8/11/16

Taking Time

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Images by Mallory + Justin Photography

After months of silence I finally felt the urge to resurface. It's odd that blogging and staying active on social media was once such a staple of my life and now it's the last thing on my mind. Don't get me wrong, there are some aspects I miss: the creative writing, the deadlines, endless cups of coffee while editing and re-writing, staying up late, feeling a sense of independence and significance and of course, having opportunities fall into my inbox.

But my main focus in life is larger; it is greater than opportunities for myself, it is greater than feelings of significance and accomplishment that grow from my creativity. My main focus in life is raising my family. It is staying home, not to write that article or make that deadline, but to simply be present in my children's lives. Be present for now, because one day I won't have the chance to be present. One day they will be gone and the house will be silent and I'll have all the time in the world to embrace my creativity, write my heart out and make those deadlines.

So for now, I write when time allows.

So what exactly, besides parenting in general, has kept me away and so busy? These days we've been busy keeping Jonas healthy with good food, we've been over-consumed with soccer, school and the hectic life as an active family who seems to always be on the go. We've embraced summer to the fullest and are holding on tightly to these last couple weeks. Oh, and we added a new member to the family! A little yellow lab named Piper.

These days I practically live in the kitchen. If I'm not cooking meals or snacks I'm prepping them or cleaning up from them. Since deciding to treat Jonas' Crohn's Disease with food our lifestyle has changed dramatically. Yes it can be hectic and stressful but the results are beyond rewarding. In the spring we had a follow-up appointment at the Cleveland Clinic and all his labs are normal - in fact, I think it is safe to say that he is in remission! After a year and a half of ups and downs we have finally reached a path of health. Fingers crossed this healthy lifestyle continues; back-to-school is a notorious time for flare ups, as we experienced last year. Next week we have blood work and the following week our appointment and all I can think about is what those tests results will reveal. Hopefully his hard work and dedication continues to pay off.

It's nice to be back and feel the urge to write and share!

2/11/16

Tulum, Mexico + The Riviera Maya

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"Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic."
Frida Kahlo


There is always a fragment of magic involved when it comes to traveling, but when you head south to a land of tropical bliss in the Riviera Maya and into the quaint city of Tulum, you are destined to be swaddled in magic. From the turquoise clear water, to the white beaches dusted with sand, there is a hint of harmony that lingers in the salty air and in my soul. And it's that harmony the seeps into your mind, into your thoughts and radiates out into your day until you are free.

Our days in Mexico reached a level of relaxation that I never even knew existed. Or perhaps those feelings have been so suppressed by parenthood and the chaos we call life that I forgot they were attainable. Yet, somehow we managed to enjoy five whole days in a moment of bliss; a moment of peace. In those five days, life was simple.

While my husband and I have both been to Mexico, we've never been to The Riviera Maya, which is the stretch of Caribbean coastline on Mexico’s northeastern Yucat√°n Peninsula. I was a bit surprised to find this area was comprised of mainly moderate to high-end resorts, several of which are all inclusive. Not usually our cup of tea, but it worked in this situation. Because let's be honest, the real reason we chose this destination wasn't because it was on our bucket list but rather to see Phish. When the announcement came that Phish was to play at a tropical destination my bags were practically packed and I had the grandparents lined up to babysit. I was ready to head out the door; with or without tickets.

Just south of this area is Tulum, a hidden gem tucked away between rustic beaches with a boutique feel and the ancient Mayan ruins that loom over the oceanside. Tulum was, by far, my favorite region. Cities line the beaches from the north to the south, but Tulum is truly unique.

We stayed north of Tulum at the Fairmont Mayakoba, part of the package that we purchased for Phish Riviera Maya. While the Fairmont was outstanding on its own, I have to admit it was outshone by its sister resorts; The Rosewood and The Banyan Tree. Our suite was tucked into the jungle side, just off the main cobblestone path that connected the entire resort. Follow this path and you will eventually reach the ocean; an extensive beach that was filled with the tiniest conch shells, painted blue skies, casitas and cabanas and, well, a plethora of upscale Phish phans that banded together like an army of one.

The weather was typical for the tropics, hot and humid with small bouts of showers, which somehow timed themselves to land perfectly mid concert when everyone was in their dancing prime. To feel the warm rain against your skin and the cool, crisp sand on your dancing feet, to smell the salty ocean air and to hear the perfect balance of music radiating out over a dedicated crowd was perfection. In that moment, it was the golden age. The Mexican night sky came alive after the setting sun, like Prince Caspian casting his sword across the horizon. The light sparkled bright above the ocean and eventually faded into the darkness.

But like any moment in time, it all comes to an end. We arrived home with a stash of memories and a sense of joy; our spirits were exhilarated and uplifted. Sometimes, all you need is a little get away to refresh the mind and jump start your life.

A few of my recommendations for this area:

Fairmont Mayakoba | The next time we head to this area we'll most likely stay in a boutique hotel in Tulum, but I do recommend the Mayakoba. If you are willing to splurge I recommend The Banyan Tree, which harbors an Asian influence, or The Rosewood, where roads are replaced by water canals that weave their way throughout the resort.

Zamas | This rustic hotel located in Tulum offers a breath taking ocean view, a beach filled with free-standing bungalows and a restaurant that is out of this world. Our lunch here was by far one of the best meals we had in Mexico. The spear caught snapper and ceviche were the perfect match for a sunny, beachside afternoon. And the cocktails were some of the finest we had.

Hartwood | Unfortunately, we never made it to Hartwood because they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but everyone highly recommended this New York City chefs-owned restaurant. Serving only the freshest, finest and local foods, it seems that the big city transplants have certainly made a name for themselves down south.

The Real Coconut | Pretty much right up my alley. This all-natural restaurant serves food prepared from the freshest local ingredients with a large array of juice and smoothie options.

Josa Tulum | These absolutely stunning dresses are so versatile they could be worn from beachside straight into the night life. Trust me, they are worth every penny!

by James | I saw a pair of these simple, yet chic sandals in our resort gift shop, but unfortunately, they didn't have my size in any of the styles. I'm hoping to snag a pair online.

mr. blackbird | I don't wear a lot of jewelry these days, and when I do they tend to be dainty and delicate, but I do love a good statement piece. This shop focuses on handcrafted jewelry and accessories that make a statement.

Coqui Coqui | Another boutique that was recommended by a few friends but, unfortunately, we never made it. Fresh, original fragrances are blended together to capture the exotic sense of life and culture in the Yucantan Peninsula with these charming perfumes.

Must do activities for the area: snorkel, zip-line through the rainforest and ride ATV's to the cenotes!

1/13/16

The Depth Of Winter + Fabkids

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"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Just one week ago I snapped these photos, and with the quick turning winds, we are in the depth of winter. The air holds a bitter chill and on most nights we face single digits. I wondered when we would see our winter, she seemed to take her time arriving. But with the arrival of snow, no matter how low the temperature, there is an instant urge of excitement and newfound joy. We've broken out the sleds, we've waxed up the skis and are ready to take on the season with adventure.

And of course, with any winter activity comes a plethora of hot chocolates, steamers for Jonas (recipe to come soon!) and comfy, cozy clothes. The perfect accessories for a winter season!

These days we're keeping cozy and adventurous with FabKids.

FabKids is JustFab's fashion club, started by a team of parents including mom and actress Christina Applegate. FabKids is a convenient way for busy parents to shop. It's an outfit club -- so parents get monthly selections of super affordable, high-quality fashions personalized for their kids.

As an added bonus, new VIP Members get their first outfit for $9.95!

Thank you FabKids for patterning with us on this post.

1/12/16

A Crohn's Disease Update

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I've been thinking about this post for awhile. I originally intended on writing it when we hit our one year mark of our son's Crohn's Disease diagnosis, and we are now slightly over a year. With Crohn's and Colitis Awareness week hitting last month and our follow-up with the GI back in December, I felt it was a good time for a long overdue update.

Since my original post about a year ago on our son's diagnosis I have been a bit vague about his journey. When it comes down to it, it's not really my story to share, it's his. And honestly, I don't know that he wants his personal story plastered all over the internet. But if I didn't open up about his journey then I wouldn't have met the amazing families that I have connected with who are going through similar situations. We are blessed to have friends and family who support us but no one truly understands what you are going through unless they are going through it themselves.

This past year has been a journey, filled with difficult times and times of smooth sailing. I can't even begin to tell you the emotional roller coaster that we have been thrown on- and, I'll be truthful, I don't like roller coasters, especially emotional ones. But here we are, a year later, on a different path than planned but certainly in a better position, at least that's what I think.

Where to begin…

Last March we met with a different doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, per our request, because our original doctor was, well, let's just say not a good fit for us. Don't ever forget you are your child's advocate and as a patient it's your right to find the best doctor fit for your needs! Even if it means going through four doctors. We immediately hit it off with our new Pediatric GI; he was willing to listen to our story and requests, he supported our belief in the SCD diet (to a degree) and encouraged our visits to the Functional Medicine Department. Unlike the other doctors, who read our son's chart and wrote a script for meds, he wanted to investigate. He agreed with us that he was not like most Crohn's patients and that it was time to investigate with further testing. Testing he wanted to do himself, not another doctor. Just by this move he won our respect.

His MRI and scopes he had done in March all came back normal. A bit of a mystery since he still experienced the occasional stomach ache, but certainly good news. Our GI even started to consider recanting the Crohn's Disease diagnosis. We decided to follow-up every three months with blood work and tests and go from there.

Summer was awesome. He finished soccer season strong, in fact, some of his best playing time yet! Even though he loathed it, he made it through a season of swim team and even walked away with several 1st and 2nd place ribbons. Seeing our son relaxed, happy and healthy felt a like a huge weight had been lifted off our shoulders. We started to ease up ourselves. We experimented with foods and added in several illegal SCD and paleo foods; with no reactions. On special occasions we even let him have treats, again with no visual reaction. It was like any ordinary summer; carefree and delightful.

And then school started.

The very first week of school we submitted blood work and other labs, both consistent in showing inflammation in the gut. Then the occasional stomach ache returned and just like that, life became a bit stressful. His MRI in September confirmed inflammation in the small intestines. Results that hit me so hard I honestly think I was left in shock. How could this be happening? He had so many MRI's in the past and not one ever showed abnormalities. He was scheduled for scopes less than two months from his MRI and I immediately took him back to an SCD and anti-inflammatory diet in hopes of bringing any inflammation down in the body. Unfortunately, those scopes only confirmed the inflammation and the diagnosis. The biopsies came back a week later showing granuloma formations, indicative of Crohn's Disease.

So here we were, a year later and finally receiving the official news that we feared; our son, without a doubt, has Crohn's Disease.

Our GI does admit that he is a bit surprised he doesn't exhibit more symptoms, but he also believes food may play a role in keeping those symptoms at bay. He also strongly felt it was time to pursue medicine, something we tried everything in our power to avoid. We're certainly not against modern medicine, but unfortunately the meds used to treat Crohn's and Colitis symptoms are pretty heavy duty. Six weeks ago Jonas started Azathioprine (Imuran), an immunosuppressant used to keep the disease in remission. At this point, our doctor feels that combining Imuran with the SCD diet is the best way to treat the symptoms, get him into remission and start to gain weight.

I'll be honest, I didn't want to start him on it. I did the worst thing possible and read the side effects, both long term and short. But I also know that doing nothing and allowing that inflammation to take over his gut would eventually lead to something far worse.

I still believe in diet, I KNOW that the SCD diet has helped keep his symptoms manageable. For a boy with active inflammation I am amazed to see him hit the soccer fields every week and weekend and play his heart out. Yet, I can't paint the perfect picture. There are times when he misses practice and there are times when he missed opportunities to play up in a higher division. Having to turn down opportunities because of this awful disease breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that he has to work harder, train harder, think harder just to prove himself. It breaks my heart that he is at a disadvantage and even though he is only ten, he knows it.

I like to think these struggles and battles are preparing him for what's ahead in life. I know that his life won't always be smooth sailing and I won't always be there by his side telling his what to eat and what not to eat. I only hope that my hardwork and dedication now will pay off in the long run.

I wish that we had control over this disease, but we are powerless. We are victims. But just because we are powerless and victims certainly doesn't give us the right to act like that. Every day I tell my son that God made him unique and that He has a plan. He would never give Jonas this disease if He knew he couldn't handle it. Every day I remind my son that God must think he is very strong. I know that he is filled with strength.

So, this is where we are.

We made it through the holidays with no flare-ups or issues. Last year certainly had its challenges. At the time, Jonas was on such a strong dose of Prednisone that he wasn't himself; both physically and mentally. I wouldn't say we were 100% in the clear this Christmas, but pretty darn close.

At this point we monitor blood work every two weeks until March. I'll be honest, I hate that my son has to get blood work drawn so often, but we want to play it safe with the medicine and make sure his liver is handling it. I hate that I even have to type this or think about this, but it's our reality. But, on a positive note, the last time he had his blood drawn, which was two weeks ago, the labs were good and within normal range. To our understanding, the medicine doesn't start working until around 6-8 weeks, so I like to think the good labs are a result of the clean eating and the SCD diet. The doctor agreed partially, but I'm sold.

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
Thomas Edison


I hope and pray that our son's future doesn't involve medicine, but the harsh reality is that he may be on medicine for the rest of his life. We're taking it a day at a time, a meal at a time. And for now, diet continues to play a huge role in our life.

1/11/16

We Could Be Heroes


"We can do anything
We could be heroes
We could be heroes, me and you
We could be heroes
We could be heroes, me and you"

Rest in Peace David Bowie.
You are a true legend.

Photo via VRWorld