Mighty Hero Alanya

Meet Beautiful Alanya our Mighty Hero for January. Below her mother Kristine shares her story.

Alanya had been sick for a couple of weeks in May 2014, throwing up each morning and then being fine for the rest of the day. I took her to her pediatrician every week and they said it was ear infection, then stomach bug after some blood tests. Memorial weekend I took her to ER and they did CT scan since that was the only option we really had left. They found a mass in her brain and gave the option of life flight to Las Vegas or Salt Lake City children's hospitals. It was no brainer and we were on a jet to Salt Lake City to Primary Children's Hospital. She went into surgery first thing the next morning for a 7 hour brain surgery. The mass was almost as big as a baseball. The next day there was an MRI that showed there was still some tumor left and they felt it was best to go in and get as much out as possible. The next morning Alanya went into her 2nd brain surgery, 4 hours this time. The tumor was about the size of a deflated grape. There was another MRI and the doctors were confident they got as much as they could. She was in the hospital for over a week as the drain for the fluids in her brain had to be weaned out and she needed to show signs of progress for movement, speech, and eating. On June 5th we were able to take her home where her 4 year old brother was a great motivator in helping her stand and start walking again. We then had to wait for the final pathology to come back and it was Stage IV Medulloblastoma. The most common type of brain cancer in children. The oncology doctors plan was to start high dose chemotherapy right away to kill any cancerous cells left behind. In July 2014 I took Alanya to Primary Children's Hospital to start her first round of chemo where she was hospitalized for 3 weeks. It was so hard on her little body and being stuck in the small hospital room was hard for her to understand. She went on to receive 5 rounds of chemo over five months. In January 2015 she received a Bone Marrow Transplant, her own, and we stayed at Ronald McDonald House for the 100 day waiting period for her to be released to go home. Her brother, Markus (5), came up to be with us and try to have a somewhat normal life with weekly visits to PCH. On March 10, Alanya's 3rd birthday, we were able to leave and go home. Her 3 month scans were as perfect as we could ask for! Her doctor's were all optimistic for her future and having beat the cancer. Diagnosis. Alanya had her 6 month followup MRI in August 2015 and it was not good. She had tumors in her brain and it had spread to along her spine. The most worrisome tumors were in her spine pressing against what controls bladder and her ability to walk. We knew she would need radiation and chemo and asked if it would be possible to do her Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World to meet the princesses. After an amazing week in Florida Alanya and I headed to PCH for port placement and the start of radiation. She was quickly losing her ability to walk so after only 3 radiation treatments she was hospitalized to get a quick MRI and the plan to get her in for a 7 hour surgery the next morning. The drastic changes and spread of tumors along her spine was shocking. Her surgery with neurosurgeon and orthopaedic surgeon ended up being a long 10 hours. Followed by 48 hours of her having to lay flat and trying to keep on top of her pain with morphine. After a week in neurotrauma unit the doctors agreed they needed to not wait the 2 weeks they normally would after such a major surgery and begin the radiation again. 2.5 weeks into radiation they did another MRI and there were not enough changes in the right direction and the doctor said it was UNLIKELY she would BEAT THE CANCER. Not zero but not great. That was the hardest thing to hear since her original diagnosis was pretty strong that she could beat cancer with high dose chemo. She finished her full brain and spine radiation in October (6 weeks staying at the Ronald McDonald House). The first time driving home after her spine surgery was almost 1.5 months after surgery and instead of 4.5 hour drive it was almost 8 hours because of all the extra stops. She is doing so much better now and it takes about 6 hours still but she doesn't scream it is hurting anymore. She did get a lot of her function in her legs back and her bladder function has gone back to normal. All things the doctors were unsure if she would ever get back.

Alanya loves to sing, dance, and play with her brother. She plays dress up as Elsa, Anna, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. Since the spinal surgery she is able to stand against our couch and will sing and move arms to the Kinect game for XBox JUST DANCE. She is still unable to walk on her own but has come so far and is holding my hands and walking carrying her own weight. HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT.

Alanya absolutely loves princesses. She looks up to her big brother Markus. In my own mind she is the hero and I have told her and asked if she understands what it means. She says yes and I have explained it to her. Again she is young and has favorite people and things. Markus who is almost 6 years old and adores his sister. He wants to help her walk every day and when she is only moving around crawling he is down on the floor beside her. He is supportive in his own way. He loves all the marvel super heroes and has worked hard to learn all the Princesses his sister likes.

My life revolves around the kids and it is Alanya's journey that I have to be right there beside her through the good and the bad. I have not had a job since Sept 2015 when I was let go from my marketing job for the second time when I realized I would be gone at least 6 weeks with radiation treatment. I am blessed to have had friends and a great mother help me financially to allow me to be the mom at home with the kids because of all Alanya's extra needs. It is difficult for me at times just because I know I am able to provide for my kids but have needed so much help recently. Looking for part-time work so I can be home and still be paying bills, which are still part of life even when cancer hits.

Through all of this cancer journey my children keep me going. I have also met so many families with different trials and obstacles of their own child health issues and we use each other for strength. We have experienced so much support from family and friends. I try to make every day with the kids positive and I try to be positive about the here and now as well as the future. It has been much more difficult the second time around because I truly thought she beat it the first time. I do believe in miracles and we pray that Alanya gets her miracle and we do everything possible to keep her happy.

Go to www.psiadoreyou.com and donate to Alanya. Every penny of your donation will go to Alanya and her family. All our love and prayers are with you. Stay Strong pretty girl!

Most Popular Baby Names of 2015

Via gramfeed
Baby names, oh, baby names... Why is it such an addicting topic? It seems like everyone loves to talk baby names, whether they have kids or not. We even know tons of single men who have baby names queued up for the future!

So naturally, we're always excited to read up on the most popular baby names of the year. By now you've probably read at least one report on the top baby names, so we decided to round up all of the lists out there for an ultimate guide to baby name lists and trends from 2015. We added in some baby name predictions for 2016, too — so if you've got a baby on the way next year, you can avoid all the overly popular names. :-)

First up, we have the Social Security baby name list. This one is considered the most accurate/official because it comes from data of parents applying for social security cards for new babies. According to their list, the top 10 boy and girl names are as follows:


What do you think? Any surprising names on the list? We know quite a few Noahs and Olivias, so those weren't at all surprising to us!

Next we have a list from Baby Center, as reported by the parents who visit the site. (Not quite as official, but still fun to see!)


Nameberry also came out with a list of baby name trends from the year, including names ending in "o" sounds and names with "x" in the middle.

But perhaps our favorite trend of the year is this: naming your baby after Instagram filters. Too funny! The names aren't bad, but the influence of social media on our culture can be a little scary!

The always-fabulous Mother Mag came out with a list of baby name predictions for 2016. In typical fashion, Mother Mag came up with a list that is hip but not overly trendy. We love the name inspiration!

And now it's time to sound off! What are your kid's names or what do you hope to name future children? Are any of them on these lists? And how do you feel about having a child with a popular name? Tell us in the comments!

Tips for flying with kids during the holidays

Via @alexandramctigue

The holidays can be stress-inducing for a whole slew of reasons, but holiday travel with kids seems to represent the absolute height of stress for most parents. You've got long lines, bad-weather delays, extra luggage...we could go on forever!

Though flying with young kids will never be a walk in the park, we do have a couple tricks up our sleeves to make your holiday flight at least a little easier:

1. Schedule your flight at an ideal time for your child. If you're lucky enough to have a kid who will fall asleep out in public, schedule a flight during their nap time and you'll be golden. If you have a more particular napper, fly during a time they'll be happy and then have them nap upon arrival.

Via @jetsettingkids
2. Check all possible luggage at the front desk. Though you do have the option to check strollers at the flight gate and bring small carry-on duffle bags, we say drop off all you can as soon as possible. If you have a snoozing newborn, carry them in a front carrier. No need to be dragging mountains of luggage across the airport!

3. Board the plane as late as you can. We've always thought it was a little backwards to have parents with small children get on the plane first. Though it's nice to get settled in, the less time spend in confined area, the better. If you have a reserved seat, stick to the back of the line so your kids have less time to get bonkers before takeoff.

4. Greet your neighbors and try to keep a friendly face. If there's any time you need to make friends with strangers, it's now. Even the holiday Scrooges should warm up if you make enough effort to kill them with kindness. Chat with your neighbors and they may help you out in a moment of crisis later in the flight!
Via @whole_kids
5. Bring on the treats. Flights are the time to bring out all the foods and toys that are usually reserved for special occasions. It could make a difference between sanity and epic breakdowns! Pick up some of your kids' favorite candies and sacks, as well as some new inexpensive toys to keep their interest. (Thank you, Target $1 section!)

6. Bring time-consuming food/activities. Speaking of treats...stick with the ones that will take your child a LONG time to eat. Big lollipops, very chewy taffy will be your lifesaver when you need a spare minute to go to the bathroom. We also have found tons of time-consuming activities on Pinterest, i.e. playing with magnets, Post-it notes, stickers, window clings, Play-doh, etc.

7. Give the kids a technology binge. Normally we are pretty restrictive about screen time, but during a flight...eat your heart out, kids! Load the iPad of even your phone with videos and games that can be viewed offline, then let your kid watch to their heart's content.

10 holiday neighbor gifts (that don't involve sugar!)

Image source
In the days leading up to Christmas, our kitchen counter seems to get cluttered with never-ending mounds of treats, kindly dropped off by friends and neighbors. We sample some, devour others...but most of them end up going in the trash after a week of contributing to the holiday clutter.

Sound like a familiar scene? If so, you'll be as excited as we are to have some ideas for neighbor gifts that don't involve sugar. (And are also fun, useful and inexpensive!)

Via Evermine
1. Holiday soaps. Because who doesn't get all kinds of warm fuzzies when they wash their hands with a Bath & Body Works scent like Iced Gingerbread? Pick a bunch up when they go on sale, wrap them with a cute bow and you're good to go!

Via Craftinge
2. Redbox coupon + popcorn. This one tops the list several reasons: it's super affordable, unique and something everyone will love putting to use! Check their website to see how to order bulk coupon codes, write them out on cute stationary and pair with a bag of popcorn (as fancy as you want to go on that one!)

Via The Crafted Sparrow
3. Homemade salsa. There's nothing to offset the sugar binge like some salty snacks. Make a huge batch of yummy salsa and package in small Mason jars. We love this recipe!

Via Our Peaceful Planet
4. Ornament and story. Everyone loves having new ornaments to add to their tree every year. If you make it a yearly tradition to give out inexpensive ornaments and a meaningful message to go with it, you'll score points for spreading Christmas cheer every year! See here for ideas.

Via On Sutton Place
5. Homemade bread. Warm, fresh homemade bread + butter and jam is pretty much heaven on earth, and it makes for awesome on-the-go breakfast during the busy holiday season. This is the easiest, most delicious recipe ever!

Via The Crafting Chicks
6. Potpourri set. Just because we're tired of having counters packed with baked goods doesn't mean we don't want our house to smell like baked goods, all day every day! Potpourri is the perfect fake-out. Package up some cinnamon sticks, cloves, cranberries and oranges for your neighbors to simmer on the stove all day.

Via Pretty Providence 
7. DIY coasters. 'Tis the season for drinks all around! These tile coasters are inexpensive, modern and totally adorable. Your neighbors will love whipping them out for guests on Christmas Eve.
Via our site
8. Cute gift wrapping supplies. There is never enough tape, gift tags or wrapping paper to go around, right? Save your neighbors some time (the ultimate gift!) and give cute wrapping supplies - like this adorable washi tape from our site!

Via Think Garnish
10. Frozen cookie dough. Okay, so this one does involve sugar, but we love that it is meant for later, once all of the binging is over with. Eventually the craziness will come to an end and we'll be left exhausted and craving a treat again...but won't want to put any work into it! Enter this heaven-sent frozen cookie dough recipe.