Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Blur That Has Been Our Recent Life...

After my last post in the beginning of June, the following happened:

We spent the last weekend of June in Sonoma celebrating a family wedding (pictures in a minute) while we (FINALLY) got a brand new roof on our house (literally 2 WEEKS before our summer monsoons began - THANK GOD).

The week after we dropped a small fortune on a new roof, our water heater burst on the 4th of July (YAY! just kidding) leading to complete disarray of our home as we were finally given that kick in the you-know-what to actually embark on the home renovations/improvements that we have wanted to do since moving into our home 7 years ago, but then kids were born, and time got away from us, yada yada yada.

So finally (what day is it?), 3 months since the infamous water heater incident, our home is finally our home again, and we are back to our (somewhat) normal selves. Did I forget to mention that somewhere in the middle of all the home craziness, Quincy started Kindergarten, and Paloma had emergency abdominal surgery on Labor Day? Yeah, I left that out but I will get back to it.

First, let's start with some pretty pictures.

These were (of course) taken by the professional photographer, and I am so grateful to her for capturing some really beautiful moments that sometimes get overlooked. It meant so much to Solon and me to spend this time with my Dad's side of the family in such a beautiful setting. My Dad's cousin Lucy, and her husband Bob, really planned a magical weekend for their loved ones, and it meant everything to be included in such a fantastic party! We had a blast!!! And I LOVE seeing two families come together - especially two GREAT ones.

When we got back we were able to celebrate two of our favorite ladies

Gaga's Birthday

And Mama Mimi's Birthday

My Aunt Nancy came to visit and our cousin Tommy lives here now, so it added another fun dynamic to our usual Jacobs crew. And I love when my "foodie" aunt comes to visit, because it means I get to spend my visits with her trying new places around town. Win-Win-Win!

July consisted of swim lessons

Playdates with friends

Extra time with their great-great Grandma

August brought a surprise road-trip to Manhattan Beach

First Day of Kindergarten

Donovan's 2nd Birthday

First day back at Preschool

My 35th Birthday

And a surprise 70th Birthday party for Charissa's Dad (I made him this cake - so fun!)

Then this happened...

After complaining all day of being tired, and her stomach "not feeling too good", throwing up, and then sharp stomach pains, I looked up her symptoms in one of my parent resource books, and they all pointed to appendicitis. At this point, it was 11pm the night before Labor Day, so I took my pediatrician's advice and took her straight to Phoenix Children's Hospital.

After she threw up green bile, and the ultrasound tech took 55(!) pictures, Paloma had a CT scan at about 3am because they found something and it wasn't her appendix. I knew right then and there that our daughter would have surgery that day. The doctor who was there overnight wouldn't tell me really anything because she wanted the daytime staff to get there to explain it better to me. By 8am, I was sitting with my mom and a pediatric surgeon who was explaining what this giant growth was that covered her whole abdomen in the CT scan imaging. Solon was on his way to the hospital with Quincy and I tried to retain as much information as I could, but all I knew was by the time he got there, Solon would literally have 10 minutes with his daughter before we trusted a complete stranger with our daughter's life and well-being. The surgeon truly didn't know what he was going to find until he was in there - a scan can only say so much. The next FOUR hours were excruciating. They would tell us nothing until she was being closed up. The only thing we got at the half-way point was "she's doing great." I have never experienced anything like this in my life. I felt so weak, helpless, broken. At one point, I looked over at Solon and I saw his heart breaking with worry for the unknown. (Cancer? Long-term problems? Will her spark still be there when she comes out?) It made me wish for my strength back so I could pass it on to him. It was in that desperate moment that I took to social media, asking my friends from near and far to pray for our little girl. The amount of love and support we received from that point forward was another first for me. See, I have a hard time asking for things, like help. But it was overwhelming for us to realize just how much people were willing to give in our time of need. Something I will never forget. EVER.

That smile brought me to tears the next morning. My poor baby was STARVING after literally not eating anything for almost 48 hours. She was so happy to have popsicles for breakfast.

So, here's the gist of what happened to Paloma: She had a tiny piece of intestine that grew outside of itself at birth (like a conjoined twin of sorts) and had been slowly filling with fluid over the course of her life, turning into 2 cysts. They were malleable over that time, filling into whatever empty spaces they could as they grew. On Sunday, the cysts finally ran out of room and started pushing her intestines into her other organs, causing the abdominal pain. One cyst was filled with milky white liquid (made up of white blood cells, fat, etc), the other filled with green bile. The doctor drained them and then removed a 5cm piece of her intestines, then sewed the intestines back together.

Each day she got better and stronger

By Thursday, we were able to take her home (with benign pathology results!) and be a family again.

I am so thankful for our family (ALL OF YOU!!) and friends/community who were able to be there for us. My mom who was there for me every second until Solon could get there, and my mother-in-law who hopped on a plane from Seattle while Paloma was in the OR, so she could be in Phoenix that night. Each and every one of you gave us strength and filled our hearts with love.

I cannot say enough good things about Phoenix Children's Hospital. What a FABULOUS place filled with awesome doctors, nurses, volunteers and staff - they took such good care of our girl - it really is an amazing place. And thank you God, for hearing our prayers, and the prayers of all who love our family - they surrounded us with the strength we needed. We are forever grateful.

In the weeks that followed, Paloma returned to school, Quincy's routine got back to normal, and we slowly got our house back together.

Quincy is thriving in Kindergarten. He is always eager to please his teacher by making the right choices. He works hard to get his green star everyday. He is making friends, even with kids outside of his class, and he just loves it. I am already amazed at how much he has grown in just 9 weeks.

Paloma is sassier than ever.

She has had two follow-up appointments (one with her surgeon, one with the oncology department) which are protocol post-surgery, and the next steps before we can put her whole ordeal behind us is a CT scan in December to make sure 100% there is no debris leftover from the surgery in her abdominal cavity. After that, an ultrasound every 4 months to be safe until the oncology department is satisfied that there is no regrowth, and we can move on with our lives.

In the meantime, we are enjoying October and the beautiful weather that we live in AZ for. Looking forward to the upcoming holiday season and all that we have to be thankful for...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fulfilling a dream in the city that never sleeps...

Twenty years ago, these 15-year-olds made a pact that one day, when they were older, they would go to New York City together.

It was Verlinda's dream (since 3 years old) to see the Statue of Liberty in person.

Last weekend, we made that dream come true...

After a Thursday night, red-eye flight, Verlinda and I arrived in NYC at 5:30am. After a death-defying drive to the hotel on a Super Shuttle, we arrived at the Upper West Side near Central Park, and decided to start our adventure right away.

We received a quick lesson from a local (and AWESOME individual) on how to navigate the map & the NYC Subway system, we were confident and on our way to Ground Zero to pay our respects and take a moment of reflection on the events of 9/11.

The 9/11 Memorial Fountains and grounds were very serene in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. It was so tastefully created, but still very haunting to imagine being there in that spot on 9/11/01. It is hard to describe all the emotions that were running through me while we were there.

After collecting ourselves, we started heading towards the Statue of Liberty!

The walkway to Battery Park is absolutely beautiful - full of tall trees, lush greenery, and lots of squirrels!

Verlinda was so excited, she had me take a million pictures. =)
It's almost impossible to get a bad picture of Lady Liberty, so here are some of my favorites:

We did it! One thing off her bucket list!

On our way back to the hotel to crash for a while, we encountered this bit of entertainment in Battery Park. Super funny and talented street performers from the Bronx.

One glorious 4-hour nap later, we headed to Bleeker Street for some UH-MAZZZZZING pizza from John's Pizzeria.

Just in case you were wondering, yes, we ate the whole dang thing!

We got some famous cannoli from Pasticceria Rocco (delicious!) and headed to the Empire State Building to check out the famous view. It was really cold and windy 80+ floors high!

Day 2 consisted of a visit to the Museum of Modern Art to visit many of my favorite artists.

Seeing Van Gogh's Starry Night in person gave me the chills, truly. It is such an iconic and beautiful piece of work. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo

Pablo Picasso

Claude Monet

Henry Matisse

Jackson Pollock

Andy Warhol

And my personal favorite, Vincent Van Gogh

Just when I thought my day couldn't get any better, we headed to the Gershwin Theatre to see WICKED. It was the most spectacular thing I have EVER seen in my life. Seriously. It was so flippin' awesome that I literally had goosebumps the entire time. It was really cool to see Verlinda's reaction to this show, because I felt it gave her a truly authentic Broadway experience.

And it was so amazing to finally see all the songs I love performed live, and within the super-cool context of the story.

One (really cold, and really long) City Bus Tour later, and after some fantastic Thai food to warm us up, we headed to the West Village to a little (literally) hole in the ground club, that lived up to it's name - Smalls Jazz Club. We got there just in time for their 3rd set (at midnight!) This was another highlight of the trip for me, for sure.

Day 3: Sunday started in the most wonderful way - a visit to Strawberry Fields to see the IMAGINE mosaic and the moment was topped off with some live acoustic Beatles music.

Verlinda and I both grew up listening to the Beatles, so this was extra special for us. We could have sat there longer, but we had a lot to accomplish in a day.

We explored Central Park, and all the entertainment it had to offer on our way to the Met.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is ENORMOUS. It would take 3 whole days to go through and see everything it has to offer. So once again, we chose just a couple exhibits that appealed to us most - the Fashion exhibit, art/relics of Africa and the Americas, and a few more contemporary artists. We couldn't take pictures of the Fashion Exhibit, but it was superb. Beautiful couture creations of the 40's, 50's and 60's were featured and were just beautiful and unique. It's kind of hard to picture anyone wearing the pieces we saw in Arizona, but in New York, yes, definitely!

This was my favorite piece my Georgia O'Keefe that was on display. Beautiful colors and intensity.

The true highlight of my Sunday was the most surprising moment of the trip for me. Verlinda really wanted to see "Disney's NEWSIES" on Broadway.

I am always game for a Broadway show, so I was ready to be entertained again. I had NO IDEA just how GOOD and ENERGIZED I was going to feel while watching it. The star of the show was Corey Cott as Jack Kelly. He was not the original lead when the show opened 2 years ago on Broadway (that was Jeremy Jordan), but let me tell you - this guy HAS IT ALL (and I think his performance was even better than the original). His stage presence is immediately captivating, and his vocal ability is fantastic, which makes him even better looking than he already is. To think he is only 2 years out of college is truly incredible, and I expect to see big things come of him on Broadway.

Here are some highlights of Corey and the cast of Newsies.

The dancing in this show was athletic, and strong, and non-stop. It was so cool to see several former "So You Think You Can Dance" contestants in this show, with pretty big parts. Their talent has definitely not been lost after their time on that TV show was over.

After a much needed dinner in Times Square, we decided to do a little shopping, and make our way to Rockafeller Center. By this point in our trip, we were both EXHAUSTED, but still had a few things we wanted to see.

We stopped at the Magnolia Bakery to get some treats and headed to the top of Rockafeller Center (which is a really cool building) to check out the view from there. The Empire State Building was lit up in red, white, and blue. We learned (thanks to Google), that the Empire State is lit in different colors on certain days to represent different things. Check it out here.

Day 4: Homeward Bound
We had to get in 2 last things before heading to the airport. Stop #1 was for some authentic New York Bagels. I promised my parents I would bring them some as a souvenir.

So we enjoyed some (huge, delicious, fabulous) bagels from 72nd Street Bagel on the Upper West Side, and then headed to (stop #2) FAO Schwarz to be big kids for an hour.

Some highlights:

As you can see, Verlinda and I had a BLAST. We packed as much as we could into a 3.5 day trip, because we both wanted to have the ultimate New York City experience. We both crossed things of our dreams lists, and it was truly worth all the saving, and the long wait, to make it happen.We are so grateful to our husbands for holding down the fort and taking care of our kids so we could enjoy our trip thoroughly, knowing everything was taken care of at home.

Now that I have experienced the city as an adult, and have experienced several different things (but really just a sliver when you realize just how much NYC has to offer), I know what I want to revisit next time, and what new things I would want to see when I can go back with Solon and the kids. Solon would absolutely LOVE the jazz, the pizza/food in general, and Central Park. He might even enjoy a Broadway show if I could find the right one for him. The kids would love Central Park, the subway, the energy of Times Square, the Broadway shows - they would love so much. I can't wait to go back someday when they are just a little older.

On a final note, I have to say that the New Yorkers we met throughout our trip were so awesome. From the first gentleman (Chuck) who educated us on the subway system and the hidden gems of the city, to the colorful personalities we encountered on the subway, to the gracious street musicians and performers - everyone was so unique and welcoming and were just very cool to the "tourists". They were proud to educate others about their city, and that helped enhance our trip and our total experience.

The isle of Manhattan is truly a gem. It's truly the city that never sleeps. And it is truly unforgettable.

Thanks for letting me share my trip with you!