Visit from a friend

December 6, 2010

My friend Marty came to take care of me this week, in the third (and most horrible) week of the fifth (and hardest) cycle, or so I thought it would be, according to experience. 

Thanks to the incredible uplifting that I’ve experienced recently, it was not so horrible, and not so hard, and we spent a lovely Wednesday and Thursday together, watching our children play, snuggling baby Colin, setting up the GeoTrax, introducing her littlest ones to our fishies (Colin was fascinated!), and generally mothering our children together, which is an amazing experience for any two friends, and one that is especially precious to us, after our combined losses and fears, and we enjoyed the time together. 

Friday was more terrible, as I lost all energy and the bone pain tried to take over my body again, starting Thursday afternoon and continuing into Saturday night.  I slept all afternoon on Friday, leaving the parenting to Marty and my husband, home on AWS.  I woke only for dinner (which I then couldn’t eat, as the smell of meat was too much to handle).  C put the little boys to bed again, and then Marty came up to keep me company, with me propped up against the pillows, and together we addressed the Christmas cards for both our families. 

On Saturday, we took the boys to Breakfast with Santa and had their pictures taken with the big jolly guy in the red suit – a first for my kiddos, and it will be a true miracle if the pictures come out at all, given that my youngest wouldn’t even sit by the big guy without me sitting and holding him on my lap (Little Bear, not Santa).  But for an hour, we were just a couple of families enjoying the morning together, and it was an amazing break from my illness.

Then I slept all afternoon and into the evening, until it was time to dress and head over to Jean’s for a little while.  I got to introduce Marty to some of my friends from when Widget was a wee baby (having met Jean at Mom’s Club when he was 6 months old), and we played wii together, enjoying the new Wii Party game, which was pretty great.  Colin and I got tired and fussy at 7:30, and we said goodbyes and came home to sleep.

On Sunday, I fulfilled my role helping to bring the new catechumens and candidates into the church in the Rite of Acceptance.  The choreography was a little off (who knew that THREE of them would show up without sponsors?), but we pulled it together and I’m pretty sure that our earnest efforts will be acceptable to God.  Marty and her littles got on the train, helped by C, and away they went, almost at the exact moment I was reading the prayer from the pulpit. 

Overall, it was a pretty incredible week around here, even if at times it feels like all we did was sit around and help the children play nicely together while the mamas drank diet coke and caught up – just like old times. 

Except, of course, with four wonderful little boys, who are the light of our lives and the fulfillment of dreams spoken and unspoken. 

I wonder if our thirteen-year-old selves, sitting and talking late into the night just as we did on Friday, would even recognize us.

Disclosure: @Stimey is a Nintendo Enthusiast and was sent the Wii Party game to review.  I received nothing from Nintendo, but I did enjoy the party.


Cancer makes me angry

June 25, 2010

Three years ago today, I heard words no 34 year old mom of two should ever have to hear:  you have cancer.

I stared in disbelief, reeling, rejecting the diagnosis even as I heard the words echo in the little room.  Cancer is for older people, like my mother-in-law, still reeling from a cancer diagnosis herself just a week earlier.  in fact, my husband had just returned from helping her through her own biopsy and lumpectomy, halfway across the country.  He held my hand, strong and confident, but I could feel his heart sink next to mine.

The kids — our kids — home with Grammy — what would happen to their childhood?  Would they be sentenced to a babyhood indoors with a sick mama?  Worse — would they grow up without their mama?

So much went through my head in that first moment.  So much worry.  So much fear.  So much … shock.  I had only gone to my ob/gyn in the first place because my baby was still refusing to nurse on the right side.  We had been to his pediatrician time after time, to the lactation consultant weekly, but still, no dice.  My five-month-old baby steadfastly refused to nurse on the right breast.

It turns out that a newborn rejecting one breast is a sign.  It’s called Goldschmidt’s sign.  Here are some other signs that something may be wrong with a breast, and that you should get them checked “to rule out cancer.”

12 signs of breast cancer

I’m now in treatment for a second stage III cancer, or a metastasis of the original inflammatory breast cancer.  It doesn’t matter which one, really, both are hard enough.  The cancer sapped my body of energy over the months it lived in my body, growing and spreading to thirteen lymph nodes under my left armpit.  We had it cut out right away and started radiation.  Treatment is working, but it’s not a cure.  Even the chemotherapy that I start again next month is not a cure.

We need a cure.  Cancer sucks.  We know that.  You know that.  But it still makes me angry, as I sit here in my living room watching my children play, helpless to join them on the floor with their matchbox cars or play catch with them in the yard.  I want my future back.  And it makes me angry.

If cancer makes you angry too, there are things you can do to fight back.  You can raise awareness, by posting a link to reminder for your readers to “check themselves” on your blog today.  You can find out more about research studies that are happening online or in your area, and you can join the Love/Avon Army of Women.  You can take action by joining the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and making phone calls to your congressional representatives when a cancer issue comes up for a vote.  You can take action on this, in your community and in your world.

We need to.  We need to FIGHT this beast called cancer, before twenty more moms are diagnosed and their lives changed forever.  This isn’t an easy battle, but it’s one I fight every day.

Susan Niebur is an astrophysicist, a mom, and a cancer survivor, blogging her story every day at Toddler Planet and Mothers With Cancer.  This post originally appeared at Mamapedia on 6/24/10; if you haven’t read it there, go check out the comments.  You’ll be amazed.


He’s so … two.

December 29, 2009

My baby is very … two.  Well, actually, he’s almost three by now, but oh, the twos!

He is confident.  Strong-willed.  Passionate.  and Just.

He LIVES in capital letters, throwing his whole heart, mind, and soul into every activity — and typically random body parts as well.

He greets the morning with gusto, proclaiming, “DAYLIGHT!” to wake the rest of us up to greet the dawn.

He eats breakfast as if he’d been fasting for days, not hours, with “second breakfast” and “elevenses” put away well before 9 a.m.

He plays passionately, creating little firehouse dramas, noodling over the sounds of the ambulance, and calling in the helicopters whenever “PEOPLE HURT!”

He loves his brother with all that he is, throwing himself at our five-year-old and asking for a ‘nuggle, or twisting his brother’s hair absentmindedly, or racing him up or down or around the house, with a jubilent “ME FIRST!” as they race into the kitchen.

He exercises his body — and our patience — with constant requests of “PLAY SOCCER?” and “CATCH BALL?” and “PRETEND BALL?” For he is so athletic at this age that he will happily batter up and hit imaginary baseballs for ten or twenty minutes at a time, if that’s all he’s allowed in places like waiting rooms and Grammy’s house.

He throws himself on the bench at lunch, clambering up to eat his sandwich (no crusts), or turkey (no bread), or pasta (no sauce), or chicken (YES, PLEASE!).

He protests that he needs NO NAP, MOMMY!, but happily climbs in bed anyway for a ‘nuggle and a story.

He insists on reading about tonka trucks and tough guy stuff, but then loves to hear adventure stories about the hobbit that mama and daddy read at night.  Or the quiet stories about the little rabbit and his mama.  Or the history stories, perhaps about the first Americans and how they learned to make do with what they could find, plant, or make.

He snuggles into my shoulder and sleeps like an angel.

And often, he puts me to sleep as well.

For he is gentle, my wild little boy.

He is quick to pat a shoulder or give a hug to comfort Brother over a skinned knee, insistent on MAMA when he bumps his head, and always, always at my side, ready for a quiet hug or a declaration like he made this morning, putting his hand on my arm, looking into my eyes, and saying, “MINE. [FOR]EVER.”

My Little Bear is turning three soon, and I know that I will miss  these twos.


Tylenol Recall

September 27, 2009

A press release this week announced that Tylenol has recalled some batches of its chidren’s and infant liquid pain relievers, made between April 2008 and June 2008.  The good news is that the issue, a contaminated inactive ingredient that did not make it into the final product, is not one likely to cause serious harm, according to the manufacturer.  The company also has clearly released specific lot numbers that may be affected, so that concerned mothers and fathers can check bottles that they may still have at home.

What I can’t get over, a day after I first heard about this, is why the announcement is being made 17 months after manufacture of this product.  What IF the children’s medicine had been affected, and caused illness?  What about all the children and infants who had been given the medicine by well-intentioned parents in the meantime?

Clearly, I need to understand FDA and product safety standards better, because I just can’t let this go.  Why did it take so long to announce a potential contaminant in children’s medication?


5 things

May 3, 2009

I haven’t done a meme in a long time, but this is an interesting project. HBM and David have suggested doing an around the world meme on a topic that is easy for me to write about:  5 things that I love about being a mom.

1. Being woken up with joy, two little blond heads popping up over the edge of the bed, ready to start the day.

2. Spending mornings adventuring through the back woods of our neighborhood or the concrete jungles of downtown Washington, D.C., with tot friends and mom friends, confident in the acceptance and ease that comes with knowing you’ve all got the same interests and principles at heart (1. love kids. 2. help kids grow. 3. keep kids safe), though you may be so different in experience or heritage or plans for when the kids grow up.

3. Snuggling two sleepy little ones for afternoon nap, cuddled up in their beds reading book after book, and telling stories until they fall asleep.

4. The freedom I have to fill their days with digging in the dirt, squealing over wiggly worms, talking about how plants grow, and being there when they ask, “Why, Mommy?”

5. Watching with pride as one comforts the other after a stumble on the pavement.  As I rush to cuddle and comfort the one who hurts, the other invariably gets there first, wrapping his tiny arms around his brother, dipping his little head on brother’s shoulder, and saying, “It’s okay, brudder.  It’s okay.”

That last bit reflects hard-earned empathy for these children, these wonderful children who have grown through the tragedy that was a mama who couldn’t hold them when she was sick, couldn’t run with them through the wet grasses, couldn’t take them to see the world because she was sick in bed from chemotherapy.  These children rallied, and comforted me as I comforted them, always loving, always careful, and being with them every moment possible, as they are the lights of my life.  The empathy is hard-won for them, and while I regret that they had to go through so much, I am proud that for them it produced kindness, concern, and compassion for each other, for friends, for stray animals, and for their daddy and me when we stub our toe or burn a finger.

These children, these little children, are teaching me how to live.

And I am grateful.

Join the project — post your response to “5 things I love about being a mom” and David and Her Bad Mother will link you up.  Don’t wait for a tag … by reading this, you can be sure that I’m tagging YOU.


Our Little Bear

April 20, 2009

from Widget this week:

Mama, I think Bear is here to make us happy.

You know what?  I think, in large part, he’s right.

Little Bear is such a bundle of pure, absolute joy.  His laughter echoes from wall to wall.  His joy is evident in every step.  When he moves from place to place, he pulls his little arms in by his side, balls up his fists, opens his mouth, and runs like the wind, laughing as he skids to a stop just before the far wall.  His eyes are bright and sparkley; his brain full of good ideas, expressed one word by one word as he can get the concepts across.  (He is, after all, only just two.)  When he wants to go somewhere, he grabs a grown-up’s hand and gently tugs you along to share his fun.  When he looks up at you, oh, when he looks up at you, the shear joy in his eyes is almost too intense to take.

And when he sees a friend or family member hurt, he immediately runs over, gently puts his arms around you, and says, “‘s okay, brudder,” or “‘s okay, mama,” willing you to feel better with his mighty little spirit.

Tonight big brother Widget put his toe in the bath too soon, and it was hot.  Little Bear put his arm around him, said “‘s okay, brudder,” and then when Widget started to do it again, Bear put his arm out in front and said, “No. hawt,” not letting him make the mistake again.

Now they’re all cuddled up in their beds, snuggled, snoring, and sleeping at last.  But I had to share this with the world, just as I have always shared my little boy with the world through this blog.  Because I think I agree with Widget on this.

Bear is here, in part, to make us happy.

Oh, what joy he brings.


Maddie’s Legacy: Notes from the NICU

April 14, 2009
Remembering Maddie

Can toddlers leave a legacy?

You bet they can.

If you’ve been on the mama-net this week, you’ve seen the outpourings of love and well-wishes and heartbreak, all for two little toddlers that were lost this week.  There are so few words at a time like this …. so many of us have turned our blogs or avatars purple in memory of little Maddie.  We’re now beginning to process the new grief that is the loss of little Thalon.

And we know that we will never be the same again.

In Maddie’s memory, I’d like to point you over to her mama’s blog, for a post that she wrote just a couple weeks ago to help other parents who may find themselves or a close friend’s child in the NICU.  It’s a great post about how to help, at one of the times when friends need us most.