Sunday, April 25, 2010

the Hobbit House

Yesterday was a big day in the "Wizard's Forest"...the Hobbit House was delivered. Our enchanted forest already has a troll bridge and a fishing hole but we decided it needed a forest playhouse. We have to paint and decorate it, of course, but, when it is done, we can't wait for Taka and Toshi to come to Maine and try it out! Our old friend, Jean ("Gino"), built the house for us and brought it to Winn Farm on a big flatbed truck. Here are some pictures of Jean and Hank setting up the house.

We named the playhouse "Hobbit House" and positioned it facing the troll bridge!

View of Hobbit House from the troll's bridge...

View of Hobbit House from Taka' fishing hole... "Nanny" is already coming up with a list of furnishings for the house...chairs, a mailbox, a door..."Grampy" will have a lot to do before Taka and Toshi come to Maine again! Robert and Brian were a big help getting the woodchips down and the forest ready for the delivery of the playhouse. We think their little sister, who is due in July, will like playing in the house someday too. So, Taka and Toshi...if you are reading this...hope you like your new house!

I may have gotten a little carried away with our Wizard's Forest theme...added a little "faerie house" too! (The sign says, "Please don't step on the faeries".)

Just after Jean left yesterday, Andi and Dave came to the door. It was Andi's first "outing" since her surgery two weeks ago. Dave said that Andi was bored after two weeks in bed and, since it was a nice day, he took her out for a ride. She is still sore but is hanging in there. It was nice to see her out.
About as half hour after Andi and Dave arrived, Joanne and Mark were at the door! They had come up to see Mom and deliver our last two trees from New Hampshire for the Wizard's forest.
Hank and I don't often get visitors...maybe because our house is off the main we were really excited to see everyone. Our daughter-in-law, Wendy dropped in shortly after Joanne and Mark so it turned into an unexpected party. The only one missing was Nancy who is resting after chemo on Thursday...just talked with major side effects so far other than far, so good.
Time to end this before the "Wizard" gets home from his tennis match...lots more work to do on "Hobbit House" while the weather is nice...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Joanne's House

Hank and I took a quick trip to New Hampshire this week to buy some trees for our yard and spent the night with Joanne and Mark. Thought you might enjoy seeing their's in a very private setting in the woods in Londonderry. They planted this tree in front and now it is full bloom when we were there.

Our trees are loaded thanks to Hank and Mark...two nice Blue Spruce (the other two are still in NH...we underestimated the size of Hank's truck!)
I loved the signpost Joanne painted for the backyard...the signs point to all of their favorite places: K'Port, Bermuda, Peak's Island, Bretton Woods. Mexico, Sanat Fe, Tuscon, Boston, The Old Port, and Santa Fe. (I liked this so much that I'm planning one for our yard...imitation being the greatest form of flattery and all that!)

Joanne collects all things southwestern, especially Mexican folk art pieces. This is her little Mexican altar; she collects the feathers and places them there in honor of people who have passed away.
Joanne definitely inherited Mom's artistic/home decorating gene. Here is her growing collection of handmade Mexican crosses. I love how the display just keeps going...

Hope you enjoyed the tour as much as we enjoyed getting away for a night. My favorite part?
Scorpian Bowls and Limoncello at the San Francisco Kitchen. Thanks, Jo & Mark!

Disney Fun Then Back to Reality

Last week, Aaron and I spent a gorgeous week in Florida at Disney World. We hadn't been in 20 years and decided to spend my last week before chemo again for my recurrence having fun. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort in the village of Martinique, and the weather was super! Every day was in the high seventies or low eighties and sunny. We spent most days at a park in the morning and then returned to the resort for some pool time, and back to another park for the evening. We walked miles and miles, but it was great. At Epcot the month of April is also the Epcot flower and garden show and if you know how Disney does nothing on a small scale, you can only imagine how gorgeous it was. It's taken a while to find which pictures to put with this post--Aaron loves to document every moment of our trips, so we came home with over 900 pictures to go through!
Here are a few favorites...

And now to the not so much fun part--Thursday I began my new course of chemo called Doxil. It's a new one for me, but so far so good. The biggest side effect beside the usual fatigue and nausea is hand and foot syndrome. This causes blisters and the peeling of the skin from your palms and soles of your feet most commonly, but can occur anywhere on the body, even the inside of your mouth. Sounds like fun huh? So far nothing-so keep your fingers crossed. In order to help prevent it, they tie ice packs around during the chemo--talk about cold! The blood work up also showed that I'm anemic again, and I returned from Florida looking about 5 months pregnant! They sent me for an ultrasound this morning, and it appears to be something called ascities, which is a large collection of fluid that collects in the abdomen--of course my oncologist is on vacation until Monday, so I'm not sure how they will deal with all this new news, but I think all in all Disney was better than home! Maybe I should have stayed! Enjoy your weekend! Love, Nancy

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Brave Sister

Nancy started her chemotherapy today with her first infusion of Doxil. (This is the last time she will have to put up with the nurses poking around for time she will have her port.) She did well except for freezing on the way home from all the ice packs she had to have on her hands and feet during the chemo. Hopefully the side effects of this new drug will be brief.

I love this photo of Nancy. It was taken at Disney World last week when Nancy and Aaron went on their "we deserve a trip before another round of chemo begins" vacation to Florida. Hang in there, Nancy...we all love you!

p.s. Did I mention how proud I am to be your sister?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Uncle Marker !


Mark laPlante, James and Kevin Cagney

Kelly Cagney, Mark and Joanne La Plante

James Cagney - Andi's Grandson

Monday, April 19, 2010

Taka's Chess Tournament

Taka's first chess tournament...he won another trophy this past Saturday. He says he is going to bring his tropies to Maine and to Japan to show everyone. They look pretty heavy, Taka!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

We're Carrying On

"Keep Calm and Carry On" new motto. It's the beginning of the long-awaited Spring school vacation week and I have promised myself that I will be "cheerful". After the past few months of cancer scares and cancer losses, I'm thinking of taking a week off from cancer...I only wish Andi and Nancy could do the same.

It's been a week of quiet grieving since hearing of Diana Pillas' death from breast cancer. I first met Diana in 1983 when I joined the board of the Epilepsy Foundation of America. She, Jeanne Cahill from Atlanta, and I were among the few women on the board at that time and we immediately became fast friends. In every city we traveled to, we chose to be "roomies". It was like being back in college; after busy days full of "very important meetings", the three of us would hang out in our room for hours just talking, laughing, and sharing our lives. Diana was always larger than life to me; she was outgoing, loved everyone she met and wanted to help every child with epilepsy. In her work at Johns Hopkins, as counselor in the Pediatric Epilepsy Clinic, she got to do that. Her work on the ketogenic diet with colleagues Patty Vining and John Freeman not only led to a book but was featured in the movie "First, Do No Harm" with Meryl Streep (1997), on Dateline NBC (2003), and in six episodes of the television series, "Hopkins". And when I brought Kristen to Hopkins to see Dr. Freeman many years ago, Diana was there for us too. Her death was a huge loss, especially to all of "her" kids.

Which brings me to my very brave sister, Andi, who is now a little over a week out from her double mastectomy (she said I could talk about this:-) As readers of this blog know, the four "Stunning Smith Sisters" all had genetic counseling in November and were tested for the BRCA 2 gene, which causes hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Andi and Nancy came out positive for the mutation. What that meant for Andi was a very high probability that she would get breast cancer within the next ten years. After extensive genetic counseling, Andi and her doctors chose a preventative mastectomy. I feel so bad to see Andi in so much pain but know that, in the long run, this means that she will not become another breast cancer statistic, like Diana. Andi has a really positive attitude about all this and is beginning to be able to move around a bit so I know, given time, she will be feeling better. And her nurse (Dave:-) is doing a really good job of keeping her comfortable.

Speaking of sisters...Aaron took Nancy on a week-long trip to Disney World as a surprise before she begins her next round of chemotherapy. Hank and I picked them up at the airport last night and it sounds as if they had a great time. They arrived looking tan and happy and carrying a fresh box of Krispy Kremes! I'm sure that Nancy will be posting photos to this blog as soon as she catches her breath. I'm so glad that Nancy got this break before having to deal with cancer treatments again. She has two out-patient surgeries scheduled in May and, before then, will be receiving her first of six monthly infusions of Doxil to get her ovarian cancer back into remission. (It seems that every time the weather starts to get warm here in Maine, Nancy starts chemo again...What's up with that, Nanc???)

In other news:
  • Mom was in the hospital for two days last week but is home now and feeling better. She had been having difficulty with shortness of breath.
  • Joanne and Mark are back from a vacation in Arizona and, I hope, will share some photos.
  • Takanori has learned how to dial "Nanny and Grampy's" phone number all by himself so Hank and I are having frequent conversations with him now:-) His latest news is that he just won two trophies for chess tournaments he was in...pretty good for six years old! He, Tomo and Toshi will be spending this summer with their grandparents, Umeyo and Tokuhide, in Japan. (Taka told us that he will have to speak Japanese there:-)
  • Kristen and I had a special "girls day" together yesterday...we went out to lunch and shopped at LL Bean; finished the day with Kristen's favorite, "hazelnut decaf", in the 1912 cafe.

Thought I'd end this blog entry with a vintage photo that made me laugh. I decided that, in the spirit of "keeping calm and carrying on", I will pretend that it's my sisters and I heading off on a "cheerful", cancer-free vacation (obviously, one of us already fell out of the car!)

OK Andi, Nancy, and Joanne...your turn to blog now...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Remembering Diana

In memory of our dear friend, Diana Pillas

June 16, 1940 - February 6, 2010

Baltimore, Maryland

Cheryl & Diana's house in Lutherville, MD...April 2008. Hank and I drove down to visit Diana after hearing that she had breast cancer. We went out to dinner and spent the night at Diana's...our last visit.

Diana at Chandler's Wharf with Jeanne Cahill & Cheryl...1994

at Bruno's after our wedding...Portland, ME, 1988

Diana was an amazing is a link to a tribute to her from Johns Hopkins where she worked in the Pediatric Epilepsy Center for 40 years...

"I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we will sparkle in the heavens forever." ~Amy Tan

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter to All!

We had Easter dinner at my house this year as Cheryl and Hank were invited for dinner at Wendy and Robby Lawson's. It was a gorgeous day here in Maine--in the 70's and sunny-beautiful. Our guests were Andi and Dave Donnelly, Kit and Erin Doty, Aaron and I and happily Mom, who was feeling and looking great and in great spirits!
Kit and Erin picked her up in Kit's new work truck-which is about 5 feet off the ground with her oxygen tank and bunny ears on!

We had the traditional ham, cheesy potatoes, veggies, pecan rolls and butter rolls, and pineapple upside down cake and lemon lush for dessert. Somehow at the end of dinner the discussion turned to chili recipes-probably because Cheryl gave Andi a great slow cooker cookbook. This led to Mom saying she'd heard chili powder goes "buggy" and should be replaced often. Since whatever chili pepper I've bought has been around for Years (I'm not fond of chili), Mom and Erin needed to check it out for bugs--with a magnifying glass. Mom said she thought she saw some movement in one can, and was sure the other was loaded with the dead carcasses of the critters! Both went in the garbage-how to these things come up in the middle of an Easter dinner?? Don't ask me--

Some random extra shots...

Andi was busy downloading pictures of her adorable grandson, James, who Joanne visited with when she was just out in Arizona...

Kit is sure no one can see him as he sneaks in a pecan roll before dinner!

Aaron and Erin (notice how thin she's gotten) she's working out like a crazy person!

Dave and Mom enjoy some appetizers!

All in all we had a great time, and hope you and your families did too!

Happy Easter!