Thursday, January 21, 2016

An Anti-Climactic Milestone

Ay carUMBA, why am I blogging when I have dance lesson plans and choreography to work on??? And dishes and laundry to do?  And jogging to suffer through?  And a dear relative's book-in-progress to read and to provide thoughtful input upon?  Why am I blogging, with so much to do?

'Cause I miss writing.

I'm just going to have to schedule writing on my blog like I have to schedule my daily workouts. And my daily scripture study.  Which, strangely, is going swimmingly.  I've had a lifelong struggle keeping my scripture study consistent.  I think I subconsciously made a New Year's Resolution to do so.  (I refuse to make real live New Year's Resolutions.  Because, invariably, I fail, and then I feel crappy about myself.  Just trying to save myself the negative self-talk.  I have to be a good caretaker of my psyche, and this is one of the ways I can do that.)

So anyways, guess what?

I am DONE WITH ALL CANCER TREATMENTS FOREVER AND EVER AMEN!!!  It really is a huge deal.  I remember when I was in the throes of chemo, back in Idaho, more than a year ago.  I was sucking on ice chips during one of the medicines in my cocktail - was it taxotere?  Adriamycin? Cytoxin?  I had to suck on popsicles or ice chips during one, and I had to put  my fingertips on ice packs during one...  I honestly think I've mentally blocked a lot of that miserable time out of my mind.  As well I should.  It was THE worst thing I've ever gone through.

Anyways, back to my story.  I was sucking ice chips, and a really cute gal with very short but curly hair came in.  She sat in the recliner next to me, and we got to talking.  She was there for one of her herceptin treatments.  She had the same exact cancer as me - HER2+.  She had gone through chemo for four months, just like me, and radiation for two months, just like I would, and had a couple of herceptin treatments left.  I remember looking at her hair and thinking, "In a year, my hair might be that long!!"

As she got situated in her chair, a nurse and her doc (who was also my doc) came into the infusion room, enormous smiles on their faces.

"Hey, Bonnie [I just picked this name because I can't remember her real name, and I just read an article in the Ensign that quoted a lady named Bonnie], guess what?" Doctor Who Doesn't Really Care if You're Dying of Dysentery-Related Dehydration said.  [I picked this name because, well, the name really explains itself.  The dysentery-related dehydration hadn't happened yet, because I was only halfway into my treatments.  The fun was soon to come.  I'm still a little pissed at DWDRCIYDODRD for the not-caring stuff.  My oncologist here actually gives a rat's arse about me. Mainly.  I'll get to that in a second.]

"What?" responded Bonnie.

"We miscalculated!  You don't have to do any more treatments!  You're done!  You've done a year of herceptin!  You're outta here!!" crowed DWDRCIYDODRD.

And sweet Bonnie burst into happy tears.

I yelled, "Get over here and give me a hug!"  Because I couldn't go to her, since I was all hooked up to tubes and might have even had my hands on these ice pack thingeys.  She obliged.  (We had only spoken for a few moments, but we had bonded, as all cancer sufferers and survivors immediately do.) And I might have shed a tear or two for her.

I remember thinking, "Man, when I'm done with my last herceptin infusion, I am going to be so emotional!!!  I'll cry and cry and cry!!"

So,  yesterday, when almost the exact same scenario happened to me (I found out after my treatment yesterday), all these months later, I was surprised that not a tear was shed. (By me.  My cute chemo nurse cried.).  I blame it on my anti-depressants.  Those things are strong.  I still feel extreme joy and extreme sadness, but you won't see one tear dripping from this eye.  That's just how it is.
I often think (because I think really weird thoughts), Man, if I was an actress, I'd have to go off anti-depressants.  Because you gotta be able to cry when you're an actress.  Nobody would hire me. Haha! Like I could ever be an actress!  Even when I wasn't on anti-depressants, in high school drama, I had a hard time conjuring up any kind of tears.  Of course, the only serious play we did was written by my drama teacher, and boy, was it crappy.  It was called Castle Dracula.  The dialogue, plot....heck, everything, was really ridiculous.  A sample of a line I had to scream:  "Stop killing my FRIENDS!!!" With such crappy material, I had no choice but to use the old vicks-vapo-rub-on-the-fingertips trick. Oh, you don't know that trick?  Weird!  Kay. So, you dip your pointer finger and your thumb in Vicks before you go on stage for the scene in which you'll have to cry.  And then, when it's time to cry, first, you put your finger and thumb into where your tear ducts are, like you're pinching the bridge of your nose in frustration and angst.  Or, you cover your eyes while your mouth starts fake trembling, and really, you're smearing Vicks all up in your eyes.  And then you can cry like a baybay.

Tricks of the trade, dude.

Anyways, so yesterday, when I found out I was totally done with cancer treatment, I was just mainly...joyful.  Smiley.  Giving hugs to all my chemo nurses.  Joking around.  Partially because I can't cry, but also because herceptin was a cakewalk.  I had zero side effects from it.  I've felt fantastic, really, since fall or so.  I had my ups and downs last spring and summer, but I think that was just my body trying to climb out of this hole that chemo and radiation had thrown me into.  But since September or so, I'm gooood.

I think that, if the end of chemo had been the end of my cancer-treatment journey, I would have been very emotional.  Because it was so horrendous.  Also, my journey isn't quite over just yet.  I have to tackle the enormous Reconstructive Surgery Beast this summer.  Maybe when I'm done with that, I'll cry those tears of joy.

So, yesterday, though I didn't give an Oscar-worthy crying performance, I still wanted to celebrate. Because it really IS a big deal!  No more cancer treatments, ever!  You know, unless it comes back. But I don't like to think that way.  And you know me - I like to partay.  So I put up a general announcement up on facebook yesterday - "Yay!  I'm done!!  Someone should throw me a party!"  I didn't mean that someone should actually throw me a party. 

But wouldn't you know it?  My good friend Sara saw that post and threw me a fantastic, impromptu dinner party at her house.  We had barbecue chicken sandwiches, intoxicatingly yummy strawberries, and adorable pink mini-cupcakes.  She also got me some pink tulips and a balloon.
Such a cool surprise!  Thanks a million billion, Sara!!

Oh, and we can't forget the small celebration my kids and I had after school yesterday.  My nurses had given me a bottle of Martinelli's sparkling apple cider (and a little certificate), so I left it on the table so that the kids and I could celebrate together.
When they got home, Sadie yelled, "Mom!!  What are you doing with WINE in our house?!?"  I can't figure out why on earth she would automatically think that I had decided to start drinking, despite her ten years of experience with her teetotaler parents.  What in our experience together makes you think I would start drinking now?  And put a bottle of wine on the table to trumpet my announcement to all the world??

After I assured the ninos that I had, in fact, NOT decided to start drinking, and that this was just fancy apple cider, the kids were eager to try it.  "Look, Mom!  I'm drinking WINE!" said Sadie, holding the bottle up to her mouth.  I chuckled, then popped the lid off and poured each kid a glass.  Gage drank his quickly, then said, "Mommy, I want some more bee-yah!" [Gage's pronunciation of "beer," apparently.]  Haha!  It was funny.

He even wanted to clink cups with Sadie and say, "Cheers!"
I don't know where he gets this stuff, I swear!

Anyways, reaching this milestone really made me want to throw caution to the wind and get my reconstructive surgery done ASAP.  I mean, physically, I can do it the second I want to, now.  But after talking to my mom about it, I've realized that this DIEP Flap thing is going to be a huge, hairy beastmaster of a surgery.  I will be down for the count for a solid two months.  I can't do it right now. I have dances to choreograph and dancers to teach.  I'll just have to be patient for five more months. Sigh.  And THEN I can feel like I'm done and can move on with my life.

I'm planning on getting my port out when they do my surgery, so until June or so, they have to flush my port every six weeks to prevent blood clots.  Yikes.  Bikes.

When's my first scan, you ask?  Oh, um, NEVER.  Which is where the my-new-oncologist-may-not-give-a-rat's-about-me-either comment from above comes in.

Sooo, um, I guess most oncology practices don't do scans anymore, unless there's a reason to do a scan.  They assume that all the crap you just put your body through for a year and a half did its job. If you get new pain, or a new lump, or weird blood lab results, then they do a scan.  Until then, you just...hope that this nasty thing that was killing you is...gone??  I don't know.  My doc, GLIHYDGIA [Good luck!  I hope you don't get it again!], said that studies have shown that getting scans every three months is equally as effective as paying attention to new pain, new lumps, weird lab results.  So why do it?  is what they're saying.  I gave him a good answer to that question:  Um, so that a gal can get peace of mind. So that she has scientific proof that the cancer is gone.  He said, "We KNOW your cancer is gone.  Your scan after your mastectomy showed that!"  Then I said, "Um, then why did I just go through all this HELL??"

As you can see, we had a very frank conversation, and basically, he gently and kindly said that his practice doesn't do that.  That he's had a few women go to a different doc so that they can get that peace-giving scan can be performed.  I know how my parents feel about it - they want scans.  I don't know.  I mean, I'm not the oncologist, you know?  I trust that he knows his stuff.  He has been a fantastic doctor.  He gives his patients his cell number so that, if, for instance, you think you might be dying of dysentery, he can help you.  I really do trust him.  But.... I don't know.  So for now, I'm going to maybe do some research and see what I can find out about this new way of thinking about post-cancer care.  I don't know.  What do you guys think?

Kay, I have to take off and make a lesson plan for tonight's beginning ballet class.  Ciao!

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Giving of the Thanks

My title is a reference to how a character on my kids' favorite cartoon show speaks.  Her name is Starfire, and she's from another planet.

Micah is besotted by her and tries to talk like her as often as possible.  It drives me bonkers.

Soooooo, how's it goooooing?.....Um, yeah, I'm a slacker.  Or, more accurately, I'm crazy, crazy, crazy-busy.  Sorry for the lack of posts.

Some updates:  I've decided to apply for my Oregon teaching certificate and get a job teaching school again.  The bottom line is that one income isn't cutting it for us, at least here in Oregon.  I can only think of....one woman that I know here - ONE! - who is able to be a stay-at-home mom.  The rest have to work.  That's just how it is here in Bend (and actually, that's how it is in a lot of places nowadays).  As I've fasted and prayed to know the Lord's will for me, I've felt impressed to go down this road.  I can't completely let go of teaching dance, but I will have to cut down a bit so that I can be home more.  And that's fine.  Making sacrifices is part of growing up, no?

Luckily, teaching is a great profession if you have kids in school.  You're gone while they're gone, and you get home when they get home.  More or less.  Teaching is also a great profession if you want benefits whose monthly premium won't bankrupt you, amiright??  And if you want to have any kind of retirement plan.  These are pretty important things that we're lacking right now.  So I'm-a pull up my bootstraps and DO this thing.

Unbelievably, c'est simple to get my certificate updated and transferred to Oregon.  I can't believe how simple.  I've double- and triple-checked.  I'm just waiting on an official transcript, along with a licensure verification letter from Utah, and I'm good to go.  I got fingerprinted and everything.  Did you know that women's fingerprint lines are thinner and finer than men's?  Something I learned at the ole' police department.  That fingerprinting dude was a chatterbox.

I think I'll probably substitute teach while on the job hunt.  It's a good way to make some money and get your foot in the door.  Here in Oregon, you can't be a substitute teacher unless you have an Oregon teaching license!  Isn't that interesting?  That was definitely not the case in Idaho.  And subs get paid much better here than in Idaho, which is a good thing.  They actually get paid better than actual teachers!!  But I'm still going for the full-fledged teacher thing, because of the whole benefits-and-retirement thing.  And because I do NOT like flying by the seat of my pants.  I want to know my students, I want to make the lesson plans, and I want to teach those plans.  I'm a planner.  Big time.

I feel very peaceful and...dare I say...excited??  I really think that these intervening years, while I have stayed at home to raise my ninos, have brought me more maturity (don't laugh), along with the experience of being a mother of a certain child who shall remain nameless who doesn't give a rat's about his grades.  And the experience of being a mother to a child with ADHD, a child with anxiety and ODD, and a child with autism.  When I was 23, I had NO idea what these parents go through.  And now that I'm a mommy, I really do want to be kept in the loop.  I want to know what assignments Dylan is getting and how he's behaving in class.  I want that connection that I was kind of lackadaisical about keeping when I was a childless young woman.  I think I've learned to hold my tongue better, and I think I've gained more self-control.  I think I'm going to ROCK this thing this time around.  And I'm excited.

And yes, I will be like a zombie.  Teaching sucks the life out of you.  I remember well.  But this is what I went to school for, and this is what will help take my family to where we need to be.  We've been living paycheck-to-paycheck for as long as I can remember, and I'm just....DONE.

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving this year; Ben's mom and stepdad came down from Washington for a few days.  This is the first time in a LONG time that I haven't shared cooking duties with my sister and my mom, and daaaaang!!  I cooked for two days straight!!  Vivienne Leigh and Olivia de Haviland kept me company the day before Thanksgiving; I watched Gone with the Wind twice - with commercials!!  I never get sick of that movie.
Oh Scarlett, you fool...

Actually, I did have help with the dinner - my sweet mother-in-law helped me with preparations the day of, and my good friend, Costco, provided the pies.

And, slacker that I am, I forgot to take pictures of us eating our bounteous feast.  Sigh.  But I do have one of us swimming at my in-laws' hotel:

Note my flat butt in Full Effect.

And standing outside their hotel room, with the Deschutes River behind us:
Methinks I'll probably use this picture for our Christmas cards this year, since my darling friend Megs doesn't live in town to do our family pictures anymore (sob).

My in-laws got to see me teach dance one day:
Doing standing panches. Ah, I love those darling little girls.  I love my job.

They got to see Dylan play goalie on his indoor soccer team:

We also went to see The Good Dinosaur.  I cried.  Like, a lot.  I had run out of anti-depressants the day before - it's amazing how swiftly the lack of meds affects me.  I also had an enormous giggle fit in the car on the way home from the movie - also a withdrawal symptom.  As well as heart palpitations and nausea.  Good times.  I'll have to tell you sometime about that one time when I forgot my anti-depressants ON MY HONEYMOON.  Ben and I need a re-do of our honeymoon, for sure. The poor man was probably like, "What have I done???  Biggest mistake of my life!!!"

Luckily, I was able to get a re-fill, and I bounced back within a day or so.

Oh, and we also went to this fun center place - bumper cars, bowling, and arcade games:



The kids had a blast.  Thank you so much for spending your holiday with us and for all the fun things we got to do, Greg and Gloria!!We love ya tons.  And how on EARTH do I not have any pictures of you guys??  Man, I'm a jerk.

Welp, I have to sign off - we got a foot and a half of snow last week, and Gage's bus can't make it up the hill to our place yet - it's like the freakin' luge up here.  So I have to walk down the hill to get him. Au revoir until next time!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Duuuuude.

Man, I'm so sorry!  Let me just tell you first off that my scan turned out AOK.  The weird blister/scar tissue thingey on my left chest ended up not having cancer cells in it.  I guess the test they did - called a Fine Needle Aspiration (really, it seems like a biopsy to me) - is 97-98% accurate, and because of that small margin of error, to be on the safe side, my doc is going to monitor it every six weeks or so to make sure that it doesn't grow or change.  I see him again in...two weeks or so.  Doctor Pirate.  Maybe I should bring him a larger hoop earring as a gift.  Wink.

So yeah, I left a lot of you hanging out there.  I had put a post on my Facebook wall, where most people who know me were able to see it, but I realized, after a reader I don't know found me on Facebook to ensure that I was okay, that I left people high and dry.  And for that, I apologize.  I sometimes forget that it may not only be my close friends and family who read this thing.

And I'm so sorry for lack of posting!  Sometimes I get into an anti-posting funk.  And sometimes I'm really, really busy.  Both are the case for me right now.

Yes, I have started my dance teaching jobs!!  Here is one of my "offices":


A nice, big space.  Ideally, I'd want different flooring and more barres, preferably fixed to the wall, but I'm just happy to be dancing, you know?  Adjusting to dancing 7 hours a week is interesting.  I was really, really sore at first.  Heck, I'm sore now!  Which is the way it is when you dance.  Depending on the moves you're doing that day, you'll be sore the next couple of days in the weirdest places.  My knee was sore after doing a move in the yoga pigeon pose when I taught lyrical this week.  My abs are sore from leading those same girls in a core workout.  I've lost some weight in the past several months, so my pants are loose in my waist, but now they're becoming exceedingly tight in my legs.  I think my muscles are getting bigger and bulgier thereabouts.  Which is good.  My inner thighs have been woefully fat for the past several years.

Ben is doing a great job with the kids on the evenings that I'm gone, getting their homework done, getting them bathed, etc.  I'm just...so happy doing what I'm doing.  I probably should get my teaching certificate updated for Oregon, but... it just doesn't feel right.  After all, for the first time in my entire life, a year and a half ago, an actual audible voice in my head told me, "Teaching dance is what you were meant to do."  And I'm not talking about a voice like a schizophrenic would hear.  (I do have mental illness, but it's not schizophrenia!)  I'm talking about the Holy Ghost.  Usually, the promptings from the Holy Ghost come as impressions in my mind and feelings in my heart.  So this answer to many prayers at the time hit me hard.  You hear a voice from the Lord, you follow it.

And hopefully my meager earnings will help us muddle along.  It alarms me more and more how little we're making, and how much more the cost of living is in Bend compared to Idaho Falls.  It's killing us.  I feel like we've backpedaled ten years.

I don't know.  I'm starting to realize even more fully how blessed I was growing up.  I keep comparing Dylan to where I was at his age.  He's 12 and living in a cramped apartment with no yard.  We can't afford to put him in extracurricular activities.  In fact, he has to baby-sit for about 45 minutes each day between when I leave for work and when Ben gets home.  When I was 12, I was living in a roomy house with a huge yard and taking dance lessons, which were extremely expensive.  I had no idea how good I had it.

I just worry, so much, about any detrimental effects our lack of fundage will have on our kids.  We won't be able to help them fund their college tuition, or maybe even their missions.  To say that it's extremely humbling is an understatement.  I'd say it's more...soul-crushing.  I just have a lot of guilt.

Which is why I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't work at the vocation I went to college for.  Maybe I could endure the sheer mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that wiped me out when I taught school, in order for my kids to have a better living situation.  I remember coming home from work, just...a shell.  A shell of a person.  I had no more energy to give to anyone or anything else.  I worry that, if I returned to my original vocation, would I have anything left to give to my kids?  I'd be grading papers and making lesson plans instead of helping them with their homework.  I would have no energy to prepare dinner or do anything fun.  I would be falling asleep sitting up on the couch at 9 each night.  I would have no down time with Ben.

Yet...they would have a more stable home and would be more financially secure.  I don't know.  All I know is that God is at my helm, and He let me know that this is what I'm supposed to do, and that it makes me infinitely happier to teach dance than it did to teach school.  And I have the time during the day to volunteer in the kids' classrooms, to take them shorts when they stubbornly wore heavy sweatpants on a day that it was like 85 degrees outside (one guess as to who that was), to take medicine for Dylan over to his school, to pick up Sadie from her school when she was sick and threw up.  To go through the hours-long process of submitting paperwork for the kids to get insurance for another year.  To arrange dentist appointments, speech therapy appointments, occupational therapy appointments.  My kids have some pretty major needs, and they need a mother, not a shell.

I just hope I'm not being selfish. :(

As far as my health, I'm doing well.  I went in for another herceptin infusion last week:
Badda bing, badda boom.  No side effects.  I'm so grateful.

And I really hate that shirt.  I don't know why I continue to wear it.

I continue herceptin until February, and I have reconstruction in July or so.  My foot is really, really ticked off at me for dancing on it.  In addition to the plantar fasciitis that has plagued it for two years, I've now developed posterior tibialis tendonitis.  That's a mouthful.  I tape it every day that I dance, and I wear my big old clunky shoes with orthodics when I'm not dancing.  I'm due to get some custom orthodics in about a week, and I can't wait.  My feet are my moneymakers!  I need them healthy!

The kids are doing great.  Gage quickly got used to the school routine - in fact, he's doing much better since school has started than he did in the summer, when there was less structure.  Micah is doing fabulously on his anti-anxiety meds.  A complete turnaround in that kid.  Sadie has started speech therapy.  And Dylan seems to be handling having seven different classes better than he did last year.  I can't believe he's a seventh grader!  They're all growing like weeds.  Dylan's feet are bigger than mine!  And he's only a couple of inches shorter than me.  Sadie wears my size in shoes and is only maybe four inches shorter than me.  And I'm a tall person!!!

My church calling is fantastic, and I'm reading an incredible book right now - Into Thin Air by John Krakauer.  Amazing.  I've had a cold, so I haven't been sleeping well - lots and lots of coughing.  But it seems to slowly be improving.  Life is good!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The last time my abode was this clean...

...was when I only had Dylan and Sadie.  Ya wanna know why?

My oldest three have been gone at camp this week.

Oh, wait, wait, wait.  I'm not trying to be a jerk.  The main reason I got on here tonight was to let you know that I haven't gotten my test results yet.  I was supposed to get them today, but apparently, Doctor Pirate was in surgery until late this evening.  So I'm supposed to hear from him tomorrow.  I'm so sorry to keep you in suspense.  Some people I know (*cough* Lex *cough*) are even more nervous about this test result than I am (I love that you're more nervous than I am, Lex), and believe me, I'll let you know as soon as I know.  I've had a Peaceful, Easy Feeling today, though.  (What classic rock group sang that song?)  Perhaps because I started the day right by praying, reading my scriptures, and an hour of yoga - my back is yelling at me right now, saying, "Too many bridges, Kar!  Too many bridges!  You're in your late thirties, ya know!"  Perhaps it's the Holy Ghost, speaking peace to my soul.  I know I'm going to be alright.

So anywho.  Back to camp.  They go to Camp Kesem.  For those of you who weren't with me last year, Camp Kesem is a nationwide organization that provides a free, week-long camp experience for kids whose parents have or have had cancer.  There are 60-something chapters of Camp Kesem throughout the United States, and it's just wonderful.  My kids went to the Sun Valley, Idaho chapter last year, and this year, they've gone to the Gresham, Oregon chapter.  If you're ever looking for a good charity to support, this is one to think about.  Kids from age 6 to 16 can go.  Even if their parent has been in remission.  They get free camp, every summer, until they're sixteen.  The idea is that they get a week to just...be kids.  A week not to worry about their parent.  In my case, a week where they don't have to baby-sit all the time while the parent goes to a million doctor visits.  Dylan and Sadie have been absolute rock stars since I've been here in Bend.  I had radiation EVERY SINGLE DAY for eight weeks, and Dyl and Sade watched The Two Littles EVERY SINGLE DAY while I went.  I'm proud of them for kind of stepping up to the plate for me, but I also really looked forward to this week for their sakes. 

Also, it's a whole week where I don't have to hear fighting about the damn X Box.

A whole week where my house actually stays clean.

A whole week which gives me the opportunity to de-junk their bedrooms without them saying, "But Moommmm, I still play with that toy all the time!!  I don't want to donate it!"*

Have I told you about Micah's Spidey Sense?  He's so funny.  So, in this neighborhood, there are a lot of rentals, and therefore, people are moving in and out all the time.  A lot of people, rather than cart a bunch of stuff to The Goodwill, throw crap they don't want in a box or on a table with a little sign saying, "FREE."

Somehow, Micah can sense when one of these boxes or tables is set up.  It's like he has this honing device.  So he comes home with crap all the time.  He has a salt shaker, gravy boat, and sugar bowl from some apartment.  Another raid scored him some ceramic birds and a beautiful ceramic high heel which is decorated with little glass roses.  Most recently, his aquisitions were a large box with like 20 little sample-sized bottles of perfume and several broken Christmas decorations and ornaments.

Sigh.

The perfume was AWFUL.  Every time I came upstairs, or really, whenever Micah was in my vicinity, I started sneezing, because this perfume is too old, I think.  You know that very bitter, eyewatering smell that perfumes get when they're too old?  I hate to say it, but...it's Old Lady Smell.  Times fifty.  

We finally told Mikey he had to get rid of the perfume.  Ben gave him an old bottle (but not too old) of his Preferred Stock.  A much more pleasant smell.  Ben also had a stroke of genius when it came to disposing of this perfume.  You see, we've had this issue with our garbage can.  We're good about bagging our garbage and not putting leaky bags in or anything, but whoever lived here before didn't really care about doing that.  So whenever you open it to throw garbage in, you get this horrible Dead Body smell.  Or Old Mildewy Milk.  It's hard to describe. But it makes me gag.  I've sprayed the inside with our sprayer and poured bleach in there and sprayed it some more and emptied it out and aired it out, but that smell is so pervasive.  Anywho, Ben decided to empty the perfume bottles into the garbage can.

And whattaya know - no more Dead Body smell!  All we smell is old lady.  And we are AOK with that.

So today, I went through Micah's...ah...treasures...and threw out the ornaments that were broken - there were a few that were intact.  He'll probably notice they're gone, but dude.  We don't live in a mansion.  We don't have a whole lotta space.  I gotta do what I gotta do.  Plus, I let him keep the Questionable Black Fluffy Boa.  I was sorely tempted to get rid of it, but instead, I laundered it and put it neatly back in one of his toy bins.

The house looks fantastic.  I'm drinking it in, because the second the ninos return, it will go back to its former pit-like existence.  Dude, next year, Gage gets to go!  Which means - a whole week without the kids?  I'm not wasting that on staying at home and cleaning the house, man.  I'm going somewhere fun!  Oh wait.  I might be recovering from boob surgery. Hm. Well, we'll see.

Anyways, do you want to see this camp where the kiddos went?  We snapped some pictures when we dropped them off.  I have NEVER seen a nicer camp.  It's a YMCA camp.

 A horse corral?  An archery range?  A chapel???
 The younger kids' cabins have (dead) grass on the roofs...
And yes, round doors.  Like little hobbit houses.  Taco was standing in front of the door - hard to see.  At Camp Kesem, the kids and counselors all go by nicknames for the week.  So this dude's name was Taco.
 The cabins have skylights, indoor bathrooms...it's ridiculous.
 I mean, if this is camping, sign me up!
The kids' nicknames this year - Dylan is...crap.  I can't remember.  Something about Commander Something.  Or Something Chief.  It's from some dumb video game.  I'll tell you when I remember.  Sadie's is...Mangle.  No, not Mango.  Mangle.  A character who is actually nice from a video game that we don't even own!  It's called Five Nights of Freddie's, or Five Nights at Freddie's, or something.  The kids play some kind of live version of it during recess, apparently.  Mike decided he wanted to be called Spark.  He originally wanted to be called Sparkle, but shortened it to Spark.  Here are the kids, making their name tags:
 Why would such a sweet little girl choose to call herself Mangle?  It's beyond me.  Dylan in his cabin:
 The older kids' cabins are up on stilts - the terrain is pretty uneven there.  And there are these bridge thingeys between each one:
 This is Dylan's porch.  They built around an existing tree.  So cool.  It reminds me of that Tree House show with that excitable tall man.
 Who's the dude in the striped shirt, leaning against the railing?  Uh, that's me.  I look like a dude.  Who carries a purse.

We saw a few of these around.  I wondered if they were the counselors' tents or nurse tents or something.  They remind me of Mongolian tents.
 Dude, I went to camp for church, and although there is a soft spot in my heart for Camp Darby, it was NOTHING like this.  I think I might have liked camp a whooole lot better if I had this setup!  The kids are so lucky.  I know when I pick them up tomorrow, they'll have many tales to tell.  We'll see if Micah is the most popular kid at camp again this year.  Haha! 

*Which really means that they haven't touched the toy for three years.  Or it's a piece of garbage.  Like, literally, a piece of garbage from the street.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It hit a little too close to home.

Soooo, if you have plans to watch How I Met Your Mother, or as Ben and I call it, HIMYM, you'd better not read this post, because it will be a major spoiler.
Ben and I do enjoy a good binge-watch, and we've been bingeing on HIMYM for a few weeks.  We finally finished the last season last week.

And I cried for like an hour afterward.

I've kept it together pretty well these past few months, so for a series finale to make me cry, nay, even a comedy series finale, I surprised myself.  First off, may I just list my beefs with the finale?  If you haven't watched this, you'll find it boring.  But it does lead in to why I started crying.  You may scroll down if you need:

1)  Barney and Robin divorce after only three years???  After alllll that leadup?  And this beautiful wedding that they had?  And all the amazing things they did to surprise each other? And they were both so good for each other! (a.k.a. They were both totally selfish.)

2)  And Robin gets all busy with her job and doesn't hang out with her friends anymore?  Even when Lily stood there crying in her Moby Dick Halloween costume, all cute with her pregnant belly??? 

3)  Here's my biggest beef.  The thing that made me cry.  Ted spends TEN YEARS searching for his soulmate.  So much heartache.  So much loneliness.  Such hard breakups.  Ten. Years.  And then he FINALLY meets The One.  And she is so fantastic! She plays base guitar!  She works to end poverty!  She makes English muffins sing, like puppets!  She totally fits in with Ted's friends!  She is the mother of his children! 
And you see glimpses of their future together.  And it is so great!!  They have a healthy, supportive, wonderful relationship!!

And then she dies, ten years into their relationship/marriage?  She dies??  This light in Ted's life, his soulmate, the mother of his children?  Dies?  So that the writers can make this big arc come back full circle and he is free to finally date Robin?  Because, conveniently, she's single now, since she and Barney divorced?  What about Ted's wife?  The unselfish one?  The one that wanted to be with him from the get-go???

I cried because this girl died.  I mean look at me.  I can't even remember her name.  But here's the thing:  she is more significant than for me to not know her name.  She is more significant than only being in Ted's life for ten years.  It's bad enough that her boyfriend, who she really thought was the one, died when she was 21.  But for her to finally find love again, but then be taken away at the age of 39?? (Yes, I calculated it.) 

It's not fair.  She didn't get a fair shake.

And I'm scared of dying.

No, that's not it.  I'm not scared to die.  I just don't want to yet. I want to be an old granny.  Like 80 or 85 maybe.

The thing is, I'm trying to ignore this...bump...on my mastectomy scar.  And I've done pretty well so far.  But when What's-Her-Name died when she had young children... It was staring me right in the face.  So I cried and cried.  Ben held me, and I sobbed and told him that I don't want to die!  I like to pretend that cancer is completely behind me, but until I've gone the perfunctory... three years?  Five years?  I don't know what it is, even.  But until I've gone that amount of time without any traces of cancer, I don't know how easily I'll rest. 

I suppose this is premature scanxiety.  I won't start scans to see if cancer is still staying away until my last Herceptin treatment, in February.  But I'm going through a type of scanxiety, really.

I went to a breast specialist today ("He's obsessed with breasts...hey, that rhymes!"  What show?).  He looks like a pirate.  He has a Jeff Goldblum Jurassic Park-era jerry curl mullet going on, and one gold hoop earring in his left ear.  I liked him the second I saw him.  And he really took the time to talk to me and look at my bump and measure it and figure out a plan of action.  Taking into account my type of cancer's tendency to recur (my type is HER2 Positive), he decided to do this needle extraction thing.  It entailed a small, hollow needle extracting some cells from this bump.  It was painless, because I don't have any feeling there.  Gage was in the room, however (my baby-sitters are at My Mom Has Cancer Camp this week), and try as I may, I couldn't shield his curious eyes.  He was fascinated by it, at first, but then commanded the doctor, with some concern, "Don't hurt my mommy!"  It was sweet.

Doctor Pirate says that tomorrow, they'll get the results back and call me.  There are three possibilities: 1)  It will be positive for possible cancer and they'll have to do a biopsy.  2)  It will come back benign and we don't have to worry about it.  3)  It will come back inconclusive, and they'll have to do a biopsy.  They are trying to avoid a biopsy in case it's just weird scar tissue; radiated skin is very difficult to heal, and they don't want to cause any damage if what we're looking at is scar tissue.

So it's not scanxiety, per se, since this isn't a scan.  But it's the same kind of a deal - a test to see if I'm cancer-free.  So, dear friends, can you pray for me today??  (Let's face it, it's like 11:30 while I write this, and you are all in bed.  So I'm saying "today" because you'll most likely read this tomorrow.)  I'd appreciate it.  I really am, for the most part, thinking positively about it and assuming that it's no big deal.  I guess I'm just coming to a realization that...I guess I won't be out of the woods for a long time.  And I so want to be out of those woods. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's worth it just for the cheesemonger alone.

It has become an absolute MUST in my book to visit the little Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth whenever we visit Chelan each year.  An adorable little town nestled in a valley with towering, lush, green mountains surrounding it?  Hanging baskets and pots just overflowing with petunias - at least 5 in front of every shop?



Bavarian pastries?  The occasional traveling preacher who shouts hellfire-and-damnation at the top of his voice in the central square?*  Those reasons alone are reasons for me to want to go.

But the cheesemonger?  Oh, the cheesemonger.  It's my favorite.  My souvenir from Leavenworth every year is the same:  a big old hunk of cheese from the cheesemonger, which I devour in its entirety (we're talking to 1/4 to 1/2 pound of cheese) on the hour drive back to Chelan.

I also enjoy taking cheese-loving selfies and sending them to my sister, Alexis.  Actually, I've only been doing it the past two years.  But I will continue to make this a happy tradition.  (You're welcome, Lex.)  I can't find my selfie from last year - last summer, as you know, was a bit ca-ray-zay and I can't find half my pictures.  I found out I had cancer right when we got home from Chelan last year, so those vacation pictures, plus any more from the remainder of the summer, are...somewhere.  Quite possibly on my parents' computer's hard drive.  Which I forgot to check when I was home for the 4th of July.  (D'oh!)

But I do have my selfie from this year:
It's, um, a neat picture.  All pictures of me are...neat.  (Meaning, not neat.  I'm really, really unphotogenic.) Yes, my hair looks almost strawberry blonde in that light.  It was an unfortunate box dye job.  I have some greys, but don't want to pay a professional to color it, since my hair is only like an inch and a half long.  So not worth it yet!  When it's longer, it will be a different story.  We (meaning Ben and I - Ben's favorite thing in the world is to dye my hair.  I think this is seriously so adorable) tried a different brand and color, and voila - I'm a strawberry blonde in certain light.  In other light, my hair is the color of Carrot Top's hair.  If you add the Angry Eyes the girl in the Ulta makeup store gave me back in July, and if my hair had been coming in curly instead of stick straight (not that I'm complaining - stick straight hair has been The Dream my whole life!  I'm lovin' it!), heck.  I would be Carrot Top's doppelganger.  Hang on a minute; let me find my Angry Eyes picture:
Hahaha!  See?  Carrot Top hair color, Carrot Top eyebrows.  Kay, take a minute and scroll up and see the real thickness of my eyebrows (I overplucked in the nineties - didn't everybody?  And now they won't grow back), and then scroll back here to see the comparison.  There is a WHOLE other story about this little eyebrow makeover.

Short version:


1)  It was supposed to be a free consultation.
2)  It wasn't free.  It was $25.  Which I found out AFTER the consultation.
3)  I think the eyebrows look a little bit better with actual makeup on other parts of my face:
4)  But it's still a whole lotta eyebrow when all I've had for 20 years are the skinny ones.  I'm used to them.  And they won't freakin' grow anyways, so to get dramatic eyebrows like these, I'd have to basically paint them on every day.  I don't know if I want to invest that amount of time on a look I'm not completely sold on yet.  Who am I, Cara Delevigne?  Have you SEEN the eyebrows on that girl?  Yowza.  I mean, they work for her.  Don't get me wrong.  But they're...intense.  Note:  Yes, one of my front teeth is moving.  I am not happy about it. Note #2:  Yes, Mom, you were right to counsel me in the beginning to keep the enormous caterpillar eyebrows I was born with.  But I had a little college rebellion and ate only cheesy breadsticks for every meal and plucked the crap out of my eyebrows.  For a rebellion, it wasn't so bad.  Except for the whole trip-to-the-hospital-because-my-body-couldn't-poop thing.
5)  To get this thick eyebrow look, all I needed was to buy two products, totaling $50!

Fifty bucks?  Who am I, Paris Hilton?  I don't think so.  That didn't happen.  Okay, half of that happened.  I got the eyebrow pencil.  Which is, arguably, the nicest eyebrow pencil I've ever had.  It had better be, if it was $25.  #stickershock #buyersremorse #itsneverhappeningagain #makeupshouldnevercostthatmuchIdontcarethatmuchaboutitandhardlyeverhavetimetowearit

So yeah.  Back to Leavenworth and my adored cheesemonger.  So I went on downstairs (it's a downstairs establishment, like MacLaren's in How I Met Your Mother [an addiction that Ben and I both enjoy]), and when I walked up to the counter, the dude remembered me!  I'm trying to figure out if he was pretending to remember me (which, in Kar Land, translates into sweet-talking me) so that I'd buy a lot of cheese, because I don't look much like I did a year ago.  Maybe it was my Extremely Magnetic Personaaaaaaality!  Haha!  Anywho, whatever.  His sweet-talking worked.  He had me sample a few new cheeses that had come to their full age, or whatever kind of cheese talk you use for that.  I really liked the one you see in the top picture.  And I took not one, but TWO pictures with my cheese:
That's the entry to the shop.

Oh, and by the way, they have a Cheese-of-the-Month Club, in case you were wondering what to get me for Christmas...  I'm dead serious.  (See you those gorgeous hanging baskets?  I die! I'm in Gardening Withdrawal [GW], since I don't have a garden anymore at the ugly townhouse where we live.  I'm seriously thinking next year of getting window boxes.  And hanging baskets.  I gotta do something gardeney.  I'm dying without a garden to take care of.  I did have two porch pots with some really happy begonias this summer.  So there's that.)

I must warn you - if you don't have a lot of money to spend, Leavenworth might not be the place for you. It's mainly shopping.  And I really do hate window shopping.  Why waste my time looking at stuff I can't buy?  But the cheesemonger and the hanging baskets make up for it.  And the Bavarian pastries.  And, of course, the hellfire-and-damnation preachers.*

Gage, window shopping for a birdhouse:
Which he didn't get.  He chose some Minecraft character miniatures, of course!  Nothing says Bavaria like Minecraft character miniatures.  Even if he had wanted a birdhouse, I wouldn't have gotten one.  I don't want to encourage the pigeon vermin around here.

Also, consider yourselves lucky that you don't see Gage's other hand down the back of his shorts.  It is a constant nowadays.  You can ask anyone who who has spent any amount of time with us lately.  Gage is an official Bumb Grabber, in the grand tradition of S kids.  Actually, I don't remember Dylan or Micah being Bumb Grabbers.  But Sadie sure was. They like the feel of their buttcheeks, evidently.  Gage also likes the feel of another part of his anatomy, but we won't get into that.

I keep begging  Ben to let our family take a Bavarian Photograph - it's like the Old Time Photographs you can get at state fairs and in Old Town ___________ (insert any city in the western United States here), but with Bavarian costumes!  The lederhosen, the fraulien-in-bustier-and-serving-steins-full-of-foamy-beer kinds of costumes.  It matters not that I've never drunk beer, or that German bustiers are a little bit...slutty-looking. (Is this because of Halloween?  Did Halloween do for German bustiers what it did for old-fashioned Nurse Costumes?)  I want to be a fraulien in a bustier and holding a stein, dang it! I could make it modest!  I would arrange my billowing tunic underneath the bustier into a modest one. (And yes, technically, I'm a frau, not a fraulien, but I doubt fraus wear bustiers.  Perhaps they do.  I'm not schooled in age- or status-appropriate traditional Bavarian garb.  I just think it would be fun to wear a bustier sometime.) By the way, do you know what the worst German-or-perhaps-Transylvanian-I-didn't-really-pay-attention-in-bustier movie costume is, according to Kar?  This one, from Van Helsing:

You want to know why?  From far away, during her fighting scenes and all, that stitching in her chestal area looks like...n words.  Not that n word.  The n word I have a struggle saying.  I'll give you a hint.  I no longer have n words.  Get it?  I also struggle with the fact that Ben has a Hollywood crush on Kate Beckinsale.  Hmph.  (I'm allowed to have Hollywood crushes, but he, on the other hand...Hmph.  I may institute a "Let's keep our Hollywood crushes secret" rule in our marriage.  I'm a jealous sort.)

You guys will have to talk Ben into letting us take an Old Time Bavarian Photo next year.  It's on my bucket list.  Oh.  And it just occurred to me that frau-in-bustier photos might look better when one has two items to, ahem, boost.  That would have looked really, really funny if we had done that this year...  A bit lopsided.

Thanks to my sweet mother-in-law for getting some souvenirs for the kiddos.  They love them. Dylan saved his souvenir money to unlock some stupid thing on Stupid Minecraft.  That game was created by the Devil himself.  Ask any mom.  They'll tell you.

*I actually really dislike hellfire-and-damnation preachers.  Does that tactic actually work??  I'm more of a catch-them-with-honey kind of a person.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Beautiful Old House on the Hill

Ben's mom and stepdad's house is just amazing.  It's more than 100 years old and overlooks the tiny town of Chelan.  We love coming here.

Ben and the kids checking out the old, hollow tree:
 A view farther back - you can see the town and the hills beyond.  You'll notice it's a bit smoky.  There are two fires in the area - it's so bad outside that you can visually see ashes falling from the sky, and it smells like a campfire.  It was like this last summer.
The swing that hangs from the hollow tree:
 It's so refreshing to have a lawn on which the kids can play.  We haven't had access to that for awhile:

Gage loves bubble baths:


Making card houses with Grandpa Greg:
 I made German pancakes one morning.  Ben took a picture of one of the pans.  Apparently he was appreciative.  He cracks me up:

Okay, I'm off to watch Poldark.  Have you HEARD of this new show?  Look it up, immediately.  Ah-MAZ-ing!!
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