Friday, October 31, 2008

Many thanks

I just want to say thanks to all of you who took the time to answer my previous post with a kind word or comment. I always hesitate just a brief moment, finger poised above the “send” button, whenever I type a post that is that personal. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but sometimes my skin isn’t the thickest, and I worried a little bit that I would come across as selfish in that entry …. Wanting to have my cake and eat it, too. Thank you all for understanding that sometimes pursuing one route to happiness means eliminating another, and even smart decisions can be bittersweet.

What really validated me were the replies I got from the group of surrogate-girlfriends I’ve had for the past eight years. (Hello, Facebook, not such a worthless time suck after all!) Several of them find themselves in the same place as me …. Two or three surrogacies under their belt, and perhaps considering “retirement” for one reason or another, but not real happy about it. It was helpful to hear that my feelings are normal. Or maybe not normal, but at least my friends are having the same ones, so we can all be crazy together!

The comment that resonated most with me was from my friend Deb, who has carried twins – three times. (yeah, I know, you do the math and NOT be amazed!) She said:

“Obviously I know exactly how you feel. It truly is addicting. It is a huge commitment of time, physically and emotionally. We've done an amazing thing (x3!!) and we should be able to move on from here. I know we're moms & wives, and that is the most important thing we've done with our lives, but for so long my identity was being a surrogate.. So it is what it is. I'm retired. Now what?”

Exactly that, Deb, exactly what you said.

Obviously (why, silver lining, there you are!) there are perks to no longer considering surrogacy. I drove past the blood bank the other day and realized I could donate blood anytime I want, a freedom I haven’t had for quite a few years …. I sorted through heavy Rubbermaid bins in my garage (looking for the freaking Halloween decorations … has anyone seen my big tin pumpkin? I know it’s here somewhere!) and the lifting and pushing and pulling didn’t require me to call Blaine for the heavy work as it has many times in the past …. The bazillion flights of stairs I climbed at Great Wolf Lodge last weekend would have been out of the question … as would the water rides themselves, had I been pregnant ….. I can DRINK whenever I want now -- because I’m *such* a heavy drinker … {eye roll} …. And best of all, I’ve always said when I was done I would be taking a long-awaited and highly-anticipated vacation with my friends Nip and Tuck … so there’s that to look forward to.

So, good things, and sad.

And in the vein of never say never, I’m not ruling it out entirely. You never know what God might throw in your lap, right? So I’ll wait, and think some more. And who knows what might happen?

But for now, I’m coming to peace with it. Or at least trying to.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A difficult decision

And no, it’s not a post about the merits of chocolate chip vs macadamia nut, although I have given the topic serious deliberation at times in my life …..

Most of you that read on this site know that I have been a surrogate in the past. Three times, in fact. The first time, delivering a baby girl in May of 2002, was an incredible blessing for me. I knew before I was even half way done with the pregnancy that I wanted to do it again. I chronicled that journey here on this site and it was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The second time, in Aug of 2003, I delivered twin boys for another wonderful couple. That experience, also, was a joyful, blessed event for me, even if it did leave me stretch marks on my stretch marks. It always cracks me up when people comment on what a “giving” thing it is for me to do …. When really, the happiness and fulfillment these families give me, by allowing me to share this miracle with them, is almost impossible to put into words. Again, I knew I wanted to repeat my surrogate experience, before I had even delivered the twins, and couldn’t wait to get started on my third journey.

Odd as it might sound, surrogacy is addicting. I mean, what greater adrenaline rush can there be than helping form families by bringing babies into the world? Not everyone can do it … not everyone even remotely WANTS to do it. But for me, those experiences have been second only to the happiness my own children bring me.

Six weeks after the twins were born, Kendrie was diagnosed with leukemia, and all surrogacy plans were put on indefinite hold. I waited a year and half before even considering starting again, and only then with the total and complete blessing of her oncologist. It took seven months, from the time I met my couple, until the day we found out we were expecting. At that point, Kendrie was only a few months from finishing her treatment, and the pregnancy went along smoothly. A 10 pound, 2 ounce, bouncing baby boy was the result in May of 2006. (I mention his weight every chance I get because holy Stromboli, that was one big baby I pushed out of my bagina!!)

And even then, after that delivery, I still didn’t feel …. Done. Finished. Like I was *through* with surrogacy. I was healthy, I had easy pregnancies, and I love it so much, why not do it as many times as I’m able? So I was very excited to start on my fourth surrogacy attempt, a sibling project with the twins’ parents. They had frozen embryos left from when we got pregnant with the boys, and after the high-caliber success of that journey, we just knew we would be pregnant in no time.

We did our legal work, medical testing, psych testing, etc, and were excited for our first transfer last fall. I didn’t really mention on this blog about the fact we had what is called a blighted ovum (a sac that attaches to the uterine wall, but then doesn’t grow anything in it) and subsequent miscarriage. I had never had a miscarriage in my life, and naturally, we were all very sad. It’s a fact of life, however, in the world of artificial reproduction, that not every attempt will work, every time. So we chalked it up to unfortunate statistics, and geared up for round two. Except, well, about then is when we moved to OKC, then the fertility clinic closed down for the holidays last year. So it wasn’t until early this past spring we were able to try again. Much to our delight, the transfer went as planned, the pregnancy tests were positive and the first ultrasound showed a perfect looking sac. Then, to our dismay, another miscarriage a week or so later.

Lots and lots and lots of testing later, it was suggested by the fertility doctor that my couple try their last remaining embryos with a different surrogate. I won’t lie, I was hurt by her recommendation. And baffled. I’ve been a surrogate three times … and carried twins for this very couple …. How could I suddenly be unqualified to be their surrogate??

I consider this couple to be friends, and have seen first-hand what wonderful parents they are. Of course I want it to work for them, and wish them only the best as they follow the doctor’s advice and try again with a new surrogate.

But still …. Ouch.

I talked to my own doctor about whether in his opinion I was a suitable candidate to carry again …. He said I was. I talked to Blaine about whether I wanted to try it again, starting from scratch with a new couple, or if I should take the doctor’s comments to heart and consider myself “unfit”. He said (spineless jelly fish that he is) that whatever I wanted to do was fine. If I want to try again, he knows how much it means to me and he’ll support that. If I don’t want to try again, that it’s ok to stop and be grateful for the three families I’ve been able to help.

The thing is, I still don’t feel done. I truly believe in my heart that I have the physical and emotional capacity to help another family with their miracle. And after three successful journeys, I certainly don’t want to end on such a negative note. But, it’s time to be realistic, as well.

I doubt everyone realizes the work that goes into being a surrogate. It’s not just that you decide to do it, have a few doctor’s appointment, and BAM! Nine months later a baby pops out.

It’s months and months and potentially even more months of legal contracts and medical testing and practice runs and scheduling issues before you even get to transfer. I would say on average, it’s six months to a year of “prep” work to get there. Then, every time a transfer is unsuccessful, it’s another two or three months before you can try again. Every miscarriage can add several months. And of course, don’t forget the nine months of actual pregnancy. It’s a very exciting, very thrilling, very frustrating period of hurry up and wait. Wait to find the perfect couple, wait on the lawyers, wait to get your appointments, wait to take your tests, wait to get test results, wait to get approval, wait to get your meds, wait to see if everyone is responding to meds properly, wait to see how the egg retrieval goes, wait to see if the embryos thaw properly, wait to see if you’re pregnant, wait to see if the pregnancy sticks ….. And when it works … when everything little piece of the puzzle finally fits together and the stars and planets align and CLICK, a baby is the end result ---- and you get to be present when the baby is handed to his parents for the very first time, and they look at his beautiful face, and then look over and thank you for helping make it happen ---- it’s one of the most magical things on earth.

See why I would want to do it over and over and over?

The thing is, though, that entire time … through all that waiting …. You are at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. The doctors, the clinics, your couple, the egg donors, your own body, etc. Sometimes you have to drop everything and be free to travel; sometimes you are not ALLOWED to travel. You are not allowed to leave the country at all, and not allowed to leave the state in the third trimester. Since we have a cruise planned for next summer, I knew I would have to wait until after that trip before I could try and get pregnant again.

But I had decided that yes, I did want to try again. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of how much I want to be a part of one more miracle. I’m capable … I’m willing …. I’m RIGHT HERE, let’s have another baby for someone!

Then earlier this month I went to Outdoor School with Kellen. That’s something I couldn’t have done if I’d been pregnant … too physical. And I commented to one of the teachers, who has a son the same age as Kellen and a daughter the same age as Kendrie, that in only two more years we’ll get to come back to Outdoor School with our girls. And she reminded me that before that, our boys will take a trip to Florida with the school next year, and we can go as chaperones. And my first thought was, “Ohhhh, fun!” And my second thought was, “Oh, wait, what if I’m pregnant and can’t leave the state?”

So I came home from Outdoor School and sat down with a calendar. And planned out every potential overnight trip or family vacation or school trip for the next three years, that could NOT be done pregnant.

With my first couple, it was eighteen months, start to finish, from the time I first met them until I delivered. My second surrogate journey happened at the speed of lightning, but still, it was almost a year from start to finish. My third journey was again, eighteen months. Since there is no promise that things will run according to schedule, and no guarantee that you will get pregnant on the first attempt, you have to be honest about your time table and what you can and cannot do.

And I was a little stunned, and a lot discouraged, to realize there is no block of time for me in the next three years where I can make it happen, without giving up something with my family. Postponing a vacation, or NOT going on a school trip as a chaperone.

I’ve missed a lot through the years, as a surrogate. I’ve missed baseball games and soccer games and holiday parties at school and birthday parties. And I didn’t mind …. When my kids were younger, those activities happened often enough that missing one or two wasn’t the end of the world. I missed getting to be with Blaine when he got radiation in Seattle because of a surrogacy … both when I was pregnant and not allowed to leave the state of Georgia, and after I delivered, when an epidural headache had me flat on my back and unable to board an airplane. And certainly, Blaine is a big boy and he survived without me. But still.

And, as my kids get older, I see these opportunities to be an active part of their lives coming along, and I don’t want to miss out. I want to take them out of the country on a cruise … I want to take them RV’ing to the Grand Canyon …. I want to take them to see Niagara Falls … I want to be able to go to Florida with Kellen, and Outdoor School with Kendrie, and wherever Brayden winds up going as well. I want to be able to do all those things without planning it around a very-temporary and precarious pregnancy calendar, that potentially can stretch out for a year … or year and a half … or even two years or more, depending on how things go.

Blaine’s cancer coming back again has reminded me that I need to be fully present for my kids. Chasing after toddlers while pregnant --- although tiring --- is doable. Chasing after pre-teens, when you want to go with them places, and travel --- is not as doable. Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow, and blah-blah-sappy-sappy-stuff about making the most of today. Me being pregnant -- getting pregnant – recovering from being pregnant – wasn’t that big of a deal when they were little and **I** was the boss of their schedules. But they are older now, and if I have to choose ……COULD I make it work? Probably. Could I make it work and be fully present in everything I want? Realistically, no. I think, unless I am willing to give up something with my family, that it’s time to let go of my dream of being a surrogate again.

Even if my heart breaks a little bit every time I imagine never doing it again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What did you say again???

The other day, Kendrie brought home from school two little paper dolls ... or something .... that they used for a math game ... I think. I wasn't really sure ... she was just talking and talking ..... Obviously, I was paying very close attention when she emptied her bookbag and showed me.

A few minutes later, as I stood in the kitchen making dinner, she sat at the table behind me, playing with the dolls.

I heard the following words come out of her mouth: "You are total sexy, and fine!"

My head swiveled around .... "WHAT did you just say????"

She looked up at me, the picture of innocence, and replied, "Twenty-six, and five. The numbers on my math dolls."

I looked more closely, and sure enough, those numbers were written on the dolls.

Oh ... um.... never mind. My bad.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Proud Parenting Moment

"You're all ungrateful little brats and I'm sick of it!"

In the car.

On the way TO CHURCH.

Dear Landon,

Have I mentioned how much you totally rock?

This was your first year to play football -- ever -- and I've got to admit, when your mom told me you were going to play, my first thought was, "Hmmmm. Really? Landon???"

Not because you don't like sports --- you do. And not because you're not athletic --- you are. I've certainly watched enough of your baseball and basketball games this past year to know you were physically capable of playing.

It was more your temperament that had me a little surprised you wanted to play football. I mean, you're a great kid, no question about it .... but you're sort of laid back. Quiet. Some would even call you shy or reticent.

Apparently, those traits fall FAR by the wayside on the football field, and I shouldn't have worried at all. I mean, what happened to the kid who doesn't have a mean bone in his body? Who gently collects every lizard and spider he catches as a pet? Who rarely speaks up, or has never voiced an opinion in front of me? You know, "The Quiet One", as I always called you .....

Look at you ... you're all up in his grill.

And all up in *his* grill ....

And all, "dude, if I catch you, I'm going to totally be up in **your** grill" ...

And then all, "no way are you getting up in MY grill" ....

I mean, you came alive on the football field this year. Who knew??? But I'm so very proud of you, and am thrilled you found yet another sport you enjoy.

You rock, little man, and Aunt Kristie loves you for it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


To the Julie that left a comment about what to do in bricktown with kids .... please either e-mail me ( or leave *your* e-mail address in the comments section so I can respond to you ... I do have some suggestions!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dear Dalton,

Have I mentioned how much you totally rock?

This was your second year of middle school football ... the first year where your team actually played games against other schools.

You're not the tallest boy on the team, obviously. You're also not the heaviest.

You might, however, be the one who is enjoying himself most.

You are always -- ALWAYS -- excited for practice, and games, and give it 150 percent. Even the coaches say you are an ideal player .... Twelve years old, and 72 pounds of pure heart.

Never giving up, never quitting, never complaining. Which is good, considering it was sort of a rough season for you boys. But I admired your attitude and perseverance.

I also admired how you were always willing to do whatever the coaches asked you to do .... whether that was play defense, trying to take down boys much larger than you (thank goodness you're so speedy!) or play offense, hoping for that touchdown pass to come your way ....

Mainly, I admired that after last night's game ... the last of the season ... even though your team got creamed, you came off the field and said simply, "That was fun; I just love playing." The size of your attitude is what matters, dude, and yours is without a doubt big enough that it will take you places.

You rock, little man, and Aunt Kristie loves you for it.

PS. You look awfully cute in your uniform, too, but I would never embarrass you by saying that out loud.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I can't believe I'm going to tell you this ....

Yesterday, I was putting on a pair of jeans and thought I should depress myself further by looking at my rear in the mirror. You know the trick, right? You stand with your back to your "big" mirror, then hold a hand-mirror strategically over your shoulder so you can get the full view. Which is an unfortunate thing to do, and every time I do it I think "holy cow, my butt is even bigger than before" (or, as I was told by a professional yesterday, I have the genetic tendency to gain weight in unfortunate places .... um, thanks???)

So anyway, I was doing the whole backwards-mirror-depressing thing when suddenly I noticed a spot on my elbow. Sort of like a bruise, or an indention ... or maybe a deformity. And I (honest to Pete, I so totally did this) laid the mirror down on the bathroom counter and tried to look at my elbow by twisting my arm around. Did you know it is pretty much impossible to actually LOOK at your own elbow? But because I had forgotten that, I (again, no lie) starting turning around in circles, like a dog chasing my tail, trying to see whatever calamity had befallen my poor elbow.

Finally I realized how idiotic I looked, and that it was never going to work, so I grabbed the handmirror, and came to the conclusion that my "deformity" was nothing more than a crease from where I had been leaning my lower arms on the hard plastic armrests of my computer chair.

And after I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have elbow-cancer or anything, the thought that honest-to-goodness went through my head was, "I'm so glad nobody saw me do that."

Famous last words, right?

Later in the day I stopped at our local grocery store to pick up .... I don't even remember what. And as I walked from my car to the front doors, I glanced up and noticed my reflection. And as I walked right up to the entrance door, I got a *really* good look at the saddlebags on my thighs.

No lie, I sort of paused right there, a foot from the front door, in shock at how big my thighs are. (That's the part of our bodies we call saddlebags, yes? The poochy-out part of our upper, outer legs .... right?) So without even thinking about it I sort of slapped my upper thigh, and then shook it around a little bit, and said to myself in the reflecting door ... "My gosh, has my metabolism completely stopped??? .... and shook my head in disgust and walked into the store .....

where Kendrie's little friend Matt and his dad were in the check-out line right in front of the door, watching my insane-ness the entire time.

Egads. I'm going to go live in a cave somewhere and quit interacting with humans. A cave where no mirrors or reflective doors are allowed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


You know how sometimes in life you hang on to things, or ideas or beliefs, even when you can't remember why? You have no idea how a silly little tradition even started, yet it continues? Like wearing a favorite shirt on Fridays, or eating all your fruit before your meat, or obsessively lining all your canned goods up facing frontwards in your pantry (not that I know anyone who would be **that** anal-retentive ... ahem) or whatever ....

My silly tradition is the number 37. I have said for years that it was my favorite, lucky number, although I have no idea why. In fact, I've said it for so long that even though I no longer believe it to be true, I feel a certain loyalty to good ole' 37, and I notice it all the time now .... on signs, in stories, whatever. I always scroll to number 37 on a list, or select 37 if given a choice, etc. Goofy, I know, but there you go.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I put a widget on this blog for people to sign up as "Followers" of Not Quite. Sort of a neat little tool, over there on the right hand side, showing thumbnail pictures of the people kind enough to let me know they visit here, and also letting the rest of us check out their blogs, as well. I love it, because it's an easy way for me to quickly click on other people's blogs and check up on them (and yep, I do it a lot, although I'm pretty guilty of lurking, if I'm being honest.)

Naturally, I noticed the day my 37th regular follower showed up ... although if I count backwards now she is no longer 37 (does that mean someone already signed up, then dropped off my blog???? Wow, that's humbling) she was definitely the 37th to sign up, so I'd like to introduce all of you to her today:

Lucky #37 was Marci, of The Crazy Connell Family and Our Daily Lives. I've "known" Marci for years now through this insane contraption called the Internet. She and her fellow Prayer Bears followed Kendrie during her Caringbridge days, and were always kind enough to stop by and let us know they were keeping her in their thoughts and prayers during her leukemia treatment. Marci was kind enough to follow me over here to this blog, and let me peek in on her life -- and her beautiful daughters -- through a blog of her own. I *think* you have to have a Blogger ID to view her site, but I hope if you do, that you will. (huh? did that even make sense?) I'm also glad she's so laid back, since I totally just posted the link to her site without asking her first.

\\waves to Marci: hi! total internet transgression! hope you'll forgive me and look the other way!/>

So Marci, thanks for being such a great support to our family through the years. And thanks to the rest of you, #1 - 45, who signed up here as well. Your happy smiling faces on the sidebar of my site give me a happy, smiling face as well. :) (See? There it is!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blaine Update

Well …. Good and bad, I suppose.

Bad simply in the fact that yep, he’s getting radiation to his head, and naturally that comes with side effects. He’s starting to get that burned feeling, both inside and out, and his pain medication isn’t giving him near the relief it normally does.

He’s fatigued, and says vacuuming the living room yesterday about wiped him out. (I know! You’d think I would have offered to vacuum it myself, wouldn’t you? But …. Um ….. it’s character building. Yeah, that’s it. It helps him to feel useful. ) (And, to be honest, I was sucked into Facebook for most of the afternoon …..)

One of the radiation beams is sort of “nicking” the bottom of his right eye and he feels like there is a constant piece of grit in his eye that he can’t get rid of. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But it’s driving him crazy and will most likely not go away until this is over.

But --- the good news. The fatigue has actually led to him taking a few afternoon naps, and considering he sleeps so little normally, I think it’s great his body is trying to get the rest it needs to heal. (No, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv. But anytime you can take a nap, it’s a good thing, right? That’s my motto, anyway.)

He got his first case of supplemental nutrition delivered. It was the wrong kind, sadly, and will have to be returned, but hey! At least we know the paperwork red tape is moving.

He started convalescent leave today. He had really hoped to work all the way through, and it just didn’t happen. In a way, it’s discouraging …. And in another way, how moronic was it of us to think radiation --- REPEAT RADIATION --- to his HEAD --- wouldn’t cause him any problems?

Sometimes optimism can be a tricky thing.

Someone expressed surprise to me last week when I mentioned these problems were chronic and ongoing. Five and a half years since his initial diagnosis, fifteen (16? 17? Who the hell can even keep track?) surgeries later, an MRSA-staph infection where he almost lost his leg, total oral reconstruction, and over 60 rounds of radiation ….. and this person acted shocked to think Blaine might have permanent complications. It was definitely a “no shit, Sherlock” moment. I try not to be all gloom-and-doom when people ask about Blaine because my gosh, that will bore the pants off anyone. But maybe I’m not doing an honest job of reporting things, either.
I’ll have to think about that.

Best news of all?

Radiation is half-over.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I struggle to find time to update this blog. I haven't scrapbooked in months. My house is in disarray, I haven't put up the Halloween decorations yet, my library books are overdue and not yet read, and the laundry piles are about to overtake the family.

So what's a smart time-management strategy?

Why, join Facebook, of course.

And spend hours looking for old military friends, old co-workers, and people I haven't talked to since elementary school.

What a time-suck.


But guess what? I found the boy everyone had a crush on at 7th grade church camp!! (and no, I did *not* send him a friends request.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Rules

Rules for enjoying Fall Break at Great Wolf Lodge and Indoor Water Park in Texas:

Rule #1: When you invite your mother to go with your family, since your husband can't go (pesky darn radiation treatments ....) make sure she actually realizes you are staying three days, and not two. Otherwise there might possibly be a clean underwear dilemma.

Rule #2: There is no graceful, lady-like way for climbing into the back half of a two-person float tube. Just spread your legs, pull down your swimsuit, go for it and enjoy yourself without shame.

Rule #3: When your brother-in-law climbs the stairs to ride the same toilet-bowl slide that you are already in line for, and he's four or five people behind you, do not turn around and say "Hey, good looking" unless you want the gentleman in between you to assume you are talking to him. (Funnily enough, he didn't appear to know whether to be flattered, or horrified.)

We have 48 more hours to go .... I'm sure plenty more rules will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

High maintenance

"My life is obviously filled with stress."

"Clearly, I am riddled with anxiety."

"Now, could someone pass me a doggie biscuit, please?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bread and Water

Hmmm. I have no good explanation for why some of you see green and some of you see blue. I get green on my desktop, and blue on laptop, yet they are both Dell. It doesn’t seem to be a Mac vs. PC issue, or a browser issue (maybe???) or a green eyes vs blue eyes issue (although that suggestion made me laugh). It’s bizarre, isn’t it? But, since the positive comments outnumbered the negative comments about ten to one, I’m going to leave it as is. (Actually, I’m going to leave it as is because I’m too lazy to dink around with changing it …… )

Now, on to more pressing matters. Like the state of my refrigerator.

The thing you need to know is, we are out of food at our house. Out of food in a yes-I’ll-use-the-heel-of-the-bread-for-toast kind of way. Normally, I go to the grocery store once a month, around the 15th. I make a huge, ginormous, three-carts-full-of-food trek to the commissary, and the pantry is overloaded for a few weeks. But I didn’t go in September because I was just back from the cruise and feeling overwhelmed, plus we had all that meat we had cooked and frozen from when the freezer door was left open, so I figured we were fine for a few weeks. Then I didn’t go on the 1st because I was headed to camp with Kellen, so I just made a quick trip to stock up on milk and bread and toilet paper and cereal, and decided we could manage two more weeks …. It would just require a little creative cooking on my part.

It wasn’t a problem, until yesterday. Yesterday morning we used the last two pieces of bread (yes, the heels) for toast. And I had a huge crockpot full of psuedo-homemade chicken noodle soup** on, so decided I would use my bread maker to make psuedo-homemade bread (because it’s common knowledge you can’t properly eat chicken noodle soup without lots and lots of bread to sop up the juices … no, I have no idea why I have a weight problem.)

So. That gives you the background to my story.

When I got home from taking the kids to piano lessons, Blaine said, “The school called and said Brayden’s lunch account is at zero.”

“That can’t be right,” I replied. “I just put $35 in each of their accounts on the first.”

“Well, that’s what they said.”

“They must have put her money into Kellen or Kendrie’s account by mistake. I’ll go talk to them tomorrow.”

Then I got to thinking …. “Brayden, you know how we told you that once a week you could buy a special lunch from the fast-food vendors? But the rest of the week you have to buy the regular (ie, cheaper) school lunch? Have you bought anything besides fast food? Or have you bought it more than once a week?”

And she said, “Only one time. I bought an extra drink.”

So I turned to Blaine and said, “I’ll go talk to the lunch people tomorrow and ask to see her account. I’m sure they put the money on the wrong account.”

Then Brayden said, sort of hesitantly, “Weeellllll, I *might* have bought some pizza one day. Or maybe two days.”

And I looked at her.

“Oh, *really* ??? And is there anything else I should know about, before I go in there tomorrow and accuse them of messing up their accounting???”

“Well,” she started stammering, “It’s just that everyone else buys a special lunch every day. And I’m the only kid in the entire sixth grade that has to buy a boring plain lunch, and so I bought other stuff like everyone else.”

And basically, she blew through $35 in less than two weeks.

OK, so, not the end of the world, right? I’m sure most kids do this sort of thing when they first get some credit in their possession, and haven’t quite mastered money-management skills. In fact, my nephew did the exact same thing last year when *he* was in sixth grade, and fast food lunches were an option for the first time. So I really wasn’t that upset about it, just resigned to the fact that this is one of life’s little teaching moments, and a good opportunity to educate her about consequence.

“Well, honey, I’m sorry, but if you’ve already spent all the money I put in your lunch account for the month, you’ll have to take your lunch from home the rest of the month. So I suggest you go in there right now and take a look at what you want to make yourself in the morning.”

She replied, hopefully, “Could you go buy me a bunch of Lunchables to take?”

And I sort of laughed as I said, “No, me going to the store and buying you a bunch of stuff to take pretty much defeats the purpose. If you want Lunchables, I'll take you to the store and you can buy them with your own money. Or you can spend your own money at school. Or, you can go through the pantry like a normal person and make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

At which point Blaine so tactfully pointed out …. “Um, we don’t have any bread.”

And I sort of sighed and said, “Fine, then she can make a sandwich with some of the psuedo-homemade bread that will be left-over after dinner. It’ll be a sandwich like Pa Ingalls used to eat, with huge slabs of homemade bread.”

Only …. Well ….. I guess maybe the yeast was outdated or something, because my “light and airy and delicious” loaf of homemade bread was short and squatty and dense as a rock, and had about as much flavor as a rock would have, too.


So last night saw me at our local grocery store, buying bread. And some pretzels. And some Oreos, because my gosh, the girl’s got to take her lunch for two solid weeks, which is a lot by our standards, so I figured a few Oreos wouldn’t hurt.

But I drew the line at Lunchables.

**Recipe for psuedo-homemade chicken noodle soup

Combine in crockpot:

6 oz pkg Wyler’s Mrs. Grass Hearty Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup Mix

1 can Campbell’s double-noodle chicken noodle soup

1 pkg boneless skinless chicken breasts, boiled (baked, whatever) and cut into bite-size pieces

9 cups water

Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quick Question

OK, as you probably noticed (or not) I changed the layout/background on this blog a few weeks ago. To be honest, I can't even remember why I did it .... I know there was a reason ... something to do with Blogger .... holy cow, I'm pre-senile-dementia.

Anyway, who cares why? Not me.

My quick question is this: when I selected the new layout, I chose a green-ish color template. Not quite olive-y, but one which I found not-terribly-jarring to the eyes, and thankfully *didn't* look like a graphics program had thrown up on my screen. (Much like Kendrie's little boyfriend threw up in my car on the way home from the amusement park yesterday ... but, that's another story for another day.)

But when I brought up Not Quite on my laptop yesterday, the template was as wedgewood-y blue as I've ever seen.

So let me ask you: When you bring up this site, is the background green or blue? Or otherwise?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

And so it begins

Actually, it began thee or four days ago, but because I am a procrastinator, and grumpy, and one of those head-in-the-sand people who believes if I just ignore a problem it will go away on its own, I haven’t mentioned it yet. But I guess the time is here to let you know that Blaine? Feels pretty much like lukewarm dog shit.

Some of the typical side effects from this kind of radiation can include dry mouth and pain. He not only has both of those, but has the bonus of a lovely thrush infection as well. His sleep, which is crappy even on a good night, has been interrupted even further by the chronic burning in the spots being radiated. He asked me last night – rhetorically, of course – "how can a teeny tiny laser like that make you feel so crummy?” Unfortunately, my Cancer Caregiving for Dummies book provides no easy answers. We remind each other to be grateful for modern medicine, in spite of the drawbacks of treatment. It’s sort of a play on the old adage: “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” We’ve revised the saying for our own needs: “That which hopefully saves you makes you feel crappy in the meantime, so just suck it up and be thankful this option even exists.”

I know he’s disappointed that the effects are happening more quickly this go round. When he had five weeks of radiation in 2006, he felt pretty decent until week 4-ish. This time, he started hurting after only one week, and its getting consistently worse each day. At this point, he has four and a half weeks to go. His goal of working all the way through treatment is not looking likely. I reminded him that it’s probably to be expected, considering two of the areas they are radiating have already been radiated. It’s not like the tissue on that side of his head is healthy and normal to being with.

But still ---- discouraging. Disheartening. Probably a few more “d” adjectives I could share if I wasn’t too lazy to open a thesaurus.

My decision to stay home this weekend and skip my trip to Chicago was the right one. Could he have managed the kids in my absence? Yes. Would he have felt good doing it? No. And would I have enjoyed myself while I was gone, knowing he was struggling back home?

Would I?

(crickets chipring)

Heck yeah, who am I kidding? I *still* would have had a great time, because that’s how shallow I am. But I’m relieved I stayed home, because it makes things easier on him. And that’s the sort of thing a caring, compassionate wife would do. Not that I’m necessarily caring and compassionate …. Just that I’m racking up some major brownie points for later!

We still are thankful for the many blessings being thrown our way. First and foremost, the large number of people who are praying for his recovery. If you could add “strength to feel as good as possible during treatments,” it would be most appreciated.

Also, I normally avoid talking about money on this site because it makes me feel skeevy, but the Air Force has agreed to provide his supplemental nutrition for the next few months while he’s undergoing treatment. That’s something that has come out of our own pocket for the past two years –- and we’ve done so happily because it makes him feel one hundred percent better -- but even a few months worth is a bonus, so we’ll take it, and gladly.

His boss, who has been incredibly understanding during this.

The pain management doctor in San Antonio, who not only confirmed that Blaine’s current pain management program is perfectly acceptable, but who expressed disbelief that anyone here would even question it, thereby making Blaine feel validated and not like some low-life-drug-seeking-scum-bucket like the doctors and pharmacists here make him feel. (Oh, hello, Mr. run-on sentence.)

And …. Um …. Milk Duds. I’m very grateful for Milk Duds.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

She might not always get it right ....

Assignment: create a board game based on the 6th grade English book report, and draw scenes from the book to decorate the board game. Brayden's book had a graveyard scene.

She might not always get it right, but she tries hard, and sure makes me smile.

Man, I love that kid.

The Biggest Whiniest Loser

OK, not to diminish or take away anything that anyone has accomplished, because holy cow, thirty or forty pounds in four weeks is amazing, and those people are working their tails off, quite literally, while I do nothing more than sit on the sofa and operate the remote control and continue my non-stop anxiety-related-stress-eating of chocolate chip cookie dough, so really, who am I to belittle anyone, but with all that said ..........................

Holy cow, are there a lot of stinking crybabies on that show this season or what?!?!

It's "being voted off a weight loss show" ..... it's NOT "discovering your home was lost in a hurricane" or "finding out a loved one has cancer" or for pete's sake, it's not even "backing over your dog with your car."

I understand the concept of drama and ratings .... but for the love of all that is holy, stop with the whining and crying already. I'm so annoyed I can't even enjoy my cookie dough.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tri, Tri again

So, what's the most obvious choice of something you should do after spending three days at Outdoor Camp .... three days of hiking and walking and fishing and canoeing and physical activity after physical activity after physical activity ... followed by late night clandestine underwear-up-the-flagpole activities, and early mornings, and did we mention the sheer exhaustion that followed? (Oh, wait. Maybe the exhaustion was only the grownups.)

The most obvious thing to do?

Get up the next morning at 5:30 am to compete in a triathlon, of course!

After watching his cousins take part in a triathlon earlier this summer, Kellen immediately announced he wanted to compete in one as well. When I expressed concern about his swimming abilities(or lack thereof) (hey, 125 yards is a long way if you're not Michael Phelps) Kellen tried to squash my doubts with the bold proclamation, "Mom, we went swimming almost every day this summer!" He didn't seem to understand that "sliding down water tubes" and "floating the lazy river" and "bouncing in an inner tube in the wave pool" don't *quiiiiiiiite* count as true aquatic training.

But I decided to let him try, knowing full well that if things got too rough, the lifeguards could throw him a floatie.

I watched as his cousin handled the swim without any real duress:

Then as his younger cousin managed fine as well (although, ok, maybe there *was* a little bit of kickboard action involved, but after one lap he tossed it back up to the official as if to say, "Pfffft, don't waste my time!"):

And overall, Kellen manged the swim without too much trouble. I do think he was a little shocked at how far five laps of the pool can be, when "noodle races" is as competitive and fast as you've ever gone beforehand ....

Then, as he got out of the pool, I noticed how red his face was. I also noticed that it appears as though we don't feed the boy.

And then I quit worrying about his skinny arms and legs and took a good hard look at his face. I mean, seriously. I was worried he was going to have a stroke, right there at the side of the pool.

Then, thank goodness, the swim was over. Time to move on to the bike, the part of the competition that Kellen predicted he would enjoy much more. By then, I was just glad that drowning was no longer a possibility. And you can see his grandma cheering him on in the background. Who says triathlons aren't a family sport???

Because of the staggered starts, you have no idea how the boys (and girls) are actually doing. I was trying to get photos of everyone, Kellen, his two cousins, and the two friends who had joined us, but at one point we had kids on the bike path, already running, and still in the pool. Things got a little hectic, to say the least, and I spent quite a bit of time running (code for huffing and puffing) back and forth).

I was very impressed to see my nephew running, and managing to hydrate himself, at the same time. Obviously, he doesn't get his coordination from *my* side of the family, or he would have fallen down at that point. Twice during the race, as I ran from pool to transition area to finish line, I stepped in potholes and almost fell down myself. (Sadly, I am not exaggerating.)

My other nephew, despite swimming for 125 yards, biking for over three miles, and running for just over a mile, *still* managed to turn it on in the last hundred yards and give the guy ahead of him a good little footrace. You can tell by the look on that poor kid's face he has no idea my nephew is about to blow by him and finish the race in front. On a side, note, where on earth do these kids get this kind of energy??? Are they all on speed and I just don't know it??? You can also see my oldest nephew running alongside, giving encouragement. Bare-footed. My gosh, orphans, all of them.

And here, a photo of what might have been the first-ever spontaneous display of brotherly love and congratulations ..... I'm just glad I got a picture of it, since it might never happen again:

Kellen had the same weird, freaky, burst-of-energy at the end and finished his run in a sprint. Don't these kids know to slow down and smile at the camera at this point??? At least we know the mile and a half he runs every night at soccer practice is paying off. I was exhausted just trying to keep up with all of them with my camera ....

And in the end, they all agreed it was worth it, and they can't wait to do the next one, as well. Especially the younger cousin, who won 1st place in his age division, proudly wore his winners medal to school the next day, and is fairly confident the Olympic committee will be calling soon. And, just think how good they all could have done, if any of them actually knew the proper way to swim and breathe at the same time! Thankfully, this youth triathlon season is over, so it won't be until May before the next one is held. Thank goodness, too ... I think I'll need that time to recover.

Monday, October 06, 2008

That’s not what I was upset about

Dear Family Practice Clinic that values my business according to the sign on the wall,

I am writing to let you know I spent a little time in your waiting room today, and perhaps had a sour look on my face, which could probably have been attributed to many things --- but to clarify:

I was not upset about the fact that although your voice mail says your office opens at 8am, that no-one actually answered your phone until 8:17am. I know this to be true because I called every 30 seconds starting at 7:59am. Thank goodness for the redial button.

I was not upset about the fact that once your automated system *finally* picked up my call, it was another ten minutes before I got to talk to a real, live person.

I was not upset about the warning that the wait for a same-day-work-in appointment might be long. I worked for three years in a Family Practice clinic, and I understand what Monday mornings can be like. In fact, considering there was no blood, chest pain, or eye injury involved, I was pretty impressed that you were even willing to give us a same-day appointment at all.

No, really, I wasn’t upset about the first hour we sat in your waiting room because hey, you warned us.

I wasn’t upset about the fact that there were no restrooms attached to your waiting room. I found it odd, but I wasn’t upset about it.

I was perhaps a teensy bit upset about the second hour we sat in your waiting room, especially when I was told that our name had been called half an hour earlier, apparently when we were across the lobby in the bathroom, especially considering we TOLD the receptionist where we were going and she obviously forgot to tell the nurse so our file folder went back to the back of the line.


No, what upset me was the fact that for the entire two hours we were sitting in your waiting room, you left the television turned to a PBS documentary about the life cycle of the poisonous American mushroom, and told us it couldn’t be changed.


Do you really think my nine-year old daughter gives a rat’s ass about mushrooms? Don’t you think it might have been even remotely helpful to have put the television on Disney or Nickelodeon or for goodness’ sake, even the Today Show would have been more interesting. And for a large portion of that time we were the only people *in* the waiting room, so it's not like we would have offended any mushroom-lovers out there.


For real???

By the time we were finally put back in an exam room, I wasn’t sure if we should ask you to treat Kendrie’s cough, whatever illness she probably picked up after (no lie) ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR OF YOUR WAITING ROOM IN SHEER BOREDOM, or the wound on the back of my head, from where I had been hitting it against the wall for the last half hour.



PS. For the record, I am normally pretty good about bringing along Gameboys or ipods or for goodness sake, even something as old fashioned as a !!BOOK!! for the kids to read in a waiting room. Two and a half years of pediatric chemo appointments taught me the value of being prepared. This day, however, I honestly didn't expect a same day appointment and was out running errands when the clinic asked if we could get there in 30 minutes (apparently, it was important that we rush there, in order to sit and wait for two hours) and so I dashed by the school and picked Kendrie up without having ANYTHING for her to do. I even offered to read her the "Humor in Uniform" jokes out of the waiting room copies of Readers Digest, I was that freaking desperate.

Friday, October 03, 2008

And now we know the reasons why

Top seventeen reasons someone (meaning ME) is not cut out to be a camp counselor. Or to go camping. Or perhaps even go outdoors. Ever.

1. Remember how I said I thought I would enjoy hiking? Well, the first day was fine. But no-one explained to my thigh muscles how they would feel the next morning, with two more days of hiking to go.

2. It is damn near impossible to take quality photographs while sweat is dripping in the one good eye you’re keeping open in front of the lens.

3. I do not enjoy the stickers (teeny tiny poke-y tumbleweeds???) that attached themselves to me. Especially my socks. By the dozens. I mean, I was like a magnet for those stickers.

4. When a centipede lands on the head of one of your campers in your cabin and all the girls are squealing like banshees and pointing and jumping all over and you’re looking around for someone to kill it and you realize, “Holy Crap, **I** am the grown up here and will have to do it myself.”

5. I stink at every single activity. Archery, target shooting, fishing, identifying fossils, spotting wildlife … you name it, my only useful capacity was to take photos of *other* *people doing those things well.

6. Having the class asthmatic pass me on the trail was a little humbling.

7. None of the kids in my group wanted to stop and wait while I whined about the stickers in my shoes.

8. Because when the student behind you in the canoe is trying to do a fancy dig with his oar and accidentally flips a huge wave of water in your face and you yelp a bad word, you will not be setting a good example.

9. Cell phone going off during campfire skits: (see bad language example of number 8.)

10. The HELL!?!?! Seriously, what is up with those stickers?!?!?

11. When you’re perched on the side of the mountain trying to take a good picture, and your brother in law asks, “When you fall, which do you want me to save, you or your camera?”

12. When you realize that honestly? The camera is more valuable to you.

13. You do not find coyote poop as fascinating as ten year olds do.

14. Much to your shock and dismay, there is not a Sonic at the top of the mountain.

15. Listening to the Burrito Song for two solid hours on a bus will make your ears bleed.

16. When a wasp buzzes right by your ear, and you slap it away, that is perfectly acceptable behavior. Unfortunately, if you slap it onto the arm of the mom sitting next to you and it stings her …. You probably have not made a friend for life.

17. When climbing the steepest hike of the week, and you ask the coach, jokingly, if you are the fattest, most out of shape parent who has ever attended camp as a counselor …. And he has to think about it.

**disclaimer: I’m kidding. Well, about some of it, anyway. I really did hate the stickers poking me through my socks, and the centipede thing was pretty disgusting, and I felt bad about the bee sting, but overall, we had a great time. No-one had to push me, pull me, or in any other manner help me up or down any of the trails. I had seven of the most pleasant, agreeable, cheerful 5th grade girl campers in the history of camping, and enjoyed my time with them immensely. (Again, except for the centipede episode.) The weather could not have been better, I greatly enjoyed getting to spend time with my brother in law, watching Kellen learn and have fun with his classmates and friends in that environment was wonderful, the other parent-counselors were fun to be with (except for whoever put Vaseline on our doorknob and our toilet seat and if I find out who that was there will be hell to pay …….) and best of all? There were s’mores. Quite frankly, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Kellen, fishing. This was before the entire hour of fishing passed by without him catching a single fish. The look on his face afterwards was perhaps not quite as cheerful.

Kellen, hiking. Please take note that if I'm *above* him, taking his picture, I get credit for climbing the same damn mountain.

My nephew ---- the second most cute kid there this weekend.

OK --- here's the story behind this picture. While I don't consider myself a hypochondriac, per se .... I *do* make sure I'm prepared at all times, for all circumstances, with a veritable cornucopia of drugs in my purse. Tylenol, benadryl, immodium. Well, actually, those are the only three I carry. Plus a couple of Excedrin Migraine, when it's necessary to pull out the big guns. If one of *those* medications won't take care of what ails you, then you're sick enough you should go home. But at all times, I've got it covered. EXCEPT for the week at 5th grade camp, when you (I) follow the counselor instruction note and carry a back-pack instead of a purse, but you (I) won't realize until you (I) actually GET TO CAMP that without your (my) purse, you are (I am) also without any of your (my) trifecta of pharmaceuticals. So after a night spent feeling as though my allergies had been assaulted by the great outdoors, no caffeine in 24 hours, and crawling out of bed at 7am to pound on the nurse's infirmary door begging -- BEGGING -- for some kind (ANY KIND) of headache medicine .... *THIS* is what I looked like. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

They next day, after mooching Tylenol from the nurse, a Benadryl from one parent, two Advil from another, and my cabin-mate parent finding me a Diet Dr. Pepper (thank you God, for Jacob's mom Shannon) I was raring to go! And just in time, too, because forty little kids were waiting for me to NOT find them any fossils.