Search Results for: label/Family

For Elizabeth and Luke


Friends.  Tonight I’m sharing someone so dear to my heart with you.  I’m inviting her into this space to tell her story, but first I’m putting down lots of pillows and blankets and asking you to come and sit and listen with open hearts and minds. 

I don’t know that I can type an intro that is worthy of the love behind my friend, Elizabeth.  The way she loves her children is magic, but the way she loves the world around her makes me want to be a better person every day.

I met Elizabeth through my blog.  I don’t even remember exactly how it happened, but sometime after Nella was born, someone connected the two of us, we started e-mailing which then led to texting and phone calls, and now here we are a few years later, good friends.  To me Elizabeth is defined by her heart, the way she loves her children, her faith, her wit, her brilliant medical advice, her passion for orchestra, good yarn, teaching Sunday school and exploring the world around her with an open mind.  She also happens to be the mother of five children–one with CP, one with Down syndrome–and she’s been fighting breast cancer for five years.  Five years of surgeries, radiation and chemo. 

I asked Elizabeth last week if she’d be interested in sharing her story here.  October is both breast cancer and Down syndrome awareness month, and I knew if anyone could beautifully represent both of these, it was Elizabeth.  She lives both of them every day.

There’s another thing about Elizabeth that’s important to know.  She is a woman of strong faith.  She talks about it a lot, she loves her church, she breathes her faith into every e-mail, every conversation.  In fact, I was certain I wasn’t “faithy” enough to be her friend at first and thought maybe we wouldn’t be the best match (my judging, not hers).  But she never treated me like I needed to be saved.  Ever.  She knew we shared the same God, and she respected me and my differences.  I told Elizabeth recently that she’s a big part of my faith journey.  She’s loved me through every bit of it, always treating me like my truth was just as right as hers even though it was different.  That acceptance, that spiritual equality, that love–it’s restored a lot of my belief in church. 

I’ll stop rambling because Elizabeth’s words are more important here.  But more than that, I’ve asked her to pick a child who needs help and told her I’d ask you all to be a part of this.  You see, anyone who knows Elizabeth knows that one of the ways she’s made it through the past five years is by helping others–specifically children with Down syndrome who need families to adopt them.  So you’ll meet Luke at the end of this post.  He will melt you.  We can help bring him home.

The story of my friend Elizabeth with the Very Big Heart:

 photo elizabeth2_zps70ed63c0.jpg

My name is Elizabeth, I am a 47 year old wife, mama, fiber artist and retired MD living in North Carolina. The current chapter of my story sort of started when we lost our fifth child, William, about seven years ago. William had Down syndrome, orthopedic issues, prematurity, a precipitous, complicated breech delivery, and we never even got to bring him home.

We were beyond joyful when we got pregnant again the next year. In early ultrasounds we saw some signs of Down Syndrome. I was totally fine with that. We had lost a son, and God was giving us another one. I just wanted a baby we could keep, and hold, and love, and bring home to our other children. We named him George and did everything possible to keep him (and me) healthy as long as possible. The preterm labor got serious at 30 weeks but we hung in there until he stopped thriving just past 34 weeks. Because our fourth child has CP and a metabolic disorder, I was pretty desperate to avoid a C section (how do you care for a non-ambulatory tube fed child on oxygen and monitors after a C section???) so we had a long talk about risks and benefits and decided to try an induction. We had a few scary moments, but our OB never left my side for 15 hours and we had George a little after midnight on December 19, 2007. He did indeed have Down syndrome, and we immediately fell in love with our son.

George was small, weak, jaundiced, unable to figure out how to suck swallow and breathe at the same time, and we all thought he was the most amazingly wonderful baby EVER. There were some really tough times. For example, I wanted more than anything to be able to breastfeed him. I had nursed all my others at least through toddlerhood, several well into preschoolhood. George deserved that, too. The lactation consultants all gave up. But we found a speech therapist who specializes in infant oral motor issues, and after months of pumping, he finally figured it out. By 6 months of age he was exclusively breastfed and gaining weight beautifully. I sure was tired, though. Four other children, including one who is VERY medically fragile and complex, homeschooling, way too many outside activities, other challenges too numerous to mention, and a husband who worked a zillion hours a week… it was hard. But we all loved George to the moon and back.

 photo elizabeth1_zps4786a364.jpg

People would ask me why I thought God would give our family such challenges, two handicapped children, losing William… and I was never sure how to answer them. I have friends who are really smart about theological things. They know huge chunks of the Bible from memory. They can answer complicated life questions with passages from scripture and quotes from important thinkers. They can dissect doctrinal issues and defend their faith with confidence. Me, not so much.

I believe that God gave us all life as a gift to be loved and cherished. I believe that all sacraments give grace, and that participating in the Mass makes me happy. I believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. And you know what? I believe that the rest of it is pretty much just details, and I figure that God can manage the details. I think that’s why I have been teaching second grade Sunday school for almost 20 years. In our church, second graders usually make their First Holy Communion. And to teach second grade, you don’t need to be able to explain complicated things, you must simply share the beauty of the sacraments, the joy of the Mass and the miracle of the Eucharist. That’s sufficient. I can do that. The hard and complicated parts? Just details.

Then our family’s life got even harder and more complicated. When George was eight months old, I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma. Just two months after finally mastering breast feeding a baby with Down syndrome, I would have to have a mastectomy and a big axillary dissection. They gave me six weeks to heal from that (and yes, I managed to continue to nurse George on the other side for those six weeks) but then we had to wean over just a few days for chemotherapy. My biggest meltdown ever was in the baby formula aisle at Target. Here I was, after pumping for months, working so hard to get my premature baby with Down syndrome to nurse, and now I had metastatic cancer and just had a major surgery and was about to start chemotherapy and then radiation and I still had five children to take care of, two of whom had significant special needs… and now I had to wean my wonderful precious baby when I worked so hard to get him to nurse?

That’s when I came closest to questioning God about all of this. I knew deep in my heart that I had so much to be grateful for. I could spend all afternoon bragging about my sweet husband. And my children. I have five children, who even though they all love George best, really like each other and are kind to each other. We have excellent health insurance, the best specialists around, and family, neighborhood and church support beyond what anybody could hope for. But still…. I struggled with the whole thing. Why a mama who obviously had so much to do to take care of her children – all of them, not just the special needs ones – would get this terrible terminal disease?

So then I started chemo. And I never figured out the why part , but I have gotten some amazing glimpses into how all the rest of it is supposed to fit together. Like this: God TOTALLY knew what he was doing when he gave me a baby with Down syndrome and breast cancer at the same time. There is NO WAY I could have been chasing a typically developing toddler while on chemo. Well,I didn’t have to chase George. Despite all sorts of therapy, he really wasn’t interested in or able to go anywhere. So we snuggled and and sang songs and spent countless hours on the sofa just loving each other. A few months later when I had to have another mastectomy and a hysterectomy, so we knew that we’d be unable to have any more children, we realized how nice it was that our last baby would truly be a baby for a little bit longer than the others….. See, God knew that I needed a baby to get me through cancer, and not just a regular baby. I needed the world’s most amazing baby… a very happy child who made everyone around him happy. An easy baby who basically stayed where you put him. A good sleeper. A baby who brought joy to his older siblings when they were under great stress because of my cancer and my surgeries and chemo…. There is NO WAY this was some sort of random accident. Even if I’m not good at the details, God was. So he gave us George. (Who is still everybody’s favorite, by the way…)

One thing that happens when you have a baby with Down syndrome is that you sort of realize that the world would be a better place if every family got to experience the blessings that we have because of George. So I was thinking about that one night, and talking to another blogging friend, and learned about Reece’s Rainbow.

That’s about when I started blogging. The basic concept was that I was blessed with this HUGE support system of family and friends who were all afraid to call me on the phone to see how I was doing lest they perhaps wake me or George up from a nap. We thought that if I blogged about this cancer journey, everyone could stay up to date, and besides, it would be a record of our family’s story for my husband and children for the future. Little did I know that my blog would connect me with the most amazing mamas ever…. some T 21 club families, some faith-filled homeschooling mothers-of-many, some ladies who are as passionate about spinning and knitting and fiber arts as I am…

But anyway, back to the story. One thing that happens when you have a baby with Down syndrome is that you sort of realize that the world would be a better place if every family got to experience the blessings that we have because of George. So I was thinking about that one night, and talking to another blogging friend, and learned about Reece’s Rainbow.   Reece’s Rainbow is a non-profit organization that finds families for international orphans with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. In many other countries, when a family has a child with Down syndrome, they are strongly encouraged – some say forced – to never bring their baby home, but to give the baby up, to put them in an institution. And this institutional life, in many cases, is very brief and very grim. Reece’s Rainbow also helps with advocacy and fundraising for families who are trying to adopt children with Down syndrome. I was amazed at what a perfect idea this is! Only certain families get to have a baby with Down syndrome, and this isn’t fair. So Reece’s Rainbow fixes this by matching up families with children. And then, not every family is ready to adopt a child with DS, or maybe they just can’t, for whatever reason. That’s not fair, either. So Reece’s Rainbow helps them by letting everyone participate in saving these lives, by advocating, or praying, or contributing financially.  No exclusions.

We obviously can’t adopt. I would give anything to welcome more babies with Down syndrome into our family, but these children need a mama without metastatic cancer. There are, however, healthy mamas with so much love in their hearts who don’t have the spare cash to fund an adoption. So it’s time to confess about my secret. We call it the DeHority Distraction principle. Late at night, when I am feeling really bad, or scared, or worried, like when they have to cancel my chemotherapy because my white blood cell counts are going down, I get on the Internet and go on the Reece’s Rainbow website and find beautiful children. Some already have families working to save their lives, some without families yet. And then, after reading about them, saying a prayer for their health and safety, and learning about their family if they have one, I anonymously make just a little donation into those children’s sponsorship accounts. It’s especially fun when they have a family trying so hard to raise money to rescue them, and all of a sudden this cash appears in the account. So they post about it on their blog or on Facebook, and often it inspires other people to contribute, and instead of watching my numbers go down, I can watch beautiful children’s numbers go up.

This is Luke.  He is currently living in an orphanage in Asia.  He has been matched with a wonderful loving family, waiting to raise the funds to bring him home.  We’d love your help in bringing this beautiful boy home to his family sooner.  You can read more about Luke and donate to Luke’s fund here.  Can you help?  Can you give even just a little bit or share Luke with others who might be able to give?

 photo elizabeth3_zps90e50b08.jpg

I want to hug him.  I want to tell him that soon, soon, he will have a mommy and a daddy and a place to call home.  I want to watch from the sidelines when this boy is held in the arms of his family and finally brought home to where he will be loved and nurtured for the rest of his life.  Our family is making a donation to support Luke, and I hope you will consider giving anything you can to bring him one step closer to home.

Elizabeth is one day past chemo.  I know what that means.  She’s waiting and watching for numbers to go up, up, up while she rests. 

As always, thank you.  Thank you for being a part of this space.  For listening and contributing and caring.

Love to you all tonight.
And Elizabeth.  I know you are reading.  I love you so.

A Picture of Our Family


In the archives of posed family photos from my childhood, there are stories buried in 3 x 5 prints and the occasional Olan Mills 8 x 10 splurge. Stories range from “Dear God, why were my lips always chapped?” to “Turtlenecks Are Awesome” and “Argyle is the New Black.” But less obvious and more important, were the other stories buried in those photos–we were trying to hang on, sometimes for dear life, to what we knew was the greatest thing we had…family. I wonder how many of those photos were taken during the rough times–when, without a clue of what else to do, our parents curled our hair, coordinated some outfits, dragged us to Olan Mills and paid for a 5 x 7 that would be framed and put on their night stand so that they could look at it every morning and think “that’s it right there–that’s why I’ll stay and that’s why I’ll try harder.” That and they needed something to put next to our name in the Free Methodist Church directory. Our family didn’t end up staying together–rightly so–but I wonder if that break-up–the years leading up to it and the hard ones that followed–could have been softened if there wasn’t so much pressure to fulfill the image of what a family is supposed to look like.

For our own family now, it’s been over a year since we’ve had an organized family photo. It’s just harder to make it happen with grown kids and two different homes and busy schedules. But as a photographer and photo-lover, I believe in documentation and capturing love in all our different places in life. And there are some walls in our home that beg for big prints to remind us “This is it right here.” So the stars aligned last week and a quick photo shoot was organized.

For all the pretty pictures I share–that anyone shares–there are accompanying stories. It’s easy to believe that those stories are all glossy and perfect and cozy, but I know better than to assume that. In fact, part of what I love about following friends even with the most breathtaking photos where life seems nothing but light-filled scenes of dreams–is knowing that those moments are earned through unseen moments of really hard work. There are so many stories we don’t share–stories of humor and heartache and beauty and joy and messing up and fixing it and hoping and trying and love…lots of hard work.  That’s the real beauty of family.

So here we are. Our Family. A blended mix of pasts and presents, figuring out a little more each day how to make it. Sometimes it’s really hard. But we love each other and that means everything.

 photo print 69_zpsos7u8ydv.jpg

And I may have tried to coordinate outfits for a somewhat cohesive look, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: life doesn’t follow your coordination plans.

 photo print 1_zpsntlaqcpb.jpg

But bring your color anyways. Show up. Make it interesting. Tell a story. Love the ones who have been given to you.

 photo print 30_zpssp7ye9pz.jpg

 photo blog 1_zpszohpxtps.jpg

 photo print 46_zps9dmhzjio.jpg

 photo print 61_zpsdij9f4hu.jpg

 photo print 58_zpsw8nsinot.jpg

 photo print 55_zpsrx01usi5.jpg

 photo print 20_zpsi8tw3gwo.jpg

 photo print 25_zpsiqampjb2.jpg

 photo blog 2_zps5pime54c.jpg

 photo print 31_zpsvxcwwexc.jpg

 photo print 36_zpsreb1nzlx.jpg

 photo print 72_zpsvwxe3ewk.jpg

 photo print 75_zpsuvobiwfc.jpg

 photo print 16_zpscdpx4juf.jpg

 photo print 88_zps30fy89bm.jpg

We’re not perfect, but we show up. And that’s all it takes for a perfect family photo.

I love these people.

 photo print 44_zpsbtiganta.jpg

And my favorite photo in the whole bunch…

 photo print 18_zpsaa6xekjz.jpg


Top that, Olan Mills.

Thank you to Heidi for capturing our family…and for always showing up.

Family Pizza Night and the Almighty Chicago Deep Dish (with a Family Pizza Pack Giveaway!)

featured image pizza

This post is sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Tracking Pixel
*The sponsors I work with provide fun opportunities to share things we love, and I enjoy these occasions to talk about both products we’ve always used and new things we’ve discovered in a way that fits with how I write and share on this blog–and hopefully feels fun for you to read as well. These partnerships help support our family and the time and work that goes into writing this blog–time and work that, thankfully, I truly enjoy. This partnership was especially fun and easy to support because Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board simply asked, “Want to join our Friday Night Pizza Party?” I mentioned the opportunity to Brett and he smiled. “Seriously? We LOVE Friday night pizza parties. You said yes, right?”

Making pizza at home with our family is one of our favorite things to do, and Friday nights set the perfect tone for a party.  The best homemade pizzas include–yep, you got it–Wisconsin Cheese.

Also, Happy Almost Halloween!

 photo pizza 31_zpsdaj2d5dd.jpg

For this pizza party, we invited our friends Vinny and Wylie to join us because they are the experts of pizza–Vinny’s family used to run a pizzeria in Brooklyn–and because, well, we like them. I set my standards high for this pizza. I wanted to attempt the Chicago deep dish, something I’ve never done from scratch. I grew up taking the Amtrak into Chicago and never visited without hitting up either Giordano’s, Gino’s or Uno’s.

 photo blog21-46.jpg
(from our Chicago visit in 2012)

It was time we recreated this cheesy wonder of the world in our own home.

Deep Dish is serious business though, and you don’t approach it lightly. Our friend Vinny knows pizza like the back of his hand, but he’s an Italian New York boy, so I gave him what he’s good at–sauce, cheese and toppings–and I took over the responsibility of the Chicago deep dish crust. I researched that mother like I was writing a thesis on it, and the recipe I chose turned out to be nothing short of perfection. I followed Sally’s Baking Addiction deep dish crust recipe to a T which uses flour, salt, sugar, yeast, warm water, butter and cornmeal. The secret of a deep dish crust which resembles a pie crust more than a pizza crust is three things: cornmeal, sugar (it’s a little sweeter than regular pizza dough) and laminating butter into the dough.

So I pre-made the deep dish dough, set the table for company and then watched as my friends arrived and took over our kitchen LIKE A BOSS. Friday night just got real.

 photo pizza 1_zpsitynh8xc.jpg

 photo pizza 5_zps3ouocdwf.jpg

 photo pizza 23_zpsridsoqnn.jpg

The dough recipe I followed rolled out beautifully to make two deep dish pizzas. We lined the bottom of two 9-inch tall cake pans, lightly oiled, with the dough and brushed it with an olive oil mixture with fresh garlic and Italian spices.

 photo pizza 2_zpshx7i7tuq.jpg

You can add whatever toppings you’d like to a deep dish pizza. We sauteed red peppers, cooked sausage and added pepperoni.

 photo pizza 8_zpsywy6revv.jpg

I thought a good homemade pizza sauce would be pretty complicated but was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was. Vinny says you don’t need to add much to a good can of crushed tomatoes and not only that you can add it right to the can; don’t dirty another dish. He also says don’t cook pizza sauce because the tomatoes will taste old if you double cook them. We topped off a can of crushed tomatoes with fresh basil and oregano, a heaping tablespoon of sugar (I like a sweeter sauce for deep sauce), a swig of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Stir together and that’s it!

The other secret of deep dish pizza is you reverse the toppings–do not pour sauce directly on crust. It’s CHEESE FIRST. I’m sure Wisconsin Cheese would agree with this life motto–cheese first.

 photo pizza 11_zps5wj82quw.jpg

Then toppings.

 photo pizza 12_zpsduhyhxfh.jpg

 photo pizza 22_zpstkeirz07.jpg

And finally sauce.

 photo pizza 14_zpsdkwtlh3e.jpg

 photo pizza 15_zpsiy09c5mz.jpg

Repeat those layers, fold in the dough that overlaps the pan and then shave some fresh Wisconsin Parmesan on the top. Bake at 500° for around 40 minutes depending on your oven, but keep checking until crust looks golden, cheese is fully melted and consistency is to your liking. Important: let it set for at least 10 minutes.

 photo pizza 17_zpscqxscymp.jpg

 photo pizza 18_zpsqa6wukqb.jpg

We made some regular dough for the kids so they could make their own mini pizzas, have fun with the dough and watch Vinny throw it in the air.

 photo pizza 19_zpso2mf2xbr.jpg

 photo pizza 21_zps4p0rrzhz.jpg

The kids loved theirs…

 photo pizza 32_zpsact1hfw3.jpg

And ours? Sweet Mother of Melted Cheese. Best pizza ever. Even Vinny–the king of pizza–was raving, taking pictures of it, texting it to family.

 photo pizza 24_zpsb5qtijkp.jpg

 photo pizza 25_zpsrzzelway.jpg

And now comes Brett’s favorite part. He used to work in a pizza parlor when he was in his 20’s and for years has been raving about the cool pizza cutter he used to use that stretched across the entire diameter of the pizza–talked about it so much that my mom finally found one and gave it to him for Christmas last year. He loves every opportunity to whip it out.

 photo pizza 27_zpspoim5c35.jpg

And I love any opportunity to be with friends, eat pizza and enjoy a Friday night together. Success! Mad success.

 photo pizza 28_zpsj3pxkshc.jpg

 photo pizza 30_zpsz4l5zmce.jpg

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has a lot more Friday Night Pizza Night fun and a slew of great pizza recipes for you to try.

Plus, they’re giving away a prize package full of Wisconsin Cheese and pizza-making supplies (Epicurean Pizza Peel, Williams-Sonoma Pizza Chopper, and Silicone Trivet) so you can host your own Friday night party.

Use the below Rafflecopter widget to enter for a chance to win and have Friday night pizza party fun of your own! The giveaway is open through 11/5. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For another chance to win a #FridayNightPizzaNight Prize Pack, share a photo of your Friday night pizza on Instagram using the hashtag #FridayNightPizzaNight and tagging @WisconsinCheeseTalk.