Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Speling Beeze.

My kids’ elementary school held its annual Spelling Bee this week for the 4th and 5th graders. Each teacher had a contest and the top two spellers from each class got to compete in the school-wide competition. Brayden, sadly, was not in the top two of her class. I would go so far as to guess she might have finished last, or near last, considering she can’t spell her way out of a B-A-G. She’s bright, but she’s not a natural-born speller.

So, because the competition was held on a Tuesday, and that’s the day I volunteer in the school each week, I decided to attend (pretty much, just to be nosy). And I have to tell you, I. Totally. Flashed. Back.

You might (or might not) know, but I am a complete, 100 percent, absolute and total spelling, punctuation, and grammar snob. That’s not to say I’m perfect, and Lord only knows you guys have all witnessed my use and abuse of both the exclamation point and the trailing period. But thanks to the modern-day genius of built-in spell check and my own anal tendencies, I get pretty annoyed when a spelling mistake slips past me and makes it into one of these journal entries.

I was like that at age 10, already. A pretty good speller. In fact, if I could toot my own horn (toot-toot!) a DAMN good speller. So when I got ready to attend my first-ever spelling bee in the 5th grade, it was with the utter and complete confidence that I would be the winner. Really, there wasn’t even a question. I would conquer. That’s C-O-N-Q-U-E-R. The title **would** be mine.

Here is the 10-yr old face of assurance, poise, and self-confidence:

Sadly, it’s a face framed by teeth into which I hadn’t quite grown, feathered hair that required half a can of Aqua-Net each morning, and the ugliest one-piece polyester dress ever known to mankind. If ever there was a need for The Swan, Jr. Version, you're looking at it.

But by golly, I could spell.

I don’t remember if we drew numbers, or how they determined our order. Somehow, I was number two. I went to a very small school, and the total number of fifth and sixth grade students (back when sixth grade was still elementary school) was probably less than a hundred kids. I don’t even remember how many competed, but I remember I was number two.

They called the first kid up to the microphone, and gave him his word: Lace.

And he spelled it: L-A-S-E.

And I remember sort of snorting under my breath at his moron-ness, thinking, in my totally compassionate and kind-hearted manner, “What a schmuck. Who can’t spell lace?”

As that poor, defeated student trod off the stage, I swaggered up to the microphone, brimming with confidence. Now, we obviously didn’t follow Scripps National Spelling Bee Rules and Regulations, because although this wasn’t the final round (not yet, but I’d be there soon enough!) as the next competitor, I was given the same word to spell: Lace.

And I sort of chuckled, as if to give the impression the judges were wasting my massive amount of brain energy and sheer spelling genius with such a lame word ….

And I leaned forward into the microphone, champion that I was, speaking loudly and clearly, and spelled the word: L-A-S-E.


Holy crap, did I just …. What????

I can’t believe I just did that!

Wait, stop, DO-OVER!!!!!!

But that was it. It was over. I was out, in the very first round. And as I took the Walk of Shame to the back table where the kids who had been eliminated were to sit, I was seething inside.


How could I have done something so monumentally stupid???? It was a trick, I tell you, a low down dirty rotten stinking trick! I was robbed!!!!

And as I sat there through the rest of the competition, I brooded on what an idiot I was, and how I had made such a colossal blunder. And continued to seethe. As the competition went on, other kids joined me at the table. A few even whispered and bragged about mis-spelling words on purpose to get out of the competition. Those little shits threw the bee intentionally, and I would have given anything for another chance.


I knew them all!!!!!

I couldn’t even say I was wrongfully stripped of my title, since I never got the title in the first place. But in my heart, I knew. K-N-E-W that I was the winner.

It’s been thirty years, and I still seethe.

I will always seethe.

Just like I was always remember how to spell lace.

Just like that little girl at my daughter’s school, the first child eliminated from the competition last week, will always remember how to spell “pilot”.

Not P-I-L-E-T, but P-I-L-O-T.


(And in the meantime, lace. Still seething.)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Drum roll, please.

Blaine got the phone call at 3:30 this afternoon (good thing I hadn’t been holding my breath since 8am or anything) and the results of last week’s cat scan are:


Hmmm. Imagine that. Picture me, with a look of surprise and astonishment on my face.


Inconclusive? Wow, go figure.

So, now they want him to have an MRI done.

Let’s review, shall we?

Two weeks ago:

Doctor orders a cat scan.
We wait on the insurance authorization and referral.
Finally get appointment at imaging center.
They can’t start an IV, so the test is done without contrast.
We wait almost a week for the results, which are inconclusive.

NOW, the plan is:

Doctor has ordered an MRI.
We will wait on the insurance authorization and referral.
He will go to the appointment at the same imagine center.
When (not if, but WHEN) they can’t get an IV started, they will do the test without contrast.
We will wait for the results.

I’m glad to see we have a fresh game plan and are taking decisive action.

Who wants to guess whether or not the MRI will be inconclusive, and that ten days from now we’ll be no farther ahead than we are now.

I feel like a very big, very slow, very impotent, very frustrated hamster on the wheel of life.

I seriously need a drink.

And did you know that if you have stitches from your finger-quote-skin-cancer-surgery-end-finger-quote, that is considered an open wound and you are not allowed to donate blood? And sometimes you won’t find that out until after you’ve driven half an hour to the donor center and filled out the questionnaire and had all your vitals taken and had your finger poked not once but twice because that stupid blood always rises back up to the top of the solution don’t I eat enough red meat and you’ve answered every single question about whether or not you’ve ever had sex with a goat in Africa who ever had sex for money with a needle using heroin addict who ever had an organ transplant in the UK in the last five years???

And then, you’ll be asked to come back a week later, when the stitches are out.

Twenty bucks says I’m able to donate blood before we know anything about Blaine.

Any takers?

PS. Try to contain your own surprise that I wasn’t accepted at art school, as per my surprised-look face drawing. You *did* know that was a surprised face, right?

“The one where I roll my eyes and say ‘Whatever!’ and make little jokes when inside I’m about ready to scream or punch somebody in the neck or both"

Because that's healthy and theraputic.

So, cancer.

Several of you have been kind enough to ask, so I’ll fill you in on our little corner of the world. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to share, it’s just that I don’t know what’s worth sharing and what should be ignored as putrid nonsense spewing forth from the chaotic mess I like to call my brain.

Kendrie: Still kicking ass and taking names, baby. A recent upshot I’ve learned about her treatment is that one long term effect of the chemotherapy is a tendency to soften teeth. Which, considering the crooked chompers she’s got coming in, and the years and years of orthodontics staring us in the face, is probably a good thing.

Me: Had my finger-quotes-surgery-finger-quotes last week at the dermatologists. Five minutes and ten stitches later, I am apparently skin cancer free. Although my career as an underarm supermodel has been cut tragically short.

Blaine: (sigh) One step forward, two steps back. I’m not even sure what to tell and what not to tell. Let’s go chronologically:

Friday Jan 19th -- had outpatient surgery scheduled to have a tube placed in his right ear. Due to the scar tissue buildup from all the surgeries, and the radiation on that side of his face and head, he can’t hear out of that ear, so its believed that a tube (What is he? Like, three years old?) will help him hear better. I’m all for him getting the tube because I’m sick and tired of thinking he is ignoring me whenever I talk to him and he doesn’t reply. Unfortunately, the procedure had to be scrapped because they couldn’t get an IV going --- not in his arm, his foot or his neck. Can you believe they tried to get an IV started in his NECK???? Who *does* that? {shudders} Anyway, apparently after being poked nine trillion times over the past four years, his veins have basically responded with an “Oh no you DON’T any more!” and retracted into his body. Every single vein. So, no tubes. Still not sleeping for shit.

Wednesday Jan 24th -- Finally got the referral from the insurance company, and was supposed to have a CT with contrast so they could get a good look at the mass on his shoulder. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, they weren’t able to …

Wait for it ………….. wait for it………..

Get an IV started. SO! They did the scan anyway, but with no contrast, which means the picture won’t be as helpful in determining what the heck is going on. But, they reassured him that regardless, the report would be delivered to his primary care doctor by Friday. Still not sleeping for shit.

Thursday Jan 25th -- awake at 3am (did I mention he’s not sleeping for shit?) and drove to Ft. Gordon in Augusta for his surgical pre-op appointment, which included an exam, consults with ENT and surgery, x-ray and bloodwork --- they did manage, somehow, to access a vein this day. Go figure. This is in preparation for the surgery he is having next month to have posts put in his implants -- one step closer to teeth! He requested they do a little (repeat) cosmetic work (collagen) on his cheek since it’s caved in …. Doctor said no, he didn’t want to mask any potential problems (ie, more cancer) that they will be checking for when he goes to Seattle for his next MRI in March. They do, think, however, that they can go ahead and put the ear tube in while he’s already in surgery. Discussed doing a picc-line so he doesn’t continue to have problems with IVs all over town. Appointment lasted all damn day long, and while driving home from Ft. Gordon that night, he was pulled over for what appeared to be drunk and reckless driving on the highway. Blaine’s reply? “I wasn’t drunk or reckless. I’m exhausted, and was just in a hurry to get home and go to bed.” Still, the police officer wouldn’t let him get back behind the wheel, so the kids and I had to go get him. Luckily, he wasn’t far from home and his pick up truck got to spend an exciting night in the Best Western parking lot. I’m sure later, we’ll laugh about the fact all three kids started crying when they saw the blue lights flashing and assumed their poor exhausted sleep deprived father was going to jail.

Friday Jan 21st -- found us anxiously awaiting results of report. Called primary care doctor not once, but twice that day, to see if report was in. Also e-mailed nurse twice. Primary care doctor didn’t call back that day; we gave up hoping he would call back when he hadn’t by 9 pm that night.

Can anyone deduce that I’m not having a pink puffy heart relationship with Blaine’s primary care doctor? I realize he’s not the boss of the report and if it wasn’t delivered to him, well, he can’t just pull the results out of his ass. But don’t you think the polite, professional thing to do would have been at least return the phone call to let us know he doesn’t know? To say “Hey, I’m sorry, I know you’re waiting to find out if the cancer has come back, but so am I. No news here either” --? Are my expectations really that unreasonably high?

So, in a nutshell, he’s been poked, prodded, jabbed and stabbed. He's sleepy. And we still don’t know any more than we did. Except he’s deaf, with retracted veins and a big lump on his shoulder. I guess we could rename him Quasimodo and be done with it. Just get him some church bells to ring and call it a day.

He’s getting discouraged and anxious, which makes me discouraged and anxious. Then I get annoyed with him for making me discouraged and anxious. I’m starting to wonder if therapy is far off. The kind of therapy where I put him in a big canvas bag with a lot of heavy rocks and throw him off a bridge into a river. Or the kind of therapy where I clear out our savings account and move someplace with a sunny beach and umbrella drinks and well-oiled muscular men to wave me with palm fronds. Oh, wait, there’s those pesky kids to think of. So I guess in the meantime I’ll just continue with my current therapy, which is eating my weight in chocolate and drawing mustaches and horns on photos of his doctor.

Because *that’s* healthy and therapeutic.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's all about having fun.

PS at the beginning --- can I just tell you guys that the comments regarding the previous entry have been cracking me UP for the past two days?? You guys should all sign in every single time because honestly, I have been laughing and laughing at with you. Thanks so much for posting --- you've made my entire week!!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled kvetching:

So, you might remember last year when Kellen played his first season of recreational basketball. You might remember that he played against giant freak mutant boys like this (now remember, Kellen is TALL for his age):

And that despite my long and honorable history of not having a competitive bone in my body, I wound up at his games with face paint and a big foam finger, screaming my lungs out, and pounding my clunky yet fashionable Nine West boots on the bleachers, every single Saturday. Truly, not some of my finer moments.

About a month ago, they were having signups for the new season of rec ball. I asked Kellen if he wanted to play again, and his comment was, “No, that coach yelled too much.” See? A chip off the old block. We are just not competitive. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Then, I returned home one evening and got the following message off the answering machine:

“Hi, this is Coach H from Kellen’s basketball team. I just wanted to make sure you knew sign ups are going on this weekend and I’d love to have Kellen on my team again.”

Oh, wasn’t that nice? Listening to the message, I was starting to think that Kellen could learn to live with a little constructive criticism …. After all, maybe we both need to toughen up, and instead of being embarrassed of my deeply buried competitive streak, perhaps I should nurture it and fan the flames to life. Then, just then, the Coach dropped this little bombshell:

“But, when you go down to the rec center to sign up, do NOT take Kellen with you. Fill out the paperwork, and on the spot where they ask for his height, take six inches off what he really is and write that down. That way, they’ll hopefully assign us TALL kids to fill up the rest of the spots, if they think everyone on our team is short. See you at practice!”

OK, wait. Did he just say what I think he just said?

Did he just ask me to LIE on a 3rd grade recreation basketball application, and take six inches off my son’s height?????? Seriously????

Um, yeah. *That’s* who I want as a role model for my son.

So instead, we went down to a local church and signed Kellen up for a program called Upward. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a Christian-based sports organization that offers (depending on the church) basketball, soccer, flag football, and cheerleading. The emphasis is on bible study first, sportsmanship second, teamwork third, and learning the fundamentals of basketball fourth. It’s supposed to be about fun and learning, not competition and winning. In theory, I agree. Wholeheartedly.

In reality, I’m thinking maybe Kellen needs to spend a little less time memorizing Bible verses and a little more time practicing on a court. I submit the following evidence:

OK, how can anyone this knock-kneed run at all?

"Reaching? REACHING? No, I wouldn’t call this reaching! I would call this ….. creative defense!"

"Damn gravity. Gets me every time."

Kellen, honey, while I appreciate the spontaneity of whatever dance this is you’re doing at your end of the court, it appears the ball action is taking place at the OTHER end. Perhaps you should try turning around????

Ah, look. NOW he’s getting the hang of it!!

Honestly, he’s enjoying it quite a bit and actually scored his first basket of the season today. Plus, his team won their game and the snack-mom brought Fruit Gushers, so all told, an incredibly successful day.

But I must confess, I’m missing my foam finger just a tiny bit.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Quirks. Idiosyncrasies.

Previous Song: TSO; A Final Dream
Current Song: It’s All About Me; Tokyo Joe

(That’s for you, Dawn!)

Well, as you all know, the usual m.o. around this web-blog is for me to talk about myself, endlessly, tirelessly, without ceasing, ad nauseam. After all, it’s all about me. Well, ok, it's really not. But for today I'm going to pretend that it is. And although I do have a tendency to babble on, I don’t think I’ve ever actually been tagged, as my friend Tammy did this week. So, to respond to Tammy’s Quirks and Idiosyncrasies tag, here we go:

1. You all know how I feel about bare feet. (shudder). I really don’t think I even need to go there.

1a. Interestingly, the bare feet of my own children don’t bother me too much. The thought of touching someone else’s bare foot makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth, but when my kids were younger, I used to smooch on their bare feet all the time. Obviously, it’s that maternal-survival-instinct kicking in because if we didn’t love our kids so damn much, bare feet and all, we’d just ship them off to sea to live with the pirates.

2. I’m pretty sure you also know how I feel about my Diet Dr. Pepper and my Styrofoam cups with rabbit pellet ice. It’s pretty much crossed the line from habit into sick, twisted obsession. One that I have no desire to change.

3. I MUST-- no ifs, ands, or buts -- sleep on the right hand side of the bed. It doesn’t matter how big the bed is or if that side of the bed is nearer the bedroom door or the bathroom door, I must be on the right hand side. It also it doesn’t matter if I am in the bed by myself or with Blaine or one of the kids, I will sleep on the right hand side, and 99 percent of the time I am sleeping on my right side with my face away from the person next to me because I can't stand anyone breathing in my air. It makes me severely claustrophobic.

3a. Speaking of claustrophobia, I also can’t wear any shirt or sweater that has a high neck, or a hood, because the hood will hang down my back and rise in the neck and I will feel as though I am choking. Nothing tight around my neck or near my face, at any time. Period.

4. I cannot go to bed without Chapstick or mentholatum on my lips. It is impossible for me to go to sleep if my lips are dry.

5. I always take the pickle and onions off my McDonalds hamburger before eating it. I don’t bother to special order because I’m scared the workers will spit on it, so I just scrap them off, oh-so-lady-like, onto the tray.

6. Although I don’t drink coffee, I do start every day with a tall glass of skim milk with two and one half spoonfuls of Nestle Quik in it. Not two, not three. Two and a half. That is an important and precise measurement and woe to the person in our household who uses the last bit of Nestle Quik without telling me.

7. Towels absolutely must be folded right side out and stored in the linen closet. If we had a linen closet, that is, and didn’t just shove the towels under the bathroom sink because there’s not one stinkin’ closet in this house not one is that asking so much because where am I supposed to keep towels and sheets and what man in his right mind designed such a crazy, inadequate floor plan anyway???? While I appreciate the help Blaine gives me around the house, it makes me insane if he does laundry because he folds the towels wrong-side out and you can see the tags. I despise that.

8. I am obsessed with list-making and make lists for everything. Grocery lists, dinner lists, chore lists, shopping lists, to-do lists. If I do something that is not on my list, I will write it on the list just for the pleasure of crossing it off the list. If I think I have lost my list, I hyperventilate until it is found.

9. People who tap, or jiggle, or bounce their feet on the floor, or click their pen or make funny noises with their mouth or whistle or any of the twelve thousand annoying little things that people can do make me crazy. Sit still and be quiet, for Pete's sake.

10. I have a tendency to over-do things. For example, this tag-list was supposed to stop at six.

And while normally it’s all about me (and you KNOW that it is!) tomorrow is all about Catie’s mom Jenny and Catie’s dad Tre’, as they welcome their new son or daughter into the world. The gamut of emotions they have gone through this past week boggles the mind, so please continue to keep them in your prayers a little longer.


So, now, it’s all about YOU. Tell me about your most bizarre or uptight quirk in the comment section.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Weddings and Funerals

My maternal grandma died in 1992. She had been sick for about a year, with leukemia. While her death was not unexpected, that still doesn’t mean you’re ever ready to lose someone you love.

She died on a Thursday, and family poured in from all over the southeast part of the country over the weekend, until at last it was the morning of her funeral. We all enjoyed seeing one another again; it seems like the only time the extended family gets together is for a wedding or a funeral. Why is that?

Right before it was time to leave her and Grandpa’s house to go to the church, all the family was there. I scooted into the bathroom real quick, just before time to leave. Sat down, did my business, stood up to get everything straightened back down ----- and got the chain on my charm bracelet tangled in my panty hose. The charm bracelet was on my right wrist, and I’m right-handed, so I didn’t have much luck untangling it with my awkward left hand. I didn’t want to just jerk because I knew that would rip a big hole in my panty hose (this was back in the day, when women actually *wore* panty hose with dresses) so I did the only logical thing I could do.

Yelled for my sister to come help me.

She then yelled for my mom, who then yelled for two of my aunts, and before you know it, we had five or six grown women in the bathroom, laughing hysterically at the sight of me, hunched over in the bathroom with my panty hose and underwear around my knees, tangled up in my charm bracelet.

It felt good, that day, to laugh. Especially after so many days of feeling sad.

Jenny and Tre’ gave us a great gift as they shared Catie’s journey, struggles and triumphs with the rest of us these past three years. Sunday at the visitation and Monday at the funeral, they also gave us the gift of laughter at a difficult time. Monday was truly a celebration of Catie’s life, and it felt good to enjoy those memories, and enjoy the company of friends, with their blessing.

There were twenty cancer moms and dads, who had come from all over Georgia, at the visitation Sunday evening. Afterwards, we went out to dinner together. We chatted, we laughed, we remembered Catie, a speech was made, and we toasted to her and Jenny and Tre’. I hope when I die, that the people who care about me can come together and enjoy one another’s company and laugh … there can be no better legacy than leaving a smile on the faces of those left behind. We all cried, too, but mostly this weekend, we smiled when we thought of Catie.

If Jenny and Tre’s aim for the Celebration of Life Service on Monday morning was to honor Catie, and evoke the memories of her that brought all of us the most joy, well, they were certainly successful. The photos were beautiful, the video montage was heart warming, and in almost every picture, Catie was smiling and laughing. Sometimes hysterically. And so we smiled and laughed as we remembered her.

My favorite comment from the service was when Catie’s Aunt Nikki spoke of her, and reminded us that, “Catie’s life isn’t over …. It’s just happening in a different place.” What a wonderful thought, and one that made me happy.

The grace and composure evidenced by her parents was amazing. Jenny stood and spoke of her sweet, sweet daughter, something many wouldn’t have the strength to do. Tre’ played a tribute to Catie on his trumpet. Although we joked with him later that his new nickname is “Sweet Lips” …. Let me tell you, I’ve never heard applause at a funeral, but after his playing, we applauded.

Another touching moment for me was at the graveside service, when Jenny and Tre’ opened a box, and released a dozen (two?) monarch butterflies into the air at the cemetery. It was such a perfect tribute to a wonderful little girl, watching those beautiful butterflies flutter up into the nearby trees.

It was healing for me personally, and I hope for the others, to remember and honor Catie in such a positive way. I hope, most of all, that it was healing for her family. They were so kind to welcome and include all of us cancer parents, and even invited us to the church for the family lunch afterwards.

And because it wouldn’t be a true event without a Kristie-moment, I can tell you that Catie’s great-grandma, who sat at our table at the luncheon, asked me when my baby was due in front of everyone. Now, her mind was sharp as a tack and she could hear everything, but she is 86 years old so I’m telling myself that obviously her vision is failing. Why else would she have asked that? It couldn’t have anything to do with the huge, overflowing plate I had just brought back from the dessert buffet, would it? :)

I share these details with you because so many of you have been kind enough to ask about Catie and share your comments. I’ve gotten private e-mails, as well. You didn’t have to know Catie and her family personally to care about them, and that’s been evident in all the guestbook signatures on her site. I’m sure your kind notes have brought much comfort to Jenny and Tre’. Thank you for doing that.

And thank you to my friends from Atlanta/Moultrie, whose caring and compassion, along with the generosity of Jenny and Tre’, turned this into an uplifting gathering. Spending time with all of you was the most beneficial thing for my spirit. But since most of our kids are young, we’re not waiting on a wedding to get together again. That could take years.

And in the meantime, we’ve got more laughing and smiling to do.

Good-bye, Catie-bug.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I am leaving today to drive to Savannah for Catie's visitation and memorial service. People are traveling from near and far, both driving and flying, for these events. Please keep everyone in your thoughts for safe travels. Please also continue to keep Catie's family in your prayers during this difficult time.

Please also remember Baby Donovan's family, as Donovan earned his own angel wings last night. Donovan was a leukemia patient; I only knew his family online through my leukemia support group, but I'm sure they are in need of our thoughts and prayers as well.

Two beautiful children, received in Heaven, healed and perfect, but missed beyond anything by those left behind. I hope they are playing together. I hope Donovan is telling Catie all about the Indiana Colts, and Catie is introducing Donovan to all the cute puppies she has already met.

I hope their families find peace.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Catie Marie

Catie Marie
September 26, 2002 - January 18, 2007

My heart is just sick at the loss this wonderful family has suffered. So many people, thousands and thousands of people, have been logging on to Catie’s site last night and today to leave words of encouragement, support, and condolence for her family. I feel luckier than most … we knew Catie personally. We consider her and her family to be our friends.

I have often wished that Jenny and I lived closer to one another because I think we could be really *good* friends. (Maybe Jenny hasn’t wished it, but I have!) Although younger than me, and not a mother as long, she is definitely the kind of mother I aspire to be. In the two and a half years we’ve known them, I have never, not once, seen her lose her patience with Catie or the terrible situation they found themselves in. Never raise her voice, never get frustrated. Never voice an unkind or ungracious thought. Catie was her universe, and anyone who watched them together for even a moment knew that. Those of you who have followed their journey via Caringbridge knew that. Jenny and Tre’ were so blessed to have Catie as their daughter. Catie was so blessed to have them as parents. And Heaven is truly blessed to have welcomed such a sweet angel through its gates late last night.

I wish I lived closer to Atlanta as Catie’s final hours drew near last night. So many of my cancer-mom friends were able to go to the hospital and be with Jenny and Tre’ and the rest of their family; to say good-bye to Catie, give one final kiss, to support them, and support one another at the end. I should have driven up yesterday afternoon, but to be honest, my heart still believed that Catie would pull through, as she’s fought back so many times. I wasn’t ready. I’m sure Jenny and Tre’ and the rest of Catie’s family weren't ready, either. … anywhere near ready.

As a Christian, I am comforted by the belief that Catie is standing tall and straight in Heaven today, running and skipping and jumping and playing as she was never able to here on Earth. I think she has hair long enough for bows, and lots of friends to play with. I hope Jenny is right, and lots of puppies, too.

I went back through Kendrie’s cancer scrapbook, looking for photos of Catie. In every photo I have, she and Kendrie are right next to one another. They got along so well, and I’m sorry that we weren’t able to get them together more often. Looking at these photos today brought back many happy memories for me, which is good, since smiling through tears is sometimes the only bearable way to cry.

The song that is playing now, I played on the site the first night Kendrie went off-treatment and went to bed without chemo. It’s called “A Final Dream” and is about a little girl and new beginnings. I think it’s perfect for Catie, as she began again today. It’s not the new beginning I wanted for her. Selfishly, I wanted Catie to have her transplant and then begin her new cancer-free life here on Earth, surrounded by her family and friends who love her so very much. Instead, it was time for her new beginning in Heaven, also surrounded by people who love her. But her family and friends left behind are hurting; please remember everyone in your thoughts and prayers.

This was July 2004, the first time we met Catie's family in person after communicating online. It was a Lighthouse family retreat in Florida, and our families were assigned to stay in the same condo. Kendrie and Catie hooked up fast and adored one another. They weren't really that close in age, Catie was almost two and Kendrie was almost five. But they really enjoyed one another. In this picture, they're laying on the floor watching tv together.

This was a month later, when the girls both had chemo appointments on the same day. We met up at the clinic and then went out for lunch afterwards. I think *I* enjoyed it as much as the little ones did. :)

A few months later, and there's even some hair growth for Kendrie at this point! Our families were having dinner after the Lighthouse Christmas party in Atlanta. (Catie was apparently having something with marinara sauce!) :)

Again, chemo appointments on the same day.

Jenny and Catie had been staying in the Ronald McDonald house in Atlanta while Catie finished up her treatment ... or at least what we all hoped would be the end. We had a clinic day, so we bought lunch and took it to the RM House to hang out.

In hindsight, that's what a lot of our time together seemed to be about ... just hanging out and making the most of a difficult time for both families. Chemo in Atlanta is much more endurable if you know you're having lunch or dinner with friends afterwards! But it's so much more than that, as the parents in this cancer world can attest .... it's getting to know these families and these beautiful children and coming to care about them so very much.

And at its most basic, the most simple part, is something every decent human being understands. Its recognizing a beautiful little girl and her wonderful family, and counting yourself lucky to consider them friends.

We will miss you, Catie.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


No funny stories tonight; no cool music.

Just an earnest request for all of you. If you are inclined toward prayer, please do so. These families desperately need them:

Baby Donovan, pray for his family at this very difficult time, and

Our friend Catie, as she is very, desperately ill in PICU right now.

Pray for peace, healing, calm, and even continue to pray for miracles.

It's never too late.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Juke Box Heroes

When my children were given Wal-Mart gift cards for Christmas … well, you all know how I feel about shopping at Wal-Mart. So I thought I was being sneaky and very, very clever when I suggested Blaine take them shopping with their new cards, knowing he has infinitely more patience than I do. What I didn’t anticipate, perhaps to offset the patience, was his total lack of anything remotely resembling common sense.

How else do you explain that two of my children came home with these??

I mean, really, what on earth was he thinking???

So, I tried to be a good sport.

It was sort of cute, after all, in the beginning, that after they would practice outside, they wanted us to listen to their “songs”. It was sort of cute when they joined forces with the two little girls down the street, who have plastic mariachis, and decided to form a band. They let Brayden be the singer, and they named themselves “The Hurricane Kids”, which I still thought was cute, until Kendrie told they picked that name, “after Tyler’s dad, who is in Iraq right now, helping the people build their houses after the hurricane”. Now I’m a little worried about her grasp, or total lack therof, on current events.

But it was still cute, primarily because they made plans for music careers, and began designing their costumes, and discussed how they would travel by bus to their concerts. And it was cute how they kept flashing the rock and roll hand sign.

Which Kendrie can’t quite manage the pinky action.

And it was cute when they planned to put on shows for dogs. Because nobody appreciates a good guitar riff like the neighborhood schnauzer.

It was cute to watch them through the window, out on the driveway, with the radio playing in the garage, totally rock out. For the record, my children’s primary exposure to the world of adult contemporary music is my own personal love of 80’s big-hair arena bands. So the fact Kellen thinks Survivor’s "Vital Signs" is classic rock and roll, and that nobody rocks quite like the Scorpions, while unfortunate, is understandable.

But it QUIT BEING CUTE when the weather got cold and rainy here. Now they are “practicing” inside and I am forced to listen. Endlessly. To the “music”, which is a kind and generous term for the sounds coming out of these guitars. Are they even guitars? I’m not sure, they look a little like banjoes.

Regardless, after two days of cold weather, and countless hours of inside practice, I have decided they are not cute. They are the instruments of Satan.

The guitars; not the kids.

And I am charging my iPod as I type this. And will be eternally grateful for the earphones.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Maybe, Sometimes

You know how maybe, sometimes, your mind wanders?

You get so bored with what you’re doing that you totally start to daydream?

You know how maybe, sometimes, you’re daydreaming so much that you just plain forget where you are and what you’re doing?

You know how maybe, sometimes, if you’re not careful, you can act in an inappropriate manner? Not necessarily anything *BAD*, just not necessarily proper?

You know how maybe, sometimes, if you’ve been sitting at your kids’ school for three hours on a hard metal chair, cutting two-hundred and fifty monkey faces out of brown construction paper, by yourself in the teacher’s resource room, for three never-ending hours, with no one for company, except your iPod, and the voices in your head, and so then when a really jamming song comes on ….. oh, I don’t know, like THIS ONE THAT IS PLAYING RIGHT NOW …. You might maybe, sometimes, decide to join the voices in your head with the voice coming out your mouth and start actually singing along and chair dancing because you are OUT OF YOUR MIND WITH BOREDOM CUTTING OUT THESE FLIPPING DAMN MONKEY FACES and so you start grooving and chair-dancing and waving the scissors around and you’re so into your own American Idol performance that you don’t even notice the teachers who come into the room and see everything you’re doing?

Um ….. no?



You know how maybe, sometimes, you’re not allowed to volunteer in an elementary school with small children anymore?????

I’m just saying.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Because We Love To Share

(Addendum) OK, so *technically* it's not the flu, just a stomach bug. But this song was the closest I could find. :)

Kendrie started complaining Thursday night that her stomach hurt. Although I suspected she was simply fibbing, trying to stall her bedtime, that suspicion was quickly squelched when she started throwing up a few minutes later. And then started throwing up into a bucket because she was sitting on the toilet at the same time, if you get my {gross} drift.

And because I taught my children to share, she did. First with me, then Kellen, then Brayden. It’s been a truly lovely weekend around here. Blaine is the only one to dodge the bullet, and he probably thinks catching it himself would have been easier than playing nursemaid to the four of us these past few days.

As of right now, my stomach is better although my body is still achy. Kendrie is *still* complaining of stomach pain but at least the vomiting has stopped. Not the other, though. {again, gross} Brayden is complaining she’s cold and Kellen is running a fever. I’m surprised people don’t confuse our house with Disneyworld, as much fun as we have around here.

But in the spirit of continued giving, I thought I would share with you a few of the {remember, gross is the theme around here this weekend} thoughts that went through my mind earlier when I was making my own deposits into the porcelain reservoir.

1. This toilet is so not clean. I am getting a new maid because the current one* is obviously not doing a very good job.

2. The heck with Harvard or NASA -- my kids totally rock because all three of them can hit a toilet and/or a bucket, and I’m telling you, you can’t put a price on that kind of skill!

3. Well if I had known *that* was going to happen, I would have taken advantage and enjoyed some carbs first!

4. There has got to be a less disgusting way to lose five pounds.

*wait, that’s me. I suck.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Still Waiting ....

I want to thank all of you for your kind, concerned, and sometimes hysterically funny comments in the guestbook about this recent, um, what should we call it ….. “oddity” regarding Blaine’s recovery and health. I was going to go back in the comment section myself and comment on the comments, like I’ve started doing lately because quite frankly, it’s fun! And entertaining! And you guys crack me up! but there were just too many of you. I know, what a nice time-management problem to have!

Despite the fact it must appear I can’t keep my mouth shut about anything, the way I ramble on endlessly and seem to share every aspect of my life with the internet, let me reassure you that I do have *some* discretion. I don’t share everything, all the time, immediately, despite how unbelievable that must seem. Had I suspected, for one nanosecond, that something was truly wrong, I would have waited for test results to write about it. I just feel the need to clarify that, so no-one thinks I’m sitting here panicked. Or that Blaine is sitting here panicked. We’re slightly annoyed. We’re slightly bewildered. Personally, I’m very, very hungry because I started that #(*$&#(*& Atkins again and I’d pretty much kill for a piece of cornbread or cake right about now. But no, we are not panicked.

And also so the anonymous person who wrote to tell me I was the most conceited person on the planet to think I deserved a blog all about myself would know, well, so they would know “shut up, I deleted you and your stinky comment.” I share things as I see fit, and thanks to all of you for responding with kindness. And rib-splitting curse words. And the suggestion of a DDP machine in my stroke rehab village because I am SO putting that on my list of requirements! Right behind “cute male nurses who will wave me with palm fronds and feed me grapes.”

Two and a half days, and still no referral. No referral, no appointment. Given Blaine’s history, it’s a little frustrating, but Tricare is well-known for their mind-boggling, glacier-melting pace at times. Of course, many large-scale insurance companies move just as slowly, so I suspect Tricare is no worse than most. I’d love nothing more than to make a grand statement by sweeping into the imaging center and DEMANDING the cat scan this INSTANT, but they won’t see him without the authorization, so sweeping and demanding would only make me look silly. Add a feather boa and complete the picture.

Plus, I’ve promised never to complain about Tricare again, after receiving our most recent statement from Seattle in the mail, for $55,000 (hospital charges only) and being able to experience the unbelievable, awesome relief of knowing it would be paid, and not out of our pocket. Tricare might be slow and infuriating at times, but without a doubt, they have saved our family from bankruptcy not once, but twice. So, to all you taxpayers, thank you.

I’m sure the appointment will happen soon, and I’m sure things will be fine. I *am* kind of curious about what this lump could be, since my comments about watches and speculums were in jest. I mean … it’s not …. It couldn’t be …. you don’t think …. Do you? Naaaaahhhhh.

In the meantime, those of you who have followed along in Kendrie’s journal and are familiar with the writing project Terry and I have going, I have the next topic up for discussion there now. Please take a moment to visit, and even more please pretty pretty please with a cherry on top, e-mail me if you have experiences, advice, wisdom, or opinions you’d like to share.

In the meantime, I’ll be expanding my stroke facility list:

1. Cute male nurses
2. Diet Dr. Pepper machine
3. A dietician who has never heard the word Atkins.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Funny Like a Root Canal

So, a few funny stories about cancer from yesterday:

1. First, how funny that I didn’t fool a single one of you with my claims of papaya juice and string cheese. Nah, you’ve known me too long! Plus, really, is there *anybody* that drinks papaya juice? I don’t know, that just sounds nasty.

2. How funny when my girlfriend Jadine called me a kiss-ass for commenting back to the comments in my guestbook. Ha, ha, yeah, funny like a root canal. Can I help it if I’m totally co-dependent? (PS I did it again today.) (PSS Jadine, you know that I *heart* you, pet rats and all!)

3. Ok, this really *is* funny. My dermatologist’s office called me to schedule my “surgery” to have the skin cancer removed. Why they insist on calling it a {finger quotes} surgery {/finger quotes} I have no idea, but they do. So the receptionist was transferring me to the surgery scheduler and I was on hold. This office also does a lot of cosmetic work, and I was listening to a recorded message that discussed procedures available for patients such as Botox, chemical peels, and even liposuction. This is where it gets funny. I was literally on hold, balancing the phone between my ear and my shoulder, LISTENING TO A PITCH FOR LIPOSUCTION, when I shifted in my chair, and disconnected the phone with my big fat chin!!! Ha! I hung up on myself!! I need liposuction for my chin!

4. REALLY funny story about the conversation Blaine and I had yesterday, about how we’re going to have to do some searching and find a place that has a cancer care clinic, and a stroke rehab clinic, right next door to one-another, so it will be easier for the kids to visit us on Sundays. And Blaine said, “Well, they just damn well better bring flowers and yogurt when they come!” Ha! How funny is that??!?!? It’s knee-slapping funny, that’s how funny it is! Don’t you think so?

Wait … What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Oh, well, sorry. Let me fill you in. It’s a funny story, actually.

Immediately following Blaine’s surgery in Seattle in November, he noticed he couldn’t raise his left arm more than 90 degrees. Although they didn’t operate anywhere near that part of his body, but actually on his left-lower arm, he assumed it was some kind of muscle pain or weakness or trauma following surgery and it would go away on its own. When it didn’t, we started joking that maybe the nurses dropped him on his shoulder while they were transferring him to the operating table and he just didn’t remember thanks to the anesthesia. Which actually *would* be pretty funny, if you think about it. Of course, we thought it was funny to call Blaine “The Tuminator” when he was originally diagnosed, so maybe our sense of humor is a wee bit warped.

Tuesday night I came home from Kellen’s basketball practice, and Blaine said to me, “Come look at my shoulder …. Does it look right to you?” and I suddenly realized, taking a good look at it, and then touching it and feeling it and poking and prodding it, that no, it doesn’t look right. In fact, it looks deformed. Like a deformed chicken wing. And we realized, holy cow, his shoulder is dislocated … how did we not know that? Shouldn’t it hurt? But there’s a long sort of protrusion running along the back of his shoulder, that we assumed was his clavicle, just not where it was supposed to be.

For the record, it totally cracks me up because Blaine is like, “Is that my collarbone? Or is it a shoulder blade? Where is it supposed to be? Why is it sticking out like that? Is it sticking out on the other side? It should be symmetrical, right? Is it symmetrical? You took biology in college, and worked in a doctor’s office; you should know the answer.” He asks me these questions every time something is wrong … and given what he’s gone through the past four years, that means he asks me these types of questions, a lot. And I always want to remind him that yes, I took biology in college …. SIXTEEN YEARS AGO! I dissected a CAT, not a person! I was an INSURANCE SECRETARY, not a pathologist!!!!” Why does he always ask me these kinds of questions???? Do I look like Quincy??? But instead, I continued to peer and poke at his shoulder as if I actually had a single clue about what I was looking at. Then I simply said, “Hmmm. That looks funny.”

I’m not a doctor. Nor do I play one on the internet.

So, yesterday, he went to see his general practitioner. Who clearly indicated his overall level of interest in Blaine and his situation by greeting him with, “So, what’s wrong with you today?” when he walked in the exam room.

Because, you know, so many hypochondriacs and drug addicts have huge portions of the inside of their HEAD surgically removed, and then voluntarily undergo five weeks of radiation, for the fun of it. Whatever, with a big ole’ capital “W” with my thumbs and forefingers.

So the doctor examined him and immediately agreed that, “Yeah, uh, that doesn’t look right.” Good to know my observation skills are right on target.

Instead of a bone sticking out like we thought it was, though, he called it a mass. And asked Blaine to remind him what kind of cancer he had again????

And sent him for an x-ray and an ultrasound, both of which yes, did show a mass, but gave no further information. “Too fuzzy” “Not clear” “Fades out” ….. ugh.

A mass of what? Blood? Tissue? Bone? An accidentally left-behind gauze strip from surgery that has somehow traveled the entire length of his arm and lodged itself into his shoulder?

What the hell is it????

It is NOT cancer. I know that. Logically, I know that. The kind of cancer Blaine has rarely metastasizes, and if it did, it would go to his tongue, or throat, or somewhere up in the head-like-general-head area. Not down the back of his neck to his shoulder.

Plus, the timing is too fluky …. Immediately after surgery? Immediately, immediately following surgery? Blaine’s type of cancer takes years to grow large enough for manual detection, and this mass just shows up in one day? Wouldn’t that be a little Toooo coincidental?

Oh, wait. This IS our family we’re talking about.

So now, his doctor wants him to have a CAT scan. And naturally, the base hospital doesn’t do them. So we’re waiting, once again, for an insurance authorization so he can go to the imaging center here in town. So he can have a cat scan. So they can identify “the mass” and tell us they’ve finally located the missing Heart of the Ocean jewel from the Titanic, and it’s in Blaine’s shoulder. Stuck to a gauze strip and perhaps the surgeon’s watch and maybe even a speculum.

But in the meantime, we’re scouring the country, looking for side-by-side cancer care clinics and stroke rehab facilities. Because I swear on all that is holy if he gets diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his shoulder …………….


Isn’t that funny?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I Remembered

Yesterday, I drove Kendrie to Atlanta for one of her follow-up appointments at the cancer clinic. It was her first appointment since we hit the one-year off treatment mark, and it was a good feeling when the doctor made mention of the milestone. Now, she’ll continue to return to the clinic every three months, for bloodwork and an exam, just like we’ve been doing, but the difference is I won’t have to drag her to the lab here on base for bloodwork every month in between. And for a kid who hates to miss school, and hates even more having her arm stuck with a needle, that was like hitting the double-lottery jackpot, indeed.

As we were driving home, I was keeping an eye on her in my mirror. For Christmas, my mom had a DVD player installed in the van, and it’s pretty much the most fabulous thing ever. But when I went out of town for our holiday vacation, I must have left a light on, or something, in the van because we returned to a dead battery and now the FM modulator on the DVD player doesn’t work. The kids can still listen to movies with their headphones, but I wasn’t able to play the audio through the car speakers yesterday. I have an appointment on Friday to get it fixed, although to be honest, I have no idea why I’m sharing these boring details with you. Why, in fact, I’m still talking about it. At all.

The point to my story is that she was sort of in her own world on the way home, and couldn’t hear me with her headphones on, so I pulled down my driver’s vanity mirror to keep an eye on her. She was leaning back, using her big stuffed animal for a recliner-arm-rest, her legs up on the seat, watching Crocodile Hunter, eating her snack of chocolate milk and Oreos. Er, I mean, papaya juice and string cheese. Because I always give my children HEALTHY snacks. Just like I eat. (ahem)

I heard her chortle at some wacky thing Steve Irwin did and looked in my mirror. There she was, completely relaxed, watching her movie, stretched out like a grown man in a Barco-lounger in front of a big screen TV on Super Bowl Sunday, licking the crème filling out of her ……. um, “string cheese.” (nod nod, wink wink)

And I know I’m getting old and crotchety because the first thought that went through my head was, “These kids today don’t know how good they have it! Look at her, watching a movie and eating snacks! Why, back in *my* day, we rode for hours and hours with no air conditioning and the windows rolled down and sun and grit and wind in our faces, and if we were lucky we got a ROCK to play with the entire way!”

My next thought, however, was a little more poignant. I remembered back when I used to drive her home from the clinic after chemo treatment, or a spinal tap, and she’d be so exhausted that she’d sleep the entire way, covered with her Precious Moments fleece blanket, her bald head lolling against the seat belt and the pillow. It made me realize there were actually a lot of changes I noticed yesterday, and so I thought I would share with you:

I watched her roll on her Heelys in the parking garage on the way to the appointment yesterday, and remembered when she couldn’t even walk from the van to the elevator because her legs hurt so bad that I had to start pushing her in a stroller again. We didn't even OWN a stroller; we had to go buy one.

I watched her run into the elevator yesterday so she could be the first one to push the button, and remembered when she was too tired and nauseous to muster up the enthusiasm to care.

As we got out of the van, I grabbed my purse and a small gift, and she grabbed her Gameboy, and we took off. That was all we carried. I remembered when packing for a day-trip to Scottish Rite involved a snack bag, a juice bag, a game/book/activity bag, a DVD player and movies, a book for me, a pillow, a blanket, and numerous stuffed animals. No wonder we needed the stroller -- perhaps we needed a double!

I watched her ask a new lab tech at the clinic what her name was, and remembered when she was so intimidated by the entire process that she wouldn’t make eye contact with a single staff member.

I watched her tell that same lab tech that the “rule” is NO BANDAIDS for her, and I remembered when she would never have had the self-confidence to speak up and state her wishes clearly like that, but instead would just cry and fuss, or be despondent, the entire time.

I watched her lay on the table and giggle and play and respond while Dr. B examined and tickled her, and remembered those awful, horrible, gut-wrenching days at the beginning when I had to physically hold her down, screaming and crying and flailing, so they could access her port and give her chemo.

Then we went over to the hospital to visit our friend Catie who is inpatient, and I watched Kendrie ride through the halls of the oncology ward like a maniac on her Heelys (I’m telling you, those shoes are going to be the death of one of my kids … just ask Kellen, who totally biffed it in the restaurant parking lot the other night.) I remembered when Kendrie was inpatient herself and the only way she had the energy to leave the room is if we pulled her in a wagon, IV pole trailing behind us.

I watched Catie lie in her bed, sick, sick, sick from her transplant preparation, bald again, not eating, not caring about our visit or the game we brought her, and my heart just hurts for her family. I remembered when Kendrie was inpatient and how crummy she felt when her counts and platelets were in the toilet. I remembered how being inpatient is simultaneously mind-numbing-boring, and heart-stopping-terrifying at the same time, the terrifying part usually happening when something goes wrong in the middle of the night, as it is bound to do --- as it has done for Catie. Please stop by her site and wish them well, especially her mom Jenny, who is somehow managing all of this, and sleeping at the hospital, preparing for Catie’s transplant, at eight and a half months pregnant.

Some things, of course, never change.

Kendrie still complained that her butt hurt the entire two-hour ride home.

Kendrie still insisted on sitting in my lap to get her blood drawn. I don’t guess she’ll *ever* get comfortable with that.

Kendrie still loves stopping at the medical building’s deli on the way out and buying snacks for the car ride home. It’s become a tradition for us to stop and get papaya juice and string ch------- oh, who the hell am I kidding? I fed my kid Oreos for lunch yesterday, OREOS, and you people all know it!!

But as I stopped to buy those Oreos, I said three prayers:

1) Of thankfulness, that we were blessed and lucky and still have Kendrie with us.

2) Of request, that she continue to stay healthy.

3) And healing for all the Catie’s in the world, who don’t deserve this.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Seven Days of Gluttony

Many of you recently celebrated the Twelve Days of Christmas; I celebrated the Seven Days of Gluttony. Seven days at the first of the year, in addition to the two weeks of gluttony (and sloth) while we were in Seattle in November, and the two weeks of gluttony (and total laziness) while we were in Oklahoma for the holidays.

How many of you started the New Year with the resolutions to eat healthier and exercise? Come on, admit it, those two resolutions are as much a tradition for most of us as rum balls and egg nog. For the first time in a long time, I did NOT start my New Year making those promises to myself. I knew I had several days left of vacation, so I gave myself the holiday gift of Seven Additional Days, ending tonight.

Two weeks in Seattle? Five pounds.

Two weeks in Oklahoma? Five more pounds.

In case math isn’t your strong suite, that’s ten pounds I’ve put on since school started in August. Not to mention I was overweight then, too. So I guess (deep, pathetic sigh) that I’ll start tomorrow (even more pathetic sigh.)

The song from yesterday’s journal entry, “Baby Got Back”, seems fitting for this journal entry as well. Although, to be truthful, this baby has no back. I ain’t got no buns, hun. Indeed, I have a very flat butt. Pancake flat. With a huge, stretched-out, stomach. If only I could figure out a way to spin my head around and walk backwards, I’d be set, with the façade of rock-hard abs and a J-Lo booty. If only.

I haven’t been to the gym in a month. They’ve called twice, asking if I’m ok. I didn’t answer the phone. To be fair, I wasn’t home and so they left messages on my machine, but still, how embarrassing. I wonder if they’ll believe me when I tell them I couldn’t come exercise because I was trapped under my mother’s four hundred pounds of turtle candies?

Seven. Glorious. Days.

Which end at midnight.

Which is still three hours away.

Excuse me. There’s a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer with my name all over it and three hours to go. I must be going now.

PS. I answered some of the comments in yesterday's comments section .... how co-dependent is that?!? :)


It’s always a little worrisome when you pull up to the bar at 9:30 at night and there’s already someone puking in the parking lot.

But we put on our game faces and bravely marched on.

Three words sum up the highlight of the evening:

Baby. Got. Back.

No. Oh, no, it wasn’t me.

I Will Survive? Check
Love Shack? Four Non-Blondes? Check, check.
Asking total strangers to do a Summer Lovin’ duet with me? Shamefully, check. More than once.

But Baby Got Back? No, there is not enough amaretto in the world.

However, it was highly entertaining to watch.


Renee, I will miss you. Our loss is Pennsylvania’s gain. Uncle Sam? You suck. (Hey, Uncle Sam, just kidding. Keep putting that paycheck in our account each month, ok? No hard feelings, hee-hee) {giggling nervously that I just insulted my husband’s goliath employer on the internet …. }

Friday, January 05, 2007

Christmas 2006 in Photos

I thought I would leave you this weekend with a montage of our Christmas vacation, as told through pictures. Yes, I know, a journal entry comprised entirely of pictures is totally cheating, but what do you expect? I spent all day today taking down our inside Christmas decorations, and muttering under my breath about how all this shit fit into five Rubbermaid bins when we got it OUT, so why the hell won’t it fit BACK into the same five bins? Did I really buy that much stuff when the new Hobby Lobby opened in our town? Did the ornaments on the tree multiply while we slept at night, or did Rudolph and Frosty get busy behind the manger scene when we weren’t looking and reproduce all these extra snow-deer I’m finding everywhere?

(Kidding about the snow-deer. I’m pretty sure Hobby Lobby was my downfall.)

So here you go, our Christmas vacation in pictures:

For the most part, the entire trip can be divided into two parts: 1) Christmas morning at Grandma’s, and 2) The entire rest of the trip, when my kids were either at their cousins’ house, or wishing they were at their cousins’ house, or begging us to drive them over to their cousins’ house, or asking how much longer until they go to their cousins' house, etc.

The end.

My youngest nephew, Daxton. This is the one who fell off the top bunk at the lake, hit his head on the ceiling fan on the way down, and busted his elbow when he landed, requiring surgery, pins, and a cast all summer. This happened the weekend my Grandpa died, when my dad fell out of his wheelchair and I was in the emergency room with an epidural headache. We like to call him our “little good luck charm”.

What we don’t call him, as evidence by the football going right past him, is “coordinated”.

My sister and her husband own ten acres of land. Plenty of room to play football, basketball, and all other kinds of testosterone-fueled activities. I’m pretty sure Kellen has already filled out the adoption paperwork, transferring his parentage to them, just so he can stay forever at their house and play.

This is my second-oldest nephew, Landon. He and Kellen are only six weeks apart in age and were pretty much joined at the hip the entire time. We most likely won’t move home for at least another year, and Kellen has already asked me no less than two dozen times if he can be in Landon’s class at school. I’m pretty sure the boy will have an ulcer by then, worrying about it.

The sun on their faces, room to run and play, mud, trails, bonfires, horses, cats, dogs, all of which translates into lots and lots of stuff to step in …. What possibly makes boys any happier?

This is Brayden with my oldest nephew, Dalton. He recently turned eleven and I was worried the male-female dynamic might come into play and they wouldn’t want much to do with one another. Instead, he gave her the magical nod of approval by showing her where his hideout was located, and the two of them spent hours and hours and hours together.

Brayden might very well like her pink and purple clothes, and she's all about Hannah Montana, but she’s not afraid of getting dirty. And yes, the waves in her hair are natural, although I have no clue what to do with them. As if you couldn’t tell that by the way she looks most of the time.

Dalton has many interests, but his top two right now are riding his dirt-bike and wrestling. Our last night in town, he found out that if he keeps his hair this long, he’ll be required to wear a hairnet the next time he wrestles in a tournament. Something tells me the scissors will be brought out soon. Although he does look like a pretty cool biker dude for now.

Pretty much the way he would spend every minute of every day, if he could.

The only ones I don’t have pictures of are Kendrie and her 6-yr old cousin Lawson. That’s because once they re-discovered one another, they simply disappeared. For hours. Playing, laughing, exploring. I’m pretty sure she would marry him, if not for the fact its illegal. And icky. But he adores her, and I’m quite positive the feeling is mutual considering she’s cried for him every night since we left.

Once we got them in from outside, away from the dirt and mud and wind and NATURE *Kristie shudders* they cleaned up pretty nice. Here they are on Christmas Eve with their ADORABLE Santa Claus plate from Cali Ali. I’m fairly sure the California elves are done toiling away in their sweatshop workshop for this year, but if you get a chance to order a plate for next year, do. You won’t be sorry.

A new tradition we started this year, courtesy of my girlfriend Erin in Florida: planting peppermints on Christmas Eve, which magically grow into full-size candy canes by Christmas morning. Unfortunately for *some* kids, though, Santa (cough, cough) accidentally broke one of the candy canes pushing it into the ground. Ugliness and an early morning temper tantrum ensued first thing Christmas Day, even before the gifts were opened. Which, is pretty much normal for Christmas morning given the overall level of sleep-deprivation, sugar inhalation, and over-stimulation my kids endure while visiting cousins at Christmas.

These, the seven beautiful reasons I am so eager to move back home. Seven cousins, ranging in age from 4 to 11, who enjoy one another’s company more than any seven kids I’ve ever seen. They go together, like peas and carrots, like peanut butter and honey, like rambalamba lamba ga dingity ding ga dong. (Pay no attention to me; I’m simply warming up for my night of karaoke tomorrow.) But these kids really, truthfully get along well and I can’t wait to make that happen more than once or twice a year. I hope my sister feels the same way, otherwise it’s going to be like a never-ending family reunion, with one side of the family stalking the other side. (Guess which side we’ll be?)

PS. Speaking of the Christmas plates from Cali Ali, they were a fundraiser for Baby Donovan, who is having a very difficult time of things. While I'm never one to give up on a miracle, it looks like that is what it will take for him. Please visit his site and leave a note of encouragement and support for his family, who are enduring a parents' worst nightmare.

Going Blind

Blaine bought me a new computer monitor for Christmas. Not just any monitor, but a 19 inch, flat-panel monitor. 19 inches. That’s bigger than our first TV.

I’m not really sure why he bought it. I didn’t ask for it, and there was nothing wrong with our old monitor. We’re certainly not “techie” people --- we don’t buy products every time a newer version comes out. We don’t own a laptop, or a PDA, our cell phones don’t take pictures, and I happen to be perfectly happy with my 1983 dual-deck Sony boom-box that weighs approximately 52 pounds and could double as a paper weight.

For the Library of Congress.

ALL of the Library of Congress.

But regardless of our lack of appreciation for modern technological marvels, Blaine knows I spend a few quick moments each day online (ahem) and thought I would enjoy a crisper, clearer, sharper, immensely BIGGER, flatter screen. So it was a thoughtful gift, and I appreciate it.

Of course, he also bought me a new bathrobe and slippers, so what does that say about the spark of romance in our marriage? Whatever.

But I think I must be going blind.

My mom got cataract surgery last week while I was in OKC, and afterwards she kept commenting on how she didn’t realize how much she *couldn’t* see, until suddenly she *could*. For days afterwards, she was frenetically cleaning her kitchen, mumbling about how she never realized how dirty it was and how mortified she was to be living in such filth. I’m not sure what that says about Blaine and me, because we thought her kitchen was perfectly clean. But nonetheless, she suddenly could see, and she was horrified. I wonder if that’s what’s happening to me now.

This screen, my God, it’s like sitting in an Imax theater. I’m squinting, and then opening my eyes really wide, and then squinting some more because the images and letters on the screen are HUGE and seem a little 3-d-ish. Like they’re all about to jump right off the screen into my face. I’ve already gone in and reduced the font settings, and lowered both the contrast and the brightness, and changed the display colors to a soothing olive green color because looking at the default blue of Microsoft was like looking into the deep end of a very psychedelic ocean.

Is it the flat panel? Is it the 19 inches? Like my mom’s kitchen, was my old screen dirty and I just didn’t realize it? Does anyone know? (Although seriously, her kitchen was fine. I don’t even know what’s she babbling about.)

I really don’t think it’s my eyes because I had lasik four years ago and damnit, I see perfectly. I can see street signs, I can see menus, I can see the blackboard in class without any problem. Most importantly, I can see the words on a karaoke screen at ten alcohol-hazed feet, which is crucial for my plans this upcoming weekend. I can see well enough to shoot the spots off the fleas off a dog’s back at a hundred yards. Well, if I owned a gun. Or my stinky dog had fleas. Which he doesn’t.

But I really think my eyes are fine.

Why the heck is this screen so hard for me to see? It’s not crisper, or clearer, or sharper. Yes, it’s bigger, but I’m not so sure this isn’t the one time that’s not a good thing.

The good news is the flat panel screen means I now have more space on my computer desk.

The bad news is that means more of the desk is now exposed and I can see the years-old piles of dust in the corners that were hidden before.

The good news is it probably doesn’t matter about the dust, since I’m going blind anyway.

The even more good news is if the dust *does* start to bother me, Blaine also bought me a can of compressed air for Christmas.

Hmmmm. Let's review.

Computer monitor.
Compressed air.

The bad news is my husband obviously thinks I am 70 years old. So, when he buys me reading glasses next, things will actually, probably, be better.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Vacation Conversations

The plan: Blaine wanted to bring his boat home, and try to get a little Oklahoma duck hunting in while on vacation. Him driving his pickup seemed like a good idea, since it also meant we would have ample space in the bed of the truck for luggage and Christmas presents, in both directions, and, we wouldn’t have to kennel the dog since he could ride with Blaine. But the truck isn’t comfortable for long-term travel for our family of five. So the decision was made that he would drive home, bringing both his boat and what seemed like half the contents of our house, and I would fly each way with the kids.

Day before leaving on vacation to OKC:

Kristie: “I feel bad for you, having to drive fifteen hours by yourself in the truck.”
Blaine: “I feel bad for YOU, having to manage three kids and five bags on two different flights, including a layover, before arriving in OKC nine hours later.”

Day after arriving in OKC on vacation:

Kristie: “You are so lucky that you got to be by yourself those whole fifteen hours and weren’t responsible for anyone but you, and could stop when and where you wanted and didn’t have to take three kids into the bathroom stall with you every time you needed to pee.”
Blaine: “YOU are so lucky that you didn’t have to ride fifteen never-ending, butt-numbing hours in the truck with no-one but a gassy, stinky dog for company.”

Day before leaving OKC to return home:

Kristie: “I’m so jealous of you that you get another fifteen hours of peace and quiet on your drive home tomorrow.”
Blaine: “I’m so jealous of YOU that by the time you arrive home, I will be lucky to be in Birmingham and will most likely have suffocated from the stench of our malodorous farting dog by then.”

In the OKC airport this morning:

Kristie, on cell phone: “Woo-hoo! We got bumped up to first class, all four of us! Who’s the lucky one now?????”
Blaine: “God, you suck”

In the plane on the way from Memphis to Atlanta:

Kristie, in her head: “What are the odds that after being on the FIRST row of first class on the previous plane, we’re now on the BACK row of this plane, which means our seats don’t recline because we are sitting directly in front of the bathrooms, good grief, even Lager doesn’t smell this bad, and the kids are pitching an absolute fit because they want to see out the windows and naturally the windows don’t open in this row because we are sitting next to the engines, which are louder than stampeding cattle, yet still somehow don’t manage to mask the deafening snoring of the man sitting next to me ……….. Blaine so sucks.”

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Conversations in a Cemetary

Yesterday, Brayden, Kendrie, and I were driving home from some errands when Kendrie asked if we could stop by the cemetery and see my dad’s grave. My mom was waiting on me to come home and go with her and my sister to order the marker, so there’s no tombstone yet, but the “dirt-mound” of the grave is still clearly visible. Plus, in this cemetery in my small hometown, our family and extended family has an entire row that is taken up by my dad (and someday my mom), my grandparents and various aunts, uncles and cousins, so it’s always interesting to walk the row and look at the names and dates, and discuss how we’re related to each person. I'd like to think I'm giving my children a wonderful dose of family history and a sense of heritage and pride, but something tells me they're just looking at all the grass and thinking what a great place it would be to play football.

Then, at the back of the cemetery, there is a beautiful marker shaped like a piano that my kids always ask to drive by and see. So, the outing, and the drive through the cemetery, although brief, sparked conversation and questions the entire way home. And I thought I would share a few of the comments with you because quite frankly, even on the subject of death, these kids crack me up.

Kendrie: “Mom, but how do they get the people out of the ground and into the tombstones once they turn to dust?”

Kendrie: “Do they wear underwear in the tubes?”
Brayden: “They’re not called tubes, they’re called coffits.”

Brayden: “Oh, look at those two teddy bear tombstones. This must be the baby-corner of the cemetery.”

Kendrie: “Who plants the grass on the dirt over the bodies? Where's Grandpa's grass?”

And my personal favorite conversation:

Kendrie: “If the people that bury the people die, who buries them?”
Brayden: “They must just keep hiring people.”
Kendrie: “I bet they have a digging contest and whoever is the fastest wins.”
Brayden: “Yes, but probably you have to be under 40, otherwise you’re too old to dig very fast.”

Something tells me my dad was listening to all this and laughing.

Monday, January 01, 2007

No. Seriously. I'm not even kidding.

I went to the local hospital today to visit a friend who had a baby yesterday. She’s a surrogate friend, and it’s kind of a fluke that I happen to be in town during the time of her delivery, so I was excited for the opportunity to go and visit. I stopped at Target first and picked up a small gift for her, and a gift for the baby’s parents.

I don’t know if all hospitals are getting tighter with their security, especially in the wake of the baby-snatching episodes that have happened the past few years, but this one is. I had to pick up the phone in the hallway and request to be buzzed back into the Women’s Center. Here’s how the conversation went (names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Nurse on other end of phone: “Can I help you?”

Me: “I’m here to visit a patient, please.”

Nurse: “Patient’s name?”

Me: “Karen …. Um, Karen.”

Nurse: “Last name please?”

And that’s when I realized that I don’t know this girl’s last name. We’re online friends who have only met in person twice before, and although she and I chat as part of an online group every day, I couldn’t think of her last name to save my life.

Me: “Well, I can’t think of her last name; I’m sorry.”

Nurse: “Well, I’m sorry too, but you can’t come in if you don’t know her last name.”

Me: “Can’t you look up her name? She’s expecting me. I know she’d say it’s ok if I come back. She’s the girl who delivered as a surrogate yesterday. I can’t imagine you have more than one surrogate on this floor” --- and I gave a little nervous laugh, because I just know the nurse was sitting back thinking, “Oh, yeah, some friend you are, you don’t even know her last name, you baby-snatcher you.”

Nurse: “No, I’m sorry. You cannot come in if you can’t give me her name.”

OK, how embarrassing was that???

So I had to call my mom at her house, and have her look up a phone number for me, so I could call a mutual friend to get her last name. Now, I’m all for security and everything, but I felt a little silly and stupid, I must admit.

Once I got her last name, I rang the phone again and requested admission …. This time, since I knew her name, the nurse buzzed me into the center. But once I walked through the doors, I realized I didn’t know her room number, either. I’m apparently a pretty worthless lump of a friend. So I walked to the nurses’ desk and stood in line to find out the room number. Good heavens, this was getting way more complicated than it needed to be. All I wanted to do was drop off a gift and say hello!

Finally the person in front of me finished whatever they were doing, and the nurse, the same nurse I assumed had given me a hard time about gaining access, and then buzzed me in, looked up at me, holding my gift bags, and said, “Hello, do you need to sign in?"

And I thought “Wow, they really are taking security seriously around here.”

So I said yes, and started looking around for a sign in sheet.

She asked my name, and then typed it into the computer.

Not only security, but high-tech security!

Then she said, “I’m sorry, I’m not finding you in the computer. Have you been here before?”

And I sort of paused, and said, “Nooooooooooo, I mean, I’m not really sure. It’s probably been a long time, if I’m in there at all.”

To which she responded, “But have you ever delivered a baby here before?”

And I paused again, thinking what on earth does that have to do with anything, and it’s a little Big Brother-ish, and said, “No, I’m just here to visit a friend, is that really relevant?”

And she replied, just as matter-of-fact as is humanly possible, “Oh. You’re not having a baby here today?”

Are you KIDDING ME??????

Um, yeah! I’m standing here by myself, with no friends or family, holding all my clothing and toiletries and supplies for my soon-to-be-born baby in these two small GIFT BAGS! And she thought I was in labor!

You know, I get asked all the time if I’m pregnant, which I can sort of understand, even though it’s rough on the ego. I’m a little chubby, the majority of my extra weight is in my saggy, stretched-out tummy, and I prefer baggy clothes. So while I despise it, I do at least “get it” when people ask if I’m having a baby.

But to imply that I’m so fat I look nine months along???!!

It’s not like I was panting, or bent over in a contraction, or moaning in pain, or there was a baby’s HEAD coming out from between my legs or anything!

But there you have it. I am obviously so ginormous that a labor and delivery nurse thought I was nine months pregnant and about to deliver a baby. I totally should have dropped my drink on the floor and pretended like my water had just broken.

I was so stinkin’ depressed that I went to my sister’s New Years Party tonight and ate an entire shrimp ring by myself, then followed it with half a platter of fudge. Of course, those calories were directly off-set by the four diet Dr. Peppers I drank, so everyone knows they don’t count. Right?

So. Does anyone have any suggestions for the New Year for me? Gastric bypass? Having my jaw wired shut? A six-month fast at an ashram in Oregon???? BULEMIA?!?!?!?!

Good heavens. I don’t even know what to think. Besides the fact I’m apparently about to have a baby, and nobody bothered to tell ME!

Happy stinkin' New Year.