our pad

our pad

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fairy Garden Activity

Inspired by a recent trip to the Hershey Gardens during their annual Fairies in the Flowers celebration, we decided to  create our own miniature "fairy gardens". These pint size gardens are designed to attract fairies and bring good luck. We all welcomed the prospect of a whimsical escape and some good fortune! My three frequently winged and wanded little pixies were excited about this project. Armed with a couple beach shovels and one highly coveted plastic gardening trough, we took to the woods in search of supplies. From the dampest, darkest reaches of the forest floor, we unearthed moss, chiseled tree bark, gathered berries and uprooted wildflowers.
Once home we set out in search of small scale items to use as furnishings to help lure the magical woodland creatures. From the deepest, darkest corners of our playroom we were able to gather an array of minuscule objects to be included. I soon provided each girl with a shallow pan in which to create their fairy gardens.  After a few squabbles, whining and hair pulling each found a "more better" shallow pan and we got to work. The moss was arranged to cover the bottom of the container and served as the cushioned floor for our fairies. Next the girls arranged flowers and twigs and leaves. Their little fingers worked quickly, turning bark into benches and petals into pillows all fit for a fluttering fairy.
Assembling their Fairy Gardens
They added a few finishing touches and were quite proud of their mystical masterpieces and soon each declared their own garden the "most best"!
That evening we set the gardens out on our deck and the next morning my three little girls were more than delighted to discover that the fairies had visited, leaving a trail of glittery fairy dust as evidence.

A week later we were all excited to learn the Highfield Hall would be hosting its own Fairies in the Woods event. The exhibit featured dozens of Fairy Houses hidden along a scenic path through the woods. The girls had so much fun discovering each house, noting all the details and naming the particular fairy who would surely reside there.

We then decided to raise the bar on our "fairy gardens" and create "fairy houses". Using circular tree trunk rings as a base, each girl erected their fairy house using small branches, leaves, sand, seashells, and pine-cones. A thick paste helped to mount all the objects and secure everything in place.
We planted these outside by our garden which again attracted visiting fairies and pixie dust.

These projects incorporate nature and awaken the imagination and are perfect for the little fairies in your life!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Because Laughter is the Best Medicine

I am all done crying over cancer and here is the superficial reason why: I would like to maintain the thinned eyelashes I have left for as long as possible. Chemo does a number on all those quickly dividing hair follicle cells and eyelashes are no exception. Now just lightly wiping away a tear unleashes an avalanche, so I'll try to laugh instead, after all; laughter is the best medicine.

I thought I'd share a few incidents and stories related to my diagnosis which have kept me laughing  through this first phase of treatment:

  • After hearing from my doctor that hair loss would be inevitable with my chemotherapy regimen, I decided to get a major haircut to perhaps make the transition to baldness a little more subtle. I had nine inches chopped off my hair at the local Supercuts, refusing to pay an exorbitant  amount  of money for a hairstyle which would be fiercely shedding within a months time. I donated the hair to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths which creates wigs for uninsured cancer patients, acknowledging the irony of it all.  I'll never forgot the look I got from Cameron (9) when I walked in the house sporting my first short haircut; chin length in the front, a shorter bob in the back. He put his hands on his hips and said, "Wow, you sure look a mom now!"

  • Explaining or perhaps complaining to my friend Emily who has known me a little too well for 20 years, that I am not allowed to consume any alcohol over the next six months while going through treatment (something about poisoning my liver and red-blood cells?), she sympathized with me saying, "We all know chemotherapy is terrible, but no wine? Now that's just BARBARIC!"

  • Impatient and sick of hearing me go into lengthy details when friends or acquaintances  ask me how I'm feeling all the time, Avery (4) interrupted the lady working at the grocery store check-out aisle who happened to ask the generic, "How are you doing today?" by blurting out, "She's all better now! See? No more band aids!" 

  • Explaining to the boys how the medicine I needed to take to make me better was going to make me lose my hair on my head, Cam (9) replies,"It's too bad it couldn't just work on your hairy arms instead." (He is on to something, ever since my college friends and I decided to Nair our arms before a school dance, the hair grew back longer and thicker after that). Luckily it's blonde because chemo hasn't changed a thing there!
  • I told the kiddos we would do something really special as a family when this is all behind us, then asked them where they would want to go if we could go anywhere in the world.  Cam (9) closed his eyes and thought for a second then shouted, "I know...Hollywood!" Ella (4) thought a minute longer then shouted, "I know...Swizzles!" (our local ice-cream joint).

  • Having a snack with my kids outside, somehow the plate ended up getting knocked onto the deck.  Cameron bent down to pick up the scattered apple slices then a few minutes later handed the plate back to me saying, "I licked all the dirt off for you because I know while going through treatment, your not suppose to get any germs."

  • Explaining to the girls that they were going to go stay with their grandparents for a couple days while I went to have  surgery to have the portacath placed in my chest, Avery (4) replies, "But you already had surgery, I think its Daddy's turn now."

  • After not being allowed to lift the girls for a few weeks following my surgery, the first time I picked up Addison (3), she gave me a big hug and says, " I'm just so proud for you!"
  • Trying to convince the girls to go back downstairs with their dad while I rested saying I wasn't feeling well, Ella (4) says, "Chewing gum always makes me feel better." Then continues, "Maybe watching me chew gum would make you feel better. Do you have any gum?"

  • A good friend texted me while I was sitting in the Dana Farber the other day to check in and see how chemo was going. I thought I texted back, "Much easier with the port." But what she read was, "Much easier watching porn." Gotta love auto-correct!!! 

  • Or how about when the girls convinced Jim they were ever-so-sweetly making me a card in the playroom, but instead were covering each other in blue permanent marker. If this doesn't say "Get Well Soon, Mom." I don't know what does:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Everything Happens for A Reason (Birthday and Father's Day Edition)

Today we celebrated my Jameson's 12th birthday. When I first held him in my arms those many years ago, I got a glimpse into our future together. My hopes and dreams were suddenly wrapped up in that tiny 7lb 11oz bundle. I felt a love like no other and knew this feeling would last forever. He has become everything I hoped for and more. He is sweet, sensitive, caring, and agreeable.  While you hope your kids will excel in all things, in the end I've learned its having a nice, "good-kid" that will take you the farthest. Jameson is by all accounts a good-kid. What's more, he is smart and responsible.  While not perfect, he is the perfect oldest child for our family, and a great example for his four younger siblings. While my other kids do their best to drive me to insanity, he does his best to help out and make my life easier. Although still a child in so many ways he has become almost a partner and takes it upon himself to help this family thrive.  His patience is exemplary and I wish it would rub off on me.  In the car the other day Cameron was doing his very best to get under everyone's skin.  He had taken Jameson's video gamer and was just being loud and annoying in every sense of the word. Jameson managed to tune it all out while I found myself thinking, "Can't you just elbow him or something to make him stop?" Although now 12, he still has an innocence about him which I would love to savor forever.  Now that I think about it, I can't remember him ever saying anything bad about anyone else. Granted he thinks his brother is annoying, recognizes his sisters can be bratty, from time to time someone might drive him crazy, but I honestly can't remember him ever saying he didn't like someone, not another child, not a teacher, not a hardheaded coach, no-one. He is optimistic and tends to see the good in the world around him.

The other day he walked in from his soccer playoff game with a big smile on his face. I asked him how the game went and he replied enthusiastically, "Great, it was awesome!" "Oh good, I'm so happy you guys won and will advance in the tournament." I cheered excitedly. "Oh,well no, we lost, but it was a really good game!" Trying to make some sense of this, I questioned, "You guys hung in there 'til the end? It was a really close game?" "No we got killed. I think it was like 8-0" he replied shrugging his shoulders.  "Oh I see, but at least you played really well, right?" I asked. "Not exactly. I was playing goalie when we let in the first half of the goals, but I played against some friends from school so it was fun seeing them. And someone brought Popsicles for us all after the game. And we still get to compete in the Loser bracket!" he said still smiling. What a great attitude to have, I thought. His team got clobbered, no chance left of winning the tournament, he let in four goals- yet it was a great game-I think I would be crying. Then the other day on the way to Hershey Park for a little family vacation to celebrate the end of school among other things, I had him check the weather so I'd know what to expect for the day ahead. He pulled up the hourly forecast on his i-touch and said, "Oh wow, the forecast looks great- really nice!" I had him hand me the ipod and as I scrolled down I saw clouds, lightening bolts and rain drops all the way down the screen. I said, "You think this is a good forecast?" And he replies, "Yeah, did you see that temp? 74 degrees is like perfect in the rain!" I hope he always maintains his positive view of the world, keeps his innocence, knows how much we appreciate him, always feels how much he is loved and shares his kindness with the world.

On this day, twelve years ago, Jim also got to enjoy his first Father's Day and celebrate a role he was always destined to play. Although he warned me his experience with babies was almost non-existant before our first child's birth, he was a natural from the first moment he held our little boy. I grew up around babies, babysat my entire life, yet I was so scared and timid changing my own baby's tiny diapers and giving that first bath. Somehow Jim knew just what to do and took control and kept the baby and me content. He was cool and calm, never got frustrated and was just so happy and at ease being a dad.  He was an equal partner from those first nights in the hospital, keeping me company through the middle of the night feedings, and waking up almost hourly to change diapers and swaddle even when he went back to work.  I knew we were in this together and I had found not only an amazing husband but the best father for my children

We were a family, and Jameson was literally our gift from God. Although he doesn't know this yet, his existence came as a surprise to both of us. We were young, unprepared, ambitious and busy making plans for the start of our careers. It was a confusing time but somehow Jim and I both knew becoming parents would be our greatest blessing.  As I recently sat in my Oncologist office and listened as he rattled off the possible side effects from the chemotherapy regiment I was on, everything from nausea, numbness, mouth-sores, to joint pain, the one that resonated with me was "infertility". I thought back to the day I found I was pregnant with Jameson, the range of emotions, the surprise, wondering why now, thinking of everything I would have to give up that I had worked so hard for, wishing I had just a little more time to get things in order, to the realization that everything happens for a reason and this was God's plan for me.  It took until now to understand what perhaps that reason might have been. Perhaps God knew I always wanted a big family, saw me playing with dolls until I was in middle school, knew how I loved babies and working with children, knew I longed to surround myself in love and laughter, knew I thrived in the chaotic, heard my thoughts and dreams about my life as a mother. But perhaps He also knew I had a bump on the horizon, the makings for cancer to come, and knew symptoms would start appearing at 32, knew that chemotherapy might well  destroy my fertility by 34. Perhaps He wanted to give me that chance for the large family I always wanted and hoped for. Everything happens for a reason, perhaps that is why God gave me the opportunity to start my family young, and allowed me to have Jameson when I did, changing and blessing our lives forever.  We wouldn't have wanted it any other way and have always been thankful for the ways things worked out, but even more so now.

I believe somewhere in my heart that this diagnosis happened for a reason as well.  Perhaps it was to better recognize and appreciate the love around me. Perhaps it was to inspire me to better help others. Maybe it was to feel the good in the world and share it with others. Or perhaps there is another meaning, a greater one I won't recognize for sometime to come...

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Diagnosis and a New Direction

Dear Friends,
As many of you know, two months ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. I ended up in the Emergency Room the night before Easter after waking in the middle of the night with chest pain. A CT scan revealed enlarged lymph nodes in my chest, indicative of a much greater problem than I was prepared for. I was sent home to enjoy Easter with my family, knowing that the life I had long taken for granted would soon be challenged.  I relished in my children's joy and innocence on Easter morning, smiled as they found their baskets and bit into chocolate bunnies, absorbed the psalms and sang along with the choir in Mass, stared up at the clear blue sky during an egg-hunt in the backyard, then hosted Easter dinner as planned surrounded by both sides of the family, poignantly noting just how perfect it all was.  The next two weeks were spent in and out of doctors’ appointments which all concurred that something was clearly wrong in my scans, and alluded to any number of different conditions and cancers. So what do you do when you find yourself full of such worry and uncertainty, recognize that your life and the life of your family, your husband and children are all about to change, but not quite knowing how drastically or quickly that change might come?  Well, I went to church, sometimes many different churches in the same day. I took comfort in the tearful intentions of others who also lit candles or found themselves in an empty pew at odd hours. I noticed a picture hanging next to an altar which read, “Jesus, I trust in you” and repeated this over and over to myself until I was certain it was true.  I closed my eyes and prayed and every time I opened them my gaze would settle on Mary, her image in a stained glass window or portrait on the wall.  Early one morning when the church doors were still locked, I found myself actually holding hands with a statue of Mary in a garden behind the rectory. You think of all the “what ifs”, you imagine all the “what if I never”s. You brush your daughters’ hair like you have never felt such smooth silk before. You read that book with your nine your old, like you meant to do when you gave it to him at Christmas. You let your little one sleep in your bed; one night you let four children sleep in your bed (no-one gets much sleep). You enjoy date-night with your husband, ordering too many cocktails, then walk arm in arm through the city like you did when you dated in college. You have your family, brothers and sister join you for dinner, have your sister sleepover and keep you company into the dark scary hours of the night, distracting you from your thoughts. You text frantically with your best-friends. You eat a Popsicle with your toddler and find yourself completely enamored with her little legs dangling off the edge of the deck, her big eyes staring into yours, her long thick eyelashes blinking in the wind, then smile and laugh to yourself at her sweet sweet lisp, wondering if it's always been that apparent.  You host an after dinner dance party in the living room, you take your oldest out to lunch. You remind each of your children how much you love them, and tell them they are perfect the way they are and how you hope they never change. You tuck Rosary beads into your pocket, your repeat the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Marys in your head throughout the day. You pray with your children, your parents, your husband. You cherish everything about the normalcy in your day.  And then the date of your surgery and biopsy arrives. 

It was the day of the now infamous Boston Marathon. I arrived at the hospital at noon, and the surgery began promptly at 2:00 that afternoon.  I was well intubated while the bombs ignited just miles away. The surgery was more complicated than planned, a large lump was taken out, my thymus needed to be removed, the incisions were larger, and chest tubes were needed.  I was wheeled out of surgery which went two hours over-schedule and came to, in the recovery room to hear nurses explaining to the patient across from me that she was involved in an explosion and brought in to surgery to have shrapnel removed from her chest.  I was only able to make sense of this, hours later when my husband and mother explained what had occurred at the finish line of the marathon while I was being operated on.  Over the course of that surreal week in the hospital I recognized I was far from alone in my state of worry, sadness and anxiety. I realized once again just how fragile and unpredictable life can be. The hospital went into lockdown on two separate occasions, soldiers with bullet proof vests and machine guns roamed the halls, the victims were identified and just beginning to face the reality and devastation of their situations. On Thursday of that week, I sat in a wheelchair and was wheeled from Brigham and Women’s Hospital to Dana Farber to meet with a specialist for my biopsy results.  Much was a blur, but the fact that six months of chemotherapy were to begin five days later when I was still recovering from major surgery, was more than scary.  I wept for myself and the short term hopes for my family that would not be; our April vacation in South Carolina, the half marathon I was training for I would no longer be able to run at the end of May, the return to the dance stage in the spring recital, excited for my daughters (now ballerinas themselves) to see their mother in action, strengthening my tennis game, summer on Cape Cod hopeful that my youngest three were perhaps now old enough to allow me to actually bring a chair and relax at the beach, vacationing with family in Mattapoisett, and returning to school in the fall (I had just been admitted to a Post Baccalaureate program at Brandeis University to begin my study of medicine, of all things).  I wept for my children who I wished never had to have their sweet childhood tainted, who will see their mother sick, who will not receive the best of me, my full energy and attention.  I wept for how much quicker they will grow up now that oncologists and chemotherapy are part of their vocabulary.  I wept for my parents and in-laws who were beginning their twilight years of retirement and travel but will instead be accompanying me to hospital visits, helping to care for me and their grandchildren. l wept for my husband upon whose shoulders much of the heavy lifting will fall, already attending to five bedtimes and waking with my early risers, packing lunches, and getting the kids ready for school; attending to those most chaotic hours alone while juggling the demands of his own busy work schedule. I even wept for my grandparents who are now in their mid nineties and days have turned to worry. I was scared, sad and questioned why this was happening. I wondered why now, at 34, with five children, the oldest eleven and the youngest not even three? Why now when I was getting ready to return to school and the dream I always saw for myself when I graduated from college? Why now when I was so busy and active, teaching my own daughters in ballet, helping my boys with school work and tackling the never-ending to do list?  Why now when there was so much I had planned and when my family needed me so?

 I was suddenly roused from my grief the day the bombing suspects were caught. Soon the city rallied together, uniting with pride; Boston Strong. From the depths of the tragedy, people joined together and hope was ignited, the promise to finish the race emerged. The good of the city never shone brighter as heroes were recognized and good seemed to triumph. I was inspired to find the meaning in my situation and almost immediately I was greeted with an unbelievable outpouring of support.  There were calls, cards and messages, letting me know I was loved and would be prayed for.  There was a Meal Train organized by my playgroup which was soon filled three nights a week through the end of October. Another night was added and the generosity continued. The Meal Train calendar completely filled and now my family will be receiving meals four nights a week through November. Friends from many different facets of my life all the way to the principal at my children’s school, signed up to bring my family dinners. Friends of friends I haven’t even met volunteered to feed and comfort my family. To think of so many people preparing, cooking, carefully labeling and delivering these wonderful meals for a family of seven, each made with time, care and love, is beyond humbling.  There were touching emails and sympathetic smiles. There were neighbors who stopped by to offer comfort, cookies, gifts and groceries. Then there were the beautiful flowers which arrived in a steady stream from across town and across the county. My house was turned into a botanical garden reaming of beautiful perfumes. Edible Arrangements arrived and as helpers came by, they were able to enjoy fruited skewers as my children clamored for chocolate covered strawberries. A best friend over-nighted a package from Hawaii, another arrived at my door with a month’s worth of Hot N’ Sour soup from my favorite Chinese restaurant. She then helped pull together a birthday dinner for my sweet Addison who turned three the very same day as my first chemotherapy session. My sister’s 12 best friends who are now spread across the country and overseas organized a package of hope to be delivered to me with words of inspiration and good luck charms. Friends put together baskets for me, carefully selecting gifts to help me face the months ahead with greater ease. There were calming foods, healing lotions, rejuvenating juices, balms and snacks and things to take my mind of off cancer all together. Friends have dropped off so many wonderful magazines to take with me to treatment, which I have then been able to donate on to the hospital. Two days after my diagnosis, my best friends from college arrived at my door; one driving from Connecticut, another leaving her newborn, two more rescheduling work and on-call hours to be there for me when I needed them, bringing gifts and laughter. A colorful prayer quilt arrived from a cousin’s church in California made by dozens of parishioners who prayed for me as the sewed. A prayer scarf made with dearest intentions arrived from Pennsylvania and another from Mattapoisett. My cousins from Philadelphia presented me with a Kindle Fire to keep me entertained during the long months ahead, and others gave me a Vitamix which my nutritionist at Dana Farber had recommended.

The cards, calls, texts and wonderful “checking-in” emails continued. I found I am the lucky recipient of a prayer chain in Vermont, and the Nuns of Charity in Virginia. I am blessed to know that Masses have been offered in my name in many different churches in many different states. A friend who has only just recently completed her treatment for breast cancer, attending chemo throughout the last trimester of her pregnancy with her third child, presented me with a package full of all things she found useful when she went through her ordeal, tucking in the same inspirational book someone had given her as she set out on her course. Most helpful was a four page typed letter filled with insights and advice for navigating Dana Farber, chemotherapy, and motherhood with cancer. Through her own personal experience she was able to give me the kind of information which would have taken months to compile; information on wigs and acupuncture, handling nausea and allowing yourself “worry time”. Each day that I have returned home from chemotherapy I have been touched to discover a carefully wrapped gift on my doorstep which she has left, reminding me to be proud of how far I have already come and giving me strength to persevere.  She has become a trusted friend and resource and I promised her I would someday pass along what she has given me and be that resource and friend to someone else just beginning their fight. Friends have hosted lunches and dinners and a "Girls Night In" for me. A babysitter I have used since she was a high school student eight years ago accompanied me and my girls to their swim class and ballet lessons and helped me throughout the day following my first treatment, still unsure how I would react to all the new medications. At the end of the day she refused to let me pay her saying she was just happy to help. Another sitter on my street, now a college graduate, came over to offer open availability and free babysitting whenever I need it over the next six months. Friends and neighbors have taken to call when they are on their way to the market to see if there is anything I need.  Other times I have returned home to find that a week’s worth of groceries have been dropped off, or a huge supply of Costco items; snacks, water bottles, fruit and gallons of milk have found their way from a friends trunk to my front steps. My aunt’s famous homemade chocolate chip cookies have arrived weekly since my surgery, perfectly packaged from several states away-a true comfort food for my children and me. Adorable pajamas, a carefully sewn blanket, homemade granola, beautiful plants, fruit, homemade juices, sunhats for when I lose my hair, cupcakes, and toys and gifts and quiet activities for my children have all found their way to me. I have had gift-cards arrive in the mail from the closest of friends, from acquaintances and from people in town who have just heard of me and my story. I just learned that family friends together with their ten year old son participated in the American Cancer Association’s Relay for Life, walking, raising funds and lighting luminaries in my name. Without me having to think about it, rides were arranged for my kids. My boys were picked up for art and baseball and evening sports and parties. My girls were driven home from school without me having to ask. Playdates were set up and my children have been welcomed into so many loving homes, not only giving them a welcome distraction but giving me a chance to rest and recoup. Not a day has gone by where I haven’t checked the mail, or turned on my computer to find a touching letter moving me to tears. When I least expect it, when I need it the most, there are words from a friend, a relative, someone I haven’t seen in months, someone in London or someone around the corner, their words finding their way to my heart, enveloping me, comforting me and giving me hope and strength.

And I feel I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention my family and all they have done over these last trying months. Team Amanda (as the call themselves) made up of my husband Jim, my parents and my sister Tammy, have attended every Doctor’s appointment with me, arriving with notebooks, printed out questions and then diligently take notes, transcribing medical jargon, and asking insightful questions. These are long appointments, all in the city often starting early in the morning, my sister making a point to be there despite them overlapping with her classes and study time as she prepared for finals to receive her LLM (an advanced law degree). I’m happy to report that despite spending so much time with me at hospitals, she passed all of her exams with an above A average and received her degree at the very top of her class. My father, despite still working, has become the liaison working between my doctors and me and also has been a permanent fixture on the sidelines at all of my boys games and then at my house in the evenings helping with bedtime shenanigans. My mom has been my constant strength, holding my hand through it all, the first person I saw coming out of two separate surgeries so far and often saying how, despite having had her own dealings with breast cancer years ago, would trade places with me in a heartbeat. A mother’s love knows no bounds. She has made sure we have everything to fight this together, that my laundry is done, my prescriptions are filled, my appointments are scheduled, I am hydrated and my house is still standing. And of course my husband who has managed to do it all while still keeping his cool, despite running on minimal sleep.  He is my comfort and the voice of reason and faith. I could not ask for more from him,  selflessly placing me and my children before himself. My in-laws, Nanylil and Ampa, have been with us every step, taking in my five children over April vacation while I was in the hospital, and not just taking them in but taking them to the Mystic Aquarium, the zoo, mini golfing, out for ice team, to the beach, letting the boys create a fort of all forts on the other side of the creek and helping the girls turn the third floor into a fort of their own. They were able to give the children a real vacation and distraction from their mother being in the hospital. They have cooked for us, cleaned our house, vacuumed our car and most importantly babysit during all of those appointments, sometime leaving in the dark hours of the mornings to get here on time and not leaving until after dark the same night. They watch my children on those long chemo days, allowing me peace of mind while I receive my infusions. My brothers, sister-in-laws, and brother in-laws’ care and concern is ever present. Whether dropping off dinners and flowers or keeping my freezer stocked with Cabots ice-cream, texting when they can babysit, offering to pick up the kids up for an outing, or entertaining the kiddos while I take a nap. I am so fortunate to have my family close, united in our faith and in our love for one another.

Over the past two months, I have been blessed with Holy Water showered on me from the most sacred places on earth. I have received prayer cards bearing the Blessed Mother, Mass Cards, Rosary beads from Magigoria, prayers from the Holy Land, bracelets blessed in Mary’s home, St. Christopher the Protector metals, a small statue of Mary herself, along with other religious emblems. All to remind me, as a friend so beautifully put it in her letter and interpretation of a sermon from her pastor in North Carolina, that God is right with me, helping me along in this journey. He does not want me to be ill, or my family to suffer, He does not want bad things to happen on this earth, but despite His dearest intentions, bad things do happen; a bomb explodes near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing and injuring innocent bystanders, cancer creeps in when you least expect it, but He is there to offer strength and comfort during these most trying times. He offers Jesus' love through all of you, reminding me that there is so much good in the world. Already so much good has come of this diagnosis, I have felt so much warmth and love and it will forever alter the way I carry myself. I have reconnected with old friends and made some new, who have shared their experiences and battles with me. I know I will better cherish my friendships, recognizing the love and support they have given me and the strength I draw from them. I will keep my family, in-laws, Aunts, Uncles and cousins always close to my heart knowing how they have sacrificed for me and been alongside me on every step of this journey. As a mother, I will take time to find the laughter in the chaotic and joy in the mundane.  I will cherish Addison's smooth kissable little face and her chubby little fingers, Cameron's dimpled cheek, cowlick and iridescent knowing eyes, Jameson's casual shrug and constant smile which still reveals several baby teeth, Ella's under-bite from too many years with the pacifier, her strong hug reaching all the way around my neck  and Avery's 

contagious laugh and how she clenches her security blanket while she sleeps . I will volunteer more, and reach out more, instead of asking what I can do, I will just do. I will never hesitate to place a phone call or send an email when I  know someone is suffering, I will go the extra mile, cook that meal, mail that card and say those prayers. I will remember the little moments and cherish the good in each day. I hope to follow through on my dream of working in health care, helping those most vulnerable and working to give back. I will fight to remain positive and will always remember to be grateful for the outpouring of support from so many caring people and they will forever be imprinted in my heart. I will always recognize how fortunate I am to have so many wonderful and generous people in my life, to live in a community where people are so inclined to help one another and to attend a church and school where faith and God’s love are ever present. I have just begun to face the challenges of this diagnosis but knowing I have the love and support of so many makes this much more bearable. I may be low in white blood cell counts now but I feel strong in love and hope and ready to face the challenges ahead.

Life is a Circus

Sometimes I think I live in circus. With five kids it's a constant juggling act.

And then of course there are the never-ending costume changes:

And Make-up. What circus would be complete without make-up? You'd think my girls trained at the best clown-school around.

Under this circus tent, we also have lots of high flying aerials and some tightrope walking. And let us not forget the time recently, we really could have used a safety net, when our daredevil dove headfirst from her crib landing her the ER with a grade 5 concussion.

I drive a clown-car and push clown-carts through the aisles of stores, always drawing attention.

And how is this for a side-show act: instead of swallowing fire, my daughter swallows hair-clips. Here's the proof:

This incident wasn't without fanfare. There was some chocking, some screaming, a frantic attempt at the Heimlich Maneuver by me, the ultimate passage of the barrette down the windpipe where it cleared the narrowest part of the respiratory tract and made it safely to the stomach. Then there was the inevitable trip to the Children's Hospital ER, where we were assured the barrette would pass.  And pass it did, all in one piece, paint color slightly altered from all the stomach acids working on it over the course of three days, but that's life under the Big Top.  In my days as a mom my little performers have swallowed a bottle cap, a penny, and even a quarter- they are really quite skilled.

And because I live in a circus, we found ourselves back in the Children's Hospital ER the very next night after Ella slipped on the wet tile at a pool party we were having for Cam's 9th birthday (yes his actual birthday was 6 months ago) and ended up with a concussion of her own.  She threw up all over me, the ringmaster, in the middle of the party, and on our way out of the party then ten more times before we even made it to the hospital.  They kept her for eight hours then finally released us around two in the morning.

Two nights in a row in the ER- there is never a dull moment in this circus and I am the juggler trying to keep all the balls up in the air. Sometimes I let a couple fall but I guess that's life in center ring under the Big Top!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

No rest for the Weary

Weekends; ahhhh, a couple of days to rest, regroup and recharge for the week ahead. Ha, I wish, not here at the Lily Pad, especially not in the springtime! Our weekend included no less than 10 sporting events, one gymnastics show, 40 bags of mulch, hours of yard work and the sanding and painting of our swingset.  The schedule went something like this: Addie soccer 8:00, Avery and Ella soccer 9:00, Cameron soccer clinic 10-11:15, Jameson soccer clinic 10:45-12, Cam bball game 1:00, J bball game 3:00, Cam gymnastics show 5:00. Breathe, smile, head out for dinner with the whole gang to our favorite Chinese restaurant. Sunday: 9:30 church, 11 Cam bball, 2:00 J soccer game, 3:00 Cam soccer game. Both boys scored in their soccer games, Cam getting the winning goal securing his team a spot in the playoffs. He also did awesome in gymnastics and its amazing how strong he's gotten. All the down time between games (all ten minutes of it) was spent beautifying the backyard. Maybe I didn't allow quite enough time to get everything done, but its a start. The kiddos managed to soak up some fun in our new kiddie pool (no pun intended), have a water balloon fight throughout the neighborhood and run through the sprinkler to cool off, certainly making the most of the weekend. Can't wait for playoffs to begin, now that will be a fun weekend schedule!