On Christmas Eve we also celebrated Elyse's six month birthday. I say that like we did something but really it just means that I plunk her in front of my camera and take some pictures... soooo, it is pretty much like every other day of her life I guess.

Six months is a big deal around here though. As much as she and Lauren are different people, Lauren's experiences and our experiences with her tend to define some of our thoughts about Elyse. Like Lauren being 5 months and 20 days old when she went into the hospital. When Elyse passed that mark, I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't even know I had been holding since she was born. It was as if, if Elyse could make it through that day in her life, she was going to make it. The rational part of me knew that she had no heart defects and she was trucking along like a champ, but the small traumatized part of me was on pins and needles. Not consciously, but it was always there in the background. 

When I was in my early 20s I got in a series of car accidents. In the first one I was rear ended by someone going full pace (he was apparently looking out of the window when I had to stop for the person in front of me slowing to wait for a pedestrian and make a right turn). Bam. Just as I was getting over that one, I was biking home and got hit by a pick up truck who thought he could make a quick left turn in front of me but apparently he wasn't quick enough. Smack. Then I was told that bad things happen in threes and I was convinced that I was going to be hit again and die before I was 26. That belief was completely baseless, but it was there. The day after I turned 26, I felt such a weight lifted. 

It was sort of the same with Elyse. There is no link between Lauren's experiences and Elyse's life but those milestones, like 5 months and 20 days, are still there. But now that Elyse has passed it and is her happy, squishable self, the biggest link is broken. 

At six months Elyse is rolling around, sitting unassisted, jumping in her jolly jumper, starting to eat solid food, almost crawling and smiling, smiling, smiling. She continues to be the happiest, easiest baby in the world. Her face lights up anytime Lauren is around her, and the two of them are like magnets to each other. And they have a long time to enjoy each other.



Poor, poor Santa. That's all I have to say.


At least it wasn't my kids freaking out this year! (Just our friend's kids. Haha.) We've come a long way. PS - If you didn't take a look at poor Santa's face in that last photo, please look back at it. Poor man. And we were the first people of the day. It was looking like a long day for him.

The two girls really surprised me with a fantastic photo (Christmas miracle anyone?!).

I had a feeling that Elyse wouldn't cry (since she never does, thus the well-deserved title of "Easiest Baby Ever") but I was surprised beyond all get up that Lauren didn't cry. And she smiled for a picture! Unheard of lately. I think it might have been because Santa complimented her on her dress. He knows the way to my little girl's heart.

So this year, Santa is a friend, not a foe.

But maybe not so much for our friends' kids....

Poor, poor Santa.



Every year I have taken pictures of Lauren at Christmas. I love to get the perfect shot that shows her sparkle and the warmth of Christmas and our love for her.

2012: Pretty good...

2013: Well, at least we took the photo in December...

2014: This year I thought that it would be magical to try to capture that for both of the girls together. Well, magical might not have been the result. Lauren has continued to have a mind of her own (surprise, surprise) which is compounded with her two-and-a-half-year-old-itis to make a stubborn blond angel. You want her to sit, she'll stand. You want her to stand, she needs to fall down on the floor. You want her to lie down, she's in the process of running away. Argh.  And then there's Elyse. You want her to sit, sound great. You want her to smile, no problem. You want her to wear antlers, she wants to wear them forever. These two! Then, Lauren decided that she didn't actually want to be in any photos this year. Nope, she whipped out her Fischer Price camera (that you can't actually see through) and started doing a photoshoot of just Elyse, peppered with encouragement like, "That's great!" and "Good girl!" Apparently she's seen me take photos a few times.

In the end, we got a few good shots but I may be photoshopping one or more of my kids into next year's Christmas photos.



One thing that my mom was always amazing at was ensuring that we had some sort of activity to do each day. As children, we knew that there was a promise for each day. Sometimes they were simple things like baking cookies and getting to lick the beaters and sometimes they were more involved like packing up the family and heading to Arizona for a week long family vacation. There are days that I remember vividly, some that have become just snatches in my mind and others that became part of who I was without making a lasting mark on my consciousness. The degree to which I remember these events is not important, because they all added together to make me who I am today.

When Lauren went into the hospital, many of the expectations that I had held about our life together were thrown out of the window. Our lives became focused on her health and trying to help her catch up in her development. In October, when we were told that, for all intents and purposes, Lauren was functionally healthy, we decided that this was the perfect time to spend time as a family celebrating normalcy and we booked tickets to Hawaii. Part of me was worried that it was a waste of money because Lauren wouldn't remember much of the trip and Elyse wouldn't remember any of it, but for the time that we were there, they enjoyed every minute. This trip is a part of who she is, whether she remembers every detail or not.

Cue the ridiculous number of vacation photos...

We took two weeks to spend time as a family, enjoying one another and spending time away from work and daily errands and activities. We played in the ocean, went for walks on the beach, played in the pool, drank root beer floats, cuddled in bed every morning, walked for ice cream, snorkelled, napped, went to the aquarium and spent so much uninterrupted time together. I was nervous about spending so long away from home but the kids were so easy to travel with and the two weeks seemed to fly by. Lauren became a favourite of the front desk people as she entertained them every morning with her laps back and forth in the lobby while saying a run-by hello to everyone she passed. I loved seeing how Matt and Lauren could play together in the pool for way longer than I could. He always found a new game to entertain her with and it was not wonder that she loved going to the pool with him and didn't even care when I left. Elyse loved sitting in the shallow waves at Baby Beach and having the water lap against her legs. She would grin ear to ear with a crinkle in her nose when we would swim over to Lauren and the two girls would delight in being next to each other in the water.

And some more photos...

 Just one happy, normal (ish) family. And we wouldn't have it any other way.



Anyone who knows me knows that I hate wasting money. When it is my birthday or Christmas, I usually ask for practical gifts of things that I actually need, not just things that I want.

When Elyse was born, I told myself that this was a moment that I could forget that we were already paying way too much for cable and I should double down and subscribe to Netflix as well. It was the perfect way to pass the evenings when I had to feed her or to allow myself some time to collapse on the couch, with Matt collapsed beside me at the end of another long day. 

My latest program that I am hooked on is Call the Midwife. I love how raw and honest it is and, having very recently had my own baby, it makes me reminisce on those early moments with Elyse and celebrating her entering into the world. 

The other day, when I could finally watch Season 3, I watched an episode where a young mom is convinced that there is something wrong with her babies and the nurse and doctors don't take her as seriously as they should. They agree that something is wrong but they doubt the seriousness of the baby's condition. As I was watching this, I felt my anxiety peaking. My rational brain knew that this was a TV show, but my heart knew that I knew this story all too well. And then the moment came when the mother looked at her baby and knew that something was very wrong, a pivotal moment when the baby's very life was in danger. I know that moment too. 

I used to be able to watch TV shows with such distance because these things never happened in real life. But then they did. Now I've lost that cushion of apathy and it manifests in many ways. I find that some of the manifestations are negative, like anxiety and worry that I have to actively convince myself is no longer justified, and some of the manifestations are positive, like appreciating my children in a new way because I came so perilously close to losing one of them. And then there are the tricky manifestations of the experience that we have lived through. Tricky because they can so easily be negative, but we try hard everyday to make them positive. 

One of those tricky situations came up a few weeks ago when Matt came home and told me, with tears brimming in his eyes, that one of the little girls in our church has cancer. Bad cancer. Advanced cancer. We know what it is like to live within the hospital system and the fear of our arms never holding our child again and now another family in our church is facing that same reality. Isabella, this sick little girl, was born just months after Lauren and now, only two years later, she has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. Like Lauren's ALCAPA, the symptoms of neuroblastoma could be attributed to so many different normal toddler issues: teething, a cold, two-year-olditis. Like Lauren's ALCAPA, once symptoms serious enough for a diagnosis show up, it is often a hard battle to fight. Isabella is fighting, but Stage 4 means that the cancer has spread throughout her body. She is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation but there will be no easy outcome for her. 

This means hospital. Lots of it. One of the most amazing things about living in Canada is how our sick kids are taken care of by the medical system and we don't have to worry about losing our houses or all of our savings. But there are struggles all the same. Isabella's mom stays home with her and her dad works multiple jobs to make ends meet. They are a loving family but they aren't rich. Isabella's cancer means that her dad won't be working as he tries to spend as much time as possible with her and her mom as Isabella undergoes all of the tests and treatments and hospital time. Honestly, that time is worth so much more than money, but you you can't pay bills with it. 

Hoping to turn our tricky inability to distance ourselves from someone else's terrible situation into a positive, Matt decided to try to help them. He asked the mutual fund companies that he works with and some of his friends for donations of items like hockey tickets, art, gift cards and a tablet for an online auction. We created a website at http://caringforisabella.weebly.com/ that lists all of the different items and now we bring it to you.
Christmas is coming up and this auction is the perfect way to get some of your Christmas shopping done while helping a family that really needs it. If you don't see something that you want, you can still donate money to the family and every dollar counts. Of course it should go without saying that every single penny donated goes directly to the family but we want to assure you that 100% of everything donated goes straight to the Dooley family. If you are not able to help them with money, please help to lift them up in prayer. As much as medicine will help, at this point prayer might actually help Isabella more. Please lift Isabella and her family up in prayer. Pray for strength and healing and hope. They really need it.



I've never been one of those girls who is stick skinny and I've never been fat. I'm just sort of there. I'm not super muscular or super fat. I've got areas of each. Like most girls, I've never been totally comfortable with my body and have spent way too much time caring about it in a negative way (even a minute or two would have been too much). I knew that having kids would change my body, but I had no idea how.

Before I got pregnant with Lauren, I had undiagnosed celiac disease and that is the only time in my life that I was super skinny. I ate so much and my diet was approximately 50% fat but my intestines were so ruined that my body just couldn't absorb anything. We found out that I had celiac disease and I started to get better. A few months later I got pregnant with Lauren. By 40 weeks pregnant, I had only gained 17 pounds and about a week after Lauren was born, I looked like my old self again.

With Elyse, I gained that same 17 pounds again... and then once more. Having to take care of a two year old while being pregnant was totally different. I ran until I was 8 months pregnant and I know that helped but I was fine with gaining some weight. I'm not planning on having any more babies so I might as well eat like this is the last time.

Well, after Elyse came out, my body didn't just bounce back in the same way. I was busy taking care of both of the girls and any down time that I had found me crashed on the couch rather than motivated to go for a run. Then there I was, one day, looking in the mirror and I started poking and prodding at lumps and bumps that I didn't want there when Lauren wandered in. I have always promised myself that I will not project any of my own thoughts about my body onto my girls and I looked down at her, gazing up at me with her big blue eyes. What did she see? She saw a mom who dances with her to any song that comes on the TV, a mom who pushes her high in the sky on the swing at the park and a mom who gives her dozens of hugs and whispers that she loves her all throughout the day. Lauren sees a body that allows me to play, dance and be with her. She loves my body for that reason and I need to follow her lead.

So, for Lauren, I will face my nemesis, the bathing suit, and put it on so that I can chase her around the pool as she tries to jump into the deep end and bury her in the sand on the beach. While I am playing with her, I won't even care that I am wearing a bathing suit. I won't have time to care. She will keep me blissfully unaware of my perceived deficiencies because who has time for that when they are running after a streaking two year old who can sprint down the sand like an Olympic athlete?

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