Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Nearly Normal Christmas

Since Lindsay's diagnosis and remission, holidays have taken on special meaning. Even though I am grateful for every moment we have, every tradition that cancer could have stolen, there are often tears welling in my eyes. I think of what might have been. And sometimes those are tears of "what may come".

But not this Christmas. Only two years post-cancer, only our second Christmas in remission, and somehow I managed to make it through Christmas with almost no cancer tears! There was joy and very little "what if". The children delighted in the Christmas lights, the stockings, even their cousins' elf on the shelf (apparently not phased by the fact that Elfie was there to guarantee good pre-Christmas behavior). And I delighted in the normalcy of it all.

Of course I grieved for the children who have lost battles this year. I felt sad for the children newly diagnosed. I empathized with the mother's trying to make the most of Christmas in the hospital. But none of this was amplified by Lindsay's battle. It was merely the sadness any mother would feel when they hear of a child suffering.

Christmas may be over, but I will always remember this year as a huge milestone. Yes, there can be normal after cancer. I feel it more and more every day!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Survivor

Just 30 hours after hearing Lindsay's bloodcounts are good (still in remission!) we celebrated with 3000 blood cancer warriors. Raleigh's Light the Night 2010 was awesome. We played, picniced, walked, celebrated, and remembered the warriors who lost their fight.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

cancer week

Cancer week is almost over. Two years ago today was the day before port surgery, the day before we started chemo, the day before the beginning of who the hell knows. Two years ago today was the worst ekg in the history of ekg. Two years ago today was the most amazing echo tech and the smoothest procedure up to that point for L. Two years ago today was a 4 hours pass to leave the hospital - one of only two she would receive during the 6 months. We went to TGI Friday's because we didn't know a thing about W-S. And guess what? It was a blast. Papa Tom and Uncle Kevin came. I HATE that my mom missed it. She had M and we had no idea we would be getting a pass. L ate cheesy yumminess. We were expecting her appetite to fall off the next day with chemo (little did we know she'd be a chemo warrior princess). But clearly I am digressing.

Cancer week is almost over. And it has mostly been a week like any other. Except I have been full of tears like I haven't been since the hospital. Some of this is because of friends who have relapsed. Some of this is because of hormones (no, I'm not pregnant). Some of this is because I had three hours alone in the car to think way too much.

And as cancer week winds down, school continues to go well. We are doing a math project that involves the seasons. We took a picture of the kids in front of this tree and will re-create it through out the year as the seasons change. L (who generally is not a fan of having her picture taken) consented since "it's schoolwork!". M is just happy to get to wear a dress outside. Life is good. Despite the fun we are having, I find myself constantly fretting over the fact that L will not be in kindergarten. Oh, life could be so much more normal and simple. But then I would be doubting that decision for a million reasons too. And she is really happy to skip down the homeschooling path hand-in-hand.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I'm awake tonight. 2:37:28 am ... not atypical.

The reason I'm awake is that I had a headache. And to avoid it turning into a migraine, I took Excedrin. And now I'm wide awake, but, thankfully headache free.

The reason I'm explaining why I'm awake is to point out that I'm not awake because today is the 2 year cancerversary.

Though, I will freely admit that my Excedrin-interrupted sleep was punctuated by intense, but undefinable fear about the children's safety and well-being. Each time I awoke (until I finally gave up and logged on), I had a sense of either panic or dread. Hmm...

At any rate, today is 2 years to the day that we found out Lindsay might have leukemia. I say "might". The doctors said, "probably" and "almost certainly". Matt and I were in total denial. I just knew it was going to be Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or some bizarre virus that her body would beat the hell out of. Well, shit.

The interesting thing about leukemia is that we "count" from the day she was diagnosed. Which makes this horrible day a cause for celebration. Counting is relevant because the farther away you are from diagnosis, the better your odds are. Two years out means your odds of relapsing at about 5%. Three years out means you're likely to stay in remission. Ten years out means secondary cancers are much much less likely. 20 years out means, "Hey, 20 years ago I had cancer. Isn't that f-ing crazy? Let's have a glass of wine and roll our eyes over how ridiculously terrified my parents were."

Happy cancerversary. We won't be celebrating... any more than we do every day :-)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Embracing Embarrassment

I've been thinking a lot about embarrassment lately. Lindsay tells me I've embarrassed her from time to time. Mostly after an academic exercise. When she figures something out quickly. I may simply smile. I may mention her success to Matt or my mother. "Mom," eyes rolling "you're embarrassing me." It's one of the few times she whispers.

Embarrassment. What is it? What is its utility?

I spent a little time online looking up the word, to be sure I was spelling it correctly. I found a blog about a spelling bee entitled "Spelling Bee Embarassment". Without a hint of irony. But I digress.

What is the value of embarrassment? And why is the pleasure someone takes in our accomplishment both rewarding and painful? Even at the age of five!

As a teenager, I remember repeatedly feeling that my father was trying to embarrass me. In retrospect, I don't think I was wrong. I also remember feeling embarrassed by my mother, though I don't believe that was her goal. At that time, I vowed to never attempt to embarrass my kids. But how can I help but smile when L succeeds at something? When she relishes a discovery? When she sings her heart out. And if I don't smile? If I don't enjoy her joy? Will that harm her more than the embarrassment of my pride?

I imagine she would just die of embarrassment if she knew how I go on and on in this blog!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Late Night Penny Math

L could not sleep tonight. Perhaps it was a later-than-usual dinner. She ate a veggie burger, pasta salad ("it's even good cold" ... hmm, that should tell you something about last night's dinner), chips, carrots, and water. Then went swimming. Maybe all that just-before-bed excitement was too much. Whatever the cause, she kept getting up - asking for water, hugs, you name it. Eventually I asked her if she just wanted to hang out. There's nothing work than lying in bed awake.

So we talked and had some nice mommy, daddy, first child time without the whirling dervish (sound asleep after a wild and crazy day). I asked her if she wanted to do some math. We really hadn't done any during the day. We'd worked on a story, picking out words (word find with matching), and other language arts type activities. You would have thought I'd asked her if she wanted ice cream. SO I broke out the pennies.

We've been doing lots of math on paper. Mostly because she enjoys it and ideas aren't hard to come by. It's everything we did in school. Straight up arithmetic, patterns/ sequencing, greater than less than. But I haven't been so good with "manipulatives". I still remember the first time I heard the word "manipulatives". It sounded like such a made-up teacher word. Like, "I need a 5 syllable word for 'things you hold'" ... "ooh! 'MANIPULATIVES'". Anyway. Silly name. Good concept. And yet I never think about manipulatives (except when we're eating and end up doing "pretzel math" or "M&M math"... yum).

Tonight was penny math. We ventured into division (without calling it division), and Lindsay took right to it. It will probably be a long time before we divide on paper, but dividing pennies into equal groups was a fun start to what can be a challenging concept. I even gave her 5 pennies and said, "Divide these into 2 equal groups". She made 2 groups of 2 then quickly rejected the 5th. How nice that she didn't get stressed out by that extra penny. So we called it a "leftover" and said we'd better eat it in a day or two or it would go bad!

Can't wait to see what unfolds tomorrow!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Story Starters

Once up on a time there was a witch who ...

was mean. The she freaked every body out. THE END.

I once knew a

M: witch,
L: that went to the Arctic and scared polar bears.
M: And the witch ate her breakfast of piping porridge.
L: She didn't have any hat.
M: And she didn't have any eyes.
L: And she did have a face that didn't have any eyes.
L: She had purple hair.
M: And a note.
L: She ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She went to the Arctic and scared polar bears away. But the best thing she liked was getting to watch TV all day. THE END

Down in the village I saw a

L: donkey.
M: There was a princess named Belle.

(then a big fight ensued over a plate ... oy)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Watercolors in the Rain

The kids spent the afternoon in the sprinkler. They ride their plasma cars or bikes in and out of the water. Michael soon tired of this - we've had the sprinkler out almost every day for the last 2 weeks. The temps have topped 100.

So, I broke out the side walk chalk. He drew a seashell in green, then decided to explore chalk in the water of the sprinkler. The effect was beautiful. The driveway is black asphalt and the water both blurred the chalk and deepened the color. It looked like Burt's drawing's in Mary Poppins.

As Michael started this project, it began to rain. We turned off the sprinkler. Lindsay left the ballet she was directing in the garage and joined him in the rain. They covered the side walk in pink, green, blue, and yellow water.

After sidewalk chalk we came inside and were cleaning up. Lindsay panicked. "Mom! We haven't done any homeschooling today!" I tried to explain that she'd been learning all day -- hiking, playing the "listening and looking game", on our nature scavenger hunt, reading books in the car, reading books in the house, singing with her Sandra Boyton CD, making lunch together, reading about dingoes then pretending to be dingoes, reading about wild cats of North America, practicing bike riding without the training wheels. These were all enriching activities. She was unconvinced. I was thrilled. Not that she wanted to sit down and "homeschool" but that she had had a fabulous enriching day and didn't once feel like I was trying to "school" her! Success!

Still it was not surprising that she asked to do "patterns" a few minutes later. She loves figuring out and I'm sure it feels like homeschooling to her. The only problem? She's so good at it, I'm hard-pressed to create any that are challenging. We've done shapes, colors, numbers, equations. So I wrote the following:

1/2 , 2/4 , 3/6 , 4/8 , 5/10 ...

She paused for all of 2 seconds before writing 6/12. Now, at 5, I don't think she understands what these fractions mean. We've talked about halves and fourths when cooking and when drawing circles, but I don't think she's aware of the divison symbol - except for seeing it on measuring cups. Still... to get the numerator and denominator and not to get flustered by the new arrangement of a number on top of another. I was excited! So, I decided to up the ante a bit:

1/3 , 2/6 , 3/9 ...

I had to leave the room to help Michael. When I came back, 4/12 was written in sequence. My mom was standing a few feet away. I asked if she helped her. Nope. How is this possible? We certainly haven't practiced counting by 3s. Much less within the context of a fraction. See why I'm at a loss on how to make this more difficult? She wanted to keep going, but I couldn't think of anything, so I resorted to shapes. Please, send suggestions!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hi. It's been a while.

And so much has happened. Let me explain. No, let me sum up.

1. Working way less (3-8 days a month)

2. Staying home way more. Matt back to work full time in Raleigh.

3. Trying to sell the house. Matt living in tiny apartment in Raleigh.

4. Enrolled Lindsay in Raleigh magnet lottery. Lindsay protested, begged to be homeschooled. Didn't match to any of our choices. Enrolled her in Spanish language immersion program here. Lindsay protested, begged to be homeschool. Thought I knew better since Lindsay loved preschool. Decided to move to Raleigh despite house not being anywhere CLOSE to selling. Enrolled L&M in summer art camp in Raleigh that is a preschool during school year. Kids LOVED it. Decided to register Lindsay as a homeschooler (oops, haven't done that paperwork yet) and home/unschool but send her to Arts Together preschool because (1) she loves it (b) there just happened to be 1 spot left in the entire preschool (3) they have yoga in the afternoon and (d) the teachers are FABULOUS.

5. Put Michael on the waiting list for Arts Together. He says, "I like black now because Miss Lauren (dance teacher) has black hair and wears a black shirt".

6. Working WAY more days this month than intended so spending time at my parents house so they can babysit. Being back at home, now that's humbling.

7. Started "officially homeschooling" - way more structured than I'd planned. Tweaking it. Some days I get out the workbooks. Other days I just record what we do to prove that Lindsay is "accomplishing something". I know I'm not a radical unschooler. I don't have it in me. But I do believe in natural learning. I don't want to do more damage at home with curriculum and my own agenda and strip Lindsay of her natural love for learning. And Lindsay is INCREDIBLY aware of and resistant to being coerced in anyway. "Try this!" ... "NO!" So we take it one step at a time.

8. Lindsay remains in remission (YEAH!!)

9. Lindsay's blood lead levels remain slightly higher than typical. This is something that happened a year prior to her being diagnosed with leukemia. Long story. Rental house, crappy landlord (would love to post a link to his prominent profile but will resist, you know who you are you jaguar-driving insert-expletive-here), crappy painters hired on the cheap by aforementioned landlord. Lead levels up, leukemia a year later. My suspicions have been up ever since. Michael's levels are normal (he was too young for significant risk of exposure when we were in the rental). We hoped Lindsay's would drop, apparently that happens. But they haven't. So I'm up in a state of irrational anxiety. The kind that mothers are good at, but cancer moms perfect. My fears are as follows: (1) did we cause her leukemia by allowing her to be exposed to lead paint (thus far I am unable to find any connection and her levels are actually within the "normal range", just a tad higher than most kids), (2) if we didn't cause her leukemia, will this low grade lead exposure cause some other problems for her down the road (obviously the IQ reduction that has been published is not apparently a problem, she's so bright... but... what would she be like without the lead exposure, without the chemo, without the 6 months in the hospital without Vitamin D)... she how crazy it feels in my head?

10. So, I'm awake at 1:22 am, in my parents house, thinking about how tired I'm going to feel tomorrow morning. But I'm also kind of looking forward to that cup of coffee and just getting the day started.

11. I'm also thinking about advertising this blog a bit more. Now that I've gotten the crazy out of my system, what do you think? Should I recruit readers? Or just write for the 2 of you who are reading :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kids in the Tub

The kids are in the tub. Today has been blurred by antihistamine and Sunday doldrums. Factor in cold and dreary weather, and parenting has been at an all time low.

They have to see who you are. You are human. You are a person with emotions and reactions to their behavior, just as they are a person reacting to yours. This is a summary of advice from my mother. My mother who never ever seemed any less than the perfect mother. Even when she was losing her temper.

When my mom did lose her temper (it seems that happened more when we were little than big) I used to imagine she wasn't my mother at all. She was, perhaps, a witch. But where did those pictures of my birth come from? Oh, well, she was a witch, so she cast a spell and created them. And now she was posing as my mother. Evil.

But mostly she was perfect and calm. An even-tempered disciplinarian and nurturer.

And I am none of those things on a bad day. But the kids are in the tub and I think it's going to be just fine.

Friday, January 29, 2010

blogging more often

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions. Did you? What are they? Are you keeping them?

Although it's not a resolution, I have been running. By running I mean jogging with occasional uphill crawling. Still I'm thinking of doing a Team in Training marathon. We'll see. I have a few reservations. The fundraising is steep and at the moment the big training days are the day I work. Still, I think the sense of accompishment would be unparalleled.

Other than running, the new year has brought one other major change. I'm finally staying home with the kids and it's better than I imagined. More on that soon -- I promise!