Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year in Review

Rather than those Christmas letters, I thought I would do a year in review post to highlight some of our moments in the last year. As I think of them, many revolve around Charlie and medical issues...hmm...are we getting old already and all we have to talk about is medical stuff?! :)

January brought the appearance of Charlie's first few teeth. We love experiencing these milestones with our boy and know how important it is to cherish them.

February we enjoyed celebrating Kenny's 35th birthday. While this is a big milestone for anyone, we were even more pleased to celebrate this birthday given all of our medical excitment a short 6 months prior. Those experiences have given us such perspective in celebrating each moment in life and that it doesn't have to be a big celebration, just spending time together.

March brought such anticipation for spring. A little cabin fever, maybe, but we were ready! We enjoyed a few warm days around St. Patrick's Day and as our Charlie turned 9 months old he made his first little moves at crawling.

April we traveled to Colorado to have Charlie meet his only living Great Grandparent. It was a great occasion for all of us and we loved seeing Charlie and Great Grandpa Lee interact. Charlie made his official "crawling across the room" in Great Grandpa's living room. This trip also marked Charlie's first airplane ride.

When we returned, we jumped back into medical appointments for Kenny and learned in the middle of the month that his tumor had shown a slight growth since September. As unfortunate as that moment was, we knew we were in wonderful hands with our neurosurgeon and agreed right away for Kenny to have a one time radiation treatment on the tumor. This type of radiation is fairly typical after a majority of the tumor has been resected, as his was in August 2008. This type of radiation is very different from the typical run of the mill radiation and we prayed for good results.

Later in April, Charlie was also baptized and that was a wonderful day to celebrate with him.

May brought lots of fun activities including Kenny's radiation treatment, Charlie's first haircut, our first family photos, warm days swinging in the swing and looking forward to (and sometimes being a little sad about) Charlie's first birthday coming up in June. Kenny had no side effects from his radiation treatment and was actually out cutting the grass and running errands the next day. We actually really enjoyed our day at Northwestern together, I got to see the radiation machine, which was cool, and it's always some how comforting to be at Northwestern.

June brought more fun stuff like celebrating 5 years in our house, car shows, the Packard Club National meet, Charlie's first road trip and Charlie's first birthday. It was a wonderful vacation, lots to do and see, lots of people to meet and to end the week, we celebrated Charlie's birth. We were so happy to have both sets of our parents along on this trip and to celebrate Charlie's birthday!

Our summer months are always so busy and July was no exception. We started by celebrating Charlie's birthday on the 4th (his due date) with a huge party. We spent more time enjoying the warm weather, playing with friends, car shows and family in town visiting. Charlie and I ventured to Michigan to see my goddaughter Sedona compete for cheerleading and it was a nice trip.

August we began exploring more of Charlie's allergies with formal allergy skin testing. The poor little guy is allergic to eggs and nuts (specifically peanuts, but all nuts are off limits). He has a dog and dust allergy as well and others may be coming. We began our next medical learning phase about how to handle these food allergies (avoidance!!).

We also headed to Chicago for a day of visits with family and a medical appointment for Kenny. We learned that the radiation was successfully preventing further growth of the tumor and were so pleased!! We also joined the Northwestern Brain Tumor Support Group. It's a great group of people and we are so happy to be able to socialize and learn with them when we can make a meeting. It was so nice to see Kenny interact with people that have had like experiences to him and see that we aren't alone in our medical journey. I also really makes you realize the level of care we get at Northwestern.

Kenny's medical journey has been a long one, even though it has only been underway for a year and we continued to learn more about the effects of his tumor and conditions that it has left him with. One area that we had been exploring was the possibility of more children. While we know there are definately options out there for us, we know the road may not be an easy one and we spent the fall doing some serious thinking about what was really important in life.

We also went to one of our favorite car events, the Orphan Car Picnic and enjoyed a Rib Cookoff at my new office building.

In September we enjoyed more time with friends, the Farm Show at Lakewood and the Chicago Botanic Garden among other nice fall events. Charlie also hit another milestone and began taking a few independent steps, although walking didn't fully begin until October.

October brought wonderful fall days and I think Kenny and I both love this time of year best. Yummy things to eat and so many fun activities...if only snow didn't follow so soon! We continued to make the most of life and the situations we are handed.

In early November, Ted and I enjoyed a nice fall morning in the city with Charlie while Kenny got another MRI that we learned came back stable again!! We couldn't have been more happy! Dr. C told Kenny he won't have to come back for another 6 months meaning that we are getting into a more laid back, less time consuming medical life. :) Kenny and I also got the opportunity to spend a night in the city celebrating our anniversary and the dinner, hotel room and time to relax minus Charlie was wonderful!

November also gave Kenny a new, wonderful opportunity to begin a new career. While change wasn't necessarily what he was expecting, this new opportunity couldn't be passed up and is wonderful for him. I'm so proud of him for taking a chance at change and already we have seen some of the wonderful rewards this new career will bring to our family.

December brought the full on craziness that it typically does as we adjusted to Kenny's new job in addition to all the Christmas activities.

We've learned so well that life isn't always easy and while we try to make the best of what we've been handed, it's hard sometimes to deal with the changes that it forces on you. We know that in the end, we are guided to make good decisions for our family and while we may learn lessons along the way, in the end we will be stronger people for it.

We look forward to the upcoming year and all that it has to offer the three of us!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Little Turkey is 17 Months Old

Charlie turned 17 months old on Thanksgiving Day. We couldn't be more thankful for our little buddy and all that he has accomplished and all of the joy that he brings to us. Thanksgiving will always be a special holiday for us because two years ago, that's when we announced to our parents and families that we were expecting Charlie.
Charlie has been a busy little guy these last few months. Some of the fun things he is up to are:
* WALKING!! Everywhere! He started taking a few independent steps at the end of September and that progressed for about 3 weeks and all of a sudden, at a car show, he took off across the parking lot towards a dog. And then he did it again, this time aimed at a Rolls Royce. He's never really looked back.
* Talking. He has a lot to say. Some favorite words are: "tuck" (truck), "dog", "oof" (woof), "dat" (that), "duck" (any bird), "vroom" (when pushing cars around), "ba" (when asked what a sheep says), "all" (all done), "mama" (Mommy, Daddy or Grammy), "dada" (Sometimes he calls Daddy by his proper name), "ish" (fish), "shh" (shoes), "bya" (bye bye) and "uice" (juice).
* He can sign "more" and "all done." He won't say more while signing it, but when he signs all done he does say "all."
* More and more we find him trying to mimic what we are saying.
* He UNDERSTANDS ALOT! If you ask him if he's tired and wants a nap, he will go to his crib. If you ask if he's hungry and ready for lunch, he will go to his high chair. He can also respond by shaking his head yes or no.
* He LOVES going outside. Especially now that he's walking. He wants to be free to walk around so the new battle is to "hold hands" which doesn't always go so well for our independent little guy.
* He can stack legos very high -- maybe 6-8 pieces high.
* He tries to put his shirt on each morning while getting dressed, but only wraps it around his neck.
* He knows where his coat and hat are and tries to get them on when we are getting ready to go.
* He gives WONDERFUL hugs and kisses.
* His giggle is the best sound in the world.
* He loves fruits and veggies and sometimes that's all he will eat.
* He can pack away the food. The kid can seriously eat. I'm ready to start buying two bunches of bananas at a time so that they last a week.
* He loves to watch Elmo and Bob the Builder.
* At least once a day, he takes many of his books off the shelf in the living room and "reads" them.
* He is an expert at picking out a book for Daddy to read him his bedtime story.
* He is getting more and more new teeth. Since September, he's gotten at five new teeth that you can see and I'm sure there is another one in there about to show itself based on the amount of time he has his fingers in his mouth.
* He loves to dance...and his moves get funnier by the day. He's recently added spinning in a circle and trying to stand on his head to his list of moves. And when we laugh, he just does it more.
And the picture below...that's how alot of them look now. He's too busy for mommy and her picture taking!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Our favorite word to hear come out of the neurosurgon's mouth.
I cried this time.
We are just so thankful for his medical knowledge and grateful to have connected with him for Kenny's care.
Kenny told him so.
He acts like it's nothing, so humble.
But, really, it's something.
He recently co-founded the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute (
He really is great.
And so is Kenny...because of him.

Kenny on his way in to get an MRI.

They put these signs up around Northwestern and I couldn't help but take a picture...the words are so true and exactly what this place provides and what so many others forget.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

4 Years!!

Kenny scheduled a doctor appointment to find out the results of his latest MRI the day after our 4th wedding anniversary. I thought it was a great excuse to stay in the city the night before and enjoy a nice dinner out and some time without Charlie. We don't do things like this normally, but hey, I think we deserved it after the last 14 months we've had!
We couldn't decide where to eat, asked several people and then a few nights before we went down there, I was searching restaurants near our hotel and nothing look interesting. Then I found the restaurant at the top of the John Hancock Building...and the menu looked good, but on the side, they had a note that said if you order off the Chef's Selection Menu for the month, 10% of the meal cost will go to a charity of their choice. I clicked on a link to see the list of charity's and November was The American Brain Tumor Association. Well, I guess God was trying to tell us where to have dinner and of course that's where we went.
We got there early to have a drink and watch the sunset...beautiful. Kenny was a little freaked out at the height at first, but soon got over it. He said it was just weird to be so close to glass so far in the air. I love it!
And of course in looking at the traffic on Michigan Avenue below and picking out buildings, we found our beloved Northwestern, just blocks away. We love that place and the doctors and nurses so much for all of the wonderful care we got. It makes you realize, how lucky we are to live so close to amazing places like that.
We had a great time, slept for longer than we knew possible and can't wait to do it again sometime!

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A WARM Fall Day

Extra warm November days.
Swinging in short sleeves.
Playing with the pumpkins.
Learning to throw the leaves.
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Playing in Chicago

Kenny had an MRI at the beginning of November, so we tried out a Saturday appointment for it to see if it was faster or slower than during the week. He just didn't have to have any other doctors appointments around that time and we usually have those other appointments to fill the day that he needs the MRI. But, what a refreshing statement that is because it means that medically, life is slowing down and becoming more normal.
It was a beautiful day in Chicago that day and Uncle Ted met us at the hospital and we took Charlie for a walk while Kenny got his MRI. We loved doing the Saturday MRI and look forward to doing them then in the future as it gives us a chance to take Charlie into the city and do some fun activity down there...and get to see all of his uncles and aunt since they all live down there.
Now, I've always thought Uncle Ted and Charlie look alike...and some of these pictures will confirm it. I love the one of them walking together. So sweet!
We walked along Michigan Avenue, watched the cars, went to the old Water Tower and played on the steps and then found a park! Charlie was in heaven and so was I because Uncle Ted could chase him up and down the equipment and I could take pictures!
We can't wait to do it again!

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Halloween 2009

We had a great time celebrating Halloween with our book group friends this year and all of the kids. And there are ALOT of kids now. Marci and Pete have a great neighborhood to wander through and the kids had a great time. Charlie was our little blue monster and really did well showing off his walking skills. Once we ate dinner and the kids were playing, he really didn't know what to do -- play with the big kids or play with the babies. Oh, and he and Gwen refused the Halloween picture of all the kids -- 1 year olds!

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Aunt Nancy and Uncle Kevin

My Aunt Nancy and Uncle Kevin celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary about a month ago. It was a great party and we loved getting out for the evening (thanks Cousin Lauren!).

The silly sisters -- Carol, Donna, Nancy

Aunt Nancy and Uncle Kevin
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October Highlights

Grammy's birthday.
Getting Halloween mail and WALKING around with it.
Practicing wearing the Halloween costume.
Learning to use a spoon because he's gotten pretty good at using a fork.
Playing in the bouncy houses at Ava's birthday party.
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Touch a Truck

October is such a busy month in our house!! Touch a Truck is a great event put on locally and they had some pretty awesome stuff there this year. Flight for Life arrived and Charlie loves this helicopter he got for his birthday, so seeing one live left him in awe. Again, he spent a lot of time pointing and saying "tuck." He's definately got the car gene in him.
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Pumpkin Picking

Pumpkin Picking.

A favorite event in the Friedrich house.

Something about it is just fun and makes it feel like fall, regardless of the weather we may or may not be having.

And this's extra fun because Charlie is a wee bit older and not that he understands it yet, but he's getting closer to understanding it.

We found a great place near us to go last year and decide to revisit it this year.

Last year, pumpking picking was a great event for the three of us, as it was one of the first outings we took with Kenny post surgeries and he had the energy to get around for the few hours we were there.

This year, it brought back lots of memories, but we made them good ones because Kenny is here this year, able to carry little Charlie around.

We are sure next year will be even better!!

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Chicago Botanic Garden

Early this fall, we met some of our favorite friends (that we don't always see as often as we would like) at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It was a great day and a great place for the kids to play and the adults to talk and enjoy the beautiful grounds. Whenever I go there, I think I should get membership...maybe one of these times I will.
Charlie learned the word duck there and now all birds are ducks. He loved watching them though.
The kids even let us sit through the majority of a 30 minute talk on food. I was impressed Gwen and Charlie did so well...but they had fun entertaining each other...taking Charlie's hat on and off, putting it on Gwen's head, playing with leaves.
Probably the best part was we got to meet baby Claire and boy is she a cutie. So little and light to hold...I miss those days. :)
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Lake County Farm Show

At the end of September, one of our local forest preserves hosts the Lake County Farm Show. Of course, it's one of Kenny's favorite events of the year because he gets to go and look at tractors. We've been in years past, but this was the first time we got to take Charlie. And he LOVED it as much as his Daddy. He got to say "tuck" (truck) alot that day.

They also have a cool sheep herding show that we knew Charlie would love because he loves "do" (dogs) so much and knows they say "ooff" (woof). Sure enough, he loved it! In one of his profile pictures, you can see his lips puckered up -- he's saying "ooff." :)

The day we went there also happened to be Charlie's 15 month birthday. We are so proud of this little guy and so happy to call him ours. Below are some of the shots I took in and just outside of the Lake County Museum (on the forest preserve property). I wanted a great one for his 15 month birthday picture...and I got one.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall Days

Fall Days.
Must enjoy the sun while we can.
Soon enough the snow will be here and we won't be able to swing again until spring.
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Happy Meal

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Labor Day Weekend

Carlin Family BBQ.
Fun for all the big kids...and the little ones too.
Charlie wore his "I get frisky when I drink whiskey" shirt (from Uncle Ted) to celebrate an afternoon and evening with the three little girls all born within a few months of him.
Good times and Great Friends!
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Mommy's New Office

My office moved to a new building in early August. Since I've literally been part of the City family since birth, I can say, they have talked about us moving from our location of 20 + years for a LONG time and now it's finally happened. We are in a big beautiful new building with excellent views of the great forest preserve to the north of us.
To show off the building to the employee's families and retirees, they had an open house at the end of August. It was great! It really reminded me of picnics the City used to have when I was a kid. I hope this open house tradition continues in the future years.
One of my coworkers, Chris, has a granddaughter that is just a few months younger than Charlie. Lia was with Chris at the open house and Charlie and Lia had a great time playing together.
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Back in April and May, we had Charlie at the doctor about once a week for sneezing and coughing types of symptoms. After about 6 weeks of that, he finally came down with an ear infection and 10 days later, we followed up with our normal doctor to verify it was gone. She walked in and said "why have you been here so much lately?" Now this is why we love her! Yes, doc, why have we been here so much lately??! After discussion Charlie's symptoms with her and discussing our family history of allergies, she decided to order the blood work to test for some common allergies, including food allergies.
Our little buddy came back with a moderate peanut allergy and an egg white allergy. We got an epi-pen and carry it with us now, JUST IN CASE he comes in contact with nuts. We are under strict orders not to allow him to have any nuts.
We followed up with my allergist and he was immediately concerned for Charlie's skin. Charlie has always had eczema and we thought it was just that. After asking us to with hold ANYTHING with egg in it and working on his skin with lotion and hydrocortisone, his skin cleared up instantly. Poor kid!! The eggs in foods were driving his skin crazy.
So...after that worked to clear his skin, they did some further allergy testing, mostly with food because he's too little for environmental allergy testing yet. Here's the picture of the testing. You can see Kenny in the background asking what I'm doing. Well, taking a picture, of course.
Turns out the little guy can't have eggs or anything with eggs in it either. The eggs were making his skin worse and as soon as we stop them, he clears up and is eczema free. So, on the advice or our allergist, we stay away from eggs and nuts for the long term. Eggs will probably be retested in 1 year to see if he has grown out of it yet.
Our hope is for him to grow out of both of these allergies and he has a pretty good chance of doing that with egg if we can be strict with his diet. Nuts, well, that's another story. The chances are much lower that he will grown out of it, but there is a possibility.
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Orphan Car Picnic

A favorite event each summer is the Orphan Car Picnic. It's fun, lots of different cars (if you like to look at them) and it's usually pretty relaxing. This year it was moved to the Kendall County Fairgrounds and it was a great location...much further for us to travel, but very nice.

Kenny took Charlie's picture with a hemi here, as he did last summer at the Mundelein car show since Charlie IS Kenny's little hemi.

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Chicago Visit

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What We Do on a Saturday Morning

Charlie and I spent a Saturday morning out on the porch -- me reading a wonderful book and enjoying the summer morning...and Charlie playing with this outdoor toys.
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