Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I am thankful . . .

. . . for good friends, like my dear friend, Lisa, who brought this care package to us today:

Wine, chocolate, ice cream, skin care stuff for Michael (who is now suffering radiation burn to his skin - it's like a bad sunburn), gummy bears for the kids, even a book for me, and one that just happens to have been on my want-to-read list :) Thank you, Lisa!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Home


Really, just look at that sweet face. How can I not feel terrible? So she came home and her arm is completely fine now . . . phew. We snuggled, read a story, and off to bed she went.

And the Mother of the Year Award goes to . . . .

I know. It's starting to seem like we live in The House of Drama.

The girls discovered this fun trick a while back where they (one at a time) will stand in front of me and I hold their hands and then they sort of climb up my legs and then flip themselves over. It's great fun. So they were doing this a little while ago. When Lilah's turn came, her wrist got twisted in the process. She cried . . . and cried . . . and cried. We couldn't find any swelling or bruising but wrapped her hand and wrist in ice anyway. She was totally favoring that arm, refusing to let it touch anything. She wouldn't eat dinner. She just cried and held her arm and said "Mommy hurt my arm." After about 40 solid minutes of crying, it was clear that she needed to go to the ER. So Michael took her while I stayed here with the other kids, feeling like absolute shit.

I'm just sick over this.

~~~

Michael texted me a few minutes ago and said that she's got something called Nursemaid's Elbow . . . ???

~~~

Great, so basically I dislocated her elbow :( The ER doc assured Michael that it's very common, especially in children this young, and that it's usually the result of this sort of horseplay, swinging a child by the hands/wrists, and picking them up by the hand/wrist when they do the floppy noodle thing. Anyway, so the doc relocated her elbow with a quick maneuver and she seemed to feel better almost immediately. No sling or splint or anything. They're on their way home now.

I don't think it's possible to feel any worse than I feel about this :(

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kevin

Kevin is leaving tomorrow morning to go camping with the sixth grade class at his school. It's officially known as Outdoor Science School. He'll be gone all week, returning on Friday. And suddenly I feel reflective about him. It's not that he's never gone away before - he has. He's been away for plenty of weekends, and has gone away on week-long camping trips with his grandma, although it's been almost three years since the last time he did that. There's something about this trip that feels a bit more independent, that reminds me that he's growing up.

Kevin's a good kid. He's patient, loving, devoted and fiercely loyal to his siblings. He's compassionate in general. He's extremely bright and can be pretty funny. He's responsible. At 12, he's not openly interested in girls yet (although I suspect that he secretly is). In many ways, he seems much more innocent than I remember being at 12 (which I'm extremely glad about). He's horrified about drugs, smoking cigarettes, and drinking (although I'm not so naive to think that this might not change over the next couple of years). He gets on my case about using swear words (which I admittedly do way too much).

He also drives me crazy. He talks A LOT. He's one of those people who seems to not have an off-switch with the talking (in fact, this is something I worry about, how it is such a turn-off in adults, and since his father and grandfather were both compulsive talkers even as adults, I suspect this is hereditary and not likely something he will outgrow). He tries too hard to be funny a lot of the time, so it merely comes across as annoying. He craves the spotlight - he's never outgrown that "Look at me! Watch me!" thing.

He's also got the whole attitude thing going on. Snotty, huffy, stomping off to his room sort of thing. I love to torment him by telling him that his attitude has puberty written all over it.

Michael has sometimes said that Kevin and I remind him of an old married couple, the way we have this connection and the way we argue and bicker.

After Kevin was born, for a very long time I felt this deep, profound sadness at not having him inside me anymore. I loved having him close to me, safe and protected for those nine months, and when he was born, he suddenly became this separate person, and I missed the magical connection that pregnancy brings. He hung onto his umbilical cord stump for NINE weeks, I kid not. My mother-in-law at the time said that he didn't want to let go of his physical connection to me any more than I wanted to let go of my connection to him.

Kevin was two when his biological father, my first husband, died from a drug overdose, two weeks after I had filed for divorce at the end of a long, unhappy, unhealthy marriage. After he died, I got a tattoo of a butterfly. It meant several things to me: it was a sort of statement of independence, because I had wanted a tattoo for years and my husband always told me he'd leave me if I got one; it was a tribute to my own dad who had died shortly before my husband, and who also had a butterfly tattoo; and it symbolized the "metamorphosis" I was going through at that time in my life. Shortly afterwards, I returned to get another tattoo: a second, smaller butterfly, flying behind the first one. The second one represents Kevin. After all, we were going through a metamorphosis together. And now, almost ten years later, I still think of that time in our lives when I see those tattoos on my hip. And I wonder how much that period of time shaped me and shaped Kevin and shaped our relationship.

Our relationship does seem to be a bit different from my relationship with the other kids. But it's hard to pinpoint why. It could be because of everything he and I survived together in his early childhood. It could just be because he's my firstborn. It could be because he's quite a bit older than ther other kids, so naturally the dynamics of our relationship would be different. I'm sure it's a combination of all those factors.

And it's not that I favor him. I think - no, I know - that I'm harder on him than I am the other kids. Part of that is expecting more from him because he IS older. Part of it is that I have this very deep fear that I have to keep him in line so he doesn't turn out like his father. I see so many traits in him that mirror his father, and it scares the crap out of me.

It's interesting . . . I've realized for a long time how, as your children grow, it's a process of letting go of them, from the moment they're born. There was that first letting go by giving birth to him, then the losing of his umbilical cord stump . . . sending him to daycare when I returned to work . . . weaning . . . sending him to school . . . letting him go on sleepovers . . . and the list goes on. I've just begun to realize over the last year or so how much I've become an observer, a bit player, in Kevin's life. Not that I don't still play an important role, but all the time, he's growing more and more independent, and experiencing things that have nothing at all to do with me.

Which, I guess, is why this upcoming camping trip with the sixth grade feels so bittersweet to me. I know he's going to have a great time. I think he might come home a tiny bit more grown up, though, with memories and experiences behind him that are all his own. And I'm happy about that, I am . . . but just the tiniest bit sad too.

I'll miss him.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How sad is it . . .

. . . that I'm sitting up alone at 11:21 p.m. blogging? Or that I had a nice cocktail alone tonight, made for me by my husband who promptly went to bed afterwards, and although I got an excellent buzz, it was wasted because I had nobody to crack up with?

The house is quiet and I should be enjoying the solitude, but mostly I just feel lonely.

I am perfectly aware that attitude has so much to do with everything, and that I need to adjust mine. I've allowed myself to fall into the dreaded pit of self-pity this week, and I will now endeavor to dig myself out. Starting tomorrow.

Nighty night.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I feel a breakdown coming on.

With everything going on . . . with the week we've had . . . and now this . . . I have that feeling. That feeling like I'm about to crack.

I was walking home from school with the kids a while ago and ran into a mom whose daughter was in Joey's kindergarten class last year. I asked her how things are going, as I know that her husband is serving his second deployment in Iraq. She said that he was recently home on leave for two weeks but is back in Iraq now and should be coming home in about six months. I almost started crying on the spot - for her and for myself. I don't know how she is coping, honestly. I don't know how any parent copes when they are trying to raise children and their spouse is away at war, risking their very lives. And it hit me that that's how I feel, like my husband is away at war (okay, I know this is presumptuous since I've never actually experienced having a husband away at war, but this is at least something like I imagine it would feel like). I could sit here and try to list all the parallels, but I'll just say that this sucks, absolutely sucks, and I just want Michael back, I want our life back.

I live in an almost constant state of anxiety these days, which escalates into all-out fear from time to time. Sometimes I just want to escape. Not leave, exactly, but somehow just be free of everthing that is causing all of my anxiety and fear. This afternoon after I put Finn and Lilah down for their naps, I left Kevin in charge and ran out for a quick errand. While I was out, I passed by Barnes & Noble, and suddenly I had this almost overwhelming desire to park my truck and go inside and hide among the books . . . for hours. Just be alone and pretend that my husband doesn't have cancer, and I don't have a baby with Down syndrome, and I don't have to make a decision about how much he needs physical therapy, and he's not going to have surgery in a little more than a week, and we have a million dollars socked away, and I don't have kids at home who are whiny and bickery, and . . . and . . . and. But I didn't. Because that didn't feel like the responsible thing to do.

Ack. I need a strong drink and a good cry I think.

Michael

Today Michael has finished his fifth week of treatment. He has one more week of this phase of the treatment, which will be comprised of five "boost" radiation treatments that will be more focused and more intense than what he has undergone over the last few weeks. I guess they intend to send him out with a bang.

It's been a rather difficult week. From my end and from his end, but of course for different reasons. I've already ranted about the things I'm struggling with. As for Michael, in addition to the same stresses and worries that I have, he's also got the physical stuff to deal with. He seems to be doing okay with the chemo now, but the radiation is taking a toll on him. He's fatigued, and having quite a bit of internal pain - enough so that the doc prescribed pain meds for him. Basically, the radiation is frying his insides. Nice, huh?

It's hard to watch all this happening to him. He's keeping his good humor about the whole thing, for the most part, but I think I'm losing my humor and my morale seems to be going downhill. I try to imagine what he must be feeling like, and all I can come up with as a comparison is pregnancy: the fatigue of pregnancy, and the pain of labor. But I'm sure it's completely different. Plus, all the discomforts of pregnancy are for such a positive and hopeful purpose: you get a baby at the end of it all. He's not growing a beautiful baby, he's fighting cancer, he's fighting for his life.

So one more week of radiation, and then he'll be done forever with that. One more week of this phase of chemo, and then four weeks off, and then a second phase of chemo.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tutus, anyone?

http://ellebannafancies.blogspot.com/

Don't mind me.

I get on my blog and rant about stuff, stuff that thrills me, stuff that worries me, stuff that pisses me off and stresses me out. I'm sure it's not fair to Michael to blog about things (like our financial position) that concern him and which he's not comfortable telling the world about. Part of it for me, too, though, is creating a true account of this ordeal - how cancer affects a family not only physically, but emotionally and financially as well.

We'll be okay. There are people out there who have it much worse than we ever will. We enjoy a pretty nice lifestyle, and there is plenty of room for cutting out unnecessaries. I think the scariest and most stressful part for me right now is that it's all such an unknown: we have no idea how much or how little M will be able to work, or how much, when, and for how long that will impact us financially. And there's really no way to plan it, because it's all dependent on how he is feeling. But we'll make it, we'll be fine. So I'll just leave it at that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First to go

In the interest of cutting expenses due to Michael's anticipated pay cut, I gave my housekeeper notice today. I'm fine with it, really. It's certainly been nice to have the help for the last two years (it was the first thing I splurged on when Michael started his new job), but I'm not above scrubbing my own toilets and whatnot. It was hard, though, and my stomach was in knots beforehand, just because I hate confrontations - even when they're not adversarial. So I thanked her for all the help she's been and told her straight out that we're not going to be able to afford her anymore (and why), so I have to let her go as of mid-April. And I teared up, which I HATE. I didn't want to be all emotional. I feel bad because I'm sure she's having as tough a time as anyone else making ends meet in this crappy economy, and her husband walked out on her last year leaving her to raise a teenage daughter on her own. I'm sure she'll find other work. I hope. She was very understanding and said that she would be praying for us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Random cell phone photos

I am in a horrid mood today. However, rather than verbally puke all over everyone, I thought I'd share some cute pics of my kids that I discovered on my cell phone.

Lilah and Max, the son of my girlfriend whom I walk with. Lilah and Max have become quite good buddies.


My Expedition, fully loaded.

Annabelle's intial attempt at spelling her name (this was taken a while back; she can spell it correctly now).


Dance. Annabelle is at the far left, and Daisy is at the center.


Finn, all bundled up and buckled in.



Finn and Daddy at the doctor's office yesterday.


What's on your cell phone?




Monday, March 23, 2009

A Big, Long Day

Here's a summary of my day:


5:15 a.m. - Up


7:20 a.m. - Out the door; drop Kevin and the twins off at their school; hustle back to our neighborhood to drop Joey off at his school


8:45 a.m. - run home to have Lilah go potty, feed and change Finn and put myself somewhat together so that I don't look like I just rolled out of bed (because even though I was up at 5:15, there is no time whatsoever to do anything with myself in the morning, it's all about controlling the chaos and getting the kids out the door on time)


9:30 a.m. - drive across town to appt. at ENT doc for Finn


11:10 a.m. - We are finally actually seen by the doctor; our appt. was at freaking TEN O'CLOCK. Yes, we were kept waiting for an hour and ten minutes.


11:25 a.m. - The doc is done with us; I rush back across town to pick the twins up from preschool by noon


12:10 p.m. - Home; make lunch for the girls; feed and change Finn; try to put him down for a nap, but he's having none of that


12:45 p.m. - Leave to pick up Joey from school, as he has early release all this week


1:10 p.m. - Home with Joey; eat sandwich as quickly as possible; decide it's too late for Lilah to go down for a nap, and she won't sleep anyway since she slept for about 20 minutes in the truck; try again to put Finn down for a nap


1:50 p.m. - Leave for Joey's parent/teacher conference


2:40 p.m. - Home from Joey's parent/teacher conference


2:45 p.m. - Leave to pick up prescription for antibiotic for Finn who was diagnosed with a double ear infection and a sinus infection by the ENT


3:30 p.m. - home from the drug store; get Finn up from nap; fail at first attempt to give him first dose of antibiotic (even after trying the 100% guaranteed fool-proof method of administering oral meds to babies as per the ENT); succeed at second attempt (sort of); feed and change him; throw a load of diapers in the wash; break up fights; deal with random tantrums; wonder how soon I can crawl into bed and perhaps not get up for a few months.


And here I am.


A few things in more detail:


Finn has a double ear infection and a sinus infection (did I already mention that?). More on that here.

Michael also had an appt. this morning after his radiation appt. with the doc who will be performing his surgery, and honestly, I am freaking right out about all that. Michael is going to have to have not one, but TWO surgeries, separated by a few months. Both will require that he stay in the hospital for a number of days and there will be a recovery period after each, during which time he won't be able to work. His first surgery will take place the week of June 29.

He will definitely be in the hospital over Joey's birthday, and there's a chance he will still be in the hospital for Finn's first birthday. There is no way to finagle the surgery taking place at a different time - according to the treatment protocol, it must take place during that specific week. So I am really, really sad that the boys' birthdays are going to fall by the wayside - especially Finn's first. I had envisioned having a big celebration marking Finn's first year in our lives and inviting all the people who rallied around us after he was born. I suppose we could still do that a couple weeks early. I am also stressed out beyond words over how I am going to manage on my own while Michael is in the hospital and recuperating, and more than that, how we're going to manage financially with him off work. Freaking out.

I know that ultimately, the focus is on Michael getting well, and whatever that takes, so be it. I guess the doctors have given us such a positive outlook, though, for his pulling through this, that at the moment, I'm just feeling stressed out, and even pissed at all the ways this whole thing is creating upheaval for all of us. Wonderful wife, me, eh?

~~~

So, on to the positive: Joey's parent/teacher conference was terrific. I LOVE his teacher. She is one of those teachers that you wish could be your kid's teacher every single year they're in school.

Anyway, he's doing really well. He got a perfect report card, and his teacher said that he is working far above grade level. In fact, she said that he could easily be placed in a GATE third grade class right now (he's in first grade; GATE is the program for gifted kids), academically. However, emotionally and socially, he's a first grader. She's concerned about him being placed in in a second grade class next year with a teacher who will challenge him, and she has a teacher in mind whom she is going to request that he be placed with; however that teacher may be let go with the budget cuts going on. If that happens, she wants us to keep in touch with her and she said she would personally make up extra work packets for him to keep him challenged, even though she won't even be his teacher anymore. She's just really concerned about him falling between the cracks. It means so much to have a teacher that concerned and involved with your child.

Not only is he doing stellar work academically, she said that he's just a really good kid. He's everyone's friend, he gets along with everyone, he has a great attitude, and he loves to help other kids in his class.

It's funny, because she ended our meeting by saying to me and Michael, "Good parenting!" And it just makes me laugh, because I really don't think we deserve the credit for the way he is - I think he was just born that way.

Anyway, I'm very very proud of him.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

New Do

You like?


Friday, March 20, 2009

Daisy

~ I've come to the conclusion that a big reason that the girls won't clean up their stuff is that they have too much freaking stuff. Seriously. They just do. So I did them a favor today and filled a large garbage bag with toys and things they don't actually play with but which contribute greatly to the clutter that makes my life a living hell. I did this while they were out in the backyard playing, hoping that my stealth would go undetected if I worked quickly, but alas, Daisy came upstairs and caught me. She saw the garbage bag of toys and asked what I was doing. I told her, simply, "Cleaning up," and sent her back downstairs. Later when I was finished and the bag of toys was safely stowed downstairs, the kids called it a day and came inside. The first thing Daisy asked was, "What did you do with the bag of my toys?" I had to think fast. "I gave them to a family who didn't have toys for their children, because you guys have way more toys than you need." (I felt that this was not a total lie, as I do plan to donate the toys to Goodwill.) Daisy asked me, "When did you go?" "They came to the door," I said (okay, so I lied). "What was their name?" she asked. (Now I'm thinking, geez, how many questions is she going to ask, and therefore how many lies is she going to force me to tell? This wasn't part of the plan . . .) "Smith," I answered (it was the first name that came to mind). I thought, well, she'll at least feel good that a less fortunate family is benefitting from her old things. Guess what she said. "Well, when I grow up, I'm going to take all your stuff away and give it to another mommy!"

Sigh.

~ Today was also a big day for Daisy. Her preschool teacher, knowing about Daisy's terror of any living creature that's not human, told me a couple weeks ago that they were going to be "raising" butterflies from caterpillars. And the fact is, Daisy has been known to freak out over butterflies. So. This morning when we arrived at school, the teacher told me that the caterpillars had arrived and were in the classroom. I sighed and told her I'd stay close to home in case she needed to call me to come get Daisy. Well, I didn't get a call. When I went to pick the girls up from preschool, the teacher motioned me over and had me peek inside the classroom. She told me that Daisy did, in fact, freak out over the caterpillars, that she was quite hysterical for some time. However, somehow they talked her off that ledge and she became fascinated with the caterpillars and spent most of the rest of the day sitting right next to the butterfly thingamajig that the caterpillars are living in, watching them. So when I peeked into the classroom, that's what I saw: Daisy right up close to the caterpillars, watching them. And she couldn't stop talking about them for a long time after school. So while this may seem like small potatoes, it was a huge step for her.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I guess Obama isn't God after all

http://wwwourunexpectedjourney.blogspot.com/2009/03/he-did-say-it.html

Shame on him. Really. I'm so disappointed.

Purging of another sort

What a crappy day. I am at my wits' end with the kids lately . . . I think they hate me. They don't listen to me and I am finding that I have all this anger. Why do I have to tell them 26 times to do something? The biggest problem is getting them (especially the twins) to clean up after themselves. They trash the house, dragging all their toys and books and dress-up clothes all over the place, and when I tell them to clean it all up, they ignore me. I tell them again. They whine. I threaten, I bribe, I reward, I reason with them - nothing works. The Good Kid Buck system I implemented a couple weeks ago? The novelty of that wore off really quickly. I've even resorted to getting an extra large Rubbermaid bin and dumping all their un-picked-up toys into the bin and taking it all away from them to teach them a lesson. The first couple times I did it, they were hysterically upset, but after that? Not so much. In fact, I think they figured out that it's an excellent way to get Mommy to do the clean-up work. Ugh. So today was a day like that - with me telling them to clean up their gigantic messes, them ignoring me, and me getting more angry and upset and stressed out as the day wore on.

Where have I gone wrong? Because I'm sure that the responsibility for this particular issue lies squarely on my shoulders. I'm not doing this parenting thing right. Not that my kids would be perfect angels if I were doing it right, but holy cow, I'd like to think they'd show a little more respect.

Michael is back on chemo as of this morning. I know it's a good thing - all towards him getting well, but I swear when he came home with the fanny pack back on, I felt like crying. It was like, "Oh yeah . . . that." Because the last week while he's been off chemo, it's felt almost normal again, like cancer wasn't a part of our life. Now it's back to reality.

And I haven't slept - really slept - in . . . oh so long. I am up and down, up and down, all night, every night with Finn. He's already been up once screaming since I put him to bed tonight. And I don't feel that I can do any kind of sleep training with him because I suspect that there's actually a physical/medical issue at play here - namely, the fluid in his middle ears that I was told he has a couple weeks ago. Maybe I'm wrong, but until I find out for sure, I have to believe that coddling him at night is the best thing I can do for him right now. But it sure is hard. I'm sooooo tired. All the time.

Tomorow's another day.

I feel a purge coming on . . .

Purging. I guess it's my version of Spring Cleaning . . . only I tend to get the itch two or three times a year. It's not so much about scrubbing and airing out, it's more about cleaning out closets, and dressers, and cabinets, cupboards, shelves, toy chests, etc. And when I'm done, I usually have several large bags of garbage to show for my hard work, as well as bags of stuff to donate, and bags of clothes to pass down to the younger kids. It's very cleansing and satisifying.

My current itch was brought on by the fact that the contractors finished downstairs yesterday (woot!), so now we have new carpet, new paint, and a new bathroom vanity and sink . . . and lots of crap. It's a huge mess down there, because everything had to be shoved around and stacked here and there when the flood happened, and now it's clear that we have a big job ahead of us to clean everything up and put it all back together into a living space. And there's also the fact that I see the kids' pants growing shorter on them, their clothes becoming more stained and ratty as the days go by, which tells me it's time to clean out their closets and drawers - out with the old, in with the new.

And this will lead me to clean out my own closet and drawers; I have a firm philosophy that if I haven't worn it for a year, I'll never wear it again, so out it goes. Of course, I had a pregnancy in the last year, so maybe I should give myself a little more time to get back into the things I haven't worn for more than a year . . .

Anyway, of course a lot of the kids' purging I have to do on the sly - either when they're at school or deeply involved in a game outside, because if it were up to them, we'd never get rid of anything, no matter how ratty, broken, or outgrown. Actually, Michael's the same way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tutus

So, here's the story: the twins, Annabelle and Daisy, have been in a combo ballet/tap class for - gosh . . . going on a year now I guess. I've spent quite a bit of money on different tutus for them ('cause you know, when you're a girlie girl, one is never enough). I recently found instructions, however, on how to make them myself, and voila! So now the girls can have a whole closet-full of tutus if I get carried away with this :) Lilah is not yet old enough for dance, but she loves to dress up with her big sisters, so I made one for her too.

The pics really don't do the colors or the details justice. This one (Lilah's) is white with lavendar and blue tulle and white rosettes around the waist and a big tulle bow:

Daisy's - white with lavendar tulle, rhinestones around the waist and a bow:


Annabelle's - white tulle with pink rosettes around the waist and a sheer pink dotted bow:


The twins-
Daisy -

Lilah -

Annabelle -

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's 9:35 p.m. . . . do you know where YOUR husband is?

Mine is still at work. I kid you not. You know, the one with cancer. The one undergoing chemo and radiation. Yep, he's still at work (or maybe he's on his way home by now; when I talked to him on the phone a few minutes ago, he was on his way out the door) this late. I'm not complaining, not really. He's gotta do what he's gotta do. And really it's not very often that he has to work this late. It just stinks that it's happening (and will probably continue for the next couple of evenings) while he has all the other stuff to deal with. But I guess if he feels up to it, then it's good (although he did say that he's starting to feel run down from the radiation today, which the doctor said would likely happen around week 4, and this is week 4).

Anyway.

So it's been a long day. The kids were unruly, Finn doesn't seem to be feeling 100%, so PT didn't go all that well, and frankly, I'm tired and a little on the bitchy side because I can't for the life of me remember when the last time I got a decent night's sleep (yawn). And getting everyone fed, bathed and to bed all on my own is always a walk on the wild side. Now I have a headache and I should go to bed, but I want to wait up for Michael.

Enough complaining. Positives today:

~ I made my third tutu today and took some really cute pics of the girls.
~ My friend Karyn brought over a huge tureen of homemade chicken soup for Michael as well as cookies for the kids and a bottle of wine.
~ My friend Joanne brought over cupcakes for the kids and a card for Michael.
~ The outpouring of love and support from the people around us makes me feel all warm and fuzzy :)
~ Tomorrow the new carpet is being installed downstairs and that should do it for all the repairs - we can have our basement back!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Reprieve

Michael saw his oncologist this morning and the doc has decided not to start the chemo back up until Thursday, based on some symptoms M's still having. The intial dosage is based on a person's height and weight, but it's trial and error to figure out what a particular person can cope with with their unique metabolism and tolerance. Michael is still having radiation every morning, so it's not as if treatment has stopped completely. Dr. A has been very clear that this break from the chemo will not prolong M's treatment, nor will it jeopardize the effectiveness of the overall treatment.

I'm glad he's getting a break. Last week was really rough. It feels like my old Michael is back for now. It's nice to see him eating again, and not hobbling around in pain. Hopefully by the time he goes back on chemo Thursday, the levels in his system will have lowered enough that any side effects from starting up again will be minimal.

Oh yeah, and the PICC line entry site in his arm is still infected apparently, so he's on another round of antibiotics for that. The thing about chemo is it's poison. It's this very toxic shit that wipes out a person's immune system and makes it much more difficult for their body to heal, so any infection, wound, or illness he gets while he's on chemo (and I would imagine for some time after he's completely finished with it late this year) will be much slower to heal than it normally would be.

~~~

Believe it or not, cancer and Michael's treatment aren't the only things that have been going on, although they're certainly never far from my mind, and I'm sure not from Michael's either. But life has a funny way of marching on. Even with this happening, the kids still take center stage.

The twins are loving their dance class, and Mommy got her creative juices flowing today and made some lovely tutus for them (pics coming soon!). I think I'm going to have to make some more just for play since all three girls love dress-up so much. Also, we've pretty much decided to go ahead and enroll the twins in kindergarten for this fall. We've been torn about it for some time, mostly because of Daisy's phobias, but their preschool teacher as well as Daisy's speech teacher and the school psychologist have all said that the girls are ready for kindergarten and Daisy's phobias aren't a reason to hold them back. She may very well have these phobias a year from now, and we can't hold her back forever. So I guess we're taking the leap. But really, that's still a way off.

Lilah's big girl bed is due to be delivered later this week, so she will soon be moving in with the twins, the twins' beds will be put up as bunk beds, and Finn will be moving out of our room (sniff sniff) and into a crib in his own room. Not sure if it will take place this weekend, but soon. So we're in for a little (more) upheaval.

I guess that's about it for now.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Normal

It's been a weekend filled with mostly mundane normalcy, which has been nice. Yesterday we dropped Kevin off to tutor (have I mentioned that he is currently tutoring two younger kids in reading, writing and math on the weekends? Their parents rave about Kevin; I'm so proud of him!), and then Michael and I took the other 5 kids to Babies R Us to pick up a couple things in anticipation of the big bedroom shuffle we'll be doing soon (Lilah will be moving into a big girl bed in the twins' room and Finn will be moving into his own - what is now Lilah's - room). Then we picked Kevin up and we all went out to lunch (I'm sure we were one of those families that nobody wanted to sit near). Last night Michael and I relaxed in the living room with drinks and talked for what seemed like hours. And although much of the talk was about his treatment, etc., it was still nice to just hang out together. This morning he got up and mowed the back lawn, and right now he's outside having a catch with Joey.

So, he does seem to be feeling quite a bit better since being taken off chemo a few days ago. And it's been nice to just do normal things this weekend. He will start back on chemo probably tomorrow though. It will be a slighty lower dosage, so hopefully the side effects will be minimized. We shall see.

It's unnerving to realize how well he did throught the first couple weeks of treatment, and then how quick the downward slide was once the side effects came into play. Sitting by and watching what he has gone through over the last week has given me a new appreciation for anyone who has gone through cancer and treatment. It's all been completely abstract to me up until now. You hear things, you read things, you know it's not going to be pretty, but until you live it, it's just abstract. And now I'm sitting here thinking about elderly people who have to fight cancer . . . and little children . . . and it absolutely breaks my heart. I can hardly imagine a child enduring what Michael is enduring - and worse, much worse.

~~~

Many thanks for everyone's continued thoughts and well-wishes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Anonymous?

Who's the "Anonymous" commenter here? I get the sense I know you, but can't figure out who you are . . .

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Took Lilah to the doc this morning for that growth on her heiny. First let me say that I am so sick of doctors' appointments that I feel like I could just SCREAM. I can't remember the last week that passed without some doctor's appointment for someone. Anyhoo, really, this doctor was very very nice, for which I was grateful, especially after the nightmare phone call it took just to set up the appt. I was also grateful that it was a woman, because there's just something creepy and disconcerting about a man - even if he's a doctor - poking around my baby daughter's nether regions. So without further ado, and sparing everyone graphic details, the doctor surmises that it's pretty much just a skin tag, she prescribed a steroid cream for it and wants to see her in 6 months.

Honest-to-god convo with Daisy, one of my 4 year-old twins, later in the day:

D: Mommy, did the doctor look at Lilah's bottom?
Me: Yes.
D: Did she have to take her pants off?
Me: Yes.
D: Did she lay down on her stomach?
Me: Yes.
D: Gee, I wish I could do that.

Weirdo.

~~~

So I'm wondering about this phenomenon. Why is it that my kids pretty much ignore me until I'm either on the phone or sit down (like, to eat)? What is up with that? They barely register that I exist until the second I'm on the phone, and then suddenly, they desperately need something from me RIGHT NOW!!!

~~~

I'm glad it's Friday. I'm glad that for the next two days I don't have to get up at 5:30 a.m. (the kids will still have me up by 6 or 6:30, but I swear that feels like such a luxury these days). I'm glad that tomorrow morning I will dress the twins in their leotards and tutus and take them to dance class. I'm glad that one more week of radiation and chemo are behind Michael. He's about halfway through the first phase of his treatment now. Since the doc stopped the chemo yesterday, his feet are hurting a bit less, but his mouth is still very sore. He's pretty much living on soup and shakes these days.

It's funny how I've started looking at his treatment in terms of a pregnancy as far as timeline, because from start to finish, it will have been about the length of a pregnancy. And I remember all the times I was pregnant, how in the beginning, it seems like the end is soooooooo far away, but the weeks march by and before you know it, it's over.

I just want this all behind us.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And another update.

Michael went in for his daily radiation this morning, then met with a nutritionist, and then had his weekly appointment with his oncologist.

He will apparently be meeting with the nutritionist weekly now. Michael has lost about 13 pounds since January. The first few pounds were the result of good old-fashioned improving the quality of his diet; the last several pounds, however, are more the result of the toll the chemo is taking on him. She told him that it's especially important that he get plenty of protein right now, as his body will start breaking down muscle mass otherwise. He's already drinking protein shakes every day, and she has him adding Boost or Ensure to his diet and encourages plenty of cheese, dairy, and ice cream. All the things that are normally no-no's are are now a big YES, so if there's a bright spot in here anywhere, I would personally vote for the go-ahead on ice cream. I think I will go stock up this afternoon (not for me, you understand).

His oncologist has decided to stop chemo for the next several days. My first question was, will this prolong his treatment? No, apparently. Dr. A said that the symptoms he's experiencing - the mouth sores, pain in his feet and hands - are signs that his body is saturated with chemo meds and that the dosage needs to be adjusted. So a little break for a few days to hopefully give him a chance to rebound a bit, and then early next week he'll go back and his dosage will be lowered.

His spirits seem to be flagging. Whose wouldn't?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Magic

Did you know that there is something called Magic Mouthwash? It's not an actual prepackaged product on the market, but rather a concoction of different ingredients mixed up by a pharmacist on doctor's orders. It's specifically for chemo patients and other people with health and/or treatment conditions that result in mouth sores. So, it turns out that this is one of many bizarre but common side effects of chemo. And it can be quite debilitating, as I have personally witnessed over the last few days. All I ever knew about chemo was that it makes a person nauseous, tired, and lose their hair. Well, Michael is not experiencing any of those side effects, but he's suddenly experiencing a host of other, less well-known-to-the-general-public side effects.

So he called his oncologist's office this morning and reported his symptoms. The good doctor instructed him to turn off his chemo pump for now, and he called in a prescription to the local pharmacy for a bottle of Lidocaine. He also told Michael to pick up some liquid (children's) Benedryl and some liquid Malox or Mylanta, and instructed him to mix equal portions of each of the three ingredients and use as a mouthwash. He tried it out for the first time just a little while ago, and the relief appeared to be almost immediate. It left his mouth numb, but that's got to be a hell of a lot better than pain.

He has his usual weekly appointment with Dr. A, the oncologist, tomorrow morning after radiation, and he'll decide whether Michael needs a break from chemo for a few days, or just a lower dosage.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's hard.

I haven't posted here in a few days. I haven't been sure what to write. There is so much going on in my head, but it's difficult to find a balance: to respect Michael's privacy and yet fulfill my need to unload and allow people to understand what we're dealing with. Because I need to know that people are pulling for Michael and for us. Michael's not an unloader. And I know he sometimes has a hard time with my need to publicize so many aspects of our life. I do keep a private, for-my-eyes-only blog chronicling this whole cancer thing where I really unload - and that's where the most personal stuff goes. Someday I'll give it to Michael to read if he wants it. But there are still aspects of this whole thing that I have this compulsion to post here and get feedback, even if it's only well-wishes. I know nobody can really do or say anything to make going through this any easier, but it still helps to know that people understand what's going on and are at least thinking good thoughts for us.

So, the last few days have revealed a downturn of sorts. The first couple weeks of Michael's treatment, he seemed to be fairly sailing through it. I never asssumed that would last, it was just a matter of waiting for whatever side effects were going to manifest to manifest. And now they are. Minor things, really, relatively speaking. The bottoms of his feet hurt. The skin on his hands is dry and cracking. His fingertips are growing more sensitive (and don't forget he plays guitar!). He's got sores in his mouth that don't seem to want to heal and are making it difficult for him to talk and eat. The accumulation of these things are leaving him somewhat miserable. And I feel completely and utterly helpless. Honestly, it's like torture sitting by and just watching this happen to him and not being able to do a goddamn thing to make it better or easier for him.

And he's being such a good sport about it all, he really is. It's funny . . . all the times I've been pregnant and suffering through morning sickness and this ache and that pain and the fatigue, etc., and I would grow somewhat resentful that no matter how shitty I felt, I just had to keep on keeping on. There was always a household and other kids to care for. There have been so many times when I've told Michael that there's no way that he - or any man! - could handle having one single period, along with all the PMS, cramping, mood swings, etc. - let alone handle being pregnant. You know what? I'll never say or even think that again. Because what Michael is dealing with - and keeping his good humor through it - puts me to shame. I have no doubt whatsoever that if I were the one dealing with what he's dealing with, I'd be a big, giant, bitchy crybaby.

So yeah. It's really hard to sit by and feel like my hands are tied. There were a couple weeks in January, before we told anyone what was going on, when Michael was undergoing all these tests, and first it was waiting to find out if what he had was in fact CANCER. And then we found out it was. And then all the waiting for this test and that test to determine what stage it was at and how treatable. And I am here to say that that was the worst kind of hell. It was utter torture, being in the dark and having no choice but to imagine the very worst. There was so much fear in both of us during that time, so many tears, so many thoughts of death.

This is not as bad as that was - not nearly. But it's still a sort of torture. Because he has to go through this. He has to suffer the side effects. He has to do this - however shitty it makes him feel - in order to get better. And I want to help him, and I can't. I want to share the burden, and I can't.

He's not incapacitated. He's still going to work and dealing. But I know he doesn't feel great. And both of us are wondering: is it going to get worse? And he's got all this pressure to keep working. I'm sure it must suck to be going through this and have the pressure of being the breadwinner. And it's not even a question of my finding some kind of work to ease that burden for him - what am I going to do, get a job at Starbucks? And who would take care of the kids?

So anyway. I don't know. Maybe I'm making this bigger than it is in my own head. I mean, right now, as I sit here pouring out my thoughts, he's out jamming with his buddies. That's a good thing, right?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A new approach

Taking a cue from Joey's first grade teacher, who rewards the kids with "Buckaroo Bucks" for good behavior, which, when accumulated, can then be used to purchase items from the "class store" (i.e., a box filled with trinkets and stuff), I've decided to institute this same form of bribery reward system at home. My usual method is:



~ Ask them (okay, tell them) what they need to do (e.g., clean up their toys, etc.)
~ Whining usually ensues
~ I get aggravated, which results in raising my voice and repeating my request/order
~ More whining
~ Threats are then made
~ Children throw themselves on the floor in utter misery as if they live in a chamber of torture
~ Yelling from me
~ Crying from them
~ More threats
~ Full blown tantrum



(And people have this silly idea that my kids are perfect. Haaa!)



Anyway, you see the pattern. It takes a lot of energy and time, and frankly, it just doesn't work.



Let me say, too, that on principal, I am not a fan of this whole reward system. I believe that kids should do what they're told - should do what they're supposed to do, just because. I really don't think that being cooperative or cleaning up one's mess without a fight should earn anyone a prize - it's just the way it's supposed to be. That said, I see that that only works in a perfect world, in which I and my family do not live. So I'm resorting to this:


I made this up on the trusty computer today, printed off about 20 of them and went to the 99 cent store and bought a bunch of crap small toys to use as rewards. I placed all the junk rewards in a "treasure box" and told the kids (actually just Joey and the twins since they're the ones who need this motivation and Lilah's too young to get it and Kevin is too old, obviously) that they can earn ONE Good Kid Buck for each good deed, act of cooperation, etc., and when they have 5 bucks, they can buy something from the Treasure Box. It may just be a novelty right now, but today it worked like a charm.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Milestone

Today Joey lost his first baby tooth! You may recall that I posted three months ago that that sucker was loose. It's taken this long for it to finally come out. The thing is, his two bottom adult teeth are coming in already - behind the baby teeth, and the baby teeth haven't been budging. As he has a cleaning scheduled with the dentist in a couple of weeks, they told me to have him really work on those two bottom loose teeth - otherwise they'd have to extract them. So I told him today that he needed to work on those teeth, really wiggle them so they would come out before his dentist appointment in a couple weeks. Well, tell this boy to do something, and BAM, it's done! (I kid. Usually it's not so easy to get him to do something . . . especially if it will involve blood - the kid is squeamish.) Within 10 minutes of my telling him to work on those teeth, he had one out:



One down, one to go. So tonight will be the first time the Tooth Fairy has visited our home in a looooong time!

Here's the latest

In the midst of all the daily this-and-that, there is still the fact that my husband is battling cancer. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this. His PICC line and fanny pack have become such fixtures already that they sort of blend into the background. He seems to (and says that he does) feel fine. He goes to work every day. He plays his guitar whenever an opportunity presents itself, as usual, and he goes to jam with his buddies on Tuesday nights. He plays with the kids and brushes teeth and reads bedtime stories. So it's easy to forget that he's sick, with a very grave illness. And I have to admit that I have entered something of a comfort zone with this whole thing . . . the doctors have made me believe that he's going to pull through this, and so I just believe he will. And sometimes I stop myself and wonder, "Am I not taking this seriously enough? Am I tempting fate by not letting this weigh me down, weigh my family down?" And that scares me . . . a little. Am I being foolish? I don't know.

~~~

Michael has now finished up his second full week of chemo and radiation. There is no way to know, at this point, how the cancer is being affected by the treatment. He will have another MRI several more weeks down the line, but in the meantime, we just have to have faith. Although I can't go with him to his daily radiation appointments, I am conscious every morning of his being there during that window of time, and from afar I like to visualize: "Take that, you fucker," to the cancer in his body.

Yesterday after radiation he had his weekly appointment at the oncologist's office where they draw blood to check his platelet count and other things (everything looks good), refill the pouch that holds his chemo meds, and change the dressing on the PICC line. Everything went well yesterday, but somehow, by last night when he came home from work, the entry site for the PICC line was looking pretty red and irritated, so he went back to the oncologist's office this morning after radiation and sure enough, it's infected. Which is a big concern. So now he's been prescribed antibiotics for that.





The projected timeline is as follows (and this is not set in stone):

~ Approximately 4 more weeks of chemo and radiation
~ A "break" of 4 weeks with no chemo or radiation (however, the PICC line will remain in his arm for later use)
~ During the last week of that 4-week break, around the end of April, he will have an MRI
~ This will be followed by a 4-week treatment cycle of a different type of chemo
~ Another 4-week break
~ Surgery at the end of June
~ Post-surgery chemo for 5ish months

So, clearly, Michael will not be finished with treatment until somewhere towards the end of the year. He has to live with that PICC line in his arm through the spring, through the summer, through the fall. A small price to pay for his wellness, but still a bummer. In a way, I'm already seeing this as the "lost year." Which is pretty negative and not the best way to be looking at things. However, I guess in that sense, I'm trying to view it as a finite period, with a beginning and and ending, and at the end, my husband will be well again.
~~~
In other news, we finally got the $$ from the insurance company to begin repairs to our downstairs from the flood damage. Yesterday the contractors came and repaired all the drywall; right now, as I sit here typing, they are downstairs painting. Next week the new carpet and linoleum will be installed, as well as a new bathroom vanity. I will be so glad to have all that done with and have the downstairs usable again.

Gotcha!

I can't believe all the messages I got about my post yesterday . . . from fools (like you?) who fell for my little gag! No worries, all is well on the marriage front :) It's nice to know how many of you would come (even if it meant hopping on a plane!) and kick butt on my behalf if the need ever arose :D

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cheating SOB

You think you know a person. You think after almost 8 years of marriage that you can trust the person you exchanged vows with. I've stuck with Michael through thick and thin - and believe me, it hasn't always been a rose garden. But nonetheless, I've been a loyal and devoted wife. I thought he was loyal and devoted to me as well, but apparently I've been wrong. And to make matters worse - to pour salt in the wound! - he's been two-timing me right in my own home! With the kids here!!

I caught him red-handed. And it's clear, as you can plainly see, that this is no fling. There are real feelings involved here.

I'm crushed.
















Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More Blog Love

Okay, I have a confession: I get an incredible amount of emotional satisfaction from blog love :) The latest love sent my way comes from Kristin at The Way It Is, who is her very own self a wonderful mama and blogger.

The awards:



The rules:
1) Admit that ONE thing you feel awful about involving being a mom. Get it off your shoulders. Once you've written it down, you are NO LONGER allowed to feel bad. It's over with, it's in the past. Remember, you're a good mom!
Honestly, it's not just one thing . . . it's an ongoing thing. And that is that I'm too short on patience and temper with my kids :( It's a daily struggle, and something that causes me a lot of inner turmoil and guilt.
2) To remind yourself that you ARE a good mom, list SEVEN things you love about your kids, you love doing with your kids, or that your kids love about you. These are the things to remind yourself of EVERY DAY that you rock!
~ I have magical super powers in my hugs and the kisses I leave on owchies.
~ I love doing my girls' hair and painting their toenails.
~ My kids think I'm funny. In fact, Kevin thinks I'm "the larriest" (which is how he used to say "hilarious" when he was little).
~ We eat dinner together as a family sitting down in the dining room - no TV allowed - just about every night. That's something that is very important to me and I think it's a dynamic that makes us a closer family.
~ I have exclusively breast fed all of my babies. It's a gift I give to them that gives back to me, and it's something I feel very good about.
~ I love watching how much my kids love one another. Yes, they bicker and fight and drive each other nuts a lot of the time, but underneath it all, there is a deep love and affection for one another that shines through. When I see those moments, it makes everything else worth it.
~ My kids are very compassionate towards other kids. I am very proud of them for that.
3)Send this to FIVE other Moms of the Year that deserve forgiveness and a reminder that they, too, are the best moms they can be!!! Remember to send them a note to let them know you've selected them, and add a link to the person who nominated you!"5 mommy bloggers who deserve the mom of the year award:
~ Carla of I Used to Love to Write (okay, her blog is private, but truly, she deserves this award, so I'm including her)
~ Leigh Anne of It's Blissful Thinking

Separated at birth?




Michael actually pointed out the resemblance . . . I think he's onto something. Whaddya think?

Check out the new photos of the fam in my sidebar too :)