Saturday, August 27, 2005


109 Days to Go

There are many positive aspects to the long-term maintenance portion of Kendrie’s treatment plan. Fewer clinic appointments, fewer spinal taps, and fewer port accesses, to name a few. But the one teeny, tiny thing that makes LTM difficult is that often, there just isn’t much to talk about medically! So, to fill in the gaps for this journal, I often share with you the funny, charming, adorable things that my delightful children do and say on a daily basis that keep me entertained and amused.

(Hmmm. I'm thinking …. thinking ….. total silence....)

SO!!! Then, there are journal entries like this one, where I’ve searched high and low in our life for something interesting to share, and come up completely empty-handed. So, instead, I thought I’d take you on a little stream-of-consciousness tour through my disjointed, rambling, long-winded life; enhanced, of course, with pictures.

Speaking of pictures, first I’d like to bring your attention to the new picture of Kendrie at the top of the page. I took this photo earlier this week to show off her new hairdo courtesy of Blaine and his magic clippers. It really looks SO much better; I can’t even tell you how glad I am she agreed to let him do it. What you might not have realized until you looked at this picture is that Kendrie wears glasses. Not due to poor eyesight, but because she found this cheap pair of costume glasses at the bottom of her toy bin and announced that she needs them to see. And so now she wears them all the time. It’s hysterical, really, because her new favorite past-time is “accidentally” knocking them off her own head and then crawling around with her eyes closed, patting the ground all around her, pretending she can’t see well enough to find her glasses. I made the mistake of laughing the first time she did this, and now, of course, she does it all the time. So really, it probably won’t be so funny in another few days.

But glasses aside, the picture of Kendrie with her fresh haircut leads me to show you a recent picture of Kellen. Blaine buzzes the bottom of his bowl cut every week or two, and has been pestering me for years to get rid of the bowl cut and give him a normal little boy cut. What I have tried, unsuccessfully, to explain to Blaine is that women (like me) pay great sums of money to get our hair as straight, fine, and naturally highlighted as Kellen’s is, and no WAY am I cutting it. I’ve been defending my position for years …. But that is all about to change. Since birth, Kellen has been a hair twirler when he is tired, or (used to) when he would drink a bottle or sippy cup. All of a sudden, about a month ago, he started twirling the top of his hair all the freakin’ time. At home, at school, at play, even in his sleep.

His teacher pulled me aside the first week of school to ask me if she made him nervous, or if there were any problems at home, because he twirls his hair so much! He has no problem or pride whatsoever about walking around with the aftereffects, looking like a hurricane has blown through his head, or that small animals must be nesting up there:

But it is making me crazy and if he doesn’t watch out, I’m going to have it cut after all. Of course, I have a girlfriend whose little boy was a hair twirler and when she cut *his* off, he started twirling another piece of his anatomy that was much less socially acceptable, so maybe I should allow Kellen's hair twirling and be done with it. What do you think?

But these pictures of Kellen and his hair “problem” leads me to the following picture of Brayden, no stranger to “The Challenge of the Tresses” herself. Her hair is not straight enough to be styled in any way, but not curly enough to be considered “naturally curly”. She desperately wants to grow it long, but is stuck with these waves that, I'll admit, look pretty cute when she’s hanging out in a rain forest and can take advantage of the natural humidity, but just stringy the rest of the time. So maybe I should buzz cut all three of them and be done with it.

But that picture of Brayden I didn’t take to show off her hair …. I took it to show off the look on her face, which was very grumpy, and completely justified, after she had four baby teeth extracted this week. The look came the next morning at the breakfast table, when she discovered her favorite granola bar was a tad too crunchy for someone with four gaping, fresh wounds in their mouth. Thank goodness for children's Tylenol!

And that leads me to tell you how she asked me to pack her a “soft” lunch for school that day, and I agreed, even though my kids normally eat the school lunch. Kendrie, of course, wanted me to pack a lunch for her too, although Kellen said no. (Why is it such a treat for kids who don’t usually take their lunch to get to do it? Probably the same reason my “car rider” kids are always begging me to let them ride the bus!) I put a mini bag of m&ms in each of their lunchboxes and winked, telling them not to tell Kellen or he would change his mind and want to take his lunch, too. Kendrie, being the little **helper** that she always is, said out loud, “Don’t worry Kellen, we don’t have m&ms in our lunchboxes or anything like that!”

And that story leads me to share with you further proof that my kids have no rational behavior. I took them to the grocery story on Friday and promised them if they acted nicely we could go to the toy aisle and pick out something “small”. Kellen wanted a Match Box Car; Brayden selected a small diary; Kendrie, naturally, gravitated to the most obnoxious thing there: a Whoopee Cushion. Not only did she insist on buying it, but she carried it around the store, squeezing it at every opportunity and laughing hysterically. The fun and frivolity continued until she got home and got a little too enthusiastic with it, and popped it. Oh, dear Lord, the tears and wailing that ensued were unbelievable. So then, like it’s not obnoxious enough …. like finding such ultimate, pure joy in a whoopee cushion isn’t distasteful to begin with ---- BLAINE FIXED THE THING WITH DUCT TAPE AND KENDRIE DECLARED IT WAS BETTER THAN EVER! Seriously, could we be any more white trash? A duct-taped whoopee cushion???? She is sleeping with it as we speak, and happy as a clam.

And that leads me to tell you about another moment of happiness that came this week thanks to an inanimate object, this one in the mail, and much more pleasing to the sensibilities. Once again, SuperSibs! surprised both Kellen and Brayden with new t-shirts, much to their delight and Kendrie’s chagrin. They are such a marvelous organization and I strongly encourage anyone who has a child with cancer to submit their siblings’ names to SuperSibs! and let them support your children the same, wonderful way they have supported Brayden and Kellen these past two years.

And talking about one wonderful organization leads me to mention another: The American Red Cross. As you know, next weekend is Labor Day, the last big holiday of summer. Labor Day means cookouts, get togethers, travel, car wrecks, and accidents. Which equals a big strain placed on an already strained blood supply. I received the following e-mail from the Red Cross this week and would encourage everyone to make a donation this week, in preparation for the holiday, or donate between Sept 1st and the 9th to take advantage of the following offer:

“As the prices of gas soar, you’ve probably experienced a dent in the wallet from summer travel. Delta Air Lines and the American Red Cross are thinking ahead, and want you to have the chance to fly your family home for the holidays. From September 1st to September 9th all presenting blood and platelet donors will receive a free gift and be able to enter a drawing to win Four Roundtrip Delta Air Lines tickets! Sign up to donate today, or if you have donated blood in the last 56 days, please ask a friend or family member to give in your place. Thank you for saving lives!

For locations and hours of an American Red Cross drive or donor center convenient to you, call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or visit us on the web at or contact your company’s blood drive coordinator. Blood donors may give every 56 days and platelet donors may give every 14 days. To donate you must be at least 17 years of age and weigh at least 110 pounds.”

And that leads me to think about the blood and platelet donors who, without a doubt, saved Kendrie’s life when she was first diagnosed with leukemia and needed numerous transfusions at the beginning. She’s had transfusions on three separate occasions since then as well. Please know that no matter where you live, your single donation can save up to three lives. Which leads me to show you just how precious the life you save might be:

Kendrie, “reading” to her stuffed animals. (Notice the glasses, which she swears help her to see the book better?!)

Thank you to all of you for checking in on our family and leaving us notes of encouragement in the guestbook. We really get a kick out of hearing from you, and hope you are all having a great weekend!



Um, probably the Bactrim medication I have to take (four times!) on Saturdays and Sundays. My mom even pays extra for the Pharmacy Man to flavor it with cherry, but I think the man must sneak in “Yucky Flavor” when we’re not looking --- it's really craptacular!


Can you believe my mom took me and my brother and sister swimming for FOUR HOURS today and didn’t put sunscreen on my head??? Thank goodness I have duckling fuzz, is all I can say, because my cheeks are downright pink, but my head doesn’t seem to be burned. Yeah, duck fuzz!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


113 Days to Go

Whether or not your child gets cancer? Random. Whether or not your child handles chemo well? Random. Whether or not your child relapses? Random. So when you find something --- anything --- over which you have a smidgeon of control, you manage it and feel smug about it. Since Kendrie was diagnosed and started chemotherapy, some 679-odd days ago, Blaine and I have taken total and complete control of her medication. And, if I do say so myself, we’ve done it well. She had never missed a day or a dose of meds; she had never missed a doctor’s appointment; and I can count the number of times on one hand that we’ve fudged the “no food or dairy two hours before bedtime” rule since entering long term maintenance. For anal control freaks like us, it was a pretty good record.

Then, imagine my dismay when I went out of town last weekend, only to receive a call from Blaine on Saturday morning, while he was standing in the Eckerd’s pharmacy waiting area, to tell me that not only had she run out of .5 mg dexamethazone (steroid) ….. but the prescription had also expired the day before …. AND, to add insult to injury, Eckerd’s couldn’t even float us the four pills we needed until Monday because they were completely out.

You have to understand that Blaine and I have a very clear delineation of duties when it comes to chemo meds. He holds her still; I give her shots. He marks the medication chart with a highlighter each evening; I sneakily check over his shoulder to make sure he’s doing it right. He gives her the oral meds; I am responsible for making sure all prescriptions are refilled in a timely manner. So the sudden, unexpected Eckerd’s-steroid dilemma was all me, baby. Ugh. Call the engraver; the Mother-of-the-Year Award has slipped through my fingers again. In all seriousness, I was pretty upset about it. What kind of loser doesn’t check to make sure her daughter has enough chemo before going out of town???

Here’s where the treadmill started: Her methotrexate is on a 30-day auto-refill cycle and we get double what we need each month. Despite telling Eckerd’s we have enough methotrexate pills to take care of *several* chemo kids, for about twenty years, they keep filling it each month. Fine. Whatever. I had double-checked her Claritin, which was fine, and already refilled her Singulair that week. She had plenty of her other steroid, the 4 mg. I noticed before I went out of town that she was running low on Zofran, but only one pharmacy, way across town, carries the dissolvables, so I decided to fill that one later, since that same pharmacy across town is the only one that will flavor her liquid Bactrim and she still had two weeks worth of that.

So, back to the steroid delimma. Monday morning first thing I called her nurse and explained what I had done wrong, fully expecting her to report me to Child Services for neglect. I had already done the math --- Kendrie gets a total of 5 mg of steroids each day, for five days each month, for 17 months of long-term maintenance. So, thanks to my carelessness, Kendrie had missed .04 percent of her total steroids. Seeing how small the number was made me feel slightly better about my total lack of parenting ability …. The fact her nurse told me to “Get a grip, you dork” made me feel even better. (Footnote for chemo parents: .04 percent is NOT enough to negate the ‘roid rage of the month, just fyi.)

After calling the doctor and the pharmacy and getting the prescription refilled, and deciding that maybe, just maybe, I’m not the worst parent on the planet ….. after all, there are so many different meds, given at different amounts at different times on different days in different increments, really, it’s probably ok to cut myself some slack, right? Then, Blaine climbed into bed last night and the last thing he said to me before falling asleep was, “Kendrie’s almost out of 6mp …. And Eckerds called with another methotrexate refill …. Can you take care of both those things tomorrow?”

Ah, it’s good to have a purpose in life and be needed again . But I'll admit, I’m excited for this treadmill to stop. Counting down, less than four months to go!

Once again, thanks to all of you for the kind notes about Kendrie’s school, hair and clothes. I was thrilled tonight when she agreed to let Blaine buzz the ring of fuzzy hair around her ears and neck off. Now, she’s got the little duckling fuzz all over and it looks SO much better. In fact, I find myself kissing the top of her head obsessively, just to feel how soft it is, and some total stranger at school today, a fellow student that Kendrie had never seen before, came up to her and started rubbing the top of her head. Maybe he had a math test and needed luck, who knows?

But I was inwardly congratulating myself on raising a child who has the ability to overcome her own (and other children’s) perceptions about how a little girl perhaps *should* look …. A child with the self-confidence to be herself …. The poise and assurance that how she looks is both beautiful, and no-one else’s concern ….. So imagine my surprise when she told me tonight that she couldn’t wear her green t-shirt tomorrow because “Well, you know, Nicholas really likes me to wear shirts with pictures on them.”

Great. Now she’s taking wardrobe instructions from her 5-yr old boyfriend? Maybe she’s not quite as poised as I thought she was.

Thanks for checking in …. In the meantime, looks like I’m off to Eckerd’s.

PS. One of the fun things I got to do this weekend, besides place my daughter’s health in jeopardy with my inattention, was meet for the first time some fellow ALL-list members, Donna, mom to Molly and Billy, and also Michele, mom to Brendan. If you had told me a few years ago I’d be not only meeting people I “know” only through the internet, but having a total blast doing it, I would have said you were crazy. But it’s amazing how much you can have in common with a relative stranger when you’ve faced some of the same challenges. So, Donna and Michele, I had a marvelous time hanging out with you guys and want to say Thanks for welcoming me into your lives!

Take care,

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: My dad kept coming after me, prompted by my mom, with his clippers. Since Kellen was getting his buzzed, I decided to let Dad do mine, too. What is this world coming to when a beauty like myself gets her hair done, standing in the garage with a towel draped over her shoulders, by her dad???

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: At least I won’t have to listen to my mom’s not-so-subtle hints about my last little ring of hair anymore.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


(118 Days to Go)

I want to write and say thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you who signed the guestbook and sent private e-mails offering words of encouragement to Kendrie as she headed back to school on Monday and into what, in her 5-yr old mind, was a social minefield. It truly encouraged us to read so many notes of support for Kendrie no matter what her choice of “looks” might be. The suggestions were all wonderful and several we’ve taken to heart. … and Noah’s mom Lori’s suggestion that Kendrie write “I’m a Girl” on her behind and moon anyone in the bathroom who suggests otherwise was probably the best laugh I had all week. Thanks, Lori!

We did have Child Life come to her school and make a presentation last year and it went extremely well, so it’s something we’re keeping in mind again. Our situation this year is that her elementary school went from 40 Pre-K students, all of whom knew Kendrie and were protective and kind, to 140 Kindergarteners, most of whom have never met her and wonder why a bald-headed kid wearing Spiderman shirts and hiking boots is hanging out in the girls’ restroom. I’d wonder too, if it were me!

Monday morning was bad; Tuesday morning was worse. I spoke with her teachers on Monday and they assured me they would be talking to the other kindergarten teachers. So on Tuesday, I decided to present Kendrie with some options:

Option 1: Start dressing in clothes that are a little more “girly”. That suggestion was greeted with about as much enthusiasm as Bill Clinton at the National Republican Convention. Or the National Organization for Women. Or Monica Lewinsky' family reunion.

Option 2: Wear one of the hats she has in her drawer. She responded that she wasn’t allowed to wear hats to school. I reminded her that she wore a hat the first few months of school last year, and she informed me I was crazy … she did not.

Option 3: How about piercing your ears? I didn’t really think she’d go for this, but someone suggested it in the guestbook so I thought I would throw it out there. Needless to say, the reply was not “No”, but “Hell, No!!”, and it was worth it just to see the look of horror on her face.

So by then, it pretty much boiled down to a) make her unhappy by forcing her to dress in clothes she doesn’t want to wear ….. or b) tell her to toughen up and take responsibility for her choices. If she chooses to wear “boy clothes” then that’s fine …. but she’s not to get her feelings hurt when people think she’s a boy. The only thing about this that rubs me wrong is the whole “It’s not fair” issue ---- if she had a braid halfway down her back she could wear whatever she wanted and no-one would think twice. But combine the camouflage shorts set with her little bald head and voila! ---it’s “Hello, Sonny” and “Hey, little buddy” as far as you can hear.

I don’t think the teasing episodes are happening often. It's more that they happened previously and now Kendrie is afraid of a repeat incident. Sort of “They might make fun of me” as opposed to “They are making fun of me”. I know it happened at least three times, so I’m taking her feelings seriously, but the flip side is that if her head spins around any time I suggest a pink shirt, then there’s only so much I can do for her.

She wore her Camp Sunshine t-shirt on Tuesday and her Lighthouse Retreat t-shirt on Wednesday and told me, “I’ve been wearing cancer t-shirts so the kids would know what is wrong with me but none of them understand!” I didn’t have the heart to explain to her that the vast majority of kindergarteners can’t read yet and have no idea what her shirts say.

So, this morning, as I prepared to spend another fifteen minutes telling her why I refuse to buy her any new Kim Possible tennis shoes, which she somehow thinks will make her appear more feminine than her Dora shoes (???) she suddenly popped up in this camo outfit she stole (er, borrowed) from her friend Kody. To be honest, I was happy to see her in this. She loves it; it’s practically her favorite outfit. I’m choosing to take it as a sign that she’s getting more comfortable in her own skin, and phooey on any of the other kids who don’t get it. And if they continue to not get it, I’m grabbing a marker and taking Lori’s advice after all. :)

Hope you all have a great weekend,

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: My mom came and had lunch with me today and right there at the table another mom asked “How old is your son?” Aaarghhh! My mom just gave me her special smile, but I can’t wait for this hair to grow back in!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: I finished my steroids for this month, yippee!!! (I think my parents are more excited about that than I am!)

Sunday, August 14, 2005


122 Days to Go

First, let me apologize for the delay in updating. There might actually be a few people (Hi, Mom!) who noticed. Kendrie had an all-day clinic appointment on Friday, and I flew out of town to visit friends this weekend, so my computer time was severely hampered. And YES, for those of you with curious minds and/or good memories ….. just so you know …. I DID stick an extra pair of socks in my purse to put on my feet at airport security. In a few months, when I can shuck the sandals (which I hate) for boots (which are MUCH more my style) it won’t be an issue. But for now, standing around looking like the dorkiest tourist in the WORLD is worth not having those nasty airport-floor germs attaching themselves to my feet. Was I a failure in the fashion world? Yes … but at least I didn’t hyperventilate like I did the last time, so it was worth it.

Anyway, Kendrie has been coasting along at 65 percent chemo since she got out of the hospital in early July and doing great. I’d almost forgotten that most of you actually check in on this site to make sure she’s doing ok. Sometimes, I’m so self-absorbed, I think it’s nothing more than a place for me to vent about my crazy family. So, just to bring you up to speed, I thought I’d let you know about Kendrie’s clinic appointment and how things went.

Back when she was in the hospital in late June and her counts just wouldn’t recover, you might remember they gave her a transfusion of something called IVIG …. I’m sure there’s a fancy, medical, technological explanation of what it is and what it does, but I don’t know it. Basically, it’s like a booster shot for the immune system. As happens occasionally, Kendrie had a reaction to this transfusion ….. uncontrollable shaking, chills so bad her teeth were literally chattering, and feeling colder than she’s ever felt in her life. We threw so many warm blankets on her we almost couldn’t find her!

Well, IVIG is given every month for three months, meaning Kendrie was due for the next transfusion. Although her counts are back up to where they should be (which also means we’ve now upped one of her chemo meds, the 6MP, back to 100 percent) she has to receive all of the IVIG. Sort of a “better safe than sorry” measure, since her body, her immune system (and her parents!) are just beaten down after almost two years of chemo. I was a little worried about her having another reaction, so they pre-medicated her with Tylenol, IV Benadryl, and IV Decadron. It was like watching a drunk fall asleep at a party … I think she was still chewing a bite of corndog in her mouth when she passed out. But at least she didn’t have any reaction this time and the transfusion went as it should.

I knew that it would take several hours for the transfusion, in addition to the triage, port access, exam and chemo. It has been months since we’ve had a “long” clinic day and I was determined not to mess it up. I made a mental list of everything I wanted to take that day. Blanket and pillow for her, book for me, dvd player and dvds for her, a few books and toys for her, a bag with snacks, a bag with drinks, and the bag of Beanie Babies that my girlfriend Renee gave us to donate to the treasure chest (thanks, Renee!) Proudly, I can honestly say, I forgot nothing. Except to double check that the stroller was in the van. And of course Kendrie, upon arrival at the parking garage, realizes her arms are broken and she can’t carry a damn thing to help me, and apparently her legs are broken as well and she would prefer to be carried. Needless to say, it was a bit of a struggle to get it all in! But we managed and the visit went fine.

Her doctor thinks she *might* make it back up to 100 percent on all her chemo before the end of treatment, but there’s hardly any chance she’ll be back up at 125 percent of everything like she was. He explained that it’s better to keep her on a slightly lower dose, steadily, that her body can tolerate, as opposed to increasing her chemo too quickly and running the risk of her counts dropping again, and then having to stop chemo, then starting again, etc. With only four months of chemo to go, we’ve adopted the “slow and steady wins the race” motto.

Here are a few other things that caught my attention on Friday:

Driving to Atlanta, I had forewarned Kendrie it was going to be a long day due to the transfusion. She remembered the “medicine that made me feel so cold” from the hospital and was a little apprehensive about receiving it again. In an attempt to make her feel better, I was telling her she would get special medicine beforehand to make her feel relaxed, and keep that from happening again, and I told her, “You’ll probably even take a nap today …it will be perfectly fine; nice and calm and peaceful for you” and in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I wish somebody would give me something so I could take a nap today -- she’s lucky!” and then I thought, “No, maybe I should think about what I’m saying. *Lucky* is probably not the best word.”

Kendrie knows how to work the buttons on the dvd player. Not just “play” and “stop” .. but all the fast forward, rewind, scene selection, and menu buttons. So now, not only do I get stuck watching (or when I’m driving .. listening) to the same movies over and over, now I am stuck listening to the same specific scene over and over. On Friday, she was obsessed with the scene in Homeward Bound II where Shadow and Sassy rescue the little boy Tucker and his kitten from the burning house. Over and over. And over. And all I could do was compare this to back when my kids were so little they didn’t know how to work the buttons on anything and the one time we tried to put a tv/vcr in the back, Kellen, age 2 or 3, shoved m&m’s in the player and broke the whole thing. Ah, the good ole’ days.

Our elementary school has a program for kids to stay after school, used primarily by working parents. Sort of like day-care at the school. The kids get snacks, do their homework, go to the computer lab, play outside, in the gym, etc. My kids have been bugging me for three years, telling me how much they want to go to the After School Program (ASP). So last week I decided ASP might not be such a bad thing to have as a back-up, in case Kendrie and I were stuck in Atlanta, or I had a late afternoon appointment, etc. I mean, I’m a stay-at-home mom because I choose to be, so it’s not like we have a great NEED for this, but it couldn’t hurt, right? So I signed the kids up and they went on Thursday. I dropped them off for school at 8:15 and didn’t pick them up until 5:45. As much as it pains me to admit this, I actually missed the little rugrats. So imagine how I felt when I picked them up and they all three came running to me, exclaiming about how much fun they had, and that was great, and could they do it again tomorrow? Then, Kellen offered up the final insult when he said, “Yeah, and if you’d get a job so we could ride the bus, that would make it perfect!!!”

Um, remind me again why I stay home???

Well, wish us luck at school tomorrow. Kendrie has apparently been having “issues” with a couple of little girls telling her to get out of the girls bathroom and a few boys in the lunchroom talking about her being bald. I have to be honest, considering the way she dresses, who could be surprised by the bathroom issue? And that’s pretty much what I told her. I didn’t give it too much thought, until tonight when she was laying out her clothes for tomorrow, and she told me she needed to wear some “girl clothes”. In her mind, of course, “girl clothes” constitutes changing her Yu-Gi-Oh tennis shoes for Dora tennis shoes …. But the simple fact that she’s doing it leads me to believe it must be bothering her. I’m going to try to convince her to wear a hat tomorrow as well. Not because *I* think she should, but because I think it might be less confusing for the young kids in the other kindergarten classes who don’t know her from last year. I plan on talking to the teacher about it as well tomorrow … Cancer worries me, side effects from chemo worry me, fear of the unknown worries me …. But NOTHING raises my hackles like the thought of somebody hurting my child’s feelings, even another child.

Hope you all had a great weekend,


WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: I’m not real happy about going back to school tomorrow. In fact, I told my mom tonight that I didn’t want to go. I think she was pretty surprised by that, especially considering Nicholas is going to be there and everything. Hmmm, we’ll see what happens.

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Well, hopefully it’ll happen tomorrow, when those girls in the bathroom realize I’m a girl.

Monday, August 08, 2005


128 Days to Go

So, I feel the need to clarify the pained expression on Kendrie’s face in the first-day-of-school photos, and perhaps send out feelers to see if I have any competition for this year's “Worst Parent of the Year” award.

As you know, school here started last Friday. My kids actually like school and I was so excited to send them off the first day in real, Beaver-Cleaver-style.

The night before, I happily and lovingly set my alarm for 6am so I would have time to shower, dress, and make them their favorite breakfast, homemade chocolate chip pancakes, before school. I had images of my three beautiful children waking, pleasantly, with the sunlight streaming through their bedroom windows as birds chirped outside, then scampering happily into the kitchen for breakfast, our family holding hands and perhaps singing a verse or two of “Kumbaya” around the breakfast table. Then, they would all get dressed, brush hair and teeth without a single complaint, and we’d grab the backpacks and clamber in the van, laughing and joking our entire way to school. We would walk down the halls the first day together, hugging goodbye, smiling and wishing each other luck. Passer-Byers would stare and say enviously, “Wow, that Escoe family really has it together, don’t they?”

Hmmmmm. Who was I kidding?

Those of you who know me, know that I am a scrapbooker. And those of you that know scrapbooking, know that the first day of school isn’t about the academic and social potential of children --- it’s all about the first-day-of-school photos.

So, a few days before school began I told my children to pick out what clothes they wanted to wear the first day, so I could give my approval and/or permission. Brayden, of course, is at that stage where the more glitter and sequins on a blouse, the better. Clothing stores don’t help, when for some reason anything larger than a size 6 is a direct Brittney Spears knock-off, but as far as Brayden is concerned, the more bejeweled, the better. Fortunately, we were able to compromise and both of us were happy with her first day clothing choice. (It was her new sandals, with the two-inch heels, that made her look taller than Kellen in the photo, for those of you who asked. And also for those of you who asked, yes, normally her hair curls in the humidity. We straightened it on purpose for the big event -- the first day of third grade!)

Kellen could care less what he wears. Denim, burlap, toga ….. He’s seven years old, and I still pick out his clothes each day because it just doesn’t matter to him. Easy-going, anything is fine …

Then there is Kendrie. NOTHING she selected met the Kristie-Escoe-Seal-Of-Scrapbooking-Approval. NO to Scooby Doo t-shirts, NO to Star Wars t-shirts, NO to camoflauge t-shirts --- truly, it would have looked like I shopped for her back-to-school clothes at Goodwill … (the OLD Goodwill across town!) if I had let her pick out her own clothes.

But she would have NONE of what I was choosing. Everything was “too girly” (even though they plainly weren’t). So we made what I thought was a fair negotiation. She would wear the shirt I picked long enough for pictures, then when I was finished, she could take whatever shirt she wanted to school and change in the bathroom before class started. I ask you, has there ever been a parent more willing to compromise? I think not.

Fast forward to Friday morning. Alarm goes off, I shower and dress, go in the kitchen to make the much-hyped chocolate chip pancakes …. Uh, oh, no chocolate chips. (Remind me to fire that irresponsible personal shopper of mine!) So I made plain pancakes, and when I woke my children, who, by the way, were nowhere near as agreeable and happy as my fantasy children, they were extremely upset that I promised chocolate chip and didn’t come through. Brayden, in fact, went into a complete tailspin and I managed to yell at her before she’d even been up five minutes.

Nothing went as planned, the kids sniped at each other and insisted, grumpily, that they **were NOT** tired, it’s just that school is stupid and why should they have to go? No one could get in their groove, Kellen didn’t understand why he had to brush his teeth, and it was a few minutes before I realized Kendrie wasn’t getting dressed. She had somehow come to the sneaky conclusion that if she didn’t put on the shirt I set out for her (the blue and white striped one in the above photo, which I personally didn’t think was “too girly” but she insisted it was) that I would somehow cave in and let her wear her Field Day t-shirt from last year. The one that all her Pre-K classmates had signed their names in big black marker all over the shirt. Yeah, like *that’s* the look I'm going for in my photos-that-last-a-lifetime.

Again, I reminded her of our compromise …. a few photos, with smiles, then she could change. Things went rapidly downhill, to include tears, wailing, and threats on her part, until I finally yelled at the top of my lungs in frustration, “FINE! Then you can just STAY HOME the first day! I don’t really give a crap!”

Yeah, that’s parenting at its finest, don’t ya think?

Finally, finally, we were running late, but at least out the door. We made it to school and Kendrie posed for the requisite photos with her Kindergarten teacher, then couldn’t get to the bathroom to change clothes fast enough.

I realize, truly I do, that the shirt my child wears on the first day of school isn’t that big a deal. So she looks like a street urchin at school … does it actually matter? The crux of this problem was that we had made a DEAL, and she wasn’t going to stick with it, so I had to put down the ugly, heavy parenting foot and ruin everyone’s morning. Honestly, those weren’t smiles on their faces in the photo in front of our house, they were looks of terror that I was going to lose my mind and start screaming again in front of the neighbors.

So last night, mentally preparing for this morning, the 2nd day of school, I decided things were going to go much better. I had the chocolate chips at the ready and the pancakes were a huge success. No one lost their temper, everyone was dressed and ready to go, even a few minutes early. There was laughter in the air and I was mentally patting myself on the back and feeling quite smug for having gotten my act together and being the parent I *wanted* to be on Friday.

Then, it happened. Brayden was squeezing the gelatinous globby ball-thing that she got at the Dollar Store yesterday, and got a bit too enthusiastic watching the fish “swim” through the goo …. When the entire thing exploded all over her. So suddenly she’s standing there in her new skirt and blouse and Lizzie McGuire tennis shoes, with glitter and gel splattered all over her, dripping down off her face and out of her hair, forming a big puddle of goo on the kitchen floor that the dog was trying to lick up and tracking all over the place. And we had exactly ten minutes before it was time to leave for school.

Believe it or not (probably NOT, my friends would say) I didn’t lose my cool. No yelling, no insane flailing of my arms as I try to make my point about making huge messes ten minutes before school starts ….. I simply threw her in the shower real quick and threw the goo-splattered clothes in the washer. We even made it to school on time, can you believe it? It was another mad rush in the front door, not very pretty, but we made it. I’m hoping tomorrow goes smoothly --- from the buzzing of the alarm until the ringing of the first school bell. Third mornings a charm, right? If not, I suppose we’ve got nine entire months to get it right.

Another “Scrapbooking Moment” that I thought I would share with you is the interview I did with Kendrie when she returned home after her first day. This is a great tradition I’ve done with my kids every year, and it’s always both enlightening and entertaining. Here goes this years:


What is your teacher’s name? "Mrs. Mxxxxxxxx"

How did she act in the classroom today? "Nice."

Who are your best friends in class? "Nicholas." (big surprise, huh?)

What was your favorite part of the first day? "Laying down."

What is your favorite part of the classroom? "The dinosaurs."

What did you eat for lunch? "Pizza"

What was the funniest thing that happened today? "Nothing, really."

What do you want to be when you grow up? "Annikan Skywalker."

Your best grade will probably be in? "Running."

If I could stay up late on a school night I would: “Eat popcorn and watch Annikan Skywalker.”

Of all the things I can do, I am best at: “Loving Mommy and Daddy and Brayden and Kellen and myself and Jesus and God.”

Thanks for checking in,

Friday, August 05, 2005


131 Days to Go

I suspected it was time for the kids to return to school when they complained, after swimming all day at our friend Renee’s house, going out to dinner, and playing with their new toys, that they were bored.

I suspected it was time for the kids to return to school when I suggested playing in the sprinklers and they said it was too hot and they didn’t want the grass seeds on their feet.

I suspected it was time for the kids to return to school when they started asking to eat Nerds candy for breakfast …. and I let them.

I KNEW it was time for the kids to return to school when Kellen discovered, yesterday, the age-old method of how to annoy the crap out of your big sister in the back seat of the van. Put your finger, and your face, right up to the dividing line in the middle of the back seats. Stare at her, but do not cross the line with your finger or any part of your body. Then, when the complaining from your sister annoys your mother, and your mother tells you to “Stay on your own side of the van!” you can honestly say that you are, and there’s nothing your sister can do about it.

I’ll explain *THIS* look, and why I suspect years of therapy are in our future, in my next journal entry. In the meantime, I’m going to sit back for the next half hour until it’s time to pick up my kids, revel in the silence, and maybe even eat a bon-bon or two.

Have a great weekend,

Monday, August 01, 2005


135 Days to Go

In case you haven’t figured out from following this journal, or if you’ve never been the lucky recipient (said sarcastically) of one of my annual Christmas letters, you might not realize that I am a big-time “Let Us Review” type of person. Lists, evaluations, comparisons … they didn’t call me “Queen of the Post-It Note” at my last job for nothing!

So, in that vein, and considering school starts on Friday, let us recap summer vacation, as spent this year by the Escoe family:

Week One: Rain, Kendrie starts coughing. Slightly depressing week.

Week Two: More rain, more coughing. Slightly more depressing week.

Week Three: Sunshine, but no one in our family can enjoy it because we are all hit with a random stomach virus. Rather depressing week.

Week Four: Kendrie, having serious problems getting over the stomach virus, goes through more flushable baby wipes than the McCoy septuplets during potty training. An even more depressing week.

Week Five: Inpatient at Chez Scottish Rite Hospital when counts hit rock bottom and fever hits. Blood transfusions, IVIG transfusions, frightening reactions, IV antibiotics, nectar of the Gods (morphine), one seriously stressed out mom, and bodily function activity that has no business being mentioned in a family journal. Seriously depressing week.

Week Six: Rain starts again, but Kendrie is released from hospital and slowly starts to feel better. Slightly less depressing week.

Week Seven: Invite ourselves to our friends Kody and Ryan’s house for a cookout/pool party; have our first truly good day of summer. Invite ourselves to our friends Ryan and Brandon’s house for a weekend in Atlanta, attending the CURE picnic and a birthday party. Actually, a really good week.

Week Eight: Invite ourselves to our friends Jacob and Nathan’s house in Ohio for a five-day getaway. Another really good week.

Week Nine: Invite ourselves to the Atlanta Braves game in Atlanta. Invite ourselves to our friends Riley, Derin and Brody’s house in Florida for the weekend. Yet another really good week!

So, it only took me nine weeks, but I appear to have cracked the code on enjoying our summer vacation. When I rely on Mother Nature and random luck to get by, basically, life stinks. But! When we brazenly, and without shame, invite ourselves to visit friends, stay in their homes, eat their food, and take part in their fun activities, there is LOTS of fun to be had! Too bad there’s only three days of summer vacation left, or I’d be tempted to call up another unsuspecting family and test my theory by vacationing yet again with friends who haven’t yet figured out my scam! (Hey! Are those sighs of relief that I just heard from some of you???)
So, what’s the motto here? Not sure, but I bet it’s got something to do with boldly and bald-facedly inviting yourself along for the ride.

Thanks to Erin and Joe for putting up with the infestation of Escoe family members in their home this past weekend. I mean, just because our Lighthouse Retreat was canceled didn’t mean I was ready to give up my hokey dream of beach photos of the kids, in the matching outfits I bought…. that they hated.

Here’s proof:

And here’s the proof that we actually were able to get in the ocean, for about half an hour (except for Kellen, who was terrified of possible jelly fish in the area) before the rains came down:

So, once again, thanks to the kindness of friends, and a totally presumptous attitude on my part, our family was able to enjoy a few days together and spend time with people that we care about. Really, life doesn’t get any better than that. :)

Thanks for checking in,

Kristie, who is NOT, despite appearances to the contrary, counting down the hours, minutes, seconds, until school starts Friday morning at 8:30am and not a minute later.


WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Oh, this is SUCH an easy one! Having to go to the stinkin’ lab on base and have the stinkin’ technician draw blood out of my stinkin’ arm! Mom *said* she used the magic cream, but I think maybe the magic is wearing off because it hurt. Then, even though my counts are great again, my doctor’s office said to keep my chemo at the sixty-five percent I’ve been taking. I’m sorry, but if I go to the trouble of getting poked, the least they can do is acknowledge my good counts in some way, like upping my chemo --- a measly Spiderman sticker is SO not worth the effort!

BEST PART OF HAVING CANCER TODAY: Getting to go to our monthly support group meeting at the Ronald McDonald house tonight. I really like playing with those Child Life Specialists, and getting to do arts and crafts. We drew faces on paper plates and then glued them to Popsicle sticks to make masks. Mom seemed a little surprised that I drew a frowny, sad face and told the lady it was when I was getting my blood drawn today. Geesh! I *told* her that it hurt, did she not believe me???