Sunday, March 27, 2011


I'd said I wasn't going to post pictures of Brookie until after she healed a little bit, but I had so many requests to see her that I just went ahead & posted some to Facebook. So if I did them there, I have to do it here too! :)

First off...a couple "before" pictures:
The morning of the first surgery
With the expanders in... And wacky nevus hair!!
 With the expanders in again. This one you can see them both pretty well as the entire nevus.
 The morning of the 2nd surgery...just this past Thursday.

These next 3 are at the doctor's office on was the very first time we got to see the results.

These last 3 are from last night. Brooke was itching her head so we let her go without the dressing for a few minutes. She loved it so much that she fell asleep!!!! So we re-dressed her head while she was asleep! :o) 

Taaa-Daaah!!! :o)

A Great Couple of Days in Chicago

Here's just a little to fill you in on what we did the last couple days.

Saturday (yesterday) we were going to go to the Museum of Science & Industry but we woke up & got going a little too late, so we decided to walk around the mall instead. First, though, we found a Post Office so we could get a couple flat-rate boxes. We ended up going to 2 & neither of them had any, so we just had to get regular boxes. (We were basically at our max weight on our way here, so with the clothes we got Cali AND all of this medical stuff for Brooklyn, we'll be over. So we're gonna mail stuff back.)

I had a 50% off coupon from The Children's Place so when we got to the mall we headed there first to get Cali a present. I told her that if she didn't have any time-out's with Oma (my mom) then daddy & I would bring her a big present. And boy does she like presents!! The biggest present that we're bringing home for her is a new carseat. Yeah, she's the type of kid that will just love it. We took Cali's seat & made it Brooklyn's...since she can now sit facing forward. So we changed them the day we left for Chicago & now that one is hers, so Cali needs a new seat. Cali also loves skirts, so The Children's Place was perfect.

After that we just walked around, ate lunch, & people-watched. From there I ran into Babies-R-Us cause Brooklyn's little snack carrier thing was dropped & broke. So I got her a new one. Then we ran by Target to get more diapers (cause we were down to just about 10), wipes, & milk. Then we grabbed a coffee & came back to the hotel.

For dinner on Friday night I ran to Portillo's. This was the place that I didn't get to go inside of when we were here in January. The food is amazing & I was told that inside was just a trip. So I said I'd go to Portillo's & bring us back food. And wow....was that place ever crazy inside!!! First off, it was a Friday so it was just packed. And second off...I'd never been inside before so I was like a lost little puppy. Let's just say it took me forever to figure out what to do. I started off in the To Go line, which I didn't know until I got to the front...there went 10 minutes. Then I found my way to the Barnelli's side of the restaurant, ordered my food, & waited about 15 mins for my food. Then I had to go to the Portillo's side to get Dustin's stuff, which I did much quicker. But by the time I got to the car my phone was ringing. It was Dustin asking what was taking me so long....LOL I'd been gone an hour! Oops. Needless to say, we got our food & it was delicious. So Saturday night we had leftovers!!

Today (Sunday) we purposefully got up earlier than usual so we could go to the Museum of Science & Industry. Supposedly it's the biggest science museum in the Western Hemisphere...that's pretty cool! Here is a bad picture of the front...I took it when I was stopped at a light!

We probably should have thought twice about going on a weekend, but how bad could it be, right? HA!! I should have taken a picture of all the people when we got there. It was a crazy mad house zoo. There were people everywhere. Everywhere you looked. It was just crazy. Not a place for Dustin...but he's getting better! If I'd have brought him here when he first got out of the USMC it'd have been a different story...but he handled it quite well...even though he kept stepping on my heels! ;o) Here's a pic of Dustin & Brooklyn in the only empty room in the whole place. It stayed empty for about 20 seconds, but Brooklyn got her run in!!

It was a pretty cool museum, I guess. I'm sure we'd have liked it better if there were fewer people. But I think we pretty much got the jist of it. Also, we did see the entire museum, so we went through it kind of fast. If we really wanted the full effect we should have taken our time in each area & really read the displays, played around with the stuff, & just enjoyed exploring. But we wanted to see the whole thing. Plus, we had Brooklyn, of course, so we couldn't stay in one place for too long. But I'd totally like to go back (on a weekday of course) to see more. My brother Mike would really like this place. Here's a good pic of the Chicago skyline on our way home from the museum:

After the museum we went to another famous pizza place in Chicago, but this one is a chain: Giordano's. They make the famous stuffed pizza. It has a thick crust, then the cheese & toppings, then another layer of crust, and THEN the sauce. We liked it, but Pizzaria Uno was definitely better. I don't think Giordano's made the pizza as good as they could have. It didn't look as good as I thought it would...& then it wasn't hot! But it still did taste good. I'd like to try another location to see if maybe we just went to a "bad" one. There's still one more pizza place/chain I'd like to try sometime: Lou Malnati's, but we'll have to do that in August when we're here. Here's the famous stuffed pizza (a SMALL one, I might add):

 Sweet little girl
Remember back to our trip here (check out our blog post called "'s like we never left")..she has this thing for eating off the edge of the table with no hands!

Tomorrow we have a doctor's appointment to have these darn drains removed (YAY!), then we're going to the Shedd Aquarium since we have the annual passes, then we're packing up cause tomorrow is our last night here. It's gone by fast. But we're anxious to get home withour new-looking Brooklyn! We just can't wait to see Cali too! She's so excited to get her present from us...that's pretty much all she talks about when we're on the phone. She did have a time-out today with Oma, but we'll let it slide. :o)

As for now...I'm packing up a box or two so we can mail it home... then bed!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Big Reveal!!!

Well ok...I want nothing more than to show some pictures of our "new" Brooklyn, but they are a bit "inappropriate" to show right now. Ok back up a little......

We didn't have a bad night at all last night. It was definitely worse after she had her first surgery. (But we do realize that this won't last becuase the next surgery she'll be getting an expander in again...) To say she's bounced back quick is an understatement. Exceptionally speedy is even an understatement!! Last night for about an hour she was pretty unsteady on her feet...getting used to the weight (or lack there of) on her head. But after that hour, she was back to it.

She just woke up a time or 2 in the middle of the night, which was a heck of a lot better than 15+ times for the first 3 weeks after the first surgery! We slept in very late cause after that nap we had yesterday we didn't get to bed until late. So we got up, got ready, & went to Dr. Bauer's office to have her dressing changed. This was the big reveal for us! We were sooo excited to see her without the dressing on.

And boy were we not disappointed! We saw a forehead....a FULL forehead. We saw a scalp. And we saw hundreds of stitches. There has to be 300+ stitches. They're all so incredibly small & delicate...& VERY well done. Mim, Dr. Bauer's nurse, said that probably more than half the surgery time was putting the stitches in. She said that Dr. Bauer came back to the office & told her & Susan, the other nurse, about the surgery & how well it went. And she said that he was very excited that he got 80% of the nevus!

I took 3 pictures of her new head. They are good pictures, but I'm going to restrain myself & not show them until after we get the drains out. We want to get those out, wash her head, & make it less "icky" looking. I really do want to show them, but I don't think you'll get the full effect until it's cleaned up better. However, if you can't wait, message me & I'll send a pic. :)

When we left Dr. Bauer's office we got lunch & then got myself some frozen yogurt...mmmmm. So now our only question is: what to do for dinner! ;o) 

Brooklyn hasn't stopped going ever since yesterday when she woke up. She's more active now than she was before the surgery! I'm so happy that she's back to her normal self. It's a relief to know that she can return to normal after going through something so traumatic.

More to come...

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Wow what a day it has been!! Seems like 3 days ago that we were getting to the hospital. was today & here's how the day went...

We had to be there at 6am because she was Dr. Bauer's first surgery of the day. We got up & were at the hospital at 6:01am. :) Here is Brooklyn when we pulled up to the hospital:
We walked in, checked in at the front desk, then went to the Ambulatory Surgery area. We were greeted by very nice nurses who directed us to the Peds room, where we got crib #4. Our main nurse was the same person we had back in January, which was nice! Surgery was just 11 weeks ago today so it was nice that they remembered us! We were told to just hang out for a little bit. Little by little the nurse would come in & have us sign a paper, or do her vitals, or take her weight, or have us change her into a gown. So we just hung out, did as we were told, & had fun taking pictures! :) Here's Brookie with daddy while we were waiting for the elevator:
She was a happy girl! We were having a good time together. An RN who was training to be an anesthesiologist came in & asked us questions. She was very nice. Then the anesthesiologist came in. She wasn't so personable! I looked right at her & she didn't even say hi. The training RN said that the anesthesiologist would ask us a bunch more questions, but she didn't. She just asked if we had any questions. I asked about the night terrors that she was having after the first surgery. She'd had them for almost a solid 3 weeks, which we were told were from the anesthesia. She said that it's not possible b/c the anesthesia is out of your system in 24 hours. Hmmmmm. Funny cause we have spoken to many people (some were medical professionals, some weren't) about this & they all said it was from the anesthesia. I still am convinced that something was messed up in her little body that caused the night terrors. I guess we'll find out in the near future if she gets them again. Oh well...who knows. But she certainly looked at me like I had 3 eyes when I asked her that question. Needless to say, I didn't get a good feeling about her at all, but what was I going to do about it?! I just prayed for Brooklyn & all the staff who were in the OR with her & trusted that she'd be ok. And of course she was. :) Here she is with her superhero cape on!
 And here's the 2 of us:
Then it was time for her to get changed into her gown & get her little bracelet on. I called it the chicken tag. That's when she realized something weird was happening. She started getting just a little bit fussy. Could have been that she was suspicious, could have been that she just wanted to walk around but we wouldn't let her with her bare feet, could have been that she was getting hungry. Who knows. Here she is in a happy moment with her cape back on...playing with her toys.
And here she is sitting with daddy just a few minutes before Dr. Bauer came in to see us. I asked him if she'll have hair on her forehead (since the expanded forehead has hair on it towards the back). He said no, it won't because he makes sure that the hairline is where it's supposed to be. ;o) He said it'd be a few hours & then he'd come out & let us know how she did.
Then the hard part came. They came to get her; so we walked with the escourt through ambulatory surgery, through the doors, around the corner, past the surgery waiting room, through heavy double doors, & down a looooong hallway. We sat in the same place that we sat while we were waiting for surgery just 11 weeks ago today, but this time it wasn't nearly as long. They took us to that spot right about 7:20am & they took her for surgery right about 7:30am. The RN training in anesthesia took her & I watched as they walked down the hall & turned the corner. In January there was a very nice nurse who worked in that holding area for surgeries & she'd seen that I pretty much had a lost look on my face...kind of like..."So now what?!" That same lady was there & she'd remembered us. She came up to us & said that it'd be a while so we should go down to the cafeteria & get some food & then wait in the waiting room. So we did just that. I just couldn't get that picture out of my head though...of this innocent little bubble girl being carried down the hall & around the corner. She didn't know what was happening. She just needed her mommy there to comfort her but I couldn't be there. And that killed me. I cried all the way to the cafeteria...until I forced myself to stop thinking of that & to just pray. I was ok after that. Like I've said...never underestimate the power of prayer!!

We went to the cafeteria but I was so NOT hungry. So we just got a small carton of whole milk for Brooke for when she got out of surgery (I'd brought my ice pack to keep the bottle cold). I wanted a coffee so we decided to go up to the cafe instead. So we went up there, got a coffee, shared a danish, & then went back to the waiting room.

We got to the waiting room just about 5 minutes after 8am & when we checked in the man said that they had called from the OR & they'd just started about 5 mins ago. So we sat & waited. Our number on the TV screen never just constantly said "In OR", so we couldn't track any progress at all. At about 10:20'ish AM Dr. Bauer came in & took us to the Consult area. He had a huge smile on his face & said that he got 80% of her nevus!!!! I think both Dustin & I were in shock cause all either of us could say was "What?! 80%?!" He kind of described what he did & where the remaining nevus is on her head. He told us where the scars are & then said that she bled less than anyone else he's ever done (for where the nevus is & what type of procedure he did)! WOW....that's good! He was impressed by the lack of bleeding & said that out of all his cases she bled the least amount. Way to go Brooke!! LOL

I asked about repigmentation. Those fellow nevus families will know what I'm talking about here. It's kind of a lengthly explanation, but basically we've heard that the scars can repigment...& can turn dark like the color of the nevus in the future. I asked him about that & he said that it'll probably not happen with Brooklyn. He had plenty of skin to work with, which he was proud of. And he said that absolutely everything went so he was happy. He said that he'd see us before we left & that I could see Brooklyn soon. Oh...also... Originally he thought that the next expander would be in the scalp, but now he's probably going to put it in her forehead again...but kind of in the middle of her forehead going back towards her scalp, if that makes any sense.

So as soon as we got done talking to him we went back to the waiting room but the guy at the front had just gotten the call that it was ok that I go see her. So I grabbed her paci, her bottle, & my cell phone (so I could take pictures) & headed down the loooooooong hall. It was about 10:40am now. The hall kept going & going...I couldn't get to the end fast enough!! I had to put the stuff on again...the big white full-body paper suit & the incredibly attractive hat; & then was lead into the PACU where Brooklyn was being held by a nurse who couldn't stop telling me how beautiful she was! I sat down in the rocking chair & held her while I rocked, but she was very restless, crying, & throwing her head back. Then she'd stop. Then she'd do it again. She was almost too much for me to handle, with all the cords, IV, pulse ox, etc coming from her gown & blanket made it difficult. So after about 20 mins of this she finally settled down & they gave her a dose in her IV of an anti-inflammatory/pain med that helped her settle down for quite a while. Once I knew she was finally asleep I got out my phone & took this:
The weirdest thing was seeing her bubble-free. We were so used to seeing her with these 2 huge things coming out of her forehead & scalp...& now they're just gone!

We waited until a room opened up for her to recover in. Once that was open I sat with her in the wheelchair & they wheeled us out. Here we are sitting in the chair:
We got to our room...#2378. And she was just out. So we thought it'd be better for her to lay in the crib:
She layed there for quite a while, until the medication started to wear off. She was just a little cranky, but it wasn't anything bad. Basically she just wanted mommy to hold her. Once she was awake we were able to go home! They took her IV out, we changed her clothes, & then Dr. Bauer came in to see her. He was on his way out so he stopped in real quick to see how she was doing. She was awake, not smiling yet, but was doing good. He pulled the dressing up on her forehead just a little bit so I could her. All I can say is instant perma-grin! I was so excited. She has a forehead now! We only saw a tiny bit, but that tiny bit was the first part of a full forehead that we've ever seen! It was amazing. Once she's not as bloody & goopy I'll get a good before & after picture.

Dr. Bauer said to go in his office tomorrow to have them change the dressing, so I called his office & we'll go in at 1pm. I'm SO excited to see her without the dressings we can see the magnificant work of Dr. Bauer!

We packed up our stuff & they called for a wheelchair for us again so we didn't have so much to carry. We were wheeled down to our car right around 3:40pm & off to Walgreen's we went...for her antibiotics. Here we are in the car waiting for Dustin to get her medicine.
Notice that her head is back against the headrest & she's facing to the right! That's the first time she's been able to be in that position in weeks & weeks!!

We finally got her antibiotics around 4:20pm & came back to the hotel. We were all so tired, but Brooklyn was more hungry than anything! She started out eating some yogurt melts (LOL Which I had to feed her...she wouldn't do it herself), & then moved to little snacks, then on to an entire container of her baby food! She was a hungry girl!

When they were taking her IV out she bled a lot from the site & she'd gotten a lot of blood on my pants. When we got home, Dustin asked the front desk if they happened to have any hydrogen peroxide, but they didn't. They felt horrible about us going out to get some, so they had their shuttle driver go to the store for us...just to get some hydrogen peroxide! (Hint: Cold water mixed with hydrogen peroxide takes blood out of's amazing!) In the meantime, we all napped! We were just beat. Brooklyn fell asleep drinking a bottle so I slept with her on the couch while Dustin layed in the bed. We all fell asleep around 6:45pm & we all woke up at 8:45pm!! Must have needed the sleep....  Once we got up Dustin went down to the front desk to get the hydrogen peroxide & he came back with a huge stuffed bunny rabbit...or dog ??? (one of the two) with a Staybridge Suites bib on it...& a get-well soon card for Brooklyn!!!!! We are in love. In love with this hotel. In January they got both Zac & Brooklyn a stuffed animal. And now this! It was so sweet that we got Brooklyn & all went down to the front desk to say thanks. They were happy to see her & they wished her well. :) Seriously, if anyone is ever in the Chicago area & needs a place to stay, the Staybridge Suites in Lincolnshire, IL is amazing!

We were starving by this point so we heated up the last 2 pieces of our Pizzaria Uno & ate that. Brooklyn decided she wanted to try out walking, so she did! She got off the couch & took a few very wobbly steps, then just went for it. She hasn't fallen...yet. But she's doing sooooo good. It's night & day from the first surgery. She's just amazing! She also has been grabbing at the back of her head, where her scalp expander was, but it's gone! She started shaking her head back & forth cause it's so light, too. :o) Here she is standing by the table:
She still has both drains & the big head dressing. We are keeping up with the Ibuprofen/Tylenol/Gas Drops/Antibiotic/Drain Changes every 4 hours. The drains were last changed in the hospital, right around 3:30pm; then I changed them again tonight at about 10pm (much later than I was supposed to), but there was NOTHING but ONE drop in the left drain & just about 1cc in the right drain. At this rate, we won't be travelling home with drains!!! (That was one thing that we were NOT looking forward to!)

So that's that. It's late; Brooklyn's asleep; I'm tired; Dustin's tired...we're going to bed. More to come tomorrow!! Thank you to everyone for all the many thoughts & prayers. We appreciate it all!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

6 WHAT?!

Surgery is at Highland Park Hospital in Highland Park, IL. Their policy is that they call the patient the night before to let them know when they need to check in. So we were waiting for "the call" when I looked at my phone & noticed that I had a message. I checked it & a lady with a very strong accent came on & said that we had to be there at 6am. WHAT?! SIX O'CLOCK AM?!

But then I thought I heard the lady say 7am, so I wanted to call them & make sure. I had to leave a message, but I got a call back pretty quickly. And yes, sure enough, surgery is at 7:30am so we have to be there at 6am.

No milk or food after 1am; clear liquids allowed until 5am; then nothing until after surgery.

The bags are packed, Dustin's asleep, Brooklyn's asleep...& I'm headed there, IF I can even sleep.

This surgery is different. I know what to expect. However, this surgery will be much longer than the first one. And this surgery...believe it or not...I'm actually excited for. Well I'm not excited FOR the surgery, I'm excited for the OUTCOME. This will be the very first time that I will be able to see Brooklyn with a full forehead! That's enough said right there. This whole journey was started because we wanted to remove her nevus. And as of tomorrow, some of her nevus will be removed. We are finally seeing a result....and that's just plain ole exciting. :o)

THANK YOU for your thoughts and, more importantly, for your prayers. They are very much appreciated. We'll post more when we can...but for now, we have to be at the hospital in 7 hours so I'm gonna go enjoy these hours with my bubble girl, cause after tonight...the bubbles will be no longer!!!!!

Enjoying her lamby

2/3 tank of gas

In the past 2 days we've gone through 2/3 of a tank of gas! Yikes, that's a lot of driving. Here's a map:

And here's where we went:

Point D on the map - Lincolnshire, IL...our starting & ending point.

Point B on the map - Illinois Holocaust Museum
Today we went to the Illinois Holocaust Museum. I didn't even know that they had one here until we saw a sign for one when we were here in January. Another nevus mom, Beth (son Sully), had gone to it in January as well. As I mentioned from my post yesterday, I'm a HUGE Holocaust fan...wait, "fan"??? No that's definitely not the word. Enthusiast? Pro? How about this: The Holocaust REALLY interests me! I've done numerous reports on it, read many books on it, went to the museum in Washington, D.C., and also went to the concentration camp Dachau in Germany. It's just so interesting/fascinating to me that I can't ever learn enough about the subject. When I'm at the point that I think I know so much...I go to a place like the IL Holocaust Museum & I learn SOOO much more.

We pulled up to an architectural wonder. (Sorry...the picture could have been better but, as you can't see in the picture, it was raining a lot so I just took it & went on my way!)
Illinois Holocaust Museum

The architecture continued throuout the museum, following the feel of the whole story. We were told that there was a tour at 2pm that we should take advantage of. We had just about 15 mins to wait but weren't quite sure if we wanted to or not. I just knew that the guide would go way too fast through the that once we finished I'd want to go back through it by ourselves. But the security guard said that it was well worth it & that we'd learn a lot of things that aren't written on the walls or the displays. So we decided to go ahead & do it, even though we weren't quite sure.

All I can say is...THANK GOODNESS WE DID THE TOUR!!!!!!!!! It was my kind of tour. Our guide's name was Dovie & she has been involved with the museum for years. She's actually one of the people who we can credit for obtaining many of the artifacts that are in the museum today. She was very knowledgable about the whole subject & she told many stories. This was all stuff that we wouldn't have known if we'd walked through the museum ourselves without doing the tour. We started out with about 9 in our tour & ended up with just about 4 or 5 of us (the others went on ahead), but I'm so glad we stayed with Dovie & got to hear all of her stories. I loved hearing all the stuff she had to say. It was a long tour, but very well worth it. Brooklyn fell asleep about 5 mins in to the tour & woke up about 20 mins before it was over, so that was nice for us!

We were able to go inside a train car that was used to transport people to the concentration camps. The architecture, displays, walls, pictures, artifacts, glass, & EVERYTHING was just phenominal. It was very well done & I'm so glad we ended up going. At the end of the tour we stood & talked with some of the nice ladies & Dovie, our guide, & told them about Brooklyn. She was wide awake & walking all over so we told them all about our little bubble girl. It was a great afternoon, but after a bit Brooklyn started getting a little antsy so we needed to leave. We got in our car & saw that it was 4:30pm!! WOW! Besides the fact that we were in there a while, the museum & the tour is HIGHLY recommended!!!

Hanging out in the car

Point C on the above map - Woodfield Mall, Schaumberg, IL
We came here in January when we had dinner with The Melton's & The Moller's at Rainforest Cafe. We'd heard that before the Mall of America was built, this was the biggest mall in the country. This mall is what all malls should be!! It's amazing. We both really like this mall, except it's a little far from our hotel so it can't be a quick-trip kind of place.

We were starving so we went in & found the directory & decided to eat at PFChangs. Oh boy was that amazingly good. Thankfully my smell & taste is up to about 25% now (I'm almost over that darn cold) so I could taste some of it! :o)  We got egg drop soup, crispy green beans, sesame chicken, almond/cashew chicken, & dessert....mmmmm! Brooke wasn't too happy to be sitting in a seat so we couldn't stay as long as we wanted, but we still got to enjoy our food & the atmosphere.

Then we just decided to walk around a little bit...but needed to get back to the hotel so we could get to sleep. More about that in my next post...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rain, rain go away...

Well, I guess we'd take rain over snow, but it's gotta stop sometime! It's been raining almost non-stop since we got here. It's snowing like crazy at home, so I guess we do have the better end of the stick.

So what have we been doing since our last post...well yesterday we did a whole lotta nothin! We got up late again & then called the doctor's office. They said that they didn't really feel the need to see her like we thought they would...& just to have us keep them updated on how she's doing. So we decided to go do fun stuff...We're here, so why not?! :o)

We went to the mall close by here so we could get out & walk a bit. Too bad we didn't drive to Chicago cause all we could do was browse... :(  We ate lunch in the food court, walked around some more, & then decided to come back to the room. We got back to the room & I proofed recipes for a while, & then we needed to get dinner. So we went to the restaurant that we'd eaten at twice before (when we were here in January) & then got myself some frozen yogurt...mmmmmm.

And that's it for Monday! Pretty lazy day. Here's some pictures from Monday night:

Wearing daddy's Dodger hat!

Happy Girl!
 I realized today (Tuesday) that we came a day or 2 too early. I'd thought that Dr. Bauer's office would need to see Brooke Monday, but since they didn't, we didn't really need to be here. Totally my fault. Oh well though...we're here, Brooklyn is getting better every day, & that's that. I, on the other hand, am still pretty sick. I really feel totally fine, I'm just SO congested. I'm taking Mucinex and honestly as soon as about 11 hours is up I can feel it getting bad again. I'm keeping up on it though & taking it as often as I can. Still though, I've gone through a total of about 3-4 boxes of Puffs in less than a week!

We got up late again today. (Figured we are catching up on our sleep that we've missed out on in the past few weeks...) We decided to go downtown Chicago to see what we could see. Our main reason for going was because we were going to meet up with a friend of ours from high school. However, on our way down he wrote & said that he was stuck (he was there on business) & that he probably wouldn't get away until dinner time. So we decided to go to Navy Pier. But on the way there we decided that we didn't want to do that anymore cause we did that in January & we knew we'd be going back in August when we're here. So then we thought we'd go to the Illinois Holocaust Museum. We needed diapers sometime today or tomorrow, so when we drove by a Target, we stopped so Dustin could run in real quick. Brooklyn was asleep so I stayed in the car with her. While Dustin was inside I checked the hours of the Holocaust Museum & they closed at was now 3pm. :(  UGH! (Mind you...I LOVE LOVE LOVE the holocaust subject so I knew I'd take forever in there. When we were at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2007 I hadn't even finished with the very first section of the entire museum when the whole bus-load of people were ready to took me HOURS to not even finish the FIRST SECTION!) So needless to say...2 hours was NOT nearly enough time. So then we decided to just drive around. We'd thought about the Field Museum, but my brother's will like doing that when we're here next, so we didn't do that. But we both love driving around downtown so that's just what we did.

I had watched the Food Network & The Travel Channel before coming this time & had found a few places that I really wanted to eat at. One of those places was Al's's "the" authentic Italian Beef sandwich. We hadn't eaten lunch yet so we thought we'd do that first, as we were driving around. We found it pretty easily, went in, & enjoyed our first Italian Beef from Al's! It was pretty spicy. It's good that I can only taste about 10% of my food cause my mouth was burning. But Dustin just loved it. LOL When we were ordering the guy could totally tell we hadn't been there before. "You newbies?"...he said. can you tell?!

Then we drove around...Went to some places that we'd been to before...other places that were totally new. We found a Starbucks so we grabbed a coffee, & then kept driving around...taking in all that we could see!

At about 5:30pm we decided that we'd go to another place that I'd seen on TV...Pizzaria Uno. By now it was rush hour though so it took us a while to get there. Once we finally found the place it was 6:15pm & you couldn't park on the street until we thought we'd just drive around the block for 15 mins. Well as we were driving we turned the corner & found a garage that offered $9 parking! It was like a "late-bird" special! So we drove in there, parked, & walked to Pizzaria Uno. On our way out of the garage we noticed a sign saying how much it was to park in there. WOW it was expensive. Thank goodness we got the $9 parking (which was for up to 3 hours).

We got to the pizza place & they make you order your pizza before you even sit at your table b/c it takes 45mins to an hour to bake. Then it takes about 30-45 mins to get your table, so pretty much, by the time you sit down your food is almost ready, which is kind of nice! We only waited about 30 mins before we were seated, & then just about 10 mins later our friend, Chad, was able to meet up with us. It was nice seeing someone from home when we're so far away! (He lives in SD now, but neither of us had seen him in years.) We had a nice conversation over a deep dish 1/2 pepperoni & 1/2 pepperoni, sausage, & mushroom pizza! We could only eat one piece cause it was SO filling...but oh so good. I could hardly taste it at all, since I'm getting over my cold, but what I could taste was great!

Our pizza to go. Mine on the left: pepperoni. Dustin's on the right: pepperoni, sausage, & mushrooms. (By the way...those are SINGLE slices!!!)
Brooke started getting fussy cause she was really tired, so we had to cut it short & be on our way. We said our good-bye's & then went in to pay our $9 for our parking. I put the ticket in the machine & it said $26. TWENTY SIX DOLLARS?! I was parked just a few minutes over 2 hours!!!!!!!!!!!! Come to find out...we had to have it validated at a store in order for it to be $9, which they failed to tell us until we were driving out of the parking garage. Fantastic. So there goes $26 hard-earned dollars. UGH! Oh well...what can you do. I'd rather have our car & be able to drive home...

So we came back to the hotel & are now watching a movie & settling down. Tomorrow is our last free day until surgery so we're thinking we're going to go back to the city & do something that requires lots of walking. (Gotta get all our walking out now, since we'll be pretty much sitting with a sore baby for the next few days...)

It's nice to be indoors...OUT of the rain! And now, back to proofing recipes...

Sunday, March 20, 2011's like we never left!

Ahhh we've missed you so! (Ok...well we haven't missed the reason why we're here...we've just missed this area. We like it a lot here.) goes:

We got up yesterday (Sat the 19th) just before 8am cause we needed to be on the road somewhere between 9-9:30am. We got ready to go, & then went through some last minute "Cali stuff" when my mom got to our house. (My parents & brothers are staying at our house while we're gone. Their house is being worked on so they can't even use their living it's easier for them to have Cali at our, it'll be easier for Cali to stay there while we're gone.)

We got on the road right at 9:30, after getting gas, & headed to Billings.

Brooklyn in her new seat. It was Cali's, but she's getting a new one. She looks sooooo tiny in it compared to Cali! She was asleep about 5 mins after we left home!

We were literally 20 miles from Billings when I got an automated call from Delta on my cell phone. It said that our flight times had changed. Originally we were supposed to leave Billings around 1pm, land in Minneapolis (MSP) just after 4pm, & leave for Chicago Midway just after 5pm. (We had a 56 minute layover at MSP.) Well the call said that our flight wasn't leaving Billings until 1:45, which would make us miss our flight to Midway. So they rebooked us on a flight at 8am from MSP!! What?! I really really really wasn't looking forward to landing at MSP, getting our bags, finding a place to stay, PAYING for that place to stay, & then getting up the next morning at the butt crack of dawn to go fly again. So we decided to go right to the airport anyways to figure things out.

This is a good time to mention that a great couple from our church as donated their airline miles to us so that we didn't have to drive this trip. So a HUGE thanks goes out to them!!!!! We appreciate it so much. :o)

So we got to the airport & went to check in. I told the lady what had happened & she went to the back to check on things. She came back out & said that the flight just after 5pm was the last one to Midway, but there was a flight at 10pm that went to O'Hare. Perfect!!!!! We'll take it!! So we were re-booked on that flight. We'd have 5 1/2 hrs at MSP, but oh well, that's long as we get in to Chicago tonight.

We went through security...& as I've said on here before...if you're a potential terrorist...NEVER GO THROUGH THE BILLINGS AIRPORT!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL Seriously. Or I guess I take that back...go ahead & go through Billings cause you'll get caught! I knew security was going to take forever cause it takes forever when you're by youself...much less when you have a baby! We ended up with 6 bins full of stuff to go through the x-ray machine. Things were going great until they literally had to dump out the diaper bag cause there were so many liquids in there. Oops. There was her antibiotic (which I'd mentioned before I went through the scanner), 2 bottles of milk (which I had told them about), plus all of her Tylenol (2 bottles), Ibuprofen (3 bottles), gassy drops (2 bottles), & Benadryl (1 bottle). I come prepared. Oh, and we had all of her diaper cream too. So they got all that, put it back through the x-ray machine, & I thought we were good to go.....until the big bad supervisor guy came over. He told the 2 ladies that were working with me that if all that stuff didn't fit into 3 baggies that I was "eluding" & I'd have to be hand-searched. Well thanks to the nice security lady, she got it all packed into 3 baggies (since there were 3 of us travelling). You'd think that medicine wouldn't count, but apparently it did.

Anyways, got that done & then we went up to the gate. I immediately got out our car rental paperwork & called Midway to change our reservation. Unfortunately, you can't just change a reservation you have to do a completely new one. I got nervous cause I'd gotten a really good rate out of Midway, but I had to call the O'Hare people to do a new one. Well thank the Lord cause it was $5 cheaper for the same size car! Ahhh...that made me feel good.

So then I went to the lady at the counter & told her that we needed seats for that flight. She looked at the computer & then printed out our boarding passes. She said that she put us in first class because she wanted to make sure that we got off the plane first so that we could make our second flight. HUH? I was confused now, not about the first class part----that I understood perfectly...but about when she said we had to hurry to get to our second flight. I showed her the boarding passes that she'd just printed out for us & showed her that we were on a 10pm flight to O'Hare & she was like "huh...ok" & then told us to just keep our seats! NICE! First time I'd ever been in first class! And Brooklyn's very first flight she was in first class. Can't beat that.

We got on & were just in awe that we were sitting there. I tell you what was so nice being there with Brooklyn. We had plenty of room to hold her & let her go between us. Before we even took off I got a tap on my shoulder...coming from the guy sitting across the aisle from me. He asked what was going on with Brooklyn. It was nice, as you other nevus families know, to have someone actually ask instead of stare forever...& I told him that. We spent most of the flight chatting...very nice man! He's a beer distributor from Glasgow so him & Dustin got along great. LOL

In the middle of the flight the flight attendant came up to us & said that we'd get in at 4:30 pm so we could still make our first flight. She cut out a page in the Sky Magazine of the MSP airport & showed us a shortcut on how to make it to our next gate. But then I'd realized that our carseat was one of our checked bags & we had to have a carseat for Brooklyn. We thanked her so much, but said that we didn't really have a problem waiting the 5 1/2 hrs.

We got to MSP & decided to walk around a bit, then we decided to eat at Chili's, Too. (Like a mini Chili's.)

Brooklyn - eating her food off the table at Chili's, Too. She would push the food to the edge of the table, WITH HER HANDS, & then eat it off the table!!

When we were almost done eating Dustin asked if we wanted to go to the Mall of America. That was one place that I've always wanted to go. We were going to go there if we drove to Chicago this time. But we didn't drive so we weren't going to go. But there's a tram that goes right from the airport to the Mall. We asked our waitress how to get there & it sounded very complicated. But we were bound & determined. We weren't about to take all of our stuff out of the airport & back in (with the "eluding" comment the other security guy made I wasn't about to get arrested in Minneapolis!)  So we found lockers & were just going to take the essentials. Unfortunately they were full. So we went to the information desk & asked where other lockers were. The very nice gentleman told us where the others were....on the total opposite side of the airport. I'm glad we had our walking shoes on. On our way to the lockers we told ourselves that if the lockers were full, we wouldn't go. But if they were available, then we would.

We finally made it to the lockers, got one that was available, put stuff in it, & then made our way through the maze - up the elevator, down the long hall, down the elevators, got the tickets, & went to the train. Whew! Just about 15 mins later we got to the ghetto...oh, I mean to the Mall of America. We made our way into the zoo...oh, I mean inside. This place was a crazy madhouse from you-know-where! I guess, we WERE there on a Saturday, but come on. It was terrible. I guess I'd always expected it to be more "upscale" than it was. But no, I was dead wrong. Everyone & their dog told me that I'd be disappointed but I still wanted to see if for myself... Ummm, yeah, slightly disappointed. But I still would like to go back when we aren't pressed for time. I'd like to be able to go on the rides too. It's like a flippin carnival in there. Holy cow.

 Daddy letting Brooklyn walk around to stretch her legs!

Inside the Mall of America

So needless to say, an hour after we got there I was ready to leave! We re-traced our steps all the way back in, through security, & to our locker, got our stuff, & trotted along to our gate, where we just had to sit for about 20 mins before it was time to get on the plane. I could tell, by the amount of people sitting at the gate, that it wasn't going to be a very full flight. The plane had about 6 rows of first class and then probably a good 30+ rows of 3 seats on each side. And there was probably a grand total of about 50 people, at most. Across our row was a family (mom & dad with 3 kids) who we got in a conversation with. They were from Peoria, IL & were on their way home from Japan. They'd moved there for the husband's job (works for Caterpillar) & had lived there for 7 months. They actually lived about 350 miles from the hardest city hit in Japan & about 500 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. The mom hadn't felt the quake, but the dad had felt it in his office. Even 350 miles away they were running out of food in all the stores. They said that all the bigger stores were sending a lot of their food up north to the towns that needed it. So their company sent all their workers home so that it lessened the amount of people that needed food. When we landed, they'd been travelling for 27 they were glad to get home!

We went to baggage claim & all of a sudden a lady came up to us & asked us if we had a ride. She said that she heard on the plane that we were going to the North Shore & she said that she was willing to take us there if we needed. We are about 1/2 hr to 45 mins north of the airport so I thought that was the nicest thing that any stranger could ever say to us! We told her that we were renting a car & we had GPS so we were fine, but thanked her profusely. Ever since we were here in January we'd always said how nice these people are...& it's SO true!

We found the rental car bus, got our car, got upgraded for just $10 total, got our Hyundai Santa Fe, & made our way to our Home Sweet Home...after stopping at the store to grab some milk for Brooke. Hahaha it was funny walking in the hotel cause I didn't even have to tell them my name! They recognized me from January! I checked in, we unloaded all our stuff in our room, took showers, unpacked, & then went to 2:10am!
Our's totally opposite of the room we had in January, so it's taking some getting used to!!

This AM we woke up cause my phone rang. It was pitch black in the room so I figured it was like 3am...nope....11:30!!! HA! Thank the Lord for blackout curtains. I guess we needed the sleep, though. Plus, Brooklyn didn't wake up even ONCE last night. It was, by far, the best night we'd had in weeks!

We got up & decided we needed to do something productive, so we got lunch, & went to Super Target for a weeks-worth of groceries, got a coffee, & then came back to the room to lounge! Dustin was able to do his homework for the day & now I'm off to proof more recipes....

More to come tomorrow!!!

We're SICK of this!

Yes...we're certainly sick of this....we're sick of being SICK! UGH...yup, we're sick. First, little Brooklyn got sick. We had her 1 year well child visit on Tuesday the 8th & then on Thursday the 10th she got sick. I just knew it was NOT an ear infection because we were just in getting her checked out & she didn't say anything about Brooke having an ear infection.

So she got a runny nose, congestion, cough, & just sick-looking eyes. The poor baby looked horrible. She had a fever off & on...highest it got to was 104.6. DISLIKE!! So the poor kid was getting medicine around the clock.

Sick little baby - fell asleep on daddy
On Tuesday (5 days of being sick) I called Dr. Bauer's office & spoke with Mim, one of his nurses. We got some antibiotics for her to take for a week before surgery, just to be on the safe side. Thankfully it's strawberry flavored so she doesn't mind it!

On Wednesday (6 days of Brooklyn being sick) I woke up with a horrible sore throat. It actually woke me up in the middle of the hurt so bad. My mom had strep exactly a week ago so I figured that's what I had. I decided to stop in my work & get a rapid strep test done just to be on the safe side. By the time we left the house I was convinced that it wasn't strep. I felt fine...I just had a sore throat. And I was starting to get a runny nose...oh & I was sneezing so much you'd have thought I was one of the 7 Dwarfs. But we went in anyways & the Nurse Practitioner that I work with, Sharon, was there & she looked in my ears & did a rapid strep test. (I still feel bad for coughing on her....darn gag reflexes!!! LOL)  Thankfully, like I'd thought, the strep was negative, but I had some fluid in my ears. UGH...I'm getting sick. So since the girls were with me she just decided to check their ears too. Cali's left was fine but her right was in the beginning stages of an infection...but still not bad enough to do meds. (So I let our family doctor know that my mom may be bringing her in this week!!) Then she checked Brooklyn's ears & what do you know....left was fine but the right ear had an infection. SERIOUSLY!?!? Surgery is just 8 days away & she has an ear infection? You're kidding me!! She was already on antibiotics for about 25 hours at that point so we didn't need to do anything else. She said that the antibiotic she was on takes 48 hours to work, so she wanted me to bring her in 2 days later, on Friday, to have the doctor I work for take a peek at her & make sure the antibiotics were working. I called Dr. Bauer's office & Mim said that it's a different story when you're taking the expanders out, as opposed to putting them in. She said that when you're putting them in, obviously, a foreign body is going in so you don't want them to be sick at all...not even a sniffle. But when you're getting them out they can have a slight runny nose or congestion, just not a cough...because they're coming out! Whew...ok so as long as this ear infection & cough get cleared up then we're good to go for surgery.

Probably the worst thing about her being sick is that she doesn't sleep. We were already having sleeping problems with her so this just added to that. I think that maybe her expanders are just so big that she gets uncomfortable...who knows. But being sick certainly didn't help any! Over the past week & a half we maybe would be getting 2-3 hours a night. It wasn't fun. Then, all of a sudden Dustin realized that she sleeps the best in our recliner. So Thursday night (when she'd been sick a week), Dustin slept with her for the first third of the night, then came in & put her in bed with us. Of course for that second 1/3 of the night she wasn't sleeping, so for about the last third of the night I went in with her...& she slept so soundly. So the next night we weren't doing it anymore....Dustin slept with her in the chair the entire night. She slept from 11pm until we woke her up at 8am!!!

Unfortunately for me...I did end up getting sick. "Congestion" is an understatement. I didn't really feel all that horrible, but I just couldn't breathe cause I was so plugged up. All I could think was that I hope this goes away by the time we fly. I'd flown once before when I was sick (I was probably a teenageer still)...& it hurt so bad that I still remember it! So I wanted to avoid that, obviously!

On Friday I was working, so my mom brought the girls in & they were looked at by the doctor I work for, since our doctor doesn't work on Friday's. She checked my ears again & they were totally cleared...yay, but I was still sick! She gave me a 3-day antibiotic to take (bless her) to hopefully avoid some furthering complications. She checked Brooklyn's right ear - completely cleared. But her left ear now has some fluid in it. Then she checked Cali's ears, just because, and sure enough.....DOUBLE EAR INFECTION. The silly girl didn't even act sick. She had just started with a runny nose, but that was it. So she got an antibiotic too. Then she asked about Dustin. He hasn't shown any signs or symptoms of being sick, but just incase, she called in an antibiotic for him too. So that day, Brooklyn was already on an antibiotic, & then Cali, Dustin, & I all got them too. Gotta love being sick.

I was very worried about Brooklyn flying with her illness, but she did great. She slept the entire first flight & then played the 2nd flight, until we started to land & then Dustin got her to sleep. I'd say she's at about 95%. She is back to her normal, playful, smily self, but still has a slight runny nose & cough.

Needless to say, we couldn't do the fill on Friday. I've been in close contact with Dr. Bauer's office & they said that if she's well enough early this week that we can go in the office & do a fill. So we'll see how tomorrow goes. I'd still like her ears checked out either way...just to make myself feel better!

As for Dustin...still fine. Here's to hoping & praying that he stays that way. Me, on the other hand...I'm still sick. But I'm slowly getting better. I'm still soooo congested. The flying didn't help in the least bit. But I'm feeling alright, so that's good. :)

More updates to come...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Volume 2 is underway!!

H-U-G-E sigh of relief happened today at about 1:45pm....


Ahhhhh...what a weight lifted off my shoulders now that that's done. I do still have a lot of proofing to do with the recipes, but at least the book is off to the publisher. Have I mentioned it's such a relief!?!?

The one & only set-back was that I'm still not 100% on the cover picture. But nothing can be perfect. (And it's too late to change it now!)  Not one person totally agreed on the cover shot, which was unfortunate, cause Volume 1 was so easy to pick the cover picture. There's no way I couldn't go with that picture. But Volume 2 is different. I just hope people like it, that's all.

I'm donating an entire box to a Nevus Outreach friend who is donating all the proceeds to Nevus Outreach. (To donate to them please go to They are a great organization...providing so much help & support to new & existing nevus families.)

I'll keep you all posted as to when the books are scheduled to come out...probably the end of April or beginning of May!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Year Doctor's Visit

We just returned from Brooklyn's 1 year Well Child Check at the doctor's office. She is 27" long (in the 10th percentile) and is just 17lb 9oz (which is the 5th percentile). Yeah... We have a "petite girl", as our doctor said! She's not worried in the least bit about her size, "she's just petite like her mom", she said. :)  She was impressed that she's walking already & has been for about a month now. She loved how she gets into everything. She actually said that she's more advance & developmentally ahead of the game than I am letting her on to believe (if that even makes sense). She said she's doing more than I'd even tell her about, cause she'd just watch her move & get into my purse & try to get off the table by going on to her stomach & putting her feet off first! LOL  She was busy!

Our doctor was also very impressed at how well she's handling the expanders. Besides not sleeping well, she's 110% amazing! She said that she's got to have incredible neck muscles by now. And she also agreed with me that her biggest shock will probably be on surgery day when she goes from having 500-600cc's of fluid on her head to having nothing there! She thinks her balance may be way off, but she'll adapt pretty quickly.

What else...Of course we didn't get her 1 year shots today. We can't have any immunizations while the expanders are in place, for risk of infection, allergy, etc. So we'll take her in about a month after we get back for those.

I think that's about it. She's doing awesome! :o)

She's 1!!!!!!!!!

Wow...I think that we've just been so caught up in all this nevus stuff that time has just passed us by so incredibly fast. I can not believe that Brooklyn is 1. Haha now we have a 1 year old & a 2 year old. Good golly.

Her birthday was Monday the 7th so we had her party on Sunday the 6th. When I sent out invitations I really did feel bad, but I had put a little note in each one saying that if anyone was sick or was around someone who was sick to please not come. I hated doing that, but now that we're closer to surgery #2 it's imparative that she stay well. I had 5 people cancel the day of the party or the day before the party because either them or their kids were sick. I hated not having them here, but I'll do anything to keep her well. At least this "germ-o-phobic" stage will be over once her 2nd surgery is done. Then we can live normal lives again for 3 months!

We planned the party around naptimes, so we had it at 1:30pm. This is the very first party we've had where it had to be indoors. All of Cali's parties, all of our BBQ's, & all of our get-togethers are always this was a first for us! Plus, I was struggling with finding stuff for the kids to do. Thankfully I found some bouncy balls, little sunglasses, & a friend of ours bought those huge balloons that has a rubber band attached to it. So they were entertained!

Long story short - we didn't get to eat the big huge fancy cake for our benefit dinner that we had back in November. (I'd thought it had been cut but apparently people were waiting for me to cut it.) So by the end of the night it was still sitting there! So we froze it & kept it for her 1st birthday. Here it is:
It wasn't dry at all. It was just as perfect as it was on the night of the benefit dinner. No one could even tell that it'd been frozen for 4 months! :o)

Here are a few more pictures from her party:
Happy 1st Birthday Party to ME!!! :o)

She actually kept the hat on for nearly an hour!

Present time!!! (Here are some pictures from that):

Mommy helping Brookie open her presents

Opening more...but taking a second out to look at the camera!

She liked her radio from Dustin's parents!

And time for cake!!! (Here are cake pictures):
She's thinking in her head "I'm gonna GET that candle!!"

"Hmmm...what do I do with this?"

"Well I guess I'll try to eat it."  LOL She wouldn't touch it...she just leaned forward in the high chair to lick it & take bites out of it! Haha!

Daddy helping her eat it. (Notice she's finally touching it!)

Finally eating it by herself!

" THAT was tiring!!"

The party was fun & a success. Cali had a ball playing with all the kids and Brooklyn just didn't know what to think about it all! :o)

We got up Monday morning & she just decided she was going to have some birthday mischief:
She'd taken all her clothes out of the drawer & got in the drawer (for the first time).

When Dustin & I got home from work we had fun watching her play with all her new toys. And she had a ball!!!
Playing in her new tunnel...which she adores!

"I'm on a sugar high!!!!!!!!!!!!" Hahaha she was a pretty happy kid until after 10pm!

All-in-all we had a great day! She had a good birthday & party. :o)