I have so many Niko stories to tell you, but today something else has been on my mind.

I’m sure you’ve already read or seen the story about the man who dressed up as Santa to go see a dying boy.. If not – get a tissue and read this.

For a couple of days I had been composing in my head a witty piece about why I’m not taking my kids to see Santa Claus – because I don’t get it… Is it just for the picture? The kids should know that Santa’s magic is powerful enough that they don’t actually have to personally tell him what they want for Christmas – it’s supposed to magically appear in his big book (who still hasn’t seen Elf?). And I’m also working hard on trying to get my kids to appreciate other people’s time (like mine when I clean something up for the hundredth time that day), and if Santa is genuinely working hard on managing the elves and caring for the deer and overseeing that each child gets their present, and training for the big day – how could he possibly have the time to go sit at our local mall and take pictures with all the kids? Come on people!  That is what I was going to expand upon, and then yesterday a big pink firetruck drove down our street just to see Niko. And then a Santa Claus (with his misses!) got out of the pink police car that came right after – to give Niko and Luka presents!!! And I thought – well, I couldn’t possibly write what I’ve been thinking after this! And this story today… Reminded me of something else about Santas.

It’s not about the suit, and it’s not about the beard or the pictures… It’s about loving all children unconditionally. *Nerd alert* In case you didn’t know – many many years ago, when people used coal for heating, cooking, etc – there were people that sold this coal. And they would set up places where they burned wood to make the coal – multiple places out far from towns – to make sure there was no risk of setting the town on fire. And then they’d be gone most of the time – out there, by themselves, going from one fire to another – checking on everything. And while they were out there, by themselves, waiting for these fires, they would often make little toys for the children of the town – out of wood. So – when it was cold – the children got little magical present from the forest! And then you have St. Nicholas who would sometimes leave little coins for people in their shoes, if they left them out at night. The Dutch have a very interesting and … let’s be honest, rather racist by today’s standards, tradition of Sinterklaas which kind of blends these two together and also is the foundation for the American Santa Claus tradition (minus the servant).

Therefore, there can be and there are multiple Santas in this world – they’re the nice people that make our kids believe in magic. The eldely man at Starbucks that buys your kid a muffin, or the nurse that sneaks him extra stickers to try and cheer him up, or the man that works in hospital dining that, on his break, comes and brings your child a bag full of cookies and cheese sticks because that’s what he’s been interested in eating that day… There’s no reward bigger than a child’s joy, and you know these people don’t have any ulterior motives. They just genuinely care for all children, and their heart especially aches for the kids that need it most.

And you know what, there’s no reason you can’t be a Santa too! And it doesn’t have to stop around Christmas either!

I’m still not going to take my kids in to see the mall Santa though. You know why? Because to that man – those kids in line are all the same. But to a true Santa – each child is a unique and special gift that he or she appreciates because of the light the child brings into their life, if only for a brief moment. And so many of you have been this Santa for our Nicholas. I’ll never stop thanking you!

P.S. Awesome big brother took his little brother to his 24 month check up today. This is the first time they actually, legitimately, held hands! Or rather – the first time Luka let him hold his hand!

P.P.S. The story of the coal burners is from this book, in the chapter on Carbon. This was definitely one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read!

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Niko goes to the dentist

Well, apparently chemo teeth is a thing. I only found out about it when following a blog of a little neuroblastoma girl  – she had to go get a tooth pulled in the OR, etc.. It was very scary for a completely unexpected parent like myself. Then I encountered some other people that had gone through chemo and – they confirmed. It really is a thing! So – we booked Niko an appointment stat – we suddenly realized his teeth were looking kind of weird, with some odd signs of wear on them. And it turned out that – things were even worse than we thought! He had 8 or so cavities, and we went in last Monday morning for what was meant to be the first of 2 appointments to get those filled in.
I was so nervous for him! And so full of self blame! I had bad teeth when I was little, so much dental work… The things I had to suffer through make modern age dentistry look like a visit to the spa! So – I was already attentive to introducing proper dental hygiene early on, etc. But apparently not enough! And I was sure that all the misery that he would be subjected to – could have been prevented if only I had done my mom job better…
The doctor prescribed Niko half a Xanax an hour before the appointment, I made sure to get that filled! I gave him the half pill in the morning (if you find yourself in a similar situation – crush it up, mix it with some nut or cookie butter. No matter how many pills and meds he’s swallowed before – apparently this one tasted awful!), and the show started. Suddenly he was so pleasant to be around! So caring toward his little brother! It was incredible! Telling me multiple times that breakfast is delicious! :) asking Luka if he’s having a good morning… But getting him to focus on the simple task of getting in the car was a different story!
He was a bit apprehensive once we walked into the actual room, even though last time he was a total champ for the exam.
Luckily – Niko likes his dentist, and once the doctor walked in the room – Niko agreed to get on the chair. He even put the headphones on to watch the movie and didn’t mind having the gas thing put on his nose. Because his cavities weren’t deep – he didn’t have to be numbed and the gas was enough. There were two techs helping out the dentist – one actually assisting and the other one – to hold Niko’s hands – to “make him less nervous” and make sure he didn’t freak out.
But – he didn’t freak out!!! He did so great!!!!! I couldn’t believe it! And they were able to fill all the cavities in one go – in less than an hour!
The only downsides – he was a bit sleepy and tired from the gas and didn’t want to go to school. And apparently – the light was in his eyes so – he didn’t actually get to watch the movie, but he’s seen it before, so… No biggie.
Afterwards balloons were awarded for awesome patient and awesome quiet supportive brother (gotta thank the Ipad for that one).
Check instagram for a video of xanax+Niko ;)


In case you are still thinking of presents – I am ordering some chatbooks this year – for the people that have everything and love our kids (aka the grandparents ;).
If you click here – you can get your first book free!

Quick run down of how it works: You can either compile them on the website and add captions etc – just like any other photobook.. OR – you can do it through the phone app. OOOORRR – you can link it to your instagram account and have it print your pics for you automatically – every 60 pictures for 8$ flat per book. And you can set it up to automatically mail a copy of the book to each grandma, or – whomever is on your list! But you still get to go in and edit the pictures if you want – it gives you the option before it’s sent to print. But – if you’re lazy, or I mean – efficient – like me ;) – it’s a great and easy way to outsource meaningful gifts!

Here, maybe this lady will explain it better ;)

And they have some really cute specials for the holidays. And – I was surprised by how much Niko enjoyed looking at pictures of himself with the first chatbook that we got a while back! And I was also impressed with the print quality! For that price – mmazing!

Get your Advent Calendars ready!

A friend of mine wanted to get the boys an advent calendar. She’s a good friend, so she knows about my shopaholism issues, and she asked me first. Turned out – I already have the two types of advent calendars she was thinking about (chocolate and Playmobil) but her and I started looking together at what else is out there and were blown away! There are so many cool ones out there! I wanted to share them with you and give you my thoughts (which may be a bit cynical at times – being the only girl, I am often reminded how fragile beauty is and why we can’t have nice things).

  1. Melissa & Doug Countdown to Christmas Wooden Advent Calendar 

This one’s a classic. It’s got magnetic pieces that you stick on to the board, and then you can see how many days you’ve got left until the big day. Pros: learning numbers, like with all the advent calendars, and it can be used as a toy year around – developing fine motor skills, etc.

Cons: lots of small pieces that all have to be accounted for in order for this all to work properly. Yes. It says 3+ on the package. How many people pay attention to that? Especially when they don’t have kids themselves and are buying it as a gift. I can’t speak for your household, but over here – I can just see these pieces getting thrown around, stuck on the fridge, attempted to be stuck on non magnetic surfaces, ending up under the fridge/sucked up in the vacuum/chewed up by the dog/swept up by a well meaning grandma… And then what. Christmas never comes because we’re missing a couple wooden disks?

Bottom line – this calendar is pretty awesome but houses with small boys generally can’t have nice things.

2.  Advent Chocolate Calendar(like this one)

To me this type is even more classic than the basic countdown one. The first advent calendar I saw was a chocolate one. It didn’t really make sense since in Russia New Year’s is bigger than Christmas and Christmas is on January 7th. We never figured out when we should have started opening it, so – we just opened the little windows in order and ate all the chocolates within a few days. And that’s the problem with these calendars – you can’t just eat one!!!! They require so much self discipline!!! We won’t be doing these for a while (or at least – the boys won’t know I’m doing one ;) – instead of getting excited about Christmas – for us it turns into a tantrum trigger… But if you’re brave – this could be a great teachable moment!

My only piece of advice: check the ingredients! Not all advent chocolates are created equal.

3. Hot Wheels Advent Calendar

We actually used this one – but not for Christmas. When Niko had to be in the hospital for a week of very very intense treatment – we would bring this in for him several times a day (he had to be mostly alone in the room… this is not relevant to the calendar. sorry!) And though he was a bit young for it – it was still fun and did a good job of keeping him entertained. Each day is either a car or some accessory for it – like pieces that snap on to make it a sleigh, etc. If your boy loves Hot Wheels – this one’s awesome!

4. PLAYMOBIL Advent Calendar 

Playmobil makes AWESOME advent calendars!!!!! We actually have several. Here’s a tip – if you’re facing a long flight ahead of you – get one of these and set a timer – and open a number each time the timer goes off. We’ve got the fire fighter one, the robbery at the museum one, and an actual Santa Claus one hidden in the closet – waiting for next week.

The only downsides – each part comes in a plastic bag – so if you are using this for travel – you’re gonna have a lot of trash. And – you’re also gonna have a lot of small parts, so – bring a bigger baggie or a box to keep it all together. They also have some fun ones for girls too. So if you’re looking for a non-edible advent experience – this is definitely my #1 rec!

5. Advent Calendar Family Activities

I’ve seen a couple of calendars like this – with an activity or a prompt for each day. And I’m looking forward to doing one of these – making memories together seems like a much more holiday appropriate activity than just consuming tiny chocolates. Of course – you can always get crafty and make one yourself! Maybe I’ll get a little bit of Pinterest up in here and do just that…


Yay for the holidays approaching! Don’t get overwhelmed and plan ahead ;) If you order one of these today – you can get it before December starts!!!

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Aloha Niko! The beginning…

It has now been almost a month since we got back from our Make A Wish trip to Hawaii.

In case you aren’t familiar with Make A Wish, it is a non-profit fueled by donations and volunteers that makes wishes come true for kids with life threatening illnesses. Obviously, neuroblastoma is a life threatening illness, and so – Niko’s social workers submitted him for a wish. Volunteers contacted us and came to our house to get to know him and find out what his wish is. It was a bit of a challenge for them because – a 3 year old, and especially Niko – thinks that everything is awesome and everything is his favorite. If you ask him what does he like better, a or b? He’ll say – B! And A! I like B and A and A and B… So – our Wish team had some thinking to do. I was expecting to end up in a tent on a cactus plantation somewhere in Arizona, surrounded by people with mustaches… =) But thankfully – cacti and mustaches didn’t even come up. Niko was telling and showing them all his Disney character toys, and talking to them about the beach. Sometime after their visit, I don’t remember how long it was, but there was no rush – since we wanted to finish all of his treatment first – they told us in secret that we were going to go to the Disney resort Aulani in Hawaii. The movie Hotel Transylvania has been a regular in Niko’s rotation while at the hospital so he learned to be excited about Hawaii (in case you haven’t seen it, the main character wishes to experience life outside, among the humans, and – go to Hawaii, so of course he asked me what that was and we would talk about it every time).

The volunteers came again to reveal Niko’s wish to him – they brought him a poster that said “Niko is going to Hawaii” and a treasure chest filled with Disney toys and “Finding Dory” outfit. It was very cute and he still plays with it all the time!


A few days before our trip they visited again, and this time brought him a Mickey in Hawaii cake and a Mickey pizza!! As well as a folder for us with all the information we could possibly need – every phone and reservation number for every piece of the trip, what to bring, what not to bring… As well as spending money – for food and souvenirs. There was also a letter to the crew of the airplane – about Niko and that he was on this trip and – maybe they can let him into the cockpit. But we never even had to get that letter out – everyone on our trip was so amazing!!!!!

A limo came to pick us up in the morning. It was 5 am so – it was very early. But both boys were so excited!!! In fact – Niko didn’t sleep at all the first day. And with the time difference and having woken up at 4 30 am – that was the longest day of his life! At the airport we got to go through the first class check in, and there was an actual agent assigned to us – to escort us from the beginning to the plane! We got to hang out with one of the pilots before the plane got there, and then we got to hang out with all the other pilots on the plane before other people were allowed to board.


There was a greeter waiting for us as we got off the plane, with flower and kukui nut leis, that took us to our taxi.

Niko didn’t fall asleep even on the 40 minute taxi ride!!!!

And this is him after the early wake up, almost 5 hours on the plane, and 2 40 minute car rides… I’m jealous of those energy levels!

Stay tuned to see the rest of our stay!