Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Peanut is Five

Bad silly mama indeed... this was in my draft box and never got posted. Rebecca's birthday was almost 2 months ago. But I will post it here nonetheless...

On Monday, my sweet firstborn celebrated her fifth birthday. She is Rebecca now, most of the time, because she has learned to spell REBECCA instead of just BECKY. On Tuesday at her well visit, she also, for the first time, correctly spelled her last name.

My baby is definitely not the little peanut I stared at in the nursery 5 years ago. She is a girly-girl who loves dresses, dressing up, Barbie dolls, jewelry, and "fancy" things. I have to laugh a bit ruefully because she loves scarves or anything wrapped around the neck. This seems to hark back to the womb and the umbilical cord around her neck that caused her to be born via c-section. But in general, she loves being a fashion plate; even when I don't consider her outfits to "match", she thinks they are beautiful.

On the other hand, set her in motion and she doesn't stop! She loves to run, and to ballet dance, and to ride her bike. She wants to walk 5K next year for the Race for the Cure and I think she will probably be dragging ME along. We watched her teenage cousin (and idol) play soccer recently and now Rebecca is interested. I hear the parents in our local soccer scene are not "my" kind of people, or rather I am not "their" kind, but I can put up with them if she has fun. I think she'll be reading before too long; she is spelling words that she sees everywhere. She likes to "read" books to me, which are memorized, but she does try to figure out the words. I laughed the other day when she showed me a reader she got for her birthday. She said, "I can read the title - it says Walt Disney Princess" ! It actually said "What is a Princess" but it was in the Disney font and started with W so I was still impressed. She's also doing simple addition in her head, which is fun to watch. A few times recently she has demonstrated her ability to count to 100; one day when I picked her up from day care she gave me a sheet of paper, on which she had written (with spelling help) "I COUNTED 126 BLOCKS". Preschool is getting a bit boring for her; she's ready for more challenges so her teachers are trying to give her more to do. The other day we watched a bit of a program about Mt Everest; at school on Monday she shared with her friends her new expertise on the subject of Everest. The next day, her teacher brought in a book about it for her to look at. The teacher told me that she is bored with her friends because they can't hold a conversation at her level. This has been her problem ever since she could talk and discussed with her toddler-class teacher our dog's "hip dysplasia". It seems that talking to your kids does in fact pay off. :-)

We have alot of silly fun together, and she still acts like a little girl at times. Lately she's been very moody and clingy, which her pediatrician says is due to hormone swings and not out of line. So I'm not going to worry about her emotions so much now, and will just ride things out as I have been trying to do. Her other vice is TV watching, which Jim and I have recognized and are controlling more than in the past. For all her perpetual motion, put her in front of Sprout or Noggin and she can quickly become a zombie, so we will be limiting screen time more than ever.

Rebecca is a fun big sister; she plays with Caroline a lot and likes to teach her things. This includes inviting C to accompany her to the bathroom, to show her how to use it! Who knows, she may potty train her sister for us. Caroline clearly idolizes her, except when Rebecca is acting like "Little Mommy" and trying to discipline her.

She also has a great love for our dogs. We now have two dogs that she can lift, so while she is not supposed to do this, she likes to pu tone or the other of them on her or my bed to pet. She is good about caring for them, if reminded, and tells me all the time how much she loves her dogs. Now she wants a cat, but knows we can't have one due to Jim's allergies (as well as his dislike of cats).

Jim and I love her so much and are looking forward to the upcoming year.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Momcab Confessions

Ok, so maybe not as spicy as Taxicab Confessions on HBO, but funny to me, nonetheless.


Monday, on the way home from day care... I called my niece to verify that she can watch the girls on Saturday. After I ended the call:

Becky(suspiciously): Why were you talking to A, mommy?

Liz: To see if she could babysit you girls this weekend.

Becky: I'M NOT A BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have never heard her make a statement this vehement about herself, lol! We agreed to call it kidsitting from now on.

Tuesday, same place:

Liz: I have two ideas for supper tonight, so I want you girls to choose what you want.

Carly: Pasta!

Liz: Uh no, (laughing), that wasn't one of the choices. Your choices are tacos or chicken fried rice.

Becky: Tacos.

Carly: Mommy, can you talk with me?

Liz: Sure baby, what do you want to talk about?

Carly: Bar.
(Bar = Trader Joe's Breakfast Bar = Carly's perfect food)

Liz: No sweetie, no bar for supper.

Liz and Becky converse on other subjects for a few minutes. Carly is silent.

Carly: Tacos!

Liz: Oh, Carly, were you pondering your choices? Have you finally decided on tacos?

Carly: Yes, tacos.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What's that again?

As I am sitting at my computer in my home office (yay Jim, got the new machine up and running!) the girls are playing in their room. They are supposed to be taking a nap but I made the fatal mistake of letting Becky stay in the room while I put Carly down. Carly just can't fall asleep if sisy is there. So, B has made up some jumping game that involves the lids of Rubbermaid tubs that I have out to try to get put away a bunch of clothes that are in between girls right now.

Carly comes running into the office; she is wearing only her diaper, so she is her alter ego, NakedBaby.

"Bad news and bad news!"

"What, Carly?"

"I'da know. Bad news!"

And she runs back to her sister.

Monday, October 01, 2007

My baby girl is two

Carly is an official two year old. We had a family party for her on Sunday and everyone had a blast. We went with a simple menu of Italian type favorites that is, pasta! I am not a great cook and did not want to try to fuss or impress anyone. Weirdly, I often feel like I should be making more food from scratch, trying to be more of a hostess in that way. But, it's not who I am.

I did make the cake myself. It wasn't beautiful, but it was tasty. Carly wanted an Elmo birthday, as much as she can "want" something as abstract as a birthday theme. I decided to bake a cake myself rather than ordering from the grocery store. So, I made two 13x9 white cakes, made pink frosting using my mom's wonderful buttercream frosting recipe, and put it together. I had ordered an Elmo candle cake topper, which came with some Elmo bling (aka plastic rings). As I frosted the cake the consistency of the frosting looked okay, but after I finished I started to notice it drooping down the sides like it was too liquidy. I cleared space in our laundry room fridge and put it in there for a while, which saved the day. Then I decorated it with a happy birthday message, discovering just how hard it is to write nicely in icing! But everyone said it was pretty, and it was tasty, so I was satisfied. I took a couple of photos which I'll post once I download them.

Grandma Sandy got both girls fairy princess costumes to wear at the party. Becky was Tinkerbell and Carly was a pink princess with wings and antennae. We ditched the wings quickly as they wouldn't stay in place, but she loved the dress and didn't want to change to pajamas at bedtime. She got nice gifts from the family and loved her big gift from us - a small electronic keyboard. She and Jim saw it last week at BJs and she played with it in the cart all through the store. He told her he would buy it for her. She fell asleep on the way home from BJs and forgot about it when she got home. So, bad parents that we are, we hid it and wrapped it for her birthday. Well, she was thrilled when she took off the wrapping paper! She started playing with it right away. Next thing I knew, Becky brought out an old keyboard Jim had given her and the two of them started jamming and dancing.

I don't have a baby anymore! Caroline is sleeping in a big-girl bed now, as of two weeks ago. She loves it; will look at the corner of the bedroom and say "no more kib (crib)". Of course, she doesn't want to go to sleep at night these days, which is wearing on all of us. As I write this, Jim has just taken her for a car ride in hope of getting her to fall asleep. I hope it works but I'm not really optimistic about it. Hopefully soon we'll all get some sleep.

She is also starting to show signs of potty training, and has been successful several times. I suspect that she is wanting to emulate Becky more and more. She keeps asking to wear an Easy-up instead of a diaper, and this morning requested underpants. Not quite yet, missy, but maybe sooner than we anticipated! We might feel bittersweet about our baby growing up, but not about not needing to buy diapers anymore!

She talks up a storm and is pretty understandable most of the time. She does have some fun Carly-speak however:

BayLay = Bailey (one of our dogs)

Duppy-Duppy = Humpty Dumpty

Tiki = Trixie (one of our dogs)

Gaddis = Gladys (our newest dog, more on her in another post)

DuNO = I don't know

Cow butters = caterpillars

Arms outstretched: Pick up me.

At the refrigerator door one day she said: Mommy close door. Too heavy me.

Eating something - I LIKE it. I don' like it. I have some? - all said within the span of a minute

On Saturday Jim was asking her how old she is now, and she said "I'm actually two."

She is a typical two year old in many ways though... has a temper much worse than her sister at this age. Her rages can be amusing except when they are at inconvenient times, like when she decides not to comply with being buckled into her car seat. I like to call her Miss Independent because she does not want to accept help most of the time. Since the "too heavy me" incident she has discovered that the refrigerator door is NOT "too heavy me" and so now closing it is HER job. Woe to the family member who closes it for her, for they must re-open it for her to close.



When she's not raging though, she is the sweetest girl, full of smiles and giggles. She and Becky continue to adore each other when they aren't wrestling over some toy, seat, or other mutually desired item. I love watching them talk and play together. The sight of them loving each other is exactly what I dreamed of when I fantasized about having a family.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

True that

My mother-in-law had a funny anecdote for us last weekend.

While we were in Las Vegas, the girls stayed with Jim's parents. Carly was getting to be a handful, as any almost-two-year-old will. At one point MIL turned to Becky and asked,

"Does Caroline listen to your parents any better than she listens to Grandpa and me?"

Without missing a beat, Becky replied,

"No, and that's why they had to go on vacation."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Brain dump - Vegas

I have lots of things floating around in my head but haven't taken the time to actually write them down. So I'm just warning you, dear reader, this could get messy. I'll probably just post about things as they occur to me and I get the time to spill them. :-)

Our Las Vegas trip went well. Vegas is a pretty amazing place and hard to describe. We loved our hotel; it was by far the nicest place we've ever stayed. The bed had a pillow top with an additional pillow top added. We're used to a much firmer bed so I wondered at first if we'd have a problem sleeping on this bed, but I at least didn't. Mandalay Bay has the most awesome pool area; it's a beach, complete with 2600 tons of sand. They have a wave pool that was a lot of fun; I was able to convince Jim to try to ride the waves with me and he got into it. We ate nice meals, which I was able to enjoy without anyone asking to try my food or sticking small hands into my plate. We shopped and people watched; did a little gambling and saw one live show, Wayne Brady. He's very good in concert and just like on tv, is interactive with the audience. Guess who the first person brought up on stage was? Yep, me. He wanted to sing me a song about what I do for a job. I told him I am a data analyst and he and the audience laughed, in a good way. He asked what I did before that and I told him, benefits analyst, in a hospital. "Oh, so you have FULL BENEFITS". He ended up singing in the style of a little boy, a song about "my friend Liz who is a da-ta anaylst". I got a hug and a thank-you at the end. I always thought I would be mortified to be up on stage like that, but it wasn't bad. I could only see the people in the first few rows, and could see that they were not laughing at me, but laughing with me and in relief that it was me and not them on stage. He had people up there later having to actually do things, that were far more embarrassing, so I got off easy.

Jim and I would like to go back to Vegas, to see stuff we didn't get to and have more a of a chance to relax. Separately, we'd like to take the girls. It would be a good jumping-off point to take a day trip to the Grand Canyon. I've never been and would like to see it. Jim went as a kid and spent three days there which bored him a lot. I know they would LOVE the Mandalay beach, especially Becky. I was talking to a couple of coworkers after we got back; both of them have been to Vegas several times. I asked one of them , who has a daughter, if she'd ever taken her. I got a very vehement NO in reply. I can understand that there is a lot to Vegas that is too adult for kids. But Vegas is one of those places that can be whatever you want it to be. Jim and I aren't really drinkers or gamblers, so if we went with the kids we wouldn't be missing out on that aspect of the trip. But besides the beach, they would love the Shark Reef aquarium at MB, the M&Ms World store, the fountains at Bellagio, and lots of other things. Just being able to travel by airplane would be fun for them. I am sure that Las Vegas won't be our first vacation destination with the kids, but I can see us going some time.

So now we're back to life in the rushed lane. I hate hate hate my commute; it just takes too long. And as the girls get older, I want to be more available for afternoon activities and the like.I've talked with my supervisor about the possibility of reducing my hours at some point, when we're through our major upgrades. She is amenable, and while it may be a pipe dream in this position, at least the idea wasn't reject out of hand.

Speaking of my boss, D, please send PVs her way. She is a breast cancer survivor; she had a double mastectomy 06/2006 and went through a ton of chemotherapy. Her hair finally grew back (and is really cutely curly now) and she's been doing so well that she's actually been fretting about losing a few pounds. On Friday she and a colleague, A, were having lunch together when D started talking gibberish. A thought D was kidding; when she realized that she wasn't she knew they had to go to the ER. D had an MRI in the ER that showed a tumor in her brain. When I talked to her today she was waiting for the results of a second MRI and was about to go into a CT scan of her chest and abdomen. If they can determine that the tumor in the brain is metastatic breast cancer, they will do gamma knife radiosurgery. If they aren't sure it's mets, they will have to do traditional surgery. What a choice. D is her usual funny, upbeat self when I talk to her but I know she's scared. So are all of us who care about her.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reconnecting

Today I had lunch with two high school classmates, whom I haven't seen in at least 15 years. As I mentioned in a previous post, E and I have been corresponding since she sent out a mass email seeing if there was any interest in a get-together to celebrate our 25th reunion. We work near one another so we planned to meet for lunch. She also invited M, a male classmate of ours with whom she has a business relationship that has become a friendship.

I was a bit nervous but not as much as I thought I would be. It's silly to be so nervous in the first place, but in the past I would have been paralyzed by the thought that I wouldn't be funny/interesting/smart/whatever enough. Luckily time, experience, therapy and meds have all helped my self esteem tremendously. The three of us met and I discovered that we all look like we did in HS, yet not. We're all recognizable to one another but we're certainly not kids anymore. Throughout the meal, I felt comfortable talking with them, even though they had more to say to each other since they know each other as adults.

Remembering my high school days, I feel sad that I wasn't able to come out of my shell. I was the quiet, smart fat girl who was afraid of so many things. As a small child I was thin, but in second grade I started gaining weight, so I spent most of my grade school years either being tormented or ignored. In HS I was afraid to speak up lest I bring attention to myself; that usually got me mocked. I did have friends but always felt like I was on the fringes of my friend groups, never feeling like I was a part of any group. I was sure that people didn't think about me if they didn't see me. Our HS had a lot of cliques. All HSs do, but ours was really "good" at it. I saw a therapist during my senior year about various issues, and she told me that my HS was well known in the local therapy circles. Sad, eh? It was a great place to get an education but so many of us suffered more angst than we might have elsewhere.

When I was in HS we were assigned one locker for our entire four years. My class was unlucky; our section of lockers was at the far end of the school. It was difficult to get back to one's locker and back between classes to switch books, so many of us ended up carrying most or all of our books every day, at least the ones for all of our morning or afternoon classes. There were times during the day when there was time to visit the locker, like at lunch time or during free periods. I usually carried all of my books however, thanks to a group of boys who parked their butts on the railing of the big windows on the way to our lockers. They were a year ahead of me, and considered themselves "cool". They thought it was great fun to make fun of me, and gave me their very own nickname... Whalebone. I would ignore them the best I could but it was mortifying to hear that name being yelled down the hall after me. I hated those boys. Hated them. Funny enough, I ended up inadvertently getting revenge on one, who was kind of the king of the assholes. I had been working at the Clinic for a few years, and had my desk in an office that I shared with another person, on the other side of a dividing wall. It was an okay office, nothing special but I did have a window with a view of the "splendor" of the inner city. At that time, I was responsible for copying employee files when we had a subpeona to respond to. One day a law firm was asking for a file and sent a courier to pick it up. The courier walked in and it was none other than the king! He remembered me and told me how great it was to see me, how nice my office was, etc. I was almost speechless at his friendliness. It wasn't until he left that it struck me. Here was Mr. HS god, working as a courier for a law firm. I don't think that any gainful employment is bad or shameful, but it really tickled me that for all his " I am king of all and better than you, fat girl" that he really didn't do much with his life. It made me glad that my best days weren't behind me.

So after this most interesting work day, I picked up the girls and came home, only to remember that we needed to go to pay respects to our next door neighbor's father. Fortunately the funeral home was only a couple of miles away, so we headed over. This was the girls' first experience with calling hours. Carly was interested in the guy sleeping; she pointed to him and wanted to go over to him right away. I had explained to Becky what would happen and told her that she didn't have to look at the body if she didn't want to, but she was okay with it. We talked on the way home about how Mr M's spirit had gone to heaven already, and that his body was left and so he would be buried. It was all very low-key and for that I am glad. I grew up attending various family funerals and have memories of running around in empty viewing rooms with groups of cousins, of eating sugar cubes, and of being fawned over by older aunts. As a result, seeing dead people in caskets isn't really traumatic for me. It's an attitude I want to pass on to the girls.

We got home to find another opportunity to reconnect. In the mail was a card from one of my mom's cousins, inviting us to a cousins' reunion at her house, about 2 hours from here. I haven't seen most of my mom's family since my grandfather died in 1980. I did get to see/meet some of them last fall, which was a wonderful experience. My mom kept very much to herself; we had very little contact with her family, other than receiving holiday cards. Lots of reasons for this, which is all for another post, but unfortunately my sister and I have only a hazy idea of all the extended family we have. Several years ago, sis decided to start working on geneaolgy and My mom's cousin B has done a lot of research on my maternal grandmother's family, so my sister started looking up records of my maternal grandfather's family, who were from Ireland. Incredibly, on a family-tree board she found a cousin, who lives in town! We met with him and his sisters and exchanged emails for a while, then we both suddenly stopped hearing from them, as though we'd offended them. I know we won' t have that experience again, so I think I would like to go to this reunion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's gone

The lung nodule, that is. Unbelievable. Better news than I was even hoping for.

Had my CT yesterday; that was pretty much a non-event as usual. I had to have routine bloodwork as well. Since I drink the one-hour prep instead of the redi-cat, I had to be there an hour before the test. After slugging down that poison, er, delightful potion, I walked over to the lab. Monday night I had an epiphany; what if they could put in a heparin lock when they drew my blood? Then my shy veins wouldn't have to go through the prod-n-poke twice. The CT techs are good but I have been stuck up to 6 times in one session before they found a vein that didn't blow, roll or otherwise screw up. Since the phlebotomists are generally spot-on, I figured it was worth asking. Of course, the answer was No. "Can't do it; not allowed and besides we don't have the proper equipment anyhow." Figures that she struck oil with the first stick. I mentioned it to the tech, who agreed that it's a shame that they don't do that. He was good though; he ended up only poking me twice, and I am only slightly bruised today. I would live quite happily with bruises from elbow to fingertips if it meant a clean scan, but it was nice to escape relatively unscathed.

Our hospital has an employee ideas program; they want us to submit ideas to improve some aspect of patient care or operations. Today I submitted an idea to allow the phlebotomists to place hep locks (if they're allowed to, I'm not sure what that protocol is) in cases where the patient will be having an IV placed the same day. Can't hurt to suggest...

I have to hold my breath twice during the test because they are doing two scans. First is a scan of my lungs, then one of the abdomen and pelvis. During each of these tests I have to hold my breath. It's not a problem for me; only once during all the scans I've had did I need to exhale before the recorded voice told me I could. I asked the tech how long I am holding my breath since it seems like an eternity even though I know it isn't that long. He told me for the lung scan I hold for 27 seconds, 24 seconds for the other. Lots of preparation goes into that 51 seconds. And it sure costs a lot of money, which makes me feel very fortunate to have good insurance.

My doctor's appointment was scheduled for 3PM; Jim was planning to meet me there. When patients check in at the cancer center, they are given a pager, like the kind you get at a chain restaurant; it's a coaster style with a ring of lights. Sadly, there's no bar to belly up to while you wait. I was surprised to be paged within about 20 seconds of sitting down in the waiting lobby. Luckily Jim arrived just then, so I didn't have to leave a trail of bread crumbs through the maze back to the exam room. The nurse took basic stats including my temp, which came up as 100.6. She took it again and it was 99.4. I told her that I thought the brisk walk from the parking garage was the cause. My blood pressure was high which I also attributed to the walk. After the nurse left I told Jim, "I'm sure the fact that I'm completely terrified right now has something to do with that number."

After several minutes the fellow doctor came in. (This is a teaching hospital after all.) He introduced himself and asked how I was doing. Then he asked me if I knew the results of my CT scan. I said no, and he said that it was good news. Then he told me that the nodule in my lung was gone. At first I didn't understand what he was saying. He explained that they couldn't find the nodule on the scans. They never knew what that thing was, though they had confirmed that it wasn't malignant. I was overjoyed to say the least; I even gave the fellow a high five! Jim looked very relieved, in his reserved way. The fellow and I talked a little more and he left us to see Dr. Rini.

Dr. R was his usual serious self but even he said "it was definitely nothing". We'll rescan in 6 months and as long as that scan is clear I won't see Dr. R until this time next year. He wants to continue to scan me at 6 month intervals for the next couple of years, then will consider going to an annual scan schedule. My chance of recurrence will never be zero, but the likelihood is small and getting smaller. He told us that most recurrence happens around the 2 to 2 1/2 year period. I'm currently at 2yrs 2 months. In my mind, the next scan will represent a key point, kind of like the end of the first trimester signaling a vast decrease in the chance of miscarriage. He told us that after 5 years the rate of recurrence is less than 5%.

I also asked him about the fact that I was pregnant while the cancer was growing. I have often wondered if the pregnancy hormones contributed to the aggressiveness of the tumor. He said that he didn't think so, but that he couldn't say for certain because most people are diagnosed with kidney cancer around age 60, so they don't tend to be pregnant. :-) I explained that I've just been curious about it but that I certainly didn't blame the pregnancy for contributing to the cancer. To the contrary; it was because I was pregnant and an ectopic pregnancy had been ruled out that my symptoms were taken seriously. So as far as I am concerned, my pregnancy very well may have saved my life. A second chance and a second healthy, beautiful daughter; absolutely a fair trade for my kidney.

It is interesting to me that the nodule has disappeared, disintegrated, left the building, whatever it did. I had visualized it dissolving a few times but did not really expect to be told that it was gone. So perhaps I used my powers for good instead of evil for once.

This gives Jim and me one more reason to celebrate when we go on our second honeymoon next month... in Vegas, baby!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nervous anticipation

Next Tuesday (7/24) I have my next CT scan, along with some blood work. It's been a year since I saw the oncologist, so I have an appointment with him for the next afternoon. At that appt I will get my CT results. Jim will be coming with me; he wasn't able to accompany me the first/last time I saw Dr. R and I have felt bad about that since then.

I have no reason to feel like I will get bad news at this appointment but I am still scared witless. My mind has been going into the dark place where the cancer is back and I have to go on treatment. If it comes to that, I will do whatever treatment we decide is best, but I know that there is no definitive treatment for advanced kidney cancer. This has me very worried and sad. I even told Jim the other day that if we get bad news, I am considering pre-arranging my funeral. I know, I know, very morbid and really jumping the gun here. But I also know that if it came to that, I would want to make sure I eased Jim's burden some. The thought of leaving him and the girls makes me want to weep, and I do sometimes. It's ridiculous in a way, because I very well could be told that everything is status quo and be able to go along on my merry way. But until I hear that, I can't be sure and I can't rest easy.

It's a weird place to be in; I don't have cancer, so I don't feel like going to a cancer support group would be the right thing. Sometimes I confide in Jim but that isn't fair to him; he has his own worries about my health. Where is the support group for people who used to have cancer but don't now and are scared they might get it again?

This sucks and I hope nobody I know has to go through this in the future.

On Friday, I have another event that brings up nerves of a different kind. I'm having lunch with one or maybe two high school classmates, whom I haven't seen in at least 15 years. One of our classmates sent an email around asking if there was any interest in getting together somewhere for an informal 25th reunion. I responded to her message and we've been talking via email for the past week. We were in very different groups in HS; she was always nice to me but we didn't spend time together. She was always very friendly and that trait has continued, so lunch with her should be fun. Of course, I wish I wasn't at my highest weight ever, but I don't think I can lose ____ pounds by next Friday. Ah well, I am who I am and that will be fine.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More pics

We took the girls for portraits a couple of weeks ago. Poor Miss Carly suffers from second-child syndrome; these were supposed to be her "18 month" portraits but I didn't get the session scheduled until almost 21 months. Ah well...

We were going to go to our usual haunt, Picture People. When I looked up their phone number to make an appointment, I discovered that they had closed. The closest one is now over an hour away. I didn't like them THAT much, so needed to find a new place. So instead we tried out Portrait Innovations, which is near us and was recommended by a couple of people. We mostly enjoyed the experience, other than feeling a little rushed at the end of the time we had to choose shots to print. They took 97 shots of the girls, and they almost all were terrific, so we had a lot to decide on. Below are a few I really liked:












I love my sweeties so much...

Friday, June 08, 2007

It's been a year... (?)

A year ago today I met my oncologist, Dr. Rini, for the first and only time. I had just been told that there was a nodule detected in my lung, that would need to be biopsied. I thought that my world changed in 2005 when my kidney was removed with a diagnosis of cancer, but this news really rocked it. The biopsy was fortunately negative and so far the nodule has not grown, so it is looking more likely that it is just a weird, benign growth. Still, there is always that uncertainty about what might be going on. At the end of this month I will contact Dr. Rini's nurse to schedule my next CT scan in July, since I am finally to the point where I could wait 6 months between scans.
I have no reason to think that this scan won't be clean, but until I hear that it is, I'm on edge. If it is indeed clean, that will give Jim and me extra cause for celebration; we're going to Las Vegas in August to celebrate our 10th anniversary. I also have other plans, like being evaluated for refractive surgery (LASIK), even though my girls both want me to keep my eyeglasses. If on the other hand, the scan shows some growth, then it will be treatment option time and my whole life will be thrown for a loop. I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on this possibility, but it's in the back of my mind and pops up to the forefront at times.
Not looking for anyone's pity here, but in case I seem even more distracted and spacy than usual, you'll know why.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Witness to a nightmare

Last week I attended a memorial service for a five month old girl who died of SIDS.
What a nightmare. It's the worst thing I can imagine happening to a parent. I remember how distraught I was last year when the nodule was found on my lung. There were many tears shed over the possibility of my babies losing their mommy. But to have the opposite happen is just beyond comprehension. When I learned of this little one's death I was stunned and kind of pondered it in my head. When the death notice was published, including a photo of a sweet baby with her mama, I felt like someone had crushed me and sucked the air out of me. Imagining her parents' grief, I was really depressed all that day. All I kept thinking of was that this couldn't be true; could she somehow not be dead? I've talked with other friends this week who felt the same way.
The service itself was very nice; the minister talked about how there are no answers, no reasons. She read part of WH Auden's poem Funeral Blues, which you may remember being read in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral:

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

After she read it I thought to myself, the last line is not true. Love does last forever, even if the one we love is no longer with us. That was where the minister was headed as she said the same thing. The baby's daddy was among those who spoke and he echoed the minister's sentiments. There is no answer, no why, how, what, who. It just is.
And it is so unfair. I know how much this baby was desired by her parents, how dearly she was cherished and how she was prayed for and loved. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but I am still crying for her and her family.
In her memorial service program some lines from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran were quoted:

And he said:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's
longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong
not to you.

You may give them your love but not your
thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of
tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not
even in your dreams.

The family suggested memorial gifts to First Candle/SIDS Alliance.

Since this happened I've been hugging and kissing my girls even more, and trying to really pay attention to them, to soak in every moment with them. It sounds terribly corny, like something any of us would say in response to a senseless death of a child. But as I work on me, and as I try to become a better parent each day, I let more of the mundane issues of the day roll off me and just enjoy the bits of happiness that are in my path. I certainly still lose focus at times but I keep coming back to awareness.

Trixie

We knew we wanted to get another dog after Floyd died. Since we're gone so long during the day, I like for the dogs to have one another as company. I'd started looking online at various rescue sites but hadn't really seriously researched anything. I did know that I had Becky's request for a "small dog that will sleep on my bed" in the back of my mind.
One day in late April Jim forwarded an email he received from a coworker. It was forwarded from someone looking for a home for a dog they had named Ruby. She was a big dog, about 13 years old. She was in a shelter about 2 hours down state and was due to be euthanized, so a woman, K, was picking her up on Saturday and driving back to her home to foster her. Jim emailed her saying that we might be interested in her. I was surprised as she was definitely not a little dog! We were out in the morning that Saturday and Jim got a call from K letting him know she was on her way home with Ruby. She said Ruby was definitely not 13 but more like 8 or 9 years old. Jim told her he needed to talk to me and to Becky and we'd call back to set up an appointment to meet them.
I discussed it with Becky, who had seen Ruby's photo online. She liked the look of her so she agreed to meet her. I called K to let her know and asked if it would be feasible to visit the next day. No, it wouldn't, I was told. Wow, I thought, they found someone else already. Well, not exactly. K took Ruby out to the yard and went inside to take care of some things. Ruby jumped her fence and took off! K and friends had been out looking for her; the last sighting of her was by a local grocery store. K was sick about it, understandably. As we talked I told her that we truly wanted a smaller dog, so she suggested we check with Minimutts Rescue.
I went to their site, which connects to Petfinder, and found several cuties. We liked a little girl named Lana, but she had an adoption pending. Another dog on the site was Trixie, a black cockapoo who was a puppy mill mom. I completed an online application and waited for our references to go through. We had to give a vet reference and 3 personal references. Everyone said nice things about us, so we were approved within a couple of weeks. Carla, the founder of Minimutts, was fostering Trixie herself. So, the day before Mother's Day, she brought her over to visit us and to finalize the adoption. Trixie was a little nervous, understandably, but warmed up to us over the rest of the weekend.
Since then the girls have fallen in love with her. She is very sweet and really enjoys affection. Carly was calling her Lucy for a few days, after a dog in a book that we read most nights at bedtime. The funny thing is, Lucy in the books is a golden retriever! Becky lobbied to change her name to Daisy, but we decided that Daisy and Bailey ( or Bay-lay as both girls prounounce it) sound too similar. We got Trixie a name tag last weekend so Trixie she shall remain.
Unfortunately since she was a puppy mill dog, she resists pottying outside. If we stay out with her for 5-15 min she will finally go, but we have to go out with her and give her a treat immediately. Bailey is loving this because he gets a treat every time he goes too, to model the desired behavior . I'm sure he must be thinking "I don't know why I didn't get an immediate treat before, but this is GREAT!" This weekend I bought a crate for her and we've been reading up on crate training and other techniques to get her to go out.
She had her first visit with our vet on Saturday. In good news, he doesn't hear the heart murmur that the foster vet heard. He also says that her cataracts aren't bothering her much now. OTOH the reason she is knock kneed is because her kneecaps are on the insides of her legs. The vet says it doesn't bother her right now but eventually one or both knees might need surgery. Oh well.
I hope to get some better photos of her up soon, but my camera died and my computer needs replacing, so I have some issues to work out first. :-)
You might be wondering what happened to poor Ruby. Well, it turns out there was a happy ending to her story. K got a call the next day from a local family. They had been shopping at the grocery store where Ruby had run to, and they took her home. She and the family quickly bonded so they ended up adopting her! K was worried that we would be angry but Jim told her, and I agreed, that this must have been Ruby's fate, to be brought 2 hours north to find her family. Her name is Midnight now and last I heard she was doing well.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thane - Autism Speaks

Bec is an online friend of mine. We've never met in person or even spoken on the phone, but we have known each other for several years. She runs several email lists for overweight women who are trying to conceive, are pregnant, or are moms. She's been through the fertility wars herself and freely shares all she has learned with other women. Bec and her husband have two gorgeous sons. Her 3 year old son, Thane, has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS so now Bec is becoming another expert-by-necessity, this time on Autism.

There is currently a video contest going on, through the band Five for Fighting, under the heading of What Kind of World Do You Want? People can make a video about the kind of world they want, and FfF will donate money to a selected charity for each time someone views the video. Bec decided to make a video about Thane, with proceeds benefitting Autism Speaks.

When I saw the video for the first time, I cried. I've "known" Thane his whole life, so the things on the video aren't new to me, but I thought Bec put everything together in a very touching way. Take a look for yourself here and see what you think. You'll be helping Autism Speaks too. Please feel free to forward the link to others; Bec doesn't care about winning the contest, but would like to raise both awareness and money for the cause.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A fat rant

A member of one of my email lists posted a link to this video on YouTube:




Wow.

I love this woman! She said a lot of things that a lot of us fat people are thinking, would like to say, but probably wouldn't because we'd be crucified. I have encountered so many of the things she talked about in the video:

* I've had people talk to me about other fat people, pretty much all of whom were thinner than me. HUH?!? I don't get that. They say that fat people are either targets or are invisible; I guess I'm the latter to these folks.

* There are lots of things in life that I've avoided or put off "until I lose weight." Sad, really, thinking that only a thin person is allowed to enjoy life.

* Exercising can be problematic. People think that fat people never exercise, but then make fun of us when they drive by us out for a walk or a bike ride. Seriously - I've had that happen. Long ago I was ina hospital-based weight loss program. I worked out at a regular gym as part of the program. People there were downright amazed that I showed up regularly. I guess to them, fat people are supposed to diet themselves down to an acceptable size before exercising in public. Interestingly, when I belonged to my employer's fitness center for a few years after that, people were very supportive. Yay them!

* Buying clothes can be downright depressing. I'd like to know why the fashion industry thinks that I only want to wear neutral colors? This even happens with the "plus size" manufacturers. The nicer colors only go up to a certain size, then it's black, navy, maybe beige. Those colors all have a place in my wardrobe, but not to the exclusion of the other colors of the rainbow. Maybe it's part of the plot to make us invisible.

When I have lost a significant amount of weight, wow! The change in people's treatment of me was amazing. The first time this happened I was in high school. I was following one of those diet-clinic diets, where I could have a grand total of 600Kcal a day. Once I fainted while on this plan and the nurse at the clinic told me, if that happens again, just eat an orange. O-kay then. It was funny though, all the popular girls in my gym class started talking to me. I never lost enough weight to be invited to actually do anything with them, but they quit ignoring me. It was my junior year and I was voted class treasurer for my senior year. I was also nominated for homecoming court - didn't make the cut but do you think Fat Liz would have experienced either of these things? Doubtful, since I wasn't blessed with a big personality to make up for the weight; instead I was pretty shy. I went through the same thing in college, although people in general were nicer to me there. Unfortunately, I went about losing weight to attract the attention of a guy; he was unsure of embarking on a relationship and my weight took away the comfort barrier. So I yo-yoed back up. Had I never done these diets, I'm certain I would be a lot thinner today, but instead I really messed up my setpoint and my metabolism.

***Disclaimer*** I am working on changing my eating and exercise habits this year, and I have lost a modest amount of weight since the beginning of the year. I am dong this because I realized that last summer, when I learned that my cancer might have returned, I just kind of gave up on my eating, and as a result gained up to my highest non-pregnant weight ever. That scared me. I finally woke up and realized that I've been given a gift in that I remain cancer-free. I want to make the most of my life and enjoy it with my family. So, I try to undo the bad behaviors that have been part of my life for so long. It is definitely not easy, but I keep trying. I told someone recently that it's not even an issue of me getting back on the wagon, as it is an issue of me holding on to the back bumper of the wagon, holding on for dear life as it careens down the road. Some days I can pull myself back up, some I can't but I'm not letting go.

I'm not going to try to be"thin" because I am not sure that I could, even if I ate a minimal amount of calories and exercised for hours a day. Instead Fat Me will eat my moderate amount of calories, do my best to limit treats, and take some walks with my girls. Which option sounds better?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What a difference a week makes

We really enjoyed the weather in the latter part of March and beginning of April. The daffodils and hyacinths in our yard bloomed and the irises started really growing. They must be propagating nicely in my yard; I basically tossed a few bulbs in the front bed a few years ago without really burying them well. I can see tons of them coming up though! It was nice to get outside and do a little yard work. The girls enjoyed it too; here they are on Palm Sunday:



On Good Friday, the bottom dropped out. By the end of the day on Easter, we got almost a foot of snow! Northeast Ohio saw anywhere from a dusting to almost 3 FEET of it. We didn't get to go to Grandma's for Easter dinner; it was canceled so nobody would have to travel. Just amazing. Here are my lovelies in about the same spot in the yard, one week later:



And here is our entrance:

Friday, March 02, 2007

What American Accent do you have?

With thanks to Dori for passing this along:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North
 

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
 
The Northeast
 
Philadelphia
 
The South
 
The West
 
Boston
 
North Central
 
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz


I do call carbonated drinks "pop". I went to college in Cincinnati. My southern OH friends used to laugh at my Cleveland accent. One of them would make me say the sentence "Mom, put the salad in the box" so that he could laugh. (Anyone remember or know what happened to David N?)

Monday, February 19, 2007

A tribute to Floyd


A message from guest blogger, Jim Monahan aka my sweetie:






Floyd
crossed the Rainbow Bridge on February 15, 2007
at approximately 13 years of age.

Floyd became a member of our family when he was approximately 11 years old.

He was rescued by the Sanctuary for Senior Dogs after having been abused by his original owners.

Liz saw Floyd one Sunday morning on WKYC’s Sunday morning newscast, and contacted the Sanctuary for Senior Dogs to inquire about adopting him.

He took to our family immediately, acting as protector and buddy to our then-two-year-old daughter, Becky.

And when Caroline was born in October 2005, Floyd immediately took on the role of protector and patient friend in taking care of the new baby.

Like all of our other dogs, Floyd was cared for by Dr. Mark Schlesinger and his very kind staff at the Rocky River Animal Hospital.

Approximately 5 weeks ago, Floyd suddenly developed a large abscess under his right eye which literally grew from nothing to the size of a thumb within 48 hours. Dr. Schlesinger biopsied the abscess, which he learned several days later was a very aggressive form of bone cancer.

Floyd was still in great spirits and was clearly enjoying playing with Becky and Caroline up until Valentine’s Day, when he suddenly became very lethargic and ceased eating or even drinking any water.

Liz and I took Floyd to see Dr. Schlesinger yesterday, and, with one of his long-time staff members, Laura, helped Floyd cross the Rainbow Bridge in peace.

Even though he was only with us a little more than two years, Floyd left a definite and positive impact on our whole family. He will be missed.

I would like to thank Deborah Foreman and Shandra Koler from the Sanctuary for Senior Dogs, as well as the young lady, whose name I unfortunately cannot recall just now, who temporarily fostered Floyd before he came to live with us.

I would also like to thank AJ Colby and the entire staff at WKYC, channel 3, for their ongoing commitment with their Sunday morning dog segment to help find caring homes for senior dogs who are currently without a home where they can retire in peace and with dignity, while also enriching the lives of people.

Many thanks to Barbie, Jan, Jeff and the rest of the staff at Gone To The Dogs for taking great care of Floyd with his grooming. He always looked stylish.

Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Schlesinger, his veterinary partner, Dr. Marc Toennies, and all of the ladies who make up the wonderful staff of the Rocky River Animal Hospital, for their ongoing care and commitment to maintaining the health and dignity of senior animals.

Jim Monahan
February 16, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

It's almost Valentine's Day

And that has us all thinking hearts. I want to ask you all to think even into the heart... and think about giving blood. Here in the midwest there is a serious blood emergency, which I believe extends across the US. Elective surgeries are being delayed because of it. You never know when you may need blood. I was surprised after coming out of the anesthesia after my kidney surgery to learn that they had given me four units of blood while I was in the OR. Then that evening, I "sprang a leak" in my back - a surface vessel broke and I started bleeding. They got it stopped quickly but gave me two more units. So six people who will never know me helped to save my life.

I have to be free of cancer for 5 years before I can give again, so I won't be eligible until 2010, if all goes well. My dad was a regular donor, who had reached the 12 gallon level before he was diagnosed with cancer.

So I'm asking all of you to consider giving the gift of life to others. You can check out the American Red Cross's site for information on where, how, etc. Yeah, I know, there are needles involved, but it goes pretty quick and then you get to eat cookies and drink juice! :-)

Giving blood is a valentine that you can give us all, so please consider donating.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

And then some bad news

We have two dogs, Bailey and Floyd. In the summer of 2004 we took Bailey in when a friend's daughter needed to find a good home for him due to family allergies. Bailey seemed a bit lonely because he was home alone all day, something he was unused to in his first home. So we talked about getting another dog "after the holidays".

Every Sunday one of our local TV stations features an adoptable dog on its morning news program. Some weeks it's a dog from the city kennel, other weeks it's an older dog being fostered by an organization called Sanctuary for Senior Dogs. I always try to catch this segment. One Sunday before Christmas, they came on with a senior dog named Floyd. He was sitting there on camera with his silly grin, and the woman was saying that he was good with kids and with other dogs. Wow, sounds like a possible fit, I thought. Jim didn't get a chance to see him on the TV but agreed that I should call in. We ended up being the only people who called for him, and he came to live with us.

He's a great guy; very friendly and sweet. He is protective of his "babies" and goes into their room to check on them every night. His main faults are shedding (our house is in a cloud of black hair) and the fact that he acts like a cat, trying to wind himself around us as we move around the house. Not bad faults, really! He's definitely a homebody, who would rather be inside than out in the yard. We think he might have been mistreated by a prior owner, so we're extra happy to be providing him with a happy retirement home. He and Bailey get along very well; Bailey thinks he's the alpha dog, and he is, unless Floyd feels like asserting himself. :-)

His age was estimated at 11 years, so he's about 13 now. He has terrible arthritis in his back legs, for which he takes medication, but it doesn't get him down. He'll slip, fall, and get right back up. He seems to ignore the arthritis and keeps on trucking.

About a month ago I noticed a lump under his right eye. The vet diagnosed an absessed tooth, and he took antibiotics but they didn't help, so they did surgery and removed two teeth. Still the swelling didn't go down, so Jim took him back to the vet. They xrayed his head and decided it wasn't an infection, so they took biopsies. The diagnosis is metastatic bone cancer. The vet doesn't know where it might have spread at this point, and we're certainly not going to worry about finding out. Jim discussed with the vet how Floyd has been acting happy and "himself" (he really enjoyed company we had last weekend) and so it was decided that we'll just keep an eye on him. When his appetite goes and he starts sleeping all the time, it will be time do take action. I cried a lot when I heard the diagnosis but am now trying to just have happy time with my guy.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Very good news

"No change". Such a beautiful phrase when you're talking about possible growth of cancer. On Tuesday I was waiting for the doctor to call, but had to leave early to take Carly for her well-check. So I emailed him with my cell phone number and asked him to call me. He did call, as I was pulling into the girls' day care. He had the results of the abdominal and pelvic scans, which showed that the enlarged lymph nodes they're watching have not grown. However, the chest CT is read by a different radiologist and that report wasn't in yet. So I had to wait another night for the full results.

On Wednesday I was in a class all day, so Dr. R called me on my cell while I was on my way to class. (He's a great guy!) The lung nodule has not changed. So, while he remains "suspicious, because that is {his} job", he said that it made sense to wait 5-6 months for the next scan. So I can relax for the next 5 months and 3 weeks. :-) I was talking via email with his nurse the next day and I told her that they have been so good to me but I hope I don't get to know them any better, lol. She agreed. :-)

By the way, my plan to be better hydrated and therefore have easier-to-find veins wasn't as successful as I'd hoped. I ended up with 4 sticks, which was better than the 6 sticks last time, but was still not fun. Then on Wednesday morning I noticed that the site of one of the sticks was a bit infected. I put neosporin on it and it seemed to get better, but got worse again Thursday afternoon. I called my doctor's office and now am on an antibiotic for 10 days.

I celebrated by having a Pampered Chef party at my house on Friday! (Hey, if you need any Pampered Chef items, email me! You can order online through Monday, lol!) Ok, so I had actually committed to this back in November, but still... it was good timing. I had invited a number of former work friends, some of whom I haven't seen in a long time. It was wonderful to reconnect with these ladies. Of course I was stressed about the condition of the house. Up until about 2 hours before party time the living room looked like a toy factory explosion. And I had really hoped that Jim and I would get rid of more junk that is lining the hallways. But it just didn't happen, so I just pressed forward. This year I am trying to make more of an effort to see friends and do fun things, rather than just talking about how "we need to get together!" Life is too short, even when you don't have a cancer scare.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Today is the next check point

And I am nervous... it's been 5 months, so time for my next CT scan to see if there is any change. I'm hopeful that everything is stable, but until I hear my oncologist tell me that, I am a bit scared. I'm trying something a little "new" today before my test. Usually I schedule it for first thing in the morning, to get it out of the way. I have to be NPO (nothing to eat or drink) for 4 hours before the test, which has ended up being more like 12 hours. Then they always have a really hard time finding a vein to place the IV line for the contrast. Once long ago when donating blood I was told to make sure I drank a lot of fluids prior to donating, to hydrate myself and "plump up" my veins. So, I scheduled this test for the afternoon (3:15PM EST) and am drinking away this morning. We'll see if this helps. I am also sick with a cold so hopefully that isn't dehydrating me too much.

I'll post after I talk to the doctor.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Funny times at our house

I know it's been too long; sorry about that. The holidays are always such a whirlwind. Just thought I'd share some little girl funnies while I am remembering them.

On Saturday Becky went to spend the night at her cousin's house. She was soooo excited; he is 6 1/2 and they have a lot of wild fun together. She wanted to put her pajamas on before going over there; I discouraged her because she was going to be eating supper with them. We got there only to discover my nephew in his jammies already! So she changed before I left and they tore off to be maniacs together.

Well, the fun only lasted so long. They called us at about 8:30pm to let us know that she needed a new easy-up because she had, well, used hers. She was having so much fun dancing around and playing that she didn't make it to the bathroom in time. Then they called again at 11:30... she had thrown up. Great... I threw on a coat and went to get her, being happy that they only live about 2 miles from us. B was upset and wanted to go home, but said she felt fine. In the car I learned what had happened... she and cousin were in bed talking and he filled her with tales of Bigfoot. It's unclear whether he told her Bigfoot was real or imaginary, but she got so scared that she felt sick. So, they went to my sister's bedroom, where B promptly barfed on the bed. On the way home she told me she was hungry but once inside decided she was too tired to eat. She was fine after that but keeps asking about Bigfoot. Also, Jim had been trying to explain to her how Bigfoot is just considered a legend, and told her about the Loch Ness Monster. Bad move; she started asking about the monster in the water then!

Sunday and Monday were without incident, just the usual toddler and preschooler fun and games.

This morning (Tuesday) it was cold and icy out, since it rained a lot yesterday. Jim was outside warming up and scraping both cars. I helped the girls into their coats and then needed to leave. I kissed them both and asked Becky to watch Carly, who was crying because I was leaving. When I got to my car I realized that I needed to go back into the house. I walk in to see Becky sitting at the bottom of the stairs, alone.

L: Where is Carly?
B: I don't know.
L: You were supposed to be watching her?
B: I WAS watching her.
L: Clearly you weren't since you don't know where she is!

Our downstairs is a big loop of foyer, hallway, kitchen, dining room and living room. I turned to go down the hallway and notice a paper towel on the floor. Not just any paper towel mind you, but the one that was wrapped around the sandwich I stuck in my purse to eat in the car. No sandwich in sight.

L: Was this my sandwich?
B: I think so.
L: Did the dog eat it?
B: Yes.

So I continue through to the living room to look for Carly, while Becky went the other way. She found her first, and Carly was disassembling a drawing kit of B's.

B: No, you aren't supposed to have crayons! This is unacceptable! (guess she does listen to mommy sometimes)
L: And it is unacceptable that you weren't watching her!
B: Sorry, Mommy.

We got everyone into the car without further incident.

At work today I called a local dance school to see about getting Becky signed up for "ballerina classes". She has decided she would prefer ballet over her current gymnastics OR the Irish dancing she had wanted to learn. I'm waiting for a return call to go check out a class.