The Reoccurrence of Hodgkins Lymphoma

Occasionally I worry I "over share" my life.  In person and online. But then I remind myself how much strength and support comes from shared experiences.  I appreciate when asked if retelling the story or giving information is difficult.  Happily it is not.  I did struggle talking about the actual chemo experience towards the end and would start to dry heave while explaining. But there is no trauma when asked how are things going or what is going on? I am always happy to tell and always happy to answer questions

When diagnosed, I was told Hodgkin's Lymphoma has a near 90% cure rate.  This gave me strength and hope.  The doctor explained the treatment.  6 months of 12 chemo doses administered every 2 weeks. The chemo cocktail would include 4 drugs ABVD. The B can permanently damage the lungs and they did not anticipate using it the entire 12 treatments. The goal was 4-6 doses. Following the 6 months they would decide if radiation would be needed and if the HL comes back or is found in the marrow, a bone marrow transplant would be necessary. With all these options and treatments available that is how they reach such a high cure rate.

Treatment started and Dr. J kept a close watch on my lungs. After 2 treatments of ABVD he determined there would be permanent damage if we continued the B drug, so we stop using it.  After 4 treatments I had a PET/CT scan.  This scan showed no activity they previously saw.  They did see some activity in my knee but through biopsy found no cancer cells.  I was considered to be in remission. 

Fast forward, January 18th, my last treatment.  February 3rd I went skiing.  That night I felt a very familiar pain in my chest.  Hoping it was just sore muscles or even an injury from skiing, I knew the impending PET/CT scan would show activity. The scan was February 9th and the results showed as expected activity in my breast bone and in the right axillary lymph node. Showing activity in the lymph node Dr J wanted a biopsy. February 14th I had the biopsy. Preliminary results said it was a reoccurrence of HL. It took a week for the full confirmation but by that time we had and an appointment with the Transplant team at LDS hospital, February 23rd.  

The Transplant team explained in detail the process.  Here is a condensed version; First I need to get back into remission.  I will do as many rounds of a more intense chemotherapy as needed until remission. It could be as few as 1 or as many as 6? Dr. J has given us the choice between two different chemotherapy options that can get us to remission. ICE and GCD. ICE has been around for a long time, is proven and is most often used. It is also VERY hard on the body.  Lots of side effects and must be administered in the hospital over a few days every 3-4 weeks.  GCD has been around for about 5 years.  It uses one of the drugs "C" from ICE.  It is given outpatient and does not have as harsh of effects.  It is still intense and appears to have the same success rate as ICE. We plan to use the GCD and if after the first treatment or two we don't see the results we expect will switch to the ICE.  

Once in remission they can harvest my own bone marrow stem cells. I am most dreading this part because to get as many stem cells as possible they will give me the biggest shot of neupogen I have ever had. (insert tears) Harvesting the stem cells is about an 8 hour process.  Once they have the stem cells they will admit me into the hospital and give me a "lethal" dose of chemo. This is intended to kill everything, any residual cancer cells as well as my bone marrow which would be lethal.  That is when they will "rescue" me with my stem cells and bring me back to health and hopefully meet the goal of curing the cancer! 
If for some crazy reason a single cancer cell survives either in the stem cells or through the transplant and the HL returns there is the option of a donor bone marrow transplant. 

It is amazing that there are so many options, solutions and back up plans to the back up plan. I have spoken with many transplant survivors. I have had many people tell me success stories of people they know. Hearing these stories make me more confident in this process. I am grateful to hear each one. I know there will be hard days ahead BUT I have been given the opportunity to gain a little strength back, to feel almost normal for a few weeks. It makes me optimistic that I won't feel crappy for the rest of my life, this too will pass. 


3 down, 9 to go....

Treatment 3 is in the books.  I was pretty proud of my high WBC count, hoping that it would cover me for at least a treatment or two but the Dr informed me that it's quite the opposite, when a persons WBC count gets that high it will then plummet back to the bottom.  Which means I start the shots again.  This time the day after chemo to see if we can catch it before it dips too low and prevent some of the pain.  But so bummed to have them scheduled for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday. (I wanted to cry about it but decided I have felt quite well after this treatment I wasn't going to let that news ruin a good day.... and I can cry about it tomorrow).

Each chemo day starts with a Dr's appointment to make sure my body is handling and responding to the treatment.  The standard treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma is ABDV Adriamycin Bleomycin Dacarbazine Vinblastine.  

Some call Adriamycin the red devil.  It is bright red, turns your urine pink, and can decrease the heart's pumping ability.  Which is why they monitor my heart closely.  For a few days after treatment it feels like someone has their hand around my heart squeezing so it is harder to pump.  It makes it difficult for me to lay flat to sleep because my heart feels extremely heavy in my chest so I prop myself up with a pillow mountain and sleep as much as possible.  It also causes hair loss and mouth sores. I am starting to see a few hairs on my pillow and I have had 2 little sores so far.  The sores have shown up consistently after about 7 days.

Bleomycin is the reason for the pre chemo pulmonary function tests.  At the beginning of treatment, I was told this drug would only be administered as long as my lungs could handle.  They began with a starting point and once I was out of the normal range I was told I would stop.  Studies have shown and some clinics only administer this drug for 4 treatments because it is believed that is all you need.  So the goal was 4.  The first treatment I lost only a few percentage points but after the second I dropped severely and just under what is considered to be the normal range.  So as the nurse put it "your lungs are fried" lol  The damage done can not be repaired during chemo and can only improve just slightly post chemo often leaving a patient with shortness of breath for the rest of their life. So they have stopped this drug and the Dr is confident that I got what I needed to kill the cancer.  He says he believes my body is responding well to treatment and does NOT feel swollen lymph nodes anymore. This drug also causes hair loss.

Dacarbazine has the least dramatic side effects, but along with adriamycin delayed effects of this drug include a slight risk of developing a blood cancer such as leukemia.

Vinblastine has some noticeable side effects including hair loss, mouth sores taste changes like a metallic taste and fatigue. I can feel the fatigue for sure.  The metallic taste comes and goes but when this drug is administered I can feel and smell it's fumes as they come from the inside out. It is quite weird. Then I believe I have a super sensitive nose for a few days after. My husband nor children appreciate that I can smell their stinky feet or thier lack of deodorant.

So down to just the 3 drugs at today's appointment shaved about 30 minutes off the 5 hours it takes from start to finish.  One of the drugs (I believe it's the dacarbazine?) takes an entire hour to administer.  It goes by quickly and I look forward to a special cravings lunch which I have had very specific cravings so far.  I also get a nap and have had fantastic company.  They told me they don't limit the number of guests who can sit with me during treatment which means I could bring my whole #squad!

After treatment, Jay brought me home around 2:30 and I rested for a while and fell asleep for about 2 hours.  I was able to get around well and felt pretty darn good. When Jay returned home we went for a late night (8pm) walk around the block with Jacob, Allie and Millie.  It was a little chilly and had just finished raining so I bundled up.  My legs get pretty restless during treatment and naps so walking helps to rid that feeling.

With three treatments down we are now in the single digits for treatments left... 9!!! I can NOT and will NOT ever be able to say thank you enough to all the people who have stepped in to help take care of me and my family.  I am so grateful to feel as though I can live my life about 80% normal.  And most of that is because so many are covering for me at the dinner table, the carpool, the after school, the sports/activities, the cleaning, and yard care that I can focus on my children, husband and even the football team.  It allows me to still be me by eliminating so many stresses and for that I thank you and pray you will blessed with the things you need for your service!

Again I will reiterate what John Oglesby had to say....

"We all have hard things in our lives, Thank God tonight for your support group and tomorrow, go out and become part on someone else's"
My nurse AnaBeth and I.
She is full of knowledge, kindness, compassion and is my biggest advocate when it comes to going to games and being in large crowds.  She understands how important it is to me and finds ways to make it safe and doable.  (Somehow we need to figure out how I can make the UC Davis trip ;) 


"I think this is the longest I have ever been outside....?" Camping with the players

I happened to be in Jay's office when he decided to take the team camping during fall camp.  I was SO excited!  What a fun opportunity for these kids to do something different.  I love everything that camping is.  Being outside, the beautiful change of scenery, the crisp air, mountains, streams, the crackling fire, games, no cell service ;) just. everything.

The team went up to Causey reservoir Monday August 22 stayed 1 night in tents returning back to O-town the next day.  The team was able to paddle board on the lake, cliff jump, hike and swim all before dinner and the guest speaker.  

View of Causey Reservoir from the rzr ride I took 3 of the players on.
they were laughing most of the time, there may have been a little crying lol... :)
I had been so excited for this but when the day came I was not feeling well.  It had been 5 days since my first chemo treatment, I was exhausted and I just hurt.

The kids were prepping for the first day of school the following morning so Ashtyn decided to stay home to do all her first day preparations, Jacob had been swimming all day and was dehydrated so I sent him to bed and Allie was still asleep from her much needed nap.  Reluctantly I loaded up Alayna in Emily's car and we drove the 25 minutes up to the camp site.  I immediately felt glad I was there.

I plopped down in a camp chair and listened to the boys as they were coming back from the lake.  "Where are the showers?"  "What!?!? There are no showers?!?"
The chatter was so entertaining. My favorite was said in exasperation, "This is the LONGEST I have ever been outside!"  I sat there and just giggled. (They still had at least 18 more hours to go)  I could tell some of the boys were getting a little bored and restless waiting for the others to come back from the lake. So I offered to take them for a ride on the rzr.  We loaded up the first 3 to jump in, cranked up the radio and peeled out of the camp.  We went around the reservoir and found a few places to climb in and out of.

The most amazing part was how quickly  
I went from feeling weak and tired to feeling
a rush of adrenaline and filled with life.

When we returned to camp we ate dinner and listened to a fantastic guest speaker, Tim Border (click here for his inspiring Ted Talk) 

Tim Border was the first professor I had as I returned to on campus courses. Returning to the class for the first time in over 16 years was nerve-racking for me, I was the old lady with 4 kids trying to keep up with all these young bucks including some of Jay's players.  The first time I was called on to answer a question I think my face was a red as a tomato.  But in a few hours a week Tim Border gave me the most incredible insight and more importantly the confidence I needed to have a successful return to the college campus.  I would rave to Jay about every class and how well he could engage the students each and every day.  As you can imagine, I was so incredibly excited when Jay told me Tim was going to speak to the team.  Looking back, I wished I would have had video set up to record the whole thing!

He had great quotes and great stories.  One of my favorite quotes was from the USA olympic gymnasts.  
...till you CAN'T get it wrong.

The other part was his acronym VIP Vision, Insight, Personal Accountability

After the speaker the broke into 2 teams, offense vs defense and played capture the flag.  It was starting to get late but I wanted to stay and watch them play for a little while. It was as if the clock had turned back time and 80 18 year olds to 20 something boys now seemed to me like fun loving elementary school age boys running and playing as if nothing else mattered.  The energy I gleaned from the short 20 minutes filled me with strength and vitality that took the exhaustion and pain away.  I drove home filled with joy and ready to face more of this crazy cancer life. 

I hope I will always let the life and spirit of those around me fill me with vitality and joy. I also hope and pray that I can do the same for all those around me.

After I left Jay told me how they returned to the fire pit area, played cards, roasted marshmallows, starbursts and had an experience I hope they will never forget. 

Chemo #1

It was a short 18 hours (Tues. Aug 9th 7pm- Wed. Aug 10th @ 1pm)  from being told "you have cancer" to having everything (scans, tests, port surgery, and chemo) planned and scheduled. 

Wednesday August 17th I had my first chemotherapy treatment.  

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but from the limited knowledge I had, I might have thought it was going to be like acid going into my vein and I'd immediately feel like vomiting..... Luckily, it was not like that at all. 

 I was given some gifts based off research sweet friends and family had done specifically for the chemo treatment.  They included socks and a blanket because you get cold (I did get cold)  A neck pillow because you get tired (so tired you slurrrr your speech and have to just stop talking) Magazines and puzzle books because it takes a couple hours (or 5...FIVE long hours, of course I slept through some of those. lol)  A water bottle (I drank a LOT of water that called for 2 bathroom breaks)  A bag of candy because your mouth tastes like metal (I did not use this day of chemo but days into it I constantly have a nasty taste in my mouth so gum or mints are a constant)  Mouth rinse for mouth sores (which thankfully have not appeared yet) and the best gift was the bell Alayna bought me so all I have to do is ring it and my servan.... errr I mean children come running ;)  Can't wait to get that thing broken in.

I came home surprised I felt as well as I did. I spent about an hour sending my sister back home then packing Jacob and Allie to go stay with Jay's sister.  After the hour, it hit and I was starting to feel the nausea and exhaustion. Jay would be at work until 9, Ashtyn had drill until 9, I can't remember where Alayna was? She might have been taking a nap? or was with a friend? Perfect time to lay down in a calm quiet house.  I woke around 7pm to a sweaty pillow and disabling nausea.  My initial reaction was crap, I imagined it to be bad but I'm not sure I am strong enough to do this bad? Laying there considering my options; crying (but that will make me move which will make the nausea worse and its not worth the tears for that) puking (again requires moving, all the way into the bathroom) puking from the bed (I could just roll over to the waste basket next to my bed but I haven't been able to roll onto either side without pain for months and with a freshly installed port on that side there's no way I could roll and make it into the bin.  And I definitely was not in the mood to clean up puke) The option with the least amount of movement was to text Emily and Josie to see if the second anti-nausea prescription had been picked up and if it had been long enough that I could start stacking the 2 meds. By the time I received the negative texts; prescription had not been picked up and I still had to wait before taking anything, the sweating had stopped.  I realized it had been since 11:30 that I had eaten.  Slowly, very slowly I sat up, put my feet down and with my intentions set on toast, I made my way to the kitchen.   Once I ate, the nausea backed off to mid grade and doable.  I felt like crap but totally confident it was doable. 

The following two days were waves of good and bad.  The bad was never kicked up to that initial extreme nausea with sweats and death wishes ;)  although the next morning I had the shakes. The good was mostly a simmering of nausea and fatigue but still able to get up and around.  Both Thursday and Friday I went up to Jay's office for a visit. It was good to get out of the house. 

Before I was diagnosed, Jacob and I had talked about redoing his room as part of his birthday since a few months back he told me he would like to sell his bed and get a new one.  The poor kid had been sleeping on the floor on a mattress.  When he went to stay with Jay's sister I got it in my head I wanted to surprise him with a freshly painted room.  Knowing there would be no way I could do it myself, I audaciously asked my friend to come "help" me paint on Saturday.  There wasn't a pause or hesitation, just sure I'm there. 

 I can't say enough about how much help, love, support, care and concern our family has received! 

The most beautiful way it has been put was by Big Sky Media Relations, Jon Oglesby Who wrote the following when sharing Cournteny'svideo on facebook; 

Everyone in life goes through tough things, but it's the people around us that get us through life! Take the opportunity tonight to thank God for your support network, tomorrow join someone else's support network, and every day be #SaraStrong

I think about this statement often and I thank my Father in Heaven for my beautiful support group and desperately hope I will always take every opportunity to be someone's support network as so many have been a part of mine.

Suzanne came and painted while I left to catch the end of the last camp scrimmage. When I returned she was painting. I pushed the roller around a few times then laid on the bed while she kept painting.  

There are tears of joy and love when I think of the sacrifice she made the last Saturday of the summer away from her family in the service of mine.  

Sunday I could tell I had pushed it too hard.  I had been so excited for Saturday's project I woke up early to prep the room and stayed up a little too late.  I was past exhaustion and hurt so bad. The pain in my chest was increasing and the meds that were helping were not anymore.  

I went to church wearing one of the wigs and I did not have it adjusted properly.  It was squeezing my brain and bulging my eyes so bad I nearly pulled it off mid sacrament meeting and had we not been sitting on the second row I probably would have. That was the only hour I could do and quickly came home and went to sleep.  

Monday and Tuesday the waves of good were longer but still in a lot of pain throughout my chest, neck arms and back. It was hard to sleep but found a little relief sleeping propped up with four pillows.

Monday night Jay took the team camping near Causey Reservoir.  I have been so excited about this since they planned it at the beginning of summer. I hope to post just about this soon.

Wednesday was the worst day of all.  Extremely nauseated the entire day.  The don't. touch. me. kind.  It slowed me way down and I think if you asked those around me, they might have said I was kind of grumpy?? 

The good thing, Thursday came and with a new day I felt MUCH better.  Friday, again a good day that included a birthday lunch with friends. 

Saturday (Mah Burfday) I woke up 7am met Emily downtown where they were offering yoga in the park. I was so happy, I could do it all. I fell over once, got light headed and dizzy a few times and my breath was at least 2:1 but I felt like I got a good workout and it made me excited to try more this coming week.  After yoga I grabbed a few kids, the dog to get groomed and did a little grocery shopping.  We got Alayna off to her soccer game in Logan and then went to Jacob's game.  It felt like a typical normal Saturday.  Including Jacob not listening a bazillion times and wore the wrong jersey.  Of course, it worked out fine like it always does.  We picked Millie up from the groomers on the way home from the game and to our surprise Dad was home! It was about 4pm, that is a record for my birthday!  Never during fall camp is he home that early!! We both took a short nap then headed out to Farmington Station for dinner and hat shopping.  Jay said it caught him off guard I was not as into the wigs as he thought I would be.  I think I will get into them more but for now hats are my go to.  He has always said he likes when I wear a ball cap.  

The birthday hats, I love them all! 

We came home to an almost surprise party with our good friends from Murray.  Emily accidentally text the plans to me instead of the friends ;) We  played cards and pool late into the night.  It was one of the best birthdays, surrounded by family and friends, doing normal things that may have been taken for granted. Jay being home early and a beautiful warm summer evening was the cherry on top. 

1 treatment down, 11 to go.....


How did I find out I have cancer?

Waaaayyyy back in February, I kept asking Jay to rub my back to get some of the knots out.  
(He totally wins the prize for most back and foot rubs given) 

One of the knots was not really a knot but a good size lump and after class the next day I stopped by the office to have the trainers and doctor check it out.  

It was a lipoma (a fatty tumor) usually benign and in many cases not even removed.  
But after some deliberation we decided to have it removed. 
It was benign and I started physical therapy to regain movement 
around the area of my shoulder blade.
We thought the lipoma had pushed up on a single rib causing pain in front where 
the rib meets the sternum.
I was told to wait 6 weeks before working out my upper body outside of physical therapy.
But being impatient went back to crossfit after 3ish weeks and while attempting to do a 
handstand push-up, I felt a pull. Later that day while doing a movement at physical therapy I complained that it hurt my chest and they noticed a large amount of inflammation.  They attributed the issue to that morning's crossfit fail.

I continued physical therapy for a few more weeks. The mobility in my back returned
and felt great, but the pain in my chest was not subsiding at all.

By April, Jay and I were frustrated and decided maybe it was time to see a doctor.  Jay quickly had an appointment for me and with and x-ray concluded there was a large amount of inflammation but no signs of anything concerning and was sent home with a 3 month prescription of mobic (a small pill equivalent to 3 doses of 800mg of ibuprofen) I disputed with the doctor the need for 3 months and he assured me inflammation of this kind can take up to 3 months to dissipate to which I responded not me, I won't use the initial first months supply. 

I continued physical therapy through May still seeing no sign of improvement in the chest.
My chest was raised noticeably and the inflammation would not subside. The therapists
gave me exercises, would do mobility to try to get the rib to move right and even
performed multiple rounds of dry needling (ouch!) 
finally determining I must have a torn pect muscle.

Frustrated I tried to limit the use of my upper body and rest to repair the torn muscle and after a few weeks was still using the mobic daily to allow me to function. Without it I would be in pain that would completely wear me out leaving me stuck on the couch hoping no one would touch me or bug me.
By mid June I was going a little crazy.  I couldn't do the things I wanted to do.
My chest was always sore even after resting it and keeping my morning workouts to
legs and cardio.  It was mid June that while working in the yard my knee pressed into
my armpit and it was incredibly sore.  I felt around with my hand and found a large
ping pong ball sized lump.  It was super tender. 

Jay was really worried now.  I made an appointment with my family doctor but had to wait 2 days, Jay wanted answers sooner and was able to have a doctor stop by the house.  He felt the lump and was mildly surprised by the size but assured my that it was a lymph node doing what they are supposed to do.  Lymph nodes are reactors and it is reacting to the trauma that has happened in my chest.  

But just for good measure, 
I kept my appointment with my family doctor 
to get a second opinion. 

My family doctor was surprised by the lump and wanted to know for sure if and to what extent the pect muscle was torn. An MRI was scheduled and it determined I indeed had an inch and a half tear in my pect muscle coming off of my sternum. The lump did seem to change in size but never went away. Typically lymph nodes that are cancerous are not tender nor do they change size. 

I asked if this could just be an infection and the doctor agreed a run of antibiotics would be smart. 
He also wanted to get a biopsy of the lymph node.

So he scheduled an appointment with a surgeon who explained all the minor things a lump in the armpit could be including that a lymph node can swell from a nick shaving.  Then he felt it and with a whoa that's big, wanted to see it on an ultra sound.... but since I was going out of town, there was no need to rush and change plans it has been around this long and there was no problem doing it when I returned. 

I had the ultrasound on the 29th of July.  
They saw 3 abnormally large lymph nodes. 
The radiologist assured me that large lymph nodes 
are common and instead of getting poked again 
suggested I wait 6 months and if they had not
 significantly decreased in size 
have surgery to biopsy then.

I scheduled the biopsy for August 2nd.

When the doctor spoke with Jay he gave him a few options of what it might be based on the look of what he took out.  The lymph node was large but also abnormal looking. So we waited for pathology
.....and waited.....
and waited.......
and waited.......

After a week with no results and the surgeon leaving town, I asked my family doctor to see what he could find.  He searched and searched then called late Tuesday evening. 

I was driving my grandma to her place in Sandy when the doctor called.  He wished it was face to face but reported the results to be Hodgkins Lymphoma.  He explained the cancer with it's high survival rates and common treatments.  He then opened up the following day to speak with both Jay and I in person whenever Jay was able to get away from football.

We met with him the next morning, Wednesday at 11:15, he answered all of our questions and started a plan of action that included choosing and getting into an oncologist asap.  He hoped before the weekend but no later than Monday.  Jay expressed his concern with his schedule, particularly this time of year and asked for that to be explained to the potential oncologist. We left still in a bit of shock but I was confident and optimistic.  Within minutes of leaving his office he called with an appointment set for 12:45 with one of the oncologists we had discussed.  

That is when it got real and got real, fast.  Dr. Johnson did a thorough medical history, a physical exam, took a bone marrow sample, blood work, scheduled a PET/CT scan for staging on Thursday, scheduled an EKG and pulmonary test, scheduled the consult on Friday, and port placement for Monday and finally, scheduled chemo to start Wednesday August 17th.

We are so grateful that after multiple times being told "you don't look sick enough for this to be something like cancer" and "it takes a long time for a torn muscle to heal" and "lets wait and see"  we have an answer and a plan.  I am a fighter and I am strong.  There are going to be some rough days ahead but both Jay and I know that we are so lucky to be where we are with a wonderful ward, neighborhood, friends, family and football family that will make the process much easier.  We have been watched over and so much over the past 2.5 years has been artfully designed by our loving Heavenly Father.  We are filled with peace and love.


SW Cuban black beans and rice

Y'all know how much I love a recipe that requires just a few ingredients, ones I can easily keep on hand. A recipe that is low in calories but high in nutrients. One you can throw together in a short time.

"They" say most families rotate through 16 recipes throughout the year.

This is one we eat regularly and would fit into one of those 16 recipes.

Above are most of the ingredients.  During the summer I try to chop up the onions and peppers from our garden so I always have some on hand but purchasing them already diced is one of my favorite conveniences and usually I buy them on sale for $1 a bag which is well worth it.  At some point I would love to bottle my own diced tomatoes but for now I just use canned.  

Jay loves to make Jambalaya if we have the ingredients including turkey keilbasa (or other similar sausage) So I keep one or two on hand.


1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped, (about 1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 (15oz) can S&W® Black Beans, drained, rinsed
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1/2 pound smoked cooked ham, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce


In 2 1/2-quart saucepan, cook rice in water as directed on package. Set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, in 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until almost tender. Stir in all remaining ingredients except cooked rice. Cook 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring once or twice. Spoon hot rice on serving platter; top with black bean mixture.

Use leftover baked ham for this recipe. Or purchase a thick slice of deli baked ham.

Calories 230 (from Fat 50), Total Fat 6g (Saturated Fat 1.5g, Trans Fat 0g), Cholesterol 20mg, Sodium 780mg, Total Carbohydrate 38g, Dietary Fiber 5g, Sugar 4g, Protein 12g, Vitamin A 6%, Vitamin C 35%, Calcium 6%, Iron 15%

I am NOT a food photographer. This picture does NOT do the meal justice.  I absolutely love the flavors of the garlic and oregano in this recipe and I often substitute brown rice. For a more appetizing picture and printable recipe you can click here.  


Be Mine

I LOVE LOVE valentine's day.

I always have.

Not for the romance of it though

But for the love.  The day where you just love your whole class, your whole family, your whole world.

I love making valentines with my kid's faces.  And with their personalities.

But most valentines it is happening in the eleventh hour and we are all frantically taping, stapling, glueing to get them done.

And since we are in the eleventh hour, I have become good at making them simple and quick to make so they only take an hour to put together.

#1. Take a picture on my phone, upload to my computer.  I just use pages because that is where I have my favorite fonts from DaFont.com and other free font sites. But you could easily use pic monkey or picassa

#2. If you type your child's name on the valentine you just saved your kid 20 minutes of writing their name 30 times. (some may say well I want him/her to practice...Great! valentines are a wonderful way to have them practice IF YOU HAVE THE TIME. More often than not we don't have the time.)

#3. Then print.  I love printing through picassa because it gives you the option to print 4x6, 5x7, 3x5, wallet etc...  I can get the biggest bang for printer ink/paper.  In the case of Alayna's card this year, I just set up the page in 2 columns and printed.

#4. Set up an assembly line and cut them out if necessary. (Allie's was a full sheet of cardstock so her selected treat would fit her wrist just right. She only had 6 little valentines in her preschool class so printing a full sheet wasn't a bank breaker)

She was so sure that her little friends needed a candy bracelet.
So we found candy watches (gender neutral ;)
And wrote: What time is it?
What preschooler doesn't call it Valentime at some point?

Alayna didn't want her mug on her card BUT she did want a ring.
We found some squirting rings that were a big hit.  Her cute teacher let them go outside to squirt each other.  She was thrilled to have the hit valentine!

That boy...

The part of recruiting I didn't mention....

The last week of January recruiting this year, Allie and I were running around town in the truck. 

She started talking about getting married and how she is going to grow up and be married like me. 

She is such a girly girl who loves heels lipstick and wishes for a bust line

Anyway she was telling me about getting married and to whom, when she said,

"You know that boy who is big... That boy who is at dark time. MOM! that boy who sometimes sleeps and our house but is not sleeping at our house right now... In your bed..."

Me: you mean your dad? 
That boy? 
That. Is. your dad... 


Football Recruiting 101

**warning: Jay pride ahead**
read only if you too have Jay pride ;)

Signing day was yesterday.
Signing day is a big deal in the football world.
It is the "end" of recruiting for the year.
And when I say end,
I really mean the start of recruiting for the next year.
Thats the thing with recruiting,
It. Never. Ends.

BUT on the first Wednesday of February, for a moment, all the coaches hard work is on display.

I believe Jay is one of the best recruiter out.
(I mean how else could he convince a
 wildly self directed wandering 18 year old girl 
he picked up hitch hiking 
and her parents 
that she should be his eternal teammate)

Jay can tell you the height and weight of any recruit and be within 1/4 of an inch or within 5 lbs.  I have always claimed to be 5'9" and he was adamant that I am not 5'9" so he measured me to prove himself right and of course he was.  I am 5'8 and 3/4" (so basically 5'9") I told him not to guess my weight LOL.

He has a "type" for each position on the field and his accuracy has been proven to me over and over.  He looks at everything from body type(some positions it really makes a difference if they have skinny calf and ankles), size, ability to grow (he is usually right when he sees a kid that looks like he will still grow or has done all his growing and if a frame can put the needed weight on or off), talent (raw or polished), athleticism and personality.  He is a good unbiased judge of character. 

And then he walks into the recruit's home with the information the kid need.  He has done his homework and has a plan for them educationally.  Knowing the exact gpa and test scores they need. Many times getting the kid graduated a semester early and getting them to the university and working out with the team before graduation. Which blows the parents away who tell hime not one other recruiter has given them that information. 

He makes sure to have a great relationship with the coach knowing which coaches exaggerate and by how much.  If a coach says I have a kid that is 6'2" and run a 4.4 Jay knows the kid is probably 5'10 and a 1/2 and runs a 4.7 because of the relationship and the consistency in his recruiting.

He now is prepping his coaches to be just as effective having specific recruiting teaching meetings where he shows them how to watch the film of a recruit.  More than the highlights, do they get up quickly after a play, do they run off the field or walk.  Film shows more than just the big plays and big hits.  Just the other day He told a coach, measure the kid shoes off, mark the wall, in front of the coach so he knows the right way to tell us size. 

The coaches go to the recruits until weekends in December and January, that is usually when the recruits come on an "official" visit and come to the school. This is a 48 hour period when the school can pay for the kid to fly or drive to the school, pay for their hotel, meals and entertainment while visiting.  The kids get to see the facilities and the campus.  Check out their school of interest, be it business, engineering, education, medical or whatever their fancy.  They get to see the dorms and where they can eat if they are awarded a meal card.  They also meet current players who's job is to host them and answer questions they might have.

Here at Weber State some of the entertainment or activities are tubing and surfing.  This obviously is to provide fun and entertainment.

But it also gives Jay an opportunity to see the recruits toughness, ability to overcome fears (surprising how many kids are afraid of water, snow, cold, new unfamiliar things)

And it is very entertaining for the spectators :)

Here is a room full of recruits, their parents, players, coaches and a few wives.

 This was just before one of the recruits stood up, hushed the room and announced his commitment to Weber State.  There is such electricity and excitement that surrounds a kid who valiantly pledges to a school.  It's not often it is announced like this but I have heard it many times as I am near Jays phone when a recruit calls to commit.  I love it!

Jay is often stopped to meet or visit with fans.  

I imagine that at sometimes my "Jay Pride" gets annoying but he is just so good at what he does.  I absolutely love watching him.  He has always requested I come to the dinners with the recruits to talk to the parents.  Many times all I was able to get in was a "hello how are you" and was super shy to talk to them.  Felt like I was just there adding to the restaurants total bill.  Until I stepped out of my shell and had a fantastic conversation with the parents.  Their son committed the next day and I dubbed myself the closer.  And with that mindset I have closed many deals....(LOL) Not really BUT the symphony of coaches, their wives, the players who host, the athletic department and support staff who all give endless time, energy and love to be in those saturday fights to win 12 games. 



So there's this girl. She's pretty amazing. Actually not just pretty amazing, she amazes me everyday. She came home from the hospital the day after she was born and slept through the night. In kindergarten she asked for an alarm clock so she could get up earlier than me and do her "routine". Her current routine gets her up at 6am and she practices the piano, makes her breakfast, and a healthy lunch. She is so thoughtful, careful and tries so hard. She just turned 15 and is so excited to get her learners permit.  She has downloaded the drivers handbook and has been diligently studying.  And when it comes to studying I never have to get on her.  She is always doing extra credit and checking her grades to make sure she has all A's.  She is such a natural leader like her dad.  She is so beautiful inside and out.  She is very kind and thoughtful. She doesn't give me the typical teenage drama (although she does roll her eyes and gets a teeny tiny bit moody on occasion) I can always depend on her to happily help me out.  I don't know know what I would do without her.  Her spirit is such a blessing in our house.

Here are a few examples of life with Smash

Luckily I had just checked her account as well so I knew Alayna had -.30 in her account and had sent her with money that morning.
I often wonder if she should have been the mom. And sometimes I have to remind her that I AM the mom..

She regularly calls me when I am at the grocery store to remind me of things we need.

I love that she writes to do notes to herself.
I especially love the (Don't worry youll do great)

I am a lucky mom!  Blessed to have her as an example.
 Smash you ARE GREAT!


A beautiful mind

After the kids left for school one morning, I walked into Jacobs room to put something away and was greeted with this......

It threw me to some movie where the character (who is a little crazy?) had stuff taped all over the walls.  I can't think of which movie it is? Maybe transformers? Butterfly Effect? or a Beautiful Mind?

There is a part of me that freaked out a little... Tape and papers everywhere... 
but I had to deliberately let that go 
and let the 

A few days later I walked in and he was studying his work.  Rereading the math paper covered in tape.

My cute little rain man....


Reflections "The world would be a better place if...."

REFLECTIONS - A program run by the PTA created to torture parents by encouraging students to do LOTS of extra work for no grade...

At least this is the exact definition I was given when I asked other parents about reflections as Ashtyn entered elementary.

And at first that might be what some think it is.  But as with everything in life after you experience it a few times and you figure it out.....

But now without a million struggles over the years though!
Man of man have we struggled....

One of the first years we had streams of tears because "I" had missed the deadline.

Another year I sent a framed photograph (no frames allowed) with no "proper" documents and signatures and had to deal with more dejected tears.

Finally (after a few years) I figured the process out and in the eleventh hour  (seriously 11pm or later) was begging a neighbor to help us figure out a way record and download the project in the proper way.  And at this point I was in agreeance with the other parents, torture, extra work, stress, etc...

BUT my determined kids continue to find those reflection applications every. single. year....

and every year they create great projects.

This year Alayna came home with an application for ALL 7 project categories and told me she was going to enter all 7 this year (Photography, visual arts, 3D arts, film, music composition, dance, and literature) And just in case you parents want to know, yes they can turn in all 7 projects.

my response to Alayna was

I let her know I could help her with 3 and if she wanted to do any others, she had to do them on her own.  

So Alayna whose name is synonymous with determination worked tirelessly on multiple projects.  And in the end turned in 3 (Visual art, 3D art and literature) projects.  

It has been so fun to see how pleased and satisfied this has made her.  She just beams as her literature has won an award of excellence at her school, district, region and is headed to state.

\/ \/ BEAMING \/ \/

And just for mom, here is her story.

The Princess and the Colorful Scaled Dragon

Once there was a small kingdom and in that kingdom there was a King and a Queen who had an adorable little princess who became very kind and polite. When Penelope or penny for short was six she went to wander the kingdom. Penny saw much chaos because the people who lived in the kingdom were arguing about silly little things such as who had the best hairdo or the prettiest eyes or who was just the best at everything. As soon as she passed everyone bowed down to her but she believed no one was better than anyone and they were equally good and they each had good talents

Penny was fairly short with a huge amount of freckles everywhere on here body and caramel blonde hair with honey yellow highlights.She had amazing brown eyes and perfectly shaped eyebrows.Her lips were an amazing raspberry red. She wore beautifully simple dresses.

Penny had heard about an ugly dragon up on the hill to the east side of the kingdom. Penny was taught that no one was ugly or bad, and especially no one should be judged by their appearance. Penny believed this with all her heart. She knew that no one should spend their days in a cave all alone. She knew what she was going to do, she was going to go visit the lonely dragon.

      When she walked to the east side where no one wanted to live except the dragon who had no where else to go, Penny climbed the steep hill to the cave and knocked 1…2….3  times. No one answered but Penny was determined to walk back with a new friend, so she knocked 1…2…3… more times and suddenly she saw the eye of the dragon peering threw the peep hole. “Hello.” she said very sweetly and the door slowly creaked open “Why are you up here?” the ginormous and green creature asked. Penny made a plan quickly in her mind and then replied “Do you know where to find the ugly dragon?” The dragon was ashamed because he knew he was the ugly dragon she was looking for.

“I’m the the ugly dragon” he said “Well you are certainly not an ugly dragon, do you want to be ugly?” “ Well of course not!” the dragon exclaimed “Everyone says I'm ugly” he explained to Penny. “You are the most amazing dragon I've seen” and with that nice compliment Penny saw one of the dragon’s scales turn bright orange.

“May I ask what’s your name” Penny asked politely. “My name is Theodore but you can call me Teddy, everyone made fun of my long name at school.” Penny replies “I think long name’s are lovely in fact, my name is long, my name is Penelope but I go by Penny.” Penny said this as if she understood everything the dragon had felt. “Really? No way!” Teddy was so excited. “I love your name!” Penny watched as one more scale turned a bright yellow.

As they sat in the dragon’s cave that was very dark and gloomy Penny was bursting with love for the dragon and went on to say nice things to Teddy and with each nice complement  a scale went from dark green to a bright new color.Very slowly as Penny continued to visit the dragon Teddy’s whole body was covered in beautiful colors and soon Teddy started to feel happy again.The years passed and Penny and Teddy remained closer than close. 
When Penny was eight she taught Teddy to read but one day the dragon refused to read the book that Penny brought for Teddy because the cover was boring and the book had no  pictures Penny very calmly said “Why do you judge this book by the cover?” “There are no pictures and its a boring book!” exclaimed the dragon. “Have you ever read it?” Penny asked politely. “No”  “So how do you know for certain it’s not good?”
Penny explained to Teddy about judging people or books by how they appear is not right like how the people in town judged Teddy.Teddy understood and wanted to read the book and in two days the dragon finished his new favorite book.

As Teddy sat in his bright new remodeled cave that Penny helped with, he realized how Penny never judged anyone until she truly knew them. When Penny was finally ten she realized that Teddy had never been to the castle and invited him. The King and Queen were just as polite and elegant as Penny and were very excited to meet Penny’s friend.

When Penny and Teddy were walking through the village they met very judgmental people and taught them how they were all equally great no matter who they are or where they are from.

When they arrived they had dinner. The colorful dragon learned about how important the things Penny had taught him and the village and from that day on the kingdom never judged anything or anyone by there appearance and Penny and the dragon remained close friends forever.
The End.