Monday, September 30, 2013

And so it begins - pink is everywhere

It creeps up on me every year, the pinkwashing of every product from soup to nuts (literally and figuratively). And unfailingly, I am asked how I feel about it by friends and strangers alike. Well that's a complicated question and one that's been answered in every form by every type of person you can imagine. Survivors, caregivers, experts in fields related and unrelated to cancer and also the average joe. I can't say what it means in a broad scope. I can't even say what it means to me because it changes yearly, hell even daily. But as a single mom, coping with a diagnosis of metastatic stage IV breast cancer I've learned to go with the flow. If I feel like Pinktober sucks that day, I can say that. The next day I might be more optimistic.

I've discovered there's a cycle I've gone through since I first noticed there was such a thing as a pink ribbon. Similar to the stages of grief (which a diagnosis brings on anyway), the pink ribbon has had stages of feelings.

Blissful Pink
Still in the sunshine and butterflies pink, blissfully ignorant of it all, just noticing the pink, not sure what it means or why I should care. "That's a pretty pink ribbon, and breast cancer seems bad so it won't hurt if I donate to something helping it." "Oh, breast cancer. My neighbor's sister had that but she's cured now." 

Desperate Pink
Crap, crap, shit hitting the fan pink. Now I have it, what do I do with it. Get a kick-ass wig, a prayer shawl and a parking pass at the hospital.  "Well the pink ribbon helped others, it's sure to help me too."

Invisible Pink
Pink? What pink, I don't have breast cancer anymore pink. Get a certificate for finishing treatment, get hair back and try to forget it ever happened. It's the head in the sand approach that doesn't really work when it's everywhere. "Pink, sure it's all good but that's behind me now, I don't need it anymore."

Angry Pink
Despair and anger from the depths of my soul pink. Goddamn pink ribbon didn't fucking do anything for me, why should anyone else get to feel good about it. And why should they anyway, it's not like it's cured or anything. "This wasn't supposed to happen, the pink ribbon said I was cured." "What good is early detection if it doesn't do anything to the outcome?"

Amicable Pink
Just like an amicable divorce is still a divorce, guess what, cancer is still a terminal disease pink. Regardless of the statistics, someone will die from it. Maybe not you but someone. Does that mean we shouldn't have raised awareness? Does that mean it should be all about me, the 'loser' in the fight? Guess what, I haven't lost yet. I'm still a survivor, even if my pink is a bit tarnished and battered. Let's just not forget that for all the early detection and 'cured' survivors, there's someone out there living the battle every day. And living with gusto and grace. "Yes I have breast cancer but it doesn't have me, and it shouldn't have you either."

On any given day, I might fluctuate between some or all of these stages. I wholeheartedly support my meta-sisters in the fight to remember the 30% of us who don't get to forget it ever happened. I also support the early detected, treated and released survivors who are lucky enough to be in the majority. Sure wish I could be one of you and I hope you can stay there forever. But as long as I can't, consider me thankful to be here to debate the issue.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Just a little glimpse into our morning

Riley's morning routine today:

2:00am wandering through the house. Then to the back door to be let out, only to decide the grass was too wet and maybe it could wait.

7:30am getting forced out of bed to go outside, then inside back onto the couch to fall back to sleep

My morning routine today:

2:00am up to let Riley out, on leash so she doesn't wander, only to come right back in when she is done (see above).

6:30am waking to strange noises in the kitchen, only to find...

Katy's morning routine today:

5:15am waking up and wandering about in her room.

5:30am wandering outside of her room, presumably to the kitchen

5:35am back to her room, with my phone. Scrolling to find Pandora and then listening to the Disney musicals station we had last listened to. Also scheduling a meeting with my calendar app.

5:45am bored with music, she wanders back out to the living room to scatter my knitting bag's contents all around the floor.

6:00am to the kitchen, moving her chair to the counter to try to log in to the laptop, thankfully unsuccessfully. Then moving her chair to the sink to find the 20oz cup of lemonade I had taken out of the refrigerator last night in order to empty and toss but unfortunately forgot to. Promptly finishing said lemonade. At which point I wake up and come in to the kitchen as she is directing an imaginary marching band with two double pointed knitting needles. Upon seeing me, she gleefully explains (while holding giant empty lemonade cup) "It's all gone, mama, it's all gone!!!!"

Good grief, I'm going to be very nervous when she figures out how to open the doors to the outside. Apologies to her daycare teachers for whatever today brings. I'm guessing an early nap and a very wet naptime diaper. (insert sheepish grin here)

Tonight is another installment of "movies in mommy's bed" night. We will be screening Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I'm hoping her love for musicals extends beyond The Music Man. While I am a big fan of 76 trombones, it can get a little old after a while!

What movies are your toddlers into?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Two whole years

I can't believe it. Two years ago yesterday, Katy and I shared our first breakfast together at home. Watching the video now I'm head over heels for her. And I can laugh now remembering how happy I was, just before the bottom fell out. I was thinking, this is easy! She's adorable, I'm a natural, and so on. Little did I know I'd be a blubbering puddle of anxiety a few short days later. (if you want to rehash it, check the archives) But, like I said, I can laugh now. That's not to say there aren't days I'm loaded with anxiety. I am past the blubbering puddle at least. whew!

Katy has shot up from below the 1st percentile for her height all the way to 90th percentile! This girl is amazing. Just to show how much she's grown, here she is two years ago...
And here she is today. Same clothes. Probably the last time she will be able to wear them. They are after all 24 month sizes.
Here is the video I took on June 26, 2011. Our first morning together at home...
And this was how we started our morning, two years and a day later. Breakfast is now at daycare so we weren't eating but we were still enjoying some 'music'.
Sometimes it's difficult to think back to those first few weeks. I think we came out ok though and I'm looking forward to some more fun times ahead. We'll celebrate our two years with a trip to the beach perhaps. Or maybe just the playground. Either way we'll have fun together, my girl and me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vacations can be fun!

It seems like years ago that we packed up and cruised the Caribbean. In fact it was four months ago. Sheesh time flies. I was looking through photos to work on our post adoption report (which is also late, argh) and realized I have yet to put down on 'paper' the cheers and challenges of our fabulous vacation.

Our family cruises together. For us it makes a great vacation for the group. There are always logistics and itineraries to work through but we always seem to end up with good times and good memories. This being our first cruise with a toddler, I stepped up with a request for the Caribbean. Figuring that if we missed a port, it wouldn't be too much of a bummer. We still got to partake of the cooking class, a family favorite. Also had some fun trying my dancing skills with the "Dancing with the Stars" competition. Didn't win but had fun anyway. It's harder than it looks! Of course we only had about 20 minutes to learn a dance then perform it. I got to have an hour at the pool with a book. It was a glorious hour though. Lots of time by the ship's pool with Katy too.

The trip started great! Katy and I left the day before, planning the plane trip around nap time and indeed she slept most of the way. I figured out how to manage Katy in the stroller while wheeling two big suitcases with another on top. It's amazing how little people will notice you when you are struggling to get from here to there. We stayed at a hotel near the port for one night and had a nice evening of playground and walking and dinner. Ok so she only ate crackers and ketchup but at least she was happy about it!
The next morning we hauled all of our belongings to the port and met up with Aunt Susan and Uncle Erik.
We introduced Katy to the Lido deck buffet where she took to it quite well! The girl does love to cut things up.
First stop was Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by the cruise line. Best. beach. ever. The sand was soft and when mixed with water was very glurch-like, which for Katy was a huge hit. Ba-lurch!!! They served a great buffet and the weather was amazing. The souvenir shopping was dismal. Maybe in my next life I'll move here and make some kind of local knickknack that people will pay oodles of cash for and I'll count my pile of money on the beach every day. sigh.
Katy loved playing in the water with Uncle Erik. He makes a good dolphin to ride!
That night we had a nice family dinner in the dining room. Katy was still happy and having a good time. On the way to dinner we stopped at the Ocean bar to listen to some music and while away the time with some shuffling.

At this point I was still optimistic that this would be the perfect vacation. hmmmm

The next stop was Cayman Islands, where Katy and I went on a bus tour with Papa. We stopped in Hell to see what that was all about and got our passports stamped. So now, Katy's first passport stamp is Hell. I don't know why I think that's funny but I do. On a side note, her passport was freshly minted about 24 hours before the plane departed due to some major drama getting it approved. I'll tackle that in the 'getting Katy's citizenship papers done' post to come.
We also stopped at the dolphin center and watched them jump and splash. (look, there's proof that I was there too!)
The last stop on the tour was the beach. It wasn't actually a stop, really, because everyone kept going on to the pier. I was determined to get Katy on every beach so we stayed behind and caught a taxi later. The taxi dropped us off at the north pier and we had to walk to the south pier. Maybe three blocks? Not so bad unless you consider it was probably 90 degrees and I was carrying a 35lb sleeping child. I wish I had a photo of the line to get on the ship. It was at least a block long. It wasn't until just before boarding that someone let us slip ahead and get on board. Good gravy I thought my biceps would burst. Turns out that was what would happen on most of our trips back to the ship. I liked that she was napping, but we needed to figure out a better system.
That night we started to get 'the face'. Sensory overload was kicking in and the change of routine and lack thereof was stealing the smile from my happy girl. To get in some down time we watched a lot of movies. Need to know any quotes from Despicable Me, Monsters Inc or Cars 2? Cause I've got em! All of them. Over and over again. Oh boy, here we go...
The next day it was Mahogany Bay in Honduras. It was 104 degrees and sunny sunny sunny. We went to the beach for a short stay and then headed back to the ship for resting and movies.
Holland America cruise line may not be known for it's catering to kids but they did have Club Hal, which we found to be quite nice. The first week we almost had the place to ourselves. The second week there were more kids but many of them were older. Still, it was a good place for Katy to feel more like at home. They did many of the same activities that she does at daycare, which helped I think. They had a pizza making night and she loved it! There's the smile I remember! 
The next stop was Costa Maya, Mexico. We were figuring out the right balance of routine vs engagement in cruising activities for a toddler. Smiles were still not always at the ready but they were around. Katy loved drumming with the musicians on shore. We walked around with Nana and Papa in the 'pop-up town' but didn't make it into the real town. Learning to limit our activities. Slowly but surely I'm learning!
This was the closest we got to a beach at this stop.
I was still trying to keep Katy engaged in the family activities by bringing her to dinner. Silly silly me. Poor thing was trying to keep up but it wasn't in her. At least the chair seemed mostly comfortable for sleeping. :-(
Finally, I'm getting smart and we nix dinner with the family. We stop messing around and make a schedule and stick to it. So much less drama that way. Morning breakfast in the cabin, off to Club Hal for Katy and on shore for me. Then I come back, pick up Katy and head to the beach. We have lunch and head back to the ship. She falls asleep on the way and stays asleep while I put her in bed and dry clothes. Then we get up and wander the ship for a while. Interestingly enough, Club Hal was open from 1 to 4 but then closed until 7. I guess they don't factor in the napping crowd. So after checking out the ship and sometimes the ship pool, we get Katy some dinner on the Lido deck. Pasta makes her happy. Simple pleasures, happy girls. Then Katy heads back to Club Hal so I can get some dinner with the family. Finally it's off to bed. Rinse and repeat.
Next stop is Grand Turk, where we stop at the beach briefly then head into the 'pop-up town' to play in the pool instead. Katy loved this pool and so did I. And since it wove all around the Margaritaville restaurant we could have lunch and still play in the pool. One stop shop. I love it. Back to the ship, nap, play, dinner etc...
Puerto Rico was the one place we didn't get our feet in the sand at all. (Costa Maya had sand and beach chairs in 'town'). Instead we walked around town with Nana, Papa, Susan and Erik, checked out the CVS for some Benedryl and played in the water fountain.
We did find the beach at St Maarten. Another beautiful stretch of sand. Wish I was there right now actually. Here, there was rum tasting. Well not for Katy of course but for the rest of us. Much rum tasting but for any more details you'd have to ask Erik. Oh wait, he won't remember them. Good times! :-)
Our last stop was Half Moon Cay again. Katy got to enjoy Club Hal in the morning and we took Papa on his first snorkeling adventure. There were so many fish it was like being in an aquarium! It was a bit choppy. Calmer than some places I've been but definitely had some swing to it. Still, I'd recommend it for the amount of fish we saw.
I couldn't resist getting Katy on shore so we took a quick dip before lunch and nap. How can you possibly pass this up?
Good times were had, drama was intense and lessons were learned. Overall we did really have more fun than not. Next time I'll know better what to do to make the vacation less dramatic for everyone who lived through Katy's drama both on board and the two weeks following during re-entry to real life (apologies to the daycare teachers!). And especially for Katy, who should get to remember vacations with mama as great and happy times. And yes, I realize she won't probably remember much if anything of this trip but I will and that counts for something.
Thanks for indulging in our vacation photo tour! Any tips for traveling with a toddler are accepted and encouraged!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Experimenting with our Easter eggs

I still have a beautiful post in the works to highlight our last vacation but it's taking a while to sort through all of the photos. Needless to say it will make you want to put your toes in the sand right then and there. At least it does for me. Stay tuned for that, but in the meantime...

We (well, I) wanted to try something new for coloring eggs this year. Mostly because I have to take quite a few deep breaths to have Katy dipping spoons into big bowls of staining colored vinegar water and it was too cold to do it outside like last year. She tends to not be the most gentle when it comes to stirring and dipping and I'm not ready to have colored kitchen furniture and flooring.

So, I scoured the internet for other ideas and landed on one that worked out great for us! Just to be safe we did it at Nana and Papa's house. LOL! There were many different variations on this theme but I like where our version landed.

First we assembled everything I thought we'd need. Plastic wrap, food coloring, coffee filters, vinegar and water mixed in a spray bottle and a big space covered in plastic. The sprinkles, stickers and markers were there for additional decoration, should the coloring not work as planned.
We used coffee filters instead of paper towels like most of the sites did. I guess I was thinking eggs are round, coffee filters are round, why not? I dampened them with the spray bottle (worst spray bottle ever in fact but then I was only out $1 when I tossed it after we were done).
We used the food coloring, dropping it onto the filter. I played art director and we stuck to only one or two colors per egg (I try really hard not to but sometimes I can't help it!). When sufficiently covered, I got the filter more damp with the d@&# spray bottle, put the egg in the center and rolled it up, trying to get all sides of the egg touching the colored parts. Katy liked every many drops and I was a bit more shy with mine but both ways worked out.
Each egg got rolled up in plastic wrap and put it's own bucket for 'marinating'. The cup wasn't really necessary but I did it because I brought the cups and by golly I was going to use them.
We tried two using her neon washable paint because I thought it might be more fun if everything was washable :-D but they didn't work out so well. Not too much color and then it all came off on my hands when the egg got some condensation on it. Oh well, at least it washed off easily!
Voila! The eggs are unwrapped to reveal a very cool pattern. Even the ones that I thought would be black from all of the drops of color were rich and colorful.
Here they are all together. Katy's are the more heavily covered ones and you don't really see all the definition of the fun color blends. She really like to use the green and blue. I mixed it up a bit and love all of them!
Unfortunately I don't have a final shot in a pretty plate setting with Easter grass and candy and whatnot but Easter plans got up-ended a little with Nana taking a few days off in the hospital. Everything is all right and she is fine (whew!) but fancy Easter plates got knocked off the list of things to do in the hustle. And, I found a fun use for the eggs so they got used up before the plating would have happened anyway. Look for that post coming soon!

How did you color your eggs this year?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

For once, a post not about Katy or Riley!

I thought I'd do a brief recap of my health, in case anyone is still wondering. After going through the whole breast cancer thing in 2009, I was all about the adoption and getting on with life. A few months after Katy came home, I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer in my liver and lymph nodes. I mentioned it once briefly here but I'm not one to go on and on (unless it's about Katy or Riley, apparently). PS I should note here that my humor sometimes goes a bit onto the dark side so be warned.

Needless to say, the news was a game changer. This time around, it moves from 'cureable' to 'treatable as a chronic condition'. Yeah, one that will kill you. Super. I did chemo again, this time orally without having to lose my hair. Neato! I did have hand and foot syndrome, causing my palms and soles of my feet to get red, swollen and sore. Thankfully I didn't have it as bad as I have seen it to be and I'll gladly take that over losing my hair. Somehow that would have been too much to handle a second time.

November 2011 to May 2012 was a blur of doctor visits and exploring complementary treatments as well. My company was (and is) truly a magical place and gave me a leave of absence to heal. I found Pathways and tried many different classes, treatments and groups to help figure this sh!t out. If you're in the Minneapolis area and are ever in need, I would definitely recommend going there.

I came back to work in June, to a new position that didn't involve client meetings and intense scheduling/juggling. I'm happy that I can still contribute in a way that was needed and it's always fun to learn new things. Like many of my MBC sisters I've connected with, it's feels good to still feel like a productive member of society.

As of December, my tumors have graduated to 'stable'. Woot! The chemo did it's job and I mostly did ok with living and eating a healthy lifestyle. Ok, well some anyway. Man that's hard! There's no knowing how long this maintenance drug will keep working but I know there's an arsenal of other drugs to take once it does. I go to see the oncologist every three months to see if my tumors are still sleepy. So, if you catch me the week before, don't be surprised if I'm jittery, spacey and distracted. It's a roller coaster ride waiting for the crest of the hill. Every.three.months. But each good report means more time to soak in this great life. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

The moral of this story is I'm not dying until I'm dead (thank you Valerie Harper) and let's just have fun while we can. Make hay while the sun shines and all that.

Are you making hay?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

January and February goings-on

My little girl grows up so fast! For Christmas, Katy got a toddler bed from Nana and Papa. I thought the transition would be more difficult than it was. We set up the new bed in her room along with the crib. From day one, she was done sleeping in the crib. So, the next weekend the crib was out the door and onto the sidewalk for recycling/trash. This is the morning of that first night...
Katy sang and danced in her first stage performance at daycare. She was an acorn and an owl. Very funny!
We had another fun weekend with Evi and Rachel when they came to stay with us. We explored the Edinborough Park Adventure Peak playground. As per usual, Katy ran, slid and jumped for a bit then was more interested in snack time. Evi definitely got her money's worth out of the equipment :-)
We also went to our first performance at the Children's Theatre, The Biggest Little House in the Forest. The one woman puppet show enthralled the girls, it was so cute to see.
We explored sensory activities. Mixing baking soda, water and shaving cream to make fizzling, foamy fun.
We decorated the window for Valentine's Day. And while the girls are already fast friends...
they are still toddlers!
We can't wait until we see them again!
A few weeks later Valentine's Day arrived with a coating of fresh white snow.
Max and Adam came to visit. We watched Peter Pan. They were all very excited as you can see.
And because I didn't want Riley to feel left out, here's some proof that the old girl still has some puppy left in her.
If you're still with me, we're almost there! Passport drama and cruise photos coming up soon.