Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Socter Ball!

Despite the fact that some people think soccer is a communist sport, we love it. We love the organized sport aspect of it, the socialization, the lessons about team work and sportsmanship, and the sheer physical activity it requires. Dave and I both feel like soccer is a good foundational sport for any of the other sports the kids might want to play later, so we intend for both of them to play until they aren't interested anymore or decide to try something else instead. (We feel the same way about gymnastics. That's why Ella does both and Luke will, too, as soon as he's old enough for soccer.)

Grandma has been taking pictures at the games this year, so I thought I would share a few. She got some really good ones!

I tried to catch this first picture all spring, but Grandma finally got it.
She's pretty good at kicking.
I'm really proud of how hard she works in practice. My expectation in everything she does is that she work hard. 
She is much more comfortable during the games this season.

Taking a breather.
Dave decided to help with the coaching this time and he's loving it. Ella really likes having him as a coach, too.
Water break.
In addition to soccer, he has taught the kids to chew straws while they wait for their turns to play. I looked over at them last weekend and he and four kids were lined up with coffee straws hanging out of their mouths.
Coach Dave
Saturday mornings are a family affair. Grandma and Pop the Pop and Grandmother and Papa are there.
Pop the Pop and Luke
 Even Aunt Becca, Uncle Nate, and Jake come to watch.
Jake can't wait until he can play.
Sometimes we steal borrow other kids' balls to play catch during the breaks.
Luke loves socter.
 And sometimes we just relax and watch the game.
He's still my baby.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Around the House

More quotes to showcase their enthusiasm, development, and the truly deplorable state of my car. But first, a classic line from Dave.

"When you wear your glasses and use your work voice, you're kind of scary." - Dave, after watching me attend a conference call from home. My response? After a fit of laughter, "Good, that's what I want them to think."

One night when Luke was randomly pitiful with a 102 degree fever, Ella brought out her doctor kit and gave him an exam. Then she broke the bad news: "Luke has a two-eye virus." I was very concerned and asked her to elaborate, and she informed me that she didn't have anymore answers but she would call Children's Hospital to find out.

While on the phone with Grandmother one day, checking in on the hooligan shenanigans, I overheard Luke run into the room and announce: "Mess!" When Grandmother asked him, "What mess?" He led her to the playroom where she found a broken picture frame and shards of glass on the floor. Though I suspect he had something to do with the breaking of it, I was proud that he told Grandmother so she could clean it up.

"Mmmmm. I wuv Tool-Aid!" - Luke, when he saw me get the Kool-Aid pitcher out of the fridge. He wuvs me, too, a lot, these days - squishing his face to mine or squeezing me in a hug. I love the love and his enthusiasm.

"No way! I wanna tuddle!" - Luke, asking for a cuddle at bedtime when I gave up on getting him to be still and rolled over with my back to him. After he agreed to be still, I rolled back over to spoon him and he was knocked out in 30 seconds. It's just so hard to let go of the day at bedtime sometimes.

While working from home recently, I was sitting on the couch with my laptop and Luke was nestled in beside me with a book. I was instant messaging with a co-worker in India and we decided to have a phone conversation over the computer (think Skype without the video). The phone rang and I answered it, my coworker's voice came through the computer speakers, and both kids perked up, wanting to know who I was talking to. Luke was engrossed in my conversation for about two minutes, then he decided he needed me to pay attention to him again. He leaned toward the laptop and said to my coworker, "I'm readin' books! S'muse me!" It really is difficult to have a work conversation with kids in the house.

And finally, upon getting in the car one morning this week, Ella informed me, "It smells like stinking cheese in here." She was right. Interestingly, I finally tracked the stench back to her own carseat, though I have not the vaguest recollection of what she may have spilled in it to make it smell like stinking cheese.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Paradigm Shift

There's been a paradigm shift in my house. The child who has always been challenging is less so, and the child who has always been easy is not right now.

I was quite surprised recently when I discovered how very easy it is to have 4 year old Ella around the house when Luke isn't there. He spent the night at Grandmother's by himself for the first time ever, and Ella was home with us. It was so easy! I was so amazed that I told my sister and her response was, "Duh. I've been knowing she is the easier one right now for a while."

Of course she has. She's had the Luke-free evening experience with her a few times when Ella spent the night at her house. Until just a few weeks ago, I had not had an evening with just Ella in the house since before Luke was born. My how she's changed since then! She played by herself in her room until supper, ate, showered, read books with me, and went to bed. It was quiet. There was no yelling. She's almost entirely self-sufficient.

When did this happen?

Apparently while we've been wrangling the wild beast that is the most recent version of her brother.

Since turning two, he has fully embraced The Tantrum Phase of Independence. But you know the story, right? He wants to do everything by himself, he thinks he can do everything by himself, but he really can't yet. "No!" means no, except when it means yes - and that is often because "No!" is the default answer to everything. He wants to make his own decisions by himself, but he makes them so impulsively, they're often wrong. And who's fault is that? Mine. Because of course I should know that when he picked the Piglet cup he really wanted the Pluto one.

He's defnitely in that place where he needs lots of time and space to practice his independence. Dave and I are in the midst of a refresher course on the intricacies of toddlerhood - distractions and redirections and choices and transitions and time-ins.

He is a sweet, funny, loving, enthusiastic little spirit trapped in a frustrated toddler mind and body. It's rough on him. It's rough on us.

He wants so badly to play soccer, on the team, with the other kids. He tells me about it all the time. "I wanna play socter." He's too young; he can't play until he's 3. For a whole year, he'll be too young.

He wants to get on the balance beam and race across it by himself like the older kids. While he's physically capable of running on a 4 inch beam, he isn't mentally focused enough to do that yet.

He wants to tell us when he's feeling really mad or slighted, but he lacks the self-discipline to do that with his words.

His will is strong and his intent is generally good, but he is limited by his own development. His physical and emotional maturity will catch up with his will eventually, but until then, we have our work cut out for us. At the end of it, we'll have another confident, self-sufficient four year old. But you know what  they say about sausage - it's good, but you don't want to watch the making of it. Toddlerhood is the sausage-making of a four year old, and it's not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Riding with Ella

One morning when Ella and I were alone in the car on the way to a doctor's appointment downtown, she reminded me to stop and look at the world around me.

As we drove through the UAB campus, she asked me about the buildings and why the dragon on the signs has fire coming from his mouth. I explained that UAB is a college, like Montevallo, and that the dragon is their mascot and he breathes fire out of his mouth because they are called the UAB Blazers. Then she asked me, "Mama, do they have a real dragon in there?" I assured her, "No, they do not, but they do have a medical school and a dental school, where people go to learn to be doctors and dentists." That day, she wanted to be a doctor.

Interjection: On a different day, we saw my recently-graduated pharmacist cousin working in the pharmacy at Publix. On the way home, she asked me a bunch of questions about what my cousin does at Publix, and then she made a little moaning noise. I asked her what was wrong and she responded, "It makes me want to be a pharmacist." Right on.

Back to our trek through Southside: As we were passing by the appartments on University Boulevard where there is a mural painted on the retaining wall, we had this conversation.

Ella: Someone painted that wall, Mama!
Me: (Mistaking her excitement for indignation and preparing to explain) Yes, they did -
Ella: It's so beautiful!

Oh. Yes.

It is beautiful, with animals and children playing; color breaking up the gray of the city street. So many things are beautiful, so many things that I pass right by without even noticing. So many things that my four year old does notice. That same day, she pointed out some really pretty flowers planted alongside highway 280.

I never know what she is going to see that I would ordinarily miss. I love riding in the car and listening to her while she watches the world go by. She asks good questions and points out things that I take for granted. I learn so much.

Four year old eyes have such a fresh perspective of the world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11

September 11, 2001 - I was a college junior; twenty years old, still mostly consumed in my adolescent self-centeredness. I was asleep in my bed in the dorm, recovering from the grueling (emotional, exciting, exhausting) experience of sorority recruitment. It was the day after Bid Day and I intended to sleep for most of it.

Then the phone rang. It was Dave. He never called in the mornings, so I knew something was wrong. It was a very short conversation: "Have you seen the news? Get up and turn on the TV."

I went across the hall to the chapter room (our common area on the sorority hall) and turned on the TV. He had to explain to me what was happening because I just couldn't get my head around it. Then I watched as United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. And I continued to watch the news for the rest of the day and the tower fell, the Pentagon was hit, the plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Classes were cancelled, though some professors were there with TVs tuned to the news if you wanted to stay and watch. I didn't. I needed the relative privacy of the dorm.

I remember feeling wide-eyed with shock. For the first time in my life I understood what it felt like when history is made, when text books get revised and the course of a nation changes forever. I finally understood the definition of terrorism.

I remember the horror of watching the tower fall, of seeing the people being thrown or jumping from the windows, of the people in the streets covered in ash.

I remember feeling sympathy for the president, newly inauguarated after a hard-fought campaign and the drama of a recount in Florida, and there he was, addressing the country and scrambling, I'm sure, to figure out what should happen next.

I couldn't comprehend the magnitude of the impact on our transportation systems, our economy. The New York Stock Exchange shut down for a week. Air travel stopped for two days. The entire nation stood still in shock.

Later that week I attended a candlelight vigil on campus and I bought a copy of Newsweek with the Twin Towers aflame on the cover. That magazine is still in my keep box.

Weeks later, I was looking through some pictures from a trip I took in highschool and I found one I had taken from the plane of the NYC skyline, Twin Towers intact. I've never spent more than an layover in NYC, but I'm glad I have that picture.

I decided to write this today because I want to make sure I never forget where I was that day and how I felt while watching that horror unfold on live television. I want to make sure that my children understand that 9/11 isn't just an event they will read about in their history books - it was real and people died and an entire nation came to its knees that day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Port Removal: I nearly fainted.

Nurse: Are you a fainter?
Dave: No.
Doctor: She wasn't talking to you. You can faint if you need to, you're in a recliner.
Me: She was talking to me. If I faint, there will be problems. I think I need to sit down.

That conversation took place while Dave had his port removed last week. I accidentally saw too much while the doctor was giving him shots to numb the area, but I did realize I needed to sit down before my vision went black around the edges. I didn't faint, but judging by the hideous headache I had for the rest of the day, I came pretty close.

While I didn't intend to watch any of the procedure, I happened to be looking at the port when the first shot went in without warning. Then Dave was really uncomfortable, so after all the blood letting and shot giving I've seen in the last few months, I thought I could handle watching the shots long enough to tell him when that part was over. I was wrong.

I can look at blood and cuts and bodily fluids. I can take care of all those things. It didn't bother me to prick my finger four times a day to check my blood sugar during my last pregnancy. But I cannot handle seeing needles in skin, especially not my skin, but not anyone else's either. God willing, I will never have to self-administer shots of any kind (but I'm sure God will equip me if I do).

So, I really am not a fainter, as long as I'm not looking when the needle goes in. And usually I just get a little light-headed if I do see it. Though I've come close a few times, I've only flat out fainted once.

I was a junior in high school when I gave blood for the first time at the SGA blood drive. I did great, looking everywhere but at the needle in my arm. It didn't hurt. I was just chilling on the little bed-table, pouring out some blood. Then I got distracted and looked down at my arm right before the tech took the needle out. I thought I was okay. I was, afterall, lying down. Then I stood up.

Or so they told me. I don't remember my feet ever touching the floor. The next thing I remember is the nurse and the cute boy who caught me leaning over me, asking if I was okay.

I was, of course, and I was okay on port removal day, too, once I sat on the doctor's stool, well below his work area so there was no risk of me seeing anything else I didn't need to see.

The port came out of an incision directly over the one it went into, and then Dave was sewed up again with dissolvable stitches and steri-tapes. He's finished. He doesn't even have to go back to the surgeon for a follow up. The whole deal took about 20 minutes.

Dave says he feels official now. Officially, done with cancer, chemo, and foreign objects in his body.

And to that I say: Amen.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Luke's Day of Labor

Dave and I were off work for Labor Day so we decided to spend the day with his brother and sister-in-law in Gardendale. We went to their house for lunch and stayed most of the day playing and sorting through Nana's pictures. The kids love to play there because they have big dogs, lots of toys, and good snacks. Aunt Jessica is a chip eater, just like Ella. She even bought them "cheese tuffs" to eat with their "ot dogs" this time.

About halfway through the day, while we were outside playing, Luke randomly announced that he wanted to use the potty. I've never heard him say that other than when one of us was using the bathroom, so that was weird in itself. Jessica told him she had a special potty seat he could use and we went inside to see about it.

That child got so excited about the "Melmo" (Elmo) potty seat. For nearly an hour he worked on mastering getting the seat from the closet, putting it on the big potty, climbing up, wiping, flushing, and putting the seat away again. All by himself. Over and over. Seriously, I started rationing the toilet paper. He did actually pee in the potty at one point, which was shocking and exciting for both of us, this being his very first time.

Once we finally wrapped up that activity and got back to playing, he announced again that he needed to potty. I took him back in and we went through the whole routine a few more times. This time we didn't quite make it in time, but who cares? This is the most interest he's ever expressed in a potty. I decided that we would stop at Target on the way home and get a Melmo potty seat for our house.

When we got home, I got it out and gave it to him. He did the rest, putting it on his potty and getting up there by himself. He played and played on the potty. Then he brought the seat to the living room because he was just so excited about it. He told Dave he needed to potty, and sat down on it in front of the TV and peed in his diaper. Again, who cares? Sitting on the potty seat to potty, even in a diaper, is a step in the right direction.

Yes, that's a potty on his head.
After his bath, he decided to use the potty again - the actual potty with the Melmo seat on it. Knowing he would be there a while, practicing, I left him in Dave's charge so I could finish helping Ella get ready for bed. I heard Dave asking if he was ready to get a diaper and then suddenly they both came running into the kitchen to find me - Luke crying and Dave excited. He had pooped in the potty and Dave got so excited that it scared Luke.

We all, even Ella, gathered around the toilet to have a look, give each other high fives, and let him flush and wave bye-bye to the poop. It was like a slightly twisted version of the goldfish funeral scene from The Cosby Show.

He was so very proud of himself. So proud that I thought he would never go to sleep. But he did, and for the first time ever with me lying beside him, he went to sleep without nursing at bedtime.

Two major milestones in one day.

Afterward, Dave and I were discussing how we hope these breakthroughs mean he's about to ease off his recent reign of terror. (Milestone phases are hard - on toddlers and parents.) Then the next morning, he refused to sit on the potty and he refused to take off his race car pajama pants to get dressed for school. Well, he would have willingly taken them off to trade them for Melmo pajamas, but it wasn't Pajama Day at school nor was it 50 degrees outside, necessitating long-sleeved pajamas, so we ended up in our regular diaper/clothes changing wrestling match.

But who cares? At least he didn't grow up overnight like I feared he might.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Ella's New Hair

For a couple of months now, Ella has been talking about getting her hair cut to shoulder length. She even picked this picture out of a magazine. I took a picture of it, mostly to appease her, and so that we'd have it in case we decided to get her hair cut.
This is the hair Ella wanted.
Dave and I talked about it and decided we weren't ready to get her hair cut yet. (Yes, we seem to have an issue with cutting our children's hair.) I talked to Ella about it and told her I wasn't ready yet and that if we cut it, we couldn't do the fun things with it that she likes to do - like pigtail balls and braids. She was okay with that but she kept talking about it anyway.

Meanwhile, I kept happening accross the picture in my phone and it struck me how very perfect the cut would be for Ella's hair. It amazes me sometimes how well the child knows herself. A couple of months passed and I started feeling okay with the haircut idea. I know all that hair is hot for soccer and gymnastics. We spend a lot of time untangling it, even with conditioner and detangling spray. I started thinking that maybe we should just let her get it cut.

Saturday morning while we were watching them play, the topic came up again when I commented that it was time for her to have a trim. I showed Dave the haircut she wanted again. He was okay with it, too, so he asked if she wanted to get it cut. Of course she did!

Her hair was past her arm pits when it was dry and about halfway down her back when wet. It varies from straight and full to ringlets, depending on the weather. This day, it was somewhere in between the two.
Before the haircut.
The lady cut about four inches off and layered it. She was quite impressed with the haircut Ella picked out.

This picture doesn't do justice to the amount of curl she has.
Despite the expression in this picture, she absolutely loves it. In addition to this being her first real haircut, it was also the first time she got really irritated at me for acting like a complete Mom and taking too many pictures. That's what you see on her sweet face. Irritation.
She was so over me taking pictures at this point.
With the weight off, her hair is even curlier now than it was before. It's spunky and sassy and it fits her perfectly. It was fun to watch her relish it all weekend. A few times I caught her lifting her face to the wind savoring the way her hair blew off her neck. She was excited to have her "new hair" washed the first time and it's been so easy to brush.

We got two important life lessons out of it.
1. On the way into church Sunday morning, neither of the men who were standing outside to greet us commented on it. As we walked to her class, she said, "They didn't understand about my new hair." I reassured her, "It's okay, most of the time boys just don't recognize when you have new hair."

2. While I cuddled her in bed Saturday night, I told her that I thought she picked out a great haircut that was perfect for her kind of hair. She said, "But I still don't have the eyes." I asked what she meant. "The eyes like the lady in the picture." I told her it didn't matter that she didn't have the lady's eyes because she has her own - the eyes God gave her that make her special. It fit perfectly with her Bible verse from last week.
"I am wonderfully made."  - Psalm 139:14

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Young Adult Cancer and Fertility

Fertility preservation/awareness is a topic of conversation that is unique to adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients because they are either entering or in the middle of their child-bearing years. It’s also a topic that you probably wouldn’t even think about unless you found yourself walking down the path of cancer treatment and, hopefully, someone along the way mentioned it. That’s why I’m writing about it; so young people will know.

The issue of fertility with chemotherapy jumped onto my radar when I was researching Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and found some warnings about preventing pregnancy while undergoing cancer treatments. Dave’s oncologist never asked us about family planning or mentioned the risks of chemo on a pregnancy; and, that really didn’t surprise me since most of the patients he treats are well beyond their child-bearing years. As I dug deeper into the topic, I found out some other interesting bits of information that are worth sharing.

~ For women, chemotherapy and radiation often induce menopause depending on the kind of treatment and location of the cancer.

~ Even if the treatment doesn’t induce menopause, it most likely alters the genetics of the maturing eggs, so pregnancy should be prevented during and for at least 6 months after treatment.

~ Doctors recommend that a woman wait 2 – 5 years after completing treatment before becoming pregnant so that her body has time to recover and the chance of a cancer relapse is significantly less.

~ Chemotherapy and radiation also cause infertility in some men.

~ Doctors recommend that men prevent pregnancy for 2 years after completing cancer treatment because chemotherapy and/or radiation can genetically damage the sperm and they believe that damage probably repairs itself within 2 years.

The good news is that programs are available to help young adults understand their options and, in some cases, offer financial assistance for fertility preservation. Fertile Hope, a part of the LIVESTRONG foundation, is one such program (and also the source of the above information). Check out the website for more information.

Because this topic is intensely personal and I am unwilling to discuss our decision-making in this public forum, I recommend this blog post for additional perspective. The author is a 22 year old woman with Leukemia and I’ve been reading her blog for a while.

Life, Interrupted: A Young Cancer Patient Faces Infertility