In April, 2010, when Andrew was 2 1/2, a tumor was discovered behind his eye. The tumor was removed, but it was found to be an aggressive cancer. He endured seven months of chemo and six weeks radiation. In December of 2010, the day after his last treatment, he was rushed to the ER with an almost fatal bacterial infection. He survived.

He is now seven-years-old!! I don't visit here much, because during the ordeal, this is where I dumped everything--my rage, my fear, my sadness, my ugly, my hope, my everything. But I want all of you who supported and prayed for us to hear his updates. You helped me survive, and I am deeply thankful. Every once in awhile, I will check in to let you know how he's doing. Please continue to pray that cancer will never return to his body. Thank you.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sushi and the Silliness of Bicycle Riding

"Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull, callous, and indifferent."  -Virgina Woolf

I think the last time I rode my bike for more than a mile was in high school...or maybe junior high. And even then, most of my "riding" was done in the cul-de-sac in which I lived.  I run, I ride the stationary bike, but actually getting out on my bike and riding for long distances?...well, I just don't do that.  I even got a new mountain bike for Christmas last year, but I only ride it on short, slow rides to the park (about 1/2 mile away).

 Until last night.

John had this idea that it would be fun to take a bicycle tour of central phoenix, stopping at various restaurants and having drinks and appetizers at each one.  "We wouldn't have to worry about a designated driver and we could exercise in between!"  Amazingly enough, he was able to convince another couple to participate in his "creativity."

Our babysitter was available for five hours, and just as the sun was going down, we put on our coats, our gloves, and rode over to our friends' house to meet up with them.  At first I was completely anxious.  At every bump and curb I would hold my breath, and pray I didn't fall over.  After the first few minutes my quads were already burning, and I started to wonder what in the heck we were doing.  Seriously? four adults riding around town on bikes in the dark, with bike lights, restaurant-hopping?

At our friends' house, I raised my seat, buttoned up my coat, and off we went.  We cycled through the neighborhood until we got to a paved road which borders a canal;  our main thoroughfare throughout the night.

I spent most of the evening riding near the back of the caravan, positioned either third or fourth.  I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear as I rode, watching my husband and friends pedal in front of me.  I imagined John in junior high exploring the streets of Phoenix, finding himself and his independence.  I watched my friend on her ten-year-old bike, a babyseat wobbling behind her, her long blonde hair streaming, and her feet pedaling twice as hard as the rest of us.  Her bike switched its own gears, on its own free will. Her husband had a road bike, and had to purposely slow down to keep pace with the rest of us slowpokes.  It all felt so silly, childish and free.

Our first stop was a Japanese restaurant.  As we pulled up to the first parking space of the night (a lamp post) we giggled as we strung the lock through all four bikes and watched the "normal" adults drive up in their nice cars.  We chose the tall bar stools at the counter and sat in a line, passing the edamame, rainbow roll, and unagi roll (eel) back and forth. The girls ordered wine, the boys, beer. In between bites we talked about family, wakeboarding, and early school experiences.  We talked about moms, dads, brothers and sisters. Family structure, and the lack of it. Parental supervision, and the lack of it. 

A few pedals more and we arrived at restaurant number two: a cozy den-like basement with stone walls and comfort food. We scored the cushioned seats near the fireplace and descended into conversations about books, TV shows, and movies.  My friend just finished reading Bram Stoker's Dracula, and after listening to her summary, I decided to never read it.  We talked about The Shack and how different people had such varying and emotional responses to the book.  We talked about "Storage Wars," and "Pawn Stars," and decided that we need to have our own version of  the show "Chopped" (a food competition).

 After settling the bill, we headed back to our bikes for a longer ride, back in the direction of home.  By now, I had met my own limit of two glasses of wine, and while no longer as anxious, I probably should have been!   Thankfully my agile friend avoided my inadvertant attempt to crash into her.

As we cycled back through the canals we raced through the underpasses and along the water's edge.    I could smell family dinners in ovens, and homeless men searching for places to sleep.  I found myself standing up on my pedals as I cruised down the hills and back up the cement ramps.  The wind was in my face, and my nose was cold.  It felt amazing and free.

The third restaurant of the night was a too-brightly-lit sports bar.  Huge posters for the "UFC" hung from the ceiling.  Up until now, we had only eaten appetizers. Our growling stomachs' hope for dinner was dashed by the waitress's announcement that the kitchen had closed 45 minutes prior, "due to inactivity."  The boys predicted doom for the establishment and ordered a beer.   The girls ordered decaf with cream.  Music, and concert attendence was the topic of discussion as Def Leppard and Aerosmith filled our ears and the speakers above us.  We drank our coffee and beer, and quickly escaped out into the chilly night in search of food.

For less than a block, we pedaled our bicycles to the last stop of the night.  We found a seat in an empty booth (they were all empty) and breathed a sigh of relief that dinner was still being served.  As we finally filled our stomachs, our discussion tended toward religion,  the Bible, and how God interacts with us in the world.  We spoke of heartaches, unanswered prayers,  family pain, and powerlessness.  I was reminded of how much I have to be thankful for, and how important it is to let my loved ones know how much I appreciate them. Today.

We unlocked our bikes one last time and pedaled for home.  It was almost midnight.  It was hard to believe that six hours had passed so quickly.  We arrived home an hour later than expected, paid the babysitter, and fell right to sleep.

Strangely enough, our bikes seemed to get us in touch with our silliness and childlike joy.   It opened avenues of thought, scent, and memory which might otherwise have remained closed.  Our midnight ride provided us a different lens with which to experience the city, the night, each other, and ourselves.

And, I didn't fall!  Not even once.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hatsy Go Lucky

My camera is still in Texas.
So I was using my cell phone camera to take all my pictures.
Then my cell phone fell in a toilet.
(I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't have told you,
but that is life.
At least, my life.)

But I rescued it!
(is that worse?)
and it works...
at least for now.

For a few days it took pictures like this:

But it has de-fogged itself.
I sanitized it,
(if that is possible)
and now it is working just fine.

So I was finally able to take some pictures
of Hats.
Lots of hats!

Thank you all so much!
And thank you for all the extra goodies that came with them. :)


and another one from Kentucky.  Isn't this cute!!? In honor of the Kentucky Derby.



and another one from Minnesota!


South Dakota!

(I'm starting to feel like the announcer for the Miss America Pageant)



and Outer Space.

(If you are wondering what Andrew was doing, he was  "borrowing"  Aaron's DSi
while I took the pictures.
Hopefully he didn't do any damage.)

Thank you all again!!

Eyelash update:  I think they are at least 1/2 inch long now.  His eyebrows are almost all grown in, and he has a very thin layer of blonde peach fuzz on his head.

Hooray for hats and hair!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You Capture: Happy

note:  My husband has foot issues which keep him from exercising in normal ways the way he would prefer (running).  Instead, he has discovered other, unique ways to give his heart a workout (you will soon see).


Sometimes, in order to fully describe or portray an emotion, it is helpful to show its opposite. 

Take for instance, the way Andrew was feeling when we so cruelly dragged him
 out of his warm carseat (where he was sleeping),
and stuffed him into this backpack
 on a very cold (for Arizona's standards) day:

Definitely UnHappy. 

or the way John was feeling,
walking like this
up the mountain
while I took incessant pictures
 and the boys fought and fidgeted :


(I put my camera away for awhile after that one.)

In contrast,
this is how Aaron felt helping his Dad exercise:
Happy! (that he didn't have to walk.)

soon enough
(John might disagree)
we made it to the top.

John was elated to sit down.
Everyone else was Happy about the treats.

Sammy was Happy to be wearing a warm spiderweb hat.

I was just plain Happy.

Finally it was time to go back home.

Everyone got into position:

and descended,

Happy to be together on a beautiful day.

Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard's rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment -
 a little makes the way of the best happiness.
~Frederich Nietzsche


Monday, January 24, 2011

A Beautiful Adventure

It was about 4 o'clock, and John was still sitting on the floor playing legos with Sammy.  "Are we still going hiking? because if so, we need to go now," I said.  John replied, "Okay, okay." 

So we got ready.  We threw a few water bottles into a backpack, grabbed a sweatshirt for each boy, and set off for one of our favorite local mountains. By the time we started hiking, it was already 5 pm.  Andrew was in John's backpack; the other boys were walking on their own.  It was still bright and sunny, but getting late.

(BTW, my camera is being fixed, in a land far, far way (Texas), and I am stuck with my cell phone camera. Better than nothing.)

We started the slow shuffle up the mountain, and after about 50 yards, Sammy was saying "Are we almost there?" A lady on her way down passed us and giggled at his comment.   I said, "Um, no.  This is going to be a long walk.  Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving!"  And, after asking the same question three more times (with the same response), he listened!

 About a quarter of the way up, the boys took a little break:

I am such a poor planner.  Or rather, non-planner.  About half-way up I thought, "Geez, we should have brought a flashlight."  Because it was starting to look like this:

And this:

Aaron and John (with Andrew on his back) were up ahead, and it was just Sammy and me, trudging along.  And he was not complaining. He was just walking, and talking, and getting compliments from the hikers going down:  
"Keep it up Buddy!"
and they said to me: 
 "Startin' em young! That's great." 
So, we were both feeling pretty good about ourselves.

After MANY rocky stairways, switchbacks, and conversations about Bobo Fett and Jengo Fett, we made it to the top, and it was GORGEOUS:

it was also
and getting

 "We are idiots!" I thought to myself "Up here, in the dark, on this mountain, with three children!"
 John wasn't at all concerned.
  Thankfully,  he was also more prepared that I was.  He DID think to bring a flashlight

So, after a few crackers, dates, chocolates, and pretzels we headed back down,
through the rocky and steep terrain
in the dark.
With one flashlight between the five of us.

There were a few brave, avid hikers still on their way up.
They were not giving out compliments.
Instead they had questioning looks on their face which probably betrayed their thoughts:
"Nutty people, up here in the dark with three children!"
No one was patting us on the back now.

But it continued to be gorgeous.
And no one was complaining.

As the night grew darker,
and the footing less visible,
and Sammy continued to trip
(while holding my hand),
I continued to worry,
There is no one out here!
Someone could trip!
Someone could fall and hurt himself!
John could fall and hurt himself and Andrew!
And THEN how will we get down?

I started to think of hikers lost on trails
and trapped on Mt. Everest (it was kinda cold out there...)
and helicopter rescues

And then I would try to relax, and look around and enjoy the beauty.
Because that seemed to be what John, and Aaron, and Andrew were already doing.

Sammy was still talking about Jengo Fett.

I spent much of the walk down wondering if this was
a beautiful adventure
or a foolhardy endeavor.

We could have been safely at home,
playing legos.

But we would have missed this:

and the thrill,
and the sweet conversations.

We made it to the bottom
and proud
of ourselves.

I suppose that is often how life is.
In order to experience the beauty
and enjoy the adventure,
and feel accomplished,
you have to take risks,
despite the worry
and potential trips and falls.


Sometimes that is hard for me to remember.

Have you been on any foolhardy endeavors beautiful adventures lately?


"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."
Helen Keller

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And now, back to our regularly scheduled potty training...

I vowed to myself that I would spend the day organizing my desk.  My threshhold for clutter has finally been reached and I can't stand it anymore!!  But this darn computer! sitting right in the middle of it all...calling me....taunting me...  I'm afraid I have succumbed to its power. 

But, now that I'm here...

I am trying to move on with regular life.  Now that the atypical difficult things have been completed, ie. chemo, radiation, blood transfusions, etc., it is time to move on to the typical difficult things, i.e. potty training, bed time routines, and discipline. ahh!

The potty training, which I started last March, and then put on a very high shelf, still needs to be done.  I am hoping it will be easier now that he is almost a year older.  But I'm not sure.  He hasn't shown much personal interest.  However,  he is hearing quite a bit of brotherly peer pressure, things like,"you stink" "you're smelly" and the kicker, "you're a baby."    I was encouraged this morning by his statement, "Black ninjas don't poop  their pants."  To which I replied, "No.  No, I'm sure they don't."  So I am bribing him with chocolate, and trying to remember to bring him to the toilet, so that one day, he can grow up to be a proper black ninja.

Bed time.  (Sigh.)  I'm not sure what to do, because I am conflicted.  We used to have the sleep routine down.  I would put him in his bed, he would play a little, sing a little, and then fall asleep on his own, in his own bed.  Needless to say, that pattern was disrupted.  By everything.  By hospitals.  By pain.  By late night cartoons in the hospital, while in pain.  By my need to have him near me.  By his fear of being alone.  So this will probably be more of a process.  But last night the process included him jumping on the bed, teasing the dogs, squeezing the dogs, pulling my arm (while I was trying to read a book), getting up and down off of the bed, and frustrating me.  So I need to come up with a better solution.  When he was younger, I was able to let him cry, without feeling horrible.  That is harder now. 

Discipline.  I am so thankful to report that Andrew's cheeks are pink again.  His hair follicles are starting to burst forth little buds, and he is regaining all of his former energy.  He has a grand interest in a game which I call, "cause and effect," which includes dumping sugar to see how far it spreads, throwing ceramic bowls to see what happens, and dumping electronic toys in water to see if they still work later (nope).  I am realizing how much his energy truly was compromised by the chemo, even though I may not have noticed it before.  Once again, I think eventually, I will be able to let him cry and not "give in" to make him happy, but that coddling habit did start to grow, and now I need to re-work things.  My kitchen floor is a MESS!

I still have lots and lots of thoughts floating through my head.  I am trying to get used to this new phase of life in which I have to balance living for the day (carpe diem!), grieving the past 8 mos, and hoping for/fearing the future.  I still find myself crying at night, but I am so relieved to wake up and see his smiling, pink-cheeked, potential black ninja face.

And now, back to my disaster of a desk.  UGH!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Are you as creative as a first grader?

Well, now that my life has not involved daily trips to the doctor, I don't know what to do with myself. 

Soooo, I have been throwing myself into my son's first grade homework.  Is it sad that whenever he gets a less than conventional assignment I can hardly contain myself?  When his homework says, "make a germ model" or "read a book and make a mobile" my eyes light up, my heart beats faster, and there is almost certainly a skip in my step and perhaps even drool in my mouth, but that is probably TMI. 

I've told you before.  I am a nerd.

His latest assignment was "make something new out of something old."  At first I did not feel very inspired, and neither did he.  So we just started by stringing old, previously punctured bottle caps together.  We were just going to make a bottlecap snake and call it done.  But as we were making it (um, I was stringing them, and he was sitting on the floor teasing his brother) I looked at it and thought, "if I bend this in half, these could be legs!" and then we used a water bottle for a body, a clear Christmas ornament for his head, wrapping paper for his clothes, old buttons for eyes, nose, and mouth, green Easter grass for hair, and then Aaron came up with the brilliant idea that he needed a cape.  And that is how "Super Recyclying Man" came to be.  He had a "Please Recycle" emblem on his green tissue paper cape, and was clutching an old Starbucks coffee mitt in his green pipe cleaner arms. I was so proud.  It's embarrassing.

Is it ridiculous that my smile extended from ear to ear and that I couldn't wait for him to come home from school so that he could tell me how the teacher liked it?  I'm telling you, I think something is missing from my life!! :)  I was like a starved animal.

I would show you a picture, but the teacher liked it so much SHE KEPT IT! She gave me him a 5+ and wrote "SO COOL" on the assignment page.   And, as sad as that is, it TOTALLY made my day.  If she ever decides that she can part with him, I will post a picture.

Please tell me I am not the only creatively-starved parent out there, reveling in the praise of their child's first grade teacher.  Or am I?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ta Da!

Andrew's latest phrase whenever he shows me something is
"Ta Da!"
So I will do likewise:

I am finally posting hats,
Ta Da!!

Geez you people have overwhelmed us!
Package after package!
So sweet.
But every time I sat down to write a post,
There were three more boxes to open.
So I kept collecting and collecting
and taking pictures.
Sooooo finally...
 (with five more hats here on my shelf)
 I am posting.

(I got a little fancy with this one, and was photo editing...)

A hat knit by my sister:

A Phillies hat from my Aunt.

A hat that sings "Jingle Bell Rock" from my neighbor.
Everyone needs one.

A dog hat from my husband's friend's sister


University of Michigan, from my Aunt


New Hampshire

South Carolina
(on Andrew, not the Alligator blanket on Sammy)




(see the lovely placement of shoes by the refrigerator?)

New Mexico



Germany, from John's co-worker

Oregon (in a different style)


Washington D.C.

Providence, Rhode Island

An awesome dragon hat for the colder weather.

I already have five more!!
He is still completely bald,
so still sporting the headwear.
But, today I did notice a little eyelash stubble...
Thank you all so much.