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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Today was the day. The day I have been dreading for three months.  The day that needed to happen before I could commit to flying to New York with John (him for work, me for fun).  The day that needed to happen before I signed Andrew up for preschool.  The day which has been giving me nightmares for more than a week.

Today was the day Andrew got his three month scans.  Scans which will be repeated every three months, hopefully for four years.  And then every six months for one year.  And then once a year for the rest of his life.  If all goes well.

At six a.m, I woke up before my alarm went off.  It was one of those restless nights that made me wonder if I slept at all.  I ate my breakfast, dragged Andrew out of bed, put him in his carseat (still dressed in his jammies) and broke the news:  "We have to go to the doctors' this morning.  They don't want you to eat anything until you are done, but I have a purse full of granola bars and juice boxes. I have your clothes and shoes in my bag."  He protested and cried a bit, but then fell silent for the rest of the drive.

Carrying Andrew in my arms, I made my way to the MRI waiting room.  The nurse walked in, almost immediately, and warned me, "The last MRI was found to be positive, so the radiologist is still talking with the parents.  We are running late."  I felt my whole body jerk back in shock.  Horrible memories flooded in.  My thoughts flew to the parents sitting on the other side of the door.

I wanted out of there. Now. My lungs started to tighten and take in smaller, stunted breaths.

I tried not to let my mind wander into the dangerous jungles of  "what if," but I was not very successful.  "If" this went bad, I pictured myself hiding in my bedroom under the covers in my room, loaded up on prescription drugs and oblivious to the world.  Yes, that is what I would do.

But WAIT.  I couldn't.  I have three boys and a husband.  I have to be there for Andrew.  It could not be that easy.  It would have to be a vivisection.  I would be ripped apart, while still breathing, and still awake.  My heart, soul and body would be dissected, and I would have to be awake and alive for all of it. 

My chest was pounding.

As my mind wandered, I noticed a little girl (about 8) across from me in a chair similar to mine, with light blue cushions.   Her mom was on the phone, several seats away, with her back turned, chatting to someone about how her husband "has been flirting on Facebook and she just won't take it anymore" and on and on.  The little girl's brother, about 2, was sitting in a stroller across from his sister.  The little girl smirked as she poked, teased, and made him cry.  I started to move forward in my seat, feeling like I might need to intervene (because her mother was oblivious to her son's cries and her daughter's bullying), and then I noticed the other side of the little girl's face.  A huge skin graft extended from the middle of her face all the way down her neck.  Her jaw was disfigured, and the scar across her cheek extended from her mouth to her ear.  Where are you God! My heart screamed.  I had to remind myself to breathe.

At this point, the nurse sent us upstairs for a chest x-ray.   After taking the elevator, and "following the lizard tiles," I entered another waiting room, and found another blue-cushioned seat.  My eyes quickly scanned my surroundings and discovered a little girl, no more than two, standing in the opposite corner of the room.  Pink and frilly and bald.  In my own corner, I heard the cry of a newborn baby and watched the concern on his mother's face as she held him close.

I thought of Japan and the holocaust and places worse than this and I felt food in my belly and clothes on my back and I saw people smile and I tried to convince myself that I was not in hell.

A nurse arrived to take us to the chest x-ray and Andrew cooperated, beautifully.  We headed back downstairs to the MRI room.   

During the last set of scans, the anesthesiologist wouldn't let me come with Andrew and as I handed him off to a strange woman in a white coat, Andrew screeched, all the way down the hall, "Where are you Mommy?! Where are you Mommy?!"   He spent the rest of the day asking me, "Why did you leave me?  Where did you go?" So this time, I let them know that I was coming in.  There was no option. They let me (and were actually very sweet).

While I held him, the doctor gave him medicine through his port-a-cath. He fell asleep, and I retreated to the waiting room, where I managed to read bits of my book, keep my eyes focused downward, and wait, again.

"How do these nurses do it?" I wondered to myself.  "Come to this hell everyday.  How do they do it?" And I found myself understanding and resenting the callousness that HAS to build up in order to do this work.

Andrew woke up, eventually.  He ate three granola bars and two juice boxes and held me tight as we made our way out into the wonderful, beautiful fresh air, where the ducks were sitting in the grass and the sky was a brilliant blue.

We drove home together, talking every so often, thankful to be able to escape from that place of pain and horror. 

And then we got home, to the worst waiting of all.  I expected to agonize all night and partly into tomorrow.

But around five p.m this evening, my nurse called to say that everything was clear.  All clear.


vi·brant (vbrnt)

a. Pulsing with energy or activity

b. Vigorous, lively, and vital

c. Relatively high on the scale of brightness: a vibrant hue

For man, as for flower and beast and bird,
the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.

D. H. Lawrence


Thursday, March 24, 2011


Andrew: "I hate those.  I want to rip them down."

Me:  "What? What do you hate?"

Andrew:  "THOSE!" pointing to the kitchen wall, where all of the proud homework, drawings, and school accolades are pasted. 

I scan the offensive material.  Sammy's name is on half of them.  Aaron's name is on the other half.  There is even one up there for me.

Andrew:  "I want to rip them down!"

Me:  "Do you want to have some pictures up there too?  Do you want to go to preschool too? And make some pictures?"

Andrew: (silence)

Me:  "Do you want to draw some pictures right now, and put them up there?"

Andrew:  "How do they color so good?  I can't color."

Me: "They are older than you buddy! They've had more practice. You color great!"

Andrew:  "No.  I don't."

Me:  "You do!  But is there something else you want me to put up there?"

Andrew: "no."

I am the first born of three.  I never even considered that Andrew would feel inferior, or less than, or judge himself by his brothers abilities, at least, not yet.  (He has also been jumping off playground structures, because his brothers are doing it and he is trying to prove himself  "big"!  He actually hurt his foot last weekend and is still slightly limping.)

I think this is where I am supposed to post my solution to this issue, but I'm not sure what the solution is. I will add some pictures of him to the collage, and continue to encourage him to color (despite his perceived deficiencies(!) ) and tape whatever he does to the kitchen wall.  But I'm wondering if I should do something more?

I was considering putting up a big potty training chart with his name on it, and giving him a sticker to put up every time he uses it, you know, kill two birds with one stone... because, yes, we are still working on that.   I suggested it, but he didn't act very excited (surprise!). 

Any suggestions from you younger siblings out there?

Did you hate "Those!" too?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


This weekend we went to a street fair. 

The boys watched in awe

and skipped rocks
 (well, they tried).

They tasted funnel cakes
(and liked them)

and held on tight

to the biggest boy of all.

"You're never too old to become younger."
Mae West


Monday, March 21, 2011


"I wanna help!" he says,
and without waiting for a response,
he comes running.
Wrestling a chair from the table,
he pushes it
(like I hate)
across the soft wood floor.
I hold my critical breath
and watch.
Smiling at his earnest determination,
I grit my teeth at the screeching (and scraping)
coming toward me.

Banging into the cabinets,
he parks the heavy piece of metal 
against the counter.
He scrambles up, looks down,
and surveys the lemons already sliced
in two.

Despite his prop
I still stand taller
and cannot resist
his blond little head.

"Which one can I do?" he asks.
I give him half a lemon
and he presses down
with all his strength,
and peers over the side,

to watch it happen.


he sticks his finger in the juice he made,
licks it,
and shudders.

"Silly!" I say. "It needs sugar!"
His smile twinkles,
as if he knew that.

I lean over
and smooch
his swirl of blond

(see all that sweet hair!)

And again.

And again.

It is often in the unexpected,
simple moments of life
when I notice
the sweetest blessings.

Simple BPM

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump


at night.

On the treadmill. 

 My workout clothes have been on all day,

waiting for this moment.

This moment of release and relief.

Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump

I'm not taking it for granted.

This life.

These legs.

This heart.

These lungs.

I can run.

I can breathe.

Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump

Grateful for this day

Where the balls seemed to stay in the air.

Where my loved ones were kept safe.

Where my heart remained in hope.

Where we ate ice cream

and jumped off jungle gyms.

Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump

A day

where a simple quote changed my thinking

about complex things.

Where my one-person philosophy of religion class

spun me

once again in torturous circles


I tried to quiet it.

To grab

onto to what I can't see

And can't understand.

To have faith.





Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump

The soothing pounding

The hard-earned sweat slipping

down my cheeks.

Like tears.

I pray.

I pray.

I pray.

Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump Thumpthump.



I stop.

For today.

Thump Thump Thump Thump Thump

Simple BPM

Emotions: Black and White

"Let's not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it. "
Vincent Van Gogh


Monday, March 14, 2011

Road Trip! and comfy friends

Do you have friends who make you feel like you are wearing your most comfortable clothes?  When you are with them, the world is suddenly more soothing, more free, and more relaxing?  There is no need to impress them.  There is no worrying about wearing the "wrong thing," or saying the "wrong thing," or doing the "wrong thing."  It feels comfortable to just be

This morning, after seven days of constant activity, our friends (who fit that description) said goodbye and flew home to Michigan.  It had been three years since our last visit with them, and now they are gone again.  They live too far away.

But, while they were here, we crammed in as much as we could.

Starting with a road trip to California.

Six hours, five boys, four adults, three DSis, two Leapsters, and one 12-passenger van.  About half-way there, one of the DSis ran out of juice. From that point on, a persistent, bored little voice kept repeating the question.  Yes.  That one.  Are we there yet?  Are we there....yet?  Kids are so predictable ;).

Halfway "there," we pulled off the freeway to get gas and eat lunch.  On our way to Subway, we passed the General Patton Museum and Mineral Road Show (a dirty, dusty affair with tents and temporary fences).  The boys were so tired of driving, they were ready to call it "Disneyland" and unload the suitcases.  We took a few pictures and convinced the boys that it would be worth the drive if they got back in the car.

We continued on, and braved the Los Angeles traffic (that we do not miss),

and finally made it to the hotel!

(A view of the lobby from our hotel room on the 12th floor)

Wednesday morning, we woke up early and spent the entire day at Disneyland.

Beautiful weather, short lines, lots of sugar, and all the rides we could handle. Andrew got a Mickey hat for his collection :). He braved every ride the park allowed him to board. (However, we can no longer use the words "Haunted Mansion" or "Pirates of the Caribbean" without being labeled "mean." Apparently the words conjure up scary memories.) 

The longest line of the day was for Storybook land...

The next day we piled back into the van and headed south to Carlsbad, California for Legoland.  In the parking lot I realized that I left my charger and my camera battery in the hotel room, an hour away.  So bummed!  At least I had my cell phone camera...  In case you have never been, the cities and cars below (not the rides), were all made of Legos!  Our Lego-crazy boys were in heaven.

Friday morning, we drove home.  Halfway between El Centro, California and Yuma, Arizona, my husband realized that we were on empty.  He claims that the gas gauge was "hidden from his view" until a warning light came on.  Then, in silence, he watched the available miles count down as he scoped the deserted landscape for gas.  None.  Nowhere.  Finally, the gas gauge said 8 miles left.

John parked the car on a deserted freeway off-ramp, and we got out.  We saw trailer homes, border patrol, and a few random buildings here and there, but no gas stations. In the way of fluids, we had the melted remnants of a three-day-old thirst buster. I checked my cell phone GPS. It said 20 miles to the closest station, regardless of direction. If the gas gauge was correct, that was 12 miles too far.

While the boys excitedly pretended they were exploring the landscape of Tatooine (planet in Star Wars), the parents pictured themselves huffing and puffing down the freeway pushing a 12-passenger van.

John waved down a trucker who convinced him that about 10 miles down the road we would find a gas station.  We decided it was our only hope. 

We made it.  I have never been more happy to see a gas station in my life.  All of us, children included, let out a loud cheer.  Do you see the panicked look in Andrew's eyes, gulping down that gatorade? Our friend's traumatized nine-year-old spent the rest of the trip asking, "Do you have enough gas?  Have you checked the gas gauge?"  Our poor children.

Several hours later, we were back home.

The remaining days were spent swimming in our 60 degree pool (the boys, not me), hiking local mountains, and loading toppings onto frozen yogurts.

John told stories while the boys took baths:

The evenings were spent playing games, mostly Spades.  The women beat the ultra-competitive men almost every time. It was awesome.

But all good things must come to an end, right?  Sadly so. 

Our comfortable, family-like friends left us this morning at 10 am. The boys spent the drive to the airport imagining ways to move Michigan closer to Arizona.  Even the adults participated in the brain-storming. 

We don't want to let three years slip by again!

Friday, March 4, 2011


Conference #1: "Hello, Mrs. Julie. Thanks for coming. So good to see you again (cough). You know, he initially tested into this class, but I am afraid that may have been a mistake. A big mistake. Have you seen his math homework? His current skill level is not where we expected it would be. I think for next year we may need to discuss a more appropriate placement for him. Oh, and you know how I said he was doing so well socially? Well, I'm sorry to tell you that he has been having some difficulty in circle time....and some at recess."  Me: "Oh. Okay." Sad face.


Conference #2:  "Well, Mrs. Julie, so glad you could make it today. We have a lot to talk about, and are so glad we have this time to sit down and discuss.  Have you noticed how often he uses the word, "poop?"  I mean, it is every other word, the "other" word being "butt."  Have you made any attempts to curb this behavior?  Do you realize that every boy in the class has adopted the word "buttchick" because of him?  Truly.  The other parents are complaining.  We haven't been successful in decreasing his potty talk at school, so we are hoping that you will do your part at home.  We need him to cease this disruptive vocabulary."  I sit there, red-faced, saying, "I'm sorry.  I know.  I will try."

These were the conversations I imagined, sitting in the hallways, waiting for the teachers to open their doors.  It is amazing how anxiety-producing conferences can be.  Even when there has been no previous indication of any problem, I worry.  Do you?

Conference #1 (reality): When the door opened, here she was:

(I wish I could show you her face, because her hair and make-up were great. But I don't want to put her picture out there without her knowledge.)

"Welcome," she said, in her best Johnny Depp/Mad Hatter impression.  (It was "dress as your favorite book character" day.) When you are sitting across from a teacher with red streaky make-up and an odd top hat, it takes the edge off.  And then, of course, it helped when she said that he is doing just fine.  "His math is great.  His reading is great.  His writing has greatly improved.  He is doing well socially.  He is well-behaved. Just make sure he keeps writing over the summer."  Me: Smiling, and looking over at my sweet and worried son, whom she also invited into the room.  "Good job, buddy, love you," I whisper.  My heart is relieved, the anxiety is lifted.

Conference #2 (reality).  "He is so smart.  He knows all of his numbers, letters, and sounds.  He can count to 100, he can count by 5's, he can....  He likes to be silly in class, but most of the boys are the same way.  This is preschool, we expect that.  He will do wonderfully in Kindergarten."  (No mention of poop or butts.)  I breath a sigh of relief, ask a few questions, and walk, smiling to the car.

Every time.  The same old worries.  Each time, for naught. 

I forget to step back, and view my whole child, and his whole environment.  I forget to put things in perspective.

Sometimes teachers, friends, and family help me see the bigger picture, even when I cannot see it for myself. 

Simple BPM

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Virtual Coffee- March

Hello! It has been a while since I have joined you for coffee, so I am excited. 
If we were truly meeting for coffee I would invite you to this little bakery/coffee shop down the road.
The weather is beautiful today, and the shop is nearby, so I might even suggest that we walk.
They just finished decorating, their pastries are delicious,
and I love it.
I got myself a decaf coffee and a cherry turnover.
My favorite.

Here, pick something for yourself and sit down.

I saved you a seat.

If we were actually sitting down together I might tell you that
every day
 I inhale breaths of freedom and relief.
It is so nice to be able to spend time at home
or at the grocery store, or at my mom's house
instead of the clinic or hospital.

So nice.

As I look at my son and his sweet pink cheeks and soft hair,
I can fill my lungs and exhale,
all the way.

I will admit that I find fear there,
at the bottom of each breath,
but I am trying to set it aside.
I am trying to ignore the nagging worry
so that I can enjoy the days that are before me.

I find that I am usually successful.

Oops, I forgot about my little tag-a-long.

Andrew likes donuts
and ladybug cookies.
and chocolate milk.
If you brought your children to play,
he would love them too.

I am starting to think that I need to brush up on my Star Wars timeline and trivia. 
My lack of knowledge is starting to hamper conversations with my children.
"Yoda does this and that, but Anakin should have done blah blah blah."
I just nod or shrug my shoulders.
I am beginning to feel like we speak a different language.

We were officially late to school this morning. 
For the first time.
Stark reality of life:
It is hard to drive your car without keys.
And I could not find mine.
And it is the only key we have for my car
and John was already gone for the day.
I finally found them in my coat pocket.
A coat that I never wear, except for yesterday,
of course.

How are you?

I feel like I am slowly emerging from a tunnel,
 opening my eyes, and learning to look at the world again.
I am almost shocked to hear all the bad news, 
as if  I had blocked it out for awhile in order to cope. 

I just finished reading, She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb this week. 
 I love his descriptions and his ability to tell a sad story with humor. 
If you haven't read it, I would recommend it. 
Have you read any good books lately? 

I look forward to hearing from you and joining you for coffee!

And in case you didn't know the definition for chocolate, here it is:

I hope you enjoy your Tuesday.

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