Friday, 29 June 2012

Swim Lessons

(I wrote this at the beginning of last week, so this is the "before" post...thankfully things got better)

I'm generally not into forcing my children into extra-curricular activities, but I am a firm believer that swimming is an indispensable life skill. Thus all of my children will be required to take swim lessons until they are very strong swimmers. I don't care if they don't enjoy it - it's necessary.

Tommy is a fan of recreational water play, but not a fan of swim lessons. According to him (parents are only allowed to observe from a distance), he spent the entirety of his first lesson asking for me and crying. The masses of snot and rivers of tears streaming down his face when he exited the pool suggest that he was indeed unhappy. Poor kid - he hated it. But he still had to go back the next day.

I spent the rest of the first day talking up swim lessons, and on day two he went into the pool reluctantly, but he went in. Day three went a little bit better. He still doesn't want to go, but he is getting in the water and participating in the class activities. He has become a very enthusiastic kicker, although he likes to do his kicking with as much of his torso on the pool deck as possible.

Nic is still too young for lessons, so of course he is dying to go in the pool and participate. Hopefully his enthusiasm will last!

Update on Mary: Break Week

This is mom's break week from chemo and she is enjoying the time off. A week without blood draws and iv lines is a good thing. She is feeling well most days, but has been in a little more pain lately, which is a bit discouraging.

Please pray for:

A high white count next week so she can start another round of chemo

Decreased pain/soreness

The tumor to SHRINK!

Another one of Tommy's masterpieces:

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

He found his thumb...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Tommy has been begging to go to a museum lately, so once mom started feeling better we decided to join forces with Aunt Annie and my cousin Molly and head to Cabrillo. We had a lovely picnic on the lawn, went through the aquarium, and played on the playground on the beach nearby. It was tiring, but lots of fun (probably less fun for Molly who did a lot of chasing). Things have certainly improved at Cabrillo since the last time I visited many many years ago. We were all very impressed by the upgrades. The touch tank is very nice and has some very pretty sea stars and the area behind it, which was not for touching, had sharks that Tommy really liked. Nic liked the hands-on exhibits and the ring-shaped fish tank that he could crawl under. Some pics from our afternoon adventure:

My little grunions

At the touch tank...

Molly and Tommy hatching grunions

Playing on the slide

USS Iowa - it's one BIG ship

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Moment of Quiet

Yesterday Nic and I had a rare quiet moment together. He has been getting a little lost in the shuffle lately since Kenny requires so much time and Tommy demands it. We played a tickle game then cuddled and played "baby." I wrapped him up in a receiving blanket, rocked him, and sang him some of his nighttime songs, most of which are songs that my Dad sang to me when I was little.

I began to sing "In His Time" (In His time/in His time/He makes all things beautiful in His time/Lord please show me everyday/as you're teaching me your way/That you do just what you say in your time...Lord my life to you I bring/May each song I have to sing/be to you a lovely thing in your time), and quickly choked up as I thought of all the things that God has been doing in our lives over the past four years. This time of year I always get a little teary. I miss my girl.

Four years ago we met our daughter and said goodbye far too quickly. In moments like those it's hard to believe that life will go on, that you can press forward, that you will survive. Yet here we sit, four years later, with lives bursting at the seams with joy. Our boys are walking bundles of vibrant, exuberant life.

We sat with sorrow, but in His time, God used our brokenness and created a new family, and then did it again, and again. Four years ago Jeff and I didn't know if we would ever have children. Now we have three. Three. It still seems incredible to me.

Losing Leah hurt. It still hurts. It will probably always be that way. But I can no longer think about that anguish without expanding my view. That pain is a sliver of our story, a small piece of the "lovely thing" that God is doing in our lives. When I think of the pain now, I can only see it with the parts that come attached to it - Tommy, Nicolas, Kenny and all of the many decisions we made differently, and experiences we have had because of the course our lives took after Leah's death. I'm not happy that I lost my daughter. I wish I could have my life now with her and with everything else unchanged. But since we did lose her, and we can't alter that, I am so intensely grateful that we have been so abundantly blessed, that God has created beauty from our His time.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Some Cute Boys

My friend Heather takes the best pictures - and she took some sweet ones of my mom and the boys. I was quite anxious to get some nice shots of them, and so thankful that she was able to do it. Amazingly, these photos were taken in a very short amount of time - crammed between an afternoon at the beach and dinner. It shocked me that the boys held still for as long as they did!

I'm going to post a few of my favorites, but Heather arranged the photos really beautifully at her blog, so please click HERE to see them.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Update on Mary: Chemo!!!

Wow. What a difference a week makes. Last week mom's white count was 1000, the lowest it has been since she began chemo. This week? 2700, the highest it has been since beginning chemo! Even though mom felt terrible all week, her body was apparently healing, and thus she was able to have her chemo full strength this week. Thank you so much for your prayers- we can't think of anything else to attribute this major turn around to.

Mom woke up this morning feeling pretty good, so hopefully this week will be better than the last one. Again, thank you so much for your prayers for her white counts, her nausea, and her overall health. Clearly they are making a difference!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Update on Mary: Down Week

Since starting chemo Mom has been in a fairly reliable pattern of feeling sick on certain days, but having a number of great days each week. This week she has felt sick every single day. Some days she has had a few good hours here or there, but overall she has been feeling crummy. It has been a bit of a bummer. She is really hoping to go to chemo Thursday to get this round over with and enjoy some time off.

Please pray that her white count will be high enough for chemo Thursday, that she will be well hydrated so they can find a vein easily, and that her stomach will feel settled this week.

Tide Pools!

Dad had a furlough day this week, so we decided to take advantage of the extra set of hands and do something special. We packed a lunch and drove to the tide pools. The water was calm, so we were able to go pretty far out on the reef and see some huge crabs, sea stars, and sea urchins, along with the usual tide pool favorites.

As we were leaving, Mom noticed a big truck pulling in with an animal logo on the side. It turned out that they were returning some animals to the sea. We got to watch two sea lions and two seal pups find their way back into the water. It was such a unique and fun experience.

Tommy's new favorite photo - the "weird pose" picture

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Best Fathers

I wish I had time to write a proper post to honor my two favorite dads - mine, and my husband. But, I have had very little time for reflection these days, and even less for writing, so this will have to be short and sweet even though they deserve so much more.

I am so thankful that I have a dad who loves God, who enjoyed spending time with us, who writes the best songs in the world about anything from our family to macaroni to dinosaurs, who read countless books, told creative stories, and who always showed my mom the utmost love and respect. His example showed me what to look for in a husband, and I am so thankful that I found Jeff, who possess all those same great qualities and provides and excellent example for our children to follow. I have been so blessed.

Happy Father's Day to my two favorite dads!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Update on Mary: Feeling Low

Mom's white blood count was terribly low this week. Thankfully, she was allowed to do chemo, but because her blood count plummeted so far after the last chemo that they have reduced her to a 75% dose. She must have her blood count up to at least 1500 by next Wednesday in order to do her chemo on Thursday.

Despite this being her "easy" chemo week, her side effects have been a bit more pronounced in these last few days. This means she is generally feeling crummy and tired. It's hard to stay positive and motivated when you feel so badly.

Please pray that her blood count will improve, that she will stay healthy, that she will have less nausea, and that she would feel encouraged.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Wilderness Park

We made it out to Wilderness Park this week. It was the first time the boys had ever been, and neither Mom nor I had gone in years, so we were not sure what to expect.

I was a bit disappointed that the old crawdad pond at the entrance is now cemented in and home to Koi (and for some weird reason Koi disgust me). The pond is clean and looks really nice, but I prefer the murky gross pond of my childhood. Clean ponds have boring rules like "no fishing" and "no throwing object in the pond." What good is a pond in a park if you can't throw anything into it? Nic agrees with me, by the way, and spent all of our time there trying to put leaves in the water which was not fun for the grown-ups.

Thankfully the park still has one nasty pond. It is full of tadpoles, fish, turtles, and ducks. When we were there it was also hosting a blue heron - and Tommy got to watch him eat a fish. Super cool. They also got to feed the turtles and Nic attempted to wade with them - in the most brackish, smelly part of the pond. He stunk, and then he rubbed his stink all over me. It's so sweet when he shares...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

That Time I Conquered the World

And by "conquered the world" I mean, "took three kids to Target by myself"- which feels like exactly the same thing.

I noticed on Monday that Tommy needed new shoes. I came to this conclusion by observing his big toe sticking out of his current footwear. I knew those shoes were due to be replaced, but since he had worn sandals every day for the past month (and I've been slightly busy), I had forgotten about it until the new shoes became a dire necessity. Mom had an appointment on Tuesday that was set to last an hour and a half, so I girded my loins for battle and decided to take the kids to the store after dropping her off.

Barring one unfortunate incident it went amazingly well.

Besides shoes for Tommy, I had one other important mission for our trip: find a pair of bathing suit bottoms. The weather is nice now and we have been going down to the beach, and while my old bathing suit "fits" it does so in a very unattractive way. I found a cute tankini top at Old Navy over the weekend, but the bottoms that went with it were hideous (think rouching on the behind- in what world is it attractive to have a bathing suit pull down and show off one's crack?) , thus I needed to try my luck at another store.

I find that shopping with my boys for women's clothes is generally unpleasant. It takes so long to find what I want, pick out a color, and get the right size that they have all kinds of time to get bored and touch things on the rack, pull them off, try them on, and so on. I don't think it's really fair to ask them to sit through a big clothes shopping trip, and it certainly isn't fun for me, so I almost never do it. However, since I only needed one thing and I didn't know when my next chunk of free time would arrive, I decided to go ahead and give it a try.

In order to navigate the store, I had Kenny strapped on my front in an Ergo, Nic sitting in the child's seat in the cart, and Tommy in the cart basket. Kenny slept while I rifled through suits, while Nic and Tommy waited and attempted to keep their hands to themselves. They soon broke down and one of them ended up wearing a pink and white striped bikini top...I won't say who. I calmly removed the suit and pushed them through the maze of ridiculously close together racks to the dressing room, which was, of course, blocked off by a bunch of carts. The fitting room attendant rescued us from the traffic jam and kindly gave us the handicapped stall when I pleadingly asked if there were any rooms that would fit us all and (most importantly) the cart.

At that point I was feeling pretty accomplished. The big boys were delighted to find three whole mirrors in the fitting room and were happily making silly faces. The little boy was safely arranged on the large bench in the room, and I was able to try on two of the bottoms...and one of them wasn't too bad.

Then Tommy jumped up and started fidgeting like crazy and clutching himself while yelling, "I have to pee, I have to pee, quick, quick, I have to go NOW!"

Imagine my chagrin. I was standing in a the dressing room in a shirt and bathing suit bottoms. No way was I running through the store to the bathroom in that get-up. Plus, I really really really did not want to have to get dressed, load up Kenny, push the boys across the store, and then go through the entire process of settling back into the fitting room so I could try on the rest of the suits.

So, I took a gamble. I told Tommy to cross his legs and hold it and I scrambled to try on those last five suits. The entire time there was a loud, running dialogue in our dressing room that went something like this:

Me: Hold it, hold it, you are doing a great job!"

Tommy: It's coming, it's coming, I have to go.

Me: Cross your legs, you can do it.

Tommy: I'm dancing, I'm dancing and it's not working.

Me: You are a big boy, you can hold it.

Tommy: I'm squeezing my wiener!

I don't know if we were as loud as I think we were, but I think I heard some laughter from a few rooms I'm guessing we were.

As soon as I rejected the last suit, I grabbed the top two contenders to take home for further evaluation, got dressed, loaded up Kenny, gathered up all the discarded suits, and backed the cart up as quickly as possible out of the dressing room and into the larger store. The fitting room attendant pointed us toward our destination and we ran to the restroom as fast as I could push that cart. Of course, we get to the door and I notice the sign that says you can't take unpurchased merchandise in the restroom. I asked a passing employee if there was a place to put my items where I wouldn't loose them, and she said I could go see if there was a cashier to watch them for me, but that they might not. At that point Tommy was really dancing and squirming, so I decided to be bold and break the rules.

That's right, I took two bathing suit bottoms that I hadn't paid for into the Target restroom. You want to know what I was thinking?

If they arrest me for attempted shoplifting they will have to watch all three of my kids. No way is anyone going to volunteer to do that. They will have to overlook my transgression. Ha!

I am happy to report that my gamble paid off. Tommy made it in time, I got to keep my bathing suit bottoms, and no one got in trouble with store security. We managed to find Tommy a pair of shoes that he is really excited about (Lighting McQueen, of course), and to pick up a few other things that we needed without incident.

When I left that Target I felt good. It was the first time I had taken all three boys out to do anything significant by myself, and while I knew that I could do it, there is a big difference between knowing that you can do something and actually doing it. And not only did I do it, but they all behaved very nicely and no one was injured or emotionally scarred by the adventure. My original goal was to survive Target with the boys, but instead, we conquered.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Update on Mary: Oncologist Appointment

Mom had an appointment with her oncologist this week. The news was mixed. We'll start with the bad news: two months ago the doctors were wrong when they said Mom's cancer had not metastasized. It had metastasized to her lungs. However, the good news is that the three spots of cancer on her lungs have responded to chemo and all but disappeared.

In good news, her oncologist was very encouraged by the way her tumor responded to the chemo and by the improvement in her quality of life. Chemo is buying her time- we are so grateful for this. This week she started her round of chemo. She is scheduled for another two months, and then she will go in for another CT scan to evaluate the tumor. If the tumor has gone down again then she will consult with a surgeon. The oncologist supports doing so, but thinks that surgery is a long-shot. Still, even a small possibility is some possibility...

Mom's white blood count was much higher this week than it has been in the last month. Praise God and keep praying! Also, she has gained five pounds so she is no longer precariously close to the minimum allowed weight for the trial so all those delicious meals and desserts you all have been bringing by are working.

Prayer requests this week:

Please pray that mom passes her hearing test this week (Wednesday). It is a required part of the clinical trial, and if she fails she will not be able to continue.

Pray that her white blood counts stays up.

Pray that her tumor continues to shrink, shrink, shrink.

Pray for encouragement- the news about the metastasized spots was tough to hear- and cancer is hard to live with in general.

Please offer up some thanks and praise for my Dad. He is so diligent with Mom's medication each day, he spends so much time focusing on how to best care for her and meet her needs, and he just loves her so much. It is such a blessing that Mom has such a supportive and amazing husband. They are celebrating 34 years of marriage this weekend. God is good.

Thank you all for continuing to pray and for your ongoing support. We love it.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Update on Mary: Happy Tears

A few hours ago the nurse called with some great news: Mom's tumor has gotten slightly smaller. Praise God!!!

We are crying happy tears and rejoicing.

The numbers are daunting- the tumor has only shrunk 2mm on one side and 6mm on the other side (her tumor is roughly 7cm by 4cm), BUT as the nurse reminded us, it would be great news if the tumor had only stayed the same size- her type of pancreatic cancer is fairly aggressive and chemo treatments typically only halt progress, so any shrinkage is fantastic. It will need to shrink more before the tumor is operable.

Since the treatment is clearly effective Mom will continue in the UCLA clinical trial. She will begin her next three week cycle this week, as long as her white counts are high enough.

In other happy news, Mom has gained a few pounds and can eat a wide variety of foods again.

To all of you who continue to lift Mom up in prayer, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. This is going to be a long battle, and we are so grateful to have you alongside us.

Please join us in praising the Lord for His healing touch on my mom. We are thanking Him for the excellent medical care He has provided her, and for all the doctors and nurses who are working on her behalf.

Also, please pray that the tumor continues to shrink, that her white count will be high enough to receive chemo, and that she can tolerate this week's chemo well.

Friday, 1 June 2012

When Tommy Finds the Camera...