The leaves outside the nursery

November 11, 2007

The leaves outside the nursery window have changed from green to yellow to yellow-tinged-with red.  The acorns have fallen off the trees at the playground, and the sidewalks in our neighborhood are littered with maple and oak.  We have had a long and pleasant autumn in D.C. this year, and I have enjoyed almost every moment of it. 

Defying earlier expectations and the outcomes of some with my disease, I have not only survived but become more healthy this fall.  I can now go to playdate in the morning, and, after nap, play with my children and perhaps do a load of laundry in the afternoon.  I can feed my baby formula — from a cup — and pick him up and cuddle him when he’s done.  I can cook him bite-sized vegetables (he just started eating peas and carrots today — and he loves them!), and play with both the boys over a long lunch.  I can go out to dinner with my husband, and put my baby or little boy to bed when we come home.

My tumor is shrinking.  The inflammation is much less, the redness subdued, and the weight much lighter.  The swelling is going down.  My chest still hurts, but the pain is more controllable and has lessened greatly.  I’m still nauseated, but nothing like I was in August.  I’ve lost my appetite, but I remember what foods I like and I can certainly make myself eat when I must.  My nose and stomach are not yet healed, but I can keep food down now and I’ve stopped losing weight. 

My hair — even my hair — is starting to grow back.  This afternoon, as I was putting Widget down for nap, he pulled my cap off, looked critically at me, and asked, “Mom, is dat new hair?”  I smiled and said yes, for there is new peach fuzz all over my scalp, coming in thick and strong.  He looked again, thought, and asked, “It grow long again?” 

Yes, honey, it will.

As I rocked your little brother to sleep tonight, I noticed that the leaves outside the nursery are still changing.  I am determined to be here to watch them come back in the spring.



Take Action To Keep Our Toys Safe!

November 9, 2007

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is charged with testing the toys that our children play with every day, has only ONE toy tester on staffI was outraged to hear this, and, by your comments on my last post and the other posts in the blogosphere today, many of you are too.  What can we do to fix this?  Here’s a five-minute solution:  write, email, or call your congressional representative and ask him or her to increase the funding for the CPSC and/or specifically to direct the CPSC to “add additional staff to test our children’s toys for lead paint, small parts, and other dangers.”

Only have one minute?  Go to Consumer Union at, fill in your contact information, add a sentence or two to the beginning of their prewritten letter, and click to send it to your congressperson.  You don’t even have to know who your representative is or his contact information — it’s all done automatically (by your zip code). 

Take action today.  For our kids.  Because it’s easier than prying Thomas, Dora, and Elmo out of our kids’ hands later.

Get the Lead Out!

November 9, 2007

I’m becoming increasingly concerned and frustrated about the safety of my children’s toys. 

Ever since Widget was born, I have bought and advocated for the purchase of wooden and natural toys.  We buy responsibly, from small firms or those who have repeatedly assured moms and the public that their testing is frequent and thorough.  We make many of our own toys, out of pieces of scrap wood (okay, Grandpa makes many of those); PVC pipe and connectors; ribbon, yarn, boxes, and similar “found” materials, both to reduce our environmental load on the planet and my children’s exposure to the plastic crap that dominates the children’s toy market these days.  They also fit my bias towards toys and materials that encourage my children’s creativity, encourage them to ask questions, and can be used three ways.

We weathered the great Thomas Recall of ’07, the Polly Pockets Debacle, and the Sesame Street/Elmo/Fisher Price Roundup with only limited damage.  Limited in our case meaning one measley James train and a stop sign were collected, declared “sick,” and sent to the “hospital” to be fixed.  All our other wooden trains are Ikea or Brio, so we felt pretty good about our trainyard escaping relatively unscathed.

That is, until I learned that the CPSC, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, has exactly ONE full-time product tester on staff.  That’s right, mamas.  There is ONE tester, in an office in Gaithersburg, spending his days dropping toys on the floor, checking the size of the little parts, swiping for lead, and otherwise making sure that the toys that our children are safe.

We have one of those too.  We call him “Dad.”

This scares the bejeebus out of me.  With ONE tester, how many of our toys are tested each year?  How many more slip through and are never tested?  I haven’t seen any recalls of IKEA toys, for instance.  Are they super-safe, or not tested?  I just can’t be sure, and it’s making me uneasy.  No, it’s making me furious.

As a result, I’ve tried to stick with the natural toys or big-name-brand toys like Fisher Price that I KNOW will be tested and any recall publicized.  It’s working … to some extent.  The toys are being tested, all right, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been recall-free.  In fact, Little Bear’s big Christmas gift, already bought and tucked away in the basement, has already been recalled due to small breakable parts.  Great.  Just Great.  I haven’t even opened the box yet, for heaven’s sake!  It was featured on the front page of their catalog this fall, and I confidently bought it as a fun situational toy for Little Bear and Widget to play in together!  Widget even helped me pick it out for Little Bear.  And now … a recall?  Thankfully, Fisher-Price is acting fast and offering a repair kit through the mail.  But it doesn’t increase my confidence in the company.  And this is a company I’ve loved since I was Little People-aged myself.  I want to boycott them, I really do, but the problems are clearly not confined to one major company like Fisher-Price or Mattel.

The question that I worry about is … what is the CPSC missing, with their one product tester?

Find out what other moms and dads think about the issue today over at the Parent Bloggers Network Blog Blast, and find more about what you can do to protect your kids at Consumers Union (the independent, nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports) and the League of Maternal Justice (they just launched a new Toxin Avengers Campaign!).

P.S. Mom’s home!

Fear. Anticipation.

November 8, 2007

Fear.  Anticipation.  Getting back on the merry-go-round that is chemotherapy infusion day.  I wrote last night about my hesitancy to go back again today, to get pumped full of poison drugs, to sit there while the vile mixture that will kill my cells is funneled into my veins.  The Individual Voice’s words haunt me, asking, what chemo patients DO look forward to it?  And where are my curse words?

I have no curse words.  I have no rage, even.  I have only … disappointment.  And weariness.  I know I’ve only just begun this cancer journey (and I’m sorry, so sorry, for this self-centeredness in the face of what friends like Jodi and Zachary’s mama have to go through), but I am already so tired of anteing up what cancer asks of me.  I hate being tired all the time.  I hate being weak, and having to ask my son to “jump into mom’s arms” only on the left side, and to hug mom carefully, and to choose a lighter book that mommy can hold without straining her injured chest. 

I hate to leave my little boy, even for a day that will prolong my life by weeks, months, or years (and I know that sounds selfish, particularly when so many mamas have to leave their little boys and girls every day, but this cancer has made me sensitive to our separations.  I do not want to leave him.  Period.).  I hate to say goodbye, and walk away as he screams, “Mom-ee!  Mom-ee!  No go way!  Me come ‘wif you!”  I hate to feel that emptiness and that selfishness as we drive away, spending the day without him.  Spending the day in the cancer ward.  Surrounded by sickness.

It’s hard to focus on the hope, and the love, on days like that.  Days like this.  Days like the one that I will start again in just a few hours.

And so, the night before chemo, I am often up late, alone, writing furiously before the chemo takes my words again, recording thoughts and vivid emotions while I can think, and feel, and express them in language that satisfies.  Because tomorrow, or, later today, I will be numb for a while.  Drugged by the medication.  Exhausted from the poisions and the stress of the day.  Artificial. 

Frustrated by the day that I have spent – no, invested – so that I will have even more days, and months, and years to spend with my little boys.  Because I have two little boys, and I want to live to hear the youngest one cry for mama, and squeal in delight when the car drives up at the end of the day — “Mom’s home!”

Mom’s home.

My goal for today is to take my medicine and to be pleasant about it, and to look forward to the time when our minivan pulls back into the driveway and we can all cheer with delight, “Mom’s home!”