Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I’ve never been a Campfire Girl, but look at me now

Growing up, my parents had a place “at the lake” which is where I spent a good chunk of my summers. While it certainly wasn’t fancy, it had electricity and indoor plumbing and screened windows and actual beds and kitchen appliances. Which meant my idea of “roughing it” at the lake meant no television or phone. And fighting for the right to sleep in the room with the window unit a/c. The time I spent at the lake as a youth without a doubt helped form my number one rule for camping today ….. basically, don’t do it.

Technically, there are aspects of camping I think I would enjoy …. Hiking, swimming, fishing, and hey, who am I to turn down a quality s’more? But my policy in life has been: If I have to put my shoes on and carry a flashlight in order to go to the bathroom during the night? Then it’s too “rough” for me. The one time I floated the Talequah River with my friends and we drove down the night before to “camp” and everyone else slept in tents? I slept in my car with the windows rolled up and the doors locked and horded my lone roll of toilet paper. I don’t even REMEMBER where I went to the bathroom, which just goes to show you it was a traumatic experience that I’ve blocked from my memory.

Imagine my delight when I found out the 5th grade at my kids’ new school (they’ve been going there ten months …. How much longer can I call it “new”?) goes on a 3-day, “Outdoor School” adventure every fall, and this year I get to go along as a chaperone!!! Woo-hoo!! (said with sarcasm) Actually, according to legend, it’s apparently great fun for everyone involved, and Brayden has been sulking since we moved here – a month after last year’s 5th grade trip - that she missed it and didn’t get to go. Yet another way we’ve ruined her life, but that’s another post for another day. The kids hike and fish and shoot rifles and look for animal tracks and study nature. They ride in canoes and perform skits, makes movies and bonfires …. which means I’m responsible for making sure no one from my cabin drowns, shoots themselves, puts an eye out with an arrow, wanders off the trail and gets lost or eaten by a bear, falls in poison sumac, or catches their clothes on fire. Aaahhhhh, good times.

No, I’m kidding --- I *am* looking forward to it. Especially because we sleep in real beds, in cabins that have air conditioning and electricity and bathrooms. Thank goodness, still not too “rough”. Although we were warned at our Parents’ Meeting that it’s a good idea to put shoes on before going to the bathroom at night …. Which doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling at all.

Blaine wanted to go, but they already had enough male chaperones signed up, and not enough females, so here I go. I get to herd guide seven little girls through the entire adventure …. From getting them up in the mornings, to meals, to outdoor activities, back to bed each night. And our girls’ cabin is teamed with Kellen’s cabin, so I get to spend my days with him and his cabin mates as well, which was pretty much the whole point of me going. Thankfully I don’t have to do any “teaching” because what the hell do I know about astronomy or survival wilderness skills or hiking or archery?? Mainly, I’m just hoping I don’t fall down a mountain.

My brother-in-law is going as a boys’ chaperone. I’ve already told him he might have to get behind me and push on the way up.

So I’ll be gone Wednesday through Friday this week, and will probably come home and collapse Friday night. Blaine will carry on gamely in our absence, shuttling the girls to and from school and activities, overseeing homework, working at his own job, and getting the rest of this week’s radiation treatments. I went with him yesterday to his first one, and actually got to go back in the radiation room while they got him ready. I watched as he climbed on the table and they fitted his radiation mask over his head and shoulders and face, and then bolted it to the table. The purpose is to keep his head perfectly still, and then I watched as they aligned the laser lights over his face and took x-rays. All in all, it was ….. interesting. And creepy, if I’m being honest. He had *talked* about the mask, he had told me how much he hates being bolted to the table and how suffocated it makes him feel. After yesterday, I think I understand little better.

But, claustrophobia aside, the appointment went well, and I’m certain he’ll manage fine while I’m gone.

Seriously. It’s me, my uncoordinated body, and overweight ass trying to hike up those hills we need to be worried about. There is a Camp Nurse who attends, but it’s my neighbor, and it would certainly make for an awkward Block Party next year if the poor guy had to resuscitate me right there in front of all the kids. Wish me luck ... getting eaten by a bear might be less embarrassing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Second Verse, Same as the First (although technically, I guess this is the third verse, no?)

Or, as the oncology nurse was so kind as to point out during the visit last month where it was confirmed that yes, the cancer is indeed back: “Well, it’s not your first time at the rodeo, that’s for sure.”

Um …. Thanks??? I ….. think???

Anyway, it seems the wheels of progress are either excruciatingly slow, or spinning at top speed. After not hearing anything from anyone, all week, we got a call late Friday afternoon confirming Blaine begins radiation today. Although he’s scheduled for thirty-two sessions in a row, we already know he’ll miss day #2 --- because let’s not forget that in the middle of this little bitty minor nuisance we like to call “CANCER RECURRANCE”, we still can’t find a doctor at Tinker, or in the greater metro area, with the gonads to write a script for the narcotics he takes. That he has taken for four years. Four years of medication, without a single problem, yet no-one here is sure they are ok for him to take.

Whatever.

So the government will waste an entire days’ work for him, and taxpayer’s money, to fly him to San Antonio, to meet with a military doctor THERE who states (and has stated since he had his first visit almost a year ago, in complete agreement with Blaine’s pain management doctor in Georgia) that his prescriptions are completely and totally appropriate, thank you very much. So that a single button on a single computer screen can be “approved” and Blaine can then fly all the way home and have the pharmacy on his base actually fill the prescription. At least we hope. They told him last month that the pharmacy doesn’t think Blaine needs these meds; at least not in this amount. Isn’t that helpful?? I’m so glad they are able to make that judgment based purely on ….. what? Can anyone tell us what they are basing that on? And why .... in the face of 32 upcoming radiation treatments ... now would be the time to DECREASE his pain meds????

Again --- Whatever. It’s not like I’m frustrated.

But bottom line is Blaine will miss radiation day 2 for travel, and although they said it was six weeks of radiation at five days a week, if *I* do the math …. Not that math was ever my strong point ….. but if *I* do the math, thirty-TWO sessions is a little more than six weeks. So six weeks, plus a session or two, or maybe even three or four if he has to make up the ones he misses ….. drop the zero …. Carry the one ….. round to the nearest decimal ….. the way I figure it, Blaine will be finishing radiation sometime around mid-November.

Egads. That’s like a lifetime away.

So. If we could be so bold as to give all of you a list of specific prayer requests …. Or warm thoughts, or chanting, or incense, or positive imagery, or whatever else it is you prefer to do unless it’s sacrificing a live chicken because while I have no qualms about eating meat and absolutely no desire to go vegan, I would still hate to have the death of innocent chickens on my shoulders for nothing more than good thoughts for Blaine ….

(deep breath)

So, if we could ask you to pray specifically, it would be for the following things:

That *this* radiation, *this* time, kills the active cancer cells for good, and they never come back again, and this is absolutely the last freaking time he has to hear the words, “I’m sorry, you have cancer” for ever and ever, amen.

That he tolerates the side effects of radiation well.

That they (meaning the people who administer the radiation) are able to spare his remaining salivary gland. Since the right one was zapped with the first go-round, he’s already operating on decreased capacity …. For someone like me, who has a tendency to gleek when I’m excited, less spit doesn’t sound so bad. But apparently, so they tell me, spit also helps you swallow, eat, and protects your teeth. Lord knows operating at 50% capacity is bad enough …. Let’s pray he doesn’t go down to zero.

That the radiation isn’t too hard on his teeth. (Seriously. Who knew radiating certain parts of your head could affect all those other parts in such a negative way???)

That we win the lottery. Oh, wait. Wrong journal entry.

Several of you have asked how Blaine is holding up mentally. Honestly, he’s just ready to get this show on the road. Ironically, the weather here is cooling off and the humidity is lower, and he’s felt better the past month or two than he has since we moved here. Sucks, really, that he’s fixing to lose all that.

Or, you know, maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll come through this with flying colors and never miss a day of work and absolutely NOT feel like his entire head has been microwaved, like it did last time.

Hey, a girl can dream.

Although, is it terrible of me to admit that since I canceled my annual Girls Scrapbook Getaway (with the best stinking girlfriends on the planet) in Chicago next week …. I must confess I’m going to be a wee bit annoyed if he feels great the entire time and doesn’t need me at all to pat his hand or bring him 7-up or mop at his brow with a damp cloth .... ?? You know. Not that I’m shallow or petty or anything. It’s just that if I’m giving up Chicago, I *better* feel needed while I’m here!

So for the most part, he (we) just want to get this over with. I'll be going with him to his first appointment today to talk to the doctors and ask lots of very important questions, like "why this?" and "why not this?" and most urgent of all, "Can you validate our parking??"

Then, there is a small part of us that feels annoyed and offended by cancer in general --- still stinging a bit at the insult of a recurrence. Not so much a “Why Me?” or “Life’s Not Fair” …. Just “Wow, This Really Bites” sort of feeling, and not a whole lot you can do about it.

And even a small part of us that feels embarrassed ... admitting something is wrong, and asking for help in any capacity, time and time and time again, is humbling and frustrating and exhausting. Fortunately, the vast majority of friends and family have come through for us with flying colors over and over. To be honest, it's always a little bit of a surprise to discover who bails .... but I suppose all life lessons are helpful, whether we realize it at the time or not.

And then, odd as it might sound, there is a huge part of us that is feeling: Gosh Darn Lucky.

(Yeah, “gosh darn” isn’t quite emphatic enough …. But even someone with a sailor mouth like mine has to draw the line at certain curse words.)

Here are the good things that have happened this past week, and part of the list of why we think we’re lucky:

Blaine got an all-clear from his dentist to proceed with radiation. Radiation to the oral cavity is extremely hard on the teeth (see above prayer list) and add to that the lack of spit in his mouth (again, see above) well, he’s had chronic problems with his teeth since this whole shebang started. I’m pretty sure he has permanent dentist-chair impressions on his butt. So to hear “No cavities, good to go” was a huge blessing.

Doctors and nurses have actually returned our phone calls, and apologized that we were left in the dark, even for only a few days.

Friends and family have reached out and offered us support and encouragement. (Dixie, the only thing in the world I love as much as chocolate is peanut brittle, so that box was perfect, thank you!) and (Kristin, the Quiet Heroes bag had so much amazing stuff in it … thank you so much for thinking of me, even though I couldn’t join all of you in Atlanta this year!) and (Renee’, I’m going to wear my bracelet the entire time ya’ll are in Chicago …. And possibly get drunk on Amaretto Slushies so I’ll quit feeling sorry for myself for missing it this year ….) and (to the person who sent our family the box from Jelly Bellies … dear Lord, I’m embarrassed. In their haste to rip open the box my children must have eaten the note or return address because I could not find it ANYWHERE --- thank you, and I’m so sorry I can’t thank you personally! Who are you?) and even more than the packages and cards and e-mails is the knowledge that so many of you are keeping our family in your thoughts.

And lastly, that although this is a trial that we’d rather not have, it’s certainly not the hardest one we’ve ever faced, and no where near as hard as the trials of others. Sadly, Blaine and I know too many families who would give anything to trade places with us. Surely the good health of a parent is bittersweet when the life of a child has been lost. How many families would be willing to trade the health of one of the parents if that meant they could have their child back with them, healthy and whole?

So whenever I get all pity-party-ish and feeling sorry for myself, I remind myself that WE. ARE. LUCKY.

And we better not ever forget it.

PS. Mitchell, I only met you once, at a 4th of July party. Your mom and I sat and talked about having kids who had undergone leukemia treatment, and compared stories and notes. Although that was as close as I ever got to you, I can see, even from here, what an impact you made on this community. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind how much your parents miss you. Your sister misses you. The kids at the school miss you. The boys on your baseball team miss you. As the anniversary of your death passed this weekend, it was the kick in the pants that I personally needed --- to remember to count my blessings, which thankfully far outweigh the bad.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Name That Celebrity

Does anyone besides me see the resemblence???



Anyone? Anyone at all???

I'll give you a second to think about it .....

really study the photo ......

dredge your brain for some long-forgotten memory .....




Still not getting it????

OK, maybe it's just me, but I think his hair makes him look just like Farrah Fawcett ... circa 1970's ... Charlie's Angels era.

Friday, September 26, 2008

So very proud

I’ll be the first to admit that over the years, I’ve said (and said in front of my children) a few things that probably aren’t as nice as they could be. One of my favorites, of course, is when I allow my kids (only in the car, and only with the windows rolled up) to call bad drivers, or people who take up two parking spaces, “jackass”. No, not something to be particularly proud of ……. But what can I say? I’m hardly perfect as a parent.

I also downloaded "Baby Got Back" off the internet and let my kids listen to it. FAR from appropriate, but they laugh hysterically whenever they hear it, which makes me giggle, too.

Another of my favorites is what I said to my kids the first time they questioned why their dad and I make them wear bicycle helmets, when some of the other kids in the neighborhood don’t. I merely looked at them and said, “Well, I guess their parents don’t love them as much as we love you.” Simple …. And to the point.

I took Kendrie to the doctor this afternoon for her 9-yr well child visit. No illnesses, no complaints …. Just listening to the lungs, checking for scoliosis, open your mouth and say Ah kind of stuff. In an attempt to verify home safety and what have you, the doctor was asking Kendrie about her lifestyle (assuming 9-yr olds actually HAVE a lifestyle). He asked if she played any sports, watched a lot of tv, buckled her seatbelt whenever she was in the car, and if she wore a helmet whenever she rode a bike.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Your mom and dad always make you wear a helmet?” he questioned again.

“Tell the doctor what we say about kids who don’t wear helmets,” I said smugly, thinking how funny it would be when Kendrie told him the bit about the parents not loving them.

But before she could open her mouth, Kellen blurted out, “We call them jackasses!!!!”

Ahhhh, yes.

So very proud.

Actually, the best part was when the doctor simply smiled and said, "In our family, we call them organ donors."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Can anyone tell me Why?

Nine days out of ten, I get up in the morning an hour before my children. I sit bleary-eyed in front of my computer for a few minutes and hope I’ve gotten some e-mails in the night. Something *besides* online sales and ads for Viagra, that is. Then I drink a big glass of chocolate milk. This is the part of the morning where I wished I drank coffee like a grown-up, but I don’t. So chocolate milk it is.

Then, I shower. Get dressed. Put on my make up. Fix my hair or at the very least put it up in a ponytail. Get the kids breakfast ready. Wake the kids, eat breakfast with them, and spend a little time refereeing bonding with them for the next half hour. Then, we walk to school together. I walk all three of them in the front door, saying hello to the various teachers and staff scattered about. I kiss Kellen and Brayden good-bye for the day (ok, I admit, we’re down to the “eye-rolling while I give them a hug and a quick peck on the top of the head” category of kissing, but at least I still get that) and then I walk Kendrie to her room, saying good morning to her teacher and the other teachers in the hall. I leave the school, saying good BYE to the staff, and walk home, whereupon I normally have nothing substantial to do but get back on the computer and hope once again for some good e-mails or blog reading.

So can anyone tell me WHY, on that tenth day, things do not go as planned? The tenth day (which was TODAY, by the way) is the day I try valiantly to sleep as late as my children. It’s never successful, especially lately, but I do try. I skip the normal (ie, hygienic) parts of my morning such as showering or brushing my teeth. I throw sweat pants on under the t-shirt that I slept in, still have yesterday’s eye makeup running down my cheeks, and my hair is sticking out everywhere. I wake the kids just a few minutes after I get out of bed, throw granola bars at them, and then I drive my kids to school so as not to face anyone. Yes, I know our country is paying through the nose for gasoline and driving my kids one hundred yards to school is ridiculous, but I do it on those occasional mornings. I put on my sunglasses, smile and wave gamely to the crossing guards, and get the hell back home before anyone notices (not that they care, but before they notice) how truly awful I look.

So WHY, I ask again, is it THOSE mornings, (THIS morning, to be exact) when I arrive back home three minutes later, hair askew, pajama top still on, and wearing house-slippers, that my daughter calls to tell me she left her glasses at home and can I please bring them back to the school???

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

They are ganging up on me now

Last night, Kellen and Kendrie and I were in the van together, driving to (where else? The black hole of my life) soccer practice. Out of the blue, Kendrie asked, “Mom, when are we moving back to Georgia?”

I sort of sighed to myself, because I had hoped we were past that --- past the missing of friends so much that she wants to pack up and go back. Right after we moved to Oklahoma, she told us constantly that she wanted to move “home” to Georgia, but I hadn’t heard it in a while, so I had hoped she was finally feeling settled here.

“Honey,” I replied, “we’re not moving back to Georgia. Oklahoma is our home for good now. We’re never moving again.”

“Pssschnnghhhh!” (You know that noise? That goofy, nasally noise that people make when they’re trying to get a point across? Yeah, that was the noise Kendrie made just then, even if I don’t know how to spell it.) “Maybe YOU’RE not moving back, but I am! As soon as I turn 16 and get a car, I’m out of here!”

She was laughing when she said it, so I don’t think it was anything sinister … just that she was making clear the point that her heart still lies in Georgia (Hello, Nicholas! I’m looking at you!!)(Even though, I have to admit, Matt is growing on me more and more every day.)(And how funny is it that Kendrie refers to them as "her Georgia boyfriend" and "her Oklahoma boyfriend."??)(Good grief, do nine-year olds understand the concept of bigamy???)

“Well, you can stay here, but I am GONE when I turn 16!”Then, she said, in a sheepish little voice, “But, um, I’ll need you to give me directions.”

I was taking a deep breath, to try and explain to her about “good” friends and “old” friends, and how I’m so happy she still feels strong ties to her old school and old friends, but that, in all reality …. Sixteen is a life-time away. While I certainly hope she is still in touch, and still has fond memories of Georgia and our time there, I doubt she will still feel like relocating once that time comes. Instead, I want her to be entrenched here, with her new friends, and her time with family, and to be happy and content with her Oklahoma life. It's hard to explain to a nine-year old that they won't always feel like they feel now, but I guess I needed to try.

Kellen, however, beat me to the punch.

He said to her, “Kendrie, things will be SO different by the time you are sixteen!”

“Ahhh, good!” I thought, “He *gets* it. Maybe coming from him, the concept of faraway and long-away will seem more reasonable. I’m so glad to know I’ve got such a reasonable, practical son.”

Then he burst my bubble with the following words: “By the time you’re sixteen, you’ll know how to read a map! You won’t need mom to give you directions!!”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ouch.

Kendrie came home from school yesterday very excited, and said to me, “Mom! Great news! We’re starting the Reading Buddy program at school this week!”

Absentmindedly, I replied, “Oh, that’s nice.”

She went on, “I loved it at our old school when the big kids would read to us …. I’m excited to do Reading Buddy here, too.”

And I sort of paused …. hmmmm, had a lightbulb moment …. and asked her, “Are you sure you understood right? And your class is doing it this year? Because it seems to me that you and your friends, in 3rd grade, should already know how to read pretty well. I mean, aren’t you a little old for a Reading Buddy?”

Kendrie laughed (in that “my mom is a moron” way she has) and said, “Mom, I don’t *get* a Reading Buddy, I *AM* the Reading Buddy! I’m going to be reading to a kindergartener! I’m the big kid now!”

Ouch.

Excuse me while I pull the bbq spear out of my heart, at the realization that my “baby” is now one of “the big kids”. Vasectomy reversal, anyone?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Because amidst all the pity partying and drama and freaking out there is an actual life still going on ....

We spent our weekend:




Flailing our legs about on the soccer field.





Falling down. Because apparently that's what all the best players do. But did you know this is also considered an illegal kick? Because that is the foul Kellen had called on him for this play where he basically ..... was responding to that pesky gravity.




And celebrating with our team mates who thank heavens are more coordinated and actually scored enough points to win the game.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hurdle #1

Well, it only took two days for Tricare to approve the radiologist’s request for a repeat PET scan. I knew they would come through for us … they always have …. Just seems frustrating to wait at a time like this. (Yes, my Canadian socialized-medicine friends are rolling their eyes and thinking, “Wait? You think two days is waiting for a test??? Lady, you don’t know NOTHING about waiting for no medical tests!!”) (Actually, that sounded more like Bronx friends, didn’t it???)

Without going further into boring, personal, medical stuff, suffice it to say this is not the first run-in Blaine has had this week …. With Tricare …. With the medical staff on base ……. With the pharmacy …. With the Air Force in general. So the waiting for this was just a teeny tiny straw on a teeny tiny camel’s back, and it will all be fine in the long run. (In through the nose, out through the mouth.)

Now, we …………… wait some more. Good thing Blaine’s cancer is a slow-growing kind, or all this waiting would have killed him. As it is, I think it might kill *ME*, considering I was born without the DNA for patience.

The radiation-oncologist wants to meet again with the head and neck surgeon, and they want to confer with the tumor board, to decide the best plan of action. Which is fine with us, because the more smart people you have reviewing your case, the better. But one doctor is on vacation next week, and probably the week after that it’s the Jamaican New Year, or annual Tumour Board Conference in Barbados, and then the hospital will flood,or there will be a fire, or a nationwide shortage of gauze, or some other such crap, and LET’S JUST GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD ALREADY!!! There are two tumors that have shown up in the previous site … and one new tumor on the other side of his head. Yippee, at least he’s symmetrical!!!! Now, let’s decide what to do about it!!!!!!! And, I’m using lots of exclamation caps to chase away the hysteria!!!!

Biopsying the new tumor is a strong possibility, but not definite. *IF* a biopsy takes place, the results might or might not affect the treatment plan, which is also undecided.

That’s about clear as mud, isn’t it?

Repeat radiation (same, but different) is very, very likely.

(major suckage)

Both (biopsy and radiation) bring with them their own set of possible benefits and probable concerns. No sense delving into them today, though …. Until we know for sure. THEN I will bombard you with a whole list of complaints and worries and fears. Until then, rest easy --- this post only contains whining, but lots of it!!!

Thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your notes and e-mails and phone calls of support and kindness. I started out trying to reply to each one individually, but just got weighed down. My sense of organization and time-management seems to have taken a hit this week. I’m also (since a few of you were kind enough to ask) feeling a wee bit stressed. And cranky. This happens every time though. Or at least it happened the first time Blaine was diagnosed, and the first time he relapsed. And on a MUCH greater scale, when Kendrie was diagnosed as well. *THAT* time included early-morning awakening, crying in the shower, and perhaps even panic attacks, in hind-site. So really, what I'm feeling now is minor in comparison. I’ve never suffered from anxiety on any sort of regular basis, so I don’t know if that’s what this is. This feeling that I can’t concentrate, and am overwhelmed by daily life, and have a strong, serious, severe, CRIPPLING need for alcohol.

Kidding.

Maybe cigarettes.

No, kidding again.

I deal with my stress by eating. Currently, as I type this, I have a bowl of chocolate-chip cookie dough in front of me with a big-ass wooden spoon in it. I type a paragraph, then take a bite. Probably not good for my cortisol level, …. Definitely not good for my ass.

I worked really hard this summer and lost twenty pounds. I gained back eight on the cruise …. I’ve gained back at least three more this week. I know kvetching about my weight is shallow and insignificant and just plain silly at a time like this …. But come on, how many days in a row can I wear yoga pants because 1) the thought of getting up and putting on real clothes is overwhelming to me, and 2) by the end of the day, the waistband around my blue jeans wouldn’t fit anyway.

And I’m not really overwhelmed, that’s not the right word. It’s more like I can’t care --- SIMPLY CANNOT BRING MYSELF TO CARE --- about the pesky, little, exasperating, trivial SHIT that happens in daily life. (I KNOW!!! Can you believe it??? She’s STILL talking about herself, and her husband has CANCER, and she’s got to be the most self-centered person on the planet!!!) It’s more like I am …. Um ….. what’s the word? Annoyed? With everything in the entire world??? Sidetracked? Distracted?

Yes, perhaps “distracted” is the best word to describe how I’m feeling.


Luckily enough, I know it will pass. It passed every other time before, so it will this time as well. No need for anti-anxiety meds, or anti-depressants …. Maybe just a few bottles of wine, then I’ll feel better. Or even a good night’s sleep. It's simply taking me a little while to find my focus in the meantime.

So again, because of my distracted-ness (yes, it is a word, I just made it up) I feel the need to apologize if you’ve been kind enough to write and I haven’t answered. Or if you’ve called and I haven’t returned it. It’s as if, *mentally*, my wheels are spinning all day long. Then at the end of the day I look up and I’ve actually accomplished nothing.

Unless eating an entire bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough counts for something. Then I'm on a roll.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Priorities

Kellen: "So does this mean you have to go back to Seattle for your treatment again?"

Blaine: "No, I think this time they can do everything right here. We'll know more later."

Kellen: "Oh."

Kristie: "But the doctors here are just as smart, so that means Daddy staying with us is a positive thing, right?"

Kellen: "Well, yeah. It's just that he always brings back good presents from Seattle."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A series of unfortunate e-mails. Well, actually, just one.

Rather than re-write and re-word and go through the drama --- again --- I'm simply going to cut and paste an e-mail that was sent out earlier this evening to our friends and family.

Not that you people reading here on this blog AREN'T our friends and family --- of COURSE you are!!! Just that I don't know all of your private individual e-mail addresses, and some of you are even "anonymous", and perhaps would prefer to NEVER get a personal e-mail from me ..... but you're here now, so you're stuck with it. :)

****************************************************

Hey, everyone, it's time for one of those bulk e-mails that drive most people crazy with their impersonal messages, delivered to dozens of people .... just how personal can it be, right? But sometimes it's the best way for accomplishing what needs to be accomplished. So forgive me. :)

Things here with us are crazy, just like they are for everyone, everywhere. Kids keeping us busy with school, piano, choir, soccer, homework, etc. But it's exactly the way we like it and much like yours run you ragged as well, I'm sure in spite of all the grumbling about taxi-service, we're all enjoying ourselves.

So, small talk aside, on to the real reason for the e-mail.

I feel a very unfortunate sense of deja-vu, writing once again to tell all of you that Blaine's cancer is back, and to ask for your prayers and support. I would most definitely prefer to be writing with the announcement that we've won the lottery, or some other such fabulous news, but I'm afraid that's not the case. (At least not this week --- we're not giving up hope!) :)

In all seriousness, we would appreciate if you could keep our family in your thoughts. We've known for sure for about a month, but waited to tell anyone until my mom and I returned from our cruise to Alaska this past weekend. While she is our biggest supporter, she is also our biggest worrier, so we decided to *not* tell her until after the vacation-of-a-lifetime, in the hopes we wouldn't spoil the trip for her. Now that she's been told, and the kids know, we feel free to let everyone else know .... selfishly .... so we can ask you to pray for Blaine and his health. And for wisdom and discernment for his doctors as they decide on (yet another) treatment plan. We're currently helping them get their ducks in a row ..... sort of a logistical nightmare, having medical records and surgical reports and cat scans and pet scans and biopsies and MRI's from all over the country that have to be brought together and evaluated. Pray also, please, for help with our insurance. Although Tricare has been great, and gave Blaine permission to be treated at a non-military facility (OU Physician's Center, exactly where we wanted him to be treated) it's been a bit of a struggle getting them to approve the various tests that need to be done, so decisions can be made. Just the sort of red-tape hassle that no cancer patient needs to face when we're busy facing everything else.

As we find out more, we'll be sure to let you know. If you're receiving this e-mail, it's because we consider you a friend, and Lord knows our friends have held up our family lots during the previous years ---- I hope I'm not pushing the boundaries of our friendship by asking, one more time.

In the meantime, if I've spoken or written or e-mailed with you the past six weeks or so and have seemed distracted, or curt, or short-tempered, this is why. Please know it was nothing personal, just stress and anxiety. If you haven't heard from me in a while, it's the same reason. And to the people who have inquired about Blaine's health during the past few weeks .. and I've point-blank lied to your face ... I'm sorry. I hope you can understand why we felt the need to wait before telling people. I also apologize for giving you this news in an e-mail ... this was the best way we could think to get the word out quickly, but I'm sorry if it seems impersonal.

So pray for Blaine's healing, wisdom for the doctors, and my crappy attitude!!! :)

(ok, that last one might be un-fixable ---- but in all honesty, Blaine covets the prayers more than you can know! Personal, private, prayer chains ... he's not picky!)
Thanks,
Kristie

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

He's so much smarter than me I am

Last night I was reviewing some of Kellen's homework. He had written a sentence for Language Arts, and although it's certainly not my policy to technically *DO* my kids' homework for them, I do look over their work and make any simple suggestions that I think they might have overlooked in error.

He and I had the following conversation:

Me: "Kel, take a look at this sentence. I think you have a mis-spelled word."

Kellen, looking: "What word? None of those words are wrong."

Me: "Look at the word "somthing". Does that look right to you?"

Kellen: "Yes. That's how you spell it."

Me: "Well ...... actually ..... there should be an "e" in the middle. It's s-o-m-E-t-h-i-n-g."

Kellen, looking again very closely: "No, there's no "e" in it."

Me, thinking that arguing with a 10-yr old is kind of silly: "Uh, yeah, there is."

At this point Kellen looks at me with all this disdain and contempt that his {obviously} superior intellect could muster, and says to me in a patronizing tone: "Mother, there is no "e" in "somthing". I should know, I've been spelling it this way my whole life!"

Ummmmm, remind me again how the boy got in the gifted program!??!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Clarification

I think I should clarify, to avoid having Nickelodeon slap me with a defamation lawsuit:

These are two separate channels. Nickelodeon (think Spongebob, Jimmy Neutron, Fairly Oddparents) is the channel aimed at young kids. My kids love this channel and watch it quite a bit. Although we have re-initiated our "no TV Monday through Thursday rule now that school has resumed, and they are chafing quite a bit, and I'm once again hearing the rumblings about how I'm the meanest parent in the world...)

The "N" is a channel aimed for teenagers. In fact, it's tag-line is something like "Nick Teen" and the shows they air at night are DEFINITELY off-limits for my kids. But during the day on Saturday and Sunday, they also air Nickelodeon shows my kids *are* allowed to watch, such as Drake and Josh, iCarly, and Zoey 101.

I'm sure it was naive of me to think the commercials aired during these kid-friendly shows would also be kid-friendly. (Much like I got my panties in a wad about the evening soap operas that aired during "Dancing with the Stars" last year, which prompted several of you to tell me how much of a hypocrite I was, and how gullible I am, thank you very much ..... )

But now that we've banned the entire "N" channel, I suppose it's a moot point. I mean, we've already been forced to discuss the provocative Vanessa Hudgens photos, and the Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy ---- surely we're still ok with Disney CHANNEL???? At least until Zack or Cody go buy their first condoms, or Hannah Montana starts giving blow jobs, or those wacky kids from High School Musical go off to college and start experimenting with alcohol and drugs. *THEN* I suppose I'll revamp again.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

News

The good news: My mom and I are back home, safe and sound.

The eye-rolling news: I've got about 400 pictures to download, re-size, crop, tweak, and upload. Then I will share them with you. Of couse.

The thank-goodness news: It will take at least a few days before I have time for that, so consider yourself warned. Maybe take a vacation yourself, to avoid it.

The "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation" news: In fact, I probably won't even blog again until I get unpacked, tackle the mountain of dirty laundry still in my suitcase, go grocery shopping, and dive right back into the piano-soccer-choir-homework-housework routine. Blaine did an awesome job while I was gone but my gosh, LIFE just never stops, even for Alaska, does it?

The "you probably don't care but I'm going to vent about it anyway" news: You. United Airline. Consider yourself warned. In fact, ALL airlines can consider themselves warned. Unless it is logistically impossible to do so, I will be driving on all vacations from now on. Flights have been scaled back to cut costs, so every single flight is always over-booked. Which means there aren't even enough seats in the freaking waiting areas at the airport --- not to count the traffic and congestion in the airports themselves. Then you start charging for checked luggage, so everyone decides to carry on everything they can. Then you act surprised that we can't fit nine thousand pieces of carry-on luggage in the overheads. So we're forced to cram it under our feet, then some fat guy named Bubba plops himself in the seat in front of us and jerks his seat back so far that I've got my own knees up around my ears and shocker! It's not comfortable! Then you charge me three dollars for a bag of granola. All in all, NOT a way to end a vacation after I was waited on hand and foot for seven days. The least you could have done was put my cheap cocktail napkin in my lap. Oh, wait. You couldn't SEE my lap because of Mr. Let's-Lean-Back-As-Far-As-Our-Chair-Can-Go in front of me. So trust me. Once I get back from my Girls-Scrapbook-Weekend-Away in Chicago next month, it will be Route 66 and stopping to see the World's Biggest Ball of Twine for the Escoe Family from here on out.

The in case of emergency news: There is one fast food restaurant, on the 4th floor, of the shopping mall in Anchorage, Alaska, that sells DDP out of their fountain --- God bless Arbys.

The "Holy cow, did you just SEE that??" news: Not exactly a news flash, but has anyone besides me noticed how rank the commercials on the "N" channel are? My kids were watching "Drake and Josh" earlier today, a show that I think is perfectly acceptable, and that is rated Y-7, meaning ok for anyone over the age of 7. But in the course of ONE SET of commercials, we saw two teenage girls kissing, one teenage girl taking off her shirt, undoing the belt in boy's pants, and two girls in a bathroom stall where a vibrator falls on the floor. Um ..... I don't think so. Channel 154 is no longer allowed in the Escoe house.

The "Oh, yes, back to reality" news: I was home exactly seven hours before the kids started fighting over whose turn it was to play on my new laptop and then arguing over what tv show to watch and then interrupting me every six seconds I was on the phone and I knew I was solidly back in the land of normalcy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wildlife

Wildlife that has been seen on this cruise, both from the ship and from various locations during excursions:

Mama bear with two cubs, whales, dolphins, porcupine in a tree, bald eagles, sea otters, bears catching salmon, and many, many salmon running in streams.

Actual animals that *I* have seen on this cruise???? Two measly bald eagles. And a whale, if you count a teeny tiny black dot about a bazillion miles in the distance as a “whale”. The rest of the wildlife spottings have been reported through the grapevine, by people who are obviously much more observant than I am.

Although I did get to see the digital picture some lady took of the mama bear, during our salmon bake.

Does that count as a wildlife spotting for myself???? Does the salmon I saw during the salmon bake, grilled, on my plate, and covered in a yummy brown sugar sauce, count?

Perhaps I should have spent less time on my laptop, and more time actually looking out windows.

And binoculars. Remembering binoculars might have been helpful. Because unless a whale swims up to the ship and waves its little fin at me, or blows the message "Hi, Kristie!" through its hole, I doubt I’ll even notice it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Absence makes the taste buds grow fonder

The setting: The Sweet Tooth Cafe on Broadway Street in picturesque Skagway, Alaska

The need: Desire to break a $20 bill so I could properly tip the shuttle bus driver

The action: Purchasing a drink, to break the $20, to get the singles, to tip the driver

The discovery: That while it wasn't so perfect as to be a fountain soda, the good folk at the Sweet Tooth Cafe actually *did* have a Diet Dr. Pepper in the back that they were willing to pour over ice in a cup

The outcome: A glistening tear of happiness rolled down my cheek

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Potential Alaska posts I have started and then quit because they are too stupid and boring.

The post about how is it possible that I’ve got seven days of free food and drink on the ship, some of the nicest, yummiest, fanciest food and drink imaginable, all mine, at the snap of a finger ….. All free …. And yet I still managed to spend $19 at the local fudge shop today. No, I have no idea why I’m chubby.

The post about how I finally ran into Andrew’s Grandma J …. not once, but twice today! Yippee!!

The post about how it might have been 112 degrees in Palm Springs last week, but when you are packing to take a cruise to Alaska in September, you need to pack something a little more substantial than flip-flops, people!!

The post about how it seemed really indulgent to pay $100 for 280 internet minutes on the cruise ship, but then I realized my Sprint coverage totally sucks and I was paying $2.49 a minute for international roaming rates to call home. Suddenly, twenty-eight cents a minute to exchange e-mails with my children seems quite consumer-savvy.

The post about how during the glacier lake stop-over we had yesterday I slipped on a moss-covered rock and fell flat on my left butt cheek, causing my camera to whip around and hit me in the face, and how I was mortified someone might have seen that so I hopped up so quickly that I almost slipped and fell down again. Truly, not one of my more graceful moments.

The post about how after my big fat ass hit the ground, the weight of the force basically started an avalanche. More on this later.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Things You Don't Want

Something you don’t want to have happen to you three days before you leave for a cruise:

To be in charge of the fun, exciting, smiley-face rainbow concession stand for PTO Skate Night, which means you will spend an hour moving heavy boxes of soda and candy from the storage room at the school to your car. You will be sweating like a pig from the manual labor and then you will drop one of the boxes on your ankle because the cardboard was cheap and flimsy and I swear you will think you have broken whatever that top part of your ankle is called and you will seriously consider renting a wheelchair for the cruise because my God how much do those Airheads weigh anyway and did the school kids in the cafeteria hear me cussing????


Something you don’t want to have happen to you two days before you leave for a cruise:

To realize one of the bags of ice that you had in the back of your van for the not-as-much-fun-now Skate Night Fundraiser was forgotten, and melted, and now the back of your van smells like an animal died and rotted in it. And not a teeny tiny sweet-smelling animal, either, like a cute little chipmunk or bunny rabbit. I’m talking big, stinky, gut-rot odor like you would get from a dead yak. And you’ll have to run all your last-minute errands with that stench filling your nostrils and you will wonder if there is enough Febreze on the entire planet to help.


Something you don’t want to have happen to you the day before you leave for a cruise:

To realize that when you were unloading (see above) bags of ice out of your deep freeze in the garage for the )#($*#(%&#)* Skate Night, that you accidentally left the freezer door cracked, and all your meat thawed and is now dripping down the inside of the deep freeze. And you will beg your husband to brown all the hamburger meat, and boil all the chicken, and separate the meat out and put it in freezer baggies so you can re-freeze all of it, because my GOD you are leaving in less than eight hours and you haven’t even finished the laundry, let alone started packing, and I swear if you have to stand here for two hours cooking all the meat you will have a nervous breakdown and never be ready for your 5 am flight tomorrow…..whimper.


Something you don’t want to have happen to you on your first day of vacation:

To discover that the hotel you are staying at, while very nice and pretty and happy, apparently can’t handle the electrical demand of dual-hairdryers, because while you are blow-drying your hair in the bedroom, and then your mother turns on *her* blow dryer in the bathroom, you will blow the fuse in the room and every outlet except ONE will be non-working, so you will then flat-iron your hair while sitting on the mini-bar because good grief, birds will try to nest in it otherwise.

Something you don’t want to have happen to you on your second day of the cruise:

To be sitting in the beautiful atrium on the ship, enjoying Wi-Fi internet, and the breathtaking scenery, and listening to the strains of the wonderful string quartet before dinner, only for the musicians to break into a haunting rendition of the theme to Titanic.

Seriously?????

That doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

PS. Grandma J, are you here????

PPS. Going on a float plane in Ketchikan with my mom today ..... if that doesn't promote mother-daughter bonding, I don't know what will!!!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Alaska, Take Two

OK, well, apparently the cost of the cruise itself is rivaled only by the cost of the internet minutes I am required to purchase for my lap-top. I guess the concept of “FREE” Wi-fi hasn’t reached the cruise ship industry just yet ….. So forgive me if my updates are not as um ….. Verbose ….. As usual. And hey, I don’t want to hear any of you say that expensive internet service might be a good thing in disguise, either.

To answer your question, no, Blaine is not here with me. But I’m not alone. My mom came with me. Actually, to be more precise, *I* tagged along with my mom. And 31 other retired people that she went to high school with.

What really happened was that a group of girl friends she has lunch with on a regular basis, most of whom she went to school with, started talking about having a Girl’s Day Trip. Which evolved into an Girl’s Overnight Trip. Which evolved into a Weekend Getaway, which evolved into a week-long cruise. To Alaska. At which point most of the ladies agreed that if they were planning something that grand, they would need to (like to) include their husbands. So suddenly, it was fifteen-something couples, most of whom live in the same town, and attend the same church, and are alumni of the same high school, all planning to cruise to Alaska together. And personally? I think it totally rocks.

My mom really wanted to attend, but with my father deceased, she wasn’t about to take her chances sharing a cabin with a total stranger. They started planning this trip early last summer, and at the time, I was preparing to get pregnant in my surrogacy journey. Counting on the calendar, I knew I would deliver the baby in April-May-ish, so I told her I would LOVE to go with her. Then, we had what is called a “blighted ovum”, meaning I got pregnant, but a baby never developed in the sac. Fast forward through a miscarriage, d&c, a move to Oklahoma, and a holiday wait before we could undergo another IVF attempt. Looking ahead on the calendar, again …… I knew I would most likely be pregnant in September, when the trip was planned, and couldn’t possibly leave the country to cruise to Alaska, while percolating someone else‘s bambino. So we decided Blaine would go with my mom. A little awkward, perhaps, sharing a cabin together, but he and I agreed that my mom should absolutely NOT miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to take a trip this fabulous, with friends, some of whom she has known almost sixty years. So pregnant-me was out, and Blaine was in. And although I confess I was a wee bit envious, I was mainly just glad she was still getting to go.

After the second miscarriage, in March, I assumed we would undergo IVF a third time, and that I would most likely still become pregnant before September. Blaine was still agreeable, and my mom was still agreeable, so we stuck to the plan of the two of them traveling together, and me being jealous. (OK, so the me-being-jealous wasn’t part of the plan, but you know what I mean.)

Then, only a few short weeks ago, yadda yadda, personal stuff, testing, testing, testing, blah blah female stuff ….. We decided NOT to undergo another IVF attempt. And while I was sad and disappointed to realize that I wouldn’t be attempting another surrogacy at this time, the consolation prize was the knowledge that I was now free to travel on the cruise as my mother’s companion.

So that’s what I’m doing.

And I was right ---- it totally rocks.

We spent yesterday in Vancouver, doing all kinds of amazing touristy stuff, some of which might or might not have included me walking across a suspension bridge while my scaredy-cat mother stood and hyperventilated on the side and wouldn’t even attempt to cross. Wouldn’t even put one little pinky-toe on the bridge. Wouldn’t even think about it.

And more sightseeing, and lumberjacks, and ferries, and blowing fuses in hotel rooms, and trolleys, and customs, etc.

And now our group has successfully boarded the ship and is preparing for our first night aboard. And mainly, I’ve eaten my way from port to starboard, from aft to stern, and just finished dinner and am watching the clock waiting for the midnight buffet. And thinking perhaps I should have packed more elastic-waist pants.

Because even though I’m NOT pregnant, and this trip is in reality the silver lining of not being pregnant, I have a feeling by the end of the cruise, I will be as big, if not bigger, than I am when I actually AM pregnant.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Big 4-2

Yep, I turn 42 this weekend. Except for commemorating the milestone with a party hat and a mammogram (remind me to make that appointment, would you?) I was all set to pretty much let it go without any fanfare. I mean, it’s not like the big 4-0, which can be celebrated, justifiably, with lots of liquor and karaoke. When you’re turning 40, people EXPECT you to make an ass out of yourself, and Lord knows I didn’t disappoint anyone that year.

But 42? Meh. Just not so special.

Blaine, I think, wanted to do something nice for me. He runs very hot and cold when it comes to birthdays. I never know whether he’ll painstakingly select a gift weeks in advance, giving it much thought and consideration, desiring to pick the perfect-ultimately-right present ….. or if this will be one of the years he snags a People Magazine and box of Milk Duds from the checkout stand at 7-11, and hands them to me with best wishes.

The first birthday of mine we ever spent together was when I turned 19. We had only been dating a month, and he sent flowers, which I thought was lovely. He confessed later that he didn’t want to buy any kind of expensive gift in case it was a short-lived relationship …. So basically, he didn’t want to be out very much cold-hard cash in case I turned out to be a hag.

The second birthday, after we’d been dating about a year, he stunned me by planning a huge surprise party. Emphasis on the word "Surprise". To this day I can remember walking in to the house, and honestly not understanding what all those people were doing there. For me? Really!?!?!?! He planned it to take place a week before my actual birthday, which threw me off a little. Mainly, I remember thinking, “if he can get all this accomplished behind my back, without me having any idea, what ELSE could he be doing and I would never know???”

In the years since, he’s bought everything from hot rollers to books to gift cards to suitcases to jewelry. Like I said, some years he splurges, and some years …. Well, some years I wonder if he even remembered at all, or simply noticed the Labor Day Special signs at Wal-Mart, realized with a jolt, “Hey, Kristie’s birthday is around Labor Day, isn’t it???” and grabbed an orange juice squeezer out of the dollar rack.

This year? I’m pretty sure he remembered.

This year? He bought me a little something that I like to call a cruise. A cruise to Alaska.

Depending on when you’re reading this, I’m either sitting in the airport, or flying overhead on my way to Vancouver.

The bad news is my fear of flying isn’t lessened knowing my husband and kids aren’t with me. In fact, it might be worse.

The good news is *this* is why I bought that stupid laptop last week, so I can keep you updated as soon as I arrive, and blog about all the beautiful, wonderful things I’m getting to see and do. As long as I don’t go down in a fiery crash and plummet to my death before I even cross the Canadian border, that is.

Gosh, let’s hope for the first scenario.

It’ll be a pretty depressing birthday, otherwise.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Anything But That

I despise fundraising, and asking people to buy things, or donate money, as part of a fundraiser. I probably can't even explain to you adequately the DEPTHS of my despising. I can remember when I was in school myself, and I had to sell Blue & Gold sausage to raise money for band. I can remember my mom and dad taking the sign-up sheet to work with them, but more than that, I can remember calling my other relatives two or three times a year to beg them ask if they would like to buy more sausage. I can remember trying to get to the teachers at school before any of the other kids, in order to ask first. I can remember walking door to door on my street and asking the neighbors to buy sausage. Then, walking back door to door to deliver the sausage and ask for the money.

De. Spised. It.


To this day, I hate it. Truly. It gives me hives. The only exception was when Brayden was in Girl Scouts, and we sold cookies for a few years. I mean, come on. Who DOESN’T love Thin Mints or Samoas?? Even someone as uptight as me can feel good about trying to sell Girl Scout cookies.

But every other kind of fundraising, or solicitation, I hate. Hate, hate, hate with the intensity of a thousand burning suns. In July.

Imagine my delight (not) when the kids brought home their fundraising packets for elementary school yesterday. Catalogs full of candles, home d├ęcor, costume jewelry, stationery, office supplies, kitchen utensils, magazine subscriptions, cookbooks, candy, calendars, and of course, the always-present gift-wrap paper. What makes it worse, of course, are the “prizes” these companies offer the kids for selling a certain amount of items. Sell 1 to 7 items and win a crazy popper! Sell 8 to 11 items, win “spy” glasses! Sell 49 items, win a ballistic alarm monkey!! Woo-hoo!!

Of course, my kids want to sell 125 items --- APIECE --- so they can each earn their own flip video camera. Pointing out to them that it would require selling to 275 people – and that we don’t even KNOW 275 people – is futile. Kellen is also certain that he will be selected in the random drawing (from every kid that sold more than 20 items, out of over 200 schools, mind you) to win a Dodge Nitro. And he’s already begun planning what he’ll do with the money when we sell it.

The kids must have talked for ten solid minutes yesterday about how which prizes are the coolest, and how many things they will have to sell, with no real strategy or plan. Just along the lines of, “I’m going to sell 39 items so I can get the Spy Gear!” and “Oh, look! I want the Scooby Doo pinball machine. I only have to sell 124 things!!”

I listened to their talk, only half-paying attention. It was along the lines of: “Mom, how much money do you think we’ll get for selling the car??? I really want to buy an x-box. How many things would I have to sell to win an x-box??? Are they offering an x-box as a prize? If we sell 11 things, do we get the crazy popper AND the spy glasses, or just the spy glasses? What is an Air Ball catch game? Hmmm, that’s only 29 items …… how about you earn the spy gear and I’ll earn the spy glasses and we can trade off …. Where is Pagosa Springs? We can win a trip there and our whole family can go!!! ” etc etc.

And at that point, I turned to all three kids.

“I will pay you FIVE DOLLARS EACH to NOT do the fundraiser.”

“Seriously? Five dollars? If we DON’T sell anything?”

“Yes. Five dollars apiece to throw those packets and catalogs in the trash right now.”

Sold!

It was the best fifteen bucks I ever spent.

And just so you don’t think I’m the worst PTO parent on the planet, I will write a donation check for the fundraiser. But still …. Fifteen bucks? In exchange for not having to call and harass our relatives, or go door to door in a neighborhood with a bazillion other kids from the same school selling the same crap????

I’d say I got off easy.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pimp my Ride

This might come as a shock to some of you, but, I hate exercise.

I know! Who would have guessed???

However, Blaine and I decided recently one of the things we would like to start doing as a family is bike riding around the lake. NOT the kind of bike riding where you speed-race a professional-quality bike wearing wet suit-type outfits and helmets with lights on them and have bottled waters strapped to the frame, a la Lance Armstrong. After all, we're bike riding with kids, which means we stop every few hundred feet to climb an interesting looking tree, or look for turtles, or play on playground equipment, or put pretty rocks in our pocket, or (especially maddening to me) count the wild cats we see. (And I wonder why I never burn any calories, what with all the stopping.)

The kids have always enjoyed riding bikes and in Georgia, the loop around our neighborhood was about a quarter mile, so Blaine would take them on occasion. Or I would walk and they would ride, circling back around to me when they got too far ahead. Here in Oklahoma, however, our "neighborhood" isn't set up well for bike riding, so we decided to utilize the bike paths around the two local lakes.

I think the kids really enjoy it, and I do as well. Which is surprising, considering my idea of exercise is changing channels. The first night we went we lasted about half an hour, and except for what will be forever known as the Unfortunate Mutant Attacking Beetle Episode of '08, it was a lot of fun. The other night we met my sister and her family, along with some other kids .... the kids seem to multiply as often as the wild cats around the lake, when our two groups get together. Three adults to eleven kids .... it *sounds* like a pretty good ratio, until you realize the kids are in way better shape than we are and basically rode off and left us in the dust.

Starting out, it was just my three and a friend:



We meandered around, enjoying the view, trying not to crash into one another, struggling to remember to stay on the right so the "serious" riders could pass to the left .....



Here we stopped to watch a man practice retrieving with his two dogs. The kids loved to see the dogs fetch out of the water and want to know when can we take Barley and start practicing??? I told them whenever I can trust her not to pee in my car on the drive to the lake .....



Here's the point to my story, however..... Blaine had a bike, and the kids had bikes. I, however, did NOT, have a bike. Because owning a bike implies I am going to get on it. And steer. And pedal. Which might induce sweating, something I avoid at all costs.

Since I knew I would slow the whole family down without one, however, I broke down and bought a bike for myself. I thought long and hard about my decision. Granted, you never forget how to ride a bike, but I wanted a bike that would reflect my personality; be comfortable to ride; allow me to burn a lot of calories; and MOST importantly .... look cool.

This is what I decided upon:


OK. Before you laugh, let me tell you that not one .... not two .... not three .... but FOUR people stopped me in Wal-Mart to ask me where I got it and how much it cost. Obviously, it is a thing of envy. The basket on the back allows me to carry my camera bag and all the water bottles and snacks --- something that makes me instantly essential to everyone riding with me. The dual back wheels mean I never have to worry about losing my balance ..... I just have to remember I'm a little wider than your average bike, especially when pedaling around curves and posts (lesson learned the hard way.)

I'm not quite sure WHY I'm not getting the respect I think I deserve. After all, I'm out there steering ... and pedaling ..... and (gasp!) EXERCISING, aren't I?

So you tell me which comment was the most insulting from my ::supposed:: friends and family:

Comment #1, from my dear friend Renee: "You bought what????? Aren't those for people who have had strokes or something????"

Comment #2, from my brother-in-law Cliff: "When I was little I had a babysitter that would ride that kind of bike to my house .... she was 97 YEARS OLD."

Comment #3, from my soon-to-be-ex-husband-Blaine: "Hmmmmmmm. Are you sure that seat is big enough?"

Oh, Yes. Yes he did.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Shockingly, very little

"What I accomplished during my mini-blogging-break, Alex" ..... ding, ding, ding!!!

Funny how I took five days off because I was sick of the computer, and what was the first thing that happened once I finally logged back in? I clicked "upgrade" for my Blogger account to take advantage of some new features, and wound up spending hours online trying to figure out a way to combine what I liked about my old template with what I like in the new. I'm still not sure I've married the two very well, so I'll give it a week to grow on me. Then, if I still grimace every time I see the new page opening up, I'll switch it back to the tried and true (and simple and plain and boring.)

In the meantime, here's the list of what I did on my Summer Blogging Break (Because I'm sure you're just dying to know):


**Went shopping for new jeans. Depressing.


**Visited the bombing memorial again.


**Really had to ask myself .... if I bought a new laptop over a week ago, and it's still sitting on the floor in the box ...... did I truly, truly need it?



**Lots of PTO crap junk stuff opportunities.


**Hosted a birthday party for Kendrie



**Technically, my sister hosted it, since she was kind enough to let us swim in her pool. At least until the storm blew in, at which point we bagged it and went to a movie.



**Figured out, thanks to a few of the comments on my latest photos, that if I take the UV lens off the camera, I can still get the natural-candlight photos that I like of my kids birthday cakes ... (thanks for the tip!)



**And wondered when on earth did Kendrie start this totally cheesy, jut-jawed, open-mouthed kind of smile? And how long will it last??? I guess following closely on the heels of the "my teeth must not show at any cost" close-lipped smile that she's done the past year or two, this should be a pleasant change. Strangly, it is not.



**One final day at the water park ..... which loosely translates into one final day of public swimsuit humiliation, thank goodness some things are over.


**Read three books (see sidebar).


**Watching Barley the fabulous guard-dog protect our family from the vicious dinosuars of the world .... oooops, doesn't look like she's doing too well.



**"Ahhhhh, victory is MINE! Take that you rogue dinosaur, and leave my human family alone or vengence will be mine as well!!!"



**Entered the eleventh circle of Hell (ie, shoe-shopping with Brayden) and lived to tell about it.


**Family night watching National Treasure and making smoothies. Have you seen that movie? If not, you really should.


**Took part in ginormous group bike ride around the lake (more on this later):



**Took a nap


**Hosted a sleepover (OK, I confess, the nap came AFTER this)


**Went off Atkins and practically swan-dived into the carbs ..... which leads to carb-hangover of the worst kind.


**Totally and completely LOST MY SHIT and snapped at the Homeland clerk, "Well, maybe next time you shouldn't ask that question unless you see a BABY'S HEAD COMING OUT!!!!!"


**Packing (more on this later)


**Other stuff I don't want to talk about right now.


**Sooooooo, what did *YOU* do while I was gone???

Don't Ask

I clicked on "Upgrade" and all this new stuff popped up.

I think I might have done permanent damage.

Working on it .............