decision. Nevertheless, this is just hopeful thinking and I will still be left debating between Mastectomy or Lumpectomy.

To give a little background DCIS, many women are diagnosed after they hit the age of 50 and simply start their yearly mammograms. For me, the conditions were a little different. The first symptom was simply a clear, yellow discharge from my nipple. Embarrassing more than anything… I went back to wearing a nursing pad because it would leak through to my shirt at random moments. I noticed this is January 2015 and mentioned it to my Doctor when I was in with my daughter for a check-up. He did a short exam and was unable to notice anything out of the ordinary so we decided to keep an eye on it. Fast forward about 4 months, I was in the shower and felt a sudden, and sizable lump in that breast. I asked my husband to casually join me in the bathroom, and to “give it a poke”. Well, suffice to say he was quite alarmed and requested I have it checked out right away. He felt his own medical background (i.e. none) was not sufficient for making a diagnosis. It was interesting to see how quickly my clinic got me in or an appointment when I mentioned “lump” and “breast” in the same sentence.  

By the morning of my appointment, I was now noticing the discharge was no longer yellow, but in fact very bloody. At this point, my tiny alarm bells were going off, but let’s be realistic, most lumps in breasts are not cancer (seriously, check the internet, it says it over and over again). I did not get to see my own doctor due to the subtle haste they decided to put on my appointment. I did see a very helpful doctor who confirmed the lump was suspicious and quickly booked a mammogram and ultrasound. With all calmness and honesty, she sent me on my way with the assurance that “most lumps in breasts are not cancer”. No promises, just calm and honest and direct and helpful. She was great.

So, fast forward another week and I find myself at the radiology clinic. I have heard many unsavoury reports on how mammograms feels, and I was certainly trepidatious. Nevertheless, the tech who “handled” me was excellent and professional and the whole thing was much more palatable than I had expected. I immediately went to another tech for the ultrasound and by the end of that process, she assured me everything looked ok, mostly thickened tissue, and there would be no need for a follow up appointment with my doctor. Well… AWESOME! Great news! I texted my darling husband from the parking lot, and we felt a lot better. However, within one hour of arriving home, the radiology clinic called me back to explain that they did in fact want me to have an “aspiration” just to rule out an infection. Infection? Great! Infections can be fixed with antibiotics… let’s do this. Later that evening I received a subsequent call from my doctor. He had just seen the results and wanted to make sure I went in for a biopsy. Biopsy? What? The radiologist said “aspiration”! Biopsies are for cancer! I don’t have cancer… I have an infection. Needless to say, the B word definitely put me a little on edge.

For those of you not familiar with a biopsy, you should actually read a little about the process. While I am generally extremely anal about researching everything about anything, I failed to actually read about the process. When I arrived at the clinic and was given the primer pamphlet I definitely freaked out a little. I had a vision in my head that did not jive with the actual procedure. Either way, the radiologist was very reassuring, and we had a great chat (over my exposed boob) about the changing roles of radiologists and the advancing tech. The giant needle was quite unnerving, but worse was the banging sound it made when it was triggered. In the end, he took four core samples which I can only compare to the drill from the newer JJ Abrams’ “Star Trek”. He wished me luck with my results and sent me on my merry way. I found it odd. “Best of luck with the results”. Weird.

Well, the May long weekend rolled around at this point and we jetted off to Toronto to visit some good friends. On a side note, the pressure bandage I had on was transparent … and quite gross for lack of a better term. I was wildly concerned the damn thing would somehow pop on the flight and I would pretty much bleed to death on the plane. Considering the size of the incision was about 3mm I probably should have been more realistic, but every once in a while even the most logical person can go temporarily insane. Too boot, I have a slight allergy to adhesive so the whole patch was making me exquisitely itchy. It sucked and I think showing my husband may have been traumatizing to him. When I was finally able to remove it, the bruising was quite terrifying – various shades of blue, green, yellow and purple. At this point, I am mostly just thinking, “wow, I feel like we have gone to a lot of trouble for what will eventually be diagnosed as nothing!” At this point, I was also telling my sweet little girls I couldn’t handle hugs against my sore boob. I showed them the bruise and they were very considerate in the way they handled Mommy. In fact, they even told the other kids that Mommy had an owie on her boob and needed a special band aid. They offered to show the other kids, but I admit I denied the request. I wanted to avoid traumatizing other peoples’ children as much as I can. I think there are likely laws preventing that kind of behavior and I am happy to comply.

Long weekend is now over. I return home and first thing on Tuesday morning, my doctor’s office calls to book an appointment… Today. Well, I was at work and busy… I offered other more convenient days… but they offered first thing in the morning the next day. Well, I don’t get these convenient time slots very  often, but I figured he wanted to get me in to alleviate my anxiety and specifically prescribe my anti-biotics for what I had at this point self-diagnosed as chronic mastitis. I had mastitis with my second child and it was terrible. At the worst time, my breast looked like the Eye of Sauron. It was about that hot to the touch too. And I had an adorable baby chewing on that nipple every couple hours. I would literally hold my breath, clench my teeth and close my eyes while I latched her. It took about 10 minutes of searing pain before I would finally feel numb enough to relax. In my logical mind, if I had mastitis 2 years ago from breast feeding, it would make lots of sense for some hidden bit of bacteria to be camped out in there and rear its ugly head at this time. Well, it is a good thing I am not a doctor because my diagnosis was incorrect.

The surreal part of the story actually starts here. This is when my sweet doctor walks in and sits down and says “I have some news that is very difficult to talk about”.

Here is where my heart drops.

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, pre cancer, stage 0, surgeon, choices, 100% curable.



Curable! That was the word I was waiting for. I managed to finish the meeting with all the grace and dignity I could muster.

When I got home, my darling husband was sitting on the front porch awaiting my arrival. I tried very hard to use the same words the doctor used, but I am sure all he actually heard was “cancer”.  I like to use humour in uncomfortable situations, so I did in this case. I think we handled it well, and so we should. This diagnosis is not about the cancer at all, it is about the breast. And potentially saying goodbye to someone close to your heart (literally).  

So as I mentioned, no need to panic. This is merely a footnote in the lengthy book that is life. Well, it might be a chapter by the end of it all, but it is still just a small part of a big story.

I have not shed a tear (yet), I have not raged, I have not blamed.

I have researched. I have talked. I have waffled and flip flopped on options. I have researched some more, and I have arrived here. I wanted to get my thoughts on paper before they are clouded by time or memory. I am 48 hours since hearing the news, and while I am still quite unclear on the immediate path, decisions will be made and life will go on (and on and on). I have no intention of dying young. I will walk my children down the aisle, I will see my grandchildren, and I darn well better retire with my husband so we can jet set our way around the world.

That is the plan. Let’s get this done. I have already moved on and so should you.
No guilt, no fear, just a summer of uncomfortable healing I am off and running (I probably need a new bra or two). 

To anyone who actually read to the end of this diatribe, ask me anything.

I am an open book, and this is just a footnote.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Life Lessons a la Hawaii

Totally random things I promise.

This is like David Letterman's top ten list really... Relating to Maui, Kauai, and everything else regarding a real family vacation! 

#1 - Roosters do in fact "Cock a doodle Doo" at the crack of dawn. Oh, and at 3 in the afternoon... Oh, and at 11 o'clock at night... Oh, and whenever they damn well please. A lot. Loud. And sometimes they sound like creepy children of the corn having bizarro chicken conventions in the darkness around your "Orchard Cottage". In the night. Roosters.

#2 - Humuhumunukunukuapua'a is a real fish. A really pretty fish. The State Fish of Hawaii (does Alberta even have a"State Fish"?). My own personal rule with snorkelling in Hawaii is that you in fact do not stop a snorkeling trip until you have spotted one. Don't worry, this does not actually take that long, and it is worth the wait every time! They are just so fancy and amusing. Not to mention, learning how to pronounce the word with a fancy fish puppet singing the song is really fun to do with a three year old!!

#3 - You really can learn important facts from a kids book, like about the State Fish of Hawaii... and different names for lava... and what the nickname for the Island of Maui is. Together, these facts assembled in order for us to win a Trivia Contest on our snorkeling cruise. Awesome!! Or should I say, TEAM AWESOME (yeah I know, some people have heard me referred by my team name before, but I used it again to win a Tshirt and gain some amazing notoriety on a snorkeling cruise)... A couple days later, Jason and I were spotted by some folks on the beach who pointed at us and said... TEAM AWESOME!! Seriously, we made an impression (or at least the 4 Mai Tais I was drinking did).

#4 - Baby Powder really does get wet sand off. After weeks of playing on the beach with Cecilia, and subjecting her to embarassing strip downs and vigorous naked baby scrubbings in a cold, trickling, public shower... we were notified of the baby powder technique. Nevertheless, Cecilia has a whole new attitude when we leave the sand now, know the showers are all but a thing of the past (except in Kauai, when we have been allowing her to "freewheel" at the beach... AKA... no swimming diaper in the ocean). Which means that when shit happens (and I am being completely literal here), she gets a shower.

#5 - If you have walked into one Tourist Shop, you have walked into them all. Want a shot glass with a hula girl? Want a grass skirt with a coconut bra? How about a Ukelele? How about Macadamia Nuts? Seriously, don't waste your time with visiting a bunch of shops... just hit the one you need to get your souvenirs and then get your ass back to the beach. Done. You have come to Hawaii to be outside and in the sun and the surf and the sand, don't you forget it!

#6 - Even after 6 weeks in Hawaii, you can still get a sunburn. After 6 weeks of methodical SPF 50 application, one afternoon at the beach where you meet a nice couple with their kids from Montreal and end up chatting instead of reapplying... you can burn your evenly bronzed skin... Ouch. A lot. And you have the benefit of feeling guilty about causing your little girls cheeks and nose to adopt the colour of an angry hibiscus! On a selfish note... the couple from Quebec said I had a very Parisian accent when I spoke French. Maybe as a Canadian speaking french that was meant as an insult, but I took it as a compliment.

#7 - Having a Cold/Flu in Hawaii is WAY BETTER than having a Cold/Flu in Canada. Ever. I mean, I am not wishing this on anyone, I am just saying, I suffered on the sofa looking out over a cloud covered extinct volcano, covered in lush vegetation and surrounded by trees covered in Passion Fruits and Mangoes. When I was feeling a touch better, I cooled my fevered skin in the light spray from the ocean while watching my family frolic and play in the waves. Poor Me. ;)

#8 - When listening to Radio in the Islands... you really have to listen to the Hawaiian radio station. It gets you totally in the groove of Aloha time. You hear a little slack sting guitar and the smooth baritone of some Hawaiian dude crooning to you about Rainbows and beaches and sunsets, you are ready to kick back and enjoy the islands for the relaxing place it is!! In all seriousness, bring your "AUX" attachments for the car since the radio reception can be spotty, and with everyone working on Aloha time, the traffic can be surprisingly heavy and slow.

#9 - Outdoor showers are completely awesome. I am not referring to the aforementioned Public Showers that trickle brackish water on your skin about 6 feet from the sand... I am talking about the most awesome Private Shower we have here in Kauai. It is casually concealed behind a bamboo fence and a flimsy shower curtain that gets some pretty good air when the Trade Winds blow. Even still, there is really something and forbidden about showering under the light of the moon with the crickets (and roosters) harmonizing around you. Jason and I are discussing installing a nice outdoor shower in our house in Calgary... I wonder if the neighbours would mind?

#10 - Once you have kids, Family Vacation has a whole new meaning. A really good meaning. I was a little surprised when we mentioned our big trip to Hawaii that many folks would inquire "Are you bringing the kids?" Of course we are bringing the kids. If we did not intend to have family vacations, I am doubtful we ever would have had kids. But we did, and we do family vacations, and family hugs and we love it. I have absolutely no qualms about people who don't have kids. We love all you guys too, and will happily share family hugs with you all too... but for now, we are happy to be together. Jason and I realized that a 7 week vacation meant that he and I would be TOGETHER for that entire time. Seriously people, I made one trip to the library without him, and he took the car for a vacuum (oh, and the short road trip while I took the morning to recover from the cold/flu). You know what? We had a great time together. All that time, and we are still in love and still have things to talk about. We talked about politics and poopy diapers, retirement and mango juice, restaurants and the inconvenient locations of sand grains on our bodies. It is not glamorous, it is not unusual, it is just the nature of living with your best friend... and having the chance to show your kids how to have a great time and be respectful to the people you love the most.

We are blessed... We took our chance and seized the trip of a lifetime. It was amazing. I hope you all enjoyed the ride and the blog.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Honourable Mentions - Lets Spend some $$ Edition

Since a few people have been asking for specifics on our trip to Maui, I thought I would post a couple of our favourite things and places in Maui... This first installment shall be deemed the "Things that cost Money" section. Also, things that make my beautiful family smile section... 

First off, I might as well mention our condo itself. It really was perfectly delightful. It was a loft style condo with 2 bathrooms that easily could have fit 6 people. I think it could be doable with 2 friendly couples even. It was more that enough room for the 4 of us. The owners were really nice and the agency in charge was also generally quite helpful. While technically it does have an ocean view, it is not that "romantic" view of the ocean... but we can see it. We are also West facing, so we do catch the sunset. It is also a 4 minute walk to a nice beach for gorgeous views and even swimming (although we only swam there once. It is in the heart of Kihei, very safe area... both locals and tourists in the building... it really was a great place. Here is one link to the condo, the photos do it justice!
My in-laws also stayed in a condo in the same building... smaller place, but also very nice.

Alright, maintaining the theme of what you spend money on... allow me to quickly address some restaurants. First off, we used both the Maui Revealed book
But, we also stumbled across the following food blog , and actually picked up a copy of their 2012 Maui Restaurant Review
Both have been very handy. Some of our favourite restaurants have been as follows (and in no order):

Threes in Kihei - yummy and just enough ambient noise to make it good for little kids. 
Star Noodle in Lahaina - AWESOME... totally loved it as a foodie and a parent. Off the beaten track in Lahaina but totally worth it. Really not to be missed in my opion
Coconuts in Kihei - really tasty and quick food. GREAT fish burgers and fish tacos!! 
Flatbread Company in Paia - quite possibly the yummiest pizza on earth. Completely loved this place!!
Aina Gourmet Market - really great service the first time through, not as good the second time, but it still has some interesting foodie items to bring home on the plane, and sells some fabulous baked goods. I absolutely adored the French Toast here... but not the way you are all picturing French Toast... There was also a lovely Koi pond the girls really liked, and the resort itself is worth a look. Gorgeous and PRICEY!
Two great sandwich places 808 Deli in Kihei and No Ka Oi Deli in Lahaina. Pretty comparable, more inexpensive sandwich places and great to take out and bring to the beach. Nowhere to sit in either places... but great food and quick service.

The Old Lahaina Luau was really a special experience too. From what I have heard, it is one of the more expensive ones on the island, but it is all inclusive of alcohol and buffet. The only cash we left behind was for our server, Jerry, who was engaging and helpful with a table full of picky kids. The Luau is operated by the same company as the next door restaurant called the Aloha Mixed Plate. We ate at the mixed grill the same day we purchased the tickets for the Luau. It is very reasonably priced and has a gorgeous view of the ocean. Lots of traditional fare and quick service. Not the best food I have ever had, but not terrible either. 

Ok, this is getting to be a lengthy post, but on to the next part... when Jason's family came, we did have family portraits done. The photographer, Kyndra Chronister, was very affordable and very nice. We found out about her when her husband approached us on the beach to sell her services. On an island full of things to spend money on, Jason and I can appreciate the efforts they went to in order to garner our business. We also checked in with several other more established photographers who were quite literally charging double or triple the cost of her services! The photos were lovely, even when she was tasked with herding cats... Calla was completely averse to smiling on this day, and our nephew also felt disinclined to even look at the camera! Nevertheless, she got a few winning shots and we all had a nice time with her. Although she does not have a website, here is a link to her Flickr page and email is

Ok, getting to the end of spending all your money?? Jason and I did also manage to take a snorkeling cruise to the Molokini Crater. With Grammy and Grampy in town, we were able to take a trip without the kids. We went out of our way to book the shortest trip we could, even though there were more exciting trips - since we did not want to overdo our free babysitting. Well, due to low booking, we were automatically upgraded to the two stops + breakfast and barbecue for lunch + $1 Mai Tais. Jason unfortunately did not benefit from any of the food or drink offerings due to motion sickness, but I thought it was all very nice. We booked through Boss Frogs which was fine. The best part was that we paid HALF of what everyone else paid for the same thing. Also, for the ladies (and my male friends who also appreciate another fine looking man)... the crew on the Quicksilver were absolutely delightful (both in personality, and in well, in a shirtless capacity).

Ok... I have spent enough money now... so my next installment shall be much shorter and include our favourite beaches and places. They probably still cost money, but what else do we do on vacation? 

The cost of a family photographer in Maui... $300-1200... the cost of catching Cecilia first steps on a beautiful beach in Maui... Priceless!!

Stay Tuned!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ready to Come Home Yet?

Hells No.

A quick question Jason posed over the dishes this afternoon, and I gotta be honest, I am not ready to come home. I know there are vacations that you feel ready to come home from, but as of today, this is not a feeling I have. Aside from missing the pooch, I am happy to keep hanging out here in Maui indefinitely. I apologize to friends and family, not trying to be offensive, just saying that this place is really and truly wonderful.

Well, with the in-laws in town, we have gone out to repeat a few adventures. We actually got up at 3:30 in the morning AGAIN, and climbed about 10000 feet AGAIN, and went to the somewhat unlucky Haleakala Summit to watch the sunrise (need I remind my readers of the lost car key fiasco from a couple weeks ago). Well, it was beautiful... AGAIN... and I admit I have more happy memories of the place now too.

We also decided to do the Road to Hana again, but this time we rented a Jeep Soft Top and drove the entire route with the roof down. We fondly named our Jeep "Black Stallion" and actually took the dicey section of highway by the south end of the island. It really was a single lane in both directions with NO barrier to the giant cliffs over the side to the ocean. It was spectacular. We also skipped Hana - since the journey is the road, not the destination in this case.

We have been to Lahaina several times, and on our last drive through, we stumbled upon the Maui Jim corporate headquarters. I have been raving about how awesome my turtle spotting sunglasses are, so we popped our heads in the building to chat with the lady. She turned out to be the cleaning lady, but was friends with the owner and assured us she would pass on the praise to the owner at church on Sunday. Well, wouldn't you know, the NEXT DAY, I was wiping off my lenses and the sunglasses actually snapped in HALF!! So disappointing. Anyway, we are planning a trip to the HQ again in the next couple days since they apparently do repairs. :)

Last, but not least, Jason and I were afforded the opportunity to go on a boat trip to the Molokini Crater... a renowned location for snorkeling. Grammy and Grampy and Auntie Kristine took the girls so we could have a little adventure. Well, we paid for the quick 2 hour trip and got the 5 hour tour instead, including a stop in Turtle Town, plus the crater, a tour around the southern tip of the island complete with Star Spotting (ie. the homes of David Bowie, Tiger Woods, Clint Eastwood and Michael Jordan among others). We did not actually see any of these people, but it was cool to know where they spend their free time! Oh, and the absolute icing on the cake... DOLPHINS!! I can't explain how magical those little cuties are. We even saw a baby dolphin... absolutely darling.  This excursion will be one we talk about forever.

Well, that sums up the last few days... we did come to the realization that we are a mere 11 days away from leaving Maui, but we will be moving to a new location in Kauai to complete the trip. I am sure it will offer new adventures and beauty in the very near future.

Cheers All!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Snorkeling, Sand and Sunsets

So, we have now been in Maui for 3 weeks. It is obscene really... but we are still having an amazing time. We really do spend almost every day at the beach... but needless to say today involved a couple of firsts at the beach today!

First off... I FINALLY got to swim with a sea turtle. I mean, I can spot a sea turtle from a nautical mile, but it turns out every time I try to get in and be in the water when one has been spotted, I am perpetually 5 minutes and 50 meters too late. I was starting to take turtle shyness personally. In fact, even today, we arrived at the beach and I plunged into the water and headed straight for the open ocean where I spotted a cluster of snorkelers, only to be vastly disappointed by a mere rainbow of beautiful fishes (tongue in cheek of course)... but I have SEEN the fishes (heck, we actually went to the Aquarium the other day)!! Needless to say, I come sloshing in from my adventure to see Jason and Calla pelting down the beach to where 2 turtles have been hanging out. I am left holding the bag (quite literally, the bag with our money and camera and keys) and the baby, while Calla and Jason plunge in with the turtles. Happily, they return a few minute later and Calla and I were able to go see the turtles AND I was even able to swim with them.

Now, on that note, Calla was wearing her lifejacket during this fiasco... and I did have on the snorkel and mask... so when the turtle started swimming, I literally grabbed Calla by the handle and started swimming after him. Out. Into the sea. Deep.

Now I am a pretty good swimmer... but in my turtle chasing frenzy, I failed to notice just how far I dragged us out. Well, Calla is a brave kid... and happily swam through the chop with me while I pursued the turtle. It was awesome. My kid is awesome. I am happy.

The funny thing is... we actually came close to a boat. Calla immediately became disinterested in the turtle and started asking about the boat.

"Why is that boat there?"
"What is that boat doing?"
"Does that boat have a kitchen?" - to this I say "HUH?" I don't even think Calla has ever been on a boat... what makes her think there is a kitchen.

Anyway, the second first of the day was that we actually went to watch the sunset. Now that we are parents... we are generally quite dull... we get home every night close to suppertime and have been extremely consistent about having the kids upstairs and in bed by 7pm. Since sunset is at 6:33, we have generally just been catching it out the window of our lanai (aka balcony for those who don't speak Hawaiin). Either way, we had early dinner and slipped out across the street to the beach to watch the sunset. As with so many things in Hawaii, it was amazing. Really... wow.

I would like to say it was serene and tranquil scene of us being in the moment... but, Calla was trying to get us to build sandcastles, and Cecilia was tapped in to her inner baby turtle and was perpetually crawling at top speed to the waters edge, ready to launch herself into the sea. Either way, it was beautiful and I could not have been watching it with three more special people.

One last note on sand. After a full day on the beach, I would just like to state that everyone in the house has sand on every inch of their person. I mean, even after all my years of working as a lifeguard in the City of Dartmouth... I never remember being this sandy. Ever. In my toes, my ears, my nostrils. It is completely inappropriate. And for the record, there is no such thing as rinsing of sand in the ocean... I think it actually causes the sand grains to multiply. Sand. Everywhere you don't want it to be!